Dear Weekend Jolter,
Things religious now behind us (some of us anyway) until Lent deprives us of M&Ms and ice cream, the WJ should start the year with some appropriate institutional bowing, which is accomplished by noting from the get-go El Jefe Rich Lowry’s column on the crazy-pants “Green New Energy” Plan being offered by the new Democrats (i.e., Socialists) in the House, led by toothy economist and bartendress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. From our Editor’s opining:
The Green Energy Plan would take one of the country’s unadulterated policy triumphs of the past 20 years, the revolution in oil and gas drilling, and trash it for no good reason. It would throw hundreds of thousands of employees in this industry out of work. But don’t worry — they could get a federally guaranteed job and perhaps grow fruits and vegetables in their backyards.
The case for the Green Energy Plan is based on the alleged climate crisis being so dire that it must overwhelm all cost-and-benefit analysis. Actually, we have already been making incremental progress in reducing emissions, thanks largely to natural gas, which the Green Energy Plan can’t abide. While global emissions have been increasing since 2005, U.S. emissions have been declining.
Even if we were to kneecap ourselves with the Green Energy Plan, the world’s biggest emitter wouldn’t follow suit. According to research by the green group CoalSwarm, China is now developing as much new coal capacity as currently exists in the U.S.
(RELATED: Jonah Goldberg’s new column calls the Green New Deal “a triumph of recycling” — and not cans.)
It got me thinking about harebrained schemes with an emerald shade, which got me thinking about Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston (his dinner scene with Edward G. Robinson is succulent!), which got me thinking about the famous old NR subscription commercial starring Chuck and Bill Buckley. It most definitely wasn’t Shakespeare, but I wrote Heston’s lines, and hung with him and Ed Capano at the studio, and talked about the LA riots as we rode back to NR’s old offices on 150 East 35th Street. And there he was greeted by a startled research assistant (we’ll call him Paul M) who declared: “Charlton Heston. I loved you in Planet of the Apes.”
OK readers, time to get out of this rabbit hole. Joltio, ergo sum!
1. We reported in the last WJ about how Democrat senators are applying de facto religious tests for Trump judicial nominees who are members of (shudder!) the Knights of Columbus. This week we level a formal editorial condemning the hounding. Here’s how it ends:
The plaques of America’s war memorials are filled with the names of Knights. The first American officer to die in World War I was a Knight. The last officer to die was a Knight (a chaplain). Of all nations’ combatants, the last man to be killed, seconds before the Armistice took effect, was a Knight. President Kennedy was a Knight, and several councils are named in his honor. Numerous other anecdotes can be added here.
But the volume of such tributes, the size of its membership, the number of its councils, the dollars donated, and the hours volunteered, while inspiring, are irrelevant to the religious liberties of Americans. What troubles us is the principle at stake, which strikes at the core of the republic. The senators who have engaged in this decidedly un-American conduct need to apologize to the nominees unjustly treated, to the Knights of Columbus as an institution, and to their constituents for representing them under false pretenses.
2. Yeah, there is indeed a crisis at the border. From the editorial:
More physical barriers are part of the solution. The goal of the migrants is simply to set foot into the United States and then perhaps stay for years or never leave as their asylum claims are adjudicated. It gives us more control if it is harder to cross illegally and they can be made to apply at ports of entry. We saw a real-time example of the usefulness of a barrier when the caravan that arrived late last year in Tijuana was prevented from simply walking into the country by border fencing. The experience in places such as Yuma, Arizona, is that fencing has significantly diminished illegal crossings.
The fence isn’t a panacea, though. Even if Trump gets all the fence he wants in the current showdown, it will take years to build and, at roughly an additional 200 miles, obviously not cover the entire border. It would be more important to fix the rules around asylum and our handling of Central American families and minors so we aren’t so hamstrung. In its little-noticed current offer to Democrats in Congress, the administration proposes measures to encourage Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries instead of showing up here after an incredibly dangerous journey.
3. We say no to the idea that the President can have Americans (wait! what happened to the Mexicans footing the bill?!) pay for the Wall by declaring an emergency. The wrap-up from the editorial:
An attempt to spend unilaterally on the fence would almost certainly get tied up in the courts immediately. In the most favorable scenario for the administration, it eventually prevails in a Supreme Court loath to second-guess even dubious military-related determinations by the commander-in-chief. In the meantime, the administration will have built nothing new on the border and created another precedent for unilateral government sure to be exploited the next time a Democrat occupies the White House.
4. Just stop already, Congressman. From the end of the editorial:
Steve King may be clumsy, dangerous, bigoted, or some mix of the three. Whatever he is, he doesn’t deserve the support of conservatives.
And Now I Plug A New Book – So You Pay Attention
My good pal Nick Adams, founder of Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness, as happy a warrior as you will ever meet, was a big hit on the recent NR cruise, and he let us know there about his new book coming out from Simon and Schuster, Class Dismissed: Why College Isn’t the Answer. I’m sure that will enthrall my professor friends, but as they say, noogies of toughness.
Nick is a passionate guy, an American accidentally born in Australia, who sees the US of A as that last great and only hope. Looking at college dropout rates, tuition costs, college loan debt, and the aching need in our economy for trade careers — which offer a life that’s both economically-sustainable and soul-pleasing — Nick sees what many other see: that for millions of young Americans, college is not the answer. What about the teenager for whom sitting in a classroom is unfulfilling and frustrating? What about the kid with a skillset that can’t be nurtured on campus.
My pal ain’t just whistling Waltzing Matilda. Since a lot of the college decision-making process is as much about mom and dad as it is about kiddo, he’s structured Class Dismissed: Why College Isn’t the Answer, as a resource to consider next steps. Toward what? Maybe to college. But maybe to a great trade and a fulfilling and contented life — employed, fat, happy, and with no debt.
Hot, Gorgeous, Lovely: This Sampling Is a Perfect 10.
