Dear Weekend Jolter,
No calamity of the elements ever kyboshed New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which for the first time in 258 years has been cancelled: Next week’s promenade, like so many other gatherings, conferences, galas, semesters, and basketball and hockey games (even seasons), is a victim of Coronoavirus.
There was almost a precedent: The historic parade was nearly deep-sixed in 1917, when a monsoonish nor’easter swamped the city. Still, its hardy organizers ruled that a parade was to be had: Grand Marshall Patrick J. Collins, an expert horseman, led 50 mounted aides through a tempest, from 42nd Street to 50th Street and Madison Avenue, at the rear of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where, from behind the windows in his dry and warm residence, Cardinal John Farley and various churchmen blessed the soaked riders who comprised the measliest, smallest, shortest Paddy’s Day Parade ever.
What a distinction for poor P.J. Collins. What would he have thought of a great grandson who boasted of this 103 years later in some conservative missive? Well Great Gramps, little or big, drenched or dry, you were a parade Grand Marshall, and they can’t take that away from you. So let’s have a drink to that!
That blathered, there is plenty below about the biological badarse that has laid low unlucky victims and economies and traditions. What to do? Well, one thing — which would require an edit of some preceding verbiage — is to consider dubbing it the “Wuhan Virus,” if only to remind the world permanently 1. of its geographical origins, and 2. that it was China’s commie-fink leaders who abetted its spread. If only the sentiments of this institution’s leader, Rich Lowry, prevail. From his column:
There is no doubt that a raging virus that got its start in China and has shut all of Italy and caused disruption and fear around the world may create negative associations around China. This would happen regardless of the name, though.
Chinese officials still want to squelch the use of “Wuhan virus,” whereas Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is perfectly content to refer to the virus that way.
Such international contention over the name of a virus or disease isn’t new. Syphilis was the Neapolitan disease, the French disease, or the Polish disease, depending on who was naming it. The 1918 influenza came to be known as “the Spanish flu,” although Spaniards called it “the French flu.”
There was actually no good reason for naming the flu after the Spanish. The case of China is different. Its government tried to suppress warnings about the new coronavirus and looked the other way, giving it the room to become a national and then a global crisis.
China deserves to be connected to the virus it did more than its share to loose on the world, no matter what its foreign ministry or the sensitivity police say.
OK, now before we get on with the Weekend Jolt, recommended viewing — keeping with the theme of these days — might be Panic In The Streets, which is one of Elia Kazan’s lesser-known films, but so what: as for seeing it, you just gotta. Starring Richard Widmark (one of his best performances), Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jack Palance, and Zero Mostel, it’s set in New Orleans’ stultifying grit, oozing film noir stink and sweat, and tells the story of the race to prevent a pneumonic plague outbreak, sparked by some petty hoods and lowlifes.
Yep, keeping with the theme of these days. Okey dokey, dive into the WJ, which may be best read while you sip from a Jug of Punch.
1. Too late to get into the last WJ, we tomahawked Elizabeth Warren for excusing her failed presidential bid on dudes and their patriarchal prejudice. From the editorial:
Elizabeth Warren cannot believe that she was defeated by the campaigns of Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders — she insists, instead, that she was defeated by their testes.
We sympathize, truly. It is difficult to believe, and must be tough to accept, that any barely competent political operation could be defeated by the steadiness and freshness of Joe Biden or by the suavity and wide-ranging appeal of Bernie Sanders. And Senator Warren likes to think of herself as more than barely competent but omnicompetent, competence personified — “competence incarnate,” as Megan Garber calls her in The Atlantic. Those who have watched Senator Warren campaign (awkwardly) or try to triangulate a health-care program (beseechingly) or explain away that weird Cherokee-princess stuff (cringe-inducingly) might be forgiven for doubting this particular incarnation.
Of course, the explanation must be sexism. It can’t be Russian trolls on Facebook — this is the Democratic primary we are talking about here! Senator Warren says it is sexism, her amen corner in the media says it is sexism, all right-thinking people say it is sexism — and what this says about Democratic-primary voters is of some interest.
2. We take issue with the President’s handling of the Coronavirus outbreak, and encourage some actions. From the editorial:
The virus looks likely to be the most serious acute public-health crisis Americans have had to face at home in decades. It is still spreading at exponential rates. Fatality rates are much higher than the flu and other familiar bugs, particularly for older people. There is no vaccine for the time being. The character of its spread and symptoms threatens to gradually overwhelm the capacity of health systems in affected areas, leaving them short of hospital beds and respirators to treat the most seriously afflicted patients and so dramatically increasing the risks to them. The most effective ways to mitigate this danger involve forms of social distancing that require everyone (not just those at greatest risk) to engage in measures like canceling events, limiting travel, and avoiding public places — measures that cannot help but seem extreme in our free society. That these expedients are necessary and appropriate is increasingly clear and yet difficult to explain to the public.
All of this means that the administration faces an enormous challenge, that its successes are likely to be largely invisible, and that its failures cannot help but be magnified. Therefore, we should go out of our way to acknowledge some of the capable people throughout the chain of command doing their best in very difficult circumstances. They have failed in some respects and have succeeded in others. They will do more of both, but there is reason to think they will learn from their errors and step up to the challenge.
At the same time, however, it is important that the president’s defenders not be blinded by partisanship of their own into excusing failures of leadership and diminishing the danger of the epidemic itself. This can be particularly difficult because some of the most significant inadequacies of the administration have been the president’s own. So far in this crisis, Donald Trump himself has obviously failed to rise to the challenge of leadership, and it does no one any favors to pretend otherwise.
