Dear Weekend Jolter,
The plate here is groaning, piled high with links, like a monument to Jimmy Dean, determined to get the stir-crazied through at least an afternoon during this spell of forced isolation.
So, about those masks. They’re alleged uselessness has been . . . unmasked. Linda Halderman looked into Japan’s “mask culture,” and find it is a weapon against the pathogen. From her piece:
The medical nightmare that is uncontrolled coronavirus spread has afflicted Americans with another painful condition: economic paralysis. But Japan, despite sharing a maritime border with China and nearly one million tourists in January 2020, has so far managed to spare its 127 million citizens the medical and financial disaster of COVID-19. With about ten geographically isolated “hotspots” across Japan, there have been fewer COVID-19 deaths in that nation in a three-month period than among the 400,000 people of New Orleans, Louisiana, in the past six weeks. Japan has not been immune from economic damage, which is global. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, moreover, recently voiced concern about a possible explosion in outbreaks. But the country has, for now, managed to keep the growth in cases and deaths modest while keeping much of its economy open.
What are the lessons? The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic took the lives of nearly 500,000 Japanese. (For perspective, the combined death toll after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was 200,000.) Since then, a phenomenon began to emerge: “mask culture.” The wearing of cloth or paper “sickness masks” while healthy and in public has become such a standard practice in Japan that in average years, the nation manufactures 4.3 billion face masks for personal use. The typical Japanese citizen goes through 43 masks per year.
Initially a personal public health decision, daily mask wearing became a social etiquette standard and then a fashion accessory. Within the past several years, “sickness masks” have morphed into a trendsetting statement worn by celebrities and fashionistas. Daily public use is ubiquitous.
By the way, she’s talking about masks that go over the mouth, not over the eyes, Kemosahbee. All that having been blathered, assuming you are saddled up, it’s time to cry out Hi-Yo Silver! Away! . . . to the Weekend Jolt!
1. We high-five the presidential executive order undoing Obama Administration fuel-economy standards. From the editorial:
The critics of the new fuel-economy rules should give up on pretending that this is about fuel economy, about saving Americans money when they fill up their vehicles. This is about the global-warming crusade. Transportation is a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States, and tailpipe emissions are a big part of that. Congress has been given several opportunities to enact a sweeping climate-change agenda, and Congress repeatedly has declined to act. The pollution rules in the Clean Air Act were intended to address local air-quality issues (think of Los Angeles’s smog problem, once much worse than it is today) and domestic externalities — not to recruit the United States into a global climate-change crusade. President Barack Obama infamously vowed to act unilaterally when Congress declined to go along with his agenda: “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone!” he thundered. President Trump has a pen, too. Using the regulatory process as a pretext to yoke the United States to climate-change radicalism was cheap and undemocratic — and it is, as it turns out, impermanent.
If the Democrats want to pass a law subordinating the economic interests of the United States to fashionable global-warming hysteria, then let them do it. We are confident that Nancy Pelosi would be happy to oblige, and Joe Biden has promised to out-crackpot the crackpots on the issue, imposing a net-zero standard on the United States as a whole by 2050.
All the Democrats have to do is bring the voters on board and convince them that a version of the economic hardships Americans are suffering during the coronavirus shutdown are worth continuing to endure for the sake of global warming—which is what a net-zero rule imposed on the U.S. economy would effectively demand.
What a Deal: Consider It Half Free!
There is a flash sale of NRPLUS (flash in the PG sense). The Suits (encouraged by The Blazers) have decreed there will be a 50%-off offer that will run through this evening (Saturday, April 4). If you have yet to become an NRPLUS member, which has more perks than that coffeepot grandpa left on the burner, do become one now, right here.
A Quartet of Sextets of Profound Writings of Conservative Wisdom and Monumental Reporting and Analysis, All of Which Will Stoke Your Intellectual Fires
1. Your Humble Correspondent believes that this is one of the most important pieces NRO has published of late — Christopher O’Dea’s rundown of China’s plans for global hegemony. From the essay:
By quietly acquiring a global network of commercial ports from countries and investors unable or unwilling to maintain their critical economic infrastructure, China has reverse-engineered the logic of conquest: Chinese state-owned companies now control a base network of the sort that previous global hegemons obtained through military victory. Expect China to use the coronavirus crisis to accelerate its efforts to use that economic leverage to pull host countries deeper into Beijing’s political orbit.
It’s too early to say that the coronavirus crisis spells the end of globalization, but as the pandemic unfolds, the outlines of a new international trade and political order are emerging in the Mediterranean region. Call it “globalization with Chinese characteristics.”
As the death toll in Italy soared, China flew in a team of medical experts and nearly 30 tons of medical equipment. On a phone call a week later with Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte, Chinese president Xi Jinping pledged additional supplies and medical personnel. China also shipped medical equipment to Spain, Austria, and the Czech Republic, and millions of protective masks to France, the Netherlands, Greece, and other nations. But the aid was too late. By late March the death toll in Italy had surpassed the total that China was officially reporting, and even the news that the number of cases had dropped for the first time was accompanied by photos of Italian-army trucks carrying the dead on their final journey.
2. Bruno Maçães seconds the motion that brutal Peking Marxists have far-reaching plans in exploiting the locally sourced coronavirus. From the commentary:
Forget about “mask diplomacy.” It is no more than a distraction. There are other ways for China to use the coronavirus pandemic to upturn the existing global order. I see three main levers.
The first one is the direct comparison between the situation in China and elsewhere. The numbers of cases and fatalities provided by Chinese authorities almost certainly misrepresent the real figures by more than an order of magnitude, but the fact remains that a semblance of normalcy was achieved in a small period of time. If the United States fails to do the same, its prestige will suffer a severe blow. People all over the world will quickly change their perceptions about relative power and capacity.
The second lever resides with industrial value chains. Last month General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler closed all their automotive production plants across the United States and Canada. Other sectors have followed. In the meantime, China contained the worst of the pandemic to one province, allowing economic activity to quickly resume elsewhere. The most recent data show renewed activity in the flow of goods across the country, as well as at ports worldwide that do business with China. If the freeze in Europe and America continues for much longer, Chinese companies will be able to dramatically expand market share and replace Western-led value chains. Just yesterday Chinese authorities announced that manufacturing activity expanded in March, defying expectations of a contraction. In February the official Purchasing Managers’ Index hit a record low of 35.7. It bounced back to 52.0 in March. Prepare for a worldwide wave of Chinese acquisitions at knockdown prices.
Finally, in a more extreme scenario, important countries could experience the kind of economic shock that leads to widespread social and political collapse. At that point, China would have a unique opportunity to step in, provide aid, and refashion these countries in its image. It would look like a repeat of the Marshall Plan and the beginning of the American world order after the ravages of World War II. Indonesia, South Asia, and even Russia might be of special interest in such a scenario.
3. Senator Tom Cotton was the man who saw this chaos coming and sounded the alarms. John McCormack recounts. From the story:
What tipped the senator off to the true nature of the threat? Why was he the first and the loudest voice in Congress to sound the alarm about the looming pandemic?
In an interview with National Review, Cotton is quick to point out that he doesn’t have a background in science or public health, but he does have two eyes. As a long-time China hawk, he found his interest piqued early on by reports “primarily from East Asian news sources.”
“Two things struck me about China’s response,” he says. “First their deceit and their dishonesty going back to early December. And second, the extreme draconian measures they had taken. By the third week of January, they had more than 75 million people on lockdown. They were confined to their homes and apartments, otherwise they were arrested. In some cases, the front doors of those buildings were welded shut. All schools had shut down. Hong Kong had banned flights from the mainland. [These are] the kind of extreme, draconian measures that you would only take in a position of power in China if you were greatly worried about the spread of this virus.”
On January 31, the president announced a ban on entry to foreign travelers who had been in China in the previous two weeks, while allowing Americans and permanent residents to continue to travel back and forth between the two countries. The measure was not as stringent as Cotton’s call for a ban on all commercial flights, but Cotton points out that the president “did not have many advisers encouraging him to shut down travel.” Advisers who were supportive tended to be national-security aides, he adds, while “most of his economic and public-health advisers were ambivalent at best about the travel ban.”
“I commend the president greatly for ultimately making the right decision contrary to what the so-called experts were telling him,” he says.
Of course, while the travel restriction may have bought the United States time, that time was largely squandered by the catastrophic failure of the CDC and FDA to ramp up testing for the coronavirus in the United States.
RELATED: This is the kind of liberal dip-dung being published about Cotton back in January. Here it is.
4. Marco Rubio jumps on the World Health Organization, the toady of Red China, consumed by politics. From the commentary:
Examples that could prove fatal are rife. In December, the WHO refused to act on or publicize Taiwan’s warning that the new respiratory infection emerging in China could pass from human to human. In mid January, despite accumulating evidence of patients contracting what we now know as COVID-19 from other people, the organization repeated the CCP’s lie that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. In January the WHO, at Beijing’s behest, also blocked Taiwan from participating in critical meetings to coordinate responses to the coronavirus and even reportedly provided wrong information about the virus’s spread in Taiwan. These actions are unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue.
