Culture

Wednesday Links

THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: Basil Rathbone appeared in two Sherlock Holmes films in 1939 — the other was The Hound of the Baskervilles — the first of 14 big-screen appearances as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective.

Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was born on May 22, 1859.

Exercise for Women in the early 19th century.

What to do if you find yourself choking — and no one’s around.

1927 documentary on how to dial a telephone.

Gallery of photos from the Halifax explosion — the naval accident that erased an entire city in Canada.

Remembering the “Knocker-Ups” Hired to Wake Workers with Pea Shooters.

ICYMI, Monday’s links are here, and include the invention of the baby carrot, phrases commonly used today that come from obsolete technologies, a device used to resuscitate canaries in coal mines, Ziploc bag engineering, and the guy who makes the world’s best paper airplanes.

Science & Tech

Liberals Believe Tolerance Requires Republicans Be Banned

The calls liberals make for tolerance and non-partisan solutions to problems so often end up on a scrapheap as soon as they become inconvenient. Banning Republicans as too “deplorable” for political society is now part of their modus operandi.

Take Crowdpac, a Silicon Valley technology company that was founded in 2013 “to help more people participate in the political process” as voters, donors, and candidates. It promised to give candidates a platform to raise money through grassroots appeals and promoted itself as “non-partisan” and open to people of varying ideologies. It offers candidates who don’t have access to large PACs and corporate money a chance to bootstrap their efforts.

That was then. Now the site is banning Republican candidates as part of its stand against President Donald Trump. Last week, the company announced that co-founder Steve Hilton, a contrarian populist who was the political strategist for former British prime minister David Cameron, was stepping down as CEO. Jesse Thomas, Crowdpac’s new acting CEO, announced that Hilton’s praise of President Trump on his new Fox News show had “created unnecessary drag for many of our users working to raise funds and build support for their campaigns on our platform.”

Apparently, the company is now only interested in helping campaigns that are in sync with its liberal worldview. Republican candidates are banned from using Crowdpac to raise money until the company “can figure out how to systematically confirm that those campaigns and candidates align with the values of our community in a way that Trumpism does not.” Thomas went on say: “The truth is that the actions of President Trump and his movement run counter to our values and the values of the vast majority of our users.”

For his part, Hilton said the parting of ways was mutual and that he wished his former colleagues at Crowdpac well. But he told the Washington Post that his dream of energizing politics on a non-partisan basis had clearly been flawed. Immigration had become a toxic source of conflict within the company. This week, Hilton said that immigration was one of the issues that “the left has become increasingly dogmatic.” He told the Post, “Any position short of supporting open borders is described as racist. That’s nonsensical. I’m an immigrant. My family are immigrants, twice over.”

Many candidates who have relied on Crowdpac as a fund-raising vehicle said they were disappointed in its sudden decision. Nick Troiano, head of the non-partisan group Unite America and a former independent candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania, took to Twitter to say:

“Very disappointed @Crowdpac is suspending all GOP campaigns from its platform, as it apparently adopts a business model of the #resistance while saying ‘we value diversity,’ BS.”

Frank DeMartini, a Republican who is challenging Democratic representative Maxine Waters in California, was also outraged. He told me: “Crowdpac is attacking the very democracy they are claiming to protect. This is a disease that will continue to spread until the Left learns the importance of our First Amendment and free discourse and tolerance.”

Other political observers believe there’s something more at work here than just hatred of Donald Trump. “I believe the company was under a lot of pressure from top donors and political players in California to toe the liberal line,” a former Democratic political strategist told me. He noted that California state senator Henry Stern, a leading Democrat, had publicly called for a boycott of the company, and former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has suspended his account in his race for governor.

Whatever the reasons for Crowdpac’s decision, the goal of self-professed liberals to keep our politics civil and open to all points of view is too often a cover that is quickly abandoned. Many people legitimately criticize President Trump for his offensive tweets and over-the-top rhetoric, but his ideological critics often quickly leapfrog over him and discredit their own cause.

PC Culture

The Scarlet Letter Is Back. It Never Really Went Away.

When Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter is read by modern Americans, it tends to provoke snickers, sneering, and judgmental tut-tutting at those awful Puritan prudes who would force an adulterous woman to wear an outward sign of the shame of her sin for her entire life and endure communal shunning over her violation of a social norm that we, in our own era, would not even regard as a crime. We would never do something like that today, would we? But actually we do, and — in appropriate cases — we should. And it’s high time we stopped pretending otherwise.

That thought came back as I read the story of Aaron Schlossberg, a Manhattan lawyer who committed a sin last week — letting fly a racially incendiary tirade at Spanish-speaking workers in a crowded Madison Avenue restaurant — and had the misfortune of having it filmed and widely disseminated. For this, at least for the moment, he has been shunned as surely as Hester Prynne was, complete with government officials bidding to permanently end his livelihood:

Schlossberg was then kicked out of his office building, while lawmakers petitioned the New York state court system to review his behavior and potentially revoke his law license.

And on Friday, dozens of protesters rallied outside his building while a mariachi band played.

The 42-year-old also lost at least one client over his tirade

This is very much the same impulse that motivated the Puritans. Bigotry is more a sin than a crime, but a sin that we subject to harsh moral judgment, and that we rightly see today as corrosive of society and a contributor to worse problems, like sudden explosions of violence. In other words, we see it in exactly the same terms that the Puritans saw adultery, which could trigger violence, blackmail, and produce illegitimate children who could face infanticide or become wards of the state. Hawthorne’s novel amply explores the grave social consequences of Hester Prynne’s adultery, not all of which are the fault of the Puritan authorities: She raises her child without a father, her husband returns and seeks revenge against her lover, and the secret eats at her lover from inside. And just as today, the punishment is unequally distributed: Her lover’s identity is publicly unknown, so she wears the scarlet letter alone (just as Schlossberg is punished not just for his sin but for the happenstance of it going viral), yet it is also visited on her innocent dependent child.

Morally, Schlossberg deserves public moral condemnation, although of course it’s fair to ask — just as Hawthorne implicitly asked — how far we should go, and how indelibly the stain should endure. That’s a question our criminal justice system has wrestled with for years, but in some ways it’s an even harder one to answer when there’s no point at which an offender can say he has paid his debt to society. And of course, as critics of the Puritans fairly noted, we should consider leavening moral justice with mercy and some humility about our own sins.

But what is striking is the fact that the sorts of people most eager to exact punishment on Schlossberg are precisely the same folks who would lecture us no end about how terrible it is to be morally judgmental and how backward the world of the Puritans was. What we see today in the moral furies over racism is that the human need to enforce social norms against sin remains, and still extends beyond just the letter of the law. People who say they don’t want to judge sin invariably just want to judge different sins. They may denounce moralizers for hypocrisy in being against sin without being sinless, but theirs is the true hypocrisy. We have always needed moralizers, we have always wanted to be moralizers, and we always will.

National Review

Farewell to Mike

I just glanced at what Mike Potemra posted to his Facebook page in his final hours: a pair of observations about the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Capitals, a wry remark about the length of a Vatican document, and an amusing remembrance of Tom Wolfe, who died shortly before Mike did. Together, they give a good sense of his ranging interests as a lover of high and low culture and a restless man of faith. Mike was also a fine editor, and I enjoyed working with him. He owned a distinctive, raspy voice, but mostly we communicated by email. I’m an early riser and he was a nighthawk. We often did our business shortly before dawn, going back and forth with emails about the way a sentence should read.

Yesterday, I was stunned by the news of Mike’s death. Today, I’m both saddened and weirdly consoled by the thought that a forthcoming review of mine must be one of the last articles he ever edited.

Economy & Business

The Case of the Clocks

Clock at the Hauptbahnhof railway station in Berlin, Germany (Hannibal/Reuters)

Economists attempting to understand the relationship between new technology and productivity growth could do worse than looking to the early days of the humble public clock, as Lars Boerner, from the London School of Economics, and Battista Severgnini, from the Copenhagen Business School, have done in a paper for LSE’s Economic History Working Papers series.

