Category: Culture

The past isn’t what it used to be

Jonah Goldberg:

Joe Biden loves to say, “America is back.” He used it to announce his incoming national security team last November. “It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it.”

Last February, there were a slew of headlines about his first big foreign policy speech along the lines of this from the Associated Press:

Biden declares ‘America is back’ in welcome words to allies.”

In that speech, Biden told diplomats at the State Department, “when you speak, you speak for me. And so—so [this] is the message I want the world to hear today: America is back. America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.”

That phrase—as well as those Biden-tells-allies-America-is-back headlines—keeps coming to mind every time I read about the inexorable advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan. For the Afghans, America was “here,” and now it’s leaving. I wonder how “America is back” must sound to the people feeling abandoned by America in general, and the guy saying it in particular.

I’m not trying to pull on heart strings, so I won’t trot out the girls who will be thrown back into a kind of domestic bondage or the translators and aides who rightly fear mass executions may be heading their way. All I’ll say is that their plight does pull on my heart strings.

But let’s get back to this “America is back” stuff. For Biden, it seems to have two meanings. One is his narrow argument that we are rejoining all of the multilateral partnerships and alliances that Trump pulled out of or denigrated. Fair enough. I can’t say this fills me with joy, even though I disliked most of that stuff from Trump (the two obvious exceptions being getting out of the Paris Accord and the Iran deal). I think diplomacy often gets a bad rap. But I also think diplomacy is often seen as an end rather than a means. We want diplomats to accomplish things, not to get along with each other just for the sake of getting along. For too long, Democrats have cottoned to a foreign policy that says it’s better to be wrong in a big group than to be right alone.

But there’s another meaning to “America is back.” It’s an unsubtle dig at Trump and a subtle bit of liberal nostalgia all at once. It’s kind of a progressive version of “Make America Great Again.” It rests on the assumption that one group of liberal politicians speaks for the real America, and now that those politicians are back in power, the real America is back, too. But the problem is, there is no one real America. There are some 330 million Americans and they, collectively and individually, cannot be shoe-horned into a single vision regardless of what labels you yoke to the effort.

Liberals were right to point out that there was a lot of coding in “Make America Great Again.” I think they sometimes overthought what Trump meant by it, because I don’t think he put a lot of thought into it. He heard a slogan, liked the sound of it, and turned it into a rallying cry—just as he did with “America first,” “silent majority,” and “fake news.” Still, when, exactly,  was America great in Trump’s vision? The consensus seems to be the 1950s, a time when a lot of good things were certainly happening, but a lot of bad things were going on that we wouldn’t want to restore.

Liberal nostalgia is a funny thing. Conservative nostalgia I understand, because I’m a conservative and I’m prone to nostalgia (even though nostalgia can be a corrupting thing, which is why Robert Nisbet called it “the rust of memory”). Conservatives tend to be nostalgic for how they think people lived. Liberals tend to be nostalgic about times when they had power.

Consider the New Deal. Being nostalgic for the New Deal certainly isn’t about how people lived, not primarily. America was in a deep depression throughout the New Deal. Breadlines and men holding signs saying “will work for food” are probably the most iconic images of that time. Who wants to return to that? And yet, liberals will not banish it from their collective memory as something like the high water mark of American history. That’s why they keep pushing for new New Deals and slapping the label on new programs that consist of spending money we don’t have.

The only thing that competes with the New Deal in the liberal imagination is the 1960s in general and the civil rights movement and Great Society in particular. I’m reminded of a Washington Post interview with Howard Dean in 2003 in which he explained his nostalgia for that era:

“Medicare had passed. Head Start had passed. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the first African American justice [was appointed to] the United States Supreme Court. We felt like we were all in it together, that we all had responsibility for this country. … [We felt] that if one person was left behind, then America wasn’t as strong or as good as it could be or as it should be. That’s the kind of country that I want back.”

“We felt the possibilities were unlimited then,” he continued. “We were making such enormous progress. It resonates with a lot of people my age. People my age really felt that way.”

That’s not how people his age felt back then. It’s how a certain group of liberals felt because they were winning. The 1960s and the 1930s were times of massive civic strife marked by race riots, domestic bombings, assassinations, and anti-war protests. But liberals were in charge, felt like history was on their side, and they had a lot of “wins” as Donald Trump might say.

The current obsession with the “new Jim Crow” seems like a perfect example of how liberal nostalgia distorts and corrupts. As I write today, I’m not a fan of the arguments coming out of the GOP or the Democrats. But the simple fact is that we don’t live in the 1960s—or 1890s—anymore. Whatever the future holds, it will not be a replay of that past. And that’s overwhelmingly for the good.

I always find it funny that the same people who ridicule “excessive” fidelity to the timeless principles of the Founding as archaic are often also the same ones who worship at the altar of the New Deal and the Great Society. The Founders didn’t know about mobile phones and the internet! Well, neither did the New Dealers or the Johnson administration. But that doesn’t matter because the part they really liked and yearn to restore is timeless: people in Washington deciding how Americans everywhere else should live and work.

I don’t know how the White House’s new collaboration with Facebook to combat “misinformation” will actually play out and I’m not fully up to speed on what the administration really intends to do. Though—given press secretary Jen Psaki’s comment that “you shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not others,” etc.—it doesn’t sound good. But I think David French’s gut check is exactly right: “Moderation is a platform decision, not a White House decision. Trying to force more moderation is as constitutionally problematic as trying to force less moderation.”

The principle at the heart of that speaks not just to social media regulation, but to all of the competing efforts from right and left to throw aside the rules in a thirsty search to rule.

Listeners of The Remnant know that I often find myself suffering from a peculiar form of nostalgia, for want of a better word. The title of my podcast comes from an essay by Albert Jay Nock, who was one of the “superfluous men” of the long Progressive Era that stretched—with a brief, and partial, parentheses under the sainted Calvin Coolidge—from the end of the Teddy Roosevelt administration to the end of the Franklin Roosevelt administration. I don’t agree with Nock, or the other superfluous men, on everything—they were a diverse lot. But the thing that connected them all—hence their superfluousness—was how they felt that they were standing on the sidelines as the major combatants at home and abroad competed over how best to be wrong, how to stir up populist anger for their agendas, and, most of all, how to use the state to impose their vision on the “masses.” The remnant was the sliver that wanted no part of any of it.

“Taking his inspiration from those Russians who seemed superfluous to their autocratic nineteenth-century society and sought inspiration in the private sphere, even to the point of writing largely for their desk drawers,” writes Robert Crunden, Nock’s biographer. “Nock made the essential point: ransack the past for your values, establish a coherent worldview, depend neither on society nor on government insofar as circumstances permitted, keep your tastes simple and inexpensive, and do what you have to do to remain true to yourself.”

