The Morning Jolt


R.I.P. David Koch

David H. Koch (1940–2019) (Carlo Allegri / Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: breaking news that David Koch, a giant of philanthropy and the libertarian movement, has died; a couple of politicians who warn us about climate-change-driven rising oceans and worsening hurricanes pay millions for oceanfront property; an insane decision surrounding a morning newsletter from the U.S. Department of Justice; and a bit of reassurance that you’re doing okay, even if you’re nowhere near “the best of the best.”

RIP, David Koch

This morning brings word that David Koch, one of the enormously influential and frequently demonized “Koch Brothers,” has passed away at age 79. RIP.

Back in 2017, I wrote about what made the Koch brothers and their various political organizations stand out as so effective, in a country with lots of political-action committees, activist groups, and wealthy donors: “The only real difference between the Koch brothers and Tom Steyer or George Soros is that the Koch brothers are better at achieving their goals, and particularly better at getting the team around them to focus on the long-term and easily-overlooked corners of the governing process – i.e., state legislatures, local tax initiatives and the political races that aren’t ‘sexy.’ Lots of people seemed to think that the best way to influence the political process was to run 30-second ads about a presidential election in the autumn.  The Koch network’s various organizations keep a close eye on all the corners of government that don’t get nearly as much attention and can be quite picky about which candidates they support, much to the irritation of some Republicans. They don’t spend a lot of resources helping candidates who strike them as merely the lesser of two evils.

Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money made the Koch brothers’ methods sound like the sinister mind-control plot of a James Bond villain:

The first phase required an ‘investment’ in intellectuals whose ideas would serve as the ‘raw products.’ The second required an investment in think tanks that would turn the ideas into marketable policies. And the third phase required the subsidization of ‘citizens’ groups that would, along with ‘special interests’ pressure elected officials to implement the policies. It was in essence a libertarian production line, waiting only to be bought, assembled and switched on.

If you use the verbal equivalent of the scary lighting used in that photo shoot of John McCain for The Atlantic in 2008, then yes, this all sounds terribly sinister. Shift the lighting a little, and all the Kochs are doing is effective activism. They have a set of values — freedom, independence, private community-based efforts and personal charity — and they’ve used their considerable fortune to set up a lot of venues to promote those values.

And as I’ve written at the past three winter meetings, they put a lot of money and effort behind those charitable organizations (often irritating some of the attending political correspondents who want to write about, you know, politics).

Climate-Change-Focused Politicians Paying Top Dollar for Oceanfront Property

Former president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, are reportedly looking at buying a $14.85 million dollar mansion on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The estate overlooks the coastal Edgartown Great Pond. “A thin strip of beach called a ‘barrier beach’ separates the shoreline of the Pond from the Atlantic Ocean.  Four times a year the narrowest portion of the barrier beach is cut open to the Atlantic Ocean.”

Former vice president Joe Biden “purchased a $2.7 million, 4,800-square-foot vacation house near the water in Rehoboth Beach, Del., to go along with his primary residence.”

John Delaney also has a waterfront home in Rohobeth Beach.

Do these seem like people concerned about rising sea levels and more intense hurricanes driven by climate change?

[Some people will want to throw Bernie Sanders’ $575,000 summer home in the Champlain Islands of the largest lake in Vermont, but rising oceans wouldn’t represent the same threat to inland lakefront houses. Climate change could have other effects on those regions.]

In case you’re wondering how far other Democratic presidential candidates live from water, Elizabeth Warren’s $2.7 million home in Cambridge, Mass., is less than two miles north of the Charles River. Kamala Harris lives in a $3 million home in Brentwood, Calif. Pete Buttigieg lives in a four-bedroom in South Bend, Ind.

Who’s Running the Justice Department’s Morning Newsletter?

See, this is why one of the most important decisions you make in life is which morning e-mail. newsletter to read:

According to the National Association of Immigration Judges, the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) sent court employees a link to a blog post from VDare, a white nationalist website, in its morning news briefing earlier this week that included anti-Semitic attacks on judges:

The briefings are sent to court employees every weekday and include links to various immigration news items. BuzzFeed News confirmed the link to a blog post was sent to immigration court employees Monday. The post detailed a recent move by the Justice Department to decertify the immigration judges union.

The post features links and content that directly attacks sitting immigration judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs and the label ‘Kritarch.’ The reference to Kritarch in a negative tone is deeply offensive and Anti-Semitic,” wrote Tabaddor. The VDare post includes pictures of judges with the term “kritarch” preceding their names.

Tabaddor said the term kritarchy is a reference to ancient Israel during a time of rule by a system of judges.

. . . After publication of this article, EOIR Assistant Press Secretary Kathryn Mattingly told BuzzFeed News “the daily EOIR morning news briefings are compiled by a contractor and the blog post should not have been included. The Department of Justice condemns Anti-Semitism in the strongest terms.”

A former senior DOJ official said that the email in question was “generated by a third-party vendor that utilizes keyword searches to produce news clippings for staff. It is not reviewed or approved by staff before it is transmitted.”

Gee, maybe staff ought to start reviewing it and approving it before it is transmitted as a publication and update from the U.S. Executive Office for Immigration Review. Remember this next time somebody tells you an algorithm can work just as well as a human being. Never entrust your morning newsletter to SkyNet.

Was this really an innocent mistake? How did that third-party vendor not realize what kind of site VDare was? How did whoever compiled that newsletter not notice the tone of that article?

ADDENDA: Jonah’s out this week, so his right-hand man at The Remnant podcast, Jack Butler, had me as a guest on the first, and perhaps only ever, Jonah-Goldberg-free edition of The Remnant. (Or, depending upon your hearing, Senator Ted Cruz did an impression of me for almost the entirety of the podcast.) We talked about a bunch — Joe Biden and the state of the Democratic primary, how septuagenarians rule our political world now, the Republicans who are challenging Trump, and the good news that some mass shootings appear to have been prevented recently.

I close out with a sense that our society celebrates success and “the best of the best” a bit too much, and often forgets to appreciate everyone else, who will try their best and turn out to be merely pretty good.  You can hear a short excerpt here:

If you work hard at your job, if you’re a good husband or wife, take care of your kids, you’re a good friend to other people, then you’re doing just fine. You’re doing all that I think God really wants out of your life, and all that really anybody else has any right to expect of you… People talk about social media and the idea that if you look at people’s social media feeds, it’s nothing but, you know, celebrations and vacations and their lives seem awesome and all of that kind of stuff – perfectly curated to show the very best moments of their life. Like, when I’m depressed as all heck, you’re not going to – I’m not going to put pictures of that up. And so, I think we kind of need to – one, to let people know it’s okay if they don’t feel like they’re always winners, if they don’t feel like they’re always on top of the world. It’s okay to feel like your life is just going, ‘eh.’ There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re perfectly normal. There’s no need to lash out. Life is not being unfair to you. You’re having the human experience. And the second thing is, if you try your best, and you never are the champion, you never are the best of the best, that’s all right. You’re a good human being, and really, that’s all anybody else would want you to be in this life.


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