It might seem obvious that new high-tech inventions can be an economic boon — and in this case, the authors do find that early adopters of the clock saw high population growth, a proxy for premodern economic growth, of about 30 percentage points between 1500 and 1700 — but not everyone agrees. “A well-established literature,” Boerner and Severgnini point out, “has claimed that the impact is negative because advanced machines lower wages, which in turn reduce population and income growth.” In the late 1980s, moreover, the economist Robert Solow found that the adoption of computers coincided with a productivity slowdown in the 1970s. And even today, fretting about our future among the robots is commonplace.

But in the case of the clocks, the story is relatively happy—and relatively straightforward. First, Boerner and Severgnini set out to answer why some cities became early adopters in the 13th century. They find that those locations that experienced solar eclipses in Medieval times were the most likely to take up the technology. Eclipses and other astrological phenomena had been associated with Biblical events, and so the desire to study and understand the heavens was high, particularly in the monasteries. The authors posit that mechanical clocks could have developed in response to that curiosity and, perhaps, also out of a familiarity with other technologies, such as astrolabes and water clocks, that were used in astronomy.

As for the cities that experienced eclipses and built early public mechanical clocks, most had standout population growth in the centuries that followed. “There exists broad evidence from the 15th century onwards that the public clocks were used to coordinate such activities in many cities. The organization of markets neatly documents this change. Whereas prior to public clocks, the market time typically started with sunset and ended at noon, with the introduction of clocks, market times were determined by the stroke of the hour. Furthermore, market time was shortened and market access was granted to different groups of people at different times. For instance, market regulations offered time-differentiated access to consumers, retailers, and wholesalers.” Clocks also led to the implementation of pay-per-hour in many cities and allowed universities to better set start and end times for lectures. Simply put, the authors write, the clock was “an information technology that improves coordination and reduces transaction time.” No wonder that it led to growth.

Of course, it didn’t lead to growth right away or in every case. Boerner and Severgnini point to one example in which, as a result of a guild dispute in France, the clock was used to limit working hours and output to restrict competition. In truth, the clock was a productivity booster when the right work culture developed around it — and that culture “evolved slowly and gradually.”

Which brings to mind some of our present-day dilemmas. Will advances in automation cause massive social dislocation, as some scholars warn? Or will the rise of artificial intelligence give new life to the Great Enrichment? That will depend almost entirely on how we choose to respond.

National Review

Thanks, Man

Mike Potemra’s paternal grandfather was a pre-war Slovak politician who thought his countrymen should favor Britain. His main rival was a pro-German priest who went on to become a Nazi puppet and war criminal. Good call, Gramps.

Mike grew up in Montreal where he learned both French and joual, the Quebec dialect. Every year he read In Search of Lost Time in the original (which was not joual), which showed his sheer intellectual energy. I read it once, in translation, and net liked it, but really . . .

When he came to National Review he decided to bone up on his new colleagues, and so ordered Jeff Hart’s first book, Viscount Bolingbroke: Tory Humanist. Only the used book service listed it as Viscount Bolingbroke: Tory Humorist. Mike, nothing daunted, improvised this: “Sir Roger de Coverley: ‘How many wenches does it take to change a sconce?’ Lady de Coverley: ‘That’s not funny!'”

Mike was a contrarian, and a sniper; he liked to lie in wait at our editorial conferences and catch us in pomposities. Once I was going on about the o/u vowel shift in transliterating Arabic, which struck me as capricious and somehow political. Stinging like a bee, he said, “Muhammed Ali?”

The only time I ever matched him was when he was telling the junior members present that Richard Nixon was the worst man that had ever risen to the White House. I put on my Federalist face and said, “Thomas Jefferson.” But that was a singular stand off.

His noblest lines were in his “Greyhound Archipelago” articles, reprinted on the home page, recounting his cross-country odyssey by bus, when he went to Memphis and described what he found at both the Lorraine Motel and Graceland. Only Mike would have noticed, and seen the significance.

Mike was a pilgrim, the wandering Christian, the walking American. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light.

A la prochaine.

