Saturday, November 30, 2019

ZZzzzzupreme Court

Dear Weekend Jolter,

We do hope that you enjoyed Thanksgiving Day and its aftermath, and maybe are still in the glow of that annual turkey-induced coma/nap. By the way, even though the turkey causa est old-wives-talery is a load of gastronomic stuffing, that's one party we will not officially poop.

But the week did begin, for NR, with a sizeable and official party-poopage: On Monday, the United States Supreme Court, guardian of the First Amendment and defender against all those who wish to curtail, limit, gag, hinder, abuse, muffle, and duct-tape it, was napping while on duty. It formally denied this institution's request (officially, our Petition for a Writ of Certiorari) that it take up National Review v. Mann, the case which many believe, correctly, is the current major threat to the right we thought so unalienable.

Alas, it seems to be quite . . . alienable.

This grimacing by Your Humble Correspondent should not distract you from the dissent (a rare thing ...

November 30 2019


ZZzzzzupreme Court

Dear Weekend Jolter,

We do hope that you enjoyed Thanksgiving Day and its aftermath, and maybe are still in the glow of that annual turkey-induced coma/nap. By the way, even though the turkey causa est old-wives-talery is a load of gastronomic stuffing, that's one party we will not officially poop.

But the week did begin, for NR, with a sizeable and official party-poopage: On Monday, the United States Supreme Court, guardian of the First Amendment and defender against all those who wish to curtail, limit, gag, hinder, abuse, muffle, and duct-tape it, was napping while on duty. It formally denied this institution's request (officially, our Petition for a Writ of Certiorari) that it take up National Review v. Mann, the case which many believe, correctly, is the current major threat to the right we thought so unalienable.

Alas, it seems to be quite . . . alienable.

This grimacing by Your Humble Correspondent should not distract you from the dissent (a rare thing accompanying cert petition denials) filed by Justice Samuel Alito, who believed his Supreme colleagues should have taken up the case given the risk Professor Mann's claim poses to free speech. In the Justice's words:

The petition in this case presents questions that go to the very heart of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press: the protection afforded to journalists and others who use harsh language in criticizing opposing advocacy on one of the most important public issues of the day. If the Court is serious about protecting freedom of expression, we should grant review.

You can read the Alito dissent here (it starts on page 19). More on all this below. Thank you Mr. Justice — you deserved an extra serving of cranberry sauce, and the drumstick, for your wisdom. And one last word on this: The cert denial was not a decision on the merits of the arguments made in our petition. Nor was it a decision on the merits of Mann's initial lawsuit (filed back in . . . 2012!). Nor does it preclude SCOTUS from reviewing NR's claim at a later point.

We will have our day in court — for the time being, not the Supreme one. We resume the fight to protect this right — it's ours and yours — in the District of Columbia court system. It's about as liberal as they come. But we are confident that we will prevail.

Now, as mentioned in last week's edition of this missive, what is before your eyes is a truncated, filed-early version of the usual. You'll find no Baseballery, The Six, etc. Editor Phil has been freed from his galley-slave duties and is traveling, so we have kept the offerings to editorials and a dozen or so NRO pieces that should tide you over.

Glad tidings we hope, especially now that Advent is upon us this weekend.


1. You blew it, SCOTUS. From the editorial:

At stake in this case are nothing less than two of the core guarantees that undergird American life. The first is the promise that all people may engage in robust political debate without fear of retribution from the sensitive and the malicious. The second is the promise that when legal disputes do arise, they will be resolved in a timely manner — before, not after, the targeted party has been bled of precious time and resources. Thus far in National Review Inc. v. Michael E. Mann, neither of these guarantees has been upheld. We are now seven years into this saga, and there remains no end in sight. On the case rolls — a Jarndyce and Jarndyce for the 21st century.

Justice Alito notes that "in recent years, the Court has made a point of vigilantly enforcing the Free Speech Clause even when the speech at issue made no great contribution to public debate." And so it should. But one would expect that a Court that takes the time to superintend the marginal cases would have time for the foundational cases, too. And make no mistake: This is a foundational case. Aware of what is at risk here, a host of media organizations from across the entire political spectrum have filed amicus curiae briefs in support of National Review. We may not agree with the Washington Post, Time Inc., the ACLU, and the Cato Institute on everything — or, often, on much — but on this we all speak as one.

