American Consequences - July 2020

The Failed No Cop Co-Op

Libertarian Reporter Turns Teacher

After the Covid War, the Debt Bomb

STOSSEL

MATTERA

BUCHHOLZ

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

A merica has been laid low this year. Tens of millions are out of work. More than 130,000 are dead... and both COVID-19 cases and death rates are again rising across the nation. Yet, we still have hope. We see possibility and opportunity for a better America... despite the extremists on both sides – crony capitalists suckling at the government teat and social- justice agitators more interested in destroying than building. Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke writes in his letter from the editor... Mass movements seem to be massing up these days, with protesters pulling down statues here and rally-goers pulling off face masks there... and demagogues pulling a fast one everywhere. Reporting from Seattle, Jason Mattera explores the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (“CHOP”) autonomous area where Antifa protestors pushed out cops, took over a neighborhood, and then turned violent. John Podhoretz uses the movie business to look at nationwide lockdowns – and show why conservatives have more power than they think. And Todd G. Buchholz details what will come next in “After the COVID War, the Debt Bomb” by looking at the last time America racked up massive debt in World War II. Our COVID-19 coverage continues... • Kim Iskyan shows how “Death Is in the Air” – but at least it’s not as bad as it could be.

• Nobel Prize winner Robert J. Shiller breaks down the Pandemic Stock Market. • And Laura Greaver writes on the “COVID-19 Mindscrew” that parents face. Turning to the lighter side, P.J. spills the things he says to drive his “woke” kids nuts. We share a few laughs in our humor for humorless times section. And as always, we’re watching Twitter so you don’t have to. Don’t miss our conversation with John Stossel as he reflects on his 50 years as a libertarian, reporter, and now teacher of free-market ideas. And Nouriel Roubini shows why today’s protests are broader than the headlines in his “Main Street Manifesto.” We predicted the current extreme “Cancel Culture” in the pages of American Consequences three years ago. And this month, we’re re-running that article from Kerry D. Moynihan: “Where Does It End?” And Jesse Kelly takes a different tact... force the other side to play by its own rules in “It’s Time to Go Offensive.” Finally, Executive Editor Buck Sexton details the apparent “Make America Miserable Again” plan from the established liberal media. Please read and share our latest magazine, and tell us what you think at feedback@ americanconsequences.com. Regards, Steven Longenecker Publisher, American Consequences

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July 2020

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CONTENTS JULY 2020 : ISSUE 37 LOST? CLICK HERE

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AMERICAN CONSEQUENCES

Inside This Issue BY STEVEN LONGENECKER

48 After the COVIDWar, the Debt Bomb

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BY TODD G. BUCHHOLZ

Letter From the Editor BY P.J. O'ROURKE

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Editor in Chief: P.J. O’Rourke Editorial Director: Carli Flippen Publisher: Steven Longenecker Executive Editor: Buck Sexton Managing Editor: Laura Greaver Creative Director: Erica Wood Contributing Editors: Todd G. Buchholz, Dan Ferris, Kim Iskyan, Jesse Kelly, Jason Mattera, Kerry D. Moynihan, John Podhoretz, Nouriel Roubini, Robert J. Shiller Cartoon Director: Frank Stansberry General Manager: Jamison Miller Advertising:

56 Things I Say to Drive My ‘Woke’ Kids Nuts BY P.J. O'ROURKE

10 From Our Inbox

18 Death Is in the Air BY KIM ISKYAN

60 The Main Street Manifesto BY NOURIEL ROUBINI

22 Will the Red States Save the Movies? BY JOHN PODHORETZ

64 Understanding the Pandemic Stock Market BY ROBERT J. SHILLER

28 It's Time to Go Offensive BY JESSE KELLY

68 A ConversationWith John Stossel BY DAN FERRIS

34 Freedom Meets 'Free Dumb' in Seattle's Cop-Free Zone BY JASON MATTERA

78 Where Does It End?

BY KERRY D. MOYNIHAN

84 The Final Word

Ricky D'Andrea, Jill Peterson Editorial feedback: feedback@ americanconsequences.com

40 The COVID-19 Mindscrew BY LAURA GREAVER

BY BUCK SEXTON

88 Featured Contributors

American Consequences

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From Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke

ERIC HOFFER THE DOCKYARD PHILOSOPHER

 CLICK HERE TO READ THE WEB VERSION

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July 2020

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

M ass movements seem to be massing up these days, with protesters pulling down statues here and rally-goers pulling off face masks there... and demagogues pulling a fast one everywhere, calling for nationalism or socialism or nativism or iconoclasticism or isolationism (for at least 14 days). It’s this “–ism” versus that “–is- not -ism” with everyone becoming some kind of zealot, extremist, radical, or fanatic. We’re all in danger of turning into what Eric Hoffer called “true believers.” Eric Hoffer (1898-1983) was an American social and moral philosopher who never set foot in a classroom – at least not until he was appointed adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964.

