The Weekend Jolt

National Review

Seventeen Seventy Eighty Sixed

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Joe was a moderate, so he said. Joe was no Socialist, so he said. He’s a Trojan Horse, so his election foe said. And Donald Trump was right as rain about that. The pronunciamentos and actions of President Biden’s first days are a testament to the draw of the Democratic Party’s ever-leftward Left. For example: Deep in the bowels of President Biden’s very first executive order was a revocation of President Trump’s 2020 executive order establishing a 1776 Advisory Commission.

Good to know we have a President who believes that associating his office with this country’s Founding is a liability. Maybe even the stuff of his nightmares. Welp, so much for unity, e pluribus unum, and all such troublesome patriotic mumbo jumbo.

By the way, that Commission met and issued a report that was a much-needed slap-back at the “1619 Project” ideologues. You can find the report here. Download it why don’t you, and maybe even share it. It will prove a useful tool.

National Review has a formal opinion on the matter. From the beginning of the editorial:

Joe Biden went out of his way on his first day in office to cancel Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission.

Established to research and promote patriotic education, the commission was a welcome initiative — while it lasted.

It sought to counterbalance the hostile view of American history advanced by the “1619 Project,” which jumped almost directly from the pages of the New York Times to the curriculum in schools around the country. That project made basic historical errors that it corrected only grudgingly and under pressure from some of the foremost historians in the country, absurdly argued for 1619 — the first year that African slaves were brought to these shores — as the “true” founding of the country (before subsequently editing out this claim without explanation), and distorted the American Revolution, Abraham Lincoln, and the history of slavery, among other things.

Perversely, the Times in effect revived the argument of the likes of John C. Calhoun that the Declaration of Independence was a lie, only from a woke 21st-century perspective.

There is sure to be much more of Biden Malarkey in the weeks and months up to the . . . well, let’s not talk about the 25th Amendment again. But do let us get on to the Weekend Jolt. It’s a big one!

Links that Are Slim and Fit for You On-the-Go Conservatives

A Phalanx of Fantastic Philosophical Feats

Kyle Smith: Media Bootlickers Hurl Themselves at Biden’s Feet

Victor Davis Hanson: 1776 Commission Report Controversy: America Is Imperfect — and Also Great

John McCormack: On Day One, the Biden White House Dodges on Abortion

Robert VerBruggen: Biden Immigration Plan Is Left-Wing Fantasy

Rich Lowry: Keystone Pipeline: Joe Biden Tells Canada to Drop Dead

Jimmy Quinn: The Fight Intensifies over China’s Forced-Labor System

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Does Biden See America’s Despair?

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Trumpism After Trump: His Voters Are Not Going Away

David Bahnsen: Trump Presidency: A Final Assessment, and the Path Forward

Andrew C. McCarthy: Trump Presidency: Real Accomplishments vs. Reality of Trump Himself

Mario Loyola: Trump’s Tragic Fall

David Harsanyi: John Brennan & Censorship: Threat to Democracy

David Harsanyi: Democrats Will Pay a Price for Placating the Squad

Tim Busch: Trump’s Originalist Judges Can Start to Mend America’s Cultural Rift

Douglas Feith: Why I’m a Zionist

Colin Dueck: Conservative Nationalism & U.S. Foreign Policy


Biden’s Foolish Sabotage of the Keystone Pipeline

Biden’s COVID Pandemic Relief Package Is a Mess

Biden Paris Climate Accords Return Means Climate-Change Orthodoxy Again Runs U.S. Policy

The Madness of the Arizona GOP

In Defense of Liz Cheney

Reform or Eliminate the Pardon Power

Capital Matters

Alex Muresianu explains that old lesson: Corporate Tax Rules Hurt American Manufacturers

Andrew Stuttaford provides the profile: The Death Tax’s Not So Little Helper (Possibly)

Brad Palumbo won’t take a hike: A $15 Minimum Wage Doesn’t Belong in the COVID Relief Bill

Casey Mulligan hears the other shoe dropping: Obamacare Taxes Did Not Generate Revenue

From the New February 8, 2021 Issue of National Review

Avik Roy finds a solution in the 19th Century: Restoring the Conservative Conscience

Charles C. W. Cooke explores: What to Do about Social-Media Double Standards?

Gerald Russello finds an important book: Conservatism’s Contested Tradition

Robert Kaplan scopes out the competition: How We Lose against China

Lights. Camera. Review!

Armond White catches a Biden Era nihilist flick: Promising Young Woman Sees Gender Divide as Comedy

Kyle Smith checks out hard-Left fantasies: Critics Raise the Red Flag for a Socialist Parable

Armond finds it rough on the ears, and soul: Sound of Metal Is Noisy Spiritual Vacancy

And Now an Encore Presentation, with Frills and Anticipated Accoutrements


1. All set to stifle America’s economy, Joe Biden threatens to shut down the Keystone pipeline. We call out the crazy. From the editorial:

Fossil fuels, far from being the great villain of the climate story, have been the main source of greenhouse-gas reductions in the United States over the past several decades, as relatively clean-burning natural gas displaces relatively dirty coal in electricity generation. But that is not the kind of intelligent tradeoff that interests American environmentalists, who are moralists and romantics and committed to the notion that hydrocarbon fuels are, simply, evil — and that they must be fought on every front. Hence, the American Left’s comprehensive and total war on any and all infrastructure associated with our most abundant energy sources — not only oil pipelines but natural-gas pipelines, too, along with rail-shipping facilities, refineries and other plants, and West Coast export depots intended to help U.S. producers in Asian markets. If it produces, consumes, moves, or processes oil or gas, the American Left opposes it. If Joe Biden is interested in improving the employment and wage outlook for middle-class Americans, he ought not make our industrial, chemical, manufacturing, transportation, and electricity sectors hostage to the narrow-minded concerns of a small group of fanatics.

There is a worrying Hayekian lesson in this, too: It is impossible for American businesses to make big, long-term investments in a political environment in which every project is up for renegotiation — or summary economic execution — every time the White House changes hands. Why invest in building and moving physical goods, and taking on the political risk that goes along with such investments, when you could join the booming financial sector and put your money into the money business? This is not to sniff at finance or other work in the service economy, but, surely, in a continental nation as vast as ours, with an economy as complex as ours, it shouldn’t be possible for one man serving a short term in a temporary elected office to undo years of work and billions of dollars in investment. This is pure foolishness, and it will cost us.

2. And then there is his COVID-Relief proposal. We say Biden’s bill is a mess. From the editorial:

Now that vaccines are being administered, policy-makers face a different challenge — not keeping Americans inside, but getting them back to work as quickly as possible. In this context, President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package misses the mark.

The proposal gives a nod to public health — with $20 billion allocated to vaccine distribution, $50 billion to testing, and $40 billion to medical supplies and emergency-response teams — but fails to address the most pressing hurdles to COVID-19 immunity. Vaccines sit unused not for lack of funding but thanks to burdensome rules determining which patients can receive shots and which doctors can administer them. Additional spending to speed up vaccine distribution is welcome, but its effects will be muted if bureaucratic hurdles remain in place.

Even if the public-health provisions were to succeed in reopening the economy, much of the rest of Biden’s plan guarantees that it will reopen weaker. For one, an expanded unemployment-insurance top-up of $400 a week would mean more than 40 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits would make more off-the-job than on-the-job at least until September, and possibly for longer. The food-service and retail industries hit hardest by the pandemic would see the largest shortfalls in labor, exacerbating the challenges they’ve faced over the past year. Enhanced unemployment may have been reasonable when we wanted workers to stay home, but it’s catastrophic when we want them to go back to work.

3. On Day One Biden get his disastrous promise: to return the U.S. to the clutches of the Paris Climate Accord. It’s worth condemning, and we do. From the beginning of the editorial:

That didn’t last long. Just a couple of months ago, the U.S. formally (and finally) completed the withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement announced by President Trump in 2017. On Wednesday, one of the first actions of the newly inaugurated President Biden was to begin the process for rejoining the Paris accord (it will take 30 days, as opposed to the years required to conclude America’s earlier departure). As when the U.S. initially signed up to the agreement under President Obama, this will be achieved by executive order, another example of the way that climate campaigners can be reluctant to subject their policy prescriptions to regular democratic review. And so, we will, it seems, always have Paris. This is not a good thing.

