It may be the color of our carpet (so do take off your shoes, Mr. Bialystock!), but this fortnight it is also the color (is white a color?) of the cover of the new issue of National Review magazine. See for yourself, here. And while you’re at it, read Kevin Williamson’s cover essay on “The Intellectual Emptiness of ‘White Supremacy.’”
But: Be prepared, for when you click on that essay link, or any link here that brings you to what we used to call “NRO” (not saying that is going to be a two-decade challenge for some of us), you are going to see a brand-spanking new, hot-diggity-dog gorgeous, neato-torpedo, faster-than-a-speeding-bullet, more-powerful-than-a-locomotive website that is fighting for truth, justice, the American way, and cruise cabins.
Yeah, yeah, so sue me: It took a little longer than we expected, and cost more too (don’t worry, you’ll be hit up next week to help defray that bill). But the new, improved, lemon-freshened nationalreview.com is really quite grand, and deserves a chorus or two of our singing Happy Days Are Here Again.
1. What to do with a skyrocketing budget? Among other things, not spend the taxpayers’ dollars on manufactured “infrastructure” needs. From our editorial:
Infrastructure is generally sold two ways: The first is as a needful investment in roads and bridges that routinely are described as “crumbling,” even though the share of such infrastructure that actually is in a serous state of disrepair is very low. There are in fact about 20 bridges carrying significant traffic and judged “structurally deficient,” according to a Reuters analysis of federal data, and none of them is at risk of imminent collapse, despite panicked rhetoric to the contrary. That isn’t the sort of thing that calls for a few hundred billion dedicated to a national infrastructure project — that calls for a case-by-case, targeted approach. The second argument for giant infrastructure bills is that they constitute an economic stimulus; it is not at all clear that they actually do so (the stimulative effects of the Obama program were too faint to detect in the economic data), and it is entirely clear that no stimulus currently is needed: Employment and wage growth have been better in the past couple of quarters than they have in years, and overall economic growth is on an encouraging trajectory.
A Dozen Sobering Pieces Published by Your Favorite Website
1. About the aforementioned Kevin Williamson cover essay. . . here is a selection from it:
“White supremacy” serves a broader rhetorical purpose for the Left, which is forever in search of a master theory attached to a master villain. For a century or so, the master theory was Marxism and the master villain was capitalism. For the countercultural radicals of 1968, the master villain was the Establishment, bourgeois society, the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit; for the feminists, it was patriarchy (recently supplanted by misogyny); for 1980s postmodernists of a Foucauldian bent, it was “power,” nebulously defined. (The contemporary Right has its own answers to that: globalists, elitists, etc.)
Those master villains need to have two attributes: One, they must be rooted in sin, either the sin of greed (capitalism) or the sin of hatred, which is why “misogyny” gained currency over “patriarchy” and why some on the left have settled on “white supremacy” as an explanation for what ails black America rather than such traditional factors as poverty, which according to the rhetoric of the moment must be understood as yet another facet of white supremacy. Two, the villains must be impersonal. If culpable racism is being perpetrated by culpable racists who, e.g., victimize African Americans by subjecting them to police abuses, then people of good will start to ask the obvious questions: Which police? Where? Doing what, exactly? That creates problems for the professional activist class — which is what “white supremacy” is all about as a rhetorical matter. E.g.: Between 2007 and 2013, Philadelphia police shot 394 suspects, leading to claims of excessive force and, inevitably, excessive force used in a racially discriminatory manner. But the mayor of Philadelphia was black, and the police commissioner was black, and the police department was 33 percent black (the city is 42 percent black), and many of the shootings that activists questioned involved black officers. “White supremacy” gives you a rhetorical out: “Black cops are subject to the same training, culture and systemic pressures as their white counterparts,” Lauren Fleer of Socialist Worker wrote about the Philadelphia situation.
2. Well, are we or are we not drunken sailors? “Republicans were put on Earth to shrink government. If they cannot do that, those who remain will soon find themselves having to raise taxes.” So writes economist Brian Riedl in “Republicans Begin a Spending Spree.”
3. Ya gotta believe when Kyle Smith tells you that a movie delivers. Which is exactly what he says in his review of Black Panther. But then, Armond White says the movie is “racial exploitation.” And here is where he says it.
