Saturday, January 12, 2019

The incredible life of ‘Handsome Johnny,’ a gangster worthy of the movies

By Christopher Yogerst
November 22, 2018

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Johnny Rosselli was one of those people who navigated the world by charming everyone in their path, including gangsters such as Al Capone and Frank Nitti, Hollywood censor Joseph Breen, union boss Willie Bioff, Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn, Howard Hughes, Frank Sinatra and President John F. Kennedy. The wealth of stories in Lee Server’s biography, “Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli, Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin,” is undoubtedly worth the price of admission.
Born Filippo Sacco in 1905, Rosselli and his family moved from Italy to Massachusetts when he was a boy. Rosselli’s initiation into criminal activity was not much different from other immigrant kids who fell into the life. Enduring instability at home, the boy sought refuge in the streets of Boston. Quickly finding himself too close to a murder investigation, he fled to Chicago and changed his name. It was in the Windy City that he would solidify his dapper demeanor, eventually given the nickname “Handsome Johnny.” It was also during this time he met the infamous Capone.
Rosselli did not know Capone well but would stay in contact after moving to Los Angeles. Rosselli’s rise in the criminal underworld paralleled the rise of moviemaking in Hollywood. The City of Angels was largely off the mob’s radar — which is partly why movie moguls set up shop there. When Rosselli arrived, bootlegging was the top game in town, and he thrived by negotiating with law enforcement, buddying up with politicians and schmoozing anyone necessary to land influential friends.
During his tenure in L.A., Rosselli connected with people you would expect to see with the “gentleman gangster,” such as mob boss Jack Dragna — who later authorized the hit on the notorious Bugsy Siegel. However, one of the most unlikely friendships came with the film industry’s chief censor, the staunch Catholic prude Breen. Rosselli was not only friends with Breen but was close with his entire family. Breen fought against depictions of crime, vice and sexuality on the big screen during the day only to dine with their human manifestation by night.
Rosselli’s connections to the film industry didn’t end there. He worked closely with Hollywood leaders to help mobster Bioff extort the studios throughout the 1930s. Bioff’s racket was to control the trade unions and demand regular payoffs from the studios to avoid strikes. It was a simple shakedown, and it worked well — at least until a handful of studio executives testified against him.
Moving deeper into Hollywood, Rosselli spent a brief time as a producer for a small production company named Eagle Lion Films. He first served as a producer on the 1948 prison break film “Canon City.” The next film, “He Walked by Night,” released the same year, was based on the true story of William Erwin Walker, who committed a series of crimes around Los Angeles including the murder of a police officer.
Rosselli also found himself working out a predicament in Hollywood surrounding the hit television show “The Untouchables,” produced by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s Desilu Productions. Many mobsters detested the show’s use of Italian stereotypes. Frustration rose to the point that crime boss Sam Giancana put out a hit on Arnaz. Rosselli stepped in, stopped the hit and suggested Arnaz cast Italian actor Paul Picerni as one of the Untouchables. Arnaz’s life was spared, and Picerni landed a lead role on the show.
As Rosselli continued to work in and around Hollywood, the gangster eventually got to know Sinatra and Kennedy, who was soon to be president. In the most fascinating section of this engrossing book, Server details how Rosselli was recruited for a secret plot to assassinate Fidel Castro in Cuba. After multiple failed attempts, Castro eventually learned that the plots came from Kennedy; some believed that the president’s assassination was retaliation. While the JFK murder has long been fodder for overzealous conspiracy theorists, Server carefully rolls out the details of this provocative plot.
In the end, Rosselli’s life of crime caught up to him in 1976 when he was found stuffed into a 55-gallon drum off the coast of Florida. There were certainly old scores to be settled, not unlike the recent hit on elderly mob boss Whitey Bulger. Nevertheless, Johnny Rosselli lived like a gangster from the movies — only he was real. Server’s biography not only provides a window into Rosselli’s life but also contextualizes it at a time when Hollywood, politics and organized crime were inextricably linked.
Christopher Yogerst is the author of “From the Headlines to Hollywood: The Birth and Boom of Warner Bros.” His next book is a study on the 1941 Senate attack on Hollywood.