In theory, the agreement imposes little by way of legal obligation, other, mainly, than a duty on the part of its signatories to file periodic reports on their climate progress. But this is designed to underpin a “name and shame” regime, which, in democracies, will be used by activists, regulators, politicians, and (quite possibly) lawyers to force through a domestic climate-change agenda. That could be seen in the U.S. under the Obama administration and has continued to be the case here at the state level. By 2019, 25 states had committed to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in a manner “consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.” Meanwhile, much of Europe is engaged in trying to set emissions targets to levels of ever greater impracticality or destructiveness (take your pick). As a reminder that rejoining the Paris agreement is not a move that can be seen in isolation, in the first full day of his administration, President Biden withdrew the permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and set the stage for a regulatory onslaught that will rein in the economy, if not the climate.

4. We express shock at the Arizona GOP’s self-inflictions. From the editorial:

Whatever their other faults, neither Flake nor John McCain ever lost an election in Arizona. In 2020, Arizona voted Democrat in the presidential election for only the second time since 1948 and is now represented by two Democratic senators for the first time since 1953. Normally, this would prompt some introspection about how the party can win back voters. Instead, Ward and the state party are now focused not only on censuring Flake and Mrs. McCain, but also the state’s sitting Republican governor, Doug Ducey.

The ostensible grievance is that Ducey’s response to COVID amounts to assuming “dictatorial powers” under a “faux State of Emergency.” The actual motivation appears to be an extension of Donald Trump’s rage at Ducey for acknowledging the obvious fact that Joe Biden won Arizona.

A party looking for answers about winning statewide elections might be interested in emulating Ducey, who was reelected by 14 points in 2018 while the Democrats were winning a Senate race. A party interested in governing as its members want might be interested in emulating Ducey for that reason as well, given his solidly conservative record as governor. A party testing the public mood on COVID might note that fringe groups on both the left and the right tried to promote recall petitions against him during the pandemic, and both failed to get enough signatures. What sort of message are Arizona voters supposed to take from the state party denouncing its own governor as a dictator? Surely, not one that will fill them with confidence about electing Republicans to responsible office.

5. We take umbrage at those taking umbrage at Liz Cheney over her impeachment vote. From the editorial:

She voted to impeach President Trump with a statement meant to leave a mark and make it as hard as possible for fellow Republicans to turn away from his misconduct. She said of Trump’s behavior before and after the riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Cheney did this, not as a moderate member of the House from a suburban swing district, but as a conservative from Wyoming’s at-large district.

She didn’t do it as an obscure backbencher, but the No. 3 in the House GOP leadership.

She didn’t do it as a long-serving member about to retire, but as a politician with considerable room to rise and presumably ambitions to do so.

She did it knowing that she would put a political target on her back, and indeed the backlash was instantaneous, with calls to boot her from leadership and threats of a primary challenger. Cheney’s rejoinder is that hers was a vote of conscience, a word and concept that some of her critics need to reacquaint themselves with.

6. The President’s power to grant pardons needs Constitutional reform. From the editorial:

Trump’s newest pardons and commutations include a bipartisan rogue’s gallery of people who are rewarded for their prominence or their usefulness to Trump rather than for any injustice done to them: Steve Bannon, Albert Pirro (the ex-husband of Fox News host Jeannine Pirro), former Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy, former Republican congressmen Duke Cunningham and Rick Renzi, Trump-endorsing rapper Lil Wayne, and former Democratic mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick. Several of the pardon recipients were convicted of crimes of political corruption or espionage. Bannon, one of the least deserving recipients, was under indictment for fleecing Trump’s own grassroots supporters with a fraudulent “build the wall” nonprofit.

The pardon power is especially prone to misuse when a president is done facing the voters and is on his way out the door. Bill Clinton’s late pardon of the fugitive Marc Rich and his prior clemency offer to Puerto Rican FALN terrorists are the most infamous examples. Andrew McCarthy has argued for abolishing the pardon power entirely, given the vast expansion of federal offenses since the Founding. Other proposals would include a congressional override, limits on pardons late in a president’s term, or an explicit ban on presidents pardoning themselves, their families, or in some cases, their co-conspirators. Any such reform would require a constitutional amendment, but this is a problem of genuine bipartisan concern, and it would be a healthy development to revive the amendment process for such a purpose.

A Boatload of Brilliance, Meaning 16 Links and Excerpts from NRO Must-Reads

1. Kyle Smith examines the MSM bootlickers, gaa gaa over the new president they have so enabled. From the beginning of the piece:

‘This team truly understands optics. These images will inspire our friends and shake our foes,” says Matt Dornic, casting an eye over a display of nation-affirming firepower to mark the occasion of Joe Biden’s inauguration. Er, make that fireworks power. Dornic, a supposedly nonpartisan spokesman for the supposedly nonpartisan CNN, attached to his sentiment, issued via Twitter, a picture of the fireworks Wednesday night on the Mall. An elaborate use of fireworks is going to make Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping tremble with unease? Why was this point not being made by CNN personalities when Donald Trump presided over a big fireworks display at the RNC last summer?

The next sound the media will hear is that of viewers clicking off CNN and MSNBC as the major American news networks become the equivalent of Putin’s media marionettes. Ratings will crash as viewers tire of the songs of state praise, and Fox News Channel will be the only TV news choice for those seeking substance rather than sycophancy. Is the transgender individual Rachel Levine, for instance, a sound choice to take a leading health-care position in the federal government? All we’ll hear about her on CNN is that she is ideal because of who she is, rather than because of her actual record, which is dismal. You might say appointing her amounts to valuing identity politics more than American lives, though you won’t be saying that on CNN.

Anyone who was an adult in 1993 can tell you that it was common then for women to have sexual dreams and fantasies about Bill Clinton — tall, roguish, powerful, and a robust 46 years old. The first Boomer president swept into office on a wave of panting ladies, adoring celebrities, and approving reporters. The adulation that met the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009 made the Clinton worship look like Beatlemania had grown into a full-on religion, with infatuation becoming a deep spiritual conviction. Obama was not only cool, he would lead us all out of the darkness, renew our souls, and repair our country.

And Joe Biden? Joe Biden isn’t sexy, he’s senescent. He isn’t transformational, he’s tired. His own close associates marvel at his incompetence.

2. Victor Davis Hanson has some thoughts on the 1776 Commission (he was a member, after all) and its report, issued in the final days of the Trump presidency. From the article:

Some ideologies, such as fascism and communism, were easily identifiable as inimical to our principles. Both occasionally won adherents in times of economic depression and social strife, before they were defeated and discredited abroad.

Perhaps more controversially, the commission identifies other challenges, such as continued racism, progressivism, and contemporary identity politics. The report argues how and why all those who have insisted that race become a basis from which to discriminate against entire groups of people are at odds with the logic of the Declaration.

Historically, progressivism assumed that human nature is malleable. With enough money and power, Americans supposedly can be improved so that they will accept more paternalistic government, usually to be run by technocrats. Often, progressives sought to curb the liberties of the individual, under the guise of modernist progress and greater efficiency.

The commission was no more sympathetic to the current popularity of identity politics or reparatory racial discrimination. It argues that using race, ethnicity, sexual preference, and gender to define who we are — rather than seeing these traits as incidental when compared with our natural and shared humanity — will lead to a dangerous fragmentation of American society.

3. Seems like the alleged devout Catholic has never met an abortion he wouldn’t fund. John McCormack looks Day One utterances from Team Biden. From the beginning of the report:

During her first press conference on January 20, President Joe Biden’s White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked by an EWTN reporter about Biden’s intentions on killing two pro-life policies: the Hyde amendment (a measure that prohibits direct federal funding of elective abortions under Medicaid) and the Mexico City Policy (an executive order that denies funding to overseas organizations that perform or promote abortion).

Psaki said she’d have more to say in the coming days on the Mexico City Policy — a measure backed by every Republican president since Reagan and rescinded by every new Democratic president shortly following his inauguration. And on Thursday, Anthony Fauci announced that Biden will indeed be scrapping the policy.

