National Review

Joe Who? Joe Mamma . . . Mia!

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

You gotta admit it, at the Palmetto Square Garden, the Mouth from Scranton got off the canvas a second time — dazed and blathering jibberish about the Declaration, the blood and botox flowing from heavy cuts sustained in Iowa Round One and New Hampshire Round Two — with the crowd on its feet, screaming themselves hoarse, convinced the next punch was going to send Joe Biden back to Delaware and retirement. But with support from some new folks in his corner (Petey, Raging Amy, and some faux Latino Texan), he swung a not-so-Left hook and landed a blow that staggered the Burlington Brawler, followed by a flurry of haymakers on Super Tuesday, and . . . wouldn’tcha know it – now it’s Bernie who’s on the ropes.

(Public Service Announcement: Feel free to insert rope-a-dope joke here.)

Yep, it was a great night for Biden, said Michael Brendan Dougherty (who explains some reasons why, including the lack of a debate in the days prior to the voting). And now the howling crowd is placing side bets that Scranton Joe (some compare his invigoration to one of his idols after he heard Pop Goes the Weasel) can put the Vermont Socialist down for good in Michigan on March 10.

Mamma mia, what a difference a week makes. Welp, related political analysis and more are to be found in the vast array of linkage awaiting you below.

But before descending into the depths of WJ, a point of personal privilege is claimed. This epistle will soon enough offer you tempting fare at Podcastapalooza; but one program Your Tongue-Tied Author (the co-host) hopes you might check out is “The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast,” and if you need to know who the star is, well, you may have taken one too many upside the coconut. VDH is so darned good. Give it a listen why don’t you. You’ll find the first five episodes here.

There’s the bell! And here comes the Weekend Jolt!

Editorials

1. Biden Won. Bigly. An amazing comeback, true — but it may have been about who Biden isn’t. From the editorial:

After the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday, it is looking much less likely that the Democrats will pin their presidential chances on a self-declared socialist. Enough Democrats were alarmed by that possibility to consolidate with stunning rapidity behind the candidacy of former vice president Joe Biden. They have compelling, albeit mostly negative, reasons for doing so: He hasn’t praised Castro’s Cuba, he isn’t calling for outlawing most Americans’ health insurance, he doesn’t want to ban fracking. Democratic voters forced Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Michael Bloomberg out of the race. All have now endorsed Biden.

Yet Biden, notwithstanding his impressive turnaround, is not obviously a stronger general-election candidate than Bernie Sanders. He is old, and he wears his age poorly. No sober observer will ever call either Biden or President Trump a great orator, but the latter is much better at getting his point across. Then there are Biden’s decades as a Washington insider.

2. America needs to be sober-minded about the Coronavirus threat. From the editorial:

American officials got off to an inauspicious start in addressing the crisis, with diagnostic tests initially limited to some 100 public-health labs. After the Food and Drug Administration expanded testing to other qualified labs, many reported inconclusive results from official diagnostic kits. A University of California–Berkeley lab was barred from testing a patient who did not meet the Centers for Disease Control criteria, which allowed testing only on patients who had traveled to China within two weeks of developing symptoms. That patient later tested positive. The FDA finally expanded diagnostic capabilities on February 29, but not before more than 70 cases had been confirmed in the U.S.

While federal agencies grappled with byzantine testing regulations, the White House delivered overly optimistic assurances to try to assuage panicked investors. The president himself said we had it “totally under control,” even as the CDC warned Americans to brace for domestic outbreaks.

The White House’s messaging did not fool investors. Stocks plummeted more than ten percent into “correction” territory, and banks slashed their U.S. economic-growth projections to zero for the second quarter. The sell-off receded slightly Monday after the Federal Reserve indicated it would cut interest rates — a welcome move — yet uncertainty persists as the number of cases in the U.S. grows.

3. We have a deal with the Taliban. Too bad it’s bad. From the editorial:

It’s not encouraging that the Taliban wasn’t willing to negotiate with the Afghan government prior to getting the U.S. commitment to a withdrawal, or to implement a cease-fire during the talks. Bending over backwards, the U.S. cut the Afghan government out of the negotiation, and asked only for a “reduction of violence” over the course of a week as a sign of good faith. Incredibly enough, the agreement calls for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners at the outset of the intra-Afghan negotiations and the release of all prisoners of both sides in three months. The Afghan government is balking at this provision for good reason.

It’s understandable that we want to find a way out of the Afghan war after 18 years of heartache and toil. But we shouldn’t want the entire effort, and the Afghan government, to collapse. We could have minimized our troop commitment by dropping down to 8,600 troops unilaterally. Making the promise of a total withdrawal only reduces our leverage and that of the Afghan government. In theory, we can always stop a withdrawal based on Taliban non-compliance, even though there are no verification provisions in the public agreement. But the worry has to be that President Trump wants the deal as a justification for a withdrawal he is determined to undertake one way or the other.

Enough Links to Last You a Fortnight: 15 Tender and Juicy Morsels that Will Satisfy Your Each and Every Conservative Taste Bud

1. Joe may not be a Marxist. But, says Kevin Williamson, he is a scoundrel. From the piece:

So, he is not a socialist.

What is he?

He is a vicious self-serving political hack, for one thing, one whose ambition leads him from time to time into shocking indecency. You may have heard that Biden lost his wife and daughter in a horrifying drunk-driving wreck, the fault of a monster of a man who irresponsibly “drank his lunch,” as Biden puts it.

Never happened.

Biden’s wife and daughter did, in fact, die in a car wreck. That is true. It is not true that the driver of the other car was drunk, that he had been drinking, or that there was any reason to believe he was drunk or had been drinking — or even that he was at fault. The late Mrs. Biden “drove into the path of [the] tractor-trailer,” the police report says. But Biden, like every other third-rate ward-heeler of his ilk, thinks and speaks only in terms of good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats — and if something bad happens to good people, then it must be because somebody in a black hat did something nefarious. The driver of that truck went to his grave haunted by Biden’s lies, to the point where his children were forced to beg the vice president to stop defaming their late father. The casual cruelty with which Biden is willing to subordinate the lives of ordinary people to his political ambitions — for the sake of a petty tear-jerker line in one of his occasionally plagiarized stump speeches — is remarkable.

2. So how’d it happen? Rich Lowry says Joe Biden has the Democratic Establishment to thank. From the column:

As Peter Beinart points out in The Atlantic, Bush and his signature initiative, the Iraq War, weren’t popular with Republicans, whereas Barack Obama and his signature initiative, Obamacare, are popular with Democrats.

This made it possible for Biden to run on restoration rather than revolution and find an audience, especially in South Carolina, where many voters told exit pollsters they wanted a return to Obama policies.

It also meant that, as a general matter, pillars of the party establishment hadn’t been discredited. The biggest moment in Biden’s comeback was the endorsement of a 14-term congressman and member of the congressional leadership named Jim Clyburn.

After Biden’s smashing South Carolina victory, the party fell in line quickly, with candidates exiting and endorsing Biden. It was a collective action of the sort that Republicans couldn’t manage in 2016.

3. Ignorance abut basic math . . . the relief that the wealthy can pay for our free lunch . . . it’s all here in Charlie Cooke’s takedown of two babbling MSNBCers who are in desperate need of flash cards and clear thinking. From the Corner post:

Obviously, the math here is spectacularly off. If Michael Bloomberg had divided the money he spent on his presidential run evenly among Americans, we would each have got $1.53, not $1 million. For Bloomberg to give $1 million to each American, he would have to be worth $327 trillion (in cash), which, for context, is around 17 times American GDP and about five-and-a-half thousand times what he’s actually worth. The scale of the error here is galactic.

It’s also extremely telling. This, right here, is why so many left-leaning Americans think that “the billionaires” can pay for everything. It’s why Elizabeth Warren was enthusiastically boosted by the media despite her ridiculous pretense that she could pay for a series of gargantuan initiatives without raising taxes on anyone but the extremely rich. It’s why Democrat after Democrat promises not to raise “middle class taxes” while promising programs that require the raising of middle class taxes. How did this bad tweet make it onto TV to be endorsed? Why did Mara Gay agree with it? Why didn’t Brian Williams notice? Because the people involved in this clip thought it was true. This is how they see the world.

4. Andy McCarthy weighs in on Chuck Schumer’s SCOTUS-directed thug talk. From the piece:

With Roe, the High Court decisively transformed itself into a political institution. The worst kind of political institution, in fact: One that pretends to be something quite different — an apolitical arbiter of what the law says, an oracle of justice shorn of passion. One that is politically unaccountable to the people whose lives it deeply affects — and affects not as a court deciding the private disputes of litigants, but as a ruler imposing national policy on a heretofore self-determining republic.

The mob is in front of the courthouse because we are inured to the unspoken reality that the Court is innately political. Political entities can be moved by mobs, such as the one that gleefully cheered Senator Schumer on.

There is no mob outside a medical lab. When specimens are submitted, the techs do their tests, and the patients either have whatever condition is suspected or they don’t. No one, however, believes any longer that jurists work with such professional detachment and rigor. No one believes they check their political, ideological, and emotional baggage at the door, applying law to facts without fear or favor.

When President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Court, it was not for her legal acumen. The salient argument made in her favor, as if there were nothing remarkable about advocating such an attribute as a credential, was that she is a model of “empathy” — a “wise Latina” who would bring a “perspective” outside the ken of your average staid old white guy.

5. Globalization has its price, warns Victor Davis Hanson. From the essay:

One, globalization was not the end of history. It is a recurrent, cyclical, and at best morally neutral phenomenon that has always, at least in relative terms, waxed and waned over the past 2,500 years of civilization — although recent transcontinentalism carries greater consequences in the era of electronic interconnectedness.

By a.d. 200, there was a globalized Roman world of 2 million square miles, stretching from Hadrian’s Wall to the Persian Gulf, and from the Rhine to the Atlas Mountains. Like frogs around the pond of Mare Nostrum, all official business was conducted in Latin or, increasingly in the East, Greek. A Roman citizen could enjoy habeas corpus from Bithynia to the Atlantic. Thousands of small towns were marked by fora and agorae, colonnades, and basilicas. While multiracial and non-Italian, otherwise uniformly equipped and trained legions secured the vast borders. It was quite an achievement of providing aqueducts, security, and property rights to 70 million disparate peoples, but it was no longer really the earlier Roman Republic of the Scipios, either.

Yet by a.d. 500, the vast sameness was eroding. Most of the Empire in the West and the old borders in East had been picked apart by Vandals, Visigoths, Osogoths, Huns, Sasanians, and a host of other tribes and migrant and aggressive peoples.

History’s succession of subsequent would-be imperial globalists — the Byzantines, the Caliphates, the Ottomans, Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler — for a while collapsed national borders and spread uniform language, architecture, customs, and culture until their dreams eventually imploded, usually from overreach, military defeat, corruption, bankrupt ideology, demographic calcification, rampant inflation, or sheer inefficiency and bloated bureaucracy.

6. What goes up must come down: John McCormack reveals that the laws of physics apply to politics and Elizabeth Warren, the ex-candidate. From the piece:

At the first debate in June, Warren proudly declared: “I’m with Bernie on Medicare for All.” She rose rapidly thereafter as the candidate of “big, structural change.” By the time the October debate rolled around, she was in first place in national polls. But then Mayor Pete Buttigieg hit her with what proved a devastating punch.

“Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything. Except this,” Buttigieg said at the debate, after Warren refused to explain how she would fund Medicare for All.

In the days that followed, she released a plan to fund her single-payer health-care proposal. Many critics pointed out that, even with drastic tax hikes, the numbers still didn’t add up. This put her in a bind: She didn’t want to bleed any more of her relatively moderate supporters to Buttigieg, and she realized she couldn’t get to the left of the avowedly socialist Sanders. In mid-November, she retreated on Medicare for All, pledging that she wouldn’t push the matter during her first two years in office, the time when a president typically has the most political capital to spend. By the end of the month, half of her supporters nationwide had abandoned her.

7. Mayor Pete heads for the exit, and Alexandra DeSanctis, who knows a thing or two about South Bend and its former spit-polished kahuna, uses the departure to share some wise analysis. From the article:

Dropping out was the smart thing to do for the sake of preventing Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders from running away with the nomination; his exit means there’s one fewer non-Sanders option dividing the field and splitting the vote.

But it was likely an easier decision for him to make than it would’ve been for Elizabeth Warren, who’s still in the race and several decades older than Buttigieg, who only just turned 38. He’s saying goodbye to 2020, perhaps, but evidently has his eye on 2024 and beyond.

Buttigieg undoubtedly will be back, and perhaps for good reason. It was a stunning feat to go from being the barely known mayor of a mid-sized, Rust Belt city — a place whose prospects he did markedly little to improve during his tenure — to winning Iowa and finishing a close second in New Hampshire. A large part of that success owes to his ability to come across as highly articulate, though close listening revealed that he’s less eloquent than glib. He seemed to model his campaign as the second coming of Barack Obama, but he lacks the charisma of the former president and substituted an impressive ability to memorize so many talking points so thoroughly that he was able to emote as if his comments came from the heart.

As a gay man, he could play the identity-politics card with vigor, arguing that support for his campaign would be a step forward for America. In what turned out to be one of his final campaign events, Buttigieg welcomed a nine-year-old boy on stage to come out as gay and discussed the bravery it has required of him to blaze a trail as a gay politician.

8. Dan Crenshaw (yeah, him) thinks it’s high time conservatives owned the climate-change issue. From the article:

I recently joined House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy in unveiling a proposal that takes existing innovative technologies — ones that have proven to reduce emissions here in the United States — that the U.S. can then market and export to the world. After all, climate change is a global issue, and with global energy demand expected to increase by 25 percent over the next 20 years, there is a distinct need for the U.S. to export cleaner energy sources to the developing world, as well as to the biggest CO2 emitters, such as China and India. Crushing our own economy, as the Green New Deal would have us do, will not stop worldwide growth in emissions or decrease worldwide energy demand.

My portion of the plan — called the New Energy Frontier — focuses specifically on carbon capture, a field in which there is already promising innovation. For instance, the company NET Power, located near my district in Houston, has developed a natural-gas electricity plant that has the capacity to power 5,000 homes, while capturing and recirculating CO2 back through the plant via an innovative thermodynamic cycle. As a result, the system produces zero net emissions.

9. Dan McLaughlin lowers the boom-er on the politics of “Middle Age” (not the Middle Ages). From the essay:

Our natural instinct as young people is to see the world as fixed and unchanging, and to rebel against that. The hard part is accepting that the world doesn’t stay changed. Consider the political world of the Baby Boom generation (born between 1946 and 1964). The Boomers, being such a large and self-conscious age cohort, grew up in the age of the creation of American suburbia and the shift from urban, rural, and small-town extended families to the atomized nuclear family in which Dad came home each night to Mom and the kids. To the oldest Boomers in particular (born in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s), the world of the 1950s and early 1960s was How It Had Always Been. That meant an age of domestic tranquility in white America, which contrasted sharply with the stark injustice of Jim Crow as it edged into the consciousness of the rest of the nation. It meant an age of mostly bipartisan consensus on self-confident hawkish internationalism. It meant an institutionalized military draft, which brought with it a social expectation that every American man would serve — a reality that would have shocked any American between 1776 and 1941. It meant a political scene that combined big-government liberalism with cultural complacency, marginalizing both the Right and the Left. It meant the swaggering certainty that Americans could do anything — a national self-image that had been very much in question in the 1930s, but seemed like it had always been there.

Then the world changed. Jim Crow started cracking open in 1954, and the whole legal edifice shattered between 1963 and 1968. The Vietnam antiwar movement, between 1965 and 1973, killed both the draft and the bipartisan consensus on foreign policy. The feminist movement and the Sexual Revolution toppled the family model of the 1950s. Nixon, once the young avatar of the ascendant Eisenhower-Kennedy era, self-destructed spectacularly in 1973–74. The “youth vote” had been rebel outsiders against the monolith in 1968 (with “Clean for Gene” McCarthy) and 1972. In the 1976 election, the Boomers for the first time elected a president: Until Barack Obama in 2012, Jimmy Carter would be the only candidate in the history of exit polling to win election while losing voters age 30 or over. The Left came back into the political mainstream, and even the Right returned after Goldwater. All of that had happened by the time the oldest Boomers hit their early 30s, and the youngest were in their mid-teens. How It Had Always Been was gone; things had changed.

10. Looks like the politically resurrected “Beto” O’Rourke will lead Candidate Biden’s Second Amendment escapades, which has John Lott arguing that November will be the setting for the “gun-control election.” From the analysis:

Tuesday night, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that Beto O’Rourke “will be the one who leads“ his gun-control effort. “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15,” O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman and Democratic presidential candidate himself, famously promised in a debate in September. They are “weapons of war, designed to kill people efficiently on a battlefield,” he warned.

O’Rourke vowed to “buy back every single assault weapon” but said that he would use force if people didn’t voluntarily agree to selling their guns. The former candidate also appears to support all the currently discussed gun-control proposals.

Last year, many Democrats worried that O’Rourke’s aggressive position would alienate moderate voters and give credence to conservative assertions that Democrats really do want to take away people’s guns. Some prominent Democrats felt it necessary to distance themselves from those comments. “I don’t know of any other Democrat who agrees with Beto O’Rourke,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said. Others blamed O’Rourke for creating distrust about gun-control advocates’ motives. A CNN headline last fall posed the question, “Is Beto O’Rourke single-handedly dooming a gun control bill?”

After O’Rourke’s comments, President Donald Trump tweeted that O’Rourke had “convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away.” Biden has now locked himself into that position.

11. John Hirschauer interviews mental-health expert E. Fuller Torrey about Trump Administration efforts to undo laws that have played a central role in creating America’s homeless crisis. From the piece:

John Hirschauer: I’m sure you’re familiar with the Penrose hypothesis — the British psychiatrist Lionel Penrose’s theory that there is an inverse relationship between the rate of incarceration, and the size of “asylums” and psychiatric hospitals. In 2013, Steven Raphael and Michael Stoll released a study in the Journal of Legal Studies, which is often cited by civil libertarians and other deinstitutionalization proponents. The study estimates that the large decline in state-hospital populations over the past 70 years has accounted for only 4–7 percent of the concomitant increase in incarceration. Do you dispute that estimate?

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey: I’m not familiar with that particular paper. But the increase of the number of mentally ill people in jails and prisons, by all measures that I’ve seen, has been much, much higher and has pretty much paralleled the deinstitutionalization movement. I started following this in the early 1980s, when I first wrote on the subject. During the 1980s, about 5 percent of people in jails and prisons — especially jails, at that time — were mentally ill. A decade later it was 10 percent, a decade later it was 15 percent, and today it’s not unusual for 20 to 25 percent of prisoners in a correctional facility to have a mental illness. So there’s been a very close parallel between the numbers of patients who have been emptied out of the hospitals and the increase in the number of mentally ill estimated to be in jails and prisons. In two or three of my books, I mentioned the first person who was looking at this phenomenon in early 1980s. He looked at the number of mentally ill in the — I think it was in San Jose, Santa Clara, or San Mateo jail. I forgot which one. In any case, he had been a resident with me at Stanford, just a year ahead of me. He was the first one I could find who actually said, “Hey, look what’s going on. You just emptied these folks out of the state hospital, and now they’re all appearing in jail.”

Locally, I have volunteered at the shelters for many years and have followed the situation in D.C. A couple of my nursing staff who had been working on the ward at St. Elizabeth’s [Hospital] with me, I later saw them, and they told me that they had gone to work for the jail system. They said, “You know, it’s not very hard, because we’re seeing the same patients.”

12. Kyle Smith catches Onward. He finds a transcendent masterpiece. From the review:

A lot of movies can make you cry at the end, but a movie that can make you cry in the first 20 minutes? Ah, the Pixar touch. Onward is such a movie, one of the very best Pixar has made, full of comedy with a purpose and pointedly metaphorical action. As with other Pixar offerings, its best feature is in its world-building rather than its characteristically frantic climax, but its foundation of ideas is sublime. Onward gazes into the deepest sources of our collective psyche in anno domini 2020 and cries out movingly against the decadence of our age.

I refer to the somewhat obscure, Jacques Barzun definition of decadence: an era when “the forms of art as of life seem exhausted; the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result. Boredom and fatigue are great historical forces. . . . When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.” Oh, and intermingled with the Barzun is a lot of Seth MacFarlane. Recall that Ted imagined a world in which a magical talking teddy bear had become so ordinary over time that he wound up working in a grocery store and smoking weed all day.

Onward takes place in a less profane but more comprehensively enervated iteration of the Ted world, an imaginatively null post-magic society that makes for a nifty metaphorical overlay on our post-religious society. Dragons are just yappy little housepets, and a tavern like the one from The Fellowship of the Ring has become a Chuck E. Cheese. Fabulous creatures — centaurs, manticores — do prosaic jobs: waiting tables, driving police cars. One young fellow, Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Chris Pratt), stands athwart all of this, demanding a return to mystical ways, epic trials, enchantment, meaning, transcendence.

13. Armond White finds the Jean Seberg biopic was far less about art and much more about politics. From the review:

That knee-jerk media appellation “actor and activist” takes on severe meaning in the new film Seberg, a biopic about American actress Jean Seberg who became an international sensation in Jean-Luc Godard’s debut film Breathless (1960) and who died ignominiously a couple of decades later, after her involvement in anti-U.S. political activity and being under FBI surveillance.

Director Benedict Andrews, screenwriters Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, and actress Kristen Stewart (who plays Seberg) use the “actor and activist” label to indulge an idea of martyrdom that comes too easily to them. It’s an extravagance of privileged Millennial media to combine self-righteous ideology with romanticism. Godard always saw through it (detailed below).

The movie follows Seberg’s career decline, presenting it as the summation of her doom and a consequence of American political subterfuge. (“Speaking out against the perceived flaws of the government is a type of persecution,” she protests.) That means the artistic part of Seberg’s legacy gets short shrift, in favor of making a shady political critique: White, blond Seberg was investigated as part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO project for her support of the Black Panther Party. Seberg helped fund the Panthers and also had an affair with black activist Hakim Jamal (played by Anthony Mackie), by whom she got pregnant.

14. More Armond: He watches The Way Back get lost in nihilism. From the review:

Now, in the mediocre new film The Way Back, Affleck drops superhero status to play Jack Cunningham, an ailing, alcoholic construction worker who drinks to excess after a life-changing setback. Bloated and sad-eyed, Affleck embodies working-man distress, hiding the lost smile of a frightened kid. He’s a “deplorable” who looks like a pro athlete gone to seed, and that’s key to his misery. Jack’s youth as a promising high-school basketball star stings when the local priest asks him to coach the multiethnic team of b-ball Millennials.

This premise, spotlighting society’s left-behinds — the blue-collar, drug-addicted underclass seeking physical and emotional relief — should offer promise, as Dawn of Justice does. But despite being set in a Catholic-school environment, the storytelling ignores aspects of faith that would give Jack’s circumstance mythic resonance. Director Gavin O’Connor and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby choose to emphasize mundane, faithless immiseration. It takes them a full hour to reveal the tragedy that drove Jack to despair. The film sluggishly builds to that moment by emphasizing Jack’s sad, self-torturing routine. (O’Connor constructs a ludicrous montage of Jack repeatedly opening a refrigerator door to gradually drain a stockpile of brew.)

Jack’s enervating recovery in The Way Back is full of drab, predictable pathos instead of the stylized drama in Dawn of Justice. O’Connor and Ingelsby seem to be following the grim narrative familiar from Joker, last year’s Nolan-indebted Batman spin-off. This commercial ploy ruins any potential for empathy in The Way Back. Somebody at Warner Brothers seems to believe that cynicism outweighs promise and that Joker’s billion-plus box-office gross proves that audiences will buy self-pitying victimhood.

15. Brian Allen visits the Houston Museum of Fine Arts to see the “blockbuster” show by the late Irish artist Francis Bacon. From the review:

Born in Dublin in 1909, Bacon had a career that spanned 60 years. His crucifixions, deformed self-portraits, triptychs of gnarled figures, and demented popes are instantly recognizable as Bacon’s, but familiarity doesn’t mean I can ever look at them and shrug. His figures are studies in contrasts. He deforms the human figure, twisting torsos and amputating limbs, but his figures spin like dancers or tops. Convulsion is controlled. His palette isn’t neon, garish, or scary, however often he paints blood. He uses lilacs, grays, soft yellows, and browns. He takes us to this weird point where the lyrical and the brutal are in equipoise. It’s a strange beauty.

Bacon was untrained and self-educated and a gutter prodigy, making him a folk artist on steroids. He’s a brand, too, as instantly recognizable as Pollock, Warhol, Picasso, and a few others. And he was a brand who made good copy. He was a celebrity. A brawling Irishman, once a call-boy, always a drunk and a hot gay mess when homosexuality was scandalous, Bacon was a poster boy for complexity and his era’s favorite dark genius. He was also immersed in Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, T. S. Eliot, and Joseph Conrad, to drop a few names.

I’m skeptical of brands, which can become shtick, or a high-dollar routine. Artists sometimes problematize as a marketing tool. Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and the Wyeths come to mind as the schlockiest of self-promoters. I’m not necessarily hanging their baggage on Bacon, though he was a cunning, coy interview subject. The show left me asking question after question. First, it’s called “Francis Bacon: Late Paintings” while the catalogue is called “Francis Bacon: Books and Painting,” which puzzles me. Why? Literature and art demand very different things from us, and the writers that the catalogue links with Bacon are themselves big, complex beasts

I loved the show, but I’m unsure whether or not my take on Bacon is anything like the curator’s.

The New March 23, 2020 Issue of National Review Is So Hot They Had to Close the Printing Plant to Cool Down the Presses

Mike Bloomberg — just in time to commit candidatus interruptus — is the new issue’s cover boy, and Roman Genn’s caricature of the Napoleon Complexed billionaire is wonderful. As is every piece in the issue. Now, as is our way around here, we sample four selections for your dining and intellectual pleasure.

1. Kyle Smith, in his latest brilliant assessment of a Democrat who thinks he (or she, see Ms. Warren) has What It Takes to be POTUS, profiles the former NYC mayor, America’s Numero Uno Nanny Stater. From the profile:

“Anti-charisma” is a phrase that keeps popping up in Bloomberg stories. Here is a guy who has a knack for not having the knack. As mayor he used to zip off on a private plane to Bermuda for the weekend without informing anyone in city government. Did New Yorkers have a right to know roughly where their mayor was?, reporters asked. Nah, said Bloomberg. Bloomberg has the emotional I.Q. of one of his eponymous data machines. “Don’t ever take a lunch break or go to the bathroom, you keep working,” Bloomberg said in 2011, as if all outputs could be controlled with a keystroke. In 1999, he said that if he let women have flexibility in their schedules to allow for family commitments, he’d have to give men time off to play golf. Even his employees, staffers, and supporters can barely muster a kind word for him. “The thing about Mike is he actually isn’t that interesting,” an ex-employee told New York. “The first time I met him, he started complaining about some soup he got that didn’t taste right. I just met the guy, and he was, like, complaining about his sweet-and-sour soup.” He’s old, Jewish, immensely rich, and running a campaign about nothing—Larry David is not just a perfect Bernie Sanders, he could be Bloomberg too.

In TV commercials, Bloomberg was Master of the Universe. Behind the electronic curtain, though, he’s a dull, hapless little man—the Wizard of Blahs. He has some of the Trump attributes that turn people away but none of the ones that make them feel like pumping their fists in the air and putting political hats on their heads. Periodically in American politics a businessman comes along promising to sort out the mess and run things like a blue-chip corporation. It almost never works. Wendell Willkie tried it, and Ross Perot, and Steve Forbes, and remember Herman Cain? Mitt “I like to fire people and also let Detroit go bankrupt” Romney tried it, in his fashion. The businessman shtick worked for Donald Trump because he’s the nation’s blue-collar billionaire, a talk-radio caller (“Don from Queens”), a guy who eats McDonald’s food on his private plane and never sounds like he’s imitating the speech patterns of regular folks. The hotshots with the silver Teslas and the gynecologist wives loathe Trump, just as most of the country loathes them.

2. Some say technological advances have . . . stopped advancing. The new issue includes a trio of pieces under a special TECHNOLOGY SECTION. Charlie Cooke leads it off, and in his excellent essay, he thinks that dead-end claim is thickly sliced baloney. From the beginning of the article:

I put on a record today.

Well, I didn’t put on a record, so much as I put on a . . . well, a what? It wasn’t a vinyl plate or a spool of tape or even a piece of shiny circular plastic. Indeed, whatever physical medium was being used to store the music I was listening to wasn’t available to me at all. It simply came in through the air—like lightning. From the comfort of my chair, I picked up my iPhone, chose the album I wanted from the million-strong list that loaded instantly before my eyes, and directed the sound to the speakers in my vicinity, all of which started to play my choice within a few milliseconds. And then, when I tired of it, I shushed it with my voice.

I think about this sometimes when I hear people complain that the bright technological future we were all promised has steadfastly failed to appear. How, I wonder, would I even begin to explain Spotify and Sonos to my grandfather, who died in 1994? A compact disc could be comprehended by the elderly as a better vinyl record, much as the Space Shuttle could be comprehended as a faster airplane. But streaming? If my grandfather came back today, where would I start?

“Okay, so I’m using my telephone, which isn’t really a telephone so much as a supercomputer-cum-Library-of-Alexandria-cum-high-definition-movie studio, to send a wireless signal to the magical speakers in my home, which, upon my request, will contact a set of servers 3,000 miles away in San Francisco, and request instant access to the closest digital copy of—” “Wait, what’s a server?

“—hold on—to the closest digital copy of one of millions of high-quality songs to which I have full and unlimited access, but neither own nor have to store, and—”

It boggles the mind.

3. Victor Davis Hanson knows a thing or two about plagues, ancient and modern, and their consequences. From the piece:

Most preindustrial mass plagues were bacterial, caused by urban overcrowding and poor-to-nonexistent garbage and sewage disposal. In the disruptive aftermath of pandemics, fundamental social and political change sometimes followed—wars lost, governments ended, wealth and power reversed. Of course, cheap antibiotics, modern medical care, and sophisticated sewage treatment and refuse collection have mostly ended the epidemic threat of typhus, typhoid, and bubonic plague. Apparently, our trust in modern drugs is such that we arrogantly do not even consider the chance of pandemic danger posed by 500,000 or so homeless Americans, who live outside in harsh weather, amid vermin, excrement, and rodents on our major urban-center sidewalks.

Instead, in the modern age, viruses have mostly replaced bacteria in posing theoretical threats of mass infection, illness, and death. While modern Western medicine, given enough time, can sometimes prevent many pandemic viral infections through mass vaccinations, they are, unlike many bacterial illnesses, often impossible, or at least difficult, to treat.

If bacterial plagues are far more unlikely in our postmodern society, globalization has still made the specter of an epidemic of a viral disease— Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and, most recently, COVID-19—not impossible. The A and B influenzas, despite mass inoculations, infect about 20–30 million Americans per year. Depending on the particular annual mutating strain, anywhere between 10,000 and 80,000 die from seasonal influenzas, mostly the elderly or chronically sick. In addition, given the easy ability to weaponize diseases in labs, and especially given the recent spread abroad of the sophisticated Western sciences of bacteriology and virology to first-generation high-technological and authoritarian societies—China in particular—the idea of a historic pandemic is not always fanciful.

4. Andy McCarthy explains why the time has come to shutter the FISA Court. From the piece:

The “necessity of procuring good intelligence is apparent and need not be further urged,” remarked General George Washington while commanding the Continental Army. “Upon Secrecy, Success depends in Most Enterprises . . . and for want of it, they are generally defeated.” The acquisition of intelligence is and has always been a security imperative. It is also a textbook political responsibility, in the sense of being committed to the political branches of government.

That is an observation worth pausing over. While the FISC’s creation was controversial, it is rare nowadays to hear proposals for scrapping it. The inevitable rejoinder to any such suggestion is that the proponent seeks an imperial, uncheckable executive. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the conducting of intelligence operations is left to the executive branch (and has been since the inception of constitutional governance), a political responsibility is one assigned to both political branches: the presidential administration in carrying it out and the Congress in underwriting, regulating, and overseeing it.

The contention here is not that the president should get carte blanche. Intrusive government actions taken under the guise of safeguarding the nation against foreign perils have a high chance of suppressing our liberties. The Trump–Russia fiasco launched by the Obama-era intelligence services reaffirms that executive intelligence operations must be subjected to searching scrutiny. Politicized excesses dating back to the John Adams–era Alien and Sedition Acts demonstrate that our own government, under the pretext of protecting us, can do more damage to republican democracy than anything Russia or a similarly treacherous foe can do.

No, my argument for abolishing the FISC is twofold. First, intelligence is not fit for judicial management. As the Supreme Court expressly recognized (in its 1948 Chicago & Southern Air Lines ruling), intelligence is an innately political function. The most significant decisions a body politic makes are the ones about its security. If a society is to be free and self-determining, those decisions must be made not by politically unaccountable judges but by the elected officials—the president and Congress—answerable to the Americans whose lives are at stake.

BONUS: Donald Trump’s attention to India is a big deal. Daniel Tenreiro explains. From the beginning of the article:

Just ten days after Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong inaugurated the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru landed in Washington for a three-week tour of the United States. Time magazine called it “one of the century’s most important visits of state”—a statement that would have been inconceivable a few years earlier, when India was still a British colony of limited geopolitical consequence for the U.S. But after the loss of Beijing to Communist rule, the newly independent India suddenly became, as the New York Times put it, “potentially a great counterweight to China.” Though American leaders made overtures to Nehru, India’s policy of neutrality during the Cold War, as well as its recognition of Mao’s government, precluded a full-fledged alliance between the two countries.

Seventy years later, India has once again emerged as a possible bulwark against a rising China. Beijing loomed large as Indian prime minister Narendra Modi received President Trump at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad on February 24. Trump neglected to call out China by name during his stay, but his references to countries that “seek to claim power through coercion, intimidation, and aggression” left no doubt as to China’s influence on the U.S.–India relationship. Though marred by ongoing religious violence in the streets of Delhi, the visit exhibited the mutual affinity between Trump and Modi that may finally turn intermittent alignment into lasting alliance.

Get Some Culture!

What’s upstream of politics? Our friends at National Review Institute have made its biennial, multi-city tour — bringing NRI fellows face-to-face with readers, friends, and supporters of the Buckley Legacy — one that focuses on politics’ upstream wellspring. It’s titled “Perspectives on America Today and the Importance of Culture,” and if you are nearby any of the eight cities where these special Regional Seminars, which showcase the wisdom of Rich Lowry, Charlie Cooke, John O’Sullivan, Madeleine Kearns, Daniel Mahoney, Ramesh Ponnuru, Kevin D. Williamson, Jay Nordlnger, and Kyle Smith, are taking place, do come.

Here’s the schedule, which is still being shored up in some locations. Click away!

Newport Beach, CA (March 24)

Chicago, IL (April 2)

Dallas, TX (April 14)

Houston, TX (April 15)

New York, NY (May 11)

Philadelphia, PA (May 12)

A New Boss, and Molly Coming to Ashland

Sharing some news from our friends at the Ashbrook Center: Molly Hemingway — author (with Carrie Severino) of Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court — will be speaking there on Wednesday, March 18 at a noon luncheon. The specifics: Ashland University, Myers Convocation Center, 638 Jefferson Street (of course, in beautiful Ashland, Ohio). If you want to attend (tickets are just $20) click here.

And then there’s the huzzah about Ashbrook’s new Big Kahuna. This week, board chairman Marvin Krinsky (a dear NR amigo) announced the good news that Professor Jeffrey Sikkenga was taking over as the institution’s new Executive Director. It’s an absolutely terrific choice.

The Six

1. At The American Conservative, Amy Wax urges donors to abandon Ivy League colleges. From the piece:

Why should private donors stop giving to higher education? University benefactors should be made more aware of the one-sided ideological profile of faculty and administrators and the relentless growth of the university bureaucracy and infrastructure that is driving up costs. They need to realize that the present volume of private money helps make universities impervious to pressure to reform some of their troubling practices, including their political tilt, their intolerance of dissent, and their burgeoning administrative apparatus.

Yet even for alumni and donors who are untroubled by these trends, there are still compelling reasons to redirect their generosity. What should benefactors do with the money that they would ordinarily devote to academic higher education generally? A strong case can be made for spending their money on projects and initiatives that improve the lives of ordinary, unspecial people, and especially those without a college degree. This group, which still comprises the majority of the country’s population, tends to be overlooked by philanthropists and foundations even as it fails to qualify for many types of assistance to the poor. Such people are in far more need of help today than the elite individuals who directly benefit from the billions spent on selective colleges and universities.

Perhaps the most effective way to persuade alumni and donors to “defund the Ivies” in favor of other projects directed at the non-college population is to highlight how few people actually attend and receive degrees from four-year academic universities. Although about 50 percent of high school graduates eventually enroll in four-year college programs, only about half of those graduate within 6 years. An additional 15 percent or so of high school graduates attend community college, but a majority of those fail to ever obtain even a 2-year degree.

2. At The Imaginative Conservative, Gregory Wolfe draws attention to Gerhart Niemeyer and his focus shifts from communism to culture. From the essay:

Beginning in the 1970s, a noticeable shift in focus and subject matter in Gerhart Niemeyer’s writings took place. It was in that decade that he began to concentrate less on the intellectual and geopolitical threat of communism and more on the cultural and spiritual condition of the West. Of course, there are no clear demarcations here: Niemeyer continued to write about communism through its demise in the Soviet Union, and matters of culture and spirit had been central to his thought for decades. But the shift was unmistakable.

It should be remembered that Niemeyer had produced an extensive body of work about the totalitarian ideologies of the modern era, especially communism, by the 1970s, by which time it was becoming clear to most observers that the struggle with communism around the globe would be a protracted conflict rather than one likely to lead to apocalyptic violence. The ultimate battleground, Niemeyer concluded, would be in the hearts and minds of those in both the East and West who could bring about renewal through an openness to transcendent truth and the wisdom of the past. In particular, Niemeyer’s deepening faith impelled him to find concrete ways to embody the Christian vision in the public square. And so the essays of his last two decades turn increasingly to matters of culture, literature, the arts, and education in the West.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Judith Bergman tracks the increasing crackdown on religion by the Commie bosses in Red China. From the beginning of the article:

China is increasing its already extremely severe suppression of religious freedom. More than a year ago, at a November 2018 hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the President of the Religious Freedom Institute, Thomas F. Farr, described China’s religious suppression as “the most systematic and brutal attempt to control Chinese religious communities since the Cultural Revolution.”

On December 30, 2019, China’s Communist Party (CCP) announced new “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups“. The measures — which came into force on February 1, 2020 — stipulate that religious organizations exist to promote the CCP and its ideology, according to Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China.

According to article 17 of the new measures:

“Religious organizations shall spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, and rules, to religious staff and religious citizens, and educate and guide religious staff and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, support the socialist system, and adhere to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. . .”

“In practice, your religion no longer matters, if you are Buddhist, or Taoist, or Muslim or Christian: the only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party,” a Catholic priest said.

The Communist ideology, it seems, does not tolerate competing narratives.

4. Greg Piper, at The College Fix, reports on the University of Virginia’s one-upping a Constitutional no-no by mandating triple jeopardy. From the article:

When it comes to campus sexual misconduct proceedings, though, the federal government actually orders double jeopardy when schools already have an appeals process (allowing accusers to appeal not-guilty findings).

But have you ever heard of triple jeopardy in a college proceeding?

The University of Virginia is giving accusers yet another bite at the guilt apple under a new bylaw adopted by its Honor Committee, the student-run and student-elected body that enforces code violations.

The committee was responding to a gap in its enforcement authority, which until recently did not cover Title IX cases. Lying during a Title IX proceeding, for example, would not be functionally punishable under the old honor code.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education analyzes the new bylaw, which it says was devised in good faith but went horribly wrong in practice.

5. At Law & Liberty, Helen Dale takes in the post-Brexit lunacy coalescing behind “Trans” rights. From the beginning of the essay:

Brexit occluded every other political issue and debate in the United Kingdom, and now Brexit is “done,” all the things left to fester in darkness—unloved and alone—for three-and-a-half years are crawling out into unaccustomed sunshine.

One of those festering things is what I’ve come to call the Great Trans Rights Post-Brexit Looniness. And I’m not talking about Douglas Murray’s Madness of Crowds (which came out before the election and so enjoyed a somewhat muted critical response; the country was still consumed by Brexit). I’m talking national psychosis that takes in everything from what Labour is currently doing to itself to the Miller v. College of Policing & Anor judgement and a great deal else besides.

I do not use the word “psychosis” lightly, either, but it’s become clear—since January 31—the madness that characterised the UK’s Brexit paralysis has decamped to other, entirely unrelated issues: everything from the HS2 rail project to Heathrow’s third runway to No 10’s hiring practices to the slow motion train-wreck that is UK Labour’s leadership contest. The Miller case, however, is remarkable for its Kafkaesque weirdness and wild hilarity mingled with pseudoscientific nonsense.

6. At City Journal, Howard Husock finds Michael Bloomberg’s repudiation of his mayoral comments on redlining to be foolish. From the piece:

The tempest over “redlining” began earlier this month, when Bloomberg’s lecture at Georgetown University in September 2008—at the height of the economic crisis—surfaced online. “It probably all started back when there was a lot of pressure on banks to make loans to everyone,” he noted then. Congress, he continued, had overreacted to the wholesale denial of mortgage loans to low-income, often black, neighborhoods—so-called redlining. In response, banks started issuing loans to less-than-creditworthy borrowers. The CRA, a federal law enacted in 1977, encouraged financial institutions to meet these credit demands.

In the debates, Bloomberg has been attacked by Senator Elizabeth Warren and other candidates as a defender of racist lending practices. Under pressure, Bloomberg wilted, blaming the crisis solely on Wall Street’s mortgage-securitization practices. But he was right the first time: government-directed lending, including by the CRA, did play a significant role in the crisis. As a 2015 Federal Reserve Board of Governors paper observed: “The CRA provides an incentive structure that could plausibly have motivated banks to originate or purchase loans they would have otherwise considered too risky.” Another Federal Reserve paper, published in 2012, estimated that, before the crisis, Fannie Mae purchased up to 5 percent more high-risk loans than it should have. The subsequent meltdown of Fannie Mae, along with Freddie Mac, led to a $200 billion infusion of federal funds—the biggest bailout of the financial collapse.

Debating the origins of the financial crisis, however, is distinct from a critical question that Democrats aren’t raising: whether government-mandated bank lending improves the financial fortunes of poor neighborhoods and their residents. As the Federal Reserve concluded in its 2015 report on the CRA: “We do not have a good estimate of the net costs or benefits of the act.” Nor is it possible to know the extent to which the government example encouraged risky private lending.

More Friend Events

The good folks at the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale will be hosting their Sixth Annual “Disinvitation Dinner,” schedule for Thursday, April 16 in New York City. The featured speaker, who has a lot to say about being disinvited, and worse, is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The WFBJP diner is always a fun and informative event. Think about going, and if you’re tempted, click here for more details.

Podcastapalooza

1. At Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Charlie and Kevin discuss the American citizen in all his charming unruliness. Cut off the mattress tags and listen up, here.

2. On The McCarthy Report, the show’s namesake discusses the Taliban Treaty with Rich Lowry. The expert is in session, here.

3. The shocking outcome of Super Tuesday had Rich, Charlie, Jim, and MBD in figure-it-out mode on The Editors. Crank up the hearing aids and listen here.

4. Abortion is back before SCOTUS, and Alexandra DeSanctis is analyzing the case in the new episode of For Life. Hear here.

5. On the new episode of The Great Books, John J. Miller is joined by Daniel Kennelly of The American Interest to discuss Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. Listen here.

6. On The Bookmonger, JJM is joined by Andrew Klavan to discuss his new novel, The Nightmare Feast. Catch it here.

Baseballery

One of the suits here, knowing of the author’s religious proclivities (papist) and having shared fascinations (for old-time baseball), over a wonderful lunch asked: Do you know the only priest to have ever played Major League Baseball?

Having learned long ago not to deny the obvious — defined as my ignorance on so many matters — Yours Truly had to admit, somewhat shamefully, not knowing. But the circumstances, yes. Let’s explain.

In 1912, Detroit Tigers star Ty Cobb was heckled mercilessly by a Highlanders fan, one Claude Lueker, who fishmongered that Cobb’s mother was of mixed race. That did not go over well with the “Georgia Peach,” who jumped into the stands and beat the bejeepers out of Lueker, who was missing one hand and three fingers on the remaining mitt, a victim of an industrial accident. No mercy was shown, and a century later baseball historians still wrote stories headlined “Ty Cobb Beats Up a Cripple.”

There was an uproar. American League president Ban Johnson moved swiftly to suspend Cobb, whose teammates reacted by threatening to strike if the suspension was not lifted. Johnson did not concede. And so they struck, to a man. The Tigers’ next stop was Philadelphia, and with no squad of regulars, Manager Hughie Jennings had to rustle up a team of amateurs to take on the Athletics or forfeit.

So came the historic game, played before 15,000 fans at Shibe Park, on May 18, 1912, with the Tigers fielding a team with a dozen locals, Major Leaguers for a day (but for one — Billy Maharg, who would play in one more game in 1916 for the Phillies; a few years later, he would gain additional notoriety for involvement in the 1920 Black Sox scandal). They would find themselves on the losing end of a 24–2 bloodbath.

The Tigers’ pitcher that day threw a complete game: over eight innings he served up 26 hits (future Hall of Famers Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker, and Herb Pennock — in only his second MLB game, for which he earned a save — had some of them), 7 walks, 24 runs (an MLB record, and they were all earned), and struck out just once (A’s pitcher Boardwalk Brown).

Aloysius Joseph “Allen” Travers had just turned 20 and had never pitched a game before. But asked to round up a squad, and offered $50 to toss (all the other one-day Tigers were paid $25), he opted for the mound. It wasn’t until later in life that he ever talked about the Day of Infamy (which only took an hour and 45 minutes, God showing some temporal mercy).

He would never play again. Threatened with lifetime bans from baseball if they prolonged the strike, and encouraged by Cobb to concede, the real Tigers returned. Travers et al didn’t head to Washington, where Detroit was scheduled next to play the Senators. On May 21, the Tigers’ aging ace, George Mullins (he had led the AL in wins in 1909 with 29), threw a 2–0 two-hit shutout, besting Senators ace Walter Johnson, (who also gave up but a measly two hits). Cobb returned to the Tigers on May 26, with a single and an RBI in a 6–2 win over the White Sox.

As for Travers: A few years later he opted for the Society of Jesus, and in 1926 he was ordained a Catholic priest. For most of his priesthood, Fr. Travers taught in Jesuit high schools in New York and Philadelphia, where he died in 1968. RIP.

A Dios

One of NR’s dearest amigas, Martha Apgar, cruiser and the loveliest of souls, beloved by our founder, went to make Heaven an even better place. We assume that but still pray nevertheless for her peaceful, eternal repose with the God she loved. A decade ago, Martha took her wealth and used it in part to counter campus insanities — she was front and center in our culture war. In the new issue of NR, we published this short tribute, which Your Humble Correspondent believes is worth sharing:

Martha B. Apgar was a Florida lady and a woman of the world. She loved God, freedom, and America. Once, she was sitting in a restaurant, next to a festive, somewhat rowdy table. She remarked, “I love the sound of Americans having a good time.” She also loved music, nature, and WFB. Virtually everyone who knew her, loved her. She was kind, smart, lively, moral, and beautiful. She was a generous donor to National Review, and a bright presence on our cruises—for many years, in the company of her elegant sister, Louise Garmy. Mrs. Apgar wanted to perpetuate free enterprise and liberal-democratic values. To that end, she created the Apgar Foundation in 2009. Born in 1928, she has died at her home on the Gulf of Mexico, outside Tampa. She leaves her family and friends, and the many whom she benefited through her philanthropy, full of gratitude. R.I.P.

May God’s Abundant Graces Nourish the Souls of You and All Those for Whom You Care,

Jack Fowler, who is quite willing to accept questions that listeners would like posed to VDH on The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, is reachable at jfowler@natinalreview.com.

P.S.: Getting in above the fat head God bestowed hereabouts, Your Humble Scribbler did try to defend — against the snarks at the New York Times — those who fought for some justice to be given to Michael Milken. It can be found here.

National Review

Hate to Ruin Your Day, But . . .

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

The publication date of this missive falls on that rarest of days, which reminds one, leapin’ lizards, of Little Orphan Annie. Which has me wondering: Who is the Daddy Greenbucks behind Michael Mann’s lawsuit against NR? Didja know he has intended from the get-go to “ruin” this institution?

More on that below, along with more links than you could display at the annual Sausage Convention.

Leaping lizards and leaping logic: That’s found in so much published on NRO this week past, from Democratic “rationales” on allowing abortion-surviving infants to die, to more Democratic rationale — that Bernie Sanders could be elected president.

Well, by next week’s edition — the South Carolina and Super Tuesday primaries having been held — the political landscape might be quite different. So, let us pray, might be the Dow Jones Average. And the reality and angst of the coronavirus.

On with the Jolt!

Editorial

1. Big Surprise. Michael Mann, false Nobel Peace Prize awardee, admits the point of his lawsuit against National Review is to ruin it. We have a thing or three to say about that. From the editorial:

A few days before launching his lawsuit against what he called “this filthy organization,” Michael Mann wrote that there “is a possibility that I can ruin National Review.” Nearly a decade later, we are still fighting his attempt to do precisely that.

From the beginning of this affair, National Review has maintained that the case that Mann filed is frivolous, malicious, corrupt, and lacking entirely in legal justification. We maintain that still. The Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment is predicated upon “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” and that matters of political dispute are in consequence exempt from superintendence. By attempting to litigate against his critics, Michael Mann has chosen to stand firmly on the other side of that national commitment. Were he to prevail, he would set a host of terrible precedents against free inquiry and open argument, and in favor of censorship.

That this case has been open-and-shut from the start was obvious not only to National Review, but to all who believe in the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press — which is why the amicus briefs that have been filed in our behalf range so widely across the political spectrum. . . .

So far, the courts have, to quote Churchill, elected to “go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.” They brushed past the anti-SLAPP statute that was designed to prevent this from happening. Our hope is that the same won’t happen with Section 230, which is also meant to protect the free-speech rights of online publishers.

It is a matter of considerable irony that the only “malice” that the discovery process has uncovered is that exhibited by Michael Mann. When planning his suit, Mann described National Review as a “threat to our children,” beholden to “greedy fat cat corporate masters.” His stated intention was to bring us “down for good.” Needless to say, this is not how a country with a First Amendment or a culture of free speech is supposed to work. It’s past time that this suit is dismissed as incompatible with both, and a failure on the facts and the law.

Get Some Culture!

What’s upstream of politics? Our friends at National Review Institute have made its biennial, multi-city tour — bringing NRI fellows face to face with readers, friends, and supporters of the Buckley Legacy — one that focuses on politics’ upstream wellspring. It’s titled “Perspectives on America Today and the Importance of Culture,” and if you are nearby any of the eight cities where these special Regional Seminars are taking place (the first one was earlier this week in Palm Beach, Florida), showcasing the wisdom of Rich Lowry, Charlie Cooke, John O’Sullivan, Madeleine Kearns, Daniel Mahoney, Ramesh Ponnuru, Kevin D. Williamson, Jay Nordlnger, and Kyle Smith, do come.

Here’s the schedule, which is still being shored up in some locations:

Newport Beach, CA (March 24)

San Francisco, CA (March 25)

Chicago, IL (April 2)

Dallas, TX (April 14) – information coming soon, but do mark your calendar!

