Dear Weekend Jolter,
The late former president and the founder of this journal were close, courtesy of Yale ties and numerous other reasons. In 1991, Mr. Bush awarded WFB the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an honor of which Bill was rightly proud and held to be quite singular. Among other suggested readings that follow, I encourage you listen to these reflections on George H.W. Bush by my friends John H. Sununu, who served in the White House as his chief of staff, and by Christopher Buckley, who said of Mr. Bush:
He was a Christian gentleman. And he was the paradigm of the Christian gentleman. He didn’t have — he had no mean bone in his body. I’d never heard — you would hear him perhaps talk a little bit askance about someone. But he — but I never heard an ad hominem attack or caustic comment come out of him. He had a beautiful soul. And it was always radiant and on display.
Rest in Peace.
1. Richard Brookhiser has penned NR’s formal remembrance of the late president. From the editorial:
Two fruits of that devotion marked his presidency. He saw the Cold War through to its conclusion, as first the Berlin Wall then the Soviet Union itself crumbled; and when Saddam Hussein one day simply ingested Kuwait, he assembled the necessary forces and drove the tyrant back. His rhetorical peak was a relatively minor moment. One of Saddam’s distractions, as the avenging army assembled, was to lob missiles at Israel. Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the White House press corps, asked Bush a slyly anti-Semitic question whose premise was that the Israelis would react excessively. Bush responded with incredulity and indignation: They were being attacked. Bull’s-eye.
It soon became fashionable to disdain the Gulf War, either because it left Saddam in power until the Iraq War toppled him, or because we should never have become embroiled in the Arab world in the first place. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, and its remedies. Should we despise the Revolution because we still fought the War of 1812?
Bush’s métier was politics, where the path of duty is often obscure, and chances to do the right thing must be made by one’s self. Bush was a competitor, keen to win, and he eventually won the biggest prize of all, but his upward path was wobbly. He left his northeastern roots to make his way in Texas, first as a Goldwaterite, then as a moderate Houstonian; next (running against Ronald Reagan) as a relatively fresh face, then as Reagan’s loyal veep. His conscientious performance of the last role enabled him to win the 1988 GOP nomination and the election, but wobbling resumed.
RELATED: Jim Geraghty finds GHWB to have been “egregiously misjudged.” From the piece:
The irony is that once Bush lost his presidential race, he became . . . well, kind of cool, in a crazy-grandpa kind of way. When Dana Carvey returned to Saturday Night Live to guest host, former president Bush did a cameo “interrupting” Carvey and insisting he had never said “nah gah dah,” an exaggerated version of “not gonna do it.” Bush kept freaking out his Secret Service protection by insisting upon jumping out of airplanes every few years. He wore his crazy socks and when one of the sons of his Secret Service detail members was fighting leukemia, Bush shaved his head in solidarity. Whenever there was a disaster or good cause that needed fundraising, Bush would not be far away.
Our nasty, cynical, partisan media has misjudged and been too critical of a lot of famous figures over the years. But perhaps Bush — our big-hearted, kind, even-tempered, principled, and sometimes delightfully-goofy president had it worst out of anyone.
MORE RELATED: A wondrous Brookhiser reflection on a saluting Bob Dole.
EVEN MORE RELATED: NR goes into the archives and republishes Congressman “B-1 Bob” Dornan’s 1987 cover piece on why he, as a leading conservative, was endorsing Vice President Bush for the GOP nomination in 1988. You can find the article here.
Another Word from Brother Rick . . .
He has written concerning the National Review Institute’s 2018 End-of-Year “Fund Appeal.” He provides an eloquent explanation as to why — given NRI’s sponsorship of NR’s historic “Books, Arts & Manners” section, you in turn should want to support NRI. You can read Rick’s appeal here. And you can donate to NRI here.
Lords Leap Higher and Maids Milk . . . Gallonier . . . When Motivated by Reading These Dozen NRO Pieces
1. Andy McCarthy says Robert Mueller seems to be building a report instead of a case. From the analysis:
For a prosecutor, like any trial lawyer, what the jury thinks is at least as important as what the law says. If the most memorable thing the jury takes into the deliberation room is that no one should believe a word your witnesses say, you are not going to convict the lowliest grifter, much less the president of the United States of America.
As a prosecutor, you build a case by having your cooperating accomplice witnesses plead guilty to the big scheme you are trying to pin on the main culprit. After all, what makes these witnesses accomplices, literally, is that they were participants in the main culprit’s crime. That’s the scheme you’re trying to prove. So, on guilty-plea day, the cooperator comes into court and admits guilt to the same conspiracy on which you are trying to nail the lead defendant.
2. Kevin Williamson finds something . . . magical . . . about Twitter’s ban on “dead-naming.” From his essay:
Twitter, in its recent decision to prohibit “deadnaming” — referring to trans people by their former names, e.g., calling Bradley Manning “Bradley Manning” — is participating in a long magical tradition, whether Jack Dorsey and his merry men (the asterisk here is understood) are conscious of that fact or not.
