The Weekend Jolt

National Review

WHO Dunnit? Precisely.

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Quite the weekend this one. Forgone is the enjoyment of the annual, special divine pull, motivating even the infrequent temple- and church-goer, dressed in best and blessed, with grandma in tow, to experience ancient rituals, inhale incense, hold candles, eat bitters at a table full, embrace old neighbors, maybe even to acquire some grace by entering the house of worship. Not gonna happen in 2020, not for most anyway, as the doors in many places are shuttered. Where two or three are gathered . . . sorry, there’s an executive order barring that. Sigh. But we take cheer from the fact that God is in His Heaven, that His graces are more communicable than pathogens, and that He is affording them abundantly, and that no pews are necessary for such. So have at it spiritually anyway, improvised, and grab your rain checks as you imagine happy services and seders in 2021.

Meanwhile, we submit this compendium early, constructed mostly on Spy Wednesday, delivered to Editor Phil early on Maundy Thursday, precluding Good Friday toil, as is the custom established by Bill Buckley. Please forgive us if we miss the jewels that NRO publishes after this filing, and do know that in this edition, we nevertheless provide copious links to educate and occupy the time of the many, keeping particularly in mind those who in their isolation yearn for such.

Before we get on to the buffet . . .

A few years back we were encouraged to pull from the NR archives samples of the “Gimlet Eye” columns by the late D. Keith Mano. Good golly was he talented. By chance we extracted his 1987 piece, A Meditation after Easter. It is a work of magnificence. Powerful and maybe even salvific to the unexpecting. Do read it.

To quote the Great Gleason: And away we go . . .

Editorials

1. WHO — the China-beholding World Health Organization — has proven a politicized rathole. We find it’s about time for Congress to consider yanking U.S. funding. From the beginning of the editorial:

Since its inception 112 years ago almost to the day, the World Health Organization (WHO)  has been credited with the eradication of smallpox and the near eradication of other devastating illnesses, including leprosy and river blindness.

This record of success makes the current corruption of the organization all the more shameful.

On December 30, Chinese doctor Li Wenliang warned colleagues about the outbreak of an illness resembling severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which sparked a pandemic in 2003. Public-health officials rely on the acuity of doctors like Li, whose early warnings prevent the spread of deadly diseases. But Chinese authorities didn’t reward Li; they summoned him to the Public Security Bureau in Wuhan on accusations that he had made false statements and disrupted the public order.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) followed up with numerous other arrests, and publicly warned that it would punish anyone spreading “rumors” on social media. By mid January, Chinese doctors knew that COVID-19 was spreading between humans, but on January 14, the WHO stated that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.” Two weeks later, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus flew to Beijing for a meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping, who so impressed Tedros that he lauded Chinese authorities for “setting a new standard for outbreak control,” praising their “openness for sharing information.”

Dr. Li might have disagreed with that sentiment. Alas, he was never able to voice his objections: He died after contracting COVID-19.

2. Josh Hawley’s ideas for a Phase Four response to the pandemic’s economic damage earns NR’s High Five. From the editorial:

The other option is Hawley’s. He would have the federal government directly administer aid to businesses, including tax rebates that cover 80 percent of payroll (up to a cap), real-time payments to help businesses immediately, and a bonus for rehiring previously laid off workers. In theory, this sounds incredibly attractive. In practice, Congress first needs to make sure a program like this is administratively feasible; if there are serious obstacles, it may be unwise to start a new approach from scratch just as the old approach hits its stride. Lawmakers and staff need to reach out to the relevant agencies and private actors, especially the Treasury Department and payroll companies, to make sure they can handle payments such as these quickly, accurately, and with the appropriate vetting.

Hawley’s proposal also raises important longer-term issues that the U.S. will need to confront. For one thing, businesses may need help restarting when this is over. For another, this pandemic has demonstrated that many countries will block exports of important medical supplies in an emergency, which is an obvious problem for countries that import such supplies. We are hardly protectionists, but this outbreak demands a full accounting of what crucial products we aren’t able to procure when we need them most, and a plan to either stockpile those products or ensure we can make them here.

A Plea Before the Pleasures

We are in the final days of our short-term webathon, seeking to raise $125,000 (our real needs are double that, and double that). The day after this effort commenced, Rich Lowry wrote this heartfelt appeal. You are encouraged to read it and then take note that in the ten days that followed, NR’s exceptional coverage of all things coronavirus and all things Red China has gotten even better. And even more consequential.

The simple fact was, is, and pray God will be — and pray with your help will be — that NR is vital. Is essential. It’s the voice that must never be stifled, the light that must never go out. Why? For the sake of our conservative principles. For 64 years NR has been loud and bright because our readers find NR is worth more than the price of a subscription. Boy has that ever been the case these past few months. Which is why Bill Buckley believed that he owned NR in stewardship, on behalf of those who kept open the doors, kept on the lights, kept the plates spinning.

We feel the same. We yearn for your partnership. We believe the ranks of we happy few can never be too few. Join the band of brothers and sisters who are determined to help us reach our goal, and even surpass it. Please donate here.

If You Were Looking for 18 Examples of NRO Publishing Brilliance, Look No Further: You Have Arrived

1. No way in hell Red China should be making our pharmaceuticals, says Rich Lowry. From the column:

The story of penicillin is the tale of U.S. dependence on China-sourced pharmaceuticals and active drug ingredients writ large.

From 2010 to 2018, U.S. imports of pharmaceuticals from China increased 75 percent. China is the second largest exporter of drugs and biologics to the United States behind Canada, and our dependence is even greater, given that China is the source of the active ingredients of many drugs produced elsewhere. India, another major source of drugs for the U.S., gets about 75 percent of its active ingredients from China.

China is a dominant force when it comes to generic drugs in particular, which account for the vast majority of medicines that American take. We rely on China for 90 percent of our antibiotics, and for drugs to treat everything from HIV/AIDS to cancer to depression.