Psaki dodged on the Hyde amendment. “I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that he is a devout Catholic, and somebody who attends church regularly. He started his day attending church with his family this morning,” she said. “But I don’t have anything more for you on that.”

4. So much for being “Mr. Moderate.” Robert VerBruggen examines Biden’s terrible immigration plan. From the piece:

I’ve written numerous times in this space about the difficulty of bipartisan immigration reform, but the main obstacles to Republican support are as follows. First, regarding illegal immigration, conservatives want to know the problem has been solved for the future before they agree to amnesty for those already here. (Reagan’s 1986 amnesty, which was coupled with enforcement measures that never panned out, is a big reason for this.) And second, regarding legal immigration, conservatives generally want to focus more on skills and less on family connections when deciding whom to allow into the country, while leaving the overall level of immigration steady or even reducing it. As I often note, leaving the level as-is is the median response in public-opinion polls, so the Right is on firm political ground opposing increases.

Biden’s plan flunks on both counts.

One big part of controlling illegal immigration must be to police the border. But Biden has already promised not to build any more of Trump’s big, beautiful, woefully incomplete wall — even though border fencing is a simple and effective way to keep people from crossing a border without authorization. Instead he wants to try other technologies, asking the Department of Homeland Security to figure out the particulars. There’s nothing wrong with expanding and experimenting with these approaches, of course, but this is not a great trade for amnesty. There’s simply too big a risk that it won’t work or won’t even really be tried. As it happens, Biden’s pick to head DHS has already come under fire for being too soft on immigration; in fact, he was the architect of the illegal “deferred-action” program for Dreamers who came to the country illegally as minors (which Biden is also preserving).

5. Joe Biden tells Canada to drop dead. Rich Lowry covers the Keystone Pipeline follies. From the piece:

The multi-billion-dollar project to run from Alberta to Nebraska was first proposed years ago in the naive faith that two adjoining, friendly countries could cooperate on a big, mutually beneficial infrastructure project.

That was before the Keystone XL became a hate totem for the Left, which makes it sound like the pipeline might be the tipping point toward inevitable planetary destruction, among its myriad other alleged sins.

President Barack Obama denied a cross-border permit for the project in 2015. President Trump quickly reversed course. And now Biden is likely going to reverse Trump’s reversal.

It’s a symptom of our time that a major investment that deserves some stability in American decision-making has become a shuttlecock between outgoing and incoming administrations — and been caught in a nightmarish trap of litigation and red tape all the while.

6. Jimmy Quinn covers the fight of some allied western nations over Red China’s system of forced labor. From the article:

Within the span of a few days, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States all issued rules to tighten up their enforcement of laws designed to combat the slave labor that the Chinese Party-state has inflicted on over, by some estimates, upwards of half a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims from China’s West.

The new regulations aren’t all identical. The upshot, though, is all the same: Some democracies are moving off the sidelines from which they merely “expressed concern” in substitution for concrete action on the Uyghur crisis. The United States has for months led this push, leading with targeted sanctions, bans on companies complicit in the atrocities, and restrictions on forced-labor-tainted imports. But the response from other Western democracies has lagged, even following this summer’s explosive revelations about Beijing’s forced sterilization of Uyghurs. If last week is any indication, though, that’s starting to change for the better.

These forced-labor practices are an open secret. The reams of evidence that offer insights about the situation include not just eyewitness accounts and satellite imagery, but also the Chinese government’s own documents and other information that researchers, such as Adrian Zenz (who has written some of the most impactful reports on Xinjiang), have found online.

7. Despair is amok, but does Joe Biden really see it? Michael Brendan Dougherty contemplates. From the piece:

While COVID-era relief policies have been a marvel of improvisation and sheer institutional might in the United States, it’s notable that even when we got a temporary glimpse of an economy with rising incomes and disappearing work at the lower end — a kind of Marxist afternoon reverie — suicide and drug deaths continued to rise.

Man doesn’t live by bread alone. Michael Lind has described these policies of just throwing cash at workers who are otherwise written off as “palliative liberalism.” These policies are an attempt to purchase “political acquiescence from workers who have stagnant or declining incomes.”

What men and women need to avoid deaths of despair is not just incomes, but fulfilling roles and work in society. No single policy can address this. But the trends are not good, and Joe Biden’s presidency can falter on them. For decades America has seen declining labor-force participation among men. For decades, America has seen an increase in drug abuse. For decades, American participation in civil-society organizations and churches has been declining, and with fertility plunging, extended-family trees are splitting into shriveled, disconnected branches and twigs.

If Joe Biden doesn’t meaningfully address his administration and the American government to these problems, he will be a failure.

8. More MBD, who knows the reality that conflicts with the fantasies of Trump foes: There is a thing that is Trumpism, and it ain’t going away. From the assessment:

The political logic of Trumpism resided in ideological and electoral opportunities — namely, solidifying the GOP among its new more-Evangelical voters, and reaching out over and over again to the remnants of Reagan Democrats and other groups that have been globalization’s losers — voters who have been effectively abandoned by a Democratic Party dominated by college-educated lifestyle progressives.

In fact, one big clue that “Trumpism” won’t just go away with Trump is that the phenomenon is global. Many left-leaning parties across the world made their peace with global capitalism after 1989, abandoning their traditional workers in favor of culturally progressive, upwardly mobile, educated voters; they centered themselves instead on the new professionals in global cities. That shift has inevitably generated failures and resentments, left and right. On the left, it inspired Syriza in Greece and a short vogue for old-school nationally focused socialists like Bernie Sanders in the U.S., Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K., and Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France. It also inspired a broader movement on the right. The rise of Trumpism in the U.S., Brexit in Britain including Johnson’s smash-through in Labour heartlands, and the advent of Lega under Matteo Salvini in Italy are all connected by dissatisfaction with a politics of the 1990s.

And there are reasons to believe that political conditions will continue to call for a Trumpist response for some time.

The most obvious reason for this is China. Free trade has often been accepted by conservatives as simply efficient. But in the case of China, it has been defended by citing larger theories about the world that have proven untrue — namely, that trade liberalization would lead to political liberalization in China and that any losses owing to America’s strategy of low-wage labor arbitrage would be diffuse and easily ameliorated through redistribution of the gains. None of this has proved true, and what is called “free trade” by Americans is clearly seen by the Chinese as mercantile and industrial policy for China’s geostrategic benefit.

9. David Bahnsen assesses the Trump presidency, and the path forward for conservatives. From the essay:

It could hardly have been called a swamp-draining four years, with multiple grifters and unimpressive individuals achieving senior positions in the administration. When a fallout would occur, the president never owned up to the fact that he was the one who hired the now-outcast member of his team. The melodrama was fitting of a reality TV show, but not the serious and sober administration of government. This is not a small point. It became Ground Zero for part of my disconnect with MAGA throughout these last four years. “Hey, maybe you don’t like Trump, but you have to agree General Mattis is awesome!” “Thank God Mattis is gone, that guy was a warmonger!” Time and time again staff and cabinet positions were arguments for the president until their removal became an argument for the president.

I believe that Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, Mike Pompeo at State, Larry Kudlow at NEC, and other key leadership positions served our country well. I also believe that overall, the dysfunctions in the staff and administration – and the high percentage of staffers who lacked the professional competence to be in their role — did great damage to the president’s agenda, and worse, great damage to the agenda of the conservative movement.

Just as I do not feel my list of accolades was comprehensive, I am certain my list of criticisms is not, either. But in categorizing my critiques around these three major categories (the incalculable damage his character and behavior has caused, the precedent of what he has done in fiscal management, and the dysfunctional management of personnel), many of the other criticisms people may launch could fit as a subset within these. These three categories are sufficient and overwhelming.