A Myriad of Suggestions, 18 in Fact, Each One Better than the Next, of NRO Reports and Commentaries to Nourish Your Mind and Soul
1. More from Rich Lowry: A powerful column on how Trump’s political supporters and nationalists have botched a n obvious moment. From the piece:
Relatedly, it is globalization and increased interconnectedness that have been a key vector for the spread of the virus.
It is the so-called Deep State, the vast apparatus that runs the federal bureaucracy, that played a big role in botching the initial testing here.
The New York Times ran a maddening account of a Seattle-area research project that wanted to test for the coronavirus early. But it got told “no” repeatedly by federal agencies that had a pettifogging commitment to senseless rules — the project was using the wrong kind of labs, the test didn’t have FDA approval, patient privacy could be violated, etc.
It is global supply chains that have increased the vulnerability of the U.S. if the virus runs out of control, with China manufacturing a large share of medicines for the U.S., and other countries beginning to hold on to the masks and protective gear that they make.
Finally, it is the government that will have to organize the U.S. response, not the free market that populist nationalists argue is overemphasized by conservatives and libertarians.
Nonetheless, Trump supporters on talk radio, on cable TV, and on Twitter have gone down rabbit holes of denial rather than reacting to a threat that should be in their wheelhouse with tools congenial to them.
There are honorable exceptions. Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican, is a China hawk attuned to the full spectrum of foreign threats who was warning of the coronavirus when the country — or at least the media — was still obsessed with impeachment. Tucker Carlson, too, has been full-throated about the potential dangers from the beginning.
2. The Old Gray Mare she ain’t what she used to be. Indeed, she — and in the case of Joe Biden, a he — never really was. Dan McLaughlin looks at the history of candidates who are coated in Old Warhorse No. 5. They stink. From the analysis:
By contrast, parties looking to unseat an incumbent have settled before on Biden-style “old warhorse” candidates, and lost. John Kerry in 2004, Bob Dole in 1996, and Walter Mondale in 1984 are the classic examples of this type of campaign. Adlai Stevenson in 1956 and Tom Dewey in 1948 were rerun candidates who lost to an incumbent, as was Bryan in 1900. John McCain in 2008 and Hubert Humphrey in 1968 were both old warhorses who failed to hold the White House a third time for their parties. The most encouraging parallels for Biden in modern elections would be the two former vice presidents to win the big job: George H. W. Bush in 1988 and Richard Nixon in 1968. The 1988 election, however, was a choice for continuity.
Nixon is the one example of a familiar face campaigning on an end to chaos. He urged a “Silent Majority” to trust him to handle Vietnam, race riots, campus protests, and assassinations. But even Nixon won in a three-way race (with a Democratic governor splitting his party’s vote) against a party trying to hold the White House for a third time after the incumbent, Lyndon Johnson, withdrew in defeat from his own party primaries. Like Clinton, Nixon still got only 43 percent of the popular vote.
Can Biden be the national unifying force that no prior candidate of his type was? Will that be enough to offset the continuing disaffection of the Sanders wing and the obvious lack of enthusiasm that a Biden campaign generates among younger voters and activists? In the age of Donald Trump, nothing is impossible, but in their search for electability, Democrats appear to be casting their lot with a type of candidate that has no real precedent for actually getting elected.
3. Similar: Victor Davis Hanson sees months of Biden blow-ups. From the piece:
Joe is not just folksy affable Joe, but rather a thin-skinned bully, as we know from his lies about the tragic circumstances of his first wife’s death, as well as the idea that his 77 is any way analogous to other septuagenarians in the race. Biden’s problem, then, is not that he is 77 per se, but that he is a different sort of 7o-something than Sanders at 78 or Trump at 73.
Many are perplexed over why the Democrats, after trashing Joe Biden for a year and often quite cruelly questioning his mental clarity, have now rallied around him. Aside from the obvious answer that their erstwhile liberator from a Sanders disaster, multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg, proved to be as unpalatable in person as he had seemed persuasive in the monied abstract, they now have no other alternative.
The party apparently just needs to get Joe somehow across the election finish line, by curtailing the number and length of his appearances, and adding novelty to the ticket by picking in advance some of his cabinet members who could fan out and act as surrogate campaigners.
Conspiracy theorists have added that Joe Biden will soon announce his VP choice, and it will be either a minority or female selection or both, and likely from the field of failed presidential candidates, thereby solving two problems at once: If Biden wins, his young energetic running mate will presumably be fast-tracked into the presidency in a manner that would not have been likely given that this person would never have been nominated much less elected; if Biden selects a “diversity candidate,” it’s apt to allay fears of a rudderless centrist administration. The Democratic vice-presidential selection this year is a way to square the circle of two old white finalists railing about the need for diversity and the tyranny of white privilege; it’s also a de facto nominee for president.
4. Senator Tom Cotton says that Joe Biden is the man China wants to see in the White House. From the piece:
Now Biden’s back on the campaign trail, and no one could be more thrilled than the Chinese Communist Party. (A Forbes headline last year summed up the situation well: “Joe Biden Is the Only Man Who Can Save China in 2020.”) Biden’s announcement of his campaign alone was enough to encourage Beijing suddenly to take a harder line on trade negotiations with the Trump administration. As Biden’s star seemed to fade, China suddenly got easier to deal with, striking a “Phase 1” deal with us in January. It’s a safe prediction that they are about to take a tougher line again. Meanwhile, Biden offers gems like these on the campaign trail. From May: “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. They’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.” And just the next month: “Our workers are literally three times as productive as workers . . . in Asia. So what are we worried about?”