Or as the great superfluous man of the Soviet Empire, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, put it, “You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

I share this—yet again—as a kind of omnibus response to all of my critics these days and the ones yet to come. I’m lucky that I don’t have to write for my desk drawer, though I am reliably informed — daily — that many people would prefer I did. But I am going to continue to write for the remnant as I see it and those I hope to convince to swell its ranks, and not for those who think that to be against what “they” are doing I must endorse what “we” are doing. Our politics may be a binary system of competing asininities these days, but just because one side of a coin is wrong, that doesn’t mean the other side is right.

“A little rebellion, now and then …”

Selwyn Duke:

It was said during our Mideast military adventures, and has been considered a truism of war, that you can’t really win a conflict without “boots on the ground.” For it’s difficult to completely subdue a people from afar. It may not be too different with battles for civilization.

I stated in 2012, addressing a long-developing reality, that the culture war was over as the Left had achieved social dominance. “What is occurring now is a pacification effort,” I wrote — one designed to stamp out the “conservative” guerrilla-group diehards.

Other than its intensification, the only thing that has changed about this effort in the last decade is that it has a new name: “cancel culture.” With GoogTwitFace (Big Tech) having upped its bias and dropped its mask and corporate America joining academia, the media and entertainment on the Dark Side, these entities act as a malevolent monolith silencing dissident voices from Maine to Maui. But it would be naïve to think the Left, which craves power and wants total control, will be satisfied with its current soft authoritarianism.

This brings us to two developments that could cause the raising of eyebrows if not militias. Consider: If you heard about a Third World country in which the leadership was purging the military of political opponents, would you assume it was just an exercise in ideological nepotism? Or would you suppose the leaders wanted a military of devoted fellow travelers who would, when asked, unflinchingly turn their guns on domestic opponents of the regime who couldn’t be cowed by other methods?

Now, should the assumption be different just because the military purge occurs in a developed country?

Just such an event has been taking place in the U.S. for at least a decade. It began under Barack Obama, who not only tried to socially re-engineer the military but also engaged in a widely noted purge of top military brass.

President Trump didn’t (couldn’t?) do enough to reverse this process, and now it has been kicked into high gear. Having largely corrupted the armed forces’ upper echelons, the Left now aims for rank-and-file ideological conformity. Thus do we hear about how we must stamp out the imaginary boogeyman du jour, “white supremacy,” from the military. Preposterously, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin even issued, in early February, a 60-day stand-down order to address the alleged internal threat it poses.

Of course, white supremacists are about as common as straight, happily married women at a NOW convention; why, I’m well into middle age and I don’t know that I’ve ever met one. This isn’t to say there aren’t liberals delusional enough to believe the threat is real; that they’re detached from reality is partially why leftists are so dangerous.

Yet it’s clear there’s a different motivation among the Machiavellian leftists. It hasn’t escaped the Left’s notice that the military traditionally leaned Republican. Moreover, even if this has changed somewhat, having armed forces that are obedient to the ruling party to the point of wickedness isn’t possible with dissidents in the ranks. (Besides, “fragging” is a real thing.)

So you need a purge. You do this by conjuring up a boogeyman — in our case “white supremacy” — and then characterizing it as a widespread, existential threat. This now means defining Trump support, patriotism, opposition to illegal migration and, really, any deviation from the Left’s agenda at all as reflecting white supremacy.

It’s an old tactic: Portray already persecuted minorities or political opponents as the persecutors so you can leverage even more control over them. It’s how you create your own Enabling Act moment.

Pre-election polls showing that military members favored Joe Biden over Donald Trump indicate how the armed forces have already been partially transformed (this is true even if the polls were manipulated, and some of what they reflect is general societal “leftward” drift). Yet controlling the military is only part of the equation. You must also own the other boots on the ground: the police.

As soon as the talk of dismantling/defunding/“re-imagining” law enforcement began last year, I pointed out that while much of the movement was driven by blind passion, there’s only one rational reason to want to nix the police. “Certain leftists want to eliminate the police,” I wrote June 7, “because they want to become the police.”

Power-mongers attack those whose power they crave. Leftists want centralized control over local police just as they now have control over the intelligence agencies. They especially want this because law enforcement is generally, it appears, even more conservative than the military (its members are older, for one thing).

In this vein, it hasn’t eluded leftists that certain sheriffs are engaging in nullification efforts, having vowed not to enforce some new anti-gun and/or COVID-related laws. Remember that sheriffs are elected by an area’s local population and, with most counties being conservative (Trump won 83 percent of counties, or about 2,600, in 2016), such nullification isn’t surprising; moreover, expect more resistance to radical leftism in a good portion of this 83 percent of the nation.

So while the Left is quickly gaining monolithic federal control by virtue of large population centers that vote (and steal votes) heavily for Democrats, controlling Middle America with its more patriotic police is a different matter.

That is, unless the Left can institute federal police. Ergo, the “re-imagining” of law enforcement.

Once your sheriff is an Antifa/BLM-sympathizing ideologue installed by D.C. (District of Communism) and hailing from 1,000 miles away — with no local community ties — he’ll happily “discipline” the white supremacists lurking around every corner.

If the Left can co-opt the military and police, it will have seized our country’s last two remaining (relatively) “conservative” institutions. It will also have what’s necessary to quash that impediment to total coast-to-coast hegemony: America’s framework and tradition of state and local control.

Leftists know that the Left-Right divide is intensifying and that more “conservative” states — such as Florida, South Dakota and South Carolina — are increasingly beating their own path. They know that increased nullification of federal dictates lies ahead (heck, leftists wrote the book on it with their violation of federal immigration and drug laws). And they know that as their philosophical soulmate Mao put it, “Power grows out the barrel of a gun.”

There’s no question that certain leftists have thought about using boots on the ground to conclude their pacification effort. Remember that Bill Clinton might have once said: “I loathe the military” back when leftist protesters were calling Vietnam-era soldiers “baby killers” and that today’s socialist rabble spew venom at police. But they don’t in principle hate either institution.

And just as they’ve flipped from hating to liking the intelligence services because they now control them, so would they love the military and police — and use them with zeal — upon seizing them.

Also note that so-called “leftism” is not an ideology (how could it be? Its “principles” change continually). Rather, it currently represents movement toward moral disorder. And leftists are morally disordered people, the worst of them being vice-ridden, amoral and driven by base appetites such as power lust. As I wrote in “The Time for Talking with the Left is Long, Long Past,” perhaps the best way to prepare yourself for contending with them is to “pretend you’re dealing with Satan.”

Vanguard leftists are above nothing and beneath contempt. If you read the worst possible intentions into whatever they do, you won’t too often go wrong.

An apparently necessary reminder

Richard M. Ebeling:

The recent string of multiple-victim incidents of gun violence and police shootings of black Americans has once again resulted in renewed calls for restrictions on gun ownership. President Biden has said that executive instructions to various branches of the Federal government will attempt to reduce the frequency and possibility of such violence.

