Dear Weekend Jolter,
A statement of fact: John O’Sullivan is a wonderful writer, his prose reflective of the man. His formal abode these past few years has been Budapest, which proves the cliché “nice work if you can get it.” With his glorious wife Melissa, he has been living the Central European version of locking down, and shared on NRO this week past a diary of Hungarian Hunkering, accompanied by the usual JO’S erudite commentary on foreign policy and the to-be-expected Magyar bugabooing by EUphiles. Read John’s delicious piece here.
It was important to make you aware of this at the get-go. Why? To quote my beloved mother: “Because I said so.”
Now, as for the times in which we live, we’ve mentioned in this location the great Shari Williams, who ended her sweet kids’ show with The Song that Never Ends, which might be nominated as a theme song for this quarantinery, along with Groundhog Day if you’re looking for a symbolic movie.
All such is worth mentioning again. Why? Because I said so.
As for No Place to Hide, little is known. But it does have one heck of a timely movie poster, no?
Enough! The time has come to untie the shoes, pour a double, lock the doors, and get on with the Weekend Jolt.
But First: If You Care about Viruses and Wall Street . . .
. . . then you have got to be reading David Bahnsen’s detailed, daily, mucho-information report, Covid and Markets. It is not to be missed.
But Second: Before You Read Another Word . . .
. . . please consider ordering a copy of NR senior editor David Pryce-Jones’s forthcoming book, Signatures: Literary Encounters of a Lifetime. It’s a great idea and device: David has penned dozens of vignettes of great 20th-century writers who signed and inscribed to him copies of their own books. Of course “DPJ” came to know many of these writers, some quite well, and his recollections of them, his distilling their importance (or, in some cases, their infamy), are a joy to read. Next week on NRO we’ll be running a series of excerpts from the book, so do keep watch. In most cases, you’d be damned foolish to take the word of this Insipid Correspondent about anything (except, of course, about the beauty and virtue of Mrs. Correspondent), but here do take the word: The book (galleys have been obtained and nearly every word of it read) is masterful. Maybe because it was penned by a masterful writer!
You Have Reached the Buffet Line, Where Awaits a Gut-Busting, Belt-Stretching, Heaping Array of Principle-Fortifying Main Courses, Ready to Satisfy Your Intellectual Hunger, So Pile on!
1. The Boss, Rich Lowry, respected person, looked at all the ventilator hoopla and found little to hoop about, and a lot of MSM BS-itude. From the story:
It became clear that many governors didn’t know how many ventilators their states had, and they were driven by early models that were “doomsday scenarios,” as one senior administration official puts it. Governors were also acting on the normal impulse to want to be safe, and have more than enough ventilators on hand, just in case. “If you are a governor, which is natural, you are going to over-ask because you want to be over-prepared,” the official explains.
A data team drawn from various government agencies and at the White House was created to get to the truth on the ground. It used hospital billings at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to estimate how many ventilators were in each state and how many were being utilized on any day, giving administration officials a more granular picture of what was happening in states than many governors had themselves.
Another important realization was that FEMA could do just-in-time delivery. It could get states and hospitals ventilators within 24 or 48 hours. This created a lot of flexibility. The administration could wait to see how things really played out rather than making decisions based on models that forecast what the demand might be two weeks in the future. “When you started looking at it like that,” the official says, “the numbers went down dramatically.”
And this is the key thing: The strategy was based on not sending states what they requested on their say-so. That was the opposite of the normal FEMA operating procedure. Usually, state and counties ask for things in a natural disaster, and FEMA sends them along as a matter of course. With an epidemic threatening the entire country, that way of doing things would have exhausted the federal resources immediately.
This also meant that much of the press coverage get it exactly backward. The media portrayed as an inherent failure the fact that the administration gave states a portion of their requests. (“Trump sent Arizona a fraction of the ventilators it sought,” a Vox headline said. “Republicans still framed it as a big win.”) In reality, not giving governors what they wanted was integral to the success of the overall operation.
2. More Rich: He’s not worshipping at the altar of social distancing. From the beginning of the column:
Forgive Jacksonville, Fla., for it has sinned.
The largest city in Florida partly reopened its beaches, and it became something of a national scandal. CNN ran a disapproving segment, and the hashtag #FloridaMorons trended on Twitter.
As the CNN report put it: “The scene at Jacksonville Beach wasn’t one of caution in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Crowds cheered and flooded the beach when police took the barriers down. People were seen swimming, biking, surfing, running and fishing.”
None of these activities has been shown to be a vector for the spread of COVID-19; in fact, no outdoor activities have been shown to be dangerous at all. A recent study examined hundreds of outbreaks and traced only one to an outdoor environment.
Surfers and bikers are the least of our worries. Yet, there is a segment of American opinion that takes it as its responsibility to scold and shame anyone who dares go out and get a little fresh air.
3. Schoolyard bullies threatening homeschoolers get stuffed into locker by Kyle Smith. From the beginning of the piece:
Listen carefully to the progressive Left and you may discover that when they say “democratic values,” they mean “I get to tell you what to think.” It’s nothing new to argue that the people must be forced to conform to the preferences of the cultural elites. It takes a certain mental flexibility to do this in the name of democracy.
I refer to the Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet’s stated case for why it should be illegal for you to homeschool your children in her “something must be done” cry in Harvard Magazine. Bartholet wants the state to ride in on horseback and break up all those sinister gatherings in which families go through the multiplication tables together. Or discuss the Constitution. Or — sharp intake of breath — even study the Bible.
Bartholet makes some half-hearted noises about opposing homeschooling because it supposedly leads to child abuse, or because homeschool parents are unlettered troglodytes who don’t know which end of the pencil the ink comes out of. (“People can homeschool who’ve never gone to school themselves, who don’t read or write themselves,” she claims.) These are just warmup arguments, though (dismantled here and here). Even Bartholet doesn’t really seem to believe them. The crux of her case against homeschoolers is that they might grow up thinking thoughts Bartholet does not agree with. That’s the “risk” of homeschooling.