4. Guns One: David French explains why it’s not “cowardly” to support the Second Amendment. From his piece:
Angry voices take an extraordinarily complex social, cultural, and political phenomenon, boil it down to preferred progressive policy provisions, and then declare everyone who opposes their ideas a craven weakling in thrall to the NRA. . .
One of the worst aspects of the modern gun debate is the presumption that Republican politicians vote the way they do not out of conviction but out of craven compliance — that they care less about school shootings than they care about NRA campaign dollars or NRA votes. It’s a sentiment that plays very well on Twitter (note the retweets and likes), but it’s detached from reality.
5. Guns Two: More from David, on whether new laws can prevent mass shootings. From that piece:
It’s horrifying, and governmental solutions are hard to find. Twitter’s fondest wishes to the contrary, the unique characteristics of mass shootings mean that they often escape the reach of public policy. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler (hardly an NRA apologist) famously fact-checked Marco Rubio’s assertion that new gun laws wouldn’t have prevented any recent mass shootings and declared it true. Time and again, existing laws failed, or no proposed new gun-control law would have prevented the purchase.
The reason is obvious. Mass shootings are among the most premeditated of crimes, often planned months in advance. The shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reportedly wore a gas mask, carried smoke grenades, and set off the fire alarm so that students would pour out into the hallways. Though we’ll obviously learn more in the coming days, each of these things suggests careful preparation. A man who is determined to kill and who is proactive in finding the means to kill will find guns. He can modify guns. He can find magazines.
6. On hiatus since 1824, it’s back — tanned, rested, wig-powdered, and ready. I speak, of course, about the Federalist Party. And William O’Reilly, its chairman (and WFB nephew!), explains:
The Federalist Party has but two goals, at once simple and colossal: 1) the eventual reestablishment of government jurisdictions as prescribed in the Constitution and 2) congressional term limits, the latter integral to achieving the former. All other issues take a back seat to these; most should be hashed out within our towns, cities, or states.
7. We may need an Andy McCarthy section in every WJ. He is writing a slew of important analyses on the “Nunes Memo” fallout, the role of the Obama Administration in influencing the 2016 elections, and much more. So here’s one of two pieces we’ll tout in today’s missive: On the now-infamous Susan Rice email-to-self, he writes “What Did Comey Tell President Trump about the Steel Dossier?”
8. McCarthy Two: Our ace prosecutor/journalist finds that the Grassley-Graham Memo is shocking, and that it affirms the Nunes Memo, and that the MSM is . . . looking elsewhere. From the piece:
Rest assured: If a Republican administration had used unverifiable hearsay from a patently suspect agent of the Republican presidential candidate to gull the FISA court into granting a warrant to spy on an associate of the Democratic nominee’s campaign, it would be covered as the greatest political scandal in a half-century.
Instead, it was the other way around. The Grassley-Graham memo corroborates the claims in the Nunes memo: The Obama Justice Department and FBI used anonymously sourced, Clinton-campaign generated innuendo to convince the FISA court to issue surveillance warrants against Carter Page, and in doing so, they concealed the Clinton campaign’s role. Though the Trump campaign had cut ties with Page shortly before the first warrant was issued in October 2016, the warrant application was based on wild allegations of a corrupt conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Moreover, the warrant meant the FBI could seize not only Page’s forward-going communications but any past emails and texts he may have stored — i.e., his Trump campaign communications.
9. It was Bill Buckley’s “Last Supper” with NR staff, this one a special gathering of new and recent hires. He would be gone in a few short weeks. But it was a memorable night for all there. Fred Schwarz captures it beautifully.
10. Burma is in turmoil. The mostly-Muslim Rohingyas are persecuted, while the country’s Nobel Prize-winning president, Aung San Suu Kyi, is mum. Jay Nordlinger tells the ugly story, of which this is a slice:
The hatred that many Burmese feel toward the Rohingyas is shocking. Last year, the U.N. high commissioner, Hussein, said, “The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable. What kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk?”
Aung San Suu Kyi is embattled. She is also defensive, as can be glimpsed in a statement she made in October 2016: “Show me a country without human-rights issues. Every country has human-rights abuses. I am taking seriously allegations of human-rights violations in this country.”