Houston, TX (April 15)

New York, NY, May 11 – stay tuned

Philadelphia, PA (May 12) – stay tuned

Of the available links, click away if you want to sign up. This missive will keep you updated when Dallas, NYC, and Philly event info is finalized.

Fasting Rules Do Not Apply: Fill Your Plate with These Tasty NR Links and Enjoy the Delicious Wisdom from This Score of Servings of Brilliance

1. The attempt to “normalize” socialism by shading the essence of Bernie Sanders cuts no mustard with David Harsanyi. From the piece:

For that matter, many Americans — including Bernie — lived through Stalin and Pol Pot and Mao and they still champion the idea of socialism. It’s completely unsurprising that Bernie once defended the Viet Cong. Because many of us over 40 immediately recognize who Bernie is. I grew up with people like him. In those days, though, adults generally didn’t take their crazy disheveled Commie uncles who taught economics at the local commuter college very seriously. Maybe that’s the problem.

It’s true that Bernie’s fans aren’t acquainted with socialism (and, incidentally, this is true only if we ignore the existence of Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, China, etc.), but the fact is that most Bernie supporters don’t seem to have a rudimentary grasp of basic economics much less the “socialism” they think exists in Scandinavian nations. What they do have are lots of feelings. And, like millions of other saps over the past century-plus, they’ve been enticed by the collectivist “ethic” — its revolutionary appeal, its religiosity, and its quixotic promises.

“Fascism is remembered as a crime,” John Hayward correctly points out. “Communism is treated like a mistake.” I’d add that capitalism is judged by its few failures and socialism by its few success. Sanders will never praise the “literary literacy programs” of any non-tyranny. But if I’ve learned anything from Twitter — or perhaps, more accurately, if Twitter has solidified any of my existing suspicions— it’s that academia is teeming with hard-left apologists. There are plenty of fantastic historians out there, of course, but many of loudest academics, the ones media often relies on, are either apologists for socialism or socialists themselves.

2. Mona Charen nails Sanders as a cold Communist sympathizer. From the column:

Why make a fuss about Bernie’s past praise of Communist dictatorships? After all, the Cold War ended three decades ago, and a would-be President Sanders cannot exactly surrender to the Soviet Union.

It’s a moral issue. Sanders was not a liberal during the Cold War, i.e. someone who favored arms control, peace talks, and opposed support for anti-Communist movements. He was an outright Communist sympathizer, meaning he was always willing to overlook or excuse the crimes of regimes like Cuba and Nicaragua; always ready to suggest that only American hostility forced them to, among other things, arrest their opposition, expel priests, and dispense with elections.

Good ol’ consistent Bernie reprised one of the greatest hits of the pro-Castro Left last week on 60 Minutes. When Anderson Cooper pressed the senator by noting that Castro imprisoned a lot of dissidents, Sanders said he condemned such things. But even that grudging acknowledgment rankled the old socialist, who then rushed to add, “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?”

Actually, the first thing Castro did upon seizing power (note Sanders’s whitewashing term “came into office”) was to march 600 of Fulgencio Batista’s supporters into two of the island’s largest prisons, La Cabana and Santa Clara. Over the next five months, after rigged trials, they were shot. Some “trials” amounted to public spectacles. A crowd of 18,000 gathered in the Palace of Sports to give a thumbs-down gesture for Jesus Sosa Blanco. Before he was shot, Sosa Blanco noted that ancient Rome couldn’t have done it better.

3. Jim Geraghty does his “20 Things” thing, giving folks the 411 about a score of things they probably don’t know about Mike Bloomberg. We share the first two numbers. From the piece:

Bloomberg got his start on the path to corporate titanhood when he was paid $10 million and let go by Salomon Brothers as part of Phibro Corporation’s purchase of the venerable Wall Street firm. In his autobiography, Bloomberg on Bloomberg, he writes that he couldn’t understand why some of his colleagues insisted upon telling their spouses about the deal immediately. “Strict instructions to the contrary notwithstanding, some partners did telephone their wives that Friday night. I thought it was nonsensical to make your spouse a possible leak suspect. What difference would it make if she didn’t know for an extra day?”

In the same book, Bloomberg describes himself as “a member of the ‘never apologize, never explain’ school of management.” But he appears to have softened his stance on apologies since then. Just in the past few months, he has apologized for the stop-and-frisk policy he oversaw as New York City mayor, using disrespectful language about women, using prison workers for telemarketing, and calling Cory Booker “well-spoken.”

4. Bernie hates America because, writes Kevin Williamson, that’s what Lefties do. From the essay:

It is not true that the American Left has no interest in “our traditions and our Constitution.” The Left is very interested in our traditions and our Constitution — it hates these and wishes to see them destroyed. The Left’s war on the Constitution goes back to the foundation of American progressivism under Woodrow Wilson, who considered the Constitution outmoded and a hindrance to intelligent administration. The line of thinking extends straight into modern progressivism: Harry Reid’s attempt to gut the First Amendment in order to put political speech under government control, a proposal endorsed by every Democrat in the Senate; other related progressive attempts to destroy the Bill of Rights, beginning with the First and Second Amendments but by no means limited to these; the contention by progressives, typified by Ryan Cooper, that “the American Constitution is an outdated, malfunctioning piece of junk”; Senator Sanders’s call for “revolution”; etc.

The Democrats may shed a few crocodile tears over President Donald Trump’s supposed assault on the Constitution (Trump’s assault mainly has been on American manners, the importance of which is generally overlooked and misunderstood), but assaulting the Constitution is the foundation of their politics and their jurisprudence: Assaulting the Constitution — reshaping it to better fit progressive political preferences — is what Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were put on the Supreme Court to do. The intellectual and constitutional position that this is impermissible — that the Constitution must be treated as though it says what it actually says rather than as though it said what people invested with transient political power wish it said, which is all the “textualism” of Clarence Thomas et al. actually amounts to — is denounced as dangerous “extremism.” Whatever it is the American Left is on about, it is not the Constitution — not the actual one that has been written down, in any case.

5. El Jefe Rich Lowry says Bernie as POTUS 46 would be akin to President Noam Chomsky. From the column:

Bernie’s perspective on Cuba isn’t an outlier. It is characteristic of his worldview that has a sympathy for America’s enemies, at least if they are Communist or Islamist; that assumes the worst of the United States; and that opposes nearly all U.S. military interventions as misbegotten or malign. (Sanders voted for the Afghanistan War after September 11 and now regrets even that vote.)

Electing Bernie Sanders would be almost indistinguishable from putting the late radical historian Howard Zinn, or the America-loathing linguist Noam Chomsky, or the tendentious left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore in charge of American foreign policy. The country would be in the hands of an opponent of its power with no faith in its goodness. Bernie would make Barack Obama’s overly solicitous attitude toward our enemies and Donald Trump’s bizarrely warm statements about foreign dictators look like American foreign-policy orthodoxy by comparison.

There is almost no enemy of the United States that wouldn’t be heartened by a Sanders victory and see it as an opportunity to make gains at the expense of the United States and its allies. If his decades-long track record is any indication, Sanders would be inclined to make excuses for our adversaries and look on the bright side of their repression and rapine.

He’s doing it with the Cuban dictatorship to this day.

6. Victor Davis Hanson takes on Bloomberg’s “gray matter” boast and delves deeper into the elites’ disdain for the working class. From the essay:

Why do so many liberal journalists, politicians, and celebrities harbor such contempt for, and show such snobbery about, the white working, and often rural, classes of the American heartland?

The most obvious answers are that the media, elite politicians, and government hierarchy are liberal or left-wing, and the objects of their hatred are mostly conservative. Just look at any election map, color-coded by either congressional districts or Electoral College states, and the nation, geographically, is a sea of red, bookended by two long blue corridors on the coasts, the home of the nation’s tony universities, network news, media hubs, the bureaucratic borg, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and Wall Street.

Second, there is no cultural, career, or political downside in stereotyping millions of Americans as stupid, crude, and culturally repugnant. Had Don Lemon’s two guests mimicked the dialect of inner-city youths and suggested they were uneducated and thus gullible supporters of Barack Obama, they would have been banned from CNN for life. Or had Peter Strzok suggested that he could smell Obama supporters at Walmart, federal attorneys would probably have found a way to have him indicted by now.

Third, politics, academia, the media, and entertainment don’t necessarily draw in particularly wise people, especially if knowledge is broadly defined as social skills, empirical education, common sense, and pragmatic experience. According to the rules of the elementary playground, one becomes exalted by ridiculing others. High-school dropouts such as Robert De Niro and Cher seem to appear sophisticated by ranting about Trump and his supposedly ignorant supporters. Don Lemon’s skills seem mostly limited to reading a teleprompter — when he ventures into commentary and analysis, he usually sounds either banal or adolescent. Howling at stupid jokes about the supposed ignorance of the red-state drawler apparently lend the insipid Lemon an air of cosmopolitan sophistication. Michael Bloomberg, for all his billions and cunning, cannot fathom in a debate that, by joking about TurboTax, he only further alienates millions who use it because they cannot hire his legions of attorneys to reduce their tax exposure.

7. Andrew McCarthy reviews the Roger Stone sentencing as an ending (really?) of the Russia Collusion Farce. From the analysis:

Stone was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment. This was smack in the middle of the federal sentencing guidelines’ range — 37 to 46 months — that Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department argued would be a reasonable term. The AG’s position was a second-guess of the Stone trial’s prosecutors. That team, dominated by Mueller fabulists who portrayed the Stone case as Watergate revisited, had recommended something closer to a nine-year sentence.

The severity of the trial team’s recommendation was objectively absurd. It was, more to the point, merely a recommendation — as was Barr’s milder but still stiff counter. It had no legally binding effect whatsoever on the judge. In federal law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, the judge decides the sentence. Not only is the sentencing court free to ignore any recommendation from prosecutors, which judges do with frequency; the court is free to ignore the guidelines — the regime Congress introduced in the 1980s in a (moderately successful) effort to end obscene disparities in sentences imposed on similarly situated defendants.

Nevertheless, Barr’s entirely reasonable position was castigated by Democrats, their media notetakers, and progressive lawyers who have transformed the organized bar into just another left-wing hack. These last included a couple thousand former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials, who took a break from writing donation checks for their favorite Democratic demagogues to sign a petition demanding Barr’s resignation — strangely silent, though they were, when Obama AG Eric Holder was being held in contempt for misleading and obstructing Congress’s investigation of the Fast & Furious scandal, in which the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol officer was just part of the lethal fallout from the Obama Justice Department’s reckless gun-walking scheme.

8. More Andy: The Harvey Weinstein verdict, and legal aftermath, explained. From the piece:

The main appellate issues arising out of the trial will likely involve the similar-act evidence and the court’s refusal to excuse one juror for cause. Ironically, the three acquittals should be of great help to the state on appeal.

As noted above, similar-act evidence always creates thorny legal issues. Here, the court permitted testimony from victims of four similar acts to bolster proof of just two indicted acts. It is unusual for proof of uncharged crimes to be more extensive than that of charged crimes. Clearly, the defense will claim on appeal that the similar-act evidence inflamed the jury into convicting because Weinstein is a sociopath, rather than on the strength of the proof of the two sex acts actually charged. Moreover, Weinstein’s lawyers will contend that Sciorra’s testimony and the two PSA counts were a pretext for making an end run around the statute of limitations.

The verdict will help the state rebut such claims. The fact that a jury of seven men and five women did not convict on the most serious charges, and that it convicted only on third-degree rather than first-degree rape (in the Mann incident), indicates that it was sober and discriminating in doing its job — it was not so distracted or prejudiced by the similar-act evidence that it could not carefully weigh the evidence in the Mann and Haley cases. (Indeed, it appears that jurors largely discounted Sciorra’s accusation of rape.)

The judge also made a decision, hotly disputed by the defense, to permit a novelist to sit on the jury. The author revealed that she had written a novel about three women who had sexual relationships with older men. During the voir dire examination, she denied that the book was about predatory older men. The defense claims that this was a lie, reporting that the juror’s website described her book as being about young women and “predatory older men.” Weinstein’s lawyers had run out of peremptory challenges (i.e., jurors who are stricken at the discretion of the two legal teams, rather than for cause) by the time the juror in question was examined. The trial judge denied the defense’s motion to remove her for cause (i.e., for implicitly being too biased to decide the case fairly and impartially).

9. Michael Brendan Dougherty finds Michael Bloomberg’s Red China kowtowing to be disqualifying. From the analysis:

Perhaps worst of all, it turned out that American businesses with significant interests in China, including the NBA, were willing to protect those interest even if doing so meant deploying the Communist political tools of censorship, false propaganda, and public struggle sessions — all of which followed after the relatively mild pro-Hong Kong comments of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

Now Bloomberg has entered the presidential race, and his view of China runs in the exact opposite direction of conventional wisdom. “Xi Jinping is not a dictator. He has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive,” Bloomberg told Firing Line’s Margaret Hoover last year. It’s a comment he has repeated elsewhere. “The Chinese government is no less impacted by what their constituents — i.e. citizens, voters — want than anyplace else,” he said at one conference.

Bloomberg’s comments on China are distressing for two reasons. First, they deny the reality that China is a Communist dictatorship, run without the consent of its people, and that what popular legitimacy it does have comes partly as a product of how it has degraded said people. Secondly, they seem to deny the existence of tyranny as a category, to be an assertion that there are no captive peoples.

10. John Hirschauer reports that some establishment types charge Pete Buttigieg as insufficiently intersectional. From the piece:

The protester’s objection to Buttigieg’s melanin count and intact genitalia — “Why aren’t you a trans black woman, Mr. Mayor? highlights an ongoing debate on the left about the former mayor’s sexuality, and whether he is, in the words of Masha Gessen of The New Yorker, “gay enough” to represent the LGBT community.

One would think Buttigieg’s gay bona fides are obvious. He is “married” to another man, and frequently drones on about how Mike Pence “hates” him for his sexual preferences. Buttigieg is nevertheless accused of lacking a metaphysical “gayness,” one that obtains not by participation in certain sex acts but instead through the approval of the identity eunuchs in the commentariat and American sociology departments. The operative question, then, is not whether Pete Buttigieg is a homosexual — that much is beyond dispute — but instead whether he is gay, or “gay enough.”

Gessen attempted to explain the contempt “some queer people” hold for Mayor Pete, who they doubt “is gay enough” to represent their political interests. What the mayor’s relative “gayness” has to do with his aptitude as a political vessel for the interests of “queer people” is unclear, as is her operative definition of “gay.” Gessen nevertheless proceeds with an empiricist’s certainty, picking apart moments in Buttigieg’s life and asserting that “the notion that some of us think that Buttigieg is not gay enough has an identifiable relationship to the facts.”

11. More Hirschauer: Hard to believe some conservative Catholics find Pope Francis . . . conservative. That’s even after reading Dan Mahoney’s recent powerful cover story on the Pontiff. John has something to say in response to the fawning. From the piece:

It is difficult to square the suggestion that Pope Francis is “a man of Tradition” with his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. While some assert that Pope Benedict XVI was primarily responsible for the document, nearly every inside source we have confirms that Gaudium is much more of a ‘Francis document’” than a Benedictine one, and it “regularly emphasizes the distinctive thought and themes of” the current Pope.

Indeed, Gaudium is full of Francis’s trademark calls for innovation — it asks the Church to embrace “new narratives and paradigms,” “new forms of cultural synthesis,” and, “new signs and new symbols” to better commune with “today’s world.” None of these vague “novelties” can be classified as right-wing or deferential to the Church’s patrimony. Francis calls the very power structure of the Church into question when he suggests, in Gaudium, that the Church “examine” the possibility of imputing “genuine doctrinal authority” to “episcopal conferences,” a divestiture of papal authority that would grant bishops’ conferences the power to enact new doctrines under the guise of “synodality” and the fleeting dictates of the popular will.

This exhortation is awash in the pluralistic ecumenism that has dominated post-conciliar thinking. Elsewhere in Gaudium, Francis goes out of his way to heap abundant praise upon non-Christian religions, assuring readers that “authentic” practitioners of Islam “are opposed to every form of violence” and instructing Christians to heed the “practical wisdom” contained in other faiths. Apprehending these bits of “practical wisdom” will, he writes, allow Christians to better “accept” the “different ways of living, thinking and speaking” among those schismatics and dissenters who would, in a faraway time of moral clarity, have been prompted to “return to the one true Church of Christ” for the sake of their eternal souls.

The document’s ebullient praise for dissidents and “acceptance” of divergent “ways of . . . thinking,” however, is mysteriously denied to some Catholic believers, whom the Pope deems to possess “an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine, and for the Church’s prestige” and “a nostalgia for structures and customs which are no longer life-giving in today’s world.” Never mind the consolation offered by the unchanging majesty of those “structures and customs” to the poor and dispossessed; while some of those “customs may be beautiful,” Francis writes, they must be abandoned for improperly “communicating the Gospel” to the spiritual paupers of modernity.

12. Conrad Black provides an excellent rundown of the career of Bernie Sanders, plus a couple of ways to handle him, plus a prediction about the November elections should the Democrats nominate the Socialist to challenge Donald Trump. From the piece:

The key to repulsing Sanders lies in three responses: First, publicization, as has already begun, of the many colossal indiscretions in his lengthy public record, including his exaggerated claim that the U.S. is “systemically racist” and reflections published in an “alternative” newspaper on the alleged propensity of women to fantasize about rape. Second is fanning the well-entrenched negative American response to the idea of socialism as coercive and anti-individualistic, amounting to Communism with less severity, at least initially. Finally, Sanders’s opponent, Bloomberg (and if he can’t do it, Trump), starts with the 49.9 percent who are losers in the Sanders transformation and then scoops up at least a third of Sanders’s targeted voters by pitching to their not unreasonable faith in their ability to get into the upper half without having to float upwards because of exorbitant government extractions and reallocations.

Obviously, Sanders must lose, if not at the convention, then in November. If Sanders is nominated, Trump will take about 65 percent of the vote, the highest percentage for a candidate in a contested U.S. presidential election in 200 years, and will win every state (including Vermont), and roll up a margin of about twice Richard Nixon’s outstanding record of 18 million votes over George McGovern in 1972 (with only about 55 percent of the number of voters anticipated this year). In such a tidal wave, Trump’s coattails would be long and would install a heavy Republican majority in both houses of Congress. This is why the Democratic elders are frazzled by the prospect of a Sanders candidacy. Michael Bloomberg, who is not otherwise any more beloved a candidate to them than Trump was to the Bush-Romney-McCain Republicans four years ago, is now the anointed savior of some post-electoral standing for the Democrats. Never in American history has a political leader achieved so swift a transition from a side-splitting joke to his opponents, as Trump was a little over three years ago, to the subject of their cold, gripping terror, of such enormity as only the impending loss of control of a vast apparatus of government and media influence can induce.

13. What’s harming scientific research, writes Daniel Tenreiro, is the politics of science-research papers and the triumph of citations over exploration. From the piece:

Despite Silicon Valley’s public-relations efforts, which tout the transformative potential of new software, more and more thinkers argue that we are experiencing technological stagnation. Citing disappointing productivity numbers and the comparatively low impact of recent information-technology innovations, Peter Thiel, Tyler Cowen, Larry Summers, and others have made this case in recent years, but theories abound as to why it is happening. On one popular view, expressed most comprehensively by Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, Western researchers have picked all the technological “low-hanging fruit,” such as indoor plumbing, automobiles, and air travel. According to this theory, there are diminishing returns to science; once you’ve discovered fire and electricity, all future innovations will pale in comparison.

Economists Jay Bhattacharya and Mikko Packalen push back on this view in a new paper. “New ideas no longer fuel economic growth the way they once did,” they acknowledge, but rather than resulting from the laws of physics, the dearth of new ideas is a consequence of the incentives faced by scientists.

Because academic papers are evaluated by how many citations they receive, scientists choose low-risk projects that are certain to get attention rather than novel experiments that may fail. Academics cluster into crowded fields because papers in such fields are guaranteed to be read by a high number of researchers.

This is a relatively new phenomenon, as citation analysis of scientific research was introduced only in the 1950s and did not become common until the 1970s. Eugene Garfield, who developed the idea of using citation quantity to evaluate the impact of journals, came to regret its use as a performance indicator for individual researchers.

RELATED: Caleb Watney writes that there is a global run on scientific minds.

14. Kevin Williamson checks out the modern fear to call something evil . . . “evil.” From the essay:

As the pop-fiction psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter puts it, we have “given up good and evil for behaviorism.” We cannot stand to call evil evil, and so resort to the sterile language of psychiatry.

I am sure that I am guilty of using that kind of language myself, though I repent of it.

But what would we do without pseudo-medical language to replace the moral language we have abandoned? For a half a century or more, all the best people nodded sagely when some imbecile would say, “You can’t legislate morality!” as though legislation had any other basis, as though we outlaw murder because it is bad for the GDP. We are still saying that even as college students are given twenty-page contracts to fill out before a kiss goodnight. Of course you need a contract—What if he’s a sociopath? A psychopath? A narcissist? It is a myth that Victorians draped the legs of pianos so as not to encourage impure thoughts about legs not attached to keyboard instruments, but it certainly is the case that earlier generations had more evolved and demanding etiquettes relating to interactions between the sexes. We are, in the halting and stupid way of our times, creating a new version of that etiquette, one that is generally silly but is nonetheless attuned, if imperfectly, to the same social needs and concerns as the other, older etiquette. Megan McArdle touches on this when she observes that ‘we no longer have any moral language for talking about sex except consent.”

Moral language makes us uncomfortable, because we abandoned the notion of judgment when we abandoned responsible adulthood and began to insist that hierarchical social relations were necessarily unjust and oppressive — Who are you to tell me what’s right and what’s wrong? Who are you to judge? Moral language forces us to face our moral illiteracy, to admit that we have not engaged in the necessary moral education to cultivate ourselves and our children for some generations now. This surrender was very much abetted by the schools and the churches and other institutions, but the abandonment was, by and large, organic and self-organizing. What we rejected was authority.

15. Kyle Smith’s views about Balloon are up, up, and away. From the review:

The German film Balloon explores the Iron Curtain from an unusual angle: above. Two ordinary families living a routine existence in Poessneck, a small East German town in 1979, yearn to escape by making their own hot-air balloon and soaring south over the border into West Germany. Some 75,000 East Germans were imprisoned for trying to make their way into the West, and about 800 were outright murdered by their own security forces in such attempts. The peril level is set at maximum, then, for these average citizens, and layered atop that is the massive danger of sailing thousands of feet up in a rickety jury-rigged contraption built by amateurs. Balloon revels in exploring the details of every possible kind of danger these people face, so it’s a nerve-wincher, a cracking good escape thriller, but that’s not all it is.

As breathtakingly plotted as the film is, it is nevertheless based on the true story of Peter Strelzyk (Friedrich Mücke) and Günter Wetzel (David Kross), who together with their wives Doris (Karoline Schuch) and Petra (Alicia von Rittberg) schemed to become the first people ever to escape East Germany in a hot-air balloon. The story was previously filmed at Disney, in Night Crossing (1982), but that retelling was much less faithful to the facts.

Balloon takes care not to exaggerate the suffering of Peter and Günter and their families. Even in a police state, it’s possible to muddle through. If they just keep their heads down, say nothing controversial and salute the Party on cue, they’ll survive, even enjoy something in the ballpark of a recognizable standard of living to Westerners. Still, there are glimpses of how a centralized economy makes everything an endless gray trudge, in which glum women line up patiently for groceries but worry that the coffee will be gone by the time they get in the store. An ideal vacation, available to the well-connected only, is a visit to Berlin. The most desirable rooms are the ones on high floors in hotels near West Berlin, so you can see all the way over to the West.

16. Armond White finds Elisabeth Moss’s performance in The Invisible Man to be repugnant. From the beginning of the review:

‘He is not the victim here!” screams Elisabeth Moss, heroine of The Invisible Man, the latest in the series that reboots Universal Studios’ classic 1930s scary movies for the gullible Millennial market. The film’s title now refers to the hidden threat of an unseen, yet lethal, patriarchy. But this movie doesn’t fight against under-recognized male hegemony; it is very much part of contemporary Hollywood hegemony, imposing social-justice trends on our culture.

Moss plays Cecilia Kass, the frantic girlfriend of Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), an “optics engineer” who dominates and abuses her physically and psychologically. She’s imprisoned in his high-tech Bay Area cliffside mansion — a sort of #MeToo Rapunzel, unfurling a long list of grievances. In short, this new The Invisible Man is no fun.

How could it be when we’re subjected to more whining and whimpering from Moss? First seen making her preplanned escape (borrowed from Julia Roberts’s Sleeping with the Enemy), Moss negates the film’s fairy-tale, bad-romance aspects through her usual impertinence. She has made a career out of seeming to have never had a happy day in her life. This miserable outlook defines every Moss role from TV’s Mad Men to The Handmaid’s Tale. As the standard-bearers for anti-entertainment, Moss and director Leigh Whannell promote the perverse trend in which silly actresses think that “empowerment” justifies everything. They corrupt what was originally H. G. Wells’s study of egotism-turned-to-madness. It’s now a lesson in misandry, a women’s-justice broadside (with a particular topical target to be named later).

17. Madeleine Kearns focuses on the UK’s political-identity crisis, which continues to expose Labour’s meltdown. From the piece:

The British Labour Party recently celebrated its 120th birthday. Lately, that’s all it has had to celebrate. December’s general election shrunk the party’s number of MPs to 202, its lowest level since 1935. And with four more years of Tory rule to come, the candidates fighting to replace the disastrous Jeremy Corbyn as party leader appear unable to initiate a comeback.

In the general-election campaign, Corbyn proposed dramatically increasing the health budget and minimum wage, introducing free personal care for the elderly, reaching net-zero carbon emissions by the 2030s, nationalizing water, the railways, and the postal service, and abolishing private schools — at a combined cost of $97 billion. It was a demonstrably unpopular platform, yet the front-runner to take over as Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has made clear that he intends to run on it. Rebecca Long Bailey, another contender for the job, has said that she would “love” to have Corbyn in her shadow cabinet.

All of which suggests that Labour has not learned the lessons of history. Even before Corbyn’s spectacular defeat, the party had ample empirical evidence to suggest that left-wing economic policies are a path to failure at the polls. Its mishandling of inflation led to union strikes during the 1978–79 Winter of Discontent, which in turn prompted nearly 20 years of Tory rule. By the mid 1980s, Old Labour’s hard-line socialist policies were so unpopular that MP Gerald Kaufman famously described his party’s 1983 general-election manifesto as “the longest suicide note in history.”

18. Europe’s Death March: The Final Solution had its actual roots in euthanasia of the mentally challenged (influenced by Margaret Sanger). Wesley Smith reports on a new generation of Germans, courtesy of its High Court, who have established the suicide right. From the Corner post:

It cannot be denied any longer. The long-predicted (here’s a 2007 warning from me) lethal logical end of accepting the values that underlie the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement — death for virtually anyone who wants to die for any reason — has officially been reached. This would seem to include at least mature children, since childhood is a stage of a person’s existence. Right?

So no more telling us that assisted suicide is only for the terminally ill! No more telling us that rigid guidelines will protect against abuse! Basta! Germany is now officially a suicide culture. If we keep hearkening to the siren song of death emanating from assisted/suicide euthanasia advocates here, sooner or later, we will be too.

19. America’s Death March: Alexandra DeSanctis covers the Democrat-led filibuster of a bill that would have protected infants who survived abortion. From the article:

Earlier this week, 41 Democratic senators successfully filibustered the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require doctors to provide standard medical care to infants who survive attempted abortion procedures.

Contrary to Democratic claims, the bill is neither unnecessary nor redundant. Abortion survivors are not a fiction invented by the pro-life movement. No law currently protects such infants. And the bill neither regulates nor limits abortion or women’s health-care options. All it requires is that doctors give “the same degree” of care to newborns who survive abortion that “any other child born alive at the same gestational age” would receive.

In more than a dozen states, it is not currently illegal for a doctor to allow a newborn who survives an abortion to die of neglect. Had Democrats not blocked it, this bill would have changed that.

Republicans hope that the outcome of this vote will sway some voters later this year, exposing Democrats’ radical commitment to the logic of abortion, which turns a blind eye to infants being allowed to die simply because they were meant to have been aborted.

One survey from March 2019 found that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe doctors should be required to care for infants who survive abortion. Another survey found even higher support: 82 percent said they oppose removing medical care from viable infants.

20. Steve Hanke ranks nations by misery. We here share the bottom dwellers. From the analysis:

Venezuela holds the inglorious title of the most miserable country in the world in 2019, as it did in 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015. The failures of president Nicolás Maduro’s corrupt, socialist petroleum state have been well documented over the past year. However, behind the shroud of secrecy that covers Venezuela, a great deal of change occurred in the components of HAMI in 2019. Inflation, while still the world’s highest, came down. On the other hand, the unemployment rate surged to 24 percent from 14.9 percent in 2018, while GDP per capita took a dive from  -16.5 percent per year to -32.2 percent per year.

Argentina held down the second-most miserable spot after yet another peso crisis. Since its founding, Argentina has endured numerous economic crises. Most can be laid at the feet of domestic mismanagement and currency problems (read: currency collapses). Such crises have occurred in 1876, 1890, 1914, 1930, 1952, 1958, 1967, 1975, 1985, 1989, 2001, 2018, and 2019, to name but a few. Until Argentina dumps the beleaguered peso and replaces it with the U.S. dollar, it will be, well . . . miserable.

American Ingrate

Our pal Ben Weingarten, who hangs his hat at The Federalist, has written a book, out this week, that I can’t wait to get my hands on: American Ingrate: Ilhan Omar and the Progressive Islamist Takeover of the Democratic Party. Two serious conservatives have great things to say about it.

From Victor Davis Hanson: “Benjamin Weingarten professionally and thoroughly dissects the strange case of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and demonstrates that much about the congresswoman is an enigma at best and a fraud at worst…Weingarten suggests that if Omar had not existed, she would have had to be invented, given that she is a metaphor for a larger American pathology of progressive virtue-signaling, and, ultimately, self-loathing.”

And Dennis Prager weighs in: “American Ingrate is a serious, deeply researched work that makes the compelling case Rep. Ilhan Omar is the new face of the Democratic Party, and delves deeply into her background and beliefs. It compellingly sets forth the argument that she not only personifies but leads a Progressive-Islamist alliance held together by the glue of hatred of America, of Judeo-Christian values, of Western civilization, and of Israel. Read it and weep. Or better, read it and fight back. This is a manual in that fight.”

You can order a copy here.

The Six

1. At The Imaginative Conservative, George Washington received excellent and deserved attention on his birthday, leading off with Bradley Birzer’s piece making the case for considering POTUS ONE as an American Aurelius. From the reflection:

In his own day and age, George Washington was the greatest and best-known man in all of Western Civilization. Washington (1732-1799), indeed, served as a pillar of Atlantis, recognized not only for his willingness to sacrifice his life for the great Republic, but also as the founder of the first serious Republic a weary world had witnessed since the martyrdom of Cicero. A true genius when it came to geometry, trigonometry, and surveying, he also read deeply in military history, biography, agricultural science. His loves, though, were hunting, adventure (as in traveling), and farming. Surveying, especially, allowed him to combine many of these loves into one. Ironically, given the status he attained as a living hero or demigod in his own lifetime, Washington suffered from a lack of liberal education, strange by the standards of his day. Much of what he knew of the classical world came not from a study of Greek and Latin (as with many of the founding fathers), but from his reading of biography and, especially, from his love of the Joseph Addison play, Cato: A Tragedy. Despite this, he earned innumerable classical titles during his lifetime, including: the American Achilles, the American Cicero, the American Aeneas, and the American Cincinnatus.

He deserves another title: the American Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius was, of course, one of the so-called “Five Good Emperors,” ruling Rome from 161 to 180. While Washington would never have been emperor, the two shared a common Stoic view of the world. In his always profound Meditations, Aurelius defined the philosophy of many ages before him and many to come.

2. In City Journal, Christopher Rufo finds the addiction epidemic in Los Angeles has created a permanent, cut-off underclass. From the article:

The scale of the crisis is astonishing: 40,000 homeless men and women in Los Angeles County suffer from addiction, mental illness, or both. More than 1,000 will die on the streets this year. As I survey the human wreckage along Skid Row, my fear is that the city government is creating a new class of “untouchables,” permanently disconnected from the institutions of society. For the past decade, political leaders have relied on two major policies to address the crisis—“harm reduction” and “housing first”—but despite $619 million in spending in 2018, more people are on the streets than ever. The reality is that Los Angeles has adopted a policy of containment: construct enough “supportive housing” to placate the appetites of the social-services bureaucracy, distribute enough needles to prevent an outbreak of plague, and herd enough men and women into places like Skid Row, where they will not disrupt the political fiction that everything is okay.

The LAPD’s Central Police Station is a windowless fortress, surrounded by a narrow strip of dirt and a sagging chain-link fence. Last year, after rats established a system of tunnels underneath the station, the department made plans to pave over the remaining landscape with concrete, but the project is on hold. I’m here to see Sergeant Pete Kouvelis, an LAPD veteran with a detailed, street-level understanding of life on Skid Row. I wait in line behind a polite and neatly dressed man filing a battery complaint against another resident in his SRO apartment complex, and then give my name to the tired-looking officer behind the glass.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti nails the academic Left’s continued march through European universities. From the outset of the article:

Western universities have become places of personal fear and intellectual terror. Formerly sanctuaries for open inquiry, instead fierce ideological minorities have been setting red lines of orthodoxy in the face of a silent or, worse, compliant academy. Education — from ex ducere, to lead out — has been increasingly eroded by ideological fundamentalism and an attempt to determine not only what actions are acceptable, but even words and thoughts.

Social media has helped by officially reviving the lynch mob. We must now all sing the praises of multiculturalism, Islam, immigration, post-colonial guilt and racializing just about everything. In this new Inquisition, not even the slightest doubt or dissent can be tolerated — it must be punished!

Freedom of expression is increasingly at risk in France by effectively creating new crimes of opinion. If your personal opinion coincides with the official one, you have nothing to fear. If your ideas conflict with the official ones, you risk becoming ostracized and your mere existence in the public sphere scandalous.

The new academic fascism,” is how Natacha Polony, a television host and editor of the French weekly Marianne, has described it. If you dissent, educators, political leaders, the media and the mob will try to destroy you, just as they destroyed Giordano Bruno in 1600 for saying that the universe could have many stars.

“Small radical groups create a climate of terror to impose opinions and silence their opponents,” Polony wrote. “They enjoy infinite mercy from some political and media circles insofar as they claim to embody the Good. Who would dare to challenge them?”

4. At Law & Liberty, John McGinnis offers a refresher on the lessons of the French Revolution. From the essay:

Other than the American Revolution, the French Revolution is the political event of modernity with the longest-lasting influence. Both revolutions created new regimes (although only America’s lasted) and advanced political ideals that still resonate around the world. It is not a surprise that famous politicians of recent times still assess an upheaval that occurred 200 years ago in a different nation than their own: “It resulted in a lot of headless corpses and a tyrant” was Margaret Thatcher’s verdict on its 200th birthday. Zhou Enlai was less certain, suggesting that even after 175 years, it was “too soon to tell” about the revolution’s ultimate significance.

Thus, it is always worth learning more about the French Revolution, and Jeremy Popkin’s The New World Begins is the most important English language history of this epochal event since Simon Schama’s Citizens appeared 30 years ago. Its fair-minded and fast-paced recounting of the events allows for a reassessment of the Revolution’s causes and of its value. Popkin provides a brilliant frame for understanding what sparked and sustained the revolt by contrasting the life of Louis XVI, the French King who lost his head, with one of his subjects, Jacques Menetra, a skilled glazier who left a full memoir of his own life in the turbulent times.

Louis XVI was not unintelligent, but his entire education and routine left him unfit to understand his nation, let alone deal shrewdly with a political cataclysm. His lessons as a youngster focused on the glorious past of his ancestors, and his routine as an adult confined his experience, giving him few opportunities to meet with people outside fawning courtiers. It is thus not surprising that Bourbons like Louis “learned nothing and forgot nothing” in Talleyrand’s well-known jibe. Incredibly, Louis XVI journeyed outside the environs of Paris only once before his failed attempt to escape abroad in 1791.

In contrast, Menetra traveled around much of France. While he was not well-educated, he was literate and skilled in creating social (not to mention sexual) networks wherever he went. The country, Popkin implies, was full of Menetras. Their collective power and intelligence overmatched a monarchy that had few reliable sources of information and a self-understanding that was at least a century out of date.

5. Your Humble Correspondent is a sucker for anything Helen Andrews writes, such as her review, in Claremont Review of Books, of Chris Caldwell’s new book, The Age of Entitlement. From the review:

Of course, the law—and its 1968 successor—did do all that, and more. One of Caldwell’s most provocative arguments is his rejection of the belief, common among conservatives, that there is a “good” civil rights law buried beneath the quotas and diktats and that “[o]nce the country came to its senses and rejected this optional, radical regime, it could have the good civil rights regime back.” Even in its original incarnation, civil rights law required employers to collect extensive demographic data on their workers, institute grievance procedures and performance reviews, hire human resources directors to enforce the new rules (Caldwell aptly compares them to “twentieth-century commissars”), and—most far-reaching of all—impose strict censorship on what their employees were allowed to say.

“Political correctness,” says Caldwell, is simply “the cultural effect of the basic enforcement powers of civil rights law.” He cites Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Al Campanis, who was fired in 1987 by the team he had worked for since 1943 after an interview in which Ted Koppel asked him about the lack of black executives in major league baseball. Campanis gave a thoughtful answer pointing out that team managers don’t get paid very much and well-known black players might prefer other opportunities. He then got flustered when Koppel called his answer “baloney” and “garbage,” and offered a rambling second answer that ended with him speculating that maybe black men are poor swimmers because “they don’t have the buoyancy.”

Today we attribute outrage storms to social media, but, as Caldwell points out, organizations like the Dodgers don’t cave just because they are afraid of bad publicity. They do it because they’re afraid of lawsuits. Comments like Campanis’s, not actionable in themselves, can serve in an anti-discrimination case as evidence of a hostile work environment or covert bias. The comments need not even be made in the workplace. In a 1987 suit brought by a female English professor, claiming Boston University had wrongly denied her tenure because of her sex, her case partly rested on a speech given years earlier by the university president in which he made standard socially conservative points about working women and child-rearing. The district court ruled that B.U. had indeed acted out of sexism and ordered the school to give the woman tenure, plus $215,000.

6. At The American Conservative, James Matthew Wilson reviews a new collection of Flannery O’Connor’s letters and the impact of Twentieth Century Catholic literature. From the piece:

Good Things Out of Nazareth—a volume of Flannery O’Connor’s previously uncollected letters to friends—tells us an important American literary tale, interesting in itself, that also sets the record straight on Catholicism’s influence on modern American literature.

The Catholic Church underwent a great, international renaissance in the early 20th century—stimulated by the revival of Scholastic philosophy and, later, by the rumblings of a new theology seeking a return to the patristic writings of the early Church. At the same time, Catholic writers in England and France were doing some of their best work. Paul Claudel published The Satin Slipper in 1931 and was elected to the Académie française in 1946. Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory won Hawthornden Prize in 1941, and Evelyn Waugh published Brideshead Revisited in 1945, followed by his Sword of Honor trilogy.

Catholic colleges and universities in America enthusiastically endorsed an “apostolate of the pen” by assigning modern Catholic writers in their classrooms, and by mid-century, American literature itself found a genuinely Catholic expression, mostly in the work of intellectuals who had been converted to the faith—such as Thomas Merton, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Dorothy Day, and Robert Lowell. Between 1945 and 1965, Dana Gioia observes in The Catholic Writer Today and Other Essays, “Catholic novelists and poets received 11 Pulitzer Prizes and 5 National Book Awards.” In retrospect, this seems almost the inevitable outcome of a program that had been both consciously and patiently undertaken.

This volume’s letters and the commentary that accompany them add a fascinating twist to the story: what may seem to us inevitable at first appeared totally improbable. When the Southern novelist Gordon, herself a recent convert to the faith, reads two unpublished novels in manuscript, she is totally taken aback. Most American Catholic literature of the age was more notable for its piety than its technique. The American literary landscape, as Gordon saw it, seemed securely dominated by a desiccated, sterile Protestantism that had found classic expression in Henry James, but had now lapsed into what she and Senator Eugene McCarthy denounced as a largely “homosexual” culture of decadence.

BONUS: At The College Fix, Jeremiah Poff reports on Wake Forest’s effort to white-out the school’s classics program. From the beginning of the piece:

A North Carolina university that recently made headlines for apologizing for slavery is in the midst of a program that offers a new take on the discipline of classics to make up for its history of “abusive and exclusionary” curriculum.

Launched in September at Wake Forest University, “Classics Beyond Whiteness” is an effort to assist the discipline to “come to terms with its participation in abusive and exclusionary practices that have caused real and lasting harm to communities and students of color,” according to the program’s description on the university website.

The program was inspired by a previous one, last year’s “Classics Beyond Europe,” and is a “multidisciplinary and multimedia program including lectures, workshops, film screenings, art projects, a reading group, and a museum exhibit.”

The program’s most recent event was a film screening of “Chi-Raq,” a film directed by controversial filmmaker Spike Lee, but early in the program it featured a series of book group meetings on “Not All Dead White Men.”

Baseballery

The Philadelphia Athletics had, prior to their eventual move (first stop, Kansas City) to Oakland, two periods of greatness. The second was 1927 to 1932, when they captured three AL pennants, two World Championships, and finished second in the standings three times. The first great period was from 1910–1914, when the As appeared in four World Series and won three of them.

The one lost was a classic — a four-game sweep by Boston’s Miracle Braves. When the final out was registered (Athletic first baseman Stuffy McInnis grounded out to secure Braves starter Dick Rudolph his second Series victory), Philadelphia began a doldrums (owner / manager Connie Mack refused to pay wages that competed with the new Federal League), which found the As in last place for the next seven seasons.

The worst of them was 1916, when the team registered one of baseball’s worst-ever records: 36–117. They trailed the AL Champion Boston Red Sox by 54 ½ games. The aging future Hall-of-Famer Napolean Lajoie played his final year for this dismal squad. The As never won more than two consecutive games, and in mid July commenced a 1–29 journey into baseball’s doggiest-ever days of Summer.

Starters Elmer Myers (14–23) and Bullet Joe Bush (15–24) gobbled up most of the As’ measly wins, and left a load of losses for the squad’s other less-than-aces. One was Tom Sheehan, the 22-year-old right-hander who went 1–16, albeit with a not-so-awful 3.69 ERA. His sole win came June 26 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, in relief of Weldon Wyckoff (he’d led the AL in losses the previous season, when the As went a mere 43–109). Rube Foster — who had won two games in the 1915 World Series — took the loss.

If you thought Sheehan had it bad, well, you need to know about his teammate, Jack Nabors. In 1915, he racked up an 0–5 record for the As. In 1916, Mack had him as the Opening Day pitcher, and facing the Red Sox and Babe Ruth, he gave up a mere two hits and no runs over four innings. The next time he faced the Sox, on April 22 at home, he pitched a complete-game victory, prevailing 6–2 and scattering eight hits. The loser, again, was Rube Foster.

It would prove to be Nabors’ only win of 1916. Or of his career. By the time the torment ended, with the A’s sweeping an October 3rd doubleheader against the Red Sox, in Boston (Babe Ruth took the loss, ending the season 23-12, he was relieved by the aforementioned Weldon Wyckoff, who midseason was sold to Boston; meanwhile Nabors earned a save, the only one of his career), Nabors held a 1-20 record, surely marred by the As’ inability to score runs (on average scoring 2.1 runs fewer per game than their opponent). Like Sheehan, his ERA was a not-too-bad 3.47 (the league average was 2.82).

Nabors appeared in only two games for the As in 1917, in relief, with no decisions, and that was it for him for the big leagues. His career record stood at 1–25, one of the game’s worst, and there it would remain for all time.

That said, Nabors served his country in World War One, became ill courtesy of the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and spent his few remaining years in and out of bed, passing away in 1923 at the young age of 35. His one career MLB win is one more than that had by this missive’s author.

Podcastapalooza

1. On the new episode of The Editors, Rich and the Gang discuss the Democrats’ dreadful South Carolina debate, the increasing dangers of the coronavirus, and the disappointing (but not unexpected) defeat of the born-alive bill in the Senate. Hear here.

2. On the new episode of For Life, Alexandra discusses recent Senate votes on pro-life bills and details the inaccurate media coverage. Listen here.

3. On the new episode of The Great Books, host John J. Miller is joined by Lorraine Murphy of Hillsdale College to discuss Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. You can catch it here.

4. More JJM: On the new episode of The Bookmonger, he is joined by Donald Alexander Downs to discuss his book, Free Speech and Liberal Education.

5. Sean Hackbarth graces Political Beats, jawing about the band Tears for Fears with Scot “Free” Bertram and “Muttand” Jeff Blehar. Get yourself a musical education here. And hang around to catch the previous episode, spent with the great Brad “Double B” Birzer, discussing Rush. The band, not the Limbaugh. It all happens here.

6. Excellent discussion about the unjust treatment of Michael Milken between David and Will made for an especially good episode of Radio Free California. You can listen here. And for the most recent episode, in which the Dynamic Duo discuss efforts by California legislators to require training for porn actors, listen here.

7. Episode Four of The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast checks out liberal insecurity, Orwellian China, Bernie’s Commie loving, and Europe’s anti-Semitism kick. Catch it here.

A Dios

For many of us practitioners, it is Lent, a time for reflection, contemplation, denial, the Christian remembrance (weak but worldly) of Jesus’s 40 days and 40 nights, fasting in the wild, as the old hymn goes, tempted and yet undefiled (Matthew 4: 1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil), with echoes of the Great Flood and Noah (Genesis 7). We pray that those who desire to take this time seriously indeed receive the graces sufficient to do so, and emerge on Easter purged and better in body and soul. If you don’t buy into this, well, we’ll still not deny you jellybeans and marshmallow Peeps.

Prayer too for those suffering from and impacted by this dreadful virus, and those working to prevent its spread. Oremus.

God’s Graces on All So that His Will Be Done,

Jack Fowler, who stands ready to take theological counterpunches if thrown via jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Let Mikey Try It!

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

First . . . in this missive, and in the hearts of countrymen . . . we wish George Washington, POTUS One, a happy 288th birthday (this assumes your calendar waxes Gregorian).

The special day noted, let’s now also note the amazing scene in Nevada on Wednesday night past, when the other Democrat prexy contenders stopped and frisked usedta-Republican / usedta-Independent / fellow Democrat Mike Bloomberg. It wasn’t pretty. He wanted in (despite Michael Brendan Dougherty having counseled him to keep waiting) and even paid for the privilege of getting a podium on the debate stage. There he stood for hardly a minute when, like her or not, Elizabeth Warren made everyone forget about DNA and launched the pile-on about office jokester Mikey’s NDA problems. What theater! Whatever your take, to Your Humble Correspondent, this was the best entertainment broadcast on the boob tube since Bully Beatdown.

Our Jim Geraghty had an excellent night-of summary of the shebang:

The upshot of this two-hour brawl was that the front-runner, Sanders, didn’t take too much damage. The quickly rising Bloomberg took it on the chin, but he can probably erase most of the damage with another $400 million or so in television ads. Bloomberg isn’t leaving the race any time soon, and Sanders is, at least right now, on track to get to Milwaukee with the most delegates. These two guys really disdain each other, and tonight suggested that the next few months will be an epic slugfest between two septuagenarians who vehemently oppose everything the other man represents.

The gargantuan winner of the night was the Trump campaign. Tonight’s debate shone a bright spotlight on the weaknesses of the candidates most likely to be the nominee, and it provided a ton of fodder for Trump ads in the general election.

Did Mikey like it? (The experience, not Jim’s piece.) I don’t think so. But hey, don’t sweat it little guy: Go have a cigarette, spend a few tens of millions, supersize and guzzle a Jolt Cola (which we are particular to here at Weekend Jolt), spend a few tens of millions, and then regroup, and spend a few tens of millions, because South Carolina and Super Tuesday are coming up quick.

See you at the debate on February 25, Bloomy. Oh yeah: Even though it’s Walmart, where we deplorables sometimes shop, you may want to stock up on some of these before you take the stage.

By the way . . .

Warren’s debate performance was noteworthy for more than her Kill Bill treatment of Bloomberg. Kevin Williamson, who’s long had a black belt on the Massachusetts lefty, couldn’t help but see her thrilling to unforeseen opportunities to tax and regulate. From his debate watching:

The great highlight for me was watching Senator Warren. I am reminded of the Republican 2016 primary contender I saw a few days after Donald Trump’s victory in the general election. “I’m not sure about the guy who won,” he said, “but it was so . . . satisfying . . . watching her lose.” (No, these debates do not bring out the best in me. But, then, they don’t bring out the best in the contestants, either.) Senator Warren is a terrible campaigner, and her tribune-of-the-plebs shtick is awkward, because she so obviously and clearly detests people — take my advice, from one misanthrope to another, senator: This ain’t your game.

Warren’s leaps of imagination were amusing, though. Pressed by Jon Ralston (if there was a winner of the debate, it was he) about the assumptions behind her climate policy — assumptions that might charitably be described as wishful thinking — she said that the way forward on alternative energy and the like would be to develop new products that hadn’t been invented yet. What kind of new products that haven’t been invented yet? Well, that’s the thing about things that haven’t been invented yet. But irrespective of what those products are or when . . . somebody . . . gets around to inventing them, Warren said she’d insist that they be built here in the United States of America, in order to offset those mining jobs in Nevada and drilling jobs in Pennsylvania she plans to destroy.

That is classic Warren: She is already dreaming up heavy-handed regulations for things that do not yet exist — regulations that are politically unworkable and very possibly unconstitutional at that. (The president has no obvious constitutional power to tell hypothetical inventors of hypothetical products where they may locate their hypothetical factories.) But none of that really matters, of course. Not to Senator Warren, anyway, who is as cynical a grifter as American politics has to offer in 2020.

Now, on with the Weekend Jolt.

Editorials

1. There is madness behind those fighting to block the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. We encourage its passing in the Senate. From the editorial:

The Democrats have presented flimsy rationales for their opposition.

They claim, first, that “born-alive” infants don’t exist, that attempted abortions never produce living infants. This is not the case, as we know from the woeful tale of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, whose murderous crimes against newborns were not illegal under federal law. Though data on born-alive infants are spotty, there is both anecdotal and reported evidence that infants do survive late-term abortion procedures with some regularity.

When proven wrong on this first point, Democrats pivot to the assertion that laws already exist to prevent infanticide. In the context of abortion, that is false. There is no federal law requiring doctors to provide life-saving care to infants who survive abortions. Only 33 states, at last count, have such laws in place. New York’s legislature last year repealed the state’s born-alive protections.

2. We side with young Connecticut women trying to make sure that high-school girls’ sports are for high-school girls, and not wanna-chicks with dude chromosomes. From the editorial:

Transgender sports policies make a mockery of women’s competition. Just look at the state of Connecticut.

At the 2018 state open for women’s track and field, two young men identifying as transgender took first and second place in the 100m race. Their participation not only deprived young women of their rightful claim to victory, but also prevented others from even qualifying in the New England Championships. Now three of these displaced female high-school athletes are, along with their parents, seeking federal redress in a lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC).

Last June, the same athletes had filed a complaint to the Education Department. But now that two of them are nearing graduation — and transgender activists are strengthening their influence nationwide — they have sought a speedier judicial intervention. Filed on behalf of Selina Soule, a senior at Glastonbury High School, Chelsea Mitchell, a senior at Canton High School, and Alanna Smith, a sophomore at Danbury High School, the suit argues, correctly, that the CIAC policy is in violation of Title IX.