I’ve worked extensively with Democrats on China — with Chuck Schumer on cracking down on Chinese fentanyl trafficking, with Chris Van Hollen and numerous others on Huawei’s threat to the world’s telecommunications infrastructure. I don’t exactly hear Biden hammering on these important issues on the campaign trail. And when a few weeks ago President Trump acted to impose travel restrictions on China as a consequence of its abysmal handling of the Wuhan coronavirus, Biden was right there and ready to act as Beijing’s lawyer, slamming the policy as “hysterical xenophobia.” Now, even the New York Times concedes that these measures bought the United States valuable time to prepare for an epidemic.
5. Wesley Smith reports on the ghoul — Ezekiel Emanuel — who Joe Biden has tapped to be his Coronavirus guru. From the piece:
Joe Biden has announced the creation of a “Public Health Advisory Committee,” consisting of Democratic experts to advise him about how to best grapple with the coronavirus during the campaign. Okay. Good public-health practices are worthy goals for any candidate.
But I don’t think receiving such information requires the naming of a big-name board and a major press announcement. Rather, it seems to me that the committee’s true purpose is to be a “shadow” task force that will second guess the Trump administration’s actions to the media and strive to make Biden appear presidential in the face of the threat. If so, this is politics at its most cynical and could inhibit effective public response to the ongoing panic by creating a competing center of information and communication. The unnecessary speech Biden made about not shaking hands or hugging anymore — and the press response thereto — backs up my suspicion.
The bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel — a prime architect of Obamacare — is the most famous person on the committee. Why is that important? Emanuel made headlines a few years ago by writing in The Atlantic that he wants to die at age 75 — younger than Joe Biden is today — and he thinks we should want that too.
6. Joe Biden’s Second Amendment outburst should not dissuade you, says David Harsanyi, from believing that the prospective Dem nominee wants to take away your guns. From the analysis:
Biden, after all, has repeatedly demonstrated that he has zero comprehension of either the purpose or importance of the Second Amendment. Whether your sons are “hunters” or not is completely irrelevant in this conversation. And just as “yelling fire” is protected by the Constitution, so is owning an “AR-14.”
(Let’s also take a moment to note that Biden is such a champion of the Second Amendment that not only can’t he get rudimentary gun facts right, almost everything he says on the matter is fatuous. A few week ago he was telling a cheering crowd that 150 million Americans had been murdered on the streets of the United States by firearms since 2007. This was about week after his silly rant noting that revolutionary AK-47-wielding Americans would be slaughtered by F-15s.)
The man in the video — whose name I wish I knew — is right. Biden supports every single serious national effort to restrict gun rights, all of them part of a concerted effort to incrementally terminate civilian gun ownership in the United States. It’s all right there on his campaign issues page. When CNN asked Biden what he had to say to gun owners who claimed that “a Biden Administration means they’re going to come for my guns,” he answered, “Bingo, you’re right if you have an assault weapon.”
7. Charlie Cooke watches the Biden outburst and cautions, beware. From the piece:
If I were a Democrat, this would alarm me. Biden’s behavior here is extraordinary, especially given that he is currently previewing the “return to normalcy” theme that he intends to run on in November. One might think that telling a voter that he is “full of s***” and that you will “slap them” matters less than it usually would given that Donald Trump is in the White House. But, arguably, the opposite is true. Elections are about contrasts. If he is as belligerent and ill-disciplined as the incumbent, what is Biden’s case for replacing him?
In this instance, the answer seems to be that, unlike Trump, Biden will usher in stricter gun control. But that, too, should alarm Democrats. If Biden now has a reputation as a champion of gun confiscation — and if construction workers in Michigan are asking him about it, it suggests he does — he is going to have a hard time winning back the voters that Trump peeled away from the Obama coalition. Barack Obama didn’t say much about guns at all until his second term had begun, and, once he did, he presided over the loss of the Senate, the loss of the White House, and a record-breaking period of civilian firearms sales. Judging by their rhetoric, Democrats seem to believe that the center of gravity has changed on this question since then. But the evidence for this is scant. The State of Virginia is run solely by Democrats — Democrats who were bankrolled by Michael Bloomberg and who promised to pass restrictive gun control as their first priority. They failed, and sparked a massive backlash in the process. Do we think the playing field looks different in Michigan?
8. The Coronavirus, says globe-trotting Bruno Maçães, exposes a clash of civilizations. From the piece:
The outbreak has exposed other divides. As I traveled in increasingly empty planes, one thought kept returning: How notable that we are all together in this, and yet every society seems to deal with the epidemic in its own distinctive way. One of the main divides was between the developed and the developing world. It explained the seriousness in Asia. If poverty and disease are a daily presence or at most two or three generations behind you, you are predisposed to accept that your world can suddenly collapse. The question that Americans and Europeans ask themselves — How was this allowed to happen? — makes less sense than the question of how to survive and how to protect your loved ones.
The subtle changes of political climate and mores that political thinkers used to write about are suddenly very relevant. I wondered if social mores explained why some countries and not others became hotspots of the infection. As the news from Wuhan started to arrive, I thought of my previous visits to the city: the crowded restaurants serving crayfish, the long meals around the hotpot, the communal living, and the chaos of the wholesale seafood market. But it was not just China. Southern Europeans greet themselves with one or two kisses. Iranians spend time crowded together during daily prayer. Perhaps these were factors, but then the response was no less colored by cultural differences.
At present the most hopeful news about our ability to defeat the epidemic comes from what could roughly be called the Confucian cosmopolis. Singapore flirted with disaster at the beginning but quickly recovered. Vietnam has shown a remarkable ability to contain the spread, and South Korea has proven capable of conducting as many as 10,000 tests per day and has built testing clinics that can detect the coronavirus cases in just ten minutes. Do these facts illustrate the benefits of a moral system that emphasizes duties before rights and places high value on the propriety of customs, measures, and rules as defined by the larger community?
