Saturday, October 17, 2020

Shaddapp Shuttin’ Up

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Yep, they're private companies yadda yadda herp derp durka durka . . . thank you übertarians for edjumakatin us dummies. Of course what they — Facebook and Twitter — are . . . are businesses that present and represent themselves as forums for communication, for speech, of all sorts, come one come all and bring your pictures and memes and videos too. But then, for quite discriminate reasons, with rules shady and subjective and invented on the fly, with even shadier algorithms, and neato tricks like shadow banning, these big honkin' culture-dictating platforms (which enjoy amazingly broad First Amendment protections that come with a side order of gargantuan financial benefits) then seek to control that particular form of speech, political speech, which under our Constitution is considered (used to be, anyway) the most protected form of such.

They are also liberal and left-wing businesses which pluck many of their corporate bureaucrats from the ex-staffer ranks of Capitol Hill Democrats. These highly paid wokelings send much money (98.99 per cent in fact, which sounds like North Korean election results) in political donations to the Big Donkey.

In every which way — and this week to the "every which" was added censoring a New York Post blockbuster about the lucrative Kiev hijinx of Joe and Hunter Biden — these powerful social forces have plopped their heavy mitts and plenty more (like the chubby drunk dude at the Christmas party who sits on the copier to make, well, you know) on the 2020 scales, and have done so in a big way. By censoring. The folks in the Delaware basement, resuscitated after reading the Post slam, surely picked up the Bat Phone, cried for help, and like the good Party Protectors that they are, Twitter Jack and Facebook Mark to the Bat Poles went.

The Good Lord help you if you tweeted a link to that Post blockbuster — the angry Blue Bird of Censorship would have plopped on your noggin as your account went mute. Meanwhile, many in the media actually cheered the drawbridge going up. Whatever it takes to shut you down and shut you up.

Bugs Bunny was once told to shaddapp shuttin' up. Taken in its sorta double-negative literally-ness, un-up-shutting sounds like something worth doing. Like standing athwart something, maybe even history, possibly yelling . . .  let's go with Stop!

Add censorship to the things now very worth fighting (relentlessly!) against. Speaking of which . . .

We are in the midst of a major SCOTUS confirmation battle, in which NR has given its consequential all on behalf of President Trump's exceptional nominee, Amy Coney Barrett; we are in the homestretch of a consequential presidential election, in which NR has been calling bull-doody relentlessly on the leftist Biden — Harris ticket's 24/7malarky; and . . .

We are in the midst of NR's flash webathon, seeking a sorely needed $150,000.

Here's why we need your financial support: Without it, NR cannot fight, and an NR not fighting for conservative principles and against leftist schemes is like a fish that can't swim, a banana that won't peel, a dog that won't hunt. National Review exists to fight. Right now, in particular, to fight for the Constitution by making sure its robed referees are originalists, to fight against partisan censors who use the First Amendment to increase their political advantages, and to fight the growing number of legal academics who have bullied our traditional views of free and unfettered speech because, well, the fettering would increase their power (my word, Charlie Cooke as a great piece on this very point).

NR can only fight with your support. Some colleagues, led by Rich Lowry, have made excellent appeals. We pray that you consider them, that you are moved to help, and that you do so help right here, of course confident of our deep appreciation.

And now . . . to the Jolt Poles!

Editorials

1. The Facebook and Twitter censors blocking for Biden-Harris are called out. From the editorial:

There is no credible reason for this kind of targeted suppression. Over the past five years there have been scores of dramatic scoops written by major media outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN that were based on faulty information provided by unknown sources that turned out to be incorrect. Not once has Facebook or Twitter concerned itself with the sourcing methods of reporters. Not once did it censor any of those pieces.

Even today, Twitter users are free to share stories that rely on the Steele Dossier, which includes the Donald Trump "pee-tape" myth, despite the fact that we now know it was likely disinformation dropped into the media stream by a foreign power.

Twitter initially cited its "Hacked Materials Policy" and a "lack of authoritative reporting" as justification for censoring the Post, one of the most widely read papers in the nation. Though the reliability of the story is yet to be determined, Twitter has offered no evidence that any of the information was illegally obtained. No similar standard was applied when the New York Times published Trump's tax returns, even though anyone who had legal access to them is likely to have broken the law in sharing them with the Times. The newspaper reports that Hunter Biden's emails had turned up in the hard drive of a laptop that had been dropped off at a repair shop last year. The FBI is reportedly in possession of the hard drive.

2. Pathetic Democratic antics against Amy Barrett went nowhere, but still deserve our opprobrium. From the editorial:

So they used the hearings for two main purposes: to highlight issues that hurt President Trump rather than ones that are likely to cause her serious trouble, and to stroke the erogenous zones of their base. They have established that Barrett believes that some gun regulations are incompatible with the Second Amendment, that she is pro-life, and that she believes that Chief Justice John Roberts stretched the text of Obamacare in order to uphold it. All of these beliefs should be considered marks in her favor.

They have not established — they have not come within spitting distance of establishing — what they are trying to insinuate: that she would find flimsy legal pretexts for junking Obamacare, or would mow down all gun regulations, or would somehow prohibit in vitro fertilization.

Some Democrats attempted to portray Barrett's use of the term "sexual preference" as a sign of hostility to gays and lesbians, an effort that fizzled, since the term has also been used, and recently, by leading Democrats and gay publications. Asked about the nontroversy, she said she had meant no offense. She should rest easy knowing no genuine offense was taken.

3. We contend the country needs additional COVID relief from Congress. From the editorial:

The House speaker called the White House proposal "insufficient," claiming that the president "has not taken the war against the virus seriously." In fact, the administration's plan includes an ample $175 billion for testing, tracing, and vaccine programs. The real disagreement comes down to state and local funding, with Democrats taking advantage of the pandemic to attempt a bailout of profligate blue states.

Rather than simply seize on that issue, GOP senators have broadly opposed coronavirus-relief spending. A critical mass of Senate Republicans has come out against the White House proposal because it would add too much to the deficit. While the federal debt remains a long-term concern, it shouldn't foreclose economic assistance during an unprecedented public-health emergency. No less so because fiscal inaction would, according to Goldman Sachs Research, cut fourth-quarter economic growth in half, reducing long-run tax revenues and exacerbating the debt issue. The protracted economic damage of widespread business closures and high unemployment far outweighs the cost of additional spending, especially at a time of near-zero interest rates.

4. Bill Barr deserves better from President Trump. From the editorial:

In "Russiagate," the Justice Department can't seem to find one either, at least not fast enough or high enough up the political food chain for Trump. The president ranted on Twitter last week about the "TREASONOUS PLOT," and inveighed against Barr in friendly talk-radio interviews over the failure to indict Obama officials.

Trump's wayward invocation of treason brings the problem into sharp relief. Besides being unhinged political rhetoric, as a legal matter — which is what Barr has to consider — it is sheer nonsense. The presidency is not the nation. A president is a public servant, and a presidential candidate a mere public figure; neither of them is the United States, on whom war must be waged to trigger treason. Under federal law, treason's close cousin sedition, also touted by Trump supporters as a potential charge, similarly requires proof of conspiracy to use force against the nation and its government.

There's a reason that the checks against abuses of power in our system are predominantly political, not legal. The discretion to exercise government's police and intelligence-collection powers must necessarily be broad because the potential threats to national security and public safety are infinite. If a presidential candidate actually was conspiring with a hostile nation against vital American interests, an incumbent administration would have not only the legitimate authority but the duty to investigate, regardless of political considerations. Fear of prosecution after the fact would paralyze an administration, to the nation's peril. If the executive's awesome powers are abused, the Constitution arms Congress with the means to discipline an administration and even remove wayward officials from office.

A Bevy of Beautiful Articles Promenading for Your Attention, Your Edification, Your Clicking!

1. Ah yes, if Joe Biden were a Republican, Kyle Smith is sure there would be some very different questions asked of him. From the essay:

Mr. Biden, in December 2013 you took your son Hunter with you on Air Force Two to China, where he promptly introduced you to a businessman named Jonathan Li. Li's company later gave Hunter a 10 percent stake in an investment fund that now manages some $2 billion. A White House official you worked with told the New Yorker the administration said it appeared that Hunter "was leveraging access for his benefit, which just wasn't done in that White House. Optics really mattered." How could you allow this to happen?

Mr. Biden, another Chinese businessman, a billionaire named Ye Jianming, was partners with Hunter on a natural-gas business in Louisiana and also gave Hunter a very large diamond. Ye's deputy was later arrested in New York on charges of bribing government officials, charges on which he was later convicted. His first call, according to the New York Times, was to your younger brother Jimmy. He also tried to reach Hunter. Do you think you are entitled to allow your family members to profit from your name and connections?

Mr. Biden, while you were vice president in 2010 your brother Jimmy, who had no experience in the construction industry, nevertheless formed a construction company that a few months later was granted a $1.5 billion contract to build housing in Iraq. Isn't this part of a long pattern of Biden family corruption?

2. David Harsanyi explores the social-media giants' censorship of the New York Post. From the analysis:

Even as Twitter was banning reporters from sharing the Post's investigation, or even providing evidence of its veracity, it was allowing left-wing outlets such as the New York Times and Daily Beast to purportedly contextualize it.

The very notion that the establishment media wouldn't run with hacked Donald Trump emails, if they pointed to possible misconduct, strains credulity. Just a few weeks ago, nearly every reporter on social media was sharing a recording "obtained without authorization" of the First Lady complaining about Christmas decorating — a story that had almost no news value.

By the way, as of yet, no one has really disputed the veracity of the Post's reporting. Hunter has not claimed that those aren't his pictures or his emails. Joe Biden hasn't claimed that he didn't meet Burisma execs who were using his son. Politico reports that "Biden's campaign would not rule out the possibility that the former VP had some kind of informal interaction" with the Burisma executive. One assumes that, if the vice president met with a shady oil executive who put his incompetent son on its board, it would not be on the official docket. In a healthy media environment, journalists wouldn't be dismissing the story; they would be trying to verify it in the same way they try to verify dirt on the president.

Instead, the Biden campaign uses the Twitter ban as proof of the inauthenticity of the story. "Twitter's response to the actual article itself makes clear that these purported allegations are false and are not true," says one creative Biden campaign spokesperson.

3. Charles Cooke makes the case for a 28th Amendment to prevent Court-Packing. From the article:

A 28th Amendment setting the Supreme Court at nine justices would follow suit. Moreover, it would serve as a rebuke to precisely the same people and modes of thinking that the 22nd did. The idea of expanding the Supreme Court in order to neuter it was first proposed during the administration of — surprise! — Woodrow Wilson. Wilson never seriously pursued it, but, again, his heir, Franklin D. Roosevelt, did. Admirably, Roosevelt was stopped in his tracks by his own party, which, despite enjoying supermajority control in Congress, dismissed the notion as an enabling act for dictatorship. Rejecting Roosevelt's proposal in 1937, the Senate Judiciary Committee seemed sure that the idea had been so "emphatically rejected that its parallel will never again be presented to the free representatives of the free people of America." If the committee turns out to have been wrong, the states should step in and take the option off the table for good. Alexander Hamilton observed that, unlike in the elected branches, life terms represent an "excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body." But there is, of course, no virtue in this arrangement if judges can be added to the Court at will.

It would be highly appropriate for such a rule to be placed into the Constitution, given that what we are seeing unfurl now in D.C. is not really a fight over the Supreme Court, so much as a fight over whether we should keep that Constitution at all. It is remarkable that it has taken this long to arrive. More than a century has passed since Woodrow Wilson insouciantly announced that the highest law in the land was outmoded and should be replaced, and it is only by chance that his worldview has seeped into the law gradually. FDR may have been repudiated in his attempt to blow up the Court, but, by the end of his life, he had served so long that he had appointed eight of the nine justices, and the "problem" that he was trying to "fix" had largely gone away. Since then, the desire to abolish the Court has been less pressing, either because a majority of justices has been willing to make up the law, or because enough justices have been willing to consider making up the law to give those who wish to "evolve" the Constitution into meaninglessness a shot at getting what they want. Sometimes, it has looked as if that might change, and when it has, the Democratic Party has all but lost its mind. (For examples of this, consider the cases of Bork, Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh.) But, until now, there has been no real danger that the law would be consistently read as written.

4. More Court-Packing: Michael Brendan Dougherty says the reason this has become such a national issue is the too-clever-by-half doings of Chief Justice John Roberts. From the article:

There's only one problem. The play is running in reverse. A doubtless very different Justice Roberts has been trying to save the Court's reputation among Democrats for a decade now. The political drama around and within the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings demonstrates that this gambit has failed. John Roberts' attempt to shore up the legitimacy of the Court has backfired, inviting the very escalation it was calculated to avoid and making him a figure of ridicule among those who would otherwise admire him.

When the question of whether it was constitutional for the federal government to use the Affordable Care Act to compel citizens to purchase a health insurance policy or face a penalty came before the Supreme Court, it came as the chief legislative accomplishment of the first term of the first African-American president, the most popular political figure to emerge in American life since Ronald Reagan. It came with endless blogposts at The Washington Post saying that the whole structure of the Affordable Care Act depended on the enforceability of this mandate and its fines. It also came as the product of humiliating political horse-trading and promiscuous expansions of the authority of HHS over American life — rife with embarrassing drafting errors (a problem for textualists!) and backed by the curious argument that the federal government's power to regulate interstate economic activity granted the government the power to regulate and punish a very specific form of individual economic inactivity.

Roberts wrote the opinion that vindicated the law, one that everyone else on the Court (and many outside) seemed to disdain. He rewrote the penalty as a tax. He just pretended that something the government probably couldn't do under the Constitution — compel individuals to purchase items — was something else entirely, levying a tax. He did this to preserve respect for the Court among Democrats. And maybe he hoped that this act of "judicial modesty" would encourage Congress to take up its own constitutional role and defer fewer questions to the Court.

