The Weekend Jolt

National Review

The Real Miracle Was on 35th Street

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Before we arrive at the standard fare of this weekly cornucopia . . .

It should be noted, as the subject line states, that while Santa Claus and Macys may have pulled off something extraordinary at Herald Square, a true miracle took place a block over, on 35th Street, where William F. Buckley established the headquarters of an infant National Review, where it took root, where it grew and thrived, where it make good on its pledge to stand athwart history yelling stop.

Christmas Eve aside, Bill’s visions were decidedly not of sugarplums.

Our friends at National Review Institute — which Bill also founded, and also on 35th Street — have, as explains our paysan David Bahnsen, helped launch and sponsor a mighty effort on NRO, Capital Matters, that in the face of ascendant Socialism daily makes the case for free markets and free people, that hurls wisdom and insults at leftist fiscal lunacy, and that defends that vital thing that has lifted billions from poverty: capitalism. NRI’s effort deserves your attention, and may we add consideration of support. But let’s let David say such:

In an age when too many in the political class, the ivory tower, and yes, even Fortune 500 companies have abandoned the empirical testimony of history and rejected the inherent morality of markets, the duty those of us have to defend ordered liberty is most profound.

National Review Institute, the nonprofit journalistic think tank that supports the National Review mission, has collaborated with NR to launch a new, bold project — National Review Capital Matters — because we take this duty seriously and believe that the greatest defense against the argument of leftist economics is to, well, win the argument. While the other side seeks to gather power and to monopolize messaging in the classroom, we must win the debate in the public square. We must capably defend the call of the entrepreneur, the vitality of capital markets, and the nobility of free enterprise. We must highlight the capitalist dynamism and impulse to create that have lifted more people out of extreme poverty in the last 30 years than in all prior human history. . . . Capital Matters holds in disdain the worldview that, in its vain pursuits, squashes human flourishing. It holds fast to the historical legacy of America’s markets-based economy, and the democratic norms and institutions that protect it.

The greatest tool the Left has in 2020 to undermine free markets is a mainstream and unopposed demonization of capital, of capital markets, and of capitalists in its day-to-day reporting, commentary, and editorial content about business and finance.

The Miracle on 35th Street eventually moved to Lexington Avenue and now resides at 44th Street. It remains just as miraculous. Do read David’s appeal in full, and do consider his recommendation for support. It has even moved this Missive’s Author to contribute. You can do the same here.

Now, rooty toot toots and rummy tum tums of conservative wisdom await, so put down the figgy pudding you God-rested merry gentlemen and ladies and indulge!

Short Links, Sweet Links


He leaves as he came, with our kudos: Attorney General William Barr Was Right Man for the Job.

Ornaments Galore Decorating the Tree of Conservative Wisdom

Kyle Smith: Jill Biden’s Doctorate Is Garbage Because Her Dissertation Is Garbage.

Kyle Round Two: Jill Biden’s Garbage Dissertation, Explained.

Rich Lowry: The Embarrassing Russian Disinformation Canard.

Matthew Continetti: Biden Administration Courts Disaster with Progressive Ideologues from Obama Era.

Mark Krikorian: Immigration: Biden Administration Will Unravel Border Rules Slowly.

Frederick M. Hess: Betsy DeVos Interview: Education Secretary Reflects on Her Tenure, Her Critics, and School Choice.

John Yoo: Texas Election Suit — The State Lost, and Conservatives Won.

Victor David Hanson: Where Did the New Mad Left Come From?.

George Hawley and Richard Hanania: Republicans & the Working-Class Party Myth: Cultural Concerns Decide Most Voters’ Choices.

Jack Butler: Left-Wing Cultural & Political Dominance Has Limits.

Kevin Williamson: The College-Debt Debate Is a Culture-War Battle.

Cameron Hilditch: Why American Children Stopped Believing in God.

Conrad Black: China’s Horrific Triumph amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Helen Raleigh: Australia Stands Up to China’s Bullying Campaign.

Alexandra DeSanctis: Tulsi Gabbard & Abortion: Democrat Introduced Two Pro-Life Bills.

David Harsanyi: Death-Penalty Debate: Honesty Needed.

Capital Matters

Maybe Alex Muresianu will answer “just about everything”: What Biden Gets Wrong about Taxes and Manufacturing.

John Fund watches the exodus: Businesses & Entrepreneurs Flee California’s High Taxes & Regulation.

Rick Scott demands the GOP hold firm: Republicans Must Not Cave on Blue-State Bailouts.

Thomas W. Miller Jr. argues against forgiveness: Student-Loan Debt: Form a Commission, Don’t Rush Toward Debt Jubilee.

Lights. Camera. Review!

Armond White sees a BLM puppet show: With Drawn Arms: Race-Hustling Documentary Exploits Olympics Legend Tommie Smith.

More Armond: He catches a hypnotic post-punk flick: True History of the Kelly Gang Is 2020’s Great Gangsta Epic.

Kyle Smith is not jive talkin’: The Broken-Hearted Bee Gees.

More Kyle: He feels the floorboards tremble: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: August Wilson’s Powerful Play on Netflix.

From the New December 31, 2020 Issue of Your Favorite Conservative Magazine

Jimmy Quinn talks with the Secretary of State: The Pompeo Doctrine.

Graham Hillard wonders if comedians will give Biden a pass: Punchline in Chief.

Andrew C. McCarthy finds judicial aversion to election-undoing: The Courts Hold the Line.

Kevin Williamson assesses the strong support for marijuana legalization: The Marijuana Majority.

Now, Let Us Serve up All of That, Only This Time with All the Trimmings


1. William Barr has chosen to resign as Attorney General. He leaves with our commendation. From the editorial:

The “background commentary” never ceased. On Monday, it led to the president’s losing one of his most effective cabinet officials, one who served Trump, the Justice Department, and the nation admirably — better, obviously, than his boss will ever appreciate.

The attorney general’s public exasperation in February over the president’s outbursts was rare, but the situation was all too typical. He found himself caught between, on the one side, subordinate prosecutors who were recommending a draconian sentence for Roger Stone and, on the other, a willful president who wanted the case to disappear. Barr rejected both Trump’s demands and the push by the prosecutors for a sentence befitting a mafia leg-breaker. He recommended a sentence in exactly the 40-month range that the judge, no Trump or Stone fan, ended up embracing.

This was a second tour of duty as AG for Barr, who served President George H. W. Bush 30 years ago. He is smart and savvy in the ways of Washington, so he knew what he was getting into. He ends his tenure right where he’s been all along: whipsawed between a president’s unreasonable demands that he politicize important investigations, and media-Democrat smears that he has politicized the Justice Department merely by conducting those investigations.

A Stocking Stuffed with So Many Goodies

1. Kyle Smith takes the hammer to the dissertation of “Dr.” Jill Biden. From the piece:

Mrs. Biden wanted the credential for its own sake. As for its quality, well. She got it from the University of Delaware, whose ties to her husband, its most illustrious alumnus if you don’t count Joe Flacco, run so deep that it has a school of public policy named after him. That the University of Delaware would have rejected her 2006 dissertation as sloppy, poorly written, non-academic, and barely fit for a middle-school Social Studies classroom (all of which it is) when her husband had been representing its state in the U.S. Senate for more than three decades was about as likely as Tom Hagen telling Vito Corleone that his wife is a fat sow on payday. The only risk to the University of Delaware was that it might strain its collective wrist in its rush to rubber-stamp her doctoral paper. Mrs. Biden could have turned in a quarter-a**ed excuse for a magazine article written at the level of Simple English Wikipedia and been heartily congratulated by the university for her towering mastery. Which is exactly what happened.