It’s important, Bartholet tells us, “that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints.” Democratic values? Democratic means ruled by the common people, or, less literally, people making their own choices rather than being directed from the top down. What could be more bottom-up, more infused with the spirit of the demos, than individual families making their own individual curricula without a lot of state intrusion? If Bartholet desires to see the flourishing of “ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints,” discriminating against people because she is intolerant of their viewpoints is a funny way to show it.
4. More Homeschooling: Fred Bauer slams its foes as enemies of pluralism. From the essay:
A prison composed of “reading,” “writing,” “arithmatic” (yes, “arithmatic”), and the Bible. That is how an illustration in the latest issue of the Harvard Magazine portrays homeschooling. While other children run and play outside, the poor homeschooler squints out between the bars. (An updated version of this illustration changes “arithmatic” to “arithmetic.”)
The story accompanying this illustration focuses on an argument by the celebrated Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet that homeschooling “not only violates children’s right to a ‘meaningful education’ and their right to be protected from potential child abuse, but may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society.” Because of the dangers of homeschooling, Bartholet recommends that it should be presumptively banned either by the courts or various legislatures. According to federal data, a little over 3 percent of American children are currently homeschooled (about 1.7 million). This percentage has almost doubled in the past 20 years. Parents homeschool for a number of reasons, but many homeschool for religious reasons (hence, the Bible as part of the prison in that illustration).
In an extended article for the Arizona Law Review, Bartholet attacks the practice of homeschooling. While Bartholet’s argument mentions some other objections for homeschooling (such as the allegation that minimal state supervision of it may ignore child abuse), much of her argument against homeschooling turns on the questions of values. Her broader argument against homeschooling reveals the way that certain modes of political thought that prize autonomy can end up undermining pluralism. The attempt to impose a kind of cultural hegemony through mandatory, no-opt-out schooling could further inflame contemporary political debates.
5. The . . . as Andy McCarthy calls it . . . useless Senate Intelligence Committee issues a report about Russian election collusion that is as newsworthy as the sun rising in the East, and that fails to answer basic questions, never mind worthwhile ones. Oh: Let us not forget the usual media game-playing. From the analysis:
The real question is whether the Obama administration and its officials held over by the new administration fabricated a tale about the Trump campaign’s complicity in Russia’s hacking. Did they peddle that tale to the FISA court while willfully concealing key exculpatory evidence? Did they continue the investigation under the guise of counterintelligence after Trump was elected, in the hope of finding a crime over which he could be impeached? Did they consciously mislead an American president about whether he was under investigation? Did they purposefully suggest in public testimony that the president was a criminal suspect, while privately assuring him that he was not one? And finally, when the Trump-Russia collusion nonsense was collapsing in a heap, did they open a criminal obstruction case — based on an untenable legal theory and facilitated by a leak of investigative information that was orchestrated by the just-fired FBI director — in order to justify continuing the probe under the auspices of a special counsel?
On these questions, the Useless Committee’s report is silent. Indeed, the report says right up front, in the findings section, that the intelligence agencies, over the FBI’s objection, did not include information from the infamous Steele dossier in its December 30, 2016, assessment on Russian interference — though, “as a compromise to the FBI insistence,” dossier allegations were included in an annex to the assessment. The Senate-report findings do not get into why the FBI was pushing so hard on the preposterous dossier. Nor do they mention that, by the time of the assessment, the bureau had already heavily relied on the dossier to obtain a surveillance warrant from the FISA court, and was even then preparing a submission to get yet another warrant — telling the federal judges the bureau believed that the Trump campaign was conspiring with the Kremlin.
We don’t hear much about what matters from the Useless Committee. Indeed, when last we heard mention of the committee, it was because Senator Richard Burr (R., N.C.), its chairman and the ultimate insider, made news for having feverishly dumped $1.7 million in his personal stock holdings on the eve of the coronavirus market collapse.
On the matter of Trump-Russia collusion allegations, the intelligence issue that roiled the nation for three years, the Intelligence Committee has had little to say. For a while, there was some dark collusion innuendo from Burr’s friend, Senator Mark Warner (D., Va.), the ranking member on the preeningly bipartisan committee. But we haven’t heard much since Warner was caught using the Washington lobbyist of a Putin-tied oligarch to try to score a tête-à-tête with the dossier fabulist, Christopher Steele. As Warner observed at the time, in a text to the lobbyist, we’d “rather not have a paper trail” on this one.
6. Ed Whelan reads the riot act to Vox hatchet-man Ian Millhiser for a smear rant at Justice Samuel Alito. From the smackdown:
Discussing the Court’s decision on Monday in Ramos v. Louisiana requiring unanimous verdicts by juries in state criminal cases, Millhiser states that “the Court’s lead opinion pointed out [that] non-unanimous juries are a practice rooted in white supremacy” but that “[o]ne justice took umbrage with that invocation of racism: Justice Samuel Alito.”
The trusting reader might fairly think that Alito was disputing the majority’s historical account of the 19th-century adoption of non-unanimous verdicts. Only eight paragraphs later does Millhiser acknowledge that Alito was “mak[ing] a fair point”: that the re-adoption by Oregon and Louisiana of non-unanimity rules in more recent years (Oregon in 1934, Louisiana in 1974) was made “under different circumstances,” devoid of evidence of racism. Even then, Millhiser entirely omits Alito’s observation that the British Parliament and the Constitution of Puerto Rico permit non-unanimous verdicts, that the American Law Institute and the American Bar Association once advocated in their favor, and that “prominent scholars” (including Yale’s Akhil Reed Amar) have supported them.
Millhiser is also wrong to assert that only “[o]ne justice”—Alito—“took umbrage” with the majority on this point. Chief Justice Roberts joined Alito’s dissent in full (Millhiser reveals this only at the very end of his discussion of Ramos), and Justice Kagan—yes, Justice Kagan—joined all but one subpart of it, including the very part that Millhiser objects to. Millhiser obscures Kagan’s agreement with Alito by stating only that she “joined most of Alito’s opinion, most likely because Kagan is the Court’s most stalwart defender of” stare decisis. The trusting reader would not discern that she joined Alito’s supposed defense of “white racial innocence.” (His claim about Kagan on stare decisis is also dubious.)