5. Progressives made a big deal campaigning about "nasty women." Then, Amy Coney Barrett came along, and, as Madeleine Kearns reports, came too the flip-flop. From the piece:

In 2016, during the third presidential debate, when Trump referred to Hillary Clinton as a "nasty woman," progressives launched a feminist movement by the same name. (Never mind that Trump had previously called Ted Cruz a "nasty guy.") Trump, who has indeed made a number of strange remarks about serious women (for instance about Megyn Kelly's period) has been a gift to the pushers of the patriarchal-presidency narrative. When Hillary lost, it was claimed by countless commentators to be on account of widespread "misogyny."

Oddly, however, when Judge Amy Coney Barret came along, the standard mysteriously flipped. As we have seen these past few weeks, there has been a peculiar focus on her personal reproductive choices, with NPR and other outlets commenting on her "large family." There has been an even more peculiar focus on her appearance, with Katie Hill — author of the feminist book She Will Rise, as well as a former congresswoman who resigned after admitting to being unfaithful to her husband and having a sexual relationship with her subordinate — tweeting, "I hate to be someone who judges women on their clothes but I'm sorry ACB's outfits are all the way too handsmaid-y."

Female lawyer Leslie McAdoo Gordon, who has over 25,000 followers, wrote, "Women lawyers & judges wear suits, including dresses with jackets, for work. It is not a great look that ACB consistently does not. No male judge would be dressed in less than correct courtroom attire. It's inappropriately casual."

One would think that ACB, a woman who smashed the "having it all" glass ceiling, would, by the Left's own standards, be cause for celebration. But not so. A male writer for Slate called her "a shameless, cynical careerist who believes nobody can stop her," cast aspersions on her alleged "traditionalist wife-and-mother persona," and stated that "what's wrong with Barrett isn't that she's too pious, or that she's submissive in her personal life. It's that she's bent on making herself one of the nine most powerful judges in the country, even if she has to do it in the most graspingly partisan and destructive way possible." So, just to make sure I'm getting what you know and understand so well, sir — the problem with Amy Coney Barret is that she is too ambitious? Righty-ho!

6. More Kyle: Watching the Barrett hearings, he documents the Insane Clown Posse's performance in the Moron Theater. From the beginning of the piece:

This week it was A. C. B. versus I.C.P.: Insane Clown Posse. Poised, graceful, unflappable, unbeatable, Judge Amy Coney Barrett sat patiently as one idiotic question after another was flung in her general direction, each time by a Democrat convinced he or she had come up with a "Gotcha!" for the ages. Pat Leahy (I.C.P., Vt.) asked whether a president must obey a court order. As though explaining this to a toddler, Barrett replied, "The Supreme Court can't control what the president obeys." Mazie Hirono (I.C.P., Hawaii) asked whether Barrett had ever sexually assaulted anyone and scolded the judge for using the term "sexual preference," which has just this week been declared offensive by I.C.P. fans but had previously been used by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Joe Biden, and many other members and allies of the I.C.P. movement. Cory Booker (I.C.P., N.J.) asked whether Barrett condemned white supremacy, and when she said yes, he said he wished the president would say that, although the president already has said that, and Booker's wishes are none of the Supreme Court's business anyway, unless he wishes the high Court to apply the Constitution, which seems unlikely.

Hey, kids! Did you know "climate change" is in the U.S. Constitution? It's right there in Article VIII, Section 4, right after VIII.3, "White Trousers After Labor Day, Wearing Of" (punishable by life imprisonment without parole, unless you live in Miami) but before VIII.5, "How Long You Are Legally Required to Wait Before Honking Your Horn at the Guy in Front of You Who Didn't Move When the Light Turned Green" (three seconds, except in New York City, where it's one-tenth of a second).

7. More MBD. An amazing analysis of social-media giants assaults on the Right, and what's likely to next come. From the commentary:

One other dead-end response conservatives will launch is to demand that Facebook and Twitter clarify their policies. Explain to us how to stay on the right side of the law. Tell us how to not be Alex Jones. But there is no predictable way to stay on the right side of Facebook and Twitter. They don't make and stick to policy. They don't explain changes before they enact them. For years, it has been obvious that social-media companies simply react and respond to the moral panics happening at other media companies. They are terrified of being blamed or, in Facebook's case, blamed again for Donald Trump. Alex Jones was just a test case. You're the real one.

Do you think they are acting this quickly, decisively, and creatively to stop the spread of misinformation in Tagalog from President Duterte? Do you think they're putting in the heave-ho effort in Turkey to keep Erdogan honest? Think they're putting fact checks on the Malaysian dictator Mahathir Mohamad's tweets? Don't kid yourselves that this is about racism or authoritarianism.

What Facebook and Twitter discovered to their horror in 2016 is that elite social-media companies are elite media companies. And there are expectations in their industry. The people they want to employ, and the people that their employees want to impress, belong to the same class as those who work for the New York Times and Washington Post.

Libertarians will tell conservatives that this doesn't matter. "Build your own Facebook! Build your own Twitter!" But Facebook and Twitter are the most powerful media companies on earth, and most other media companies have become dependent on them. And this is not going to stop with social networks. The next frontier is payment processors. Good luck launching your next direct-to-consumer subscription product when your most passionate fans can't promote it on Facebook and Twitter and you can't accept PayPal, Visa, or Mastercard. 

8. Victor Davis Hanson finds civilization fragmenting, and fingers a few of those who are to blame. From the end of the essay:

To paraphrase Sophocles, 2020 saw many strange things and nothing stranger than peak Trump derangement syndrome, COVID-19, a self-induced recession, our first national quarantine, and riots, looting, and arson, all mostly unpunished and uncontrolled, in our major cities.

So we are in revolutionary times, even as we snooze about a recent systematic effort, hidden with great effort by our own government, to destroy a prior presidential campaign and transition, and now a presidency.

We are asked to vote for a candidate who will not reveal his position on any major issue of our age, because he feels to do so would enlighten the undeserving electorate and thereby cost him the election. So we continue to sleepwalk toward a revolution whose architects warped our institutions in 2016–2020, and they now plan to alter many of them beyond recognition in 2021.

Translated, that means that they don't regret what they did in 2016–2019, only that they belatedly got caught for a brief time.

And so by changing the rules after 2020, they are vowing never ever to get caught again.

9. James Glassman argues that drug price controls will harm seniors. From the article:

A study by the House Ways & Means Committee staff last year found that the U.S. average list price of about 60 drugs was $466, compared with $153 in the Netherlands. While list prices are not what Americans or their insurers actually pay, a most-favored-nation model could easily mean reductions of one-third to one-half.

That may sound terrific for U.S. patients, but a study by the research firm Avalere of an earlier plan that applied only to Part B found that "the vast majority of seniors in Medicare would not see a reduction in their out-of-pocket (OOP) costs" because more than 87 percent of them have supplemental insurance. Big winners? Insurance companies.

The losers are America's seniors. The best medicines might never reach them. In its own May 2018 blueprint, "American Patients First," the administration cited a World Health Organization paper criticizing external reference pricing, which stated that index "price controls, combined with the threat of market lockout or intellectual property infringement, prevent drug companies from charging market rates for their products, while delaying the availability of new cures to patients living in countries implementing these policies."

10. Jimmy Quinn examines how the U.N. Human Rights Council is a haven for dictators. From the article:

During the 14 years of the council's existence, its authoritarian members have run the show. And after today's elections to the council, many of them — China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba, among others — will re-join the world's top human-rights advocacy forum, despite their horrendous records on these issues.

It's a stain on the U.N.'s reputation and a disappointment that the council's reputation is sullied by these countries and their allies. Truth be told, the council can at times do important work and fulfill its mandate to promote and protect human rights. It oversees a system of U.N. rights experts that by-and-large do excellent work; in fact, this year, close to 50 of them called for an investigation into the Chinese Communist Party's actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. And during its current session, after U.N. experts released a report detailing the Maduro regime's "crimes against humanity," the council held an urgent session on the situation in Belarus.

On the other hand, Venezuela is a current member of the council, with the right to vote on any of the body's resolutions. The council has also held a special debate on racism in the United States — which is undoubtedly a problem, but one that should be addressed within a liberal-democratic system, not by some of the most openly and deliberately racist regimes in the world. And as the Western world prepares sanctions on the Belarusian government's crackdown, a Belarusian academic holds the post of special rapporteur on "unilateral coercive measures" (which is to say sanctions). She's taken up the PR campaign, initiated by authoritarian countries decades ago and accelerated recently, that claims Western sanctions targeting human-rights abusers are the true human-rights abuses that the U.N. system must combat.

11. More UN: It's Hell-bent on abortion, writes Elyssa Koren. From the article:

Cooperation between the U.N. and the abortion industry is nothing new, but the coronavirus climate has paved the way for increasingly brazen and bizarre alliances. This is a new direction for UNICEF and the World Bank, for example, both of which traditionally have steered clear of overt abortion activism. Although it's commonplace, it is essential to underscore that U.N. abortion promotion is fundamentally at odds with its institutional mandate. National governments, not the international bureaucracy, should chart the course for the U.N. system.

As long as pro-life governments exist — and there are many stalwart pro-life governments — it is inappropriate and illegitimate for the U.N. to unilaterally advance abortion on demand. In fact, the powerful pro-life voice of the United States alone renders the U.N.'s continual promotion of abortion promotion and this new partnership illicit.

As the U.S. recently articulated in a statement to the U.N.: "There is no international right to abortion, nor is there any duty on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion." This has been a consistent and frequent stance of the U.S. government, one that has garnered widespread support from countries across the globe.

12. M.D. Aeschliman remembers Malcolm Muggeridge. From the reflection:

As is inevitable with truly great satire, the satirist had become a moralist. Over the four decades from 1920 to the '60s, Muggeridge increasingly felt the pull of "transcendence and grace" (his phrase). By the '60s he had become an independent, churchless Christian, and much of his activity and writing in the last three decades of his life were devoted to defending and resurrecting the Christian tradition. He made a series of powerful documentaries for television, including Something Beautiful for God (1970–71) on Mother Teresa of Calcutta; royalties of the book version supplied the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta with their largest source of income for many years afterward. He made a series of films entitled "A Third Testament," on Saint Augustine, Pascal, William Blake, Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, following it with a book (1976). He wrote essays on Simone Weil and Dostoevsky, books on Jesus (Jesus Rediscovered, 1969; Jesus: The Man Who Lives, 1975) and Saint Paul (first as a film with his old Cambridge clergyman friend and don Alec Vidler, retracing Saint Paul's voyages, then the book, Paul: Envoy Extraordinary, 1972). He drew attention to the survival and prospering of Christianity in Russian and Eastern European anticommunist figures such as Solzhenitsyn, Anatoli Kuznetsov (author of Babi Yar), Svetlana Stalin, and Mihajlo Mihajlov, seeing them in the tradition of Dostoyevsky, whom he venerated and whose The Devils he thought the great, prophetic novel of the 19th century. He had searched for, found, and visited Dostoyevsky's then-abandoned, untended grave in Leningrad on his way out of the Soviet Union in 1933.

13. Mario Loyola says that finally, there is a light at the end of the pandemic. From the analysis:

Work on a vaccine proceeds apace, and at least two different vaccines could be ready to start mass-production this month or next, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But as my colleague Dr. Joel Zinberg shows in a new report for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a vaccine cannot be relied upon to the end the pandemic for a variety of reasons, including uncertain compliance (a large number of people don't get the flu vaccine despite the tens of thousands dead every year).

It has been clear for some time that overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic will require a broader strategy of prevention and therapeutics focused on those populations that are at greatest risk of severe disease: the elderly and infirm. COVID-19 is at least six times deadlier than the flu, but its deadliness is extremely concentrated among the elderly and people with certain comorbidities such as hypertension and pulmonary disease. In Indiana, for example, nursing-home residents accounted for 54.9 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. But in other groups, particularly children and young adults, COVID-19 is actually less dangerous than the flu.

Under auspices of the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, thousands of medical-health experts have signed a declaration that embraces "Focused Protection." The "Great Barrington Declaration" has unfortunately proved greatly controversial, and has even been banned by outlets such as Reddit.

14. From Capital Matters, Douglas Carr offers a lesson on why deficits do matter. From the piece:

That said, deficits may be an efficient way to inject monetary stimulus into an economy. When the economy turns down, private investment is unlikely to immediately draw on monetary stimulus so government borrowing could do so, but monetary stimulus has had diminishing effects for decades, not only in the U.S., but in Japan and Europe as well.

The massive coronavirus intervention by the Federal Reserve, amounting to 15 percent of GDP, may be enough to overcome the headwinds that have made monetary stimulus less effective and is comparable to the CBO's 2020 federal deficit forecast of 16 percent of GDP. This level of deficit is high enough to make whatever contribution it can to recovery.

Currently, private-sector investment is forecast to jump by Goldman Sachs and others. But higher government deficits could crowd this out. Retail sales are at record highs while August's trade deficit was near its record (which preceded the great financial crisis) suggesting there is no shortfall of aggregate demand. Third-quarter growth is forecast at 25 to 35 percent annualized, shattering by 50 to 100 percent the all-time U.S. record rate of 16.7 percent. More deficit spending will just get in the way of private-sector recovery, hamper investment, and squeeze U.S. manufacturing.

The government deficit does indeed matter for both present and future generations. What we really owe ourselves and our children is to close it.

Huzzah! The New Issue of National Review Awaits Your Peepers

It's the November 2, 2020 "Special Election Issue," all chockablock with wisdom, insight, and debate. If you are an NRPLUS member (not? Well, become one, right now, right here) you can read the entire shebang. That said, here's a sampler that would make Whitman's jealous.

1. Andrew C. McCarthy makes the case, "Trump: Yes." From the essay:

Because Trump is president, and for no other reason, there is a real chance that a solid originalist majority could steer the high court for a generation to come, guided by the vision of the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia and anchored by Justice Clarence Thomas's enduring commitment to the Founders' Constitution. Because of President Trump's election in 2016, Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are just two of 218 jurists — adherents to the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation models of judicial restraint, rather than the lawyer-Left template of progressive activism—who have been appointed to the federal bench. This includes a remarkable 53 conservative judges added to the all-important circuit courts of appeals, which decide many more cases than the Supreme Court and largely determine the jurisprudence that decides cases throughout the United States.