Enacted in 1972, Title IX was designed to ensure that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” For sports, this meant that women were to receive equal opportunities to men. (Overeager implementation of the provision has, regrettably, caused many universities to scuttle men’s sports teams.) Between 1972 and 2011, female participation in high-school athletics increased from around 250,000 to 3.25 million students, with similar increases at the collegiate level.

Now Here Are Fourteen Yummy NR Delights to Go Along with Your GW Birthday Cherry Pie. If You’re Good, Mom Will Give You a Second Slice!

1. One More Mike Bloomberg Thing: Victor Davis Hanson, a real farmer, sized up the Manhattan Asphalt Expert’s video spiel on how corn is made, uttered amidst a wide-ranging display of monumental arrogance. From the commentary:

But he did not leave it there. First, he switched back into the present tense. (“I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer.”) Did he mean the Manhattan whizz kid could teach sophisticated Oxonians to be modern farming simpletons, or that he, the student of history, could teach them to be preindustrial simpletons? And then he added that the present information age emphasized skill sets of thinking and analyzing, as apparently does not occur in contemporary farming or manufacturing work.

In truth, Bloomberg could not teach anyone in that Oxford hall or any other room how to farm, in either ancient times or modern. If he really thinks that farming is, or was, a mere “process” of digging holes, dropping in seeds, covering them with dirt, adding water, and, presto!, up comes the corn, then he is as dense as is he is arrogant.

The preindustrial history of farming was a nonstop life-and-death struggle to survive one more day, in constant war against nature (weather, insects, disease, soil chemistry, species variations) and man (labor, markets, government, war, security, etc.) to produce food. And it took a great deal of science, skill, patience, and physical courage to pull it off. Read the classical empirical and scientific treatises on farming and agronomy by Theophrastus, Columella, or Varro, and you’ll find that the degree of their contemporaries’ ancient farming expertise and science is extraordinary. No one would conclude from these that ancient agriculture was anything like Bloomberg’s caricatures.

2. OK, one last Bloomberg item: Robert VerBruggen lists the many ways the Billionaire Know-It-All wants to micromanage your life. From the piece:

And while he’s something of a known quantity from his years as mayor of New York (crime control, gun control, cigarette control, french-fry control), he’s selectively tweaked his approach to policy for this race, for example by apologizing for his administration’s overuse of stop-and-frisk policing — and by putting out a steady stream of policy proposals meant to appeal to the Democratic base. Indeed, while Elizabeth Warren may be known as the candidate with a “plan for that,” Bloomberg’s website has a 32-item alphabetical grid of the damn things, from “All-In Economy” to “Wildfire Resilience” (not joking).

I read them so you don’t have to. Here’s an unavoidably surface-level look at some of the highlights of his interminable agenda, which he began debuting late last year and continues to expand. In total, these ideas would drastically expand the role of the federal government in countless areas — if Congress indeed passed and funded them under a President Bloomberg.

Cut incarceration in half by 2030: Most prisoners are held in state, not federal, facilities, so this is not something the federal government even has the power to do. As a result, Bloomberg’s plan relies on a “Department of Justice reform hub to evaluate and fund state-level criminal justice reform efforts.” For good measure, he vows that we can reduce incarceration this much and cut crime.

Expand Obamacare and have the government offer a “public option”: He’d boost the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies and provide a government-run plan that could pave the way for something like Medicare for All in the future.

3. Really and Truly, the Last Bloomberg Item: Rich Lowry finds a technocrat who think little of the Constitution. From the column:

Bloomberg’s reaction after the Boston Marathon bombing was characteristic. “We live in a complex world,” he said, “where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.”

What he so dismissively calls “the olden days” was the time of the American Founding, and the idea that the Founders didn’t understand complexity, or have any sense of trade-offs, is ahistorical nonsense.

It is important that Trump, whatever his personal and institutional failings, is backstopped by a conservative legal movement that has worked with him to pump originalist judges through the Senate. These judges will remain a bulwark of conservative constitutionalism long after Trump has departed the scene.

Bloomberg’s technocratic instincts, in contrast, run with the grain of contemporary progressivism. There will be no checks on his natural tendency toward unilateral rule through the administrative state. As it happens, support for this mode of government is shared by his fiercest Democratic critics, such as Elizabeth Warren, who may scorn Bloomberg but has openly embraced government by presidential decree.

4. Jim Geraghty spots four overlooked weaknesses of Bernie Sanders. Here’s one:

He’s got one big theme and isn’t that interested in what doesn’t fit that theme. James Pethokoukis contends, “Literally every Bernie explanation for every problem is corporate greed. Makes it easy to do economic policy because you don’t have to know anything about economic policy. Or costs and benefits. Or trade-offs. Or unintended consequences.” When Sanders is taken far afield of U.S. economic inequality, his answers either start to get nonsensical or he steers back to the same themes in different contexts.

He sees the Sunni-Shia divide as akin to bickering neighbors. “We’ve got to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia together in a room, under American leadership, and say, ‘we are sick and tired of us spending huge amounts of money and human resources because of your conflicts.’” He contends that we’ve been fighting a war on terror through three administrations to distract the public: “Endless wars help the powerful to draw attention away from economic corruption.” Sanders’ plan to deal with rising authoritarian powers like Russia, China is to form “an international progressive movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power.” I’m sure an argument that amounts to “only the international socialist movement can stop Russia and China” sounded better in his head.

5. So, why the heck wasn’t McCabe charged? Andrew McCarthy explains. From the piece:

Why not indict McCabe on felony false-statements charges? That is the question being pressed by incensed Trump supporters. After all, the constitutional guarantee of equal justice under the law is supposed to mean that McCabe gets the same quality of justice afforded to the sad sacks pursued with unseemly zeal by McCabe’s FBI and Robert Mueller’s prosecutors. George Papadopoulos was convicted of making a trivial false statement about the date of a meeting. Roger Stone was convicted of obstruction long after the special counsel knew there was no Trump–Russia conspiracy, even though his meanderings did not impede the investigation in any meaningful way. And in the case of Michael Flynn’s false-statements conviction, as McCabe himself acknowledged to the House Intelligence Committee, even the agents who interviewed him did not believe he intentionally misled them.

I emphasize Flynn’s intent because purported lack of intent is McCabe’s principal defense, too. Even McCabe himself, to say nothing of his lawyers and his apologists in the anti-Trump network of bureaucrats-turned-pundits, cannot deny that he made false statements to FBI agents and the IG. Rather, they argue that the 21-year senior law-enforcement official did not mean to lie, that he was too distracted by his high-level responsibilities to focus on anything as mundane as a leak — even though he seemed pretty damned focused on the leak while he was orchestrating it.

The “he did not believe he intentionally misled them” defense is not just implausible; it proved unavailing on McCabe’s watch, at least in General Flynn’s case. Hence, McCabe has a back-up plan: To argue that it would be extraordinary — and thus unconstitutionally selective and retaliatory — for the Justice Department to prosecute a former official for false statements in a “mere” administrative inquiry (which the leak probe was), as opposed to a criminal investigation. Again, tell that to Flynn, with whom the FBI conducted a brace-style interview — at the White House, without his counsel present, and in blithe disregard of procedures for FBI interviews of the president’s staff — despite the absence of a sound investigative basis for doing so, and whom Mueller’s maulers squeezed into a guilty plea anyway.

It will be a while before we learn the whole story of why the Justice Department walked away from the McCabe case, if we ever do. I have some supposition to offer on that score. First, however, it is worth revisiting the case against McCabe as outlined by the meticulous and highly regarded IG, Michael Horowitz. If you want to know why people are so angry, and why they are increasingly convinced that, for all President Trump’s “drain the swamp” rhetoric, a two-tiered justice system that rewards the well-connected is alive and well, consider the following.

6. There’s lots of trade and security upside, write Thomas Duesterberg and Eric Brown, that could come from President Trump’s upcoming trip to India. From the piece:

At almost 14 percent, average applied tariffs in India are the highest of any major economy. Tariffs on manufactured goods such as medical products, motorcycles, and agricultural products, and limits on many services imports, are prohibitive. The expected trade deal would reduce some of the most damaging of these impediments to U.S. exporters. Total trade between the U.S. and India is only $145 billion, less than half of the total for the U.S. and the ten countries of ASEAN, and barely 20 percent of total U.S. trade with China.

Against this backdrop, one important factor in the calculus of Trump and Modi to improving bilateral relations, including in the economic sphere, is clearly India’s longstanding fear of being subordinated in an Asia dominated by the PRC. The PRC aims to establish itself as the controlling power in the Western Pacific and the Strait of Malacca, as well as in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Bengal, through which India connects to Southeast Asia. India already has seen its traditional trade sea lanes threatened by the creation of PRC ports or bases in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, and East Africa. Throughout South Asia, PRC is an aggressive presence challenging the autonomy and economies in what Modi and his party consider integral parts of India’s rightful civilizational sphere of influence.

Meanwhile, PRC companies such as Huawei and ZTE are striving to dominate the future of global telecommunications, including 5G. India and the ASEAN countries have been looking to 5G to jump-start economic growth, including via future artificial intelligence (AI) applications. Human-centric AI that is democratically deployed has the potential to help South and Southeast Asian countries to address their creaky governing systems, which are being stressed by rising populations and other dynamics. But Chinese Communist Party dominance over the infrastructure through which data flows could have adverse implications for overall economic growth and competitiveness, while PRC’s surveillance and espionage via 5G could also impinge on the political sovereignty of India as well as other Asian nations.

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi will certainly discuss these challenges posed by the PRC. Over time, the U.S. would like to enlist India as a more active diplomatic and military contributor to the free and open order in the Indo-Pacific. If India is going to play this role, and check the growth of PRC power in South Asia, it will require a larger and faster-growing economy.

7. More Victor Davis Hanson: The scholar offers some proposals that just might help save higher education. From the essay:

A college education is far too expensive. Nearly 45 million young Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student loans — a staggering sum unmatched in American history. Millions have either defaulted on their loans or are able to pay only the interest and are making no progress on the principle.

Universities have for decades upped their tuition and services higher than the rate of annual inflation. Yet they deny they have any responsibility for the staggering student debt, even though the encumbrances have altered the U.S. economy, culture, and demography. One of many reasons youth are marrying later, delaying child-rearing, and unable to buy a home is that so many of them are burdened well into their late twenties and early thirties with student-loan debt, on average over $30,000 per student. Again, the university more or less shrugs, insisting it has no responsibility for this collective national disaster that it helped create

The student-loan crisis could be alleviated if universities, not the federal government, were the co-signers of the loans, which would make them share with students the moral hazard of loan repayment. Instead of spending superfluously on “diversity and inclusion” czars and entire castes of non-teaching facilitators, universities would have incentives to lower non-teaching costs. It would be in their own financial interest to ensure that students could minimize debt by graduating within four years, and also to invest in job placement for their graduates, so they could move into the full-time workforce months after finishing school.

8. David Harsanyi zaps Connecticut senator Chris Murphy for being a massive hypocrite on Iran. From the piece:

The Federalist reported yesterday that Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and other Democratic senators secretly met with foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during the Munich Security Conference last month. Today, Murphy acknowledged that the meeting took place, arguing that “Congress is a co-equal branch to the executive” and, well, Donald Trump is bad.

It’s quite a volte-face for Murphy. In March of 2015, when President Obama was involved in negotiations with the mullahs, Senator Tom Cotton and 46 of his colleagues released an open letter to the Islamic Republic of Iran, offering some basic lessons on the American constitutional system — namely, an explainer on binding treaties.

At the time, Murphy called the letter “unprecedented” and claimed it was “undermining the authority of the president.” Then-Secretary of State John Kerry claimed to be in “utter disbelief” when asked about the letter. Kerry, no stranger to negotiating with America’s enemies, would a few years later meet Zarif a number of times to try and ‘salvage’ Obama’s Iran deal, in direct conflict with the position of the American government in Trump’s administration.

When Dianne Feinstein, then the Democrats’ ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, heard about Cotton’s letter, she was “appalled” at the “highly inappropriate and unprecedented incursion into the president’s prerogative to conduct foreign affairs.” Only a few years later, Feinstein would host the Iranian Foreign Minister for dinner.

9. Stanley Kurtz calls out the Trump Administration for failing to undo an Obama reg that allows Big Brother to run roughshod over every neighborhood. From the analysis:

The Obama administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule was arguably its most radical attempt to “fundamentally transform” the United States. As I wrote at the time, Obama’s AFFH gives the federal government “a lever to re-engineer nearly every American neighborhood — imposing a preferred racial and ethnic composition, densifying housing, transportation, and business development in suburb and city alike, and weakening or casting aside the authority of local governments over core responsibilities, from zoning to transportation to education.” Another way of looking at Obama’s AFFH is to see it as a way of allowing big cities to effectively annex their surrounding suburbs — siphoning off suburban tax revenue and controlling suburban planning as well.

While Ben Carson’s HUD is now proposing a revision of Obama’s AFFH that peels back some of the rule’s most egregious overreach, the core of Obama’s AFFH remains intact. Although it is disguised by vague bureaucratic language, Carson’s version of AFFH still gives the feds the power to control local zoning decisions.

As policy, this is folly. As politics, it is flat-out malpractice. Carson’s version of AFFH will alienate the suburbs, now the crucial swing vote in federal elections. If a Republican administration entrenches “AFFH lite”, it will only legitimate the next Democratic administration’s attempts to restore an Obama-style AFFH. Once Republicans accept the principle that it is the business of the feds to tell local governments how to zone and plan, the next Democratic president will push federal control to the max. With Carson’s AFFH lite, Republicans will have abandoned not only the principle of local control and the correct interpretation of the original Fair Housing Act, they will have lost a political issue that could turn suburban swing voters their way.

10. Alexandra DeSanctis counters Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson’s precious case absolving pro-life Republicans who want to support and vote for a Democrat abortion fanatic. From the analysis:

But while a few of the points in his column are sensible, Gerson makes an utterly baffling logical leap in his conclusion: “It would be difficult for a pro-life citizen to be an enthusiastic and loyal Democrat, even if my case is correct,” he writes. “But it is possible to imagine circumstances in which voting for a Democrat would be preferable to endorsing immediate harm to the country by a Republican. And we are in exactly such a circumstance.”

Despite spending his entire article presenting reasons (some more compelling than others) as to why a pro-lifer might not always need to — and in fact sometimes ought not — vote for an anti-abortion candidate, he concludes the piece as if he had somehow illustrated that pro-life voters are required to support the eventual Democratic nominee. The column’s headline, too, makes this assertion: “It is difficult for pro-lifers to vote Democrat. But it’s better than Trump.”

Even if Gerson had attempted to make this argument, it likely wouldn’t have been terribly convincing. It’s hard to imagine a compelling way to convince voters who choose their candidate based on whether they oppose abortion to support a politician who favors unlimited abortion, for any reason, at any stage of pregnancy, funded by the U.S. taxpayers — the position of every leading Democrat competing for the nomination.

11. Oren Cass announces the formation of a new organization to break conservatism from what he calls its “market fundamentalism.” From the piece:

Today we are announcing the formation of American Compass, an organization dedicated to helping American conservatism recover from its chronic case of market fundamentalism. In preparation, we have been perusing the mission statements of many of our nation’s think tanks. Nearly every group has one. Oddly, the right-of-center’s preeminent public-policy institutions all have the same one: to advance the principles of “limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty” or “free markets and limited, effective government” or “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom” or “individual liberty, limited government, free markets” or “economic choice and individual responsibility” or “individual, economic, and political freedom; private enterprise; and representative government.”

Without question, those principles are vital. But an emphasis so monotonal is neither supportive of effective deliberation nor genuinely conservative. “Why don’t we look at a policy and just ask, does it expand economic freedom?” suggests Heritage Foundation vice president Jack Spencer. Because there is more to life than economic freedom. Also, there is more to economic freedom than economic freedom. A society that attempts to maximize everyone’s freedom at every moment will fail miserably in preserving individual liberty and limiting government over time.

What is missing from our public debates is a distinctively conservative approach to economics. The modern right-of-center coalition is the product of the “fusionism” that joined economic libertarians with social conservatives and Cold War hawks in an era when the defeat of Communism was of preeminent importance to all three. Having for decades outsourced their economic thinking to libertarians, conservatives now watch from the sidelines as classical liberals (i.e., libertarians) and modern liberals (i.e., progressives) debate how best to pursue their shared and unquestioned priorities of personal consumption and aggregate economic growth.

12. Jack Butler rejoinders (new verb!) the Cass Case. From the piece:

The notion that libertarians have largely controlled the Right probably comes as a surprise to libertarians, who have watched helplessly over the past few decades as government has grown, debt and deficits have expanded, and the Federal Register accrues more pages (even as one of the consistent priorities of what Cass calls the inchoate “earthquake” of the Trump administration has been a concerted effort to fight this last trend).

“Market fundamentalism,” then, is a curious choice of villain. Few could survey the actual policy achievements of elected Republicans over the past few decades and claim they reflect that wholesale. Republicans during George W. Bush’s presidency may have cut taxes, but they also increased spending (as have Trump-era Republicans), added a new federal agency, expanded an existing federal entitlement, and increased federal involvement in education. Bush himself proclaimed that “we have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move,” imposed unilateral tariffs (as President Trump has done), and spearheaded the TARP bailout of the financial industry, sacrificing “free-market principles to save the free-market system,” in his words.

President George H. W. Bush famously raised taxes and was never fully on board with what he had called President Reagan’s “voodoo economics.” The degree to which Reagan himself was on board with what became known as “Reaganomics” is the subject of some debate, largely due to his utility as a totem for both sides of this argument. But he did intervene in the economy specifically in behalf of Harley-Davidson. And libertarian economics had very little sway in the actual policy of the Republican Party before Reagan. If Cass’s dispute is instead with conservative rhetoric irrespective of its purported practitioners’ actions, then he ought to make that clear. (Few would contest that many elected Republicans have been hypocrites in this regard.)

13. The Oscars may be over, but Armond White is making the case for the Polish film, Corpus Christi. From the outset of the review:

The new Polish import Corpus Christi was nominated for the Best International Film Oscar but lost to South Korea’s Parasite, a choice that reflects the Hollywood Left’s current fascination with Communism and the forced redistribution of wealth and property. That film regarded moral depravity as farce, which Corpus Christi does not.

Yet Corpus Christi’s depiction of our modern moral quandary also proves uniquely — peculiarly — of this time. Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) is a rascal in a Polish reformatory whose misbehavior and rebellious predisposition test his Catholic upbringing. He’s first seen standing lookout while a gang brutalizes another youth. At Mass, Daniel’s treachery comes into focus during the priest’s homily: “I am a murderer. Yes, you heard me right. I have killed. I killed in my thoughts. I killed in what I failed to do. I killed in what I did.”

Director Jan Komasa avoids putting too fine a point on his ironic thesis in Corpus Christi by complicating it. The priest reveals his subject to be forgiveness: “Forgive means love. Love someone despite their guilt.” Komasa similarly challenges the audience by contrasting piety with impudence.

14. Kyle Smith jumps into the time machine (well, he went to Amazon Prime) to watch Paddy Chayefsky’s 1971 movie, The Hospital. He finds it prophetic. From the review / essay:

A glance beneath the surface of what the medical profession is up to reveals a staggering array of incompetence, intransigence, and disregard for life. It was just in the past 20 years or so that doctors started to consider maybe washing their hands once in a while; before that, hand-washing was at less than 50 percent, and surgeons and anesthesiologists were ruled the leading offenders. As recently as 2009, after years of retraining by the medical establishment, hand hygiene stood at an estimated 74 percent. A one-in-four chance your doctor didn’t wash his hands before he started examining you, in some of the world’s best hospitals, in 2009! Some of the world’s most expensively trained doctors have no more concern about hygiene than your four-year-old. Dr. Filthyhands is a big reason that 1.7 million patients pick up infections in hospitals annually, which contributes to an estimated 90,000 deaths each year, according to a 2009 survey by the World Health Organization.

Trainee doctors are saddled with absurdly long hours as their punishment for being rookies — 28-hour shifts were common until that was dialed down to 16 hours. In 2017, the panel that decides these things declared that 28-hour shifts, twice a week, were okay after all. How do you feel about having a doctor examine you while crazed by sleep deprivation?  Are you surprised that a 2008 study in Oregon showed there is no significant health difference between being on Medicaid and having no insurance plan whatsoever? Imagine the immense expense of Medicaid being worth nothing in life outcomes. The top three killers in the U.S. are heart disease, cancer, and medical errors.

Saying all of this out loud won’t win you a lot of friends among the doctors who could hold your life in their hands, which is why criticism of medical professionals (as opposed to those nasty insurance companies) tends to be whispered rather than shouted out the window à la Howard Beale. Yet Beale’s creator, Paddy Chayefsky, wrote a perfectly devastating satiric indictment of technologically sophisticated, bureaucratically sclerotic modern medicine. Of his two mighty satires, the one that remains spot-on is, naturally, the one that was forgotten. Chayefsky’s Network (1976) has aged poorly, what with its fretting about Arab petro-states taking over U.S. media, its soothsayers, its Maoist terror groups. The Hospital (1971), on the other hand, is timeless. Both films won Chayefsky Academy Awards, though only one of them really made him nervous. When he checked into a hospital for cancer treatment in 1981, he told friends that doctors “are going to get ahold of me and cut me up because of that movie I wrote about them.” He died soon after that, at age 58.

The New March 9, 2020 Issue of National Review Huffs, Puffs, and Blows Down Misconceptions about the Crazed State of Housing in America

As is our custom, we use this vehicle to turn you on to the immense wisdom contained between the covers of every issue of National Review, and the new number is chock full of such. So here are four selections for whistle-wetting.

1. John McCormack, from the now-abandoned campaign trail in New Hampshire, profiles the Bernie juggernaut, and why it may prove to be a jugger-not. From the report:

The agenda. The final words spoken by Bernie Sanders at his election-eve rally in New Hampshire were: “Let’s win this thing! Let’s transform America!”

It’s hard to think of a sharper contrast in political slogans than the one between “Let’s transform America!” and “Make America great again.” The latter is broadly within the American tradition (it was in fact copied from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 slogan “Let’s make America great again”). For all the controversy that Trump stirred up in 2016—for all the criticism of his character and temperament—he was not promising a radical transformation of the American economy. He broke with his party on entitlement reform, for example, by abandoning a controversial but sound plan to reform Medicare for Americans under the age of 55. Sanders, by contrast, is the only remaining Democrat in the race firmly committed to Medicare for All and its politically toxic plan to eliminate private insurance for more than 180 million Americans. Sanders wants to gut spending on the military while increasing funding for domestic programs by some $97 trillion over the next decade.

Sanders’s pledge to “transform America” with a radical economic agenda may win him a plurality of Democrats, but it is causing a lot of angst among those in the party who are concerned most with beating Trump in 2020. If Democrats opposed to Sanders don’t unite around one alternative early enough, they are going to fail, and the socialist from Vermont will be the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nominee.

2. A mending Kat Timpf loves South Park. From the reflection:

These critics are correct about one thing: South Park is consistently offensive, and it absolutely has gone after every sacred subject under the sun. Where the critics are wrong, though, is in their contention that this is a bad thing, that this approach has led only to nihilism and cruelty. In fact, I can confidently say that South Park’s penchant for unbridled derision has been directly responsible for my own joy in some times of terrible sadness.

Make no mistake . . . South Park is brutal. It takes subjects that aren’t supposed to be touched at all and handles them roughly. It’s true that it’s crude and rude and disgusting, even in its treatment of subjects that are supposed to be solemn—spoken of only in polite whispers and polished platitudes if they’re ever spoken of at all.

The thing is, though, that’s precisely why I think it’s so great—because it’s taught me that I can laugh, even at life’s most horrific atrocities, disarming its toughest challenges by demonstrating that even they are not untouchable by the powerful healing forces of humor.

One time in particular comes to mind: I was in college and had just found out that my mom had breast cancer. I was young; I was away from home; I was scared, and I was lost. It was, perhaps, the first time I felt that terrifying feeling that nothing truly is unshakable; that the things we consider to be the “foundations” in our lives are truly too unreliable to be thought of in that way at all.

That week, as I was relaxing and watching episodes of South Park with my friends, an episode came up that was centered on jokes about breast cancer. I will never forget what happened to everyone’s eyes in that room, darting around between nervous looks at one another and nervous looks at me, trying to make sure I was “okay” without having to take the risk of saying the wrong thing.

Of course, I wasn’t okay. How could I be? But here’s the thing: I hadn’t been okay before the episode came on. It’s not like, because of that episode, I had just remembered that my mom had cancer, or that it had somehow gotten worse because Cartman was making fun of it. I had already been thinking about it, because I was thinking about it nonstop. When I saw the episode, though, I did something that I hadn’t done in a while:

I laughed . . . and laughing felt amazing.

3. Michael Gibson has a birds-eye view of the Bay Area’s housing madness. From the piece:

What is unique about this situation is how the tech companies have utterly failed to transform the wealth generated in this boom into any political power at the local or regional level. Tech companies appear to influence national elections and foment revolutions abroad, yet they can do little to change the land-use ordinances around their home offices. So powerful are these giants that candidates for the presidency are calling for them to be broken up, but they are also prohibited from building so much as one new home for one employee in a leafy suburb.

I reached out to Alain Bertaud, the renowned urban economist at New York University and author of Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities. “When I read [that] Google says it’s going to give $1 billion to housing,” he told me, “I think it’s completely misplaced. Now, of course, we have to address homelessness in a non-market way, through social welfare, to help people out of their misery and bad luck. But what disturbs me is when I read some large percent of the housing should be affordable, which means below market-rate through subsidies. That only means waitlists and lotteries. As soon as the system doesn’t allow firefighters, cops, and schoolteachers to afford a house, you know that it is a broken system and no amount of subsidy will solve the problem.”

According to Bertaud, Google’s, Facebook’s, and Apple’s billions might be better spent lobbying city and suburban governments to relax their restrictions and free up the housing market.

Good luck.

4. Ramesh Ponnuru watches progressives give political mouth-to-mouth to the corpse of the long dead ERA. From the article:

The debate over the 1970s debate over the ERA is comprehensible only in the context of the federal judiciary’s growing power during the decades preceding it. It had become widely accepted that the Constitution was full of “majestic generalities” (“both luminous and obscure,” Justice William Brennan would add in 1985) and that it fell to the justices to fill in the details. Pro visions of the Constitution such as the 14th Amendment’s due process clause thus became a license for judges to make law. The ERA was an attempt to give the federal courts additional leeway by adding one more majestic generality to the constitutional text.

The opponents understood the strategy, and it was that understanding that motivated them. There was no good reason for Americans, and especially for traditionalists, to give a liberal-dominated federal judiciary a blank check. The growing power of the courts has probably reduced the demand for formal constitutional amendments in general: Why go to the trouble if the courts will do all the work? It stoked opposition to this amendment in particular.

There is some dissent on the left about the ERA, at least on tactics. Advocates of a balanced-budget amendment have gotten many state legislatures to call for a constitutional convention to consider the proposal. Progressives’ main weapon in fighting back against this proposal has been getting legislatures to undo their requests. So anti-BBA progressives need rescissions to count, even as pro-ERA progressives swear that rescissions are void.

Another dissenter is Justice Ginsburg, the most prominent feminist lawyer in U.S. history. She has repeatedly and recently said that advocates of the ERA have to start the amendment process again if they are to get their way. A strong argument can be made that the justices should be silent about such matters, especially given the lawsuits mentioned above, but Ginsburg has made a practice of disregarding such niceties. In this case, though, the justice is right. Article V is still alive, and the ERA is a zombie that cannot be reanimated.

This Deserves Its Own Section

At USA Today, Brett Decker urges President Trump to award James L. Buckley with the Medal of Freedom. From the column:

One of the few in history to hold senior positions in all three branches of the federal government, Buckley has been a U.S. senator, undersecretary of State and ambassador, and retired as a judge on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater in World War II.

During the Cold War, Buckley played a key part in President Ronald Reagan’s successful two-pronged strategy to defeat the Soviet Union by bankrupting Moscow through a costly arms race that the inefficient socialist economy could not afford, and by undermining the legitimacy of the regime by publicly attacking the evils of the communist system. As president of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, Buckley led America’s operations to broadcast hopeful messages about freedom, democracy and capitalism to millions suffering behind the Iron Curtain. . . .

Bestowing Judge Buckley with the nation’s highest civilian honor would celebrate the man for his role in government, champion the value of public service in general, and mark the contemporary coming together of the establishment and populist wings of an ascendant conservatism.

The Six

1. Writing in Quillette, our old pal Chris DeMuth, along with Yoram Hazony, hit the U.K. Conservative Party for attacking an MP who attended a conference run by . . . conservatives. From the outset of the piece:

Two weeks ago, the Edmund Burke Foundation convened a conference on national conservatism in Rome. The conference committee, of which both of us were members, brought together hundreds of academics, politicians, students, and journalists from across Europe and the US to discuss the most important political development of our time—the revival of the idea of the independent national state.

In the two weeks since the conference, the organizers and certain participants have been subjected to a torrent of smears from UK media and political sources. It’s no surprise that the Guardian and Buzzfeed took the lead in condemning a conference of conservatives as an anti-Semitic event “packed full of racists, homophobes, and Islamophobes.” These have become familiar tropes of the anti-intellectual Left.

But one aspect of the attacks should trouble anyone who regards himself or herself as a conservative: The reaction of the UK Conservative Party to criticism of one of its own MPs, Daniel Kawczynski, who attended the conference to give a talk on Brexit. Not only did the Tories fail to come to Kawczynski’s defence when the media mob descended on him and his party. They joined the mob and threw him under the bus. A party spokesman announced that Kawczynski had been “formally warned that his attendance at this event was not acceptable, particularly in light of the views of some of those in attendance, which we utterly condemn, and that he is expected to hold himself to higher standards.”

Read those words carefully: The Conservative Party has “formally warned” an elected Member of Parliament for attending a public conference, and “utterly condemned” the views of some others in attendance—without even deigning to say whose views or which views it deems worthy of condemnation. This about a conference of elected officials and respected public intellectuals from across Europe.

RELATED: Alexis Carré attended and filed this report for National Review Online.

2. At The New Criterion, Daniel J. Mahoney pens a wonderful, personal tribute to the late Roger Scruton. From the piece:

I met Roger again in the spring of 2015 at a conference at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, sponsored by his good friend, exegete, and admirer—and my friend, too—the political theorist Dan Cullen. By that time, I had reviewed half a dozen of Roger’s works, seeing in them a wellspring of impressive conservative and philosophical wisdom. Given my work on Solzhenitsyn (and to a lesser extent Václav Havel), I immediately took to his profound and lyrical novel Notes from Underground, published by Beaufort Books in 2014. Here was a book that got to the heart of totalitarian mendacity while depicting the efforts of a small minority of self-respecting Czechs to “live not by lies,” in Solzhenitsyn’s inestimable phrase. At the conference, I presented on the book, one that continues to preoccupy me. Better than any recent book I knew, I argued, Scruton’s novel illustrated the profound truth that human beings are above all persons to be respected and not playthings to be endlessly manipulated by ideologists, technocrats, and soulless bureaucrats. His unforgettable characters—Jan Reichl, Betka Palková, Father Pavel—were less sainted “dissidents” than imperfect human beings who attempted to maintain their personal integrity and moral dignity in a phantasmagorical world marked by the loss of personal responsibility and moral agency. Scruton wrote with passionate sympathy for these men and women who refused to succumb to the ideological Lie even as he avoided anything resembling hagiography. The Czech philosopher Jan Patočka’s “solidarity of the shattered” became palpable in Scruton’s artful and moving book. Scruton was pleased by my engagement with his book and encouraged me to develop it into a full-blown essay. I did so in the summer of 2019, writing a twenty-six-page engagement with Notes from Underground that appeared in VoegelinView in the fall of 2019, and that will appear in essay form in a book on Roger Scruton’s thought being prepared by Cullen. I was touched and pleased when Roger recommended my essay to his readers and admirers in his fall newsletter from “Scrutopia,” his farm and intellectual enclave in Wiltshire, England, which brings together, as Dooley has so deftly put it, “farmers and philosophers, Wagner and wine, Aristotle and animals.” It doesn’t get better than this—a conservative utopia that could be someplace precisely because it respects persons as such.

Cullen and I also plotted to bring Roger and the contemporary French political philosopher Pierre Manent together. We almost succeeded when I was president of the New England Political Science Association in 2016, but poor Roger was too injured to travel after he fell off a horse on his Sunday Hill Farm. Scruton and Manent were the most thoughtful and persuasive defenders of humane national loyalty and national self-government writing at the time. They thought deeply about human nature, practical reason, and the natural moral law, themes superseded by the regnant relativism and nihilism. They both had contempt for the post-political nihilism and antinomianism arising out of the May events in Paris in 1968. Both defended the secular state while doing full justice to the “Christian mark” of Europe, to cite Manent’s suggestive phrase.

3. The crime busters have now become the criminal enablers, writes Andrew McCarthy in the cover essay of the new issue of Commentary. From the beginning of the article:

A newly minted district attorney for a major American city vows to establish an immigration unit. At first blush, that would seem entirely normal for a prosecutor’s office. Immigration laws require enforcement, and prosecutors are in the law-enforcement business.

But no—the new San Francisco DA actually has in mind an immigration defense unit. He wants to assign a staff of prosecutors to protect undocumented aliens—those who are either illegal and thus deportable to begin with, or for whom a criminal conviction could result in loss of lawful status and thus eventual deportation. The unit’s enforcement target would be not the law violators but the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who enforce federal laws, along with any local police and corrections officials who have the temerity to assist ICE in that endeavor. The prosecutors’ mission, in the words of their new boss, would be to “stand up to Trump on immigration”—the president having made signature issues of border security and the stepped-up deportation of aliens who flout the laws.

That kind of immigration unit is not something you’d expect to find in a district attorney’s office. But of course, neither would you expect, upon this new DA’s election, a victory party marked by ear-splitting chants of “F*ck POA!” The POA is the Police Officers Association.

May I introduce to you, then, a new and uniquely destructive actor on the 21st-century scene: the progressive prosecutor.

For such law “enforcers,” the obstruction of immigration-law enforcement barely scratches the surface. The agenda here is to obstruct prosecution itself. It is, to quote Chesa Boudin, the newly elected progressive prosecutor described above, “a movement…rejecting the notion that, to be free, we must cage others.”

4. The Vatican has struck an unholy deal with Red China. In The Wall Street Journal, William McGurn is not letting them off the hook. From the column:

The 2018 Vatican concordat with Beijing was not the work of Chinese Catholics. It was an almost exclusively European affair, led primarily by Pope Francis, Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli. Instead of fostering a “reconciliation of hearts” between the patriotic and underground wings of the church, Cardinal Zen says, the agreement is attempting to impose a false and destructive institutional unity.

On Capitol Hill last week, Cardinal Zen likened it to the 1933 concordat Germany negotiated with the Vatican soon after Hitler became chancellor. Like the Nazis, who violated the concordat almost as soon as it was signed, China under Xi Jinping has only stepped up persecution since the deal was struck. Meanwhile, the price extracted has been high: the pope’s silence.

This silence comes at a particularly terrible moment, when Mr. Xi is busy persecuting everyone from Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs to house church Christians and Falun Gong practitioners. Nor is Beijing making any effort to hide its intentions: The same day Cardinal Zen was in Washington to collect his award, China named Xia Baolong as its new point man in Hong Kong. Mr. Xia is best known for tearing crosses off Chinese churches.

Yet the leader of the world’s largest religious denomination—a pope who rails against everything from air conditioning to Donald Trump —utters not a peep of protest against what is arguably the world’s largest persecutor of religion.

5. More WSJ: Our former colleague Ericka Andersen has an important take on the spiritual creative destruction happening across the fruited plains. From the piece:

As thousands of churches close across the U.S., many fret about the inevitable decline of faith in American life. Congregational demise is troubling, but underreported data suggest that fear of a secularizing America may be overwrought. A religious renewal could be on the horizon.

It’s true that denomination-based churches—Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Catholic—have been on a downward slope for years. But nondenominational evangelical churches are growing in number, from 54,000 in 1998 to 84,000 in 2012, according to the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Pew Research data show a similar trend continuing to the present, with steep declines among mainline churches as evangelical ones keep popping up. And 42% of these new congregations report growing attendance, data from Lifeway Research shows.

One reason for the success of the new evangelical congregations is their aggressive pursuit of growth, which they call “church multiplication”: A new church will commit to start several smaller churches in a short time. Dave Ferguson, president of the church leadership organization Exponential, tells me that church multiplication numbers are on the rise. In 2015 only 4% of churches were multiplying, according to research conducted for Exponential by Lifeway. Last year 7% were doing so. Each percentage point upward represents some 3,000 churches. Mr. Ferguson says that if this growth is maintained, “it will change the spiritual landscape.”

6. At The Federalist, Dana Loesch ponders Pete Buttigieg’s homilies, applicable to all but Pete Buttigieg. From the piece:

Buttigieg believes everyone else’s sin is up for discussion — except his own. He cites Trump’s behavior, but what of Pete’s? Scripture is explicitly clear on the topic of sin and that everyone sins — and thank goodness for grace and forgiveness. Buttigieg likes to say, “God doesn’t have a political party,” which is correct. But God did give commandments to uphold, commandments which conflict with policies such as late-term, post-birth, and partial-birth abortion, policies Buttigieg and his party are trying to normalize as mainstream Christian doctrine while passing judgment on the manner in which Trump tweets. If Buttigieg’s “positions are informed by his faith,” as he so often says, you wouldn’t know it.

Buttigieg can cite Scripture, but does he follow it? He forgets that “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous but those who obey the law that will be declared righteous.”

At the town hall, Buttigieg said “the interpretation” of Trump’s conduct deserves a voice by way of his office and this presidential race — but then so does Buttigieg’s, and if Scripture is the litmus test he chooses, then logic and fairness dictate that he too must be judged by these same standards. No one, not Trump nor Buttigieg, is free of sin. I don’t apply this to Buttigieg alone. As I said, everyone falls short of God’s glory, but — and I say this in a spirit of Christian love — it is difficult to lecture on sin while trying to make sin mainstream.

Department of Self-Promotion

Episode 3 of The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, hosted by Your Mumbling Servant, is available. It’s titled, “Old Mike Bloomberg Had a Farm . . .” And if you thought there was a follow-up line that went something like Ee Eye Ee Eye Ohh . . . Ee-Vey, well, you’d be right. Listen here.

A Dios

Mickey and Miss E have the cancer thing going. Not good — as if it ever could be. Would you mind taking a moment and saying a prayer for them and for their families? Always God’s Will be done, but who’s to say God’s Will doesn’t change because it gives Him pleasure, as part of His boundless love? The mind of the Dimwit typing now will acknowledge he is not tall enough for the Theological Roller Coaster Ride.

Have a delightful Mardi Gras. And then, let the fasting begin!

God’s Blessings on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, who waits by a bloated email inbox, hoping even for communications of outrage and cantankerousness, that receives messages sent to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: Baseballery will return next week. And maybe even Podcastapalooza will rise from the dead.

National Review

Pete and RePete Were Sitting on a Fence . . .

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

The sawed-off résumé from South Bend is giving the Vermont Socialist a run for his rubles. More on the race below.

Now before this gig enters the on-ramp, you have to know something: National Review has a new show, titled The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, which counts two episodes under its straining belt. You will find its happy home right here. Recorded and uploaded into (or is it onto?) the interwebs every Tuesday (set your Google Calendars appropriately), it’s nothing less than 40 minutes of bountiful VDH wisdom, on four or so carefully selected topics, with Yours Truly, the co-host offering interspersed bumptious mumblings.

That’s got to be the most ridiculous use of “co-” in the history of the English language. Anyway, do listen, and do rate it on iTunes if you are so inclined.

If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be . . . Williamson

Wait! The week’s often-underlooked third day will now also boast a new weekly email newsletter dubbed “The Tuesday.” Well, if the titling ain’t that inspired, surely the content will be. What awaits? Explains KDW:

In it you will find a weekly column exclusive to the newsletter along with some commentary on language, culture, and other subjects of interest. I will also include links to my non-NR work from around the web, advance looks at my forthcoming books, correspondence with readers, and more. I hope you enjoy it.

You want it? Sure you do. Sign up here.

Editorials

1. Bill Barr is right: Trump tweeting on criminal cases undermines the AG. It should cease (fat chance). From the editorial:

Attorney General Bill Barr rightly and understandably rebuked government by presidential tweet in a notable ABC News interview on Thursday.

The attorney general said that President Trump was making his job “impossible” by constantly commenting on an ongoing criminal case, and one involving Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone.

The latest Trump melodrama involves the DOJ’s sentencing recommendation in the Stone case. On Monday, prosecutors recommended a harsh seven-to-nine-year sentence after Stone’s conviction for lying to Congress and obstructing justice.

There is often an equity issue in who gets caught up in special-counsel probes — and nailed to the wall for offenses that others get away with — and who does not. In the case of Stone, Robert Mueller had a particular interest in the gadfly as a possible instrument of collusion with the Russians and, though that obviously didn’t pan out, threw the book at him for his dishonesty and shady maneuverings. There is no doubt that Stone is guilty of what he’s accused of — indeed, since he committed some of the offenses in writing, it is simply a matter of the record.

2. The Sandernistas have taken over the Democratic Party. Talk about Socialization. From the editorial:

Sanders has for decades praised left-wing authoritarian dictators, especially in Latin America, so much so that it is fair to question the importance of the adjective in his label of “democratic socialism.” His agenda involves federal spending increases of a fantastic $100 trillion, according to a critic who, unlike the senator, has thought it worthwhile to add it all up. And he has the ideologue’s habit of wishing away aspects of reality that are inconvenient for him. Thus our economy, with falling poverty rates and rising wages, is in his mind failing; and the country will save money by giving more lavish health benefits to a larger number of people.

The Sanders phenomenon thus raises two urgent questions: Will the Democratic Party decide to walk off a cliff? And will it manage to get Americans to come along for the trip?

About Bernie and His Ideology . . .

National Review has launched a mini-webathon, seeking to raise $25,000 to combat the menace of Socialism that has invaded the American bodies politic and culture. Kindly donate here. Charlie Cooke has this to say about the reality of Communism’s kid brother:

Death, taxes, false prophets selling socialism as a panacea — these are the inevitabilities of human life. No matter the scale of its most recent failure, or the number of people who, chastened, insist that the End of History is nigh, socialism always seems to return for more. There is no such thing on earth as a lesson permanently learned, or an argument perennially won. As night follows day, so the past’s most disastrous ideas come back to seduce and insinuate. Our era is not exempt from these rules. No era is. Once again, we are charged with fighting off the menace.

This time, the wolf has shown up in wolf’s clothing. As I write, the Democratic Party’s primary season is being dominated by a man who, far from rejecting the socialist label, has proudly embraced it. And why wouldn’t he? In poll after poll, the members of his adoptive Democratic Party have expressed more-positive views toward socialism than toward capitalism. Those who object to Bernie Sanders’s rise have proposed that he is staging a hostile takeover of the party. But that, alas, is not quite right. Bernie has made his arguments, and his arguments have been well received. Americans are forgetting what they had learned.

As part of our effort to focus on the combat, we’ve gone back into the NR archives to republish just some of the thousands of pieces we have run attacking socialism since NR commenced standing athwart history and yelling STOP in 1955. Here are three:

1. Who better than Whittaker Chambers to convey, as he did in this 1957 NR article, the mindset of the socialist Left. From the end of the piece:

We live and learn, especially if we have been to Mrs. Khrushchev’s. After his Russian visit, Mr. Bevan reversed his field to such effect that a motion putting the Labor Party on record against thermonuclear development was voted down 5 to 1 at the Party’s latest Congress, with Mr. Bevan himself steering the steamroller amidst shouts of: “Turncoat,” “Traitor,” from that plangent minority which never learns that to gain power is what political parties first of all exist for. Why this turnabout? Well, you can scarcely expect an average Briton to vote for you as Socialist if, by doing so, he must also vote against his own thermonuclear self-defense. We are also told that, in Russia, Khrushchev gave Britain’s presumptive foreign minister some specific Socialist advice: “Don’t give up your Bomb and leave a vacuum,” A vacuum? That is to say: Don’t leave the United States, the one great power uncommitted to socialism, as the one thermonuclear power in the West.

Beyond that, what does this mean? I can only tell you what I think it means. Around 1951, one of the British Socialist leaders — Mr. Hugh Dalton, if I remember rightly — was urging on a Labor Party gathering a more conciliatory line toward the Soviet Union. In clinching his plea, he said: “The Left understands the Left.” Yes, that is the crux of the matter. It is to say that, in the showdown, despite all brotherly invective and despite all brotherly arm-twisting, socialism still has more in common with Communism than either of these two has with conservatism. “Do not give up your Bomb and leave a vacuum.” How that might work out with Mr. Bevan as foreign minister, in some tearing crisis of the East–West conflict, none of us knows. Neither is it at all difficult to imagine how it might work in terms of a Britain disposed by a justifiable self-interest to neutrality, and disposed by a Socialist government to conciliate Communism. The Left understands the Left.

2. Even if sugar-coated with Christian lingo, a la Jimmy Carter, as the great Clare Booth Luce warned at the cusp of the 1976 elections, Socialism is anything but holy. From her classic NR essay:

What if Carter proves to be not only a man of the political Left — a believer in the economic nostrums of socialism under unlimited government — but also a religious reformer who — in his own words — sees political and social programs “as an extension of the Gospel — problem solving combined with Christian charity?”

What happens then is the coming of Christian Socialism to America.

The fusing of Christian doctrine with political power in the name of morality and social justice is not a new phenomenon in our century. The Christian Socialists and religious activists in Italy and Germany were the earliest supporters of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s National Socialism. In the 1920s, German and Italian Protestants and Catholics wanted to believe that one man, given enough political power, could restore both morality and prosperity to their unhappy countries. What they got, in the end, was something horrendously different.

I do not for a moment suggest that Mr. Carter is even a potential dictator, much less a dictator of the monstrous stripe of Hitler or Mussolini. What I do say is that a religious leader should be a religious leader, and a political leader should be a political leader, and that whoever has attempted to combine these roles has — throughout history — failed badly at one or the other, and usually both.

3. The great Frank Meyer made this critical 1958 call to arms to conservatives. From his acclaimed Principles and Heresies column:

What is not true is that, given the historical conditions of the abundance made possible by capitalism, welfarism is certain to collapse in the short or medium run. Welfarism, or any form of socialism not dependent on terror, can survive as long as the fat inherited from capitalism lasts. But even this is not the end. When the fat rims out and the incentives to productivity have been drowned beneath the sea of leveling social policy, the methods of Communism still remain: Coercion and the threat of coercion can be substituted for the lost incentives of a free society. In the long, long run, the human spirit will indeed rebel against the lowering of the skies. But this is a far cry from depending upon immediate collapse of a welfarist economy as the decisive argument against welfarism.

No, the only ground on which conservatives have to stand is a moral and spiritual criticism of the essential inhumanity of socialism and welfarism: the leveling that, by reducing the person to a statistical number, degrades all men, whatever their capacity or position; the ignominious removal of responsibility for his future and his family from the hands of individual man into the hands of an all-probing bureaucracy; the steady attrition of all separate and rooted centers of power and the massive growth of a single bureaucratic center of state power which from day to day gains more and more control over all the avenues of thought and life.

Upon a platform of opposition to these, the true evils of welfarism, conservatives can firmly stand. To such a platform men of spirit will rally. And if men of spirit do not outnumber those to whom the ballot is a weapon for self-aggrandizement, they overweigh them in will, in intellect and in influence. Once united, they would have the capacity to save the Republic.

In Your St. Valentine’s Day Afterglow, Enjoy 16 Arrows of Sharp Conservative Wisdom – They Won’t Hurt! But They Will Leave an Intellectual Mark.

1. Can you stand more about Bernie’s ascendency? El Jefe Rich Lowry hears the international echoes. From the new column:

Sound familiar? Sanders bears the closest resemblance to his equally aged and disheveled ideological cousin from the United Kingdom, Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn crashed the gates of the Labour Party as, essentially, an outsider. He rose on the strength of a left-wing grassroots movement and won Labour’s leadership contest in 2015, thanks to newcomers who could vote in such a contest for the first time. An unlikely icon for younger voters, he drew enormous crowds and, unavoidably himself, had a distinctive charm for his supporters.

Like Sanders, he also had a history of sympathy for left-wing thugs, hostility toward Western power, a motley collection of kooky allies, and an utterly fantastical domestic program.

After losing two elections, Corbyn is back in the dustbin of history, while Brother Sanders may be tracing his ascent on a larger scale.

A major commonality with the European experience is young voters who are disenchanted with the institutions of Western capitalism, worried about affording a house and paying off student debt. They have no experience with or attachment to old party loyalties and are drawn to exhilaratingly radical and simple ideas.

2. With the impeachment nonsense in the rear-view mirror, Andrew McCarthy takes a moment to note the affair’s backdrop of amnesia. From the analysis:

Do Democrats really think the president and his supporters, or any fair-minded Americans for that matter, are not going to notice that the “how dare you invite foreign interference in our elections” storyline has been concocted by the party that recruited a foreign spy to dig up high-level Russian-government dirt on Trump? Dirt that was often absurd on its face? Dirt that could easily have been discredited if the Obama-era FBI had chosen to investigate it, and yet was mendaciously supplied under oath to the FISA court again and again?

Did Democrats figure we’d all quietly abide their puling about “foreign interference in our elections” after the Obama administration collaborated with foreign intelligence services to run informants at Trump campaign officials . . . and then withheld from the FISA court the exculpatory evidence those contacts generated? Did Democrats think we’d forget that even the now-sainted Fiona Hill acknowledges that Ukrainian officials labored to wound Trump’s campaign? And that they did so while Democrats were collaborating with Kyiv to target Paul Manafort? Do Democrats suppose it has slipped our minds that they wove a collusion fairy tale against Trump out of unverifiable foreign-intelligence streams, and demanded the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the fairy tale even as it was palpably collapsing — seven months after the Obama administration began seeking FISA court warrants under false pretenses?

And obstruction? We’re going to be lectured to about obstruction by the people who defended to the hilt Hillary Clinton’s private email server? You remember: The destruction of tens of thousands of emails despite congressional preservation demands, the hammers and Bleach Bit, the serial lying about not hoarding classified information and not withholding official-business emails from the State Department. The sealing and burial of the Clinton–Obama emails, and the studious purging of any reference to President Obama in the description of Clinton’s misconduct.

3. Victor Davis Hanson recounts a disastrous week for Democrats, and the abyss ahead. From the column:

When the impeachment inquiry started in September based on a “whistleblower” complaint, Trump’s approval rating was about eight points lower than it is now. The efforts of the impeachment triad of Representatives Pelosi (D., Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.), and Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) proved an unmitigated political disaster for their party. It’s no wonder, given that the partisan impeachment effort never won bipartisan or public support.

The Democrats did not offer a special-counsel report or draw on an independent investigation. By the time the partisan spectacle was over, a terrible precedent had been set of turning impeachment into just another crass political tool. From now on, if sitting presidents lose their House majorities after their first midterm elections, will they inevitably be impeached by the opposition?

Finally, the Democratic debate on February 7 confirmed opinions that the party is heading over the cliff. All seven candidates — six of them white — pilloried the United States as an inherently racist society. If so, then why didn’t the debaters invite on stage the Democratic candidates of color who dropped out of the race earlier?

4. Michael Brendan Dougherty looks at Pete Buttigieg and sees something . . . creepy. From the piece:

This is a man from nowhere who seems to have spent a great deal of time in the last few years managing his own Wikipedia page. His popularity is widely attributed to the work of a single media genius, Lis Smith. And as he was declaring himself the winner, a flurry of reports were being filed that there were some questionable financial connections between the developer of the Iowa vote-counting app and the Pete Buttigieg campaign.