Just yesterday I received an email from a Chinese university informing me that a conference planned for May will still go ahead. The author of the message took the opportunity to make the point that, by the time the conference takes place, China will be much safer than Europe or America. He then concluded with the pronouncement that the coronavirus has shown the Chinese model to be superior to the Western one. Chinese authorities complain that the epidemic has been politicized by those wanting to score points against the regime in China, but they are doing exactly the same. Coming at a time of great-power rivalry, the epidemic has provided the perfect backdrop for a renewed clash of civilizations.
9. Victor Davis Hanson sees the dangerous bug in terms of an armed enemy. From his column:
To a popular culture that laps up creepy zombie movies, the virus certainly knows how to use its greatest weapons: fright and panic. As of early this week, the relatively lightweight bug had killed fewer than 30 Americans. But we seem to be acting as if it has already killed 200,000 of us.
If COVID-19 can create fear that we will end up like the grotesque monsters on television, perhaps we, its enemy, will go on hoarding binges that result in shortages of masks, gloves, and supplies for the health providers who need them most.
Or, if the virus can scare us enough that we cease working and interacting, our canceled-out economy will grind to a halt.
Or maybe the coronavirus can cleverly keep hopping on jets between countries and states, sowing dissension as nations blame one other for its creation and contagion, and politicians seek to destroy each other rather than band together to kill the virus.
COVID-19 counts on globalization as it sneaks onto jets and ships. In a few hours, it can find a new home and new hosts to terrify — even thousands of miles away.
It is a vengeful enemy. It knows we have killed off or rendered impotent most of its fellow viruses. Its cousin, the flu, has not since 1918 translated its annual tactical wins into a strategic pandemic victory.
10. Great question Marion Smith: Why do global medical institutions trust the organ-harvesting madmen in China? From the analysis:
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation highlights this in a new report on China’s organ-harvesting system, released Tuesday. Drawing from internal and public Chinese archives and sources — many unearthed and translated for the first time — as well as undercover investigations, the report shows that none of Beijing’s explanations about where it obtains organs are credible. The report is authored by Matthew P. Robertson, a published scholar who has studied this issue both inside and outside China for nearly a decade and whose work using statistical forensics has previously demonstrated the falsification of Chinese organ-donor-registry data by the Chinese Communist Party.
Beijing has claimed since 2015 that all organs come from voluntary deceased donors. But the growth of the voluntary figures is highly questionable — rising from 34 in 2010 to 6,316 in 2016 — and follows a quadratic equation to the 99.9 percent level. Nor does it make sense that China can provide organs on demand, often within hours or days, from such a small population. Only forced organ harvesting of blood-typed prisoners can meet that timeline.
The report also shows that China transplants far more organs than authorities admit. Some 173 Chinese hospitals are currently authorized to do transplants, yet just ten hospitals account for nearly 14,000 annual procedures. The total number of transplants is likely at least several times larger. Beijing is falsifying both the number and the source of the organs it sells for profit.
11. Cory Booker, writes John Hirschauer, was the coulda nominee. From the analysis:
In one sense, the contrast between Booker and Biden could not be clearer. Booker, for all of his insipid theatrics as a senator — from the “I am Spartacus” gambit to the “tears of rage” performance — is a young, capable politician in control of his faculties. He is also a black man in a party eager to project diversity. Biden, by contrast, is an old white man who can hardly finish a paragraph without slurring his speech or succumbing to some cringe-inducing gaffe that betrays his cognitive decline.
In another sense, though, both Booker and Biden are ostensible “moderates” at a moment in which — if recent electoral results are to be believed — a significant faction of Democratic voters are hankering for a centrist figurehead.
Why did Booker fail where Biden succeeded? The Occam’s-razor explanation is probably the right one: Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president, while Booker has been an unremarkable senator with few legislative achievements.
But even with his inherent advantages, the former vice president’s vulnerabilities would be insurmountable in a normal primary cycle. His mental lapses — mistakenly declaring his candidacy for the Senate, calling the most popular rifle in America the “AR-14,” failing to remember the preamble to the Declaration of Independence — are less anomalous mistakes than a window into a receding mind, one that is poorly equipped to lead the free world, the current president’s relative fitness (or lack thereof) notwithstanding.
If Biden was eminently beatable, could Booker have beaten him? On paper, the New Jersey senator figured to be well primed to challenge Biden for the “moderate” vote. His heterodox views on school choice and relatively pro-business Senate record could have enamored him to centrist Democrats, who were resigned to a choice between an enfeebled septuagenarian, a small-time mayor, and a lamp-throwing senator with narrow appeal. But Booker, no doubt wary of being attacked as a moderate, Wall Street–friendly candidate in a field whose progressive wing included class warriors such as Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, chose to tack left, taking positions that made him appear unelectable to lunch-bucket Democrats more interested in lowering health-care costs than in upending the patriarchy.
12. How did Bernie Sanders lose the white working-class vote? Dan McLaughlin explains. From the beginning of the analysis:
Bernie Sanders’s 16-point loss to Joe Biden in the Michigan primary came almost four years to the day after Sanders’s stunning upset of Hillary Clinton in Michigan on March 8, 2016, which became the most important moment of Sanders’s 2016 campaign. Michigan was the first really large state to Feel the Bern. Hillary’s weakness with white working-class voters in Michigan, which took pollsters by complete surprise, would take them by complete surprise again on Election Day in November.
White working-class voters were the essential element in transforming the youthful-activist “Bernie Bro” base into a coalition strong enough in 2016 to win not only Michigan but Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Maine, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and a bushel of Western states, and run a very close second in Illinois, Missouri, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Connecticut, Iowa, and South Dakota. Most, but not all, of Bernie’s 2016 wins were by lopsided margins: his only 2016 victories by less than double digits were Michigan (49.8 percent to 48.3 percent), Indiana (52.5 percent to 47.5 percent), and Montana (51 percent to 44.6 percent).
