Dear Weekend Jolter,
How have we gotten to this point? Seeking a cogent and penetrating and historical analysis of the Left’s assault on Western Civilization — with bonus observations on the obtuseness of many of our society’s woke-genuflecting religious and cultural leaders? One of conservatism’s true public intellectuals, the great Daniel J. Mahoney, is at his lucid best in this powerful First Things podcast with Mark Bauerlein. Take a break from watching videos of Kenosha burn and Madison redefine “peaceful” by catching “The Culture of Hate” here. You will not regret having done so.
No will you regret the exceptional three-part series by our Andy McCarthy, detailing the guilty plea (and the background of the dirty little episode) by the FBI’s document-doctoring, FISA-fibbing counsel, Kevin Clinesmith
From Part One, The Perfect Snapshot of Crossfire Hurricane Duplicity:
I don’t mean to make you dizzy, but in my view, Clinesmith is lying about lying. His strategy is worth close study because it encapsulates the mendaciousness and malevolence of both “Crossfire Hurricane” (the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation) and the “collusion” never-enders who continue to defend it. A defendant’s lying about lying does not necessarily make a false-statement guilty plea infirm as a matter of law. The bar is not high. Still, his story is ridiculous, in a way that is easy to grasp once it’s placed in context.
So let’s place it in context.
Which Andy does. Part Two is titled Using a ‘Digraph’ to Conceal a Massive Deception of the Court. And the third installment is a beaut: Lying about Lying.
We will not be surprised when weeks from now Andy is moved to write a piece titled “Lying about Lying about Lying.” Anyway, his three-parter did not go unnoticed, drawing a sharp critique from New York Times reporter Charlie Savage, so ideologically intent on giving Clinesmith as much benefit of the doubt as possible. Andy’s ace rebuttal is a thing to behold.
There’s plenty more beholding to be . . . held. If you thrill to the idea of clicking on links, then you are in luck: a bevy await. Commence with the Jolting!
1. There was plenty of hocus pocus, and little of substance, at the Democrat Convention. From the editorial:
The Democrats played down and euphemized their extremism on abortion all the way to birth. Biden himself has shamefully abandoned four decades of support for the Hyde amendment, and now backs taxpayer subsidies to increase the number of abortions. The teachers’ unions, meanwhile, publicly celebrated how the Biden–Sanders unity agenda would move education policy away from both parental choice and accountability.
The Democratic Party platform pushes D.C. statehood, entirely without regard to the fact that this cannot be done without amending the Constitution, and more immigration law by executive fiat. The Democrats pledge new gun bans in violation of the Second Amendment and are increasingly threatening to eliminate the filibuster if enough Senate Republicans don’t roll over for all of this.
That’s just what has been endorsed so far from the official campaign and party organs. But nobody who has followed Biden or Harris should have much faith in their spine for resisting their party’s never-ending pull to the left. Republicans would do well to make the case that the upcoming election is about what the Democrats would do with power. If Americans vote for the Biden–Harris platform to find out what’s in it, there will be a lot of unpleasant surprises.
2. The vanishing of the traditional GOP platform received some well-deserved decrying. From the editorial:
Nobody has ever accused Donald Trump of being a details man, and there is no need for him to match the Democrats line-for-line. But at least his 2016 campaign at had a few easily summarized proposals, such as “build the wall.” A party platform also provides organizing themes for state parties, not just the presidential campaign. A platform for Republicans in 2020 could easily have taken the form of early party platforms that stated broad visions in simple language that could be printed on a single broadsheet page. Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America” was a fine modern example of concisely framing the policy stakes.
Instead, the campaign statement appears to suggest that the platform is Trump himself. With Trump’s approval ratings still lagging, that is a dubious political choice; Republicans would be better served to focus voters’ attention on the real differences between the two parties, especially for the benefit of down-ticket candidates in jurisdictions Trump is unlikely to carry. Worse, it suggests that Republicans may miss the opportunity to fully take advantage of a victory in November.
3. The “justice” justification for the violence in Kenosha is bogus and dangerous. From the editorial:
Within hours of the video of the shooting hitting the Internet, the city of Kenosha was on fire. Cars were torched. Businesses were destroyed. A 71-year-old man was hit in the head with a concrete-filled plastic bottle, which fractured his jaw in two places. On Tuesday, a 17-year-old boy brought a rifle to the city, ostensibly to defend property, and ended up shooting two people dead — possibly in self-defense, possibly not. On Wednesday, the celebrities got involved. The NBA postponed all of its games, after a critical mass of players announced that they would not play. In baseball, games between the Brewers and Reds, Mariners and Padres, and Dodgers and Giants were postponed for the same reason. These adjournments drew praise from President Barack Obama, who explained that “it’s going to take all our institutions to stand up for our values.”
We might ask what that means. The move that inspired Obama was spearheaded by the Milwaukee Bucks, which put out a collective statement explaining their decision not to play. “We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake,” the team insisted, “and demand the officers be held accountable.” But therein lies the problem. Properly understood, “justice” is not an outcome but a process, and its achievement is wholly contingent upon the details of each case. We secure “justice” both when an innocent man walks free and when a guilty man is convicted. Determining which is which is the whole ball of wax. “Accountability” works much the same way. One can hold a person accountable only for wrongful actions they have actually taken.
And we do not know what happened in Kenosha.
4. There goes an opportunity. Alas, The Fed missed it. From the editorial:
The signs that its current approach is not working have been proliferating. In 2012, the central bank announced a target inflation rate of 2 percent; it has spent almost all of the time since then with inflation well below that target, raising questions about its credibility. The long secular decline in interest rates has left the Fed with little ability to use its principal tool for combatting recessions, which is further declines in interest rates. (We are seeing that limitation now, after having taken a big hit from a pandemic that began a year after the Fed’s review started.) Low interest rates and quantitative easing have not increased inflation, or production, as much as many observers had expected. And the Fed has admitted that its earlier model of how low unemployment could safely go was mistaken, causing it to raise interest rates too quickly and thus keep employment and wages from growing as robustly as they could have.
After a long review, the Fed has decided to respond to these challenges by switching from a 2 percent inflation target to . . . a 2 percent average inflation target. It has also said that it will not raise interest rates in order to keep unemployment from falling too low. That second step is a positive development, but the first step is an ambiguous one. In theory, a policy of allowing 2.5 percent inflation after a year of 1.5 percent inflation, or vice versa, will make the price level more predictable over the long run. And by lowering the likelihood of a persistent shortfall, it will boost the effectiveness of anti-recessionary policies. But there is a risk. If inflation runs under target inflation during a downturn and then above it during a boom, all the Fed has done is make the economy’s swings more pronounced — which is the opposite of what it’s supposed to be doing.