1. We are privileged to publish another Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn work: The first-time in-English translation of his 1974 speech, “The Orbital Journey,” upon receiving the Golden Matrix award from the Italian Catholic Press Union. From Daniel J. Mahoney’s preface:
The Golden Matrix address has certain advantages over the Harvard address: It is sparer, less polemical, and perhaps even more weighty and philosophical. It is also less immediately preoccupied with the issues of the day. It is high-minded in every sense of the term. Eschewing narrowly political and grossly ideological categories, Solzhenitsyn provides a measured account of the “orbital journey” of modern man and the modern project in both East and West. His address is a clarion call for civilized humanity to reject the theocratic temptations of the medieval world as well as the materialist hegemony of an unbounded modernity. He calls for the restoration of balance in the human soul and the human world: One must resist the tyranny of the spiritual — which forgets the centrality of human freedom to a life well lived — but also the debilitating opposing claim that Man is the highest measure of the universe. Solzhenitsyn calls on his contemporaries to have the wisdom “to discover once again that man is not the crown of the universe, but that there exists above him a Higher Spirit.” Attentive readers hear the voice of Solzhenitsyn, the conservative green, the eloquent critic of “cruel modern tyrannies” and of the accompanying illusion that socialism, coercive and devoid of higher spiritual content as it is, can restore balance to the human world.
The address also includes a luminous critique of “bloody physical revolutions” (as in France after 1789 and the Soviet Union after 1917). They “lead not to a brighter future, but to worse perdition, to worse violence.” Both here and in the Harvard address, Solzhenitsyn suggestively traces the possibility of a “moral revolution” that would move beyond the excesses of modernity, yet without returning to the spiritual despotisms of the past. He never advocates going back, only up, from modernity.
2. Victor Davis Hanson wonders if American higher education can be saved. From his essay:
On the one hand, higher education’s professional schools in medicine and business, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs in math, science, and engineering, are the world’s best. America dominates the lists of the top universities compiled in global surveys conducted from the United Kingdom to Japan.
On the other hand, the liberal arts and social sciences have long ago mostly lost their reputations. Go online to Amazon or to the local Barnes and Noble bookstore, and the books on literature, art, and history are often not the products of university professors and presses.
Few believe any more that current liberal-arts programs have prepared graduates to write persuasively and elegantly, to read critically and to think inductively while drawing on a wide body of literary, linguistic, historical, artistic, and philosophical knowledge. In fairness, that is no longer the aim of higher education. When students at tony colleges present petitions objecting to free speech or the right of guests to give lectures, they are usually full of grammatical errors and often incoherent.
3. Jim Geraghty finds 15 things you probably don’t know about presidential wannabe Elizabeth Warren. From the rundown, here’s Number 7:
Warren was, at one point, a passionate advocate for school-voucher programs. The Two-Income Trap, the 2003 book she co-authored with her daughter, had this to say on the subject:
Any policy that loosens the ironclad relationship between location-location-location and school-school-school would eliminate the need for parents to pay an inflated price for a home just because it happens to lie within the boundaries of a desirable school district.
A well-designed voucher program would fit the bill neatly. A taxpayer-funded voucher that paid the entire cost of educating a child (not just a partial subsidy) would open a range of opportunities to all children. With fully funded vouchers, parents of all income levels could send their children — and the accompanying financial support — to the schools of their choice. Middle-class parents who used state funds to send their kids to school would be able to live in the neighborhood of their choice — or the neighborhood of their pocketbook. Fully funded vouchers would relieve parents from the terrible choice of leaving their kids in lousy schools or bankrupting themselves to escape those schools.
As she joined the Democratic party and became increasingly prominent in it, Warren’s position changed. By 2018, she was denouncing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for “using her vast fortune to bankroll radical K–12 ‘school choice’ policies and private voucher programs,” and she decried voucher programs as an effort to “further drain funds from public education and programs serving low-income and working Americans.”
4. Jonathan Tobin cautions that Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden might be petard-hoisted in 2020 thanks to the Democrats’ ever-radicalizing base. From his piece:
Biden had long since outrun any criticism defenders of Thomas’s accuser, Anita Hill, had thrown in his direction by the time he became Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the fall of 1991, when Thomas’s fated was being decided, he was blamed for the harsh questioning to which Hill was subjected by some senators. But he could also point out that Thomas blamed him for allowing last-minute attacks on his character to be launched in the first place. When Thomas claimed to be the victim of a “high-tech lynching” on national television, he was directing his anger at Biden rather than the other members of the committee’s Democratic majority.
A decade after Obama’s ascendance, however, the criticisms have returned, and Biden finds himself in the same position as Sanders.
Of course, neither Biden nor Sanders is a genuine #MeToo villain, even by the debased standards of guilt and innocence that have reigned over the past year. But the Times’s exposure of the Sanders campaign may make it even easier for Democrats to favor a female candidate or, at the very least, make it harder for them to nominate an old, white male with pre-October 2017 #MeToo baggage of any sort.
5. Kyle Smith watches the Golden Globes (so we didn’t have to). Amidst the mud he found a truffle. From his essay’s conclusion:
Yet one American did manage to balance emotion and good humor in a freewheeling speech that was heartfelt without being mawkish: Jeff Bridges, capturing the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, went full Dude in a strange but wonderful series of remarks in which he thanked by name his directors (the Coen brothers, Michael Cimino, Peter Bogdanovich — who “kicked the whole party off for me, man”). Cimino, whose first film was Bridges’ Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and who later won an Oscar for The Deer Hunter, reassured the actor when he wanted to bail on the film: “Jeff, you know the game tag? . . . You’re it. You are the guy. You couldn’t make a mistake if you wanted to.” That proved an amusing segue into the very Dude-ian remark, “You know, I’ve been tagged. I guess we all have been tagged, right? We’re all alive. Right here, right now! This is happening. We’re alive.” Far out, man! Bridges moved on to an unexpected disquisition about R. Buckminster Fuller (whom Bridges called “Bucky”), saying that the little rudder, or trim tab, on a ship’s rudder steers the big rudder, which steers the ship. “All of us are trim tabs. We might seem like we’re not up to the task, but we are, man. We’re alive! We can make a difference! We can turn this ship in the way we wanna go, man!” That’s the Hollywood we want: grateful, funny, whimsical wackjobs. Enjoy yourselves, you Dudes, instead of imploring us to take you seriously.
