Dear Weekend Jolter,
It’s possible that the great 1952 film, The Snake Pit, for which Olivia de Haviland (still alive and well at 103, albeit in Paris) was one of those straws that, when enough were accumulated, broke the back of what used to be called “institutions.” If you haven’t seen the movie, do. Even as a work of fiction, it is hard to contemplate someone living at — and getting better in — a place where his or her cohabitants can be dealing with great psychological traumas and where there is an odor of menace.
But de Haviland’s character (Virginia Cunningham) rose from the depths and was, if you will, cured. The fact is, these institutions were vital — to health care and, frankly, to public safety (although some, like New York’s Willowbrook State School, were Dante-esque in their depravity). Liberals saw to it that big places (lots of patients) providing long-term mental-health care (and even permanent living) were shut down, their charges directed to community centers, which worked for some, but not all. Coupled with court decisions that prevented mandatory medicating, well . . . go visit the streets of a major city, why don’t you, and see what has been wrought by liberal good intentions.
This is a depressing start to WJ. True. But with the outcries related to the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, our colleague, John Hirschauer, the new Buckley Journalism Fellow — who knows a ton about these institutions, and who by coincidence was writing a piece on their role in society, and the hole in society — finished his report, which we published. A timely thing.
Your missive-writer proposes you read “Yes, the U.S. Has a Mental Health Problem.” From the beginning of John’s piece:
The Dayton killer, according to his ex-girlfriend’s interview in the Washington Post, heard voices, suffered troubling hallucinations, and battled psychosis from his youth.
But there is no connection between violence and mental illness. Say it over and again if you must, at least until you disabuse your lying eyes. The experts have spoken. CNN distilled the media’s recitation of this creed in their headline Monday: “Blaming mass shootings on mental illness is ‘inaccurate’ and ‘stigmatizing,’ experts say.”
“Experts say,” as employed here, means what it usually does: a handful of ideologues get to pawn off their ideology as fact under the pretense of “expertise” to those in the media eager to toe a particular line. Whatever the “experts say,” the fact remains that the untreated, seriously mentally ill (those with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, most often) are significantly more likely to engage in violence. Individuals with schizophrenia, most of whom are non-violent, still commit homicide at a rate 20 times that of the population at large. The prevailing social science on the matter suggests that at least 33 percent of mass shootings are committed by someone with a serious mental illness (even when this is narrowly defined).
What are we to do about it?
Now let’s get on with the usual fare, all assembled here for your enjoyment and enlightenment.
1. Our response to the sickening shootings in El Paso and Dayton is to urge a full societal attack against “a murderous and resurgent ideology — white supremacy — that deserves to be treated by the authorities in the same manner as has been the threat posed by militant Islam.” From the editorial:
Addressing the problem will require a number of different approaches, some broad, some narrow. President Trump, a man who is comfortable using his bully pulpit for the most frivolous of reasons, should take the time to condemn these actions repeatedly and unambiguously, in both general and specific terms. Simultaneously, the president should work with Congress to devote more resources to infiltrating, tracking, and foiling nascent plots (during the 1940s, the KKK was partly destroyed by a radio show that weaponized insider information against it), and he should instruct the federal government to initiate an information campaign against white-supremacist violence in much the same way as it has conducted crusades against drunk driving, human trafficking, and domestic violence. Just as the government must not react to these incidents by abridging the Second Amendment or the Fourth Amendment, obviously the First Amendment’s crucial protections must also remain intact. But where action is consistent with the law — there is no prohibition on monitoring hotbeds of radicalism, nor against punishing those who plan or incite violence — it must be vigorously taken.
2. Amidst the outrage and hoopla and grandstanding, we come out against universal background checks. From our editorial:
The idea is unconstitutional. It requires the establishment of a de facto federal gun registry — long a no-no in American politics. It would considerably inconvenience law-abiding gun owners while doing nothing to prevent the problem, mass shootings, to which it is being touted as a response. And, as even friendly studies from Washington and Colorado have shown, it doesn’t work.
Upholding the Constitution is a task that falls to all of government’s branches, not solely to the Supreme Court. One cannot uphold the Constitution and pass “universal background checks.” By explicit design, the federal government is prohibited from acting outside of the limited set of powers that the Constitution has granted to it. None of those powers permit it to superintend private firearms transactions that take place between two residents of a single state. Because it limits its remit to the regulation of federally licensed businesses and of commerce between the states, the existing background-check system does not fall afoul of the limits that have been placed on Washington. Because they explode that remit, universal background checks absolutely do. If the federal government is able to control what two citizens of a state do with their already-manufactured and already-purchased property, the federal government’s power has no boundaries. Every election season, Republicans tell us that if they are awarded a majority they will keep the Leviathan at bay. This is a chance for them to prove it.
About Next April . . .
We are full steam ahead with the National Review 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise. A great week (April 19 – 26) sailing the historic river, from Basel to Amsterdam (visiting Cologne, Strasbourg, and several other beautiful German ports), in the company of Rich Lowry, Kevin Williamson, Jay Nordlinger, John O’Sullivan, David Pryce-Jones, Daniel Hannan, Sally Pipes, Charles Kesler, Amity Shlaes, Seth Lipsky, and others, awaits. Get complete information, and reserve one of the dwindling number of staterooms on the AmaWaterways luxurious AmaMora, at nrcruise.com/rhine.
Did You Order Andy’s Book?
Ball of Collusion is out next week. You can order it at Amazon, right here.