7. Madeleine Kearns, loyal subject, praises the Queen and tweaks her narcissist grandson and his wife. From the piece:
Since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, announced earlier this year that they would be “stepping back” from their role as senior royals, they have dogged the headlines. Even as the coronavirus rages across the globe, the couple — who seem to operate according to Oscar Wilde’s mantra that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about — have managed to attract the attention of the Canadian, American, and British press, all while pretending that this is contrary to their intentions.
On Easter Sunday, the Queen spoke dutifully of the need for quiet self-sacrifice, but Harry and Meghan — newly arrived in Los Angeles, where their team of Hollywood agents, PR flacks, and business managers awaited them — got to work being photographed delivering meals to Los Angeles’s residents. In her speeches, the Queen made ordinary Britons (and, you know, God) the heroes. But in their stunt, that role was reserved for Harry and Meghan themselves, who are simultaneously continuing their role as victims of the tabloid press.
Last week, Meghan and Harry sent written letters to the editors of the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, and the Daily Mirror to make clear that they will not “offer themselves up as currency for an economy of click bait and distortion.” In other words, they will not cooperate with these tabloids in stories about them, which only lead to “salacious gossip.” But as Dominic Green notes, “the timing is bizarre . . . The couple, or at least their lawyers, are due to speak with three of those four papers quite soon.” As part of their lawsuit against Associated Newspapers, Harry submitted text messages to London’s High Court that revealed his exchange with Markle’s father in the run-up to their wedding. Markle’s lawyers claim that the Mail misquoted the letter she sent to her father ahead of the wedding. But Markle’s estranged father denies this. He told journalists that while the British monarchy is “one of the greatest, long-living institutions ever,” Harry and Meghan were “cheapening it” by turning it into “something that’s ridiculous.” He’s right that the more oxygen they give the story, the more it backfires, resembling a sloppily written soap opera.
8. What would life be like under the “Green New Deal?” David Harsanyi says, you’re looking at it. From the piece:
Eric Holthaus, a popular online climate-change activist, points out that the allegedly positive environmental effects of the coronavirus crisis are on “roughly the same pace that the IPCC says we need to sustain every year until 2030 to be on pace to limit global warming to 1.5C and hit the Paris climate goals.”
“We’re doing it. It’s possible!” he adds.
It’s nice to see an environmentalist finally acknowledging the inherent economic tradeoff of their vision. Holthaus is absolutely correct that implementing a plan like the Green New Deal would hold approximately the same gruesome economic consequences as the coronavirus crisis — except, of course, forever. The point of modern environmentalism, as Greta Thunberg has hinted, is the destruction of wealth. This process is what Holthaus, and others, euphemistically call “degrowth.”
Holthaus, who doesn’t celebrate coronavirus, reminds us that merely to keep pace with the IPCC recommendations on carbon emissions, Americans would be compelled to shut down virtually the entire economy. They would need to restrict air travel, place most Americans under virtual house arrest (or raze all the suburbs), halt international and interstate trade, destroy millions of jobs, shut down large swaths of manufacturing, and stop people from using their cars — or buying gas.
How would it work? The only “Green New Deal” that we’ve ever actually seen was authored by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her plan, one supported by the Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, calls for the banning of all fossil fuels, 99 percent of cars and planes, and meat-eating, among many other nonsensical regulations, within the next decade.
9. More Harsanyi: Facebook’s political censoring comes in for a comeuppance. From the piece:
Meanwhile, Facebook is reportedly removing the posts of those organizing anti-quarantine protests in conjunction with state governments, calling them “harmful misinformation.”
There is some confusion over the exact nature of the social-media giant’s policy on self-censoring. This morning, it was reported that the company was removing all posts advertising protests against social-distancing regulations, as well as posts deemed to spread “harmful misinformation” about the virus. The head of Facebook communications retweeted a CNN report that the social-media company was consulting with governments in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska to shut down the organization of “anti-quarantine” protests on its platform. Yet, after pushback, a company spokesperson clarified that Facebook was working with states to delete only posts advertising events that violate government orders and guidelines.
While I’ve long defended the right of social-media companies to dictate and enforce their own speech codes as they please without any interference from politicians, it’s difficult to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt here. Government has some leeway in protecting public health, but it has no right, not even during an emergency, to work to preemptively prevent Americans from expressing their political beliefs. If Facebook removed advertisements for protests at the behest of state and local governments — as initial reports suggested it might have — it would be an clear assault on expression, made all the more appalling by the fact that the protests were aimed at the very public policy that allows the state to undercut the ability of citizens to organize a demonstration in the first place. But even if Facebook was merely working with such governments to decide what millions of Americans can say to each other, that would be a big problem for both philosophical and practical reasons.
10. Victor Davis Hanson is thankful, in the face of rising authoritarianism, that Americans have, and cherish, their Bill of Rights. From the essay:
No one quite knows the limits of Washington, D.C., or the parameters of federalism. The schizophrenic Left now tends to favor the neo-Confederate idea of federal nullification when it’s a matter of sanctuary cities or abortion laws or opposing anything Trump is for. But at least there is tension there, and that uncertainty itself can limit the power of both a president and a governor. And that’s not always a bad thing when the mentality of the mob takes over.
Authoritarians and petty fascists, eager to issue endless edicts, molt their exoskeletons, as if under their chrysalis suits they were always caudillos, waiting to be reborn with sunglasses and epaulettes. But a free and empowered people, even in times of mortal danger, long nursed on a Bill of Rights, is hard to subjugate or shut up, even after over a month spent locked up in their homes. Thank God, we have a Constitution quite different from those of European nations, which are themselves far superior to other alternatives.
Does the First Amendment in some sense explain why, when you walk into the supermarket, you see crazy shoppers wearing over their face everything from weird motorcycle-helmet visors and dinner napkins to bandanas, embroidered doilies, silk scarves, used N-95 masks, hospital wraps worn lengthways, and (in the case of one well-meaning nut) a mask worn under the nose? In China, crowds all appear as if they are equipped by “CCP Approved Mask Model #1” of identical shape and color.