Doesn’t that fact pattern make your skin crawl? Just a little? But it wasn’t just that a man no one had heard of a few months ago was now a self-authenticating leader of the Democratic field. It was the way he became that leader. “Tonight, an improbable hope became an undeniable reality,” he said, introducing himself.

What could he mean by that? In fact, with zero tabulated results, the improbable hope was quite deniable. Now with 100 percent of results in, it looks like Bernie Sanders won the most votes, but somehow Pete Buttigieg obtained more delegates owing to the Iowa Caucus terms of service — which seems to run hundreds of pages long in describing how tiebreaks and rounding works, and happens to have worked almost entirely in Pete Buttigieg’s favor.

5. More MBD: He is a lock for a nostalgia show, or maybe being president of Antenna TV, but Joe Biden is unfit to be the Democratic Party’s prexy nominee. From the piece:

But if they do win the White House, I highly doubt it will be behind Biden. All he’s shown so far in this race is his age. There is a revealing pattern in which he comes out of the gate looking sharp in debates, but then within 30 minutes his speech patterns degrade. He leaves half his thoughts unfinished, and his sentences become messier until he starts shouting at the end of them, as if that constitutes a recovery. He’s rambling and uncontrolled in his town-hall appearances. He’s irritable and not infrequently makes headlines for yelling at audience members.

What’s more, Biden is an even worse fit for the Democratic-primary electorate of 2020 than we thought. What are younger Democrats supposed to think of a man who called a woman a “lying dog-faced pony soldier” when she said at a New Hampshire event that she has participated in a caucus? Why in his right mind would any presidential candidate do something so weird? Anyone living in New Hampshire now who lived in Maine previously might have participated in a caucus. (Biden claims the insult is a reference to a John Wayne movie, but this has been disputed. And either way, it is very difficult to parse for anyone below the age of 60, which is to say, most Democratic primary voters.)

Now, you might think to yourself, Trump is no great shakes in the anger department himself, and you wouldn’t exactly be wrong. But Trump’s supporters and many reporters think that he is in control of his anger, or at least makes good use of it. Since at least the era of George H. W. Bush’s reelection, Democrats have sought the mantle of youth, energy, preparedness, and coolness under pressure. They portrayed Bush as baffled at bar-code scanners and themselves as burning the midnight oil to craft policy proposals over boxes of takeout. Biden has instead been making the kind of experience-centric pitch we’ve traditionally seen from Republican presidential candidates. It’s Bob Dole’s case from 1996, and it isn’t appealing to Democrats so far.

6. WARNING: Prepare the Fainting Couches. Andrew Walker explains why many Christian conservatives vote for Trump. From the piece:

But an event on October 10, 2019 explains the odd-couple relationship of religious conservatives and Donald Trump. That evening, during a CNN townhall on LGBTQ issues, the now-former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke proclaimed that churches failing to toe the line on gay and transgender rights would lose their tax-exempt status in his administration. O’Rourke’s comments represented a high-water mark of a culture that has jettisoned anything resembling a Christian moral ecology. Never mind that O’Rourke’s candidacy is over. It was an Overton Window–shifting moment.

O’Rourke’s comments reminded religious conservatives why so many of them voted for Trump in 2016, even if doing so felt hypocritical and seemed like a betrayal of their principles — and why they will likely do so again in 2020, despite their realism about his character. O’Rourke’s promise to remove tax exemptions only reinforced the embattled mentality of most religious conservatives, which mobilizes them as voters. The problem was not only with O’Rourke’s tax policy, however. It’s also that the rhetoric of progressives around sexual orientation and gender identity logically leads to the conclusion that O’Rourke simply dared to state honestly: It is illogical to say that Christianity is “harmful” to gay and transgender persons and then not to want it somehow punished. For years, religious conservatives predicted that the sexual revolution would eventually affect government policy and directly threaten churches. They can now point to O’Rourke and other examples as evidence of a massive cultural shift that has realized their predictions. Even the most convinced progressive should sympathize with religious conservatives who are concerned about federal law possibly turning against them.

While Christians must cast off both unwarranted fear and moral panic, rejecting both does not remove the real concerns that persist among religious conservatives. Most criticisms of how religious conservatives understand the world miss the mark. They fail to capture fully the moral landscape and moral contrasts that are formed by believing in a world richly enchanted with divine order. Christians who refract cultural disputes through sexuality and gender do so not because they are obsessed with either, but because the two reflect larger debates about morality, human nature, authority, the role of government, and the nature of justice. Our moral debates are not ephemeral; they are, rather, metaphysical and cosmological. Thus, when religious conservatives of the Reluctant Trump variety vote, they are not thinking merely about one man, even if he has reconfigured the relationship between character and electability and defined both the presidency and elections as character tests downward. They are thinking about the larger moral worldview to which the party is committed.

7. Matthew Continetti says we have been living in the Limbaugh Era of conservatism. May it not pass. From the column:

Limbaugh did not mock Trump when the businessman announced his presidential campaign in June 2015. “This is going to resonate with a lot of people, I guarantee you, and the Drive-Bys are going to pooh-pooh it,” he said. He spent the primary reminding listeners of the importance of defeating Hillary Clinton. Trump was not an ideological candidate, he said. Trump was a missile aimed at the establishment. If ideology matters, then you should vote for Ted Cruz. “If conservatism is your bag, if conservatism is the dominating factor in how you vote,” Limbaugh said in February 2016, “there is no other choice for you in this campaign than Ted Cruz, because you are exactly right: This is the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan.” But, Limbaugh added, the feeling in the country might be so anti-establishment that Trump’s unusual coalition could win the presidency. It did.

To say that Limbaugh supports the president would be an understatement. Last December he introduced the president at a Turning Point USA summit. He mentioned a recent encounter on a golf course. Someone told him it is hard to defend President Trump. “I said, ‘What? Hard to defend the president? It’s one of the easiest things in the world to do.’ President Trump does not need to be defended.” The crowd cheered. A few seconds later Limbaugh said, “How do you defend Donald Trump? You attack the people who are attempting to destroy him. They’re trying to destroy you. They’re trying to transform this country into something that it was not founded to be.”

Bold, brash, divisive, funny, and amped up, President Trump’s style is similar to a shock jockey’s. His presidency is another reminder of Limbaugh’s staying power. The American right has been molded in his anti-elitist, grassroots, demotic, irreverent, patriotic, hard-charging image. Rush Limbaugh is not just a talk show host. He defines an era.

8. Samuel James lambasts the “party of science” canard, and jabs at the parishioners of scientism. From the piece:

The inconvenient truth is that there is no “party of science,” just as there is no “right side of history.” All ideological tribes use scientific research when the result supports their priors and downplay it when it doesn’t.

There is a meaningful difference, though, between cultural conservatives and progressives. Conservatives, at least historically, have been willing to take their ideas above the rim of materialism, to argue against scientism and emphasize the transcendent and spiritual. For almost a century, arguably dating back to the Scopes trial, progressives have taken the opposite approach, forming an unwritten alliance with irreligious partisans of higher ed and instinctively deferring to science when it collides with faith or tradition. It’s not that one party believes in science and one party disbelieves it. It’s that only one party claims that’s the case.

In asserting themselves as people of rationality and objective facts (as opposed to people of “blind” faith), secular progressives intend to seal away their ideological opponents. That strategy arguably peaked with the so-called New Atheism movement, which now feels every bit as distant and irrelevant as the mid-20th-century fundamentalism it so often mimicked. Once a darling of the anti-Bush Left, Sam Harris now finds himself a lead character in the “intellectual dark web,” a vaguely libertarian, right-leaning coalition of free-speech advocates and critics of political correctness. It turns out that when you make a lot of money from telling people that Christianity is a plague on civilization, they might come to agree with you and then reach for as strong an anti-Christian repellant as they can find (namely, authoritarianism).

9. As Kevin Williamson makes clear, Socialism that calls itself Democratic Socialism is still . . . Socialism. From the essay:

The problems of socialism are problems of socialism — problems related to the absence of markets, innovation, and free enterprise and, principally, problems related to the epistemic impossibility of the socialist promise: rational central planning of economic activity. The problems of socialism are not the problems of authoritarianism and will not be cured by democracy. Socialism and authoritarianism often go hand in hand (almost always, in fact), but socialism on its own, even when it is the result of democratic elections and genuinely democratic processes, is a bottomless well of misery. The Soviet gulags and hunger-genocide, the Chinese prison camps, and the psychosis of Pyongyang are not the only exhibits in the case against socialism, and the case against socialism is also the case against democratic socialism, as the experience of the United Kingdom attests.

Murray, talking about his forthcoming book The Socialist Temptation at a CEI event in New Orleans, describes the inherent tension within democratic socialism. “The tyranny of the majority means you have no rights,” he says. “Early democratic societies realized that you had to have rights; how extensive those rights are is normally determined by how powerful the democracy is — one reason why the United States had such an extensive bill of rights so early is because the democracy was quite powerful. Socialists coopt the language of rights by introducing positive rights rather than negative rights — they will speak of the right to a job or the right to housing — but not the right to be left alone, which inherently contradicts democratic socialism.”

The destructive nature of socialism comes not from its tendency to trample on democracy (though socialism often does trample on democracy) but from its total disregard for rights — rights that are, in the context of the United States and other liberal-democratic systems, beyond the reach of mere majorities. We have the Bill of Rights to protect freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the free exercise of religion, etc., not because we expect that majorities will reliably support and protect these rights but because we expect that majorities will be hostile to them.

10. This trans madness, reports Madeleine Kearns, has exposed some big-time GOP gutlessness. From the report:

For proof that Republicans can be just as lazy, self-serving, and cowardly as Democrats, look no farther than the South Dakota Senate.

As reported by my colleague Tobias Hoonhout, this week Republican senators Duhamel, Rusch, Steinhauer, and Soholt of the Health and Human Services Committee all joined the 5–2 majority that effectively killed a bill designed to make it easier for gender-confused minors to attain financial compensation later in life — should they realize, before age 38, that the doctors who stunted their puberty, destroyed their fertility, and permanently impaired their sexual function had failed to meet the acceptable standards of (what are we calling it these days?) health care.

Listening to the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, as those pathetically useless Republicans did (and as you, too, can do here), it is impossible to come to any other conclusion: When faced with one of the greatest scandals in modern medicine, Republican officials stuck their fat heads between their legs and — well, you know what.

Lest you think I’m being overly harsh, allow me to summarize.

The Vulnerable Child Protection Act, introduced in the South Dakota House of Representatives by Republican Fred Deutsch, would deter doctors from experimenting on gender-confused minors with hormones and surgeries by forcing them to consider the long-term consequences — if not for their patients, then for themselves. It passed the House of Representatives by a 46–23 vote last month and was later amended to remove criminal penalties for doctors, inserting a civil cause of action instead. It was a significant bill, not only in the context of South Dakota but nationwide, as part of the coordinated resistance to medical experiments on gender-confused children.

11. Kyle Smith watched the Oscars, which continue their annual decline, heading toward Twitter hissy-fitness. From the piece:

To sing “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” associated with the extremely white man Fred Rogers, the Oscars rolled out Janelle Monáe, who paused in mid-song to say, “We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films,” as the broadcast cut accusingly to Little Women director Greta Gerwig, who didn’t get nominated because Little Women is not a phenomenal film. (She was nominated for two Oscars just two years ago by the same group of people for the far better Lady Bird, which tends to undermine any suggestion that the Academy is insufficiently respectful to her). Monáe added, “I’m proud to be standing here as a black, queer artist,” and shared the number with Billy Porter, another gay black performer, who was on hand to do a song by the very white Elton John.

The Academy torches its mystique and glamour when it comes across, as it did last night, as more like a haunted associate professor in Dockers who is desperate to stave off student ire by assuring the glowering undergraduates that he thinks everything they think, only more so. The Oscars’ theme was Please don’t think we’re racist, please don’t think we’re racist, interrupted by moments of Please don’t think we’re sexist, please don’t think we’re sexist.

Steve Martin sarcastically noted that, the first year the Oscars were given out, there were no black acting nominees, and this year there was only one—“Amazing growth,” he said. So what? One in 20 is 5 percent. Last year there were two (10 percent). The year before, four (20 percent). So, over the past three years, the percentage of black nominees (11.7 percent) is almost exactly the black proportion of the population is (12.6 percent). Three years ago there were six black acting nominees, or 30 percent, meaning blacks are overrepresented among acting Oscar nominees over the past four years. Over those past several years, by the way, the Academy has been rushing to offer membership to black film professionals, and as a result, the voting membership has a much larger proportion of voters of color than it did five years ago. If a much more diverse membership didn’t award lots of acting nominations to black performers this year, maybe there . . . just weren’t a lot of great black performances this year.

12. So did Armond White. He found anti-Americanism exalted. From the piece:

Conservatives should learn that the Academy Awards cannot be taken seriously, despite the nagging desire to participate in the cool-kids’-fun aspect of popular culture even when it goes against good taste and particularly offends everything they claim to believe in. This year’s big winner, Parasite, confirms that the Academy’s basic history of film-industry acclamation has always been a matter of celebrityhood, mitigated by the memory of real glamour, and combined with airhead simple-mindedness.

But Hollywood’s historic liberal tendencies lean even more to the left now. This became especially apparent in the Academy’s recent reorganization of its membership rolls and categories around race and gender equity, a purge that resulted in new political-correctness statutes such as the one that renamed its former Best Foreign Language Film category as Best International Film. That decision obliges Academy voters to march to the faint melody of the Communist Party anthem “The Internationale.” It contradicted itself embarrassingly when Parasite, a South Korean import, took that specialized category as well as the overall Best Picture prize.

I’m reminded of the year the New York Film Critics Circle initiated its Best First Film prize with Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V and then went on to the give its Best Film prize to My Left Foot, which was Jim Sheridan’s first film. These inconsistencies are the quirks of democratic participation when it replaces scholarly discrimination. Reason has little to do with the Oscars; they are essentially a popularity contest under the guise of artistic consideration. Anyone who cares about cinematic art knows that Oscar judgments are officially unofficial and to be trusted only as a bellwether of the industry’s liberal sentiment, a confirmation of group consensus — the 99 percent assuming the authority of the 1 percent.

13. More Armond: He catches Downhill and sees an artistic white-out. From the beginning of the review:

Television comedians Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Farrell have remade the Swedish art film Force Majeure as Downhill. It twists Ruben Östlund’s 2014 existential domestic drama into a horror-comedy about an already broken marriage that falls apart during a family vacation in the Swiss Alps. The couple’s fraught tensions illustrate problems in the no-hope marital institution. Look closely and there’s the deep spiritual collapse of American relations.

But if you are accustomed to callow TV sitcoms, the irresolvable discord in Downhill might seem smart, funny, and hip. (I observed a curly-haired Millennial dude laughing at the shenanigans from beginning to end.) The film’s hipness reduces Östlund’s tragedy to a psychological Punch & Judy show: Farrell’s Pete is a dissatisfied, cowardly husband and father of two sons, while Louis-Dreyfus’s Billie is a smart, strong-willed, protective, underserved mother and wife. Toxic masculinity vs. female superiority.

Downhill epitomizes how television has usurped cinema’s influence — particularly the mainstreaming of social attitudes and emotional perspectives. Östlund’s film was distinguished by cinematic methods; meaning came from crafty visual presentation. In Force Majeure’s signature scene of an avalanche approaching the inhabitants of a ski lodge, Östlund used space and momentum to create cosmic apprehension and suspense. That terror lingered throughout the movie. But Downhill’s TV-trained American directors, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, present the avalanche as merely the setup to the film’s running joke. They have no visual skill other than sitcom closeups and medium shots. They settle on a give-and-take emotional battle that goes back to TV’s All in the Family (as well as the 1940s radio show The Bickersons), but with contemporary sarcasm.

14. Helen Raleigh considers whether the coverup-crazed ChiCom handling of the Coronavirus outbreak is damaging Xi’s dictatorial sway and the Commie Party’s standing with the country’s beleaguered billions. From the piece:

Then came the news of the coronavirus outbreak. There was no lack of effort on the Chinese government’s part to cover it up from the beginning. Chinese authorities waited a full month before informing the World Health Organization and waited until late January to notify the Chinese public. In the meantime, the authorities arrested whistleblowers, warned doctors and nurses to keep their mouth shut, kept the infected number artificially low, and sent an army of censors to scrub the internet clean from coronavirus related images, discussions and messages. Still, the outbreak is not something the Chinese government can easily censor away. It took place right in the heartland of the country, at a time when the majority of the 1.4 billion Chinese were on a long break and supposed to celebrate the nation’s most important holiday with their families and relatives.

The virus has claimed over 720 lives and infected over 35,000 people worldwide, with the vast majority in China. Even though the Chinese government took draconian steps to lock down 60 million people — including Wuhan, a city of 11 million residents and the epicenter of the outbreak —the virus has spread to all corners of China. Unlike the imprisonment of the Uyghurs or Christians, this outbreak hits close to home. Everyone is impacted in one way or another. China is known as the factory of the world, but it is now struggling to provide a sufficient number of face masks. China’s biotech industry has had double-digit growth in the last two decades, yet there is a shortage of coronavirus testing kits. The government-run healthcare system is overwhelmed by patients and people who want to get tested. It often ends up turning away sick patients who should be treated and quarantined. Social media now is full of images of desperate Chinese people asking for outside help, such as this. Here is a heartbreaking video of a mother who was begging guards to let her and her leukemia-stricken daughter pass so they could go to a different hospital for her daughter’s treatment.

15. Brian Allen is in Paris catching the El Greco show. He advises you to do the same if you’re in town. From the review:

I liked the fine section on El Greco’s portraits. The portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravicino from 1609, owned by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, is worth walking barefoot on molten glass to see. That’s in the show. Paravicino looks ascetic enough, with his pale, thin face and basic black and white Trinitarian habit, but he carries it all off snappily. He came from a rich family and served as Philip III’s private preacher, hence the élan, but it’s élan with nerves. He’s poised but can’t seem to wait before jumping out of his seat and turning Billy Graham.

It was good to learn that El Greco, as frustrated and disappointed as he was in Rome, did manage to develop a good portrait business. He saw it as hack work, though, and wanted to paint grand religious scenes. As a measure of his knack for irritating people, he told everyone who would listen to him in Rome that he thought Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel work was tacky and flashy. He’d happily paint it over, he said, and do something better. Get Dale Carnegie on speed dial.

The show ends on a high note: four of El Greco’s six renditions of Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple, displayed together. They date from 1568, 1570, 1600, and between 1610 and 1614. It’s a joy to see them. Each is a fine picture, and they’re the best way to see his evolution from his days in Venice to his career in Rome to his late work. It’s here that the exhibition finally lands on a theme. The Gospel story of Jesus tossing merchants — money grubbing, moneylending, trade -0 from the Temple was a Counter-Reformation favorite.

With vigor, El Greco proclaims, “Toss the bums out” or “A new broom sweeps clean” or “There’s a new sheriff in town.” Keeping God’s house unsullied is a universal must. Reforming bad practices was a must after the bad old days of indulgences, randy cardinals, and flaccid, rotely mumbled liturgy. There’s a personal message, too. The exhibition speculates at the end that El Greco fundamentally, all his life, saw himself as an outsider and renegade. He was a Cretan prodigy, then an Italian interloper, and then a big-fish-in-a-middling-sea Spaniard, expelled from the royal court. His style was flamboyant, mystical, other-worldly, and, above all, unique. Others might have seen him as disputatious and rude, but he saw himself as one man against the world. He knew he was right.

16. David Harsanyi ain’t surprised: The UN remains anti-Semitic. From the commentary:

The depraved totalitarians, nefarious barbarians, two-bit gangsters, odious scoundrels, and bigoted scum who run the United Nations recently set up a new “database” to help anti-Semites around the world target Jewish businesses in the disputed territories of Judaea and Samaria — businesses that offer economic opportunities for Palestinians that pay higher than most other jobs in the West Bank.

In no other international dispute — and there are hundreds of them — does the United Nations target peaceful civilians or institutions. Certainly in no place do they work to destroy the businesses of noncombatants based on their ethnicity or religion. The 112 companies on the U.N.’s list are run and staffed, no doubt, by people with diverse viewpoints, at least some of whom likely support the creation of a Palestinian state. All of them create jobs, products, and services that foster cooperation.

None of this matters to the U.N. The “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” (BDS) campaign, now supported by the U.N., is a coordinated international effort committed to the elimination of the Jewish state, bringing together dictators, theocrats, terrorist organizations, Communists, the “international community,” and at least one of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s top surrogates. The movement targets Jews under the guise of anti-Zionism, which remains the predominant justification for violence, murder, and hatred against Jews in Europe and the Middle East.

The First Rule of Fight House Is You Have to Buy a Copy

Our beloved amigo Tevi Troy, who has penned a number of White House-related popular books in the last few years, has a new one, formally out this week: Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump. Use that link to buy a copy. Now, imagine if some massive brain, say, Yuval Levin, of all people, praised this book. Well — he did! The deserved lauding was sung on The Corner, and began thusly:

In the Trump era, everything somehow feels unprecedented. Various kinds of presidential misbehavior, bureaucratic machinations, congressional dereliction, political hysterias, and White House dissension all seem singularly bizarre.

Some of what we’re seeing really is very unusual, of course. But some just isn’t, and a little historical perspective can help us better understand it. Intense White House in-fighting surely falls into that category. To appreciate that, I very highly recommend a new book by the great presidential historian Tevi Troy. Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump, which is just out this week, is packed with fascinating tales of mind-boggling bickering in the highest reaches of the executive branch.

Troy is more than a historian, he’s also a former senior White House official himself (in the George W. Bush years), so he brings to bear a particularly informed and subtle sense of how the White House works and fails.

As Yuval concluded: “This book really helps put the Trump era in perspective, which is one thing we badly need now. And if you like politics, it’s just great fun to read. Well worth your while.” Amen!

The Six

1. At The Spectator / USA, Daniel McCarthy says good riddance to Democrat prexy wannabes Andrew Yang and Joseph Biden. From the commentary:

My August 2019 prediction that Biden won’t win the nomination, let alone the presidency, is looking pretty good. Like everyone else, though, I was taken in for a time by the meaningless national polls that showed Biden continually leading the field. Well, of course he was: he was the only candidate with national name recognition, perhaps with Sanders. This is a dark night for Bernie as well, as his record-breaking win over Hillary Clinton in the Granite State four years ago turns into a slender victory over his 2020 rivals.

The Democratic Party is indeed more the party of Biden than the party of Sanders. But Biden is a lousy, uninspiring, backward-looking leader for a party that mostly thinks as he does. So the party is looking for a younger, more charismatic centrist—Mayor Pete, plain but young, cynically centrist yet not yet pruney and withered; or Amy Klobuchar, who always seems like she’s having fun on the campaign trail despite her reputation for throwing temper-tantrums at her Senate staff.

Waiting in the wings, of course, is a centrist—i.e., establishment— authoritarian billionaire ready to buy the nomination outright. Will Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor Pete, and Amiable-or-Angry Amy commit middle-of-the-road fratricide, clearing the way for Bernie Sanders to win the nomination after all? I’m not quite betting on it: in fact, there could be a rebellion against Bernie at the convention in Milwaukee of the sort that commentators imagined would happen against Trump at the GOP convention in Cleveland four years ago. The old and exhausted neoliberal center of the Democratic Party doesn’t want to go any more quietly into that good night than the neoconservatives of the Republican Party did. But they’re already functionally extinct—the last members of a species that, Buttigieg notwithstanding, has failed to reproduce. The big number for the night is not Bernie’s slim margin of victory overall, but his titanic margin of victory among young Democrats. The Democratic future is already written. Democrats have long enjoyed gloating that Republicans would be eradicated by demographic change, but you better be careful what curses you draw down on your enemy lest they bounce back on you. American demographics are changing, but American ideologies are changing faster, and the youth are not multi-hued neoliberals, a rainbow in which every color is really a Clinton. They are hungry for hope (and change), which they tried to find in Obama’s person and now they find in Sanders’s radical politics. The young Sanders supporter is never going to be a Buttigieg or Klobuchar voter, no more than African-American were going to turn out for Hillary Clinton in the numbers they showed up for Obama.

2. A most interesting piece in Quillette by Gerfried Ambrosch, former radical, as to why he was a radical. From the piece:

From the Bolsheviks’ Red Terror to Germany’s murderous Red Army Faction (RAF), the radical Left has a long and bloody history of justifying violence and inhumanity. Even today, many radical leftists and anarchists condone violence as a political tool. They consider themselves to be at war with the capitalist system and, as Saul Alinsky wrote in Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, “in war the end justifies almost any means.” This dangerous mindset makes radicals prone to another pernicious fallacy—that their enemy’s enemy is their friend.

Initially, the September 11th attacks, which killed 2977 people, elicited in me a feeling not of horror but of excitement. After all, a devastating blow had been dealt to American hegemony. My moral compass was completely thrown off by the notion that the terrorists’ jihad was best understood as a liberation movement against Western capitalist imperialism—the chickens had come home to roost. This view was quite common among radicals. A friend of mine even got a tattoo of the burning World Trade Center captioned “FWT”: Fuck World Trade. At the time, this didn’t strike me as particularly obscene.

When it finally dawned on me that the jihadists’ goal was diametrically opposed to my own idealistic vision, I briefly endorsed the then-fashionable conspiracy theory that 9/11 was an “inside job” executed to provide a pretext for the suspension of civil liberties and the waging of wars. This sentiment was captured in slogans like “Bush is a Nazi,” which implied that American democracy under George W. Bush was tantamount to fascism. False equivalencies of this kind allow radical leftists and anarchists to hide behind the guise of antifascism. I participated in a number of “antifascist” protests myself, some of which escalated into riots and violent confrontations with law enforcement. Often, however, the targets of these protests weren’t fascists as commonly defined, but political adversaries who had simply been branded as fascists. This meant that they were fair game. As Mark Twain said, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

3. At The College Fix, Isaac Cross zeros in on Bucknell University Marxist Michael Drexler, tweeting his wish for the death of Rush Limbaugh. It’s not his first extremist rodeo. From the report

Last year, Drexler invited Miko Peled to speak at Bucknell University. The decision was deemed “controversial,” as the Bucknellian reported at the time, noting “Peled’s arrival sparked controversy among the student body. Peled is an outspoken critic of the Israeli government and has been accused of characterizing Israel through anti-Semitic tropes and rhetoric.”

Drexler himself is a member of the Academic Advisory Council for the Jewish Voice for Peace, or JVP, which is described by the Anti-Defamation League as “a radical anti-Israel activist group.”

In contrast to the Peled controversy, Drexler was openly critical when the Bucknell Program for American Leadership and Citizenship hosted conservative speaker Heather Mac Donald for a guest lecture in November 2019.

He told the Bucknellian: “I don’t see how her presence here makes campus better. But if there are people who wish to give her a platform, let them take responsibility for paying for it themselves. And don’t expect the campus not to react negatively.”

4. Is the Coronavirus destabilizing the ChiCom politburo? At Gatestone Institute, Gordon Chang sees signs. From the analysis:

Some say that as memory of the disease wilts in the heat of the upcoming summer, the Chinese political system will be able to resist change. On the contrary, the disease ravaging the country could be, as is now said, China’s “Chernobyl,” the cover up of a disaster eventually leading to the downfall of the regime.

Firmly in the no-Chernobyl camp is former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. “Xi wields near-absolute political power over China’s Marxist-Leninist state,” he wrote in a February 8 column. It is “certain,” he assures us, “that the crisis, once resolved, will not change how China is governed in the future.”

Rudd’s argument is that Xi’s priorities, which he calls “ten sets of concentric circles emanating from the party center,” will remain the same. Foremost among those priorities is maintaining the country’s political system. As Rudd, now president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, notes, “Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has strengthened the Communist Party’s hold on power and developed a comprehensive national agenda from which all else — including domestic crisis management — must follow.”

Is Xi that strong? He has defied expectations and accumulated power not seen since the days of Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s crafty successor. Some analysts compare his position to that of Mao himself. Politically, Xi seems to have “nine lives.”

He is almost certainly laying the groundwork for having his adversary, Premier Li Keqiang, take the blame when things go wrong. Li, most notably, has been put in charge of coordinating Beijing’s response to the disease.

5. The Pope has responded to the recent nutty “Amazon Synod,” affirming the Church’s traditional stand against married priests — or did he? At National Catholic Register, Fr. Raymond D’Souza sees a lot of papal muddling in a pronouncement that merited clarity. The trouble-makers will see opportunities and have a field day. From the article:

What, then, is the answer to the question? Has the Holy Father decide to permit the ordination of married deacons as priests for the Amazon? The synod recommended it. Does the Holy Father approve?

The answer is ambiguous. Pope Francis hinted in both directions without offering a clear answer.

“The way of shaping priestly life and ministry is not monolithic; it develops distinctive traits in different parts of the world,” he wrote, seemingly in support of an exception to the rules for the Amazon (87).

“In the specific circumstances of the Amazon region, particularly in its forests and more remote places, a way must be found to ensure this priestly ministry,” he added (89). “Every effort should be made to ensure that the Amazonian peoples do not lack this food of new life and the sacrament of forgiveness.”

On the other hand, Pope Francis seemed to suggest that the solution to a lack of priests in the Amazon was not the ordination of married men, but a renewed missionary zeal.

“This urgent need leads me to urge all bishops, especially those in Latin America, not only to promote prayer for priestly vocations, but also to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region,” he wrote (90).

The Holy Father then added this stinging rebuke to Latin American clergy in this footnote:

“It is noteworthy that, in some countries of the Amazon Basin, more missionaries go to Europe or the United States than remain to assist their own Vicariates in the Amazon region” (132).

Comfort abroad is apparently preferred to the difficulties of pastoral care at home.

The Holy Father left it at that, not offering a clear endorsement of the synod proposal.

6. UPenn’s embattled Amy Wax takes to Law & Liberty to decry “woke lawyering.” From the beginning of the essay:

What is a cult? It is a religion without god, or with false gods. To borrow Molly McGrath’s formulation, it is a “fake religion.” On that criterion, today’s brand of progressive politics, known as “wokeness,” is the most influential cult of our age, favored by powerful and well-heeled elites.

Molly McGrath provides an insightful indictment of this pernicious simulacrum of real religion, which has marched through our opinion-making institutions with relentless ferocity. At its center, suggests McGrath, is the concept of the sacred, designating that which possesses “a qualitatively, incomparably higher mode of being.” Sacredness is attained by suffering, sacrifice, and victimhood – in short, by oppression. In assigning this vaunted status, the cult of progressivism focuses on groups, not individuals, and confers incomparable power and authority on favored groups. In McGrath’s words, oppression is “taken to be identity-shaping, authority-bestowing, and sacred-making for members of oppressed categories.”

As with any religious movement, the orthodoxy of progressivism McGrath describes settles moral fundamentals and determines the landscape of good and evil. Consequently, key questions of social order and belief, including those relating to the identity and status of victims and oppressors, of who suffers and who causes them to suffer, are placed at the center of the dogmatic creed. They are thereby elevated beyond legitimate debate and removed from the realm of ordinary politics. Violating the imperatives of that dogma and its elevation has consequences, and they are dire. According to McGrath, those who dare to question or contradict the basic moral tenets of the cult must be harshly punished. They are the scapegoats and sacrificial lambs, made to stand for our sins against the sacred. They are “our blasphemers,” who are “publicly shamed, deplatformed, ostracized, slandered, and (if possible) fired.” There is no mercy, “no rites of forgiveness. . . no statute of limitations” for sins against the creed. Blasphemers must be ejected from polite society, canceled, or destroyed.

That this ideology is destructive to a democratic system of governance should be obvious. But there is one aspect of our democracy to which it poses a particularly powerful threat. That is our system of laws. “No one is above the law” is an oft-repeated principle in the Anglo-American legal world, but universal submission to that precept depends on the law’s fairness, integrity, legitimacy, and proper functioning within a democratic system of government.

Baseballery

Well, the author of this epistle said some weeks back that this feature would become intermittent. It has yet to take a sabbatical. Today’s edition is a bit of a respite though. Pinch-hitting, John Hirschauer writes that MLB commissioner and innovation junkie Rob Manfred is ruining the National Pastime. (Moi: It can’t be ruined any more than was done when the Yankees threw Kate Smith under the bus last year!) From the end of the piece:

He changed the rules about hard slides into second-base to break up potential double-plays, effectively removing one the sport’s precious few contact plays. He recently signed a deal with the umpire’s union that lays the foundation for the dawn of “robot umpires,” a change that would neuter the human element of the game. He pressured the Cleveland Indians to get rid of their beloved Chief Wahoo logo, and looks askance at the Atlanta Braves’s “Tomahawk Chop.” In the name of improving the pace of play, he nixed the traditional four-pitch intentional walk — which sometimes produced unforgettable moments — and replaced it with a simple hand signal from the dugout. An impending rule change will force relief pitchers to face a minimum of three batters or finish a half-inning before teams make a pitching change, removing key strategic decisions from the game.

In short, from the moment Manfred assumed the commissionership, he has time and again imposed novelty upon a fan base that did not, and does not, want it.

Aggregate ticket sales and television ratings have seen minor declines over the past few seasons, sure. But MLB’s 162-game regular season means it still sells more tickets than the other three major sports leagues, and it enjoys the devotion of local markets across the country. Manfred thinks he’s the captain of a sinking ship, free to do whatever he deems necessary to rescue the vessel from its ultimate demise. In fact, he stands on the shoulders of giants, men who built the sport of baseball into America’s pastime over the last 150 years. He ought to be more careful about changing it.

Listener Comments

The iTunes reviews for The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast are starting to come in, and they are all five stars. Maybe that’s to be expected. Anyway, here’s one:

VDH is one of the greatest minds among American discourse. I always look forward to his Classicist Podcast from Hoover, but at 20 minutes usually, the new VDH Podcast from National Review is a long-awaited addition their ever-improving offering of shows. Thanks for investing in Victor, particularly as we enter the brunt of election season and beyond.

Many thanks! Keep listening and tell your friends. I would . . . if only I had some.

A Dios

As bemoaned before, please do not drive in the left lane unless you are passing. “I’ll show them whippersnappers what the speed limit is!” cannot be your mission in life. Or can it? I will pray for you if that is the case. Meanwhile, do consider helping out by donating to NR’s Battle Bernie’s Socialism webathon.

Wishing that God’s Copious Graces and Blessings Will Wash Over You and Those You Love,

Jack Fowler

Who can be admonished for not getting his wife better Valentine’s Day presents at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Honest, Abe Looks Good for 211

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

It was Lincoln’s Birthday in 1970 or thereabouts and just enough snow had melted to reveal parts of the infield, so some of the neighborhood knuckleheads grabbed their mitts and headed to Indian Field (where Chief Nimham and 17 Stockbridge tribe members, friends of the Revolution, had been cut down by the Brits in 1778) and tried to simulate a game in the cold and mud. My gosh did we love baseball.

And Abe. We loved him, instinctively. Well, maybe in part because school was closed on his birthday (and Washington’s a couple of days later), sure. But we read books about him, recited poems about him, memorized his speeches. Do kids today? Do adults? My beloved Turner Classic Movies will broadcast no Lincoln flicks — not Henry Fonda’s Young Mr. Lincoln nor Abe Lincoln in Illinois (for which future NR subscriber Raymond Massey would earn an Oscar nomination) — on his 211th birthday this February 12.

Let us lament, but take note of this too: On POTUS 16’s birthday next week, TCM will be showing Kings Row. It starred a guy named Ronald Reagan. That is a happy happenstance. If you’ve never seen the movie, do.

And let this be mentioned before we move on to the Big Enchilada that is this weekend’s Jolt: Two colleagues have written books on Abe. Both deserve a spot on your bookshelf. One is Rick Brookhiser’s Founders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. The other is Rich Lowry’s Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream—And How We Can Do It Again. They both come highly recommended.

As Does This Deal . . .

There is one more stateroom to be resold (a couple canceling) on the National Review 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise, all information about which can be found at nrcruise.com. No pussy-footing here: It’s yours for $6,000. Email the bloke who authors this missive at jfowler@nationalreview.com to claim it. Take inspiration from the famous Latin saying, Snoozitas, ergo Loseitas.

Editorials

1. Prior to the impeachment voting, we argued that Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander had it right. It caused a run on fainting couches. From the editorial:

The Tennessee Republican said that it has been amply established that Donald Trump used a hold on defense aid to pressure the Ukrainians to undertake the investigations that he wanted, and that this was, as he mildly put it, inappropriate. But this misconduct, he argued, doesn’t rise to the level of the high crimes and misdemeanors required to remove a president from office. If the Senate were to do so anyway, it would further envenom the nation’s partisan divide. Besides, there is a national election looming where the public itself can decide whether Trump should stay in office or not.

Since we already know the core of what happened, Alexander explained, there was no need to hear from additional witnesses in the Senate trial. (On this theory of the case, the Senate is in effect acting like an appellate court, rendering a judgment on a threshold question of law, rather than a trial court sifting through the facts.)

In the wake of Alexander’s statement, other Senate Republicans endorsed his line of analysis, which, it must be noted, is superior to the defense mounted by the White House legal team over the last two weeks.

Because the president refused to acknowledge what he did, his team implausibly denied there was a quid pro quo and argued that one hadn’t been proven since there were no first-hand witnesses. Obviously, this position was at odds with the defense team’s insistence that no further witnesses be called. It also raised the natural question why, if people with firsthand knowledge had exculpatory information, the White House wasn’t eager to let them come forward.

Uno Momento . . .

David Bahnsen’s crackling new takedown of the cost of a President Warren really needs to be in your hands and on your bookshelf. Get your copy of his book, Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream. And treat yourself to some of the great interviews David has had about the book — lend an ear at ElizabethWarrenThreat.com.

With Charity for All, Here Are 16 Invigorating and Emancipating NRO Pieces that Will Fill Your Stovepipe Hat and Then Some

1. Andy McCarthy reacts to the grim news told by his friend (and ours) Rush Limbaugh. From his Corner post:

Rush is an American original. It is said of some originals that, if you didn’t have them, you’d have to invent them. (Voltaire was talking about God when he said it; Don King, of course, about himself.) Yet no one could ever have invented Rush, because he was inconceivable.

When he burst upon the national scene over three decades ago, popular political media was the preserve of the political left. The thought of anyone, much less an unabashed conservative, carrying a three-hour daily broadcast through monologues teeming with conviction and good cheer — with the occasional phone call but virtually no guests — was not just unheard of. It was not in the realm of perceived possibility.

It took talent on loan from God, for sure. But it mainly took a guy with supreme belief in himself. Belief that was well-founded because it sprang from a unique combination of life-experience, of getting off the floor when life knocks you down, and of a sense of destiny about doing what you’re born to do. Add to that Rush’s abiding faith in the innate goodness of America — of her traditions, love of liberty, willingness to sacrifice, and grasp that human flourishing means learning from our mistakes.

2. Michael Brendan Dougherty tries to figure out Mitt Romney, who has always been an enigma (to MBD). From the piece:

But the inconsistency carries through again. Even though in 2016 he said he would have rejected Trump’s endorsement for president had Trump said what he did about Muslims then, Romney happily accepted Trump’s endorsement for Senate in 2018, and then, when he arrived in Washington, returned the favor with a Washington Post op-ed criticizing the president. All these gyrations can be explained in isolation, as attempts at conciliation and provocation come in their turns. But the movement taken as a whole is surprisingly snakelike.

And so I come to his speech explaining his vote to convict and remove President Trump. My own view is that what Trump did was wrong, but much less serious a violation of his duties than many things done under all the presidents of my lifetime. And so I think the proposed remedy of impeachment and removal is excessive, unless we intend to dramatically raise the standards of public conduct. Perhaps we ought to raise them in a way that would disallow vice presidents’ sons from sitting on the boards of state-linked corporations in a country where his father’s administration had just backed a change of government without an election. Perhaps a top adviser to the Romney campaign shouldn’t have been on that same board either, given the appearance of corruption it gives to Ukrainians.

Romney waited for his moment until after all his Senate colleagues had committed to their course of action. Romney framed his decision in the most elevated terms possible. “I swore an oath, before God, to exercise ‘impartial justice.’” He said, “I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.” I’m happy for him to finally acknowledge his faith in this way. Though, I wish as governor of Massachusetts he had fought to allow Catholic adoption agencies to take their oaths before God as seriously as he does.

Related: Ramesh Ponnuru strongly disagrees.

3. Rich Lowry finds the little candidate with the big wallet to be offensive. From the column:

Without more than $50 billion to his name, Bloomberg would almost certainly be running a campaign like another late entrant, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who hasn’t been heard from.

Bloomberg’s political strategy has always been built on the belief that nothing succeeds like excess. If he wants it, he can buy it, and money is no object.

It’s a free country, and Bloomberg can spend as much money as he likes on whatever suits his fancy. But Bloomberg 2020 is still an affront to small-d democratic sensibilities, a tribute not to his superior political skills or messaging compared with the other candidates, but his access to an enormous personal bank account.

The level of his spending is truly astonishing — Croesus goes all in on Super Tuesday. He’s spent more than $300 million on various forms of advertising. By the end, he’s going to make the profligate self-funder Tom Steyer — who managed to pointlessly buy himself onto the Democratic debate stage — look miserly.

4. In New Hampshire, Corky Messner doesn’t care that he’s a political neophyte — he still thinks he can knock off incumbent Democrat senator Jeanne Shaheen. A slice:

As a veteran, Corky has a lot to say about the Department of Veteran Affairs and its shortcomings. He supports President Trump’s reforms. He also thinks the opioid crisis is the biggest problem facing New Hampshire currently.

Corky has handed off all his business responsibilities in order to focus on his campaign. “I don’t sleep much,” he says. “I will outwork anybody.” However, “one thing I need to do more is work out,” he adds. “I need to drop some LBs.” He smiles as people laugh. He’s tall and broad-shouldered, and you can see how he was a Ranger in his younger years, despite his gut.

“I’m not a career politician. When you own a large firm, that’s a lot of power. I’m not going to Washington to gain power. I don’t need to go to Washington to enrich my family members.” Later in the evening, he spends a good ten minutes talking about what he believes to have been the corrupt dealings of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. “Read the New Yorker article on Hunter. And The New Yorker is friendly to the Left. But there are a lot of facts in there that will astonish you.”

The campaign tracker videotaping from the back is a sign that the New Hampshire Democratic party takes Corky seriously enough to try to catch him in a campaign-ending gaffe. The Democrats have also made an issue of the fact that Corky is not from New Hampshire originally (he was born in Altoona, Pa.) and owns property in other states.

5. John O’Sullivan, who has spent over half a century euro-scepticizing, marks Brexit and tells tales. From the reflection:

On June 4, 1975, therefore, I sat down at my clattering typewriter in the Telegraph offices and embarked on a melancholy task. As one of the minority of editorial writers opposed to EEC membership, I had been asked by editor Bill Deedes to write a light account of the referendum campaign that would appear on the morning of the vote. Bill said he wanted my squib to offset the solemnity of the editorial, but my suspicion was that he was a secret No voter who wanted it to offset the Telegraph’s stern admonition to vote Yes. And he may have been right. In its small way that squib was the modest beginning of the Telegraph’s Euroscepticism, which has since played a big part in achieving Brexit — the full story of which is told in the Telegraph itself.

In principle Bill could have ordered a No editorial, but pressure from the establishment for an endorsement of Britain’s EU membership was so overwhelming in 1975 that it would have seemed eccentric, unpatriotic, even treasonable. So I read through “the files” of the previous month’s campaigning and started bashing out the piece:

From the Establishment and the respectable anti-Establishment, from the Economist and the New Statesman, from Lord Feather [of the Trades Union Congress] and Mr. Campbell Adamson [of the Confederation of British Industry], from Prime Ministers Wilson (Labour) and Heath (Tory), from the Royal Commission Volunteers to ‘Actors and Actresses for Europe’, from the farthest reaches of the civilized West End, the same advice, the same dire predictions of life outside the Market (‘God, it was hell out there in 1972’), the same comforting assurances of a bright future inside, less ecstatic admittedly than similar forecasts before we had entered (‘Come in, come in, the water’s lukewarm’ was their newer message) have been proclaimed with an almost religious fervor.

Religion itself had been conscripted for the European cause. The bishop of London, preaching in St Paul’s, had said that those concerned about sovereignty were guilty of the heresy “My country, right or wrong,” which was “essentially selfish and inward-looking.” Big Business spoke with one voice: The CBI’s Ralph Bateman declared that it would be “madness” to leave the EEC, and Mr. Barrie Heath told the workers at the engineering company, Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds, that membership in the EEC was not a political issue at all. It was a simple matter of economic and industrial efficiency.

“Is he Sir Barrie?” asked Enoch Powell, the leading Tory campaigner for a No vote. “No? Well, he soon will be.” He was, too — given a knighthood three years later “for services to exporting.”

6. The Vatican shows once again how it is gutless to take on Commies, with Ryan Berg and Frances Tilley reporting on the papal silence in the face of attacks on the Church in Nicaragua by the detestable ideologue Daniel Ortega. From the piece:

The Church is at the tip of the spear in the fight for the restoration of democracy in Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s bishops, working tirelessly to find a solution to the crisis, have brokered dialogue between the opposition and the regime on multiple occasions. Rectories have morphed into informal clinics for the thousands wounded in the protests, many of whom are denied access to state-run medical care due to their participation. The Ortega-Murillo regime responded to the Church’s activism by surgically targeting members of the clergy, slandering them as “coup-plotters.”

Yet, with the Church under siege in Nicaragua, the silence from Rome is deafening.

The Catholic Church’s support for the country’s democratic movement has been met with regime attempts to infiltrate and entrap priests under an enlarged definition of “terrorism.” When these tactics fail, the Ortega-Murillo regime resorts to strong-arming and intimidating members of the clergy. Security forces manhandle priests at the cathedral in Managua and surround churches during Mass. Recently, mothers and wives of political prisoners went on a hunger strike in a church in Masaya to protest the illegal detention of their loved ones. The government responded by cutting water and electricity and surrounding the church with police and paramilitaries. The Reverend Edwin Román, who permitted the hunger strike and subsequently became imprisoned inside without food for over a week, said of the Ortega strongmen, “They left us like rats in a hole.”

7. Elizabeth Warren’s attack on Bernie Sanders backfired, reports John McCormack. From the analysis:

When the January Democratic debate rolled around, Warren tried out a new closing line of attack against Bernie Sanders: identity politics. She suggested he had committed a sexist sin by privately telling her a woman couldn’t win the White House — an allegation he denied, noting that he’d recruited her to run in the 2015 Democratic presidential primary against Hillary Clinton. Her hot-mic moment after the debate drew national coverage. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” she told Sanders. Then the race was drowned out by impeachment.

How did the attack on Sanders work out for Warren? While we don’t have final results from Iowa, partial results show she finished behind Sanders and Buttigieg. With 62 percent of precincts reporting, Buttigieg and Sanders are battling for first place, while Warren is a distant third at 18.3 percent, just a bit ahead of Biden at 15.6 percent. Elsewhere, the polls show that Sanders’s lead over Warren has only grown since the January 14 debate: He entered that clash running five points ahead of her in the RealClearPolitics average of New Hampshire polls; by Monday, February 3, that lead had been stretched to twelve points. In the same time period, his advantage over her in the RCP average of national polls increased by six points.

8. Kevin Williamson finds the Democrats, basking in the Iowa afterglow, to be a political party of great ineptitude. From the piece:

What the parties are not there to do — when they are functioning properly — is to act as mere aggregators. Unhappily, that is largely what the two major parties currently do.

They have gone from being organizations with standards, procedures, and interests of their own to being “a vehicle that anyone can drive,” as Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report puts it. In the case of the goat rodeo in Iowa, she notes, “these changes were driven by representatives of a candidate who does not define himself as a Democrat.” Senator Sanders, a professing socialist, is formally an independent. “This isn’t unlike Donald Trump’s ability to completely hijack the GOP,” she adds. “The party does not have an identity outside the president.”

Max Weber, the great political theorist, worried about a habit he called “caesarism.” Mass democracy, in his view, was no bulwark against authoritarian and dictatorial strongman rule — it is closer to being a guarantor of such rule. Caesarism, in Weber’s formulation, is the result of power shifting from a parliament to a supreme leader who acts, in theory, as a tribune of the people. Gerhard Casper in his 2007 lecture on Weber and caesarism identifies the major tenets of the creed as: “plebiscitary elections, disdain for parliament, relying on the legitimacy of the monarchy for cover, preference for governing with the help of emergency legislation, nontoleration of any autonomous power within the government, [and] failure to attract or suffer independent political minds.” For “monarchy” we may substitute “presidency” and find ourselves with an excellent characterization of presidential politics in 2020.

9. More Kevin: He mocks the whining of Kansas Democrats who declare an approaching Dark Ages over abortion-reform legislation. From the critique:

Abortion opponents in Kansas have tried to restrict the practice through statute, only to be blocked by naked judicial activism from a state supreme court intent on magicking a right to abortion into a document that contains no such thing or anything that might plausibly be construed as such a thing. Faced with might-makes-right politics from a lawless court, abortion opponents have stuck by the rule of law and are now advancing a constitutional amendment that would make it abundantly and redundantly clear that the state constitution does not remove the power of the state’s lawmaking body to make laws touching abortion. Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, declared that this threatens to return Kansas “to the Dark Ages.”

Funny kind of dark age, this.

There are a few genuine advocates of a dark-ages mode of life. In the Western world, for example, there are a few extremist environmentalists (by no means representing the main stream of the environmental movement) who advocate a return to a pre-industrial way of life, though they rarely speak very openly about what that would imply for political rights — if you believe that you can enjoy 21st-century liberty and democracy under a 15th-century standard of material and technological life, you have not thought through that carefully enough. In the Islamic world, likewise, there are a few extremist groups and sects that have pronounced dark-ages tendencies when it comes to culture. Some of our pro-abortion friends have been known to describe abortion opponents as “Taliban Christians” and the like — meaning anti-modernists and reactionaries. But being American progressives and therefore predictably parochial, they remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that Islamic law takes a considerably more liberal view of abortion relative to Catholic teaching or to the positions typical of anti-abortion American evangelicals. (As among Christians, there is considerable sect-by-sect variation.) And so it is worth keeping in mind that both the Western proponents of anti-modern primitivism and the would-be fathers of a revived Islamic caliphate both typically take a view of abortion that is closer to that of Governor Kelly, Planned Parenthood, and the rest of the butchers’ guild.

10. Polly Doesn’t Want To Be a Cracker: John Hirschauer reports on the new craze of white women assembling to dine while being chastised for their complicit/inherent pigmental racism. Take a bite here:

In a society that has lost its sense of sin, Rao and Jackson offer attendees a coherent, almost biblical story of their depravity: White people are necessarily “privileged,” inexorably stained by their “whiteness” like the blot of original sin. The dinners offer an opportunity for baptismal rebirth and conversion, to shed their attachments to white hegemony and achieve a sense of meaning and purpose in a nihilistic age. Frankl said that the “mass neurosis of the present time can be described as a private and personal form of nihilism.” For Saira Rao and Regina Jackson, mass neurosis is a business model.

Rao and Jackson’s website “Race to Dinner” describes the dinner events as a chance for “white women” to partake in a “conversation about how the white women at the table are complicit in the continued injustices of our white supremacist society.” Rao explained her rationale to The Guardian: “I spent years trying to get through to white women with coffees and teas — massaging them, dealing with their tears, and I got nowhere.” Since coddling didn’t work, Rao resolved to “shake them awake.” How? By entering the proverbial lions’ den: “Wealthy white women,” Rao said, “have been taught never to leave the dinner table.” If she and Jackson were able to meet “them” in “their” element — white women have been “taught never to leave the dinner table,” after all — the activists might have more success.