The world’s leading global health organization cannot be used as a tool of the CCP, and the U.S. — the WHO’s largest financial contributor, giving five times as much money as obligated — must take steps to ensure it does. Once this pandemic is under control, WHO leadership should be held to account. That includes Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has allowed Beijing to use the WHO to mislead the global community. Today, WHO leadership continues to laud the CCP’s response even as more independent international observers raise questions over whether it is in fact under control in China. At this moment, Dr. Ghebreyesus is either complicit or dangerously incompetent. Neither possibility bodes well for his future at the helm of this critical organization.
I will also work with my colleagues in Congress to review U.S. contributions to the WHO. Most of our contributions can be used at the discretion of the WHO leadership. Maintaining current levels of U.S. contributions should depend on whether the WHO can reclaim its independence. First, we need investigations into the WHO’s unacceptably slow decision-making on whether to declare a global pandemic and into how China has compromised the integrity of the WHO. As well, we need accompanying reforms.
5. David Harsanyi blasts those who have made grandstanding journalist Yamiche Alcindor a hero at the expense of MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell. From the piece:
MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell, a self-made former crack addict, is going to transform 75 percent of his manufacturing capacity to make 10,000 cotton face masks per day by the end of the week, ramping up production to 50,000 a day in a month. That sounds like a patriotic act to me, especially given that Lindell is undertaking the effort without being forced to do so by a federal agency. I hope the guy becomes a billionaire after this is all over.
NBC? Not so much. The headline on its “analysis” of Lindell’s remarks was “Trump fluffs MyPillow in Rose Garden.” This matched the basic tone taken by a large faction within the political press. Why? Presumably because, at the end of his remarks, Lindell claimed that the Lord Almighty had helped elect Donald Trump president to save our once-beleaguered nation from its alleged depravations. Listen, if there is a God, I hope He refrains from tipping the scales of presidential contests. But it’s not surprising to hear an evangelical Christian talking about the world this way — unless, that is, you’ve never met one.
Of course, anyone who shows anything less than hostility toward the president is immediately cast as a reactionary, and their actions dismissed as questionable and self-serving. Many of the CEOs who have stood with Trump at his press conferences — this week, or in weeks prior — hold varying religious and partisan beliefs. The press didn’t have similar qualms about the CEOs of CVS or Walgreens, because they kept their views to themselves.
Lindell is a villain for speaking his truth, as the kids say. Yet the real heroes of our age — White House political correspondents — are applauded for speaking theirs. Yesterday, PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor, one of the many pundits masquerading as a dispassionate journalist, was chided by Trump during his presser. Immediately, journalists, who are now perhaps the most tribalistic group in American political life, rallied around her with fawning tributes to her bravery and victimhood (because Trump only lashes out at black women, apparently). #WeLoveYamiche is the hashtag, if you’re interested.
6. Rebeccah Heinrichs reviews the White House Pandemic Team and finds any judgment about its actions useless until we are through this madness. From the piece:
As for the matter of containing and mitigating the disease, Americans should have an idea about whether they can have confidence in their government. Dealing with a potentially devastating new disease to which the population has no immunity and of which there are no known vaccines is frightening enough without worrying about the government’s competence.
That’s why this charge from former Obama-administration officials — including Beth Cameron, who served as the senior director for global health security and biodefense on the National Security Council (NSC) under Obama — is so serious: that the Trump administration’s decision to “dismantle” the directorate the Obama administration created to quarterback pandemic responses is to blame for “leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like COVID-19.”
Former Trump officials, including former national-security adviser John Bolton and Tim Morrison, have disputed Cameron’s characterization. They say that there has always been a highly competent team at the NSC focused on and coordinating efforts to recognize and handle the threat of pandemics.
The facts back up Bolton and Morrison. During the summer of 2018, Bolton reorganized the Trump NSC. In January 2017, there were directorates for nonproliferation and arms control, for weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, and for global health security and biodefense. Bolton merged the three directorates into a “counterproliferation and biodefense” directorate. According to administration officials I spoke with, this reorganization was designed in part to have better cooperation between those monitoring and preparing for intentional biological threats on one hand and for naturally occurring biological threats on the other. This directorate is now headed by Anthony Ruggiero.
7. More Harsanyi: The title says it all: “The FISA Scandal Is about Corruption, Not ‘Sloppiness.’” From the commentary:
A new IG report looked at another 29 applications the FBI filed to get permission to spy on “U.S. Persons” (this can include green-card holders who are non-citizens). The FBI couldn’t even find “Woods Procedure” files — which contain “supporting documentation for factual assertions contained in the FISA applications, as required by FBI policy” — for four of the applications, while every single one of the other 25 that auditors examined had “apparent errors or inadequately supported facts.” In addition to the 29 applications audited, the IG looked at the FBI’s own “application oversight mechanisms” relating to 42 FISA applications.
Put it this way, the new IG report found a total of 390 problems in 39 of the 42 applications that “including unverified, inaccurate, or inadequately supported facts, as well as typographical errors,” and it found another 20 issues per application in the new audit.
If you’re keeping score at home, only three of 75 FISA applications (4 percent) used to spy in the investigation, starting in October 2014, were not problematic. Whoops!
It’s even worse than it looks, because Horowitz didn’t scrutinize the raw-evidence case files, which, for all we know, is teeming with mitigating evidence and facts omitted from the applications. If agents were this “sloppy” with warrants, what makes anyone believe that they collected the foundational evidence in a more professional manner?
8. California was supposed to be the epicenter, wasn’t it? Victor Davis Hanson asks some questions about the known unknowns in the Golden State. From the piece:
Even at this midpoint in the virus’s ascendance, most believed that California would be faring far worse. And they have good reason for such pessimism. California in a normal year usually experiences the greatest number of deaths associated with the flu in the United States, and it ranks about midway among the states in flu deaths per capita. The state was hit hard by influenza unusually early in the first weeks of November, including a strain that at the time was characterized as probably not “A” but a rarer “B” — and on occasion quite virulent. A typical news story related, in early 2020, “California health officials have identified 16 outbreaks since the start of the flu season Sept. 29. Flu cases, hospitalizations and flu deaths are all higher than anticipated, according to the health department.” Many Californians complained late in 2019 of getting the flu a bit early, with flu symptoms that were somewhat different from the norm, at times including severe muscle aches, some digestive cramping, an unproductive cough, and days or even weeks of post-fever fatigue.
Forty-million-person California, in normal times — that is, until around or shortly after February 1, 2020 — hosts dozens of daily direct flights from China in general to San Diego, SFO, LAX, and San Jose, and in particular, since 2014, several weekly nonstop flights from Wuhan. Of the nearly 15,000 passengers who were estimated to be arriving every day in the U.S. on flights from China in 2019 and 2020, the majority flew into California. After the ban, there were thousands of Chinese tourists who remained in California and could get neither direct nor indirect flights home to China.
Travel forecasts from China for 2020, even amid the trade war, had estimated more than 8,000 daily arrivals in California. Two years ago, Los Angeles mayor Garcetti bragged that 1.1 million Chinese tourists had visited L.A. — more than 3,000 per day. The greatest number of foreign tourists to Los Angeles are Chinese, and the city is the favorite spot in America of all visitors from China. During the months of October, November, January, and February alone — before the travel ban — perhaps nearly 1 million Chinese citizens arrived in California on direct and indirect flights originating in China.
9. The impeachment idiocy, and much more courtesy of the bogus crisis manufacturers, was the fiddling, says Rich Lowry, while the fires burned in Wuhan. From the column:
After all the energy devoted to inflating the Russians into a clear-and-present danger to the workings of America here on our shores, that threat has instead proved to be China, which loosed a virus on the world that has temporarily crashed the American economy and shut down much of American life, including elections.
After we spent months pretending that Trump would somehow be ousted from the presidency by his own party in the Senate, not only is he still the president, all people of good will are rooting for him to perform as ably as he can in this crisis.
After acting as though we had endless time and energy to waste on nonsense because the stakes were so small in what was, until the day before yesterday, a time of peace and prosperity, we have been jolted into a period when our national decisions really matter, and time and resources are of the essence.
In short, the epidemic has put in stark relief the pettiness and absurdity of much that has taken place in our national life since Trump won the presidency. This crisis is the unmistakable punctuation mark on that post-2016 era and the beginning of something new.
10. How goes the Constitution in times of true duress? Andy McCarthy explains. From the beginning of the piece:
Pandemic in the land is putting strain on our self-image as a free people for whom the rule of law is our ne plus ultra.
Alas, when it gets down to brass tacks, even those two beacons, liberty and law, are as much in tension as in mutual need. It is by law that society restricts our freedom. On the other hand, as Burke observed, without the order that a just legal system ensures, there can be no liberty worth having. We would descend into anarchy, into the law of the jungle.