China is fully aware of its leverage. It notoriously threatened via its state-run media to cut off our supply of drugs (except fentanyl, of course) and plunge the U.S. into “the mighty sea of coronavirus.”

Even if China weren’t a malign global competitor (it is), a remorseless dictatorship (it is), or a dishonest kleptocracy (it is), there would be risk inherent in having so many of our medications and their components coming from one country. We become vulnerable to any disruption of Chinese production, whether from disease, political unrest, or war.

Beijing is a particularly nasty actor, but the coronavirus has demonstrated that even friendly nations will keep medical supplies from one other if it is in their self-interest to do so.

2. Andy McCarthy rebukes Democratic efforts to deny the president his right to hire and fire, and explains the partisan makeup of liberal martyr Glenn Fine. From the article:

Upon taking office in 1993, President Clinton famously fired Republican appointees throughout the executive branch, including nearly every district U.S. attorney. By contrast, on his way out the door eight years later, he shrewdly installed Fine as the Justice Department’s inspector general.

In doing so, Clinton banked on his Republican successor’s inclination to extend a bipartisan olive branch after the historically contentious 2000 election. President Bush did not disappoint, keeping Fine rather than nominating his own DOJ IG. Predictably, Fine was a thorn in the Bush administration’s side, aggressively investigating DOJ’s use of post-9/11 counterterrorism laws and helping inflate Bush’s entirely lawful firing of a handful of U.S. attorneys into a scandal that ultimately forced attorney general Alberto Gonzalez to resign. Fine was kept on at DOJ through the first two years of the Obama administration. You’ll be stunned, I’m sure, to hear that he won gushing praise from such partisan Democrats as senator Pat Leahy and Obama attorney general Eric Holder when he finally left the government’s employ in late 2010.

He was not gone for long. As detailed above, President Obama recruited Fine for DoD in 2015. He has been in the IG’s office there ever since.

This is the way this game works. Democratic administrations come into office and exploit the patronage (as they are entitled to do), sweeping out Republicans and getting their own people in place. The press reliably describes this as a much-needed injection of new progressive blood in the government’s veins. By contrast, when Republican presidents remove Democratic appointees, journalists wail about the invasion of “loyalists” and wistfully recall a noble bipartisan past, when new presidents retained the much-needed expertise of “non-partisan” (ahem) bureaucrats.

3. Teddy Kupfer believes Bernie Sanders’ prexy runs will be less transformational than his supporters predict. From the piece:

Both times Sanders ran for president, he lost black voters in Southern states by huge margins. Sanders did improve among Latinos from 2016 to 2020, allowing him to win California and put up a stronger fight in Texas this time around. But he couldn’t repeat his performance among the non-college-educated whites who’d clearly favored him over Hillary Clinton, especially in the Midwest. Reporters have noted that the Sanders campaign’s theory of the electorate was misguided: He avoided retail politics in the hope that his message would eventually carry the day — that the masses would be spontaneously drawn into the movement, in Lenin’s formulation. As Joe Simonson observes in the Washington Examiner, the Vermont senator’s predictions of massive turnout were proven wrong repeatedly, suggesting he’d built his battle plan on materialist theory rather than political reality.

In fact, the triumph of theory over reality may have doomed Sanders’s second run for the White House. The American working class has plenty of social moderates and conservatives, but his campaign elevated such figures as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Linda Sarsour, beloved by the Democratic Party’s activist class and controversial outside of it. He walked back his 2016-era border hawkishness and replaced it with activist-endorsed “abolish ICE” messaging. His campaign declined to forthrightly make its case to black voters out of academic concern that Sanders “couldn’t speak on behalf of people of color” because he “doesn’t have those experiences.”

But then, Sanders has never successfully navigated American political institutions to generate the kind of overwhelming enthusiasm he’d need to either pass genuinely transformative policies in the Senate or expand his voter base in elections. That suggests a tension between the imperatives of democratic politics and the uncompromising nature of his own brand, which fed the perception that he was “unelectable.” Among his backers, this perception was often blamed on “subservience to the economic-powers-that-be” among moderates and political pundits. It’s a convenient explanation: The candidate wasn’t at fault, his voters were just being duped by the corporate media and political establishment. But as political scientists Matthew Grossman and William Isaac have written, the failure of redistributive economic policies may owe more to the procedural elements of American political institutions, which require deliberation and compromise, than to any rigging of the system against working-class interests.

4. Whatever you do, writes Jim Geraghty, don’t trust the Chicoms’ Coronavirus timeline. From the piece:

If you want a good laugh, compare the Chinese government’s official timeline of the virus, which contends “cases of pneumonia of unknown cause” were only detected in “late December,” with the one I put together a few weeks ago. You know, the one with links to all sources. (I cannot express the astronomical frustration with the ninnies on social media who dismiss these reports with ‘it’s all BS’ when, with less than a calorie of effort, they could click through and see that the information is accurately quoted.)

I guess that timeline depends on how the Chinese government defines “late,” as the Chinese CDC itself previously said they noticed cases starting on December 21, and the first symptoms in the first patient manifested December 1. That genomic study found “an early expansion” of cases on December 8. By Christmas, hospitals in Wuhan had already quarantined doctors who had treated patients and caught the virus themselves.

The only mention of Dr. Li Wenliang in the Chinese government’s timeline is on March 19, marking the Wuhan Public Security Bureau’s decision to revoke the previous reprimand letter and apologize to Li’s family over the mistake. Someone who read this timeline as their only source of information on the virus would have no idea who this doctor was or why the security bureau reprimanded him or subsequently apologized.

5. The experts lied about masks. Kyle Smith, with real expertise, unmasks the Expertocracy. From the piece:

There has been a lot of talk since, oh, approximately November 8, 2016, about the relative use and reliability of experts, elites — our betters. We’re told that we need experts more than ever. One guy out there has profitably positioned himself as the meta-expert, the expert on expertise who expertly informs us of what the experts are saying over at the Experts’ Club.