Hoffer had a hardscrabble childhood in the Bronx. His German immigrant parents died young. And he hit the road and spent decades as a migrant farm worker, living on Skid Row between harvests and carrying nothing with him but a sack of books and a library card for each town he passed through. Rejected by the Army at the onset of WWII, he found a job as a longshoreman on the San Francisco docks where he worked for the next 21 years. All that time he was studying – and writing – philosophy. Hoffer’s great theme was the relation of the masses of men to the mass movements of mankind. He focused, naturally, on the individual’s relationship to the Imperialism, Communism, and Fascism that had almost destroyed mankind during the 20th century. His opinion was, to put it in 21st century language, “This relationship needs work.” Hoffer came to public notice with his 1951 best-selling book, The True Believer – Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements .

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Below is a selection of quotes from The True Believer (and note how many of them can be applied to any or all mass movements and each and every of their most ardent supporters): A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine or promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence. A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business. A mass movement... appeals not to those intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self. Where people live autonomous lives and are not badly off, yet are without abilities or opportunities for creative work or useful action, there is no telling to what desperate and fantastic shifts they might resort in order to give meaning and purpose to their lives. People who see their lives as irremediably spoiled cannot find a worth-while purpose in self-advancement... They look on self- interest as something tainted and evil.

His ideas were met with applause from a wide range of political opinion-makers. The patrician liberal Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., called Hoffer “brilliant and original.” Look magazine ran an article about Hoffer titled, “Ike’s Favorite Author.” Berkeley hired Hoffer. LBJ invited him to the White House. Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And Hillary Clinton, while trying to figure out what was going wrong in her campaign against Donald Trump, urged

her staff to read The True Believer . Today, it’s impossible to imagine a

philosopher appealing to such a broad political spectrum. In fact, today it’s impossible to imagine having such a broad political spectrum. Hoffer wouldn’t be part of it anyway... He had no political ideology. Indeed, he had no great metaphysical system of philosophy at all. He lived in the real world. He had a blue- collar approach to being a philosopher. You get your tools – which are looking, listening, and learning – then you do your job, which is thinking. The results were finely crafted, carefully finished specific works of thought. They’re better shown in operation than explained in abstractions.

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July 2020

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless. The inordinately selfish are particularly susceptible to frustration... It is the inordinately selfish, therefore, who are likely to be the most persuasive champions of selflessness. They who clamor loudest for freedom are often the ones least likely to be happy in a free society... They want to eliminate free competition and the ruthless testing to which the individual is continually subjected in a free society. Freedom aggravates at least as much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual... Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. The reason that the inferior elements of a nation can exert a marked influence on its course is that... [they] crave to dissolve their spoiled, meaningless selves in some soul-stirring spectacular communal undertaking.

The permanent misfits can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement. The superior individual, whether in politics, literature, science, commerce or industry, plays a large role in shaping a nation, but so do individuals at the other extreme – the failures, misfits, outcasts, criminals, and all those who have lost their footing, or never had one, in the ranks of respectable humanity. The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle. There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom. When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows and lie low until the wrath is passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them. Some people called Eric Hoffer an intellectual. He would always reply by saying he was a longshoreman. Think of him as a sort of stevedore of the mind, loading a supertanker of common sense freighted with wisdom and shipped with brilliance.

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FROM OUR INBOX

Good morning, I would like to show my appreciation for “ideas that matter” and the perspective of the editor and those who helped write the email I received from you this morning. THANK YOU ALL! Well done, indeed. – Rebecca W. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Rebecca, YOU’RE WELCOME! Perspective seems to be in short supply these days. We’re doing our best to bring some three-dimensional thinking into a media world where opinion seems to be increasingly flattened – and often flat wrong. I don’t know how I got your American Consequences but that’s not important, all I know is I look forward to receiving each issue, love your sick sense of humor and sarcasm which is a positive thing these days. I’m an old construction guy and it reminds me of my Samoan crewwhich would always say to me, “Don’t take the World Series.” I am sad to say that I am resident of the socialist State of California... Anyway thought I would give you an “atta boy” for your writing of American Consequences . – Richard S. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Richard, we’d give you an “atta boy” back, but because you live in California, I guess we have to say “atta person.” Meanwhile “Don’t take the World Series” is my new motto. I always knew Samoans were great sportsmen. (Fun fact: a Samoan or Samoan-American is 40 times more likely to play for the NFL than a non- Samoan.) But I had no idea Samoans were so handy with a pun.

