Man with Down Syndrome Justifies Life

by Wesley J. Smith

Imagine feeling the need to justify your existence before a Congressional sub committee. From the Daily Beacon story:

Frank Stephens, a man with Down syndrome and an advocate for those with the genetic disorder, told a congressional committee on Wednesday that his life is “worth living” as he criticized those who believe fetuses with Down syndrome should be aborted…

Iceland is close to eliminating Down syndrome births through abortion. Since the introduction of prenatal screening tests to the country in the early 2000s, close to 100 percent of women whose pregnancies test positive for Down syndrome have chosen to have an abortion.

“Whatever you learn today, please remember this: I am a man with Down syndrome and my life is worth living,” Stephens told lawmakers on the committee.

“I completely understand that the people pushing this particular ‘final solution’ are saying that people like me should not exist,” Stephens said. “That view is deeply prejudiced by an outdated idea of life with Down syndrome.”

A pogrom has been launched that seeks to wipe these gentle and loving people off the face of the earth through eugenic abortion, non treatment of Down babies with serious medical conditions, and perhaps someday if people like Peter Singer get their way, infanticide.

Stephens asks: “Is there really no place for us in the world?” 

What an anti-human culture we are creating, what a paucity of love.

Congrats to VDH

by Rich Lowry

In his review in the Wall Street Journal, Antony Beevor deems The Second World Wars “essential reading.” (We ran a series of excerpts from the book last week.)

The Perfect Conditions for a College-Athletics Scandal

by George Leef

The famous athletics scandal at the University of North Carolina occurred because the school let the Athletics Department run the place, specifically with its “advising” of the players. That opened the door to fraud.

In today’s Martin Center article, Anthony Hennen writes about a developing situation at his alma mater, Ohio University. The school has been pursuing the foolish idea that sporting success will elevate its national profile and it has set up a center for academic advising of student-athletes. The problem is that this center is under the control of the Athletics Department. The university’s chapter of the AAUP has thrown a penalty flag on that and argues that letting the AD control academic advising is just asking for trouble.

Hennen writes, “Without supervision from the academic side of the university lower academic standards for student-athletes and, in some cases, perpetuate academic misconduct. Include the great pressure to keep student-athletes eligible by any means to win games, and a temptation develops for programs to ‘go rogue.’”

That is indeed the temptation. At UNC, many of the star players had their academic work largely done by others. If adults are in charge at Ohio U. and not the sports boosters, they will insist that their student-athlete academic center have true academic oversight.

What Obligation Does a Politician Have to Immolate Himself?

by Rich Lowry

Jeff Flake’s experience raises the question. 

My guide to questions of statesmanship is Abraham Lincoln, who was anti-immolation, although that doesn’t mean that he was unwilling to take risks or make stands on principle. When he became a Whig as a young man, he was pretty much joining the losing side in Illinois politics. You will often see quotes from his campaign against Stephen Douglas about race that don’t stand up well in retrospect, but this was in the course of trying to win an election where he had staked out treacherous ground on highly controversial proposition (namely, that all men are created equal). Lincoln was brave and wanted to move the needle in the nation’s debate, but he was never foolhardy or defied political reality just for the sake of it.

That brings us back to Flake. I fail to see how he moved the ball on anything. He might simply consider intolerable the dodging and weaving you have to do in the era of Trump as a high-level member of the Republican party with standards, and that’s a personal choice that I respect. But I don’t think it’s at all mandatory for a honorable politician — in fact, I think it’s ill-advised. 

Paul Ryan constantly gets criticized for not pulling a Flake. What if he did? What would it accomplish? It would hurt Ryan and perhaps end his career; not hurt Trump at all or change his conduct in the slightest; diminish the chances of passing anything meaningful through Congress in the near-term in the ensuing chaos and acrimony; make it impossible for Ryan to block anything substantively objectionable that Trump might propose going forward and drastically diminish the influence Ryan would have in any future disputes over the direction of the party. Considering all of that, Ryan is acting entirely sensibly.

In my column today, I commend what I call the Lindsey Graham model. Graham is critical of Trump and calls him out and tries to correct him when he’s wrong, but hasn’t made a totalist critique, in fact maintains a relationship with Trump to try to have some sway over him. What’s wrong with that?

What Flake is objecting to at bottom is the character of the president of the United States. This isn’t a problem that is susceptible to a solution. No matter what anyone says or does, Trump will have the same character and still be president. Given that most politicians are pragmatists, it’s no wonder they note their problems with Trump in passing, or mumble and look at their shoes, and move on.