The Green New Deal has been endorsed by scads of liberal politicians including New York governor Andrew Cuomo, former California state senator Kevin de León, media darling and newly sworn-in Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and anti-hydrocarbon activist Josh Fox. The goals of the Green New Deal are nothing short of radical. As the website for the left-wing think tank Data for Progress explains, the Green New Deal aims to “transform the economy and the environment in ways that achieve sustainability, equity, justice, freedom, and happiness.” Achieving happiness has never been easy. Even harder will be the Green New Deal’s aim of completely eliminating the use of coal, oil, and natural gas by 2050.
How all this happiness and energy legerdemain will be achieved is anyone’s guess. Supporters are particularly vague about how they would find the hundreds of billions — or even trillions — of dollars needed to attempt such a plan. Nevertheless, there is one unassailable fact about the Green New Deal: It is not green. Indeed, the entire notion of an all-renewable-energy system is the antithesis of environmental protection and scenic conservation.
7. I’m almost loath to link to this because I have developed Ocasio-Cortez Fatigue Syndrome, but that said, Kyle Pomerleau finds her call for a 70 percent tax on moneybags to be unworkable. From his analysis:
Ocasio-Cortez has yet to release the specifics of her new plan. However, her comments imply that she wants to add an eighth tax bracket of 70 percent on incomes over $10 million. What this means is that if you are a very high earner, such as a successful actor, musician, or business owner, you would need to pay 70 cents for every dollar you report in taxable income over $10 million. It’s not clear yet whether it would apply only to earned income, or if it would apply to all income, including capital gains, dividends, and business income. However, given her stated goal, it is likely the latter.
For sure, there is a lot of money earned by the roughly 16,000 tax filers with incomes over $10 million. IRS data show that this group reported more than $482 billion in adjusted gross income in 2016. The Washington Post recently estimated that on a purely “static” basis (not accounting for any behavioral changes), the federal government could raise more than $700 billion in additional revenue over the next ten years if the federal government enacted a top tax rate of 70 percent.
Unfortunately for the congresswoman, estimates that show a significant increase in revenue from a 70 percent tax rate on incomes over $10 million are unrealistic. This is because individuals — and their accountants — would react to the new 70 percent rate by finding ways to report less income. They would save 70 cents for every dollar not reported above that threshold.
9. Now that the American Psychological Association has labeled manliness and masculinity as harmful, Heather Wilhem wants to know: Who will kill the spiders in her house?
This week, the American Psychological Association delivered some sad news for fans of “traditional masculinity.” According to the organization’s new “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men,” the “harmful” ideology of masculinity — marked by “stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression” together with “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence” — has got to go.
Here I imagine a mournful, windswept cowboy — preferably Val Kilmer from Tombstone, or maybe Harrison Ford from Indiana Jones, but wearing a ten-gallon hat — riding off into the sunset, slumped and grim, dragging a sad cache of uneaten rare steaks and unused power tools behind him. Farewell, traditional masculinity! You are too toxic! The APA told us so! Don’t let those swinging Old West barroom doors hit you on the way out, causing the old-timey piano music to abruptly stop and all the dust-strewn poker players who may or may not have tuberculosis to turn and stare at you in shock and dismay!
Reader, I don’t know how you feel about all this. I, for one, find it very upsetting, for one simple and selfish reason: Who is going to kill all the spiders that make their way into my house?
RELATED: The backlash to the APA had the outfit spinning, to which David French — who leveled an initial sharp attack on the shrinks’ idiocy — called BS on the spin, and said the APA cannot be given a pass.
10. Brian Allen tells a quite interesting story of the old, prestigious, and greatly troubled National Academy of Design (I didn’t even know it existed, but then there is a lot I don’t know) has fixed itself. Yeah, I think you should learn about this — here’s a chunk from the story:
Fourth, and best of all, the NAD is now living within its means. In politics, causes usually evolve into movements, then businesses, and finally rackets. In the arts world, ambitions might start as grand but often turn grandiose, then grotesque, and finally draining and debilitating. The NAD will eventually find a new home that includes a nice, small exhibition space to show selections from its superb permanent collection of art on a rotating basis, in a happy resolution to an internal debate that had long raged among members.
Since the 1820s, academicians have given their work to the NAD, so it owns important things. Over the last 15 years, the NAD has produced some fantastic shows of this work, shows that produced important art-history scholarship. These shows, it seems, became a controversy among the academicians as the institution’s situation got more and more dire. Many didn’t see the point of doing shows on the work of dead members. To them, it was an expensive distraction that refocused the NAD away from living artists and toward fundraising, marketing, outreach to schools, loans for shows, and all the other things that concern museum people but not artists.
The rotating-exhibition scheme has eliminated that problem, and, together with all the NAD’s other changes, gone a long way toward resolving the existential question of how museum-like the institution should be. A few years ago, back when that question was still open, it changed its name to the National Academy Museum. But it’s not really a museum. It’s an artist-run organization with a collection. As one telling new step, it’s changed its name back to what it was for a hundred years: the National Academy of Design.
Thus Spake Tucker.
The Fox host’s now-famous / viral monologue has launched a fleet of NRO responses and rebuttals. Here we go . . .