National Review

Mike

Rich, Kathryn, and David have already written very fine appreciations of Mike Potemra here on this Corner, as has Nat over on the home page. They give a sense of a one-of-a-kind, very kind man. Enormously modest, he would have been astounded by how much he will be missed — at how much he is already missed. I cannot believe that I will never hear that voice again. As an editor he was patient, tolerant, open to debate — he enjoyed the back-and-forth — and a delight. And when, in editing a piece, the “no, I don’t think so, Andrew” came, as from time to time it inevitably did, it was always accompanied by a chuckle at my failed attempt to slide something by. In another life and in another time and in another vocation, he would have made a fine gamekeeper, hugely respected by the poachers he so genially thwarted.

During the years Mike lived in New York, we would have dinner every month or so in, of all places, an Outback Steakhouse on Third Avenue. If I arrived a little late, he’d be sitting there, a plastic bag (of course!) by his side, typically reading some theological text of (to me, anyway) astounding obscurity, and he’d laugh merrily at my amazement, before the conversation turned to, well, just about anything. He read voraciously, his views on new movies were generally spot on, and if his musical tastes sometimes surprised, well, why not?

His quest for an apartment in LA was characteristically zany. He told me how he had thought that he had finally found a good place. Price was right. Place was right (it had to be no more than a bus ride from the water). Building looked good. He asked at the door. An SRO. Oh well. When he finally did move west, I asked him how he was going to move all the books.

“Oh there will only be three or four of them,” replied the man who read and read and read, “everything else is on a kindle.”

For Mike, it was content that mattered. Come to think of it now, it’s astounding that just one kindle was enough.

R.I.P.

Culture

Dogs Are Part of the Solution, Not the Problem

(Pixabay)

For the last couple days my Twitter feed has been punctuated with jokes about this essay by Clay Routledge, “Are Americans Too Attached To Their Pets?

Because it’s Twitter, I suspect most of the jokes about Routledge “subtweeting” me or NR organizing an intervention for me were based on the headline alone.

Regardless, let me say I think Clay is pretty much entirely right about a very real problem. Indeed, I wish I’d included a discussion of this in my book. A big part of my argument is that civil society, starting with the family, is breaking down and people are retreating to places like Facebook instead of actually engaging in life. I’ve discussed these themes a lot on my podcast, including what Ben Sasse calls the “friendship crisis.” The share of people who tell pollsters they have close personal friends has been in decline for quite a while. So has the number of close friends people claim to have. I think technology plays an important role, but so do things like immigration (See Robert Putnam), how schools are run, and the nature of the economy itself.

Regardless, I think my record as a dog-lover is pretty solid, so I won’t belabor the point. But as much as I love my dogs — and all dog kind — I do not consider dogs to be a substitute for friends, never mind children. I always say that dogs are no alternative for children, but they are very good training for having kids in the sense that they are a serious responsibility. Cats don’t need their humans nearly as much as dogs do. I wrote about all this at considerable length, here.

Where I disagree somewhat with Clay is the implied causality, captured in the headline and subhead: “Young adults in particular may be bonding with animals at the expense of vital human relationships.”

I have no doubt this is true in some cases. But in general I suspect that the trend Clay identifies is a lagging indicator — a kind of dye marker — of the problem rather than the cause of it. People are getting dogs because of the atomization and alienation that are endemic to the erosion of civil society. Again, it’s possible that in anecdotal cases that this is making these problems worse. Are (stereotypical) cat ladies misanthropic hermits because they have cats? Or do they have cats because they are misanthropic hermits? I suspect the latter.

It’s worth bearing in mind that dog ownership — when done right — gets you out of the house. Dog ownership is also very often a social lubricant. When I lived in Adams Morgan one of the most small-d democratic and civic-minded activities in my life involved going to the local dog park with Cosmo, the late, great, wonderdog and former It Dog of the American Right®. I made friends with people I might never have said a word to otherwise. We self-organized to clean up the park from time to time and we watched out for each other’s dogs. My generally shy father loved to take our basset hound, Norman, around the neighborhood in part because of all the attention Norman got (the ladies loved Norman). He was a walking conversation piece.

I agree with Clay that many people today — and in every generation — get dogs in part to deal with loneliness. But the malady is the loneliness; the dogs are a partial cure. There are better cures, but that’s not the dogs’ fault.