Of course, they have all the more incentive to do this given Trump’s standing with Republican voters. What has occurred in the GOP to this point has been more or less been inevitable since the night of the Indiana primary; once Trump became the nominee, he benefited from a partisan rallying-around effect that piled in on top of the devoted support of his hard-core fans. This effect became all the stronger when he won the election. Some in the GOP are Trump true believers who will rationalize anything he does, but many are fully aware of his flaws and, for now, just want to see him get a chance. Elected Republicans who actively defy this feeling do so at their peril, with no discernible upside.

The Senate Will Confirm Federal Judicial Nominees

by Mitch McConnell

For the last eight years, we had a president who said a criterion for lifetime judicial positions was not a person’s dedication to applying the law equally, giving every litigant a fair shake, and ruling based on the actual meaning of our Constitution and laws — but rather on their bias toward certain groups or ideologies over others. The so-called “empathy standard” is great standard if you’re the party in the case for whom the judge has empathy. It’s not so great if you’re the other person.

But the American people have now elected a president who takes quite a different view.

President Trump has done a terrific job of nominating judges who are committed to ensuring that the courts perform their intended function in our system of government. I have stated many times the Senate’s determination to confirm the president’s judicial nominees, regardless of the often-mindless partisan obstruction we’ve been seeing from across the aisle. It did not stop us from advancing several nominees this past week. It will not stop us from confirming several more next week.

I just took action to set up votes on four more well-qualified nominees for our nation’s Circuit Courts: Notre Dame law professor Amy Barrett, nominee for the Seventh Circuit, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, nominee for the Sixth Circuit, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid, nominee for the Tenth Circuit, and University of Pennsylvania law professor Stephanos Bibas, nominee for the Third Circuit. By confirming these nominees, we can take a big step toward ensuring that our nation’s appellate courts interpret and apply the law based on what it actually says, not what a judge wishes it might say.

We’ll take up the Barrett nomination on Monday. Amy Barrett is a professor of law at one of our nation’s premier law schools. Notre Dame happens to be a Catholic university. Amy Barrett happens to be a nominee who is Catholic — and who speaks freely and openly about her faith and its importance to her. For some on the Left, that seems to be a disqualifying factor for her nomination. They seem to have forgotten we do not have religious tests for office in this country. Amy Barrett is going to make an outstanding federal Circuit Court judge. We’re going to confirm her. I say the same for Ms. Larsen, Ms. Eid, and Mr. Bibas.

Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley has done an excellent job of reviewing judicial nominations and reporting them to the full Senate. Democratic obstruction will likely mean that we’ll have to take more of the Senate’s time to get the job done. But we will confirm these nominees. You can count on it.

The Way to a President’s Heart Is … Through His Hands?

by Jay Nordlinger

In his column today, Rich Lowry says, essentially, “The GOP is Trump’s party now.” Is it ever. Republican politicians across the country are doing what they can to curry Trump’s favor. I think Michael Grimm, however, has taken the cake.

He is a onetime congressman from New York City who is fresh from prison. He’s running for his old seat, trying to wrest the GOP nomination from the incumbent.

You recall, from the 2016 presidential cycle, the kerfuffle over the size of Donald Trump’s hands. According to reports, he is sensitive on this subject. The candidate himself declared, “Look at these hands! These are the hands that hit a golf ball 285 yards.” Okay, then.

Well, feast your eyes on this paragraph from an article about Grimm by Olivia Nuzzi, of New York magazine:

Grimm admits he’s only met Trump a few times, and never in a meaningful way. As a congressman, he’d visited the president’s Trump Tower office as a formality more than anything else, just like every other New York politician. But his impression of Trump, he told me, was a lasting and positive one — so positive, in fact, that if the president were the kind of person who paid close attention to his press coverage, he might come across Grimm complimenting him effusively. “I remember saying to myself, I never realized what a large man — I mean stature-wise, he’s a big man, with massive hands,” Grimm said, outstretching his own regular hands above the table. “I don’t have small hands, but when I shook hands with him, the first time I shook hands with him, I realized he was a big man.” He sensed my skepticism. “He is!” he said, defensively. “I thought they were pretty big. You don’t think so? I thought he had a big, strong grip. I’m dead serious.” He went on about how Trump is “a pretty big guy” and “not a small man even for his height” and how his hands were “more like a workman’s hands” than those of “a CEO.”

Heh. Nice play, Grimm. You may have a future in politics after all.

‘To counter the crazy and keep Kat in earrings!’

by Jack Fowler

The NRO 2017 Fall webathon proceeds, energized by a savvy appeal from Kat Timpf. Seeing that, hearing her cry – “Let’s not let the loons take away our culture — or my favorite earrings” (to decipher, you must read Kat herself) – one Shannon Y from New York responded with . . . a $500 donation. That should prove plenty to provide baubles for Kat’s lobes.