In response, we have heard little more than radio static. We appealed to the Supreme Court because no other institution seemed willing to bring this case to the close that it so richly deserves. Washington, D.C., in which city the suit was brought, operates under a well-written "anti-SLAPP" law, the sole intent of which is to prevent and cut short precisely this sort of litigiousness and harassment and thereby to protect free speech in America. And yet, for all the good it has done, that statute may as well be written on clouds. Seven years in, it has done nothing to convince the lingering D.C. Court of Appeals that it should do anything more than issue footnotes, and it has done nothing to convince the Supreme Court that this is a problem worthy of its attention. What, we can only wonder, would a non-expedited process look like?

2. The ChiComs are a twisted bunch. If you don't believe that, ask any Uyghur. From the editorial:

The government has rounded up more than a million Uyghurs and other minorities, throwing them into concentration camps, or "reeducation" camps. These camps constitute a Chinese gulag archipelago.

Among the Uyghurs, there are a relative handful of militants, as there are among the Rohingyas (the minority people whom the Burmese government has brutalized). This gives the government an excuse to go after everyone — think of Lidice, multiplied untold times.

Some Uyghur inmates have been tortured to death; many have been driven to suicide. The Chinese government aims to stamp out Uyghur culture, religion, language — all of it.

The government has moved ethnic Chinese men into Uyghur homes, to act as substitute fathers and husbands. The real fathers and husbands are away in the camps (if they are indeed still alive).

Also, the government gets them young. The government rounds up young Uyghurs, before they have committed any "crime," even in the Communist Party's eyes. In Cuba, the government has done the same thing, for decades. The Cuban government commonly arrests people on the charge of "pre-criminal social dangerousness."

On Monday, the Associated Press had a staggering report. It talks of "the Chinese government's deliberate strategy to lock up ethnic minorities even before they commit a crime, to rewire their thoughts and the language they speak." The report also cites a slogan — a mission statement, if you will — from the Ministry of Justice: to "wash brains, cleanse hearts, support the right, remove the wrong."

Come Back for Seconds, Thirds, and Twelfths . . . the Weekly NRO Feast Awaits You and Your Insatiable Appetite

1. John McCormack has a great interview with Congresswoman Elise Stefanick. From the piece:

Even before she grabbed the national spotlight during the public impeachment hearings, Stefanik had risen rapidly in politics.

After graduating from Harvard in 2006, she held a variety of Washington staff jobs — in the Bush White House, at the Foreign Policy Initiative think tank, and in the presidential campaigns of Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney (where she was in charge of Paul Ryan's debate prep) — before returning home to upstate New York to run for Congress in the 2014 midterm elections. In three consecutive elections before Stefanik ran, a Democrat won the historically Republican district, due in large part to the fact that moderate Republicans and conservatives were divided. Stefanik defeated a pro-choice Republican in the primary and went on to win the general election by 37 points, becoming, at the time, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress (a record now held by another member from New York, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).

What's next for the young, talented, and ambitious congresswoman? As a representative in New York, a Republican has virtually no chance of winning statewide office. But maybe Stefanik could see herself serving in House leadership someday? "No," Stefanik tells me, "I thrive on focusing on my district, focusing on the substance of my committees. I'm a really active member of the three committees that I sit on: the House Armed Services Committee, Education and Workforce, and Intelligence."

What about a post in the Trump administration? Would Stefanik serve as secretary of state if Mike Pompeo steps down to run for Senate and President Trump asks her to join his cabinet? She does not say no. "I am focused on my district," Stefanik replies. "We will see; that's a lot of hypotheticals. But I'm focused on my district."

In the short term, Stefanik is focused on fighting impeachment in the House.