Re: Our Newest Readers Weigh In

P.J., except for age, you haven’t changed a bit! Great article! About 25 years ago a good friend of mine, who knew I read a lot, introduced me to Give War a Chance . I’ve been a fan of yours ever since! – Robert B. P.J. O’Rourke comment: And please know that I appreciate it, Robert. Also, if you don’t mind me giving myself a little plug, I think anyone who was deployed in the Gulf War or who had relatives or friends who were deployed might like that book. The last section is devoted to the conflict, which I covered from the time Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990 until I wound up – by mistake – in Kuwait City the day before it was actually liberated. (Long story. I won’t bore people with it here – they’ll have to read the book if they want me to bore them. You can buy a copy by clicking here.) I thoroughly enjoy reading this magazine cover to cover... Please keep the excellent articles coming for not only do they keep readers informed on current events [and] attempts to further strip freedoms paid for in blood, but also hope that there are still some rational influencers out there who yet might steer us away from the cliff. – Helen S. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Glad to have you as a reader, Helen. People like you are why we have our editorial GPS setting on “away from cliff.”

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July 2020

I believe P. J. O’Rourke used to write for Mad magazine and, as we can now see, the USA and the West, in general, have gone mad. Three years ago, by your own admission (this will one day end up in court), [you] wrote the

Sir, I really do appreciate your style of writing to the masses. You make the point needed in an example wrapped

in a way that is actually understandable and is easy to accept as reality. Thank you for being a written voice in the vacuum of Leftist media lies and disinformation. – Ralph S.

article “A Modest Proposal for...” and look at what has happened since. Honestly, I can’t see how this can be allowed to continue. Mr. O’Rourke is single-handedly destroying Western Civilization one satirical article at a time. It’s time to go “samizdat” and get these dangerous works out of the hands of the public and into only those hands who understand. – Paul J. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Nope, Paul, I never wrote for Mad , but I did spend a decade writing for National Lampoon . And I wouldn’t say that I’m single- handedly destroying Western Civilization – I seem to be getting lots of help in that department. As for taking my “dangerous works out of the hands of the public,” that might be the right thing to do, but it doesn’t sound like a good business plan. I’m impressed with everything I’ve read and with the factual way it is written. Keep up the excellent work. – Chazz R.

P.J. O’Rourke comment: The great 17th century

Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Spinoza was a leader of enlightenment rationalist thinking who

maintained that there is only one set of rules

governing reality – rules not always recognized by what Spinoza called “received authority” (or by what you call “leftist media lies and disinformation”). Thank you for your kind words, Ralph. And let’s hope American Consequences fares better with its devotion to the rules of reality than Spinoza did. His philosophy got him in trouble with “received authority.” His works were banned by the Catholic Church, and he was shunned by his own Jewish community in Amsterdam.

CHECK OUT OUR ONLINE ARCHIVE OF PAST ISSUES.

American Consequences

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FROM OUR INBOX

P.J. O’Rourke comment: Well, Randall, we tried hiding Buck’s candle under a bushel, but the basket caught fire! Re: Will American Companies Grow a Spine? There are not many left who remember it personally, but today’s atmosphere of fear about saying anything that can be taken as racist or insensitive to “woke” feelings is very much like the McCarthyism of the ‘50s. I don’t know how it will end, but I suspect that it will ultimately eat many of its own proponents. Sadly, it will do great damage to the nation before it meets its deserved end. – Gordon F. Buck Sexton comment: Gordon – you’re certainly not alone in suggesting the connection between the great woke-ism purge of 2020 and the era of McCarthyism. The current environment of extreme demands from a constantly shifting orthodoxy is also reminiscent of Mao’s revolution and its infamous “struggle sessions” or the denunciation lists handed over to the “Committee of Public Safety” in Revolutionary France that often led to the guillotine. One thing all of these historical events have in common: frenzied ideology and bad outcomes. Let’s hope our current national moment rapidly improves. Mr. Sexton, from my perspective, the largest, global corporations are behind all of the wokiness that is consuming every facet of life. They aren’t the ultimate controllers, but they exert tremendous control in the workplace and throughout society. A core

P.J. O’Rourke comment: Thanks, Chazz. The word you use to describe how American Consequences is written brings to mind one of my favorite songs, “Everybody Plays the Fool,” recorded by The Main Ingredient in 1972: Everybody plays the fool