Jill Biden’s dissertation is not an addition to the sum total of human knowledge. It is not a demonstration of expertise in its specific topic or its broad field. It is a gasping, wheezing, frail little Disney forest creature that begs you to notice the effort it makes to be the thing it is imitating while failing so pathetically that any witnesses to its ineptitude must feel compelled, out of manners alone, to drag it to the nearest podium and give it a participation trophy. Which is more or less what an Ed.D. is. It’s a degree that only deeply unimpressive people feel confers the honorific of “Doctor.” People who are actually smart understand that being in possession of a credential is no proof of intelligence.

2. Descended upon by the flying monkeys of various social media platforms, Kyle doubles down on Mrs. Biden academic thin gruel (with apologies to gruel). From the encore:

The dissertation, Student Retention at the Community College: Meeting Students’ Needs, shimmers with the wan, term-papery feel of middle school, although in defense of today’s middle schoolers, they at least know how to use spell-checking software, unlike Mrs. Biden. Her 2006 paper notes that at Delaware Tech, her then-employer, a third of students dissolve into the ether every year, and in order to pad out her micron-thin proposals, none of which have anything to support them except her beliefs and anecdotal evidence (she suggests building a student center and beefing up the “Wellness Center” while increasing counseling and mentoring services), she shovels in piles of drivel. Opinions will differ on which of her efforts is of least value, but a strong contender presents itself at the moment when she reaches over for the course catalog on her desk and quotes at length from page two of its boilerplate introduction (“The College respects and cares for students as individuals and maintains a friendly an open institution which welcomes all students and supports their aspirations for a better life”). She follows up on this meaningless prattle by reiterating it in her own insipid words: “Responding to the current social and economic morés of the new millennium, Delaware Tech’s mission has adapted to meet the needs and goals of today’s students.”

Biden’s landfill of a paper contains potted histories of things everybody already knows, awkwardly phrased banalities (“Community colleges offer a myriad of support,” “As a community college, Delaware Tech mirrors the national profile of a community college,” “the unique nature of the classroom allows for a complexity of problems as well”), and childlike repetition (“This reason is one of many reasons that support the need for a campus psychologist.”)

3. Rich Lowry has at the dozens of national-security gurus who pontificated pre-election that Hunter Biden’s laptop was a thing conceived in Moscow. From the article:

The signatories should have thought better of their missive when they felt compelled to include the line, “We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement.”

That also should have tipped reporters off to the fact that the letter was rank speculation masquerading as informed analysis. But true to form, they happily ran with it instead.

In a complete reversal from the Cold War era, journalists in the Trump years have not only reflexively believed representations from national-security professionals about nefarious Russian plots, they have actively sought them out and promoted them.

In this case, it was former U.S. intelligence officials who were spreading disinformation in an attempt to mislead the American public about a consequential matter touching on the front-runner in an American presidential campaign. The call came from inside the house.

Anyone believing the officials, who used their past titles and long experience to lend credibility to their letter, would have been shocked to learn last week that Hunter Biden is under federal investigation for tax crimes.

4. Matthew Continetti sees Biden’s administration running on Obama retreads and believes the wheels will indeed come off the bus. From the article:

Obama’s appointees were known for their elitism, imperiousness, and cocksure expertise. What does Biden do? He brings them back. John Kerry becomes a special envoy for climate — though if you assume he will restrict himself to that portfolio, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn you might like to buy. Janet Yellen gets Treasury — and a sure-to-be awkward relationship with her replacement as head of the Federal Reserve. Alejandro Mayorkas was deputy secretary of Homeland Security when he became ensnared in a visa scandal. Biden wants to promote him.

Jeffrey Zients salvaged from its catastrophic launch. He’ll be coronavirus czar. Having lied about both Benghazi and Bowe Bergdahl while coordinating national security, Susan Rice will apply her mendacious talents to domestic policy. Denis McDonough was Obama’s chief of staff during the Syrian “red line” debacle. He’ll be secretary for Veterans Affairs. A few officials — Vivek Murthy, Tom Vilsack — will be nominated for exactly the same jobs they held during the Obama years.

The cases where Biden has struck his own path are either strange or disturbing. Biden chose retired general Lloyd Austin, the former CENTCOM commander, for secretary of defense because “he played a crucial role in bringing 150,000 American troops home from the theater of war” and because he had a good relationship with Beau Biden. The selection, which requires a congressional waiver, not only raises the fraught subject of civil-military relations. It also guarantees a replay of the debate over America’s 2011 withdrawal from Iraq and the subsequent growth of the Islamic State. And it’s already created friction between Biden and members of his own party, as well as between Biden and members of the bipartisan foreign-policy elite who backed his candidacy.

5. There will be an unraveling of border rules under Joe, says Mark Krikorian. The consequences will be bad. From the beginning of the piece:

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reverse the immigration policies implemented by the Trump administration. His campaign site’s immigration page says he will “take urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values.” As Rich Lowry has written, “Biden will move on all fronts to loosen immigration controls.”

Despite what anti-borders groups say, this will be relatively easy to do. Because virtually all the changes to immigration policy made by the Trump administration have been executive actions of one sort or another, the incoming administration will simply rescind them in the same manner. That’s what Trump’s people thought they’d be able to do to Obama’s policies, of course, but lawless members of the “Resistance” judiciary have prevented him from discontinuing DACA, or from implementing a new rule on welfare use by prospective legal immigrants, or even from not renewing the ostensibly time-limited Temporary Protected Status work-permit program for certain illegal aliens. Biden will not face that hurdle, and so will be able to undo most everything Trump has done; in some cases immediately, in others over a period of several months.

As this won’t be done all at once, Biden will do his best to try to hide the politically explosive consequences from public view. The new administration will likely fail to mask the fallout of Biden’s immigration pledges, but he has the Top Men in the anti-borders brain trust working on the problem.

6. Frederick M. Hess interviews outgoing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about four years of slings and arrows and accomplishments. From the piece:

While most who’ve served as secretary of education came to the role after careers in school systems, higher education, or state government, DeVos entered as an unapologetic outsider. She believes this had its benefits. “I didn’t know all the things you ‘can’t do,’ so I came in with fresh eyes and a laser focus on rethinking the way we approach all aspects of work at the Department,” she says. This was needed, she adds, because “the bureaucracy is even more bureaucratic than any of us could have ever imagined, and it takes longer to get anything done than I could have ever imagined.”

DeVos says, “It’s been truly disheartening to see just how far some people in Washington and elsewhere will go to distract from the abysmal results of ‘the system’ and protect their power.” But she says she tuned out the vitriol: “I focused on doing what’s best for students and didn’t allow baseless, and at times disgusting, attacks to distract me or take me off course.”

Perhaps the most heated disputes of DeVos’s tenure revolved around her energetic support for school choice, on which she speaks in passionate, personal terms. She offers up an anecdote as a distillation of her time in office. “I remember talking with a group of young African-American students in a school where they were benefiting from the Milwaukee voucher program and looking outside at a sea of middle-aged white protesters who apparently thought those students didn’t deserve that opportunity,” she says. “I think that’s a pretty good microcosm of what my experience in office was like.”

7. John Yoo sees the ruling on Texas’s election case as a victory for conservative principles. From the piece:

While many Trump supporters greeted the Supreme Court decision with dismay, they should welcome it. The move represents the latest step in a gradual process of rebuilding the wall between law and politics that progressives have sought to pull down since the beginnings of the Warren Court. The Supreme Court’s decision on Friday referred to the most important brick in that wall: the principle that the Constitution limits the power of federal judges to, as Article III describes, “cases” and “controversies” under federal law. The case-or-controversy requirement demands that the plaintiff have suffered a harm, traceable to the defendant’s conduct, for which the courts can grant a remedy. It also requires that federal law provide a right for the plaintiff to sue.