1. Jim Geraghty too wants to “put families first,” but defining what that means — and clarifying some facts (such as on America’s manufacturing base) — leads to some sharp criticisms of the Carlson spiel. From his Morning Jolt take:
NBA superstar LeBron James opened up a school for at-risk students in his old hometown of Akron that includes STEM summer courses as well as GED courses and job placement for parents. (Around this time, President Trump mocked LeBron James as stupid.) Carlson’s last book, Ship of Fools, depicted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos as some of the fools on the cover. Zuckerberg has pledged to give away 99 percent of his fortune during his lifetime, and his personal foundation has built a massive medical research facility. Jeff Bezos just committed $2 billion to a “split between the Day 1 Families Fund — helping homeless families — and the Day 1 Academies Fund — creating a “network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities.”
Aren’t these folks who have skin in the game and who are demonstrating a long-term obligation to their communities?
2. David French sizes up Carlson’s speech as victimhood populism and calls on conservatives to reject it. From his critique:
I’m not sure where he’s getting the idea that America’s wealthy citizens care more about the Congo than their own country. In 2017, Americans gave more than $410 billion in charity, and the idea that this charity flows principally overseas is ludicrous. Gifts to international charities represented only 6 percent of total giving, and foreign aid represents roughly 1.2 percent of the federal budget, an inconsequential sum compared with the immense sums we spend in the United States on economic development and social welfare. America is consistently one of the most charitable countries in the world, whether measured by volunteerism or money.
American public policies are flawed, yes. The American people are imperfect, yes. But any argument that American elites (a group that includes, by the way, enormous numbers of first-generation college grads and people who worked brutal hours to achieve economic success) represent an uncaring, indifferent, exploitive mass is fundamentally wrong. In fact, the better argument is that well-meaning Americans have spent their money poorly (on ineffective charitable programs and destructive welfare policies), not that they don’t care.
Carlson is advancing a form of victim-politics populism that takes a series of tectonic cultural changes — civil rights, women’s rights, a technological revolution as significant as the industrial revolution, the mass-scale loss of religious faith, the sexual revolution, etc. — and turns the negative or challenging aspects of those changes into an angry tale of what they are doing to you.
3. J.D. Vance finds Carlson has scored big on his point that the market is no panacea for maladies, and the worship of it is troubling. From his piece:
Surely our response can’t be: “Well, the market will take care of it.” The market is not a Platonic deity, floating in the sky and imposing goodness and prosperity from on high. It is the creation of our choices, our laws, and our democratic process. We know, for instance, that pornography has radically altered how young boys perceive their relationships with women and sex, and that the pornography industry has acquired a lot of wealth in the process of creating and distributing that content. Just last month, we learned that a Chinese entity created the first gene-edited baby, using a technology developed in the United States. Some company, here or there, will eventually create a lot of prosperity by using this gene-editing technology (called CRISPR) in an unethical way, quite literally playing God with the most sacred power in the universe — the creation of human life. In the past few years, it has become abundantly clear that Apple — despite self-righteously refusing to cooperate with American security officials — has willingly complied with the requirements of the Chinese surveillance state, even as China builds concentration camps for dissidents and religious minorities. And, as Carlson mentioned, there are marijuana companies pushing for legalization, though we know from the Colorado experience that legalization increases use, and from other studies that use is concentrated among the lower class, causing a host of social problems in the process.
All of these entities are doing what the market demands, and in some ways, it’s hard to blame them. But shouldn’t our laws and policy make life harder for them? Or should conservatives cry “small government” every time someone suggests an intervention and stick our collective head in the sand, pretending there’s no relationship between market actors and the civil society we say we believe in?
4. In The Corner, Yuval Levin says Carlson is on to something about the tensions between markets and social order. From his post:
The things we value are therefore sometimes in tension with each other. When that tension arises, we have to prioritize, and that prioritization has to be guided by an idea of human flourishing that lets us roughly figure out in individual instances when and how far the demands of market competition need to be met and when and how far those of family, faith, community, or country need to be met. There is no perfect formula for doing this, obviously. But there are better and worse ways to do it, and our society has not been doing it well enough in this century, which has left a lot of ruin in a lot of people’s lives.
One key to finding this balance is to recognize that the market is a means, not an end. We should be immensely grateful for the benefits it has brought us — the ways in which it has made us better able to pursue good ends. But we should not mistake it for those ends, and so should be willing to constrain its reach when it undermines them instead of advancing them, which happens. Conservatism has ceded its economic thinking too thoroughly to libertarianism since the 1990s in a way that has caused us to forget this. It is time for that to change, and so for some rebalancing of our priorities.
5. David Bahnsen, author of Crisis of Responsibility, in which he addresses the same maladies, says Tucker makes big and important points, but takes the wrong view as to what is behind the Crisis. From his piece:
Tucker is perhaps right that many affluent, established people in society are not as interested as they should be in “people below them getting and staying married,” though I suspect he and I mean this in very different ways. Tucker indicates that the winners of globalization should be helping to raise wages in Detroit or Dayton. I, however, wonder how much more good we could be doing by what Charles Murray refers to as these people “preaching what they practice.” The playbook for a prosperous and dignified life is well known, and where the social and moral decisions that facilitate such have been put into practice has created a real “coming apart” amongst whites in this country (a cultural as much as an economic separation). Those who have finished school, found a committed relationship, and waited to have kids until marriage; stayed married; avoided drug abuse, infidelity, and other destructive decisions: These people know what has worked for them, and yet time and time again seem willing to publicly tout for a certain moral relativism that is actually the exact opposite worldview of what created the prosperous life they enjoy. I am sure many corporate executives do not spend a lot of time thinking about the effects a free-trade deal might have on Dayton, Ohio, but I am equally sure that they do not adequately promote the benefits of making good and responsible decisions. I think Tucker is focusing on the wrong omission.
Andrew Breitbart famously said that politics is downstream from culture. The problem I have with Carlson’s screed is its willingness to accept that various policy decisions are driving the culture. Indeed, Tucker’s economic proposals are only the secondary problem, flowing from his inversion of cause and effect. The difficult task of cultural repair will bring about positive economic and political effects; Tucker is mistakenly focused on getting the politics and economics right to fix the culture.