Just say no to Veganuary

Veganism isn't a diet - it's a cult of purity

By Patrick West
11 January 2019

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In case you hadn’t noticed, this January has otherwise gone by the name of ‘Veganuary’, a month in which we have been exhorted to forgo the consumption and usage of animal products. Or perhaps that should be ‘Smuguary’, ‘Selfrightuary’, ‘Egotistuary’, or any other comparably ungainly neologism. Because such terms would encapsulate the fad du jour, veganism: a narcissistic cult and exercise in self-regard in an age of identity politics.

One report from Plymouth this month betrays the essence of the movement. One 23-year-old declared himself all in a swoon after a branch of Pizza Hut mistakenly served him dairy ice-cream purporting to be vegan-friendly. ‘This is appalling. I am outraged, heartbroken in fact. I feel like my lifestyle has been mocked. It’s a mistake that shouldn’t have happened’, said the vegan. Pizza Hut responded with a grovelling apology.
The indignancy on display by our vegan is not incidental, nor is it unusual. It is intrinsic to a movement that has appropriated and commandeered the ethics of similarly superior and sanctimonious anti-human worldviews: the animal-rights movement and militant environmentalism. Veganism has become a kind of umbrella alliance of malcontents who sermonise that eating or wearing animals is not only cruel, but also a violation of the rights and dignity of non-human beings, while also being bad for the planet.
Vegans can thus denounce eating eggs, drinking milk or wearing wool as not just wrong, but thrice-times evil. This is why vegans are not content quietly to forego certain foods, as is the case with most civilised vegetarians, but feel the need to evangelise about why they do so, condemning as wicked and immoral those deviants who don’t.
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Protesters at the 2016 Official Animal Rights March in London (Jack Taylor via Getty Images)

One means to demonise the impure, demonic unbeliever is the street protest, usually against shops that sell fur, where activists repeat slogans such as ‘compassion not fashion’. On New Year’s Day, animal-rights activists in Toronto protested against newly inaugurated Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who plans to privatise parts of the Amazon rainforest. They staged a ‘die-in’ near the Brazilian consulate, performing a play called ‘If the Amazon rainforest dies, we all die!’. A similar tactic is plain hooliganism. ‘They are serving many animals in that restaurant, many animals that did not want to die thrashed and screamed for their lives’, pronounced one protester in October, when he and other animal-rights activists stormed a restaurant in Perth, Western Australia.
Militant vegans stalk the internet looking to ‘meat-shame’ clean-eating and vegetarian food bloggers who post pictures of recipes containing eggs or milk. They are singled out on account of their moral vacillation. With that dreadful joy of vengeance, these outrage goblins declare, ‘My food didn’t die screaming’ or ‘Fur is worn by heartless hags’.
Humour is not tolerated by these believers, as was made evident when Waitrose Food magazine sacked its editor, William Sitwell, after he made jokes about killing vegans. Nor do they have a sense of their own ridiculousness, as we saw last month when PETA issued a list of animal-friendly alternatives to traditional sayings, such as replacing ‘kill two birds with one stone’ with ‘feed two birds with one scone’.
Many of you may have been tempted to take up the ‘Veganuary’ challenge on ethical or dietary grounds. This is an error. Both criteria can be satisfied by simply going vegetarian: you would have the satisfaction of knowing that your diet doesn’t involve the death of animals, and still easily be able get all the protein and calcium your body needs. A vegan diet, on the other hand, isn’t good for body or soul. It will only turn you into a coffin-faced bore.
But that’s never been the point of it. Being a vegan is foremost about proving that you are a purer, morally better person than your neighbour, and letting her know it. It’s a cult of self-worship.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Angela Davis, Women’s March Honoree And Champion Of Terror, Prisons, And Tyranny