In the U.K., the debate on experts hit a new level on the third of June, 2016, when Conservative cabinet minister and leading Brexit campaigner Michael Gove said, “I think the people of this country have had enough of experts.” This instantly became the defining absurdity of the Brexit referendum, and was pilloried and mocked nonstop. Ho ho, said the pundits, when Gove goes in for gall-bladder surgery, I’ll bet he’d rather be cut into by an expert than a bloke from down the pub!

The mocking changed its tone when Brexit carried the day on June 23, 2016, with more Britons voting for it than had ever voted for anything in the thousand-year history of the country. Now Gove’s remark became the source of the ashen taste in the mouths of Remoaner metropolitan elites bewailing how provincial troglodytes, geriatrics, and Little Englanders had dashed their rationalist, internationalist dreams.

And then Gove was fully vindicated. He turned out to be 100 percent correct.

6. If there is a global virus, says Michael Brendan Dougherty, it’s the Chinese Communist Party. From the article:

The China problem in international organizations goes beyond internationalist institutions in which the Chinese state is a member; it goes to Chinese-backed enterprises that act as arms of the Chinese state. Using the vast resources of the state, telecom company Huawei has been able to clear the field of other competitors and muscle up against Ericsson for dominance of the European mobile-phone market. Polish and German authorities have had to raid Huawei offices for the spying the company does. But the lack of options in a market in which they compete has meant that even after incidents such as this, Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to have Huawei build part of the United Kingdom’s 5G infrastructure. If trust is burned up in this crisis, major European powers need to think about fostering their own “national champion” corporations to retain control over the infrastructure that is part of their national security.

There is even a moral corruption that spreads from China to American companies and consumers. As part of its attempt at cultural genocide of Muslims around Kashgar in the west of China, a program was introduced to spread Muslim workers around China on rotation. These half-imprisoned victims of persecution have been placed at major contractors that build products for Apple. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has made his position against religious-liberty laws in the United States clear in the past. He should be asked repeatedly whether Apple has investigated whether Uighur Muslims have been transferred from involuntary detention to involuntary labor on the products he sells.

7. Big Brother loves a crisis. Charlie Peters reports how in the U.K., he’s empowered the neighborhood snitchers and henchmen. From the piece:

Derbyshire police have been using drones to keep the eye of the state on people wandering to beauty spots — an action I remember mocking the CCP for doing just a few months ago. One clip, which they gleefully shared on Twitter, showed two people pausing for an “unnecessary selfie” while taking a “non-essential walk.”

How quickly we have lapsed into statism.

Police have also taken to cycling around London parks and telling off citizens for enjoying “non-essential exercise,” such as a brief stroll and rest in the sun in a park away from their cramped and miserable flats. Just last week, a woman was fined £660 for being at Newcastle Central train station and “failing to provide identity or reasons for travel to police.” She soon found out that this crime doesn’t exist.

This is intolerable. British police are governed by the beautiful and freedom-preserving philosophy of policing by consent, which refers to the Peelian principles. Named after Prime Minister Robert Peel — the “father of modern policing” — the nine principles were issued to every officer from 1829 onward.

For reasons of succinctness, I won’t list them all. But my favorite is the fifth, which commands policemen to “seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law.”

They have failed this principle. A host of popular media figures has been demanding tighter restrictions, with shock jock extraordinaire Piers Morgan — who once polluted American screens on his ghastly CNN show — being particularly vociferous. He has regularly called people relaxing in London parks “traitors” and urged severe punishment.

8. David Harsanyi belittles the Left’s jihad against hydroxychloroquine. From the piece:

The Left simply can’t accept that a Republican acts in good faith. If they’re not hiding some devious self-serving motivation, they’re under the thumb of a foreign power or a shadowy industry. If it’s not Big Oil leading George Bush into Iraq, it’s Mitt Romney trying to hand the country to his buddies at Bain Capital.

Working from this predetermined position, reporters are sure that Trump, who they think became president to fill the rooms in his D.C. hotel, isn’t merely peddling hope for hope’s sake alone.

All of this is just fodder for the screeching partisan minions, nothing else. If there were a healthy, functioning fourth column, a piece like this would never run.  Can you imagine any major publication running a piece linking Barack Obama’s praise of GM’s heavily subsidized electric-car manufacturing to a thousand bucks in a mutual fund?

Nor should it escape your attention that the New York Times will assign four reporters to write an amateurish hit job, but not a single one to mention serious rape allegations against the leading Democratic Party presidential candidate by a former staffer.

When Trump first mentioned hydroxychloroquine, reporters scoured the world to find overdose cases so they could claim the president had blood on his hands. When that effort came up short, they clutched pearls after some nitwit couple thought it wise to ingest fish-tank cleaning liquid. Now this.

9. More Harsanyi: David attacks Democrats’ unconstitutional efforts to federalize elections. From the piece:

I’m sorry, but you have no constitutional “right” to vote by mail. You have no constitutional “right” to vote six days after an election is over. Nor do you have any “right” to censor information related to an election. Not even during a pandemic.

This week, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal court was not empowered to overwrite Wisconsin’s election laws and force the state to accept ballots without any postmark deadline nearly a week after the election. Likewise, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Governor Tony Evers did not have the authority to arbitrarily suspend in-person voting.

And as Timothy Sandefur, Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute, points out, the Supreme Court decision notes that the district court created “a subsequent order enjoining the public release of any election results for six days after election day.”

By forcing Wisconsin to keep voting alive for nearly a week after they were meant to close, the district court realized that late voters would have information regarding election results, so it tried to shut down legally mandated reporting requirements. Sandefur tells me that “enjoining the truthful communication of legal information is a violation of the First Amendment. A prior restraint, even! About election results! Which is one of the most insane violations of the Constitution I’ve ever heard of.”

If these dictates had been allowed to stand, they would have created insanely destructive precedents, taking elections out of the hands of local legislatures. If we discard legal norms every time there’s a crisis, we no longer have a nation of laws, but a country at the mercy of arbitrary decrees, emotional appeals, and pliable courts.