People disbelieve her, with good reason. And her international support is dwindling. Last September, Time magazine had a dramatic cover, showing an old refugee woman struggling ashore, with the help of a younger man (although who can tell the ages of traumatized people?). Accompanying the photo were the words “Myanmar’s Shame: The plight of the Rohingya tarnishes Aung San Suu Kyi’s name.” The leader declined to attend the U.N. General Assembly, claiming that she and her country were victims of a “misinformation campaign.”
Many have called on the Norwegian Nobel Committee to revoke her prize. Yet a Nobel is not revokable — a person wins it for his achievements in the past, regardless of the future.
11. This piece by Robert Graboyes is a wonk’s dream: “Seven Suggestions for the Amazon-Berkshire-JP Morgan Health Project.” Read the article here, but let me share Suggestion #7, “Act globally, think locally”:
Above all, the trio needs to understand that health care is an intensely local good — wholly unlike the highly fungible products which underlie the business models of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase.
Recently, Amazon shipped a $1,000+ wooden shed to me, and the company needed only my address and credit-card number. They could just as easily have shipped the shed to California or Australia. My health insurer, in contrast, requires fine-grained knowledge of the doctors, nurses, hospitals, and laboratories in my vicinity. I have a particular doctor and a favored hospital, and those are things you can’t mass produce, warehouse, and ship hither and yon.
1. Both liberals and conservatives are wrong about the ultimate source of the 2008 financial meltdown: That’s the subject of David Bahnsen’s new book, Crisis of Responsibility: Our Cultural Addiction to Blame and How You Can Cure It, discussed on The Bookmonger with the usual brilliance of host John J. Miller. Listen here.
2. The foreword to David’s Crisis was penned by none other than David French, who has Bahnsen the Great on as a guest for the new episode of The Liberty Files where, along with cohost Alexandra DeSanctis, they discuss his book and more. Listen here.
3. Over at The Jamie Weinstein Show, our intrepid host interviews The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, who talks about his worldview, Donald Trump, his thoughts on America’s racial history, the letter he wrote President Obama, the lessons he learned over his career, his influences, and much more. Catch it here.
4. I am loving Projections. On the new episode, Ross and Kyle explain why the social-justice/monster-erotica flick The Shape of Water is this year’s Oscar frontrunner, then consider what movies should have won Best Picture glory in 2007, 1997 and 1987. Listen here.
5. Back to John Miller: This week he is the guest on Political Beats, where Scot and Jazzy Jeff pick his noggin about The Police. Dig the groove here.
6. And, since it’s All Miller All the Time, JJM takes his The Great Books podcast back to the 1850s: Hillsdale prof Kelly Scott Franklin discusses Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin. You need to hear this, and you can, right here.
7. On the new episode of The Editors, Rich, Reihan, Michael Brendan Dougherty, and Dan McLaughlin discuss the shooting in South Florida, Congress’s immigration debate, and the turmoil in which John Kelly now finds himself embroiled. Listen here.
8. Last but truly not least: George Mason University professor Bryan Caplan joins The Remnant to discuss his latest book, The Case Against Education. While agreeing with much of Caplan’s case, Jonah spends a good portion of the podcast in the difficult task of trying to prove a smart libertarian wrong. Listen here.
Houston, We Have Conference
Dallas too. On Tuesday, March 6th (Big D) and Wednesday, March 7th (Houston), the NR gang will be in Texas as part of NR Institute’s cross-country “Remembering William F. Buckley Jr.” program to champion the Buckley Legacy as we mark the 10th anniversary of our founder’s death. In Houston: David French, Kevin Williamson, Rich Lowry, Lee Edwards (author of the acclaimed biography, William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movement) and Yours Truly will discuss WFB’s life, his legacy, and free speech — a big issue for Bill and for our movement. For more information about the Houston forum, click here.
The Dallas event is a little different: It will take place at the Debate Center at Old Parkland, and will feature a debate with David French and Jim Campbell taking on Lawrence Sager and Nelson Tebbe, over the Masterpiece Cakeshop case now before the Supreme Court. It’s a beautiful setting and I am sure it will be a truly invigorating forum. Do join us: Get complete information here.