Times of true security crises — war, natural catastrophes, or the sudden spread of a potentially deadly disease — have a remorseless way of reminding us about some brute realities.
It is all well and good for libertarians to say that the Constitution is not suspended in emergencies, and that are our rights are never more essential than when government’s tyrannical tendencies rear their head. But then real emergencies happen. Inevitably, unavoidably, our rights get restricted — sometimes dramatically.
This is not because government tends to tyranny, though it does if unchecked. It is because people crave security and community. They are willing to sacrifice their individual liberties, at least to a degree and for a time, to preserve them. This does not make them craven. It makes them rational.
11. More Lowry: All of a sudden, borders matter. Even to EU dimwits. From the column:
We are all restrictionists now. In the coronavirus crisis, everyone realizes the importance of borders, even the people who not long ago were ideologically hostile toward them.
Borders mark off the sovereign territory of one people from another. They are a means — if they can be enforced and defended — for a sovereign state to protect its people from invaders and unwelcome immigrants and goods. They are a tool almost every nation has used to try to keep the coronavirus from gaining a foothold in its population and to try to keep it from spreading further.
The lyrics of the treacly John Lennon classic “Imagine” — recently performed by celebrities organized by actress Gal Gadot as a balm in this time of distress — have never been so absurdly inapt. If there were really no countries and the world were as one, we’d be even more vulnerable to whatever threat arises in a city in central China, or anywhere else on the globe.
Of course, travel restrictions haven’t prevented the spread of the disease — there’s no such thing as an airtight seal. But restrictions at least bought governments some additional time, and openness to foreign travel from China had been an accelerant on its spread.
The EU travel restriction was an attempt to hold off the hardening of borders between EU nations themselves. Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland tightened their borders without coordinating with other EU countries. Even Angela Merkel’s Germany, which provided the kindling for populist movements across the continent with its open-borders approach to the 2015 migrant crisis, restricted travel without coordinating with its neighbors.
12. Hard to believe but Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin is keeping alive the Iran Deal. Jonathan Tobin explains. From the piece:
Those waivers are among the last vestiges of Obama’s disastrous Iran deal, which enriched and empowered the regime while also allowing it a legal path to a nuclear weapon.
Why is Mnuchin pushing for yet another extension of the waivers?
In July of last year, the Treasury Department said it required the extensions so it could gauge the impact of the sanctions on the nations that continue to use the waivers to do business with Iran and to work with its nuclear program. At that time, a “senior administration official” told the Washington Post that the goal was still to end the waivers but that Trump had sided with Mnuchin over Pompeo on the question because of the Treasury’s “legitimate concerns” about the effect of the sanctions on other nations.
But several months later, it appears that Mnuchin is seeking to change the administration’s basic purpose in dealing with Iran. Rather than replacing Obama’s terrible deal, the administration would bow to European and Russian pressure to maintain it in place. Mnuchin is apparently more interested in good relations with the international community than in using American economic power to roll back the alarming gains Iran has made in the Middle East — gains made as a result of Obama’s misguided attempt to bring about a rapprochement with Tehran.
This is a huge mistake. Richard Goldberg, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (a key resource on Iran policy) has argued that we could retain the waiver if the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese promised to “snap back” sanctions in the event that Iran violated the deal. Indeed, under the pact, these countries have pledged to hold Iran accountable. But none of them have any intention of doing so. What they want is to preserve the nuclear deal at all costs; they want to roll back Trump’s sanctions policy, which has made it harder for the Iranians to continue funding terror.
13. Brian Allen checks out the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition at the Tate Museum in London. The work of the young, tubercular Victorian is mad, indecent, and plenty more. From the beginning of the review:
Aubrey Beardsley (1872–1898) was tubercular from childhood and knew he’d probably die young. As an artist he worked with urgency, and that’s why his drawings look like a linear pressure cooker. He was as focused and fervent as a missionary. His gospel? To make art that created, in his words, “a new world of my own . . . quite mad and a little indecent.”
Mad, indecent, pungent, dreamy, and more. Aubrey Beardsley is the new exhibition at the Tate showing a rich, comprehensive selection of his drawings. It’s a retrospective of his career and striking in every respect. Bring your monocle, though. It’s time travel to the age of Victoria, and the drawings are small, exquisitely realized, and as randy as they are refined.
The show is chronological and covers all of Beardsley’s book and periodical projects. He was prolific, so covering him takes seven galleries with over a hundred drawings and a space for a film. There are some books and posters in the show as well as the periodicals he illustrated. Beardsley’s drawings weren’t the finished product — the printed sheet was — but it’s a delight to see his foundational work, as faithful as the reproduction process was.
Lighting is low — it’s a drawings show — and spooky, as is much of Beardsley’s art. The wall colors are deep blues, oranges, and greens, deep but not that muted. The colors have a touch of copper and are ever so slightly metallic. The Tate’s shows always look good. This one is gorgeous.
14. More Museums: This one of The Bible, and its transparent effort to document an investigation into a potential forged artifact. Colette J. Loll oversaw the study, and recounts it. From the piece:
Starting in 2002, 70 more Dead Sea Scroll fragments appeared on the market. Dead Sea Scrolls experts endorsed them as authentic. Between 2009 and 2014, Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and collector of biblical manuscripts and artifacts, purchased a total of 16 fragments with plans to display them in the soon-to-be-built Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. When they were published in 2016, scholars had already started to doubt the fragments’ authenticity. While five of the fragments underwent scientific testing in Germany in 2017, the museum opened with the fragments on display, with signs informing visitors of their uncertain status. In October 2018, the German lab concluded that the five fragments were “inconsistent with ancient origins.” This prompted the museum to investigate its entire collection of 16 fragments more comprehensively, and they sought my help to do so.
I am the founder and director of Art Fraud Insights, a consultancy dedicated to art-fraud-related lectures and training and to specialized investigation of artworks. I have led an anti-fraud initiative for a major online auction house, trained federal agents in forgery investigations, curated museum exhibitions, and lectured at universities and museums throughout the world. My message has consistently been the same: Fakes and forgeries permeate every sector of the art and culture market. The risk of fraud is substantial, and no collector or institution, no matter how affluent or sophisticated, is immune to it.
When the Museum of the Bible retained my firm, it gave me the green light to recruit and manage an independent advisory team — of scientists, conservators, and technicians — to design and conduct a rigorous scientific protocol for the imaging and materials analysis of the questioned fragments. Both the museum and the research team agreed that the approach needed to be designed to ensure objectivity, transparency, and reproducibility. That meant that the only role the museum had in our research was to provide access to the collection. It was mutually agreed upon that the museum would not influence the team’s research direction or findings and that our report would be final and released, unedited, to the public.
From May through October 2019, comprehensive imaging and scientific research and analysis were conducted on the fragments, with National Geographic photographers capturing several phases of the state-of-the-art process. Museum of the Bible wanted to fully document the process, regardless of the results, to facilitate transparent communication with the scholarly community and the general public. From the beginning, plans were in place for a conference to announce the completion of the scientific research effort and to disclose its conclusions.
15. The New York Times’ 1619 Project, writes John G. Turner, suffers from the same inherent mistake of other pick-a-year contrivances to explain the meaning of America. From the end of the piece:
So if 1619 and 1620 do not suffice, what about the more obvious 1776 and 1787? 1776 is the nation’s actual “birth year,” but it is far from satisfactory as a starting point for explaining American principles. The only thing that really united the members of the Continental Congress was that they rejected the authority of the British Parliament and monarchy to tax and rule them without their consent. Four score and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln insisted that the nation had been “conceived in liberty” and “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” It is one of the greatest lines in American history, but it presents an aspirational rather than realistic view of our origins. Author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, made plain, through his actions and his other writings, his belief in African inferiority.
What about the drafting of a new constitution in 1787? The delegates to the Constitutional Convention crafted an enduring framework of government. Although they forged the Constitution through a series of compromises on representation, slavery, and executive power, they enshrined the principles of republican government, checks and balances, and the separation of powers. The first U.S. Congress then passed the amendments that became the Bill of Rights. The decisions of these years shaped the future American political order. The Constitution remains “the supreme law of the land.”
And yet. The decisions of the American Founding were made by a small subset of the American population, even though the principles they enshrined appealed to many others. Understanding what became the modern United States is utterly impossible without close attention to a host of later developments: the abolition of slavery through the carnage of the Civil War, the New Deal (like it or loathe it), the Civil Rights Movement, and the Immigration Act of 1965.
Whether the subject is slavery or liberty, American history is a story of contested principles. A single birth year cannot unlock the very meaning of the nation, not least because how historians and others explain the past hinges on how they understand the present. An overemphasis on 1619, 1620, or any other year, makes our history far too simple.