10. Will America emerge from the crisis as a crybaby state? Victor Davis Hanson has some thoughts. From the piece:

Post-virus America can awake from this epidemic and economic shutdown in one of two different ways.

One, we can wake up as we did on December 8, 1941, to ensure that Americans control their own fundamentals of life — food, fuel, medicine, and strategic industries — without dependency on illiberal regimes. The military can refocus our defenses against nuclear missiles, cyberwarfare, and biological weapons. On the home front, diversity is fine, but in a national crisis as serious as this one, the unity that arises from confidence in shared American citizenship saves lives.

Our other choice is to keep bickering and suffering amnesia, remaining as vulnerable as we were in the past.

We can scapegoat and play the blame game. We can talk not of an America in crisis, but of the virus’ effects on particular groups. We can decide that it is mean or even racist and xenophobic to hold the Chinese government accountable for its swath of viral destruction — and so we will not.

We can ridicule the idea of Americans again making their own things and call it protectionism or economic chauvinism. We can conduct endless congressional inquiries about who said what and when about the virus, and perhaps reopen impeachment.

Or we can have bipartisan commissions decide how best to return key industries to the U.S., prepare for the next epidemic, and pay down the enormous debt we have incurred to defeat COVID-19.

11. Down in the basement, Joe Biden is cranking up a gender / sex platform. John Hirschauer looks in its political Xs and Ys. From the analysis:

Biden also promises to “decriminalize HIV exposure and transmission,” because such laws — all together, now! — “perpetuate discrimination and stigma towards people with HIV/AIDS.” Perhaps there is a reasonable case to be made that some anti-exposure laws are unduly punitive (some states punish HIV-positive persons who spit in public, for instance, yet spitting poses no threat of viral transmission). But those who could be unwittingly exposed to HIV might prefer keeping “discrimination and stigma” against deliberate exposure in place. Again, if Joe Biden thinks these concerns are irrational or bigoted, he should say so.

A third prong of the Biden proposal suggests enacting measures to change “underlying attitudes” about “LGBTQ+ issues” through “public information campaigns.” What these “campaigns” will look like in practice needs explicit definition. Will the federal government spend taxpayer dollars on a “public information campaign” to remind the masses that not all men have penises? This is left to our imagination. And it is not hard to imagine a “public information campaign” directed at insubordinate churches that cling (bitterly?) to their Bibles and maintain fealty to their bimillennial faith’s dogma on human sexuality. The latter is not much of a stretch when one considers what Joe Biden (or the handlers who drafted his proposal) thinks of the legitimacy of those moral commitments. Biden also pledges to “reverse” religious-freedom carveouts pursued by the Trump administration to ensure “that no one is turned away from a business or refused service by a government official just because of who they are or who they love.” Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop and others who actually believe their faiths to be true and not mere lifestyle accoutrements to be brandished when fashionable figure to be excluded from the regime of “equality” pursued by the Biden administration.

What’s most unclear from Biden’s proposal is its purpose. He does not spell out in precise language how the various interest groups in the “community” in question have yet to attain the “equality” his plan is ostensibly meant to help them achieve. The only thing that is clear is that “tolerance,” in the traditional understanding of that word, is not the plan’s principal aim.

12. There’s nothing — including a viral pathogen and pandemic — that the Left can’t and won’t racialize. Zaid Jilani slaps the effort. From the piece:

We’ve seen this story before, with crime. In many parts of America, African Americans are overrepresented versus their share of the population in crime statistics. For years, racist demagogues used this fact to claim that criminality was a feature of African Americans. But eventually, social scientists discarded simple univariate analysis and learned to correlate factors such as social inequality, the prevalence of the drug trade, and low-quality policing as the true culprits that drive crime — among blacks, whites, and virtually every other group. The news media, wisely, moved away from focusing on the race of criminal perpetrators, coming to understand that race is merely a social fiction, not useful for correlating to complex problems that impact people of all backgrounds.

We should remember that when we think about the pandemic.

A young, healthy African-American with great health-care coverage who telecommutes every day and has groceries delivered to his door is not automatically at higher risk of contracting the virus or succumbing to it than an elderly white man who rides the subway to work every morning to work at an essential business where he interacts with hundreds of people a day.

The causal variable here is almost certainly not race. Although the virus is not perfectly understood, it is much more likely that factors such as underlying health conditions drive death rates, not race. There’s also the reality that a virus spreads person to person. It will take detailed analysis by epidemiologists and others to understand how the virus spread from neighborhood to neighborhood. In the south Georgia town of Albany, for instance, we know that the outbreak emerged primarily from a crowded funeral. Why is there a much more severe viral outbreak in Detroit than Baltimore, despite some overlap in demographics? Univariate analysis can only tell us so much.

13. More Kyle: He watches the new special and once again makes the case for controversial comedian Louis C. K. From the piece:

“I’m not a good person,” Louis C.K. says near the top of his new one-hour special. We heard. Do I want Louis C.K. making s’mores with my kid’s Girl Scout troop? No, I do not. And if I were a woman, I might be reluctant to be alone with him. (On the other hand, I might just remember that I have the right to walk away if anything weird starts to happen.) Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about these things, and neither do you. As comedy consumers, none of us has to be in the room with Louis C.K. We can benefit from his brilliance without having to deal with his perversion.

The new special, Sincerely Louis C.K., which is being offered on his website for eight bucks, is much like all of his previous ones: It’s wild and acidic. It’s misanthropic, it’s twisted, it ventures into some forbidding dark corners of psychic crawlspace, where the spiders and the worms lurk. These characteristics make it more interesting, not less. They’re also markers of how C.K. has been doing comedy his entire career. C.K. is back, and he’s just the same as before, though some observers are pretending otherwise.

