Dear Weekend Jolters,
Later in this missive, we (in the form of Madeleine Kearns, a she and her) pronounce on pronouns — and the ongoing lunacy to veto God’s decision to make man, woman, and nothing else. According to one count, thems that contrive these thar gender contrivances have manufactured 112. Curious? In alphabetical order, the list commences with
Abimegender: a gender that is profound, deep, and infinite; meant to resemble when one mirror is reflecting into another mirror creating an infinite paradox.
and ends with
Vocigender: a gender that is weak or hollow.
Neither “male” nor “female” made the cut. And so it goes. Meanwhile, Iran pushes the world to the brink of war while Brett Kavanaugh is subject of the song that never ends, as sung by the demented and determined Left and abetted by Fifth Estate fellow travelers.
That babbled, damn the torpedoes and on with the Jolt!
But Wait, There’s More: Let Me Tell You What You Are Doing Next April.
You are going on the National Review 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise. From Basel to Amsterdam, and visiting Strasbourg, Cologne, Rudesheim, Ludwigshafen, Breisach, and Lahnstein, in the company of exceptional conservatives — Rich Lowry, Daniel Hannan, Amity Shlaes, David Pryce-Jones, Charles Kesler, Sally Pipes, John O’Sullivan, Nina Shea, Kevin Williamson, Seth Lipsky, and Adam Meyerson — it’s going to be a wunderbah week (April 19–26) on AmaWaterways’ glorious AmaMora. Get complete information at nrcruise.com.
Now, on with the Jolt? Yes!
1. The New York Times’ smear against Justice Brett Kavanaugh was reprehensible. From our editorial:
The New York Times’s disgraceful weekend performance is a reminder that the media performed abysmally during the Kavanaugh confirmation process. Ronan Farrow had accumulated an enormous amount of capital reporting thoroughly researched and well-corroborated claims of sexual abuse that helped launch the #MeToo movement. He squandered that reputation for scrupulosity by reporting Deborah Ramirez’s claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself in spite of the total absence of corroborating evidence and in spite of evidence that Ramirez herself was unsure of her memories.
But for sheer malice nothing can match the speed and ferocity with which reporters accepted the facially ludicrous rape story pushed by Michael Avenatti client Julie Swetnick. She claimed that she saw Kavanaugh “waiting his turn” for a gang rape and spiking punch to facilitate gang rapes. The story was never remotely plausible, but that didn’t stop media figures from shaming anyone who expressed public doubts on Twitter.
Perhaps the nadir of the whole affair is when Vox helped “explain the news” by publishing a piece arguing that the John Hughes movie Sixteen Candles provided “important context” for the Kavanaugh allegations. In the 1980s, you see, there was a different “cultural understanding” about gang rape.
2. The emerging campaign against vaping is textbook Big Brother and overkill. And an affront to federalism. From our editorial:
These issues are best addressed one at a time rather than lumped together into a single, unitary response to the current mass hysteria about vaping.
The Trump administration is wrong to prohibit particular flavors of vaping product as a means of preventing children from taking up the habit. The obvious parallel case is flavored tobacco; in spite of the great national panic over flavored “bidis,” hand-rolled cigarettes, a decade ago, U.S. smokers, including underage smokers, overwhelmingly used cigarettes and other conventional tobacco products; a 2006 study found that less than 3 percent of U.S. high-school students smoked bidis, and just over 1 percent of those 18 to 24 did. Overall cigarette smoking among young people has been tanking since the mid 1990s, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which found daily cigarette use rates of 3.6 percent for high-school seniors and half that or less for those younger. In 1996, one in ten eighth-graders reported daily cigarette smoking; today, that number is less than 1 percent.
The states and the federal government are perfectly capable of policing the sale of vaping products to underage consumers in exactly the same way they police the sales of tobacco and alcohol. (“E-cigarette” is a misnomer for products such as those sold by Juul, which — this is important to remember — contain no tobacco.) Shut down offending vape shops, yank business licenses, and put a couple of chain-store managers in jail if necessary. There is no good reason to prohibit products that are perfectly appropriate to adults simply because a few retailers mishandle them. Punish the guilty — leave everyone else alone.