Donald Trump did that. But it is a transformation that has yet to be solidified. Many of the slots filled by Trump judges were previously held by Reagan and Bush 41 appointees who took senior status or retired. That enabled a Republican president to fill the vacancies, with indispensable assistance from a GOP-controlled Senate led by Mitch McConnell. To make the judicial branch a bulwark against the unconstitutional overreach and stifling of liberty that a future Democratic-dominated government would portend requires reelecting the president. That is to say, Donald Trump's candidacy is once again the thin barrier separating what remains of our constitutional order and the very different governing construct that Democrats would impose.

Trump's candidacy is the difference between retaining the most unapologetically pro-life administration in American history, and having one that would implement a regime of abortion on demand, abortion at late term, and abortion underwritten at home and abroad by American taxpayers. Trump's candidacy is the difference between having a Justice Department that invokes civil-rights laws to vouchsafe religious freedom, economic liberty, due process on campus, and colorblind college-admissions processes; and having one that contorts civil-rights laws to hamstring police, eviscerate due-process protections, promote the deranged notion of sexual identity as a mental state or social construct, and impose quotas and wealth redistribution based on the insidious "disparate impact" theory of implied, systematic, and institutional racism.

2. Michael Brendan Dougherty scores Joe Biden's foreign-policy record. He finds a lot of folly. From the analysis:

Biden voted against Reagan's defense build-up at every turn. He voted over and over to strip funding from the B-2 bomber project. While Ronald Reagan was encouraging the collapse of the Soviet Union through deft diplomacy and an increase of hard power, Biden was racking up high ratings from the Council for a Livable World, a peace-at-any-price group.

It's not just that Biden is frequently wrong, it's that he compounds his wrongness on foreign policy with dishonesty and exaggeration — for example, he claimed to be the sole figure responsible for ending genocide in Bosnia. But nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in his record on the Iraq War. In a 2019 interview with NPR, he tried to explain his votes that had been supportive of George W. Bush's war in Iraq. He blamed Bush for misleading him. Bush "said he needed the vote to be able to get inspectors into Iraq to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein was engaged in dealing with a nuclear program," he explained. "He got them in and before you know it, we had 'shock and awe.'"

Except, Biden had argued since the late 1990s that Hussein would never give up his weapons program peacefully. In hearings before the war, he had openly mocked a weapons inspector, saying that "as long as Saddam is at the helm, there is no reasonable prospect you or any other inspector is ever going to be able to guarantee that we have rooted out, root and branch, the entirety of Saddam's program." He would go on to say that everyone knew that, in the end, U.S. troops would have to take Saddam out. By 2004, though, he was telling the Council on Foreign Relations, "I never believed they had weapons of mass destruction."

3. Peter Tonguette shares thoughts and recollections on the great Ray Bradbury, his yearning for things simpler, his anticipation of things sterile. From the piece:

Like Kurt Vonnegut, born just two years later (1922) and one state over (Indiana), Bradbury made it his business to speculate about the future but retained a healthy appreciation for the past. Both men were Luddites; Vonnegut railed against the Internet, while Bradbury, a nondriver, declined to participate in the automobile revolution. While the moon landing had no greater fan than Brad bury, his enthusiasm for science fiction often seemed less rooted in an interest in technological advances than in nostalgia for the enthusiasms of his youth. Inter viewed for a documentary on the BBC, he referred to his basement home office as his "nest" — a womblike space filled with magic sets, filmstrips, and other bric-a-brac of a 1920s-era childhood in America. "I'm surrounded by science-fiction books," Bradbury said. "Comic strips: Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon. All of these things which are my security blankets."

Despite being a resident of Los Angeles since adolescence, Bradbury again and again permitted his imagination to wander to the Midwest, which he reproduced in his fiction in the form of Green Town, whose residents apparently have it all over Los Angelenos. "Well, he felt sorry for boys who lived in California where they wore tennis shoes all year," Bradbury wrote in one of his Green Town books, Dandelion Wine (1957), "and never knew what it was to get winter off your feet, peel off the iron leather shoes all full of snow and rain and run barefoot for a day and then lace on the first new tennis shoes of the season, which was better than barefoot."

Even Bradbury's works of fantasy and horror, despite their moments of genuine terror and strangeness, depict small-town life as vividly as the work of Booth Tarkington; Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Bradbury said, was a key source of inspiration for The Martian Chronicles. "Wind rattled the empty trees," he wrote in another Green Town novel, the masterly Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962). "Sunlight, breaking through a small rift in the clouds, minted a last few oak leaves all gold." In The Halloween Tree (1972), Bradbury effortlessly evoked the sheer bliss of All Hallows' Eve — blissful not for the acquisition of candy but for the sights and sounds and smells. "Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked."

Some may wonder whether the man responsible for such high-flown, misty-eyed prose has anything to say to readers muddling through the confused, contentious reality of 2020. In fact I remember wondering, when the corona-virus pandemic prompted, or compelled, Americans to withdraw to their homes, whether we might collectively return to Green Town-style virtues for a season — to disconnect from our devices and permit ourselves to luxuriate, as Bradbury did, in the howl of the wind, the rays of the sun, and the aroma emanating from the kitchens of our mothers.

4. Matthew Kroenig finds Gen. H.R. McMaster's new book, Battlegrounds, to be a gem. From the review:

This may not be the book that we want, but it is the book that we need. After just over one year, McMaster was reportedly forced out of office after clashing with the president on matters of both substance and style. Many will be disappointed that, unlike other former senior Trump-administration officials, McMaster has not written a gossipy "tell all" about his time in the White House. But that would have been a waste of his considerable intellect and experience, which are much better suited for this weightier work.

His central argument in Battlegrounds is that U.S. foreign and defense policy has too often been plagued by "strategic narcissism." In other words, we see the world narrowly through our own prism and repeatedly view dangerous adversaries as we wish them to be, not as they really are. For example, Washington hoped that China would become a "responsible stakeholder" in the U.S.-led, rules-based international system. In 2015, the Obama administration bet that a nuclear deal with Iran would strengthen the moderates in Tehran and usher in a new era of cooperation with the West. Currently, U.S. officials see the Taliban as a potential peace partner in ending the 19-year-long-and-counting war in Afghanistan. According to McMaster, all of these views were misguided because our enemies have other ideas.

He argues that a better national-security policy would begin with "strategic empathy." We should see our adversaries as they really are. What are their worldviews, goals, and strategies? And how does the United States fit into their calculation, not the other way around? It is only by first understanding our adversaries that we can begin to formulate effective strategies for dealing with them. He approvingly cites Sun Tzu's aphorism that "if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

This recurring theme holds the book together well without clogging the narrative. Indeed, the book is very well written, weaving in the author's experience and analysis seamlessly with a recounting of recent history and current events.

The book is studiously nonpartisan and apolitical, as we might expect from a career military officer who swore an oath to serve any duly elected commander in chief. Indeed, in recent interviews, the general has even said that he has never voted because he does not want partisan politics to interfere with his commitment to country.

Lights. Camera. Reviews!

1. Armond White finds What Killed Michael Brown? — the new documentary by Eli and Shelby Steele — to be worth your while, even if it’s not worth Amazon's. From the review:

Fact is, there is a Michael Brown mythology, as indicated by that Jackie Brown-style title graphic. Perhaps unwittingly, the Steele duo evokes the 1744 English nursery rhyme "Who Killed Cock Robin?" This folkloric ditty, about heroism and shifting political power (honoring either the Robin Hood legend or the end of Sir Robert Walpole's government), derived from the complex human awareness passed down through the ages as a children's rhyme.

Although the Steeles don't delve into the folklore of black rebellion wherein successive generations act upon the previous generation's experience of racism, the Steeles seem keenly aware of the folkloric delusions that attach to historical accounts. Shelby Steele calls it "poetic truth, a distortion of the actual truth."

Based on the ethics of Shelby Steele's bootstrap black conservatism, What Killed Michael Brown? is a rare doc that opposes the media's current trend of fabricating race and "justice." Shelby Steele rightly suspects that term and so redefines it: "There's already a framework of meaning in place. You don't think so much as step into that meaning." The new, rejiggered excuses and expectations of racialized justice are what killed Michael Brown.

Related: The cancellers at Amazon Prime has denied the Steeles' video from being carried. David Harsanyi has the pathetic news. Read the Corner post.

2. More Armond: He gives a boo to the new socialism-loving Italian film, Martin Eden. From the beginning of the review:

Millennials need a hero, and the protagonist in the new Italian film version of Jack London's 1909 novel Martin Eden has been expatriated to fit the bill. The film's almost unanimous critical reception can be explained by its hero's infatuation with socialism. Martin (played by Italian actor Luca Marinelli) scoffs at the working class's naïve, union-based political sentiments until he formulates his own similar, self-serving philosophy.

Martin's version of layperson urbanity, propelled by his enthrallment with Elena (Jessica Cressy), an educated yet naïve beauty from the wealthy Orsini family, matches those students who take to the streets full of benighted zeal but lacking in real-world experience. Martin reads and interprets Baudelaire his own simplistic way; he's an autodidact and solipsist who rails against the establishment and despite the odds becomes a literary sensation and political orator. His career reflects the current fashion in ideological groupthink — also a defect of our partisan critical constabulary that has made Martin Eden a film-festival favorite.

But the film's basic class problem is also an impediment to its popularity. Martin resembles those mainstream media stars who get their reputation from social-media sarcasm, except that the tall, intense actor Marinelli is physically different; he makes for a burly, roughneck poet strutting down the street, often with two books in his manly one-handed grip. Brimming with spleen and ideals, he makes a vow: "Turn myself into one of the eyes through which the world sees. I want to become a writer."

3. Even MORE Armond: Our fearless reviewer is the author of a new book, Make Spielberg Great Again: The Steven Spielberg Chronicles. Your Humble Correspondent's copy of this 400-page gathering of essential Armond's reviews and essays (from four-plus decades of brilliant cinema-viewing) has been ordered, and you might do likewise.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Claremont Review of Books, William Voegeli asks and answers the questions, with details basic and far-reaching, about Joe Biden, The Weak, heading the vanguard of the Wokeletariat. It's exhaustive and a must-read. From the article:

So what is the basis for these claims about Biden's electability against Trump?

Two things: the former vice president's personal decency and political moderation.

"Character is on the ballot," Biden said in his acceptance speech to the party's virtual convention, as are "[c]ompassion . . . [d]ecency, science, and democracy." Democrats and journalists — not readily distinguishable groups — have joined in treating Biden's decency as his defining quality. His acceptance speech "captured the romance of decency," wrote the Washington Post's Michael Gerson. After Biden's Super Tuesday triumphs, historian Matthew Dallek gushed that the former vice president "exudes decency."

Concerning moderation, Biden's career "has been distinguished mostly by careful centrism," in Osnos's words. That career encompassed decades when Democrats suffered politically for the Great Society's failures. Long before President Clinton was triangulating, Senator Biden was actively trying to accommodate skepticism about big government and social justice, skepticism which elevated Reagan and then Newt Gingrich. As a freshman senator worried about reelection, Biden became "the Democratic Party's leading anti-busing crusader" in the 1970s, the New York Times reported last year. His commitment to this cause included collaborating with North Carolina Republican senator Jesse Helms on an amendment that reduced the federal government's ability to withhold funds from school districts that failed to meet desegregation benchmarks. "Biden's advocacy made it safe for other [Senate] Democrats to oppose busing," wrote the Times.

During his first Senate term, Biden was capable of sounding more conservative than many of his Republican colleagues on the broader question of government's capacity to effect social reforms. He rejected a full-employment bill co-sponsored by liberalism's grand old man, saying that Hubert Humphrey "isn't cognizant of the limited, finite ability government has to deal with people's problems." The socialist magazine Jacobin recently scorned Biden as "the Forrest Gump of the Democratic Party's Rightward Turn."

2. At Catholic World Report, the great Daniel J. Mahoney examines the Pope's new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, and finds it theologically frutti. From the beginning of the essay:

Pope Francis has written an encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on "fraternity and social friendship" that is unique in the history of the genre. It is not addressed to his brother bishops or the universal Church per se, but rather speaks to universal humanity in a manner befitting its broadly humanitarian message.

A cross between an encyclical and a humanitarian manifesto, it invokes the authority of Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb and the 2019 Abu Dhabi declaration at least a dozen times, as if to say that the Holy Roman Pontiff is just one religious partisan of global humanity, among others. The encyclical's presentation of the requirements of fraternal love partakes of humanitarian ideology as much as any distinctive Christian teaching. I say this without polemical intent. In proclaiming "fraternity without borders" and a "politics of love" (#180-182) in recognizing "local flavor" (#143-145) and global humanity as the twin poles of human existence, Pope Francis seems to bypass or overlook the familial and national expressions of fraternity and social friendship, that is to say the common good of a free and decent society.

Pope Francis's identification of fraternity with humanity as such largely ignores the naturalness of love of one's own and the dangers of embodying fraternity or social friendship at the level of unmediated Humanity. One critic at Crisis magazine has rightly faulted the pope's enthusiastic adoption of the French revolutionary slogan "liberty, equality, and fraternity" (#103-111) in seeming abstraction from the totalitarian import of that revolutionary slogan. Pope Francis is surely no friend of totalitarianism, but he never acknowledges that politically enforced fraternity, grounded in abstract sentimentality, can give rise to new and inhuman forms of despotism. A prominent French aristocrat turned revolutionary once famously proclaimed "Be my brother, or I will kill you." Those words continue to chill the soul and to reveal the essence of revolutionary terror.

The lesson is clear: Brotherhood, devoid of a sense of moral reciprocity and a deep appreciation of the capacity of fallen men for evil, is capable of giving rise to the antithesis of true fellow-feeling and, indeed, to truly monstrous forms of political oppression. But sin and evil are barely acknowledged in this encyclical other than the predictable attack on the "hidden powers" that are alleged to manipulate markets and a liberal economic order. The words are barely mentioned.