An Exquisite Smorgasbord of Conservative Brilliance, Offering 15 Tasty Main Courses (Yes, We Know Your Hunger for Such Is Insatiable)
1. Victor Davis Hanson, son of the Golden State, catalogs the insanities there as the New Dark Ages commence. From the essay:
When will the madness end?
Not until Nancy Pelosi’s Napa Valley estate is without power and her boutique ice cream collections all melt.
Not until the Silicon Valley private academies are forced to diversify, as inclusion trainers recruit the very poor and undocumented from Mexico and Central America into their student bodies.
Not until the Google and Facebook employees leave their beds in parked cars and buses and break into their employers’ lobbies to sleep better at night.
Not until the Malibu “help” strike, demand unionization, and are paid for nannying, housecleaning, yardwork, and cooking at the going SEIU rates.
Not until Antifa and BLM begin prying up 2,000–2,500 terrazzo stars of all the Hollywood Walk of Fame living and dead who did not meet their 2020 woke requirements.
Not until a retired Jerry Brown is forced to commute daily to a new consulting job on the 99.
Not until the showers in the Zuckerberg estates blast out sand rather than water.
2. What riots? Rich Lowry highlights the crisis that Democrats won’t talk about. From the column:
As far as the Democrats were concerned, recent events that have had a profound effect on urban communities — places almost uniformly governed by Democratic mayors — simply never happened.
The Biden campaign surely doesn’t want to risk a discouraging word about anyone marching under the banner of Black Lives Matter for fear of alienating African-American voters, yet the convention’s portrayal of the protests seemed quite sincere. The Left’s narrative is that the George Floyd protests have, with very few exceptions, been peaceful and above reproach, and only haters could think otherwise. This abiding belief is impervious to all evidence to the contrary.
There have been riots in Minneapolis, New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Seattle, among other cities. Just a couple of weeks ago, looters ransacked stores in Chicago, and nightly riots are now part of the urban identity of Portland, Ore.
You would think that Democrats would want, merely as a matter of political cover, to make some nod toward denouncing this violence and disassociating their cause from it. Even during a week when they were remembering the work of John Lewis, an inspiring and courageous devotee of nonviolence, they couldn’t bring themselves to do it.
3. More VDH: The historian explains what is behind the violence in our cities. From the piece:
As with most cultural revolutions that wish to start things over at “year zero,” the violence is aimed at America’s past in order to change its present and future.
The targets are not just the old majority culture but also classical statues and buildings, hallowed institutions, religious icons, the renowned names of streets and plazas, and almost every representation of tradition and authority.
For the majority of Americans who do not buy into the revolution, it all seems so surreal — and hypocritical.
Only a despised, dynamic American economy allows millions to divorce from it for a summer of protest.
4. From near the Wisconsin madness, Ryan Owens calls on elected leaders to oppose the violence in America’s streets. From the article:
What’s more, lawless actors radicalize others. Those who are lawless in thought are likely to become lawless in practice after observing unconstrained mob rule. Seeing that the coast is clear, they participate. Pernicious long-term consequences also arise from mob rule. Our institutions require the public’s faith. When law-abiding people see their lives endangered, their property destroyed, and their families insulted by those who willfully violate the law without consequence, they lose faith in government and our institutions. They opt out of the system, stop caring, and stop participating. And sometimes they take the law into their own hands — with equally troublesome consequences.
But perhaps that is what the radicals want. Their ends are revolutionary; their means, outside the law. For the rest of us, there is much work to be done to improve, but a number of actions can help. In the short run, our leaders must unequivocally declare that those who break the law will be held to account. And then they must follow through. No stand-down orders. No refusals to arrest or to prosecute. No half-hearted “shame on you” tweets. Rioting, looting, destruction of property must not be tolerated. Neither must vigilante justice. “Equal justice under law” makes no exceptions for political expediency.
Leaders also must be rational and even-handed when they speak publicly. They must collect information before rendering judgment against anyone. We’re often told that words have consequences and that leaders should be careful with their words. That’s true. Leaders’ words do have consequences. They can inflame passions and demoralize those who seek to protect us.
5. David Harsanyi wonders when the Democrats will reckon with their party’s knuckleheads. From the commentary:
I was reminded of the depth of the paranoia that still remains over 2016 when watching a new trailer for Showtime’s upcoming film, The Comey Rule.
One man asks how was it possible that Russians had infiltrated American democracy. Another responds, quite hilariously: “Ever spend much time on Facebook?”
It is likely still commonly believed that some social-media memes were enough to turn our democracy over to Putin’s control. There is “no question” that Russia altered vote totals during the 2016 election, Senate majority leader Harry Reid told us. On multiple occasions, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff claimed to be in possession of irrefutable “direct evidence” that the president had connived with Putin to steal the election. For two years, journalists unskeptically passed on every lurid theory about how a second-rate nation such as Russia was controlling American institutions. Even moderate liberal pundits wondered, “Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?” or “What If Trump Has Been a Russian Asset Since 1987?”
It’s no surprise that in 2018, a YouGov poll found that 67 percent of Democrats believe it is “definitely true” or “probably true” that “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected,” even though the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russia’s interference has a full sub-section titled — in all caps — “NO EVIDENCE OF CHANGED VOTES OR MANIPULATED VOTE TALLIES.”
As far as I can tell, they stopped polling Democrats on the question.
6. Alexandra DeSanctis fact-checks the Biden / abortion fact-checkers. From the piece:
After Mike Pence’s speech at the RNC yesterday evening, an NBC News fact-checker got to work attempting to disprove the vice president’s claim that Joe Biden “supports taxpayer funding of abortion right up to the moment of birth.” (As David Harsanyi noticed last night, NBC was not the only outlet bungling the facts on Biden and abortion.)
“Biden supports abortion rights,” fact-checker Jane C. Timm concedes, before employing both a falsehood and a misdirection in her effort to correct Pence.
“Elective abortions do not occur ‘up until the moment of birth,’” Timm writes. “Just 1.2 percent occur after 21 weeks of gestation, according to the latest data.”
But Timm’s second claim does not negate the first; the number of abortions that take place after 21 weeks’ gestation has nothing to do with whether abortion until birth is legal (it is), whether it takes place (it does), or, most pertinently, whether Biden favors placing restrictions of any kind on abortion, which he does not.