In a reductionist sense, this crisis could have been avoided if the Chinese had a Jeffersonian and Madisonian Bill of Rights, and a population protected by it. Nations of the European Union would have done better to one another in this crisis if they’d had a little humility and settled for a confederation of like, but still disparate, democracies and the idiosyncrasies that accompany them — rather than constructing an impossible utopian nightmarish edifice like something out of the old silent movie Metropolis, run by a litany of finger-shaking wannabe shrill Elizabeth Warrens. How odd that in the EU’s lose/lose paradox, when individual nations do well or poorly in addressing the epidemic, the EU will be blamed for their respective disobedient successes or failures.
11. Now It’s Our Turn: Zachary Evans reports on Sweden closing the last ChiCom-backed Confucius Institute polluting that country. From the piece:
Sweden-China relations had already soured before the coronavirus pandemic. In November 2019 China arrested Swedish publisher Gui Minhai for printing texts critical of Communist Party premier Xi Jinping. The Swedish chapter of PEN International, a global association of writers, awarded Gui its Tucholsky Prize for persecuted writers or publishers, after which China imposed trade restrictions on Sweden.
There are 86 Confucius Institutes currently operating in the U.S., including at elite institutions such as Stanford University and Tufts University. Former FBI director Christopher Wray testified to Congress in 2019 that the institutes “offer a platform to disseminate Chinese government or Chinese Communist Party propaganda, to encourage censorship, to restrict academic freedom.”
12. John Fund blasts Voice of America for kow-towing to the ChiComs. From the piece:
President Trump’s anger stems in part from the fact that his nominee for CEO of the Agency for Global Media (which runs VOA) has been in limbo for 22 months.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Pack has seen more than 15 of his films broadcast on PBS, which has exacting professional standards. He has pledged that if confirmed as CEO, he will insist on the independence of VOA. But he’s been denied a confirmation vote because of foot-dragging and spurious conflict-of-interest allegations by Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Its chairman, Idaho GOP senator James Risch, has so far been unwilling to call time and hold a vote.
The charter of VOA declares that it “will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.” Some of its programming must by that standard take the form of a broadcast “editorial page” that lets America’s friends and foes know what Washington is doing and why. Yet staff of VOA’s policy office, which produces editorials, has been cut by some 50 percent. In 2008, Jeffrey Trimble, the staff director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversaw VOA at the time, actually claimed, “It is not in our mandate to influence.” If that’s true, why are the taxpayers shelling out $200 million a year for VOA in an Internet age saturated with media sources?
As it is, VOA reminds observers of a media playground where there’s too little supervision. That lack of structure often leads to serious management snafus, such as when Sasha Gong, the head of VOA’s Mandarin service, and two of her colleagues were fired for broadcasting a live interview with a Chinese whistleblower who was making charges of corruption against Chinese-government officials. VOA officials defend the firings, saying they resulted from “failures to follow explicit instructions from management and good journalistic practices.”
13. Jim Geraghty reflects: Are we looking at the future of bioterrorism? From the analysis:
If you asked me what worries me today — and what is likely to end up in some future novel — it is that the world’s experience with SARS-CoV-2 is showing the effectiveness of bioweapons in the way that 9/11 demonstrated the effectiveness of terrorism and asymmetrical warfare. Who needs tanks and planes anymore when you can cripple a foreign rival by releasing some virus into its population?
Of course, bioweapons are particularly dangerous, and the world’s experience with this virus is making the risks of bioweapons vivid and unmistakable. Once a virus is released, it doesn’t follow orders, and a virus rarely stays on the side of the border that a government wants. Even if a regime was certain that its responsibility for unleashing a virus would never be discovered, they would run a considerable risk of a virus spreading into its own society and inflicting damage comparable to the target country.
So that creates something of a deterrent factor in the use of bioweapons, along with the U.S. policymakers’ past veiled suggestions that they would respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction against Americans with our own weapons of mass destruction, meaning nuclear weapons.
But the bad news is that the world has its share of lunatics who don’t worry about those kinds of consequences. In 1984, the followers of cult leader Baghwan Shree Rajneesh put salmonella in salad bars in restaurants in Oregon. The Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo unleashed sarin on the subway system of Tokyo in 1995.
14. Does the countryside beckon? In the Age of Coronavirus, Itxu Díaz can be found idolizing the idyll. From the essay:
A return to the countryside doesn’t just mean changing where we work. In rural life our ancestors cultivated a much healthier family life than we do today. The family, the larger the better, is the cornerstone of life in the countryside. Things work because there is an authority, the hierarchy is obeyed, which also means that elders are respected above all. Many hands and teamwork are needed, and that’s incompatible with the anthropological selfishness inherent in digital leisure.
The chances of a plague or a meteorological disaster ruining your harvest and your economy and emptying your pantry are much greater in the countryside — before the appearance of this pandemic, at least — and that has resulted in country folk cultivating gratitude, humility, and faith. In the countryside, they respect nature even more than ecologists from Stockholm, no matter how much the latter congratulate themselves on crossing the Atlantic in a non-motorized catamaran. On the other hand, a humble outlook results in farmers having great respect for tradition, seeing it as a source of wisdom, experience, and a moral beacon.
For centuries, the countryside economy was based on bartering. Today’s modern economy has also extended into the rural world, increasing its wealth, but it’s interesting how bartering remains with those who live there. In the end, neighbors can’t be strangers in a place where you often need them to help chase away some sort of danger. You have to be self-sufficient in the countryside, but not completely.
Okay, urban life is addictive. And I won’t be the one to deny the pleasure of walking around a big city, strolling through gardens where nature is under control and the ground is freshly vacuumed, going into a shopping center and coming out with a bunch of bags full of books and clothes, or spending hours drinking liters of beer in some pub with the music blaring and surrounded by pretty girls. I’m just trying to say that if this way of life collapses, even just a bit, the city will cease to be a liberation and could turn into a crazy prison full of depressed people wearing muzzles and gloves, walking around yesterday’s promenades like zombies among “For Sale” signs and shrouded in dense melancholy.