3. At the Foreign Policy Research Institute, our amigo grande John Hillen scopes out the dueling visions of Trump and Biden. From the essay:

While President Obama implicitly challenged that consensus with notions such as "leading from behind" and "focusing on nation building here at home," Candidate Trump came into office with a more forceful rejection of the American role consensus. He pointed out to the American public that the assumptions behind the old foreign policy consensus were all being called into question by outcomes, and he would vigorously re-examine and challenge them. Unconventional Republican candidates had proposed this more nationalist and populist agenda before — Pat Buchanan memorably resurrected the Taft-ian tradition of Republican foreign policy in the 1990s, but these efforts mostly ended up trying to shape the occasional plank in the party platform, not disassembling the post-WWII general foreign policy consensus.

And President Trump held to his promises. On trade, he has broken with a decades-long bipartisan consensus around free trade that has seemed to leave whole constituencies out of its benefits and fuel the rise of competitive states — at our expense in his mind. He has been more skeptical than even hardline Republicans of the past about international organizations, treaty arrangements, alliances, arms control agreements, and diplomacy in general.

While his opponents — I think fixated on his tone and style — have criticized his belligerent tone, for his part, President Trump has claimed to be the peace president and has taken an even more aggressive stance than President Obama (who came to national attention largely as an anti-war candidate) about reducing U.S. troop presence and security guarantees in the Middle East and Afghanistan — and even Europe. And President Trump has asked far more explicitly than administrations past for allies to pick up more of their share of the cost for the enduring U.S. presences overseas.

On the human rights front, presidents as different as Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan embraced in their own way what might be called "the freedom agenda"— a central tenet of American policy since the beginning of the Cold War even if subjected to very different tactics by various presidents. President Trump has not shown enthusiasm for this — although it is possible he could find his own way of expressing this long-standing pillar of American policy. And finally, he shuffled the deck on the traditional treatment of allies and adversaries, sometimes seeming to apply more pressure to the former than the latter.

None of this is to say that his foreign policy has been wrong, bad, or unsuccessful. It's simply to note his break with consensus. On some issues, his very willingness to break with a consensus has sort of unclogged some clogged pipes — and produced results that seemed suspended by the consensus approach. He correctly read not only the mood of much of the American public in 2016 about populist and nationalist themes, but he also was aided by the simple observation that this American-led liberal convergence agenda was not producing the results its architects had promised over the years.

4. At First Things, Kenneth Craycraft explores the hard-core anti-Catholicism of Kamala Harris. From the piece:

Harris's animus toward Catholicism is not limited to inquisition of Catholic nominees for federal courts, but also extends to harassment of public organizations whose missions are consistent with Catholic moral theology. In using her public offices to advocate against such institutions, Harris has earned broad financial support from pro-abortion individuals and groups.

For example, in 2016, when the Center for Medical Progress exposed evidence that Planned Parenthood was illegally trafficking organs and tissues from aborted children, then California attorney general Harris authorized a raid on the home of CMP's David Daleiden, seizing video footage substantiating the evidence. Subsequently, Harris's office conspired with Planned Parenthood, one of her generous political supporters, in drafting bill-of-attainder style legislation against CMP.

Similarly, in 2015, Harris was an enthusiastic advocate of California's so-called Reproductive FACT Act, which forced pro-life pregnancy centers to inform their clients where they could obtain free abortions and to advertise abortion clinics. Claiming to have "co-sponsored" the FACT Act, Harris praised then California governor Jerry Brown for signing it into law. (In 2018, the Supreme Court struck the law under the First Amendment's speech clause.) And in 2015, she used her power as California attorney general to put six Catholic hospitals out of business on behalf of another of her political patrons, the Service Employees International Union.

As a U.S. senator, Harris introduced the Orwellian "Do No Harm Act," the purpose of which is to force religious individuals and organizations to engage in activities that directly violate their firmly held religious beliefs. And she is a co-sponsor of the "Equality Act," which would force Catholic hospitals, for example, to perform gender transition surgeries, open women's restrooms to men, and force girls and women to compete against boys and men in athletic competitions.

5. More Claremont Review of Books: John O'Sullivan explains what it's like to be unfriended by Anne Applebaum, done in her new book, Twilight of Democracy. From the review:

If Applebaum can't quite identify the causes of upheaval, she's still more puzzled over why some friends ended up on the wrong side of the barricades. "What, then, has caused this transformation?" she asks. "Were some of our friends always closet authoritarians? Or have the people with whom we clinked glasses in the first minutes of the new millennium somehow changed over the subsequent two decades?"

The rest of her book is an attempt to discover the explanation mainly by interrogating the careers and opinions of those of her friends who have transformed so mysteriously. These interrogations are interrupted from time to time with her own reflections on politics and political theory that may throw some light on the problematic biographies. For example, she sees parallels to some of the new "authoritarians" in the French intellectuals of the interwar years whom Julien Benda criticized in his classic study, The Treason of the Intellectuals (1928), for subordinating the love of truth and beauty to partisan ideologies. These reflections are interesting, and I generally agree with them (though I have always thought Benda could have made a good living using a steamroller to crack Brazil nuts), but they don't seem to fit, let alone explain, the very different personalities who are the mainstays of the narrative.

That is especially true of the chapter describing the writers, columnists, and politicians around the London Spectator, where Applebaum was their colleague for some years, many of whom were also active supporters of Brexit. They are an exceptionally distinguished bunch, as it happens, including Boris Johnson, Simon Heffer, Roger Scruton, and, ahem, me. I can't really complain about the portrait of me which suggests a combination of boulevardier (jovial, witty, fond of champagne) and James Bond villain who emerges from behind the scenes occasionally to cast Scotland aside unsentimentally or to move Viktor Orbán around on the international chessboard. But the glaring difficulty about my assistants, Johnson, Heffer, and Scruton, is that there doesn't seem to be an iota of evidence that they are in any way "authoritarian." Or that Brexit was an essentially authoritarian idea or development in British politics. Quite the reverse. It was plainly a campaign to restore Britain's status as a self-governing democracy.

6. At The Red Line, Red Jahnke, the All Things Connecticut guru, lays out the Constitution State's dismal future, courtesy of the public-employee unions' chokehold on taxpayer dollars. From the analysis:

No one really knows where the state and the country are headed economically. The good news is that the state's rainy day fund has grown to $3 billion since 2017. Lamont said he would use most of the fund to close the budget gap.

Just days before, the governor announced his hiring of Boston Consulting Group to find $500 million in annual state savings, primarily from workforce attrition. The goal is to automate or eliminate many job functions, so that the expected retirement before mid-year 2022 of an estimated one-third of the state's 49,000-person workforce will require the fewest possible replacements.

Of course, Lamont could have saved one-quarter of the savings target by using his emergency powers to cancel the $135 million state employee pay raise last July 1st.

That would have caused employees little pain, as demonstrated by a recently released Yankee Institute study, which found that Connecticut's state and municipal employees (excluding teachers) are paid about $20,000 per year more than their private sector counterparts. That translates into an aggregate annual premium of almost $1 billion for 49,000 state employees, assuming they and municipal employees enjoy equivalent pay.

This enormous pay premium has persisted for well over a decade. If, during the past decade, state officials had followed a hiring policy of pay parity with the private sector, Connecticut would have saved billions, helping to close much of the huge gap between the $13 billion currently in the State Employee Retirement Fund (SERF) and its estimated future labilities of $34 billion.

7. At Real Clear Politics, Mark Mitchell explores the rhetoric of Black Lives Matters, and finds it revolutionary. From the piece:

Black Lives Matter and other revolutionary groups have gained significant rhetorical advantage by claiming that racism is "systemic." They insist that racism is embedded "in the DNA" of all American social, cultural, and political systems. If that is the case, then individuals who affirm the moral equality of all people and seek to live their lives according to that standard are nevertheless deeply entwined in racist structures. They are racists and don't even know it. They have benefited from racist "systems" and therefore are guilty. They must be punished and re-educated. Racist systems must be destroyed. The rhetoric of "systemic" racism makes race guilt unavoidable and revolution increasingly possible. Race guilt is antithetical to reconciliation, peace, or justice. It provides a rhetorical cudgel with which to dominate opponents, and revolution is the means to destroy the current order and usher in a Marxist-utopian paradise.

The modern sophist is adept at constructing jingles and pithy phrases that take hold of the imagination and come to be seen as profound truths even if they are utter nonsense. In recent protests, the phrase "silence is violence" has been employed as a means of coercing individuals to bow to mob pressure. It sounds profound — after all, it rhymes — but it is a vacuous claim masquerading as deep truth. Its purpose is to compel an individual to join the chants of the crowd lest one be accused of condoning, or even participating in, the violence that, we are repeatedly told, is ubiquitous. There is no interest in engaging in rational debate. Modern sophists have no time for such diversions. They have no interest in the truth or in better understanding the complexities of human affairs. They are too busy dismantling the world.

8. At Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh reports on the Saudis' exhaustion with the Palestinians. From the beginning of the piece:

Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz's scathing and unprecedented attack on the Palestinian leadership, during an interview aired by Saudi Al-Arabiya television station on October 6, adds Saudi Arabia and its citizens to the growing list of Arabs who regard the Palestinians as "ungrateful."

During the interview, the prince, a former Saudi ambassador to the US, said that "the Palestinian cause is a just cause, but its advocates are failures, and the Israeli cause is unjust, but its advocates have proven to be successful."

He accused the Palestinians of cozying up to Saudi Arabia's foes, Iran and Turkey, and criticized them for accusing the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain of betrayal for agreeing to establish relations with Israel." He also accused the Palestinians of "ingratitude or lack of loyalty" toward Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that supported them for decades.

After the interview, many Saudis and other Gulf citizens expressed support for Prince Bandar bin Abdulaziz's criticism of the Palestinians, with some saying the time has come for a new Palestinian leadership that prioritizes its people's interests and does not pocket the financial aid sent to them by the Arab countries and the West.

"I believe that the time has come to form a permanent Arab committee under the umbrella of the Arab League to manage the Palestinian issue and conduct face-to-face dialogue with Israel," said Emirati columnist and political analyst Abdullah Nasser Al-Otaibi. "Today, after this very revealing and frank talk (by the Saudi prince), I strongly believe in the need for the Arabs to find a way to manage the Palestinian issue."

9. At The College Fix, Kat Mouawad reports on Duke University professors creating a minor in "Inequality Studies." From the article:

The minor would cover several different courses from the Cook Center, which focuses on taking a "cross-national comparative approach to the study of human difference and disparity," in conjunction with Duke courses in a variety of fields, according to the center's description.

However, some professors raised objections about how the minor would balance the minor's "coherency" with diversity and the "breadth of study," according to the Chronicle. Others raised questions about the proliferation of minors and overlap with other minors.

The College of Arts and Science currently offers a variety of minors, including minors in African and African American Studies, cultural anthropology, cultural studies and sociology.

Duke University is not the only institution to offer a minor in inequality.

For example, Cornell University offers an Inequality Studies minor. The school described it as "appropriate for students interested in public and private sector employment, policy, and civil society," and "those who wish to pursue graduate and professional degrees in a variety of fields."

Baseballery

They have come fast and furious these last few weeks, the deaths of baseball greats, Tom Seaver, Joe Morgan, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Whitey Ford. Rest in peace all.

The Chairman of the Board and the mainstay, along with Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, of the Yankees' amazing pennant-run from 1949 through 1964, local boy Edward Charles Ford first took the mound from the Bronx Bombers in 1950, and registered an impressive rookie record of 9-1, with a 2.81 ERA. His career record — he threw his last pitch on May 21, 1967 in Detroit, with the Tigers' Jim Northrup earning the distinction of being the last batter faced as Ford's dependable arm, troubled by circulation problems, finally giving up after 16 seasons — was 236-106, with a 2.75 ERA. His .690 winning percentage is the best in baseball history for pitchers with over 200 wins.

Ford pitched in 11 World Series, earning a 10-8 record for six Yankee world championship teams. His passing prompts thoughts that frequently consume the limited imagination of Your Faithful Author, about how some players serve as special links to quite past and quite future times. We hereby contend that Whitey Ford was one such bridge.

In his rookie season, pitching at Comisky Park on July 30, 1950, in what would have to rate as one of the earliest and indeed worst outings of his career, Ford started but only got one out in the First Inning before being relieved, as the White Sox pounded the rookie for three quick runs on four hits (Ford earned no decision as the Yankees would go on to win the game, 4-3). One of those hits came from future Hall of Famer Luke Appling, who smacked a run-scoring triple off Ford. It would be the only time the two greats would face each other — Appling's 20-year career, all spent with Chicago, mostly at shortstop, and which never included a World Series appearance, would end that October.

Appling first made it to the Big Leagues in 1930 in mid-September, when he started six straight games for the Pale Hose, gathering a hit in each of them — he'd accumulate 2,749 over his two decades with the anemic Sox, which included two seasons as the AL batting champion (he hit a monster .388 in 1936) and a .310 career average.

The Appling-Ford sweep accounts for 36 seasons. On the back end: Whitey's last MLB win, a complete game, came on April 25, 1967 against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium. In an 8-hitter, the Bronx Bombers defeated Chicago 11-2. The losing pitcher: A young Tommy John. Only 24, he was already in his fifth MLB season, and would have 21 more to pitch by the time he hung up his spikes in 1989. In two of those seasons, 1970-71, while John was still pitching for Chicago, Appling was back in the White Sox dugout, this time as a coach. In the small and childish mind of your Humble Correspondent, that brought full-circle the connection between two Hall-of-Fame greats and one oughta-Hall of Famer.

A Dios

Tip generously. Write and mail a thank-you note instead of an email. And remember that none of the Ten Commandments includes your name with an exception clause.