Eight Like-’Em-or-Not Smart Pieces by Friends — Go On and Read One, Some, or All
1. At Forbes, Rich Karlgaard conducts a terribly interesting interview with George Gilder about anything and everything. Of particular interest to me was GG’s assessment of Elon Musk, a “quite retarded thinker.” Zounds! From the interview:
Gilder: I call him the Elmer Gantry of Silicon Valley. He’s a wonderful entrepreneur, but when he starts pretending that he’s an ethical visionary, that human life is just a simulation in a smarter species’ game. . . . I mean, those guys make some calculation based on false assumptions about life in outer space. Then they assume — because, as we all know, technology’s “inevitable” — that technology must produce vastly more sophisticated simulation systems in other universes that actually encompass our own universe. Thus, they’ve just reduced us to entities in an alien algorithm.
Q: That’s a pretty demoralizing view of life.
Gilder: It’s really nuts. It’s clinically crazy. But I hear lots of otherwise brilliant people talk in these terms. I think it’s a Silicon Valley dementia that’s going on, which probably results from a religious collapse. I think G.K. Chesterton put it very well: When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they start believing in anything. Such as, we’re part of a computer simulation, or that there are infinite numbers of multiple parallel universes, or that a planet, which has endured orders of magnitude greater amounts of carbon dioxide through eons of geological history (producing photosynthesis in the process), will suddenly founder on an increase of .003 to .004 of a percent. You know, those bizarre, speculative fantasies that you hear very solemn, professorial figures espouse. It’s an amazing phenomenon of our time.
Silicon Valley should stop trying to obsolete human beings and figure out how to make them more productive again.
2. American Thinker’s M. Catharine Evans tells the story of the virtue-signaling Ithaca mom who engineered the shut down the high-school musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” because the girl cast as Esmerelda is white.
3. Iran, Russia, China, and Cuba are all players in Venezuela’s madness. At Gatestone Institute, Joseph M. Humire has written a very troubling piece about this BFF of the world’s worst regimes. From his report:
The extent of Iran’s influence in Venezuela has long been a source of debate for the U.S. and regional security analysts. The Iranian regime’s roots as a revolutionary movement with anti-imperialist rhetoric and expanding dominance throughout the Middle East has brought Russia and China, two historic cold war adversaries, closer together. In many ways, Iran has positioned itself in Venezuela to capitalize on China’s economic clout and Russia’s military footprint. For instance, Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) used a variety of joint projects with Venezuela’s military industry (CAVIM) as well as Russian and Chinese oil contracts with PDVSA to shield its evasion of international sanctions.
Iran’s comparative advantage, however, is in the development of clandestine structures through surrogate forces and proxy networks. Its most prominent proxy force, Lebanese Hezbollah, is known to deploy to global hotspots on behalf of Iran. Meanwhile, the Qods Force (the extra-territorial arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — IRGC) works with Hezbollah to increase social pressure in these hotspots to exacerbate conflicts. The Hezbollah and IRGC-QF cooperation is an important component of the Syrian civil war.
Until recently, the norm was for people who disliked, feared or were allergic to animals to tolerate brief interactions on the street or in a pet owner’s home. They understood that theirs was a minority view that marked them as weird, and they’d pretend not to mind your dog the same way people used to pretend that cigarette smoke didn’t bother them. But they could also count on spending most of their day without animal encounters. Offices, restaurants, hotels and restaurants — not to mention airplanes — were pet-free zones.
No longer. Pet evangelists have been gaining ground, especially in making workplaces dog-friendly. “Dogs — with their non-judgmental, unconditional love, team spirit, sense of humor, and the ability to lower blood pressure among ‘co-workers’ — can immediately transform any workplace into an ‘executive retreat,’” animal trainer Bashkir Dibra writes in the introduction to “K9-5: New York Dogs at Work,” a 2015 book featuring portraits of dogs at workplaces including “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
6. In Chicago, there is a Roman Catholic Cardinal named Blase Cupich, and if you like confusion about doctrine, he is your man. At Crisis, Fr. George Rutler, (who has penned many an NRO article) considers His Eminence and clearly doesn’t see clarity. As they say, Boom! —
This writer writes these words hastily, and knowingly exposes himself to imputations of illogic, irascibility and uncharity. Of only the last I vitally excuse myself, for I mean no irreverence or ill intent as a parish priest commenting on superiors. In the fullness of charity, I suppose that Cardinal Cupich is so occupied with the essential works of mercy incumbent upon a spiritual leader of many, that he may have availed himself of the advice of others inadequate to the task of preparing his attempts at clarification. The one complaint I invoke, albeit a strong one since much of my life’s studies have been nurtured by an intuitive friendship with John Henry Newman, who in an unworthy simile is to me as Philip Neri was to him, is that Cardinal Cupich has cited Newman on conscience to represent the very opposite of what Newman lived and exhausted himself to declare: that conscience must be informed by the Holy Ghost and not left to wander about like a ghost of the subjective human ego, validating uninformed impulses. In his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, Newman distinguished between the operation of conscience and the exercise of private judgment. Such distinctions may be too delicate for hasty doctors of theology, but they are matters for which men were made martyrs. Errors must not be the template for the formation of consciences innocent and malleable. Chesterton warned: “The more doubtful we are about whether we have any truth, the more certain we are (apparently) that we can teach it to children. The smaller our faith in doctrine, the larger is our faith in doctors.”