It is my humble, gracious, yet unwavering view that what many of the president’s supporters see (and love) as a “won’t back down/fight the Left” attitude, is really a character malady that happens to sometimes align with the Right’s agenda. The character traits that sacrificed the Senate seats in Georgia for his incessant need to portray himself as a victim are the same traits that caused him to brawl with CNN. We like the latter and end up getting bitten when it manifests in the former. I believe the Right’s opposition to the Left is ideological, cultural, political, and existential. I believe Trump’s opposition is deeply personal, vindictive, and incidental. If you believe I am wrong about this, at least understand where I am coming from. It should not be hard to consider the likelihood of my framing.

10. Andrew C. McCarthy bemoans what was gratuitously undone. From the article:

We mustn’t overstate the case — and not just because, in Burke’s elegantly simple wisdom, “The power of bad men is no indifferent thing.” Even concerning the judiciary, Trump’s achievement is not quite as advertised. Many of the judges he replaced were conservatives appointed during the presidencies of Reagan and the two Bushes. They took senior status or retired to make way for conservative replacements. The Supreme Court seems locked into a reliable originalist majority for the next several years, and Trump managed to get an impressive number of circuit judges through (his 54 equals what Obama managed in twice the time); but to truly remake the judiciary, Trump would need to have been reelected. That would have led to much higher appointment numbers (such as Obama’s 329 judges, Bush 43’s 327, and Bill Clinton’s 378), with many more replacements of liberal judges.

Moreover, Trump did not merely lose the 2020 election, mostly due to character failings that, in conjunction with a COVID-ravaged economy, overshadowed his achievements in the minds of most voters. His demagogic campaign to brand the election as “stolen” from under the nose of state election officials, particularly Georgia Republicans, sabotaged GOP prospects in the Peach State. Thus were two eminently winnable seats lost in the run-off earlier this month. That handed control of the Senate to Democrats. Had Republicans held even one seat, the Biden administration would have had to play ball with McConnell to get its judicial nominees through the confirmation process, and would have had to propose more moderates. Now Biden and new majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) will duplicate the Trump-McConnell feat, except it will be young progressive jurists rolling off the confirmation conveyor belt. Trump will have no one but himself to blame.

11. Mario Loyola explores what he considers the nexus of tragedy and Donald Trump. From the analysis:

Hence, the day after the election, Trump had before him two very different courses of action. He could accept the formal result of the election, highlight the sanctity of democratic procedure, and use his continuing leadership of the Republican Party to push for reform — and perhaps for another run in 2024. Or he could fan the flames of popular fury, further undermine the people’s trust in our democratic institutions, and risk all in a desperate gambit to benefit himself.

Tragically for all of us, he chose the latter course. He took little interest in the crucial runoff elections looming in the state of Georgia, on which depended the GOP’s continued control of the Senate. This was tragedy at its finest, because only a GOP Senate could now protect many of Trump’s greatest achievements, such as the tax reform of 2017. And GOP control of the Senate would be vital in addressing all that went wrong in the 2020 election.

But Trump and his more fanatical supporters demanded fealty to his increasingly theatrical attempts to reverse the results of the election, instigating a civil war within the Republican Party. Leading Trump supporters promised that Republicans who didn’t join the farce would be “finished forever.” Thus, in a childish temper tantrum over losing the White House, Trump dead-enders threw away control of the Senate, a stupid and unforgivable betrayal of the Republican Party. It was the fanatical Trumpers’ most shameful moment, and recalls Octavius Caesar’s final indictment of Antony: “’Tis to be chid– / As we rate boys who, being mature in knowledge, / Pawn their experience to their present pleasure, / And so rebel to judgment.”

12. David Harsanyi weighs in on the odious spymaster, liberal-media darling John Brennan. From the article:

We still don’t even know what role Brennan played in spying on his political opponents during the 2016 campaign. We do know he went on TV for years after, alleging to have insider knowledge of an unprecedented seditious criminal conspiracy against the United States. Never once was he challenged by his hosts. And when an independent multi-million-dollar investigation couldn’t pull together a single indictment related to those claims, Brennan shrugged it off by saying that he may have “received bad information.”

Brennan was back on MSNBC yesterday, contending that American intelligence agencies “are moving in laser-like fashion to try to uncover as much as they can about” the pro-Trump “insurgency” that harbors “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians.”

Even a former Communist such as Brennan surely understands that there is nothing prohibiting Americans from being religious extremists, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, or even libertarians. It’s definitely none of his business, or that of intelligence agencies, to define what those terms mean. (And the idea that libertarians, who can’t get a minyan to agree on anything libertarian, are marshaling forces for a national insurgency is nonsensical.)

13. More David, who argues that Democrats will pay a big price for placating the “Squad.” From the piece:

It’s important to remember that most intraparty debates among contemporary Democrats revolve around the political practicality and speed with which ideas can implemented — as opposed to, say, Republicans, whose intraparty debates reveal fundamental internal ideological disagreements over immigration or trade. How many Democrats oppose student-loan forgiveness or socialized medicine as bad policy rather than for merely being politically unfeasible?

“I think Republicans did get some traction trying to scare people on this ‘socialist narrative,’” Representative Jared Huffman (D., Calif.), a member of the House Progressive Caucus, said after the Democrats took a beating in House races this fall. “That was a shrewd play from them,” he went on. “These labels do distract us and divide us in unfortunate ways. . . . What’s the point of embracing a phrase like that? All you do is feed into these fears and bogus narratives.”

There is sadly nothing bogus about the socialist goals of legislators arguing for the effective nationalization of major industries such as energy and health care, or for the stripping of individual rights, whether it be the First or Second Amendments. And there is nothing particularly “shrewd” about pointing this reality out.

14. Tim Busch finds two Trumps, and believes history might remember the one who appointed judges faithful to the Constitution. From the piece:

For decades, appointees of both Republicans and Democrats have forced their own cultural values onto society. From religious freedom to abortion to marriage to many other issues, judges have twisted the Constitution’s words to fit their own preconceived ideas and political goals. The result has been an ever-deepening cultural divide that now threatens to tear America apart.

That divide is the natural result of abandoning originalism. When justices and judges start dictating policy from the bench, instead of letting lawmakers and elected leaders do so, Americans lose faith in the country’s republican form of government. Instead of fair fights that are won or lost by legislative votes and elections, there are unfair fights in which unelected judges set the country’s course.

As originalists, Trump’s appointees can start to mend America’s cultural rift. While their judicial philosophy prohibits them from taking sides in cultural debates, the result of their rulings will be the return of power to America’s legislative and policy-making institutions, where those debates can be worked out in the way they were intended. That is what the rule of law demands. It is the rule of the people through our elected representatives, not the rule of unelected judges.

President Trump’s record on judicial appointments is second to none. Time will tell if he will be most remembered, however, as the president who sparked a riot that overran Congress, in a terrible assault on the rule of law. Thankfully, the justices and judges he appointed to the federal courts will surely be remembered for their actions to defend the rule of law, and with it, the American experiment in self-government.

15. Douglas Feith explains why he is a Zionist, and why that position is compatible with American patriotism. From the essay:

So, it’s understandable that an American may question how Israel can be both democratic and Jewish.

The short answer is that the way Americans practice democracy is not the only way. It helps to consider that most liberal, democratic countries were founded on an ethnic basis. Most give special consideration to the majority population’s cultural interests. Many favor a particular language. Some have a state church. A number, including Ireland and Japan, have laws of return that favor expatriates of the majority people. As democracies go, Israel, being ethnically based, is ordinary. It is the United States that is exceptional.

The compatibility of Zionism and democracy relates to the issue of dual loyalty, which poses the question of whether those American Jews who are Zionists should be viewed as having divided loyalties. The question has been of personal interest to me, of course, because of my government work. Some of my more rabid critics have accused me of divided loyalties.

First of all, the frame of mind that produces such accusations is the same that argued for opposing John Kennedy’s presidential campaign on the grounds that, as a Roman Catholic, Kennedy would subordinate his oath of office to his loyalty to the pope. It’s simplistic and erroneous — and it violates the American democratic principles that it claims to uphold.