Don’t Be Miserable Because This Week WJ Is Recommending Only a Baker’s Dozen NRO Pieces — Editor Phil Is on a Sorta Vacation and We Have to Lighten His Load
1. Rich Lowry weighs in on the left’s doubled-down jihad against immigration restrictions and how it is blaming Donald Trump for the mass shootings. From his new column:
For all that the language police profess to care deeply about words, they aren’t very careful about rendering Trump’s. No one notes that in his Florida rally where a rallygoer notoriously yelled “shoot them” and Trump shook his head, smiled, and said “only in the Panhandle,” the president was in the midst of saying of border agents, “Don’t forget, we don’t let them, and we can’t let them, use weapons.”
The discrediting of views that show up in the manifesto only works one way. The shooter expresses a fear of automation and support for the universal basic income. Should we hold that against Andrew Yang? The shooter fears we’re on the verge of an environmental disaster. Should Jay Inslee tone it down?
When a member of Antifa was shot dead by police while attacking an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Washington state, Democrats weren’t made to answer for their harsh attacks on immigration enforcement.
It’s even a count against Trump that the shooter, too, says that Democrats favor “open borders.” If it’s going to be unacceptable to use the term “open borders” of a party that is getting closer and closer to embracing a policy of open borders, we might as well shut down the immigration debate now.
2. Kevin Williamson takes on the advocates of illiberal democracy. From his piece:
Cory Booker, trafficker in absurd racial conspiracy theories, is a great practitioner of illiberal democracy. In response to the shootings over the weekend, he demanded that . . . Republican campaign rallies be canceled as a public-safety measure. President Donald Trump’s rallies, he insists without anything that might plausibly be described as evidence, “inspire white nationalist attacks like the one in El Paso on Saturday.” Somehow, the pursuit of public safety always ends up disadvantaging the other party’s political efforts. One might be forgiven for failing to take Senator Booker seriously, for this and for many other reasons.
Elsewhere, progressives have called for forcibly disbanding the National Rifle Association, freedom of association be damned. Democrats elsewhere have called for designating the NRA a “terrorist organization.” Democrats in New York have abused the power they have over the financial-services industry to try to shut down the rival political organization through backdoor means.
Others have called for gutting the Bill of Rights and trampling on due process, empowering government to curtail, suspend, or revoke the civil rights of Americans who have not been arrested or charged with any crime, much less convicted of one.
3. Democrats are doxing Trump donors and demanding ostracization. Jonathan Tobin looks at the roll-out of liberal scorched-earth politics. From his column:
The aftermath of the El Paso shooting shows that today, among most liberals and Democrats, it’s the norm to deride Trump supporters as deplorable.
Trump has coarsened public discourse and made abusive comments about his opponents and illegal immigrants — often in response to attacks on him — but is he a racist? Liberal pundits now state this as a fact rather than a matter of dispute. Likewise, many are taking as a given the even more dubious assertion that Trump inspired the El Paso shooter and other white nationalists. This despite the fact that Trump has repeatedly condemned such violence and that the murderer’s online “manifesto” makes clear that he was both insane and that his views were not specifically inspired by Trump. He rails against “unchecked corporations,” for instance, and frets about urban sprawl, plastic waste, and oil drilling.
But, post–El Paso, many Democrats are drawing a moral equivalence between mass murder and the stance that Trump and his supporters take toward illegal immigration.
One can be alarmed by the surge of illegals crossing the border, and one can even use the word “invasion” to describe it, without wishing to engage in mass murder. But that possibility has been thrown to the winds in the effort to demonize Trump and connect the dots supposedly connecting Republicans and atrocities.
It would be foolish to think that this kind of judgmental attitude would or could be confined to attitudes about Trump.
4. Kayla Barsch makes the case for holding non-profit colleges to the same regulatory standards — based on graduation rates, student debt levels, et al. — as have been applied to for-profits. From the piece:
Given the past sins of so many for-profit colleges, it’s hard to see why releasing them from a reasonable regulation was a top priority for the Department of Education. But at the same time, it makes little sense to regulate for-profits while leaving nonprofits with the same problems alone: If a school leaves students with lots of debt and low earnings prospects, why should being a nonprofit preserve its federal funding?
For-profit colleges are not inherently bad. They essentially pioneered the online classroom, a move that received much backlash at the time. The option to take classes online has proved immensely valuable, opening the doors to students who were unable to fit traditional classes into their schedule, such as single parents and full-time workers.
Indeed, for-profit schools are the paragon of accessibility. By definition, selective schools cannot admit everyone. While critics often assert that for-profit colleges target and prey on low-income, veteran, and first-generation students, it is quite possible that this analysis is inverted: For-profit colleges fill a gap in the education sector, servicing nontraditional, low-income, veteran, and first-generation students when other institutions will not. In addition, because most students at for-profit colleges enjoy neither financial support from Mom and Dad nor the privilege of taking time off of work to study, the low graduation rates cannot be attributed entirely to the schools themselves. They stem at least in part from the realities of their students’ lives, which the Obama regulation did not take into account.
5. A new study reveals the impact of the world wide web on . . . fidelity. Betsy VanDenBerghe, Jeffrey P. Dew, and W. Bradford Wilcox discuss the highlights. From the beginning of their analysis:
Revolutions have a way of upending not only political landscapes but also marital and family terrain. The French Revolution’s emphasis on individual rights shifted marital norms well into the post-Napoleonic era, while the Industrial Revolution took women and children out of the home and into the factories. Even today, aftershocks still reverberate from the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s.