January 11, 2019
Chairwoman of the Soviet Women's Committee Valentina Tereshkova handing a memento to members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the United States Angela Davis, and Kendra Alexander (right) in 1972. (Commons:RIA Novosti)
You can tell a lot about people by looking at their heroes.
When the Women’s March honored the Stalinist cheerleader Angela Davis in 2017, there was almost no pushback from Jewish or liberal groups. You can forgive members of the Resistance, concerned with the impending Trumpian dystopia, for not yet comprehending the bigoted and extremist positions of those leading the Women’s March.
Those who participate in the march going forward, however, have no excuses, since it’s now well documented that Jew-haters,theocrats, and other harebrained fanatics litter that movement. Davis’s continued presence is merely another reminder that the progressive left will tolerate the most odious characters as long as they seek “justice” for a favored cause — in this case Palestinians.
In this regard, Davis isn’t a useful idiot. Just as Davis wasn’t merely a communist sympathizer but a champion of the most reprehensible Soviet regimes, she’s not merely a supporter of boycott, divestment, sanction’s Jewish boycotts but a champion of men like Marwan Barghouti, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades leader who coordinated suicide bombings targeting Jewish civilians.
Yet, somehow, Davis claimed to be “stunned” when, after objections from Holocaust remembrance organizations and other Jewish groups, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute recently rescinded their award that was meant to honor her. The incident spurred the usual suspects to say the usual things. Though most of defenses were predictably vacuous, the habit of ignoring her biography is also journalistic malpractice.
There could be an entire book written detailing Davis’s loathsome views and actions (Cathy Young has a good article here.) Still, it’s quite striking to see folks like TED talker Sally Kohn taking to Twitter to let her followers know that she stands with Davis because of her fight against the “prison industrial complex.” In the real world, Davis was an enthusiast supporter of the largest and most lethal prison system the world has ever known.
It was “human rights activist Angela Davis,” as NPR astonishingly described the woman in an article this week, who bought the shotgun that was used in a 1970 Marin County court room kidnapping and shootout that ended up killing a superior court judge and three others. The subsequent manhunt and trial of Davis, a proud lifelong communist, would be a very big deal in Soviet nations.
In 1971, in fact, the CIA noted that Davis’s case had become “a Soviet manipulated international anti-US campaign reminiscent of the orchestrated by Communist propaganda efforts made on behalf of atomic spies, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.” The CIA estimated that at least 5 percent of the entire Soviet Russian propaganda budget had been aimed at propping up Davis. To put that in context, it was 1 percent more than was being spent on propaganda about the Vietnam War. All schoolchildren in East Germany were ordered to collect flowers and stamps for Davis.
Davis soon traveled to many of these nations to stand with leaders who, collectively, had jailed hundreds of thousands of political dissidents. She visited East Germany, and effusively praised Erich Honecker while the Stasi were torturing political prisoners and his border police were summarily executing those who tried to escape.
Honaker, one of architects of “anti-fascist protection barrier” known as the Berlin Wall, would one day be served a 783-page indictment by the German government that accused him of being personally responsible for the death of 68 people as they attempted to flee East Germany. In 2015, it was estimated that more than 1,000 deaths could be attributed to East German authorities — and that says nothing about the tyranny of the regime in other matters. Davis not only ignored these crimes, she seemed to approve of them, never once expressing any regret.
When human rights activist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who knew a thing or two about the “prison industrial complex,” gave his Voice of Freedom speech in 1975, he relayed a story about manufactured heroism and hypocrisy that surrounded Davis.
There’s a certain woman here named Angela Davis. I don’t know if you are familiar with her in this country, but in our country, literally for one whole year, we heard of nothing at all except about Angela Davis. There was only Angela Davis in the whole world and she was suffering. We had our ears stuffed with Angela Davis. Little children in school were told to sign petitions in defense of Angela Davis. Little boys and girls, 8 and 9 years old in schools, were asked to do this. Well, they set her free. Although she didn’t have a rough time in this country, she came to recuperate in Soviet resorts. Some Soviet dissidents — but more important, a group of Czech dissidents— addressed an appeal to her: ”Comrade Davis, you were in prison. You know how unpleasant it is to sit in prison, especially when you consider yourself innocent. You now have such authority. Could you help our Czech prisoners? Could you stand up for those persons in Czechoslovakia who are being persecuted by the state?” Angela Davis answered: ‘They deserve what they get. Let them remain in prison.’ That is the face of communism.
Solzhenitsyn was referring to Jiri Pelikan, one of the supporters of the Prague Spring, who had asked Davis, as she was vacationing in Russian resorts and collecting honorary degrees, if she would advocate for political prisoners. She would not.
Alan Dershowitz, in his 1992 “Chutzpah” book, relays a similar incident in which Davis, a woman who went on to be a professor in the “History of Consciousness” at the University of California, not only refused to stand up for prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union but argued that their imprisonment was justified.
I also worked as an unpaid consultant on an aspect of the Angela Davis case in California. Davis, who was one of the leaders of the American Communist party, was charged with murder in connection with a 1970 shoot-out at a Marin County courthouse. She claimed that as a black, a woman, and a Communist, she could not receive a fair trial in any American court. She was acquitted, so maybe she was right! After her acquittal, she announced that she would be devoting the remainder of her life to defending political prisoners like herself. A short time later, I read that she was going to Moscow to receive some human rights prize from the Soviet Union. I called her office and gave them a list of Jewish prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union – Jews who had been imprisoned because they wanted to emigrate to Israel or to learn about their heritage. I asked if she would be willing to speak up on behalf of these political prisoners. Several days later, I received a call back from Ms. Davis’s secretary informing me that Davis had looking into the people on my list and none of them were political prisoners ‘They are all Zionist fascists and opponents of Socialism.’ Davis would urge that they be kept in prison where they belonged.
In 1979, Davis went back to Moscow and was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, where she praised “the glorious name” of mass murderer Vladimir Lenin and the “great October Revolution,” as the KGB was in the midst of one of its last large-scale political crackdowns. Watching those who seem to believe Russian-purchased Facebook ads are a threat to the republic shower Davis with hosannas is somewhat surreal. Then again, so many progressive activists are starting to sound just like her.
Let’s not forget, Davis was also a fan of Jim Jones. She had personally assured the people of Jonestown that they would be safe, only two months before their massacre. This is the person whom Elle magazine and feminists believe is worth celebrating. In a just world, Davis wouldn’t be bestowed a civil rights award or glowing coverage, but disgrace.
David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist. He is the author of the new book, First Freedom: A Ride Through America's Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today. Follow him on Twitter.