15. Mortgage relief language in the CARES Act is seriously flawed, says David Bahnsen. From the analysis:
I do understand that included in those with “Federally backed mortgage loans” (these include loans sponsored by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration, so roughly 65 percent of all American mortgages) are some who would genuinely and perhaps even desperately need mortgage forbearance. Even after the direct infusions to American taxpayers, the unemployment-benefits premium, and the support to small business via the Paycheck Protection Program, there will surely be some whose economic circumstances would make servicing their mortgage painful. My guess is that that number is quite low, net of all other support and programs, but I acknowledge existence of that need and concern.
However, where such legitimate need exists, the actual codification that they not be required to document their need whatsoever is simply surreal. It was language begging for a crisis of responsibility. Why not require simple demonstration of hardship to be given interest-free relief from one’s mortgage responsibility for a full calendar year? A simple bank statement, a letter from one’s employer, evidence of mounting credit-card debt — some written support along with an attestation to support the claim of hardship?
By not requiring basic documentation and support, the government has made the claim of hardship and appeal of forbearance irresistible. The number of borrowers claiming this right under the CARES Act surged 60 percent this week over the prior week; they now represent a stunning 5.95 percent of total serviceable loans. A significant increase in such requests is widely expected again in the weeks ahead, when May mortgage payments are due.
We learned in the 2008 financial crisis that too many Americans do not need to be encouraged not to make their mortgage payments; for a substantial portion of the population, when some economic calculus suggested not paying their mortgage (generally because the value of the home was lower than the debt on the home), far too many were quite comfortable breaching contract and not making payment. In chapter 4 of my book Crisis of Responsibility, I addressed this very systemic phenomenon.
16. Ken Langone argues that the public needs to trust journalists, a trust that American journalists are making extra efforts to undermine by carrying water for Communist China. From the piece:
Americans would also be right to wonder why more journalists aren’t pursuing a story about China that appears to tick every box in an investigative reporter’s dream assignment. Here we have an ultra-secretive police state that won’t even let its own citizens use Facebook. They put ethnic minorities in concentration camps. The first doctors who sounded the alarm about the virus were forced to recant at gunpoint. Gee, do you think maybe all that is worth a closer look?
Yet the very day after American news media were kicked out of the country, March 18, the Times published an article based entirely on what Chinese officials told them, with the headline “China Hits a Coronavirus Milestone: No New Local Infections.” If Times reporters were not skeptical of that howler, readers sure were. You’d need a welding mask to read the comments on social media beneath the article.
Plenty of other outlets have followed suit and parroted China’s bunk. NPR touted China’s claim that “a majority of cases originated abroad.” Bloomberg declared that “China’s virus cases reach zero.” NBC ran a piece entitled “As U.S. struggles, China asserts itself as global leader.”
That’s what raises the broader problem that makes this more than just a quibble about the posturing of Times journalists. When the public reads news accounts that bestow ridiculous praise on the Chinese government, or that imply readers are dupes for doubting that regime’s ham-fisted propaganda, they are highly likely to discount or reject anything else those publications report about the pandemic.
17. Andrew Stuttaford tells of Emanuel Macron leading France with a major recycling effort . . . of bad, old ideas. From the piece:
At the end of last week, the Financial Times published a lengthy interview with French president Emmanuel Macron in which Macron referred no fewer than nine times to humility and may, occasionally, have meant it:
I don’t know if we are at the beginning or the middle of this crisis — no one knows. . . . There is lots of uncertainty and that should make us very humble.
Macron’s humility only goes so far, and will not have been encouraged by his starstruck interviewers, who write that he is “overtly intellectual [and] always brimming with ideas.”
They are right, but unfortunately, Macron’s ideas are old ideas, if sometimes repackaged.
In his view, the interviewers report, COVID-19 represents an opportunity to put an end to the “hyper-financialized world,” a phantom that exists mainly in the fevered imaginations of communitarians, academics who refer to “late capitalism,” and European politicians. (Recall that, shortly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, an earlier French president, Nicolas Sarkozy — seemingly oblivious to the political and economic developments of the previous hundred years — announced that laissez-faire capitalism was “finished.”)
18. Armond White has a lot to say about the Lifetime biopic The Clark Sisters and not too much of it is complimentary. From the review:
It dramatizes how five young women from Detroit, whose mother honed their singing and musical skills, found success in the 1980s. Director Christine Swanson and writer Camille Tucker treat the Clark Sisters like Broadway and Hollywood’s Dreamgirls treated Motown’s The Supremes — as templates of bootstrap ambition and women’s tribulations. But the filmmakers and Lifetime don’t deal with what made them exceptional: the specifics of black American religion and the age-old struggle between sacred and secular aspiration.
By turning the Clark Sisters into victims, the biopic becomes one more saga about women oppressed by envious, authoritarian men, plus the stigma of conservative religion. You’d never know from this film that matriarch Mattie Moss Clark (played by actress Aunjanue Ellis) was an esteemed, innovative choral arranger driven by religious conviction to change the style of musical gospel’s powerful invocation. She conducted the Southwest Michigan State Choir, made popular through its Savoy-label albums that preserved the spiritual thrust of sanctified music like no other gospel recordings — a power and vibrancy unmatched by such mainstream gospel icons as The Staple Singers who won acclaim as offshoots of secular folk music.
Ellis’s casting presents a dark-skinned Oprah Winfrey archetype, which overlooks the thorny phenomenon of light-complexioned strivers in favor of fashionable misandry — the hardships of a woman living a sexless life out of bitterness, celibacy being unthinkable. (Nothing here matches the gospel documentary Say Amen, Somebody, in which singer Delois Barrett and her husband peaceably compromise on their competing ministries.)
1. Selfishly placing this first, the co-host of the Victor Davis Hanson Podcast acclaims Episode 12, in which the program’s namesake takes on a slew of topics, making the case for the pushback by fed-up Americans intent on protecting their rights from oats-feeling authoritarian officials (and experts!), discussing an important H. R. McMaster essay on China, waxing on Donald Trump’s political standing and his executive-order plan to suspend immigration, and reflecting on the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Berlin. You want a link? Here’s the link! Now listen.