Some of his proposals, however, are merely using the gun control argument as a cover for more government redistributive intervention within the society. Thus, when the White House released a statement on April 7, 2021 detailing its plans in this direction, one of them called for a $5 billion investment over eight years to support “community violence intervention programs” with a key part of it being “to help connect individuals to job training and job opportunities.” The Department of Health and Human Services will be also directed to “educate” state governments in better using Medicaid funding to better subsidize such interventionist projects.

In other words, if only we expand notoriously wasteful and ineffective government job training programs, gun violence magically will be reduced. If only “unemployed” gun-using criminals can be taught a nonviolent job skill, they will stop robbing convenience stores and stop killing people in gang-related drive-by shootings! Plus, once the national mandated minimum wage is raised to $15 an hour, there will be long lines, obviously, of prospective employers eagerly waiting to hire former street thugs with their newly certified government-provided entry-level employment “skills.” Who knew it could be so simple?

But the meat of the Biden gun control policies all center on defining various types of firearms to categories that can rationalize greater prohibition of access and ownership. The fact is, however, that the number of Americans thinking the country needs stricter gun controls has been decreasing. According to a recent Gallup opinion survey, in 2018, 67 percent of survey respondents supported more stringent gun laws, but in 2020, that number had fallen to 57 percent, or a 15 percent decrease in those holding this opinion.

And in a survey in early 2021, Gallup reported that of those most concerned about current government gun policy, 42 percent said that current laws are sufficient, 41 percent replied they should be stricter, and 8 percent called for them to be less strict. So, 50 percent, think that gun regulations should be left as they are or actually reduced. Hardly a clamoring supermajority wanting the government to dramatically weaken a relatively wide right to bear arms. More like the same and usual vocal minority who think that “bad things” can be legislated away by political paternalists given enough governmental power over people’s lives.

Also, according to those queried by Gallup, 42 percent said that they had a gun in their home, 55 percent said they did not, and 3 percent had no opinion. It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that many among the 3 percent who had no opinion in fact might be simply not wanting to admit that they do have one or more firearms in their home. Nor is it likely going very far out on a limb to presume that at least some of those who replied that they do not have a gun in their home probably were not being completely honest, particularly if they are suspicious of government or have a firearm that is not properly licensed in the state in which they live.

But, nonetheless, among those Americans wanting a heavier government hand over gun access and ownership, a good number probably view the Second Amendment and its guarantee of the right of the individual to bear arms as something practically anachronistic. It may seem to be a throwback to those earlier days of the Wild West, when many people, far from the law and order provided by the town sheriff and circuit judge, had to protect their families and land from cattle rustlers and outlaw bands. Such people are wrong.

Locks, bars on windows, and alarm systems are all useful devices to prevent unwanted intruders from making entrance into our homes and places of work. But what happens if an innocent victim is confronted with an invader who succeeds in entering his home, for example, and the safety of his family and possessions is now threatened? What if the invader confronts these innocent occupants and threatens some form of violence, including life-threatening force? What are the victims to do?

Critics of the Second Amendment and private gun ownership never seem to have any reasonable answer. Silent prayer might be suggested, but if this were to be a formal recommendation by the government it might be accused of violating the separation of church and state. No, better to not get the anti-religion lobby on your back, especially if it’s in an election year.

Even in an era promoting “politically correct” notions of equality among the sexes and an infinite number of self-defining genders, it nonetheless remains a fact that on average an adult male tends to be physically stronger than an adult woman, and most especially if there is more than one man confronting a single woman. A good number of years ago, economist Morgan Reynolds wrote a book on the economics of crime. The following is from one of the criminal cases he discussed. It seems that four men broke into a house in Washington, D.C., looking for a man named “Slim.” When the occupant said that he didn’t know where Slim was, they decided to kill him, instead. One of the defendants later testified,

“I got a butcher knife out of the kitchen. We tied him up and led him to the bathroom. And we all stabbed him good. Then, as we started to leave, I heard somebody at the door. Lois [the dead man’s girlfriend] came in…. We took her back to the bathroom and showed her his body. She started to beg, ‘don’t kill me, I ain’t gonna tell nobody. Just don’t kill me.’ She said we all could have sex with her if we wouldn’t kill her. After we finished with her, Jack Bumps told her, ‘I ain’t takin’ no chances. I’m gonna kill you anyway.’ He put a pillow over her head, and we stabbed her till she stopped wiggling. Then we set fire to the sheets in the bedroom and went out to buy us some liquor.”

Would either of these two victims have been saved if the man had had a gun easily reachable by him in the house or if the woman had had a gun in her purse? There is no way of knowing. What is for certain is that neither was any match for the four men who attacked and killed them with a butcher knife. Even Lois’s begging and submitting to sexual violation did not save her. How many people might be saved from physical harm, psychological trauma, or death if they had the means to protect themselves with a firearm?

Equally important, how many people might never have to be confronted with an attack or murder if potential perpetrators were warded off from initiating violence because of the uncertainty that an intended victim might have the means to defend him- or herself from thieves, rapists, and murders? A gun can be a great equalizer for the weak and the defenseless, especially if an intended victim doesn’t have to waste precious seconds fumbling with the key to a mandatory trigger lock.

But what is an ordinary person to do when he finds out that it is the government that is the perpetrator of violence and aggression against him and his fellow citizens? How do you resist the power of the state? Tens of millions of people were murdered by governments in the 20th century. They were killed because of the language they spoke or the religion they practiced. Or because those in political control classified them as belonging to an “inferior race” or to a “social class” that marked them as an “enemy of the people.” Furthermore, the vast, vast majority of these tens of millions of victims were murdered while offering little or no resistance. Fear, terror, and a sense of complete powerlessness surely have been behind the ability of governments to treat their victims as unresisting lambs brought to the slaughter.

Part of the ability of government to commit these cruel and evil acts has been the inability of the victims to resist because they lacked arms for self-defense. However, when the intended victims have had even limited access to means of self-defense it has shocked governments and made them pay a price to continue with their brutal work.

Many have been surprised by the lack of resistance by the European Jews who were killed by the millions in the Nazi concentration and death camps during the Second World War. For the most part, with a seemingly peculiar fatalism, they calmly went to their deaths with bullets to the back of the head or in gas chambers. Yet when some of the people were able to gain access to weapons, they did resist, even when they knew the end was most likely to be the same. The following is from historian John Toland’s biography of Adolf Hitler (1992), in reference to the resistance of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943:

“Of the 380,000 Jews crowded into the Warsaw ghetto, all but 70,000 had been deported to the killing centers in an operation devoid of resistance. By this time, however, those left behind had come to the realization that deportation meant death. With this in mind, Jewish political parties within the ghetto finally resolved their differences and banded together to resist further shipments with force . . .