Without Article III’s careful limitation on what the courts can hear, federal judges might soon undermine the Constitution’s careful design for the separation of powers and federalism. As a middle-aged law professor named Antonin Scalia put it in 1983, this “standing” doctrine “roughly restricts courts to their traditional undemocratic role of protecting individuals and minorities against impositions of the majority.” It further “excludes them from the even more undemocratic role of prescribing how the other two branches should function in order to serve the interest of the majority itself.” If freed from the limit that federal judicial power apply only to live disputes between real parties under federal law, as Justice Scalia later wrote in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife in 1992, the courts would become “virtually continuing monitors of the wisdom and soundness of [government] action.”

8. The sources of the new and decidedly mad and utopian Left are plentiful and worrisome, writes Victor Davis Hanson. From the essay:

Today 45 million students are in debt. Many are credentialed but ill-educated, and they lack the means to pay off their compound-interest obligations. They have grown accustomed to the good life on campuses, many of which are Club Med retreats where late teenagers play-act by bullying faculty and administrators with primal screams.

All too many lecture the country on their superior morality — and then graduate and face the reality that no one cares whether the barista who serves you a beer or the Uber driver who gives you a lift has a degree in environmental studies. Delayed marriage, delayed childbearing, delayed home purchases, delayed everything — all further radicalized youth, who are intrinsically prone to radicalism.

Again, the most dangerous cohort in history has been the half-educated — the on-and-off university student or upper-middle class elite who is aggrieved that his youthful genius is neither appreciated nor justly compensated.

“Elite glut” well describes millions in debt who feel they are owed quite a lot. The nasal-twanged Antifa wannabe Bolshevik is mostly furious that we who watch his psychodramas on television have not extended to him the status and wealth he thinks he has long ago earned.

9. George Hawley and Richard Hanania argue that conservatives are deceiving themselves politically if they ignore the centrality of cultural issues. From the analysis:

As Alexander William Slater has recently pointed out, Trump pursued “Zombie Reagan” policies that stuck close to free-market orthodoxy and actually achieved success, whether measured by economic data or by polls on his handling of the economy.

An overwhelming amount of evidence tells a similar story. The parties are fundamentally divided by cultural issues. The small remaining percentage of “swing voters” vote on the overall state of the economy and factors such as the personalities of the candidates. Under these circumstances, there is little hope of a party creating an electoral realignment through innovative economic policies.

What does this mean for Republicans going forward? First, since economic specifics do not matter except to the extent that they affect macroeconomic trends such as growth, interparty debates should center around what works, rather than what is popular. Polls commonly show that people prefer higher levels of government spending on various things and more intervention in the free market, and this finding is often used by populists and socialists alike to argue that their respective parties should move toward the popular positions. Maybe they should, but only if such policies successfully grow the economy and keep unemployment low.

Second, there will be no abandonment of the social issues around which Trump and other Republicans have rallied their base for decades. For better or worse, these are the issues that motivate Republican voters. To some extent, the GOP benefits simply by not being the Democrats, who have moved the left of the median voter on many identity issues. There are indications that Republicans could benefit from pushing back even harder on these issues. For example, over the last decade or so Republicans have mostly stopped talking about affirmative action. Yet California, a state as solidly blue and diverse as they come, has just overwhelmingly voted against affirmative action, even though those favoring race blindness were outspent by a wide margin. In Sacramento, Asian representatives have been strongest in pushing back against diversity initiatives that they say harm their constituents. Majorities of every major racial group oppose defunding the police, and some Democratic members of Congress acknowledge that this slogan and the movement behind it hurt their party at the polls.

10. Jack Butler reflects on the lefties who hold cultural dominance seeking to ensure political dominance too. From the article:

It has become something of a cliché to characterize the events of the five years since as “the Trump show,” and for good reason: It is undeniable that Trump has been the main character of American political life for the past five years. But if we are to speak of real life in terms of fiction, then it is worth noting that shows, movies, and plays typically involve bookends, with something at the beginning of the work being invoked, resolved, or otherwise referenced at its end. So it was somehow fitting that on Sunday night, Jonathan Groff, the original Hamilton cast’s King George III, headlined a livestream fundraiser with other castmates in support of the Georgia’s two Democratic Senate candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who are competing in runoff elections against Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively.

The progressive desire to marry dominance of culture with dominance of politics should by now come as a shock to no one. One consequence of the Trump years has been the abandonment of any pretense that much of mainstream media, culture, and academia is anything other than liberal, and the radicalization of many already openly liberal institutions. In response to what they identified as the unique threats President Trump posed to the American political system, many on the left adopted a decidedly antagonistic pose toward him. In some cases they were right to find Trump’s words or actions abhorrent; in many others, they treated a more typical, if almost always clumsily advanced, conservatism as fascism, or indulged outright lies about him and other Republicans. Trump, of course, often invited such treatment and seemed to relish the scorched-earth political combat.

So the Trump years dragged on, until an election outcome that represented the American political system at its frustrating best: Trump lost, but not in the landslide for which his opponents had hoped; down-ballot Republicans did far better than expected, making gains in the House and giving themselves a good chance to hold the Senate. Which is why now, more than a month after the election, all eyes in the American political universe are fixed on Georgia. If Republicans win the January runoffs there, they’ll be able to impose a kind of moderation on President-elect Joe Biden; if Democrats win, they’ll control both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time since 2009, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

11. Kevin Williamson finds the debate on college-loan relief to be another front in the culture wars. From the piece:

Most people with student loans have payments amounting to a relatively small share of their income (typically less than 10 percent and often much less), and there already are programs in place for certain kinds of hardship cases. College-debt forgiveness is not a program to relieve acute economic suffering, nor, as the Times notes, is it likely to prove an effective economic stimulus. It is nothing more or less than the Democrats’ political commitment to servicing a particularly upper-class form of entitlement mentality.

Take as your model the example of Michelle Obama complaining about having to repay her college debt. Mrs. Obama attended Princeton, and, like many Ivy League students, she attended at a discount. For the relatively small part of the expense of her education that she was expected to pay, she was provided with loans at a subsidized rate on very easy terms. (Perhaps she was the world’s most credit-worthy teenager.) A Princeton degree is not a guarantor of a happy and successful life, but it puts you right at the front of the line. Mrs. Obama went on to scale the commanding heights of American social and economic life, and when she complained — quite bitterly — about simply having to repay the generous loans made to her at a subsidized rate in order to provide her with the best undergraduate education money can buy, thereby easing her way into a life of genuine privilege, her complaints were met with general sympathy rather than with revulsion at her audacious ingratitude.

That’s how deeply rooted the collegiate entitlement is.

12. Depriving kiddies of God-talk: Cameron Hilditch looks at one major reason why American children hav lost faith, if they ever had it to lose. From the piece:

It turns out that religiosity is usually determined very early in life. All the data suggest that, by and large, kids brought up in religious households stay religious and kids who aren’t, don’t. Consequently, childhood religiosity has been, and remains, the most important indicator of America’s religious trajectory. The story of religious decline in America is not the story of adults consciously rejecting the faith of their forefathers: It’s the story of each generation receiving a more secular upbringing than the generation preceding it. What accounts for this secularization of childhood over time? Taxpayer dollars.

Childhood religiosity was heavily affected by government spending on education and, to a lesser degree, government spending on old-age pensions. Thus, while more educated people were not less religious, societies that spent more public money on education were less religious. It is not educational attainment per se that reduces religiosity, but government control of education and, to a lesser extent, government support for retirement.