2. Episode 209 of The Editors is a gem. Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss the protests bubbling up around the country, the president’s new declaration about immigration, and much more. Hear here!
3. On the latest Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Kevin and Charlie discuss hyperpoliticized journalism and a Harvard Law professor’s attack on homeschoolers. All the merriment can be found here.
4. John J. Miller affords Episode 296 of The Bookmonger to a discussion with David Satter about his new book, Never Speak to Strangers. Listen here.
5. JJM then does the Great Books switcheroo and is joined by David Hein to discuss William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Sharpen the spears and listen here.
6. Will Donald Trump save the Golden State? On the new episode of Radio Free California, Will and David say that they think yes. And they think about plenty more. Strap on the headphones dudes, right here!
1. H.R. McMaster pens an absolutely must-read essay in The Atlantic on the threat China and its global-hegemon dreams pose to America and the world. From the essay:
As China pursues its strategy of co-option, coercion, and concealment, its authoritarian interventions have become ubiquitous. Inside China, the party’s tolerance for free expression and dissent is minimal, to put it mildly. The repressive and manipulative policies in Tibet, with its Buddhist majority, are well known. The Catholic Church and, in particular, the fast-growing Protestant religions are of deep concern to Xi and the party. Protestant Churches have proved difficult to control, because of their diversity and decentralization, and the party has forcefully removed crosses from the tops of church buildings and even demolished some buildings to set an example. Last year, Beijing’s effort to tighten its grip on Hong Kong sparked sustained protests that continued into 2020—protests that Chinese leaders blamed on foreigners, as they typically do. In Xinjiang, in northwestern China, where ethnic Uighurs mainly practice Islam, the party has forced at least 1 million people into concentration camps. (The government denies this, but last year The New York Times uncovered a cache of incriminating documents, including accounts of closed-door speeches by Xi directing officials to show “absolutely no mercy.”)
Party leaders have accelerated the construction of an unprecedented surveillance state. For the 1.4 billion Chinese people, government propaganda on television and elsewhere is a seamless part of everyday life. Universities have cracked down on teaching that explains “Western liberal” concepts of individual rights, freedom of expression, representative government, and the rule of law. Students in universities and high schools must take lessons in “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” The chairman’s 14-point philosophy is the subject of the most popular app in China, which requires users to sign in with their cellphone number and real name before they can earn study points by reading articles, writing comments, and taking multiple-choice tests. A system of personal “social credit scores” is based on tracking people’s online and other activity to determine their friendliness to Chinese government priorities. Peoples’ scores determine eligibility for loans, government employment, housing, transportation benefits, and more.
The party’s efforts to exert control inside China are far better known than its parallel efforts beyond China’s borders. Here again, insecurity and ambition are mutually reinforcing. Chinese leaders aim to put in place a modern-day version of the tributary system that Chinese emperors used to establish authority over vassal states. Under that system, kingdoms could trade and enjoy peace with the Chinese empire in return for submission. Chinese leaders are not shy about asserting this ambition. In 2010, China’s foreign minister matter-of-factly told his counterparts at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: “China is a big country, and you are small countries.” China intends to establish a new tributary system through a massive effort organized under three overlapping policies, carrying the names “Made in China 2025,” “Belt and Road Initiative,” and “Military-Civil Fusion.”
2. At First Things, Kevin Watson explores the crack-up in the Methodist Church. From the essay:
One can certainly say that the United Methodist Church is a failed experiment in theological pluralism. But that line of analysis does not go back in history far enough. The mistakes made at the founding of the UMC were largely predictable based on previous developments, for the history of Methodism in America is one of conflict over cultural accommodation.
In the current disagreements about same-sex marriage and the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” progressive leaders frequently appeal to a myth of progress in American Methodism. The argument goes like this: Methodism used to read the Bible in a way that supported racism and slavery and prevented the ordination of women. But eventually we realized that the Bible was wrong about those issues—or at least, that how we interpreted the Bible on those issues was wrong. The prohibition of same-sex marriage is the next link in the chain of injustice that we need to break. We have been using the Bible to discriminate against gays and lesbians, it is argued, and need to progress in the same way that we aligned ourselves with God’s justice in opposition to slavery and the subordination of women.
The problem with this myth is that it is not true. When confronting slavery, racism, and the exclusion of women from the ministry, the dominant strain of Methodism actually conformed to the dominant culture. It did not, as the UMC presumptuously ascribes to itself today, lead the way in progress or “the transformation of the world.” On the contrary, United Methodism in the United States was more often transformed by the world.
3. At City Journal, Edward Glaeser reviews the history of cities and pandemics. From the piece:
But density and connection to the outside world— the defining characteristics of great cities—can also turn deadly. Plague struck Athens in 430 BC, when its citizens were packed more closely together than usual because they were avoiding the Spartan army. Thucydides, who caught the disease and recovered, claimed that it originated in Ethiopia and passed through Egypt. The plague killed tens of thousands, including Pericles, and probably led to Athens’s defeat in the Peloponnesian War and eclipse as a great metropolis.
One millennium later, another plague struck Constantinople and ended the emperor Justinian’s attempt to rebuild the glory of Rome. Justinian’s plague was the first recorded mass appearance of Yersinia pestis, the flea-borne illness known as the Black Death, which would slaughter Europeans by the millions. Cities were, as always, particularly vulnerable because they were ports of entry for diseased fleas and because urban proximity enabled the spread of illness.
Only in the past century have cities ceased to be killing fields. A boy born in Shakespeare’s London or Edith Wharton’s New York City could expect to live six years less than a boy born in the countryside. Water-borne illnesses, like cholera and typhoid, killed thousands until cities spent massively on water systems. Mosquitoes carried yellow fever and malaria. Diseases that travel by droplet, including smallpox and influenza—and now Covid-19—prove particularly hard to disrupt, without a vaccine.
4. In the new issue of The New Criterion, Jonathan Leaf makes the case for the largely forgotten American novelist, Peter De Vries. From the reflection:
It must be admitted, too, that De Vries had several large defects as a writer of fiction. Somerset Maugham once said that novelists had to be extroverts. I think Maugham meant by this that novelists need to have a basic enthusiasm for the world and the people in it, one that inspires them to go out and investigate their subjects. In that sense, Tom Wolfe was the post-war American writer most suited to carrying on and inheriting the novelistic legacy of Dickens and Balzac.