Michael Potemra
Mike Potemra, R.I.P.

There were a few things I always wanted to “catch” from Mike Potemra – who was a fellow alum of The Catholic University of America and in the office next door to me more than once over the last 20 years.

(1) His ability to read books quickly – someone will remember the enormous count of books he got rid of when he moved from Washington to Washington Heights (I think it was),  his most significant move before California.

(2) His efficiency and proficiency at editing, particularly late at night. I recall him helping proofread many a column during many NRO years and my own, before I sent it into my syndicate in the wee hours, for many years. I remember him helping his dear friends at The Human Life Review. And I remember he gave Kate O’Beirne’s book a helpful proof — and she was far from the first or last book author who asked him to take a look.

(He also had an incredible ability to get his e-mail inbox down to zero, or at least as close to zero as possible. He didn’t want to leave things undone.)

(3) His fearlessness in calling someone up and asking them to lunch. As in: Hello, I just read your book, let’s talk about it. Is there anything more an author would love to hear? Pure music from Heaven for most! I think he must have gone to lunch with more people in a year than I have in a lifetime, and from all religions and none and all political persuasions. And not because he was impressed with “important” people but because he was genuinely curious. I’m forever assuming everyone else doesn’t have time, because I’m forever thinking I don’t have time. We make time. And when we don’t, we’re missing some of the best of life.

Our day comes and most of us don’t know when…but today is a sad shocker here. I am grateful I got to see him at one of our Bill Buckley tribute events (he enjoyed doing WFB impressions, too) just before Easter.

Among other things, Mike was always a reminder that God makes us each uniquely. May our God he was always seeking be good to him.

Politics & Policy

How Many Murders Is a National Crisis?

A woman cries at a makeshift memorial left in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School, in Santa Fe, Texas, May 22, 2018. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

How many murders is a national crisis? It seems to depend on what your agenda is. And liberal commentators in particular went into a startlingly rapid whipsaw over the past week.

Just a few days ago, the big controversy was over President Trump responding to a question that concluded by talking about the Mara Salvatrucha “MS-13” gang. Trump said that some of the people his administration was deporting were “animals”. Despite Trump’s typically rambling language, it was clear from the context that he was answering the question about MS-13, a gang notorious for beheadings, systematic rape, sex slavery and human trafficking, among other things. Some of Trump’s more thoughtful critics on the left and right focused mostly on his tendency in past statements to blur the lines between brutal gangs and ordinary illegal-immigrant laborers, but many of his liberal critics leaped instead into full “this is just like Hitler!” mode, which of course required them to back into ridiculous rhetorical corners like comparing persecuted German Jews to sex-slaving gang-bangers. Even Chuck Schumer, who is usually savvier about these kinds of traps, walked right into that:

Anyway, in order to attack Trump and Republicans like Ed Gillespie (who ran ads on the issue last year), there’s been a cottage industry of commentary from liberals pooh-poohing the size of the MS-13 threat (example: this Washington Post piece from last fall, entitled “Don’t believe the Trump administration: MS-13 is not ravaging the United States”) and arguing explicitly or implicitly that it’s racist to make a big deal about the gang. Here we have Fordham Law professor John Pfaff (more of his tweets on this theme are collected here):

Pfaff is citing a white paper by the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that commonly presses for tougher immigration enforcement. A sampling:

Center researchers reviewed more than 500 cases of MS-13 gang members arrested nationwide since 2012. We conclude that this resurgence represents a very serious threat to public safety in communities where MS-13 has rebuilt itself…

Key findings:

  • We found 506 MS-13 members arrested or charged with crimes that were reported in 22 states. The most cases were reported in California (92), Maryland (85), New York (80), and Virginia (63).

  • MS-13 crimes are not primarily petty nuisance crimes; 207 MS-13 members were charged with murder. In addition we found more than 100 accused of conspiracy/racketeering, and dozens of others for drug trafficking, sex trafficking, attempted murder, sexual assaults, and extortion.