Terrorism Actually Does Kill Many Americans Via the Southern Border

January 10, 2019

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A Border Patrol vehicle sits along the U.S.-Mexico border wall on January 2017 in San Ysidro, California. (Getty Images)

It's not just the tragic murders of the Kate Steinles of our country -- isolated or not -- that are the result of insufficient enforcement at our Southern border. Far more deaths than are commonly imagined occur because of this laxity and many of them, despite recent assertions to the contrary by NBC and FOX's Chris Wallace, have a not-so-subtle relationship to terrorism.

In fact, under the radar, terrorism in its most organized forms plays a significant and deadly role on our border.

How is that possible when -- to date, according to some reports -- only a relatively small number of certifiable terrorists have been caught crossing red-handed on violent missions, as was argued by NBC and Wallace?

Look no further than the life expectancy of Americans that has declined over the last few years for the first time in decades. This disturbing development has been ascribed to sedentary lifestyles and a rising suicide rate, particularly among white males, but most of all to the opioid and related drug crises. Drug overdose deaths reached 70,000 in 2017.  (As nearly everyone knows, 9/11 killed slightly fewer than 3000. And that was, luckily, a one-time event. The 70,000 figure, plus or minus, has become roughly an annual rate.)

The Atlantic published a study on who has suffered most from this epidemic.
The only racial group that saw a significant increase in their death rate between 2015 and 2016 were black men: Their age-adjusted mortality rate increased by 1 percent. 
“What you see this year is a leveling off of the gains that we’ve had over the years, especially with heart disease and cancer,” among black men, said Garth Graham, the president of the Aetna Foundation and former head of the U.S. Office of Minority Health. “And the opioid epidemic is starting to overtake whatever gains we’ve made in that sector.”
White men have probably had their problems too -- but it is The Atlantic.  And, of course, not all drugs come across the Southern border, but a significant amount does via the Mexican and other Central and South American cartels.