Last night, Sanders proved unable to reprise that victory against Biden. Biden’s easy wins in Michigan and Missouri, his upset win in Idaho, and a too-close-to-call result at this writing in Washington spell the end of any realistic prospect that Sanders can win the nomination. This is not simply a matter of Biden’s headline strength with African-American voters. It also shows a wider weakness with the white working-class voters who carried Bernie to so many 2016 wins. Sanders has now lost five states to Biden that he won last time: Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Maine, and Idaho. What happened?
13. Madeleine Kearns, reporting from the front lines, sees the Trans Police are determined to criminalize “Conversion Therapy.” From the piece:
But what is conversion therapy?
As is often the case, politics is making us dumber, and there is a crucial distinction being lost here. Whether it is ethical, in a therapeutic context, to try to change the erotic preferences of an adult patient — a homosexual who desires to be heterosexual — is a debate, and one that many would probably prefer to avoid. Whether it is ethical, in therapy, or indeed in medicine, to try to change the material sex of a child or an adolescent who believes himself to be of the opposite sex — that’s another debate, and one that we must have.
The first debate appears to be settled. Ever since it was coined in the early 1990s, the term “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy” has been used to discredit politically conservative and religiously motivated therapists offering treatment to unhappy adult homosexuals. At the time, clinicians expressed concerns about the ethics and effectiveness of such treatment; soon it was viewed, by consensus, as well outside the mainstream of therapeutic practice. The thinking behind this was that sexual orientation was an immutable trait (though a recent large-scale genetics study is less certain in its conclusions). Trying to change a person’s sexual orientation, even if it was a source of angst, would be not only futile but potentially harmful. In considering religiously and ideologically motivated therapies, especially given how homosexuals have been treated by health professionals historically, one can easily understand these concerns.
14. Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen lament about the new Wall Street-preferring SEC regulations on ETFs. From the beginning of the analysis:
Deregulation has been one of the great Trump-administration success stories. So why does the Securities and Exchange Commission want more cumbersome rules that will restrict investor choices? A new 456-page SEC rule restricts the availability of a subset of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), specifically those that offer returns that are the inverse or a multiple — double or triple — of a reference index. Inverse funds go up when the market goes down — which has been handy lately. Leveraged funds track their indexes with a multiple of two or three.
These ETFs are popular because they are low-cost, transparent, and well-regulated funds that can be used to reduce risk in a portfolio or to gain exposure to an index with less cash. They are generally straightforward in their names and descriptions, and hardly mislead investors.
Yet Trump-appointed SEC chairman Jay Clayton — along with the two commissioners who are Democrats — has proposed requiring brokers and advisers to “exercise due diligence” before allowing a customer to buy one of these ETFs. At a minimum, the SEC would require the broker or adviser to determine the customer’s investment objectives, time horizon, employment status, estimated income, estimated total net worth, estimated liquid net worth, percent of liquid net worth intended to be invested, and investment experience and knowledge — which the SEC suggests would include years, size, frequency, and types of transactions involving stocks, bonds, commodities, options, and other financial instruments.
15. This Jay Nordlinger tribute to NR friend and philanthropist Martha Apgar is an unrivaled remembrance. From the piece:
She and her siblings, Bob and Louise, grew up in the Hotel Putnam, which their parents owned and operated. It “catered to the carriage trade,” as Martha would say. I teased her that the staff would stoop over to lace her shoes every morning. Alternatively, I teased her that she was a savage out of the orange groves, shoeless.
Either line would do.
One December, Martha sent me a tin, saying, “Merry Christmas. Enjoy Jill’s shortbread.” Jill? She was a lady from Britain. During the war, Martha’s mother, Sarah, scooped up the leftover soap at the hotel and sent it to our British cousins. She did this through the Red Cross. The Brits were experiencing a severe soap shortage. Sarah’s contact, on the other side, was Jill.
After the war, they became fast friends, visiting each other. Jill made shortbread, which wowed one and all. She shared the recipe.
About ten years ago, on a National Review cruise, I met a lady from Lakeland, Fla. “I know Lakeland!” I said. The lady asked, “How?” “Because I’m from Michigan,” I said, “and that’s where the Detroit Tigers hold spring training.” She then told me that, when she was a little girl, her parents worked in a hotel. One year, Hank Greenberg — the great Tiger star of the 1930s — presented them with a pair of roller skates, to give to their daughter. His reasoning: “Every little girl ought to have a pair of roller skates.”
With excitement, I related this story to Martha, who was also on the cruise. She then dropped a bombshell on me: Lou Boudreau, the great shortstop of the Cleveland Indians, taught her to play ping-pong when he was staying at the Hotel Putnam.
I got the impression that all Florida ladies of a certain age had been benefited by baseball Hall of Famers.
16. Armond White takes a scalpel to Never Rarely Sometimes Always. From the review:
At the screening I attended of Never Rarely Sometimes Always, the scene where the matron at a local Pennsylvania health clinic presented a sonogram to pregnant teenager Autumn Callahan (Sidney Flanigan) and then kindly added, “Here’s your beautiful baby,” caused a female critic in the front row to blurt out “Bitch!”
That’s what we’re up against. Even a pro-abortion movie like this one, that indicates a minor character’s pro-life enthusiasm, risks a hostile reaction from an agent of our pro-abortion media (which predictably extols the film). Abortion zealots aren’t satisfied that director-writer Eliza Hittman portrays Autumn as a tormented innocent, unable to think through her situation. Autumn’s susceptibility to progressive culture’s influence, rather than nature, propels the film’s narrative. Hittman inducts Autumn into one side of the women’s-rights industry.