Researchers originally tried to explain the relationship between government control of education and secularization by putting it down to the state’s increasing willingness to care for the needs and wants of its citizens in a comprehensive way — a task traditionally carried out by religious institutions. Once people are no longer beholden to a church/synagogue/mosque for their material well-being — or so the theory goes — they see little reason to stay.

But this theory just doesn’t account for the data we have. As Stone observes, it’s belied by the fact “that the vast majority of declining religiosity can be attributed to changes in educational policy, rather than welfare generally.”

13. Conrad Black reviews how Red China has taken advantage of the pathogen it let loose on the world, and how dedicated it is to infiltrating American institutions. From the piece:

As this year began, all talk of China’s rapidly overtaking the United States economically, a truism for years, had stopped. China was seriously inconvenienced by American tariffs, and the United States had begun an effective and comprehensive response to China’s challenge to the preeminence among nations that America has enjoyed for approximately 100 years. President Trump had effectively eliminated unemployment and almost stopped the arrival of illegal aliens, who provided cheap labor that undermined the prosperity of the American workforce. Despite the immense controversy surrounding his administration, Trump had considerable bipartisan support for a policy of constructive and non-polemical resistance to China’s extraterritorial ambitions. With Japan, India, and Australia, the United States formed the Quad, a loose but flexible network of cooperation between countries that together had almost twice China’s GDP and far superior combined military forces. An appropriate system of peaceful counterpressure to the steady expansion of Chinese influence appeared to be in place and functioning well. It is still there, but the member countries have all been severely distracted by the social and economic implications of the coronavirus. As an astonishing bonus for China’s unscrupulous opportunism, the coronavirus led to the defeat of China’s greatest rival, who awakened the world to the Chinese challenge, President Donald Trump.

It is now clear that a broad range of Chinese policies have been astutely launched and discreetly conducted to raise China’s strategic strength to a point that was not imaginable even ten years ago. Five million Chinese nationals are authorized to roam about the United States, a great many of them effectively conducting industrial, scientific, technological, and political espionage. There are Chinese intelligence units within many American corporations, stealing and remitting to the People’s Republic details of American industrial innovation. Many Chinese institutions have made large donations to American universities that have not until very recently been revealed, and that are clearly devoted largely to ensuring that China benefits from the cutting edge of American academic science. The Chinese consulates in the United States are generally considered to be outright centers of espionage. And China, with a modest contribution compared with that of the United States and some other western powers, seems effectively to have taken over the World Health Organization and some other United Nations agencies and transformed them into useful tools of the People’s Republic and its vast international ambitions.

14. Helen Raleigh puts the spotlight on Australia’s determination to stand up to Red China. From the piece:

Why did China impose such high tariffs on Australian wine? It is all part of Beijing’s ongoing bullying campaign against Australia, in an attempt to force Canberra to bend to Beijing’s will.

It began in April, when Australia led a coalition of more than 120 countries, demanding that the World Health Organization (WHO) conduct an “impartial, independent, and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic, the actions of the WHO, and its ‘timeline’ of the pandemic.” Canberra indicated that such an inquiry is necessary for all countries to be better prepared for the next pandemic. Australia’s proposal was officially adopted by WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, at its annual meeting in May.

Beijing, however, views that step as an attempt to blame the Chinese government for its mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak. Instinctively, Beijing shifted immediately to attack mode. Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid, compared Australia to “a piece of chewed-up gum stuck under China’s shoe.” China’s embassy in Canberra warned that Chinese consumers might boycott Australian beef and wine.

China is known for its “bullying diplomacy” — using its enormous economic power to coerce other nations to bend to its will. Any nation that stands up in disagreement is doomed to face Beijing’s backlash. For example, after a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Beijing imposed an embargo on Norwegian salmon and halted trade negotiations between the two nations for six years. In 2017, after South Korea decided to allocate a construction site for American-made anti-missile systems, Beijing retaliated by preventing Chinese tourists from visiting South Korea, ordering Chinese companies to boycott South Korean companies, and diverting Chinese consumers from South Korean retail stores in China.

15. Tulsi Gabbard may be heading for the Congressional exit, but before leaving she has introduced legislation that, as Alexandra DeSanctis explains, have come as a pleasant surprise to pro-lifers. From the article:

Last week, Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard introduced not one but two substantial pieces of pro-life legislation. One measure from the Democratic congresswoman is intended “to protect pain-capable unborn children.” The legislative text is not yet available, but it is likely along the lines of similar legislation introduced in the past, which prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation based on research suggesting that unborn children can feel pain at that stage of pregnancy.

The second piece of legislation would “ensure a health care practitioner exercises the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.” That bill text also has yet to be made public, but it will almost certainly follow earlier forms of born-alive legislation. For the past two years, the Senate has held a vote on Senator Ben Sasse’s Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which requires physicians to treat newborns who survive an abortion the same way they’d treat any other newborn delivered at the same gestational age.

Adding insult to injury, Gabbard is also sponsoring a measure to define sex as “determined on the basis of biological sex as determined at birth by a physician,” as it applies to Title IX and athletics, a controversial question among progressives, who increasingly believe that biological males should be permitted to compete with girls and women if they identify as female.

As the pro-life group Democrats for Life has pointed out, Gabbard has voted against pain-capable abortion restrictions three times during her congressional tenure. However, during the Democratic presidential primary, Gabbard was the only candidate to espouse support for any restrictions on abortion.

16. Coverage of the death penalty and capital cases is immersed with liberal spin, selective information, and fiction — it’s time, says David Harsanyi, for having some degree of honesty in this debate. From the piece:

If you’re leaving out that part of the story, then you’re not having a real conversation about the death penalty.

And we rarely do. “Two Black men have been executed within two days. Two more are set to die before Biden’s inauguration,” writes CNN, diligently attempting to create the impression that the federal government is targeting black men. The first person put to death this summer was white supremacist Daniel Lewis Lee. Wesley Ira Purkey, Dustin Lee Honken, Keith Dwayne Nelson, and William Emmett LeCroy — all as deserving as Bernard — were all executed this very summer as well.

As I write this, “Dylann Roof,” the racist murderer of nine parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015, is trending on Twitter. Most of the irritation seems to be directed at officials who, I guess, aren’t executing Roof fast enough — which is a weird way to make the case to spare Bernard. Why, some of these people demand to know, did the justice system coddle Roof but kill Bernard? Well, in reality, a jury of nine white and three black Americans found Roof guilty on 33 criminal counts and unanimously came back with the death penalty in the sentencing phase. Once Roof loses his appeals — he committed his crimes 16 years after Bernard — he will be executed, unless Biden, or whoever is president when the day comes, decides otherwise. Will we see celebrities pleading for his life? Will there be messages of heartbreak from Kim Kardashian West? Will newspapers and liberal websites offer slippery phrasing to explain his crimes? Seems unlikely.

Capital Matters

1. What doesn’t he . . . ? Alex Muresianu discusses what Biden gets wrong on taxes and manufacturing. From the piece:

There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that accelerated depreciation (and other tax policies that allow companies to deduct investment spending faster) increases investment, productivity, and growth. Eric Ohrn of Grinnell College found that states that adopted a form of accelerated depreciation saw significant increases in manufacturing investment and wages compared with states that didn’t adopt this policy.

Disadvantaging capital-intensive industries might end up also hurting Biden’s environmental agenda, a cornerstone of which is significant private investment in new forms of energy production. According to a working paper by Princeton’s Jordan Richmond, the tax would fall most heavily on utility companies as well as manufacturers. Energy, unsurprisingly, is a capital-intensive sector, and increasing the cost of investment means that companies will replace older, less energy-efficient technology more slowly, keeping emissions high. In the power sector, this means it will be more costly for companies to invest in renewable replacements for fossil fuel.