There’s no exception to the rule It may be factual, may be cruel Everybody plays the fool

(Another fun fact: The lead singer for The Main Ingredient was Cuba Gooding Sr., father of actor Cuba Gooding Jr.) Thanks for your rib tickling email today. Have enjoyed your work since Parliament of Whores described our current political situation, which has somehow deteriorated without imploding. Enjoy your parallel cynicism with Hunter Thompson. – Patrick Q. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Thanks, Patrick. And you’re right about the “parallel cynicism.” Although our political views ran along different lines, Hunter and I were good friends. I’m always flattered by any comparison to him – not because of the “gonzo” stuff but because Hunter was, in fact, one of the most well-read people I’ve ever known. When he and I would settle in for an evening (or middle of the night) of drinks (or what have you), the talk wouldn’t be about weirdness or wildness but about Henry James and the Beat poets. Buck Sexton’s editorial is one of the best I have read in a long time. Why didn’t someone tell me sooner that he was on American Consequences? – Randall N.

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July 2020

and liked it. But he never did say why he chose Ireland? Is it just because he had Irish Grandparents? I think he stated that he has an EU passport, why choose Ireland? Why not come back to America? Raise cash, OK but how much? If you raise cash, how do you get it out to location Z? How much or how long do you plan on executing plan Z? – Fergus F. Kim Iskyan comment: Hi Fergus – thanks for your e-mail. Let me tackle the last part of your question first. To me, Plan Z is like eating well and exercising regularly... It’s partly an attitude, and there are concrete measures that you can take – which subsequently require some upkeep. Many dimensions of a Plan Z (including elements that I didn’t address) – residency, citizenship, foreign real estate, foreign bank accounts and brokerage, language proficiency, and plenty of other pieces – require upkeep and aren’t a one-and- done kind of thing. And in the bigger picture, it’s about conceiving the types of challenges you and your family may face, and being creative (and proactive) about how you can address them. Regarding cash... it doesn’t help much if you can’t access it, so the bank account (or gold or bitcoin) needs to be accessible. I’d suggest having at least twice what you’d usually have as a rainy-day fund. But that’s also a function of the gravity of the challenges that you’re facing... the liquidity of your investments... and the standard of living that you’re accustomed to. And your question, why Ireland? To back up

aspect of this control is to divide all of us along every fissure of humanity. The more division driven, the greater the hate, the fear, the hysteria, and lack of hope for all, save those choreographing the destruction of humanity. – A.J. Buck Sexton comment: A.J. – Wokeness has absolutely become a tool of corporations in a variety of contexts. For one thing, it buys a level of social justice insurance when a major conglomerate writes checks to Black Lives Matter. If it turns out that the company has a sexual harassment scandal in their midst, or the public finds out that six-year-olds in some far-off country are making sneakers for pennies an hour – the company can use the stored-up capital of “wokeness.” Corporate cowardice is a plague that will only get worse in the months ahead. Re: Why Everyone Needs a Plan Z Kim Iskyan’s Plan Z article was a little funny, a little helpful, and just whacky enough to be fun until... until he had to make fun of Trump’s disinfectant joke/comment. Taking this seriously puts American Consequences in the same camp as MSNBC, CNN and Pravda. – Craig B. Steven Longenecker comment: Craig, I can assure you that we have never been camping with MSNBC, CNN, or Pravda. We haven’t even received an invite from a single mainstream journalist to drink a beer in the woods... or vodka, in the case of Russia’s newspapermen.

I just finished reading Kim Iskyan’s plan Z

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FROM OUR INBOX

We talked about the U.S. But at this stage, my wife and I want my kids to think of the world as their oyster... And if we were to live in the U.S. (which is comfortable and convenient and where they’d fit in relatively easily), it might become their default. I’m not knocking the U.S. at all (“a lot of my good friends are American,” I might say in my defense!). But with the desired end of my kids being “citizens of the world,” I thought that we should start at home, by living somewhere outside the U.S. while they’re still with us. Where you live is, of course, a decision that’s very specific to every individual. Moving and living in different places is in my blood, and I get antsy after being in the same place for a few years... I crave something new and different (even if, in the case of Ireland, it’s someplace somewhat familiar). Re: Killing Time, Part II That bit about emptying the liquor cabinet to save money because all those strange gag-a- cat cocktails taste awful compared to Johnny Walker was so funny. I have a shirt that says Support Day Drinking so I think I’ll use your suggestion and continue. – Heather B. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Cheers, Heather! And here’s my t-shirt slogan: “Beer – It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore.” As you reflected, my long grey hair was out of control. Just completed the buzz cut yesterday after finishing off a bottle of Algane d’Ocean, a French liquor made from algae that I found, you guessed it, at the back of my liquor cabinet, hidden behind