7. The American Culture and Faith Institute released a recent survey crammed with all sorts of ideological and partisan breakdowns on patriotism and related themes. You can read the complete results here. On item that jumped out at moi: When asked if one “Would prefer to live in another country,” five percent of both the self-identified conservatives and Republicans surveyed said “yes,” while 14 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of Liberals said the same (10 percent of moderates answered “yes”). So, wow: Nearly one of every five liberals you know would prefer to live in some other place than the US of A.
8. In the new issue of New Oxford Review, Thomas S. Martin writes about Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward and asks, “Is Modern Man Too Healthy for Literature?” From his piece:
Good fiction is heroic, revealing the struggles of a contemplative soul overcoming himself and his environment. Bad fiction is anti-heroic, depicting sociological characters who lack imagination and will, being simply reflections of society, cheap products of the environment. Imagine reading a novel about a character whose movements are determined by his genetic makeup and his chemical reactions to the environment. The only possible deviation from his necessary behavior would occur if he were injected with a foreign substance allowing for a foreign reaction. It would be as edifying as watching a colonoscopy.
Remember your Aristotle: “For our character is determined by our choosing good or evil, not by the opinions we hold.” When an individual has no ulterior motive, he speaks, acts, and lives his real character. Falsehood is base in its own right and deserves blame, but truthfulness is noble and deserves praise.
The Ashbrook Center has a terrific publishing program related to America’s fundamental documents. Learn more about what’s available here. I just received an Ashbrook email announcing the availability (in PDF, iTunes, Kindle) of the series’ latest free book, so I thought I’d share the good news: It contains selected key documents from the Constitutional Convention. Download the book’s PDF version here. I’d also like to recommend an earlier Ashbrook book, The American Founding.
Follow, follow, follow
Maybe we’ll focus for the foreseeable future by reminding ourselves of largely forgotten greats from Once-Upon-A-National-Pastime. Such as . . . Jo-Jo Moore, the six-time New York Giants all-star left-fielder who led his team to three pennants in the 1930s. A classy ballplayer, farmer, and cattleman: Here’s his SABR bio.
British WWII Movie Recommendation
The Way Ahead. Does not end the way you’d have thunk.
Salty Trump or Sweet Trump
The dudes at Chocolate Text have been sending NR candy for a couple of years now, and on the cusp of Presidents Day, in an effort to “Make America Tasteful Again,” we’re in receipt of a couple of solid-chocolate boxes containing bars imprinted with The Donald doing his two-thumbs-up thing and, somehow, with his hair blonded. Comes in sweet and salty, and please refrain from nasty comments or thoughts. See below — I can’t chomp down, but I bet some of my more Reformational colleagues will.
That said, I have gobbled their candy before, and it’s pretty tasty and . . . unorthodox. For example: With March Madness looming, they’ve even created a Choctology package. All proving that yes, this is a great country when you can make a living at stuff like this.
Lent is here. Fatso does the traditional thing of giving up sweets (I am sooo sorry M&Ms), ixnay on the ice cream, and no in-between meals or small meals. Essentially, Catholic fasting. Maybe if I drop a few stones the kids won’t try pushing me back into the water at the beach this summer. Anyway, I wish you well, and do check out the NR website — kudos to Garrett, Chris, and Jarreau for the incredible effort they put into this, and the great results that have come from those efforts.