Instead of imposing this minimum tax, the president-elect should consider working with Republicans to make permanent certain provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that are scheduled to phase out in 2022. Specifically, the TCJA allows companies to deduct the full cost of investments in equipment and machinery in the year they are made, a policy called “full expensing.” Additionally, the president-elect could also support making investment in structures, such as warehouses or apartment buildings, eligible for the same benefits.

2. California Here I . . . Go. John Fund checks out those checking out. From the piece:

Other recent occupants of the state’s job-departure lounge include Charles Schwab, Toyota, McKesson, Palantir, and Core-Mark Holding Company. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council boasts that in the next few weeks several headquarters and manufacturing operations will announce they are leaving California for Arizona.

And then there are the smaller firms. Business-site consultant Joe Vranich estimates that the Golden State’s unfriendly tax and regulatory climate has prompted some 17,000 firms to leave over the past decade in whole or in part.

“This Oracle project is another huge economic-development trophy for Texas governor Greg Abbott’s wall,” John Boyd, a corporate site-selection consultant based in New Jersey, told the San Francisco Business Times. Texas has no state income tax, a much lighter regulatory touch, and a lower cost of living. Tax experts estimate that companies moving to Texas can save a minimum of 15 percent to 30 percent on their taxes.

By contrast, California’s 13.3 percent top tax on personal income and capital gains is so high that Tom Siebel, one of the Bay Area’s most prominent entrepreneurs, told the Silicon Valley Business Journal this month, “I think every responsible chief executive officer has to consider moving their company out of California. If you’re not considering that, you’re not fulfilling your job for your shareholders and your employees.”

3. Senator Rick Scott says the GOP has to say no to Blue-State bailouts. From the piece:

The federal government can play a significant role in boosting the unemployment-insurance program, propping up small businesses to avoid layoffs, and investing in vaccine research, development, and distribution. But it shouldn’t write blank checks to poorly managed states.

Why? Well, first of all, we don’t even know how much of the $1 trillion allocated to states and local governments by the CARES Act has already been spent, and they won’t tell us. I and Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), have written multiple letters to every governor in America asking for a breakdown of how they’ve spent their states’ CARES Act money. Just ten of them have responded. Only in Washington does it make sense to consider sending hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to states and local governments that refuse to tell us how, or even if, they’ve used the $1 trillion we sent them nine months ago.

4. A thorough study of the student-debt crisis, and not a political jubilee, is what America needs, argues Thomas W. Miller Jr. From the piece:

By Inauguration Day, student-loan borrowers will have enjoyed ten months of no payments toward their debt. But any private lender knows that once loan payments stop, it is difficult to get borrowers back into the habit of paying.

We would all be wise to ask: Exactly how is the federal government going to get taxpayers’ money back? More important, if the federal government heeds recent calls for student-loan forgiveness, what then? Don’t we deserve answers to $1.6 trillion questions?

About 43 million people have chosen to take on student-loan debt. A recent poll claims that 81 percent of the respondents say the government should make it easier for borrowers to repay their debt. How? Are all borrowers struggling to repay? Is it wise to cancel billions in debt without knowing the answer to that question, and without any lending reforms that would prevent the problem from reappearing?

In the Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968, Congress chartered a National Commission on Consumer Finance, tasked with studying the entire consumer-financial market in America. At the time, student loans were virtually nonexistent. Still, that commission offers us a useful rubric on how to study complex questions about consumer credit.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. To Armond White, With Drawn Arms is the documentary best described as race hustling. From the review:

‘For 50 years, people have been putting words into my mouth for what that fist meant,” 76-year-old Tommie Smith explains about his raised-fist pose at the 1968 Olympics. “It meant pride, power, strength. It meant . . . one as a nation.” And yet the makers behind the documentary With Drawn Arms turn Smith’s gesture and words to their own nation-dividing purpose. In an era flooded with blatantly propagandistic docs, With Drawn Arms may be the most outrageous because the filmmakers humiliate their subject in the process of using him as a foil.

That fist-raised pose made Smith instantly iconic; his dark, lean, tall figure sharpened the look of those strikingly virile upstarts in the Sixties Black Power movement. He looked militant even though he really wasn’t — he was just young and susceptible to the fervor of the times.

Now that brash 200-meter gold medalist has aged, grayed, and thickened. Even his skin tone has changed — lightened — into a pale reflection of that famous image, so pale that the makers of With Drawn Arms don’t realize the offense of turning him into a stereotype. They misread Smith’s humanity and the complexity of that famous moment, reshaping his story for a Black Lives Matter puppet show.

2. More Armond: he is liking very much True History of the Kelly Gang. From the beginning of the review:

Few of this year’s releases have had real movie-movie richness, but True History of the Kelly Gang is one. Director Justin Kurzel, who made the spellbinding 2015 Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Paddy Considine, takes on the Australian criminal and folk hero Ned Kelly (played by George MacKay), applying similar audacity. It’s the only film seen on streaming (the reviewing method required during COVID) that I wish I could have seen on the big screen.

Kurzel’s opening epigraph — “Nothing you’re about to see is true” — warns that he is going to plunge us into poetic folklore. This will be an Australian national legend that fully embraces the penal colony’s outlawry and the tradition of undomesticated class rivalry among the Irish and British settlers, transported convicts or authorities, that is at the heart of the country’s identity.

Ned Kelly grows up under the burden of this heritage — now called “cringe culture” — which alienates him while also making his life feel predetermined. The son of a morally weak, criminal father and an amoral, remorseless mother who are pioneers in the outback, Ned rebels, seeking revenge as something of a birthright. It takes a surreal and poetic style to convey this wild concept, and Kurzel displays the necessary scope.

3. Kyle Smith digs the new HBO documentary about the Bee Gees. From the review:

Documentaries tend to fall into two categories: publicity or journalism. This one is very much characteristic of the former camp; directed by Steven Spielberg’s longtime producer Frank Marshall, it avoids dwelling on awkward topics such as divorce, alcoholism, and drug abuse, which plagued the Bee Gees and their little brother. The film’s strength is its rich technical detail about the Bee Gees songs, such as “Jive Talkin,’” whose famous opening riff grew out of the sound Barry’s car made driving over a bridge in Miami, where the band was recording. Recording at “a dump” in France on the urging of a tax-dodging manager, the band’s drummer was temporarily absent so the Bee Gees used a two-bar drum passage from the already-recorded “Night Fever” to make a repeating loop, then put a bass line on top of it to create the foundations of “Stayin’ Alive.”

Elder brother Barry and the younger twins, Maurice and Robin — who began singing professionally in 1958 Australia — had crafted many brilliant lush ballads based in three-part harmonies and filled out with rich orchestral sounds by the late Sixties. It was a velvety easy-listening sound, and as a disco-loving twelve-year-old in the late Seventies, I was stunned to discover the propulsively engaging Brothers Gibb (the initials became the group’s name) had once been purveyors of elevator music, enough to fill an entire album with weepy love songs such as “Words,” “I Started a Joke,” “Massachusetts,” and “To Love Somebody.” “I had six Rolls Royces before I was 21,” Maurice once recalled. “Don’t know where they are now.”

4. More Kyle: He finds much that’s powerful in Ma Rainey Black Bottom: From the beginning of the review:

August Wilson’s Century Cycle — ten plays, each set in a different decade of the 20th century — is one of the monumental achievements of the American theater and one that figures to grow in relevance in coming years, given the plays’ focus on black Americans’ struggle to deal with the facts of the collective past. It is to the great credit of Denzel Washington, one of the few Hollywood superstars equally dedicated to the theater, that he has set about putting the entire cycle on film with first-rate casts and directors so that anyone, not just theatergoers, can experience the work.