3. President Trump is seeking to overturn the influential California auto waiver to the Clean Air Act. We say, yeah. From the editorial:
Further, under the Obama administration, California leveraged the car industry’s desire for a single regulatory regime into an agreement with the federal government, under which the nationwide regulations would reflect California’s priorities. As a result, car buyers nationwide had to pay extra for vehicles meeting the state’s preferences. No single state should have such power.
The waiver needs to go. And the Trump administration should continue with the other element of its plan too: nixing Obama-era rules that required fuel economy to hit nearly 55 miles per gallon on average by 2025, a far-fetched goal that could force car companies to sell electric vehicles at a loss to bring down the average fuel economy of their overall fleets. Freezing the standards after next year, as the administration plans to do, could reduce the future price of a car by thousands of dollars — and also reduce motor-vehicle fatalities, because one way carmakers increase fuel efficiency is to make cars lighter and more dangerous.
Abbondanza! Mama Has Cooked Up a Big Plate Heaped with 17 Sausages and a Couple of Braciole
1. Madeleine Kearns opens Webster’s and finds pronoun madness. Just what in the heck are they doing?! From her Corner post:
This week Merriam-Webster added a “non-binary” definition of “they” to the dictionary to cater to individuals who identify as neither male nor female. Also this week, National Review’s Douglas Murray went on BBC Radio 4 to promote his new book The Madness of Crowds. During the interview, Douglas said “I don’t think there is any such thing as non-binary. And I think a lot of people know that too.”
The journalist Afua Hirsch disagreed. She said that Douglas’s criticism of the pop singer Sam Smith, for his recent announcement that he is non-binary and now prefers “they/them” pronouns, was akin to bullying. Smith is simply “somebody who is making an expression of his identity,” Hirsch said.
2. Then there is Maddy’s take on the bitchin’ attempt to get Oxford Dictionary bosses to remove words that patronize women. From her commentary:
So will removing the words from the dictionary help prevent sexist and misogynistic abuse? Unlikely. As it happens, I’ve recently been discussing death threats — purely academic, of course — with a number of friends and mentors. What’s interesting is that not a single one recommends altering the dictionary as a means of preventing them. No one has yet suggested taking out all the words that might spell out variations of “I am going to kill you.” That would be silly, since hijacking the English language isn’t apt to directly influence the way people behave. If someone is a sexist pig, he is still going to be a sexist pig after you’ve removed “biddy” and “bint” from the dictionary. Likewise, if someone is not a sexist pig, he probably won’t become one because he sees the words “petticoat” and “frail” in the dictionary.
But it is true that language can influence the way people think. And here is where I draw your attention to points two and three — to those cunning little Greeks, laying quietly inside the wooden horse’s belly. For this is not really about redefining women in order to protect them — it is about “enlarging the definition” of women so that it includes men.
This petition is not the first of its kind. Which is why Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, a stay-at-home mom of four from England, spent a little under $1,000 on a dictionary campaign last year in response. Keen-Minshull had the original definition of woman — “noun: adult human female” — pasted in black and white on a billboard in Liverpool. Its simplicity symbolized the obviousness of its message. It broadcast truthfulness in a time of lies.
3. Amen, Bobby Jindal, who writes that President Trump needed someone like John Bolton at his side. From his piece:
Ambassador Bolton’s resignation seems more important than previous staff departures. There was always going to be conflict between Trump’s isolationist tendencies and desire to negotiate everything and Bolton’s neoconservative desire to remake the world in America’s image. One does not have to always agree with Bolton to believe his values-based approach was a good balance to Trump’s transactional approach to foreign affairs. Many who did not want to see Bolton unleashed still appreciated him as a counterbalance to Trump. It was helpful to have someone around who was willing to remind the State Department that many adversarial regimes are nothing but evil.