Which brings us to the terrorism angle.  A principal -- likely the principal -- partner of the cartel gangsters in their work is, and has been for many years,Hezbollah. The fruits of that alliance plus cash infusions from Iran--and therefore, to a regrettable extent, us-- are how the world's biggest terror army finances many of its murderous activities.  They sell the deadly narcotics to our people and use the money to kill others. Death for death.

As Business Insider reported over seven years ago...
Islamic terrorist groups are setting up shop in Mexico and forming alarming ties with the country's brutal drug cartels, according to a 2010 internal memo from the Tucson Police Department. 
The memo, leaked by the hacker group LulzSec as part of its Arizona Department of Public Safety hack, warns that Hezbollah has established operations — and a large arms stockpile — in Mexico.
Whatever weapons stockpiles there might be is likely a minor component, although worth watching.  The drug trade, however, is vastly more important and an extraordinarily potent method through which to weaken or destroy your adversaries in another country. Just ask the Chinese.

If you want to destroy and/or exploit a culture, addict it.  If you want to undercut a civilization you consider anathema and make some money in the process, "turn it on." That's what Hezbollah is doing.

Drug dealing is, in essence, an instrument of terrorism -- among the most powerful ones because it is a stealth operation able to work, unlike overt terror acts, perpetually undercover with greater subtlety and longevity of action. As we can see from a recent CDC report, the problem is only getting worse, with multiple drugs from cocaine to fentanyl involved.  Hezbollah has been associated with all of them, including helping to move opium from the poppy fields of the Middle East up through South America and into our country.

Our government has been aware of this problem for some time, but the cure was short-circuited by the Obama administration, as has been detailed in Josh Meyer's report "The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook."  (No wonder NBC and the Deep Statish Wallace were so eager to downplay terrorist influence on our Southern border. It just doesn't fit their narrative.)

In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a POLITICO investigation. 
The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.
So did Obama, in his Pro-Iran Derangement Syndrome, actually enable the deaths of many of his black brothers, not to mention thousands of other Americans? Not deliberately, I would hope, but the sad results speak for themselves. (To see what his trusted mullahs are up to these days, go here. To see who is helping Hezbollah distribute their drugs, go here.  Or if you're too lazy, it's Facebook and Google.)

Meanwhile, the issue before us is the security of our Southern border in order to stop this deadly flow.  That terrorism is not involved is another big lie to be factored in.

Roger L. Simon - co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media - is an author and an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Today's Tune: Mardi Gras - Song From the End of the World


By Ann Coulter
January 9, 2019

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Now that Trump has finally turned to the campaign promise that won him the election -- build a wall and deport illegals -- the Democrats, the media and even most Republicans are hysterical. 

Just remember: They were hysterical about Ronald Reagan, too. You don't change history by being a follower, particularly if the people you're following are unimaginative, go-with-the-flow company men. 

When President Reagan implemented the strategy that won the Cold War, he was opposed by the entire media, as well as foreign policy "experts" in both parties. 

The New York Times and Washington Post produced nonstop denunciations of his "dangerous" policies. There were propaganda movies like "The Day After," terrifying Americans about a Soviet strike on our country. Witless college students demanded cyanide pills be stocked in campus health care clinics, on the grounds that Reagan was going to get us all nuked. 

Only after Reagan's policies succeeded did these same hysterics say, Ho hum, no big deal. We always knew the Soviet Union was a paper tiger. 

Frantically rewriting history, they claimed Reagan had merely continued the policies of his predecessors. The truth about their eight-year primal scream is helpfully assembled in my smash best-seller, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism

The Democrats, the media and most of the Republican Party are as fanatically opposed to Trump's ideas about illegal immigration as they were to Reagan's ideas about winning the Cold War.

Like Reagan, Trump has only the people on his side. Unlike Reagan, he doesn't seem as confident that he is right. 

So the people need to be louder. 

All we're getting from the media on immigration is an avalanche of lies, neurotically repeated by people citing one another: 

Polls show Americans don't want a wall!

We're a nation of immigrants!