2. Victor Davis Hanson enjoys Adam Schiff's comeuppance. From his piece:

Schiff's overweening ambition and ego drove him into a full-fledged, prime-daytime soap opera. Previously washed and rinsed witnesses returned for televised cross-examinations with Schiff in the star inquisitor role. He apparently thought he could outperform his own Republican colleagues on camera — people he had blatantly misrepresented for weeks.

But television allowed the country to conclude that seeing and hearing Schiff all day long was a different experience from catching minute- or two-minute glimpses of him. The TV version was entirely toxic.

In person, some of the House civil-servant witnesses were haughty. They were certainly obsessed with their positions, titles, and résumés, and eager to talk down to others while talking themselves up. But mostly they sounded incoherent in decrying a brief hold on military assistance to Ukraine by a president who in fact has armed Ukrainians in a way his predecessor never dared. Most of the public came away with several general takeaways — all harmful to the Democrats.

One, the more viewers learned of the corrupt, wily Ukrainians (who were constantly shifting alliances to bet on the anticipated 2016 front-runner), the more they thought that Trump might have been circumspect to have held up, if only for a few weeks, U.S. military assistance in the first place, at least until he learned the nature of the new Ukrainian president. The more one learned about the baffling array of freelancing and often duplicitous Ukrainian ambassadors, prosecutors, foreign ministers, presidents, and gas directors, the more one concluded it might be better to let them get their house in order first.

Two, why blast a president who armed the Ukrainians while staying silent about a prior president who refused military aid and even used non-military aid as a lever to adjudicate Ukraine prosecutions?

Three, the House Republican interrogators, previously mostly unknown, turned out to be far more effective cross-examiners than their Democratic counterparts, in part because the latter were trying to remove a president on the basis of hearsay.

3. If the answer is yes, the question must be the one posed by David Harsanyi: Is impeachment backfiring on the Democrats? From the piece:

It's highly probable, in fact, that a Senate trial run by Republicans, with new witnesses and evidence, would further corrode the Democrats' case. Liberals, of course, will pretend that Senate Republicans are members of a reactionary Trump cult, putting party above country, but if there had been incontrovertible proof of "bribery," a number of them would be compelled to act differently. No such evidence was provided. Adding an obstruction article, based on the Mueller Report, would only make the proceedings even more intractably partisan — yet the recent push to force Don McGahn to testify suggests Democrats could be headed in that direction.

In any case, what we can look forward to in a Senate trial is more Ukrainian drama. Far from weakening Trump in 2020, the story might end up dragging Joe Biden into a defensive posture. Journalists perfunctorily refer to anything related to Ukrainians or the Bidens as a "conspiracy theory," but it's clear that Hunter Biden was cashing in on his father's influence and still unclear what Joe Biden did about it. Republicans have already requested transcripts of conversations between Biden and then–Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko over the vice president's requests to fire Viktor Shokin. It's going to become a difficult story to ignore. (How long before the hard-left contingent vying for the Dem nomination starts asking questions about Biden's cronyism?)

So what is the upside? At first, Democrats claimed that polls were irrelevant because impeachment was a moral and patriotic imperative. Once national support spiked, numbers suddenly mattered very much, and the usual suspects couldn't stop talking about them. What most polls now confirm is that while Americans were paying attention to the breathless media coverage, public support for the inquiry is at best stagnant and probably declining.

RELATED: Rich Lowry takes on the Democrats' "Check-the-Box Impeachment" process. From his column:

The minimum requirement of a historic impeachment case, only the fourth in our history, would seem to be a complete account of the facts. Schiff used to say as much: "We have to flesh out all of the facts for the American people. The seriousness of the matter and the danger to our country demands nothing less." Now, the seriousness and the danger are demanding that Democrats rush things along so the president can be impeached by the end of the year.

No matter how often Democrats say, "Let's honor the Constitution," their actions say, "Let's check the box."

Democrats have had the difficulty from the beginning of trying to build an edifice of impeachment and removal atop the narrow foundation of the Ukraine episode, and now they aren't even going to finish the edifice, content with what they could complete in a two-month investigation largely reliant on the testimony of people who weren't around for the main events (former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch) or were out of the loop (former Trump Russia adviser Fiona Hill).