From the first scene, in which Autumn at her high-school talent show performs Ellie Greenwich’s song “He’s Got the Power,” she is presented as a victim of romanticized patriarchy. Rude schoolboys mock Autumn’s singing; plus, her father’s callousness is suspicious, as if suggesting incestuous envy or molester’s guilt. Only Autumn’s dreamy-eyed cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) is sympathetic, displaying girlish truculence learned from working as a grocery-store clerk — crime comes easily to Skylar, who pilfers money from her cashier drawer to finance Autumn’s trip to a New York City abortionist. (What, no Planned Parenthood in Pennsylvania?)
17. Kyle Smith finds The Hunt has enough going for it to be hated by just about everyone. From the review:
As the trailer promised, The Hunt mocks the caviar-scarfing, NPR-listening, private jet-owning progs who run a nefarious ring that goes around the country kidnapping and drugging their perceived ideological enemies, who read as “Trump supporters” though Trump goes unmentioned. The prey wake up gagged and clueless in the countryside while the hunters lurk in the woods attacking them with booby traps, grenades, rifles, even bow and arrow. Sportingly, the Deplorables are provided with assault rifles and other good stuff with which to fight back, which is probably the least plausible detail of the opus and is provided solely because of the cinematic imperative that a turkey shoot is not very interesting to watch.
What the trailer didn’t tell us: In addition to being a (lame) satiric attack on bicoastal liberal plutocrats, The Hunt is also a (really lame) satiric attack on the Deplorables themselves, who are idiots and do things like attend rallies holding up signs reading, “Don’t Be Gay.” Har, har. Dialogue suggests the two screenwriters — Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, who worked together on HBO’s Watchmen and The Leftovers — logged about three minutes on Breitbart and ten minutes on InfoWars picking up jargon they didn’t quite understand, then shoved all of this into the mouths of their red-state caricatures. The Deplorables spit fire at “Globalist elite liberal cucks” — er, fellas? That isn’t what “cuck” means. You can almost hear Lindelof and Cuse giggling offscreen as they trundle out one social-media cliche after another — “trigger warning,” “snowflake,” etc. Maybe Deplorables and Davosians should join forces and hunt down hack screenwriters trying to sell us the hottest buzzwords of four years ago.
By taking on both the woke Left and the Trumpist right, the movie winds up emphatically planting its flag in the . . . center-left. Ideologically speaking, that’s about as exciting as saying, “You know what I am? I’m a Bidenist.” The release date, the same week Joe wraps up the Democratic Party nomination, turns out to be auspicious. Meta-joke number one: This movie that was supposed to be about Trump wound up being about Biden.
18. More Kyle. He finds The Candidate and Bulworth to be two movies that define today’s Democrats. From the essay:
Both films are stories of Democrats running for the Senate in California, a state that holds a special place in Democratic dreams. The state on the far left of the continent was and is a progressive policy leader, a sunlit upland where liberal dreams come true, but it’s also the shadowy vista where the sun sets on unmet promises, where Robert Kennedy’s life ended and Ronald Reagan’s rise began. It’s a land of big dreams that die big deaths. It’s the ideal setting for the clash of ideal and compromise.
For many years, The Candidate (1972), which was directed in cinéma-réalité style by Michael Ritchie, was the preferred political parable of horse-race hacks, who thrilled to its once-novel sausage-factory cynicism. Today, cynicism about politics is so deeply entrenched that the film’s every “Aha!” became a “So what?” Robert Redford, also a producer of the film, is Bill McKay, a crusading young public-interest lawyer who has a frosty relationship with his father, John McKay (Melvyn Douglas), a former governor who represents staid Democratic-machine politics rather than the urgent new brand that flowered in 1968. Young McKay has no interest in political life (he has never even registered to vote), but a slick political operator (Peter Boyle) looking to make a buck coaxes him into running as a sacrificial lamb against the popular incumbent Republican, Crocker Jarmon. “Here’s your guarantee,” says Boyle’s Marvin Lucas, handing McKay a note saying, “YOU LOSE.” “You don’t have a chance, so say what you want.”
McKay sounds like Bernie Sanders as he hits the campaign trail. “The economy throws everything on the backs of the working man,” he says. He busts Big Oil, pollution, and racism. He unabashedly supports busing, which puts him on the far left of race politics in 1972, as well as abortion. Asked about welfare, which Crocker opposes on principle, McKay says, “We subsidize planes. We subsidize trains. Why not subsidize people?” This rhetoric wins him the Democratic nomination, but when polling suggests that McKay will lose to Jarmon by 36 points, the operatives fear their reputations will suffer in a blowout and teach McKay about how to win votes by pandering and obfuscation.
Stand Deliver You Say? Well, Here Are Five Begorrah Tunes to Help You Imbibe on Tuesday
1. Let us hope that there will still be some Whiskey in the Jar.
2. Unless you’re one to declare Whiskey You’re the Devil.
3. Then again, you may be the type to sing praises for The Juice of the Barley.
4. Glenn Miller turns the orchestra loose (gently!) on Danny Boy.
5. Work up an appetite listening to Johnny McEldoo.
1. At The Wall Street Journal, amigo Bill McGurn weighs into the fight by some conservatives — now rallying around Oren Cass at American Compass — to deride “market capitalism,” and who need a lesson in the meaning of laissez-faire. From the column:
But there’s a difference between tweaking programs to address their shortcomings and redesigning an economy from central command. Here’s the irony: Mr. Cass’s movement insists (rightly) that purely economic and material measures are limited. But whenever they move beyond rhetoric to specifics, their preferred solutions almost always turn out to be economic interventions, from child tax credits to industrial policy.