16. Colin Dueck contemplates conservative nationalism. From the piece:

As a matter of historical record, the original American colonies were founded by English Protestant settlers, and this specific cultural and religious heritage provided the context for U.S. founding principles. Over the years, some U.S. nationalists have defined their identity mainly in religious or ethnic terms. This has long encouraged tensions between an ethnic definition of the American nation and a civic one. Yet in their Declaration of Independence, the American revolutionaries stated that “all men are created equal,” justifying their rebellion in part by claiming certain universal natural rights. These claims were informed by beliefs well described as classically liberal. There has consequently been within the United States, from the very beginning, a kind of “American creed,” a civic religion or national identity with some notably classical liberal elements, including the rule of law, individual freedom, majority rule, equality of right, enterprise, progress, and limited government. As 19th-century Marxists such as Friedrich Engels noted, this classical-liberal creed made it difficult to promote socialism within the United States. This is what Engels meant by American exceptionalism — and he found it exceptionally frustrating.

In terms of its worldwide implications, the leaders of the American Revolution hoped that it would encourage the spread of republican forms of government and the creation of a new international system, characterized by peaceful commercial exchange, individual liberty, the rule of law, and human progress. They rejected the 18th-century European state system as corrupt, militaristic, warlike, and autocratic. Of course, the pressing question was inevitably how to interact with states still part of that Old World system. To varying degrees, the Founders and succeeding generations embraced America’s westward continental expansion, to create what Thomas Jefferson described as an “empire of liberty.” They also embraced commercial opportunities overseas. In this sense, U.S. economic and territorial expansion beyond existing boundaries long predated America’s later rise as a global power. Simultaneously, however, these very same early statesmen cherished the preservation of U.S. independence, and for that matter held to a policy of prudent disengagement from European alliances, a policy laid out formally by George Washington in his 1796 Farewell Address, in which he said that “the great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.” This emphasis on avoiding what Jefferson later called “entangling alliances” became a key component of U.S. foreign policy throughout the 19th century. Early American statesmen saw no essential contradiction between expanding the sphere of republican governments and preserving their nation’s independence.

Capital Matters

1. Corporate taxes harm manufacturing, and yes, Alex Muresianu needs to tell us again that important fact. From the article:

First, some context. The corporate-income tax is ideally a tax on corporate profits, or revenues minus costs. In a perfect world, the cost of investment in a factory would be deducted in the year it is made, just like the cost of salaries. In reality, however, while calculating book income, investment costs are spread out over what is deemed to be the life of the asset, in order to match the cost of the investment with the revenue it generates.

While that might make sense for an accountant, it creates economic problems. Thanks to inflation and the time value of money, deductions for an investment five years from now are worth less than deductions today, so companies cannot deduct the real value of their investments as they do with labor or administrative costs. This imbalance creates a tax bias against capital-intensive industries such as manufacturing.

2. Andrew Stuttaford argues that the Death Tax might have a little helper. From the piece:

To his credit, President Trump briefly floated the idea of adjusting capital gains for inflation, but that, sadly, got nowhere.

The discussion (to the extent that there has been any) over inflation adjustment up to now has been focused on the gain that occurs when I (not yet dead, hurrah!) sell something that I had acquired earlier. The starting point for that discussion has been the price I paid for that asset, or its value when I received it. Now imagine selling something that you have inherited, and that the law has been changed so that its basis cost is not the value of the asset at the time you acquired it (the current rule), but the price paid by the person (a parent, say, maybe even a grandparent) who left it to you. The effect of, say, five or ten years of inflation on a nominal gain will be bad enough, even at comparatively low levels of inflation (compounding is what it is). Now imagine what it could mean in the case of an asset, which, in the case of an older person (and the ranks of those who die tend to be filled with the old) might well have been held for a very long time indeed. There have been bouts of inflation, whether general or in specific asset classes, within the lifetimes of many of those who have yet to — how shall I put this — trigger their will. And looking to the future, who is to say that inflation will remain at current depressed levels?

3. Brad Palumbo decries the inclusion of a $15 minimu-wage mandate in Biden’s COVID-relief proposal. From the analysis:

Many states either set their state’s minimum wage rates at the federal rate or have no separate state minimum and simply rely on the federal rule (which will then apply to all but the smallest and most local of businesses). Others set their rates slightly above the federal mandate but still far below $15. In fact, no state in the country yet has a $15 statewide minimum wage, although some are scheduled to phase one in and several large cities have introduced a $15 (or higher) rate.

Making the switch would shock labor markets.

“In 35 states, the median hourly wage was less than $20,” wrote American Enterprise Institute economist Michael Strain in an article for Bloomberg in October. “Setting a minimum wage so close to the median wage would price many workers out of the labor market. Indeed, in 47 states, 25% of all workers earned less than $15 an hour.”

Think of it like this: If a law passed tomorrow mandating that cars had to be sold for close to the current median price, what would happen to all the cars on the market currently priced for far less? A significant number simply wouldn’t get sold, because they’ve been forcibly priced above what people had been prepared to pay for them or, for that matter, what they could afford.

4. ObamaCare’s big lie (well, one of them) writes Casey Mulligan, was it dubious claim of raising revenues to offset costs. From the article:

The employer penalty has a complex, four-step enforcement scheme, which incentivized employers to remain small and to favor part-time employment over full-time employment. These drags on the labor market reduced the payroll and personal-income tax revenue received by the federal treasury. Nonetheless, Congress was told, revenue from the penalty itself would add up to $46 billion through fiscal year 2018 (see page 6 of this document). In fact, the employer penalty generated $0  (rounded to the nearest billion) because of the complexity of the enforcement scheme.

The individual mandate, which President Trump and a Republican Congress repealed in 2017, was just as absurd. It punished individuals who turned down Obamacare plans and the generous tax credits that went with them.

Take Ben Winslett, a Baptist pastor, husband, and father of five from Alabama, who describes himself as “securely in the middle class earning nearly the exact average US income each year.” His family’s health insurance was “taken care of on my own in the previous system,” but the ACA outlawed their $250 monthly policy, leaving them with far more expensive alternatives. As he describes it, the ACA “has placed an enormous financial burden on normal, everyday people quite literally forcing us onto government assistance we didn’t need before” (emphasis added). In other words, consumers are encouraged to buy subsidized health insurance, even when they are perfectly happy with unsubsidized plans. Consumers who turn down the government aid by neglecting to accept subsidies are owed gratitude by us federal taxpayers. The ACA did the opposite with its “individual mandate,” administering a financial punishment.

From the New Issue

The February 8, 2021 issue of National Review is now off the presses and into the U.S. Postal system for those who like paper and ink. But it is also available in toto on our website. As is our custom, we make a quartet of recommendations.

1. Avik Roy believes the ways of 19th-century liberals might prove instructive to 21st-century conservatives. From the essay:

Today, it’s the era of small government that’s over. In 2020, for the first time since World War II, the size of the federal debt exceeded the United States’ annual economic output. Indeed, recent Republican presidents have overseen greater increases in the national debt than have their Democratic counterparts. You have to squint really hard to find the political constituency — in either party — for limited government.

Moreover, conservatives have failed to persuade the broader public to return to pre-1960s social mores. While Trump overwhelmingly won the votes of white born-again or Evangelical Christians, 76 percent to 24, he lost the votes of everyone else by a margin of 62 to 36. That second group — the non-Evangelicals — represented 72 percent of the electorate in 2020 and will claim an even larger share in future elections. Thanks to the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, pro-lifers may finally get their chance to overturn Roe v. Wade. But what other possible victories for social conservatism lie on the horizon?

While everyone focuses on the events of the last three weeks, it’s the last three decades that demand our attention. For if conservatives can’t shrink the size of government, and if conservatives can’t convince young people to live like their grandparents, what is it that conservatives exist to do, other than shake their fists at their televisions?

What realistic policy goals should conservatives strive to achieve in the 21st century? Can timeless conservative principles adapt to the way rising generations actually live their lives today, and will live their lives in the future? If so, how? Over the last four years, these deeper questions about the conservative mission have gone unanswered.

The end of the Trump presidency is an ideal time to take stock: to refresh our thinking about American self-government, and to expand the coalition that yearns for it.