Before sharing a few additional donor comments, know that the purpose of the Webathon is to raise $200,000 (what the heck, just donate now!) to partially fund some important projects. Here’s the quick rundown of our four main objectives:

Hiring a tech guru for NRO’s burgeoning podcast operation,

Obtaining related video software (an expenditure we are confident will result in significant new income),

Hiring a revenue officer (another major expenditure, but with an anticipated result of multiples in revenue), and

Expanding our summer intern program.

You’ll find a more detailed explanation more detailed explanation here. And now, on with the comments . . .

The caboose to Joanne’s $25 gift is this sentiment: “THANK YOU for your thoroughly-researched, intellectually honest articles!!”

Leslie throws a kind $200 this way and then soul-bares: In an upside-down world — National Review has become one of the least biased news sources. I wait to form an opinion until I have read Andrew McCarthy or Jonah Goldberg or some other sensible columnist. To be clear, I voted for him. I didn’t want to, but felt I had no choice. . . . Occasionally, he accomplishes something useful and Hillary is not President. I truly believed that if she had won, the end of our great country was nigh. Thank you for being the voice of reason during these crazy times.” I’m with you Les. Grazia.

Lewis contributes $25 and then says, or maybe sings: “I’ve been reading NR since the late 70’s of the 20th century. I’ve grown accustomed to its grace.” It almost makes the day begin, I bet. And Lewis, I had assumed it was of the 19th century so thanks for setting me straight.

Beautiful and kind Lesley sends, get this, a thousand bucks, and urges: “Keep up the fantastic work; without “The Corner” and my morning cup of joe I’m not sure how I could face the world (especially living in Canada) with any optimism!” This means so much to us Lesley. Much love to you.

And much love to all others who have or who are about to help. You can do so by making your selfless donation here. Do leave comments and criticisms. For Paypal preferers, contribute here. Via U.S. Mail, send a check payable to “National Review” and address it to 19 West 44th Street, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10036. God bless and thanks!

Crisis in Catalonia

by Mark Antonio Wright

In a momentous move, the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona has voted for a declaration of independence from Spain. In response, the central government in Madrid has moved to impose direct rule on Catalonia, the prosperous region of northeastern Spain that had previously possessed a degree of autonomy over internal affairs.

Sam Edwards and Julien Toyer report for Reuters:

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont left the [regional parliament] chamber to shouts of “President!” and mayors who had come from outlying areas brandished their ceremonial batons and sang the Catalan anthem “Els Segadors” (The Reapers).

But immediately after news of the vote, which three opposition parties boycotted, Spanish shares and bonds were sold off, reflecting business concern over the turmoil in the wealthy region.

Within an hour, the upper house of Spain’s parliament in Madrid authorized [Spanish prime minister Mariano] Rajoy’s government to rule Catalonia directly . . . 

In Brussels, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said the independence vote changed nothing and the EU would only deal with the central government in Madrid.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department said it backed Madrid’s efforts to keep Spain united and Catalonia was an integral part of the country.

The evets of the next few days could cause tensions, already at a near breaking point, to spiral out of control, as Madrid seeks to impose its will on the region — possibly by firing the Barcelona government and placing regional police forces under its direct control.

What happens if Catalan police forces resist the removal of the regional government? Or if the Barcelona government — so far, only advocating “peaceful resistance” — turns to a more active struggle?

Gerald Frost, in an essay in the October 30, 2017, issue of National Review (paywalled), writes that the situation has been made worse in the aftermath of a disputed independence referendum on the first day of October.

In retrospect, it is certainly arguable that Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, could have seen off the separatist challenge by accepting that such was the depth and persistence of feeling on the issue that he would support a change to the constitution that would permit a binding referendum to take place — but with one very important proviso: that a decision in favor of independence would require a majority of 60 percent in a poll in which 60 percent of eligible voters had taken part. The possible benefits of such an approach would have by far outweighed the risks. But public rebukes to the Catalan government play well with the very many Spaniards who feel outraged by its actions. So instead, Rajoy heeded those within his ruling party who believe that Catalonia should be taught a lesson — which only served to increase the numbers of those in pursuit of an impossible dream.

As Frost writes, the Spanish essayist José Ortega y Gasset believed that the Catalan problem was such that “the best that could be hoped for was that the Catalans, and their fellow Spaniards, would recognize the intractable nature of the problem and would consequently avoid rash or unrealistic measures that were bound to bring on disaster.”

But rash and unrealistic measures have been undertaken. And now, it is Spain’s greatest crisis since the end of the Franco dictatorship and the return of democracy 40 years ago.