Assume—as I do—that they are right: An America wishing its citizens to prosper, and its workers to know the dignity that comes from providing for themselves, can’t be indifferent to marriage or other traditional institutions that inculcate the virtues a free market depends upon but cannot itself create. Is the issue really that skeptics don’t care about any of these things? Or that they just don’t believe the proposed fixes pushed by Mr. Cass & Co. will work as advertised?
Already there exists ample evidence that the most significant divide today between America’s haves and have-nots is whether they grow up in intact, stable families. Certainly policy wonks will have no shortage of solutions. But if we are to look past the purely economic, what if the real answer is not a package of tax credits but a new Great Awakening?
2. At The Catholic Thing, the great Hadley Arkes, the originator of the idea for the Born-Alive Protection Act, profiles a day in the life of the bill, in a U.S. Senate where a large number have lost their sense. From the piece:
And now, with the bill in the Senate, every Republican voted for it, along with three Democrats, while every vote in opposition came from Democrats, holding the line. The bill garnered 56 votes, but short of the 60 needed to overcome the Democratic filibuster.
The Democrats had arrived at the most radical position yet on the matter of abortion – so radical that the Republican managers of the bill, along with President Trump, still haven’t quite figured out how to express it.
The matter was blurted out, almost in passing, by Sen. Patty Murray from Washington. She remarked that “Republicans are peddling a ban that is blatantly unconstitutional.” That is, this move to protect children born alive is incompatible with that “right” proclaimed in Roe v. Wade. For virtually all Democrats now in Congress and national politics, that right to abortion is a right that extends beyond pregnancy itself and entails nothing less than the right to kill a child born alive.
That is the ground now on which the question should be called and fought out in the presidential election. But President Trump hasn’t apparently grasped this gift that has been given to him.
And yet, neither has the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who persistently failed to draw out the meaning of what his colleagues on the other side were revealing. Twenty years ago Sen. Rick Santorum asked Sen. Barbara Boxer to offer the earliest moment when a newborn child could be protected by the law, and she said “when you bring your baby home.”
That answer became a source of embarrassment, as Boxer could never explain her way out of the problem. At every turn Sen. Sasse has passed up the chance to draw his colleagues into colloquies of this kind. That would not affect the vote, but the confrontation could draw the attention of a wider public.
3. At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley Birzer aims the BB gun at Socialism and its revival. From the essay:
The evidence is more than clear. Communism, socialism, and progressivism have each made huge comebacks, re-entering political discourse blatantly and, just as importantly, very quietly, over the past decades. Even the very words “socialism,” “communism,” and, especially, “progressivism,” have reacquired respect and a semblance of dignity in many circles of public thought and discourse.
For those of us who spent our lives witnessing the horrors of each—in the Soviet gulags, the holocaust camps, and the Cambodian killing fields—and celebrating the demise of each in Eastern Europe and Russia between 1989 and 1991, we can only scratch our heads in wonder and search our souls in guilt. After all, we have and had very clearly failed to convince the world that such terms and such ideas should be remembered as a means of what never to do.
Indeed, a large percentage of young people, especially, have come to think, wrongly, of socialism as humane, of socialism as distinct from fascism (and National Socialism), and of capitalism as purely exploitative. When reminded that all forms of socialism have historically led to the mass grave, its new exponents claim, somewhat stereotypically, that “real socialism has never been tried.”
Again, I (and others like me) must ask. What happened? We won in 1989, didn’t we? The commies lost, and their fellow travelers and allies went with them. Ideas, it seems, have strange and varied lives, often counter to fact and reality as well as counter to dream and desire.
In his magisterial and pathbreaking 1953 book, The Quest for Community, sociologist, historian of ideas, and man of letters Robert A. Nisbet considered what drew so many people to the evils of totalitarianism, despite the evidence so clearly demonstrating its necessary bloodlust and its attendant evils.
4. At Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh exposes the Iranian mullahs’ Coronavirus lies. From the article:
The Iranian authorities at first claimed that the country was not experiencing a crisis regarding the coronavirus: that no one in Iran had contracted the disease. Soon, however, leaked information disclosed that top Iranian officials were aware of the coronavirus in Iran but had decided to conceal the truth.
When a few Iranian authorities were pressured to provide information, they stated that they are not allowed to report the actual number of people who have been infected or died. The head of the Medical Sciences University in Qom, Mohammad Reza Ghadir, for instance, said on Iran’s state television that the Ministry of Health had issued a ban on disclosing statistics on the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The question is: Are the ruling mullahs attempting purposefully to spread the coronavirus to other countries as a form of global jihad? Otherwise, why would Iran’s top Ayatollah call coronavirus a “blessing”?
Now, not only is the Iranian regime refusing to give the public or the international community a full and accurate picture of the coronavirus outbreak; it is also not taking any necessary steps and precautions to prevent the crisis from spreading.
While the city of Qom has become the epicenter through which the coronavirus is being transmitted to other part of the world, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pointed out that the government has no plans to quarantine the city or, for that matter, any other town.
In addition, although Iran’s leaders were aware of the high number of its people infected with the coronavirus, they did not halt their flights to other countries.
5. At The College Fix, Christian Schneider checks out the public records and finds that the heavy political moneybags who comprise Yale University’s trustees adore Democrats, who haul in 99 percent of their campaign donations. From the report:
Since 1990, the 16 current Yale Board of Trustees members have contributed $11.3 million to federal political candidates, according to Federal Election Commission data collected by OpenSecrets.org. Of this amount, only $102,000 — or 0.9 percent — was donated to Republicans or Republican-affiliated causes.
Conversely, current Yale trustees have contributed $10.8 million to Democrats or Democratic-affiliated causes during the same time.