Would that God Aid Us from Screwing Up of this Last Best Hope of Earth,

Jack Fowler, who awaits your mash notes at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

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WITH JACK FOWLER October 17 2020
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WITH JACK FOWLER October 17 2020
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Shaddapp Shuttin' Up

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Yep, they're private companies yadda yadda herp derp durka durka . . . thank you übertarians for edjumakatin us dummies. Of course what they — Facebook and Twitter — are . . . are businesses that present and represent themselves as forums for communication, for speech, of all sorts, come one come all and bring your pictures and memes and videos too. But then, for quite discriminate reasons, with rules shady and subjective and invented on the fly, with even shadier algorithms, and neato tricks like shadow banning, these big honkin' culture-dictating platforms (which enjoy amazingly broad First Amendment protections that come with a side order of gargantuan financial benefits) then seek to control that particular form of speech, political speech, which under our Constitution is considered (used to be, anyway) the most protected form of such.

They are also liberal and left-wing businesses which pluck many of their corporate bureaucrats from the ex-staffer ranks of Capitol Hill Democrats. These highly paid wokelings send much money (98.99 per cent in fact, which sounds like North Korean election results) in political donations to the Big Donkey.

In every which way — and this week to the "every which" was added censoring a New York Post blockbuster about the lucrative Kiev hijinx of Joe and Hunter Biden — these powerful social forces have plopped their heavy mitts and plenty more (like the chubby drunk dude at the Christmas party who sits on the copier to make, well, you know) on the 2020 scales, and have done so in a big way. By censoring. The folks in the Delaware basement, resuscitated after reading the Post slam, surely picked up the Bat Phone, cried for help, and like the good Party Protectors that they are, Twitter Jack and Facebook Mark to the Bat Poles went.

The Good Lord help you if you tweeted a link to that Post blockbuster — the angry Blue Bird of Censorship would have plopped on your noggin as your account went mute. Meanwhile, many in the media actually cheered the drawbridge going up. Whatever it takes to shut you down and shut you up.

Bugs Bunny was once told to shaddapp shuttin' up. Taken in its sorta double-negative literally-ness, un-up-shutting sounds like something worth doing. Like standing athwart something, maybe even history, possibly yelling . . .  let's go with Stop!

Add censorship to the things now very worth fighting (relentlessly!) against. Speaking of which . . .

We are in the midst of a major SCOTUS confirmation battle, in which NR has given its consequential all on behalf of President Trump's exceptional nominee, Amy Coney Barrett; we are in the homestretch of a consequential presidential election, in which NR has been calling bull-doody relentlessly on the leftist Biden — Harris ticket's 24/7malarky; and . . .

We are in the midst of NR's flash webathon, seeking a sorely needed $150,000.

Here's why we need your financial support: Without it, NR cannot fight, and an NR not fighting for conservative principles and against leftist schemes is like a fish that can't swim, a banana that won't peel, a dog that won't hunt. National Review exists to fight. Right now, in particular, to fight for the Constitution by making sure its robed referees are originalists, to fight against partisan censors who use the First Amendment to increase their political advantages, and to fight the growing number of legal academics who have bullied our traditional views of free and unfettered speech because, well, the fettering would increase their power (my word, Charlie Cooke as a great piece on this very point).

NR can only fight with your support. Some colleagues, led by Rich Lowry, have made excellent appeals. We pray that you consider them, that you are moved to help, and that you do so help right here, of course confident of our deep appreciation.

And now . . . to the Jolt Poles!

Editorials

1. The Facebook and Twitter censors blocking for Biden-Harris are called out. From the editorial:

There is no credible reason for this kind of targeted suppression. Over the past five years there have been scores of dramatic scoops written by major media outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN that were based on faulty information provided by unknown sources that turned out to be incorrect. Not once has Facebook or Twitter concerned itself with the sourcing methods of reporters. Not once did it censor any of those pieces.

Even today, Twitter users are free to share stories that rely on the Steele Dossier, which includes the Donald Trump "pee-tape" myth, despite the fact that we now know it was likely disinformation dropped into the media stream by a foreign power.

Twitter initially cited its "Hacked Materials Policy" and a "lack of authoritative reporting" as justification for censoring the Post, one of the most widely read papers in the nation. Though the reliability of the story is yet to be determined, Twitter has offered no evidence that any of the information was illegally obtained. No similar standard was applied when the New York Times published Trump's tax returns, even though anyone who had legal access to them is likely to have broken the law in sharing them with the Times. The newspaper reports that Hunter Biden's emails had turned up in the hard drive of a laptop that had been dropped off at a repair shop last year. The FBI is reportedly in possession of the hard drive.

2. Pathetic Democratic antics against Amy Barrett went nowhere, but still deserve our opprobrium. From the editorial:

So they used the hearings for two main purposes: to highlight issues that hurt President Trump rather than ones that are likely to cause her serious trouble, and to stroke the erogenous zones of their base. They have established that Barrett believes that some gun regulations are incompatible with the Second Amendment, that she is pro-life, and that she believes that Chief Justice John Roberts stretched the text of Obamacare in order to uphold it. All of these beliefs should be considered marks in her favor.

They have not established — they have not come within spitting distance of establishing — what they are trying to insinuate: that she would find flimsy legal pretexts for junking Obamacare, or would mow down all gun regulations, or would somehow prohibit in vitro fertilization.

Some Democrats attempted to portray Barrett's use of the term "sexual preference" as a sign of hostility to gays and lesbians, an effort that fizzled, since the term has also been used, and recently, by leading Democrats and gay publications. Asked about the nontroversy, she said she had meant no offense. She should rest easy knowing no genuine offense was taken.

3. We contend the country needs additional COVID relief from Congress. From the editorial:

The House speaker called the White House proposal "insufficient," claiming that the president "has not taken the war against the virus seriously." In fact, the administration's plan includes an ample $175 billion for testing, tracing, and vaccine programs. The real disagreement comes down to state and local funding, with Democrats taking advantage of the pandemic to attempt a bailout of profligate blue states.

Rather than simply seize on that issue, GOP senators have broadly opposed coronavirus-relief spending. A critical mass of Senate Republicans has come out against the White House proposal because it would add too much to the deficit. While the federal debt remains a long-term concern, it shouldn't foreclose economic assistance during an unprecedented public-health emergency. No less so because fiscal inaction would, according to Goldman Sachs Research, cut fourth-quarter economic growth in half, reducing long-run tax revenues and exacerbating the debt issue. The protracted economic damage of widespread business closures and high unemployment far outweighs the cost of additional spending, especially at a time of near-zero interest rates.

4. Bill Barr deserves better from President Trump. From the editorial:

In "Russiagate," the Justice Department can't seem to find one either, at least not fast enough or high enough up the political food chain for Trump. The president ranted on Twitter last week about the "TREASONOUS PLOT," and inveighed against Barr in friendly talk-radio interviews over the failure to indict Obama officials.

Trump's wayward invocation of treason brings the problem into sharp relief. Besides being unhinged political rhetoric, as a legal matter — which is what Barr has to consider — it is sheer nonsense. The presidency is not the nation. A president is a public servant, and a presidential candidate a mere public figure; neither of them is the United States, on whom war must be waged to trigger treason. Under federal law, treason's close cousin sedition, also touted by Trump supporters as a potential charge, similarly requires proof of conspiracy to use force against the nation and its government.

There's a reason that the checks against abuses of power in our system are predominantly political, not legal. The discretion to exercise government's police and intelligence-collection powers must necessarily be broad because the potential threats to national security and public safety are infinite. If a presidential candidate actually was conspiring with a hostile nation against vital American interests, an incumbent administration would have not only the legitimate authority but the duty to investigate, regardless of political considerations. Fear of prosecution after the fact would paralyze an administration, to the nation's peril. If the executive's awesome powers are abused, the Constitution arms Congress with the means to discipline an administration and even remove wayward officials from office.

A Bevy of Beautiful Articles Promenading for Your Attention, Your Edification, Your Clicking!

1. Ah yes, if Joe Biden were a Republican, Kyle Smith is sure there would be some very different questions asked of him. From the essay:

Mr. Biden, in December 2013 you took your son Hunter with you on Air Force Two to China, where he promptly introduced you to a businessman named Jonathan Li. Li's company later gave Hunter a 10 percent stake in an investment fund that now manages some $2 billion. A White House official you worked with told the New Yorker the administration said it appeared that Hunter "was leveraging access for his benefit, which just wasn't done in that White House. Optics really mattered." How could you allow this to happen?

Mr. Biden, another Chinese businessman, a billionaire named Ye Jianming, was partners with Hunter on a natural-gas business in Louisiana and also gave Hunter a very large diamond. Ye's deputy was later arrested in New York on charges of bribing government officials, charges on which he was later convicted. His first call, according to the New York Times, was to your younger brother Jimmy. He also tried to reach Hunter. Do you think you are entitled to allow your family members to profit from your name and connections?

Mr. Biden, while you were vice president in 2010 your brother Jimmy, who had no experience in the construction industry, nevertheless formed a construction company that a few months later was granted a $1.5 billion contract to build housing in Iraq. Isn't this part of a long pattern of Biden family corruption?

2. David Harsanyi explores the social-media giants' censorship of the New York Post. From the analysis:

Even as Twitter was banning reporters from sharing the Post's investigation, or even providing evidence of its veracity, it was allowing left-wing outlets such as the New York Times and Daily Beast to purportedly contextualize it.

The very notion that the establishment media wouldn't run with hacked Donald Trump emails, if they pointed to possible misconduct, strains credulity. Just a few weeks ago, nearly every reporter on social media was sharing a recording "obtained without authorization" of the First Lady complaining about Christmas decorating — a story that had almost no news value.

By the way, as of yet, no one has really disputed the veracity of the Post's reporting. Hunter has not claimed that those aren't his pictures or his emails. Joe Biden hasn't claimed that he didn't meet Burisma execs who were using his son. Politico reports that "Biden's campaign would not rule out the possibility that the former VP had some kind of informal interaction" with the Burisma executive. One assumes that, if the vice president met with a shady oil executive who put his incompetent son on its board, it would not be on the official docket. In a healthy media environment, journalists wouldn't be dismissing the story; they would be trying to verify it in the same way they try to verify dirt on the president.

Instead, the Biden campaign uses the Twitter ban as proof of the inauthenticity of the story. "Twitter's response to the actual article itself makes clear that these purported allegations are false and are not true," says one creative Biden campaign spokesperson.

3. Charles Cooke makes the case for a 28th Amendment to prevent Court-Packing. From the article:

A 28th Amendment setting the Supreme Court at nine justices would follow suit. Moreover, it would serve as a rebuke to precisely the same people and modes of thinking that the 22nd did. The idea of expanding the Supreme Court in order to neuter it was first proposed during the administration of — surprise! — Woodrow Wilson. Wilson never seriously pursued it, but, again, his heir, Franklin D. Roosevelt, did. Admirably, Roosevelt was stopped in his tracks by his own party, which, despite enjoying supermajority control in Congress, dismissed the notion as an enabling act for dictatorship. Rejecting Roosevelt's proposal in 1937, the Senate Judiciary Committee seemed sure that the idea had been so "emphatically rejected that its parallel will never again be presented to the free representatives of the free people of America." If the committee turns out to have been wrong, the states should step in and take the option off the table for good. Alexander Hamilton observed that, unlike in the elected branches, life terms represent an "excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body." But there is, of course, no virtue in this arrangement if judges can be added to the Court at will.

It would be highly appropriate for such a rule to be placed into the Constitution, given that what we are seeing unfurl now in D.C. is not really a fight over the Supreme Court, so much as a fight over whether we should keep that Constitution at all. It is remarkable that it has taken this long to arrive. More than a century has passed since Woodrow Wilson insouciantly announced that the highest law in the land was outmoded and should be replaced, and it is only by chance that his worldview has seeped into the law gradually. FDR may have been repudiated in his attempt to blow up the Court, but, by the end of his life, he had served so long that he had appointed eight of the nine justices, and the "problem" that he was trying to "fix" had largely gone away. Since then, the desire to abolish the Court has been less pressing, either because a majority of justices has been willing to make up the law, or because enough justices have been willing to consider making up the law to give those who wish to "evolve" the Constitution into meaninglessness a shot at getting what they want. Sometimes, it has looked as if that might change, and when it has, the Democratic Party has all but lost its mind. (For examples of this, consider the cases of Bork, Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh.) But, until now, there has been no real danger that the law would be consistently read as written.

4. More Court-Packing: Michael Brendan Dougherty says the reason this has become such a national issue is the too-clever-by-half doings of Chief Justice John Roberts. From the article:

There's only one problem. The play is running in reverse. A doubtless very different Justice Roberts has been trying to save the Court's reputation among Democrats for a decade now. The political drama around and within the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings demonstrates that this gambit has failed. John Roberts' attempt to shore up the legitimacy of the Court has backfired, inviting the very escalation it was calculated to avoid and making him a figure of ridicule among those who would otherwise admire him.

When the question of whether it was constitutional for the federal government to use the Affordable Care Act to compel citizens to purchase a health insurance policy or face a penalty came before the Supreme Court, it came as the chief legislative accomplishment of the first term of the first African-American president, the most popular political figure to emerge in American life since Ronald Reagan. It came with endless blogposts at The Washington Post saying that the whole structure of the Affordable Care Act depended on the enforceability of this mandate and its fines. It also came as the product of humiliating political horse-trading and promiscuous expansions of the authority of HHS over American life — rife with embarrassing drafting errors (a problem for textualists!) and backed by the curious argument that the federal government's power to regulate interstate economic activity granted the government the power to regulate and punish a very specific form of individual economic inactivity.

Roberts wrote the opinion that vindicated the law, one that everyone else on the Court (and many outside) seemed to disdain. He rewrote the penalty as a tax. He just pretended that something the government probably couldn't do under the Constitution — compel individuals to purchase items — was something else entirely, levying a tax. He did this to preserve respect for the Court among Democrats. And maybe he hoped that this act of "judicial modesty" would encourage Congress to take up its own constitutional role and defer fewer questions to the Court.