16. Former senator Jim DeMint remembers his late colleague, Tom Coburn. From the piece:
Some of his detractors — pork-barrel politicians and their K Street funders, mostly — nicknamed him “Dr. No.” But they misunderstood. Elected officials who take their oaths of office seriously — left, right, and middle — have to vote no, and often, because the Swamp has so warped federal policy and institutions. During Tom’s tenure in Congress, saying yes to the oath of office meant saying no to Washington.
When Tom first raised red flags about Congress’s addiction to earmarks — special spending provisions inserted into legislation at the explicit direction of individual members — leaders in both parties, to say nothing of the media, laughed at him.
He didn’t mind. Tom Coburn understood that for outsiders, to win the fight, you first had to win the argument.
Year after year, bill after bill, he showed that earmarks were corrupt and corrupting. They warped Congress and empowered insiders and influence-peddlers at the expense of the public. Projects such as the notorious “Bridge to Nowhere” not only wasted a lot of money; they also covered up even more, because once members got their own personal teaspoon of Swamp water into a bill, party leaders became free to pour in gallons more without losing any votes. Every year, he and his staff put out an exhaustive report on dumb, abusive programs — the annual Waste Book.
Soon after Tom won the argument, he won the fight. Congress banned earmarks, in large part because of the grit and intelligence of one man.
17. The crisis has brought out the Paul Krugman in Paul Krugman. John Hirschauer cannot help but observe. From the piece:
Krugman’s portrait of conservatives as the cartoon villains in this crisis does, however, beget a second question: Krugman laments the “centrality of science-hating religious conservatives to modern conservatism,” but how is his implication that this situation is not “China’s fault” anything other than “denialism” itself? If it is not “China’s fault” that the nation’s officials smothered information on the person-to-person transmission of the virus, arrested dissidents who tried to tell the truth about its dangers, allowed 40,000 families to gather in the outbreak’s epicenter for a banquet well after doctors knew the virus was contagious, and failed to prevent the virus from spreading around the world like wildfire, then whose fault is it? Republicans’?
The third and most pressing question Krugman’s piece raises pertains to “experts.” What specific “expert” advice about the coronavirus are conservatives alleged to have ignored, here? Before the seriousness of the pandemic became apparent and the world shut down, some of the “experts” cited by Krugman’s own newspaper told us that travel bans “don’t work” to mitigate the coronavirus’s spread. Should we have listened to them? A writer at Vox claimed that “most health experts said there’s no good evidence to support the use of face masks for preventing this disease in the general population.” Were people who distrusted this advice and wore their masks in public “denialists”? How about those who were skeptical when the World Health Organization chapter in Asia said largely the same thing? Should we have heeded the advice of New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot when she encouraged “New Yorkers to go about their everyday lives” and suggested that the “spread” of “racist ideas” was “the greatest risk to New Yorkers”?
18. Kevin Williamson says adios to the Green New Deal. From the piece:
Without failing to appreciate the severe immediate economic consequences being felt by Americans in this episode, asking retail and service-industry workers to forfeit their incomes for a few months until their establishments can reopen is a relatively manageable thing even if we are (as I believe we should be) very liberal in doing what we can to protect them financially in the meantime. Telling everybody who works in coal, oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, plastics, and refineries — and a great many people who work in automobiles, aviation, shipping, utilities, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, food processing, utilities, and dozens of other fields — that their companies and their jobs are going away forever is a much larger thing. Telling everybody who does business with those people that they’ll have to consult Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for solvents and industrial polymers — and, you know, lights — would send waves of chaos rippling around the world hard and so fast that you’d need Tom Araya to properly give voice to them.
“Oh, but we’ll find them jobs in the new green economy!” comes the response. “It’ll be a net positive!” As though petroleum engineers were lumps of labor that could be reshaped at will by a committee of lawyers in Washington, if only we gave them the power. Nobody is buying that. Not many people are that stupid.
As I wrote at the beginning of this outbreak, Americans are hard to quarantine. We may yet end up paying a very heavy price for that — in some circumstances, a non-compliance rate of 20 percent (i.e., if every fifth person is a knucklehead) will have effects quite similar to a non-compliance rate of 95 percent. A 51 percent majority works in a city-council election, but an effective social-distancing regimen requires much more.
Those spring-break clowns down in Florida and the “coronavirus party” doofuses in Kentucky are We the People, too, and if they are not willing to spend a couple of weeks watching Netflix to save grandma’s life — or their own lives — then do you really think they’re going to take an economic bullet over the prospect of losing 3 percent of world economic output a century from now to global-warming -mitigation costs?
19. There’s a new British show called Upstart Crow, about Willy Shakespeare. Kyle Smith has seen it and likes it. Very much. From the review:
What might it have been like to be history’s most celebrated literary genius, the greatest man of his century, a figure of such vast and enduring influence that, 400 years later, innumerable people still quote him every day without even knowing it? Well, Shakespeare probably spent a lot of time griping about his critics, his audiences, his actors, his family, his social standing, his superiors, and his endless rump-ravaging commutes between London and Stratford-upon-Avon.
At least that’s the Bard emerges in an imaginative and very funny BBC half-hour show by Ben Elton, Upstart Crow. (All 20 episodes are offered on the wonderful streaming service BritBox, which combines the best offerings from the BBC and another major producer of British television, ITV.) Posterity may have placed Shakespeare on its highest pedestal, but his day-to-day existence was a sitcom, or could have been. Elton, who wrote every episode, stuffs his scripts with gleeful lowbrow humor, comic anachronism, and flowery pastiche of Elizabethan idiom (“Heaven forfend, I am a dunceling clumbletrousers”). One running gag is Will’s endless series of complaints about the coach service between his home and his stage 100 miles away. The joke is that everything he says sounds exactly like a National Rail commuter today, but in 16th-century vernacular (“Now we’re jammed together like two boobies in a bodice!” he says about one overcrowded carriage). But beneath the gag, there’s an awareness that Shakespeare’s life must have been miserable in many ways. Imagine regularly traveling 100 miles on 16th-century transportation! Bard or no Bard, Shakespeare must have put up with a lot (and he died at 52). Even basic hygiene would have been unheard of. Will’s mischievous old dad frequently razzes him while doing his business on a chamberpot stationed an arm’s length from the dining table.
20. More Armond: He catches The Call of the Wild and develops a hankering for pancakes, there’s so much sap. From the beginning of the review:
Harrison Ford’s recent movie adaptation of The Call of the Wild flopped at last month’s box office, and now the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) got $75 million as part of the Senate’s emergency-relief compromise package. Thoughts about these catastrophes came together with the PBS segment on Jack London’s novel The Call of the Wild that was part of the program The Great American Read. It was kill-time viewing for the Chinese coronavirus quarantine, but the coincidence rings an alarm.
The Great American Read was an eight-part series from 2018 designed to encourage literacy among boob-tube watchers, continuing the CPB’s enlightenment mission — Sesame Street for everybody. So London’s 1903 novel, included among the program’s list of “America’s 100 Best Loved Books,” was presented like storytime hour, and the novel’s virtues were explained by surprise literary expert Chelsea Clinton.
One dismaying, and condescending, CPB trend was its decision to include celebrity figures in the lineup of go-to liberal talking heads typically seen in PBS docs. Using celebrity to fight illiteracy mostly promotes celebrity. Chelsea Clinton’s appearance on The Great American Read exposes CPB political bias, and her book testimony promotes Clintonian it-takes-a-village propaganda. (Was Hillary busy on another ghost-written book?) Chelsea’s obtuse reductionism offends the pleasures and legacy of American literature as much as the Disney film does, the latter reducing London’s characters to CGI animation + Harrison Ford.
21. Somewhere between the amount of Baskin Robbins flavors and Heinz Varieties, Dan McLaughlin has catalogued Twitter types. Here’s a slice from the undertaking:
Let me introduce you to the 41 worst kinds of people you will meet on Politics Twitter. Politics Twitter is, sadly, ubiquitous, whether or not you originally thought your corner of Twitter was about politics. These are not precisely in order of badness (in many cases, especially egregious offenders fall into multiple categories). For brevity, I’ve focused on bad actors of a type particular to Twitter, rather than simply recite categories like “idiot” or “anti-Semite” or “jerk.”
The Assassin: The Assassin is on Twitter for one reason: to get you off. He is the single worst kind of Twitter user. He’ll call your day job, doxx your home address, tweet lewd things about your children. There’s no reasoning with the Assassin; he goes, or you go.
Captain Screenshot: One of the fine features of Twitter is that tweets don’t exist in a vacuum. They may be part of an ongoing, connected thread; they may be part of a conversation. People who want to engage can respond, or tag you, or quote-tweet. But not Captain Screenshot! Captain Screenshot posts an image of a single tweet, invariably to trash it and its writer, often in the most bad-faith reading imaginable. Worse, but not uncommon, is when Captain Screenshot drills the writer for not mentioning something that . . . is mentioned elsewhere in the thread or conversation. And because Captain Screenshot doesn’t tag or respond to his targets (if he’s feeling especially antisocial, he’ll refer to them by a cutesy nickname, slur, or Spoonerism), the writer may be unaware of how his words are being misconstrued, or puzzled as to why his mentions are suddenly filling up with bile. Worst of all is when Captain Screenshot blocks someone but keeps trashing that person from behind the block.