“At three in the morning of April 9, 1943, more than 2,000 Waffen SS infantryman – accompanied by tanks, flame throwers and dynamite squads – invaded the ghetto, expecting an easy conquest, only to be met by determined fire from 1,500 fighters armed with weapons smuggled into the ghetto over a long period: several light machine guns, hand grenades, a hundred or so rifles and carbines, several hundred pistols and revolvers, and Molotov cocktails. Himmler had expected the action to take three days but by nightfall his forces had to withdraw.

“The one-sided battle continued day after day to the bewilderment of the SS commander, General Jürgen Stroop, who could not understand why ‘this trash and sub-humanity’ refused to abandon a hopeless cause. He reported that, although his men had initially captured ‘considerable numbers of Jews, who are cowards by nature,’ it was becoming more and more difficult. ‘Over and over again new battle groups consisting of twenty or thirty Jewish men, accompanied by a corresponding number of women, kindled new resistance.’ The women, he noted, had the disconcerting habit of suddenly hurling grenades they had hidden in their bloomers . . .

“The Jews, he reported, remained in the burning buildings until the last possible moment before jumping from the upper stories to the street. ‘With their bones broken, they still tried to crawl across the street into buildings that had not yet been set on fire…. Despite the danger of being burned alive the Jews and bandits often preferred to return into the flames rather than risk being caught by us.’ … For exactly four weeks the little Jewish army had held off superior, well-armed forces until almost the last man was killed or wounded.”

In the end the Germans had to commit thousands of military personnel and in fact destroy an entire part of Warsaw to bring the Jewish ghetto resistance to an end.

What if not only the Jewish population but the majority of all the “undesirable” individuals and groups in Germany and the occupied countries of Europe had been armed, with the Nazi government unable to know who had weapons, what types, and with what quantity of ammunition? It would be an interesting study in World War II history to compare private gun ownership in various parts of Europe and the degree and intensity of resistance by the local population to German occupation.

In the early years of the Bolshevik takeover in Russia there were numerous revolts by the peasantry against Communist policies to collectivize the land or seize their crops as in-kind taxes. What made this resistance possible for several years was the fact that in the countryside the vast majority of the rural population owned and knew how to use hunting rifles and other weapons of various kinds. At the end of the day, in the face of armed resistance, Lenin had to reverse his 1918 policy of “war communism,” with its near total collectivization of the Russian economy and introduce his “New Economic Policy” (NEP), in 1922, restoring small- and medium-sized enterprises to private hands, and return nationalized land to the peasantry. In no other way could the countryside revolts be stopped that threatened the overthrow of the Marxist regime and to reestablish some kind of economic rationality to Russian society.

Acquisition of firearms during the Second World War as part of the partisan movement against the German invasion of the Soviet Union enabled active, armed resistance by Lithuanian and Ukrainian nationalist guerrillas against Soviet reoccupation of their countries to continue in the forests of Lithuania and western Ukraine well into the early 1950s. The Soviets also discovered what a determined and armed population could do when they invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and had to ignominiously withdraw ten years later in 1989 in de facto defeat at the hands of the mujahideen. About 15,000 Soviet military forces were killed in the conflict, along with an estimated 2 million Afghanis.

It is hard to imagine how the people of the 13 American colonies could have ever obtained their independence from Great Britain at the end of the 18th century if the local population had not been “armed and dangerous.” It is worth recalling Patrick Henry’s words in arguing for resistance against British control before the king’s armed forces could disarm the colonists:

“They tell us . . . that we are weak – unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? . . . Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? … Three million people, armed in the holy cause of liberty . . . are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.”

The taking up of arms is a last resort, not a first, against the intrusions and oppressions of government. Once started, revolutions and rebellions can have consequences no one can foretell, and final outcomes are sometimes worse than the grievance against which resistance was first offered. However, there are times, “in the course of human events,” when men must risk the final measure to preserve or restore the liberty that government threatens or has taken away. The likelihood that government will feel secure in undertaking infringements on the freedoms of Americans would be diminished if it knew that any systematic invasion of people’s life, liberty, and property might meet armed resistance by both the victim and those in the surrounding areas who came to his aid because of the concern that their own liberty might be the next to be violated.

Though it may seem harsh and insensitive, when I read the advocates of gun control pointing to incidents of private acts of violence against groups of innocent others, I think to myself:

How many more tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children were killed around the world in the last century by governments? And how many of those men, women and children, victims of government-armed violence, might have been saved if their families and neighbors had possessed the right to bear arms against political aggressors? How many men, women and children have been saved because their families have had weapons for self-defense against private violators of life and property? And how many could have been saved from private aggressors if more families had owned guns?

Nor should the argument that virtually all other “civilized” countries either prohibit or severely restrict the ownership and the use of firearms in general and handguns, in particular, intimidate Americans. America has been a free and prosperous land precisely because of the fact that as a nation we have chosen, for far longer, to follow political and economic avenues different from those followed by other countries around the world.

As a people, we have swum against the tide of collectivism, socialism, and welfare statism to a greater degree, for the most part, than have our Western European cousins. As a result, in many areas of life we have remained freer, especially in our market activities, than they. The fact that other peoples in other lands chose to follow foolish paths leading to disastrous outcomes does not mean that we should follow in their footsteps.

America was born in revolt against the ideas of the “Old World:” the politics of monarchy, the economics of mercantilism, and the culture of hereditary class and caste. America heralded the politics of representative, constitutional government, the economics of the free market, and the culture of individualism under equality before the law. It made America great.

If in more recent times there has been an “American disease,” it has been our all-too-willing receptivity to the European virus of political paternalism, welfare redistribution, economic regulation and planning, and the passive acceptance of government control over social affairs.

We need not and indeed should not fall victim to one more of the collectivist ailments practiced more intensely in other parts of the world: the disarming of the people under the dangerous notion that the private citizenry cannot be trusted and should not be allowed to have the means of self-defense against potential private and political aggressors in society.

Let us continue to stand apart and not fall prey to the false idea that somehow our European cousins are more enlightened or advanced than we on the matters of gun ownership and control. They are not. Terrorist attacks in a number of European countries over the last few years demonstrate that merely banning or restricting gun ownership does not deter those who are determined to undertake such violent acts by acquiring the needed firearms or finding ways to carry out mass murder with knives, axes, homemade bombs, or motor vehicles that run down dozens of people on crowded city streets.

Instead let us remember and stay loyal to the sentiment of James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, who praised his fellow countrymen when he said, “Americans [have] the right and advantage of being armed – unlike citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

Let us remain worthy of Madison’s confidence in the American people and defend the Second Amendment of the Constitution upon which part of that confidence was based.

Doomsday rock

An online discussion about music of the 1980s included a few references to songs about that fun topic of the imminent nuclear holocaust.

It should be pointed out that popular music has on occasion used social unrest to the point of the Apocalypse as a theme or inspiration …

… even before the ’80s.