5. Progressives made a big deal campaigning about "nasty women." Then, Amy Coney Barrett came along, and, as Madeleine Kearns reports, came too the flip-flop. From the piece:

In 2016, during the third presidential debate, when Trump referred to Hillary Clinton as a "nasty woman," progressives launched a feminist movement by the same name. (Never mind that Trump had previously called Ted Cruz a "nasty guy.") Trump, who has indeed made a number of strange remarks about serious women (for instance about Megyn Kelly's period) has been a gift to the pushers of the patriarchal-presidency narrative. When Hillary lost, it was claimed by countless commentators to be on account of widespread "misogyny."

Oddly, however, when Judge Amy Coney Barret came along, the standard mysteriously flipped. As we have seen these past few weeks, there has been a peculiar focus on her personal reproductive choices, with NPR and other outlets commenting on her "large family." There has been an even more peculiar focus on her appearance, with Katie Hill — author of the feminist book She Will Rise, as well as a former congresswoman who resigned after admitting to being unfaithful to her husband and having a sexual relationship with her subordinate — tweeting, "I hate to be someone who judges women on their clothes but I'm sorry ACB's outfits are all the way too handsmaid-y."

Female lawyer Leslie McAdoo Gordon, who has over 25,000 followers, wrote, "Women lawyers & judges wear suits, including dresses with jackets, for work. It is not a great look that ACB consistently does not. No male judge would be dressed in less than correct courtroom attire. It's inappropriately casual."

One would think that ACB, a woman who smashed the "having it all" glass ceiling, would, by the Left's own standards, be cause for celebration. But not so. A male writer for Slate called her "a shameless, cynical careerist who believes nobody can stop her," cast aspersions on her alleged "traditionalist wife-and-mother persona," and stated that "what's wrong with Barrett isn't that she's too pious, or that she's submissive in her personal life. It's that she's bent on making herself one of the nine most powerful judges in the country, even if she has to do it in the most graspingly partisan and destructive way possible." So, just to make sure I'm getting what you know and understand so well, sir — the problem with Amy Coney Barret is that she is too ambitious? Righty-ho!

6. More Kyle: Watching the Barrett hearings, he documents the Insane Clown Posse's performance in the Moron Theater. From the beginning of the piece:

This week it was A. C. B. versus I.C.P.: Insane Clown Posse. Poised, graceful, unflappable, unbeatable, Judge Amy Coney Barrett sat patiently as one idiotic question after another was flung in her general direction, each time by a Democrat convinced he or she had come up with a "Gotcha!" for the ages. Pat Leahy (I.C.P., Vt.) asked whether a president must obey a court order. As though explaining this to a toddler, Barrett replied, "The Supreme Court can't control what the president obeys." Mazie Hirono (I.C.P., Hawaii) asked whether Barrett had ever sexually assaulted anyone and scolded the judge for using the term "sexual preference," which has just this week been declared offensive by I.C.P. fans but had previously been used by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Joe Biden, and many other members and allies of the I.C.P. movement. Cory Booker (I.C.P., N.J.) asked whether Barrett condemned white supremacy, and when she said yes, he said he wished the president would say that, although the president already has said that, and Booker's wishes are none of the Supreme Court's business anyway, unless he wishes the high Court to apply the Constitution, which seems unlikely.

Hey, kids! Did you know "climate change" is in the U.S. Constitution? It's right there in Article VIII, Section 4, right after VIII.3, "White Trousers After Labor Day, Wearing Of" (punishable by life imprisonment without parole, unless you live in Miami) but before VIII.5, "How Long You Are Legally Required to Wait Before Honking Your Horn at the Guy in Front of You Who Didn't Move When the Light Turned Green" (three seconds, except in New York City, where it's one-tenth of a second).

7. More MBD. An amazing analysis of social-media giants assaults on the Right, and what's likely to next come. From the commentary:

One other dead-end response conservatives will launch is to demand that Facebook and Twitter clarify their policies. Explain to us how to stay on the right side of the law. Tell us how to not be Alex Jones. But there is no predictable way to stay on the right side of Facebook and Twitter. They don't make and stick to policy. They don't explain changes before they enact them. For years, it has been obvious that social-media companies simply react and respond to the moral panics happening at other media companies. They are terrified of being blamed or, in Facebook's case, blamed again for Donald Trump. Alex Jones was just a test case. You're the real one.

Do you think they are acting this quickly, decisively, and creatively to stop the spread of misinformation in Tagalog from President Duterte? Do you think they're putting in the heave-ho effort in Turkey to keep Erdogan honest? Think they're putting fact checks on the Malaysian dictator Mahathir Mohamad's tweets? Don't kid yourselves that this is about racism or authoritarianism.

What Facebook and Twitter discovered to their horror in 2016 is that elite social-media companies are elite media companies. And there are expectations in their industry. The people they want to employ, and the people that their employees want to impress, belong to the same class as those who work for the New York Times and Washington Post.

Libertarians will tell conservatives that this doesn't matter. "Build your own Facebook! Build your own Twitter!" But Facebook and Twitter are the most powerful media companies on earth, and most other media companies have become dependent on them. And this is not going to stop with social networks. The next frontier is payment processors. Good luck launching your next direct-to-consumer subscription product when your most passionate fans can't promote it on Facebook and Twitter and you can't accept PayPal, Visa, or Mastercard. 

8. Victor Davis Hanson finds civilization fragmenting, and fingers a few of those who are to blame. From the end of the essay:

To paraphrase Sophocles, 2020 saw many strange things and nothing stranger than peak Trump derangement syndrome, COVID-19, a self-induced recession, our first national quarantine, and riots, looting, and arson, all mostly unpunished and uncontrolled, in our major cities.

So we are in revolutionary times, even as we snooze about a recent systematic effort, hidden with great effort by our own government, to destroy a prior presidential campaign and transition, and now a presidency.

We are asked to vote for a candidate who will not reveal his position on any major issue of our age, because he feels to do so would enlighten the undeserving electorate and thereby cost him the election. So we continue to sleepwalk toward a revolution whose architects warped our institutions in 2016–2020, and they now plan to alter many of them beyond recognition in 2021.

Translated, that means that they don't regret what they did in 2016–2019, only that they belatedly got caught for a brief time.

And so by changing the rules after 2020, they are vowing never ever to get caught again.

9. James Glassman argues that drug price controls will harm seniors. From the article:

A study by the House Ways & Means Committee staff last year found that the U.S. average list price of about 60 drugs was $466, compared with $153 in the Netherlands. While list prices are not what Americans or their insurers actually pay, a most-favored-nation model could easily mean reductions of one-third to one-half.

That may sound terrific for U.S. patients, but a study by the research firm Avalere of an earlier plan that applied only to Part B found that "the vast majority of seniors in Medicare would not see a reduction in their out-of-pocket (OOP) costs" because more than 87 percent of them have supplemental insurance. Big winners? Insurance companies.

The losers are America's seniors. The best medicines might never reach them. In its own May 2018 blueprint, "American Patients First," the administration cited a World Health Organization paper criticizing external reference pricing, which stated that index "price controls, combined with the threat of market lockout or intellectual property infringement, prevent drug companies from charging market rates for their products, while delaying the availability of new cures to patients living in countries implementing these policies."

10. Jimmy Quinn examines how the U.N. Human Rights Council is a haven for dictators. From the article:

During the 14 years of the council's existence, its authoritarian members have run the show. And after today's elections to the council, many of them — China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba, among others — will re-join the world's top human-rights advocacy forum, despite their horrendous records on these issues.

It's a stain on the U.N.'s reputation and a disappointment that the council's reputation is sullied by these countries and their allies. Truth be told, the council can at times do important work and fulfill its mandate to promote and protect human rights. It oversees a system of U.N. rights experts that by-and-large do excellent work; in fact, this year, close to 50 of them called for an investigation into the Chinese Communist Party's actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. And during its current session, after U.N. experts released a report detailing the Maduro regime's "crimes against humanity," the council held an urgent session on the situation in Belarus.

On the other hand, Venezuela is a current member of the council, with the right to vote on any of the body's resolutions. The council has also held a special debate on racism in the United States — which is undoubtedly a problem, but one that should be addressed within a liberal-democratic system, not by some of the most openly and deliberately racist regimes in the world. And as the Western world prepares sanctions on the Belarusian government's crackdown, a Belarusian academic holds the post of special rapporteur on "unilateral coercive measures" (which is to say sanctions). She's taken up the PR campaign, initiated by authoritarian countries decades ago and accelerated recently, that claims Western sanctions targeting human-rights abusers are the true human-rights abuses that the U.N. system must combat.

11. More UN: It's Hell-bent on abortion, writes Elyssa Koren. From the article:

Cooperation between the U.N. and the abortion industry is nothing new, but the coronavirus climate has paved the way for increasingly brazen and bizarre alliances. This is a new direction for UNICEF and the World Bank, for example, both of which traditionally have steered clear of overt abortion activism. Although it's commonplace, it is essential to underscore that U.N. abortion promotion is fundamentally at odds with its institutional mandate. National governments, not the international bureaucracy, should chart the course for the U.N. system.

As long as pro-life governments exist — and there are many stalwart pro-life governments — it is inappropriate and illegitimate for the U.N. to unilaterally advance abortion on demand. In fact, the powerful pro-life voice of the United States alone renders the U.N.'s continual promotion of abortion promotion and this new partnership illicit.

As the U.S. recently articulated in a statement to the U.N.: "There is no international right to abortion, nor is there any duty on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion." This has been a consistent and frequent stance of the U.S. government, one that has garnered widespread support from countries across the globe.

12. M.D. Aeschliman remembers Malcolm Muggeridge. From the reflection:

As is inevitable with truly great satire, the satirist had become a moralist. Over the four decades from 1920 to the '60s, Muggeridge increasingly felt the pull of "transcendence and grace" (his phrase). By the '60s he had become an independent, churchless Christian, and much of his activity and writing in the last three decades of his life were devoted to defending and resurrecting the Christian tradition. He made a series of powerful documentaries for television, including Something Beautiful for God (1970–71) on Mother Teresa of Calcutta; royalties of the book version supplied the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta with their largest source of income for many years afterward. He made a series of films entitled "A Third Testament," on Saint Augustine, Pascal, William Blake, Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, following it with a book (1976). He wrote essays on Simone Weil and Dostoevsky, books on Jesus (Jesus Rediscovered, 1969; Jesus: The Man Who Lives, 1975) and Saint Paul (first as a film with his old Cambridge clergyman friend and don Alec Vidler, retracing Saint Paul's voyages, then the book, Paul: Envoy Extraordinary, 1972). He drew attention to the survival and prospering of Christianity in Russian and Eastern European anticommunist figures such as Solzhenitsyn, Anatoli Kuznetsov (author of Babi Yar), Svetlana Stalin, and Mihajlo Mihajlov, seeing them in the tradition of Dostoyevsky, whom he venerated and whose The Devils he thought the great, prophetic novel of the 19th century. He had searched for, found, and visited Dostoyevsky's then-abandoned, untended grave in Leningrad on his way out of the Soviet Union in 1933.

13. Mario Loyola says that finally, there is a light at the end of the pandemic. From the analysis:

Work on a vaccine proceeds apace, and at least two different vaccines could be ready to start mass-production this month or next, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But as my colleague Dr. Joel Zinberg shows in a new report for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a vaccine cannot be relied upon to the end the pandemic for a variety of reasons, including uncertain compliance (a large number of people don't get the flu vaccine despite the tens of thousands dead every year).

It has been clear for some time that overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic will require a broader strategy of prevention and therapeutics focused on those populations that are at greatest risk of severe disease: the elderly and infirm. COVID-19 is at least six times deadlier than the flu, but its deadliness is extremely concentrated among the elderly and people with certain comorbidities such as hypertension and pulmonary disease. In Indiana, for example, nursing-home residents accounted for 54.9 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. But in other groups, particularly children and young adults, COVID-19 is actually less dangerous than the flu.

Under auspices of the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, thousands of medical-health experts have signed a declaration that embraces "Focused Protection." The "Great Barrington Declaration" has unfortunately proved greatly controversial, and has even been banned by outlets such as Reddit.

14. From Capital Matters, Douglas Carr offers a lesson on why deficits do matter. From the piece:

That said, deficits may be an efficient way to inject monetary stimulus into an economy. When the economy turns down, private investment is unlikely to immediately draw on monetary stimulus so government borrowing could do so, but monetary stimulus has had diminishing effects for decades, not only in the U.S., but in Japan and Europe as well.

The massive coronavirus intervention by the Federal Reserve, amounting to 15 percent of GDP, may be enough to overcome the headwinds that have made monetary stimulus less effective and is comparable to the CBO's 2020 federal deficit forecast of 16 percent of GDP. This level of deficit is high enough to make whatever contribution it can to recovery.

Currently, private-sector investment is forecast to jump by Goldman Sachs and others. But higher government deficits could crowd this out. Retail sales are at record highs while August's trade deficit was near its record (which preceded the great financial crisis) suggesting there is no shortfall of aggregate demand. Third-quarter growth is forecast at 25 to 35 percent annualized, shattering by 50 to 100 percent the all-time U.S. record rate of 16.7 percent. More deficit spending will just get in the way of private-sector recovery, hamper investment, and squeeze U.S. manufacturing.

The government deficit does indeed matter for both present and future generations. What we really owe ourselves and our children is to close it.

Huzzah! The New Issue of National Review Awaits Your Peepers

It's the November 2, 2020 "Special Election Issue," all chockablock with wisdom, insight, and debate. If you are an NRPLUS member (not? Well, become one, right now, right here) you can read the entire shebang. That said, here's a sampler that would make Whitman's jealous.

1. Andrew C. McCarthy makes the case, "Trump: Yes." From the essay:

Because Trump is president, and for no other reason, there is a real chance that a solid originalist majority could steer the high court for a generation to come, guided by the vision of the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia and anchored by Justice Clarence Thomas's enduring commitment to the Founders' Constitution. Because of President Trump's election in 2016, Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are just two of 218 jurists — adherents to the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation models of judicial restraint, rather than the lawyer-Left template of progressive activism—who have been appointed to the federal bench. This includes a remarkable 53 conservative judges added to the all-important circuit courts of appeals, which decide many more cases than the Supreme Court and largely determine the jurisprudence that decides cases throughout the United States.