Immigrants commit less crime than the native born!

Studies show: Black Americans are NOT hurt by illegal immigration.

Every one of these claims is a lie, as demonstrated in my book Adios, America. (Also a smash best-seller.) 

People assume a minimal standard of decency in others and think to themselves, Well, Joe Scarborough wouldn't say that if it weren't true. 

What viewers don't understand is how lazy media personalities are. They are merely quoting what someone told them. They don't know. Their expertise consists of memorizing a set of talking points, like ABBA memorizing the syllables to English words without knowing what they meant. 

If journalists allowed follow-up questions and you could ask, "How do you know that?" The answer would be, "I heard it from a guy at Vox." 

The media go to extremely biased sources; they know nothing, so they're not in a position to challenge them; and even if they were, they wouldn't, because they're on the same team. 

After a New York Times reporter tracked me down for a quote about the wall, I gave him the following, but he chose not to run it. Why should the Newspaper of Record present the opposition's side honestly? 

There are a million reasons we want a wall, but here are five:

1) The Simpson-Mazzoli Act -- passed almost 30 years ago to the day Trump was elected president -- came with elaborate promises that it would put an end to illegal immigration. In fact, 30 to 40 million more illegals have poured into our country since then.

2) Notwithstanding the vast number of illegal alien valedictorians, there are also criminals, drunk drivers, drug cartel members and desperately poor people consuming government services meant for the least among us and driving down the wages of our working class.

3) We need a better method.

4) Walls work. See Israel.

5) If we don't get it done now, we never will. Trump is our last chance.

But instead of explaining to the Times' readers why Trump's promise to build a wall shook the political world to its foundation, the newspaper trotted out campaign adviser Sam Nunberg's boast that he invented "build the wall" because Trump's mind tends to wander. It was only a dumb talking point, you see, not a serious campaign pledge. 

This is like claiming you were the guy who invented carrying an umbrella when it rains. I'm sorry, Sam, but you're not getting royalties for that. 

Building a wall is kind of an obvious idea for protecting a border. Not only have walls been used from time immemorial to defend borders, but those precise three words have been used to describe what should happen at our specific border thousands of times before Trump used them, according to a quick Nexis search. 

The current DNC talking point against a wall is that it is a "medieval solution to a 21st-century problem!" Turn on MSNBC or CNN right now, and you'll hear someone saying it. 

So are wheels. Are Democrats taking tires off their cars? 

A roof is a medieval solution. How about Nancy Pelosi replace the one over her house with "new technology" -- like a drone! Drones won't keep anything out, but at least she can see what's coming in seconds before it drops on her head. 

Medievalism: 1; Pelosi: 0. 

What’s Good for General Bullmoose?