The title is not ironic: He is sincerely trying to tell something like the truth about what it’s like to be the person he is, a severely flawed man of the early 21st century. Louis C.K. has always invited us to consider the comedy payoff of rolling with our worst thoughts instead of cutting them off before they get disturbing. This means that being inappropriate is now, as it always has been, central to his act. There’s a joke about rape along these lines. It’s horrible, but it’s also very funny. It’s funny because it’s horrible: The horribleness is the point. Our comic selves venture into places our other selves dare not go. C.K. is a master at exploring that divergence, leading us down one path and then veering shockingly off course. C.K. went to one of those advanced European cities where there are eight different recycling bins on the curb for different types of garbage, and he was annoyed by this. One bin has a drawing of a cup on it. Another bin has a drawing of a slightly different type of cup. “I’m standing there with a dead baby, what am I supposed to do with that?” he asks.

14. Even More Kyle: He ruminates on the Tiger King craze, and crazies . . . and finds it crazy good. From the review:

To date, Netflix has moved heaven and earth — and spent enough money to buy both — to keep us subscribing, but its brand has become a synonym for lackluster-to-pretty-good entertainment. Tiger King isn’t pretty good. It’s stellar, it’s breathtaking, it’s essential. Your jaw will drop, it’ll drop some more, it’ll fall out of your mouth, it’ll bore through the floor, and then it’ll keep dropping until it comes to rest in the center of the earth. Tiger King may be the first series (five hours spread out over seven episodes, with one more in the works) Netflix has ever produced that you absolutely must see if you want to consider yourself culturally au courant. It’s one of the most amazing things ever produced for television.

Released without much fanfare on March 20 as America was going into hibernation, Tiger King arrived concurrently with a crucial technical innovation on Netflix’s part that will prove essential to its survival as Hollywood’s leading studios withdraw their programs to put them on their own streaming services. In retrospect, it’s amazing that Netflix didn’t think of this before, but it now provides a top-ten list indicating the most popular programs of the moment. This is an Uno reverse card dealt to social distancing: calling up Netflix is no longer a solitary pursuit, isolated from societal trends. Watching movies started out as a group activity, and so did television. But before Netflix started offering a most-watched queue, scrolling through its menu was a dispiriting, frustrating experience: How were we supposed to know which of these thousands of options we should be watching? Now that there’s a ranking system, we know what is capturing people’s attention. We know what others are thinking and talking about. Netflix has now looped us back in with our neighbors. TV is once again a shared experience, as it was for those 60 years when everyone watched Uncle Miltie or Ed Sullivan or Happy Days or Seinfeld or The Sopranos at the same time. Man, we are reminded yet again, is a social animal. If a show is No. 1 on Netflix for any length of time, it’s automatically of interest. It may not be any good, but popularity is useful information.

15. Ed Burton assesses the stimulus packages. There are reasons for concern. From the piece:

It is worth a pause to reflect on the views of economists on this situation. Almost all modern academic monetary models suggest that inflation will not respond to changes in the growth rate of the money supply. Think about that one for a minute. If expanding the money supply has only negligible effects on inflation, then what possible downside could there be from expanding the money supply to finance ordinary, routine government expenditures? Why do countries bother with tax collections at all? Simply issue sovereign debt, have your central bank buy it, and there will be no downside since no inflation will result.

Increasing the money supply by dramatic amounts in an economy where output is constrained by law is not likely to be benign and non-inflationary. Again, where does this money go, if not to higher prices for a declining amount of goods and services.

It is often argued that this kind of inflationary takeoff simply cannot happen in a collapsed economy. What Germany’s Weimar Republic went through in 1923 suggests otherwise. Several Latin-American countries pursued a similar strategy in the mid-20th century with results that were qualitatively similar to the experience of Germany in 1923.

So it can happen and it has happened: inflation within a collapsed economy. Stimuluses cannot increase real output in an economy where such an increase is forbidden by law. But the stimuluses of Spring 2020 can provide a boost to the prices of goods and services. Such stimuluses can also slip over into liquid-asset markets and slow the inevitable slide in global stock markets, at least for a while.

16. Jerry Hendrix states the naval need for frigates in the battle against Venezuelan thug Maduro’s drug incursions. From the analysis:

Counter-drug operations are clearly a critical mission for the United States, given the tragedy of addictions and deaths associated with illicit-drug use and their impact on American families and the economy. The argument can even be made that the use of U.S. military assets to carry out that mission is appropriate: Stability is of strategic importance, as is maintaining laws and norms in the Western hemisphere. Furthermore, increasing levels of Chinese activity and investment in the Western hemisphere make it ever-more important for the U.S. military to have a highly visible presence in the region. We cannot be strong abroad if we are weakened at home; there must be no doubt that the Western hemisphere is our home, and that we are in charge.

Nevertheless, the use of destroyers for this particular purpose raises concerns. At $1.8 billion each, Arleigh Burke–class destroyers are among the world’s most expensive and technologically advanced weapons systems. Many of these ships are engaged in ballistic-missile defense and other high-end missions around the world. Although there is great demand for the vessels to support complex engagements, they are engaged all too often in low-end missions such as Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea or naval-presence patrols in any of the numerous maritime regions of the globe where U.S. regional combatant commanders have identified important U.S. national interests and have asked for ships to support them. These missions have the appearance of overkill, as a highly technically specialized warship is used for purposes that rank low in terms of technical requirements, such as providing naval presence in places like the Gulf of Guinea or taking part in counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Oman.

So why are high-end ships being used so consistently to do low-end missions, of which counter-drug operations in the Caribbean and Pacific are yet another example? The answer is that the Navy doesn’t have the low-end ships to match with those missions.

“Low-end” refers traditionally to frigates and corvettes that are smaller than destroyers or cruisers, have smaller crews, lower sensor-system and weapons complexity, and lower costs so that navies can purchase them in larger numbers to perform day-to-day presence, escort, surveillance, and interdiction missions. British admiral Horatio Nelson referred to frigates as the “eyes” of the fleet, and historically corvettes were designed to be small enough to operate in an enemy’s close-to-shore littoral regions. By this standard the U.S. Navy’s littoral-combat ships would normally be considered corvettes. Although the Navy has purchased 30 of them, these ships have not been as effective as the Navy had hoped, with nearly all of them presenting difficulties with their combat systems. To fulfill the counter-drug mission described by the president and his team, what the Navy and the Southern Command really need is frigates, and fortunately, they should be coming soon.