Bolton made two mistakes unforgivable in the Trump administration. First, he publicly opposed Trump. Second, he was right. He argued, privately and through leaks, against the Taliban coming to Camp David to negotiate with the president. When the Taliban summit blew up and it was evident Bolton was right, Trump did what came naturally and parted ways with him. Bolton already had a history of disagreeing with the president’s more personality-based and open approaches to North Korea and Iran, and he had taken a harder stand for regime change in Venezuela.
Trump can credibly claim his disruptive approach to foreign policy fulfills the promises he made to the American voters. He differs from his predecessors not in his excessive rhetoric on the campaign trail, but rather in his seriousness in following through. Voters had tired of the bipartisan consensus that America must simply continue abiding by unfair trade deals and bear a disproportionate burden to help keep the peace. Hard-working voters were tired of making all the sacrifices to benefit the nation’s elites and other countries’ emerging middle classes. Trump promised to exit the Paris climate treaty, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership; move America’s embassy to Jerusalem; and renegotiate NAFTA. He has done these things. While he may not have succeeded in convincing Mexico to pay for his border wall, he has used the threat of tariffs to motivate Mexico to help dramatically stem the flow of illegal immigrants coming from Central America. All of these moves were considered impractical by the foreign-policy establishment ruling both parties, just as Reagan’s determination to take down the Evil Empire was also once derided as cowboy foolishness.
Related: Jim Talent finds Trump’s replacement for Bolton, Robert O’Brien, to be an excellent choice. From his analysis:
So a good national security adviser needs to do an incredible amount of work quickly, to process enormous flows of information and organize the key points for the president, and to be, and be seen as, an honest broker by the actors who run the State Department, the Defense Department, the CIA, and the other national security agencies. He must make the decision train run on time, under tremendous pressure, and keep his head when everybody else is losing theirs. Typically the NSA also defends the administration policy in the press and helps sell the policy to other actors in Washington.
Those tasks are well suited to O’Brien’s skill set and temperament. He has a prodigious capacity for work and the ability to adapt quickly to new domains and platforms. That’s why he was able to succeed as the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, where he was instrumental in bringing home a dozen American hostages — one of President Trump’s personal priorities, and no doubt what brought O’Brien’s abilities to Trump’s attention.
Like all good litigators, O’Brien learns his brief quickly and thinks well on his feet. He has a lot of experience dealing with the press and handling tough interviews, he can conduct, or manage, arguments without getting personal, and his training has acculturated him to representing the opinions and interests of his client, who in this case will be the president.
O’Brien will be criticized for having a foreign policy resume that is not as deep as some other NSAs. I think that’s an advantage. His perspective will be fresher and more independent than it would be if he was aligned with any camp, and he won’t hesitate to ask tough questions challenging the status quo on behalf of the president. I think he’ll be able to do that without embarrassing any of the big players, but if O’Brien has to expose a weakness in order to better serve his boss, he’ll do it without any qualms.
4. David French high-fives the Arizona Supreme Court for its ruling that defends free speech and religious freedom. From his piece:
Free speech and religious liberty are on a winning streak. Last month the Eighth Circuit Court of appeals ruled that Christian wedding photographers could not be compelled to use their artistic talents to help celebrate same-sex weddings. Today, the Arizona Supreme Court reached a similar holding, this time on behalf of Christian calligraphers and painters Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski. The case, brought by my friends and former colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom, is similar to multiple other wedding vendor cases. The plaintiffs do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (they happily serve gay customers). They merely refuse to produce art that advances ideas they find objectionable.
Duka and Koski operate a limited liability company called “Brush & Nib Studios.” The company’s Operating Agreement declares its beliefs quite clearly — stating that it will not create “custom artwork that communicates ideas or messages . . . that contradict biblical truth, demean others, endorse racism, incite violence, or promote any marriage besides marriage between one man and one woman, such as same-sex marriage.” As with all these cases, the core question is whether the custom artwork at issue constitutes constitutionally protected speech (the court was interpreting the Arizona constitution, but applied federal free speech precedents). If so, then the state’s demand that the plaintiffs produce art for same-sex marriages constitutes a form of compelled speech, among the most egregious forms of First Amendment violation. Compelled speech violates the fundamental principle that “an individual has autonomy over his or her speech and thus may not be forced to speak a message he or she does not wish to say.”