It's not as though getting firsthand witnesses will weaken the Democratic case; it will in all likelihood make it stronger. But with every day that passes, it becomes a little more absurd to say Trump should be impeached and removed when the public can make its own verdict in the election. Besides, Democrats know that impeachment is going nowhere in the Senate, so why bother locking down the case to make it worthy of the gravity of the process?

4. Thank you, Ryan Berg, for the exceptional analysis of on-the-run Bolivian jefe Evo Morales, BFF of socialism, thief of votes, and destroyer of economies. From the beginning of the piece:

When President Evo Morales of Bolivia was caught by election observers in an artless attempt to steal an illegal fourth term, the police withdrew their support for the president. Realizing that they were next in the chain of command, the military preemptively warned Morales that they would refuse to fire on innocent protesters, who had turned out in great numbers demanding his resignation, and suggested he resign as a means of ending the crisis. Since then, debate has raged, as Morales claims he is another victim in a long line of Latin American leaders toppled by a U.S.-backed coup.

As an asylee in Mexico City, Morales continues to foment violence and plot a return to power. Deadly confrontations have broken out between his supporters and those of the new interim government, leading to the deaths of more than 30 Bolivians. At this point, however, with a political comeback highly unlikely, it is best to turn away from the merits of the coup debate and instead address Morales's legacy after almost 14 years in power. Many in the region have shed a tear for Morales, defending his legacy as one of firsts and pointing to his poverty reduction as proof that his brand of "socialism can work," as one Washington Post columnist put it recently.

The question of Morales's legacy is more than an academic exercise. In fact, it has implications well beyond Bolivia. Recently, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, yet nearly 50 percent of Americans now embrace some form of socialism. This is somewhat understandable: Younger Americans did not live the Cold War experience or encounter the grim reality of life behind the Iron Curtain. When they are confronted with this reality through history books and video evidence, the most common refrain remains commitment to the tenets of socialism while arguing that the regimes of Eastern Europe erred in their "poor application" of the principles. And for Morales's supporters, Bolivia was engaged in a "good application" of socialism. Yet the truth is messier and far less convenient than Morales's defenders would like to admit.

5. Chester Finn and Frederick Hess sound the alarm that Wokeness is threating education reform. From the piece:

The damage inflicted on our educational institutions by the onrushing tsunami of wokeness is starting to worry even a few prominent progressives. Former president Obama himself recently fretted about young activists who are "as judgmental as possible about other people," cautioning that they're "not bringing about change."

As a hyper-judgmental, hyper-sensitive mindset washes from colleges into our nation's schools, however, change is indeed being brought about: The wokeness wave is destroying unblemished reputations, driving admirable people from the field, and undermining sorely needed efforts at school improvement.

Today, we're a nation still at risk, due to the faltering achievement of far too many children — a problem vividly on display in student performance that has been flat for a decade. Addressing that challenge requires a broad and durable coalition. This is only possible if reformers work with those who have different views and values and then have the courage to stand by their allies.

School reformers have long seen themselves as plucky champions of change. Today, however, as funders and advocacy groups chant from a common hymnal of wokeness, the rules have changed and courage is hard to find. In its place we see cravenness and appeasement from reformers desperate to avoid the all-seeing eye of the progressive mob.

Acclaimed Columbia professor John McWhorter recently decried the "tribalist, inquisitional excommunication" that caused a biology professor at Evergreen State College to be "hounded out of his post for refusing to heed a demand that whites vacate the campus for a day." McWhorter's focus, however, was mostly on the charter-school sector, which has lately seen successful school leaders forced out because of complaints that they are racist, sexist, misogynist, or opinionated in ways that critics don't like.

6. Rebeccah Heinrichs has a sit-down with OSO Mike Pompeo. The subject: Red China. From the piece:

In addition to the Hong Kong elections, there was more breaking news over the weekend related to the CCP: An alleged Chinese spy defected to Australia and shared a trove of details about the pervasiveness of the party's disinformation campaigns, its kidnapping of journalists and efforts to bully and intimidate journalists, and its astonishing efforts to infiltrate foreign universities and subvert governments disinclined to support its totalitarian vision.