Technology changes, sometimes at a bewildering pace. Old Adam stays the same — like Ted Hughes’s roosting hawk, he likes things just the way they are: “Nothing has changed since I began. My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this.” Today, we laugh at the notion that droughts are the cereal gods’ retribution against impious kings, and also believe very strongly that if the American economy doesn’t do well then it must be because the president is a bad man. We have only gone from hocus pocus to hocus focus group. It won’t do to underestimate the power of unbridled fanaticism: Small, committed bands of true believers can and often do move peoples and nations and even empires, as that cross-surmounting Caligula’s obelisk in St. Peter’s Square attests. Social and political ideologies, at sufficient scale, behave in much the same way as religions. Even Communism had its holy texts and saints, all those dirty little campus crusaders waving their Little Red Books in people’s faces, their evangelical fervor unmistakable. Political beliefs are in many cases less about politics and more about belief.
3. John Yoo and James C. Phillips continue their ten-part series in constitutional restoration. The new addition, Part Six, concerns racial preferences — will they be put to rest? From the essay:
More than 150 years after the end of slavery, 60 years after the end of public-school segregation, and two years after America’s first black president left the Oval Office, accusations of racism fill our airwaves and screens. Democrats fresh off a solid midterm victory in Congress still claim that the suppression of minority voting cost them governorships and Senate seats, despite voter turnout that reached heights not seen since 1914. On the other hand, those same Democrats argue that governments should use racial data to draw voter districts and hand out government contracts, and argue that state and local police harbor such racial animus against minorities as to shoot them at high rates.
Meanwhile, Asian students have uncovered evidence that Harvard University has used ridiculous stereotypes to engineer the right racial balances in its admissions process. As a recent lawsuit against the Ivy League school has revealed, Asian Americans consistently make up just 19 percent of the student body, despite an increasing percentage of Asian-American college students nationwide. Asians score higher than any other group on academic criteria and extracurricular activities. If academic merit alone determined admissions, the university admitted that Asians would make up 43 percent of the student body, about the same level reached at the University of California at Berkeley after California ended affirmative action by popular initiative.
So where are Asians getting dinged? Personality. To avoid having too many Asians, Harvard has recycled a practice that Ivy League schools applied to Jews in the first half of the 20th century. According to Harvard admissions, Asians trail far behind their peers in areas such as humor, sensitivity, creativity, grit, and leadership. (Harvard’s judgment may come as news to our military, which plans strategy against 1 billion Chinese who currently present the greatest long-term challenge to American hegemony, or to our business leaders, who see the Chinese and 1 billion Indians rising into economic powerhouses — both the products of civilizations that existed when Europeans thought rocks made ideal weapons.) Apparently only those working in college admissions offices can discern this race-wide personality deficit.
BONUS: As reported in last week’s WJ, Yoo / Phillips engaged in some debate with Ramesh Ponnuru about Part Five, concerning religious freedom. Now Ramesh more formally poses his concerns. You’re going to need to put on your intellectual big-boy pants for this one. From the article:
But even a friendly disagreement can contain mutual misunderstandings. Phillips and Yoo say that I have mistaken their position: They are not unqualified supporters of the view that the Supreme Court took between 1963 and 1990 of the right to free exercise of religion, and don’t think that view fully captures the original understanding of the First Amendment. As far as I can tell, though, their disagreement with the Court’s jurisprudence during that period does not touch our main dispute. They think that the constitutional guarantee of free exercise requires judges to exempt religious believers from laws that burden their faith. That’s the key point on which they agree with the 1963–90 Court and disagree with Scalia’s 1990 opinion in Employment Division v. Smith. In that case, Justice Scalia denied that free exercise required an exemption to the drug laws for the ritual use of peyote.
The main (and nearly only) point of my previous comment was that we should be skeptical of the idea that the Constitution as originally understood required judges to make exemptions to laws for religious believers, given that courts did not make such exemptions until the Warren Court. Phillips and Yoo advance several arguments to overcome that skepticism but, in my view, they do not succeed.
They note that Michael McConnell has argued that the original understanding was more consistent with judge-made exemptions than with Scalia’s view, but also note that other scholars, such as Philip Hamburger, dispute McConnell. I’d add Gerard Bradley and Vincent Phillip Muñoz to Hamburger’s side of the argument. I’d conclude that there is no scholarly consensus and that, again, the fact that the Supreme Court didn’t hint at the judicial-exemptions interpretation of the First Amendment before 1963 is a reason to side with Scalia, Hamburger, et al.
AND YET ANOTHER BONUS: Vincent Phillip Muñoz analyzes the debate, finds merit on both sides, but comes down more so with Ponnuru.