There’s No You in AI

by Andrew Stuttaford

This thoughtful piece on what ‘robots’ are going to do to employment by Kevin Drum might be published in Mother Jones (and it comes with quite a few Mother Jones flourishes), but take the time to read it, (very) stiff drink in hand.

Drum’s focus is less on robots (as conventionally understood) than on Artificial Intelligence (AI):

AI is improving exponentially, a product of both better computer hardware and software. Hardware has historically followed a growth curve called Moore’s law, in which power and efficiency double every couple of years, and recent improvements in software algorithms have been even more explosive. For a long time, these advances didn’t seem very impressive: Going from the brainpower of a bacterium to the brainpower of a nematode might technically represent an enormous leap, but on a practical level it doesn’t get us that much closer to true artificial intelligence. However, if you keep up the doubling for a while, eventually one of those doubling cycles takes you from the brainpower of a lizard (who cares?) to the brainpower of a mouse and then a monkey (wow!). Once that happens, human-level AI is just a short step away.

This can be hard to imagine, so here’s a chart that shows what an exponential doubling curve looks like, measured in petaflops (quadrillions of calculations per second). During the first 70 years of the digital era, computing power doubled every couple of years—and that produced steadily improving accounting software, airplane reservation systems, weather forecasts, Spotify, and the like. But on the scale of the human brain—usually estimated at 10 to 50 petaflops—it produced computing power so minuscule that you can’t see any change at all. Around 2025 we’ll finally start to see visible progress toward artificial intelligence. A decade later we’ll be up to about one-tenth the power of a human brain, and a decade after that we’ll have full human-level AI. It will seem like it happened overnight, but it’s really the result of a century of steady—but mostly imperceptible—progress.

Far from slowing down, progress in artificial intelligence is now outstripping even the wildest hopes of the most dedicated AI cheerleaders. Unfortunately, for those of us worried about robots taking away our jobs, these advances mean that mass unemployment is a lot closer than we feared—so close, in fact, that it may be starting already. But you’d never know that from the virtual silence about solutions in policy and political circles.

That, I suspect,  is because no one has any ideas that are, for now, politically palatable (Drum lists some policy options, all of which are on—to use dully conventional labels—leftish, but they merit much more than a look, even if only to think through why they might be wrong–and what the alternatives might be).

Drum also knocks down the argument that this automation wave will work out fine, just like all the others.

The Industrial Revolution was all about mechanical power: Trains were more powerful than horses, and mechanical looms were more efficient than human muscle. At first, this did put people out of work: Those loom-smashing weavers in Yorkshire—the original Luddites—really did lose their livelihoods. This caused massive social upheaval for decades until the entire economy adapted to the machine age.

Well, yes.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, it’s worth reading about the ‘Engels Pause’. British working class wages stagnated for half a century or so after the first industrial revolution, and that did indeed lead to major social upheaval.

Now imagine what will happen when those at the losing end of this latest automation wave include just about everyone, including the best and the brightest, people who always assumed that the only way ahead for them was upwards (I wrote about that on NRODT here). They will not go quietly into the dole queue.

It’s also worth remembering Moravec’s paradox. I quoted the Guardian’s Larry Elliott on that topic in a post here:

Robots are likely to result in a further hollowing out of middle-class jobs, and the reason is something known as Moravec’s paradox. This was a discovery by AI experts in the 1980s that robots find the difficult things easy and the easy things difficult. Hans Moravec, one of the researchers, said: “It is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult-level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility.” Put another way, if you wanted to beat Magnus Carlsen, the world chess champion, you would choose a computer. If you wanted to clean the chess pieces after the game, you would choose a human being.

In the modern economy, the jobs that are prized tend to be the ones that involve skills such as logic. Those that are less well-rewarded tend to involve mobility and perception. Robots find logic easy but mobility and perception difficult.

Back to Drum:

The AI Revolution will be nothing like [earlier industrial revolutions]. When robots become as smart and capable as human beings, there will be nothing left for people to do because machines will be both stronger and smarter than humans. Even if AI creates lots of new jobs, it’s of no consequence. No matter what job you name, robots will be able to do it. They will manufacture themselves, program themselves, repair themselves, and manage themselves. If you don’t appreciate this, then you don’t appreciate what’s barreling toward us.

Drum rightly notes the employment picture has not been very pretty this century:

[T]he share of the population that’s employed has decreased; middle-class wages have flattened; corporations have stockpiled more cash and invested less in new products and new factories; and as a result of all this, labor’s share of national income has declined. All those trends are consistent with job losses to old-school automation, and as automation evolves into AI, they are likely to accelerate.