Donald Trump did that. But it is a transformation that has yet to be solidified. Many of the slots filled by Trump judges were previously held by Reagan and Bush 41 appointees who took senior status or retired. That enabled a Republican president to fill the vacancies, with indispensable assistance from a GOP-controlled Senate led by Mitch McConnell. To make the judicial branch a bulwark against the unconstitutional overreach and stifling of liberty that a future Democratic-dominated government would portend requires reelecting the president. That is to say, Donald Trump's candidacy is once again the thin barrier separating what remains of our constitutional order and the very different governing construct that Democrats would impose.

Trump's candidacy is the difference between retaining the most unapologetically pro-life administration in American history, and having one that would implement a regime of abortion on demand, abortion at late term, and abortion underwritten at home and abroad by American taxpayers. Trump's candidacy is the difference between having a Justice Department that invokes civil-rights laws to vouchsafe religious freedom, economic liberty, due process on campus, and colorblind college-admissions processes; and having one that contorts civil-rights laws to hamstring police, eviscerate due-process protections, promote the deranged notion of sexual identity as a mental state or social construct, and impose quotas and wealth redistribution based on the insidious "disparate impact" theory of implied, systematic, and institutional racism.

2. Michael Brendan Dougherty scores Joe Biden's foreign-policy record. He finds a lot of folly. From the analysis:

Biden voted against Reagan's defense build-up at every turn. He voted over and over to strip funding from the B-2 bomber project. While Ronald Reagan was encouraging the collapse of the Soviet Union through deft diplomacy and an increase of hard power, Biden was racking up high ratings from the Council for a Livable World, a peace-at-any-price group.

It's not just that Biden is frequently wrong, it's that he compounds his wrongness on foreign policy with dishonesty and exaggeration — for example, he claimed to be the sole figure responsible for ending genocide in Bosnia. But nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in his record on the Iraq War. In a 2019 interview with NPR, he tried to explain his votes that had been supportive of George W. Bush's war in Iraq. He blamed Bush for misleading him. Bush "said he needed the vote to be able to get inspectors into Iraq to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein was engaged in dealing with a nuclear program," he explained. "He got them in and before you know it, we had 'shock and awe.'"

Except, Biden had argued since the late 1990s that Hussein would never give up his weapons program peacefully. In hearings before the war, he had openly mocked a weapons inspector, saying that "as long as Saddam is at the helm, there is no reasonable prospect you or any other inspector is ever going to be able to guarantee that we have rooted out, root and branch, the entirety of Saddam's program." He would go on to say that everyone knew that, in the end, U.S. troops would have to take Saddam out. By 2004, though, he was telling the Council on Foreign Relations, "I never believed they had weapons of mass destruction."

3. Peter Tonguette shares thoughts and recollections on the great Ray Bradbury, his yearning for things simpler, his anticipation of things sterile. From the piece:

Like Kurt Vonnegut, born just two years later (1922) and one state over (Indiana), Bradbury made it his business to speculate about the future but retained a healthy appreciation for the past. Both men were Luddites; Vonnegut railed against the Internet, while Bradbury, a nondriver, declined to participate in the automobile revolution. While the moon landing had no greater fan than Brad bury, his enthusiasm for science fiction often seemed less rooted in an interest in technological advances than in nostalgia for the enthusiasms of his youth. Inter viewed for a documentary on the BBC, he referred to his basement home office as his "nest" — a womblike space filled with magic sets, filmstrips, and other bric-a-brac of a 1920s-era childhood in America. "I'm surrounded by science-fiction books," Bradbury said. "Comic strips: Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon. All of these things which are my security blankets."

Despite being a resident of Los Angeles since adolescence, Bradbury again and again permitted his imagination to wander to the Midwest, which he reproduced in his fiction in the form of Green Town, whose residents apparently have it all over Los Angelenos. "Well, he felt sorry for boys who lived in California where they wore tennis shoes all year," Bradbury wrote in one of his Green Town books, Dandelion Wine (1957), "and never knew what it was to get winter off your feet, peel off the iron leather shoes all full of snow and rain and run barefoot for a day and then lace on the first new tennis shoes of the season, which was better than barefoot."

Even Bradbury's works of fantasy and horror, despite their moments of genuine terror and strangeness, depict small-town life as vividly as the work of Booth Tarkington; Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Bradbury said, was a key source of inspiration for The Martian Chronicles. "Wind rattled the empty trees," he wrote in another Green Town novel, the masterly Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962). "Sunlight, breaking through a small rift in the clouds, minted a last few oak leaves all gold." In The Halloween Tree (1972), Bradbury effortlessly evoked the sheer bliss of All Hallows' Eve — blissful not for the acquisition of candy but for the sights and sounds and smells. "Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked."

Some may wonder whether the man responsible for such high-flown, misty-eyed prose has anything to say to readers muddling through the confused, contentious reality of 2020. In fact I remember wondering, when the corona-virus pandemic prompted, or compelled, Americans to withdraw to their homes, whether we might collectively return to Green Town-style virtues for a season — to disconnect from our devices and permit ourselves to luxuriate, as Bradbury did, in the howl of the wind, the rays of the sun, and the aroma emanating from the kitchens of our mothers.

4. Matthew Kroenig finds Gen. H.R. McMaster's new book, Battlegrounds, to be a gem. From the review:

This may not be the book that we want, but it is the book that we need. After just over one year, McMaster was reportedly forced out of office after clashing with the president on matters of both substance and style. Many will be disappointed that, unlike other former senior Trump-administration officials, McMaster has not written a gossipy "tell all" about his time in the White House. But that would have been a waste of his considerable intellect and experience, which are much better suited for this weightier work.

His central argument in Battlegrounds is that U.S. foreign and defense policy has too often been plagued by "strategic narcissism." In other words, we see the world narrowly through our own prism and repeatedly view dangerous adversaries as we wish them to be, not as they really are. For example, Washington hoped that China would become a "responsible stakeholder" in the U.S.-led, rules-based international system. In 2015, the Obama administration bet that a nuclear deal with Iran would strengthen the moderates in Tehran and usher in a new era of cooperation with the West. Currently, U.S. officials see the Taliban as a potential peace partner in ending the 19-year-long-and-counting war in Afghanistan. According to McMaster, all of these views were misguided because our enemies have other ideas.

He argues that a better national-security policy would begin with "strategic empathy." We should see our adversaries as they really are. What are their worldviews, goals, and strategies? And how does the United States fit into their calculation, not the other way around? It is only by first understanding our adversaries that we can begin to formulate effective strategies for dealing with them. He approvingly cites Sun Tzu's aphorism that "if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

This recurring theme holds the book together well without clogging the narrative. Indeed, the book is very well written, weaving in the author's experience and analysis seamlessly with a recounting of recent history and current events.

The book is studiously nonpartisan and apolitical, as we might expect from a career military officer who swore an oath to serve any duly elected commander in chief. Indeed, in recent interviews, the general has even said that he has never voted because he does not want partisan politics to interfere with his commitment to country.

Lights. Camera. Reviews!

1. Armond White finds What Killed Michael Brown? — the new documentary by Eli and Shelby Steele — to be worth your while, even if it’s not worth Amazon's. From the review:

Fact is, there is a Michael Brown mythology, as indicated by that Jackie Brown-style title graphic. Perhaps unwittingly, the Steele duo evokes the 1744 English nursery rhyme "Who Killed Cock Robin?" This folkloric ditty, about heroism and shifting political power (honoring either the Robin Hood legend or the end of Sir Robert Walpole's government), derived from the complex human awareness passed down through the ages as a children's rhyme.

Although the Steeles don't delve into the folklore of black rebellion wherein successive generations act upon the previous generation's experience of racism, the Steeles seem keenly aware of the folkloric delusions that attach to historical accounts. Shelby Steele calls it "poetic truth, a distortion of the actual truth."

Based on the ethics of Shelby Steele's bootstrap black conservatism, What Killed Michael Brown? is a rare doc that opposes the media's current trend of fabricating race and "justice." Shelby Steele rightly suspects that term and so redefines it: "There's already a framework of meaning in place. You don't think so much as step into that meaning." The new, rejiggered excuses and expectations of racialized justice are what killed Michael Brown.

Related: The cancellers at Amazon Prime has denied the Steeles' video from being carried. David Harsanyi has the pathetic news. Read the Corner post.

2. More Armond: He gives a boo to the new socialism-loving Italian film, Martin Eden. From the beginning of the review:

Millennials need a hero, and the protagonist in the new Italian film version of Jack London's 1909 novel Martin Eden has been expatriated to fit the bill. The film's almost unanimous critical reception can be explained by its hero's infatuation with socialism. Martin (played by Italian actor Luca Marinelli) scoffs at the working class's naïve, union-based political sentiments until he formulates his own similar, self-serving philosophy.

Martin's version of layperson urbanity, propelled by his enthrallment with Elena (Jessica Cressy), an educated yet naïve beauty from the wealthy Orsini family, matches those students who take to the streets full of benighted zeal but lacking in real-world experience. Martin reads and interprets Baudelaire his own simplistic way; he's an autodidact and solipsist who rails against the establishment and despite the odds becomes a literary sensation and political orator. His career reflects the current fashion in ideological groupthink — also a defect of our partisan critical constabulary that has made Martin Eden a film-festival favorite.

But the film's basic class problem is also an impediment to its popularity. Martin resembles those mainstream media stars who get their reputation from social-media sarcasm, except that the tall, intense actor Marinelli is physically different; he makes for a burly, roughneck poet strutting down the street, often with two books in his manly one-handed grip. Brimming with spleen and ideals, he makes a vow: "Turn myself into one of the eyes through which the world sees. I want to become a writer."

3. Even MORE Armond: Our fearless reviewer is the author of a new book, Make Spielberg Great Again: The Steven Spielberg Chronicles. Your Humble Correspondent's copy of this 400-page gathering of essential Armond's reviews and essays (from four-plus decades of brilliant cinema-viewing) has been ordered, and you might do likewise.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Claremont Review of Books, William Voegeli asks and answers the questions, with details basic and far-reaching, about Joe Biden, The Weak, heading the vanguard of the Wokeletariat. It's exhaustive and a must-read. From the article:

So what is the basis for these claims about Biden's electability against Trump?

Two things: the former vice president's personal decency and political moderation.

"Character is on the ballot," Biden said in his acceptance speech to the party's virtual convention, as are "[c]ompassion . . . [d]ecency, science, and democracy." Democrats and journalists — not readily distinguishable groups — have joined in treating Biden's decency as his defining quality. His acceptance speech "captured the romance of decency," wrote the Washington Post's Michael Gerson. After Biden's Super Tuesday triumphs, historian Matthew Dallek gushed that the former vice president "exudes decency."

Concerning moderation, Biden's career "has been distinguished mostly by careful centrism," in Osnos's words. That career encompassed decades when Democrats suffered politically for the Great Society's failures. Long before President Clinton was triangulating, Senator Biden was actively trying to accommodate skepticism about big government and social justice, skepticism which elevated Reagan and then Newt Gingrich. As a freshman senator worried about reelection, Biden became "the Democratic Party's leading anti-busing crusader" in the 1970s, the New York Times reported last year. His commitment to this cause included collaborating with North Carolina Republican senator Jesse Helms on an amendment that reduced the federal government's ability to withhold funds from school districts that failed to meet desegregation benchmarks. "Biden's advocacy made it safe for other [Senate] Democrats to oppose busing," wrote the Times.

During his first Senate term, Biden was capable of sounding more conservative than many of his Republican colleagues on the broader question of government's capacity to effect social reforms. He rejected a full-employment bill co-sponsored by liberalism's grand old man, saying that Hubert Humphrey "isn't cognizant of the limited, finite ability government has to deal with people's problems." The socialist magazine Jacobin recently scorned Biden as "the Forrest Gump of the Democratic Party's Rightward Turn."

2. At Catholic World Report, the great Daniel J. Mahoney examines the Pope's new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, and finds it theologically frutti. From the beginning of the essay:

Pope Francis has written an encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on "fraternity and social friendship" that is unique in the history of the genre. It is not addressed to his brother bishops or the universal Church per se, but rather speaks to universal humanity in a manner befitting its broadly humanitarian message.

A cross between an encyclical and a humanitarian manifesto, it invokes the authority of Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb and the 2019 Abu Dhabi declaration at least a dozen times, as if to say that the Holy Roman Pontiff is just one religious partisan of global humanity, among others. The encyclical's presentation of the requirements of fraternal love partakes of humanitarian ideology as much as any distinctive Christian teaching. I say this without polemical intent. In proclaiming "fraternity without borders" and a "politics of love" (#180-182) in recognizing "local flavor" (#143-145) and global humanity as the twin poles of human existence, Pope Francis seems to bypass or overlook the familial and national expressions of fraternity and social friendship, that is to say the common good of a free and decent society.

Pope Francis's identification of fraternity with humanity as such largely ignores the naturalness of love of one's own and the dangers of embodying fraternity or social friendship at the level of unmediated Humanity. One critic at Crisis magazine has rightly faulted the pope's enthusiastic adoption of the French revolutionary slogan "liberty, equality, and fraternity" (#103-111) in seeming abstraction from the totalitarian import of that revolutionary slogan. Pope Francis is surely no friend of totalitarianism, but he never acknowledges that politically enforced fraternity, grounded in abstract sentimentality, can give rise to new and inhuman forms of despotism. A prominent French aristocrat turned revolutionary once famously proclaimed "Be my brother, or I will kill you." Those words continue to chill the soul and to reveal the essence of revolutionary terror.

The lesson is clear: Brotherhood, devoid of a sense of moral reciprocity and a deep appreciation of the capacity of fallen men for evil, is capable of giving rise to the antithesis of true fellow-feeling and, indeed, to truly monstrous forms of political oppression. But sin and evil are barely acknowledged in this encyclical other than the predictable attack on the "hidden powers" that are alleged to manipulate markets and a liberal economic order. The words are barely mentioned.