4. Razib Khan looks at a new book making the case for DNA as the thing which defines the individual. From the essay:
Robert Plomin’s Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are is a triumphal tour of a discipline that’s having its moment in the sun. While some fields of psychology are going through the “replication crisis,” with old results being proven false, behavior genetics is marching from strength to strength. Plomin looks back across his long career, with its successes and failures, and gazes hopefully into the future to come. A doyen of the field, he is in a position to make such assessments. But as an active participant he also has a definite viewpoint.
Blueprint is not a dispassionate textbook, and readers should be aware this is not a “view from nowhere.” As a scholar of some note, Plomin has staked his own positions in contentious debates, and he has strong opinions about which other researchers should or shouldn’t be cited – and here, writing for a general audience, Plomin shapes the narrative to his own advantage. The treatment of behavior genetics is Blueprint is defensible, but not necessarily indisputable.
The scientific meat of the book is neatly divided into two halves: pre-DNA and post-DNA. Behavior genetics in its conception goes back to the 19th century, specifically to Francis Galton — Charles Darwin’s cousin and, troublingly, the founder also of the field of eugenics. Galton and his intellectual successors in the 20th century were fascinated by patterns of inheritance of intellectual talent and mental debility. Methods of studying these patterns were developed long before Francis Crick and James Watson discovered that DNA was the molecule that encoded genetic information.
5. Once upon a time, thanks to federal law, essentially only the wealthy could be venture capitalists. A recent law changed that and has unleashed the capitalist tool of crowdfunding. Jibran Kahn tells this important story of little-guy venture. From the articles outset:
In 2000, Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annison had the prescient idea for MobiTV, a service that would stream live TV to phones. Thinking their business proposal had a real chance, the two pitched it to their friends and family, who agreed and wanted to show their financial support. By selling shares in the company to a number of small contributors, they managed to secure seed money.
But when they tried to move forward, they ended up having to return that money. Their investors were not “accredited,” and therefore could not legally invest in securities that were not registered with the authorities. According to SEC regulations, “accredited investors” needed to be millionaires, which naturally ruled out a lot of people who might be interested in investing in a young business. Annison and Scanlan did eventually raise over $100 million for MobiTV, but the way an arbitrary regulatory barrier set back their start stuck with them.
Starting in 2016, the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act removed a number of barriers to these kinds of investments — now called “equity crowdfunding.” As it turns out, the law also facilitated a number of films starring A-list actors, thanks to Scanlan, Annison, and a new company called Legion M.
6. Marlo Safi looks at the America’s relations with Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war. From her piece:
The war has since assumed the moniker “The Forgotten War” by Yemenis because public knowledge in the West has been low and media coverage has been scant, despite the magnitude of the calamity. The discussion of the war following Khashoggi’s death has seemingly unearthed the bombardment led by the Saudi coalition — made possible by American-supplied weapons and refueling. The war has spiraled into a famine that worsens with each passing day, thanks to the airstrikes and naval and air blockades of critical Yemeni ports. With the transition from Obama to Trump, the alliance between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the U.S. has shifted from one that was cast as a necessary diplomatic evil to serve geopolitical and economic interests to one that, increasingly, appears amicable.
Since the Obama era, the U.S. has provided the KSA with arms: F-15 fighter jets, armored vehicles, missile-defense systems, bombs, and missiles. Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia would soon reach the top of the list of the largest customers of American weapons. The defense contractors selling weapons include Lockheed Martin, one of the U.S.’s largest arms contractors, which manufactured the bomb found at the scene of an airstrike that destroyed a school bus in August, killing 40 children. In October 2016, an American-made bomb hit a funeral hall and killed 155 people. In March 2016, a U.S.-supplied precision-guided MK-84 bomb killed 97 people. American officials have grown concerned that the U.S. could be implicated in war crimes led by the Saudi regime. A State Department official, asked if there’s any explanation for the indiscriminate nature of Saudi airstrikes, told Amnesty International in 2016 that the KSA was inexperienced with “dropping munitions and firing missiles.”
7. Kathryn Jean Lopez shares an adoption story of hope and inspiration. From her article:
The Grodens’ children came to them last year, but only after a lot of struggle, heartache, and financial expense, and amid a total cloud of unknowing. Malka and Mendel are members of the Chabad Lubavitch community in Crown Heights. They married young and expected to have a big family quickly, as many in their community do, but they encountered the anguish of infertility. After exhausting costly failures in infertility treatments, they started looking into international adoption. They reached out to a rabbi and his wife in Montana who had experienced similar struggles and had built their family through adoption; this family became “a source of support and inspiration” for them. “Practically speaking, though I didn’t really know what to do or what steps to take,” she recently shared at a National Review Institute forum on adoption and foster care at the Tikvah Fund in New York City. “Everyone had an opinion and advice on what I should do, and I just spent hours studying the State Department site on intercountry adoption trying to understand it, which was not easy.” Soon they decided to focus on domestic adoption options instead.