Of course, 207 murder charges almost certainly understates the number of murders, since gang members who are charged with murder are frequently responsible for other serious crimes for which they haven’t been caught, but let’s run with that number.

Now, compare that to the number of dead from school shootings since 2012. From the New York Times in February:

When a gunman killed 20 first graders and six adults with an assault rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, it rattled Newtown, Conn., and reverberated across the world. Since then, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide. In those episodes, 438 people were shot, 138 of whom were killed.

The data used here is from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that began tracking school shootings in 2014, about a year after Sandy Hook.

Like many such compilations, this is a somewhat elastic definition of “school shooting,” though not as egregious as some of the ones in use by organizations like Everytown or CNN:

The nonprofit defines a school shooting as an episode on the property of an elementary school, secondary school or college campus. Another defining characteristic is timing — shootings must occur during school hours or during extracurricular activities.

Still, for the sake of argument and adding the Newtown and Santa Fe shootings to the 138 dead, we’re still working with a number maybe a third smaller than the number of murders attributable to MS-13. Yet, this is treated as a national crisis requiring massive changes to gun policy nationwide, up to and including calls for repealing one of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

So, what is it? Are a hundred, or two hundred, deaths in a nation of 300 million people over six years a national crisis? I would think, and hope, that we have the perspective to be able to identify and address problems that are gravely serious, yet are also numerically not that large. And of course, those arguing for rewriting our whole immigration system around MS-13 are making the same mistake as people trying to impose colossal gun bans.

The proper approach is not to dismiss the very real fears that people have about these issues — including the fact that people not directly affected worry that they might be someday — but rather to choose targeted solutions that address the particular problem rather than trying to strip the rights of large numbers of innocent people. In the school-shootings case, following an idea David French has written about here, police in Florida have been using the state’s new “red flag” law to seize weapons from identified “private citizens who are at risk of harming themselves or others.”

But if you see people saying that a few hundred murders is either not a big deal or a national crisis demanding radical actions, check first to see if they’d change their tune if the issue is one they’re not so eager to capitalize on.

National Review

Farewell, Mike Potemra

I was grieved to hear that Mike Potemra has passed away. He was a friend who succeeded me as National Review’s literary editor. Rich Lowry worked, of course, much more closely with Mike than I did and offers a lovely remembrance. When I saw the news, I remembered the long phone conversations Mike and I had — that unmistakable raspy voice! I wish now that we had had many more of them. Because our friendship was almost entirely over the phone, I associate him with the view from my office across Columbia Street in Seattle’s disorderly Pioneer Square, with its parade of restless, rumpled characters.

As I think back about previous holders of the job of literary editor, the role seems to have been specially designed for eccentrics. It would take a novelist to invent the line of succession linking Chilton Williamson, hunter of noble beasts haunting the plains of western Wyoming, to Matt Scully, conservative vegetarian and scourge of all who would dare to abuse the welfare of animals. Mike, who I’m not sure could be characterized accurately as a conservative, fit right in to this pattern that seems so characteristic of NR. I’ve long thought that certain institutions have not merely corporate identities, but souls. And National Review — a habitat for endangered species, as Linda Bridges, another great eccentric, put it — is one of them.

I was the back-of-the-book editor who became an Orthodox Jew, and Mike at one point surprised me with the news that he was considering converting to Judaism. This, had it come to pass, would have been almost too much even for the already idiosyncratic identity of literary editor to accommodate. Talking about his religious quest, Mike had challenges and observations to relate that I had never heard. The topic led to some very interesting conversations. In the end, as Rich points out, after spiritual searching on a heroic scale, Mike came to rest most comfortably with Evangelical Christian worship.

Apart from the loss it represents, his passing is a memento mori. My wife and I were talking about him just now. She recalls our lunch with Mike no fewer than 18 years ago, when she was my fiancée, at a kosher Indian restaurant on Lexington Avenue. Apart from his extremely wide-ranging brilliance, she remembered, in particular, his gentleness and gallantry. He was a rare and a precious person, an absolute original. Farewell, friend.

World

China to End Control on Births?