Of the $11.3 million in total donations by all trustees, $9.9 million was donated by Bain Capital executive Joshua Bekenstein. Since 1992, Bekenstein has made at least 437 donations to federal candidates, only $18,500 of which has gone to Republicans.
Of that amount, $6,000 was contributed before the year 2000, when Bekenstein donated $2,000 apiece to Massachusetts Republican U.S. Senate candidates Mitt Romney (1994) and Bill Weld (1996), and 2000 presidential candidate George W. Bush.
6. At Quillette, Samuel Kronen takes on the unhelpful concept of “systemic racism.” From the beginning of the essay:
Is racism an individual or systemic problem? Traditionally, racism was broadly recognized as an interpersonal phenomenon: reflexive antipathy towards an identifiable “other,” supported by the negative cultural tropes and stereotypes used to inflame resentment and justify discrimination. This was the definition used by history’s most prominent anti-racist figures, from Frederick Douglass through W.E.B. Du Bois to James Baldwin, in their scathing critiques of slavery and Jim Crow. In this telling, racism is a disposition informing the beliefs and behavior of the people who operate society’s structures and institutions. It is a bottom-up process and ultimately exacts untold harms on both oppressor and oppressed.
Yet this definition has undergone a phase transition in modern progressive discourse. Rather than an emergent psycho-social phenomenon, racism today is usually understood by theorists, analysts, and activists in structural and institutional terms that don’t require the prevalence of individual racist attitudes to explain recurrent disparities between racial groups. Bestselling author Ibram X Kendi is one of a number of contemporary writers who exemplifies this outlook: “‘Racist policy’ says exactly what the problem is and where the problem is. ‘Institutional racism’ and ‘structural racism’ and ‘systemic racism’ are redundant. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic.” This account is characteristically imprecise, but it suggests that racism is a top-down structural force transmitted from social and political institutions to people, who are somehow beyond the scope of individual agency or intent.
1. On The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, VDH and his inept cohost discuss the forthcoming updated edition of The Case for Trump, Joe Biden’s potty-mouth voter-threatening march to the nomination, the fear behind Coronavirus reactions, Iran’s descent in pariah-state status courtesy of the administration’s “maximum pressure,” Elizabeth Warren’s descent into victim-mongering ex-candidacy, and papal kow-towing to Chinese Communists. Hear here.
2. Episode 194 of The Editors features Rich, Charlie, Michael, and Jim discussing the coronavirus’s continued escalation and Biden’s skyrocketing prospects. It’s all sunshine and lollipops, heard here.
3. On The Bookmonger, John J. Miller is joined by C. J. Box to discuss his book, Long Range. As ever, great stuff, heard here.
4. More JJM: Donning his The Great Books cap, he’s joined by Carlos Eire of Yale University to discuss The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila. A great listen is to be had here.
5. On For Life, Alexandra DeSanctis talks up pro-life Democratic congressman Dan Lipinski, who faces a primary threat from a progressive challenger who favors abortion rights. Catch it here.
6. On the new Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Kevin and Charlie discuss the stock-market panic and the Democratic primaries. Tune in here.
7. At Radio Free California, David and Will assess California’s Dem voters going for Bernie Sanders (while conversely appearing to have killed a teachers-union-backed $15 billion bond), and Sacramento lawmakers who are attempting to tackle the state’s decline with proposals to end gender segregation in toy stores, eliminate price disparities between men’s and women’s products, and replace the phrase “at-risk” with “at-promise.” Oy vey! Engaging wisdom is dispensed here.
8. At Constitutionally Speaking, Luke Thompson and Jay Cost delve into Alexander Hamilton’s thoughts on impeachment. Do listen here.
When last here we met, mention was made of the appearance — in the historic May 18, 1912 24–2 drubbing of the Detroit Tigers (sporting a gang of amateur fill-ins to replace the on-strike professionals) by the Philadelphia Athletics — of the great Herb Pennock, in what was the future Hall of Famer’s second MLB game. He was credited with a save. The first of his 241 career wins (not including five World Series triumphs) would come a month later, his last 22 years off, performed in a Boston Red Sox uniform. It came June 1, 1934, in a 13–1 victory over the defending American League champion Washington Senators.
Earlier in the 1934 season, Pennock found himself in the same box score with Philadelphia Athletics rookie Al Benton. It was only Benton’s second career start: He faced four batters, walking one and serving up hits to the other three, but earned no decision: The As won, 12–11. You can sorta blame Pennock for that: In relief in the ninth, he gave up three runs to the As, while a last-licks three-run rally by the Red Sox fell short a run.
As for Benton, he was still pitching some 18 years later, like Pennock closing out his 98–88 career with the Red Sox, the 6’4” righthander’s final performance coming on Sunday, September 21, 1952, when he picked up his 66th career save in a 7–3 win over the Senators.
It’s interesting to look at the continuum of baseball via the intersection of young and old careers. Pennock and Benton comprised four decades of the National Pastime, from the squirrely Tigers’ strike game in 1912 to a late-summer Sunday contest while Eisenhower and Stevenson were battling for a presidency in 1952.
And next week, there’s an even longer continuum over which we will gush (Yours truly will, anyway).
Saint Sebastian has the plague portfolio. Ask for his prayerful intercession if that floats your spiritual boat.
In this time of consternation and confusion, or for that matter, in any time, good or bad, do remember — those of you who are believers of the Christian persuasion — that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so believeth in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. It ain’t Mitch Miller, but sing along and find comfort.
Yours in the Prayerful Expectation that The Ancient of Days Will Bring You and Yours True Peace,
Jack Fowler, who types this missive with fingers washed frequently, and who is happy to receive similar from you, regardless of your sanitary protocols, at email@example.com.