17. David Randall charges John Turner’s recent NRO piece criticizing the 1619 Project with missing the point. From the beginning of the piece:

Of course the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620 explains American history. Of course the 1619 Project’s shoddy exercise in vituperation is meant to delegitimize America. John G. Turner’s recent article in National Review is an extended exercise in missing the point.

Turner, a scholar of the history of American religion, and the author of a recent book on the Plymouth colony, surveys the debate about the New York Times’s 1619 Project with the traditional attitude of a liberal scholar — a facile resort to moral equivalence.

Turner, positioning himself as the neutral and expert arbiter, frames the 1619 Project and its critics as equally mistaken — the one unduly obsessed with the 1619 arrival of blacks in Virginia as the foundation of an America built on slavery, and the other unduly obsessed with the 1620 arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, as the foundation of an America built on liberty. Neither view, says Turner, is correct. Nor are views of America as built on liberty in 1776 or 1787. All the supposed foundations of liberty are compromised by racism or elitism: The proper way to understand America is to look at the endless details of Americans’ flaws, and not their sweeping aspirations.

Turner’s entire approach is misguided. To begin with, he obscures the 1619 Project’s entirely unprofessional abuse of historical facts to create a denigratory Black Legend of American history — an abuse entirely absent in the 1619 Project’s critics.

18. In South America, it’s not just the Wuhan-brewed pathogen that’s causing societal havoc. Per Otto Reich and Orlando Gutierrez Boronat, socialism and communism continue to plague the continent. From the piece:

Latin American democracies concurrently face the resurgence of a familiar, yet lethal, virus. Across the region, the ideological disease of collectivist totalitarianism still infects the unprepared or those looking for simple solutions. With the regional epicenter of the ideological contagion in Cuba, the influence of totalitarian tendencies is felt throughout the region.

Venezuela and Nicaragua remain under the grip of despotic regimes. Bolivia, which successfully prevented Evo Morales from consolidating a tyrannical socialist regime, may now face a relapse because of bickering among pro-democracy factions. In Chile, for 30 years a shining light of democracy and free-market economics in the region, a violent anarcho-Communist insurrection has hijacked what was a citizen drive for social reforms. Rapid modernization processes, such as Chile’s, often include segments of a population that lag behind or lack instruments of inclusion. The sane way to heal this is through the expansion of the democratic compact, and the generation of new opportunities through universal education and more economic freedom.  But reform is not the goal of the anarcho-Communists in Chile. It is destruction of democracy itself, in order to build a socialist revolution. The violence in the streets of Santiago and other cities is a premeditated effort by collectivists to destroy the free-market economic model because it was based on individual freedom, and because the Marxists could not abide a capitalist model that had consistently reduced extreme poverty. The radical agenda of the riots’ leaders, who publicly call for Chile to follow the path of Cuba and Venezuela, is a threat to the freedom, democracy, and pluralistic economy that country has developed.

Ironically, in Cuba, a country pauperized by a Marxist model for the past 61 years, there is a growing public cry demanding change. The dissent movement in Cuba is organic, emerging from diverse nuclei in the population. It often arises as a leaderless resistance, a natural response to the pervasive police-state repression of individual rights.

For over a year, even before coronavirus, protests grew. Millions of Cubans boycotted a regime-sponsored referendum, despite “voting” being enforced by the Communist Party’s mass organizations. The LGBT community carried out a large protest, and bloggers publicly gathered in Havana to demand an end to censorship. Protesting crowds forced the dreaded “Black Beret” repressive forces to retreat in Santiago de Cuba, while hundreds of protesters in the central city of Santa Clara marched in protest against the offices of the Communist Party, after a large informal public market in Santa Clara was closed down as part of the regime’s ruthless use of food rations to control the population. A protracted, year-long strike by independent transport workers broke the myth that concerted citizen resistance efforts can be stopped by the regime’s security forces.

Crash Brad Birzer’s Class

You might dig the Hillsdale prof’s distance-lecturing, like this Friday’s lecture on Ideology and Communism. Watch it here.

Bats in the Wuhan Belfry

1. Jim Geraghty traces the viral origins. Find it here:

2. The day before, Jim had authored a stellar piece, “All Signs Point to China.” Find it here.

3. Jim offers a primer on bat soup. Here it is.

4. This video, by Matthew Tye, seconds the motion of where it all began, and that complete blame belongs to the Chinese Communist Party. Watch it here.

Related: Tye’s new video on the shocking appointment of Uyghur-torturing, Falun Gong-organ-removing Red China to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Watch it here.

Podcastapalooza

1. At Radio Free California, Will and special guest Edward Ring describe the homeless living on the beach during the plague, the financial crisis coming to your city, and their hope that the economic shutdown will lead to a transformation in California politics. Surf’s up, here.

2. At The Bookmonger, John J. Miller chats with Congressman Dan Crenshaw about his new book, Fortitude. Catch it here.

3. More JJM, at his The Great Books podcast, where in the new episode he is joined by Meghan Cox Gurdon of the Wall Street Journal to discuss Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Your wisdom grows here.

4. On the new episode of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Kevin and Charlie discuss farming, and touch on humanity’s fascination with the quirks of famous individuals. Hear here.

5. On The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss Trump’s performance during this crisis and express concern over British prime minister Boris Johnson’s hospitalization. Listen up, here.

6. On The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, our star and his utterly annoying co-host discuss the gloomy Eeyore–channeling prognosticators and the strategic upside of their being always pessimistic; the sheer amount of deaths from other diseases, and how they prompt no American shut-down; South Dakota governor Kristi Noem’s bucking the one-size-fits-all epidemic-policy response; how COVID-19 has achieved Advantaged Disease status; the EU’s failure to bear its rightful burden for global safety and security; and President Trump’s favorable/unfavorable numbers. Grab the headphones and listen, here.