They’ve been quite successful, in a certain sense. Since the program began in the spring of 2019, 15 groups have hired Rao and Jackson to deconstruct their “whiteness” and inherited “white privilege.” Those sessions, combined with the annualized payout from the tandem’s Patreon account, amounts to well over $40,000 in revenue. If “oppression” is the operative enemy the duo intends to fight, one wonders if and when Rao and Jackson will raise sufficient funds to put themselves out of business.

11. Switch to Tea! Starbucks is selling coffee by trans-proselytizing. No one knows this beat better than Madeleine Kearns. From her piece:

And now Starbucks has decided to throw their corporate weight behind the child sex-change agenda: “We’re proud to partner with the UK charity Mermaids with a limited-edition Mermaids Cookie. With every cookie sold, 50p will go to the charity to support their helpline, providing support for transgender and gender diverse young people and their families.”

In their campaign video, Starbucks show a young woman called Gemma being called Gemma by others and looking sad (at no point does she ask not to be called Gemma). However, when she orders a coffee at Starbucks, a barista asks her name, she answers “James” and smiles.

Aiming to raise $130,000 for Mermaids, the company explains: “Starbucks #whatsyourname campaign celebrates this signature act and the significance I can have for some transgender and gender diverse people as they use their new name in public.”

In actual fact, this campaign furthers an agenda that violates basic safeguarding, fosters secrecy, and sets children down the path to irreversible harm. The word “evil” is overused nowadays. But using corporate power to persuade vulnerable youngsters to reject their own bodies is exactly that.

12. The housing California needs, California is not getting, says Michael Tanner. Take a bow, Nanny State political hacks. From the piece:

The lack of affordable housing has led to an explosion of homelessness. There are an estimated 130,000 homeless people in the state, including around 28,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area and 60,000 in Los Angeles County alone. But even often overlooked cities such as San Diego have homeless populations in excess of 8,000. By some calculations, more than 47 percent of all unhoused homeless people in America reside in California.

While many of California’s homeless suffer from drug, alcohol, and mental-health problems, many more are driven to the streets by the cost of housing. By some estimates, as much as two-thirds of the state’s homeless problem can be traced to housing costs.

Last week California lawmakers had the opportunity to take the tiniest of baby steps toward dealing with the crisis. The Housing Accountability Act, SB50, would have allowed the construction of multi-family housing in some neighborhoods near mass transit that were previously zoned exclusively for single-family housing. They failed.

13. The Trump Administration’s deregulatory efforts in labor are having a great impact, says Patrick Pizzella. From the analysis:

Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department of Labor has taken a hard look at our regulatory approach. We’ve ramped up enforcement of beneficial regulations and have set about targeting lawless employers who cheat or endanger their workers. Meanwhile, we’re reducing and reforming regulations that do little more than thwart job creation and prosperity.

In fiscal year (FY) 2017, the Department published seven deregulatory actions and zero significant regulatory actions, saving the American economy $112 million. Having gotten warmed up, we published 12 deregulatory actions in FY 2018 — and, again, zero significant regulatory actions, saving American businesses $3.28 billion. In FY 2019, our eleven deregulatory actions more than doubled the previous year’s economic impact, providing an additional $7.96 billion boost to an economy that’s enjoying the lowest unemployment rate since 1969 and that has created 6.7 million new jobs since President Trump took office.

For example, in 2019, we issued a rule that expands access to retirement savings options for America’s small businesses and their employees. With Association Retirement Plans (ARP), small businesses, including self-employed workers, can band together by geography or industry to provide employees with retirement savings plans like a single large employer, creating greater economies of scale. Among our many other accomplishments, we lawfully updated overtime regulations for the first time in over 15 years and enabled more Americans to access portable health reimbursement arrangements.

14. Armond White dissects Joaquin Phoenix’s BAFTA scolding, it being Black History Month, him being . . . a sanctimonious lefty. From the beginning of his piece:

Joaquin Phoenix kicked off Black History Month at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts ceremony by lecturing the London audience on racial discrimination. His acceptance speech for the Best Actor prize was a more interesting performance than the hebephrenia Phoenix displayed in Joker. Rather than hide behind a clown’s mask of madness and social victimization, Phoenix mixed empathy with self-importance.

Perhaps he meant this attempt at commiseration to be better than the usual moral intimidation, yet it revealed the actor’s deep naïveté. What used to be called bleeding-heart liberalism is now conflated with self-righteousness. While under the sway of political fashion, Phoenix, in his sincerity, clarified the oafish middle ground.

Taking his sentimentality beyond the generic hashtag protest, Phoenix displayed a personal, simple-minded credulousness: “I feel very honored and privileged. . . . But I have to say I also feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors don’t have that same privilege. I think we send a very clear message to people of color that you are not welcome here.”

From that point, Phoenix’s good intentions veered into rogue opportunism. If he understood that the awards were meant to be premised on pointing out excellence, not race, there’d be no need to signal — through mawkish, hands-in-pockets, aw-shucks pity and verbal fumbling — that he was one with progressive dissenters.

15. The Louvre’s Leonardo exhibition wins the praise of Brian Allen. From the review:

Only 15 paintings are attributed to Leonardo. He lived off and on in Florence but for long periods was cosseted by potentates such as the Duke of Milan and the French King Francis I who considered him their pet genius. He took forever to finish paintings, if he finished them at all. He was born out of wedlock, his father a small-town lawyer and his mother a peasant. He had little formal education. When he tried to steal papal work from the young Raphael and Michelangelo, he failed. By 1510 in Rome, however esteemed Leonardo was, they were more fashionable, and reliable. Why, then, is Leonardo the genius for all seasons, the original Renaissance man?

The exhibition explains Leonardo’s fame with impressive clarity and precision. He mastered movement, which conveys the reality of life on figures represented on a flat surface. He developed an atmosphere for his figures, settings where they convincingly breathe. An understanding of light, especially shade, molds form like putty. Leonardo believed that understanding the material world was essential in representing it. To him, mathematics, geology, anatomy, engineering, aeronautics, and botany weren’t always detours or diversions, though they sometimes were, hence, only 15 paintings in a 50-year career. He felt he couldn’t represent life, its physical and intellectual aspects, without knowing how life ticks.

It’s mostly a drawings show, along with eight of his paintings and the massive 1507–08 copy of The Last Supper done on canvas by Marco d’Oggiono. His story begins in Florence in the shop of Andrea del Verrocchio (1435–1488) where the savant Leonardo worked as a teenage apprentice. About a dozen large drapery studies by either Verrocchio or Leonardo are somber experiments in achieving form and weight through subtle undulations of lights and darks. These studies feel abstract and modern. Saint-Morys Study, by Leonardo, from the late 1470s, is the most impressive. The subject is a close-up, intense passage of drapery. The colors are an austere brown and gray. Light not only makes the folds and creases but gives what’s underneath presence and credibility.

16. Kyle Smith is troubled by what he sees in the Netflix documentary American Factory. From the review:

Such a portrayal is American Factory, a heartbreaking Netflix documentary about the gritty truths of capitalism. You may have heard the film, which has been nominated for an Oscar, described as “Obama’s movie.” It isn’t. It’s directed by veteran documentarians Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. Barack and Michelle’s company, Higher Ground Productions, put their imprimatur on the film after the fact, when it was sold to the Obamas’ partners at Netflix. Nevertheless, you can see the affinity, as I’ll explain.

In Moraine, outside Dayton, Ohio, a unionized GM assembly plant shut down in 2008 as demand for the SUVs it produced waned with high fuel prices. The huge property sat there, empty and forlorn, until a Chinese behemoth that makes windows for automobiles, Fuyao Glass, decided to take a chance on it and reopen the facility. Workers who had once gotten $29 an hour and generous union benefits were offered less than half of that. Another way of looking at it: Laid-off workers who were getting $0 an hour were given a chance to come back to work for $13 an hour. Not the least of the film’s ironies is that after an all-American union (the IUE-CWA ran the shop) helped destroy jobs, an American state dangled $10 million in tax credits to lure China in to reopen the place, with non-union jobs.

Yet as soon as the plant gets up and running, what happens? Yep, union organizers start sniffing around. At a ribbon-cutting speech, the fatuous Senator Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) goes off-piste and starts calling for unionization, after which an (American) factory executive is seen cordially wondering whether the scissors used to cut the ribbon could also be used to separate Brown’s head from his shoulders.

The February 24, 2020 Issue of National Review Isn’t Sheepish about Answering the Old Rhetorical Question: “Is the Pope Catholic?”

As is our custom, we entice you with four suggestions from the bountiful fare contained in the new edition of National Review On Dead Tree. It went to press days after the Iowa Caucuses, which means: We still didn’t know the outcome.

1. The cover essay belongs to the great Daniel J. Mahoney, one of America’s premier conservative scholars, and also one of the great commentators on the state of the Catholic church, whose spiritual leader, Pope Francis, he casts as a wayward shepherd leading his flock down an erroneous path. From the essay:

On matters of war and peace, and immigration and the integrity of borders, Francis has been guided by the same humanitarian moralism that has informed his “frenzied activism” on other fronts. In a 2018 book of interviews with the left-wing French sociologist Dominique Wolton, Francis lightly dismisses the rich Catholic tradition of ethical and prudential reflection on matters of war and peace. In the tone of a person with no political responsibilities, and no sense of what they might be, he declares that there is no such thing as a just war. If he means that no war is simply or absolutely just, he is reiterating age-old Christian wisdom about the impact of original sin even on decent political communities attempting to defend the civilized patrimony of humankind. But this pope, abandoning equitable or balanced judgment, declares that only with peace do you “win everything.” He overlooks the fact that “peace” can also be a vehicle of mendacity, oppression, injustice, violence, and genocide, as that proffered by totalitarian regimes. As Vladimir Solovyov argued in his “Short Tale of the Anti-Christ” (1900), there can be such a thing as an “evil peace” and a good or legitimate war (and vice versa, of course). Francis’s conception in no way resembles the “tranquility of order” so richly articulated in Book 19 of St. Augustine’s City of God. If only he would display more deference to the rich theological and philosophical wisdom of the past.

Francis seems to believe, like the Leninists of old, that wars are caused only by rapacious capitalists, discounting quests for power, influence, glory, or fame, and never by totalitarian ideologues. Only the most naïve progressive or humanitarian could see “money”—“Satan’s dung,” as Francis rather colorfully calls it in his conversations with Wolton—as “the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” Alas, such musings sound more like the pronouncements of a secular progressive than the considered reflections of a man of a Church “which knows the truth about man,” to cite the great Pascal.

The silence of most of the bishops in the Catholic Church on this embarrassing but destructive mixture of progressivism, reflexive activism, and casual dismissal of the deepest wisdom of the Church is disconcerting. There are exceptions. As Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has repeatedly pointed out, the Church must recover the clarity of true theology and the natural moral law. “Spiritual and moral renewal in Christ and not the de-Christianization of the Church or her transformation into an NGO” will point the way forward. If the Church is nothing but a humanitarian NGO, she is nothing holy or enduring and will be blown to and fro by various ideological winds. In his pre-Christmas address at the end of 2019, Francis railed against “rigid” traditionalists who will not accept “change.” He also quoted the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, who claimed shortly before his death in 2012 that the Catholic Church was “200 years behind the times.” One must ask: When did the morally and intellectually empty ideological standard of progress and reaction replace the enduring distinctions between truth and falsehood and good and evil? Doesn’t the Church aim to see and uphold the “timeless in time,” as T. S. Eliot so eloquently put it?

2. Kevin Williamson checks out the homeless situation in Austin. He finds quite the situation. From the article:

‘I’m a weekend mom, now,” says T-Boog. She’s building a firepit in front of her tent for cooking and warmth, assembling stray bricks and fragments of cinderblock. Her daughter, who is listening to music on the stereo of a car parked nearby, turns the music down and turns her face away. T-Boog has been living here at Camp R.A.T.T.—“Responsible Adult Transition Town”—for a few weeks. It is a new facility, though “facility” is probably not quite the right word. As the political volleys between Governor Abbott and Mayor Adler went back and forth, with the city resolving and then unresolving to enforce its “urban camping” ordinance—as though this were about camping—the inevitable question came up: If Austin clears out the homeless camps, then where do the homeless go? The answer the state came up with is five acres of blasted dusty state-owned land near Montopolis Drive, walled and gated and concertina-wired and overseen by two smiling and friendly agents from the state’s Division of Emergency Management who normally are tasked with managing the aftereffects of hurricanes and tornadoes rather than the slow-motion man-made disaster whose effects are being funneled here into Camp R.A.T.T., which the residents originally had called “Camp Abbott” before settling on the more aspirational name they’ve given their community.

This is not T-Boog’s first experience with tent life. Before, she lived in an encampment “in the woods,” she says. A couple of large settlements have been discovered over the years in Austin’s greenbelt. Camp R.A.T.T. gives its residents some respite that they do not enjoy elsewhere. They are living here with the state’s begrudging consent, so they do not have to worry about being chased away from whatever semi-permanent arrangements they can make, and there are daily deliveries of water and food in the form of MREs. Like all of the Camp R.A.T.T. residents I speak to, T-Boog is not an Austin native. She comes most recently from Orlando but prefers the less swampy climate here. One of her neighbors comes from San Diego but has in recent years traveled all over the country, from California to the Carolinas. T-Boog says she has a hard time keeping a job because she always wants to try new things. She applied for an online degree program in “entrepreneurship” but was unable to enroll because she doesn’t have regular access to an Internet connection. Things went bad for her after a divorce. Her daughter comes to visit her on the weekends, but she doesn’t let her stay overnight. “It’s not safe,” she says.

T-Boog is a classic kind of American delusional. “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires,” Ronald Wright wrote in his History of Progress. T-Boog is living in a tent but imagines reinventing herself as a serial entrepreneur. Another resident speaks of his plans to do something “with media.”

3. Alexandra DeSanctis profiles former Veep and wanna-POTUS Joe Biden’s race to the Left. From the report:

Biden spends most of his campaign events talking about the sitting president. “We have to beat Donald Trump,” he says again and again on the trail. In Waukee, Biden emphasized the theme with which he kicked off his campaign, saying that another term for Trump would “fundamentally change the nature” of the U.S., while his own presidency would “restore the character of the nation.”

“I really do believe this year that the character of the nation is on the ballot”—that’s how he put it in Waterloo, before repeating his campaign-video description of the Charlottesville violence. “To state the obvious, the next president is going to inherit a country divided and a world in disarray, and there is no time for on-the-job training,” he added.

But Iowa’s voters appear not to have agreed with Biden’s assessment that he is the candidate best equipped to be that president. He’s been banking on appealing to Democratic voters who can’t stand Trump and are wary of the progressive direction in which other politicians want to take their party. In a state such as Iowa, those types of voters likely exist in droves, but Biden’s efforts to win them over fell flat.

“Everything I say, I’ve done, and everything I talk about is authentic,” Biden told an undecided voter in Cedar Rapids on the Saturday before the caucuses. “Now, if you don’t like what I’m talking about, I understand. You can be for somebody else. But ask yourself, who is going to be able to unite the country? How can Pete do that? How can Bernie do that?”

That undecided voter later told the New York Times, “He 100 percent could have swayed me, and I was hoping that he would, and he did not.”

4. Richard Tempest assesses the latest volume release (the first time March 1917 has been published in English) of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s majestic history (The Red Wheel) of the Soviet Revolution. From the review:

The book traces the clash between two new centers of power, the democratically minded provisional government, established by the elected parliament, or Duma, and the Petrograd Soviet of Deputies, a revolutionary talking-shop-cum-gangsters’-den. They compete against each other in the name of liberty and fraternity as they dismantle every institution of state, including the army fighting on the Eastern Front, and thereby ensure the nation’s doom. Most of the action takes place in St. Petersburg (Petrograd) and its environs, though there are historical vignettes set in Moscow, in the southern city of Rostovon-Don, at Nicholas’s General Headquarters (GHQ) at Mogilev, and on the ships of the Imperial Russian Navy.

Like the rest of the saga, March 1917 features reliable and unreliable character voices, graphic descriptions, and hallucinatory reveries, as well as an elaborate hierarchy of metaphors at the apex of which stand the (Christian) Cross and the (satanic) Wheel. Refracted across the epic’s many narrative layers, each glyph generates sometimes explicit and sometimes coded meanings. Thus, the boutonnières worn by the revolutionaries become imaginatively transformed into “large, torn red scrap[s], . . .  as shaggy as fire, . . . revolving around the pinning point in angles, tears, and wisps.” The passage occurs in one of the “screens,” or mock film scripts, the saga’s most conspicuously experimental element, which intertwines its historiographical, symbolic, and surreal strands. Also present in Book 2 are documentary interpolations, mostly extracts from the newspapers of the period, as well as popular proverbs, set in caps and centered at the end of several of the chapters, as punchy commentary on the events described. “A hero’s beard, a conscience of clay,” for example, serves as a folksy assessment of the imperial authorities’ lack of moral courage. In Solzhenitsyn’s book, with its dozens of hirsute generals, politicians, and conspirators, the revolution is a festival of beards.

Marian Schwartz’s translation hews faithfully to the original. It renders archaisms, dialecticisms, grammatical complexities, and syntactical inversions into careful English prose, while retaining the idiosyncratic authorial diction and conveying the wicked delight he takes in lampooning the historically clueless, irresponsible, and immoral.

The Six.

1. At The New Criterion, John Steele Gordon reminisces about Harry Flashman and the beloved novel series written by the late George MacDonald Fraser. From the reflection:

Flashman was the brilliant conception of the British author George MacDonald Fraser. Flashman had been a minor character in Thomas Hughes’s Victorian classic Tom Brown’s School Days—so minor he didn’t even have a first name in that book. As the school bully at Rugby, Flashman had made Tom Brown’s life hell until he had been expelled for drunkenness.

But Fraser took this thinly fleshed-out character and brought him to life by means of a masterly literary conceit. Had he simply written these books as third-person novels, it is unlikely they would have caught on, because Flashman was apparently devoid of the redeeming qualities that the heroes of picaresque tales always have. Consider Tom Jones, for instance, or, for that matter, Robin Hood.

Instead, Fraser wrote them in the first person, explaining that they were actually the memoirs of Harry Flashman. “The great mass of manuscript known as the Flashman Papers,” he wrote, “was discovered during a sale of household furniture at Ashy, Leicestershire, in 1965. . . . The papers, which had apparently lain untouched for fifty years, in a tea chest . . . were carefully wrapped in oilskin covers.” All Fraser had to do, he explained, was edit them very lightly and supply footnotes and endnotes. As far as I know, the Flashman Papers are the only novels in the English language, perhaps besides Tolkien’s, with extensive back matter, at least back matter written by the author and not an English professor determined, as they always are, to make a good book boring.

These endnotes, the product of meticulous and extensive historical research, are the source of the extraordinary verisimilitude of the Flashman Papers. Indeed they had such a feeling of verisimilitude that no fewer than ten of the twenty-eight American reviewers treated the first one as a genuine autobiography.

And the endnotes reveal another of Fraser’s literary conceits. For while Harry Flashman is completely fictional, the world he lived in for so long (his dates are 1822–1915) was very real, as were many of the characters and events in the Flashman Papers. Fraser sticks to history as much as possible. Flashman wrote that he met Florence Nightingale, for instance, at Balmoral, Queen Victoria’s Scottish estate, on the night of September 22, 1856, and, indeed, Nightingale was there that day, as recorded in Queen Victoria’s letters.

2. In Commentary, Wilfred C. Reilly advises that there is no coming race war. From the article:

Looking at today’s dueling headlines, it is tempting to ask: “So, do we have an epidemic of horrifically racist white-on-black crimes or an epidemic of brutish black-on-white crimes?” The answer is “neither.” Moreover, the statistics so thoroughly refute popular fear-mongering that Americans of all colors should take the media to task for the divisive false version of reality they so often present. In September of this year, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice released the 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, entitled “U.S. Criminal Victimization 2018,” a comprehensive breakdown of U.S. crime data for the year in question. The reality of interracial crime revealed within the pages of this thorough report is far indeed from the “race war” fantasies of extremists on either side.

According to the report, only 15.3 percent of the 3,581,360 violent crimes against whites in 2018 were committed by blacks, who make up 12 to 13 percent of the U.S. population. These percentages are, needless to say, almost directly proportional. And whites were even less likely to commit racist crimes: Only about 11 percent of the 563,940 violent crimes against blacks were committed by whites. Significantly, no third group—say, Latinos—made up for these positive findings. During the study year, persons of Hispanic or Latino descent made up only 7.9 percent of all those who attacked blacks and just 10.2 percent of all those who attacked whites. The massive majority of crime in 2018 was intra-racial, with 62.1 percent of all attacks on white people coming from other whites (non-Hispanic whites make up 61 percent of the U.S. population) and 70.3 percent of all attacks on black people coming from other blacks. For good measure, nearly 50 percent of all attackers of Hispanics were themselves Hispanic. All told, only about 2,000,000 crimes, out of 5,061,940 violent crimes and roughly 12,000,000 total crimes, involved any interracial use of force whatsoever.

It is true that, as alt-righters are fond of pointing out, there are more black attacks on whites than white attacks on blacks in a typical year: Generally about 500,000 of the first and 100,000 or fewer of the latter (59,777 in 2018). However, this fact taken alone is, in debater’s parlance, “true but meaningless.” The honest math around the topic gets more complicated than this, but it’s worth noting as a starting point that there are five times as many white people as black people in the United States. Even an utterly anti-racist black criminal would thus find himself confronted with 500 to 600 percent more white targets than black ones. It is also true that, on average, whites have more money than blacks do, making the former more tempting targets for such crimes as robbery. And the black violent-crime rate overall, as per the BJS, is roughly 2.4 times the white rate, making blacks statistically more likely to be involved in crime against members of all groups.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Denis MacEoin deep-dives into the flawed programs to “deradicalize” Islamofascist terrorists. From the article:

On Friday November 29, 2019, an Islamist terror attack took place in London. Two young people, both recent Cambridge University graduates, Jack Merritt (25) and Saskia Jones (23), were stabbed and killed by a single attacker. It was a terrible and unnecessary loss of life.

The special irony about Jack and Saskia’s deaths is that they (and a colleague) had been involved with Cambridge University’s Learning Together prison-rehabilitation program, similar to the US version known as Inside-Out, both of which bring prison inmates together with students to learn together. The British programme is run by Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology, from which both Merritt and Jones had received M.Phils in criminology.

On that Friday, the fifth anniversary of the program, they were attending a conference on offender rehabilitation. The event, dedicated to work on reintegrating prisoners after their release, took place in the stately Fishmongers’ Hall at the north end of London Bridge. It was attended by a mix of academics, students, graduates and former prisoners, some with tags.

Just after lunch, at 12.58 p.m., the conference erupted into chaos when one of the participants threatened to blow it up. A man, later identified as Usman Khan, revealed that he was wearing what appeared to be a suicide vest. It is not clear what he planned to do, given that the vest was a fake and could not have served in any attack. However, he did have two knives taped to his wrists. When he left the Hall and went down to the bridge, it was indeed with these weapons that he killed Merritt and Jones and injured several others, some badly.

Remarkably, instead of running for their lives, many of the conference participants, including some prisoners, tackled Khan. One was a convicted murderer on day release. Two of these heroes were Merritt and Jones, who paid for their bravery with their own lives.

4. The Golden State has embraced corporate socialism. At California Policy Center, Ed Ring explains how and why. From the study:

Corporate socialism in California today is a marriage of convenience between, on one hand, monopolistic corporations and the oligarchy they’ve spawned, and on the other, a seething coalition of progressive socialists with an agenda that is best described as a self-contradictory mixture of nihilism and idealism. What California’s corporate socialists have done is concoct a profitable interpretation of this agenda, implementing those elements that will aggrandize them, and paying lip service to the rest. There are ample examples of this practice.

To ensure “diversity,” an amazingly lucrative profession has emerged, embodied in “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” departments inside every institution of higher education, as well as embedded in the human resources departments of every major corporation.

To protect wilderness, sound principles of land management such as controlled burns, maintenance of firebreaks and access roads, selective logging and salvage logging have been either banned altogether or mired in prohibitive levels of bureaucratic delays, leading to catastrophic fires that were blamed on the “climate.”

To protect the “climate,” land development outside of existing cities has been all but frozen, restricting the supply of new homes and driving prices to unaffordable levels. For similar reasons relating to “climate,” clean conventional energy from natural gas and nuclear power are being systematically reduced in favor of heavily subsidized “renewable” energy providers.

To ensure housing “affordability,” the Homeless Industrial Complex has arisen, with budgets so padded that the average cost to build “permanent supportive housing” in California now exceeds a half million per unit.

To respect the rights of the homeless, as well as “alternative lifestyles,” hundreds of thousands of vagrants, most of them either insane, substance abusers, predators, or all three, have been permitted to camp on the sidewalks and in the parks of every major California city. To assist them, tens of billions are being spent on public employees and nonprofit personnel, and the problems just get worse.

5. At The College Fix, Daniel Payne asks and answers — why do liberal students never seem to endure the same offenses that happen to conservatives? From the beginning of the piece:

A snapshot of a few of the things conservative student groups have endured on campus in recent months: At George Mason University, Young America’s Foundation was told by campus authorities that they weren’t allowed to post flyers; at the College of Lake County, a campus employee distributed material claiming that Young Americans for Freedom was a “hate group;” the student government at the University of Scranton blocked a conservative student group from forming; the same thing happened at Hobart and William Smith Colleges; last year conservative students endured numerous violent attacks on their college campuses; an anarchist group at the University of Texas threatened to dox any student if they joined a campus conservative club; the list goes on.

It’s worth asking: How come we never hear about liberal students suffering the same indignities?

Spoiler alert: Because it doesn’t really happen. Liberal students enjoy the benefit of the doubt on virtually every college campus in the country; conservative students are generally seen as outliers at best and enemies at worst. What that means in practice is twofold: One, conservatives are much more likely to face the kinds of sustained and sometimes violent harassment as detailed above, and two, nobody cares all that much when it does happen.

6. If we could all only write like Mark Helprin! At Claremont Review of Books, the great author reflects on his mid-60s time at Harvard as an undergrad. This is a story of love and heartbreak. From the essay:

My first brush with the deluge was anecdotal but potently symbolic. In 1965, I witnessed what I think of as the Ur-protest at Harvard, in the form of a single demonstrator carrying a sign in front of Lowell House. He was against parietals, the rules that not only dictated the limited hours in which girls could visit your room, but assigned proctors to inspect periodically for sexual activity. I didn’t like parietals, but in that era when we dressed in jacket and tie all day, as I had since 4th grade, I appreciated their value in elevating desire by means of the heavy cultivation of forbidden fruit, and in steadying, so to speak, the morals of state. Even if the heart of the game was to circumvent them, that they were there was civilizing. So, undecided, I heard him out.

He was not, however, merely protesting parietals, he was protesting America—past, present, and, were it not to transform according to his lights, future. I loved America and was profoundly grateful for its principles and its reality, so I asked him why he was so angry. His father, he said, one of the Hollywood Ten, was unjustly accused of being a Communist, and had had to move to France. I replied that being a Communist in America was not illegal, and it was a pity that he had had to move to France—though I myself would have loved to have moved to France if only for the food—but that his father was indeed a Communist, and either his father had lied to him or he was lying to me. He reacted in amazed disbelief. I couldn’t possibly back up what I said. But, no, I told him, his father had been in the same Hollywood Communist cell as my mother, who had known him quite well. Ahem.

It is remarkable how such true believers can leverage a community that lacks awareness, conviction, and fighting courage. A well-known Communist tactic is to place a small group of agents both at the four corners and scattered near the center of a large meeting. Reacting simultaneously either to propose or oppose, they can carry the more passive participants with them by creating the illusion of consensus. As the Vietnam War and urban unrest destabilized the ’60s, posing urgent questions one after another and, like the sea beyond a dyke, exerting constant pressure against the figurative walls of the university, leftist true believers took control of Harvard’s soft, privileged center. Pacific by nature, academics are ill-suited to Leninist political combat, and though they cannot be blamed for shying from it, they should be held to account for becoming its converts and agents.

Baseballery

Connie Mack was a tightwad, and with the economy heading ever further south as the Great Depression intensified, he decided to cut costs for the defending AL Champ Philadelphia As’ trip to Cleveland for a one-game make-up on Sunday, July 11, 1932, by bringing along only two pitchers. One was 20-year-old righthander Lew Krausse (he would start only one more game in his brief MLB career), and the other was 34-year-old righty Eddie Rommel, who had twice led the AL in wins (in 1922 and 1925), and also losses (in 1921 and 1923), and had carved out a role as the As’ chief reliver in his final seasons.

If there was ever a baseball box score to look at, it belongs to this game. The visiting As quickly got on the scoreboard with two runs in the top of the first against the Indians’ Clint Brown (he’d register a 15–12 record that season, with a 4.08 ERA), but in the bottom half of the frame, Cleveland tagged Krausse for three runs on Earl Averill’s homer. It would be one of five hits that day by the future Hall of Famer. Indeed, it would be one of 33 hits by the Indians — compared to a measly 25 by the As — in an 18-inning slugfest that ended with the Athletics triumphing, 18–17.

But who knew all that was looming when Rommel came in to relieve Krausse in the bottom of the second. And with no one else to throw, the veteran knuckleballer found himself hurling 17 frames before striking out Indians first baseman Ed Morgan (he also had five hits) to end the game in the 18th. Over the dual blowout, Rommel gave up 29 hits and 9 walks, allowing 14 runs (13 earned). Of those hits, 8 were had by Indians shortstop Johnny Burnett. He also singled off Krausse in the first — Burnett’s nine total hits is an MLB one-game record.

There were relief theatrics for the Indians too. Behind 8–7 in the 7th Inning, manager Roger Peckinpaugh brought in ace Wes Ferrell (he’d lead Cleveland with 23 wins that season) to get the Tribe out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam. He didn’t: A bases-clearing double by Jimmy Dykes, followed by an Al Simmons RBI single and a Jimmie Foxx home run (he had three on a day of six hits with eight RBIs) almost broke open the game — except for the fact that in the bottom of the 7th, Rommel allowed eight Indian runs.

And so it went — the Athletics go ahead in the 9th, 15–14, but with two out the Indians knot it in the bottom of the inning. Another Foxx dinger in the 16th puts the As ahead by two, but the Indians grab them back in the bottom of the frame. Still on the mound all this time for Cleveland is Ferrell: He hurled 11 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs on a dozen hits and four walks. He took a blown save and the loss. Rommel (who had three hits and an RBI) proved the winner. It would be the final of his career, which boasted a strong 171–119 record over 13 seasons, all spent with Mr. Mack. Later, he would become an AL umpire, calling balls and strikes for 22 seasons till he hung up his specs (Rommel was the first MLB umpire to wear glasses while working a game).

A Dios

They can’t count votes, but they can run this nation? Not happening folks. Pray that it doesn’t.

And while you’re praying, say a few for Rush.

The Almighty’s Blessings and Graces for You and Yours, for Your Happiness and Good Health,

Jack Fowler

(who can be reached on his Mississippi River flatboat with your caustic bromides and heartfelt condemnations if communicated electronically at jfowler@nationalreview.com)

National Review

Chump Change It Ain’t

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

Your Humble Correspondent told the Better Half that she would be featured, because of her bugaboos, the buggiest (by coincidence timely) the lefty push to forgive student loans, and while the Missus would like to give a shoutout to the hard-working Iowa dad who confronted Elizabeth Warren — about how her plan to absolve college student-loan debt makes suckers and chumps out of everyone who made financial responsibility a big factor in the college-decision process — the fact is he’s already off the pedestal.

Why? Because of the great Kat Timpf, who wrote a personal and powerful analysis as to why the dad was wrong. Yeah — fact is, the issue of chumpitude and fairness has a far greater reach than Ticked-Off / Laughed-At Pops stated.

Sorry to go whatabout on you (that seems to annoy some of my pals) but . . . what about the people who did not go to a certain college or on to law school or some graduate program because of the onus of loans necessary to make that happen? Who got into law school but ended up instead selling Fuller Brushes? (Not, as they say, that there’s anything wrong with that.) Do dashed dreams have a cash value too?

Can Fauxcahontas reimburse Kat for her having to pass on Columbia Journalism School because of a $80,000 price tag that would have saddled her with massive debt for decades? If only she’d known there was going to be a Warren bailout someday!

Mrs. Yours Truly (who decided to ixnay law-school dreams because of a financial onus) is a Timpfian. Yep, she admires the Iowa dad, but no, this Warren scheme to pay off school loans puts a lot of taxpayers in the Chump category. From Kat’s article:

I was already enrolled, but I withdrew.

It was a tough decision — and the consequences were even tougher. I didn’t want to give up on my dream, but I realized that the only way I could afford to learn broadcasting was through unpaid internships (while, of course, also working to pay my bills).

I went months without a single day off. Several days per week, I was waking up at 4 a.m. and not getting home until after 11 at night. The only time I wasn’t working throughout these long days was when I was driving from one gig to another. My later jobs as a waitress felt like a posh paradise after my first one at Boston Market.

I lived in an apartment building so dilapidated that you could effortlessly break into the front door with a credit card, so poorly run that I’d have no water without warning, and so downright filthy that I once had scabies and fleas in the same week. I slept on a yoga mat for weeks because I couldn’t afford a bed, until a friend gave me a couch that he didn’t want anymore, until I had to throw the couch away because of the, you know, flea problem. At one point, I could no longer afford my car and had to use a combination of the city’s (joke of a) public-transit system and a bicycle to get around. Then, I couldn’t afford that infested dumpster-apartment, either, and had to find somewhere else to stay for free.

Unless Elizabeth Warren can go back in time and put me in a Columbia classroom during the time I spent cleaning those Boston Market bathrooms, her plan wouldn’t be “fair.” Unless she can give me the hours of my life back that I spent sitting alone covered in scabies cream, her plan wouldn’t be “fair.” The angry Iowa father’s plan, although well-intentioned, wouldn’t be “fair” to me. Elizabeth Warren can’t “pay me back” for a loan that I decided against taking out — a decision that I’d made precisely because I did not expect that anyone else would pay it back for me.

Don’t be a chump! Be a champ! But first, chomp . . . on the great intellectual meal ready to be served in this edition of WJ. Mangia!

But Before You Pick up that Fork . . .

Do grab the last available cabin on the National Review 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise. It’s taking place April 19–26, and it’s going to be an amazing just-us week of conservative camaraderie and discussions (and incredible sites, and sumptuous meals, and . . .). You will find complete information at nrcruise.com.

Editorials

1. Boris makes a bonehead move by signing up with Huawei. Time to Eight Six the Five Gee. From the beginning of the editorial:

After months of deliberation, the U.K. National Security Council has invited Chinese telecom giant Huawei to build and operate parts of its 5G mobile-network infrastructure. American authorities had cautioned the U.K. against doing business with Huawei, citing the company’s history of unlawful activity and its potential for espionage and warfare. That led Japan and Australia to follow America’s lead in banning Huawei. But British authorities believe they can mitigate these risks by keeping Huawei out of the parts of the “telecoms network that are critical to security” and by capping the company’s U.K. market share at 35 percent. This third way between confrontation and appeasement is a fool’s errand that will jeopardize the U.K.’s national security and undermine the U.S.–U.K. relationship.

As we have previously noted, Huawei has a long and well-documented history of nefarious practices. In January 2019, the Justice Department issued indictments against Huawei for theft of trade secrets and for attempting to evade American sanctions against Iran. These findings were doubly alarming given the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) direct assistance of Huawei. FBI director Christopher Wray said at the time that “the immense influence that the Chinese government holds over Chinese corporations like Huawei represents a threat” to national security.

The British justification for this decision — that Huawei already operates large amounts of the country’s network infrastructure — in fact illustrates the Faustian bargain the U.K. is making. The more the country entangles itself with Chinese companies, the more difficult it will be to extricate itself if they prove malicious.

2. Lefty schemers are trying to Frankenstein the failed ERA. It’s alive! Well, no. From the editorial:

Three states have gone to court to get an amendment added to the Constitution. House Democrats plan a vote in support of this scheme. What the Left is attempting to do here is to subvert Article V of the Constitution — the part that spells out the proper way to amend the Constitution — in order to make it easier for liberal judges to impose their policy preferences on the nation.

The purpose of the Equal Rights Amendment is to put seemingly innocuous language into the Constitution — declaring men and women equal before the law — that could then be used to force policy changes that the democratic process will not yield. The Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have issued a report that speaks favorably of using the amendment to secure paid family leave, prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the end of policies that have a disparate impact on women. (Physical standards for firefighters could be held unconstitutional, for example.) Using the amendment to shore up the alleged right to abortion also gets a positive mention, naturally. If these policies should be adopted at all, legislatures should do it openly and deliberately rather than sneaking them through.

When Congress originally submitted the ERA to the states for ratification in 1972, it gave it a March 1979 deadline. Deadlines have been a common feature of amendments, one the Supreme Court unanimously declared permissible in 1921. The ERA didn’t get enough states to ratify it before that deadline. Congress then, by a simple majority, purported to extend the deadline for three years — an act declared unconstitutional by the only court to review it. (It takes a two-thirds supermajority, the kind the ERA got in 1972, to submit an amendment for ratification.) The ERA didn’t get ratified by the new, dubious deadline, either. At that point, in 1982, everyone — including the Supreme Court — acknowledged that the amendment was dead.

Not 11, Not 12, But . . . 15 Mouth-Watering NRO Delectables of Wisdom and Insight.

1. Speaking of 15, that’s the number of flaws Rich Lowry found in Adam Schiff’s impeachment case against Donald Trump. From the beginning of the analysis:

Here are 15 times that Schiff related a stilted, distorted, or flatly erroneous version of events:

1. “Just as he made use of Secretary Clinton’s hacked and released emails in the previous presidential campaign.”

Schiff wanted to connect Trump to Russia’s hacking, even though there is no connection. So he said Trump “made use” of the emails. But what does that mean? That he cited them. Well, so did everyone else. As Byron York pointed out the other day, the press widely reported on the WikiLeaks disclosures. If it was blameworthy to make a big deal of information revealed in the hacks, Bernie Sanders was a major offender, calling for the resignation of then–DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz after the DNC hack.

2. “In 2016, then–candidate Trump implored Russia to hack his opponent’s email account.”

Again, this is an attempt to make Trump responsible for Russia’s hacking. It refers to a press conference where Trump made a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Russians’ being rewarded by the press if they found Hillary’s missing emails. The Russians did attempt to spearfish a domain used by Clinton’s personal office on the same day, but it’s hard to believe Russian hackers were taking their cues from Trump, and of course, they had already hacked the DNC — hence, the occasion for Trump’s riff.

3. In pushing the Ukrainians on the discredited CrowdStrike theory, Trump was “attempting to erase from history his previous election misconduct.”

Trump has been, no doubt, desperate to find someone else to finger for the Russian hacking since Russia is such a focus of his critics, but the hacking wasn’t his work, so to refer to it as “his previous election misconduct” is absurd.

2. There are hundreds of questions Andrew McCarthy could have posed to the House impeachment managers and presidential counsels, but he settled on three, one shared here. From the piece:

What is the evidence that President Trump is actively corrupting the 2020 election?

Democrats claim that the sovereign, the American people, should not be permitted to decide President Trump’s fate for themselves in the November election, just a few months away. The political class must preempt a democratic election, Democrats say, because the president, right this minute, is actively plotting with foreign powers to undermine the election.

What is the evidence of that?

The Democrats have not presented a shred of evidence that the president has threatened the U.S. voting process. They have not even alleged — much less provided a sliver of proof — that the president has asked any regime, other than Ukraine’s, to take action that could conceivably corruptly influence the U.S election in the slightest way. And, as we’ve just seen, President Trump’s cockamamie effort to prompt a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens — which was aborted without commencement of any such investigation — would have had no impact on the U.S. election.

The Democratic House impeachment managers nevertheless proclaim, as if it were established fact, that the president is actively undermining the November election. It is the central assumption of their case, the rationale for insisting that president must be removed from office immediately. Where, in the hundreds of hours and thousands of pages of testimony, is there any proof — any evidence at all — that President Trump is presently working with any foreign government to corruptly influence the outcome of the 2020 election?

We don’t impeach and remove American presidents on supposition and surmise. What is the hard evidence?

3. More Andy: Say what you will of John Bolton’s emergence in the impeachment proceedings, but it exposes a self-inflicted wound by Team Trump and its unnecessary (per Andy, foolhardy) “quid pro quo” defense. From the analysis:

For months, I’ve been arguing that the president’s team should stop claiming there was no quid pro quo conditioning the defense aid Congress had authorized for Ukraine on Kyiv’s conducting of investigations the president wanted. Trials and impeachment itself are unpredictable. You don’t know what previously undisclosed facts might emerge during the trial that could turn the momentum against you. So you want to mount your best defense, the one that can withstand any damaging new revelations.

Here, the president’s best defense has always been that Ukraine got its security aid, and President Volodymyr Zelensky got his coveted high-profile audience with the president of the United States (albeit at the U.N., rather than at the White House). Kyiv barely knew defense aid was being withheld, the very temporary delay had no impact whatsoever on Ukraine’s capacity to counter Russian aggression, and Zelensky was required neither to order nor to announce any investigation of the Bidens.

However objectionable the calculations that led to the delay may have been, nothing of consequence happened. Therefore, there was no impeachable offense. Case closed.

4. Victor Davis Hanson lays out a more scholarly account of the consequences and realities of wind-spitting. From the essay:

One of the most fascinating themes of Christopher Caldwell’s just-released The Age of Entitlement is the sad irony that 1960s federal government programs to end institutionalized racialism used the vast power of government to accentuate race and tribalism — and thereby helped ensure the current toxic obsessions of race so characteristic of woke identity politics and radical diversity movements.

The current white leading Democratic candidates should read Caldwell’s book to fathom how their own ideologies now boomerang. They might question why they — and not Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Deval Patrick, or Andrew Yang — are alone on the primary debate stage. Disparate impact and proportional representation were the federal government’s fillips to the civil-rights movement. They were embraced by the current white Democratic front-runners, without a clue that by the logic of their own ideological zealotry, about a third of them simply would have no right to be on stage and should sacrifice themselves on the altar of government-mandated diversity.

Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), and Gerry Nadler (D., Calif.) are currently furious that the Republican-controlled Senate adjudicates the rules of the trial of the impeached Donald Trump. But their appeals, whatever their merit or lack of same, fall increasingly on deaf ears. One reason is that the House impeachment proceedings started out in the House basement; they were marked by unethical collusion with the so-called whistleblower to jump-start the proceedings; they relied on selective leaks and were not symmetrical in the summoning of witnesses from both sides; and the proceedings were initially outsourced to Adam Schiff’s intelligence committee, by design, because of its greater power of secrecy, rather than the more appropriate House Judiciary Committee.

In essence, the House impeachers are now furious that the Republican Senate might prove as partisan in exonerating Trump as the House was in impeaching him.

5. You really gotta admire the pretzel-ean qualities of these climate demagogues who propose policies that would . . . harm the environment. Well, if you’re like David Bahnsen, no, you don’t have to. From the piece:

The contribution of natural gas to carbon emissions relative to its share of U.S. energy consumption is 22 percent less than crude oil, and 85 percent less than coal. This measurable fact monitored year over year by the Environmental Protection Agency (and not disputed by leftwing environmental groups) is a by-product of the science of burning these respective fuels: natural gas releases 50 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than coal and 30 percent less than crude oil. These cleaner burning properties have made it the ideal choice for electricity generation but also a growing source for powering transportation fleets. Natural gas is cheaper than electricity as a power source in the home, and it is a cleaner source than coal as a means of producing electricity. Its price advantages are in direct proportion to our improved supply capacity, a supply capacity Warren is campaigning on ending.

Elizabeth Warren’s climate policy makes Barack Obama look like a Republican, and that is something every Democrat ought to consider. Her environmental agenda has not been as widely panned as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal,” which Warren herself endorsed, but it is perhaps more dangerous. Cortez’s plan represented the utopian fantasy of a freshman congresswoman elected by 14,000 people in her district. Warren is a Harvard Law professor with the potential to become the president of the United States.

RELATED: Right now, stop what you are doing and order David’s new book, Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream. 

STILL RELATED: Visit the book’s special website, elizabethwarrenthreat.com, to catch David talking up the book’s themes on CNBC, Fox News, and others, and likewise lend an ear as he discusses the same with the likes of Hugh Hewitt, Brian Kilmeade, Dennis Prager, Eric Metaxas, and many more. If you have only 90 seconds to spare, listen to this.

6. David Harsanyi says the Trump Administration’s Israeli–Palestinian peace plan is light on the fiction and heavy on the reality. From the commentary:

Likewise, Israelis will never pull back to pre-1967 lines, giving up its claims to the West Bank, because no sane nation would reinstitute unsecure borders next to an unreliable potential terror state. The vast majority of Israelis (“settlers”) who now reside in towns (“settlements”) built in historically Jewish areas (“the occupied West Bank”) aren’t going to be displaced because the United Nations, John Kerry, or Ben Rhodes has declares Judea and Samaria a no-Jew zone. Those towns are part of a de facto border whether Palestinians agree to a deal or not.

And finally, there is no way that Israel, a liberal democracy responsible for the security of its citizens, can hand over the Jordan Valley — an area with immense strategic importance irrespective of the Palestinian situation — to a newly created state that allies itself with unsavory nations and entertains the idea of entering into a unity government with Hamas, the theocratic terror group. Perhaps after peaceful coexistence for a few decades this could change. But right now, that’s the status quo, whether Israel officially assumes sovereignty over the Jordan Valley or not.

The Trump deal would simply codify these realities while allowing Palestinians to finally have a startup state. Trump’s plan is the first to offer a map laying out what the final borders of the Palestinian nation might look like. In it, Israel cedes around 70 percent of the disputed territory in the West Bank to Palestinians, but doubles its existing territory overall. “The sovereign capital of the State of Palestine,” the plan states, would be the city of “East Jerusalem.”

In return Palestinians would recognize the existence of Israel, agree to solve their refugee problem through integration in their new state and in host Arab counties, and renounce terrorism. In other words, Palestinians would be asked to conduct themselves as does any normal, functioning state. The U.S. would also infuse $50 billion into the new Palestinian state.

7. Kevin Williamson applies the usual cold water on government schemes to support family structures and working moms (and the stay-at-home variety too). From the piece:

The fact that it is so economically difficult for most families to have one stay-at-home parent sometimes is presented as evidence that the economy isn’t working the way it should. Looked at another way, that’s exactly backward: Families find it much more difficult today to have a stay-at-home parent mostly because the labor market now values women’s labor much more highly than it once did.

Economic justice is here, ladies. Enjoy it!

In the Eisenhower-era economy, a working woman could expect to earn something on the order of 59 cents for every $1 earned by a male counterpart, according to census data. The wage gap was actually a bit larger in the early 1970s. But in 2020, that has changed: Women’s real wages have risen about 60 percent since 1980, whereas men’s wages have risen about 6 percent. Among married couples, two out of five wives outearn their husbands. Women in their early 20s earn more than men in the same age cohort. All of this points to a labor market that no longer discounts work done by women.

Naturally, a lot of women are unhappy about that. A lot of men, too.

Think of it this way: If you want to have a stay-at-home mother (stay-at-home fathers are a thing, too, but let’s not pretend that this is a sexually neutral question), then dear old Dad has to earn enough to do two things: 1. Provide the desired standard of living for the family, and 2. Buy Mom out of the labor force on behalf of the firm of Family, Inc.

8. The coronavirus outbreak is yet another blow to Red China boss Xi Jinping, writes Matthew Continetti. From the analysis:

The epidemic is the latest blow to the legitimacy of China’s ruling Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping. When the party’s Central Committee ended term limits in March 2018, Xi emerged as China’s strongest leader since Mao Zedong. He ruled an authoritarian AI-powered surveillance state that global media hailed as the wave of the future. Or so it appeared.

The years since have not been kind to Chinese autocracy. Trade war with the United States slowed the Chinese economy and exposed divides within the nomenklatura. In March 2019, pro-democracy protests broke out in Hong Kong. They have not abated. Last November the New York Times published a stunning exposé of China’s prison-camp system in Xinjiang Province. Last month China lost face when it agreed to some of President Trump’s demands as part of a “Phase One” trade deal. A few days later Taiwan’s pro-independence president, Tsai Ing-Wen, won reelection in a landslide.

Now comes this nasty bug. Chinese officials, in classic authoritarian fashion, responded to the outbreak by downplaying its significance and hiding its magnitude. “Partly because the government covered up the epidemic in the early stages,” writes Nick Kristof, “hospitals were not able to gather supplies, and there are now major shortages of testing kits, masks, and protective gear. Some doctors were reduced to making goggles out of plastic folders.” The bill for this negligence and corruption was paid in lives lost.

9. In the first round, the academic Left took on religion, and, as Stanley Kurtz explains in his powerful essay, the “second secularization” took on high culture and the humanities while ushering in the nightmare of multiculturalism. From the essay:

The process began in earnest in the 1960s. Western Civilization courses were swept away, along with most other requirements, by students who rejected such constraint. The faculty was reluctant to make the case for the requirement, in part because it was losing its own faith in the West. At Stanford and some other schools, Western Civ had returned by the 1980s, setting up the next great battle. By then, Sixties radicals had joined the faculty, helping to kick-start identity politics on campus. Now Western Civilization would fall under attack on overtly ideological grounds. American multiculturalism was about to be born.

Just before the Stanford dustup of 1987–88, Allan Bloom literally picked up where Buckley had left off. Waiting until the very last paragraph of his survey of Yale’s antireligious curriculum, Buckley finally mentioned “the substantial contribution to secularism that is being made at Yale and elsewhere by widespread academic reliance on relativism . . .” Bloom, for his part, eschewed Buckley’s concern for religion and began instead with the following sentence, “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” Bloom worried that abandonment of the search for truth would bring neglect of the Great Books and the fundamental life-choices they made possible. His target was the second secularization, not the first.

The nascent multiculturalist left at Stanford quite consciously viewed their attack on the Great Books as a form of secularization. The radicals charged campus traditionalists with treating the canon as a collection of sacred texts. Traditionalists replied that a list encompassing the Bible, Locke, Marx, and Darwin could hardly purvey a uniform orthodoxy. Yet the critics had a point. Insofar as the canon constituted a distilled repository of the fundamental alternatives in life, the fruits of a long civilizational struggle, it carried an air of the sacred about it. Even a glint of such sanctity was more than the radicals could bear.

10. When it comes to Pete Buttigieg and abortion and party positioning, writes Alexandra DeSanctis, there’s no room in the inn for millions of pro-life Democrats. From the piece:

During Sunday evening’s Fox News town hall, Buttigieg demonstrated not only that today’s Democratic party has no time for members who dissent from the party line on unlimited abortion but also that he has little idea how to justify his dismissive position without dodging the question.

Kristen Day, president of the long-suffering interest group Democrats for Life, was given an opportunity to address a question to the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., an occurrence that almost certainly would not have been permitted at a town hall operated by any mainstream outlet aside from Fox. (It is important to ensure that the public never knows of the existence of the elusive “pro-life Democrats,” voters who comprise about one-third of the party’s membership.)

“Do you want the support of . . . pro-life Democratic voters?” Day asked. “There are about 21 million of us. And if so, would you support more-moderate platform language in the Democratic party to ensure that the party of diversity, of inclusion really does include everybody?”