What of the iRevolution? Does the Internet’s seismic impact on our professional and personal lives portend major or minor upheavals to our sexual norms? Do rumors of screen-addicted Millennials destroying marriage, or of Facebook liaisons spawning Boomer divorces, have any basis in reality? And is monogamy — as explained by Vox on Netflix — no longer attainable or desirable?
We have just released iFidelity: The State of Our Unions 2019. Using data drawn from a survey conducted by YouGov, the study examines the links between sexual fidelity online and relationship quality among American men and women. The iFidelity report also offers the first generational overview of how Americans think about sexual fidelity in the wake of the iRevolution.
6. Some 10 percent of America’s multiemployer pension funds are in trouble. A fiasco is unveiling. Andrew Wilford says reform, and not a bailout, is needed. Form his analysis:
Multiemployer pension funds — which are responsible for the retirement accounts of more than 1.3 million Americans — grew rapidly in popularity over the last several decades but now face a crisis, with roughly 10 percent at risk of going bankrupt. The federal government is supposed to serve as a lender of last resort for these at-risk Americans, but unfortunately congressional legislation threatens to entrench the risk these Americans are facing rather than make meaningful reforms to strengthen the system.
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 397, the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, before leaving town for summer recess. Proponents claim that this legislation would protect the pensions of over a million private employees whose pension funds have gone insolvent. In truth, all H.R. 397 does is kick the can down the road while saddling taxpayers with the cost in the meantime.
Multiemployer pension funds grew in popularity several decades ago as a means to protect employees against losing their pensions if their employers were to go bankrupt. The basic idea is this: Businesses and employees with some factor in common (this could be geographical area, union, industry, etc.) band together to create one single, collectively bargained pension fund for all participating employees. That way, if one business participating in the fund goes under, the fund remains operational.
But what if the funds themselves are at risk of running out of money? That’s the problem that roughly 10 percent of the nation’s 1,400 multiemployer pension funds find themselves in. Through mismanagement and promising benefits out of proportion with employee contributions, these pension funds are at risk of becoming insolvent.
7. Matthew Bentley has served his country and finds that it was military open burn pits — not the Taliban — that have proven the longest (permanent for many!) threat to those who put themselves in harm’s way for our freedoms. He also finds the VA needs a complete overhaul. From this very important piece:
In March of 2007, I returned home from a six-and-a-half-month deployment at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, as an extremely fit 35-year-old Marine captain. Within a month I started coughing and developed pneumonia, which was a first for me. Once I recovered, after nearly a month, I was still coughing, and I knew something was wrong. Over the next two and a half years, in addition to suffering chronic sinus infections and bronchitis, I underwent a complete battery of pulmonary-function tests, blood work, and exams, until finally a VA pulmonologist determined that I had suffered permanent damage to the small airways in my lungs. He called it the “chronic bronchitis type of COPD” and said it was likely a result of whatever I was exposed to in Iraq. It was irreversible but manageable. I separated from the Marine Corps in 2009 and made the rookie mistake of assuming that my lung condition was included in my disability rating from the VA. It was not.
Two years ago, the issue of burn pits — used at camps and bases to dispose of anything and everything, including wood, plastics, etc. — hit my radar. I researched it, and the more I learned, the more I became convinced that the burn pit at Camp Fallujah was the source of my problems, as I’d been completely healthy before my deployment. I reached out to the VA and was told to register for the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, which as of this writing has 182,282 participants. I then discovered that my lung condition, the most serious disability I have, was not covered adequately, and I filed a supplemental claim with the VA. What followed was a 15-month-long battle that I chronicled in a series of columns. (I strongly recommend you read all three, especially part 3, which outlines how veterans can get their conditions covered and the specific criteria they need to meet.)
This is an issue that doesn’t get nearly the attention or the hard work in Congress that it deserves. There are countless veterans out there right now suffering in silence, possibly dying (some already have) or having their claims denied by the VA. Once denied, they have nowhere else to go or turn to for additional help, and they just give up.
8. Oh Baby! Maddy Kearns looks (disapprovingly!) at the childless/childish culture that is giving baby-making the stink eye. From her commentary:
Ann Berrington, a professor in demography and social statistics at the University of Southampton, tells the Guardian that this is partly due to younger generations’ “changing aspirations,” the increased access to contraception, the raising of the school-leaving age to 18, as well as new pressures facing twenty- and thirtysomethings, such as the lack of affordable housing. All of this is plausible. But if Ms. Berrington were to spend an evening eavesdropping at a Manhattan bar, she might cynically add the following: the embitterment of young women who have been taught to despise masculine men (whom they evidently still desire); the psychological prolongation of male adolescence, also known as Peter Pan syndrome; screens and emojis over love letters and flowers; and a general breakdown in communication between the sexes owing — largely — to a failure to acknowledge that the sexes are, in fact, quite different.
If she wanted to, Ms. Berrington could also add climate change, though that’s more like a description of the problem than it is a plausible cause. Climate change is as useful a proxy as any for this strange and paralyzing anxiety that is preventing us from getting on with the business of living and dying — destroying the wisdom of the past, stealing the joys of the present, and spreading imaginings so dark that many of us would rather forswear sex, marriage, babies (the whole lot!).
Despite “the easing of taboos” and “the rise of hookup apps,” some are calling this phenomenon a sexual recession. There’s no easy explanation. Consider, by contrast, that the post-war baby boom was driven by people who had endured far more immediate and tangible threats to their existence than we do now. So, what’s wrong with us?