“Entering the world of domestic adoption exposed me to an alternate reality that I’d never known,” she added. The word “incarceration,” for one thing, is commonplace. So are poverty, prostitution, drug addiction. In these environments, the risks of violence and sexual abuse for the children are high. “That’s the world many birth mothers come from,” Malka shared. “You start to learn about adoption and automatically begin to think there’s no way I can be open to a child who was exposed to heroin before birth or who might go through withdrawal or whose birth father is a sexual predator.” It was “shocking” for her to learn and stretched her heart in unexpected ways.
8. Graham Hillard makes the case for “temperamental conservatism.” From a very interesting piece:
If the economic realities of the ’80s and ’90s could be transplanted onto post-Trump America, such a job would be relatively easy. Let the Democrats make the case for their special blend of punitive taxation, intersectionality, and thought-policing. Our party could simply promise to treat the nation like the stock market: Cut a few regulations, maintain a predictable order, and watch it soar.
Alas, we live in a more complicated age, in which the interconnectedness of nations has given rise to a seemingly intractable set of problems. Like the previous two, the next several elections will be fought over trade and immigration — the extent to which the unregulated movement of goods and people puts at risk the standard of living to which Americans have become accustomed. Where free trade is concerned, ideological and temperamental conservatives have largely parted ways — a fact that helps explain the Republican party’s near-total lack of coherence on the subject. The ideological conservative knows that free trade has led to a broadly shared increase in consumers’ purchasing power and that to support it is to maintain one’s fidelity to noble and proven ideas about governmental non-intervention. The temperamental conservative knows (or believes he knows) that lots of people had a good thing going until General Motors screwed them last week. Is he wrong to think as much (or, more accurately, to sense it)? Perhaps. But he still gets to vote.
9. Red China is running a massive commie-spy operation through American campuses, but say as much and comes the “you’re racist” backlash, reports Rachelle Peterson. From the piece:
Or consider FBI director Christopher Wray, who in February testified before the Senate Intelligence subcommittee that China represents a “whole-of-society threat” to American interests. Wray might have chosen his words more carefully — Vice President Pence chose “whole-of-government approach” to describe China’s actions — but the substance of Wray’s concerns met mockery and chagrin. Senator Marco Rubio had questioned Wray about China’s efforts to gain a foothold on college campuses, especially through Chinese-government-funded Confucius Institutes. In response, Wray noted that “in almost every field office” the FBI sees China’s “use of nontraditional collectors [of information], especially in the academic setting, whether it’s professors, scientists, students.”
Wray defended his claims on NBC, stating that “to be clear, we do not open investigations based on race, or ethnicity, or national origin. But when we open investigations into economic espionage, time and time again, they keep leading back to China.” But this failed to satisfy his critics. Fourteen organizations sent Wray a letter, calling for a meeting to discuss “troubling issues of potential bias [and] racial profiling,” and even going so far as to raise the specter of the Japanese internment, suggesting that without “ongoing dialogue,” Chinese Americans could face similar treatment.
10. In The Corner, Jonah Goldberg fries and slices PETA’s “Meat Interrupts Your Sex Life” campaign. Read it here.
11. Victor Davis Hanson looks at the Mueller investigation and the machinations that launched it and sees criminals and partisans yelling about criminality and partisanship. From his essay’s outset:
Robert Mueller’s legal team may write a damning report on Trump’s ethics, based mostly on flipping minor former business associates of Trump’s and transient campaign officials by threatening them with long prison sentences.
So far, we know that the U.S. government decided to intervene in a political campaign to help one candidate and to smear the other — under the pretext of Russian “collusion.” And so it hired or made use of spies and informants including Hank Greenberg, Stefan Halper, Felix Sater, and others to contact Trump campaign officials to catch them in supposed collusion traps. It enlisted the help of foreign intelligence agencies, specifically the British and Australians. It misled FISA courts into granting warrants to spy on Americans and, post factum, threatened long prisons sentences with those surveilled and interviewed. And as a result, it has so far found no collusion but may well find some misleading statements in hundreds of hours of testimonies from the likes of Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and perhaps Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone.
Mueller cannot fulfill the hype of the past 18 months, which forecast that the “all-stars,” the “dream-team,” and the Mueller “army” would make short work of the supposedly buffoonish Trump by proving that he colluded with Russia to swing an election. Collusion, remember, was hyped as doing what the Logan Act, the emoluments clause, the 25th Amendment, impeachment, media frenzy, and assassination-chic rhetoric had not.
By indicting a number of minor characters on charges that so far have nothing to do with collusion — for purported crimes mostly committed after the special-counsel appointment — Mueller has emphasized the quantity rather than the quality of indictments.
12. Henry Payne believes President Trump should embrace, not trash, GM. From his piece:
Automakers see massive growth potential in autonomous car-subscriber services. These services are likely to be structured the way the cellphone industry is today, with the big money made from the subscription rather than the hardware.