January 9, 2019
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Tucker Carlson
The current split in the “conservative movement”—I use scare quotes because it is only in the minds of those who consider themselves spokesmen for the “conservative movement” that the movement actually seems to exist—has created a major political division on the Right between those who understand that Donald Trump is the only president we’ve got and those whose preenciples defy reality. But it has also laid bare some fundamental philosophical economic differences that, all of a sudden, have come front and center.
Principal among them is the notion of the unalloyed good of free-market capitalism, fidelity to which the “movement conservatives” often repeat with catechetical fervor as if the very repetition of it, like the Islamic shahada, demonstrates its talismanic validity. Indeed, there are whole think tanks devoted to the concept that “free trade” benefits America by allowing Americans (among other things) to buy the best goods at the cheapest possible price, thus elevating their standard of living and allowing them to spend the money that they’ve saved on something else. After all, what’s good for General Bullmoose is good for the USA—right?
Tucker Carlson’s instantly viral monologue from January 3, delivered on his Fox News show and widely reprinted online, exposed the fault line between the free-marketers and conservatives who think that the beggar-your-neighbor philosophy inherent in the practical application of “free-market” principles is, frankly, short-sighted, unpatriotic, and immoral.
Cue the buggy-whip argument, which I get whenever I dare to question whether the Amazon/Washington Post octopus ought to be free to gobble up the American retail industry unencumbered, or criticize Mitt Romney’s vulture capitalism, or suggest that “shareholder value” should not be the be-all and end-all of American domestic policy, or explain that Trump’s reliance on tariffs as an instrument of foreign policy is both historically valid and contemporaneously successful. That this jejune argument is often delivered by “conservatives” still sporting the intellectual equivalent of knee pants makes it all the more risible, since only those with almost no experience in the real world, writing from sinecures, could possibly believe it. And then they wonder why a naïf like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or a harridan like Kamala Harris is suddenly being taken seriously. As I like to say on Twitter, I never take political advice from small children, and neither should you.
Here’s one of Carlson’s salient points:
At some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be gone, too. The country will remain. What kind of country will be it be then? How do we want our grandchildren to live? These are the only questions that matter.
The answer used to be obvious. The overriding goal for America is more prosperity, meaning cheaper consumer goods. But is that still true? Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones, or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy? They haven’t so far. A lot of Americans are drowning in stuff. And yet drug addiction and suicide are depopulating large parts of the country. Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot.
Amen. But that’s the path down which an unthinking reliance on secular sloganeering at the expense of our shared humanity gets you. The contempt these zealots have for the working class in flyover country rivals and even exceeds that of their counterparts on the Left.
Dogma works for religion—it is an essential part of it—but religion is a compact between God and man, whereas political philosophy is exclusively the province of man. Which is why the messianic fervor with which slogans on both the Left and the Right are mouthed is so pointless: God doesn’t care about how mankind organizes itself here on Earth, only that we try our best to get to Heaven, however those terms may be defined.
So let’s state things clearly. It may be economically advantageous for the individual to shop smart in the sweatshops of China, but it’s not necessarily advantageous for the nation. (Notice I did not say for the collective.) Is it really morally worth it to undercut your neighbor on price—for just a few cents—at the risk of exporting his or her jobs overseas? Was Walmart’s destruction of small-town Main Streets in the heartland really such a good thing? Is Amazon’s takeover to be cheered at the expense of retailers all over the country—the result of which is now having unintended consequences in local communities? According to the New York Times:
With astonishing range and rapidity, big-box retailers and corporate giants are using an aggressive legal tactic to shrink their property tax bills, a strategy that is costing local governments and school districts around the country hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. These businesses—many of them brick-and-mortar stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Target, Kohl’s, Menards and Walgreens that have faced fierce online competition—maintain that no matter how valuable a thriving store is to its current owner, these warehouse-type structures are not worth much to anyone else.
So the best way to appraise their property, they contend in their tax appeals, is to look at the sale prices on the open market of vacant or formerly vacant shells in other places. As shuttered stores spread across the landscape, their argument has resonated. To municipalities, these appeals amount to a far-fetched tax dodge that allows corporations to wriggle out of paying their fair share. Either way, homeowners and small businesses will have to pay more or live with smaller budgets for police, schools, garbage pickup and road repair.
If the towns are losing property-tax revenue, perhaps they should petition Jeff Bezos, who has grown obscenely wealthy on the corpses not only of big-box and department stores, but on the bleached bones of the independent booksellers who were once the lifeblood of the publishing industry—although soon enough he may not be quite as rich as he used to be.
The fact is, pure “conservatism” as the “free marketeers” would like to see it practiced—it’s telling that the Venn Diagram of them and the #NeverTrumpumpkins would be very nearly identical—is neither a practical nor a moral form of capitalism. Happiness and the pursuit thereof are not merely economic; it’s also pride in accomplishment, in taking care of your family (even if you’re selling buggy whips), in doing good works. As Catholics understand, faith alone is not enough; there must be good works as well. Otherwise your faith is just a cult.
Firing your neighbor, putting him out of work by moving the factory to Mexico, eliminating his pension plan and then extolling the virtues of “creative destruction” is a moral obscenity. That it’s so blithely espoused by those for whom it has no practical or economic consequences is a national disgrace. But that it’s also a moral disgrace doesn’t seem to bother them one whit. They’d like the whole world, but, like the aptly named Richard Rich in Robert Bolt’s great play, A Man for All Seasons, they’ll settle for Wales.