De Vries didn’t have this quality. Born and raised in Chicago, he spent much of his working life in and around New York. But the flavor of neither city is in his work. Nor are the people. Like so many of his generation, he moved to the suburbs to raise a family with his wife, Katinka. But Westport, Connecticut—the town in which he lived much of his adult life—turns up only fleetingly in his fiction. Instead, his novels frequently engage in various forms of parody. They are sometimes as much about literature as they are about social currents and trends and the corruption and glamour of modern America.
This was especially true of his early books The Tunnel of Love and The Mackerel Plaza. These were often not much more than attempts to string together gags and witticisms, and while they will appeal to those who like S. J. Perelman, I doubt that they will satisfy many others.
Moreover, while De Vries greatly improved at scene construction and plotting through the course of his career, he never really excelled at either. What he offered readers in place of these skills was extraordinary wit and cleverness, roguish charm and vivacity, and a graceful style. Those attributes were buttressed by lightness of touch, imagination, and a measure of humanity.
5. Gatestone Institute’s Richard Kemp sees the coronavirus pandemic as a 9/11 moment for the West, which has long ignored China’s intentions. From the analysis:
Like 9/11, Covid-19 must now force the West to wake up and fight back.
China today is by far the greatest threat to Western values, freedom, economy, industry, communications and technology. It threatens our very way of life. China’s objective is to push back against the US and become the dominant world power by 2049, a century after the creation of the People’s Republic. Dictator for life Xi Jinping has no intention of doing this through military conflict. His war is not fought on the battlefield but in the boardroom, the markets, the press, universities, cyberspace and in the darkest shadows.
Those who argue China’s right to compete with the West in free markets and on a level playing field seem not to comprehend that Beijing has no free market and no intention of playing on a level field. The world’s leading executioner, China is an incomparably ruthless dictatorship that tortures, disappears and imprisons its people at will and controls its massive population through a techno-surveillance infrastructure that it’s busy exporting around the world to extend its political and economic control to us.
For decades, China has been working on its three-pronged strategy: building its economy and fighting capability, including intelligence, technology, cyber and space as well as hard military power; developing global influence to exploit resources and secure control; thrusting back and dividing the US and its capitalist allies.
6. No Joking: At The College Fix, Connor Ellington reports on a college firing that begins with a microaggression about microaggressions. From the beginning of the story:
The University of North Texas fired a full-time math professor for the weighty crime of disagreeing with fliers on “microaggressions,” according to a First Amendment lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court.
Represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, Nathaniel Hiers alleges the taxpayer-funded institution rescinded his spring contract “without notice” for making a joke. UNT retaliated against him, engaged in content- and viewpoint-based discrimination, and attempted to compel speech from him.
When Hiers noticed “a stack of fliers” on microaggressions in the department faculty lounge in November, he read them and found the ideas wanting. Then he wrote “Don’t leave garbage lying around” in jest on a chalkboard, with arrows pointing to the fliers (above), according to the suit.
The fliers come from the University of New Hampshire’s ADVANCE program to support female faculty in STEM disciplines, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.
The first two pages focus on “gender microaggressions” and appear to have been compiled internally at UNH from various internet sources. The last two attribute their content to a 2010 work by the main popularizer of the microaggressions concept, Columbia psychologist Derald Wing Sue, who has publicly criticized colleges for using his research in “punitive” ways.
BONUS: At the Wall Street Journal, our old pal Chris DeMuth lauds the Trump administration by fighting a pandemic with deregulation. From the essay:
In response to the 2008 crisis, the administration arranged corporate mergers and bailouts with only fig leaves of statutory authority. It spent hundreds of billions of dollars without congressional appropriation. These crisis expedients provided the template for the Obama administration’s unilateral responses to mere political frustrations—congressional inaction on its climate change, immigration and other legislative proposals. At the same time, the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 commissioned an army of new regulatory authorities with unprecedented discretion and autonomy.
It is not only crises that propel the administrative state. Lesser events of the 2000s—accounting scandals and a spike in energy prices—also led to new layers of freewheeling federal power. But major emergencies have unfailingly been major inflection points.
Until now. In responding to the coronavirus, the Trump administration has confined itself to longstanding statutory authorities that have been invoked routinely in responding to lesser emergencies. President Trump has used the Stafford Act of 1988 to provide states with emergency financial assistance—but has deferred to their decisions regarding social confinement, business closures, testing and treatment. He has employed the Defense Production Act of 1950 to cajole manufactures to prioritize urgently needed medical equipment—but has relied primarily on consultation, coordination and publicity to coach a private-sector-led mobilization. He has declared a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which can potentially trigger extraordinary regulatory powers—but so far he has used it only for deregulatory purposes, waiving Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules that restrict telemedicine and interstate medical practice.
Mr. Trump has received criticism from all sides for these measured responses. It is said, on the one hand, that he should aggressively commandeer state police powers and industrial resources to mount a uniform national response—and, on the other (sometimes by the same critics), that the crisis will sooner or later unleash the authoritarian ambitions Mr. Trump has supposedly been harboring all along.
His replies have been characteristically adamant. He has extolled his administration’s performance on the measures that are unarguably federal jurisdictions—restricting foreign travel, deploying the military’s medical resources, mobilizing production of materials in short supply and allocating them among states and cities, providing information on the spread of the virus and guidance on mitigation measures. He has been jealous of federal prerogatives and sharply critical of governors and business executives he regarded as uncooperative.
Lights, Camera, Action!
1. Dennis Prager interviews the great Paul Johnson. View it here.
2. John Stossel takes on coronavirus overreach. Get a bellyful here.
3. Kat Timpf and Katie Yoder chat about why it’s OK to feel bad and off during the lockdown. Grab your meds and pay attention here.