This monumental shift in the automotive industry is likely to happen with or without Trump’s blessing. Instead of railing against GM’s effort, he should offer his support, which would make the transition easier for this iconic American industry and its workforce.
The businessman-turned-politician should recognize GM’s bold, high-risk move in the face of daunting odds: reimagining a century-old automaker as a tech titan. CEO Barra is on Capitol Hill this week smoothing lawmaker feathers and explaining the fast-changing auto-industry landscape.
But after repeated promises to revitalize Midwest manufacturing, Trump is threatening to tie GM’s hands rather than free them. He’s insisting that the General keep producing unprofitable makes (the Chevy Volt and Cruze sedans) and move efficient Mexican plants back to the U.S.
That rhetoric echoes old-line Rust Belt Democrats such as Debbie Dingell, who said Monday that “I’m not giving my support to a company that keeps sending jobs to Mexico and not here. We have had enough of that.”
Detroit needs Trump’s carrots, not his sticks – in particular, more tax reform like the 40 percent corporate cut, which has freed up $150 million in cash for GM to invest. More deregulation would also help — reforms that have the American auto market on track for an unprecedented fourth straight year of over 17 million cars sold domestically.
The Battle of Cass-Winship
As far as I can tell, Oren sees 45 years of economic decline for Americans without a college education, characterized by declining real wages, falling labor-force participation, and declining economic mobility. These changes stem from a labor market that is broken, thanks to too much policy emphasis on overall economic growth and consumption at the expense of more balanced growth and more empowerment of less-skilled workers to be productive. The economic crisis, in turn, has driven various social and public-health crises, including the breakdown of the family, generally declining social capital, rising “deaths of despair,” and the election of Donald Trump.
My beef is that this analysis overstates the extent to which the labor market is broken and attributes too much causal force to changes in the economy. While there are few economic stats on non-college Americans to inspire celebration, the most important indicators have either not worsened or have explanations that point to labor-supply problems rather than problems of labor demand. Generally, “no change” can’t explain change. Why are we experiencing various crises now rather than in, say, 1973?
Cass responds. From the rebuttal:
Of course, culture is important too. But while Scott highlights the imperfect correlation between economic shifts and social consequences, the cultural explanation’s flaw is much deeper: It doesn’t hold for the “winners.” We all swim in the same cultural pond, generally speaking, but we swim in very different labor markets. All those college graduates with their libertine parties and their sinful music and their pornographic HBO shows still manage to find jobs, get married, raise kids in stable environments, and so forth. It would be a strange coincidence if exactly the segments of society whose economic fortunes have declined, and who our policy intentionally and explicitly ignored, just happen to be the ones suffering.
A final thought, before handing the mic back to Scott: The point of my argument is not to offer “go back to 1975” as the solution. Rather, I see acknowledgment of the serious economic problems that our nation faces and the ways in which our preexisting policy agenda has failed as the starting point for discussion of opportunities to do better. In my experience, conservatives sometimes reject the existence of problems for fear that a breach in this first line of defense leaves nothing stands between the big-government hordes and the capital. But this is backward. If we throw all of our resources into that one line of defense, and the ground under it proves weak, then the rout really will be on. Much better to confront our problems forthrightly and make our stand where the battle should be decided and where we can win, on questions of how best to address the challenges that we have.
Winship volleys. From his rejoinder:
Furthermore, among the able-bodied, we cannot assume that all of these inactive men would have below-median — and especially below-20th-percentile — wages if they worked. About one-third of inactive men report either being in school, a homemaker, a caregiver, or retired. It is far from obvious that these men have lower wages than the typical working prime-age man. Combine these men with the disabled, and just 10 percent of inactive men remain. And some of these men live in higher-wage areas of the country and might be above the median or 20th percentile if they worked. (Geographic cost-of-living adjustment, not mentioned by Oren, is probably the single issue with the potential to change my mind about wage trends, but we don’t really know how to implement that yet.)
Finally, at least some of the impact of rising inactivity on male wage trends is reflected in the data. Men who start a spell of inactivity in, say, May (perhaps a long or permanent spell) still report their wages in April. To the extent their absence from the data in May makes wage trends too rosy, their presence in the April data makes up for it. About one-third of the long-term rise in prime-age male inactivity comes from men who only temporarily leave the workforce, and about half of that rise can be explained by the fact that the partners of married men have become richer.
Yes, you guessed it. Cass returns the volley:
Scott’s last post focused in the weeds (his words!) on the nuances in calculating wage trends. I had raised a number of factors that his own calculations disregard — commute times, income volatility, marginal value of health expenditures, payroll taxes, low-income labor force dropout — and as far as I can tell, he by and large acknowledges that those things have gotten worse, but sees them as less important than his own adjustments. Our main disconnect, and likely a result of confusing wording on my part, is with regard to health benefits. I don’t worry that we are miscalculating health-cost inflation, I worry that high-cost health insurance has much less value to low-income households than the cash it is replacing. The Oregon Medicaid study, for instance, found that Medicaid recipients got 20 to 40 cents of value per dollar spent on their coverage. I don’t think a 2016 family with $30,000 of wages and a $20,000 insurance policy is as well off as a 1975 family with $40,000 of wages and a $10,000 policy.