Understandably, Pompeo couldn't go into any detail about the case beyond acknowledging that he's seen the reports of the defection. "The Trump Administration is keenly aware of the risks of Chinese efforts to influence and to conduct espionage campaigns, and so we're taking all the appropriate measures," he said. "We talk about them in lots of different contexts: protecting our elections, protecting American intellectual property. All of the things that President Trump has talked about in the context of trade often have a true national-security component to them as well."

That's a realization U.S. officials would be wise to take to heart. It is impossible to compartmentalize trade and national security. For too long, the United States acted as though they were separate, and as though economic incentives would be enough to transform adversaries into allies. That has proven over and over again to be false. It is increasingly difficult to argue that entire business sectors aren't directly enabling the CCP's gross abuses of Chinese religious minorities. Countries still holding on to the hope that deep economic ties will keep them out of the CCP's military sights should be disabused of that notion sooner rather than later.

7. Boola Boola S***: Ivy League brats occupy the 50-yard line to lament on climate change. Jonathan Tobin blocks the kick. From the article:

Are environmental activists changing the hearts and minds of Americans about global warming, inspiring them to treat it as a pressing crisis? So far, the results are mixed, as we saw last Saturday when climate protesters stormed the field to disrupt the annual Harvard–Yale football game. The stunt earned more boos than cheers from the crowd at the Yale Bowl in New Haven.

Polls have shown that more Americans than ever before are aware of climate change as an issue, but they are mixed about whether it is a "crisis" or just a "problem" that won't require major sacrifices to fix, as a recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found.

That survey showed that Americans were split down the middle on how to define climate change, with 38 percent saying it is a crisis and an equal number calling it merely a problem. But the results were far more one-sided when it came to the question of what to do about climate change, with 62 percent of the public saying that any solution will require only "minor sacrifices" or "not much sacrifice." Only 37 percent believe it will require "major sacrifices."

The public's disinclination to see climate change as a pressing global catastrophe is fueling the rage of activists. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has become an international celebrity for her angry warnings that we're on the brink of "mass extinction," is widely applauded by the media, but there's little indication that Americans are ready to heed her advice. Indeed, some environmental activists think her emphasis on pushing people to change their personal behavior — to give up meat, cheese, plastic, and air travel — is bound to undermine their cause. They have little hope that people living in the 21st century will be content to live as if they were in the 19th because Thunberg and other activists tells them it will save the planet. These advocates want the sole focus to be on governments, not individuals.

8. Madeleine Kearns provides the much-needed update on the upcoming British elections and Boris Johnson's "extraordinary manifesto." From the report:

Get Brexit Done. Unleash Britain's Potential. This is the Tory party's election manifesto, a 59-page document promising a swift Brexit, big spending, tax freezes, an improved National Health Service, and more funding for law enforcement.

In ordinary times, the document would be a letdown to fiscal conservatives. But these are not ordinary times. On December 12, Britons will go to the ballot box and decide whether the occupant of No. 10 Downing Street should be Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn, a Marxist and — some believe — a maniac.

With regards to Brexit, Johnson is promising a swift and moderate delivery to his Brexit deal and a short transition period. Corbyn is promising a renegotiation followed by a second referendum. Labour has not indicated whether it will be backing Brexit in the referendum.

With regards to the economy, Johnson is promising an end to austerity (without tax hikes). He is also pursuing free-trade agreements with the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. His government intends to borrow £100 billion for infrastructure investment. Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, has called the infrastructure plan "the biggest increase in the size of the state under a Conservative Prime Minister since Harold Macmillan."

Naturally, however, Corbyn is promising more. Much more. For every $1.30 of spending that the Tories are offering in their manifesto, Labour is offering $36.

For starters, Corbyn plans the biggest increase in newly constructed "council" (i.e., welfare) housing since World War II, which would cost $96 billion. Corbyn also wants to reduce the working week to 32 hours (with no decrease in pay); provide free TV licenses for people older than 75, at $961 million (all British residents must buy an annual license to watch TV); create a new social-security system costing $10.8 billion; provide free dental treatment and prescription drugs; free college tuition, for $9.3 billion a year; free "personal care" for people older than 65 and 30 hours of free child care a week for children under four — only $7.2 billion a year for the state to raise your children!