A video screen in Beijing broadcasts President Xi Jinping’s address at the Communist Party congress. (Reuters photo: Tyrone Siu)

When I traveled to China for a two-week tour in 2016, our guide spoke about the “One Child” policy and how it affected his family. It seems that his mother was six months pregnant when the policy went into effect, and she was forced to abort our guide’s sibling. The brutality of what happened to our guide’s family hit all of us like a punch in the gut. Frankly, I was surprised by his frankness.

The One Child policy was a disaster, as most authoritarian policies are. China’s demographic equilibrium was destroyed. There are now tens of million more men than women in China because of sex-selection abortions and female infanticides that resulted directly from the birth restrictions.

Not only that, but China’s population did not shrink. Rather, the rate of growth slowed, demonstrating the kind of tyranny it would take to really lower the world’s human population — as often pushed by assorted global-warming hysterics and radical environmentalists.

To rectify the problems its birth policy caused, the Politburo decided to allow Chinese couples to have two children. (Big of them.) This wasn’t because Communist Party minions believe in freedom, but rather, an attempt to deploy centralized control to fix the disaster their earlier diktat created.

Now, the the rulers may have finally given up attempts to control China’s population altogether. From the Bloomberg story:

China is planning to scrap all limits on the number of children a family can have, according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be a historic end to a policy that spurred countless human-rights abuses and left the world’s second-largest economy short of workers.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, has commissioned research on the repercussions of ending the country’s roughly four-decade-old policy and intends to enact the change nationwide, said the people, who asked not to be named while discussing government deliberations. The leadership wants to reduce the pace of aging in China’s population and remove a source of international criticism, one of the people said.

Proposals under discussion would replace the population-control policy with one called “independent fertility,” allowing people to decide how many children to have, the person said. The decision could be made as soon as the fourth quarter, the second person said, adding that the announcement might also be pushed into 2019.

The blood on the hands of China’s rulers from its population-control policies cannot be quantified. Nor can the misery and grief their tyranny over family life caused the Chinese people.

My heart was touched by the clear and open love Chinese parents and grandparents have for their children. Let us hope that the government really does finally let Chinese families bloom.

Education

‘Too Many Asian Americans’

Today, the Center for Equal Opportunity released a new study by Althea Nagai, our research fellow: “Too Many Asian Americans: Affirmative Discrimination in Elite College Admissions.” It documents the heavy evidence of a cap on Asian-American admissions at Harvard and MIT — but not, notably, at Cal Tech, which unlike the other two schools does not weigh skin color or national origin in its admissions.

Discriminating against any ethnic group in this way is deplorable and, if the Constitution and civil-rights laws were interpreted the way they were written, illegal as well. And the fact that not only whites but also some minority groups are being discriminated against — purportedly to achieve the “educational benefits” of student body “diversity” — should startle, even given the current case law. As America becomes increasingly multiethnic and multiracial — and indeed individual Americans become more and more multiethnic and multiracial — it also becomes increasingly untenable for our institutions to rank groups in this way.

Harvard has been sued for its policies, and the Justice Department is itself investigating the matter. We hope that today’s study will hasten the end of this politically correct discrimination at Harvard and all schools. The study is available on CEO’s website, www.ceousa.org.

National Review

Mike Potemra, R.I.P.

Mike Potemra (Via Facebook)

We have lost a dear friend. Our longtime literary editor, Mike Potemra, has passed away.

Mike was a great original, and a deeply humane and learned person. He read more books per week than anyone I have ever known and had a deep knowledge of culture and politics. He was an exceptionally gifted and proficient editor.

He came to NR in 1999 from then-senator Mike DeWine’s office and had a stint in Reagan’s speechwriting shop toward the end of the administration.

It’s difficult to describe Mike if you didn’t know him. He was a warm and gentle soul who delighted in his own eccentricity. He ably represented the old-school NR traditions of not driving (even when he moved to L.A.!) and maintaining odd hours (he worked at night, and if you saw him at 2 p.m. in the office, he was up and out early). His attire was disheveled and his briefcase often a plastic bag or two. He didn’t have a practical bone in his body and was born to work at a place like NR.