This statistic about the occurrence of abortion after 21 weeks’ gestation — the time around which many premature infants are able to survive outside the womb with intensive medical care — is typically cited by those who wish to deny or minimize the reality of post-viability abortion.
7. Matthew Continetti thinks that Donald Trump’s acceptance speech may have refocused the race on the unfriendly-to-Biden grounds. From the analysis:
I don’t pretend to know what will happen in November. No one who lived through 2016 should be confident in their predictions. I have a profound fear of what is happening to my country, however. All of a sudden, legitimate concerns about racial equity and social justice are transmuted into justifications for vandalism, theft, violence, cancellation, and ostracization. Random communities — Kenosha, Wis., diners in Washington, D.C. — become sites of revolution, rebuke, and disorder. This cannot last. What Trump offers isn’t so much the end of the chaos — federalism and prudence circumscribe his sphere of action — but at least a rhetorical and gestural rebuke of the idea that my country was originally, and fatally, diseased.
It was not. I love my country, and the Constitution, and the principles that animated its Founders. And I don’t think I’m alone. The Republican convention did a good job of demonstrating that white, black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans agree. What Donald Trump has done is reframe the 2020 election as a referendum on the American idea. And Joe Biden might not know how to answer.
8. C.M. Fortenberry says it is time to make America safe again. From the piece:
Safe from China and Other Hostile Regimes: The Chinese government’s economic nationalism is chewing up resources and consolidating power, without the “constraints” of respect for human dignity and environmental regulation. COVID has slapped us awake to our dependency on China for basic needs: for drugs and drug ingredients, for personal protective equipment, and for too many other supply-chain resources. Moving our industrial base and product manufacturing to China has incrementally conquered and enslaved us, at least economically. Depending on China for revenue (I’m looking squarely at Hollywood and the NBA) has made our speech about the Chinese government less free.
President Trump’s policies on trade with China have laid the foundation for a “Made in the USA” economy, and his executive orders on essential medicines should ensure that we aren’t as vulnerable to economic shocks and supply-chain disruptions.
Make America Safe Again, with a plan like the one above, seeks to restore order not for its own sake, but for people’s sake. If we have order, we can get back to living, loving, building, working, socializing: all the things 2020 has stripped from us.
9. There could not be as straight a shooter as D.J. Jaffee, who was unafraid to call bulldoody on a “mental health” industry that refused to help the deeply ill. A liberal but a friend of NR, he passed away this week. John Hirschauer provides a fitting remembrance. From the piece:
Whenever Jaffe spoke at a conference or public hearing — and given the opprobrium he engendered in certain corners of the mental-health community, his appearances were never without controversy — he said basically the same thing: Everyone in the United States can stand to have their mental health improved; around 18 percent of the adult population has a mental illness that you can find in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. But his concern was for the 4 percent of the adult population with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. He spent his life astounded by the fact that the mental-health industry at large seemed to have little interest in this group’s plight. “I am not a mental-health advocate,” he would often say, with some indignation. “I am an advocate for the seriously mentally ill.”
It should not have been an incendiary message, but many of the government agencies, nonprofits, and advocacy groups ostensibly dedicated to mental health found Jaffe to be abrasive. The cause of their unease was obvious: His message struck straight at the heart of the foundational myth on which countless “wellness” and “self-improvement” campaigns were built, and the never-ending rhetorical war on “stigma” that defines the bulk of modern mental-health advocacy.
“Mental health,” as distinguished from mental illness, was a mid-20th-century invention of psychiatrists eager to step beyond the asylum walls and become something like philosopher–kings. After President Kennedy signed the 1963 Community Mental Health Act, the National Institute of Mental Health began its years-long fixation on “prevention” — the idea that mental illness could be effectively prevented if politicians would endeavor to create a “mentally healthy” society.
10. Cameron Hilditch contemplates the tactics of revolutionaries, and what is required to defeat them. From the piece:
Black Lives Matter, it seems, have probed and found mush in the area of race relations. This is hardly surprising. If there is one issue on which Americans are likely to doubt the justice of their nation’s cause, it is the issue of race. It is hard for a country only 60-odd years removed from the civil-rights movement to have great confidence in the established order when that order is criticized for racial injustice. But the fact that this doubt manifests itself in a reluctance to stand four-square behind the rule of law is what cynical criminals such as those mentioned above prey upon. They firmly believe that this reluctance will allow them to get away with beating the living daylights out of a human being in the middle of an American city and then rummaging through his car to steal things . . . on camera.
Being a conservative is always the more difficult position to take in conflicts of this nature, because being a conservative means loving something that actually exists, and therefore loving something imperfect. The love of progressives is reserved for a hypothetical and perfect society that does not (and will never) exist, and so they are never faced with the task of loving anyone or anything in spite of their imperfections. Their only task here in the real world is to tear everything down to hasten the age to come. They will, therefore, keep probing and probing, looking for the chink in America’s armor, and turning her imperfections against her, so that lawless criminals have the moral cover they require to destroy everything that stands in the way of utopia. If conservatives will not stand up to the mob and insist upon the rule of American law within American borders, then every aspect of this country that falls short of progressive paradise will be destroyed in successive rounds of violence and civil strife. It’s time to meet the bayonets with steel.
11. More Hilditch: He commends Senator Tim Scott’s performance at the GOP convention. From the analysis:
But the evening belonged to Tim Scott. More than any speech in recent Republican history, his address last night revived and redeployed the spirit of Ronald Reagan, a spirit that has been dormant in the GOP during the Trump era. The politics of doom-mongering and “American carnage,” which dominated most of the evening, gave way during his speech to a story of ebullient optimism. The rhetorical tact of the GOP this election cycle has been to present the opposition as an imminent threat and danger to the American way of life. But Scott presented the Democrats not so much as threatening as simply unappealing. His message was not, “The barbarians are at the gates” but, “Why would we choose the thin gruel the Democrats are offering over the bountiful feast of American freedom that our ancestors toiled to prepare for us?”
This message was doubly powerful because it was directed especially at African Americans. Tearing up as he spoke about the life of his grandfather, Scott celebrated the fact that his family went “from cotton to Congress in one lifetime.” The story of racial progress that the senator told during his speech is a radically different alternative to the one offered up by Black Lives Matter. Instead of black people rising up against an inherently evil American state to expunge the polity that enslaved them, Scott’s story is one in which the better angels of our national nature are continually bringing light into the darkest recesses of the American soul with the passing of the years. He is living proof of this racial progress, as he proclaimed in his speech last night. A majority-white electorate in Charleston, S.C., the crucible of the confederacy, sent Scott, a black son of a single-parent home, to Congress.