a moment... A survey last year showed that 72% of Americans live “in or close to” the city where they grew up – with proximity to family being the main reason for that decision for 50% of respondents. I’d lived in seven states in the U.S. and moved to Spain by the time I’d turned seven years old... And since then, I’ve lived in nine countries and moved on average every three or four years. I’ve lived in the U.S. for around one-third of my life. So although I have a U.S. passport (and accent), living in the U.S. isn’t my default. So when it came time to leave Singapore, my wife and I put together a short list of potential places where we might want to live – dictated first of all by school availability and quality (I have two kids in high school), and where we legally could reside (governed by passports and visas). Then I put together a long list on a spreadsheet of criteria – including, for example, weather, cost of living, travel opportunities, health care, cost, proximity to family, etc. – which my wife improved... And then we weighted the importance of each factor, and both filled it in for locations on the short list. Dublin made the short list because we’d lived there before and liked it and both my kids were born there. So did Madrid because I grew up there and most of the family speaks Spanish and it’s a lovely city. Tokyo made my long list, but the language challenges – my daughter has taken Japanese lessons but we’d struggle – cut it early on. We did the math, weighed the pros and cons, and listened to our gut feelings.

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July 2020

residences. That stumped me for a while & I went back to work, thinking about it. After a while, I realized, both the question & my inability to answer it are conditioned responses brought forth by the propaganda bath we are immersed in daily. The obvious answer is (drum roll): A landlord can make money same way tenants do: He can get a job & go to work. There’s no reason a landlord should exempt himself from work, any more than a tenant should. IOW, a landlord can work for himself & a tenant can work for himself, instead of tenants working for & supporting a slacker landlord. Problem solved. Ditto for police & prison guards. They can get a real job & go to work instead of sponging up taxpayer money for “make work” BS, putting folks in prison. So don’t be lost & don’t whine. Just go to work. There’s a lot of work to be done. – Lum L.

the Amaretto and Kahlúa! Thanks for an entertaining read. – Robert S. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Whoa, Robert... algae ? Well, I guess they can make booze out of anything that will ferment. But, if you find a bottle of Lawn Clippings Liquor behind the Amaretto and Kahlua, please don’t feel the urge to share! Scotch and Drambuie is called a Rusty Nail. The mix is 2 to 1, or so. Really good. Especially if you are sheltering in and not driving. – Steve L. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Thanks, Steve! I’ll trade you your Rusty Nail recipe for my “Crusty Martini” cocktail: 6 parts gin to 1 part gin- drinker. Re: It’s Time to Go Offensive Now it’s time for the pendulum to swing the other way. Defund the police & abolish the prisons. The funding in place for police & prisons can then go to BLM & AIM. This can be the start of reparations, funding already in place... I told an employer’s wife, during a lunch break, there’s a local housing developer who lets tenants KEEP the value of their rent payments as equity in their residences, since they are the ones paying off the mortgage on their residences. AND that means they’d own their residences at retirement age, instead of having neither assets nor a home at retirement age. She then asked me how a landlord is supposed to make money if the tenants keep the value of their rent payments in the form of equity (ownership) of their

Steven Longenecker comment: Congratulations Lum, you’ve solved

inequality through a process called “getting a mortgage from a bank and buying a house”... in which you pay a set expense for 15 to 30 years in a combination of equity and interest and at the end of that time period, you own that asset outright. This is America. There’s nothing stopping anyone from getting a mortgage, provided they can hold down a job and save a small amount of capital. And keep in mind that roughly half of the rental units across the nation are owned by individual investors – mom-and-pop landlords who typically do have a full-time job. These landlords are far from slackers... They’ve

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FROM OUR INBOX

Sometimes, like if the housing market goes down, it works in favor of the tenant. Other times, particularly if the housing market soars, it works in favor of the landlord. But in all cases, it’s a voluntary contract. That’s the beauty of capitalism. As for defunding the police, abolishing prisons, and diverting taxes to Black Lives Matter? You go first: Toss out the rule of law in your town and let us know how it turns out.

worked hard to save capital, buy and improve a residential asset, and then find good tenants who will pay them in full and on time. They take on the risk of housing market crashes, bad tenants who trash the place, flooding, broken appliances, and the great expense of potential evictions. In return, they will also receive the potential reward of housing market upside and regular cash flow.