2. Robert Kaplan considers the political and social-media pitfalls that might enhance Red China’s dominance over America. From the essay:

Social media—the key independent variable in this ongoing process—work contrary to the nation-state, writes the British journalist and chronicler of postmodern wars David Patrikarakos. Social media create networks of like-minded people regardless of national identity, and thus serve to weaken national identity. The networks they establish can elevate racial, gender, political, or sexual identity above that of the national community. Social media thus balkanize America while allowing powerful transnational economic and political-interest groups to depart America virtually. It is a commonplace now to recognize that our corporate and policy elites are part of a global class of like-minded colleagues and associates who all care much more about the opinions of one another than about those of poorer compatriots in their home countries.

To borrow from the conclusion of Stephen Vincent Benét’s epic poem of the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, America has existed in three stages: a North–South nation with a “tropic empire, . . . the last foray of aristocracy,” located in the South; followed by “the great, metallic beast” of the Industrial Revolution, “expanding East and West”; and finally a continental land mass split asunder by globalization, whereby our elites are becoming one with those in Europe and Asia while the left-behind masses inherit the economically depressed nation-state, leading to a lumpen patriotism that was on display on January 6 at the Capitol. It is globalization that constitutes the backdrop to our stark political divisions.

Of course, social media and the whole array of digital/cyber inventions also operate in China. But the context there is completely different. China is a Han Chinese blood-and-soil nation that oppresses non-Han subject peoples such as the Tibetans and the Turkic Uyghur Muslims, who tend to live in distinct areas of the southwest and west. China is also increasingly authoritarian, on the verge of being totalitarian. The combination of these factors, plus the high level of technological development achieved by China, allows the regime to use social media as a means of patriotic indoctrination and behavioral control. The electronic mob in China helps unify a prideful nation bordered by enemy ethnic groups and hostile outside forces, whereas the electronic mob in the United States, at least on the left, works against national pride altogether, reducing the American historical experience to genocide against the indigenous inhabitants and to ongoing racism.

3. Charles C.W. Cooke considers: What to do about Twitter? From the article:

What can we do about it? Well, it’s complicated — whatever glib U.S. senators and ignorant television hosts might tell you. On the one hand, the Internet as we know it simply cannot operate if its component parts are too heavily regulated, which is why core elements such as DNS and IP allocation are neutral by design; why ISPs, peering networks, and data centers have been historically indifferent as to what information they serve; and why — until now, at least — most websites and platforms have limited their interventions to addressing clear violations of the law. On the other hand, the private companies that provide so much of the Internet’s functionality enjoy First Amendment rights, too. Much of the coverage of this issue pits every question as if it were a matter of censorship vs. liberty. But it is not always that simple. To force a business owner to take a customer he doesn’t want is itself a form of intellectual control.

To understand how complicated and messy these issues are, one need only look at how awkwardly they attach to the two main political parties in the United States. It is a matter of considerable irony, for example, that it is the Democratic Party that wants to use Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to reclassify broadband providers as “common carriers” and thereby to prevent them from discriminating in any way between different kinds of traffic, while the Republican Party not only opposes the move but, in 2017, chose to reverse the Obama administration’s reforms at the first possible opportunity it got. Equally ironic is that it is the most populist members of the Republican Party who hope to remove or dilute the Section 230 protections attaching to Internet-based hosts and platforms and, thereby, to give those hosts and platforms a more convenient excuse for kicking off the dissenting or unpopular voices they claim to want to protect. To listen to the Josh Hawleys and Ted Cruzes of the world, one might get the impression that Section 230 accords Twitter and Facebook the power to determine who may use its service and who may not, and that repealing it would immediately strip them of that power. This is almost certainly incorrect: In a world without Section 230, Twitter and Facebook would be more, not less, liable for their users’ speech and, in consequence, would be more, not less, likely to monitor it. Here, as almost everywhere else at the moment, our political debate is an inchoate mess.

Perhaps that is inevitable, given that there are no sympathetic characters in this drama. I continue to believe that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is one of the best laws that have been passed in recent memory, and yet I am under no illusions as to why we are witnessing a backlash against it. Implicit in the logic of Section 230 is the assumption that the hosts and platforms that it protects will pass that protection on to their customers. But, as companies such as Amazon Web Services, Google, and Twitter are showing us every day, that assumption is now a shaky one. In an ideal world, Amazon Web Services would not care a great deal about the speech of, say, Parler and its users, because, thanks to Section 230, Amazon Web Services cannot be held liable for their speech.

4. Gerald Russello takes on Edmund Fawcett’s important new book, Conservatism, The Fight for a Tradition. From the beginning of the review:

Early in this magisterial history, Edmund Fawcett identifies the twin projects of conservatism. “Conservatives fight to identify and protect traditions that liberal modernity undermines,” he writes, “and they fight among themselves for ownership of their own conservative tradition.” So discussions of conservatism typically do two things: defend particular ideas about what conservatism is, and explain how conservatives defend it from its opponents.

Fawcett, a longtime correspondent for The Economist, has also written a well-received volume on liberalism. At the beginning of this book, he gives the game away by positioning liberalism at the center of the Western political tradition and conservatism as useful only insofar as it serves liberalism. “To survive, let alone flourish, liberal democracy needs the right’s support,” he writes, “needs, that is, conservatives who accept liberal and democratic ground rules.” Moreover, he argues, such acceptance has been good for conservatives, who have been better combatants than liberals on the ideological-political chessboard over the past two centuries. For Fawcett, three “advantages — the backing of wealth, institutional support, and electoral reach — helped the right prevail at the liberal democratic game.” He continues: “Puzzling as it sounds, conservatism’s ultimate reward for compromising with liberal democracy was domination of liberal democracy.”

To explain why the advantages accrued to conservatism, Fawcett presents perhaps the most comprehensive view of “the conservative mind” since Russell Kirk’s classic book (1953) of that title, discussing thinkers from the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and France. His roster includes, among others, Enoch Powell, Roger Scruton, David Willetts, John Kekes, Yuval Levin, Peter Sloterdijk, and Arnold Gehlen. The opening chapter is devoted to modern conservatism’s forerunners, including Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, and other critics of revolution. Because of such antecedents, critics of conservatism often assume that it must always be reactionary, a wish to restore an ancien régime. It can’t be restored, so how can conservatism make any sense?

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. Armond White ain’t buying what Promising Young Woman is selling. From the beginning of the review:

The serial-killer comedy Promising Young Woman is so full of hatred and cheating, it deserves to be called the first movie of the Biden-Harris era. More than that president-elect photo with the vacant smile in front of haloed backdrop signage, or that Vogue cover shot of Harris in sneakers, it’s Promising Young Woman that conveys ideas about revenge and cultural takeover.

British actress Carey “Crybaby” Mulligan plays Cassie (short for the prophetess Cassandra), who sets out to punish men for a BFF’s date-rape. Pretending girly helplessness, she recalls those pink-hatted Hillary Clinton cry-bullies of 2016. That’s the slyest aspect of director Emerald Fennell’s angry satire. Fennell’s facetious pop-art visual style loses its mirth as the film slips into an attack on the patriarchy, justifying Cassie’s plan to dominate other people’s lives while sacrificing herself — the cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face method seen in COVID culture and politics.

Pouty Cassie combines the traits of Hillary, Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Lady Macbeth, yet Mulligan’s miscasting (she’s 35 years old) exposes the film’s deceit. Mulligan’s poor-poor-pitiful-me shtick feels based on a lifetime of bellyaching.

2. Kyle Smith finds Martin Eden a garden of full-bloom socialism. From the beginning of the review:

‘Socialism is the only thing that will save you,” a red-flag waving activist promises the protagonist of the movie Martin Eden, which is being praised as a masterpiece by left-wing writers and was named the best film of 2020 by several of them. Martin dismisses this advice, and is undone.

So: Viva socialism? This movie has got it all worked out. Never mind that socialism has been a disaster every place it’s ever been tried: The sort of people who deride Avengers movies for being childish fantasy are sticking to their gauzy childlike views about socialism, the ideology that’s always on the brink of success in some fantasist’s imagination.

Martin Eden isn’t, however, much of a movie, and doesn’t even do a particularly good job of defining its rhetorical parameters; to the extent it makes an argument, it does so poorly. But if socialism fan-service is what you’re after, maybe this will be right up your alley.