Perhaps the most interesting line in the speech, however, came when Scott was speaking about the man who mentored him. “He taught me that having an income could change my lifestyle, but creating a profit could change my community.” How many conservative politicians make this rhetorical connection between capitalism and community, between profit and social solidarity?
12. Arthur Herman lays out next steps for the U.S.-Japan alliance. From the analysis:
The term “special relationship” is usually reserved for the alliance between the United States and Great Britain. Yet that term applies almost as well the United States and our oldest democratic ally in Asia, Japan.
Japanese and American security interests have never been more closely aligned. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe see the world in very similar ways, including the looming threat of China; and both have been forthright about making the alliance stronger and more proactive.
Later this week Defense Secretary Mike Esper and his Japanese counterpart, Defense Minister Taro Kono, will be meeting in Guam to discuss strengthening U.S.–Japan strategic cooperation. Their discussions offer the opportunity to lay down the concrete foundations of a “special relationship” almost as close as the one between the U.S. and Britain — one that will be a permanent strategic anchor in the Indo-Pacific region.
One of those foundations is ballistic-missile defense against North Korea. It’s significant that their meeting is taking place in Guam — once the scene of savage fighting between American and Japanese forces in World War II. Just three years ago before Trump took office, Guam was one of the likely targets of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s rogue missile launches, which had become an almost bimonthly occurrence, including one over Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.
13. Howard Husock condemns Joe Biden’s housing plan as a rehash of past, failed policies. From the analysis:
A related problem arises from Biden’s proposed provision of “down payment assistance” to low-income households. There’s no doubt that coming up with a 10 or 20 percent down payment can be a challenge. At the same time, meeting that challenge has long been considered a good indicator of whether a household will be able to afford its mortgage payments over time. Indeed, the reduction or elimination of down payments prior to the 2008 financial crisis played a role in the crisis’s disproportionate effect on minority households. It does no one any favors to be helped with the down payment on a house whose mortgage he won’t be able to afford. Like CRA-induced loans, the Biden down-payment-assistance proposal would endanger the long-term stability of vulnerable communities.
“Redlining” — the term for historic bank-lending discrimination in African-American neighborhoods — comes up a lot as a justification for housing policies such as the ones Biden proposes. But it was the Federal Housing Administration that originally gave rise to the phenomenon, by refusing in the immediate post-war era to insure mortgage loans made to blacks if their houses were located in white neighborhoods. And in truth, the CRA and other programs that target specific households in specific zip codes for help constitute their own kind of government-directed redlining. For instance, an infamous late-1960s program in Boston, led by the so-called Boston Bank Urban Renewal Group, literally drew a red line around specific neighborhoods and offered federally insured low-down-payment loans to African Americans within them. The result was widespread foreclosure and abandonment. Those neighborhoods still remain among the city’s most economically depressed more than half a century later.
14. James Piereson and Naomi Shaefer Riley hammer liberal philanthropies engaging in high-handed diversions of funds from their stated missions towards politics. From the essay:
The Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, which promotes Jewish culture and values, has made a similar decision to divert funds from its mission. Because its leaders were, according to the same Chronicle article, concerned by Russian interference in the 2016 election, they have given money to support voter drives in the years since. “American Jews have focused for a long time on what I would call parochial issues, like anti-Semitism, Israel, Jewish community, and Jewish continuity,” the foundation’s president, Aaron Dorfman, explained. “The existential importance of a healthy American democracy isn’t self-evident to the American Jewish community.”
The piece from which the above quotes come was called “Can Philanthropy Save Democracy?” It noted that “Foundation support nationwide for democracy projects jumped 34 percent in 2017, to $553 million, [and] all signs suggest that spending is on the rise.” But such astronomical sums are not enough, according to Stephen Heintz, the president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, who recently chastised his colleagues for not spending even more. Heintz argued that “foundations can’t advance their missions without a strong democracy. But less than 2 percent of philanthropic dollars spent in the past decade have been dedicated to efforts to advance voting, promote civic participation, strengthen government, support the news media, and pursue other work that ensures our democracy is functioning well.” The question of whether foundations established to fund other causes should be giving their money to democracy-promotion efforts seemed not to occur to him.
The philanthropic community hasn’t started this debate in a vacuum. Especially in the lead-up to the election this fall, commentators keep asking how we can ensure more voter registration, civic participation, and investigative journalism in an era when Americans are uninformed, uninterested, and disenfranchised. But is it the job of philanthropy to “save democracy?”
15. America needs truth-telling leadership, writes Itxu Díaz. From the piece:
At the DNC, Biden promised to protect America from the coronavirus and, even though no one knows what it actually means to protect America, it sounds overly optimistic. Reality, that monster that always spoils the headlines the Left makes up, is lousy, so depressing that it would make Cioran jump for joy. Tough times are coming, as Saint Teresa of Jesus said in reference to those difficult moments when it is a good idea to become “strong friends of God.” The health crisis will be followed by the economic crisis, the economic crisis will be followed by the employment crisis, and the employment crisis will be followed by the political crisis, with the extreme polarization that the Left promotes as an electoral weapon. If there is any chance of things going well in the midst of this perfect storm, it will be from firm, courageous, and sincere leadership.
Hot times require cold leaders, but not so cold that they could be dead. When facing a health emergency with a brutal economic impact, those who govern will have to make painful and risky decisions. Cowards are disqualified. It is time for leaders who would put themselves on the line for their country, not for pretty words and empty speeches. Once again, it is time for truth, the great absentee in a DNC plagued by AliExpress sentimentality. Barack Obama, with his usual pompous and affected style, blamed Trump for the deaths of 170,000 Americans. Biden promised to fix everything. The Left is truly responsible for the smearing of the truth. It is baffling that Biden should base his leadership campaign on falsehoods, especially if we consider Mark Twain’s old observation: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
1. Andrew Stuttaford body-slams ideology masquerading until the guise of “stakeholder capitalism.” From the piece:
If stakeholder capitalism is an opportunity for corporate managements, it is even more so for others looking to set the country’s course. However heavy-handed big government may be, in a democracy it is accountable to the electorate, albeit often tenuously. By contrast, “socially responsible” corporations, working in conjunction with mysteriously selected representatives of arbitrarily defined stakeholders, and — if it decides to get involved — the government, can be used to exercise a great deal of power with little in the way of restraint. In the absence of the checks and balances provided by both democratic and constitutional control, such corporations can go where government might fear to tread. And, when they are sufficiently woke (or conformist), they probably will.