9. And before you can say Bob's your uncle, John O'Sullivan provides his own analysis of the forthcoming election and its promise of Brexit Ho! From the article:

The net effect is that support for Remain is divided almost two-to-one between these two parties (in England, that is, since Scotland, with the pro-Remain Scottish National party in the game, requires a different calculation). In sharp contrast, Leave support is divided about twelve-to-one between the Tories and Nigel Farage's insurgent Brexit party. It was always likely that a Tory party led by Boris Johnson and proposing some form of Brexit would scoop the great majority of Leave voters from the Brexit party, but Farage might perhaps have held onto, say, 8 percent of voters, or one-sixth of the total Leave vote, if he had kept all his 600 candidates in the race. But Leave voters in both parties pressured him to withdraw, and after a public struggle with himself, he agreed to stand down Brexit-party candidates in all 318 Tory seats. As a result, the Brexit party is now at about 3 percent in the polls, reflecting the broad decision of Leave voters to consolidate around the Tories. Since a badly divided Remain coalition now faces a united Leave one, that points to a substantial Tory victory but one short of a landslide.

Could that change? Of course. Events are unpredictable and have unpredictable effects. No one expected the Manchester bombing in 2017, still less its undermining impact on the Tory campaign of strong and stable government. But there is one decision by Boris that has so far strengthened the Tory lead but could perhaps turn sour.

Two weeks ago the Tories were quietly negotiating with Farage over a possible deal (that, as it happens, bore some resemblance to the electoral logic I sketched out in my last Brexit article). If the reports are accurate, Farage wanted the Tories to withdraw from about 40 northern seats where he believed the Brexit party had the better chance of defeating the Labour incumbent. In return, he would not put up candidates anywhere else. The Tories saw this logic but proposed a half-hearted version of it: Namely, they would not withdraw their own candidates in the Labour seats Farage sought, but they wouldn't campaign for them either. That deal fell apart, and recriminations are following. The Tories probably now think they got most of what they wanted — the Brexit party giving them a free run in 318 of 630 constituencies — and they're probably right. But in rejecting the Farage deal, they rejected the near-certainty of a landslide for themselves, even if they also think they avoided the future difficulties that would be caused by having a party to their right in Parliament and the country.

10. There goes the neighborhood: Cloying Tom Hanks playing cloying Mr. Rogers. What’s not to not like? Kyle Smith's take on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood finds Mr. Rogers's sneakers are untied. From the review:

Perhaps I'm not the target audience for this slow-moving, punitively earnest movie. I'm not sure who is. People with more patience that I've got, maybe. Still, the movie does have a character someone like me can identify with: a fictitious writer named Lloyd Vogel, who is loosely based on a profiler for slick magazines. Vogel opens the movie by saluting "my fellow misfits" — which sounds a bit odd coming at a posh, exclusive, absurdly expensive black-tie awards ceremony in Manhattan. Why do elites think of themselves as "misfits"? He moves on to this thought: "So why do we write for magazines for a living? Honestly, because doing anything else doesn't seem quite like living at all . . . sometimes, just sometimes, we get to change a broken world with our words."

Hang on, this guy finds the apex of human existence to be . . . writing articles for fashion magazines nobody reads? I worked at People (which at least people actually did read) for eight years, and one thing I can tell you about our crew is that nobody confused himself with Jonas Salk. "Change a broken world with our words"? We were lucky if we could get through the day without being screamed at by Renée Zellweger's publicist. On our to-do list, "fixing the world" was about 500 spots lower on the list than "get Carrot Top for Sexiest Man Alive." Moreover, our editors, trained in the somewhat WASPy and phlegmatic Time Inc. register, were at least resistant to hyperbole. "Doing anything else doesn't seem quite like living" is exactly the kind of hysterically overwrought balderdash that editors stomped all over, even when our subjects would say things like this. Anyone who would apply this description to being a magazine writer, a person whose profession it is to ask interesting people about stuff they've done, is so obtuse that he shouldn't be allowed near a media outlet in the first place. People who put out forest fires, or deliver babies, or kill terrorists: They are doing stuff that matters. Magazine writers do things like writing bitchy, trying-to-be-clever Esquire cover stories suggesting Kevin Spacey was gay. Which is what the guy whose life this movie is based on did.