9. Woodstock 50 never got off the ground, and Nate Hochman believes it was offed by the “larger corporatization of the ’60s counterculture that Woodstock represented.” From the piece:
How does one restore the revolutionary spirit to a revolution that has already been won? The “New Left” that Woodstock embodied — a coalition of radical cultural and political movements of the time — has ascended from the streets to the universities. Its contemporary proponents are more likely to write for the New York Times than for the hand-printed underground publications of old. Along the way, they have in many cases become parodic antitheses of their former selves, warmly embracing the establishment in opposition to which they once defined themselves.
Take feminism, for example. The feminism of the New Left was radical, combative, and distinctly revolutionary in its disposition. It was also, as one might expect, vehemently anti-capitalist. Angela Davis, summing up the zeitgeist of the 1960s feminist movement, famously declared that “as long as we inhabit a capitalist democracy, a future of racial equality, gender equality and economic equality will elude us.” And yet present-day feminism has wholeheartedly backed the capitalist system that Davis and her compatriots so vocally denounced. In their quest for elusive gender equity, feminists have enthusiastically reduced women’s humanity to the sum total of their economic output. Women everywhere were liberated from the “patriarchal oppression” of motherhood and the nuclear family, only to be made cogs in the capitalist machine. Cut off from the familial structure, encouraged instead to pursue economic accumulation at the expense of motherhood, the daughters of the Woodstockian radicals are now corporate executives at Google, Facebook, and Starbucks. The patriarchy has been dismantled, it seems — replaced instead with a corporate boardroom.
10. Taylor Dinerman reports on how Japan and South Korea are in a reparations war, and how it’s not good for America’s (or the Pacific’s) security. From his piece:
Japan says the 1965 agreement reestablishing relations between the two countries covers all the laborers’ claims; the Koreans disagree. Ideally, the Korean government would, as a matter of some urgency, compensate the aging workers now, so they can see justice while they remain alive, and then seek reimbursement from Japan using international-arbitration mechanisms. But alas, political realities in both nations make such a sensible solution impossible.
To put pressure on South Korea, Japan has chosen to cut off Seoul’s access to vital elements used to make the advanced microelectronic devices at the heart of South Korea’s thriving, modern economy. Japan’s decision to escalate the dispute by removing South Korea from the so-called “Whitelist” of countries to which advanced technologies can be freely exported will, in the short term, hurt a global marketplace already wracked with turmoil. In the long term, if the conflict drags on, continuing to deny the Koreans access to such technologies might pose serious threats to regional stability and security.
In November 2016, after years of effort by the Obama administration, South Korea and Japan signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), under which the two U.S. allies agreed to share information on missile and nuclear developments in North Korea and other regional trouble spots. The agreement provides a way for data from South Korean radars, U.S. radars based in South Korea, and other sensors to be fed into Japan’s air- and missile-defense system, which protects the country and the U.S. bases there and throughout the region.
11. The new female-revenge fantasy flick, The Kitchen, is spoiled. Armond White throws everything, including the kitchen sink, at it. From his review:
Anyone who has already suffered through this familiar plot gimmick in Steve McQueen’s very similar Widows has earned the right to scoff at The Kitchen. The irony of women stepping out of their “place” and becoming ruthless criminals — Three Hillary-era Musketeers — has very quickly lost its novelty.
This repellant behavior is equally the fault of graphic-novel pretense and female-revenge clichés. The idea that women should be idolized for acting as antisocial as men derives from both the juvenile cynicism of the publishing industry and the ethical indifference of political activists. McCarthy, Haddish, and Moss brazen their way through this nonsense with an undisguised sense of justification — they think they’re defending the rights of suppressed women to get some self-respect back from a social order that has victimized them.
It is the double-entendre title that exposes The Kitchen as cartoon feminism. The social realities of the Mayor Abe Beame–era of New York City are ignored in favor of CGI-manufactured nostalgic realism. Worse is the implication that these three women, in the middle of feminist advancement, settled scores by opposing societal norms. Only a few moments show these actresses leavening their personal resentment with winning wit: McCarthy’s Kathy conveys frustrated motherhood in a dinner-table scene; Haddish’s Ruby performs sullen black resentment; and Moss’s Claire fulfills the victim’s dream of reprisal — telling a male to teach her how to be merciless and violent on her own is the film’s central theme.
12. Kyle Smith finds After the Wedding to be “so contrived it amounts to the equivalent of an exceptionally glossy episode of Days of Our Lives.” Hey, I used to watch that with my grandmother. Anyway, from the outset of his review:
Consider two kinds of mother, or rather two extreme varieties of maternal fantasy: Mother Teresa vs. Martha Stewart. Each archetype plays expertly on a tempting fancy within the female psyche. In After the Wedding, Michelle Williams plays a selfless, almost celestial being who mothers the children of the world without regard for her own comfort by running an orphanage in Calcutta. On the other side of the world, Julianne Moore is the embodiment of leaning in; she’s a rich corporate titan who provides spectacularly for her three children, all of whom seem lovely and well cared for in their elegant suburban mansion. These two mothering styles are about to collide.
Isabel (Williams), who in effect is the mother of a panicky eight-year-old boy who lives in the orphanage, is torn when she is called to New York City to give an account of herself to the benefactor who is funding the children’s home. That benefactor turns out to be Theresa (Moore), the founder of a successful ad-placement firm who is about to sell her company and make many millions in the process. How many is many? She might have an extra two, or even 20, to give Isabel for the orphans. To bring home a suitcase full of funds, Isabel will have to perform in a kind of audition, in more ways than she knows.
Isabel arrives in New York as Theresa’s oldest child, Grace (Abby Quinn), is about to get married at the posh home Theresa shares with her impossibly warm and thoughtful artist husband (Billy Crudup), so while details of the philanthropic gift are being worked out, Theresa invites Isabel along to the wedding as well. Inviting a total stranger to one’s daughter’s wedding at the last minute seems like a strange move, but things are about to get far stranger. What’s going on here?