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July 2020

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DEATH IS IN THE AIR AS THE VIRUS SPREADS: 18 July 2020  CLICK HERE TO READ THE WEB VERSION

By Kim Iskyan

In the U.S., the COVID-19 virus continues its spread... particularly in California, Arizona, and Florida...

Why the sudden surge of interest for notary services? Death is in the air. And people in Dourados want to settle their paperwork just in case the coronavirus reaper knocks. With almost a million cases of the coronavirus, Brazil trails only the U.S. (at 2.2 million). According to University of Washington forecasts, Brazil could overtake the U.S. by late July in terms of both cases and deaths – even though it has just two- thirds the population. That looks increasingly likely, in part because the government doesn’t have a health minister. The previous two left within a month of each other after the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, refused to listen to science. Last month, my friend Ernie left his home in São Paulo, the money (and now, coronavirus) capital of Brazil. He drove 600 miles west to join his wife at her family’s farmhouse near Dourados.

But my conversations with contacts around the world – particularly in Brazil and India – show that Americans are nowhere close to experiencing as bad as it could get. In Brazil, you know things are bad when the notary is busy... A notary certifies legal paperwork like contracts, deeds, and wills. Usually it’s a slow but steady line of work. Recently, though, for the notary in Dourados – a city with 200,000 people in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where my American friend Ernie McCrary is living in quarantine – business is brisk. People are in a rush to “put their affairs in order.” A local notary there says that she’s preparing double the number of wills a month compared with pre-COVID times. And she’s seen a 50% jump in requests to formalize so- called “stable unions” – that is, putting a ring on it for couples who live together but have never tied the knot.

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Like for many Americans, home- improvement projects are on the self-

In late March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the country’s 1.3 billion people less than four hours’ warning before the lockdown started. For millions of migrant workers in India, that triggered the start of a long, desperate journey home. In one particularly horrible incident, 16 migrant workers in the western state of Maharashtra were killed when a freight train ran over them as they slept on the train tracks. As BBC explained... The dead... [were] attempting to walk to a station, from where they were hoping to get a train home... After walking for 22 miles, they were exhausted and decided to rest. According to local reports, the workers assumed that trains would not be running because of the lockdown, and therefore slept on the tracks. Images on social media show pieces of roti (Indian bread) strewn near the tracks.

quarantine agenda in Brazil, too. Ernie told me this week that he’s spending most his time visiting the hardware store buying cement, sand, and tools for landscaping projects on the farm. He also went to the local barbershop for a $6 haircut. That’s around 30% cheaper (in U.S. dollar terms) than it would have been in January, due to the decline in the country’s currency so far this year. Ernie, who’s lived much of his adult life in South America, isn’t planning on leaving Dourados anytime soon. Despite being the state’s coronavirus hot spot, it’s still a lot safer than São Paulo. Earlier this month, Brazil’s health ministry stopped publishing figures showing the number of coronavirus infections and deaths. They resumed only after a ruling by the country’s supreme courts to make the data available. This “ignore it, and it will go away” strategy of Bolsonaro is dooming millions of Brazilians. But that number may pale with the disaster in India... AS IF THE ENTIRE EASTERN SEABOARD WAS UNEMPLOYED In India, the number of coronavirus cases is accelerating, despite what Bloomberg called “the world’s toughest stay-at-home restrictions.”

For every 20 people tested in the U.S., India tests one person.

Around 122 million people in India lost their jobs in April. That’s more than the population of the entire eastern seaboard of the U.S. Since most people in India work in the informal, untaxed economy, total unemployment is probably a lot higher than the 27% reported in May. The government’s economic relief package, in the words of my investment-analyst friend Rahul Goel in Mumbai, is “tiny.”

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And it could get much worse there... If the infection rate in India was just half that of the U.S., India would have 4.7 million cases (more than double the total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S.). If deaths per million people in India were the same as in the U.S. – which would be miraculous, given the weak state of India’s health care infrastructure – around 500,000 Indians would die. The Nikkei Asian Review warns of a “lost decade” for the region... If the infection rate in India was just half that of the U.S., India would have 4.7 million cases (more than double the total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S.). COVID-19 has laid bare the underlying weakness of its economies, from poor public finances and patchy state infrastructure to reliance on migrant labor and remittances. There will be no rapid return to sustained fast growth, and far fewer resources to manage the pressing challenges the region must soon navigate, from agricultural reform and urbanization to the climate crisis. I’m guessing the notaries in India are busy, too...