Maybe it’s most accurate to call him an outgoing introvert. He never drew attention to himself and wasn’t a backslapper (the last time I saw him, I jokingly attempted a bro hug, and it didn’t come off). But he was genuinely interested in people and loved to laugh. When he had a joke, he’d share it with everyone in the office. He loved to do impressions, particularly making comments about contemporary politics in his Nixon voice. You usually knew he was in the office because you could hear his laughter.

The one time I remember him being angry was when, prior to his taking over the back of the book, he thought we’d run a review that was churlish and unfair to an author. Otherwise, he tended to express his criticisms in extremely back-handed praise.

He knew an incredible amount about most things. Jay Nordlinger is given to asking obscure trivia questions about politics, music, and pop culture at our editorial meetings, and Mike was most often the one with the answer.

My standard for a true reader is someone who reads walking down the street (not a phone, but a real book), and Mike did it. It wasn’t just books. He voraciously consumed all culture, especially movies. If there was an Iranian art film showing somewhere in the city, he had seen it.

In recent years, we had only seen him rarely after the move to L.A., where he loved the weather and the access to the ocean for swimming. Since he didn’t fly (I think he might have gotten out to L.A. by bus or driven by a friend), he didn’t come back East.

He was missed in the office, and we will never have another like him.

You’d often see him at his desk with a two-liter bottle of an unusual soda on his desk, say, Diet Cherry RC Cola.

He grew up in Montreal, and the one reliable way to get a rise out of him was to refer to him as a Canadian (New York winters were nothing to him — if it was 20 degrees, you might see him wearing a wind-breaker).

He was drawn to underdogs and lovable losers, so of course he was a Mets fan. I’d joke with him when the Yankees were on a losing streak that it wasn’t too late to switch over.

He claimed to be attracted only to physically unattractive women, but, as far as I know, was seen only in the company of slender blondes.

His politics were idiosyncratic. He was conservative on matters of high culture and a committed pro-lifer, but most everything else was up for grabs.

His great project in life was searching for God, in an earnest, unceasing, intellectually rigorous quest. He went to every sort of church (and synagogue). He knew pretty much every holy book of every tradition. He went through a period of flirting with Judaism and then regularly attended an Evangelical church. For a time, a shelf in his office was entirely devoted to different translations of the Bible and various commentaries. He wanted to know the mystery of life. Now, he knows. R.I.P.

World

An Emergency

Uyghurs in exile, rallying in Brussels on April 27, 2018 (World Uyghur Congress)

In the last few weeks, I have talked to a number of Uyghurs. The Uyghurs are a Turkic people, living in the northwest of China. There are millions in a diaspora, around the world. The Uyghurs don’t even attempt to mask their fear, their desperation, their panic. Why should they? How can they?

The same is true even with professional Sinologists, old China hands who have seen it all, or a lot. Even they can’t play it cool.

What is happening? Up to a million Uyghurs have been rounded up, thrown into a gulag — an archipelago of “reeducation” camps — with no due process whatsoever. Many have simply been “disappeared.” There has not been mass killing yet, but many Uyghurs have been tortured to death.

Lots of people fear that this is a pre-genocidal situation — that the mass incarceration is a prelude to mass murder, and to organ harvesting, in particular. (This is one of the evil specialties of the Chinese Communist Party.) The entire Uyghur population, incarcerated or not, has been DNA-sampled.

In short, the Uyghurs feel they have an emergency on their hands. And they do. I have written a piece, giving the essentials.

Most Popular

U.S.

Americans Are Royally Confused about Monarchy

Conventional wisdom regarding America’s relationship with royalty goes something like this: Americans have no time for monarchy as a political concept but can’t get enough of the British royal family. The American media’s round-the-clock coverage of the recent royal wedding certainly seems ample evidence of ... Read More
Elections

The Trump Rationale

Why exactly did nearly half the country vote for Donald Trump? Why also did the arguments of Never Trump Republicans and conservatives have marginal effect on voters? Despite vehement denunciations of the Trump candidacy from many pundits on the right and in the media, Trump nonetheless got about the same ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Media See Only One Collusion Story

President Trump is opening a whole new chapter in the war between him and the investigators pursuing him. Today, he tweeted: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political ... Read More