13. The NCAA’s new rules demanding that NBA agents have college degrees gets the THAT’S STUPID treatment from Kat Timpf. From her takedown:
Sorry — but this is so, so stupid. In fact, the very reason why agents should not be required to have a degree can be found in the NCAA’s own argument that they should: “some can and have been successful without a college degree.” If it is literally proven that people do not need a degree to do this career, and to do it successfully (and I’d certainly say being LeBron James’s agent would qualify as “successfully”), then making them get one anyway makes about as much sense as also making them get a cosmetology license.
The new rule is an especially awful idea considering the current student-debt crisis. As of 2018, almost 45 million Americans collectively owe $1.56 trillion in student-loan debt. To put things in perspective, $1.56 trillion is about $521 billion more than all of the credit-card debt in the entire country. That’s no joke!
The New Issue of NR Is Out, and You Really Must Read It
Here is a generous sampler of four pieces from the August 26, 2019, on-dead-paper manifestation of the thing Bill Buckley created in 1955:
1. Madeleine Kearns’s powerful cover essay is a thoughtful and comprehensive rebuttal of efforts of legalize prostitution — efforts she says will just intensify the savagery and volume of sex-trafficking. From her essay:
On the left, politicians are increasingly responding to a global movement of so-called sex-positive feminism, funded to the tune of millions and advanced by mainstream celebrities and journalists. Its advocates maintain that “sex work” is a legitimate—even empowering—form of labor. On the right, this view is helped along by laissez-faire libertarians, who consider it a moral right to engage in market activities without state interference, and by conservatives, who maintain that regulation of legal prostitution would contain and sanitize the industry. Indeed, proponents on both the left and the right suggest that legalization would make prostitution safer for those involved while lessening the scale of sex trafficking. They are wrong on both counts.
In 2013, a study published in World Development—titled “Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?”— examined cross-sectional data from 116 countries. The re searchers found that “the legalization of prostitution has two contradictory effects on the incidence of trafficking, a substitution effect away from trafficking and a scale effect increasing trafficking.” What the study’s authors discovered is that the scale effect outweighs the substitution effect. In other words, there is more sex trafficking in countries with legalized prostitution than in countries where prostitution is prohibited. An additional cross-country comparison of Sweden (where prostitution is criminalized) with Denmark (where it is decriminalized) and Germany (where it is legalized) had consistent findings.
There is a moral objection, too. While a degree of coercive influence is expected in any labor arrangement (the fear of not being able to pay rent, for example, might motivate a person to stick to an unpleasant job), many believe that prostitution— overwhelmingly female—is inherently and inexcusably exploitative. Informed by this conviction, the Swedish parliament passed a law in 1999 that outlawed pimping, brothels, and the purchase of sex—though not the sale of one’s own body; thus, pimps and johns are prosecuted, but not prostitutes. The “Nordic model,” as it’s now known, is informed by social-democratic theory; the original, post–World War II definition of human rights; and a feminism that views prostitution as a structural barrier to gender equity. In practical terms, the result has been to shrink Sweden’s prostitution market while decreasing the rate of sex trafficking. It’s been so successful that Norway, Iceland, Canada, France, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Israel have all followed suit. America would be wise do to the same.
2. Christopher Caldwell considers the massive immigration threat on Europe’s southern flank. From the beginning of his essay:
Almost the entire population of Italy, it seems, spent the last week of June watching a boat arrive from across the Mediterranean. It was the SeaWatch 3, a Netherlands-registered ship funded by progressive philanthropists and captained by Carola Rackete, a 31-year-old German climate-change activist. Rackete radioed that she was carrying 42 African refugees rescued at sea who were in desperate health. Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini holds that such ships rendezvous with traffickers just off the Libyan coast, and are really less interested in rescuing sailors than in transporting illegal immigrants to Europe en masse. “Taxis,” he has called them. And indeed, Rackete had been doodling about at the edge of Italy’s territorial waters for several days, charting a course less consistent with any health emergency than with a wish to land her human cargo in the European Union, where it is easy to apply for political asylum and where even those whose applications are rejected are almost never deported. Since his Lega party began sharing power in a populist coalition a year ago, Salvini’s decision to close Italy’s ports to such ships has made him the country’s most popular politician by a mile—and arguably, though he is still only a cabinet minister, the leader of the Western European political Right.
This time Salvini failed. Rackete broke through a line of Coast Guard ships in the pre-dawn hours of June 29 and made port on the island of Lampedusa, allegedly ramming a customs ship in the process, a maneuver for which she was arrested. Italians were riveted to their smartphones and TV sets. A good number of Lampedusans even lined the docks in the middle of the night to holler their wish that she be prosecuted—and worse. But when “Carola,” as she was increasingly known to the public, was released in early July, a crowd of supporters waved signs with handmade hearts. She still faces criminal charges. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign minister, the Social Democrat Heiko Maas, backed Rackete against the Italian authorities. “Saving human lives is no crime,” he said.
If Rome and Berlin have been transfixed by a nautical incident involving only a few dozen African seafarers, it is for a simple reason: There are a billion more where those came from. And how Europe addresses African migration is going to determine what the population of the continent looks like a generation from now.
3. Big Mikey Dougherty, opting for Burke over Locke, pens a powerful essay on why he is not a liberal (classical division). From the beginning of his essay:
Should conservatives think of themselves as classical liberals? In his new book, The Conservative Sensibility, George Will will have American conservatives only as “the custodians of the classical liberal tradition.” In Will’s telling, the alternative visions for the Right involve squalid worship of blood and soil. But this is an incomplete picture.