6. Back to David, who says Tucker has made an important point about how rising female incomes have impacted marriage and the family. From his Corner post:
I didn’t read Tucker as condemning women’s educational and income achievements, I read him as stating a challenging fact. If women continue to achieve academic success and economic success (a good thing!), but they persist in desiring to marry higher-earning men (an understandable thing!), and male wages decline or remain stagnant (a bad thing!), then we will face an increasing threat to our nation’s marriage culture. Since we do not want women to fall back educationally or economically, we need two things to happen at once. First, we want male educational achievement to surge and male incomes to no longer remain stagnant — thus increasing every family’s financial stability. Second, we want our nation’s men and women to form lifelong healthy bonds regardless of income disparities. After all, income is important, but it’s not a stand-in for the virtues that truly bind families together.
7. Kevin Williamson reminds us that Bill Buckley was on to these maladies back in 1959, when he wrote Up from Liberalism.
8. But Kevin isn’t buying the Carlson spiel, and thinks penny-counting Americans shouldn’t either. From the end of the essay:
I will get into this at greater length in my book, but Tucker Carlson’s argument that the state’s job is to see to our happiness, rather than to see to public order, represents a return to a political primitivism associated with the medieval period, when everyone, peasant and lord alike, knew his place and could be sure of his role in this kingdom and in the Heavenly Kingdom, a clockwork universe in which the great majority of people may have been miserable in absolute material terms but in which they had confidence in the fixity of the social order, and hence in the security of their own status. The emergence of primitive capitalism disrupted that order, and the emergence of global capitalism has, in a similar way, disrupted the postwar American social order.
As Yuval Levin and others have argued, it is nostalgia for that order — or our mythologized misrecollection of it — that animates much of the politics of our time, especially the frustrated and fearful populism whose partisans do not seem to understand that they can have a 1957 standard of living any time they choose, and that it can be had on the cheap.
9. Kyle Smith says sorry TC — government ain’t the solution. From his comeback:
The insane clown posse in Washington may not care about your problems, but they aren’t the cause of them either. The rise in single-parent families, and the mismatches in the marriage market that (for instance) make it difficult for high-achieving women to find husbands, are indeed worrisome, but is Sheryl Sandberg really to blame for telling women to lean in? Sandberg’s book is aimed solely at the narrow layer of women at the very top of the socioeconomic cake who seek the biggest jobs in their fields. The wealthy children of these wealthy women will be fine. The children of married people will in general be fine. (Can we really be worried about helicopter parenting and, at the same time, latchkey kids abandoned by their CEO moms?) Sandberg is a red herring. Carlson worked her into his spiel in a clever way, to capitalize on anxieties about changing sexual roles, but if Mom is a billionaire Facebook exec, or thinking about becoming one, you really aren’t the kind of person America needs to fret about.
The salutary effects of marriage, especially when it comes to rearing children, are well established, and government could shore up families a bit via tax incentives, but that doesn’t seem to be what Carlson is talking about. He’s talking about something deeper: Who killed the American working man?
10. And then Michael Brendan Dougherty unloads on Carlson’s critics. Here’s a slice:
Shapiro writes that “the economic systems that allow families to thrive are the same economic systems that allow all human beings to thrive: free markets.” And that Carlson “blames both the welfare state and trade policy — as though tariffs aren’t merely an indirect form of wealth redistribution.”
Imagine I had written a long screed about government waste in spending. In that screed I cited outdated defense programs meant to share the wealth among vulnerable congressional districts, and I railed against the stupid waste of having all federal projects that use computers still needing to be certified as “Y2K compliant.”
And then a group of writers wrote a comprehensive response defending this waste and injustice by saying that “self-government has produced the best, most accountable governments in human history.” And that the results are just self-government in action, and if I don’t like it, I can throw in with the Marxists. These references to self-government would simply be a rhetorical trick for avoiding debate. Frankly, many of Carlson’s critics deploy “free markets” in just this way. And I find it as useful as I would defending Chinese economic arrangements with reference to “Xi Jinping thought.”
11. To which Kevin Williamson responds . . .
12. As does David Bahnsen.
There’s a New Issue of National Review Magazine Hot Off the Presses
As is our custom, we share selections from four pieces, for your enjoyment, and maybe even to induce you to subscribe.
1. In the cover essay, Douglas Murray looks at the U.S. victory for Trump, and the UK victory for Brexit, as they have passed their two-year marks, and considers what has — and hasn’t — happened since. From his essay:
. . . it is now clear that the Brexit vote and the Trump election are hugely important milestones in both democracies, not because of what has or has not been achieved but because both constitute the first democratic mandate in either country that an elite in each country has refused to accept. I say “an elite” rather than “the elite” because my experience is that there is never one single entity of people who can control affairs. Nonetheless, in America and Britain, exceptionally powerful figures in influential positions (in politics, the media, and much more) decided that they could not accept the verdict of the people and chose to utilize precisely the same playbook (“racism,” “hate crime,” “Russia,” “Cambridge Analytica”) to undo or at least undermine the judgment of the people.
The second observation is what an unbelievably unwise and wasted opportunity this already looks to have been. If you were an anti-Trump strategist or a pro-EU campaigner, you might have taken all sorts of things from the results of 2016. In the U.K. you could have tried to work out why the EU had been so unappealing to the British public for so many years that, even with the opt-outs and carve-outs that we had up until the vote (and despite the uncertainty that a win for Leave was always going to cause), most of the public wanted out of the whole damn thing. Why had the “experts” become so little trusted by the public? What could be done to rebuild that trust? What might the EU do to show that it was not an un-listening monolith but an adaptive and helpful partner? How might you in the decades to come persuade, rather than trick, the people into once again being inside the EU?
An interested party in the States might try to work out why, even though every allegation and claim in the book is thrown at Donald Trump, and despite his possession of character defects that are visible at a glance, the public still voted for him. Why had the GOP and Democrats lost their hold? What justifiable concerns and unaddressed problems did Middle America suffer? Were there any lessons to be learned from the last time a Republican had been in the White House? Or could we continue to pretend (as in Britain) that the grown-ups had done such a terrific job that the voters had no reason not to just hand over the keys once again to a leading member of one of the ruling families?