Meanwhile, note this report from Quartz at the end of last year:

Survey research conducted by economists Lawrence Katz of Harvard University and Alan Krueger at Princeton University shows that from 2005 to 2015, the proportion of Americans workers engaged in what they refer to as “alternative work” jumped from 10.7% to 15.8%. Alternative work is characterized by being temporary or unsteady—such as work as an independent contractor or through a temporary help agency.

“We find that 94% of net job growth in the past decade was in the alternative work category,” said Krueger. “And over 60% was due to the [the rise] of independent contractors, freelancers and contract company workers.” In other words, nearly all of the 10 million jobs created between 2005 and 2015 were not traditional nine-to-five employment.”

This is not going to end well.

Friday links

by debbywitt

Excellent site for DIY intelligent women’s costumes.

This 1935 Car of the Future Had Huge Spheres Instead of Wheels.

The Strange Real-Life Origins of the Fiendish Werewolf.

We’ve come a long way… from 2013: Obama Mask for Halloween? That’ll get you and your 750 fellow employees sent to re-education camp.

Scientists Are Just Starting to Understand Earth’s Eighth Continent, Zealandia.

The Bloodiest Day in American History: 31 Rare and Haunting Photos From the 1862 Battle of Antietam.

ICYMI, Thursday’s links are here, and include Napoleon-era travel tips, the anniversary of the day the earth was created (October 26 in 4004 B.C. at 9AM), instructions for dog costumes, 1930s giant frog farms, and a gallery of Art Nouveau architecture. 

‘Trump Is the GOP Mainstream’

by Rich Lowry

My column today:

The showdown between President Donald Trump and Senator Jeff Flake turned out to be no contest. It wasn’t Trump who was out of the GOP mainstream, but Flake.

The Arizona senator supported Gang of Eight–style immigration reform, when immigration restriction is becoming a litmus-test issue in the party.

He is a Goldwaterite, libertarian-inflected conservative, when the market for libertarianism within the party is limited and diminishing by the day.

He is frankly anti-Trump, when Trump owns the party. Many Republican voters are fully aware of the president’s flaws, but they don’t want to hear about them constantly from Republican officeholders.

A Cuban Revolution We Could Do Without

by Jim Geraghty

From the final Morning Jolt of the week…

A Cuban Revolution We Could Do Without

Maureen Dowd spends time with billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and host of the reality show “Shark Tank,” and finds there’s a “10 percent” chance he’ll run for president in 2020 as either a Republican or an independent.

“Look, there are people who are saying we don’t need another business person,” he says, sipping iced tea. “But it’s about what you do with it, what you learn, what you can contribute and what value you can add. I’d want to come in with proof of an agenda, ‘Here’s a health care solution and I’ve already paid my own money to have it scored.’

I have great news to share: The United States has fifty little mini-presidencies where someone can try out their executive leadership skills in government, that come with their own slightly smaller mansions, motorcades and security details. These jobs operate essentially the same way the presidency does, trying to build legislative coalitions to pass laws, issue executive orders, and nominate judges. They’re called governorships, and for a long time, Americans saw those positions as the best way to demonstrate that a person had potential to be a good president. But apparently paying attention to places like Baton Rouge, Austin and Madison is just too much to ask, and the country has decided to select its presidents from the major networks’ prime-time lineup.

Maybe Mark Cuban would make a great president; maybe he would make a terrible one. Yes, he’s outspoken and flamboyant and the bane of NBA referees, and yes, he’s made a lot of money. But at heart he’s making the same “I’m the master deal-maker” pitch that Trump did.

“They always say that people vote against what they didn’t like about the previous president, right? And I think he’s so ineffective, people will look for somebody who can get something done who’s not a politician. If that’s a celebrity, that’s just an easier platform to work from. The best example is tax reform, right?”

He says he would call the top 5,000 profitable companies and say: If I’m going to give you a 20 percent corporate tax rate, I’m going to need a commitment from you that you’re going to increase the wages of your lowest-paid workers.

“If you did that,” he says, “you’d be a hero.”

Okay… what if only half the companies are willing make that commitment? Or only 1,000? Do you not reduce the corporate tax rate? How big a wage increase counts as keeping their word? What if they make the promise and then break it? Is this some sort of binding legal contract? Would President Cuban send his Department of Justice after the companies if they didn’t keep their promise? What if there’s a recession? What if their industry makes a great breakthrough in automation in the interim? What if there’s new foreign competition? Can they lay off workers, but raise the wages of the remaining ones?

Grand bargains and fixing government always sound easy when they’re just conversation over ice teas with Maureen Dowd.

Why are so many people who are convinced they know how to fix the government so allergic to the idea of working anywhere in government except the very top? We need smart, reform-minded problem-solvers at every level from town council and board of education to the Oval Office.