11. Somewhere in Hell, Joe Stalin is smiling: Itxu Díaz writes about how Spain is being taken over by a Commie / Socialist political alliance. From the beginning of the report:

Spain is now the only European country of our day to have Communists in the government. The minister of consumption claims that his economic model is Fidel Castro’s. The minister for equality became a militant with the Communist Youth at the age of 16 and has made Communist politics her livelihood. Her husband, the Spanish vice president, communist Pablo Iglesias, is Chavez’s political offspring and Maduro’s protégé.

The last to face this electrifying Communist experience were the Greeks, in 2015, when Alexis Tsipras reached power with a leftist coalition, after promising citizens an easy solution to the ongoing debt crisis. At that time, many Millennial journalists found Tsipras’s solution appealing. His plan was to freeze privatization, impose universal health care, and grant aids to the poor and special benefits to pensioners. It was an inarguable failure: Pensioners found their benefits cut 23 times in eight years, salaries fell 40 percent, youth unemployment grew to 40 percent, and Tsipras fled to the opposition, leaving Greek society in ruins commensurate to those of the Parthenon. P. J. O’Rourke’s famous statement summed it up (and not for the first time in history): “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”

Spain is now facing a scenario worse than what hit Greece then.

In the run-up to last November’s general elections, socialist leader Pedro Sánchez declared that he would not be able to “sleep easy” if he allowed Communist ministers such as Pablo Iglesias into his cabinet. Naturally, a mere 24 hours after the elections, Sánchez and Iglesias jointly announced an agreement to place Communists in power. It’s not hard to imagine sleeping-pill manufacturers beaming as their shares rocketed on the stock market. Welcome to 21st-century socialism in Spain.

12. John Hirschauer discusses Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words. With the film’s producer, Michael Pack. From the interview:

Hirschauer: Race is a central theme in Thomas’s life. Your film chronicles his experience as a black boy in the segregated South, as well as the “Uncle Tom” caricatures that followed him for much of his life. One moment that stuck out to me was Thomas’s reaction to school-busing efforts in Massachusetts during the 1970s. After watching the discord and division wrought by the Massachusetts busing policy, Thomas said: “I knew one thing. Nobody was going to have a social experiment and throw my son in there.” What did that statement reveal to you about the way that Thomas views and understands race relations in America?

Pack: Justice Thomas, after the quote that you just cited, goes on to say, “It was like they had a theory and then added people. Like instant coffee. Have the instant coffee, add water.” And that’s what he doesn’t like. I mean, he believes in things that work, that enable African Americans to succeed, not just theories. He felt strongly that the — I mean, at the moment you cited, he still thinks of himself as a liberal, you know, voting Democratic, and I think he saw that these liberal theories weren’t actually helping in practice. And in the case of busing, as he says in the film, they were busing poor blacks who were going to failing schools to other failing schools where poor whites live. So, what’s the benefit for poor black kids? He said to us in parts of the interview that we didn’t use, that when he was at the — I think it was at the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], he asked for more research and data on what was the effect of busing, and he discovered that, really, the point of busing was not to benefit the educational achievement of these young African-American kids, but was to help speed integration. Make white people more comfortable living with black people. As he said, “that isn’t how it was sold. These parents of these poor black kids wanted a better education for their kids.” And, as he also said, he cited his grandfather, who did not like busing either, saying, “Now these kids are spending more time on a bus, and no one ever learned anything on a bus.”

So, Justice Thomas’s feeling, I think, is to look at programs that work and not just the theory behind them.

RELATED: Catch the video of Pack’s interview with Eric Metaxas here.

13. If you’re wondering why Purgatory just emptied out, it’s because Kyle Smith suffered through four hours of Hillary. From the review:

Hillary is an episode in its subject’s never-ending project to convince the public that we were all wrong about her in every particular and that she therefore should be president. A typical rationalization: “I take responsibility for the unfortunate relationship I have with the press.” Oh? Here come the qualifiers. “I was too quick to be defensive. I didn’t play the game well enough. I knew there was a game to be played and I was striking out all the time.”

Let’s break this down. First, she is begging the critical question, which is whether the press was actually biased against her. It wasn’t. As Times reporter Amy Chozick revealed in her book Chasing Hillary, the full-time press corps covering Clinton consisted entirely of women who were excited about the prospect of covering the first woman president. These reporters were jazzed about taking a picture with her and many of them wept openly when she lost. The hostility to her opponent, though, was meanwhile completely without precedent and crystallized in a front-page column in the Times that exhorted reporters to oppose Trump with everything they had. In Hillary there is a shot of Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, telling her that he has just had a call from then-president Obama, who told him, “This is no time to be a purist. You’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House.” The press shared and continue to share this attitude. The film, by the way, omits any mention of the moment in the third Clinton–Trump debate when Trump suggested he might not accept the outcome of the election, and the immense outrage in the media that followed, because Clinton has for three years been suggesting the outcome was illegitimate.

Note also how Clinton pretends there was no substance to negative information that appeared about her in the media; it was merely an exercise, a “game.” But it wasn’t a game. She couldn’t neutralize the adverse information about her because it was true. She couldn’t wipe it off, like, with a cloth. When pressed on such things, she reverts to an argument that isn’t quite straw-manning but mischaracterizes opposition to her as rooted in craziness: “People still believe weird, wacky things about me because they’ve been told [laughs in spasmodic, Arthur Fleck mode] that, you know, I kill people, I rob people, I mean who knows what the heck they’ve been told?” Well, we’ve been told that it’s a felony to remove classified information from secure channels but also told that it was okay when you did it, Madame Secretary. But do go on about how the system is rigged against you.

14. Nyet! Armond White isn’t liking The Beanpole. From the beginning of the review:

When squeamish media liberals talk about “the Russia dossier,” they don’t describe its content — pretending some kind of discretion. But squeamish liberalism is also a contradiction in terms. Director Kantemir Balagov confronts this hypocrisy in the new film Beanpole, Russia’s entry for this year’s Best International Film Oscar, now playing at Film Forum.

Balagov’s story takes place in 1945 in Leningrad, after Nazi Germany’s four-year siege of the city, but his focus on two women who fought together in World War II — and their post-war personal and social readjustment — has a modern, nightmarish feel. It is clearly a response to contemporary spiritual crisis and sexual upheaval. Balagov’s anguished facial close-ups and stark nudity show Russian womanhood — sexual attraction, reproduction, marriage, and survival issues — with a combination of horror-movie intensity and art-movie flourish.

15. Less Is More: Brian Allen hits the big antique show at the Park Avenue Armory, where the exquisite dwarfs the age of gigantism. From the piece:

The tiny Calcagni Book of Hours was finished on September 7, 1508, by Attavante degli Attavanti (1452–1520s), the most celebrated illumination in Renaissance Florence. Giorgio Vasari, the Mannerist-era author of the world’s first art-history survey, called Attavante the best illuminator of his age.

Books of Hours are breviaries, or a selection of prayers and psalms taken from long prayer books used by monks. They’re meant for laypeople. The Calcagni book illustrates three scenes: the Raising of Lazarus, King David in Prayer, and the Annunciation and Nativity. The detailed narrative scenes are framed by vermilion, emerald, and azure-colored borders packed with gold tendrils, cartouches, putti, and portraits of saints and prophets. It’s a bit less than four inches and a tad more than two inches closed. It’s $95,000.

Elle Shushan specializes in miniatures. She’s a connoisseur of the highest order, and her booth is always a beguiling treat. She’s passionate about these precious, hypnotic paintings, normally made on ivory or enamel by tiny brushes. Their detail is crisp and precise — there’s no room for sweeping brushstroke — and the smooth, reflective base gives them luminosity. Like illuminated manuscripts, they’re personal and intimate. They’re often set in a locket so the admirer could carry the likeness of the admired. The artists, such as Henry Bone (1779–1855), were usually specialists. Bone was the master enamel painter to William IV and Queen Victoria. His father was a miniaturist, too.

BONUS: Just before filing this missive, another terrific Armond White piece, this one on the new Italian flick, The Traitor, was sprung, and it is a beaut. From the review:

Imagine The Irishman done right — made by a filmmaker whose reputation has not overrun his artistry. That would be Marco Bellocchio’s The Traitor (Il Traditore), which chronicles the true story of Sicilian mafia boss Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), who exposed the workings of the Cosa Nostra in Italy’s 1986 Maxi Trials, the country’s largest round-up of the criminal organization. The trial becomes The Traitor’s remarkable centerpiece.

Bellocchio reports the story of Buscetta’s awakened conscience through feverish chronological memories of his sons and family members killed over heroin trade feuds. Unlike The Irishman’s totally fabricated historical fantasies, these drug wars evoke historical terror. They’re staged like cinematic opera — a pageant of bullet-point, documentary-style massacres that verges on existential comedy. The title alludes to Verdi’s Il Trovatore, but this is anti-romantic. Buscetta’s complicated moral sense (unlike the cipher DeNiro played in The Irishman) never hides behind the quasi-Catholicism that has become Scorsese’s dubious routine.

Modern Italian Catholicism, a consistent Bellocchio subject (In the Name of the Father, My Mother’s Smile), contributes to his understanding of how culture works. He sees religion and politics as means that sustain people’s beliefs as well as their illusions. Buscetta’s survival instinct and sense of guilt drive him to Brazil, away from the warfare, watching the hostilities from afar yet unable to escape the long reach of law and treachery. When Buscetta gets extradited, he returns to Italy as a state’s witness. The narrative deepens with Buscetta’s interrogation by Judge Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi); each man lays out his personal ethical dilemma. An unexpected but fateful brotherhood develops. . . .

See EU Later

1. Yesterday (January 31), John Bull departed Brussels. As the deadline approached, Madeleine Kearns contemplated that Brexit will prove to be the end of the beginning. From the piece:

At this point, it is worth recalling what all the fuss was about: The Leave campaign of 2016 was fought and won on a promise to “take back control.” This was in part a question of national identity. And also, one of sovereignty.

After two failed attempts to do so, Britain in 1973 joined what was then called the European Economic Community (EEC). The condition of freedom of movement resulted in mass immigration, which, by 2010, saw the British population increase by 4.5 million people per decade. The failure of politicians to engage seriously with the problems associated with this — offering only vague promises to do with “multiculturalism” — alienated especially working-class communities. However, while much attention has been given to immigration, other political concerns have proved just as important.

Anti-EU feeling had been growing for years, on both the left and right of British politics, and for a variety of reasons. After the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, the EEC became the European Union, the name change signifying the entity’s transformation from an economic to a political body. Of course, one of the ironies was that it was unpopular on both the left and the right of British politics: the former suspecting the EU of peddling crony capitalism, while the latter was concerned it was really a thinly veiled socialist superstate.

2. The Remainers’ Chicken Little act flopped. Michael Brendan Dougherty recounts the promises of mayhem that never came to pass. From the piece:

We were told by former prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major that the peace process of Northern Ireland was at risk from Brexit. In fact, the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement fell into dysfunction and disuse in 2017 owing to an environmental credits scandal and disagreements over an Irish-language act favored by Irish nationalists. And one of the first acts of Johnson’s government was to help restore the power-sharing arrangements of the Northern Irish executive.

The Union of Great Britain itself was under threat, we were told. And in fact the Scottish Nationalist party came roaring back in 2019. However, it is unclear whether this bounce is due to a marked increase in secessionist sentiment or reflects both the more general collapse of the Labour party and the emergence of the SNP as Scotland’s party of the Left. And of course the departure of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland from the EU means that Scot secession is a much taller task. Do Spaniards want to encourage the secession of Catalonia by rewarding Scotland for the breakup of the U.K.? How does Belgium tell Scotland yes while telling Flanders no? And what currency would Scotland use while it is waiting for accession? If you thought the Irish border posed a problem for Brexit, what does the border of England mean for Scotland?

David Cameron said that Brexit risked war. “Can we be so sure that peace and stability on our Continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt?” he asked. “Is that a risk worth taking? I would never be so rash as to make that assumption,” he answered.

3. Nigel Farage makes his final speech (“ . . . the British are too big to bully . . .”) as a member of the European Parliament, and, as is his way (of great political flare and eye-poking) he ridicules the bested apparatchiks, and causes a scene by instigating a Union flag-waving. You gotta love it! Watch the video.

BONUS: Nigel’s greatest EU hits.

4. Our good pal Daniel Hannan was a tireless voice and principle instigator of the entire Brexit project. His style is pretty distant from Nigel’s, but it has been consequential. Here is his final speech to the EU parliament.

The Six

1. Is there a more decent man than the great historian, George Nash? Our friend, the acclaimed biographer of Hoover, was asked by the institution that bears that name to write a piece for Hoover Digest to mark its centenary, and he has done so, in his wonderful way. From the essay.

By the end of World War II, the Hoover Library was universally recognized as one of the foremost repositories in the world of priceless documentation on the First World War and its consequences. It was also on its way to  becoming what it remains today: the leading repository outside of Russia of documentation on the Russian Revolution and the rise of world communism.

Increasingly, as the Cold War era began, Hoover sought ways to exploit  what he saw as his library’s tremendous potential for the civic education of the American people. Hoover had never wanted it to be what he called “a dead storage of documents.” Instead, he told a friend in 1944 that he wanted it to become a “research center upon the most vital of all human questions—War, Revolution, and Peace.” He was delighted in 1957 when the university trustees gave his creation the name it still has today: the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. Now it would be similar in title to the Brookings Institution and the Carnegie Institution, as Hoover himself observed.

But Hoover’s groping for an explicit corporate rationale for his prestigious institution soon ran into fierce ideological headwinds. By the late 1940s Stanford University’s greatest living benefactor was no longer so widely perceived, as he had been in 1919, as a great humanitarian and nonpolitical figure. He was now a controversial former president of the United States, an outspoken critic of Franklin Roosevelt’s legacy, and the strenuous conductor of what Hoover himself called a “crusade against collectivism.”

Meanwhile, like most of American academia after World War II, the university that hosted his war library had begun gliding toward the political left. As the Cold War with the Soviet Union intensified and the McCarthy era roiled the nation, the ideological chasm between Stanford and its most famous alumnus widened.

2. The Papal squawking about inequality, says Alessandra Nucci in The Catholic Thing, has little to do with economic reality. From the beginning of the piece:

Pope Francis’s headline-grabbing words last year – “inequality is disastrous for the future of humanity” – reflected the long doctrinal dialectic following Vatican Council II.  At the Council, the focus of social justice increasingly shifted from the tenets of Rerum Novarum – which recognized “the enormous fortunes of some few individuals, and the utter poverty of the masses,” but opposed State control of wealth. Pope Leo’s earlier encyclical specified that to give to the indigent “is a duty not of justice (except in extreme cases) but of Christian charity.” The Council, by contrast, focused on guaranteeing equality and, therefore, emphasizing wealth distribution over wealth creation.

Yet there is little correlation between poverty rates and inequality. Experience has shown that reducing economic inequality does not of itself lead to reducing poverty. On the contrary, since 2008 the worldwide recession has reduced inequality by reducing the wealth in the hands of the rich, without benefiting the poor.

This was confirmed in 2018 by a study conducted in the UK (“Living standards, poverty, and inequality”), which showed that inequalities were few in the poorer areas of Britain, while in places where the poor are better off there are also greater inequalities.

3. Gatestone Institute’s Giulio Meotti is on top of the “slow-motion war” against Nigerian Christians, massacred without ceasing while the world averts its gaze. Maybe if their pets were killed, too? From the article:

While Christians were murdered in Nigeria, the global media ran a story of a pig being tied up and shoved off a bungee tower at a new theme park in China. The story went viral on BBC, The Independent, The New York Times, Sky News, Deutsche Welle and many other mainstream media outlets. The Chinese pig got more media coverage than any of these murdered Christians in Nigeria. You often have to search for these martyrs on local African sites. “Pig Bungee Jumping Stunt In China Prompts Global Outcry”, wrote the Huffington Post. Where has been the global outcry for the serial butchering of Christians just because they are Christians?

The killing of a gorilla in a Cincinnati zoo, committed to save a child’s life, triggered more emotion and media coverage than the beheading of 21 Christians on a beach in Libya while they invoked the name of Jesus in Arabic and whispered prayers. ABC, CBS and NBC devoted six times more coverage to the death of one gorilla than they did on the mass execution of Christians.

“The world prefers to worry about pandas rather than about us, threatened with extinction in the land where we were born”, said Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Mosul as well as a refugee in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, home to many of the Christians who fled jihadis. When the Archbishop said that four years ago, it looked as if it were just provocation to shock Western public opinion. But Archbishop Sharaf was right.

The French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf also noted “threats to pandas cause more emotion” than threats to Christians.

4. Fix Knitting Bayonets! At The College Fix, Christian Schneider reports on the big battle taking place amidst the gender stew at the University of Michigan. From the piece:

Last spring a newly formed crafting group began posting flyers around the University of Michigan campus seeking members. The Ann Arbor-based group, “Lez Get Crafty,” limited its membership to lesbians that wanted to “express their creative side.”

But the group quickly ran into trouble. The flyers indicated Lez Get Crafty was exclusively for “lesbian Womyn-born-Womyn,” excluding transgender women born male.

The group was soon reported to the University of Michigan’s “Bias Response Team” by a student offended by the membership requirements.

Saying they had received “multiple complaints” from an LGBTQ rights group on campus, the student wrote that “women in our community feel targeted by this kind of exclusivity.”

“It is my belief that students should not be subjectified [sic] to discriminatory language of groups such as Lez Get Crafty,” the student wrote.

5. You know what modern feminists hate, explains Kelly Marcum in The American Conservative? Yes, womanhood! From the piece:

“But wait!” Defenders of feminism cry. “We want women to be able to choose how they pursue fulfillment. We want them to be able to choose whether they want to work or be mothers.” This defense has proven effective at silencing many would-be critics of feminism. No one—least of all a man!—wants to suggest that women should remain in traditional roles. Alas, the protestations are a lie.

Modern feminism does not want a choice for women, because then women might choose the “wrong” thing. The celebrated feminist Simone de Beauvoir famously told Betty Friedan, “No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”

Feminism can only survive if women continue to hate the very elements of their nature that differentiate them from men. If women are excited to bring new children into the world, and even worse, if they choose to step away from their careers to raise said children, how will they ever muster enough self-loathing to force themselves to become more like men?

It is this contempt for womanhood that causes modern feminists to demean and deride all women who refuse to play along.

6. At Law & Liberty, Mark Pulliam slams the effort by a scrum of federal judges to suppress The Federalist Society. From the beginning of the piece:

As has been widely reported, a recently-released draft advisory opinion of the Committee on Codes of Conduct of the Judicial Conference of the United States—a 15-member group of judges responsible for fashioning and interpreting ethical rules applicable to the federal judiciary—concluded that membership in the non-partisan Federalist Society by judges, law clerks, and staff attorneys is improper because the group’s ideological orientation would call its members’ impartiality into question. The draft ethics opinion, which was reportedly leaked, is subject to internal discussion within the Committee during a 120-day comment period ending on May 20. For the purposes of full disclosure, I am a longtime member and supporter of the Federalist Society.

The draft opinion included the American Constitution Society, a liberal counterpart to the Federalist Society, in the membership ban. For inexplicable reasons, the draft opinion did not extend the ban to the American Bar Association, even though that left-leaning organization—unlike the Federalist Society—advocates political causes, engages in lobbying, files amicus briefs, and adopts resolutions on a broad range of public policy topics. The ABA essentially serves as a liberal special interest group, but judges are still permitted to be a member while serving on the federal bench.

Many commentators have criticized the draft opinion, which reverses the Committee’s 2007 position which treated the ACS as indistinguishable from the ABA. Critics of the draft opinion include the Wall Street Journal (in a pair of hard-hitting editorials), Carrie Severino and Ed Whelan in National Review, and Erielle Davidson in The Federalist. The Wall Street Journal called the draft opinion “political mischief masked in high-sounding rhetoric.” Attacks on the Federalist Society are not new. Over two decades ago, former ABA president Jerome Shestack (who, while serving on the ABA’s judicial appointments committee, joined the minority in rating Robert Bork “not qualified” for the U.S. Supreme Court) condemned the Federalist Society in the National Law Journal as an “extremist right-wing group.”

More on the Jihad Against Fed Soc

Carrie Campbell Severino, the co-champion (along with Ed Whelan) of NRO’s cherished and vital Bench Memos blog, has penned a five-part series on the effort (noted just above by Mark Pulliam) on this brazen effort by a cabal of federal judges (the “Committee on Codes of Conduct”) who have drafted an “advisory opinion” to prohibit membership in the Federalist Society, as if it were a political organization — as opposed to the American Bar Association, which is indeed a de facto political organization, but which seems to raise no concern from these same judge.

You will find Part 5 here, and therein the links to the previous four analyses by Carrie. From the final installment:

Another circuit judge on the Committee, Mary Murguia, whom Obama elevated from the District of Arizona to the Ninth Circuit, has also been a member of the ABA and HNBA, not to mention other left-leaning affinity bar associations including the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. She has twice made Ed Whelan’s “This Day in Liberal Judicial Activism” feature here, which is not easy for a lower court judge to do.

In one case decided as a district judge, Whelan notes the “verbal somersaults” she did in 2011 to hold that there was “insufficient evidence” the defendant Elton Simpson’s false statements to the FBI about traveling to Somalia “‘involved’ international terrorism.” This despite his having “expressed sympathy and admiration for individuals who ‘fight’ non-Muslims as well as his belief in the establishment of Shariah law, all over the world including in Somalia.” Four years later, Simpson perpetrated the jihadist attack at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas. In a 2012 case, Murguia joined Stephen Reinhardt’s opinion for a divided Ninth Circuit panel regarding federal habeas relief in Jackson v. Nevada. The Supreme Court followed with a unanimous summary reversal in a per curiam opinion that suggested the lower court had employed an “imaginative extension of existing case law.”

Another member, Timothy Black, served for several years as director and later president of the Planned Parenthood Association of Cincinnati before his appointment to the Southern District of Ohio. On the bench, he is perhaps best known as the trial judge in James Obergefell’s challenge who held Ohio’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage unconstitutional before the Supreme Court narrowly reached the same conclusion on appeal.

Sadly, it is no surprise that the Codes of Conduct Committee would employ a political rather than a judicial process to give us its draft advisory opinion. We deserve to know the details of that process. How did the Committee arrive at its opinion? Were judges permitted to vote against it? If so, what was the margin of the vote? Were any judges allowed to file a dissenting view? Who drafted the advisory opinion itself? Does the Committee intend to sideline one of the most important organizations in the legal community without disclosing how it arrived at such an absurd proposal?

Baseballery

Forgotten, so it seems, in the 1964 National League pennant race, renowned for the Philadelphia Phillies’ epic fall from first in the season’s final weeks (up by 6 ½ games as late as September 20, they went on to lose 10 of their next 12 games, handing the pennant to the hard-charging St. Louis Cardinals, who took 9 of their last 11 contests, by one game) is the Cincinnati Reds’ own blowing-it antics up until the season’s very last day. When the sun set on October 4, 1964, like the Phillies, the Reds were a game behind the Cardinals, tied for second, and guaranteed to watch the World Series on TV.

It’s a story one can romanticize for so much of baseball: for want of one lousy run, one measly out. Heading into the season’s last week, the Reds were actually in first place by a game, having swept a double header against the New York Mets on September 27. They were blistering hot, on a 12–1 streak . . . but the fire died, and quick, as Cincinnati lost four of their final five games. Had they prevailed in just one of those contests — and yep, they could have — the Reds would have secured at least a playoff against the Cardinals.

Shoulda woulda: On the final evening of September, at Crosley Field, the Reds, tied for first with the Cards, faced the Pittsburgh Pirates, in the second game of a three-game series. The first game had not gone well, not for the Reds anyway: Pirates starter Bob Friend had blanked them the previous night in a 2–0 shutout.

Which, as shutouts go, wasn’t pretty: Friend gave up 11 hits and walked two. There were plenty of Reds on base, but none of them ever got home. They blew a fine performance by Reds starter Billy McCool, who had held the Pirates scoreless into the top of the 9th (but with two outs, gave up a two-run single to Bill Mazeroski).

The Reds penchant for leaving men on base continued the next night, as Pirates ace Bob Veale (entering the game 18–12 with a 2.76 ERA) and the Reds’ hard-throwing starter Jim Maloney (15–10, 2.71 ERA) dueled into scoreless extra innings, with Maloney giving up a measly three hits. Veale was not so stingy: He gave up seven hits, and a plentiful eight walks. By the time the game ended in the 16th inning, a 1–0 Pittsburgh win thanks to a Don Clendenon double and an RBI single by call-up catcher Jerry May, the Reds had left 18 men on base.

It had to have been torture to watch for the 8,188 Cincinnati fans in the stands: The Reds stranded two runners in the bottom of the 9th and 10th innings, and left the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th, 13th, and 14th.

But — there was still a speck of hope! Two days later, still at home, and facing the Phillies, the Reds took a 3–0 lead into the 8th inning, with ace southpaw Jim O’Toole (sporting a 17–7 record and a handsome 2.66 ERA) needing just a handful of outs to return Cincinnati to first place. It wasn’t to be: The Phillies, looking at their 11th consecutive loss, went on a long-overdue rampage, ignited by hard-luck journeyman Frank Thomas’s one-out pinch-hit single. Rookie of the Year Dick Allen’s two-run triple highlighted a four-run rally, and the Reds went down in order in both the 8th and 9th innings, handing the Phillies a 4–3 win, and along with that Cincinnati’s pennant hopes. Those would have to wait a few more years until the Big Red Machine was up and operating. And conquering.

A Dios

Shall we not offer prayers of thanks to the Almighty for letting a majority of U.K. citizens hang strong, for their laying low the snobs and smug elites, for seeing through the project to reclaim their sovereignty? Let it be a lesson, although as You know, the Establishment, here and abroad, is a stiff-necked people that will likely double down on their haught.

Yours So Very Truly, Wishing for You Wisdom from the Ancient of Days,

Jack Fowler, who can tearfully stomach your gut punches if thrown via the contrivance of email and directed toward jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: Bringing Laurel and Hardy into this edition of WJ, I’d like to suggest that maybe the theme music that could be played in the Senate during Impeachment Trial recesses — or when the House Managers entered the chambers — would be this. Fittingly.

National Review

It Would Be Insane

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

This particular weekend brings no relief from the excruciating theater being played out in the chambers of the United States Senate, as Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and a cast of thousands, so it seems, makes a sanctimony-dripping case to impeach Donald John Trump.

POTUS Removal, as the title of Rich Lowry’s new column warns, would be insane. Here’s how it begins:

It’s easy to forget what the Senate impeachment trial is supposed to be about.

It’s not a fight over whether the Senate will call a couple of witnesses that the House couldn’t, or didn’t bother to, obtain on its own.

The underlying question is whether the United States Senate will impose the most severe sanction it has ever inflicted on any chief executive, voting to remove a president for the first time in the history of the country and doing it about 10 months from his reelection bid.

This is a truly radical step that, if it ever came about, would do more damage to the legitimacy of our political system than President Donald Trump’s underlying offense.

If Trump were actually convicted, the 2020 election would proceed under a cloud of illegitimacy. Tens of millions of Trump voters wouldn’t accept the result. They’d see it as an inside job to deny the incumbent president a chance to run for reelection, without a single voter having a direct say. The GOP would be brought to its knees by internal bloodletting, a prospect that Democrats surely would welcome, especially given that it would deliver them the presidency. Republicans would be out for revenge, and instead of a halcyon return to normalcy, our politics would be even more poisonous than before.

Apologies to Olivia De Haviland for dragging her into this, but darn it, the principle setting of The Snake Pit (the 1948 film is one of her acting triumphs) seem just perfect for the nonsense being produced on Capitol Hill. That said, my preference for any cultural references to this affair, which Your Humble Servant believes was mentioned in a previous epistle, is Shari Lewis and her Lamb Chop pals singing “The Song That Doesn’t End.”

Now before we get to the main course (courses!) of this recurring feast, it seems Joe Biden has a thing about drunk driving. Last year Your Shy Correspondent wrote about that.

OK, put on the bib . . . we’re eating family style. Mangia Mangia Jolt!

But First, Have I Got a Deal for You

It happens all the time. Joe and Jane book the cruise — in this case the NR 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise (taking place April 19-26) — and they opt not to take out travel insurance, and then something not good happens, so they now cannot attend, but they are on the hook for the cabin, and ask for help selling it, at a discount. So: You want to come? Well, do I have a deal for you . . . email jfowler@nationalreview.com to discuss your, shall we say, opportunity.

Editorials

1. There is a new Trump Administration rule that cracks down on “birther” tourism. We find it sensible. From the editorial:

One consequence of this rule is “birth tourism”: pregnant women visiting the U.S. for the sole purpose of giving birth, so that their children will have U.S. citizenship, complete with the ability, years later, to sponsor additional relatives for citizenship. The State Department has announced a new rule aiming to cut back on this practice, not by changing the Constitution in any way, but by refusing to grant visas in cases where this abuse seems particularly likely. The rule is sensible, though its effects may be limited.

The policy pertains to temporary “B” visas, which are granted, for example, to tourists and those seeking U.S. medical care. In essence, the new rule says that birth tourism doesn’t count as traveling for “pleasure” under the relevant statute, and directs consular officers to determine whether birth tourism is the primary purpose of a visit. These officers have been instructed not to ask women if they are pregnant “unless you have a specific articulable reason to believe they may be pregnant and planning to give birth in the United States” — but when there are signs that birth tourism is afoot, the burden will fall on the traveler to prove a different reason for the trip.

The rule still allows pregnant women to come for the purpose of giving birth in U.S. hospitals for medical reasons, so long as they are doing so because of the quality of care and proximity to their home countries — and didn’t, for example, select the U.S. over another destination because doing so would win the child citizenship. Those seeking B visas for medical reasons will also have to demonstrate that they have arranged for care and can pay for it.

2. Along with those attending this week’s March for Life, we applaud recent efforts to curtail abortion on demand, but acknowledge — there is much work to be done. From the editorial:

When the Supreme Court issued its diktat, the New York Times called it a “historic resolution of a fiercely controversial issue.” It is to the great credit of pro-lifers that they refused to let the issue be resolved in this unjust and authoritarian way — and instead protested, argued, organized, voted, and litigated to set it right.

Republican presidents and senators, including President Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, have advanced that work a great deal by putting conservative jurists on the bench, and especially on the Supreme Court. That court is hearing a case this year about abortion regulations in Louisiana. It should uphold those regulations, as the Constitution says not a word to suggest that states lack the authority to enact them. As it upholds them, it should declare that it no longer intends to serve as a review board for state legislation on the subject. It should reverse Roe and its successor cases.

That will not be the end of pro-lifers’ work: far from it. But it will be the end of a sad era in which our government treated vulnerable human beings as unpersons as though it were part of our fundamental law.

You Better Have an Appetite, Because Here are 17 Chops-Licking Entrees of Conservative Savoryness from the Bountiful Buffet Served Daily by NRO

1. Democrats seemed thrilled by the model of power-transferring often practiced in Africa and South and Central America — not peaceful. Victor Davis Hanson says these last three years have seen the Left destroy an important custom. From the essay:

All those Marquess of Queensberry Rules of post-presidential decorum abruptly ended in 2017. What superseded them was, at best, a kind of British-style, European shadow government, in which mostly ex-Obama officials became nonstop activist critics of almost everything Trump has done.

At worst, the endless opposition turned into a slow-motion sort of coup in which progressive, life-tenured bureaucrats leaked, obstructed, and connived to stop the daily operations of the administration — as they often proudly admitted to the media. The subtext was that the Obama-progressive-media complex would create enough momentum to abort Trump’s first term. Or was it that Trump represented such an existential danger to the administrative-state way of doing business that any means necessary were justified to end his presidency?

The locus classicus was Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national-security adviser, and Jack Sullivan, who had been Obama’s White House deputy assistant. Together, they formed the National Security Action organization in early 2018. The two promised that they would offer an “effective, strategic, relentless, and national response to this administration’s dangerous approach to national security.” Translated, that meant that Rhodes and Sullivan would aggregate former Obama officials and progressive analysts to launch nonstop attacks on all of Trump’s foreign-policy efforts. And they have.

More ironic was Hillary Clinton’s announcement in May 2017 that she had officially joined the “Resistance” by forming Onward Together to “stand up” to Trump.

A Related Aside: Amen Tom Fitton.

2. The Biden / Impeachment nexus, brought to you, says Andy McCarthy, by Adam Schiff. From the beginning the article:

You opened the door.

Trial lawyers live in fear of that phrase.

When a trial starts, both sides know what the allegations are. Both have had enough discovery to know what the adversary will try to prove. Just as significantly, both know what their own vulnerabilities are. A litigator spends his pretrial time not just laying the groundwork for getting his own evidence admitted by the court; each side works just as hard on motions to exclude embarrassing or incriminating testimony — evidence that would be damaging to that side’s position but that a court may be persuaded to exclude because it is not clearly relevant.

For an advocate, it is a coup when the judge rules that harmful testimony is excluded. But such rulings always come with a warning label: Don’t open the door. That is, don’t do anything that makes the otherwise irrelevant evidence relevant.

President Trump’s impeachment trial has a Biden door. Adam Schiff has thrown it wide open.

3. Get a (Green) Room! The media’s gooey love for Adam Schiff has me humming the Magilla Gorilla song (“. . . full of charm and appeal, handsome, elegant, intelligent, sweet, he’s really ideal . . .”). Anyway, David Harsanyi recounts the awe-struckedness of the Fifth Estate over the Lord High Prosecutor. From the piece:

All of it was about believable as Schiff’s contention that he is pursuing impeachment to defend the Constitution. But we expect partisans to behave a certain way. The excessive fawning by pundits and reporters over a middling speech by a middling congressman was just insufferable.

If you think I exaggerate, take Greg Miller, a national-security correspondent for the Washington Post, who contended that Schiff is perhaps the most “underestimated” politician California has ever produced, and “will leave a mark on history, exceeding nearly all contemporaries.”

Richard Stengel, the former editor of Time magazine — and now an advocate for overturning the First Amendment — declared: “When we get back to teaching civics in this country—as we must do—Adam Schiff’s sweeping, beautifully-wrought opening argument, should be on the syllabus.”

4. Iran One: The Ayatollah Gang might be incapable of engaging in conventional warfare against the Great Satan, writes Ilan Berman, but it retains the ability to be a nasty threat. From the article:

Domestic conditions, meanwhile, are deteriorating. Inflation is on the rise within the Islamic Republic and is now pegged at over 30 percent. So, too, is joblessness; nearly a fifth of the country’s workforce is currently estimated to be unemployed. Meanwhile, governmental expenditures have surged as Iran’s ayatollahs struggle to keep a lid on an increasingly impoverished, and discontented, population.

All of this, according to CNBC’s analysis, profoundly limits Iran’s ability “to fund a war” against the United States. But that doesn’t mean the threat from Iran is nonexistent. Iran still has the ability to “ramp up its aggression against the U.S.” through the use of its network of proxy forces in the region.

That network is extensive — and lethal. It comprises not only Iran’s traditional terrorist proxies, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and the Palestinian Hamas movement, but also assorted Shiite militias in Iraq (the so-called “Hashd al-Shaabi”) and even Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Recently, it has also made use of the “Shi’a Liberation Army” (SLA), a group of as many as 200,000 Shiite fighters — drawn from Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere — that has been trained and equipped by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and deployed to foreign theaters such as Syria.

5. Iran Two: But, writes Hassan Hassan, the alarmists who predicted World War Three over the death of Soleimani were — what’s the word? — incredibly wrong. OK, that’s two words. From the analysis:

But the dust has now settled, and none of the doomsday scenarios that so many in the media warned about has come to pass. It is true that Iran launched a missile attack into U.S. bases in Iraq, but the attack was merely symbolic. As Iraqi officials revealed the following day, Iran had informed them of an imminent attack on U.S. bases, a message that the Iraqis promptly and predictably passed on to the Americans. No fatalities were recorded, but the Iranian regime still told its followers that dozens if not hundreds of Americans were killed as a result of the retaliation.

Indeed, none of the doomsday scenarios were plausible to begin with. Iran has a narrow menu of options in terms of escalation against the U.S. It is not interested in a direct war with the U.S., nor are any of its proxies or allies in the region. The regime faces increasingly crippling sanctions imposed by Washington, and domestic unrest is building up with occasional street protests. Also, its allies in Iraq and Lebanon have been under unprecedented pressure from grassroots protests, persistent since October. In Syria, the currency is collapsing on historic levels as more than one third of the country remains outside the control of the Iranian-backed government. Iran is embroiled in domestic and regional crises, and many of the gains it made in recent years are still tenuous.

In the panic that followed the news of Soleimani’s killing, that essential context was overlooked. Pundits and former officials warned of a showdown, between Iran and the U.S., that Tehran would not want. When the confrontation did not pan out, critics still maintained that this was mere luck. One journalist suggested that the war was averted because the mullahs in Iran exercised “more restraint” than the U.S. did.

6. John Caldara, president of Colorado’s Independence Institute and a weekly Denver Post columnist for the past few years, was sacked by the paper. As Madeleine Kearns explains, he had the gumption to believe there are but two sexes. Science! From the article:

Jon Caldara, president of Colorado free-market think tank the Independence Institute, who was one of the Post’s most-read writers from 2016 until he was fired this week for stating the obvious, and with whom I spoke yesterday, doesn’t think so. Coincidentally, Tuesday was “George Orwell Day.” Writing in the mid-20th century, Orwell warned us about totalitarian abuses of language and urged people “to see what is in front of one’s nose.” Caldara attempted to do exactly that — specifically: by stating that sex is binary — but doing so cost him his job.

For the past three years, Caldara has written for the Post on a range of issues, especially those related to political and economic freedom. This week, however, Caldara was told that his most recent column (criticizing the lack of transparency among Colorado Democrats on their sex-ed curriculum) would be his last. He had written that gender ideology ought not to be forced into classrooms by the back door. “What are the protections for a parent who feels transgender singing groups and teddy bears with gender dysphoria might be ‘stigmatizing’ for their kid?” he wrote.

In his previous column, Caldara had complained about left-wing bias in the media: “One only has to listen to NPR reporters and their pee-your-pants excitement at covering Trump’s impeachment to conclude they still have no idea so much of America considers them the enemy.” Furthering his argument that the liberal press is now woefully out of touch, he referenced The Associated Press’s decision to state in its style guide “that gender is no longer binary.” He said that this was blatant “activism,” since there “are only two sexes, identified by an XX or an XY chromosome.”

7. Kevin Williamson gets handed the baton and concludes that the Post’s editor deserves to be canned, for incompetence. From his analysis:

Narrow-minded stupidity and intolerance are human norms, not human outliers: See, for example, the current campaign to bully liberal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz over his decision to take a case with a high-profile client: Donald Trump, in this case. “Why did Alan Dershowitz Say Yes to Trump?” demands the New York Times headline. Presumably for the same reason he said “Yes” to Claus von Bülow and O. J. Simpson: Because he’s good at his job, likes doing it, and is not in any obvious way averse to the money and attention and other rewards that go along with that. A presidential impeachment is a pretty interesting case to be on the defending end of, I would think. Why would he say anything other than “Yes”? Why would any comparable talent (his critics by and large are not comparable talents) decline such a case? He’s a defense attorney: Cooties are an occupational hazard.

And that, of course, sheds some light on the fiasco at the Denver Post. The newspaper already has been gutted, and it is edited by third-rate journalists because the first-rate and second-rate have better offers. (Irrespective of Jon Caldara’s particular merits, as a former newspaper editor, I can tell you that filling your pages with the work of think-tankers and political hacks, who work for cheap or for free, is one of the things you do when you don’t have the money to hire top-notch columnists.) Maybe that’s a business plan that makes sense to somebody.

But any sensible person (and there are a few of those left in Denver, under its dank cloud of marijuana smoke) would have to ask: What other political positions are mandatory as terms of employment at the Denver Post? What other thoughts are unthinkable? Perhaps Megan Schrader could publish a list for prospects.

8. Wesley Smith reports on Canada’s twisted determination to force all institutions, including hospices such as Delta in British Columbia, to participate in euthanasia’s culture of death. From the article:

On the face of it, the government’s heavy-handedness makes no logical sense. Everyone acknowledges that Delta provides a very valuable service to the community. And it’s not as if the small hospice, with a mere ten beds, has the power to materially impede access to euthanasia in British Columbia, a province of nearly 5 million people. Indeed, since euthanasia was legalized in 2016, only three Delta patients have asked to be killed — and they were able to obtain their desired end by simply returning home or transferring to a hospital directly next door to the hospice. So, what gives?

Angeline Ireland, president of Delta, perceives a direct connection to socialism. When I asked her in an email interview why she thought the government was trying to force the hospice’s participation, she replied, “I would only be speculating,” but “primarily, I think it is ideological and agenda driven. Our provincial government is currently run by socialists. The Left has never valued human life. In socialized medicine the state controls and is all powerful.” She also believes there is a connection to the costs of health care. “I also wonder how much of it is driven by economics. HPC [hospice palliative care] is far more expensive than euthanasia.”

Delta is a secular facility, so what are its bases for refusing to kill? The administrators merely want the freedom to operate the facility according to the precepts of hospice moral philosophy. “HPC and Euthanasia are diametrically opposed,” Ireland tells me. “Our health-care discipline has been practiced for 40 years in Canada and in that time has excelled in providing pain- and symptom-management to people. A patient can be stabilized to live out their life the best way possible. We have seen that people offered Hospice Palliative Care tend not to want euthanasia.”

9. Big Bad Bobby VerBruggen debunks Joe Biden’s study-citing claim that a ban on “assault weapons” had an impact on crime. From the analysis:

Recently, though, some have claimed that the law reduced mass shootings in particular, which account for a tiny fraction of overall homicides but command an incredibly disproportionate amount of public attention. What seems to be true is that the ban years were relatively peaceful on this front, despite covering the rash of school shootings that included Columbine. They were especially peaceful compared with the past ten years or so, which have seen an alarming rise in this form of terrorism.

However, the three most important facts about mass shootings are (A) they have historically been incredibly rare, with entire years passing without one sometimes; (B) they are contagious, with high-profile incidents inpiring copycats and competitors; and (C) they are incredibly variable in the number of fatalities, from a low bound of wherever the researcher chooses to set it (the study Biden cites uses four, not including the perpetrator) all the way up to 58 at Las Vegas. Trying to detect a pattern in data like this, and then attributing the pattern to a single law change that covered the entire country for a ten-year period, is madness.

The new study doesn’t add much to what we already know and is downright bizarre at times. For instance, the authors combine three different data sets of mass shootings, but instead of including all the incidents they found (to be as comprehensive as possible), they included only the incidents counted in all three databases. They also misuse the term “assault rifle,” which refers to a weapon capable of full-auto fire, indicating that not one of the nine authors and not one of the journal’s editors is all that familiar with firearms or the gun debate. (The weapons at issue in the assault-weapon ban are semiautomatic civilian versions of military-style guns.)

10. Uncle Sam and Aunt Samantha (the woke ones) seem to want mommy working, and not at home, writes John Hirschauer, exploring what truly underlies the Democrat’s policy prescriptions for child care. From the beginning of the piece:

For all the dishonesty on display in the Democratic primary, the candidates have been forthright about their desire to have government functionaries raise your children. The candidates’ various “universal child-care” schemes are transparent attempts to farm out child-care responsibilities away from mothers and fathers to federally funded service workers.

The model of domestic life that such policies would encourage is quite unpopular. Nearly 60 percent of Americans — and a majority of both registered Republicans and registered Democrats — believe that children are better off with one parent at home than they would be in a day-care arrangement. The social-science literature tends to offer qualified support for that view. Beyond the practical effects of day-care on children, many parents — even those already in the workforce — would prefer to be home with their children if they could afford to be. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, for instance, 56 percent of women and 26 percent of men with children under the age of 18 said they would rather remain at home than enter the workforce, if given the choice.

But many progressive activists have long favored policies that would incentivize parents to remain in the workforce while the federal government subsidizes care for their children. Some have called for a “universal child-care” scheme as a means of increasing female participation in the work force and bolstering economic growth. Jordan Weissmann in Slate mentioned both as reasons to oppose more agnostic child-subsidy plans, which would allow families to choose whether to use the subsidies on day-care services or to offset the costs of raising the child at home. “One of the better arguments,” Weissmann wrote, “for providing child-care services — as opposed to straight cash payments to parents, as some policy wonks have proposed — is that encouraging women to stay in the workforce will create future economic gains.”

11. True, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, nor, writes Kevin Williamson, will the Biden Family Scandal be given media attention.

Because this is the banana-republic era of American politics, the news from Angola hardly sounds foreign at all. With the impeachment drama in full swing and Donald Trump’s enemies wailing about the impropriety of his actions vis-à-vis Ukraine, it is strange that so many in Washington are so studiously not talking about Hunter Biden, or indeed about other Bidens and other members of politically connected families who have grown wealthy through questionable means. The question of whether Donald Trump was trying to pull off a dirty trick against Joe Biden is separate from the question of whether Joe Biden and his family were complicit in corrupt practices abroad.

Peter Schweizer, who specializes in Washington self-dealing and has a new book out on the subject, shares some interesting tidbits in the New York Post. Example: In 2010, the president of HillStone International, a subsidiary of a large construction firm, visited the White House and met with a member of the vice president’s staff. A couple of weeks later, it hired the vice president’s brother, James, in a senior position. Schweizer writes:

James Biden was joining HillStone just as the firm was starting negotiations to win a massive contract in war-torn Iraq. Six months later, the firm announced a contract to build 100,000 homes. It was part of a $35 billion, 500,000-unit project deal won by TRAC Development, a South Korean company. HillStone also received a $22 million US federal government contract to manage a construction project for the State Department.

James Biden had about as much background in construction management as Hunter Biden did in Ukrainian natural-gas developments. But he had a brother in the White House, and that counts for something, surely. Is this obviously corrupt? It is not obviously illegal, but that is a distinct question. Schweizer finds similar situations involving no fewer than five members of the Biden family: James and Frank, his brothers; Hunter, his son; Howard, his son-in-law, and Valerie, his sister. None has been charged with any crime. None is likely to be charged with any crime.

12. Armond White catches a bunch of prison-reform flicks. As usual, he . . . takes no prisoners. From the review:

Three movies Just Mercy, Brian Banks, and Clemency make up the recent boom of criminal-justice-reform movies. It’s been a boom without reverberation — a boomlet — because the trend of activist filmmaking doesn’t really satisfy the movie-going urge.

Not even Michael B. Jordan, the charismatic star of Creed, can lift Just Mercy out of do-gooder drudgery. Jordan’s angry, studly strutting was the only captivating part of Black Panther, and his youthful appeal is misunderstood once again by the makers of Just Mercy when Jordan is cast as virtuous Harvard grad and social activist Bryan Stevenson.

Stevenson goes to Alabama and founds the Equal Justice Initiative to help wrongly convicted prisoners. His first case, derived from Stevenson’s real-life memoir, concerns pulpwood worker Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx), whose incarceration for murder was based on a perjured testimony. It takes a while for the plot to bring these two black men together, yet their meeting lacks personal and social frisson. McMillan is yet another Southern black victim, and Stevenson is eager to be his savior. In self-righteous Hollywood terms, this is To Kill a Mockingbird all over again, laying out familiar inequality issues in an obvious though not straightforward manner. The only difference is that Foxx submerges into the dark, mysterious dirt of countrified misery and acts rings around Jordan.

I won’t overrate Foxx’s credible performance because, while bringing a sense of experience to contrast with Jordan’s sweetly callow youthfulness, it’s still a victim cliché. After Stevenson gives McMillan some hope, Foxx does a lousy speech about “getting my truth back” and has to exclaim, “If they kill me today, I go to that electric chair with a smile.” Only a banjo playing “Dixie,” or a boombox blasting Tupac, is missing.

13. Kyle Smith catches The Gentlemen. It makes him smile. From the review:

I have to admit it — until a few days ago I’d lost my faith in Guy Ritchie. He started well, with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, then moved on to one of my favorite films of the turn of the century, Snatch. After that things went so badly that marrying Madonna wasn’t even the worst mistake Ritchie made. Sherlock Holmes? Rubbish. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.? Hideous. I assume Ritchie would rather not dwell on being the cog in the Disney machinery that generated the Aladdin remake, and I’m happy to forget he did that, too. So: For 20 years, nothing he made deserved to be mentioned in the same breath as Snatch.

Until now! The Gentlemen turns out to be a spiffing revival of that quintessentially 1990s genre, the hilariously bloody smooth-talking gangster opus. Quentin Tarantino was the great prophet of the form, but Ritchie, and others’ films such as Get Shorty and Sexy Beast, kept it going. In The Gentlemen, the hallmarks are in place: a ridiculously convoluted plot that straightens itself out admirably; appealingly lethal protagonists; savagery that is so matter-of-fact, it’s funny. Best of all is the film’s tart, slangy, electrical modus communicandi. In short: This the perfect guys’-night-out movie. I mean, assuming you dudes out there have all seen Little Women, which of course would be an equally fine choice.

14. Pardon the Smith Overdose but Kyle’s takedown of the military record of Pete Buttigieg is a stunning tale of Sergeant Bilko corner-cutting and Commander McBragg tall-talery. From the ending of the piece:

What the hey? This is amazing. Buttigieg flat-out admits that he sees the military as a necessary stepping-stone to political fame, and at the same time he implicitly backs Kerry’s thundering denunciation of the military, in the process of bragging about his own military service. It’s like the scene in A Clockwork Orange in which Alex fondly recalls the life of Christ for guidance — but then reveals he identifies with the Roman soldiers whipping Christ on the Via Dolorosa.

Ambitious and calculating Democrats of the future: When you’re trying to portray yourself as Captain America, don’t praise a guy whose first notable public act was dumping all over the military. And certainly don’t remove all doubt by specifically citing the moment the guy was excoriating our boys in uniform and saying they were no better than Viet Cong thugs.

The third thing that stands out about Buttigieg’s military service is his bizarre brag that he used to travel around Afghanistan in various motor vehicles. Has anyone who has ever served the U.S. military on overseas land not driven around? When he launched his campaign last April he bragged about “119 trips I took outside the wire, driving or guarding a vehicle.” That’s . . . not a thing. There are no such stats. Sorties in aircraft are an official military statistic. Motor-vehicle trips are so routine no one would bother to keep track, any more than someone would log how many times Pete Buttigieg took a shower. No one cares. So Buttigieg himself created this phony statistic. Picture it: He made himself a little Hero’s Log but all he had to put in it was “routine trips.” It’s pathetic. It’s hilarious. It’s apple-polishing, résumé-buffing, box-checking, attention-seeking vaporware. Just like his whole career.

15. Timothy Sandefur targets the crazed federal law that actually reduces protections for at-risk American Indian kids. From the piece:

American Indian children are the most at-risk kids in the country, more likely to suffer from abuse, neglect, alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide than any of their peers. There are families out there willing to help them, but federal law says no — because their skin is the wrong color.

I’m not exaggerating. Thanks to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), children eligible for tribal membership are subjected to different rules if they’re abused, neglected, or in need of adoptive homes — rules that are less protective of their safety than those that apply to other kids. Fortunately, a federal appellate court heard a case this week, Brackeen v. Bernhardt, challenging these racially discriminatory standards.

The ICWA is the opposite of affirmative action: It reduces legal protections for vulnerable children based on race. Its “active efforts” rule, for example, makes it harder for state officials to rescue American Indian kids from unsafe homes than other children. Under federal and state law, social workers can remove non-Indian children from abusive parents as long as they first undertake “reasonable efforts” — like making rehabilitation or counseling services available — to help those parents. This “reasonable efforts” rule doesn’t apply to cases involving systematic abuse or molestation, because it would be wrong to send kids back to dangerous homes. But the ICWA imposes the more stringent “active efforts” standard, which requires state officials to go further before removing vulnerable Indian children from their homes, even in cases of systematic abuse or molestation. This means state social workers are forced to return abused Indian children to the families that are mistreating them — a requirement that does not apply to children of other races.