2. Christopher Caldwell pens an excellent review of the recently published (in English) Solzhenitsyn memoir, Between Two Millstones: Book One. From the review:
Dissidents are always a little crazy by definition. Everyone has an urge to truth-telling and an urge to self-preservation that, in most cases, outweighs it. A person ready to stand up to a system that has for decades inflicted maximum harm on its critics is, in this sense, an abnormal person. His urges are disordered. There is a cruel paradox of political oppression: The less humane, the more ruthless, the more violent a system, the easier it is to cast someone who opposes it as off his rocker. Whether he overestimates his personal persuasiveness or the public’s backbone, a dissident is wrong about something, and his more cowardly fellow citizens can cling to this wrongness as an excuse for ignoring him, mocking him, informing on him.
Vain, Solzhenitsyn was less vain than most dissidents. He had no political deference, but a metaphysical humility had been beaten into him by what he had undergone. Exile was not a “new beginning” for him. He undertook it with dread, and a somewhat unrealistic idea of how tight a link he could maintain to the culture of the old country. He dreamed of establishing a Russian university in Canada that might serve the children of emigrants, “encouraging them to break free from Western satiation and turn toward the rigor of their motherland.” He appreciated the archives at the Hoover Institution in California and the writing conditions in Cavendish, but none of that made America home. Solzhenitsyn surrounded his property with chain link, to protect his tranquility and discourage interlopers, including those from the KGB. When he appeared at a town meeting in Cavendish to apologize to hunters and snowmobilers for the inconvenience, he took the opportunity to explain that “Russian” did not mean Soviet and that to confuse the two was to mistake a patient for a disease: “My people, the Russians, have been suffering from it for 60 years already; they long to be healed. And the day will come when they are indeed healed of this Soviet disease. On that day I will thank you for being good friends and neighbors, and will go back to my homeland.”
The change began during the Vietnam War, in which fighters flying from land bases in South Vietnam were loaded up with bombs to hit land targets in North Vietnam and along supply routes in neighboring countries. The improved accuracy of smaller aircraft carrying lighter loads of bombs and providing combat air support to American ground forces in direct contact with the enemy began to subtly alter the internal culture of the Air Force. The bomber “tribe,” based in the politically powerful Strategic Air Command, had supplied six of the first ten Air Force chiefs of staff, but it began to lose influence within the service to the fighter “tribe.” In the 36 years since Chief of Staff Lew Allen Jr. retired, no bomber pilot has occupied that office, and the Air Force’s inventory of bombers has shrunk from over 10,000 aircraft during the 1950s to fewer than 200 today. Fighter pilots gained ascendency based upon the assumptions of access to bases within range of their enemies, the ability of their supporting tanker force to survive, and the greater importance of air supremacy than long-range-strike capability.
Air supremacy is a straightforward concept. It seeks a degree of superiority over an opposing air force such that the enemy is incapable of effective interference with friendly aircraft or ground and naval forces. This definition of air superiority held for regional wars such as those in Vietnam, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq (both times), and Afghanistan (where the enemy had no opposing air power to speak of). Air Force theorists also state that air superiority applies to theater campaigns (those that range across an entire region of the globe), enabling larger aircraft, cargo haulers, refueling tankers, and bombers to operate freely — except when they cannot, and that is where the modern United States Air Force lost its way.
4. Madeleine Kearns profiles the upper-crust Tory rebel MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg. From her report:
“I think the advantages of Brexit are absolutely enormous economically because we will no longer have the constraints that we have with the European Union, and we won’t be subject to the EU’s regulatory system that is anti-enterprise and anti–free market,” he says.
But his proposed Brexit — leaving the customs union, the single market, and the European Court of Justice, and calling the EU’s bluff on its insistence that Britain remain in the customs union to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland — has won him many political enemies. The chancellor of the Exchequer has called him an “extremist.” Anna Soubry, fellow Tory MP, said she’d leave the Conservative party if he became leader. Philip Collins wrote in the Times that the entire Rees-Mogg team ought to be “taken out and shot.”
Are You Increasingly Worried about Red China’s Global Aspirations and Antics?
You should be. Writing in Naval War College Review, occasional NRO writer Chris O’Dea explains in great detail the PRC’s global maritime strategy, which includes taking over strategically located ports in all continents, oceans, and major seaways. From “Asia Rising: Ships of State?”:
Chinese maritime and logistics firms, supported by state-subsidized capital deployed overseas, quickly are becoming a leading edge of China’s global influence. In recent years, Chinese state-owned companies have built a global network of shipping and port assets that suggests the country is using maritime commercial investments to advance its geostrategic priorities by establishing economic influence over countries in which Chinese-controlled port facilities are located.
These Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are creating one of the most extensive maritime networks in the world by acquiring strategically located port assets in the European Union (EU), Latin America, the Middle East, and the Indian Ocean. They provide the capital to build or up- grade commercial terminals; then they direct container traffic to those ports through shipping lines that are controlled directly by the port’s parent company or indirectly through companies associated with China’s strategic port owners through formal shipping alliances.
1. At Gatestone Institute, Guy Millière writes that France is in a free fall, it’s leaders petrified to truly confront the terrorism threat. From his story:
Successive governments have done exactly nothing to remedy the situation. Instead, they delivered speeches and stationed soldiers about the streets. “Young French people must get used to living with the threat of attacks”, then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in 2015. Two years later, just before the first round of the presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron, still a candidate, used almost the same words. Terrorism, he said, is “imponderable” and will constitute a “threat that will be part of the daily life of the French for the years to come”.
French laws are extremely lax. Even serial killers and terrorists are not sentenced to long prison terms. Most prisons have become jihadist recruiting stations. Currently, more than 600 no-go zones are under the control of imams and Muslim gangs. Islamists, apparently “ready to act”, number in the thousands. The police simply do not have the personnel or material resources to monitor all of them.