I don’t want to hear anyone touting Cuban as “a more serious Trump.”

Asked if he would send the Mavericks’ former player Dennis Rodman to negotiate with Little Rocket Man, he replies, “Why not?”

(Notice Dowd refers to Kim Jong Un as ‘Little Rocket Man’ and everyone, from the Times editors to the readership, understands. For all his flaws, Trump knows how to put a nickname on someone and make it stick.)

As I mentioned earlier this week, if the election of Trump distresses you, your problem is not merely with Trump, but with the electorates that put him there – in both the GOP primary and the country as a whole. No matter how Trump’s presidency finishes, that electorate is still going to be there, unless there is a significant change in the way Americans see the responsibility of voting. (It’s not just Trump voters. Large chunks of the electorate also embraced a Socialist septuagenarian who promised free health care, free college education, free child care, and cradle-to-grave government care, all financed by taxing the rich, and of course, Hillary Clinton, a walking embodiment of secrecy, lies, arrogance and victimhood.) We need to recognize that our leaders are not there to entertain us. It’s entirely possible that the most successful and popular governors are the ones that are the most boring.

A Mark Cuban presidential campaign would effectively insist that America needs a president who has never worked in government before, but not the current president who has never worked in government before. Let me throw out a crazy idea: what if governing is a skill that requires practice, and that one gets better at with experience? What if a president is more successful if he knows and understands the complicated apparatus of the federal government better, and doesn’t have to rely on staff for the little details like, “no new gas pipeline plans can be approved anywhere in the country if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has less than three members”?

The Dallas Mavericks don’t let you take the court if you’ve never played the sport before. Why should Americans give untested rookies the keys to the Oval Office?

Hollywood: ‘It Kind of Feels Like Rome Is Burning’

by Kyle Smith

“It kind of feels like Rome is burning,” says one Hollywood writer-director in a New York Times look at the continuing fallout from the detonation of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. (Here I pause to recall the name of the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan.) I’ve argued before that this Hollywood scandal is different because Hollywood is actually troubled, indeed deeply shaken, by what is happening. As in most moments of crisis, for some there is opportunity. Angela Robinson, author of the quotation above, says she doesn’t know when the fire will stop burning, adding, “I don’t know if I want it to stop.” At an event for women in the entertainment industry, some audience members raised a fist in solidarity. One shouted, “Topple the patriarchy!” Other remarks from the piece: “There’s no going back.” “These last couple of weeks have unmoored the industry.” This is revolutionary talk.

What is the desired outcome of the revolution? More opportunities for women. Hollywood is now and always has been run primarily by men. Though there are many female executives, there aren’t a lot of prominent female directors and screenwriters, especially in the movie industry (there are more on the TV side). Yet if Harvey Weinstein has treated women horribly, does that make a given screenplay more likely to be a hit because it has a woman’s name on it? Will Hollywood put aside commercial considerations in the interest of balancing the gender scales? Robinson has a movie out: Professor Marston & the Wonder Women. She wrote and directed it, and it was produced and released by Megan Ellison through her Annapurna Pictures. It’s exactly the kind of earnest, overtly feminist, didactic film Hollywood women are clamoring to make. It’s a low-budget affair. Yet it stands to lose millions, having earned only $1.5 million at the box office. Hollywood may need more films like Wonder Woman, but it isn’t obvious that it wants to make more films like Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

Rotten Case, Wonderful Couple

by Jay Nordlinger

Earlier this week, we published a piece about Andrés Felipe Arias: “Asylum Now: The awful case of a splendid man.” Arias is, in effect, a Colombian political prisoner (a strange phrase to write). He has asked for political asylum in the United States and has not been granted a hearing. Instead, he has been scheduled for extradition — this despite the fact that Colombia recognizes no extradition treaty between itself and the United States. This despite the fact that Colombia refuses to extradite to us the murderers and kidnappers of Americans.

What’s more, our DEA recently produced evidence that the Colombian judicial system is rife with corruption. Judges are on the take — including several on the panel that convicted Arias.

Like many another persecuted man, Arias is blessed with a wonderful wife, Catalina Serrano, who has been with him every step. I quoted her in my piece, having interviewed her in Miami. But there is no substitute for hearing the voice in person, so to speak — the real, live voice. I have now recorded a podcast with her, a “Q&A”: here.

Rotten, Kafkaesque case, wonderful couple.

Poetry

by Richard O'Connell

In Plato’s Cave

As lights in some cheap movie lit

Reveal the filth in which we sit;

And eyes around recoil in fright:

In Plato’s cave we hate the light.