A company can, for example, force out employees who say or write the “wrong” thing (whether inside or outside the workplace, and whether relating to their jobs or not) or even those who give to the wrong cause, and, so long as it keeps within the letter of the employment laws, there’s not much that anyone can do about it. It’s a private matter, you see. If it is a social-media company, it can censor anyone it chooses — a private matter, the First Amendment doesn’t apply. And a company can use its commercial muscle to pressure other companies to follow the appropriate ideological line. To believe that, say, Verizon, Ford, or Walgreens pulled their ads from Facebook because of reputational risk requires a remarkable amount of naivety. What their managements wanted was for Facebook to clamp down on posts of which they either disapproved — or wanted to be seen as disapproving of. Again, a private matter, as is the refusal by certain banks to, say, supply financing for “sensitive” oil projects or weapons manufacturers. And then there’s PayPal’s denial of service to sellers of (legal) content to which its management had objected, yet another private matter. Such decisions have had little or no plausible connection with making a return for shareholders: In fact, they may have done the opposite.
2. Nicholas Phillips argues that the manufacturing jobs can come back. From the article:
Manufacturing has special growth advantages. Manufactured goods are tradable, meaning that they can potentially be sold anywhere in the world. On the other hand, most service-sector products are constrained by geography — your local barbershop or cable provider won’t be selling their services in India. Manufacturing has a job-multiplier effect that creates four to five additional jobs for each manufacturing job, while the service sector multiplier is only 1.5.
Manufacturing also has a growth advantage through its ability to absorb increasing returns. Because manufacturing is susceptible to R & D innovation, output can rise faster than a given increase in input, allowing the manufacturing sector to gainfully absorb rising capital investment by creating economies of scale.
Simply put, not all industries are created equal: For example, having a domestic auto-manufacturing sector creates demand for a large supply chain of high-value components such as electronics, chemicals, and steel. Not so for a car-rental business in the service sector.
Manufacturing has an additional, especially important advantage: It can employ large numbers of comparatively low-skilled, low-education workers to do high-productivity work, meaning high wages. The average manufacturing employee makes 13 percent more in hourly wages than a comparable employee elsewhere in the private sector, and the reason for this wage premium is simple: People don’t pay very much for the products of less-educated workers in the service sector. While highly educated service-sector workers such as doctors and consultants can command high salaries for their work, a less-educated service-sector worker might be cutting hair or flipping burgers — and people will pay only so much for haircuts and burgers. If you don’t have a degree, your best chance at a high wage will be producing higher-value goods such as cars or computers. The manufacturing sector’s special ability to place less-educated workers in a position to make high-value goods is a unique social benefit.
3. Christos Makridis and Patrick McLaughlin make the case for doubling down on regulation reform. From the piece:
A closer look at the data tells a consistent story. In original calculations using Bureau of Economics data and QuantGov, a machine-learning and policy-analysis tool developed by Mercatus Center researchers, we found that the industries that saw the greatest declines in regulatory restrictions enjoyed the greatest growth in compensation per worker. Specifically, we put together data on 70 industry sub-sectors. In addition to finding that the 2017–19 decline in regulatory restrictions came at a time when real compensation per worker grew by 3 percent, we found that each 1-percentage point decline in regulatory restrictions from 2017 to 2019 came with a 0.05-percentage-point increase in real-compensation growth per worker.
Is that big or small? Here’s another way to think about it: The Trump administration’s regulatory reforms have arguably accounted for roughly one-tenth of the overall growth in compensation per worker we saw over these years. Given that income grows for many reasons, ranging from technological progress to competitive forces, anything with a sizable, measurable impact is a big deal.
Today, policies that promote economic growth and innovation are especially important — particularly if very generous unemployment-insurance benefits continue to discourage reentry into the labor force after the next round of stimulus. Of course, some regulation is required for competitive markets and a just society. But where we draw the line matters.
4. Mike Watson pegs Joe Biden as a de facto union buster. From the article:
New infrastructure spending and measures to make existing buildings more ecofriendly are not likely to help construction workers nearly as much as the Biden campaign supposes, either. President Obama made similar promises about the “shovel-ready” jobs in his stimulus bill, only to discover “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” in the U.S. legal and regulatory environment. “Sheriff Joe” should remember this, since he oversaw the bill’s implementation. Union workers do, though: Some in California demonstrated against the Green New Deal, and the AFL-CIO has expressed considerable skepticism. Although Biden’s platform is not nearly as draconian as that of his party’s radicals, he intends to lead U.S. manufacturing in the same direction.
Climate change is a difficult challenge and will only get harder to address as the increasing pace of automation penetrates and disrupts the U.S. economy. But however popular these green projects are with big-money donors and activists, they will hurt the people most that Biden is most passionate about helping.
Lights. Camera. Review!
1. Kyle Smith finds Desert One a powerful film. From the review:
Taking off from a carrier in the Gulf of Oman, eight helicopters and two C-130s planned to rendezvous at a staging area, 100 miles from Tehran, dubbed Desert One. From that point the Delta Force troops were to move into the mountains on the outskirts of the city, slip in unnoticed, and rescue the hostages, who had been held captive since November of 1979 at the U.S. Embassy. The ransom demanded by their captors was the return of the ousted Shah to Iran for punishment, but Carter had granted the dictator asylum in the U.S. and would not hand him over. Kopple includes a clip of Carter making an unimaginably foolish speech, in December of 1979, in which he vowed not to take military action against the Iranians, tossing away his chief bargaining chip. Ronald Reagan was criticizing Carter as a pushover, and who could disagree? “I thought it was about as foolish a policy statement as you could make,” recalls Ted Koppel, who hosted a new late-night news program about the crisis, Nightline, that would endure for many years thereafter. The program was so widely watched that its camera crews were granted access to the embassy site, producing footage that provided some of the leading intel to the men who planned Eagle Claw.