5. Jonathan Tobin goes after Bernie Sanders for making a surrogate of the notorious anti-Semite Linda Sarsour. From his piece:
Sarsour became a celebrity in the months after Trump’s election as one of the organizers of the Women’s March, which mobilized the “resistance” to the new administration even before it took office. The group gave her a prominent platform, but from the very start of the massive anti-Trump rallies that launched it on the day after Trump’s inauguration, it was clearly tainted by anti-Semitism. Some Jewish activists who were initially involved with the March have spoken about how the group’s leaders marginalized them and allowed what many had initially thought to be a mainstream movement to be dominated by radicals, who professed hard-core opposition to Israel’s existence and openness to being allied with anti-Semites such as the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan.
Sarsour was at the center of the controversy over the group’s anti-Semitic elements, and for good reason. She is an open advocate for the BDS movement, which is drenched in anti-Semitic invective, and unlike some of those who flirt with BDS, she isn’t coy about her objectives. She opposes the existence of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn and refers to all of Israeli territory as “occupied.” She has made a habit of personally attacking Jews who support Israel. And she has made it clear that pro-Israel women are not welcome in the Women’s March. She has also remained an ardent defender of other March leaders, such as Tamika Mallory, who are open fans of anti-Semitic hatemongers such as Farrakhan.
Sarsour and her apologists on the Jewish left claim that she is misunderstood. They point to gestures such as her fundraising to help vandalized Jewish cemeteries, even if it is unclear how much, if any, help she has ever actually given such causes. And they will surely cite her statement supporting Sanders, which she spoke of her pride in helping elect the first Jewish president and opposition to anti-Semitism, as further proof of their case. But her record and stated beliefs can’t be so easily waved away.
6. Jim Geraghty straps on the spelunking gear and investigates the mind of the Joe Biden voter. From his piece:
All those smart guys laughed when Biden said in the debate that kids should listen to the record player. You know what he meant, and everybody you know knows what he meant, too: that parents have to look out for their kids and pay attention to them. Everybody’s trying to jump on everything we say these days. They look back at the old busing stuff and act like Biden’s some kind of racist — he was Barack Obama’s vice president, for Pete’s sake! So, he says stuff that doesn’t come out right. Big deal; we all do that.
You loved him as vice president. That picture of him in the biker bar with the woman who’s practically on his lap? He’d get that kind of greeting at your local bar, too. Obama was great, but you could understand why some people found him a little stiff or professorial. Biden’s the backslapper who connects with everybody.
It’s funny because Biden’s probably never worked on an assembly line or in a union shop. He’s spent his whole adult life in law firms or Senate offices. He didn’t go to Vietnam. But this man knows hard times and losing it all. No man should outlive his children, and he’s lost a wife, a daughter, and, just a few years ago, one of his sons. Everyone would understand if he just wanted to become a shut-in or drunk and never deal with anybody again. But he gets up every day and goes out and fights for what he believes in, because he believes he owes it to them — and the American people — to keep going. You tear up just thinking about it. You’re not sure you’d be able to do it yourself if you were in that situation.
7. More Big Jim: He’s thrilled that Gary Larson is bringing back his retired comic strip, “The Far Side.” From his Corner piece:
In the world of The Far Side, life is not fair, and things were usually taking the worst possible turn. Hal has that bummer of a birthmark. Curiosity kills the cats, right at their research stations. William Tell’s other son Warren gets lost to history. Professor Jenkins survives the shipwreck, only to be stuck on a desert island with his old nemesis. Teenage dinosaurs’ youthful experimentation has dire consequences. If it’s Monday morning, then you know the butler committed the murder but still that doesn’t help you at all.
This lens is twisted, macabre, and absolutely hilarious — depicting scenarios that all of those comparatively nice and happy dog and cat cartoons would never dare imagine. The Far Side upset more than its share of animal-rights activists; it was politically incorrect long before the term caught on.