The only political leaders who have proposed tougher laws against terrorism, or who have said that exceptional measures were needed — such as a wider use of electronic ankle-bracelets — to counter increasing threats, come from parties considered “right-wing”. The mainstream media immediately branded these leaders as “extremists” and their proposals were dismissed.
Macron and his government continue their unfortunate tradition of submitting to political correctness. It seems they prefer to appease extremists rather than confront them.
2. Will Collins teaches in Hungary, where he says, in The American Conservative, the War Against Christmas has been defeated. But as to whether this is a sign of some European rebirth of Christianity, well, ez egy másik történet. Or, that’s another story. From the start of his piece:
It takes a village to get a 50-foot Christmas tree into a Hungarian school’s common area. On a gray afternoon in early December, seemingly half of my school’s student body was deputized to help city workers drag an enormous fir into our entrance hall. Class was supposedly in session, but many students exempt from the corvée managed to find their way over to yell encouragement and snap photos of their classmates. Once the students had dragged in the tree, someone used a chainsaw to shape the base of the trunk for an oversized stand. Why this extremely noisy job was done in the school common area while class was in session, and not somewhere outside, is a Christmas mystery on par with the Virgin Birth. After much difficulty, and thanks to the creative use of several ropes, a ladder, and the school’s load-bearing columns, the students finally raised the massive tree. Christmas season in Hungary had officially begun.
The school where I teach is a public institution, but its enthusiastic observance of the Christmas season would put many American parochial academies to shame. From Christmas markets to school pageants, Hungarians celebrate the holiday with a verve that is both charming and somewhat disorienting to an American accustomed to our secular public square. In this corner of Eastern Europe, the War on Christmas is over, and Christmas has decisively won.
3. First Things publishes a remarkably beautiful piece by Patricia Snow, “Grace,” about being Slain in the Spirit.
4. At Law & Liberty, Veronique de Rugy looks at NAFTA, now 25 years old. She finds its promises oversold. From the piece:
The anti-NAFTA crowd back then argued, using a term coined by 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot, that the agreement would create a “giant sucking sound” of jobs going south — roughly 5.9 million, Perot estimated — thanks to unscrupulous U.S. manufacturers taking advantage of the cheap labor of Mexicans. This opposition was rooted in a populism that persists today and is expressed vividly by our current President. Among the desires of Perot’s populists then, and Trump’s now, is to stop the ongoing transformation of our country into a service economy. It is a movement whose champions are oblivious to the fact that this transformation is driven far more by technological innovation than by trade. Their consistent and quixotic belief is that this transformation can be stopped by erecting trade barriers against imports from low-wage countries.
During the initial NAFTA debate, populists insisted that preserving the small (4 percent) tariffs that the U.S. imposed on Mexican manufacturing imports — along with keeping somewhat higher tariffs on a few agricultural products and a handful of quantitative restrictions — would somehow stop the percentage decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs — a trend that had started not in the 1990s, but in the 1950s. They didn’t realize that if low wages in Mexico had held such great appeal for U.S. industry, that giant sucking sound would have been heard decades before NAFTA. With pre-NAFTA tariff rates already being quite low, U.S. firms would have already moved to Mexico.
5. In City Journal, Heather Mac Donald nails anti-cop flannel-mouth Shaun King, caught short by his race-activist role in the faux hate-crime murder of Jazmine Barnes. The selective outrage of white-on-black crime, dwarfed by black-on-black crime, mutes attention deserved by the far more pervasive problem. From the end of her piece:
As for interracial violence generally, blacks disproportionately commit it. Between 2012 and 2015, there were 631,830 violent interracial victimizations, excluding homicide, between blacks and whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Blacks, who make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, committed 85.5 percent of those victimizations, or 540,360 felonious assaults on whites, while whites, 61 percent of the population, committed 14.4 percent, or 91,470 felonious assaults on blacks. Regarding threats to blacks from the police, a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.
If Shaun King and other Black Lives Matter activists really want to save black children from the trauma of urban violence, they should put their efforts into rebuilding inner-city culture — above all, by revalorizing a married father as the best gift a mother can give her child. Fantasies about white violence against “black bodies” are a distraction from what is actually happening on American streets.
6. In The New Criterion, Conrad Black reviews Churchill: Walking with Destiny, Andrew Roberts’ new biography. From the review:
Churchill’s early life and fast-moving career are familiar to many, but nowhere better described than in Roberts’s book: the dashing soldier and war correspondent (often simultaneously) in India, South Africa, on the Nile, and in Cuba; the astounding self-acquired knowledge of British, American, and classical history, and English and classical literature; and the ability, which he retained well into his eighties, to recite verbatim vast swaths of stirring prose and poetry. His talent for publicity and his confident and aggressive personality landed him quickly in politics, and into the House of Commons in the waning days of Victoria. Churchill knew everyone who served as British monarch from Victoria (r. 1837–1901) to the present; every leader of his Conservative Party from the Marquess of Salisbury, in office 1880–1902, to Margaret Thatcher, who relinquished the leadership in 1990; and every president of the United States, though a few very casually, from Theodore Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, a period covering 1901 to 1974. He was a prominent figure and household name in Great Britain and much of the British Commonwealth, and ultimately the whole world, for sixty-five years. When he finally earned the long-sought office of prime minister, in the most dangerous circumstances in the country’s history, on May 10, 1940, it was after thirty-nine years in Parliament and nine different cabinet positions, including the Exchequer, Home Office, colonies, trade, war, munitions, air force, and the largest navy in the world in both world wars (though it was surpassed by the United States in 1942).