3. More Armond: All the sense reject Sound of Metal. From the beginning of the review:

The metal genre of rock music suggests rebellion — defiance and anti-orthodoxy. But the indie film Sound of Metal is just a new-fashioned, sentimental pity party for Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a multiracial drummer in an experimental rock-metal art band. His rebellion is a pose: bleached hair, tattooed body, drug-addict history, itinerant lifestyle. He’s not rebellious; he’s privileged. His bandmate girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) — the self-cutting, suicidal vocalist of their spoken-word (shrieking word) duo — is the scion of an upper-crust French family, slumming with her hipster American boyfriend across the U.S.A.

When Ruben loses his hearing to high-decibel concert overkill (while Lou tearfully pursues her careerist path), he’s forced to confront his demons. This doesn’t mean bothering to reassess his attraction for metal-genre anarchy; it’s just privileged navel-gazing. Ruben enrolls in a rehab center for the deaf but eventually opts out for the globe-trotting advantages of bourgeois bohemians. From the desolate roads of Nomadland America, he finds himself on the streets of Paris where he finally realizes that his crisis is existential.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Gatestone Institute, Raymond Ibrahim talleys the massive numbers of persecuted Christians around the globe. From the article:

The “extreme persecution” that Christians experience in 10 of the absolute 12 worst nations comes from “Islamic oppression” or is occurring in Muslim majority nations. These include: Afghanistan (#2), Somalia (#3), Libya (#4), Pakistan (#5), Yemen (#7), Iran (#8), Nigeria (#9), Iraq (#11), and Syria (#12).

Among the worst, Afghanistan and Somalia, the “persecution is only very slightly less oppressive than in North Korea.” In the rest, Christians face persecution ranging from being harassed, beat, raped, imprisoned, or slaughtered merely for being identified as Christian or attending church.

Overall, the persecution Christians experience in 39 of the 50 nations on the list is also either from “Islamic oppression” or is occurring in Muslim majority nations. The overwhelming majority of these nations are governed by some form of shari’a (Islamic law). It is either directly enforced by government or society or, more frequently, both, although societies — family members in particular — tend to be more zealous in its application.

In India (#10) — the only non-Islamic nation alongside North Korea to make the top 12 — rising Hindu nationalism continues to use “extensive violence” against Christians based on the belief that “to be Indian is to be Hindu.” Christians are additionally “accused of following a ‘foreign faith’ and blamed for bad luck in their communities. These believers are often physically attacked and sometimes killed, as well as being under constant pressure from their family and community to return to Hinduism.”

2. At The College Fix, Asher Notheis reports on professional pontificator Ibram Kendi’s new Big Bother project. From the beginning of the article:

Anti-racism proponent and Boston University Professor Ibram Kendi is embarking on a new project — a collaboration of his anti-racism activism and data.

The university announced the “Racial Data Lab” in a December news release. The lab, a joint project of the Center for Antiracist Research and the computing and data science department, “will put BU at the center of the emerging field of racial data science,” university officials said.

The announcement comes five months after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey gave Kendi’s center a “no strings attached” $10 million donation. Kendi and his associated would not say if that donation is funding the new project.

“The new Racial Data Lab’s first project will be the Racial Data Tracker (RDT), which [Professor Azer] Bestavros and Kendi say is aimed at developing and maintaining the nation’s largest online collection of racial inequity data and will be accessible and available to the public,” the release said.

Kendi’s team would did not provide any details on the project.

3. In Commentary, James Meigs investigates the problems with the COVID vaccine rollout. From the piece:

In a classic case of “elite panic,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order threatening any health-care provider that administers the vaccine to an unapproved person with a $1 million fine and the loss of medical licenses. With the state’s infection rate surging beyond even last spring’s horrific levels, the governor decided to focus on menacing Columns_Feb_1.14C.indd 11 1/14/21 2:59 PM providers who vaccinate too broadly. Doubling down, he also threatened providers with $100,000 fines if they don’t administer their vaccines fast enough. (I’m reminded of Robert Heinlein’s description of a totalitarian state in which “anything not compulsory was forbidden.”) If you wanted to discourage health-care companies and workers from having anything to do with vaccinating people, Cuomo’s schizophrenic plan would be an excellent start.

Governor Cuomo also cracked down on county officials who were poised to roll out their own mass-vaccination campaigns. In recent years, New York county health departments received millions in federal grants to create emergency vaccination centers in schools, fire stations, and civic centers. They’d recruited volunteers and held annual flu-vaccination drives for practice. Just before Christmas, Cuomo pulled the plug on those efforts, announcing that the state’s vaccine supply would initially be distributed only through hospitals under the governor’s direct supervision. “We’re still waiting to hear back from them,” one county spokesman said about efforts to coordinate with the state health officials. Meanwhile, as of the first week of January, New York State had administered only about a third of the doses it had been allocated. The rest sat in refrigerators, ticking toward expiration.

Critics of Operation Warp Speed say the White House should have emulated Cuomo’s approach, enforcing more centralized, top-down management of vaccine delivery. Incoming President Biden has suggested he’ll do just that, including taking more control of private corporations under the Defense Production Act. The Trump administration’s decision to let states take the lead put too much of the burden on state public-health agencies, critics say. Here they have a point. After nearly a year of coping with the pandemic, the state agencies are overstretched and underfunded. The coronavirus relief bill that Congress finally passed in December includes billions to help states distribute vaccines and expand testing. But imagine if those funds had reached the states back in the fall, when planning for the vaccine rollout should have happened. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently bragged about her political wisdom in delaying passage of the coronavirus bill until after the election. As a member of Congress, the 80-year-old Pelosi was vaccinated on December 18. Perhaps someone will ask her what the delay in COVID relief means for other elderly Americans desperate for their shots.

4. More from James Meigs, this time in the new issue of City Journal, where he makes the case for election reform. From the article:

As new calls for national election reform emerge, members of Congress should be wary of proposals that undermine the authority of individual states or dictate too much technological standardization. Our election system should remain “loosely coupled.”

The vulnerabilities of electronic voting systems pale next to those involved in absentee voting. Voting by mail “increases the risks of fraud and of contested elections,” warned the 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former secretary of state James Baker and former president Jimmy Carter. While Oregon and a few other states that rely heavily on mail-in ballots have reported relatively few problems, the underlying risks of mail-in voting are inherently hard to detect because the process happens mostly out of sight. Airlines keep meticulous records of every maintenance procedure. Banks and casinos carefully track the handling of cash in their facilities. Voting by mail precludes the kind of supervision that keeps those industries safe. As the New York Times noted in 2012, mail-in voting “replaces the oversight that exists at polling places with something akin to the honor system.” It’s hard to be certain that the person whose name is on the envelope actually filled out the ballot, or to know whether he or she was pressured or even bribed to do so. These problems are particularly severe in states like California that permit third parties to “harvest” absentee ballots from settings such as nursing homes, a tactic known as “granny farming.”

Despite these issues, the Democratic Party has pushed to expand voting by mail and to loosen voting registration rules in ways that make it harder for states to maintain accurate voter rolls. A 2017 voting bill backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have forced states to adopt those and other changes. The bill never became law, but the Covid-19 pandemic gave Democratic activists a rationale to push for similar changes in 2020. If they manage to make those changes permanent, the effect will be to “normalize deviance” in our election system. Less oversight and looser procedures would make problems harder to detect while encouraging fraud.

5. At The American Conservative, Christopher Barnard explains how the environmental movement’s Green Dealers lost America. From the piece:

Nevertheless, with a motivation as galvanizing as a secular higher power, progressive environmentalists will always justify prioritizing ideology over action. Just last week, in fact, more than 300 progressive environmental groups attempted to block a bipartisan energy package because it didn’t go as far as they wanted. The groups even claimed that the legislation contained “dirty handouts.” It didn’t matter that it was the result of countless bipartisan discussions or that it funded the development of technologies (such as nuclear energy and carbon capture) that would mean millions of tons of less carbon in the atmosphere.