In a country where the average person earns less than $6 a day, no job and pocket change for public support means for many people the equation is simple... If you don’t work, you don’t eat. And with the economy forecast to shrink by 4% this year, there’s a lot less work to go around. “Offices, malls, and stores are opening, with some conditions,” Rahul told me earlier this week. “There’s a level of desperation to work because people have to be able to make money.” So for all that, at least India is flattening the curve, right? Not at all... As I wrote in March, India is still a country you really don’t want to visit. India’s lockdown was “squandered,” says Bloomberg. It “failed in its basic objective of boosting capacity in an overstretched health system,” said the Nikkei Asian Review . The country’s total number of cases of coronavirus is now growing at more than 12,000 per day. That’s more than the total number of new cases reported in California, Texas, and Florida combined on any given day this week. India now has the fourth-most cases in the world, after recently overtaking the U.K. and Spain. And in a case of “the fireman is on fire,” India’s latest coronavirus figures include the health minister of the state government of Delhi, who tested positive and was hospitalized earlier this week. In terms of total cases per million people, India is at just 4% the infection rate of the U.S. That’s partly a function of much lower testing rates... For every 20 people tested in the U.S., India tests one person.

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WILL THE RED STATES SAVE THE MOVIES?

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July 2020

By John Podhoretz

I n the spring, the most successful theatrical release in the United States was a horror movie you’ve probably never heard of. Not only was it No. 1 at the time... The Wretched even matched Black Panther ’s record, sitting for five weeks at the top of the box-office charts. Of course, there were a few differences... The Wretched opened at 12 theaters on the first of May and eventually made it onto 75 screens; Black Panther opened on 4,020 screens in 2018. There are 41,000 screens in the United States, and in 2019, they generated around $11 billion in revenue. In May 2020, 97% of the movie theaters in America were shuttered... The Wretched played exclusively at drive-ins, of which there are only 559 in the United States. By the first week of June, The Wretched had earned $905,000. In the same 35-day period in 2019, another Marvel superhero movie, Avengers: Endgame , had grossed $309 million. The movie business had gone into a societally induced coma, and what it lost during its insensibility might prove to be far more than a fiscal quarter’s revenue. Consider this... AMC, the largest theater chain in the world, announced at the beginning of June 2020 that it had “substantial doubt” it could survive as a business. The mass entertainment industry began

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because the money they generate sometimes have to service the debt that has been incurred to make them. Still, if a 2020 release of a Marvel picture that would have made $600 million in the U.S. otherwise but can now realistically only gross $200 million or less due to audience hesitation and regulations that make it impossible for theaters to sell tickets in large numbers... will studios release movies at a time when they have no assurance there will be an audience for them? Or when the audience for these movies will be 50% of the size due to cautionary practices by theaters and regulatory demands by the authorities? Professional sports leagues have had to survive players’ strikes and owners’ lockouts before, but they have multigenerational supporters who have a near-patriotic loyalty to their franchises. Every movie has to build its own audience from scratch, and it’s getting harder for films to pull this off despite the rise of grassroots communication like social media. The competition for attention is just too great, especially lately, as the number of streaming subscription services providing in-home entertainment has grown to include Disney+, HBO Max, and the forthcoming Peacock. Take Disney+... A Disney+ subscriber can watch nearly every film made by Disney Studios since the 1930s... and every episode of The Simpsons , of which there are 655. Every Marvel movie... every Star Wars movie... and a host of other family friendly entertainment, including its own new and old TV series. What’s more, Disney+ will also use the platform to release extraordinarily expensive films made for theaters but whose release was derailed by the pandemic, like the magical

with the creation of the movie theater in the first decade of the 20th century. In 2019, American cinemas sold $11.3 billion worth of tickets. Film exhibition is not a huge business – not in a country where soft-drink sales gross $242 billion annually – but since these buildings display the wares produced by what has been and remains the country’s most glamorous industry, it is of outsized influence and semiotic meaning. How it can or will revive, after two decades of declining attendance and the concomitant rise of high-definition home viewing and streaming entertainment, is the most interesting cultural question of post-pandemic America. First off is the issue of how many people will decide they won’t go to the movies at all anymore... because their consciousnesses have been raised or their fears have deepened about the nature of communicable diseases and the problems associated with indoor proximity to others. That number might be tiny in political or polling terms‚ especially given that the largest cohort of moviegoers is made up of the people least endangered by the virus – people under the age of 49. It might only be 10% of Americans. But the profit margin at a movie theater, according to Marketplace.org, is around 4%. So that 10% could mark the difference between survival and death – especially in a year where the theaters have lost months of revenue. Second, there’s the issue of whether studios will want to release their hugely expensive 2020 movies at a time when they simply don’t know what the potential audience size really is. They cannot hold onto the new James Bond or the two new Marvel films very long