Being faithful to the material, though, means asking a lot of the audience; Wilson’s plays are talkfests, they’re subtle, they require teasing out the hidden meanings of symbols and archetypes, and they can’t be reengineered to make them into visual spectacles. Theater requires paying attention, which is why it’s best experienced in the total-concentration environment of a space set aside for that purpose, not in a home where your attention may be diverted by pets, children, cellphones, snacks, etc.

Because Wilson’s plays are tough to adapt for the screen, it’s going to take Washington longer than he anticipated to bring the project to fruition. But four years after he starred in and directed Wilson’s Fences, which won his co-star Viola Davis an Oscar in 2016, he has produced a second one, this time for Netflix. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which opened on Broadway in 1984, was the first Wilson play to attract serious attention. This time the project is helmed by George C. Wolfe, the much-lauded theater director, and it stars a riveting Chadwick Boseman in his final performance.

A Quartet of Selections from the Final Issue of 2020

The December 31, 2020 issue of National Review is out and about and, is the custom of this missive, we offer a sampling to inspire your intelligence.

1. Jimmy Quinn is traveling with the Secretary of State. They sit down to discuss the Pompeo Doctrine. From the article:

Perhaps the most notable yet least remarked-upon area in which the administration has prioritized coalition-building is in its efforts to counter the Chinese Communist Party — which, Pompeo tells me, is “a truly existential threat to the United States of America.”

National-security types in Biden’s orbit have argued that the Trump administration’s rhetoric in calling out the CCP for its horrific human-rights abuses, unfair trade practices, and malign global-influence campaigns is just bluster without a refined strategy to marshal international cooperation. But there is a strategy. Since Pompeo started talking in speeches last year about the CCP’s use of Huawei for espionage and political influence, the Trump administration has recruited more than 50 countries to join its Clean Network program. That initiative warns members against the use of technology tainted by Beijing’s influence and espionage.

Pompeo argues that this administration’s vocally anti-CCP stance has given cover to America’s allies to undertake their own reappraisals of their relations with China: “We have been a call to nations all over the world. We’ve laid down the reality of what the Chinese Communist Party does and is, and we’ve had real impact.” Elaborating, he notes that closer defense cooperation between Australia and Japan complements the Quad grouping, a counter-Beijing coalition revived by the Trump administration that includes the two countries plus India and the United States. And the European Union’s decision to hold a series of high-level meetings with the United States on China-related issues, such as human rights and security, is another outgrowth of the administration’s diplomatic push. “These are historic sets of relationships built up by the Trump administration,” Pompeo says. And they’re targeted squarely at Beijing.

2. Graham Hillard wonders if comedians will find it within them to make fun of a Democrat president. From the piece:

The incoming president of the United States is a hair-sniffing malarkey farmer who has as much business hosting Tales from the Crypt as he does a state dinner. Perhaps the nation’s comedians ought to say so? That such a charge should be necessary in a free country is evidence of the extent to which progressives have come to control most thought.

In 1992, Saturday Night Live’s famous McDonald’s sketch could, without letting down the side, portray President-elect Bill Clinton as a gluttonous womanizer. (“There’s gonna be a whole bunch of things we don’t tell Mrs. Clinton,” a fry-stealing Phil Hartman boasted to an aide.) Today, one is as likely to hear a quip about vegetable RNA as about the man who will soon occupy the White House. According to a recent study by George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs, the month of September saw a predictable surfeit of political jokes on the late-night programs of Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert. Of the jibes in question, 455 were directed at President Trump. A mere 14 concerned his electoral opponent.

The problem is not, it should be clear, that Joe Biden is too serious a man to provide grist for the comedy mills. A two-bit hack with a one-bit brain, the new president has a certain low cunning but can’t remember where he put it. Like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, Biden has made a career of being in the right place at the right time. So absurd a figure is our future leader, in fact, that the nation’s jokesters should be throwing whoopee cushions into volcanoes to thank the humor gods. That they aren’t sheds light on a tacit arrangement that is both obnoxious and detrimental to the country: Democrats, no matter how foolish, must never be made into punchlines.

3. Andy McCarthy assesses the various courts’ making electoral mincemeat of the Trump campaign’s legal fights. From the piece:

As the weeks have gone by, it has become increasingly clear that the president, petulantly unwilling to admit defeat, is stoking a grievance-mongering political narrative. He never really wanted it tested in the courts . . . and that’s fine with the courts, especially the nation’s highest one.

The “democratic process” is how a self-determining people governs itself in a republic dedicated to ordered liberty. That process is inherently political. To describe something as “political” is to give it a pejorative connotation, and, to be sure, there is no rinsing sharp-elbowed partisanship out of practical politics. The democratic process, however, is political in the formalistic sense relating to the governance of our republic — the manner in which it structures, divides, and exercises power. The democratic process confers legitimacy on the exercise of public authority. In the peculiarly American sense, in the Declaration’s expounding of our very DNA, political legitimacy requires that governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” They are no longer legitimate when the form of government becomes destructive of that arrangement, as it would if unaccountable courts picked the president.

The franchise epitomizes the political nature of the democratic process. Through it, we elect the political branches of government, which have that designation not because they engage in hardball tactics but because they are accountable to us. The federal judiciary is not. It is intentionally insulated in the expectation that (a) it will limit its intrusions on public life to controversies in which someone has suffered a concrete harm owing to an illegal act, and (b) it will decide the resulting cases based solely on the law not public sentiment. Courts are thus anti-democratic. We expect them to tune out the will of the people, the opposite of governing in accordance with it.

4. Kevin Williamson thinks it’s time Republican officials acknowledged support, including among GOP voters, for legalizing weed. From the essay:

“As a legislator, I had 70,000 constituents, but I didn’t care about them as much as I cared about the ten people who knocked on doors for me,” says longtime Republican politico Don Murphy. “We all know it’s true.” Murphy came into the Maryland General Assembly in 1994 after defeating the Democratic majority leader. He was the party chairman in Baltimore County and boasts of having been a Trump delegate at the 2016 GOP convention. He is now the director of federal policy at the Marijuana Policy Project. The problem for Republican elected officials, Murphy says, is that the minority of Republicans who oppose marijuana legalization have a great deal more clout than the small majority who favor it.

Thanks to increasingly homogeneous congressional districts, the influence of talk radio and social media, and the decline of the party apparatus, ultra-committed true believers have an outsized footprint in the daily consciousness of the elected Republican. “You don’t get reelected if you don’t win the primary,” Murphy says. “Red states are passing this. South Dakota just passed this. But if you’re John Thune, your voters aren’t.” In Murphy’s view, this is a more urgent problem at the federal level. “When it comes to the House of Representatives, this is a more difficult issue than 2 5 The problem for Republican elected officials, Don Murphy says, is that the minority of Republicans who oppose marijuana legalization have a great deal more clout than the small majority that favor it.

Thanks to increasingly homogeneous congressional districts, the influence of talk radio and social media, and the decline of the party apparatus, ultra-committed true believers have an outsized footprint in the daily consciousness of the elected Republican. “You don’t get reelected if you don’t win the primary,” Murphy says. “Red states are passing this. South Dakota just passed this. But if you’re John Thune, your voters aren’t.” In Murphy’s view, this is a more urgent problem at the federal level. “When it comes to the House of Representatives, this is a more difficult issue than it was 30 or 40 years ago, because at that time, most House seats were fairly bipartisan. You had to win the general election. With redistricting, we have seats that are very red and very blue. If you’re a Republican, it doesn’t matter what the broadest group of your voters supports — what matters is how the primary voters respond. Even if 50 percent of the GOP supports ending federal prohibition, you have a problem if the 40 percent who don’t are your primary voters.”