The oeuvre of Doom Rock really got going in the 1980s, though, during the presidential terms of Ronald Reagan, who was simultaneously viewed by the American left as both stupid and evil (which you’d think would be incompatible concepts, but logic has never been a strong suit of political discussions) and doubtlessly bound to blow up the planet.

So because musical artists are usually left of center and get, shall we say, inspired by (more polite than “ripping off”) others’ works, an entire subgenre of rock was created.

For those who don’t know German:

Social commentary has always been a part of popular music at least since the 1960s. This particular musical trend dovetailed with what movie studios and TV networks were producing.

(One thing “Special Bulletin” and “Countdown to Looking Glass” have in common is really bad writing for and acting by those who were supposed to be portraying reporters and TV news anchors. Anyone who has watched coverage of such disasters as the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, 9/11 or severe storm damage knows that professionals do not emote on camera. The only way to get effective journalist portrayals is to use actual journalists, such as Eric Sevareid in his brief appearance in “Countdown to Looking Glass” and Sander Vanocur and Bree Walker in 1994’s “Without Warning.”)

You may notice, by the way, that the nuclear holocaust predicted for the 1980s did not take place. For that matter, within three years of Reagan’s leaving office the Soviet Union was no more and the entire Warsaw Pact collapsed. But defeating your enemy and being on the right side of history apparently doesn’t make good pop music.

 

“Super” fiction

Apparently the Washington Post has run out of things on which to opine, because the (Com)Post printed this:

At a moment when the public sphere is a battlefield and our leaders seem unable to agree on even basic facts, consider an unexpected source of hope: superheroes.

When the latest superhero team-up, the long-awaited, four-hour version of director Zack Snyder’s “Justice League,” arrives on HBO Max on March 18, it will offer viewers a world in which epic heroes can come together to address major, seemingly insoluble problems — even when they hardly agree on anything.

In recent decades, superhero stories have emphasized — and drawn a lot of their drama from — differences in their characters’ ideologies and worldviews. When Superman and Batman aren’t actively trying to murder each other, for example, they often disagree on fundamental ideas of justice. Starting in the mid-1980s, writers such as John Byrneand Frank Miller highlighted the fact that Batman inherited vast wealth, which he uses in a vigilante campaign to cleanse his city of criminal “scum,” while Superman is an immigrant boy scout, who tries to see the good in everyone.

“A lot of the most interesting internal conflicts within superhero teams are based on deeper ideological divides,” says comics critic Douglas Wolk, author of the forthcoming “All of the Marvels.”

In the Justice League, the left-wing Green Arrow and the right-wing Hawkman have frequently been at loggerheads. And Marvel Comics built a decade of storylines around the clash between what Wolk describes as “Captain America’s defense of individual liberties and Iron Man’s embrace of technocratic surveillance and control.” The key, says Wolk, is that these are characters “who basically agree on ends and disagree vehemently about means.”

I had some sympathy for the movie version of Iron Man because I like Robert Downey Jr. and Tony Stark was a businessman. I may have to rethink that if I waste another two hours of my life watching a superhero movie.

And that may be the greatest escapist fantasy of all: a world in which everyone can agree on the nature of the problems we face, even if they sometimes argue about the best solution. Today, it’s almost easier to believe in people who can shoot lasers out of their eyes than to imagine everyone across the political spectrum sharing the same reality.

Well, gee, maybe there’s a reason for that. Politics is a zero-sum game. One side wins, which means the other side loses. Right now, taxpayers are the losers, and that will be the case until whatever future point voters figure out that politicians whose names are followed by a D are not in this nation’s or this state’s best interest. Ever.

But when you see a godlike alien cooperating with heroes out of fables and Greek myths, you might not find it so hard to imagine more productive collaborations in the real world. These teams don’t just bring everybody together to work for the common good — they also make room for people from vastly different cultures and experiences, and they triumph when members learn to respect each other’s abilities and perspectives.

The best of these team-ups aren’t just one-offs: What are groups such as the Justice League or the Avengers but nongovernmental organizations, with more capes and fewer acronyms? Now more than ever, we need stories about larger-than-life people who are concerned with founding something altruistic that will outlast them.

It’s no accident that the most famous superhero teams were invented during a time of frenetic alliance-building among major powers, such as the United Nations, the Warsaw Pact, NATO and the Nuremberg tribunal, says Wolk. The writers of superhero comics were inspired by these real-life multinational efforts to create formal organizations, with charters and iconography and some kind of permanent headquarters, bringing together “radically different entities” under one flag. Eventually, the comics version of Justice League received a special charter from the United Nations, allowing its members to operate around the world.

The Warsaw Pact was a good thing?

When heroes form permanent teams, they provide a sense of “found family” and “a place to belong,” says Gail Simone, who has written team books such as Secret Six, Birds of Prey and The Movement. Like most families, these teams have their fair share of rifts, betrayals and awkward family dinners. But superhero stories don’t treat those divisions as fatal, just as opportunities to explore big ideas.

The goal of all this team-building? To establish something that can outlast changes of membership and the occasional apocalypse, an organization that is bigger than any one member. In an age when multinational cooperation is on the wane and trust in public institutions at a low ebb, watching superheroes invest in creating a shared symbol can be downright inspiring.

Because it’s fiction. The real world is messier.

Right before covid-19 hit, the CW brought together every superhero in its web of comic-book shows in a massive crossover, “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” In the story’s final scene, every surviving hero gathers in their new shared headquarters, complete with a table emblazoned with their separate emblems as well as an eternal flame, symbolizing a lasting commitment to one another.

They may not know what disasters await them, and neither do we. But they have one thing going for each other that we could badly use: the certainty that whatever comes, they’re dedicated to facing and fighting it together.

Because, again, it’s fiction.

The idiots who responded to this all claim, of course, that superheroes are all Democrats and the evil side are Republicans. Except for a few brave contrarians:

What silly tripe!  Anders’ message is that the answer to real world problems is to escape into a juvenile fantasy world.

America is officially dumbed down.

Are you kidding me? Superheroes are the “wokest of the woke.” And supervillains are the “MAGAest of the MAGAs.”

What could possibly be “unifying” about any of this, WAPO culture maven, except in your own “woke” mind?

I think the premise is incorrect. What these superhero stories emphasize is fantasyland, and this is a further validation of real people believing in whatever fantasies are thrown their way.

“Superheroes” are just Deus ex Machina in crayons.
What they teach is the whole Messiah thing, instead of standing on our own two feet.

The panic, one year later

James Freeman:

A year after the World Health Organization declared a Covid pandemic and government health authorities encouraged politicians to order societal shutdowns, America has only begun to pay the staggering cost.

Matthew Impelli writes at Newsweek:

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor at Stanford University Medical School, recently said that COVID-19 lockdowns are the “biggest public health mistake we’ve ever made…The harm to people is catastrophic.”