Because conservatism grew up as a hesitation in the liberal tradition, and because traditional conservatives and classical liberals find themselves allied so closely against progressivism and socialism, their vocabulary and self-conception are almost conjoined. Untangling them can almost sound like a riddle: A classical liberal believes man is free until the law touches him. A conservative believes he is free because the law guards him. A classical liberal guards his rights to do what he wants, a conservative protects his right to do what he must. One is a partisan of natural rights, the other of natural law. Often enough classical liberals, like Will, accept the label “conservative” proudly. And as a conservative, I still want to be thought of as possessing the virtue of liberality. The adjective suits some of us fine, but not the noun. I’m liberal, but not “a liberal.” This is not a new revelation to me in the Trump era, nor is it in service to some grand transformation of the American order, which has liberal and non-liberal elements.
We can define classical conservatism against its liberal counterpart. The classical conservative is more mindful of lived experience than of theory, is more zealous for the common goods we share than for the aggregate goods the market distributes, and sees our pre-liberal inheritance as the only source for preserving and renewing America’s liberal arrangements. Instead of getting our understanding of freedom from John Locke and his liberal theory, a classical conservative might look to Edmund Burke, or draw from a biblical worldview.
Conservatives tend to be most favorable to liberalism when it is given to us as Thomas Jefferson presented it, as the culmination and codification of the common-law tradition, as the ancient liberty of freeborn men, threatened by the engorged political authorities of modern absolute kings or tyrannical parliaments. A conservative may be deeply sympathetic to liberalism; its appeal and success are rooted in man’s desire that the law and his will should be reconciled, that an orderly and free society will arise spontaneously. But Enlightenment liberalism is not just the sum of the best medieval thinking; it is also a self-conscious break with that tradition.
4. Sam Sweeney reflects upon a Syriac Christian Renaissance in the Middle East, after decades of suppression of Aramaic and non-Arabic customs and traditions. From his article:
Before the Christian era, the dominant language of the Middle East was Aramaic, a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic. The lingua franca of vast swathes of present-day Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq, Aramaic was spoken by Jesus himself in first-century Galilee and Judea. As the region adopted Christianity, the dialect of Aramaic spoken in Edessa (Sanliurfa in present-day Turkey) came to be known as “Syriac” and became the standard written language throughout the region. While Greek dominated early Christian scholarship farther west, Syriac was the language of learning, culture, and religion to the east. With the advent of Islam, however, Syriac lost its place to Arabic even among many Christians and survived as a spoken language in just a few small pockets of the Middle East. Genocide in Turkey against the Syriac, Armenian, and Greek communities in 1915 and 1916 reduced the Syriac presence in the region even further, and many Christians who spoke the language fled to Syria.
By the 1960s, Syrian political leadership had turned against the presence of non-Arab traditions and histories. While Syriac Christians continued to speak their language among themselves, it was not allowed as a secular language of instruction, and its place in the public sphere was limited to religious services. Few people could read it well, as school was taught entirely in Arabic, save for religion class, in which rudimentary Syriac was taught. The language was in peril of extinction. In 2011, in the spirit of the Arab Spring, many Syriac Christians saw an opportunity to revive their language.
Building on the principle that an all-encompassing movement is needed to preserve the community, Syriac organizations centered around the Syriac Union Party have emerged, dedicated to culture, education, women, humanitarian aid, and security. Not all Christians in the northeast back this movement, and many, probably most, have continued to side with the Syrian government, which still controls parts of Qamishli and al-Hasakah. But the movement is far from insignificant. It is tied to the ascendant power in the area, the Kurdish-led SDF, and even many of its Syriac Christian critics can sympathize with the desire to revive Syriac culture and identity. On a trip to northeast Syria in early April, I met many Christians who back the movement. They face significant challenges, not least of which is that many in their own community see them as the token Christian face of a Kurdish nationalist movement, puppets used to gain international support.
What’s a High-School Student to Do?
Maybe on September 13 and 14 attend the Young Americans for Freedom “Free Enterprise Leaders” conference in Washington, D.C. For only $45 (which covers seminar tuition, all materials, Friday and Saturday night lodging at the Westin Reston Heights Hotel, and four meals from Friday dinner to Saturday dinner (and yes, travel assistance is also a possibility)) your . . . son, daughter, grandchild, niece, nephew? . . . will experience a unique, life-changing conference (designed speciﬁcally for high-school students), which will be a de facto crash course in business and economics, taught by the likes of Steve Moore, Andrew Puzder, and others. You don’t have to be an Alex P. Keaton knockoff to participate. Fore more information and to register go here.
Okay, but What Is a College Student to Do?
Well, the next weekend (September 20–21), YAF will be hosting a “Road to Freedom” conference on “Secrets to Advancing Free Enterprise over Socialism.” The cost? Yep, only $45, and that includes everything enjoyed by the littler kids the previous week, and, yep again, travel assistance is possible. And Steve Moore will be teaching there too, along with Kristen Soltis Anderson, David Azerrad, and others. Get all the details right here.