But dream of being in the womb,

Watch how the hero cheats his doom

And laugh and cry at Chaplin’s walk

That still says more than all our talk.


— This poem appears in the November 13 print issue of NR.

Watch Carly Fiorina Live

by NR Staff

Carly Fiorina will address the Great Defender of Life Dinner in New York City at 8:30 p.m. Watch it live:

Vladimir Putin’s Consolation Prize

by Jay Nordlinger

Bill Browder has been in the news lately. As you know, he is the CEO of Hermitage Capital, whose lawyer was Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky was taken prisoner by the Russian state and tortured to death by its agents.

Browder, with others, has pushed for “Magnitsky laws” — which penalize Russian human-rights abusers. These laws freeze their assets and deny them visas. This puts a crimp in the style of Putin & Co.

After Canada passed a Magnitsky law last week, Vlad was pretty hot. He denounced Browder, personally, and placed his name on Interpol’s wanted list. This was the fifth time he had done that.

For good measure, the Kremlin charged Browder with Magnitsky’s murder. You may have to read that sentence twice. In other words, the murderers have charged the champion of the victim with the murder itself.

I can see Stalin, looking up from below, grinning with admiration.

As soon as Putin put Browder on the Interpol list, the United States revoked Browder’s visa. We also revoked his “global entry.” (This is the card that facilitates your entry into the United States. It means that you don’t have to wait in long lines.)

I wrote about all these matters in two blogposts, here and here. And I’d like to supply an update.

Within a few hours, the United States restored Browder’s visa. This was thanks, Browder tells me, to Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.), Senator Ben Cardin (D., Md.), Representative Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), Michael McFaul (an ex–U.S. ambassador to Russia), and Preet Bharara (an ex–U.S. attorney in New York). They pulled the right levers, apparently.

In further good news, Interpol has taken Browder off the wanted list. This is the fifth time Interpol has told Vlad, “Sorry, no way.” Moreover, Interpol has warned its member states: Russia will not be allowed to use us against Bill Browder.

So, what’s left? The global-entry card. It is still revoked. So, that is Putin’s consolation prize. Browder is off the Interpol wanted list and his U.S. visa has been restored. But should Browder land at Dulles Airport or elsewhere in America, he will have to wait in a long line — maybe a very long one.

Congrats, Vlad.

And here is an image of the prize. Here is Putin’s trophy: the global-entry card of William Browder, canceled:

The Search for a New Fed Chairman Heats Up

by Theodore Kupfer

On Monday, President Trump told reporters that he is “very, very close” to deciding who he will nominate as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Janet Yellen is the current chairwoman, and her term ends in February. Yellen, Jerome Powell, John B. Taylor, and Kevin Warsh are the apparent pool from which Trump will choose.

Powell, who is a current Fed governor, and Yellen have been cast as agents of the status quo. The Yellen-led Fed has been cautious, raising the federal-funds rate extremely gradually over the last two years from zero to the current 1.16. (The next hike, to 1.25, is set for December.) In September, Yellen also announced that the Fed will allow financial assets to roll off its balance sheet, but gradually. Raising interest rates and shrinking the balance sheet are generally taken to constitute a tightening of monetary policy, but Yellen is proceeding cautiously enough to shirk the “hawk” label. Conventional wisdom is that Powell would follow in her path.

In contrast, Taylor and Warsh have been cast as peregrine falcons. Taylor is an esteemed academic economist who coined the “Taylor rule,” a model that adjusts interest rates counter-cyclically. Analysts have assumed that Taylor would be more hawkish than either Yellen or Powell, but there’s reason to doubt that, and his credentials are impressive.

Warsh, meanwhile, is a former Fed governor with a clear bias toward tighter money. As Ramesh Ponnuru noted at Bloomberg View, Warsh has been a hawk “when the economy was about to collapse, when it was showing early signs of recovery, and now, when it is well into a slow expansion.” The day after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, Warsh infamously said: “I’m still not ready to relinquish my concerns on the inflation front.” The case against nominating a consistent hawk given the daunting risks of tightening right now is a convincing one.

Merits aside, whom will Trump pick? Nobody seems to know. The most recent report, from Damian Paletta and Robert Costa of the Washington Post, is that Trump has narrowed his choices to Powell and Taylor. But the Wall Street Journal reported that Mike Pence met with Warsh just last week to discuss the job, and yesterday, Trump asked Lou Dobbs for advice on television. Dobbs said that Yellen “might be worth keeping.”

Warsh is the wrong pick, and none of these candidates substantially address the concerns of heterodox monetary-policy thinkers. But it is heartening that all of the candidates pass a basic competency test.