…Bhattacharya, who made the comments during an interview with the Daily Clout, co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, a petition that calls for the end of COVID-19 lockdowns, claiming that they are “producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.”

Newsweek shares a more recent email from Dr. Bhattacharya:

We will be counting the catastrophic health and psychological harms, imposed on nearly every poor person on the face of the earth, for a generation.

At the same time, [lockdowns] have not served to control the epidemic in the places where they have been most vigorously imposed. In the US, they have – at best – protected the “non-essential” class from COVID, while exposing the essential working class to the disease. The lockdowns are trickle down epidemiology.

Dr. Bhattacharya and the tens of thousands of other medical practitioners and scientists who signed the declaration have been arguing against lockdowns for months:

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.

Adding insult to the injuries caused by politicians who rejected this sensible approach is that the relative risks were largely understood at the dawn of the lockdown era. It was already clear that for most people the virus was not a dire threat. A year ago today, the Journal’s Betsy McKay, Jennifer Calfas and Talal Ansari reported:

Roughly 80% of cases of Covid-19—the illness caused by the novel coronavirus—tend to be mild or moderate, and more than 66,000 people globally have recovered. But those who are older or have underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, are at a higher risk.

Instead of focusing on the protection of the elderly and those with particular vulnerabilities, credentialed government experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci continued to suggest school closures and broad limits on business activity as appropriate responses in areas where the virus was spreading.

This column’s March 10, 2020, edition warned about the cost of lockdowns and noted:

To this point the coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on the elderly but not so much on kids. Many children may have such mild cases that nobody ever even realizes they’re sick.

This column also suggested that “President Donald Trump should first ask his economic team to estimate the costs and benefits of coronavirus countermeasures” and noted that the “unintended consequences of such interventions are not just financial.”

Pro Publica’s Alec MacGillis writes this week about adolescent mental-health disasters in the small town of Hobbs, N.M. He notes that across the U.S., while the lockdown was catastrophic, the virus was never a huge threat to the young:

The median age for COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S. is about 80. Of the nearly 500,000 deaths in the U.S. analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of early March, 252 were among those 18 or younger — five hundredths of a percent of the total.

Mr. MacGillis then describes a number of local tragedies in Hobbs, including the story of 11-year-old Landon Fuller, who took his life after riding his bike to a field near his house:

“I think the big question we all have is why, and we will never know the reason why,” his mother, Katrina Fuller, told an Albuquerque TV talk show in July. “The only thing that I was able to find was in his journal, was that he had wrote that he was going mad from staying at home all the time and that he just wanted to be able to go to school and play outside with his friends. So that was the only thing that I can imagine what was going through his head at that time.”

At the same time, shutdowns necessitated massive government spending of borrowed money to offset the loss of normal economic activity. So U.S. children were handed a massive additional debt burden at the same time their ability to generate future income was reduced.

In the last year the United States has added more than $4 trillion in federal debt, and that doesn’t even count the historic Biden spending surge, which kicks off today with his signature on the massive new stimulus plan.

Yet as the country was locking down last spring, Dr. Fauci described the impact on Americans as “inconvenient” and later acknowledged that he did not do cost-benefit analysis and really had no idea what the consequences were for students: “I don’t have a good explanation, or solution to the problem of what happens when you close schools, and it triggers a cascade of events that could have some harmful circumstances.”

In March of last year, Dr. Fauci told National Public Radio that the U.S. “would not have a vaccine available for at least a year to a year and a half—at best.”

Thank goodness he was wrong about that. Dr. Fauci’s other errors have been much more painful for Americans to bear.

I know three people who died from COVID. Freeman’s conclusion is nonetheless absolutely correct. The federal and Wisconsin government’s performance against COVID ranks among the worst government failures in history. Educators say it will take years for children to recover from the lost fourth quarter of last school year. Some people — for instance, those whose businesses were ordered closed because they were “nonessential,” and then their businesses closed for good — will never recover.

 

Dr. Seuss today, you tomorrow

John Daniel Davidson:

Dr. Seuss has been cancelled. Some of his work has been deemed racist, and we can’t have that. On Tuesday, the entity that oversees the estate of Theodor Seuss Geisel announced it would no longer publish six of Geisel’s books because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

Among the works now deemed unfit for children are Geisel’s first book under the pen name Dr. Seuss, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” published in 1937, and the much-beloved, “If I Ran the Zoo,” published in 1950. The former depicts a “Chinaman” character and the latter shows two men from “the African island of Yerka” in native garb.

There’s not much point in quibbling over whether these and other such illustrations in the condemned Dr. Seuss books are in fact racist or bigoted, or whether Geisel held racist or xenophobic views. By all accounts he was a liberal-minded and tolerant man who hated Nazis and, as a political cartoonist, mocked the antisemitism that was all-too-common in America during World War II.

He was also a man of his era. Later in life, he regretted some of his political work during the war that stereotyped Japanese Americans, which, as jarring as it might seem today, nevertheless reflected attitudes that were commonplace at the time.

But context and nuance don’t factor into the inexorable logic of the woke left, which flattens and refashions the past into a weapon for the culture wars of the present. What’s important to understand is that this isn’t simply about banning six Dr. Seuss books. All of Geisel’s work is, in the judgment of left-wing academia, an exercise in “White supremacy, paternalism, conformity, and assimilation.” It might be easy for conservatives to laugh that off as nonsense, but they shouldn’t, because this isn’t really even about Geisel.

To grasp how a man known as much for his messages of tolerance as for his artistic genius could be canceled for racism, you have to understand what’s actually happening here. The left’s war on the past, on long-dead authors like Geisel, isn’t really about the past, it’s about the future. It’s about who gets to rule, and under what terms.

There’s a predictable pattern to what we’re seeing now. It’s predictable because it has happened before in much the same way it’s happening now. During China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ‘70s, the Chinese Communist Party, at the direction of Mao Zedong, called for the destruction of the “Four Olds”: old customs, old culture, old habits, old ideas. All of these stood in the way of Mao’s socialist ideology, so they had to be destroyed.

Children and students were encouraged by the communist government to inform on their parents and elders, to shame and condemn them in public. The guilty were forced to recant in “struggle sessions,” during which they were mocked and humiliated, sometimes tortured, sometimes murdered. Before it was over, millions were dead.

We’re obviously not there yet, but the woke revolutionaries who now run our elite institutions and exert outsized influence in the corridors of power are following this same pattern.

First, they come for the monuments, destroying the icons of the past and re-writing history to turn even our national heroes and Founding Fathers into enemies. The animating ethos of the mobs pulling down Confederate statues is the same as The New York Times editors who gave us the 1619 Project. And because there is no limiting principle to iconoclasm, they have moved on from Confederates.

The City of Charlottesville, for example, having removed or tried to remove every last Confederate monument, is now pleading for someone, anyone, to haul away a giant statue of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The 18-foot-tall bronze statue, which was erected in 1919 and depicts Lewis and Clark with Sacajawea crouched behind them, is free for anyone who can prove he knows how to move it safely—although at this point it’s a wonder the city doesn’t just dynamite the thing to rubble, Taliban-style.