Interviews with hostages, some of their captors, and surviving troops from the rescue attempt lay out the dizzying story of a mission that seemed cursed from the get-go. No full-scale dress rehearsal ever took place and one of the officers present confesses he didn’t think the mission would come off. Of the eight helicopters, two were reserves, and one went down immediately with blade trouble. Landing in a dry lake bed the men had believed to be an obscure location, the Special Operations troops were stunned to be confronted within minutes by both a tour bus and an oil tanker, which they unwisely shot at, causing a huge explosion. “It’s like, damn, it was Grand Central Station,” recalls one veteran. The driver of the oil tanker escaped in a colleague’s truck, two more helicopters went down as a dust cloud kicked up, and then, as if guided by the hand of the Ayatollah himself, a fourth chopper crashed into the C-130 cargo plane parked next to it while the men were preparing to quit the mission. Eight brave men died horribly when the C-130 burst into flame. We are there for the moment when Carter learned of all this in a conversation with Jones, and the composure of both is otherworldly. General Jones tells Carter, “The news is not as good as I indicated to you a few minutes ago.” The only comment Carter allows himself once the full extent of the catastrophe is clear is a simple, “That’s unbelievable, isn’t it?” Yes, sir.
2. More Kyle: Armond Iannucci’s attempt at David Copperfield is more worst of times. From the review:
Iannucci’s organizing idea seems to have been to go postmodern, but stop halfway. He brings in Dev Patel, who has proven to be a bland disappointment since his charming lead turn in Slumdog Millionaire, to play David with wide eyes and a bright smile and a total absence of personality. He’s part of a sort-of multicultural casting experiment with no particular thematic resonance; random characters are played by minorities but most are played by white Britons. Tilda Swinton, as his kindly, donkey-hating aunt Betsey Trotwood; Hugh Laurie, as her mentally challenged but gently appealing cousin Mr. Dick; and Peter Capaldi, as the ever-genial and perpetually broke Mr. Micawber, give lumbering, broadly comic performances that strain for laughs instead of settling into the key of restrained drollery in which Dickens composed so brilliantly. That Patel looks old enough to play his character’s father when the latter works at a blacking factory is one of many odd moments.
Iannucci is primarily a writer and has spent the bulk of his career in sitcoms, whose shooting schedules don’t allow for much in the way of visual experimentation. In his mid-50s, though, he has suddenly turned as frisky as a film-school student, haphazardly throwing in pieces of flair without any coherent strategy. A framing device situates the entire movie as a theatrical monologue, but within the movie people’s thoughts keep getting projected on walls like movies. Iannucci is also eager to remind us that David is a novelist, which means random phrases from the book keep appearing as titles on the screen.
3. Armond White catches HBO’s Lovecraft Country and finds another example of “Systemic Racism Entertainment.” From the beginning of the review:
“Been thinking about something my brother said,” Jurnee Smollett says on the “Sundown” episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country. That’s the tip-off that this new TV show is another Smollett-family racial hoax. But the Smollett Effect (begun by the 2019 scandal in which actor Jussie Smollett vilified the city of Chicago and the nation) is part of a larger pattern of Systemic Racism Entertainment™ promoted in our film and TV industries, and it’s the keynote of Lovecraft Country.
Produced by J. J. Abrams and Jordan Peele, the series combines critical race theory (the academic exploration of racism in social institutions, first taught to school students and now to TV viewers) with childish horror fiction (unreasonably popularized in the film Get Out). Race hysteria dominates HBO’s serial story of a black Korean War vet confusedly named Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) who, in PC lingo, “experiences” racism — and otherworldly evil — while searching for his father in the 1950s Jim Crow South. Although based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 pulp novel, Lovecraft Country unites Abrams, Peele, Smollett, and show-runner Misha Green as they follow the same route to Hollywood success that public intellectuals take to university tenure. This gender-equity group (two men, two women; three blacks to one white) employs the shock, offense, and tradition of racism as entertainment. Their unscrupulous ambition confirms that our culture is in a lousy predicament.
4. Brian Allen recommends the photo-realism documentary, Actually, Iconic. From the review:
Actually, Iconic lets the artist speak. It’s refreshing and conversational. Estes is quietly confident. He’s far from a mood-swing artist. When the artist does the talking and touring, we get not only a different point of view. It’s as though we’re hearing a beautiful new language. Kudos to Stone since it takes patience, charm, and, I assume, wiles to get artists, and the good ones are reticent, to speak so honestly and movingly.
Stone spent hours with Estes, who lives mostly on Mount Desert Island in Maine now, working in his studio in Maine but also on the streets in New York, where Estes still has a place, on the Upper West Side, and where he worked for years. Estes is broadly known as a New York artist, though he paints Maine seascapes, too, as well as luminous, sparkling views of Venice, but it’s fair for Stone to start in New York. The first part of the documentary takes us, with Estes, on a walk-through of Manhattan looking for subjects.
It’s a lovely start since the viewer becomes not only an observer but the artist’s companion. Estes is self-effacing and low-key, a nice guy doing his job, as are most artists, who, on one level, are making things. Estes takes us, camera in hand, on a bit of a scavenger hunt for subject matter.
Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System
1. More Mahoney. At The European Conservative, he explores the greatest writings of the late Roger Scruton. From the essay:
Let us concentrate on two of Scruton’s essays that will surely endure. The first, the title essay “The Philosopher on Dover Beach,” is an obligatory starting point for reflection on all things Scrutonian. There, Scruton sympathetically recounts Kant’s efforts to provide a “moral basis for religious doctrine,” or at least a self-confident affirmation of the moral law that respects the religious impulse.
There is little doubt that Scruton’s own efforts to limn a theology that can speak convincingly to modern men and women, owes a great deal to Kant’s elementary insight “that morality is the ground rather than the consequent of religion.” While Kant largely transformed religious reverence toward God into esteem for the moral law as “the supreme instrument of Reason,” Scruton ultimately saw in the face of man an intimation of the face of God, “the soul of the world” as he later called it in a 2014 book by that name.
Even before his (qualified) return to the Christian faith, Scruton resisted naturalistic and genealogical accounts of religion and moral phenomena, whether the Nietzschean account of biblical religion as a form of resentful self-abasement, or the utterly misplaced Marxist effort to increase “the power of the powerless” by destroying religion, thus taking “away from the powerless the little power they have.” Neither the Nietzschean cause of limitless self-affirmation nor the Marxist cause of Utopian justice rooted in a groundless belief in historical inevitability can sustain a human order marked by civic freedom and moral accountability.
As Scruton never tired of pointing out, much 20th century thought — such as Jean-Paul Sartre’s indefatigable support for revolutionary extremism — incoherently combined “absolute lawlessness and [the] unanswerability of the existentialist anti-hero,” bereft of enduring moral principles, with the “selfless” if nihilistic “pursuit of revolutionary justice.” As Raymond Aron once wrote, “the two extremes” — absolute lawlessness and revolutionary justice — meet in a nihilistic voluntarism at the service of fanatical politics.