Majority of Republicans Support Marijuana Legalization

by Kyle Smith

For the first time ever, a majority of Republicans support legalizing weed: 51 percent, a startling nine-point leap since just last year, according to Gallup. Overall support for legalized marijuana has hit 64 percent, an all-time, er, high. This represents, along with tolerance for interracial and gay relationships, one of the great reversals of public sentiment of my lifetime. Despite the pop-cultural image of a stoner 1970s, legalizing weed was never a popular idea with the public in the long-haired era. Support was at 12 percent when Gallup began asking the question in 1969 and never topped 28 percent in the 1970s before receding slightly in the Reagan era. Since the late 1990s, support has been on almost uninterrupted steady climb.

national review endorsed legalization back in 1996, 18 years before the editorial page of the New York Times did so, declaring, “The War on Drugs Is Lost.” Certainly the pot wars are winding down, and I can picture our libertarian friends at Reason spraying champagne all over the office at the news. But here’s where my libertarian instincts collide with my conservative ones: while I endorse the idea that consenting adults should enjoy wide latitude to do whatever they want, provided they do no harm to others, I have serious reservations about what happens to a post-industrial economy with a sizable welfare state when a drug whose most notorious effect is shiftlessness becomes as easily available as beer. I don’t think there is any going back, though. Marijuana is here to stay. 

Britain’s Tories: From Edmund Burke to Burke & Hare

by Andrew Stuttaford

Edmund Burke (via Wikipedia):

In the nineteenth century Burke was praised by both conservatives and liberals.Subsequently, in the twentieth century, he became widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism.

Burke and Hare (via Wikipedia):

The Burke and Hare murders were a series of 16 murders committed over a period of about ten months in 1828 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The killings were undertaken by William Burke and William Hare, who sold the corpses to Doctor Robert Knox for dissection at his anatomy lectures. Edinburgh was a leading European centre of anatomical study in the early 19th century, in a time when the demand for cadavers led to a shortfall in legal supply.

Theresa May (via the Guardian):

The prime minister announced plans to move to a system of presumed consent – meaning everyone is presumed to agree to the removal and reuse of body parts after their death unless they opt out – in her speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester on Wednesday.

To be fair, May is not actually advocating that people be killed for their kidneys (but the whole Burke/Burke & Hare thing was too tempting to pass up). Nevertheless, there is something about this policy that is, well, hard to reconcile with the idea of the Conservative party’s image (however tatty) as a defender of the individual against the state, and it’s stirred up some interesting opposition. 

The Daily Mail: 

The UK’s former organ transplant chief said he was ‘horribly opposed’ to Government plans for everybody’s organs to be automatically considered for donation. Professor Chris Rudge even said he would ‘opt-out’ himself if Theresa May’s plans went ahead. His comments come after the Prime Minister announced last week a consultation on the rules in England, which currently require people to ‘opt in’.

Rudge, who was the national clinical director for transplantation at the Department of Health from 2008 to 2011, said: ‘I think I would opt out because organ donation should be a present and not for the state to assume that they can take my organs without asking me.

‘No one knows better than me the problems of thousands of people waiting for a transplant. Part of me really wants to help them but part of me really objects to the opt-out system.

‘I am so horribly opposed to a change in the law and I wouldn’t like to be put in that position.

‘Changing the system may take away people’s faith and trust in organ donation.

…Rudge’s wife, Mary, a former nurse, also spoke of her sadness about the proposal, and said she would refuse to give permission for her husband’s organs to be donated.

‘I would say, ‘No, you cannot have them.’

That, for a family that has been rooted in transplantation for 40 years, is just terrible,’ she said.

Heckuva job, Theresa

Meanwhile, in the course of a distinctly unflattering article about the Tories (some, but not all of which, with which I agree) Laura Perrins writes:

The last straw for me was the proposed ‘presumed consent’ organ donation scheme, more accurately described as the State organ appropriation scheme. This is small fry in the scheme of things but it sums up the whole rotten party. The concept that your body is yours, and remains yours and then under the control of your family after death, is so fundamental, so obvious, so visceral and so conservative that it should not need explaining.

Quite.

The principle of organ donation is an excellent one, but the magic word is donation. 

Now Theresa May tells us that in fact your body belongs to the State, unless you have taken the time and trouble to tell the State otherwise.

May’s policy is a nudge too far. Technically, organ donation would, of course, still be voluntary, but the way that the prime minister wants to shift the onus onto the individual to opt out says a great deal about how her bungling and bossy Tories  tend  to put the state first. To put it another way, their heart is in the wrong place, although I realize that, given the topic, that may be an unfortunate choice of words. 

Mind you, compared with Corbyn’s Labour…..

H/t: Semi-Partisan Politics