The Chief Dufflepud: The Chief Dufflepud’s signature characteristic is twofold: He has a legion of sycophantic followers who trail after him giving off praise like Sir Robin’s minstrels, and he constantly reinforces their reinforcement of him by retweeting their hosannas to his brilliance and courage. If you argue with the Chief Dufflepud, he will make sure that your mentions are flooded with these people, none of whom will add anything knowledgeable to the discussion; they will simply assert that you have been Owned and Destroyed by The Great One and should Take The L.
22. Teachers’ unions in California, reports Willl Swaim, are not going to let a little old pandemic get in the way of charter-school hate. From the article:
That’s how we might read the headlines from California this week. On the one hand, we hear union leaders banging the drum for social solidarity; on the other, we see them using coronavirus-induced panic to advance with utter cynicism the sorts of initiatives that demand they be delivered unto their tormenters (attending Catholic school, as I did, should do the trick).
Consider this morning’s story from the Los Angeles Times: “Citing the coronavirus emergency, the L.A. teachers union on Thursday called for a moratorium on new charter school approvals and a halt to new campus-sharing arrangements with charters.”
United Teachers of Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl has always hated charter schools — they are typically non-union and (just as typically) outperform union-run schools. But in a letter to the LA school board, governor Gavin Newsom, and state superintendent of public instruction Tony Thurmond, ACP cites the coronavirus as the new reason we can’t afford new charter schools — and especially the space-sharing deals that have allowed charters to move onto campuses with extra capacity in the low-income areas targeted by charters. “Low-income” means “dirty”: His concern, ACP insists, is for hygiene, but even that sounds remarkably like a callback to the water-fountain and bathroom apartheid of the Old South.
UTLA isn’t unique in leveraging the battle to insist upon its prerogatives. Across the state, California Teachers Association locals are stalling efforts to implement distance-learning technology. The governor’s “important emergency declarations have not suspended obligations to negotiate with unions,” CTA spokesperson Claudia Briggs said this week. Translation: Yes, yes, we’re in a crisis, but no mere pandemic can be allowed to infringe on union power.
23. More McCormack: He praises as a man of conscience the Democrats’ last liberal pro-lifer, Dan Lipinski. From the article:
It’s fair to say that Lipinski was the last liberal pro-life Democrat in Congress. Lipinski’s opponents tried to paint him as a conservative, but right-to-life issues are really the only place where he’s broken ranks with the party. In recent years, he earned a 7 percent rating from the National Rifle Association, for instance, and had voted with his party 87 percent of the time, “compared to 92 percent for the average House Democrat,” Roll Call reported. He points to his strong record of supporting unions and environmental regulations.
But Lipinski wouldn’t compromise on first principles or sacrifice his conscience to advance a progressive policy agenda. In 2010, he voted for Obamacare when it included an amendment prohibiting tax dollars from subsidizing elective abortion, but he voted against final passage when that amendment was stripped. Cuellar and Peterson voted against the health-care bill both times. Over in the Senate, the remaining self-described pro-life Democrats, Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have mixed records. Although they have voted for late-term abortions bans, they support funding for Planned Parenthood, and Casey voted for Obamacare in 2010.
The dwindling number of pro-life Democrats is bad for the pro-life movement, Lipinski says, because it will enable the Republican Party to take the votes of pro-lifers for granted. The near-extinction of pro-life Democrats is bad for his party, he says, because it has cut off a slice of voters.
24. More McLaughlin: He takes on the call for “Common-Good Constitutionalism.” From the beginning of the commentary:
Harvard Law professor Adrian Vermeule thinks conservatives should abandon originalism as a method of constitutional interpretation. His argument is such bad constitutional law that it is really neither constitutional nor law. It is terrible political and legal strategy. It is at odds with American constitutional history. It reflects the worst impulses of the Right in the Trump era to ape the most illiberal and corrosive habits of the Left. It would not produce the good society Vermeule envisions. And in a final irony, given Vermeule’s desire to effect something like a traditional-Catholic theocracy, it would promote a distinctly un-Catholic approach to tradition, legitimacy, and rules.
The essential argument of originalism is that the Constitution is a legitimate source of law because it was enacted by the people. It follows from this that changes to the law should be made by the people through the amendment process, rather than by unelected judges’ deciding what the law ought to be. Thus, whatever the Constitution was understood to mean when it was ratified by the people is what it continues to mean. This is the same way in which courts of law read statutes or contracts. Indeed, the “textualist” school of statutory interpretation, which considers the meaning of the statute’s words when they were written, is a longstanding and arguably even more successful project of many of the same conservative judges who promote originalism.
The New April 20 Issue of America’s Premier Magazine Is Special Indeed, with 15 Pieces Covering the Coronavirus Scourge
Our bossman, Rich Lowry, has corralled pieces by 15 exceptional writers to create a truly special issue, focusing on the numerous aspects of the coronavirus onslaught. As is our habit here, we share selections from the issue, which, as ever, is terrific from cover to cover.
1. Chris O’Dea, in another gem, discusses how Red China is going to exploit the debacle it caused. From the beginning of the piece:
While many in the U.S. and the West shelter in place hoping that warmer spring weather will slow the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, China is planning its own Spring Offensive.
China sees an opportunity to exploit the fear and carnage of the outbreak to strengthen its hold over global supply chains—and the medical-equipment and pharmaceuticals sector is the next industry in China’s sights.
It’s a bold move, but a deeper look reveals the fundamental weakness in China’s dominant position in global logistics and points to two strategic opportunities for the U.S. The first is to bring supply chains for vital medical, pharmaceutical, and technology products and rare-earth minerals back home to the United States. The second is to cripple the Chinese commercial maritime network that has allowed the Chinese Communist Party to sit atop a global supply system like a puppet master pulling the strings of commerce from Wuhan to Westchester.
China’s game plan is to pit large companies and financial investors against Western populations. Leading Chinese business schools and the creator of China’s top state-owned cement company believe that large U.S. companies and investors can be persuaded to increase foreign investment for the production of pharmaceutical and medical supplies in China. The calculus is that China will be more successful at keeping companies in China by appealing to the financial motives of those that are already invested there than it would be by opposing anti-globalization political constituencies that want companies to move manufacturing out of China.
It’s the latest application of the predatory economic and financial strategy that China has long used to gain dominance over almost every industry it has targeted, to coerce developing nations into accepting Chinese loans in exchange for giving mineral rights to China, and to pressure developed countries such as Italy and Greece to turn their historic harbors into ports for China’s global maritime empire. But China’s pharma gambit may be too little, too late. The political tide China is hoping to sidestep by appealing to the financial motives of U.S.-based multinationals is turning against the country now that American consumers, their homes brimming with Chinese-produced electronics, realize the full cost of moving so many critical domestic manufacturing jobs to Communist territory. Americans now understand the urgency of moving production of vital goods back to the United States.
2. Ramesh Ponnuru says that the Fed needs to prepare for the economic recovery. From the piece:
Markets cannot see the future, but they are pretty good at processing current information that bears on it. Their implicit projections do not easily fit the hope that a short, sharp recession will be followed by an equally rapid “V-shaped” recovery. They suggest instead that we are at best in for a prolonged period of low growth after the contraction. They further suggest that this low growth will be associated less with continuous supply disruptions than with a persistently depressed willingness to consume and invest: with “demand,” in other words. (Hence the long-lasting decline in expected inflation.)
A reduced propensity to spend money on consumption and investment is equivalent to an increased demand for money balances. In a panic, we want to hold on to more of our money. Individual households and businesses can accomplish that goal by spending less. In the aggregate we can’t do it that way: If we all try to spend less we all have less coming in, too. We can, however, attain our goal through a falling price level (or a price level that rises less than it otherwise would); the real value of our money balances thereby increases. Or rather, we could attain it that way if prices were sufficiently flexible. But there are a number of rigidities that prevent this kind of smooth economic adjustment. Mortgage payments, for example, do not drop in response to reductions in spending and prices.
There is also abundant evidence that wages, especially in modern economies, are not flexible downward. Consider two scenarios. In one, the price of everything drops 2 percent and so do everyone’s wages. In the other, the price of everything rises 2 percent and so do wages. In theory, employers and employees ought to be indifferent between these situations: The real wage, the value of a paycheck after adjusting for the price level, stays flat either way. In practice, though, the first scenario of widespread pay cuts doesn’t happen. If the level of spending throughout the economy falls enough that payments to workers must drop too, a lot of those reductions in payments will come from layoffs. That’s what happened during the great recession: The average real wage actually rose.