The Six

1. At Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern believes the coronavirus economic wallop may signal the end of the Euro. From the report:

On March 26, EU leaders, during a virtual summit held by video conference, were unable to agree on an economic response to the coronavirus. A day earlier, nine eurozone countries — Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain — called for a common debt instrument, called “coronabonds,” to mitigate the damage caused by the coronavirus crisis. “We are all facing a symmetric external shock, for which no country bears responsibility, but whose negative consequences are endured by all,” they said in a letter.

Austria, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, dubbed the eurozone’s “frugal four,” rejected the idea of issuing joint debt to finance economic recovery in Southern Europe. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that issuing joint debt would be “crossing the Rubicon” because it would turn the eurozone into a “transfer union” in a way that was not foreseen by the Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union and laid the foundation for the single currency. “I cannot foresee any circumstance under which we will change our position,” he said.

Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra, in a letter to parliament, warned that coronabonds would introduce the threat of “moral hazard” by disincentivizing economic reform in debt-ridden Southern Europe. He also called on the European Commission, the EU’s administrative arm, to investigate why countries such as Italy and Spain have not made adequate economic reforms since the 2008 financial crisis.

A European diplomat quoted by the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant described Hoekstra’s comments as a “serious insult” to Southern Europe. Another diplomat said that the comments were a “Dutch middle finger to the south.”

2. I-rrivederci? At The American Conservative, Francesco Giubilei ponders whether Italy will try to escape the European Union. From the piece:

Why don’t the countries of southern Europe (and Ireland, which has joined them) want to accept the use of the resources of the ESM? Journalist Nicola Porro, one of the most well-known voices in the world of the Italian center right-wing, put it this way in one of his popular videos: accepting the ESM would risk putting Italy into receivership administered by a reborn “troika” consisting of the ECB, the EU and the IMF—just as happened in Greece in 2008. The risk of accepting those resources today could prove fatal since the conditions of the loan would most likely change after the emergency ends.

The fear of the center-right parties, in particular Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia and Matteo Salvini’s Lega, is that the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will end up accepting the ESM, which will probably be packaged and presented differently, but in substance will remain the same.

The current crisis cannot be compared to that of 2008. In 2008, Europe faced a financial crisis with economic and social consequences. Today, we face a public health emergency, which means that the emotional aspect also plays an important role. How do you tell an entrepreneur from Lombardy, one of the wealthiest regions in Europe with a GDP higher than many regions of Germany, that the European Union allocated ten days to discuss and find a solution—in the middle of a pandemic, when lives are at stake? How do you explain that to someone who has worked for a lifetime, paid taxes, provided jobs to many people and who has probably lost his father, a friend, or an employee to the coronavirus in a matter of days?

Even if the European Union continues to function in a political and formal sense, emotionally, for the majority of the citizens of Mediterranean countries it no longer exists. If tomorrow morning a consultative referendum were held in Italy with an online vote, 80 percent of Italians would likely favor an exit. Not only conservative and center right parties have opposed the current European Union, but for the first time, many liberal and left-wing citizens have also taken sides against the EU as they observe their response to the pandemic and the perceived indifference to Italy’s fate.

3. More from TAC: Robert Merry believes the pandemic’s disruptive force might unleash a populist revolution. From the piece:

In domestic terms, the status quo has been characterized by relatively porous borders, the financialization of the U.S. economy, deindustrialization, anti-nationalism, a liberal political hegemony on social and cultural issues enforced through political correctness, and an oligarchy of bigness–Wall Street’s big finance, Washington’s big government, big corporations throughout the country, big labor representing increasingly well-off public employees, and self-aggrandizing state and local governments.

This status quo is facing increasing hostility from vast numbers of ordinary Americans who feel that the elites and the big institutions they dominate have hijacked the American system for their own exploitation. In his Wall Street Journal column the other day, Walter Russell Mead suggested a good way of assessing the magnitude of this anti-establishment sentiment would be to combine Donald Trump’s political base (about 43 percent of the electorate, by most assessments) with Bernie Sanders’s base (36 percent of Democratic voters in the latest Real Clear Politics poll average; hence, 13 percent of the electorate). That, he said, suggests that fully 55 percent of U.S. voters “now support politicians who openly despise the central assumptions of the political establishment.”

This knot of political hostility stems from the perceived follies perpetrated over the last half-century or so by the meritocratic elite–endless Middle East wars without victory or even much of a point; immigration laxity to the point of serious assimilation challenges; the outsourcing of our industrial capacity to the point where other nations, particularly China, control the distribution of goods and products that are crucial to U.S. military preparedness and citizen safety and health; a student-debt crisis that thwarts upward mobility of the nation’s young; a spree of fiscal irresponsibility that saddles cities and states with irrepressible pension debt while leaving untended massive infrastructure imperatives; and financial disruption throughout Middle America stemming from the hollowing out of the country’s industrial base.

The central reality of American politics today is the gulf between, on one hand, the nation’s elites and their primary constituency groups (minorities, academics, government employees, and well-off urban/suburbanites) and, on the other hand, that 55 percent of the electorate characterized by Walter Russell Mead as being motivated primarily by an abiding hostility to what Mead calls “the self-proclaimed expert class.”

4. More EU Crackup: At The Imaginative Conservative, Joseph Pearce looks at an ignored EU judicial dictat and the consequences of defiance. From the beginning of the piece:

On April 2, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU’s “supreme court,” ruled that its member nations have no right to control their borders, unless they have first gained the EU’s permission to do so. This, at least was the essence of the ruling, which appertained to the migrant crisis of 2015 and which reprimanded those countries that had refused to open their doors to the mandatory quota of migrants that the EU had sought to impose on them.

“By refusing to comply with the temporary mechanism for the relocation of applicants for international protection,” the Court of Justice said in its ruling, “Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have failed to fulfil their obligations under European Union law.”