2. At The Tablet, Liel Leibovitz bemoans the Anti-Defamation League’s pandering to Jew Hate aficionado Al Sharpton. From the article:
Why, then, is this unrepentant hater being supported by a major Jewish organization? Why, barely a year after a spree in which visibly observant Jews were violently attacked in record numbers, are Jewish organizations sidling up to kiss Sharpton’s ring?
One might be inclined to rail against the JCPA — if, that is, you didn’t understand that it’s a meaningless umbrella organization for local JCRCs (Jewish Community Relations Councils), many of whom routinely ignore it. So where’s the real power here? Who actually kashered Sharpton enough to send the signal to other, lesser organizations that it was OK to lend him their name and whatever credibility they might still be able to pretend they have?
Unbelievably, it was the ADL.
If you’re not particularly invested in the annals of organized Jewish life, you may still remember the Anti-Defamation League as a sterling organization, a staunch and serious bulwark that once inspiringly saw the fight against anti-Semitism as expanding its mission to defend and protect other minorities.
No longer. As soon as he took over the venerable organization in 2015, Jonathan Greenblatt, a former Obama aide, committed himself and his group’s considerable resources not to the hard and often thankless job of documenting and, when needed, standing up to prejudice, but to the far trendier and more glamorous pursuit of amplifying the sort of headlines that sophisticated, educated, affluent people — whose circumstances couldn’t be any more different than those of the actual Jews being physically attacked in their far less glamorous neighborhoods — like to pretend matter.
3. At Gatestone Institute, Richard Kemp targets appeasement of despotic nations as the core European sickness. From the beginning of the article:
Europe is in the grip of a uniquely virulent and pernicious disease that threatens the wellbeing of its peoples and of the world: not Coronavirus, but appeasement. Anglo-French foreign policy in the 1930s was also dominated by appeasement — of Nazi Germany — a policy that failed to prevent one of the greatest catastrophes that ever engulfed civilisation and that led to the deaths of millions.
Now, Britain and France seek to appease the three powers that most threaten the world today: Iran, China and Russia. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, last week both Britain and France genuflected to their arch-enemies by refusing to support their greatest ally, the United States, in its resolution to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran. The US resolution was of course opposed by China and Russia, both of which intend to sell advanced conventional weapons to Iran as soon as the embargo runs out in October.
Back in the 1930s, the aggressive intentions of Nazi Germany were clear. Although appeasement of Hitler was inexcusable, the main reason was perhaps understandable: a prevailing attitude of “peace at any price” following the unexampled butchery of World War I, then still so fresh in everybody’s minds.
Today, the intentions of Khamenei’s Iran are just as clear, and have been frequently demonstrated in imperial aggression across the Middle East, especially against Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, as well as in its unwavering threats and military actions against Israel.
4. At The College Fix, Jackson Walker reports on BLM-genuflecting bureaucrats at the University of Oklahoma, who have ordered the removal of photos of retired white professors. From the article:
In a statement on the Black Lives Matter protests, the chair of the University of Oklahoma Department of Political Science has announced the removal of a swath of photos of retired professors that hangs in the department’s entryway, pointing out it consists only of “white male faces.”
“We will transform the entryway to our department on the second floor of Dale Hall Tower,” the statement from Chair Scott Robinson reads. “One of the walls of this entry includes the images of retired members of our department, a set that exclusively includes white male faces.”
“This will be replaced with a space in which our current students can express themselves and represent their own voices.”
The decision, Robinson stated, is one of eight measures the department will undertake to address “issues related to racial justice and inequalities,” adding: “I stand with those that demand that we act like #blacklivesmatter — and not just pretend that our system protects all lives equally.”
5. At City Journal, Howard Husock looks into a Minneapolis zoning fight, pre-Floyd, and a white-progressive effort to paint the city as deeply racist. From the beginning of the piece:
In the months before the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a small group was doing its best to spread the message that the city was deeply racist. They were not protesters or looters, or the organized African-American community of the city’s soon-to-be-burned North Side, but rather the mayor and city council. Their focus was what might have seemed an obscure and technical topic: zoning. They were led by one-time San Francisco city planner Lisa Bender, president of the city council, a position considered almost as powerful as that of the mayor.
“We’ve inherited a system that both for decades has privileged those with the most and forgotten the people that we really have left behind,” Bender said. “And housing is inextricably linked with income, with all these other systems that are failing, especially in Minnesota, people of color.” She put forth a plan to relax single-family zoning and to permit more multifamily home construction in a city that was — at least pre-George Floyd — attracting millennials and increasing its population, anomalously for the Upper Midwest. Mayor Jacob Frey shared Bender’s view. The city, he told Politico, was perpetuating “racist policies . . . implicitly through our zoning code.”
What might have been both an effective consensus reform and a change that could inspire other cities and suburbs to follow suit backfired, thanks to being tied — unnecessarily and unjustifiably — to alleged racism. The plan did not originate in the city’s black community, and black leaders in Minneapolis have not even mentioned it as part of what the city must do to expunge racism in the wake of Floyd’s death. It was driven by the city’s white progressive leadership.
6. At Reason, Christian Britschgi explores Hollywood’s hatred of developers. From the essay:
It’s a pop-culture paradox: Even as demand for homes has skyrocketed across the country, the people who actually build them are consistently portrayed as jerks. The more housing we need, the less we like the people who provide it.
The big question is: Why? Why is the developer always cast as the slimy, unscrupulous, corner-cutting, occasionally genocidal villain?
One reason is Hollywood’s traditional bias against businessmen. Popular movies are, not surprisingly, populist. Audiences never seem to tire of rooting against wealthy evildoers concerned only with growing their stacks. The rock-bottom reputation of developers in real life, colored by the often sleazy, occasionally corrupt nature of their industry, certainly does nothing to endear their fictional avatars to moviegoers.
Meanwhile, conventional movie plots demand clear-cut heroes and villains and succinct, easy-to-visualize resolutions. This leads filmmakers to emphasize the destructive aspects of the development business while burying the considerable benefits it provides in the form of new homes, shopfronts, and offices that allow people, businesses, and whole communities to grow and thrive. Characters who have to unite to defeat an outside threat are characters viewers can root for. Sometimes that threat is an alien invasion. Other times it’s an alien-looking condo building. Unlike new construction’s potential to stabilize rents and provide a wider array of housing options, the immediate threat of destruction to an idyllic small town is easy to see, and thus easy to put on film.