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Strategika, Christopher O’Dea warns that the country that brought us the Wuhan Virus won’t find its plans for global expansion derailed by any pandemic backlash. From the assessment:

The most likely outcome is that countries will seek to ensure that any arrangements with China include terms to protect their own interests against Chinese coercion. China wasted no time showing it will flex its economic muscles to punish countries that criticize its handling of the pandemic. Since Australia in May called for a public investigation of the origins and spread of the coronavirus, China has levied an 80% tariff on Australian barley, suspended imports of Australian beef, and opened an investigation into Australian wine exporters.

Australia’s case holds a lesson: As things stand, China has sufficient economic leverage to prevent countries from taking meaningful actions to investigate its role in the pandemic, and even were China to be found negligent or criminally liable for the origination or spread of the virus, the U.S. and the free West may not be able to compel China to pay any legal judgements or restitution.

China’s economic leverage rests on one major capability that other countries lack: Logistics. Little noticed as China became the world’s manufacturing base, Chinese state-owned companies simultaneously built a global network of ports, shipping routes, container handling terminals, and transportation facilities, orchestrated by digital communications, security, and logistics software run on Chinese-operated networks.

Admiral Raymond Spruance once wrote that a sound logistics plan is the foundation for every successful military campaign. As the architect of the island-hopping campaign that led to the defeat of the Japanese Empire in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Spruance oversaw the creation of a seaborne logistics fleet that made innovations in vessel-loading and artificial harbor construction in order to prove the military with everything from food and medical supplies to fuel and ship repair services as Spruance captured one island chain after another.

2. At Gatestone Institute, Judith Bergman charges that the “Sister City” and other exchange programs may be cultural from our perspective, but they’re just another are a security tool for Red China. From the piece:

“The Xi administration”, according to Professor Anne-Marie Brady who, among other things, has studied Chinese influence activities in New Zealand, “has revived traditional CCP policies of utilizing people-to-people . . . relations in order to coopt foreigners to support and promote China’s foreign policy goals”. One of the ways that they do that, according to Brady, is to “[u]se sister city relations to expand China’s economic agenda separate to a given nation’s foreign policy. The CCP front organization, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries is in charge of this activity”.

According to Brady:

“CCP united front officials and their agents are tasked with developing relationships with foreign and overseas Chinese personages to influence, subvert, and if necessary, bypass the policies of their governments and promote the interests of the CCP globally…The Xi administration’s strategy of working more with local governments for economic projects has now revitalized the CPAFFC, as well as the local equivalents they work with such as in New Zealand, the New Zealand-China Friendship Society “.

An American equivalent of the New Zealand-China Friendship Society is the US-China Peoples Friendship Association, a not-for-profit organization that describes as its purpose “to develop and strengthen friendship and understanding between the peoples of the United States and China. USCPFA was founded as a national organization in 1974, working on people-to-people diplomacy between Americans and Chinese. Nearly 35 chapters in four regions spanning the U.S. comprise the organization”.

The State Department is currently reviewing the activities of the U.S.-China Friendship Association, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently called a CCP United Front Work organization.

3. At Commentary, P.J. O’Rourke looks aghast at Fredrik Logevall’s JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century 1917–1956 and sees no Camelot. From the review:

We’re afraid — no, we know — that if we inspect John F. Kennedy too closely, we’ll wonder what we saw in him. To the extent that there’s even a real “we” left to wonder. Anyone old enough to vote for Kennedy in 1960 is over 80 now. (And 49.55 percent of them voted for Nixon.) But the distant, hazy, reminiscent glow lingers, especially in high places such as the Harvard history department.

No thanks, however, to this particular book. Logevall does his clumsy best to walk upon his knees to the shrine. Yet JFK is a life of a saint that makes a hula hoop of his halo. The facts haggle with the hagiography. Logevall has done too much research. The devil (or his lapsed human instrument) is in the details, and so very many details of Kennedy’s life are provided here that Logevall turns into an accidental iconoclast.

He tries hard to portray Jack Kennedy as an important, serious, substantive political figure. As the venerated modern philosopher Yoda says: “Do or do not. There is no try.” He attempts to demonstrate Kennedy’s innate sympathy for the poor by dragging out a prep-school essay on social justice. But then Jack describes the fate of those less fortunate than he in terms that would have birthed a million hostile stories about Mitt Romney: “A boy is born in the slums, of a poor family, has evil companions, no education, becomes a loafer, as that is all there is to do, turns into a drunken bum, and dies, worthless.”

Logevall wants us to see Jack as a keen and thoughtful observer of international politics, even on a 1937 college-summer-vacation jaunt through Europe. Then he quotes the kid. “Fascism seems to treat them well,” Jack wrote in his diary after two days in Milan. At an inn in Munich, Jack noted, “Had a talk with the proprietor who is quite the Hitler fan. There is no doubt about it that these dictators are more popular in the country than outside due to their effective propaganda.”

4. At The American Conservative, Mark Y. Herring reveals what it’s like to be a conservative professor at a liberal arts college who expresses thoughts on the Wuhan virus and let’s loose the Dogs of Woke. From the article:

I wanted to make three points. First, I did not want us to lose sight of the origin of the virus. In five years, many might forget where it originated. Subsequent riots in the wake of the heinous murder of George Floyd have proven that history is not a strong point with them, as epigone abolitionists and others in sympathy with their angst have borne the brunt of the rioters’ fury. Only a few weeks prior to my using it, the phrase “Wuhan coronavirus” or “Wuhan virus” had been used by CNN, not exactly a right-of-center media outlet, and also by every other major media outlet in the country.

Second, I wanted to point out that crises bring out the best and worst in people, and I gave examples of both. Little did I known how Cassandra-like I would be vis-à-vis the latter.

Third, I wanted to make the point that perhaps the outcome of this lockdown might make us more aware of what is important in life. Hope springs eternal.

The editors showcased the article with a half dozen others. In other words, at that point, no one at the magazine had seen anything wrong with the piece. Yet once the online version appeared, all hell broke loose.

After 11 vituperative commenters excoriated the piece, the editors not only unilaterally retracted it, but apologized for its appearance. I was informed that the following month’s column would not be printed. Commenters then began working on the Winthrop’s website, making sure both my new provost and our interim president saw their outrage. My provost telephoned me — we were not yet back to work at that point — to tell me my crime was “casual racism.” I replied, peevishly, that the Left had given us casual sex and now we had casual racism. What next? She explained that pointing out that the virus had come from Wuhan and giving examples of cultural differences between Asian and Western values “signaled” my racism. In the spirit of reeducation, she offered to send me a reading list that would better situate me with the university’s bien-pensants.

5. At Law & Liberty, James R. Rogers looks at the fights spawned by uber-rendering unto Caesar. From the reflection:

But even if church governments and civil governments share concurrent jurisdiction over the same set of people, during a pandemic, the thought goes, when life is at risk, the claims of the civil government surely trump the claims of church government.

The church’s answer is: Not so fast. There is spiritual life and death as well, and the self-understanding of Christians and their churches, is that life in the age-to-come is more important than life in this age (Luke 12.4-5, Rev 2.10, etc.). This is not to say that physical life is unimportant to Christians. But there can be a tension from the two different pulls (Philippians 1.23)

It is here that the concurrent jurisdiction of the two governments can come into conflict: To protect physical life the civil government may want to prevent people from meeting together; to protect eternal life church governments may want people to continue to meet together.

In the self-understanding of the church, Christians need to assemble together as a church for their welfare — for the sake of their spiritual lives — and for the welfare of the community in which they live. The failure to assemble together can in fact put them at increased risk of spiritual death. The book of Hebrews, for example, provides that Christians should “not forsake assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another.” This “encouragement” from assembling together promotes “love and good deeds,” on the one hand, and deters “sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of truth,” which results in spiritual death, on the other hand (Hebrews 10.24-27).