My point in raising such factors was not to suggest that I had found the One Adjustment to Rule Them All but rather the opposite, that all of the possible adjustments in both directions don’t change the overall picture of stagnation. If there’s some magical line where 0 percent wage growth is okay but a 3 percent decline disastrous, then we’d need to keep haggling. But if relative standing is what matters then 10 percent up or 0 percent up or 10 percent down over 40 years still gets us back to the same mess — one confirmed by the other available lines of evidence.
As we go to press, Winship lobs a mortar:
I think we’re getting somewhere. In his most recent reply, Oren appears to have ceded my point that the right way to characterize what has happened over the years to less-educated workers is “stagnation” rather than “decline.” (I’ll add again, though, stagnation only for those with Y chromosomes.) He now argues that what actually explains the problems besetting Americans without a college degree (and their frustration with policymakers) is relative decline in comparison to college graduates. While he doesn’t use the “i” word, in essence, Oren has shifted the blame to rising inequality.
We have arrived at an answer to my original question: How can no change explain change? Oren’s response is that what has changed is that inequality has risen. Okay, but this raises a fundamental point that I hope readers take away from our exchange: If it is rising inequality that matters, then those who attribute the problems of downscale Americans to economics should explicitly make an argument about inequality and stop trying to make a case for absolute decline that is too weak to have explanatory value.
Join us Saturday at this very theater for the next exciting episodes of Flash Gordon and the Moon Men and The Battle of Cass-Winship.
1. Burn baby burn: On the latest Radio Free California, David and Will discuss what really causes wildfires, Republican losses in California, and border clashes with immigrant caravans. And, did war end the Great Depression? Listen here.
2. The intrepid host of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg is joined by Green Bay Packers’ congressman Mike Gallagher to ask and answer: Can Congress be fixed? Is Breaking Bad the greatest TV show of all time? Can we fix this nation’s problems by installing pull-up bars in every airport? And so much more. Put on your Cheese-head-phones and listen here.
3. The new episode of The Great Books finds John J. Miller discussing Ivanhoe with Christopher Scalia, all of it eliciting visions of Robert Taylor and George Sanders jousting. Thou Shalt Listeneth Hereth.
6. Jeff “Captain Ahab” Blehar and Scot “Queequeg” Bertram invite Time political correspondent Molly Ball to discuss the Moby Dick of bands, Radiohead. I have no idea what that means but you had better listen to the new episode of Political Beats regardless. Fowler beckons, here.
7. But then Jeff and Scot, failing to ask the world’s true Queen expert, my wife, to be interviewed about the band, have law professor Adam White on the truly new episode of Political Beats. We who are champions should listen here.
8. The night before the NR Cruise left Ft. Lauderdale, David and Alexandra anchored a special live episode of Ordered Liberty before a packed room of fellow travelers. Discussed: the Marc Lamont Hill firing, intersectionality as religion, and double standards for speech on the left and the right. Catch it here.
9. In a particularly special edition of Mad Dogs and Englishmen — saddled with the additional title of and Noises in the Background — Charlie and Kevin ease their way into a discussion of people who think laws are value statements. Listen to all the racket here.
10. Want to know about speedy trials? Then listen to the new episode of Constitutionally Speaking, where Luke and Jay get you up to speedy on the Sixth Amendment. Listen here.
Lights. Cameras. Pundits.
1. Beautiful Boy ain’t so pretty, says Armond White. Unless you think narcissism is hot. From his review.
Because millennial filmmaking is primarily based on escapism — or is generally unresponsive to broad social concerns — Beautiful Boy is distracted from the very problem it hopes to expose. Film actors Steve Carell as the father, Timothée Chalamet as the son, Amy Ryan as the divorced mother, and the director Felix van Groeningen are all self-medicating. They insist on depicting the contemporary crisis as a sun-dappled disturbance of otherwise swanky American complaisance.
The movie is based on the real-life memoirs of David Sheff, a New York Times and Rolling Stone writer, and his son, Nic Sheff. From the moment Carell is introduced as Sheff, using his privilege to consult a drug expert, the film reveals its position of casual, taken-for-granted favor. Sheff asks, “My two big questions are: What is it doing to him? What can I do to help him?” This entreaty doesn’t make Sheff into Everyparent. First, because Carell’s arch comic persona is limiting, but mostly because the 18-year-old son, Nic Sheff, is impersonated by Chalamet, who is currently cinema’s foremost figure of insufferable privilege.