16. Michael Brendan Dougherty mocks the captured-on-film New York Times POTUS co-endorsement of pants-on-fire Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, an act of smug and disconnected philosopher kings. From the end of piece:

But overall, the image of the editorial board was unflattering in the extreme. Long gone from newspapers are the fast-talking, gin-smelling cynics. Here we have a set of people my Irish father might dismissively call “men of quality.” The men wear silk scarves and tortoise-shell glasses. The women are oddly glamorous. They sit in glass box in the sky at a long corporate table flanked by skyscrapers, pronouncing on how the world ought to be. Save for the politics and the fact that they take their income by W-2, it looks like a scene out of an Ayn Rand novel. The hauteur was astonishing. Binyamin Applebaum responded to Andrew Yang — a truly accomplished American who has captured something in the American psyche in his improbable run — by wondering why he was running for president and suggesting that perhaps he run for a councilman’s office instead.

I also have to give credit to the makers of The Weekly for taking the mickey out of the panel of philosopher kings. By the end, the editorial board had talked about how, though they were reassured by Joe Biden’s apparent vigor and health, they found that the case for him was essentially that he’s “a warm body” that can beat Trump. But the camera people caught a glimpse of Joe Biden on the elevator with a black woman who works as security guard in the building. She smiled at Joe and said she loves him, adding, “He’s awesome.” It was the most genuine and least calculated moment of the show. The Times can pronounce on how the world ought to be. But that security guard showed the stubborn way in which the world remains as it is.

17. More MBD: This reflection on Josh Hawley, the press for community, the vanishing frontier that proved a home for the individual, is a copious serving of food for thought. From the essay:

But I think that for Hawley this distrust of Silicon Valley goes down to the philosophical level as well. After all, what is social media but an abstracted world, facilitated conversations and social performances that have been exfiltrated from a real, existing social context? Big Internet provides powerful illusions that the Promethean self-creation is truly possible.

All of this should please someone like me. I’ve been arguing for a decade that conservatives needed to pay more attention to the function of communities. My own book from last year specifically rejects what it calls “the myth of liberation” which encourages us to believe we can create our selves. In the place of this myth, I tried to build a bridge between family and national identity, one that grounds us and gives us a role in a home, and a homeland around it.

But, caring about the American nation means I can’t help but notice that “the individual” is one of America’s inherited romantic archetypes. The American mythology of self-invention and reinvention cannot be extirpated in its entirety as a mere philosophical error. And it cannot withstand sustained rebuke outside a few relatively small circles, filled with creaky conservatives like me.

The New February 10, 2020 Issue of National Review Will Have You Seeing Red

It’s another gem, this issue sporting a retro-Kremlin-vibing, leftward-looking gob of Bernie Sanders, suitable for framing or darts, your call. As is the custom, we share four recommendations from the delicious fare served up between the covers.

1. Kyle Smith does the cover-story honors with his take down of the Red Man from the Green Mountains (yeah, via Brooklyn). From the essay:

You have to admire the crazed focus, though. Sanders has been doing what he does for a long, long time. In Brooklyn he attended James Madison High School, and James Madison was a classmate. In 1974 he insisted no one should make more than $1 million a year. In 1976 he said “the fundamental issue facing us in the state” was that the top one-half of 1 percent of earners gathered in 27 percent of the income. The plutocracy is always the issue, even if we’re talking about 1976 Vermonters whose lifestyle would be mocked by any self-respecting middle-class suburban teen in 2020. “We need a 2nd American Revolution,” he wrote on a legal pad under the heading of “My Political Philosophy” in the mid ‘80s.

Like a self-scourging monk, or Jimmy Carter in the Seventies, Sanders makes a totem of discomfort. In his standard travel rider he stipulates that his hotel rooms be refrigerated to a Muscovite 60 degrees. All of that cold concentration could pay off. This mutt has been chasing the capitalist automobile for half a century, but as of 2020 his jaws are almost in reach of the rear bumper. From a Sandersista point of view, the most embarrassing and worrying item on his résumé is not his famously loopy 1972 essay delving into erotic fancy (“A woman enjoys intercourse with her man—as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously”), his even nuttier 1969 speculation on the secret sources of disease (“The manner in which you bring up your daughter with regard to sexual attitudes may very well determine whether or not she will develop breast cancer”), or his sandpaper-meets-woodchipper attempt at folk singing on a 1987 album. No, the source of worry must be his disturbingly moderate eight years as mayor of Vermont’s principal city, from 1981 to 1989. He managed to get the place rechristened the “People’s Republic of Burlington” among the coffee-shop wags. He posted a Eugene V. Debs poster in his office (“Union. Socialist. Revolutionary,” read the legend) and flew the red flag by spending his (working) honeymoon in the Soviet Union, in sister city Yaroslavl, Russia. But he didn’t much undermine capitalism. “I’m not going to war with the city’s financial and business community and I know that there is little I can do from City Hall to accomplish my dreams for society,” he told the New York Times back then. Instead of raising taxes to plutocracy-punishing levels, he wrung savings out of various city agencies. Business sighed with relief. True, he presented the (nonprofit, tax-exempt) University Medical Center of Vermont with a $2.9 million tax bill, but this was apparently a negotiating salvo. A judge ruled against Sanders in toto. Yet a decade later, with Sanders having been in Congress for eight years, the hospital did agree to pay $325,000 a year in fees in lieu of taxes on a rising scale, a practice that became widespread.

Now 30 years liberated from the responsibility of actual management, Sanders is free to run his mouth about the depravities of capitalism even after his income has soared into the seven figures on the basis of his book, published just after the 2016 election, Our Revolution. He is so far left that even he sounds a bit amazed that key sectors of the Democratic party have ranged still farther to the left.

2. Daniel Tenreiro finds the Xi’s Red China expansion project thwarted in Taiwan. From the piece:

Mao Zedong, who inaugurated the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, is believed to have read Romance of the Three Kingdoms obsessively as a boy. Upon taking the helm, Mao followed Luo’s exhortation and prioritized the reoccupation of the empire’s peripheral regions, including Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia. After the 1911 revolution that unseated the Qing Dynasty, the Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Mongols resisted Chinese rule with varying degrees of success. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) viewed the loss of these regions as an extension of China’s humiliation at the hands of foreign powers, and despite the occasional upheaval, China has since maintained control over those peoples.

In recent months, though, that control has faced heightened resistance. The mass detention of Muslim Uyghurs has drawn condemnation from the international community, while pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have undermined Beijing’s rule in the semiautonomous region. But as a major territorial claim the PRC has yet to annex, democratic Taiwan may represent the greatest extant challenge to the Chinese empire.

On January 11, 2020, that challenge grew more potent when the Taiwanese reelected President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive party (DPP). In a rebuke of the pro-Mainland policies of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), voters cast a record-setting 8 million ballots for the incumbent, who advocates greater distance from Beijing. Stopping just short of formally declaring independence, her administration has boosted military spending, ceased dialogue with Mainland officials, and strengthened ties with Southeast Asia. Her victory embodies a stunning reversal of fortune for Beijing, whose leaders only recently believed they were on an inexorable path towards regional dominance.

3. So They Say: Bryan Garner addresses the plural assault on the singular pronoun. From the essay:

After the Supreme Court declared in Obergefell v. Hodges that people have a constitutional right to same-sex marriage—and that legal point was firmly settled—a new progressive issue came to the fore: transgender rights. Lots of people now objected even to references to he or she on grounds that these references excluded people who saw themselves as neither a he nor a she. The binary nature of language is itself discriminatory, the argument ran (and still runs).

The argument had arisen before Obergefell was decided in 2015, but it came into public consciousness only afterward. By 2017, it had become de rigueur to name one’s preferred pronouns. In New York City, it was common in certain circles to append these to your name in oral introductions: “Hi, I’m Mariellen: she/her.” Or “Hi, I’m Michael: they/them.” In academic circles—or politically correct circles, some would say—the prevailing custom became to put your preferred pronouns in the signature block of all emails. . . .

“But language doesn’t work that way,” I said. “Efficient solutions get worked out naturally. If there are many or even dozens of possible pronouns, people can’t possibly remember.”

“They’re just going to have to. We’re talking about people.”

4. Jay Nordlinger profiles liberal free-speech absolutist Geoffrey Stone, the University of Chicago law prof. From the piece:

This university is a famously—you might even say notoriously—serious place. Yet Stone is well aware of conditions elsewhere. He knows about the shoutings down and the disinvitations and all the rest of it. Furthermore, he is concerned about the “chilling effect” on illiberal campuses. This does not refer to the weather. It means that, if a person has seen others punished for speaking out, he will keep his mouth shut.

That person does not have to be censored—he does it himself.

Several years ago, there was a rash of incidents that were bad news for free speech. In 2014, for instance, Rutgers University invited Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, to give its commencement address. She accepted. But protests against the invitation were so severe and hysterical, she begged off.

The president at Chicago, Robert Zimmer, surveyed the national scene and decided to form a committee: the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago. He asked Professor Stone to chair it. From it came the Chicago Statement, with its principles.

A sample: “Although members of the University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.”

The Chicago drafters never intended their statement to be adopted by others— it was for their university only. But that’s the way it happened.

The Six

1. City Journal’s Judith Miller takes note of an incredibly pressing First Amendment case (yep, National Review v. Mann). From the piece:

The case poses an additional danger, argues Theodore Boutros, Jr., a First Amendment expert at Gibson Dunn. “This kind of defamation case threatens to chill free and open debate about the important issue of global warming and how to address it from a policy standpoint. Whatever your views and opinions are on the topic,” he said, “we should all want as much information and input as possible so we can make the right decisions as a society.” Mann, a public figure with a powerful platform, “has ample ways to respond to attacks on his work without resorting to a lawsuit that contradicts basic First Amendment values.”

Writing in defense of National Review, William McGurn, a Wall Street Journal columnist, warned that if the lower court rulings stand, NR is unlikely to be the last such defendant. “What’s to prevent, say, Charles Koch from suing Greenpeace for accusing him of having funded a ‘junk study . . . loaded with lies and misrepresentations of actual climate change science’?”

Michael Carvin of Jones Day, who is representing National Review, said that he was stunned by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal. He suspects that the relative lack of media coverage of the case reflects the unwillingness of many liberal news institutions to defend the First Amendment rights of a conservative outlet like NR. “If a conservative had filed a similar suit against, say, The Nation,” he said, “imagine the indignation and fury.”

2. Gatestone Institute’s Guy Millière nails the depressing French cultural insanity and tolerance for anti-Semitism in an article titled “France: Smoke Grass, Kill a Jew, Skip the Trial, Go Free.” From the piece:

Less than a year after the murder of Sarah Halimi, on March 23, 2018, another Jew, Mireille Knoll, was murdered in Paris. The main suspect, Yacine Mihoub, was accused by his accomplice, Alex Carrimbacus, of having stabbed Knoll as he shouted “Allahu Akbar,” because “the Jews have money.’“ Mihoud’s lawyer said that his client had not been in a “normal state” at the time of the crime, but added that it was an anti-Semitic murder. He did not explain how Mihoud was sufficiently aware of his actions to go to his mother’s apartment after he murdered Knoll and asked her to wash the knife he had used to kill his victim. (Mihoud’s mother is now accused of complicity in the murder).

Muslim anti-Semitism has long been ignored in France. The only book in French devoted to the subject — A Survey on Muslim Anti-Semitism: From Its Origins to the Present Day by Philippe Simonnot — actually justified Muslim anti-Semitism by claiming that the Jews living in the Muslim world had supported European colonizers, and adding that Jews support Israel, a “new colonial enterprise based on Muslim land theft.”

A “manifesto against the new anti-Semitism,” by a journalist, Philippe Val, and signed by 250 politicians, writers and artists, was published in Le Parisien on April 21, 2018, less than a month after the murder of Knoll. Perhaps driven by a desire to spare Islam and not to say clearly that the actual victims of Muslim anti-Semitism are Jews, Val wrote “Muslim anti-Semitism is the greatest threat to 21st century Islam”.

A few days later, in Le Monde, a text signed by thirty imams was published, saying that “Islam is not guilty,” and that the problem comes from “harmful ignorance.” The text added that there was a solution: “reading the Qur’an.”

3. At Commentary, our paisan David Bahnsen carpet bombs the wealth-tax lunacy perpetuated by POTUShontas Elizabeth Warren. From the essay:

One of the fascinating things about the debate on a wealth tax is the intense disagreement within the highly insular world of leftist economists over the rationale for it: the notion that wealthy people are not paying “their fair share” of taxes. Knowing that the data don’t support the idea that wealthy (even über-wealthy) people in our society are “under-taxed,” Warren came to this fight loaded for bear: She has pointed to a study from two economists at the University of California at Berkeley claiming that the top 400 earners in our society pay a blended tax rate of 23 percent of their income, while the bottom 50 percent of earners pay a blended rate of 24.2 percent.1

The Berkeley economists arrive at such a startling conclusion by doing a few incredible things with their data. Their study:

a) ignores the child tax credit and the earned-income tax credit. In other words, it pretends that certain taxpayers who literally pay $0 in federal income tax pay anywhere from $1,400 to $5,600 that they do not pay.

b) ignores transfer payments, which essentially means it counts the tax one pays for a transfer of wealth, but not the transfer of wealth itself. When Social Security payments are included, the numbers reflect a highly progressive tax code. None other than Jason Furman, chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, had to point this out.

c) uses projections for 2018 tax receipts made before the numbers for 2018 tax revenues had been released, and with no explanation of how their estimates for the unknowable 2018 data were calculated. What is known is that the authors of the study use a different methodology for calculating tax receipts from the one they used in their own prior work. One can be forgiven for wondering why this might be.

Related: You will find Robert VerBruggen’s NR mag review of Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream, David Bahnsen’s new book (out next Tuesday) right here.

4. At The Imaginative Conservative, Mark David Hall tracks the Left’s increasing disdain for religious liberty. From the piece:

As the 2020 presidential campaign heats up, conservatives would do well to reflect on two important speeches made last fall that were virtually ignored by the media. In September, President Trump gave an excellent address at the United Nations where he made it clear that religious freedom is not just an American constitutional right, it is a God-given right that should be respected across the globe. A month later, Attorney General William Barr made virtually the same argument in a speech at the University of Notre Dame.

As late as the 1990s, Democrats and Republicans were able to work together to protect religious liberty. Most notably, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 passed in the House without a dissenting vote, was approved 97 to 3 by the Senate, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Unfortunately, the political left has begun to abandon religious freedom. The Obama Administration showed little concern for religious liberty when it required businesses to provide contraceptives and abortifacients to employees, even when business owners had religious convictions against doing so. It also offered a rare challenge to the doctrine of ministerial exception, a legal protection which holds that religious groups should be free to choose, in the words of Chief Justice John Roberts, “who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission.”

5. At The Federalist, Willis Krumholz checks out oh-so-benevolent billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s concocted plan to save Black Americans. Get the asphalt, because the Road to Hell needs paving. From the analysis:

Perhaps for the first time in many years, politicians are directly competing for black votes. This goes hand-in-hand with signs that black America is no longer monolithically supporting Democrats. For example, President Donald Trump’s approval rating among black Americans is in the mid-30s.

Enter Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, who just launched his new plan for black America, the Greenwood Initiative, named after a site of both incredible black achievement and pain.

Bloomberg, speaking to a mostly white audience of only several hundred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, unveiled his plan’s three points. The plan is a perfect example of the failure of center-left policy concoctions meant to help black Americans, invariably cooked up by rich liberals.

First, Bloomberg plans to create “one million new Black homeowners.” To accomplish this, Bloomberg would have the federal taxpayer offer “down-payment assistance,” and bring millions into the banking and credit-score system. He would also start “enforcing fair lending laws, reducing foreclosures and evictions and increasing the supply of affordable housing.”

Too bad we’ve already tried this, and it terribly hurt black Americans. Starting in the 1990s, under a dubious legal theory called “disparate impact,” so-called affordable housing advocates successfully sued banks when different racial groups received differing loan offers and rates. It didn’t matter that the underlying incomes or credit scores completely explained the racial disparity. As long as an overall racial disparity existed, lenders and insurers faced legal liability.

6. No surprise, but still jarring: At The College Fix, Christian Schneider reports on the survey which shows that for every Republican scholar, there are nine lefty Dems. From the article:

According to the researchers’ new statistics, the greatest disparity in partisanship among college professors in the Northeast, which favored Democrats by a 15.4 to 1 ratio. Partisanship was also highest among female professors, who registered as Democrats by a 16.4 ratio, compared to men, who only favored Democrats by a ratio of 6.4 to 1.

Among disciplines, anthropology is most aggressively partisan, with professor registrations favoring Democrats by a 42.2 to 1 ratio. Sociology (27 to 1) and English (26.8 to 1) were the next most Democratic-leaning majors surveyed, while the most balanced discipline was economics at only 3 to 1.

Langbert and Stevens’ analysis went a step further and considered political donations by professors to partisan candidates. According to federal donation data, professors donating to Democratic candidates outnumbered those giving to Republicans by a 95 to 1 ratio.

Of the 12,372 professors the researchers examined, only 22 donated exclusively to Republicans, while 2,081 wrote checks to Democrats.

In terms of raw dollars, donations by professors favored Democrats by a 22 to 1 ratio, suggesting that Republican professors tend to donate more per contribution.

Baseballery

Heartbreak being part and parcel of baseball, did a team ever have a string of it as bad as did the Brooklyn Dodgers, particularly in 1950 and 1951? Of the latter year, the Bums lost the NL pennant in a three-game playoff against the hated cross-town Giants, the blame assigned to a Ralph Branca sinker that didn’t.

But maybe the blame deserves to be shared. After all, the Dodgers were in the playoffs because they had let a one-time 13 1/2-game lead in the standings collapse (while the Giants finished the season on a 37-7 tear, including a 12–1 pile-up in the final regular-season games, forcing the three-game playoff). Had Brooklyn (it went 24–20 over the same period) lost one less game and won one more game, there would have been no playoffs, no eternal fate for Branca, so . . .  what’s a good candidate for that one should-won game?

As good a candidate as any was the 4–3 loss to the Phillies on Friday, September 28 at Shibe Park in the City of Brotherly Love. Ahead 3–1 going into the bottom of the Eighth, Brooklyn starter Carl Erskine served up a two-run homer to Phillies catcher Andy Seminick, knotting the score. The Dodgers went three-up, three-down in the top of the ninth, and then in bottom of the frame, future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn, who hit .344 that season, lead off with a single, was sacrificed to second, and driven home by third baseman Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones’ walk-off single. It’s the game the Dodgers could have won.

And it was Ashburn who arguably cost the Dodgers the pennant the previous year, when the Phillies topped Brooklyn by two games to earn the team’s first title since 1916 (in 26 of the ensuing season, they had finished in seventh place or dead last in the NL!). It was another exhibition of baseball’s amazing Fall dramatics: On the last game of the 1950 season, the Phillies — owning a five-game losing streak — found themselves at Ebbets Field on Sunday, October 1. A loss to the charging Dodgers, who had won six of their last eight games, would force a playoff. And in the bottom of the eighth, that’s where things looked like they were heading. It was a 1–1 pitching duel between NL aces Don Newcombe and Robin Roberts, who put the Phillies’ pennant hopes at risk by walking leftfielder Cal Abrams, and then serving up a single Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese. With two on and no one out, Duke Snider strode to the plate, and smacked his league-leading 199th hit of the season, expecting to drive in his 108th run . . . .

But that wasn’t to be. Centerfielder Ashburn fielded the line drive and threw a perfect peg to catcher Stan Lopata.

You can see the play on this video at 0:45 — no one was ever more a dead man at the plate than was Cal Abrams, who had been waved home. Scored an 8–2 out, it was more so a dagger in Brooklyn’s heart. Still having two outs in the bank, the Dodgers failed to bring anyone else home, leaving loaded bases, and in the top of the ninth, having . . . dodged . . . catastrophe, the Phillies broke open the game by tagging Newcombe for three runs, all of them coming on leftfielder Dick Sisler‘s dinger (watch it here, at 0:20). Brooklyn’s last licks were for naught: Roberts set down the side in order. And the Phillies were heading to the World Series.

A Dios

Today, referring to Saturday the 25th, is the day on which my James will be getting married to Tara. The Better Half and Yours Truly are thrilled that this wonderful woman will become a part of the family. Jim’s siblings feel likewise. This will be a smallish affair, but one we hope of huge consequences. Pray that Yours Truly will someday sooner than later be Grandpa Truly. But more importantly if you spare the prayer do ask God to bestow his graces and blessings on them and their marriage and all good that will come of it.

Truly Yours, with Prayerful Wishes for God’s Abundant Graces to Shower Down upon You,

Jack Fowler, who can be called out at the plate or told whatever else you might need to get off your chest at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

Politics & Policy

Odd Man . . . In?

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

The Odd Man to whom this missive’s title refers is not James Mason but a Brooklyn-born Vermont-based socialist senator. He’s also the subject of Big Jim Geraghty’s recent attempt to answer the question, “Is Bernie a Candidate of Destiny or an Incredibly Lucky Oddball?” From the piece:

Sanders shouldn’t, by rights, even be here. His critics like to point out that he “didn’t collect his first steady paycheck until he was an elected official pushing 40 years old.” In his early 20s, he lived in a “shack-like structure” with a dirt floor and no electricity or running water. At age 32, he was writing bizarre and lurid rants about sex in an alternative newspaper that are shocking even by today’s standards.

He became a candidate for office in late 1971 because he volunteered and no one else did. The far-left Liberty Union party, touting “nonviolent revolutionary socialism,” needed a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and Sanders agreed to do it. (Up in Vermont, the party is a venerable, if never successful, institution.) Sanders’s message in that campaign should sound eerily familiar: He lamented that “some people in this country have billions of dollars when other people have nothing.” He received 1 percent of the vote.

For much of his early political career, Sanders no doubt struck people as a kook. Perhaps no city other than tiny Burlington, Vt., would have given him a chance. In 1980, when he first ran for mayor of the town, in 1980, he won by ten votes over a wildly overconfident five-term incumbent who “hardly bothered to campaign.” Sanders broke almost every traditional rule in politics. He started to go bald early, what’s left of his hair always seemed disheveled, his suits were always wrinkled and rarely fit well, and he wore thick glasses, spoke with an even thicker Brooklyn accent, shouted most of his speeches, and went on at length about dry topics.

Jim, the answer is Lucky Oddball!

Now, to involve the magnificent Carol Reed film, Odd Man Out, in any association with the Lenin-loving POTUS wannabe is downright criminal and horse-whipping-worthy. The offended should accept this establishment’s apologies but know that the Small Brain behind this epistle has been waiting for years to use the poster image shown. And to encourage those who love movies to see this 1947 classic. It is one of the most beautifully shot films, ever. Gorgeous. Exquisite.

Everything Bernie ain’t! OK, let us get on with the Weekend Jolt!

Editorials

1. We honor the late Roger Scruton. From the editorial:

He found much in Burke and (mild surprise) Hegel to inform his political philosophy, which was downstream of culture, as we say, but that’s not exactly how Scruton said it. “Culture and religion are in the last analysis indissoluble,” he argued, drawing on T. S. Eliot. In traditional religion, with all its serious appeal to manners and morals, Scruton found culture’s “life-blood”:

The future of mankind, for the socialist, is simple: pull down the existing order, and allow the future to emerge. But it will not emerge, as we know. These philosophies of the “new world” are lies and delusions, products of a sentimentality which has veiled the facts of human nature.

We can do nothing unless we first amend ourselves.

“Such is the conservative message for our time,” he maintained. “It is a message beyond politics, a message of liturgical weight and authority. But it is a message which must be received, if humane and moderate politics is to remain a possibility.”

Related: Jay Nordlinger knew Roger Scruton quite well. His remembrance is a thing of beauty. We provide other such below, but here at the WJ get-go we highlight Jay’s. From the reflection:

Norman Podhoretz told me that he judged Anna Karenina the best novel — ever. I mentioned this to Roger — who agreed. “There are competitors,” he said, including Middlemarch. “But there are weaknesses in the Eliot, and there are no weaknesses in the Tolstoy. Every character is absolutely real, and engaged from the depth of his being in the story. All the details are absolutely right.”

He also named The Brothers Karamazov, Emma, Madame Bovary, and Ulysses. “Those are all books that I read again and again.”

Coincidentally, he had just read — or re-read — War and Peace. It is “wonderful,” he said, but not perfect, like Anna Karenina. The problem is, “it’s got a kind of thesis that impedes the forward movement of the drama,” and “a thesis is an artificial thing that the novelist is imposing on the world, not a thing that grows from the world.”

More than once, naturally — how could we not? — Scruton and I talked about conservatism. He said in 2017, “My life’s work, in a way, has been an attempt to define the word ‘conservatism’ and to rescue it from being a term of abuse.” He wanted it instead to describe “a coherent political philosophy and social outlook.”

2. A mixed review of the China trade deal. From the editorial:

There are two major problems with the new Washington–Beijing trade accord announced by the Trump administration: First, it isn’t much of a trade deal; second, the principal problem in the U.S.–China relationship is not trade.

There are some benefits to the deal. These are important and should not be overlooked. For one thing, signing even a partial and preliminary deal (which is what “phase one” means) may relieve some of the uncertainty that currently imposes heavy costs on businesses in the United States and abroad. A higher degree of certainty will encourage investment and long-term economic growth.

And while it has imposed heavy costs on U.S. businesses ranging from soybean farms to steel mills, the trade war has credibly demonstrated to Xi Jinping and his cronies that the United States has the ability to inflict real economic pain on China, and that the subsequent disruption will be borne with far more strength and flexibility by the U.S. economy — which enjoys the dynamism associated with genuinely free enterprise rather than the nationalistic neo-mercantilism practiced by Beijing. The trade war has put the Chinese back on their heels if not quite down on their knees. In that, President Trump has accomplished precisely what he intended.

And, in a sense, that is part of the trouble with the trade deal: Beijing is hurting, and hurting enough that Xi Jinping et al. almost certainly have done here what they have done so many times in the past: assuage Washington by making promises that they have no intention whatsoever of keeping. Among other things, China has promised to increase its imports of U.S. goods by about 50 percent — in only two years. The deal obliges China to increase its imports of U.S. goods by $200 billion over two years from a baseline of about $185 billion a year.

A Pretty Box of 15 Tasty Conservative Nougats and Sweets, All Certain to Provide Intellectual Pep, Awaiting Your Engorging and Enjoyment

1. Cases are things that get tried, says Andy McCarthy. They are not open-ended investigations. He has advice for a Senate being pressured by a politicized House. From the beginning of the piece:

The Democrats’ strategy is coming clear.

The House provided the Senate with two half-baked impeachment articles. House Democrats rushed through the investigation, forgoing salient witnesses and evidence, because of the political calendar. The charges are weak and the inquiry was needlessly short-circuited, so Democrats have continued investigating the premature allegations. Now they are publicly disclosing newly acquired evidence, with the promise of more to come. Transparently, their goal is to pressure the Senate not merely to conduct a trial but to complete the investigation that the House failed to complete — calling witnesses and gathering evidence, as if a trial were nothing more than an extension of an open-ended grand-jury probe.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans should not let them get away with it. No trial court would allow itself to be whipsawed this way. A federal judge would tell prosecutors to go back to the grand jury, finish the investigation, and come back to the trial court when they have a case ready to be tried, not investigated.

2. Victor Davis Hanson enumerates the new normal. From the commentary:

5) The Washington top echelon of the CIA, FBI, and NSA will be largely immune from oversight. If they wish to spy on a presidential candidate or curtail the options of a sitting president, they will easily use their powers of surveillance, leaking, and spying for political purposes — purposes mostly defined as protecting the status quo of the permanent government. Upon retirement, such intelligence heads will retain their security clearances and use this inside access to obtain lucrative analyst billets on cable news channels deemed hostile to the incumbent administration. No one will care much when an FBI or CIA director lies under oath to Congress. There will be no indictments when high intelligence officials deliberately mislead federal courts, lie to federal investigators and the public, and conspire to derail political campaigns.

6) Reverse targeting of political opponents will be the normal behavior of intelligence agencies working closely with an incumbent lame-duck administration. Political rivals and opponents can be surveilled by warrants that are aimed nominally at third-party targets. The names of surveilled political opponents then can be unmasked when presidential appointees request it — the more unmaskings, and the more extraneous they are, the better. And the ensuing information will be leaked to the popular press with impunity.

3. The curtain rising on the impeachment show means it’s time, says Kevin Williamson, for the liberal media to begin intimidating the Chief Justice. From the piece:

Oddly, but not unexpectedly, that is not made at all clear by Adam Liptak’s report in the Times, which is not exactly a report. Liptak warns the chief justice against making displays of partisanship without ever establishing that Roberts is in need of any such admonition from the august pages of the New York Times. His quotations from Roberts are the definition of anodyne. “We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability,” Roberts said in his annual report on the state of the judiciary. Liptak detects in this a coded message to Trump. Well. What else? “As the new year begins, and we turn to the tasks before us,” Roberts said, “we should each resolve to do our best to maintain the public’s trust that we are faithfully discharging our solemn obligation to equal justice under law.” So much for that.

Liptak quotes law professor Frank Bowman, who is the author of a book about impeachment, warning that even by the standard of presidential impeachments, “This one in particular is so poisonous.” About that very interesting claim, we might charitably note that the data set is very small.

4. Some major Wall Street honchos proclaim that climate change — and not investment returns — is to become the new priority. David Bahnsen calls the hooey . . . hooey. From the piece:

Larry Fink has taken flak in Manhattan charitable-board circles for being a little too much of a CEO and not enough of a social activist. But the time has come for corporate America to stop rank virtue-signaling, transcend marketing messages and feel-good platitudes, and devise some substance behind their bold proclamations. As they fly on their private jets into Davos next week, it may be a good time to think about the positive impact fossil fuels have had in reducing starvation, or in providing either heat or coolant to the world when desperately needed. It is perhaps past the time to consider more thoughtfully the tradeoffs at stake, the quality-of-life ramifications, and the brute facts of some of the more extreme efforts to reduce fossil-fuel usage.

I have no doubt that investors worldwide are concerned with sustainability and earnest about stewardship. I have no doubt that CEOs such as Fink mean well. But until the rhetoric evolves to engage actual policy discussions with transparent admissions about what costs will be incurred, it is impossible not to see such posturing as virtue-signaling. Carbon emissions can come down (they are coming down), but at the cost of decimating lower-income households or causing large parts of the population either to starve or to freeze to death. The binary logic according to which one must either be an environmental villain or support extremist measures such as the Green New Deal must end.

No such “fundamental reshaping of finance” is coming. Capital will continue its relentless pursuit of its most efficient and productive use. Perhaps what we need instead is a fundamental reshaping of how to publicly engage major social issues. We need to change the political climate, which currently underrates substance.

5. Intent on putting the stink on possible POTUS nominees, Slate published a hit piece by Mark Joseph Stern on federal judge Amy Coney Barrett. At Bench Memos, Ed Whelan tore it to shreds. In two parts! From the initial piece:

Let’s start with the cases in which Stern makes glaring errors:

Schmidt v. Foster: Stern complains that Barrett “wrote (again in dissent) that a criminal defendant did not have a right to counsel when a judge grilled him on the details of his crime.” In fact, Barrett never reached the question whether the defendant, Schmidt, had a right to counsel, and expressly left open that, if that question were actually teed up for decision, he might: “Perhaps the right to counsel should extend to a hearing like the one the judge conducted in Schmidt’s case.” (Slip op. at 44.)

What Stern completely misses is that Schmidt’s case involved his application for a writ of habeas corpus—a challenge, that is, to his state-law conviction for murder—not a direct appeal of a federal conviction. The relevant question in addressing Schmidt’s habeas application was whether the judge’s decision to question Schmidt without counsel in a pretrial hearing involved an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent. Barrett explains at length that “[n]o Supreme Court precedent addresses the question presented by this case: whether a defendant has the right to counsel when testifying before a judge in a nonadversarial proceeding.” Schmidt’s habeas petition therefore failed.

6. Says Rich Lowry, what Bernie Sanders ain’t . . . is normal. And what he is . . . is socialist. From the column:

His domestic program, according to Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute, would cost nearly $100 trillion over the next decade. It would more than double federal spending and blow past Western European social democracies in government profligacy. What would ordinarily be considered ambitious spending plans — his proposed increased expenditure expansion on Social Security, infrastructure, housing, education, and paid family leave — are dwarfed by his gargantuan commitments to his “Medicare for All” proposal, his federal job guarantee, and his climate plan.

He’d fundamentally transform the relationship of the individual to the state, which, among other things, would ban people from owning their own health insurance.

Sanders pitches his health-care proposal as “what every other major country on Earth is doing,” but no other place is as sweeping or as generous. “There is not a single country in the world,” health-care analyst Chris Pope writes, “that offers comprehensive coverage with an unlimited choice of providers, fully paid for by taxpayers, without insurer gatekeeping, service rationing or out-of-pocket payments.”

7. Kat Timpf pegs Little Mike Bloomberg for being the authoritarian he . . . is. From the article:

While discussing the Texas church shooting last week, Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg said that we “just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place.”

“It may be true — I wasn’t there; I don’t know the facts — that somebody in the congregation had their own gun and killed the person who murdered two other people, but it’s the job of law enforcement to have guns and to decide when to shoot,” Bloomberg said in Montgomery, Ala., on December 30, as reported by Conservative Review. “You just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place.”

Bloomberg is, of course, correct. Although the shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement tragically took two lives, it could have been much worse had an armed, trained volunteer security guard not been there to shoot the gunman dead before he could do even greater damage.

This incident was about as clear an example as you could get for how maintaining our Second Amendment rights can save lives — and, therefore, it might seem like a pretty odd thing to reference when you’re arguing against gun rights. The Second Amendment, after all, worked in this case; people are alive because of it, and Bloomberg is going to say that he wished the situation had been different?

8. John Hirschauer has strong doubts about California Governor Gavin Newsome’s desire to seriously address the homelessness plaguing his state. From the analysis:

Major cities in California are awash in familiar pathologies: A sea of used heroin needles, piles of human waste, and a precipitous spike in crime and disorder. The homeless, while more likely to be victimized by one another than to victimize the broader community, have wrought considerable violence on their non-vagrant peers. Anthony Miele Jr., a 35-year-old from Ventura County, was sitting across from his wife at a steakhouse with his five-year-old daughter on his lap when a homeless man with paranoid-schizophrenia wandered in off the street and stabbed him to death in April 2018. Last November, a mentally ill homeless man dumped a bucket of scalding fecal matter on a passerby in Los Angeles. The victim, hauled immediately off to a nearby hospital, later told reporters that she “was soaked,” by the content of the bucket, which “was coming off my eyelashes and into my eyes.” Angeleno Albert Davtyan nearly died in December 2018 after being attacked at random by a homeless man, who pushed him into oncoming traffic. Davtyan was hit by a truck and suffered severe pulmonary and skeletal injuries.

There’s no denying the dire consequences of the status quo for both the unsheltered homeless and society at large. Californians are not only forced to trek through mounds of human waste interspersed with sidewalk-encampments as they walk city streets, but must also live with a reasonable, if remote, fear that the untreated mentally ill living on the street will lash out violently.

9. Sam Sweeney finds the idea of freedom is an elusive one in the Middle East. From the essay:

Early in the 20th century, freedom in the Middle East was primarily thought of as freedom from colonization — e.g. the freedom of the Turkish people from being divided up by Greece, Russia, France, etc., and the freedom of the Arabs from the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and then from European colonialism, and so on and so forth. The success in gaining freedom from colonialism led directly to the nationalist era in Middle Eastern politics, which in many ways has lasted to today, though it is arguably weaker than it has been since its inception, at least in the Arab countries of the region. Nationalism in its modern form is mostly a foreign concept to the Middle East, existing seriously only since the mid-19th century or so. It is an attempt to import a model that worked in Europe — the nation-state — into a region with a fundamentally different national and social history.

More so than Europe, the Middle East is a patchwork of ethnicities (nations) living on top of, rather than next to, one another. While the European nation-state often subjected those at the periphery to adopt the national identity of the center — as the culture and language of Paris and Madrid, for example, were imposed on Basques and Catalans — in the Middle East such various groups often live within the same city and overlap in ways that make it impossible to draw a map separating people along ethnic lines. The creation of the nation-state in the Middle East led to a zero-sum game of winners and losers, with competing groups fighting for absolute control over the same territory. After a successful military campaign against Greece, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, Turkey won its independence and created a state of, by, and for the Turkish people. Through genocide, they eliminated other populations living in the same geographical space — the Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean Christian communities that formed a demographic threat to the Turkishness of Turkey. The Kurdish population, which became demographically dominant over areas once mixed with Christians, has been suffering the same fate as Turkey’s attempt to Turkify every corner of the country continues.

10. It’s a Small Mind After All: Naomi Schaefer explains the realities of conservative philanthropy, against the sanctimonious and malicious views mouthed by a scion made wealthy courtesy of a cartoon mouse, Abigail Disney. From the piece:

I don’t know whether Disney’s description is accurate, but if she believes that conservative people by definition do not care about the poor, she could use a serious lesson in American philanthropy. As The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted in 2012, “the eight states that ranked highest voted for John McCain in the last presidential contest while the seven lowest-ranking states supported Barack Obama.” Disney would no doubt be shocked and horrified to find that Utah’s residents top the list of givers, donating about 6.6 percent of their adjusted gross income, with Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia rounding out the top five.

Which is not surprising, given how closely tied religion is to philanthropic giving. According to the World Economic Forum, “religious Americans volunteer more, give more and give more often, not only to religious but secular causes as well. Among Americans who give to any cause, 55 percent claim religious values as an important motivator for giving.”

Disney doesn’t mention being raised with any kind of faith, but some of the country’s most generous millionaires and billionaires credit their religious beliefs when asked about their giving. Take the late William E. Simon, whose Catholic faith led him to give money not only to Catholic organizations but also to shelters for abused women and children and to athletic facilities for children.

11. Jussie Smollett had a bad year. Kyle Smith says it looks like he is about to have another one. From his piece:

So lots of things Smollett said privately before and after the most notorious fake attack by nonexistent evildoers since The War of the Worlds radio show are about to become public. Smollett’s career appears to be on pause. His income must be minimal after Fox fired him from Empire. His legal bills are piling up. Oh, and Dave Chappelle openly mocked him and rechristened him “Juicy Smollée.” Will the humiliation never end?

Smollett is not the only one on the hook. Foxx, Smollett’s apparent ally who let him skate, seems to be feeling the heat and has retained outside legal counsel. Foxx hired a lawyer to represent her personal interests and also brought in a former chief judge to respond to Webb’s inquiries about the state’s attorney’s office. This latter problem is costing taxpayers a significant amount: the lawyer is being paid (at a rate of $250 to $375 an hour) with public funds. Foxx is running for reelection but faces three Democratic opponents in a March primary.

12. More Kyle: He recommends do not Doolittle. From the review:

The picture is a throwback to the pre–Star Wars era of children’s entertainment. The thinking back in those glum Johnson/Nixon-era days was that kids were like adults, only dumber. Why waste money making the script smart? It would only go over children’s heads. Instead, spend the money dazzling the wee things with famous actors, elaborate sets (today displaced by elaborate CGI), and extravagant scenes of wonder that are splashy but clunky, like a load of bricks dumped in a swimming pool. The original Doctor Dolittle (1967) was all of this, plus terrible songs.

A notorious flop, it’ll go down as more successful than the new one. After the Avengers saga, watching Robert Downey Jr. wade through this claptrap is like watching your favorite bright young college graduate accept a job emptying bedpans.

Or worse. In an especially excruciating scene, Dolittle, the Victorian vet who talks to animals, relieves a dragon of its misery by pulling large objects out of its rectum: thighbones, a suit of armor, bagpipes. The following scenes were a blur. All I could think about was when Dolittle would wash his hands, which turned out to be never. Exiting the theater, I headed straight for the Purel aisle of Walgreens.

13. It’s awards seasons, so the PC agitators are hopped up and hash-tagging. Armond White is having none of it. From the piece:

Fact is: This annual, unnatural occurrence is essentially political manipulation. Awards season’s monitors emulate the combined dictates of authoritarian ministries. For example, the Los Angeles Times published protests from at least four of its in-house pundits on the same day, merely demonstrating collective PC whimsies. It recalls Orwell’s prophetic Ministry of Truth overseeing media, Ministry of Peace controlling war, Ministry of Plenty controlling distribution of resources, and Ministry of Love torturing political dissidents. This predetermined consensus — backing up one another’s middlebrow fantasies about gender and ethnic equality — is what makes mainstream-media workers feel that they’re always, inarguably right.

It’s really another form of social engineering, isn’t it? The leftist media’s love of race and sex quotas prevails over any concern with quality. (I will never stop believing that Julián Hernández’s Tattoo of Revenge is superior to Little Women, or that Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell is deeper and truer than The Irishman.)

14. Brian Allen finds himself in a hip Manhattan neighborhood where an exhibit on pastels catches the eye. From the piece:

In the same Chelsea neighborhood, far from Museum Mile, are the FLAG Foundation and museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Both are free art spaces, smartly and elegantly programmed, and both promote contemplation and learning. FLAG is a privately funded, experimental art space on 25th Street and Tenth Avenue, amid the high-end contemporary art dealers. It’s open to the public and a welcoming place. The FIT museum belongs to the school. It’s got a great fashion collection — fashion is indeed art — and considers the body as a canvas for the best design and materials from the exotic to the synthetic to the prosaic.

“Nicolas Party: Pastel” is the unassuming title of the new show at FLAG. Party (b. 1981) is Swiss but ubiquitous and endlessly clever. Party curated the show and was given much leeway, but that’s FLAG’s mission. It empowers artists, writers, and offbeat art historians to curate.

The space is copious. The building is modern, but it’s got the spirit of the many old warehouses and factories in the neighborhood. Big spaces and high ceilings make for a dramatic stage. Set in spaces with so sleekly utilitarian a vibe is a celebration of soft pastel, the warmest and fuzziest of media. It’s an exhibition with layers of juxtaposition and surprise.

Pastel is pure, powdered pigment in the form of a crayon or stick, like colored chalk. It looks soft and buttery on the surface — paper with a surface textured enough to hold the powder. “Pastel” might imply a pale palette, but pastel color can be bright or intensely saturated. It’s natural, dried pigment that runs the color gamut.

15. The outcome of Taiwan’s elections, writes Mike Watson, is a blow to the Commies across the Strait of Formosa. From the analysis:

Incumbent Tsai Ing-wen’s lopsided drubbing of challenger Han Kuo-yu in Saturday’s Taiwanese presidential election had been widely expected in recent weeks, but it was not always such a sure thing. At this time last year, Ms. Tsai had resigned as the chairperson of her party after catastrophic electoral losses, and her political future looked bleak.

Riding to the rescue was Chairman Xi, who gave a speech demanding that Taiwan accept the “one country, two systems” framework that governs China’s relations with Hong Kong and warning that “we make no promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures” to absorb Taiwan into China. For Tsai, whose Democratic Progressive party is skeptical of reunification with China, rejecting Xi’s demands was a layup. China’s subsequent attempt to undermine civil liberties in Hong Kong, and the ensuing protests and violence, made Tsai look prescient and mightily contributed to her reelection, which was in doubt as late as August. Bringing Taiwan under Chinese control, a longstanding goal of the CCP, now looks highly unlikely absent an invasion.

Though Tsai’s victory is a major setback that hurts the CCP’s prestige, its consequences are unlikely to reverberate too far across the region. Hong Kong’s protests and the improved fortunes of China skeptics in Taiwan make China look less effective, but many of China’s neighbors are themselves de facto or de jure one-party states, and their rulers are not the sort to cheer on mass protest movements that demand freedom.

RIP Roger Scruton

We present a selection of worthwhile things to read, watch, and listen to concerning the late conservative thinker, a man of enormous influence.

1. Michael Brendan Dougherty explains the importance of the great scholar and author — and anti-Communist activist. From the essay:

I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Roger Scruton a few times in this life and had a brief correspondence with him. But I’ve had the joy of reading him and learning from him all my adult life. Most formative was his book The Meaning of Conservatism, which tried to preserve the social, cultural, and institutional aspects of conservatism during the period of Margaret Thatcher’s years as prime minister; Scruton understood her limitations long before others appreciated her virtues. I particularly recommend The Uses of Pessimism; The West and the Rest; Fools, Firebrands, and Frauds; Beauty; The Face of God; and The Soul of the World.

From him most of all I took my own idea of what conservatism is, the attempt to preserve or recover a home in this world — a place of consolation, a sanctified somewhere that connects us to the dead, the unborn, and our neighbors through love, memory, and sacrifice. A place that belongs to us and implants in us a longing for the true home that can never be destroyed by storms, war, neglect, or the encroachment of speculative exurban developers who want to replace our homes with parking lots and Panera Bread. We put in our labors to preserve freedom, decency, and culture, so that our children receive this somewhere as a place prepared for me by my father.

Scruton may be the only conservative of this generation whose work will be read 100 years hence. And while we pray for the repose of his soul, and for comfort for his family and close friends, we should also pray that then, unlike now, his work and his courage receive the recognition they deserve. Scruton has labored and sacrificed. He is not becoming “nothing” but the gentle, sweet, and courageous Knight who saved his home from the destroyers.

2. “Professor Roger Scruton was the greatest conservative of our age.” So says Daniel Hannan in his latest Ici Londres video, which you can watch here.

3. Dan was a lifelong friend of the great scholar. He discusses his late friend, for the Quillette Podcast, with Toby Young. Listen here.

4. From May 2019: Douglas Murray had a talk, sponsored by The Spectator, with Roger Scruton. A sterling experience. Watch it here.

5. Rod Dreher visited his friend this past Summer. A lovely reflection.

6. David Burton sings his praises at The Daily Signal. Read it here.

7. A long obituary was published in The Guardian. Read it here.

8. Roger Kimball is publishing a terrific remembrance in the next issue of The New Criterion. He shared the page galleys, and in turn we share a slice (a link will be provided, when available, in a looming WJ):

Sir Roger was also something of an intellectual entrepreneur. For the first eighteen years of its life, he edited The Salisbury Review, a small but potent conservative journal named for the Third Marquess of Salisbury (1830–1903), who had pointedly observed that good government consisted in doing as little as possible.

Sir Roger wrote several times about his political maturation, most fully, perhaps, in “Why I became a conservative,” in The New Criterion in 2003. There were two answers, one negative, one positive. The negative answer was the visceral repudiation of civilization he witnessed in Paris in 1968: slogans defacing walls, shattered shop windows, and spoiled radicals. The positive element was the philosophy of Edmund Burke, that apostle of tradition, authority, and prejudice. Prejudice? How awful that word sounds to enlightened ears. But Sir Roger reminds us that prejudice, far from being synonymous with bigotry, can be a prime resource in freedom’s armory. “Our most necessary beliefs,” he wrote, “may be both unjustified and unjustifiable from our own perspective, and . . . the attempt to justify them will lead merely to their loss.” Burke saw with penetrating insight that freedom was not the antonym of authority or the repudiation of obedience. “Real freedom,” Sir Roger observed, “concrete freedom, the freedom that can actually be defined, claimed, and granted, was not the opposite of obedience but its other side. The abstract, unreal freedom of the liberal intellect was really nothing more than childish disobedience, amplified into anarchy.”

9. The New Criterion republishes Scruton’s 2003 essay on why he became a conservative. From the piece:

To my rescue came Burke. Although not widely read at the time in our universities, he had not been dismissed as stupid, reactionary, or absurd. He was simply irrelevant, of interest largely because he got everything wrong about the French Revolution and therefore could be studied as illustrating an episode in intellectual pathology. Students were still permitted to read him, usually in conjunction with the immeasurably less interesting Tom Paine, and from time to time you heard tell of a “Burkean” philosophy, which was one strand within nineteenth-century British conservatism.

Burke was of additional interest to me on account of the intellectual path that he had trod. His first work, like mine, was in aesthetics. And although I didn’t find much of philosophical significance in his Essay on the Sublime and the Beautiful, I could see that, in the right cultural climate, it would convey a powerful sense of the meaning of aesthetic judgment and of its indispensable place in our lives. I suppose that, in so far as I had received any intimations of my future career as an intellectual pariah, it was through my early reactions to modern architecture, and to the desecration of my childhood landscape by the faceless boxes of suburbia. I learned as a teenager that aesthetic judgment matters, that it is not merely a subjective opinion, unargued because unarguable, and of no significance to anyone besides oneself. I saw—though I did not have the philosophy to justify this—that aesthetic judgment lays a claim upon the world, that it issues from a deep social imperative, and that it matters to us in just the way that other people matter to us, when we strive to live with them in a community. And, so it seemed to me, the aesthetics of modernism, with its denial of the past, its vandalization of the landscape and townscape, and its attempt to purge the world of history, was also a denial of community, home, and settlement. Modernism in architecture was an attempt to remake the world as though it contained nothing save atomic individuals, disinfected of the past, and living like ants within their metallic and functional shells.

Like Burke, therefore, I made the passage from aesthetics to conservative politics with no sense of intellectual incongruity, believing that, in each case, I was in search of a lost experience of home. And I suppose that, underlying that sense of loss is the permanent belief that what has been lost can also be recaptured—not necessarily as it was when it first slipped from our grasp, but as it will be when consciously regained and remodelled, to reward us for all the toil of separation through which we are condemned by our original transgression. That belief is the romantic core of conservatism, as you find it—very differently expressed—in Burke and Hegel, and also in T. S. Eliot, whose poetry was the greatest influence on me during my teenage years.

10. John O’Sullivan shares this wonderful 2016 Budapest lecture on art and the cultural scene. Watch it here.

11. Bradley Birzer explains in The American Conservative why Sir Roger was traditionalism’s most articulate spokesman. From the reflection:

Not surprisingly, Scruton had no love for or faith in the European Union. In dismay, he wrote, “I doubt very much that the ordinary British subject in 1945, having lived through a war in which we had risked everything and suffered much, could have believed that, half a century later, most of our laws would be imposed on us by unelected bureaucrats in Belgium—the country that had done the least to defend itself against Hitler.”

As a critical side note, Scruton explained that conservatives hate the welfare state not because it helps the poor, but because it makes the poor dependent. And once dependent, the population is no longer free. And once no longer free, it cannot readily lead a humane life, governed by decency and habit. In a welfare-oriented society, “responsibilities are drowned by rights.”

One of the greatest dangers of the modern world—beginning with the Enlightenment and exploding with the French Revolution—was the imperialism of the political sphere. For nearly three centuries now, the West has seen the political sphere expand so rapidly that it has subsumed almost every aspect of our lives, and with globalization, uncontrollable forces of consumerism and selfishness have “broken free of the forces—religious, moral and national—which used to limit it,” while decimating “the old local pieties, the old customs, and the local attachments.”

Once we politicize everything, Scruton feared, there will be nothing left but power, the struggle for power, and, consequently, only the nihilism of the abyss. To his consternation, he saw nihilism, widespread by 2007, “as the addictive drumbeats and soundbytes that form the background of popular culture.” Corporations, owing nothing to loyalty and attempting only to satiate the appetites, would never defend the good, the true, or the beautiful. “Nobody in the corporatist society will wish to fight for his neighbor’s rights, to devote his life to a cause, or to lay down his life for his country,” he lamented. “Indeed, he is unlikely to know which country is his.”

12. At The Wall Street Journal, Dominic Green remembers beautifully. From the piece:

He enlivened English empiricism with the grandeur of German idealism and the linguistic intricacies of Wittgenstein. He lived his beliefs, whether working for the anti-Communist “Underground University” behind the Iron Curtain, playing the organ in his local church, flying back to England on weekends while teaching at Boston University to ride in the local hunt, or recording his impressions in the seconds between falling off his horse and hitting the ground.