3. Avik Roy highlights the role pharmaceuticals are playing in combatting the virus. From the piece:
There are two broad categories of ongoing clinical development related to the pandemic. Vaccines, which help people achieve immunity to the virus, are the farthest off. A vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 won’t be ready until late 2021 at the earliest. That’s because vaccines need to be painstakingly tested in clinical trials to ensure that they make patients better, not worse. Flawed vaccines can lead to dangerous overstimulation of the immune system, or can make someone even more sensitive to corona virus exposure. And since you can’t ethically expose someone to coronavirus, you have to give the vaccine to hundreds or even thousands of people and wait to see evidence of whether the vaccine achieves a statistically significant re duction in the number of people who get infected. Furthermore, coronaviruses mutate frequently, meaning that a vaccine developed in one year would likely be less robust, or even completely ineffective, in future years.
The second category of drug development involves testing treatments for people who already have COVID-19. Some of these drugs treat the symptoms of the COVID-19 disease; others directly attack and kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This latter category includes the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, which President Trump has held out as a promising approach. A small French trial of 42 patients with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin showed potential in reducing virus levels in COVID-19 patients. But another trial conducted in China compared the outcome of 15 patients receiving hydroxychloroquine with that of 15 patients who did not; the results showed that the hydroxychloroquine had no apparent effect. A third study, also conducted in China, suggests that a related drug, chloroquine, may clear a patient’s concentration of viral infection, known as the viral load.
The mixed evidence led to much tut-tutting from those who already dislike the president, but also genuine concern from those who worry that people will rush out to treat themselves with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine without conclusive evidence from clinical trials. Anthony Fauci, the eminent virologist who has served in six presidential administrations, made the obvious point that while the president was understandably expressing hope that the drug combination might work, we don’t yet have conclusive proof that it does. “I was taking a purely medical, scientific standpoint, and the president was trying to bring hope to the people,” Fauci said on Face the Nation. “There isn’t fundamentally a difference there. He’s coming at it from a [hopeful] layperson standpoint.”
4. Dan McLaughlin explores the impact on American churchgoers. From the article:
Nearly all of those in-person gatherings are suspended right now across all faiths, throughout the country and around much of the world. One of the earliest signs of the gravity and global reach of the pandemic came when the Saudi government announced in early March that it would close Mecca to foreign pilgrims during the annual hajj. In Rome, not far from one of the epicenters of the pandemic, Pope Francis will celebrate Easter from a largely empty St. Peter’s Basilica for a television audience. He will do so without the customary 5 million visitors a year who crowd the Basilica square. Catholic dioceses, ours among them, have issued dispensations from the obligation of Sun day Mass. Less centralized Protestant denominations have made decisions on a church-by-church basis.
Most everything about a Catholic Mass is built around the physical gathering of a community. This is not surprising, coming from a tradition that stretches back almost 2,000 years. The churches themselves are laid out for close-quarters seating and processions, not for television broadcasting. The Mass is full of call-and-response prayers and songs. The sign of peace, once conveyed with a kiss, is today typically a handshake. The handshake has been a frequent victim even of regular flu season and may be headed for permanent extinction after the current pandemic. The centerpiece of the Mass is Communion: the believers’ encounter with the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The liturgy surrounding the Eucharist is a commemoration of the Last Supper, itself a communal breaking of bread.
Now, we gather around a screen. The liturgy is still there, but the community and the physical presence are not. Many faith traditions are going online, often forcing un-tech-savvy clerics into un charted waters. Conservative Jews who need a minyan of ten to conduct a prayer service have been improvising over Zoom. This does not work for everyone, however. The Mormon Church has closed all temples, postponing services, such as some weddings and baptisms, that can take place only in a temple ceremony. Orthodox Jews’ strict no-technology rules for Sabbath observance (drawn from the rule against working on the Sabbath) make it impossible to hold services.
5. This may be one of the best-ever NR essays on the intellectual life: Peter Baehr provides a masterful reflection on the late Rebecca West’s writings on Whittaker Chambers, and the essence of what drove the young man to become a Communist. From the beginning of the piece:
Bolshevism’s appeal to Western intellectuals is a mystery we still struggle to explain. Why did artists who despised patriotism show a larger loyalty to Russian chauvinism? Why did writers defend a regime that repeatedly imprisoned, tortured, and killed writers? In short, why did intelligent people who lived in free countries worship at the altar of despotic states? Few thinkers studied this enigma more carefully than the British critic Rebecca West (1892–1983).
That is not an achievement we associate with her name. Rebecca West is more likely to be recalled for The Return of the Soldier (1918), an innovative psychological novel; or for Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941), that grand bio-travelogue of Yugoslavia on the cusp of war. Her reports on the Nuremberg trials, and the post-war trials of British fascists, also continue to find readers, especially among students of journalism. West’s writings on Communism, by contrast, lie unread, unsung. Many of them sparked controversy in her own day, and are well worth revisiting in ours.
In articles, book chapters, and book reviews spanning six decades, she returned to the allure of Communism for educated Westerners. (Its attraction for militant members of the industrial working class was no real puzzle, she said, not least because Marxism deified the proletariat.) Reviewing the second volume of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago for the Sunday Telegraph, West bitterly recalled that “25 years ago a large part of the Western European and American population of intellectuals were, with disgusting single-mindedness, pimping for Stalin.”
Decrypting Communism’s appeal, West believed, required paying close attention to the lives of true believers, people such as Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Klaus Fuchs, and Alan Nunn May, and also to ex-Communist apostates such as Arthur Koestler and Richard Wright. She drew portraits of them all. But no life to her was more fascinating, and perhaps more revealing, than that of Whittaker Chambers (1901–1961), the Communist, later ex-Communist, informer whose testimony sealed the doom of Alger Hiss. It was in the conduct and words of Chambers that West found a source of longing for Communism that transcended Chambers himself. The context of her discovery was a trial and a book that caused a sensation in early Cold War America.
Listen, Will You Please, to Rich Lowry’s Call for Help
National Review’s writers and editors have a lot of extraordinary qualities, and the past few weeks show how an incredible versatility is prominent among them.
The U.S., and much of the world, shifted to an all-coronavirus-news environment almost instantly a couple of weeks ago, and NR was there — providing indispensable insight and arguments for this fraught time in our national life.
The lockdowns have foreclosed some traditional sources of revenue for our enterprise, which is why we’re asking you to chip in and help.
Again, NR has no sugar daddy, and never has. It relies on the support of its loyal friends and readers to keep our publication going, and always has.
So if you are here consuming more content than ever before, and we know that you are, please help us continue to publish what you are reading.
I suggest to you that Jim Geraghty alone is worth your support — heck, his “Comprehensive Timeline of China’s COVID-19 Lies” alone is worth supporting.
We’ve been hell on China throughout the crisis, insisting on its responsibility for the pandemic at its inception, blowing the whistle on its deceptions, warning of the dangers of Chinese globalization, and pushing back against the absurd woke critiques of calling it the Wuhan virus.
We’ve subjected the media’s self-obsession and hysteria during this moment to a withering critique, slamming it for its failures, calling out its eagerness to deem the U.S. response the worst in the world, and ridiculing the growing cult of Yamiche Alcindor.
And that’s David Harsanyi alone.
And we screamed bloody murder over the media’s idiotic stories blaming Trump for a couple who ingested fish tank cleaner, supposedly to protect themselves from the virus via chloroquine.
We’ve scored Democrats for their shameful games over the relief bill and the Left for its continued obsession with promoting Planned Parenthood and abortion at all costs, even during a national crisis.
We’ve had differing opinions about how best to address the crisis, how Trump is responding, and the policy implications of it all, but regardless, our analysis has always been based on fact and reason, at a time when — as usual in the Trump era — so many people are inclined to lose their minds.
I, for one, am proud of what our editors and writers have produced over the past couple of weeks. If you have been relying on it, I ask that you consider a donation of any amount, from $5 to $5,000, to help keep our enterprise strong and vital.
These are trying times, and it’s important that right-thinking people hang together. Thanks so much for reading, stay safe, and God bless.
1. Moi and some guy for whom we have named the Victor Davis Hanson Podcast discuss the coronavirus anomaly/mystery of California, how Donald Trump’s reelection hinges on the strategic foresight he will bring to bear in battling the pathogen, Red China’s hegemony plans through its global logistics and infrastructure investments, liberal Rhode Island’s realization that borders do exist (and hoping that virus-fleeing New Yorkers won’t cross them), and the upper hand held by virtue-panic mongers. Listen up, there will be a quiz!
2. On the new episode of For Life, Alexandra discusses her latest article for NR magazine on the little-known groups and leaders of the pro-life movement. Here’s the place to get the lowdown. And on the previous episode, she expounded on Planned Parenthood’s abortion obsession in the midst of a calamity. Hear here.
3. It’s the No End In Sight edition of The Editors, with Rich, Charlie, and MBD discussing the newly extended shutdown, the disgraceful media response to America’s coronavirus plight, and why everyone should be considered professional bakers after this is all over. You got the time, so strap on the headphones. And then in the new episode, Rich, Charlie, and Jim discuss the most recent press conference, consider whether U.S. leaders ignored warning signs or not, and give some well-deserved praise to those coming forward to help in this time of crisis. It happens here.