6. More Law & Liberty: Your Faithful Servant’s old college prof, David L. Schaeffer, sees BLM rooted in Marx and Machiavelli, and not in the civil rights movement. From the essay:

. . . the Marxist program itself, however understood (or misunderstood), does enjoy growing appeal among the offspring of the rich, to say nothing of denizens of the American academy. How can we explain the revival of interest among educated human beings in such a thoroughly refuted — refuted in practice (Marx’s own test) as well as philosophically — in a prosperous and free country like the United States, to which millions of people from around the globe desperately aspire to migrate? I want to suggest that the explanation lies in a fact about human nature noted by the 16th century Florentine philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli in the opening paragraph of Chapter Three of The Prince. There he observes that people are always ready to follow usurpers in overthrowing their existing regime, believing that they will “fare better” under the new ruler — only to “see later by experience that they have done worse” (since the usurper is unable to keep the promises he made to his followers, and indeed, must deal harshly with his erstwhile supporters who complain — as well as with adherents of the old regime). (I follow the Mansfield translation.)

The greatest historical exemplar of such behavior was Vladimir Lenin, who no sooner gained power in 1917 than he appointed a ruthless and bloodthirsty secret police chief with orders to execute a few hundred thousand civilians in order to terrorize the Russian populace into submission. This policy echoed the one Machiavelli attributes to Cesare Borgia in Chapter Six of The Prince — only the ruthless governor that Cesare installed (in a province he had just acquired) had orders not to terrorize the people generally, but rather to eliminate the gang leaders and criminals who had previously brought perpetual disorder into submission, following which Cesare installed a “civil court,” i.e., a form of constitutional government rather than endless terror.

That Machiavelli’s account of Cesare Borgia is largely fictionalized need not concern us here. What is of interest, however, is his reporting that once Cesare’s ruthless governor had finished his dirty work, Cesare had the governor himself executed, disclaiming any responsibility for the severe punishments he had carried out. Cesare had to do this in order to mollify the people who had been alienated by the governor’s severity, despite the fact that most of them had benefited from the security that that severity brought to the province, making his apparent cruelty (as the author subsequently explains) really a form of “effectual mercy” — in contrast to the namby-pamby policies of the Florentine people, who so as to avoid a “name” for cruelty, allowed a city they governed to be torn apart by factional strife, so that that their nominal mercy really amounted to “effectual cruelty.” The combined relevance of these two passages from The Prince — one concerning the people’s readiness to be fooled, time and again, by usurpers who promise them the moon yet end up making them worse off; the other displaying the people’s incapacity to accept the harsh prerequisites of constitutional government — subjecting violent criminals to severe punishment — is as follows. Taken together, they demonstrate a recurrent error of the popular mind: a natural utopianism that if not overcome leads them to ruin. As Machiavelli puts it, those who follow a usurper typically find themselves, too late, deceived in the promise of a “future good” he had made to them.

7. At The College Fix, the great Jennifer Kabbany praises Rush Limbaugh for helping her remain a conservative during her college years. From the reflection:

So not only has Rush helped young people directly learn about conservatism and keep those principles in college and beyond, he’s indirectly helped countless others who have been influenced by fans like me and John. (That’s not even counting the “Rush Revere” books he’s written to help children come to love and respect American exceptionalism, which of course I shared with my two kids as a parent).

The truth is, we won’t know this side of heaven all that Rush has truly accomplished to help America protect its founding and encourage others to fight the good fight for the heart and soul of this great nation. I can only imagine it’s a vast number.

Like many of you, I was heartbroken to learn of Rush’s diagnosis of lung cancer, and my prayers — like that of so many others — have gone up for him.

Thank you for all you have done, and continue to do, for us and America, Rush.

Boom ’Em Dano.

One may have discovered this missive’s fondness for the great intellectual, Daniel J. Mahoney. Around this time of year, numerous publications seek his book recommendations. He has provided them to Catholic World Report (find them here) and Law & Liberty (found here). Do be influenced by them!


George Sisler‘s plaque hangs in the Hall of Fame because he was one of the greatest hitters in MLB history. In 15 seasons — spent mostly with the St. Louis Browns (he also wore the uniforms of the Washington Senators and Boston Braves) — the first baseman compiled a .340 batting average. He is best known for two spectacular seasons: In 1920 he stroked an MLB record 257 hits (broken by Ichiro Suzuki in 2004, albeit in 162 games) with a league-leading .407, and in 1922, when he batted an astonishing .420, nearly bringing the Browns their first pennant (alas it was a Second Place finish, one game behind the Yankees).

Little known: Sisler came to the Majors as a pitcher, and in 1915 appeared in 15 games for St. Louis, compiling a 4-4 records with a 2.83 ERA. There were a handful of other appearances between then and his final year (1930), and one of them was a doozie: On September 17, 1916 at Sportsman Park, with his Browns out of the pennant hunt, Sisler took the mound against the Washington Senators. His opponent: The future Hall of Famer, Walter Johnson, the man with the MLB record for career shutouts and very much in his prime.

But today, the shut out would belong to Sisler, who scattered six hits and two walks (while striking out six) to earn a 1-0 complete-game victory. The Big Train gave up only four hits — the box score has been lost to the ages, so it’s unclear how Armando Marsans scored the game’s sole run. But it was all Sisler would need in what proved to be the last win of his MLB career. For the curious: His final pitching appearance came in 1928 with the Braves, a one-inning, three-up-three-down stint that closed out a 15-0 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies.

George had to sons who also played in the Majors. Dick Sisler was an All Star first baseman, and over 8 seasons compiled a decent .276 batting average with 55 home runs. But he had the at-bat that all little boys dream about: In the final regular-season game of 1950, his three-run, 10th-inning homer off Dodger’s ace Don Newcombe won the Phillies their first NL pennant since 1915.

Son Dave Sisler pitched, mostly as a reliever, for a handful of teams from 1956 to 1962, chalking up a 38-44 career record with a 4.33 ERA. He did achieve one thing his dad had accomplished: On May 2, 1958, hurling for the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Dave Sisler shut out the Detroit Tigers, 6-0. It was the sole shutout of his career.

A note about our reference last week to Eddie Robinson having played for five teams in two years, something likely no one else in MLB had ever done. There was at least one other: Dave Kingman. An All Star in 1976 for the New York Mets (he had clubbed 37 homers that year), the Sky King found himself in 1977 on four teams — the Mets, who traded him in June to the San Diego Padres, who waived him in September, when he was picked up by the California Angels, who within 10 days traded him to the New York Yankees. Granted free agency after the season, in 1978 Kingman signed with the Chicago Cubs (his fifth team in two years), and stayed put for three seasons (accumulating decent numbers by his .235 lifetime batting-average standards: Kong batted .278 over his tenure there, with 94 home runs — including a league-leading 48 in 1979 — and an average of 84 RBIs a year).

A Dios

A great friend of NR and so many conservative efforts, Jerry, passed away. He leaves a lovely and grieving widow, Marilyn. For his soul, for his family’s solace, please offer a prayer. For those suffering during this pandemic — medically and financially — and from those who are cut off from their loved ones, especially those now denied the benefits of the corporal works of mercy, maybe too please a prayer. And then too consider prayers of gratitude, for all of us who are sore afraid because of the angel chorus and the glories of creation. If needed, avail yourself of Linus for perspective and inspiration.

To those who do not celebrate the Birth of Jesus, we hope that the special graces that seem to be brought forth by this season are at your disposal and enjoyment.

Mercies Mild and Tidings of Comfort and Joy,

Jack Falalalalalalalala, who awaits your rhetorical lump of coal is sent to


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