The pampered child is already a patented Chalamet type. He comes ready-made with obnoxiousness and spoiled-rotten audacity. Chalamet, of all young actors, should never have made a movie titled “Beautiful Boy” because his curly-haired adorableness and moony-eyed demeanor too obviously fit Hollywood’s white middle-class, self-flattering ideal (Vogue magazine worships him).
2. Armond finds a lot to like about Vox Lux. Here’s how his review begins:
That treacherous slogan “When they go low, we go high” epitomizes the deliberately cynical dishonesty of our era, but filmmaker Brady Corbet is ambitious in a forthright way — unmatched by any other American moviemaker. His new movie, Vox Lux: A Twenty-First Century Portrait, resists cynicism with grand artistic and philosophical conceits.
3. Armond checks out the American Film Institute’s annual “Top 10” list. He finds it terrible. And worse. From the piece:
The AFI began 51 years ago, after a Johnson-administration call for an organization committed to preserving America’s film heritage. It was originally funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Ford Foundation, so its list sounds official. But the movie awards game is part of the commercialization of pop culture.
Even the debatable idea that the government should finance artists (through any means) is belied by the endorsement of commercialism rather than artistic expression. Be assured, there’s a political component to this: The films that won the AFI’s approval are all politically motivated and represent social-justice precepts rather than moral virtues or aesthetic standards. In other words, they’re propaganda.
Listed alphabetically, the AFI films assume the same values that are promoted in politically biased mainstream media; the list resembles an index for Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.
1. At The Catholic Thing, Robert Royal seeks to renew interest in C. S. Lewis’s classic work, The Four Loves. From his piece:
At present, if you say the word “love” to someone, he will assume you’re talking about romantic love and sex, or in some quarters, LGBT and the whole psychological farrago behind it. Fr. James Martin, S.J. has argued, for example, that to call same-sex attraction “objectively disordered” is “needlessly hurtful. Saying that one of the deepest parts of a person — the part that gives and receives love — is ‘disordered’ is in itself needlessly cruel.”
But is our sexual nature the only place we give and receive love, and is sex the only or deepest kind of love? And does it trump all other loves because — well, because?
C.S. Lewis needs no introduction to serious Christians. He’s simply the best lay apologist of the last century. But many who know his great books such as Mere Christianity or The Abolition of Man or The Screwtape Letters, are unfamiliar with what may be an even more important book these days, The Four Loves.
Lewis’ four loves are not LGBT, it almost goes without saying, because in the older views of the human person erotic or sexual love — even in its deviant forms — is only one of several kinds of love. And while sex is part of God’s human creation (“male and female he created them”), we were not created solely or primarily for sex.
No mere summary of The Four Loves can do it full justice: You have to read Lewis and absorb his detailed and sensitive attention to the various kinds and manifestations of love that we humans experience to see just how rich and complex the whole subject is.
2. Europe’s self-appointed proletariat vanguard cannot wish away what won’t go away, says Theodore Dalrymple in Law and Liberty — and that what is nationalism. The Brexit battle exposes its persistence. From the piece:
There are increasing calls in Britain for a second referendum, for what its proponents call A People’s Referendum — as if the previous referendum had somehow excluded the people. By the word people, they mean, of course, the people who agree with them: the others are not truly of the people, they are instead enemies of the people.
Unfortunately, it is not clear what the question to be asked in the second referendum would be. It might be, “Do you prefer Mrs. May’s agreement to no agreement at all?” But the question the proponents would really like to ask is, “Do you now want to remain within the European Union”?
3. In City Journal, Tevi Troy, our pal and a presidential historian of deserved great repute, remembers George H.W. Bush. From the beginning of his tribute:
George H. W. Bush was always being underestimated. Though he was successful at almost everything he did — Yale student, baseball team captain, fighter pilot, oil executive, politician, and father — people always seemed to think that he was missing something. Peter Flanigan, the Nixon aide who dangled in front of Bush a senior job in the Nixon White House, seemed to typify this uncharitable and inaccurate view when he told him, “Well, you know, George, you’d have to work hard if you took this job.” Bush, ever gracious, held his tongue at the insult, prompting his impressed wife Barbara to marvel, “How George kept his temper, I’ll never know.” Bush went on to serve in a multitude of high-level positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations, including head of the Republican National Committee, UN ambassador, liaison to China, and CIA director. This array of positions served as a launching pad to the vice presidency and then the presidency. Flanigan tried and failed to become ambassador to Spain. Fooled by his quiet resolve, those who underestimated Bush — from Flanigan to Bob Dole to Michael Dukakis to Saddam Hussein — found themselves astounded when Bush bested them. They shouldn’t have been. Beneath his gracious, even goofy, WASP exterior was a real warrior.