Then they come for the books, destroying any ideas or literature that challenges their ideology—like Ryan Anderson’s 2018 book on the dangers of transgenderism, which Amazon summarily canceled last month. Even seemingly unobjectionable books can be targeted, if not for their content then for the race of their author. Just ask Jeanine Cummins, whose novel “American Dirt” drew the ire of the left last year simply because Cummins, who is white, wrote a book about Mexican drug cartels. The list goes on and on.

So much for statues and books. At some point, the left will come for actual people, because the ideology of revolution demands that dissent—and therefore dissidents—be silenced, by force if necessary.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, recall what happened all across the country last summer when Black Lives Matter “protesters” took to the streets. They didn’t just march and chant, they rioted. They attacked businesses, destroyed entire city blocks, and carried out a campaign of intimidation, harassing, and in some cases attacking random people if they didn’t kneel and repeat the slogans of the revolution. Dozens of people lost their lives in the chaos and violence that ensued.

The people behind the statue-toppling, the digital book burnings, and the street violence won’t stop until all three of these things—history, ideas, and dissidents—have been destroyed. These are all impediments to their cultural revolution, and they mean to eliminate them.

So forget about Dr. Seuss. Forget about the statues and the books. Those things are just the beginning. It could easily get much worse. The woke revolutionaries of the left can’t be bargained with or appeased. They believe this is a zero-sum game, that one side will win and one side will lose. And they’re right.

This won’t help

Alyssa Rosenberg:

In his 1985 book “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” the cultural critic Neil Postman wrote that “We all build castles in the air. The problems come when we try to live in them.” Postman was a pessimist, but not pessimistic enough. It’s worrisome when citizens of a democracy take up permanent residency in fantasyland. But it’s even more dangerous when they try to renovate reality to match their castles in the air — and to insist that everyone else live there, too.

That is effectively what happened twice in January, first when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol and then when a group of retail investors drove GameStop stock to heights of unreason. These two very different eruptions illustrate the same point: Boredom and social isolation are public policy issues.

It’s common sense that defeating the covid-19 pandemic will allow Americans to return to their “normal” lives. But more than that, the return to normalcy will help diminish the power of fantasies incubated on the Internet and the risks those dream worlds pose to residents of reality.

Among those who crashed the Capitol were believers in the conspiracy theory QAnon, which begins by anointing Trump as a world-historical hero and travels into ever-deeper absurdities from there. The rioters’ dream that then-Vice President Mike Pence would overturn the 2020 election results did not, of course, come to pass, but the riot still had momentous effect: It was as if we were all transported to the moment in an alien invasion movie when a spaceship rips a hole in the fabric of reality. The aliens were among us all along.

The retail investors who launched their drive to inflate GameStop’s value on the Reddit message board WallStreetBets were less deluded. They didn’t appear to believe that the brick-and-mortar retailer had suddenly unlocked a magical new business plan. But they still employed fantasy to distort reality: By driving up GameStop’s price beyond any reasonable valuation, they put very real pressure on hedge funds that had bet big on GameStop’s failure.

Both events have prompted much head-scratching about what it all means. More useful, however, are the questions of why these events are happening now — and what can be done to restore reality on a firmer footing.

Covid-19 has created fertile ground both for conspiratorial thinking and mischief. This is not merely because the pandemic is a catastrophic global event with mysterious origins, but also because it has left huge numbers of people feeling isolated and bored. And no matter what Postman might have thought in 1985, and no matter how many blockbuster movies and binge-able television series we can watch from home, mass culture isn’t a sufficiently powerful anesthetic to make people forget that they’re missing out on a full year of school, work and social interaction.

Absent everything that constitutes real life, it’s no surprise that Americans desperately seek out substitutes, and that conspiracy theories and generalized online puckishness are popular alternatives.

As Princeton’s Damaris Graeupner and Alin Coman wrote in their 2017 paper, “The dark side of meaning-making: How social exclusion leads to superstitious thinking,” a sense of social exclusion can drive people to embrace conspiracy theories. As converts burrow into stranger and stranger ideas, they risk isolating from friends and family who don’t share their belief in misinformation. In compensation, they find a sense of belonging in the communities built around those ideas, shutting themselves off from competing points of view. So conspiracy theories like QAnon do more than seek to explain overwhelming and unimaginable circumstances. By giving adherents “research” to do and texts to interpret, they also provide a way to fill empty hours with what feels like productive, empowering work.

In retrospect, the GameStop frenzy seems predictable, too, but in a different way. Thanks to the pandemic, a lot of Americans have fewer ways to spend money on amusements and a strong desire to find alternate sources of income; gambling on so-called meme stocks and talking about it with friends is a form of entertainment that can take place entirely online. And the disparate financial impact of the pandemic recalls the 2008 financial crisis, which many GameStop buyers have cited as a formative experience and a reason to want revenge on powerful financial institutions.

Under normal circumstances, it would be hard to formulate a policy response to a problem like “boredom.” This is not a normal moment. The Biden administration can’t provide people with friends or produce a captivating TV show. But it can get shots in arms, to get the people those arms are attached to back into the real world as soon as possible. The result won’t just be a return to normalcy, but, one hopes, a badly needed return to sanity as well.

 

The 2020 Presteblog Christmas album

Starting shortly after my birth, my parents purchased Christmas albums for $1 from an unlikely place by today’s standards, tire stores.

(That’s as seemingly outmoded as getting, for instance, glasses every time you filled up at your favorite gas station, back in the days when gas stations were usually part of a car repair place, not a convenience store. Of course, go to a convenience store now, and you can probably find CDs, if not records, and at least plastic glasses such as Red Solo Cups and silverware. Progress, or something.)

The albums featured contemporary artists from the ’60s, plus opera singers and other artists.

These albums were played on my parents’ wall-length Magnavox hi-fi player.

Playing these albums was as annual a ritual as watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or other holiday-season appointment TV.

Those albums began my, and then our, collection of Christmas music.

You may think some of these singers are unusual choices to sing Christmas music. (This list includes at least six Jewish singers.)

Of course, Christians know that Jesus Christ was Jewish. (And faithful to his faith.)

And I defy any reader to find anyone who can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand did in the ’60s.

These albums are available for purchase online, but record players are now as outmoded as, well, getting glasses with your fill-up at the gas station. (Though note what I previously wrote.)

But thanks to YouTube and other digital technology, other aficionados of this era of Christmas music now can have their music preserved for their current and future enjoyment.

The tire-store-Christmas-album list has been augmented by both earlier and later works.

In the same way I think no one can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand, I think no one can sing “Do You Hear What I Hear” (a song written during the Cuban Missile Crisis, believe it or not) like Whitney Houston:

This list contains another irony — an entry from “A Christmas Gift for You,” Phil Spector’s Christmas album. (Spector’s birthday is Christmas.)