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WILL THE RED STATES SAVE THE MOVIES?

willingness to go out to the movies and buy some popcorn and a Coke that will make or break the motion-picture business this year, and perhaps for all time. The men (and they are mostly men) who have made it to the top of pop culture’s greasy pole look at Republican America and tend to see a blighted landscape that brought us Reagan and then Gingrich and then George W. Bush and then the Tea Party and then Trump. In song and story, in plot and affect, the villains are either red staters or their ideological confreres – conservatives, Republicans, and religious people. They’re science-deniers, gun-toters, frackers, polluters, despoilers, evil businessmen, real estate developers, and generals. President Donald Trump may or may not win reelection, but his supporters – many of whom hold the values and ideas of the entertainment industry in exactly the same sort of contempt showbiz has for them – hold the fate of the movies in their hands. To make the point even more starkly, consider that the final release from Hollywood before COVID-19 shut the theaters down was a movie partly satirizing its own hatred of the yahoos – The Hunt , in which rich liberals set in motion a killing spree of the people Hillary Clinton called “the deplorables.”

kid adventure Artemis Fowl (production cost: $125 million). The price of a Disney+ subscription (at least for now) is $6.99 a month, or half the price of a single movie ticket. And who goes to the movies alone? The squeeze on the theatrical business was already significant before the pandemic turned it into an existential crisis. For 70 years, the movies have battled for the attention of the American people with television, or at least for the share of the American attention span with television. In part due to the success of Netflix and Amazon Prime, but not solely, the sheer amount of televised offerings in the U.S. has exploded. There were an astounding 532 scripted series offered on American TV screens in 2019. Nine years earlier, in 2010, there were 216. And the new streaming services are only going to ensure that number rises significantly once production resumes. The movies are on the ropes... It may be too late for them in a historical sense. Pandemic or not, all of these trends were going to continue. The virus may just have set the cycle of permanent and rapid decline into freefall. And this brings us to the most savage irony of 2020... The salvation of the American theatrical movie experience may be in the hands of the Americans that Hollywood despises the most. President Donald Trump may or may not win reelection, but his supporters – many of whom hold the values and ideas of the entertainment industry in exactly the same sort of contempt showbiz has for them – hold the fate of the movies in their hands. It is the residents of the red states and their

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because they did not impose statewide draconian mandates. Yet that didn’t happen... And because it didn’t happen, theater chains like AMC and others that chose to close down nationwide could reopen at will in those states and come up with their own ways of functioning with an eye toward the safety of their customers and workers – which, given their potential liability if they do not do so thoroughly and their own obvious need to avoid bad publicity and deep personal guilt, is something very much in their self-interest to pursue and secure. In the blue states, the lockdowns have been by fiat and whose leaders are much more interested in telling business owners and others how to do what they should do, on the extraordinarily dubious grounds that they know better how to protect people. That’s because they have listened to public health officials, some of whom seemed to think it was fine for people to go out and protest en masse at the end of May, even as authorities were still punishing people who had the temerity to try and cut someone’s hair. The regulations governing reopening will be more draconian, more costly, and more bureaucratic than anywhere else – and there’s always the prospect that a governor will decide after a week that it’s just too dangerous for the theaters to remain open and then just lock their doors again. The lockdown was largely the result of policies and ideas that emanated in the blue states and their institutions. The epidemiologists who calculated the dangers to the American (and global) body politic and declared that as many as 2 million were likely

The red states are home to everything bad – except, perhaps, when they offer lucrative tax credits to producers so that movies and TV shows will be filmed there. (Georgia is particularly generous, which caused terrible cognitive dissonance last year when an anti- abortion law there caused some Hollywood types to vow never to set foot in the state. Oddly, that profound determination lasted about a week. Tax credits are literally ready money. And an actor has got to eat... at Katsuya, L.A.’s most formidable Japanese restaurant.) And yet, here the movie people are... No business is more in need of a dramatic reopening than theirs, and that reopening will have And yet, here the movie people are... No business is more in need of a dramatic reopening than theirs, and that reopening will have to take place first and foremost in the locales in America that never fully closed. Red states, which are less densely populated as a rule and more generally attracted to an individualistic philosophy that views top-down government mandates with deep suspicion, resisted general lockdown... and were viciously attacked for doing so. We were told to watch in horror as the residents of Texas, Georgia, and Florida would be felled by coronavirus just as the residents of New York City were in April to take place first and foremost in the locales in America that never fully closed.

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