4. The American Conservative’s Zaid Jilani reports on a new study showing that Hillary’s flying monkeys are into authoritarianism. From his piece:
University of Mississippi political scientist Julie Wronski, one of the researchers who conducted the study, explained in an email to TAC how they defined authoritarianism. “We define authoritarianism as an individual’s psychological preferences for social conformity over individual autonomy,” she wrote. “Here we see its features as two-fold: 1) preferences for traditionalism and maintaining the conventional, established norms; and 2) preferences for maintaining group cohesion and sameness. As my co-authors and I note in the article: ‘authoritarianism is grounded in the desire to be part of a group, not in the identification with a particular social or political group.’”
In order to gauge the level of authoritarianism among voters, Wronski and her fellow researchers looked at the “child-rearing” measure, a common metric used by political scientists to quantify how much a person embraces authoritarianism based on whether they value independent or obedient traits in children.
What the researchers found is that authoritarianism consistently predicted differences in primary votes, specifically Clinton votes over Sanders votes. This remained the case as controls for a wide range of factors were included, such as party identification strength, ideology, church attendance, gender, race, education, and income.
As a voter in the “CCES sample moves from the minimum value on the authoritarianism scale to the maximum value, the probability of voting for Clinton increases from 0.33 to 0.76 while holding other influential factors constant,” the researchers noted. Results were similar in the YouGov sample and the student sample, the latter of which was even more dramatic — “the probability of voting Clinton increases dramatically from 0.18 to 0.867 as young Democrats shift from the lower end of authoritarianism to its maximum value.”
5. The new National Climate Assessment gets slapped around by Heritage Foundation economist Nicolas Loris, who finds four major flaws. From his analysis:
It assumes the most extreme (and least likely) climate scenario.
The scary projections in the National Climate Assessment rely on a theoretical climate trajectory that is known as Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. In estimating impacts on climate change, climatologists use four representative such trajectories to project different greenhouse gas concentrations.
To put it plainly, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 assumes a combination of bad factors that are not likely to all coincide. It assumes “the fastest population growth (a doubling of Earth’s population to 12 billion), the lowest rate of technology development, slow GDP growth, a massive increase in world poverty, plus high energy use and emissions.”
Despite what the National Climate Assessment says, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 is not a likely scenario. It estimates nearly impossible levels of coal consumption, fails to take into account the massive increase in natural gas production from the shale revolution, and ignores technological innovations that continue to occur in nuclear and renewable technologies.
When taking a more realistic view of the future of conventional fuel use and increased greenhouse gas emissions, the doomsday scenarios vanish. Climatologist Judith Curry recently wrote, “Many ‘catastrophic’ impacts of climate change don’t really kick at the lower CO2 concentrations, and [Representative Concentration Pathway] then becomes useful as a ‘scare’ tactic.”
6. The December issue of Reason features an in-depth interview of Thomas Sowell by Thomas Winslow Hazlett (38 years after their first tête-à-tête). From their Q & A:
Did the 1964 Civil Rights Act turn out to do what people hoped?
In some respects, yes. In a deeper respect, no.
That act and the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision were welcomed, as they should have been, but they set off expectations that were wholly unrealistic. I was going to school and the professor came in in a state of agitation, and he said, “The most amazing thing has happened today. I think we should talk about that rather than what I planned to cover,” and everyone was elated that the end of segregation was going to bring all these wonderful things. When I was asked my opinion, I said, “It’s been more than half a century since Plessy v. Ferguson and we still don’t have separate but equal. What makes you think this is going to go faster?”
We had separate but not equal.
Yes. It did not endear me to anyone, but I thought early on that they had misdiagnosed the problem. Today, the charter school movement has convinced me more. The successful charter schools, like the KIPP schools and Success Academy, have done marvelous things educationally, none of which was done by Brown v. Board or busing or the [other] wonderful-sounding ideas that the reformers tried.
When I asked about the Civil Rights Act, you immediately thought in terms of education and Brown.
If you don’t get a good education, whatever else you get is not going to make a major difference, economically or socially. That’s why I’m so much in favor of the successful charter schools. This happens too often in the history of ideas. Segregation was made the reason the black kids weren’t doing well, so people attack that factor. But now you have black kids doing well in predominantly black schools, and people are against them because they haven’t been integrated. Integration was a means to an end, and when you achieve the end, you don’t condemn the end because you didn’t get there by the means you thought you were going to get there by.
A great-nicknames list from our National Pastime has to include Eddie “Mongoose” Lukon, who played a few seasons for the Cincinnati Reds in the early to mid-1940s. But that moniker is nothing compared to the one owned by Joe “Ubbo Ubbo” Hornung, who was a leftfielder for the Boston Beaneaters in the 1880s.
From the Poop Deck of the Oosterdam, a.k.a. The Good Ship Lollipop, home of the NR Buckley Legacy Cruise, which ends today, we send to our Brothers and Sisters in Abraham wishes for a Happy Hanukkah. The happiest of them!
God’s Blessings on You and All Ubbo Ubbos,
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