1. In City Journal, Rafael Mangual makes the case for the imprisonment of . . . prisoners. Those that are in the hoosegow are where they belong. From the beginning of his essay:
Eight of the declared candidates contributed to a recent compendium published by the Brennan Center for Justice, titled Ending Mass Incarceration. The essays provide a useful summation of Democratic talking points on criminal justice. That the United States over-incarcerates is evidenced, reformers say, by the numbers: though it has about 5 percent of the global population, the U.S. houses about a quarter of the prisoners worldwide. America’s high incarceration rate, goes another assertion, is driven by the unjust enforcement of “low-level” and “nonviolent” offenses, particularly drug crimes. A further charge: the system is racist, given how much more likely blacks are to be behind bars compared with whites. Finally, they say that sentences have gotten way too long.
True, for a subset of America’s prison population, incarceration does not serve a legitimate penological end, either because these individuals have been incarcerated for too long or because they should not have been incarcerated to begin with. Justice dictates that we identify these individuals and secure their releases with haste. But none of the above claims advanced by the presidential hopefuls is correct—and acting on any of them would be disastrous.
Start with drugs. Contrary to the claims in Michelle Alexander’s much-discussed 2010 bestseller The New Jim Crow, drug prohibition is not driving incarceration rates. Yes, about half of federal prisoners are in on drug charges; but federal inmates constitute only 12 percent of all American prisoners—the vast majority are in state facilities. Those incarcerated primarily for drug offenses constitute less than 15 percent of state prisoners. Four times as many state inmates are behind bars for one of five very serious crimes: murder (14.2 percent), rape or sexual assault (12.8 percent), robbery (13.1 percent), aggravated or simple assault (10.5 percent), and burglary (9.4 percent). The terms served for state prisoners incarcerated primarily on drug charges typically aren’t that long, either. One in five state drug offenders serves less than six months in prison, and nearly half (45 percent) of drug offenders serve less than one year.
That a prisoner is categorized as a drug offender, moreover, does not mean that he is nonviolent or otherwise law-abiding. Most criminal cases are disposed of through plea bargains, and, given that charges often get downgraded or dropped as part of plea negotiations, an inmate’s conviction record will usually understate the crimes he committed. The claim that drug offenders are nonviolent and pose zero threat to the public if they’re put back on the street is also undermined by a striking fact: more than three-quarters of released drug offenders are rearrested for a nondrug crime. It’s worth noting that Baltimore police identified 118 homicide suspects in 2017, and 70 percent had been previously arrested on drug charges.
2. More from Mangual, this time in the New York Post, where his opinion column explains why crime has plagued much-in-the-news Baltimore, relative to the former crime hellhole New York City. From his analysis:
Between 2007-2017, New York state and Maryland cut their prison populations by 19.5 and 22.9 percent respectively, according to a Vera Institute of Justice study. While there’s not much daylight between those figures, a big chunk of Maryland’s decarceration happened in just the last couple of years, as part of a reform package adopted in 2016. Between 2016 and 2017, Maryland cut its prison population by 10 percent, while New York’s dropped by just 0.7 percent.
Rapid, large-scale decarceration puts dangerous repeat offenders back on the street. According to Baltimore police stats, more than a third of the homicide suspects in 2017 were on probation or parole when their alleged offenses were committed.
The effective decriminalization of certain drugs has also added to the problem. Baltimore’s progressive chief prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, recently refused to charge a man found with 16 pounds of marijuana in his vehicle. And yet data show there’s a serious overlap between drug offenders and those who commit more violent crimes. In Baltimore, 70 percent of the murder suspects in 2017 had a prior drug arrest record. In New York City, that percentage was just 38 percent as recently as 2012, the most recent year for which data was immediately available.
3. At Gatestone Institute, Guy Millière explains that France is in a very bad way. From his report:
France today is a country adrift. Unrest and lawlessness continue to gain ground. Disorder has become part of daily life. Polls show that a large majority reject President Macron. They seem to hate his arrogance and be inclined not to forgive him. They seem to resent his contempt for the poor; the way he crushed the “yellow vest” movement, and for his not having paid even the slightest attention to the protesters’ smallest demands, such as the right to hold a citizens’ referendum like those in Switzerland. Macron can no longer go anywhere in public without risking displays of anger.
The “yellow vests” seem finally to have stopped demonstrating and given up: too many were maimed or hurt. Their discontent, however, is still there. It seems waiting to explode again.
The French police appear ferocious when dealing with peaceful protesters, but barely able to prevent groups such as “Antifa” from causing violence. Therefore, now at the end of each demonstration, “Antifa” show up. The French police seem particularly cautious when having to deal with young Arabs and illegal migrants. The police have been given orders. They know that young Arabs and illegal migrants could create large-scale riots. Three months ago, in Grenoble, the police were pursuing some young Arabs on a stolen motorcycle, who were accused of theft. While fleeing, they had an accident. Five days of mayhem began.
President Macron looks like an authoritarian leader when he faces the disgruntled poor. He never says he is sorry for those who have lost an eye or a hand or suffered irreversible brain damage from extreme police brutality. Instead, he asked the French parliament to pass a law that almost completely abolishes the right to protest, the presumption of innocence and that allows the arrest of anyone, anywhere, even without cause. The law was passed.
4. At Minding the Campus, George Leef challenges Dennis Weisman’s essay in Cato Institute’s Regulation magazine, which claims there is no good argument against college admission preferences. From Leef’s rebuttal:
To this day, there is no proof that mixing in a quota (or, as diversity advocates put it, “critical mass”) of students from certain racial groups does anything to improve the level of education for any students, much less for all of them. There is, however, some strong evidence that by mismatching weaker students with more demanding schools, we harm educational outcomes.