4. On The Bookmonger, John J. Miller is joined by Nancy Sinkoff to discuss her book, From Left to Right: The New York Intellectuals, Lucy S. Dawidowicz and the Politics of Jewish History. Catch it here.
5. More JJM: On The Great Books, he’s joined by Menachem Wecker to discuss O. E. Rolvaag’s Giants in the Earth. Put down the remote and listen, here.
6. On the new episode of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Ken and Charlie discuss the chances of a “return to normalcy.” Engage earbuds and listen here.
7. Awaiting every Tommy, Dick, and Harry is a brand new edition of Political Beats, in which “Butter” Scot-ch Bertram and El Jeff-é Blehar are joined by Ben Domenech to discuss The Who. Pinball wizards and all others should listen here.
8. On Radio Free California, Will and David talk the Golden State and Bear Markets. If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the bear, right here.
9. On the new episode of The McCarthy Report, Andy and Rich discuss New Jersey’s increasingly tight travel and assembly restrictions, the continued operation of the courts, and much more. Pull into the Molly Pitcher Service Plaza and listen here.
But Wait, Up Above . . . Didn’t You Say Something Was Free?!
No, we said half free. But now that you mention it, let’s draw attention to a sister publication, and urge you to avail yourself of a free trial copy of The Human Life Review. The new issue includes the transcript of Rich Lowry’s excellent October 2019 talk at HLR’s annual dinner. Sign up here.
1. At Law & Liberty, we are treated to the great Pierre Manent, who considers the question of Islam in France. Translated by Daniel Mahoney and Paul Seaton. From the essay:
Now, Islam comes to us as a form of life, at once individual and collective, one that has strongly etched features, to be sure with its own internal diversity, but which by embracing in principle all the aspects of life and the entirety of the social body, largely ignores the separations which are so dear to us between the public and the private, the religious and the political. While we oblige ourselves to relativize and present our “identities” (in the plural) with irony, Islam distinguishes itself among us by a compact identity that excludes irony and rejects all criticism. Confronted with this, we have decided that we will be ironists and relativists on their behalf. By boldly bringing Islam into the liberal secular arrangement, we gently, but irresistibly, will induce Muslims to take up toward their way of life and belief the distance that we congratulate ourselves for having taken toward our own way for such a long time now. In so doing, however, at the same time that we extol human equality and similarity, we look at Islam from above, not as a false religion or a less accomplished civilization, to be sure, but as a form of common life whose naive absolutism will soon be decisively moderated under the emancipatory effects of our liberty and our secularism (the much vaunted laicité in the case of France). This is the postulate that guides all of our dealings with Islam.
We thus suppose that the liberal and secular arrangements that we subscribe to are both universal and irresistible. What we think that we must and can do, determines what we believe we see or can see. Therefore, desiring an Islam amenable to our secularism, we refuse to seriously consider Islam itself, to take the measure of the amplitude, profundity, vitality, and perseverance of this great religious, social and political fact. Analyzing it under the twin criteria of the archaic and the modern, criteria which Europeans present as the sole criterion of the true, the good, and the beautiful, from the outset we deprive the great Muslim fact of its specific force and power. We prefer to postulate that secularism, radically separating religion and politics, will guarantee that the presence of Muslims among us will change nothing substantial in our common life. In short, while we hold that Muslims are our fellow citizens and equals, they do not truly exist as social beings and as a political factor in our national life.
Now, an observation that is so elementary that it requires neither a telescope nor a microscope allows one to see that Islam, in the diversity of its versions and expressions, has been animated the past fifty years by powerful movements that have transformed the Muslim world and exercise a rather forceful pressure on certain parts of the non-Muslim world. Whether one takes note of the Iranian revolution, Turkey’s ambitions, the Gulf countries’ ability to influence affairs, or the migratory waves headed toward Europe, everything indicates that Islam is in a period of expansion. Now, people will reproach me for unforgiveable naivété in bringing these different phenomena together and placing them under the common heading of “Islam.” However, the political perspective is indeed “naive,” because it believes what it sees, and what it sees is first of all the strength and direction of human associations. For the one with open eyes, it is impossible not to see that the Muslim world exercises an ever increasing pressure on a Europe that, for its part, is so weak that it makes it a point of honor of defining itself by indefinite openness to what is outside itself.
2. More Law & Liberty, where Gerald Russello wonders if the Right is something that can be patched up. From the reflection:
Roger Scruton in The Meaning of Conservatism discussed the relationship between conservative thinking and conservative practice in this way: “if it is true that conservatism becomes conscious only when it is forced to be so, then it is inevitable that the passage from practice to theory will not be rewarded by any immediate influence from theory back to what is done.” A lot of the history of conservatism since is reflected in that sentence. There has been much conservative theorizing since the 1980s, but its success as translated back into conservative practice is disputable. For reasons Dan McCarthy spells out here, political elites, including conservative ones, have been sleepwalking through the twenty-first century and many had not, until the election of 2016, realized the world had changed. This rupture had been building way before Trump. In 2012, for example, I noted in Perspectives on Political Science that the emergence of the Tea Party may have represented a different type of conservative renascence, because the issues motivating them might cause them to avoid capture by Washington and Beltway conservatism.
So in different ways, conservatives have been trying to patch themselves up again for the better part of three decades. Even in the wake of Trump, traces of the old Reaganism survive. Some think the answer is to return to Reagan — this time as Democrats (the problem of rightwing pundits equating conservatism with presidential elections is a subject for another time). The 2020 National Conservatism conference, whose inaugural conference last year made such a splash as illustrative of the new conservative turn, invokes both Reagan and Pope St. John Paul II, a headline that could have been used for a DC conservative convention through the 1990s. Others want conservatives to avoid tribalism, but conclude conservatives are just being mean these days. And you can still find the occasional paean to global capitalism. Indeed, one prominent conservative writer threw up his hands in trying to find out “What Unites The Right?”
But the success of that postwar patchwork was always overstated, and one should be cautious in using that as an example of how conservatism should conduct itself today. There is perhaps a reasonable argument that government is smaller than it would have been had liberals won in 1980 or 1988, but one cannot argue that government is small as such or that its power has not grown to levels unimaginable to 1950s or 1960s conservatives (or liberals for that matter). But it is almost impossible to argue that culturally America is a more conservative place, in almost any sense of the term, than it was in 1980, which is simply a crushing blow to large parts of the conservative intellectual project. The progressive left has essentially won the culture war, although that victory was only cemented when corporations began (as Timothy Crimmins wrote recently in American Affairs) to “engage in progressive (rather than transgressive) culture-warring, to distract from rising discontent with rising inequality and dwindling wages.” In other words, as Bruce Frohnen and Ted McAllister state in their recent book, Coming Home, “Cold War conservatism gained the world and lost its soul.” The strains of conservative thought that stressed locality, hostility to militarism, and suspicion of “free markets” were submerged into a narrative that stressed instead global capitalism and democracy export.
3. At the Wall Street Journal, William McGurn finds that the same lefties who disparage the use of “China virus” can’t bring themselves to oppose Ivy League quotas that disparage Asians. From the column:
If someone fuels bigotry by calling a virus a name accurately derived from its geographic origins, what about a mayor who works overtime to reduce the number of Asian-Americans in his city’s most competitive public high schools, not because they haven’t earned their entry but because they aren’t the right race.
Ditto for Harvard. Remember, the chief argument against “the China virus” is that using it stigmatizes both China and people of Chinese descent. But what about the stigmas that come from the subjective “personal ratings” Harvard applies in its admissions process? The Justice Department says these ratings produce “consistently poorer scores for Asian-Americans,” a racial penalty that brings down an Asian-American applicant’s overall score.
According to Students for Fair Admissions, the group suing Harvard over its use of race in admissions, Asian-Americans as a whole score higher “on many objective measures than any other racial/ethnic group including test scores, academic achievement, and extracurricular activities.” But if we are to believe Harvard, Asian-Americans are less likable, less kind and less courageous than those of other races. If that’s not stigmatization, what is?
Or take the World Health Organization, which prides itself on objectivity and professionalism. In 2015, WHO updated its best practices for naming new infectious diseases. The aim is to prevent a name from “stigmatizing” any particular community or country, and thus avoid negative implications for everything from trade and tourism to violence.
Yet WHO refers to the West Bank and Gaza as “Occupied Palestinian territory.” Anyone ever ask the Israelis if they feel stigmatized or endangered when the world’s premier health authority lends its imprimatur to such a politicized name?
4. At The Federalist, Ben Weingarten exposes the deadly grip Red China seems to hold on the World Health Organization. From the analysis:
We pay a real price for such apparent useful idiocy because, while the WHO gives China its imprimatur, evidence continues to mount of China’s malign role in every aspect of this pandemic. While the WHO praises China’s response to the crisis, and China cites dwindling numbers of new coronavirus cases, there are any number of reasons to be incredibly skeptical of this data.