11. Edward Conrad finds a lot of hooey in Thomas Philippon's new book, The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets. From the review:

Many scholars dispute Philippon's claim that rising monopoly rents are diminishing America's competitiveness. To refute his argument, they point to America's market-share leaders, which have invested more, produced more innovation, achieved greater productivity, and gained market share relative to their competitors — the opposite of rising cronyism. Philippon answers his critics with evidence that investment has been lower than expected since 2000, given the high market value of America's leading companies relative to the replacement cost of their assets. He points to Europe for comparison. His arguments are fraught with complications that he leaves out of his book.

Unmentioned is the importance of earning returns in excess of the cost of capital to incentivize risk-taking necessary to produce innovation and increase prosperity. If competitors can easily copy innovation and compete away excess returns, everyone will wait for others to innovate, and the pace of innovation and investment will slow. Fortunately, that hasn't happened.

Aside from the slow-growing automotive sector, America's 200 largest companies are investing twice as much in research and development as their European counterparts. The U.S. economy is investing nearly 25 percent more in intangible assets, such as software and training, than Europe. America is investing about eight times more venture capital per dollar of gross domestic product. And America has produced about six times as many billion-dollar startups as Europe — an indicator of innovativeness more broadly. Rising cronyism isn't evident in any of these revealing comparisons. Instead of confronting this evidence, Philippon diverts the reader's attention to the consolidation of capital-intensive cellphone networks and airlines, where marginal competitors have struggled to survive, and to other industries where consolidation has increased but is still below antitrust standards of concern.

12. The intersection of Dallas, Madrid, opera, and art — yes, there is such a nexus — is the stuff of Brian Allen's latest. From the review:

To Sevillian barbers, Carmen, and all those Spanish Dons — Don Carlos, Don Giovanni, Don Rodrigo — you're adding art to your repertoire. I'm writing this week about a new collaboration among the Meadows Museum in Dallas, the Dallas Opera, and the Teatro Real, the opera house in Madrid facing the Royal Palace. I was in Madrid last week and attended the launch.

The Meadows, which is the art museum at Southern Methodist University, focuses on the best art from the Hispanic world. It's an imaginative, entrepreneurial place. I've seen lots of good exhibitions there over the years. Now, it's bringing opera into its gallery and returning art to two great opera houses. The Meadows will license its great collection to the Dallas Opera, which will design its stage sets around it. The Dallas Opera will send its singers to the museum for performances. They'll collaborate on marketing, too.

Over time, the Meadows will plan shows with a music subtext. This is smart and ambitious. The museum spaces are elegant, spacious, and suited to sound. I'd suggest Picasso and the stage. He designed dozens of sets. John Singer Sargent loved Spanish music and dance. Spain is a musical melting pot. Jewish, Visigothic, Moorish, Italian, and French styles ooze into one another, jolted by castanets and tambourines. Goya, alas, was deaf.

Verdi's Don Carlos and Rossini's The Barber of Seville are the two anchor shows at the Dallas Opera next year, both using Meadows art. Carlos (1545–1568) was a very bad dude. He looked like James Dean but had a touch of Charles Manson in him. He was Philip II's oldest son and heir. His father poisoned him in an act of patriotism. This most ascetic king liked clean breaks. His younger son, Philip III, was sensible and pious.

A Dios

In my own immediate world, we are thankful to Uncle Tom and Aunt Marsha for another wonderful feast. A little more broadly, we are thankful for the blessings of liberty. A little more prayerfully, we hope the forthcoming season in which God's sons and daughters celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah brings with it graces of comfort, joy, happiness, and peace. Would that be the case for you and all those you love.


Jack Fowler

who can be admonished for his boolah vulgarities at


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