In their book Mismatch, Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr. showed that many students admitted for “diversity” reasons to prestige schools would have been better off had they enrolled in a school where they were not at a competitive disadvantage with academically stronger students. Similarly, when economists Peter Arcidiacono, Esteban Aucejo, and V. Joseph Hotz studied the outcomes of University of California students who had been admitted with lower academic qualifications to increase diversity, they concluded that “lesser-prepared minority students at top-ranked campuses would have higher science graduation rates had they attended lower-ranked campuses.”
So, there is evidence that “diversity” for its own sake has negative educational outcomes rather than the positive ones imagined by Justice O’Connor and many others. Strangely, however, we never hear college and university leaders express any doubt that racial preferences are beneficial, and Weisman ignores that possibility. It seems this is an issue where merely having good intentions is all that matters.
But even if racial preferences don’t lead to better education, maybe they lead to other good institutional outcomes. That’s where Weisman goes next in his essay, arguing that administrators could be acting to raise their school’s prestige level when they adopt admission preferences. “Harvard,” he writes, “would have no incentive to depart from an admissions standard that reinforces its reputation as one of the world’s foremost educational institutions.” Do the leaders of prestige universities actually know that using racial preferences makes them more illustrious? Perhaps, but Weisman adduces no evidence to support that claim.
5. At Law & Liberty, Nathaniel Peters makes the Christian case for religious liberty, which is the fruit of faith, not the Enlightenment. From the beginning of his essay:
Secular liberals and conservative opponents of political liberalism both see religious liberty as the product of the Reformation and the Enlightenment. According to the secular liberal narrative, religion—at least Christianity—is intolerant and prone to violence. Indeed, the modern state became the schoolmaster of faith precisely because its adherents had become so unruly and violent during the Reformation and subsequent wars of religion. Once religious pluralism became a fact and the state held the social monopoly on violence, European societies learned to embrace religious tolerance. Religious liberty and liberty of conscience came from enlightened reactions to religion, not religion itself.
Conservative critics of religious liberty agree, but see religious liberty’s Enlightenment roots as evidence of its cheapening of religion. They claim that religious liberty is an impossible attempt to be neutral about the highest human goods that ought to order a society; it is a cloak for religious or anti-religious commitments, or relativism.
Robert Louis Wilken argues directly against the secular liberal critique and by implication against the conservative illiberal one. In Liberty in the Things of God: The Christian Origins of Religious Freedom, the eminent historian of Christianity shows how the idea of religious liberty present in the earliest fathers of the Church was employed in the stormy debates of the Reformation and the American founding. Wilken argues that religious liberty’s critics get the story backwards: Religious liberty is the fruit of Christianity, not the Enlightenment or later secular thought, and was present in Christian thought from the very beginning. Over time, Christian thinkers came to consider religious freedom or liberty of conscience not only a matter of toleration (a policy of restraint toward objectionable beliefs) or an accommodation from ruling authorities, but “a natural right that belongs to all human beings.”
6. Our old pal Christian Schneider, now toiling for The College Fix, pens a Wall Street Journal op-ed about the growth of college “bias-response teams,” which often spring into Kangaroo Courting when eavesdropping coeds get triggered by within-earshot unwoke-ness. From his piece:
Supporters of bias-response teams argue they are harmless, since they typically cannot formally discipline anyone. “They do not shut down free speech or charge into classrooms to stop offensive statements from faculty members or students,” two professors, two administrators and a doctoral candidate argued in a June article for Inside Higher Education.
Yet schools often investigate the complaints, and the teams themselves can call the accused in to demand an explanation in front an administrator or a panel of “diversity” specialists. At the University of Illinois, law-enforcement officers sit on the bias-response board—making the body a literal speech police. Complaints go down in permanent, often public, records, which can effect future employment prospects. Most bias-response systems don’t offer any process by which the accused can clear their names.
The reporting is often ideologically biased. A Michigan State University student reported his dorm roommate for watching a video of conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. When a University of Oregon professor defended Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, a female student reported she was “deeply offended” by the “false, ignorant, biased commentary” that “completely discredited sexual assault survivors like myself and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, among countless other women.”
Having read that Eddie Mathews was the only man to ever play for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, thoughts and curiosities stirred, such as: Did anyone play for all the initial expansion teams, namely, the Mets, Astros, Rangers (newbies in 1961 as the Washington Senators, the old team having vamoosed to Minnesota), and Angels? Actually, two did, one of them being baseball’s career strikeout leader, Nolan Ryan. Indeed, he played for only those teams.
The other was his former teammate, Darren Oliver, who played for those four teams, as well as the Cardinals and Red Sox, as well as (is there an echo here?) some newer expansion teams: the Rockies, Blue Jays, and Marlins. Is he the man who played for the most non-original MLB teams? Yours truly has to find out that, although with 14 expansion teams since 1961, seven might be short of the record.
By the way, Oliver tossed the ball for 20 years, but never once made an All-Star team. And he was the son of early ‘70s slugger Bob Oliver, who also was a teammate of . . . Nolan Ryan.
Similar-ish. One man played for the original Washington Senators, the new ones, the Minnesota Twins (rebirth of the old Senators), and Texas Rangers (rebirth of the new Senators). It was slugger Don Mincher, who also has the distinction of being one of the few men to wear the uniform of the Seattle Pilots. He also joined the expansion-ing California Angels.
Of the archangels, Michael is the one we papists turn to in order to seek intervention against the wickedness and snares of Satan, who seems indeed to be running amok seeking the ruin of souls, more than usual. Mikey, help! Do not underestimate his powers.
God’s Blessings on All, Especially NR’s Readers and Supporters,
who communicates to you through a vertigo haze, and is set to receive any suck-it-up-candy-*** lectures at firstname.lastname@example.org.