When I visited his farm in 2017 for the annual Apple Day—a village get-together with philosophical lecture and locavore lamb chops—the attendees included a Syrian refugee, Czech philosophy students and a phalanx of local jam makers. Scruton shambled about in his old tweeds, observer and participant. “Having fun?” he asked. He educated us all and fought for truth without forfeiting humor. He leaves a generous and lasting bounty of honest words and brave deeds.

Wither America

Cal Thomas is a friend, personal and institutional, joining NR for many a time on our sea-faring voyages, delighting passengers with his wisdom and camaraderie. He has a new book out next week, America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers . . . and The Future of the United States. Have to admit, Your Humble Correspondent has not read it but for flipping through the pages (it arrived yesterday), and can’t say I am eager to dive in, if only because of the troubling premise and the troubling History (yep, capital H) that shows the sell-by date of great powers has proven to be 250 years.

Cal does the sniff test as we approach that anniversary and investigates parallels between historical failed empires and present-day America. The premise of the book, per the statement sent along with the galley copy, is “to reveal the future of our country if we fail to heed the warning signs and course-correct.”

Per Cal:

“If America doesn’t learn from history – our own and the world’s – we are likely to suffer the fate of other great nations, rotting from within before either being conquered from without by an invading army or collapsing under the weight of self-indulgence, decadence, debt, a sense of entitlement, greed and envy,” wrote Thomas. “It’s up to those now living and the next and perhaps last American generation . . . to turn things around.”

More:

Drawing from the discoveries of renowned author and scholar Sir John Glubb, Thomas’ book describes the six stages experienced by once-great empires before their eventual decline, which include: The Age of Pioneers, The Age of Conquests, The Age of Commerce, The Age of Affluence, The Age of Intellect and The Age of Decadence.

Thomas’ thorough scrutiny of past nations throughout the book forms a formidable theory that the United States is presently experiencing the final phase most seen before an empire’s ending and could crumble as soon as July 4, 2026.

“Given the history of other empires and great nations, the decadence that is now tightening its grip on America almost guarantees our demise, or at the very least a radical decline that will leave the country devoid of the liberties we now enjoy but are rapidly exchanging for a license to do whatever we wish,” Thomas warned.

This is a book worth reading. No judgments in advance, but whether its conclusions are or are not persuasive, the gut says Cal will raise issues that must be addressed intelligently and directly. So order your copy here.

The Six.

1. Gatestone Institute’s Burak Bekdil finds Erdogan’s campaign to make Turkey more Islamic is flopping. From the piece:

In 2012, Erdoğan described his political mission as “raising devout generations”, a remark for which Turkey’s main opposition called him “a merchant of religion”. In November 2019, Erdoğan repeated his quest for “devout generations” so that “we will not see alcoholics on the streets”. He boasts that since he came to power in 2002, the number of imam school students has risen from 60,000 to 1.3 million. No doubt, that is an impressive record for an Islamist strongman. But too premature to cheer about.

A survey, part of OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, has revealed that 54% of imam school students do not feel they belong to their school, compared to 27.5% to 29.1% of students at other types of schools. It seems a greater number of families have forced their children to enroll at imam schools but, at least at the high school level, these students are unhappy.

There are empirical studies that theism is on the rise in Turkey, especially among imam school students. The pollster Optimar found that in 2017, 99% of Turks identified themselves as Muslims, but in 2019, only 89.5% said they were Muslim. An unexpected 4.5% said they were theist, 2.7% agnostic and 1.7% atheist, and 1.6% did not answer.

2. At The American Conservative, Grayson Quay explores the ways in which the splintering United Methodist Church is placing its African members in an organizational ghetto — not the first time a mainline Protestant sect has dealt harshly with its black congregants. It’s “woke white cultural imperialism” at its finest. From the piece:

My anecdotal example is one among many. In 1998, when the African bishops led the charge to defend Christian sexual ethics at the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference, Bishop John Shelby Spong of Newark, New Jersey, who is not in any meaningful sense a Christian or even a theist, made the shockingly racist claim that African Christians had “moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity.” Others found even more creative ways to infantilize black people, suggesting that if African Christians oppose gay marriage and clergy, they must have been brainwashed into doing so by American right-wingers. As global Christianity becomes less white and more conservative, progressive Christians will need to choose between listening to people of color and upholding their own woke agenda. So far, they’ve chosen the second option.

Liberal American Christians seem to have adopted the same attitude toward the developing world that American foreign policy czars have. If the United Methodists and the Episcopalians agree that Africans aren’t enlightened enough for true Christianity, then the Trump administration certainly believes that Iraq isn’t enlightened enough for true democracy. There are striking similarities between the African Methodists voting for traditional Christianity and the Iraqi parliament voting to expel U.S. troops. In both cases, non-Westerners attempt to apply a belief system that was imposed upon them by the West only to be told that they were never really worthy of that system, be it Christianity or democratic self-determination.

The same liberals who accuse conservative Christians of denying “the image of God in … people of color and LGBTQ people” have chosen to intentionally sever themselves from a thriving Christian community of color. This is woke white cultural imperialism at its most naked. Dr. Danker sees a silver lining, predicting that “a robust [conservative] evangelical Methodism will arise out of all this.” Hopefully. Still, it’s heartbreaking. In the first heady days of the Methodist movement, John Wesley’s enthusiasm for the gospel inspired William Wilberforce to abolish the Atlantic slave trade. With this decision to split, Wesley’s misguided followers have disgraced his memory by eagerly abandoning their African brothers and sisters.

3. At The Catholic World Herald, Amy Welborn targets the lie of “gender self-identity.” From the piece:

What a moment. What a time, in which simple biology is wildly controversial. How did we get here? Well, one way to answer that question is to look back for a moment, and try to figure out where we were, just a few decades ago.

I consider some old photographs. In 1964, at the age of four, there I was, surrounded by my gifts: a pedal-driven fire truck, a baby doll carriage—and a punching bag. My third birthday, a year before, I’m looking down at the cake, a small stack of books next to it, and then, apparently, my main present: a big, chunky, red-and-yellow Tonka dump truck.

Do you think she might be trans?

Not even thinking such a thing could be, not even worrying about it, we kept on truckin’ through the 70s, pedaling those cars, Barbies in hand; then getting older, eschewing makeup and maybe bras, our jeans’ cuffs trailing on the ground, determined to reject cultural and social stereotypes. And if that’s you, maybe you’re with here with me, wondering how in the world we’ve transitioned from that world in which expressions of “gender” were downplayed or even discouraged as stereotypical and limiting, to a landscape in which “feminine” and “masculine” stereotypical preferences and expressions have become straight-up pathologized.

4. At The College Fix, Alexander Pease finds an interesting way for faculty leftists to conspire to effectively block a conservative campus group. From the story:

A common hurdle for controversial student organizations is finding a faculty advisor, as required for recognition by their universities.

At the University of Maine, the College Republicans chapter has not had trouble finding faculty advisors. Rather, it keeps losing them.

The conservative group is once again shopping around after its latest advisor, a progressive newspaper columnist, quit after less than a week, objecting to the CRs’ views on immigration and arguably inflammatory social media posts.

The possibility that the club may have to keep seeking re-recognition by the student government is an unacceptable restriction on its freedom of expression, a civil liberties group told The College Fix.

In the event that a student organization can’t find a required faculty advisor, “the university must provide them one or waive the requirement,” Adam Steinbaugh of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote in an email Thursday.

5. Law & Liberty’s Michael Munger ponders the question – “Is There a Technology Trap?” From the essay:

The most interesting prediction Keynes made was about the shape of the work life of the future. He combines two insights, neither of which are yet visible, at least not to the extent Keynes expected. The first was the elimination of scarcity on a wide scale; the second is the reaction of workers in seeking to “buy” more leisure with the increased income they receive from working. He did recognize that the process might be slow, slow enough that it might be happening before we fully recognize it.

The key elements of Keynes’ argument must be that either (1) labor displaced by technology in one area, such as agriculture or manufacturing, will find well-paid applications in other sectors, or (2) people will simply work less, and substitute paid work for leisure, or construct communities of meaning around voluntary group activities. And that’s a useful way of briefly summarizing the argument in C. B. Frey’s timely book, The Technology Trap. Frey argues that there is no evidence of effect #2. In fact, the work hours of the most highly paid members of society are going up, not down. And the evidence on effect #1 is even less promising, with wages rapidly declining or jobs simply disappearing in sector after sector. It’s not just that Keynes was wrong, but that we are on the verge of a job crisis, according to Frey.

6. Chris DeMuth’s masterpiece in National Affairs highlights the role the late Michael Uhlmann played in saving the republic by intellectually manhandling — through a Senate Judiciary Committee report known as the “Uhlmann Essay” — the powerful and plentiful forces trying to obliterate the Electoral College. From the piece:

The minority report was signed by Democratic senators James Eastland of Mississippi (the committee chairman), John McClellan of Arkansas, and Sam Ervin, Jr., of North Carolina, along with Republicans Hruska, Hiram Fong of Hawaii, and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Formally captioned “Minority Views,” it is better known to history as the Uhlmann Essay on the Electoral College. Legislative staffers are supposed to toil in anonymity and let their bosses take the credit, and Mike heartily supported that custom, but in this case the authorship was widely known and gratefully acknowledged by the senators themselves. It was more than twice the length of the majority report, and in style and substance could not have been more different; it stands apart from all other legislative reports I know of.

First of all, it is a rhetorical masterpiece. It is written in a clear, single voice, with none of the weasel words and internal contradictions that characterize many committee-written documents. It has classical structure: opening with a forthright itemization of arguments against direct election; then developing, extending, and combining those arguments; then diverting to a brief cadenza on “specious arguments” about the Electoral College; then drawing everything together in a ringing conclusion. Meticulous exposition is undergirded by a basso continuo — direct election would be “the most deeply radical amendment which has ever entered the Constitution of the United States.” Eminent advocates of the Electoral College make pointed arguments in their own words — John F. Kennedy, Richard Goodwin, Theodore White, Harry Jaffa (of course), Alexander Bickel, and Charles Black (the source of the “deeply radical” line). The author’s own formulations are frequently deep and aphoristic, as in, “The genius of our present method of election may be said to consist precisely in its ability to reveal what men have in common and to conceal what they do not.”

Boldly — given the minority’s cornered circumstances — the report begins by placing the burden of proof on the proponents of direct election, which immediately highlights the thinness of the majority report. The Electoral College is imperfect, as are all electoral systems, but it has been with us for more than two centuries. It has adapted to changing circumstances, provided legitimacy and stability in tumultuous times, produced many distinguished presidents, and been part and parcel of the most successful and durable structure of government in history. In the face of this long and admirable experience, the majority proposed not to correct any particular defects but rather to throw away the entire apparatus, based on nothing more than abstract mathematical simulations, and to substitute a radically different one, without even pausing to consider what the practical consequences of the new system might be.

BONUS: Also in National Affairs, Nick Eberstadt frets, and with good reason, over the “collapse of work for adult men, and the retreat from the world of work of growing numbers of men of conventional working age.” From the piece:

Second, there is the pronounced and increasing disparity in labor-force participation rates among different sub-regions of the country. Modern America has witnessed increasing dispersion in state-level prime-age male labor-force participation rates since at least 1980. Moreover, major, enduring, and sometimes even widening gaps in prime-age male labor-force participation rates are evident for geographically adjoining states (compare, for example, Maine to New Hampshire, or West Virginia to Virginia or Maryland). If declining participation rates were a consequence of demand shocks to the labor force, economic theory would suggest the national labor market would move toward equilibrium over time, implying, among other things, eventual convergence in participation rates among states. Just the opposite, however, has been taking place in America for most of the period in which the decline in male labor-force participation rates has been underway.

Third, there is America’s curiously poor prime-age male labor-force participation-rate performance in comparison with other affluent never-communist democracies. Between 1965 and 2015, U.S. levels fell faster and sank lower than in any comparable country, with the exception of Italy (where official employment figures notoriously neglect “unofficial” work income). Yet America’s race to the bottom in prime-age male labor-force participation is not readily explained by lackluster economic growth (which could also be called sluggish demand). It is true that the U.S. is believed to have grown more slowly than most of these countries over that half century, but this should be unsurprising given that most of these countries were enjoying “latecomer” or catch-up growth over this period in relation to the longtime U.S. “frontrunner.” Even so, U.S. labor-force participation-rate trends were also distinctly poorer than those of countries whose pace of growth lagged behind America’s over that half century: for example, Denmark and Sweden, to say nothing of Greece.

Baseballery

This is a story about a mediocre career, a final at bat, a lousy team, and an interesting guy. And the Sugar Bowl. The career belongs to Steve Filipowicz, and we will get to the other distinctions shortly, but first — he was the man in the spotlight in one of those rare and unappreciated baseball events, the Negative Pennant.

The date is October 3, 1948, and battling for last place in the National League are the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds. A rainout in Cincinnati the day prior — on which the Cubs got shellacked by the Cardinals, 9–0 — had broken a tie for 7th, and placed Chicago in sole possession of last place by half a game. Come the season’s final day, the Cubs would need to win, and the Reds lose, in order to flip positions. Or else — basement ignominy.

And the Cubs did win, a 4–3 nail-biter in St. Louis, the Cardinals’ three-run 8th-inning rally not enough to undo Chicago’s two-run rally in the top of the frame. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati . . .

The Reds were facing the 83–70 Pirates at home, ace Johnny Vander Meer on the mound, throwing one after another shut-out innings, granting two measly singles; but so was Pittsburgh southpaw Vic Lombardi, who held the Reds scoreless into the Ninth.

The score deadlocked at goose eggs, and with two on and one out, to the plate came Filipowicz. He’d been called up from the minors in late September and had gone an impressive 8 for 22 in seven games, but was hitless in this contest. He would remedy that: His walk-off single to left field drove in the sole and winning run, ending the season for the Reds in 7th place, and ensuring last-place status for the Cubs.

It proved to be Flip’s last MLB appearance. A nice way to exit. The so-long wasn’t known at the time: For the next two seasons he bounced around the minors. What became of him after that seems beyond the knowledge of Google (other than that he died in 1975, age 53).

But what came before that October day was of great interest. Filipowicz attended Fordham University (as did Yours Truly for one academic year in the late 70s) and was a star fullback on its great football team: Forgotten to many and most is the fact that in the 1930s and early 1940s, the Rams were, after Alabama, considered the nation’s premier football team, known for the Seven Blocks of Granite (which included the young Vince Lombardi). Filipowicz played for the 1941 team that went to win the lowest-scoring (non 0–0 tie) major college bowl ever: A 2–0 blowout of the Missouri Tigers in the monsoon-drenched 1942 Sugar Bowl. Flip ran for 58 yards. In the previous year, he scored a touchdown in Fordham’s 13–12 Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M (two blocked extra-point attempts nailed the Rams’ fate).

Filipowicz also played for the New York Giants, of both variations. The sixth overall pick of the 1943 College draft(!), he played the 1945 and 46 seasons for the gridiron Giants (he caught a touchdown in the team’s 24–14 championship game loss to the Chicago Bears) and for the baseball Giants in 1944 and 45. The record there was not so impressive: Flip played in 50 games and compiled a weak .203 batting average. But we will end here by noting that he did have one great game in that span: At Ebbets Field on April 27, 1945 he went 4 for 5 with a homer and two doubles and 3 RBIs, leading the Giants to a 5–0 victory.

That alone is dream enough for millions of men old and young who would have given an eye, tooth, and a big toe for the chance to stand at the plate, even to strike out on three pitches, while wearing a Major League uniform.

Announcement: For those of you who enjoy this section, the admission must be made that “Baseballery” is 1. not a word, and 2. has nothing to do with William F. Buckley Jr. journalism. It has been a lark, and a fun one at that. But it will now become occasional, given other demands on Your Humble and Dimwitted Correspondent, whose capacity to multi-task — walking and chewing bubblegum simultaneously — is limited.

A Dios

The Usual Suspects will be private-jetting to and from Davos. Telling us to live off the grid will be their agenda. Stay tuned.

This Astros scandal is so dispiriting: Videos, garbage can banging, buzzers . . . hard to accept that the National Pastime continues to be sullied, and in ways that far transcend the spitball. Is this the Beginning of the End? Maybe we’re already in the 5th inning.

That said, please pray for good souls — Christians in the Middle East, Jews in France, Uyghurs in Red China, democracy lovers in Hong Kong — who embrace unalienable rights in places where doing such can mean persecution and death.

And that said . . . Iowa, here we come!

With Hopes that the Creator Bestows His Graces on You,

Jack Fowler, who is ready to withstand your contempt and tirades about poor grammar and dumb reflections at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

It Seems to Me I’ve Heard that Song Before . . .

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

. . . It’s from an old familiar score.

Admittedly, when Helen Forrest and Harry James worked their magic, the ditty spoke of happy memories. But when it comes to presidential impeachments, there are no happy memories: These things are bona fide clunkers, even when the deck is stacked, as it was against President Andrew Johnson, an antagonizing chief executive if there ever was one. Armed with a temper and a personality steeped in vinegar, the former tailor knew how to make enemies. The political theatrics of Congress’s 1868 effort to impeach the Tennessee Democrat make the current ten-thumbed attempts to erase President Trump look gentle and sweet. One of the 11 articles filed against Johnson charged him with attempting to:

Excite the odium and resentment of all good people of the United States against Congress and the laws by it duly and constitutionally enacted; and in pursuance of his said design and intent, openly and publicly and before divers assemblages of citizens of the United States, convened in divers parts thereof, to meet and receive said Andrew Johnson as the Chief Magistrate of the United States, did, on the 18th day of August, in the year of our Lord 1866, and on divers other days and times, as well before as afterward, make and declare, with a loud voice certain intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces, as well against Congress as the laws of the United States duly enacted thereby, amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled in hearing . . .

True, mother always cautioned never to excite the odium, but still, is that impeachable? In the end, it all flopped — a close call for Andy on the four votes the Senate actually took, but a victory (if you look at it that way) for him nonetheless.

In the end, he ended up gracing a U.S postage stamp. As someday, likely, will President Trump.

We have much to offer this week past from NRO about matters of impeachment, and Iran, and so much more. Get the mouse ready because we have got the links that you need to click.

Editorials

1. Iran blinks. Sometimes that happens after your eye has been poked. From the editorial:

World War III is off.

The killing of Qasem Soleimani stoked a round of hysteria in the media over the consequences, with serious people on cable TV invoking August 1914.

The formal Iranian military retaliation makes all this look even sillier than it already seemed. The Iranians hit two bases in Iraq in a missile strike carefully calibrated to limit the damage, and indeed, there were no U.S. casualties. Tehran clearly wanted to be able to say it had directly struck at the Americans, while limiting the risk of further confrontation with the U.S.

This suggests that Trump won the first round of this stage of the contest with Iran. He took a key enemy player off the board in Qasem Soleimani and affirmed a red line against killing Americans. In announcing new sanctions against Iran in a White House address, he also made it clear that Iran isn’t escaping from the stringent sanctions box that it is desperate to get out of (hence its series of provocations the past few months).

A Dozen Links, and Then Some, of Essential, Top-Notch Conservative Brilliance from the Stop-Yelling Institution that Stands Athwart

1. The great John Yoo declares that the claims that the president’s action against Soleimani was illegal are full of baloney. POTUS has the Constitution and precedent on his side. From the piece:

But even if opponents of the Trump administration based their criticisms on constitutional principle, and not political expediency, they would still fail. Killing an individual, of course, is not generally legal. Nor is it always illegal. Killing an individual can be legal when it is carried out by the state as criminal punishment for first-degree murder. It can be legal when a police officer shoots an attacker armed with a weapon. It can be illegal when it is murder.

No American law prohibits the targeting of specific enemy leaders. Neither the Constitution nor federal statutes prevent the direct targeting of individual members of the enemy. Only Executive Order 12,333, issued by President Reagan in 1981, states that “no person employed or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” This was a continuation of a similar ban first issued by President Gerald Ford in 1976, which was subsequently reaffirmed by President Carter, and has been followed by every president since.

But while he banned assassinations, Reagan did not define them. Ever since Reagan’s executive order, administrations of both parties have generally defined assassination as the murder of a public figure for political purposes. The killings of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln were assassinations. By contrast, the killing of the enemy in combat is protected by the laws of war. As Hugo Grotius, the father of modern international law, observed in 1646, “it is permissible to kill an enemy.” Legitimate military targets include not just foot soldiers, but the command-and-control structure of an enemy’s military, leading up to its commander in chief. Assassination is different from killing an enemy general, such as Soleimani.

2. Andy McCarthy seconds the motion: Terrorists who are “commanders” are very fair game for a drone visit. From the analysis:

It is interesting to contrast the mid Nineties to today.

Back then, most Democrats were committed to the law-enforcement approach to counterterrorism. While you can debate the wisdom of that, those Democrats were at least serious about making sure that court prosecution was as effective as it could possibly be. In the 1996 overhaul of counterterrorism law, the Clinton White House and Justice Department worked closely with a Republican-controlled Congress. They not only addressed the flaws that made uncompleted bombing plots so challenging to prosecute. They also defined new crimes tailored to how modern international terrorism actually works. These improvements enabled investigators to thwart plots in their infancy; we were also empowered to starve jihadist organizations of funding, personnel, and materiel.

The bipartisan message was loud and clear: We want terrorists aggressively prosecuted but, even more, we want our agents to have the tools to prevent plots and attacks from taking shape in the first place.

Where is that message today?

In neutralizing terrorists and their state sponsors, the venerable law of war is, to my mind, a necessary complement, if not a preferable alternative, to the criminal law. One of many reasons is that, when an enemy is making war on the United States, there is no need to wait for an attack to be imminent in order to justify a defensive, preemptive strike. General Soleimani was an enemy combatant commander for the Iranian regime and the jihadist terror networks it uses in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere. For more than 40 years, Iran has unabashedly pronounced itself as at war with the United States. It has conducted major attacks that have killed hundreds of Americans. In just the past few weeks, Iran’s jihadist militias attacked American bases in and around Baghdad eleven times.

3. Jim Talent says it plain and simple: Iran crossed a line. From the analysis:

So what are the takeaways?

The United States has a clear strategy in dealing with the threat from Iran. It is to strangle the regime until it either comes seriously to the bargaining table or is overthrown by its own people. Whether the strategy will succeed remains to be seen, but the Trump administration has pursued it with consistency and purpose and is achieving demonstrable progress towards the goal.

President Trump has narrowed America’s commitments in the Middle Eastern theater but has restored the credibility of those that remain. The move against Soleimani was an ingenious stroke in that regard; it was bold but surgical, and the effect of it as a demonstration of American resolve will be comprehensive and long-lasting — and not just in the Middle East.

It would be a mistake for the administration or its supporters to adopt a triumphalist attitude regarding this episode. The Iranians used the sanctions relief from the JCPOA to upgrade their arsenal of precision ballistic and cruise missiles and to spread more of those missiles to their proxies in the region. They have greater capacity now to damage American assets in the region, though they would exhaust that capacity quickly — and the administration has just sent a powerful message that the response to any conventional attack would be certain and overwhelming.

All of that is a reason why the president’s sanctions policy is so necessary. It starves the Iranian regime of the resources it needs to grow stronger. It’s also a reason why the move against Soleimani was well chosen and well timed.

4. There’s another President Andrew to whom the current POTUS has timely similarities — Jackson. So assesses Rich Lowry. From the piece:

Suddenly, the neocons had cachet again (Vox warned that “the Iraq War hawks are back”), and we were about to launch yet another endless war. Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani, New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote, repeating a common refrain, “has brought the United States to the brink of a devastating new conflict in the Middle East.”

There’s no doubt that the operation against Soleimani carried risks, but it didn’t transform Trump into a conventional interventionist. In fact, taking out Soleimani was wholly consistent with the president’s approach to the world that can’t be plotted on a simple hawk/dove or neocon/isolationist axis. As a Jacksonian, Trump is none of the above, combining a willingness to whack our enemies with a distaste for ambitious foreign interventions.

The Jacksonian label is the famous construction of foreign-policy analyst Walter Russell Mead, who traces the tradition back to Andrew Jackson and the cultural influence of the American backwoods. Jacksonians are content to let the world sort itself out, except if they perceive a threat, in which case they react with great ferocity.

5. The Leftist tears over the death of Soleimani are captured by A.J. Cashetta. From the piece:

Meanwhile, exaggerations of Soleimani’s greatness and the depth of his intellect are common. Time magazine compared him to Cardinal Richelieu and Machiavelli. Prompted by Fareed Zakaria’s claim that Soleimani was “regarded in Iran as a completely heroic figure, personally very brave,” Anderson Cooper compared him to Charles de Gaulle. Rosanna Arquette compared Trump to Hitler for killing the great Soleimani.

Clichés about the killing abound. Wag the Dog charges are popular, as are parallels to Bill Clinton’s firing missiles at al-Qaeda targets during his impeachment. Squad members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib tweeted, respectively, that “Trump wants war“ and “we cannot stay silent as this lawless President recklessly moves us closer to yet another unnecessary war.”

Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University, writes on his Facebook page that “the targeted assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Iraq is the first major salvo of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.” Lest anyone miss his subtlety, Dabashi announces “this is Wag the Dog galore.” His advice — “do not trust a word coming out of US or Iranian officials’ — being at least 50 percent accurate should improve his average. But like most of his Facebook rants, this one quickly devolves into bizarre conspiracy theories, such as his assertion that “the New York Times etc just like the state media in Iran are now the official mouthpiece of US and Iran propaganda.”

Also popular is the stability cliché, which claims that killing Soleimani destabilized the Middle East. One less prone to groupthink might ask, When was the Middle East stable? Was it in the good old days before the Trump administration, or perhaps before 9/11? Or was it before the Iranian Revolution, or the Balfour Declaration, or the Ottoman Empire?

6. More Rich: What Nike whiner and racism-charger Colin Kaepernick declared about Soleimani wasn’t just a lie, says Our Esteemed Editor — it was a stupid lie. From the beginning of the column:

In the torrent of idiotic commentary unleashed by the killing of Qasem Soleimani, Colin Kaepernick’s deserves a place of honor.

The NFL washout and Nike persona who makes sure the company doesn’t produce any overly patriotic sneakers tweeted, “There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism.”

For Kaepernick, Soleimani is just another dark-skinned man brutalized by the United States. The Iranian terror master was, in effect, driving while nonwhite and paid the ultimate price. For all we know, the operator of the MQ-9 Reaper drone that took him out was making a white-supremacy hand signal while unleashing this racist attack.

This interpretation of events takes identity politics to a whole new level, defining the blood-drenched hit man for a terrorist, profoundly anti-Semitic, deeply intolerant theocracy as a victim, based on his skin color alone.

Obviously, no one will mistake Colin Kaepernick for an original thinker; he’s only repeating things he’s read or been told, in a slightly more lurid form. His worldview is disproportionately represented in academia and on the left, which objects to calling Soleimani a monster (hence, Elizabeth Warren’s pathetic backtracking after forthrightly condemning Soleimani in her initial statement).

7. Victor Davis Hanson catalogues the infecting powers of the corrupt Steele Dossier. From the article:

James Clapper and John Brennan. James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence under Barack Obama, and John Brennan, the former CIA director, both previously had been caught lying under oath to Congress. Both then apologized, and their illegal behaviors were excused without legal consequences. But both once again have not told the full truth about their own knowledge of the Steele dossier, its unverified and mostly false information, and the role they both played in circulating and promulgating the dossier to the media and high government officials. That both directors were deeply involved in spreading the dossier around Washington, leaking its comments, and then denying their roles while they worked as paid television commentators on CNN and MSNBC only ensured the rapid erosion of their beltway careers and reputations. And both still may have a rendezvous with federal prosecutors in regard to the dossier.

The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A number of federal judges approved FBI and DOJ requests to surveille Carter Page both before and after the 2016 presidential election, supposedly as a way to learn of Trump-Russia collusion.

None of the judges seriously probed government lawyers about the dossier before their court. Although they were told in a footnote that it was a product of opposition research, apparently none asked the nature of such sponsorship.

Yet if a judge is apprised that the evidence before him to support a federal surveillance warrant is based on political opposition research, and the dossier was related to candidate and then president Donald Trump, would it not be prudent to ask attorneys to name who had paid the dossier’s author? Worse still, in winter and late spring 2018, Representative Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) had twice warned the eleven-justice FISA court that the Steele dossier was unreliable and had not been a sound basis to authorize surveilling an American citizen. Nunes and his House colleagues were essentially ignored and dismissed by the court.

8. Bummed out: John Hirschauer decries the Supreme Court’s failure to take up Martin v. City of Boise. From the beginning of the piece:

The Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Martin v. City of Boise. The plaintiffs in Martin were six homeless residents of the city of Boise, Idaho, each of whom was cited for violating municipal statutes banning “camping” and sleeping on public property. Five of the plaintiffs were sentenced to time-served for their violation of the city ordinances. In making its decision, the Ninth Circuit weighed, in the majority’s words, “whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment bars a city from prosecuting people criminally for sleeping outside on public property when those people have no home or other shelter to go to.”

The merits of the laws are certainly debatable. What seems clear is that no reasonable person alive at the Founding would have considered them to violate the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.” For one thing, it’s unclear that the Framers meant for the Eighth Amendment to impose substantive limits on what states can criminalize, rather than restrictions on the types of punishments they can impose. For another, vagrancy laws were unremarkable features of most state legislatures at the time of the Founding. Maine and Massachusetts both enacted laws in the spring of 1788 that called for “suppressing and punishing . . . Rogues, Vagabonds, common Beggars, and other idle, disorderly, and lewd Persons,” and for the subsequent commitment of such persons to a “convenient house or houses of correction . . . for the keeping, correcting, and setting to work of” them.

Even if one were to ignore the historical evidence, however, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling is just as puzzling in its interpretation of relevant case law and its application of precedent, making the Court’s denial of certiorari all the more bizarre.

9. Conservatives are making the case that the Constitution’s “nondelegation doctrine” needs revival. Robert VerBruggen sizes up arguments for and against. From the analysis:

But back to the Supreme Court’s history of nondelegation jurisprudence. Until the New Deal era, the administrative state was relatively small, and while the Court rearticulated the nondelegation doctrine several times after Wayman, it never actually struck down any laws as running afoul of it. Two laws did bite the dust in 1935, but then activity mysteriously ceased again, despite the explosive growth of the administrative state. So what happened to that “fill up the details” standard?

Essentially, in the wake of the 1937 “switch in time“ that prevented FDR’s court-packing scheme, the Court ignored the old nondelegation doctrine in favor of a line from a 1928 decision that might have been intended to restate the usual rule rather than rewrite it: “If Congress shall lay down by legislative act an intelligible principle to which the person or body authorized to [act] is directed to conform, such legislative action is not a forbidden delegation of legislative power.” Providing an “intelligible principle” is a much lower bar to clear than is providing everything except the “details” on subjects of “less interest,” and a Court eager to sign off on sweeping legislation liked the former test better.

Thus did we lose sight of an important constitutional principle that is fundamental to the very design of our government, has roots in the philosophy that guided the Founders, and was endorsed by the Supreme Court in our country’s first half-century of existence — or so Gorsuch’s argument goes.

10. Michael Brendan Dougherty says that five years after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the West has failed to grapple with its implications. From the analysis:

But Western politics has been being transformed by this act, and the year it ushered in, 2015, was the year that the Tories won a surprise majority in Parliament, setting in motion the Brexit referendum of 2016. It was the year of Angela Merkel’s statement “We can do it” — when she offered to welcome 1 million refugees in defiance of the Dublin accords. It was the year Donald Trump took his ride down the escalator and into the presidential race. It was the year in which Abdelhamid Abaaoud used the flow of refugees to travel between Syria and Europe while he masterminded the Bataclan-theater massacre that claimed 131 victims that November. It was after the Bataclan that Ann Coulter said, “They can wait if they like until next November for the actual balloting, but Donald Trump was elected president tonight.” People laughed. But she was right.

Some reacted to the Charlie Hebdo massacre by asking for more restrictions on speech that “punches down” or criticizes groups of people who are on the margins of society. But for a larger set of people, the event joined the cause of free speech with open and hostile criticism of Islam and Islamic immigration. It linked free speech with criticism of a dunderheaded and naïve elite. Without a robust culture of free speech and offense-giving, terrorists would dictate the limits of permissible debate and speech. Without free speech, a mandarin political class would continue to impose the open borders agenda that they deemed “good” even if all the consequences of it were intolerable.

There were, I think, two distinct manifestations of this new politics. Most substantially, there was the rise of populist nationalism and the center bending toward it. Hungary’s Viktor Orban was already steering in this direction from the start of the migration crisis, and his stature in Europe rose as a result. European political parties such as Poland’s Law and Justice or Italy’s Lega rose as well. If one word could be used to describe their political project it is “custodianship”: custodianship of a nation-state, a culture, or a people. For nationalists, the nation matters because it is theirs. Putatively liberal leaders including Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have responded to this challenge by making a show of becoming hawkish about borders. Macron engaged in practically staged confrontations on the issue, and Merkel made a deal with Turkey to keep refugees from continuing to flood into Europe.

11. Department of Acceptable Satire: David Harsanyi stings CNN for its attacks on the Babylon Bee. From the beginning of the piece:

Did you know that CNN has a reporter on the “disinformation” beat?

I’ll skip the cheap joke about his never having to leave the office, and note that the network is now grousing about the Christian conservative satire site the Babylon Bee, which has earned the ire of a number of liberals for making jokes at their expense.

The story drawing CNN’s outrage — “Democrats Call For Flags To Be Flown At Half-Mast To Grieve Death Of Soleimani“ — is good satire. It slightly exaggerates the reaction many on the left have had to the killing of the Iranian mass murderer. Anyone who read the Washington Post’s headline calling Soleimani a “most revered military leader,” watched ABC’s Martha Raddatz offering adulatory treatment of the terrorist from Iran, or listened to Elizabeth Warren struggle to call him a murderer after her initial statement is in on the joke.

That some people believe the Babylon Bee piece is also a sign that it is good satire. How many Americans, after all, still believe that Sarah Palin, rather than Tina Fey, said, “I can see Russia from my house?” Satire relies on a level of plausibility. If the only brand of political humor permitted is vapid enough for even the dumbest or most humorless person to comprehend, we’re going to end up in a world with a lot more Andy Borowitzes.

12. More Harsanyi: Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment game-playing has been a blunderfest. From the article:

A new piece in Time magazine does shed some light on the thought process behind Pelosi’s decision to refuse to hand over articles of impeachment to a Senate whose majority doesn’t want them. One of the most interesting nuggets in the piece isn’t that Pelosi — portrayed as courageous risk-taker — had gotten the bright idea from CNN; it’s that she specifically got it from noted felon John Dean, Nixon’s former White House lawyer. Now, Dean is often portrayed as a patriotic, whistleblowing impeachment expert — which is true insofar as he planned the Watergate coverup, and then informed on everyone whom he conspired with after they were caught. His real expertise is cashing in on criminality for the past 50 years (I wrote about Dean’s slimy past here).

Surely Pelosi, blessed with preternatural political instincts, wouldn’t rely on Dean’s advice? Surely Pelosi wasn’t browbeaten into doing this by podcast bros and talking heads on America’s least popular major cable-news network?

Because whatever you make of the case against Donald Trump, it’s getting increasingly difficult to argue that this amateurish, constantly shifting effort by the House has been effective. After two dramatic emergency impeachment hearings, a pretend standoff, and massive cooperative coverage from the media, poll numbers haven’t budged. They may even have ticked back toward Donald Trump.

13. Goodness Glaciers: Kyle Smith mocks the deadline-obsessed climate alarmists. From the piece:

The glaciers in Glacier National Park have been shrinking for more than 100 years (as the USGS points out, since 1900 “the mean annual temperature for GNP and the surrounding region has increased [by] 1.8 times the global mean increase”), so on current trends they’ll be gone someday “in the next few decades.” Who knows how long current trends will last, though? A 1923 Associated Press report said the glaciers would “almost disappear” in 25 years. So, gone by 1948. In 1936, the Arizona Republic reported that the glaciers would “vanish within 25 years.” So, 1961. A 1952 AP report alluded to “naturalists” who said the glaciers would be gone in 50 years. So, 2002. In 2009, National Geographic News asked, “No More Glaciers in Glacier National Park by 2020?” A New York Times report a few years ago pushed the date back to 2044.

Other predictions have proven sillier. The Boogeyman is a capricious fellow, so you never want to promise that he will do any specific harm on any specific date. What if he decides to go bowling that day? What if he complains of lumbar throbbing and calls in sick? Then you might embarrass yourself the way ABC News did in 2008, when it produced a special about a Boogeyman-ruled future, hosted by Chris Cuomo, in which we were asked to believe that on June 8, 2015, milk would be $12.99 a carton (not $12.76 or $13.09?), gas would be $9 a gallon, and large parts of Manhattan (seen in a snazzy graphic) would be underwater. The map suggested that my apartment on the West Side would currently be occupied by Aquaman, but nearly five years later I can report that I am still here and that I am able to type these words without any snorkeling gear. The term “fake news” did not yet exist in 2008, but you can see why it had to be invented. What is the purpose of the brand “ABC News” if it can’t be distinguished from sci-fi?

14. Robert Zubrin is seeing red, and thinks: Onward, Mars, and Damn the Microbes! From the piece:

It is even possible, though by no means certain, that the first photosynthetic organisms did come from Mars, since there is natural transport of material from Mars to Earth, as meteoric impacts on the Red Planet scatter fragments that land here. In fact, we still get about 500 kilograms of Martian rocks landing on Earth every year, with a lot more imports coming in annually back in the solar system’s early days when the impact rate was far greater. Careful examination of these rocks has shown that large portions of their material were never raised above 40 degrees Centigrade during their entire career of ejection from Mars, transit through space, and reentry and landing on Earth. So any microbes contained in such rocks would have survived the trip and arrived on Earth in large numbers long ago.

It is this reality, the natural transport between planets, that underscores the irrationality of all back-contamination alarmism, regardless of whether it comes in Simon’s hysteria over the possible arrival of alien photoautotrophs or in the desire of NASA’s Planetary Protection office to take extreme cautionary measures to prevent the return of Martian pathogens. Essentially, government efforts to stop robotic or human Mars explorers from transporting dangerous microbes back from Mars fall into the same category as a campaign by the border patrol to stop tourists from bringing migratory Canada geese into the United States in their cars.

A broader point also eludes the planetary protectionists: that every biological resource on Earth (be it water, organic materials, or actual living organisms) has always been a target for exploitation by millions of species of animals, plants, and microbes already here, actively and constantly evolving and perfecting themselves for that very purpose. There might be water-consuming photosynthetic organisms on Mars, because there is some water and sunlight there. But there is a lot more of both here, and far greater opportunity to evolve life forms to maximize their exploitation. How threatening is the Jamaican bobsled team to the prospects of the northern countries in the winter Olympics? The best water-eaters in the solar system — and the most dangerous pathogens for terrestrial macroflora and macroflora — will always come from Earth.

15. Armond White shares his top twenty films from the last decade. Here are two selections from the list:

Man of Steel (2013) Because Zack Snyder’s attempted epic of D.C. Comics films turned Hollywood’s worst commercial tendencies into astonishing reconsiderations of myth and beauty, I’ve dubbed him ZSnyder (in memory of the 2016 passing of Vilmos Zsigmond, groundbreaking cinematographer of the ‘70s). ZSnyder’s first Superman film holds up over repeated viewings as the decade’s most daring and unparalleled expression of our moral and aesthetic needs.

Wild Grass (2010) Alain Resnais surpassed his French New Wave legacy, an Old Master attaining fresh relevance. He unexpectedly discovered the common touch. Who knew his modern moral tale was also summing up pop culture itself?

The First NR Issue of 2020 Is Available, and Baby, This One Is Fertile with Conservative Wisdom

The January 27, 2020 issue of your favorite conservative magazine is hot off the presses, into the ether, and ready for your eyeballs (especially for NRPLUS subscribers, who face no “behind-the-paywall” contentions). Totally subjective, here are four selections from the feast:

1. In 2016, David Harsanyi found himself among the large Never Trump brigade. He reflects on his writings and thinking then, and now, on the silliness in its conservative remnants, and on the increasing derangement of the Left. From the article:

So while I don’t like Trump any better today than I did when writing those critical pieces, I do live in the world that exists, not the one I wish existed. And that world has changed. What I didn’t foresee when writing about Trump’s candidacy was the American Left’s extraordinary four-year descent into insanity.

My own political disposition during the past four years has hardened into something approaching universal contempt. When I defend the president—as far as I do—it is typically in reaction to some toxic hysteria or the attacks on constitutional order that Democrats now regularly make in their efforts to supposedly save the nation from Donald Trump—whether they’re calling for the end of the Electoral College or for packing the Supreme Court, or they’re embracing shifting “norms” that are wholly tethered to a single overriding principle: get Trump.

Recently, for example, New Yorker editor David Remnick, the kind of high-minded, sane person we’re expected to take seriously, argued that removing President Trump from office was not merely a political imperative but a necessity for the “future of the Earth.” Four years ago, we might have found such a panic-stricken warning absurd. Today, such apocalyptic rhetoric is the norm in media and academia.

As the Democrats’ allies in the media stumble from one frenzy to the next, it has become increasingly difficult to believe any of it is really precipitated by genuine concern over Russian interference or improper calls with a Ukrainian president or dishonesty or rudeness. The president has become a convenient straw man for all the political anxieties on the left, which have manifested in an un healthy obsession and antagonism toward the constitutional system that allowed Trump to win.

2. In the cover essay, Lyman Stone explores the reasons behind the global, and American, baby bust, and the problems facing policies which might try to encourage people to have more children. From the essay:

It turns out, parents aren’t stupid. They know that by having a baby they will incur material and emotional costs for decades to come. They won’t choose to do so just because they landed a job or the Christmas bonus was bigger this year, and indeed, rising wages could discourage fertility by encouraging parents to spend more time at work. Lifetime fertility is better predicted by lifetime experience of things such as economic volatility (large swings in boom-and-bust cycles) than by lifetime experience of economic growth—greater economic uncertainty yields lower fertility.

In fact, the key economic determiner of fertility isn’t income at all. Rather, at both the macroeconomic and the individual level, the economic variables most predictive of childbearing are asset value, net worth, and homeownership. When the price of rental housing rises, fertility falls. Reductions in mortgage payments owing to interest-rate shocks boost fertility in indebted households. When the price to buy a new home rises, fertility falls for younger people but rises for older ones. Birth rates have just begun to increase in the second quarter of 2019, which is to say about two years after the homeownership rate for Americans under 35 stopped falling and began rising again. In 2016, according to the Federal Reserve, the net worth of households headed by 20- to 35-year-olds had not risen from its post-recessionary lows at all. The best economic predictor of childbearing in a society where fertility has already fallen to around two kids per woman is permanent income.

In short, it’s not just what people earn and how much it costs to live today, but what people expect to earn and spend in the future. Thus, personal experience of economic volatility reduces birth rates by reducing the optimism people feel about their economic futures. Lack of savings, delayed homeownership, or excessive student debt can reduce fertility even if debt-service costs are low, because young people correctly recognize that their long-run disposable income will be lower. The economic problem of childbearing is primarily a problem not of near-term liquidity but of long-run viability. As a result, things that worsen young people’s prospects of lifetime disposable income can be expected to reduce fertility: things including insolvent pensions leading to expectations of higher future taxes, strict land-use rules, occupational-licensing rules, many long years spent accruing debt while in school, delayed promotion as Baby Boomers stay at their desks well past normal retirement age, etc.

3. “Happy Warrior” duties are happily performed by Kyle Smith, who recounts the Left’s meltdown over Ricky Gervais’s Hollywood hypocrite-callout while hosting the recent Golden Globe Awards ceremony. From the column:

The funniest comics are the ones who sound like they get their inspiration paging through all the nonsense we keep bringing up here at NR. The Left is starting to get very nervous about where comedy is headed, issuing prickly warnings that making fun of those who command the cover of Vanity Fair or get called Person of the Year by Time constitutes “punching down” and is hence not allowed. What if you’re making fun of people like Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Jennifer Aniston, though? Is it “punching down” to crack wise at a centimillionaire celebrity? Jennifer Aniston has been a goddess of the screen for 25 freaking years and still commands a salary of $1 million per week for her Apple TV drama The Morning Show. At the Golden Globes earlier this month, host Ricky Gervais reminded the audience (as Aniston waited to present an award) that Apple “runs sweatshops in China” and added, “You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for, unbelievable. . . . If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d all call your agent, wouldn’t you?” You could almost hear Meryl Streep and every other aggressive progressive in the room saying, “How dare Ricky Gervais inject politics into Hollywood’s annual Trump-bashing dinner?”

As the assembled pretty people prepared their lectures on global warming (Russell Crowe), abortion (Michelle Williams), and Iran policy (Patricia Arquette), Gervais pleaded with them to do otherwise: “If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech, right? You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God, and f*** off. Okay?”

That was a conservative thing to say only if conservatism is the same thing as common sense.

4. Michael Doran has high praise for Rich Lowry’s acclaimed book new book, The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free, which he calls “engaging and timely.” From the review:

Lowry reminds us just how deep the American reverence for the flag runs. Symbolizing the union of the states and the personal freedoms that the union safeguards, it played a starring role in one of our defining conflicts. During the Civil War, he writes, “northerners sometimes referred to the conflict as the ‘War Against the Flag,’” a reference to the firing by the Confederate forces on the flag at Fort Sumter. Lowry’s understanding of the flag as a symbol of the highest ideals of the American nation recently received tacit support from none other than James McPherson, a Princeton professor and the leading historian of the Civil War. In December, McPherson joined with four other prominent historians to critique the 1619 Project of the New York Times Magazine. The project contends that the racism on which slavery was based is a defining element of the American experience, one that shaped our institutions and the most significant events in our history.

In a long interview about his critique of the Project, McPherson discussed, among other topics, the motivation of American soldiers who fought for the North in the Civil War. “The initial motivation,” McPherson explained, “was revenge for the attack on the flag.” Over time, “that broadened into an idea . . . of taking revenge against what they were increasingly calling ‘the Slave Power.’” In other words, to a significant portion of Americans the flag represented not just the unity of the nation but its aspiration to ensure liberty and justice for all, regardless of race. In the intervening 160 years, that portion has only increased. Today it undoubtedly encompasses the vast majority of Americans.

When we debate the flag and what it symbolizes, Lowry argues, we are discussing the nature of citizenship. “The criterion for citizenship in the United States is not attachment to a set of ideas but birth within our borders,” he writes. “This standard . . . speaks to a deep belief in the specialness of the land such that it confers extraordinary privileges to those born here.” Privileges, but also obligations—in the form of responsible citizenship.

BONUS: Amity Shlaes’s Great-Society: A New History receives a humdinger of praise from Fred Siegel. From the beginning of the review:

Amity Schales has written a powerful book. It is the most interesting and substantive account of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon’s “war on poverty” to date—and just in time. In Great Society: A New History, she notes that “just as the 1960s forgot the failures of the 1930s, we today forget the failures of the 1960s.” Shlaes has written 510 pages of argumentation, with detailed description and telling digression that traces the arc from the unbridled hopes of the early Sixties to the enormous administrative expansion of the “second New Deal” to the missteps in implementing it that became all too apparent in the Seventies.

The book opens with the roles played by socialist author Michael Harrington, famed for writing The Other America, a book on Appalachian poverty, and Tom Hayden of Students for a Democratic Society in forming the ethos of the ‘60s. And then, by way of largely but not entirely biographical accounts, it shows how figures such as United Automobile Workers president Walter Reuther, Los Angeles mayor and Great Society critic Sam Yorty, Johnson-administration antipoverty czar Sargent Shriver, policy intellectual Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and economist Arthur Burns shaped the Great Society and its aftermath. The advantage of such an approach is that it doesn’t neglect the “great men” of the time, while adding depth. Shlaes tells us that LBJ and Nixon conducted themselves as if they were “domestic commanders in chief.” But the book also incorporates the broader social and economic currents that centralized American life.

The Six

1. At The College Fix, editor Jennifer Kabbany interviews two Venezuelan students on a US speaking tour, determined to educate woke American college students about the evils of Socialism. From the beginning of the piece:

When Jorge Galicia and Andrés Guilarte tell college students socialism is no utopia, they speak from experience.

The two young intellectuals were born and raised in Venezuela and over the last decade saw their country transformed into a place they barely recognize.

As exiles seeking asylum in America today, they’re telling any young person who will listen: the virus is socialism.

“No one else can know what happened in Venezuela but a Venezuelan, and we are experts on that,” said Guilarte, 25.

Galicia, 24, adds “I definitely see America committing a lot of the same mistakes Venezuela committed.”

Galicia and Guilarte are currently visiting college campuses nationwide warning young people against socialism, and told The College Fix in a joint telephone interview on Wednesday their message could not be coming at a more critical time.

2. At The Imaginative Conservative, Benedict Kiely heralds Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as a defender of Christianity. From the reflection:

The curious marriage between radical Islam and the secular liberalism of the elites in Europe is, at least on the surface, difficult to comprehend, but if Mr. Orbán is correct and it is essentially an attack on European culture and civilization, the ugly union becomes more obvious. On a spiritual level, secularism and radical Islam hate the cross and the victory it signifies. European civilization and culture is—or was—inescapably a Christian culture, and the hatred for that culture and history is almost a hallmark of the left. Academia and the media place all the ills of the world at the door of Western colonialism, oppression, and the evangelization of the Church. The recent Amazon Synod at the Vatican was a perfect example of how that mindset has entered the highest levels of the Church. The naïve glorification of “native cultures,” resplendent in a prelapsarian world in union with nature, then destroyed by the proclamation of the Gospel, was symbolized perfectly by the presence of the pagan fertility statue of Pachamama in the Vatican itself.

Europe, said Mr. Orbán, is “in deep trouble.” The cause he identifies is its deliberate and organized desire to forget or eradicate its Christian identity. The liberals are using what the Hungarian Prime Minister called the “muzzle of political correctness” to accomplish their death wish, which, coupled with the advancement of radical Islam, will eventually produce, if this self-loathing continues, a Europe that will be cut off from its roots. Any horticulturalist knows that a tree will die when it is rootless.

Hungary has no intention of allowing that to happen. This is obviously the reason why the policies of the Orbán government to promote the family, Christianity, and authentic Hungarian culture are so relentlessly condemned by the empty vessels who direct the European Union, which is the most hostile agency in Europe towards orthodox Christianity.

Hungary’s Christian revival is a small sign of hope in an otherwise bleak European landscape. Christians, said Mr. Orbán, have the “right to defend our culture and the way of life that has grown from it.” It is precisely this language which so antagonizes both the liberal intelligentsia and the forces who wish to radically change Europe itself. Hearing about the persecution of Christians in other cultures, the “greatest mistake Europeans can ever make,” Mr. Orbán warned, is “to say this could never happen to them—it is much closer to us than many people think.”

3. At Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti discusses the latest slaying of Christians by Islamic terrorists in Nigeria — and the public indifference by Europeans who cannot do enough to weep over injustices to Muslim immigrants. From the article:

Martha Bulus, a Nigerian Catholic woman, was going to her bridal party when she was abducted by Islamic extremists of Boko Haram. Martha and her companions were beheaded and their execution filmed. The video of the brutal murders of these 11 Christians was released on December 26 to coincide with Christmas celebrations. It is reminiscent of the images of other Christians dressed in orange jumpsuits bent on their knees on a beach, each being held by a masked, black-clad jihadist holding a knife at their throats. Their bodies were discovered in a mass grave in Libya.

On the scale of