As Roberts reminds us, Churchill was unsuccessful in a number of those positions, but never incompetent. He acquired a vast administrative and legislative experience and by that time had been considered for decades one of Britain’s greatest orators. Roberts enumerates a long list of Churchill’s serious errors in public life, before and after his elevation in 1940. These include his opposing the vote for women; his handling of much of the Gallipoli operation and perhaps the entire concept (which led to 250,000 casualties in a failed effort to break open the Dardanelles in 1915); his treatment of Ireland and India; his keenness for reversion to the gold standard; his support of Edward VIII in the abdication crisis, his mismanagement of the Norway campaign; his assistance of Greece in 1941; his gross underestimation of the military strength of Japan; his faith in Italy as “the soft underbelly” of Hitler’s Europe; his advocacy of peripheral campaigns in the Dodecanese, Norway, Trieste, and Sumatra; and his deporting the alleged Soviet deserters back to Russia at the end of the war (another 1.2 million executions on Stalin’s gruesome ledger).
BONUS: Also from The New Criterion, Daniel J. Mahoney ruminates on the importance of the late Russell Kirk, whose centenary the conservative movement has just celebrated. From the review:
Kirk made two additional contributions to Burke studies, both of some significance. Kirk stressed that Burke was among the first to see the limits, all the limits, of social contract theorizing. Choice and consent play some legitimate role in politics (guided by humane and prudent judgment), but they should never obscure obligatory duties that are not a “matter of choice.” Parents, citizens, neighbors, and children all have “burdensome duties” (as Burke puts it in An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs) that they are obliged to carry out with grace and a sense of responsibility. Likewise, Kirk noted, Burke believed that every member of a political community was “obliged to obey the laws and sustain the state.” Choice plays an important role in politics (and marriage), but it cannot be the basis of every aspect of life. Duty is as fundamental as consent. Kirk stresses the multiple ways in which Burke’s conservative liberalism was decidedly un-Lockean: while defending the rights of property, Burke never believed that civil society arose from a pre-political “state of nature.” Men and women are not truly born “free and independent,” and the only true social contract is “between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” That is the great primeval contract that Burke so eloquently invokes in the Reflections on the Revolution in France. In the quarrel of the ancients and the moderns, he sides with the classics and the Christians against full-blown modern “individualism.”
Kirk is surely right that such a “conservative” basis of the social tie would unnerve classical Whigs from John Locke in the seventeenth century to Thomas Babington Macaulay in the nineteenth. Unlike Burke, they were blind, or at least inattentive, to what I have called, in a book of that name, “the conservative foundations of the liberal order.” This is especially true of John Locke. In his most “reactionary” moments (I do not mean this formulation as a criticism), Kirk hopes for the restoration of a “society guided by veneration and prescription.” That is too much to hope for societies profoundly transformed by the individualist premises at the heart of Lockean liberalism. There is seemingly no going back to the world of prejudice, prescription, and presumption, all understood in the elevated Burkean meaning of those terms. Burke and Kirk are right: the “spirit of religion” and the “spirit of the gentleman” were in large part responsible for the greatness of Western civilization. As Harvey Mansfield has compellingly argued, modern bureaucrats, technicians, and ideologues are no substitute for the noblesse oblige and the humane and prudent judgment of the gentleman at his very best. But the moral capital represented by religion and the gentleman is fast eroding and cannot become the explicit foundation of Western societies, at least in a world consumed by the “acids of modernity,” to borrow a phrase from Walter Lippmann. Yet Lockean premises remain woefully inadequate for understanding the sources of the Western spirit and the true grounds of moral and political obligation.
Lights. Cameras. Punditry.
1. 2018 brought America the most political films since World War 2, says Armond White as he delivers his 14th annual “Better-Than List,” an effort of “juxtaposing some of 2018’s few good films with ballyhooed atrocities.” From the piece, a sampling of Better-Thans:
Double Lover > Mary Poppins Returns: Francois Ozon’s doppelganger love story compares and contrasts Marine Vacth and Jeremie Regnier’s psychosexual histories against their perplexed adulthood. Disney and Rob Marshall pervert pubescent fantasy into stale nostalgia and Broadway-Hollywood liberal propaganda, featuring inadequate singers and dancers.
Chappaquiddick > Vice / On the Basis of Sex: Director John Curran (casting actor Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy) replaces cynical smartness with ethical sympathy — a political movie advance over trite partisanship as in Adam McKay’s irredeemably ugly attack on Dick Cheney and Mimi Leder’s simple-minded partisan cheerleading of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
2. Kyle Smith catches the new documentary, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, a “pointillist portrait of black life in Alabama in which a series of bright little moments together form a broad and gorgeous tableau.” Read the review here.
3. But Armond has a 180 on that: He says Hale County “exemplifies the liberal sentimentality that sustains the racial status quo in everyday life, but especially in art circles.” Read the review here. About the director, RaMell Ross, Armond declares the following:
Through class difference and intellectual distance, Ross treats the down-home folk like creatures. He intersperses Terrence Malick–style images of natural phenomena to extol the lower class with existential portent. This propagandistic use of cinematic apparatus is sanctioned by film culture’s elites: the curators, distributors, publicists, and mainstream-media arbiters who all know one another’s preferences and protect one another’s social status. They also keep the lower classes at bay.
Last week’s WJ blew it. Well, its former-altar-boy author did: The Epiphany is the day after the Twelfth Day of Christmas. So Yours Truly, educated on this point by several emailers, had to sit in the penalty box. But while sitting there, Mrs. Truly, feeling pity, conversed about the WJ and its movie-related content, and reminded said author of a favorite Three Kings / cowboys-related flick, Star in the Night. Watch it, even though the Christmas Season is kaput. The two-reeler won the 1946 Oscar for short subject and starred the great J. Carrol Naish (who that year was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for A Medal for Benny).
Also on the audio-visual front: WJ’s love for the Eliot poem received some hoorahs, and WJ lover William W. sent along another suggestion, of Eliot reading his classic, The Waste Land. You can listen here.
That said, be charitable when the collection plate is passed. And for once, don’t leave toothpaste in the sink.
If there is some glaring mistake in here, or some observation that crushes your sense of taste and decency — you can let me know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.