3. At the Foreign Policy Research Institute, our amigo grande John Hillen scopes out the dueling visions of Trump and Biden. From the essay:

While President Obama implicitly challenged that consensus with notions such as "leading from behind" and "focusing on nation building here at home," Candidate Trump came into office with a more forceful rejection of the American role consensus. He pointed out to the American public that the assumptions behind the old foreign policy consensus were all being called into question by outcomes, and he would vigorously re-examine and challenge them. Unconventional Republican candidates had proposed this more nationalist and populist agenda before — Pat Buchanan memorably resurrected the Taft-ian tradition of Republican foreign policy in the 1990s, but these efforts mostly ended up trying to shape the occasional plank in the party platform, not disassembling the post-WWII general foreign policy consensus.

And President Trump held to his promises. On trade, he has broken with a decades-long bipartisan consensus around free trade that has seemed to leave whole constituencies out of its benefits and fuel the rise of competitive states — at our expense in his mind. He has been more skeptical than even hardline Republicans of the past about international organizations, treaty arrangements, alliances, arms control agreements, and diplomacy in general.

While his opponents — I think fixated on his tone and style — have criticized his belligerent tone, for his part, President Trump has claimed to be the peace president and has taken an even more aggressive stance than President Obama (who came to national attention largely as an anti-war candidate) about reducing U.S. troop presence and security guarantees in the Middle East and Afghanistan — and even Europe. And President Trump has asked far more explicitly than administrations past for allies to pick up more of their share of the cost for the enduring U.S. presences overseas.

On the human rights front, presidents as different as Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan embraced in their own way what might be called "the freedom agenda"— a central tenet of American policy since the beginning of the Cold War even if subjected to very different tactics by various presidents. President Trump has not shown enthusiasm for this — although it is possible he could find his own way of expressing this long-standing pillar of American policy. And finally, he shuffled the deck on the traditional treatment of allies and adversaries, sometimes seeming to apply more pressure to the former than the latter.

None of this is to say that his foreign policy has been wrong, bad, or unsuccessful. It's simply to note his break with consensus. On some issues, his very willingness to break with a consensus has sort of unclogged some clogged pipes — and produced results that seemed suspended by the consensus approach. He correctly read not only the mood of much of the American public in 2016 about populist and nationalist themes, but he also was aided by the simple observation that this American-led liberal convergence agenda was not producing the results its architects had promised over the years.

4. At First Things, Kenneth Craycraft explores the hard-core anti-Catholicism of Kamala Harris. From the piece:

Harris's animus toward Catholicism is not limited to inquisition of Catholic nominees for federal courts, but also extends to harassment of public organizations whose missions are consistent with Catholic moral theology. In using her public offices to advocate against such institutions, Harris has earned broad financial support from pro-abortion individuals and groups.

For example, in 2016, when the Center for Medical Progress exposed evidence that Planned Parenthood was illegally trafficking organs and tissues from aborted children, then California attorney general Harris authorized a raid on the home of CMP's David Daleiden, seizing video footage substantiating the evidence. Subsequently, Harris's office conspired with Planned Parenthood, one of her generous political supporters, in drafting bill-of-attainder style legislation against CMP.

Similarly, in 2015, Harris was an enthusiastic advocate of California's so-called Reproductive FACT Act, which forced pro-life pregnancy centers to inform their clients where they could obtain free abortions and to advertise abortion clinics. Claiming to have "co-sponsored" the FACT Act, Harris praised then California governor Jerry Brown for signing it into law. (In 2018, the Supreme Court struck the law under the First Amendment's speech clause.) And in 2015, she used her power as California attorney general to put six Catholic hospitals out of business on behalf of another of her political patrons, the Service Employees International Union.

As a U.S. senator, Harris introduced the Orwellian "Do No Harm Act," the purpose of which is to force religious individuals and organizations to engage in activities that directly violate their firmly held religious beliefs. And she is a co-sponsor of the "Equality Act," which would force Catholic hospitals, for example, to perform gender transition surgeries, open women's restrooms to men, and force girls and women to compete against boys and men in athletic competitions.

5. More Claremont Review of Books: John O'Sullivan explains what it's like to be unfriended by Anne Applebaum, done in her new book, Twilight of Democracy. From the review:

If Applebaum can't quite identify the causes of upheaval, she's still more puzzled over why some friends ended up on the wrong side of the barricades. "What, then, has caused this transformation?" she asks. "Were some of our friends always closet authoritarians? Or have the people with whom we clinked glasses in the first minutes of the new millennium somehow changed over the subsequent two decades?"

The rest of her book is an attempt to discover the explanation mainly by interrogating the careers and opinions of those of her friends who have transformed so mysteriously. These interrogations are interrupted from time to time with her own reflections on politics and political theory that may throw some light on the problematic biographies. For example, she sees parallels to some of the new "authoritarians" in the French intellectuals of the interwar years whom Julien Benda criticized in his classic study, The Treason of the Intellectuals (1928), for subordinating the love of truth and beauty to partisan ideologies. These reflections are interesting, and I generally agree with them (though I have always thought Benda could have made a good living using a steamroller to crack Brazil nuts), but they don't seem to fit, let alone explain, the very different personalities who are the mainstays of the narrative.

That is especially true of the chapter describing the writers, columnists, and politicians around the London Spectator, where Applebaum was their colleague for some years, many of whom were also active supporters of Brexit. They are an exceptionally distinguished bunch, as it happens, including Boris Johnson, Simon Heffer, Roger Scruton, and, ahem, me. I can't really complain about the portrait of me which suggests a combination of boulevardier (jovial, witty, fond of champagne) and James Bond villain who emerges from behind the scenes occasionally to cast Scotland aside unsentimentally or to move Viktor Orbán around on the international chessboard. But the glaring difficulty about my assistants, Johnson, Heffer, and Scruton, is that there doesn't seem to be an iota of evidence that they are in any way "authoritarian." Or that Brexit was an essentially authoritarian idea or development in British politics. Quite the reverse. It was plainly a campaign to restore Britain's status as a self-governing democracy.

6. At The Red Line, Red Jahnke, the All Things Connecticut guru, lays out the Constitution State's dismal future, courtesy of the public-employee unions' chokehold on taxpayer dollars. From the analysis:

No one really knows where the state and the country are headed economically. The good news is that the state's rainy day fund has grown to $3 billion since 2017. Lamont said he would use most of the fund to close the budget gap.

Just days before, the governor announced his hiring of Boston Consulting Group to find $500 million in annual state savings, primarily from workforce attrition. The goal is to automate or eliminate many job functions, so that the expected retirement before mid-year 2022 of an estimated one-third of the state's 49,000-person workforce will require the fewest possible replacements.

Of course, Lamont could have saved one-quarter of the savings target by using his emergency powers to cancel the $135 million state employee pay raise last July 1st.

That would have caused employees little pain, as demonstrated by a recently released Yankee Institute study, which found that Connecticut's state and municipal employees (excluding teachers) are paid about $20,000 per year more than their private sector counterparts. That translates into an aggregate annual premium of almost $1 billion for 49,000 state employees, assuming they and municipal employees enjoy equivalent pay.

This enormous pay premium has persisted for well over a decade. If, during the past decade, state officials had followed a hiring policy of pay parity with the private sector, Connecticut would have saved billions, helping to close much of the huge gap between the $13 billion currently in the State Employee Retirement Fund (SERF) and its estimated future labilities of $34 billion.

7. At Real Clear Politics, Mark Mitchell explores the rhetoric of Black Lives Matters, and finds it revolutionary. From the piece:

Black Lives Matter and other revolutionary groups have gained significant rhetorical advantage by claiming that racism is "systemic." They insist that racism is embedded "in the DNA" of all American social, cultural, and political systems. If that is the case, then individuals who affirm the moral equality of all people and seek to live their lives according to that standard are nevertheless deeply entwined in racist structures. They are racists and don't even know it. They have benefited from racist "systems" and therefore are guilty. They must be punished and re-educated. Racist systems must be destroyed. The rhetoric of "systemic" racism makes race guilt unavoidable and revolution increasingly possible. Race guilt is antithetical to reconciliation, peace, or justice. It provides a rhetorical cudgel with which to dominate opponents, and revolution is the means to destroy the current order and usher in a Marxist-utopian paradise.

The modern sophist is adept at constructing jingles and pithy phrases that take hold of the imagination and come to be seen as profound truths even if they are utter nonsense. In recent protests, the phrase "silence is violence" has been employed as a means of coercing individuals to bow to mob pressure. It sounds profound — after all, it rhymes — but it is a vacuous claim masquerading as deep truth. Its purpose is to compel an individual to join the chants of the crowd lest one be accused of condoning, or even participating in, the violence that, we are repeatedly told, is ubiquitous. There is no interest in engaging in rational debate. Modern sophists have no time for such diversions. They have no interest in the truth or in better understanding the complexities of human affairs. They are too busy dismantling the world.

8. At Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh reports on the Saudis' exhaustion with the Palestinians. From the beginning of the piece:

Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz's scathing and unprecedented attack on the Palestinian leadership, during an interview aired by Saudi Al-Arabiya television station on October 6, adds Saudi Arabia and its citizens to the growing list of Arabs who regard the Palestinians as "ungrateful."

During the interview, the prince, a former Saudi ambassador to the US, said that "the Palestinian cause is a just cause, but its advocates are failures, and the Israeli cause is unjust, but its advocates have proven to be successful."

He accused the Palestinians of cozying up to Saudi Arabia's foes, Iran and Turkey, and criticized them for accusing the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain of betrayal for agreeing to establish relations with Israel." He also accused the Palestinians of "ingratitude or lack of loyalty" toward Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that supported them for decades.

After the interview, many Saudis and other Gulf citizens expressed support for Prince Bandar bin Abdulaziz's criticism of the Palestinians, with some saying the time has come for a new Palestinian leadership that prioritizes its people's interests and does not pocket the financial aid sent to them by the Arab countries and the West.

"I believe that the time has come to form a permanent Arab committee under the umbrella of the Arab League to manage the Palestinian issue and conduct face-to-face dialogue with Israel," said Emirati columnist and political analyst Abdullah Nasser Al-Otaibi. "Today, after this very revealing and frank talk (by the Saudi prince), I strongly believe in the need for the Arabs to find a way to manage the Palestinian issue."

9. At The College Fix, Kat Mouawad reports on Duke University professors creating a minor in "Inequality Studies." From the article:

The minor would cover several different courses from the Cook Center, which focuses on taking a "cross-national comparative approach to the study of human difference and disparity," in conjunction with Duke courses in a variety of fields, according to the center's description.

However, some professors raised objections about how the minor would balance the minor's "coherency" with diversity and the "breadth of study," according to the Chronicle. Others raised questions about the proliferation of minors and overlap with other minors.

The College of Arts and Science currently offers a variety of minors, including minors in African and African American Studies, cultural anthropology, cultural studies and sociology.

Duke University is not the only institution to offer a minor in inequality.

For example, Cornell University offers an Inequality Studies minor. The school described it as "appropriate for students interested in public and private sector employment, policy, and civil society," and "those who wish to pursue graduate and professional degrees in a variety of fields."

Baseballery

They have come fast and furious these last few weeks, the deaths of baseball greats, Tom Seaver, Joe Morgan, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Whitey Ford. Rest in peace all.

The Chairman of the Board and the mainstay, along with Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, of the Yankees' amazing pennant-run from 1949 through 1964, local boy Edward Charles Ford first took the mound from the Bronx Bombers in 1950, and registered an impressive rookie record of 9-1, with a 2.81 ERA. His career record — he threw his last pitch on May 21, 1967 in Detroit, with the Tigers' Jim Northrup earning the distinction of being the last batter faced as Ford's dependable arm, troubled by circulation problems, finally giving up after 16 seasons — was 236-106, with a 2.75 ERA. His .690 winning percentage is the best in baseball history for pitchers with over 200 wins.

Ford pitched in 11 World Series, earning a 10-8 record for six Yankee world championship teams. His passing prompts thoughts that frequently consume the limited imagination of Your Faithful Author, about how some players serve as special links to quite past and quite future times. We hereby contend that Whitey Ford was one such bridge.

In his rookie season, pitching at Comisky Park on July 30, 1950, in what would have to rate as one of the earliest and indeed worst outings of his career, Ford started but only got one out in the First Inning before being relieved, as the White Sox pounded the rookie for three quick runs on four hits (Ford earned no decision as the Yankees would go on to win the game, 4-3). One of those hits came from future Hall of Famer Luke Appling, who smacked a run-scoring triple off Ford. It would be the only time the two greats would face each other — Appling's 20-year career, all spent with Chicago, mostly at shortstop, and which never included a World Series appearance, would end that October.

Appling first made it to the Big Leagues in 1930 in mid-September, when he started six straight games for the Pale Hose, gathering a hit in each of them — he'd accumulate 2,749 over his two decades with the anemic Sox, which included two seasons as the AL batting champion (he hit a monster .388 in 1936) and a .310 career average.

The Appling-Ford sweep accounts for 36 seasons. On the back end: Whitey's last MLB win, a complete game, came on April 25, 1967 against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium. In an 8-hitter, the Bronx Bombers defeated Chicago 11-2. The losing pitcher: A young Tommy John. Only 24, he was already in his fifth MLB season, and would have 21 more to pitch by the time he hung up his spikes in 1989. In two of those seasons, 1970-71, while John was still pitching for Chicago, Appling was back in the White Sox dugout, this time as a coach. In the small and childish mind of your Humble Correspondent, that brought full-circle the connection between two Hall-of-Fame greats and one oughta-Hall of Famer.

A Dios

Tip generously. Write and mail a thank-you note instead of an email. And remember that none of the Ten Commandments includes your name with an exception clause.

Would that God Aid Us from Screwing Up of this Last Best Hope of Earth,

Jack Fowler, who awaits your mash notes at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

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