This is why many remain wary of the modern environmental movement. It’s not because most of the country doesn’t believe in climate change. It’s because for those on the ground who see environmental challenges each and every day, the progressive environmental agenda rings hollow. When the Green New Deal, the holy scripture of choice for the climate movement, encompasses everything from racial justice to health care to jobs guarantees, it becomes painfully clear just how far removed the debate is from empirical reality. We need specific, targeted solutions, not one-size-fits-all, top-down plans that make climate change intangible to the average American. In fact, in his book Enlightenment Now, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker writes that people are less likely to accept the reality of climate change and decide to act on it when they are told that only widespread social revolution can solve the apocalypse, or else. However, they feel much more inclined to proactively tackle the problem if they are told that innovative, targeted solutions can and do exist.

6. At Law & Liberty, Tillman Nechtman and Natalie Taylor share a history lesson and consider the prudence of George Washington to the rage of Donald Trump. From the article:

On January 6, 2021 just as Congress was scheduled to meet to count and certify the votes of the Electoral College, President Donald Trump — a tall man who, because of his wealth and media savvy, had cast a shadow on American culture for decades — stood before a crowd outside the White House in Washington, D.C.  Four years before, Trump won the presidency by appealing to Americans’ suspicion of elites and now, as his presidency was coming to an end after a failed re-election bid, he stirred the crowd’s passionate indignation by telling his supporters that the election had been stolen.

He encouraged them to march on Congress to demand the restoration of our democracy before it was too late.  The subsequent scenes of protestors forcibly entering our legislative halls and vandalizing the seat of our democracy are now familiar to all.  An ancient fear that a tyrant might emerge out of a democracy, exploit the people’s passions, and aggravate their sense of grievance became a pressing twenty-first century concern as Americans despaired that their proud tradition of the peaceful transition of power might come to an end 234 years after our first president, George Washington, left office.

The tale need not end in despair.  We can turn back the page to March 15, 1783, early spring in Newburgh, NY and, metaphorically, in the history of democratic government in the United States.  The Revolutionary War was all but concluded with a peace treaty on the near horizon.  The victorious, but beleaguered, Continental soldiers and their officers were anxious to receive the pay and the pensions promised to them by the Continental Congress.   If Congress could not pay them before it signed the peace treaty and disbanded the army, the soldiers might never again have the opportunity to press their claims.

In that spring of 1783, an anonymous letter circulated through the military’s ranks at Newburgh.  Purportedly written by a “a fellow soldier” and one “whose past sufferings have been as great . . . as yours,” the letter cast suspicions upon the Continental Congress; it had neither the ability nor the intention to pay the soldiers.  “Faith has its limits,” the author insisted, “as well as temper; and there are points beyond which neither can be stretched, without sinking into cowardice, or plunging into credulity.”

7. At The Imaginative Conservative, our esteemed friend, Bradley Birzer, considers one of America’s founder, James Otis, and his focus on the nature of our rights. From the article:

Feel free to call me a conservative (I won’t object), but my response to a crisis is always to go back to first principles. I feel like I’ve been going back to first principles repeatedly over the past eleven months. Lockdowns, riots, more lockdowns, more riots, election confusions, more lockdowns (remember, I live in Michigan — no state has been more locked down) and — lo and behold — another riot. This last one, though, was the real doozy. Since 1968, those of us not on the left have been able to blame civil unrest on the left itself. Those days, it seems, have finally ended. Regardless, let’s return to first principles.

In particular, since the Capitol Hill unrest, I’ve been thinking about the nature of rights and duties. Going back to the first principles of the Founding, one finds that the Founders talked unceasingly about rights. While rights language appears before the 1760s, it becomes a critical part of the cultural landscape in February 1761 when James Otis delivered his five-hour oration on the nature of rights, the common law, and the natural law. The basis of the argument came from Otis’s denial of the writs of assistance — which had, in violation of the common law, allowed for an open-ended search and seizure by government agents. They did not have to prove guilty, but merely presume it. They did not have to have probable cause, only instinct. Thus, armed with the writs of assistance, they could search any man’s property for any reason at any time and without impediment.

Although we do not know exactly what Otis said that day, we have some good indications from his writings following that speech. “I say men, for in a state of nature, no man can take my property from me, without my consent: If he does, he deprives me of my liberty, and makes me a slave,” Otis argued. “If such a proceeding is a breach of the law of nature, no law of society can make it just — The very act of taxing, exercised over those who are not represented, appears to me to be depriving them of one of their most essential rights, as freemen; and if continued, seems to be in effect an entire disfranchisement of every civil right.” While God demands that men govern themselves, the laws of nature and the common law prevent one man from controlling another man. Slavery, thus, in any form is forbidden, whether it be chattel slavery or the taxation of a person without his consent.


Let us consider the doubleheader, and ones of particular feats, especially as regards pitching. That being the criteria, it is difficult to top what happened at the Polo Grounds on Sunday, July 2, 1933, before a Depression-Era crowd of 42,000. They’d see something spectacular, as the Giants took on the visiting St. Louis Cardinals, stocked with plenty of Gas House Gangers.

The opener proved historic: The great Carl Hubbell, on the mound for the Giants, dueled it out with Redbirds’ righty Tex Carleton, and after nine innings, the score was knotted at goose eggs. St. Louis touched Hubbell for only three hits to that point, while the Giants scattered four. In the 11th Inning, New York loaded the bases with one out, but couldn’t score, while the Cardinals remained baffled by Hubbell’s screwball. In the 17th, Jesse Haines, who’d been the Cardinals star pitcher in the Twenties (he’d end up in the Hall of Fame), took over from Carlton. His relief appearance did not last long: In the bottom of the 18th Inning, having walked two (Hubbell walked no one this day, and struck out 12), Haines served up a game-winning single to Hughie Critz, ensuring Hubbell’ historic complete-game shutout. The affair took four hours and two minutes. Do check out the box score.

But that was only the day’s first game. On the mound for the Cardinals in Game Two was Dizzy Dean, facing the Giants Roy Parmelee. This contest was a quickie by comparison with the opener: It took but an hour and 25 minutes for the Giants to rack up their second 1-0 win of the afternoon, the sole run coming on third baseman Johnny Vergez’s home un in the Fourth Inning. Parmelee was touched for only four singles — including a pinch hit by the great Rogers Hornsby in the Ninth Inning — but he struck out 13 Cardinals and walked one in a brilliant performance. Dean went the distance for the Cardinals, giving up only five hits while striking out six.

It was 36 years before another team notched a duet of 1-0 doubleheader wins: On Friday, September 12, 1969, in Pittsburgh, in the thick of their heralded race to take the NL pennant, the New York Mets pulled off the feat at the expense of the Pirates.

In the opener of the twi-nighter, New York southpaw Jerry Koosman held the Bucs to three measly hits (one of those hits, and two walks led to a jam in the Third Inning) to best Bob Moose, who gave up just one run. Of special interest: It was driven in by a Koosman single in the Fifth. That was one of only four hits Koosman has in 1969, when he batted a ghastly .048 (his career batting average was .119).

The aging Don Cardwell was on the mound for the Mets in the second game, facing a very young Dock Ellis. Both men had their stuff — indeed, in eight innings, Elis struck out 11 Mets. But as in the first game, it was the Met starting pitcher who provided the necessary offense: In the Second Inning, Cardwell stroked a two-out single to drive in Bud Harrelson. No more runs were needed. In the Ninth Inning, Tug McGraw came in to earn his 12th save of what had become the Mets’ magical season.

The 19,303 Pirates fans at Forbes Field might have not liked the day’s defeats, but there is no question they witnessed on of MLB’s rarer events.

A Dios

Hank Aaron has passed away. Pray please for his soul’s peaceful repose. And this being written on the 48th anniversary of a most unjust Supreme Court ruling, pray for strength for those pressed and conflicted by forces which contrive to make them carry out an unconscionable act, and pray that those of us who find such unconscionable will make it a point to the material aid of women determined to choose life.

God’s Blessings on Tender Mercies on You and Yours

Jack Fowler, who will defend the Founding at all costs, including nasty missives directed towards

P.S.: The new issue of The Human Life Review is off the presses, and spotlights an important essay by Lyle Strathman, A Case for the Revocation of Roe v. Wade. Please do check it out.


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