Seeing through the EU’s jargon, these three countries believed that the vast majority of the migrants were not “applicants for international protection” but were merely economic migrants from mostly Muslim countries seeking illegal entry into Europe, amongst whom might be many potential terrorists. “The most important goal of government policy is to ensure security for our citizens,” said Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller. “Our actions were dictated by the interests of Polish citizens and defending [the country] against uncontrolled migration.”

The EU’s Court of Justice also stipulated in its ruling that “those Member States can rely neither on their responsibilities concerning the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security, nor on the alleged malfunctioning of the relocation mechanism to avoid implementing that mechanism.” Let’s reiterate what this court ruling states, as outrageous as it is, in order to fully comprehend its tyrannous nature. The member states of the European Union have no legal right to safeguard their own internal security, nor even maintain law and order, if the EU orders them to do something that endangers both. This is nothing less than imperialism of the most egregious sort, riding roughshod over any semblance of subsidiarity, which the EU claims that its members possess.

5. At The College Fix, Daniel Payne reports on a retired epidemiologist and his ignored warnings about battling the coronavirus. From the article:

A veteran scholar of epidemiology has warned that the ongoing lockdowns throughout the United States and the rest of the world are almost certainly just prolonging the coronavirus outbreak rather than doing anything to truly mitigate it.

Knut Wittkowski, previously the longtime head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at the Rockefeller University in New York City, said in an interview with the Press and the Public Project that the coronavirus could be “exterminated” if we permitted most people to lead normal lives and sheltered the most vulnerable parts of society until the danger had passed.

“[W]hat people are trying to do is flatten the curve. I don’t really know why. But, what happens is if you flatten the curve, you also prolong, to widen it, and it takes more time. And I don’t see a good reason for a respiratory disease to stay in the population longer than necessary,” he said.

6. At Newsweek, Peter Roff agrees that a Coronavirus Commission needs to be created — as long as its members are appointed by President Trump. From the column:

There should be a commission, ideally appointed by the president, that looks at all aspects of the COVID-19 crisis with special concentration on the way federal and state governments failed the citizens who put them in office.

Such a commission, if it were bipartisan and composed of heavyweights from the fields of medicine, government and industry, could do a lot to help us understand how and why things got as far as they did. A panel led by the likes of former Vice President Dick Cheney or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for the Republicans and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta or former Governor Jerry Brown for the Democrats would immediately command the public’s respect. They’ve demonstrated at one time or another that they’re not afraid to ask hard questions and follow the truth where it leads. More important, they would not shy away from making tough recommendations regarding future economic, health and national security needs—even if they might upset the institutions and political allies that once gave them their considerable power.

The other members of the commission should be those who have valuable, relevant experience in both the private and public sectors. Former Vermont Democratic Governor Howard Dean is a medical doctor. Former Michigan Republican Governor John Engler, after he left office, went on to run the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable. The ideal candidate, my former boss, Bush 43 Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, is unavailable; he passed away too soon. Yet there are plenty of other strong candidates who have served in government and have backgrounds in the hard sciences, health care, finance or engineering.

Baseballery

In which we discuss the Detroit Tigers, hopefully to the pleasure of Editor Phil . . .

It may have been the original Old Timer’s Day, the final regular season game of 1934, between the World Series–bound Detroit Tigers, sporting right-handed ace Tommy Bridges, and the 67–85 St. Louis Browns, going nowhere fast (then, and for the next decade). The AL champs prevailed, 6–2 (it was the second game of a Sunday doubleheader, and the Tigers took the first contest too, 10–6, with Browns starter Bobo Newsom — in the worst start of his storied career, and that’s saying something — unable to register an out, on his way to his league-leading 20th loss).

But: The Browns won the story.

Game Two, sixth inning: Trailing 4–0, Browns manager Rogers Hornsby, who still dabbled on occasion as a player (and would until 1937), yanked starter George Blaeholder and created history when he chose to pinch-hit for him 58-year-old coach Charles Timothy O’Leary. The one-time starting shortstop for the Tigers, back in the ‘00s, had last played in an MLB game in 1913, when the 37-year-old played shortstop for the basement-dwelling St. Louis Cardinals.

Leading off the sixth, facing Tiger reliever Elden Auker, O’Leary singled, and later that inning scored the Browns’ first run. He’d be the oldest man to ever to register a hit and score a run in a baseball game.

More fun followed. In the top of the seventh, the relatively youthful (38) Hornsby put himself in the lineup, pinch-hitting (he made an out). And then in the bottom of the frame, The Rajah pulled another stunt that would have warmed the cockles of AARP.

Late that season, with an emergency need for a back-up catcher, the Browns had conscripted their 45-year-old coach Grover Hartley to strap on the tools of ignorance. He had caught his first game in 1911 (the then-23-year-old’s battery mate was the great Rube Marquard), and on this September Sunday he did so one final time when Hornsby yanked starting catcher Rollie Hemsley, replacing him with the man known as “Slick.” It proved another historic event: Hartley’s appearance would be the last time anyone who had played in the Federal League (he wore the mask for the St. Louis Terriers in each of its two seasons, 1914–15) would play in an MLB game.

Hartley caught the seventh and eighth innings, and closed out the game in his last career at bat, making out to end another dismal season for the Browns.

Oh yes: Rounding out the Browns’ geritocracy that day was 34-year-old Oscar Donald Melillo, the starting second baseman better known as “Ski,” but also formally nicknamed “Spinach” — he was said by some to be the inspiration for Popeye. The youngster went 0 for 4 in the nightcap.

And: Rest in Peace Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline.

A Dios

Why the flattening? Perhaps your prayers mattered, eh? To my Brothers and Sisters in Abraham, Happy Passover. To my Brothers and Sisters of the New Testament, He is Risen, which means, so too may you be. What more is there to say, except for — if you behave.

God’s Healing Blessings on His Creation, Including You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, reachable with insinuations and blackmail threats at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

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