Leave aside China’s obvious incentive to deceive in the face of a public heath disaster, given its desire to be the global hegemon and need to project competence. Set aside China’s lies about just this issue, which contributed to the coronavirus becoming a global pandemic. Leave aside China’s expulsion of the Western journalists most likely to expose ongoing lies and deception, and the disappearing of health officials who might do the same.
In spite of the news that all is well, we have seen evidence that should arouse our suspicions at the least: outsized urn counts, the rates at which cremation equipment has been running, millions of cell phone accounts closed in recent months, shuttered movie theaters, and an outright travel ban after China had pressured other countries not to impose one earlier in the crisis.
Meanwhile, as China is trying to present itself as a savior to the world, when it is most culpable for this public health catastrophe, Chinese entities have been flooding the globe — from the Czech Republic, to Spain and Holland — with defective medical supplies.
5. At Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern reveals how Spain’s hellbent leftist government took actions that brought about coronavirus chaos. From the article:
The Spanish government, comprised of a coalition of Socialists and Communists, is facing legal action for alleged negligence in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The government is accused of putting its narrow ideological interests ahead of the safety and wellbeing of the public, and, in so doing, unnecessarily worsening the humanitarian crisis now gripping Spain, currently the second-worst afflicted country in Europe after Italy.
A class action lawsuit filed on March 19 accuses the Spanish government — highly ideological by any standard, as the Communist coalition partner, Podemos, was founded with seed money from the Venezuelan government — of knowingly endangering public safety by encouraging the public to participate in more than 75 feminist marches, held across Spain on March 8, to mark International Women’s Day. The nationwide rallies were aimed at protesting the government’s perennial bugbear: the alleged patriarchy of Western civilization.
Hundreds of thousands of people participated in those marches, and several high-profile attendees — including Spain’s deputy prime minister, as well as the prime minister’s wife and mother, and also the wife of the leader of Podemos — have since tested positive for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). It is unknown how many people were infected by the coronavirus as a result of the rallies.
The lawsuit, involving more than 5,000 plaintiffs, accuses Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his representatives in Spain’s 17 autonomous regions of “prevarication” — a Spanish legal term that means lying and deceiving. The government was allegedly so determined to ensure that the feminist marches took place on March 8 that it deliberately downplayed warnings about the pandemic.
6. At Quillette, Joel Kotkin scopes out the coming “Age of Dispersion” and the fading megacity. From the piece:
Once held up as a grand ideal, the megacity is increasingly losing its appeal as a way of life. Chinese science fiction writers—increasingly the last redoubt of independent thought in that increasingly totalitarian country—envision an urban future that is, for most, squalid and divided by class. There are already deep divisions between those who hold urban residence permits, hukou, and those relegated to an inferior, unprotected status. Hao Jingfang’s novella, Folding Beijing, for example, portrays a megacity sharply divided between the elite, the middle ranks, and a vast underclass living mainly by recycling the waste generated from the city.
During my last visit to Beijing, Communist Party officials shared their concerns about how these divides could undermine social stability. They have already essentially banned new migration into cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and encourage migrants to move to the less crowded interior or even back to rural villages. Given the dictatorial nature of the regime, it’s not shocking that growth is already shifting to “second tier cities” including some in the interior. In far more chaotic India, the Modi government also supports an ongoing shift to smaller cities, and even a push for revitalization of rural villages. This reflects a growing concern among Indian researchers that the much ballyhooed “shining India,” concentrated in large urban centers, increasingly resembles the orbiting world portrayed in the science fiction movie Elysium—hermetically sealed from the vast majority of the population.
Even without government assistance, and often in the face of opposition from planners, dispersion has continued to characterize Western cities. This pattern is well-established throughout Europe, Canada, and Australia and is particularly evident in the United States where, since 2010, nearly all population growth has occurred in the urban periphery and smaller cities. As a new study from Heartland Forward demonstrates, both immigrants and millennials—the key groups behind urban growth—are increasingly moving to interior cities and even small towns. This is true even in San Francisco where nearly half of millennials described themselves as “likely” to leave the City by the Bay, a dramatic shift from a decade earlier, due in large part to insanely high housing prices and deteriorating conditions on the streets.
Indeed, as Richard Florida has noted, the bulk of the new growth of the “creative class”—the well-educated millennials critical to the urban renaissance—is “shifting away from superstar cities.” The rise in the migration of such prized workers is now two to three times faster in Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Grand Rapids, MI than in regions around New York, Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C.
BONUS: At The Imaginative Conservative, Carl Rollyson explores William Faulkner’s conservatism. From the beginning of the essay:
Russell Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles reflect the way William Faulkner wrote, acted, and organized his life. As a property owner with notions of limited government, he brought that orientation to his fiction, to his work in Hollywood, to his commentary on civil rights, and to his everyday relationships with his family and community. His conservatism was not that of a party or movement but rather expressed what Kirk calls “a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.”
Faulkner believed in the “enduring moral order,” that Kirk put first in his list of principles, and in Kirk’s tenth tenet: reconciling permanence and change. Faulkner’s famous Nobel Prize speech affirmed that only the “old universal truths” counted: “love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” These words about human persistence can be found in his letters as well as in his World War II epic screenplay, the unproduced Battle Cry, and in his Nobel speech as he evoked an image right out of his great novel Absalom, Absalom!, saying that after the “last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.” He could have been thinking of the French architect, escaping his patron, the megalomaniacal Thomas Sutpen, obsessed with establishing himself in a mansion based on notions of a landed aristocracy. The architect, cornered by Sutpen and seemingly defeated, goes on talking, and with a gesture that seems to fling away the failure of his own puny resistance, overcoming his own defeat.
Faulkner revealed his conservative vision in novels like Absalom, Absalom! (1936) and Requiem for a Nun (1951) espousing the eternal verities of civilization. In Requiem, the architect is re-introduced as Sutpen’s “tame Parisian architect—or captive rather.” But the community of Jefferson, Mississippi “had only to see him once to know that he was no dociler than his captor.” The architect speaks to a frontier community’s desire to build an edifice of itself: “ ‘You do not need advice. You are too poor. You have only your hands, and clay to make good brick. You don’t have any money. You don’t even have anything to copy: how can you go wrong?’ ” Jefferson takes its shape from his molds and kilns. Even the destructiveness of the Civil War fails to disturb “one hair even out of the Paris architect’s almost forgotten plumb.” The architect’s imprint remains, more than a hundred years later, “not on just the courthouse and the jail, but on the whole town,” for he has built and made possible the community’s own drive to preserve and perpetuate itself, a drive more narrowly conceived in Absalom, Absalom! in relation to Sutpen’s ambitions. In Requiem, even after the community apparently loses much of its historical identity—“gone now from the fronts of the stores are the old brick made of native clay in Sutpen’s architect’s old molds”—still there is a surviving remnant of memory and of place found in the “thin durable continuity” of the jail itself and what it stands for.
In all the madness, what’s most animated Your Humble Correspondent (please feign interest) is the idiotic woodpecker who cannot tell wood from metal. He daily visits the chimney cap at Chez Correspondent and hammers away, unnerving the bejeepers out of one and all. The Red Ryder BB Rifle has been conscripted, and we are happy to report that it has been deployed with success. N.B.: No animals were harmed (just scared) in the production of these remonstrances. N.B. Part Two: No eyes were put out.
All this drama aside, all this true concern about the threat — brewed in the Wuhan Market laboratory — to God’s people by this microscopic beast, here in the Northeast His creation stirs and blooms, His creatures prepare their nests, and the palette of spring little by little captures His Glory. We should be thankful for this. Joyful even.
And even for tin-loving woodpeckers.
To brothers and sisters in Abraham, may Passover, commencing mid-week, remind all of us especially of the first Passover, held too in a time of crisis, by God’s design. Much love to you. And to all those who look forward to celebrating Palm Sunday and Holy Week, take comfort in patience, a virtue, and bet on our churches to figure out some way to make good, when this contagion is beaten. As it will be. Deliver us from evil, God. We pray for such, and for those afflicted (heal them), and for those who care for us (protect them) at risk to themselves till the strife is o’er.
With God’s Mercy Upon You and Your Family and These United States,
Jack Fowler, who will wipe down the keyboard and reply to your missives, whether caustic or pleasant, that are sent to him at email@example.com.
P.S.: Dear Friend Shraga, my brother from the Old Testament and Matters Corleone, recommends for isolation-viewing pleasure the introduction to readers — which Yours Truly is quite happy to do — of the beloved old “Playhouse 90” tv series, and in particular the very first 1956 episode, which starred Charlton Heston, Tab Hunter, Vincent Price, the great Charles Bickford, and Diana Lynn. John Frankenheimer directed, Rod Sterling penned the script, Jack Palance hosted — mamma mia what a cabal. It’s titled “Forbidden Area.” Watch it here.