The album should have been a bazillion-seller, and perhaps would have been had it not been for the date of its initial release: Nov. 22, 1963.

Finally, here’s the last iteration of one of the coolest TV traditions — “The Late Show with David Letterman” and its annual appearance of Darlene Love (from the aforementioned Phil Spector album), which started in 1986 on NBC …

… and ended on CBS:

Merry Christmas. (To play this whole thing as a YouTube playlist, click here.)

… and they all lived happily ever after. The end.

By day, John Podhoretz is a columnist for Commentary Magazine, the New York Post and elsewhere.

But if you follow him on Faceboo, you will see that the Hallmark Channel, which has produced hundreds of Christmas-themed movies with essentially one plot, should hire Podhoretz to generate the latest holiday-themed dreck.

Social media has already divined the plot of every Hallmark holiday movie …

… but Podhoretz has applied Hallmark’s generic plots to the political circus of the past few months, going further as well by casting the lead roles:

When a disappointed 2020 pollster (Lea Michele) returns to her home town to help her father (Max Gail) fulfill the orders at his Christmas wreath farm, she meets a sexy widower (Generic Canadian). What will she do when she discovers a mail-in ballot he didn’t mail in—and opens it to discover he would have voted for the losing candidate she had said would win in a landslide? With a little help from a mysterious bearded man (Bruce Dern), can she learn to forgive and love? Watch “A Christmas Without a Postmark” on the Hallmark Channel.

(TV viewers of a certain age might remember Gail from “Barney Miller.” Dern is a character in my favorite Western comedy, “Support Your Local Sheriff.”)

When a hard-charging member of the Electoral College (Kate Walsh) returns to her hometown of Holly Springs to help her father (Len Cariou) fulfill the holiday orders at his fruitcake store, she meets a local fig farmer (Generic Canadian). But when he tries to convince her to change her vote to protest her candidate’s support of a new dried fruit tariff, their future is put in danger. Can a mysterious bearded man (Oliver Sacks) come through with new evidence of voter fraud along with a sprig of mistletoe? Watch “A Faithless Elector Yuletide” on the Hallmark Channel.

(Sacks, by the way, is dead. The response from one commenter who pointed that out? “CGI, my friend.” Another commenter suggested, “That screams for a Wolf Blitzer cameo as the newscaster improbably reporting on a local tariff referendum.”)

A hard charging agribusinesswoman (Katherine Heigl) is sent back to her home town by the conglomerate run by her hard-charging boyfriend (Scott Caan) to shut down the local mistletoe farm. She discovers it’s run by her high school beau (Generic Canadian), a widower whose son takes bassoon lessons from her father (Chuck Grassley). With a little help from the product, and a little magic supplied by a mysterious bearded man (Jack Dorsey), can a city-slicking takeover artist find it in her heart to save the farm and play Yuletide wind-instruments duets with the widower? Watch “A Double-Reed Mannheim Steamroller Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel.

(Chuck Grassley?)

A hard-charging marketing director of an international egg nog conglomerate is sent to the town of Nutmeg Springs to buy the local spice farm and corner the market before Christmas. She didn’t count on meeting the hunky town podiatrist, a widower whose son has an albumen allergy. What will happen when she gives the child a glass of her product? Will his violent and ceaseless vomiting indicate that she has put him into anaphylaxis—or does the boy just have good taste? Only a mysterious bearded man can help find the answers. Becki Newton, Wayne Gretzky, and Grigory Rasputin star in “A Hangnail for the Holidays” on the Hallmark Channel.

(I was not aware that Gretzky has ever acted in anything besides commercials. Nor Rasputin, who has the same problem casting Sachs would have.)

Stacey Staceyington (Meghan Ory), a hard-charging takeover specialist at the world’s largest maypole conglomerate, is sent the town of Compost Corners to buy and shut down the local log farm run by hunky widower Goodman Brown (Anthony Perkins). But when a snowstorm threatens the annual Yuletide Sacrifice, she and Goodman must work together with a strange bearded man to ensure the Hellmouth stays closed and doesn’t ruin the holiday season. Ari Aster directs “It’s Beginning to Look a Lottery Like Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel.

(A commenter pointed out that Perkins, of “Psycho” fame, would not fit the “hunky widower” characterization even if he were not, like Sachs and Rasputin, dead.)

It’s a sad day in Prothonotary Warbler Springs when the town’s favorite owl is transported by mistake to Rockefeller Center in the giant Christmas tree cut down for that purpose. Sparks fly when local Manhattan birder Chris Cooper (Cuba Gooding Jr.) accuses the town tree doctor (Natasha Henstridge) of being a Karen. Can they find a path to peace and avoid firing and arrest through the mediation of the big-hearted 30 Rock security guard (Generic Canadian) who drives the tree doctor and Chris Cooper back to Prothonotary Warbler Springs for the annual Birding and Egg Nog Wassail? And who’s that mysterious bearded man with the mistletoe? You’ll know when you watch “Owl Be Home for Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel.

(Someone contact Generic Canadian’s agent. He’s going to be busy the next few months.)

“Owl Be Home for Christmas” prompted a comment, “with the greatest of respect, that I do not know another Jew who cares so much about terrible Christmas movies,” to which Podhoretz replied: “Buddy. We invented Christmas. We wrote White Christmas. We wrote the Grinch. We. Are. Christmas.”

That in turn resulted in this: “There is an economics Ph.D thesis in how Christmas provides American Jews with all the positive externalities without imposing any of the stress or responsibilities. It’s the greatest free ride around. Almost as if we arranged it that way!”

It certainly could be pointed out as a member of a religion that celebrates the birthday and post-death resurrection of an observant Jew that a lot of the Christmas music I listened to (and still do) as a child was performed by, shall we say, pre-Christians, and not just secular songs …

… in the same way that (as another commenter pointed out) the producers of many pre-Hallmark holiday movies were of the same religion as Irving Berlin.

Podhoretz’s first “plot” prompted a guest contribution, and you will see why I included it in one sentence:

Dana Strivers (Staci Keanan), a New York based public relations specialist, returns to her hometown of Notch Falls, Wisconsin, to help oversee a recount of the contested election. A chance encounter at the Christmas tree lot with her onetime fiance Chad Potter (Shane West) stirs up repressed feelings, especially since his Potter’s wealthy father (Robert Pine) owns the company that’s the town’s largest employer and is working for the opposing candidate. “Counting on Christmas” debuts Dec. 12 with a special lead-in show hosted by Jodie Sweetin.

Older readers would recognize Pine as Sgt. Getraer on “CHiPs.” Younger readers might recognize Pine as the father of Chris Pine, who tries to play Capt. James T. Kirk in the J.J. Abrams (destruction of) “Star Trek.”