The Churchill / Trump Nexis
My dear pal Nick Adams, an American born by mistake in Australia, frequent Fox guest, the founder of FLAG, the author of Green Card Warrior and Retaking America, Crushing Political Correctness, has a new book coming out in a few weeks — Trump and Churchill: Defenders of Western Civilization — and while you’re waiting out the lockdown, click that link to pre-order a copy. So you say . . . “Trump? And . . . Churchill?” Which is what Newt Gingrich first said. But as he read the galleys, he agreed — via his foreword to the book, from which we provide a healthy slice — that Nick was indeed onto something quite important. From the foreword:
If Churchill is obvious as a champion of Western civilization, the case for President Donald Trump is a little more challenging, but in the end I think it holds up.
Reagan was a great president (I campaigned with him and for him in the 1970s and as a member of Congress worked with him in the 1980s and based the Contract with America in 1994 on Reagan’s ideas). He had an enormous impact on the world and was the key person forcing the collapse of the Soviet Union (it is impossible to imagine a reelected President Jimmy Carter leading to the end of the Soviet Union).
However President Reagan did not wage the cultural war with the left, which meant that we defeated communism in Moscow but lost to it on campuses. The continuing drift to the left was barely slowed by the Reagan administration and not affected at all by the two Bush administrations.
President Trump is a much greater defender of Western civilization than his predecessor because he is in a much more difficult situation. In many ways the crisis of the West that Trump confronts is much like Britain after the disastrous withdrawal at Dunkirk.
The very seriousness of the current cultural civil war can be seen in the 92 percent hostile coverage in the major media. The three years of unending and dishonest investigations. The guerrilla war being waged by permanent civil servants especially in the Justice Department and the national security apparatus.
President Trump has been attacked and battered twenty times as much as President Reagan was because he is a mortal threat to the left.
The success of the Trump-McConnell team in getting 161 federal judges approved (as of the date I am writing, still more are in process) is a mortal threat to the most effective strategy the left has had. For two generations the left has developed weird un-American left wing ideas and then used unelected judges to impose them so the power of the government was coercing the American people into change.
Trump’s strategic genius (a point Nick Adams makes clear) is in understanding that he wants to effect permanent change toward judges who want to enforce the law. The result has been a principle that all district court judges have to be under fifty years of age. The result is going to be at least a full generation of more constitutionally compliant judges.
These are the kind of changes that drive the left crazy and make Trump their mortal enemy.
Since the left was on the verge of destroying America as it has been and replacing it with a radical America, their frenzy at the defeat of 2016 is even greater.
Nick Adams has done a service for all of us and for future generations by tying together the leadership capabilities and moral commitment of these two great men.
Churchill did save civilization in the twentieth century.
Now it is our job to help President Trump save civilization in the twenty-first century.
Again, do order your pre-publication (May 19) copy of Trump and Churchill: Defenders of Western Civilization. If enough of you do that, maybe Nick and I will cut a video of us dueting Waltzing Matilda.
As official tie games go, this one was a doozie. Not the Mother of All Tie Games — more on that next week — but perhaps the Aunt. It happened on Saturday, July 21, 1945 at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, a day game that went on and on, into the darkening evening, as the visiting first-place Detroit Tigers could not prevail over the basement-dwelling Athletics. After 24 innings, the last 17 scoreless, the umps called it — a 1–1 tie. It would prove, as ties do, of no account in the standings, which in turn proved a close call for the Tigers, who won the AL pennant by a slim 1.5 games, ahead of the Washington Senators.
The starting pitcher that day for the home team was Russ Christopher, the ace (13–13, 3.17 ERA) of the hapless and last-place Athletics. He scattered five measly hits over 13 innings, and in the next frame, manager Connie Mack handed the ball to the aging Jittery Joe Berry, who held the Tigers scoreless for 11 innings, giving up but six hits.
This is one of the amazingly rare times when — in the same contest, and for the same team — two pitchers threw essentially extra-inning games.
(Another example: This 1921 contest between the Washington Senators and the St. Louis Browns, when Nats starter George Mogridge lasted 9.1 innings and was relieved by Jose Acosta, who went 9.2 innings, but took the loss when he gave up two runs to St. Louis in the 19th; the Browns’ Dixie Davis went the distance and earned the victory.)
His has been the most innings tossed by one pitcher in a game in the last 90 years (prior to that, in a May 24, 1929 contest at Comiskey Park, Tiger George Uhle hurled 20 innings in a 6–5 win over the White Sox, whose starting pitcher, Hall of Famer Ted Lyons, took the loss after tossing 21 complete innings).
Of note in the 1945 box score: Future Hall-of-Famer George Kell, playing third base for the As, went hitless in 10 at-bats, while shortstop Ed Busch was 1-for-10; while Tiger catcher Bob Swift and second baseman Eddie Mayo both were hitless in 9 at-bats. Tiger third baseman Bob Maier, who had one hit in 10 at-bats, had a chance to end the suffering twice, late in the contest: In the top of the 22nd, with the bases loaded, he flied out to end a rally, and again, in the top of the 24th, with the bases loaded and one out, he ground into a double play.
BASEBALLERY BONUS: By Richard K. Munro, this is a beautiful story about baseball, Hank Aaron, love. They all intersect. Read it here.
Thank you to Roberto for sharing this short film with Your Undeserving Scribbler, who in turn will share it with others, prayerful that they might watch it and reflect on and be inspired by a righteous man.
Whether or not you take the bait, we shall end this week’s exercise in mental fidget spinnery by encouraging you to keep in mind that there is this thing called prayer, that it works, that one might even employ it in order to ask of a Merciful God a very specific thing. For example: the peaceful repose of the soul brought down by this pathogen. Or: comfort for those left behind in sorrow. And even: an end to the pandemic, smote in its tracks by the Creator, Who will be within His rights to demand as payment more attention and consciousness to, say, the Third Commandment. Or the Fourth. Or, all.
Prayerful or not, go in blessed peace, intent on performing kindness, seeking naught in return.
May the Alpha and the Omega Encompass in His Merciful Arms You and All You Love,
Jack Fowler, who would delight in shared criticisms of No Place to Hide, if such exists, is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Profound regrets and hopes for acceptance of an apology for this space having forgotten last week to wish our Orthodox brothers and sisters a Blessed and Happy Easter.