7. At Real Clear Defense, Francis Sempa reminds us that, when it comes to nuclear strategists, blessed are the peacemakers. From the analysis:
And deterrence — even nuclear deterrence — did not just happen. The mere existence of nuclear weapons did not and does not guarantee the effectiveness of deterrence. Since the dawn of the nuclear era, strategists — mostly civilians — have thought about and planned for the “unthinkable,” a nuclear war. Deterrence to be effective must be credible. The credibility of a threat to use nuclear weapons involves questions of relative force structure, doctrine, deployments, and will. It is those questions that Western nuclear strategists thought about, wrote about, and debated to promote deterrence and preserve what one of them, Albert Wohlstetter, called “the delicate balance of terror.”
Beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s and continuing throughout much of the Cold War, Wohlstetter was joined in this intellectual effort by Herman Kahn, Bernard Brodie, Thomas Schelling, Henry Kissinger, France’s Raymond Aron, Paul Nitze, Britain’s Colin Gray, Edward Luttwak, Gen. Daniel Graham, and Robert Jastrow, among others. Their output of books and articles, and their frequent role as defense consultants, helped Western statesmen and militaries construct a nuclear force and develop nuclear doctrines that prevented global war and lessened the scope of fighting in limited wars.
Wohlstetter wrote about “the logic of war in the thermonuclear age” and the fragile and shifting nuclear balance in his seminal Foreign Affairs article, “The Delicate Balance of Terror” (1959). He also brilliantly dissected the flaws of Catholic Bishops and elder statesmen’s nuclear disarmament schemes in “Bishops, Statesmen, and Other Strategists on the Bombing of Innocents” in the June 1983 issue of Commentary. You can read these and his other articles on nuclear strategy in Nuclear Heuristics (2009).
8. At The American Mind, Edward Feser looks into the American state religion of “Scientism.” From the essay:
On matters of public policy in general, the views of scientists are deferred to. For example, when the state involves itself in health care, it will fund only remedies approved by scientists, never Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, faith healing, the advice of Hopi medicine men, or voodoo — even if the citizens who pay the bills would prefer the latter remedies.
The hegemony of science is nevertheless typically presented as if it were merely part of the neutral framework provided by a modern liberal polity. But the neutrality of liberalism is, in Feyerabend’s view, itself a sham. White Western liberal intellectuals initially claimed to affirm the equality of all people, whatever their tradition. But this equality “did not mean equality of traditions; it meant equality of access to one particular tradition,” namely the liberal and scientific tradition favored by white Western intellectuals.
Then these intellectuals tried to be more sensitive to alternative traditions. But they did so by reinterpreting these traditions in ways that would make them conform to their own liberal and scientific assumptions, especially by downplaying metaphysical beliefs that do not sit well with those assumptions. In this way, “they could pose as understanding friends of non-Western cultures without endangering the supremacy of their own religion: science.”
Illustrations of Feyerabend’s point are all around us. Think, for example, of the preeminent contemporary liberal philosopher John Rawls’s shamelessly tautological assurance that a liberal conception of justice is neutral between all “reasonable comprehensive doctrines” — where a “reasonable comprehensive doctrine” is one that is willing to take on board a liberal conception of justice. Or think of the way that liberals take it upon themselves to decide that if adherents of some religion (Islam, for example) say things that don’t conform to liberalism, then they must not be representing the “authentic” form of that religion.
9. Last but truly not least, at The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley Birzer reminds us of Robert Nisbet’s 11 conservative tenets. From the piece:
Second, Nisbet claimed, conservatives understand that society is superior to the individual, in the sense that the individual cannot be understood except within the realm of the relational. The abstract individual does not exist, nor ever can exist. Instead, the person — that is, the individual in relationship — does.
Third, Nisbet believed, following from the first two points, conservatives recognized that the “irreducible unit of society is and must be itself a manifestation of society, a relationship, something that is social.”
Fourth is the recognition that all things within the social are interrelated and interdependent. No one thing can happen within the larger social framework that does not affect and change all other things within the social framework. Isolation, generally, is not an option of a functioning society.
Fifth, Nisbet continued, is the realization that individual persons have specific and definitive needs and wants. One cannot — without irreparable damage — neglect the most human things, whatever our rationality might claim about such needs and wants.
What non-pitcher had the worst season at the plate in MLB history? If the standard is at-bats that would qualify one for a batting championship, and we commence with the Year of Our Lord 1901, then the answer has to be Bill Bergen, the starting catcher for the 1909 Brooklyn Superbas (two decades shy of becoming the Dodgers). In 112 games, the 31-year-old catcher — regarded as the NL’s premier defensive backstop — was the essence of all-field, no-hit: He racked up a .139 average, with an on-base percentage of .163, and — with a measly three extra-base hits — a slugging percentage of .156. Over his 11-year MLB career, split between Brooklyn and the Cincinnati Reds (from 1901-11), Bergen hit .170. In one lonely season, 1903, he hit above .200 (a shocking .227 for those keeping stats).
No one else comes close to Bergen’s weakness as a batsman. Or as a physical target: No MLB player had as many career at bats without getting hit by a pitch. Not once!
But . . . Bergen’s abilities defensively were quite noteworthy. Playing only 942 games behind the plate, he amassed 1,444 assists (9th on the all-time list) and threw out 1,034 trying to steal (8th place all time). He is alleged to have had a gun for an arm.
This is strictly subjective, but his greatest day (there weren’t too many, as Bergen only once played for a team which had a winning percentage over .500) came in 1908, in the second game of a September 5th doubleheader against the Boston Doves (they wouldn’t be the “Braves” until 1913) when he caught Nap Rucker’s no-hitter (that day Rucker would set an NL strikeout record of 14). Bergen smacked a double and drove in two runs. How many of us can say that?!
Dante wrote of the gutless:
Fama di loro il mondo esser non lassa; misericordia e giustizia li sdegna: non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa”.
No, it doesn’t even roughly translate to I’m famished, pass the lasagna. But it does describe those in power, who stood by when standing-by was the choice of the coward, those spirits and souls too contemptible even for Hell: “The world will let no fame of theirs endure; both justice and compassion must disdain them; let us not talk of them, but look and pass.”
Well, with apologies to Mr. Alighieri, let us talk of them, at this time of America’s great need. You know who them are — and they ain’t dead yet! So therefore let us pray for them too — those that ignore the neighborhoods aflame — that they avail themselves to the divine gift of fortitude and run to the sound of the gunfire instead of from it.
God’s Graces on This Republic and Its Peoples,
Jack Fowler, accepting answers to the question “Who put the ‘ape’ in apricot?” send via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.