8. Responding to a social-media uproar, Saturday Night Live honchos fires comic Shane Gillis over Chinese jokes. Kyle Smith ain’t laughing. From his piece:
Gillis’s bit was pretty awful. He shouldn’t have said what he said. It also wasn’t funny. On the other hand, firing someone is a drastic step, particularly for someone at this stage of his career. Gillis, had he made it to the SNL cast, would have overnight become one of the most recognizable comics in America. As it is he may find himself having difficulty getting work in the future. (Indeed one or two comedy clubs have reportedly already barred him, finding his material offensive.) The stakes here for this young man are considerable. Should his life be turned around over some random dumb jokes?
To his credit, the entrepreneur and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted, “For the record, I do not think he should lose his job. We would benefit from being more forgiving rather than punitive. We are all human.” Yet SNL is now creating a precedent: Hey, comedians, in the course of your attempts to be funny, ever said anything offensive that was recorded? This is now, according to SNL, a fireable offense. Given that a good part of comedy is devoted to feeling your way around the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable to say out loud, and given that a lot of young people routinely say dumb stuff that gets recorded, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if people currently on the SNL team have said things that are offensive. If I were a comedian on SNL or anywhere else, I’d be nervous — unless I had reached the level of Bill Burr or Ricky Gervais or Dave Chappelle, none of whom needs an employer to approve their thoughts.
SNL didn’t fire Gillis right away, which made me think the show was going to do the wise thing and not set this new standard, but here we are. Far wiser, I think, would have been for SNL to open the season with a sketch in which Gillis and his offensive comments on Chinese people were made the butt of the joke.
9. More Kyle: He explores the true reason for the new smears against Justice Kavanaugh. From his analysis:
The hope of the Democratic party and most of the media is to delegitimize Brett Kavanaugh and hence any Supreme Court decision in which he joins a 5–4 majority. The ground is being laid to make the case that, should Roe v. Wade be overturned in such a manner, that decision would exist under a cloud. It’s a desperation move: The Democrats and their media allies, the Times and The New Yorker very much included, are envisioning some extralegal or extra-constitutional maneuvers to stop Roe from being overturned.
Most people can’t be bothered to master the details of a complicated news story. Most people can’t be bothered to make a serious study of how each allegation against Kavanaugh made by partisan Democrats played out, and ultimately was unsubstantiated. The Times, The New Yorker and other outlets have succeeded in creating a miasma of doubt around Kavanaugh. Should Roe be overturned, the Times will enthusiastically support the resulting melee — marchers, protesters, mobs howling in the street. It will insinuate that the ravings of the mob, not the duly lawful and constitutional process that resulted in the seating of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, are the ones that carry true legitimacy.
10. Jay Nordlinger wants us to focus attention on one man in Red China. From his piece:
The Chinese state is committing monstrous crimes against the Uyghur minority. So monstrous are these crimes, it can be hard to take it all in. To focus the mind. The state has rounded up something like 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities and put them into internment camps, or reeducation camps, or concentration camps, or whatever you choose to call them. Many have been tortured to death.
I wrote a piece about the general issue last year (a piece that, while general, cites individual cases).
Here and now, I would like to call attention to one man. Stalin is reputed to have said, “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic.” Sakharov disliked talking about human rights in general. (His widow, Yelena Bonner, told me this.) He needed to talk about individuals and their predicaments.
11. Even More Kyle: What’s getting in the way of Brad Pitt making good movies, says Kyle Smith after he checked out Ad Astra, is Brad Pitt’s ego. From the review:
Ad Astra (“to the stars”) is a semi-silly low-serotonin remake of Apocalypse Now in space. A major difference is that Apocalypse Now was a director’s movie. This one, produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B, is an actor’s movie. Guess which actor comes off amazing in it?
Another difference is that Apocalypse Now was a great movie. Ad Astra is merely watchable. Pitt has good instincts for scripts, but his thirst for roles that show him to be a completely implacably awesomely omni-capable hero is limiting him. In World War Z, after a sudden outbreak of sprinting zombies, he not only knew exactly what to do, but he wasn’t even surprised. In this one, he’s a pilot-soldier-spy on a mission to save the universe. He’s onscreen virtually every moment. Nobody else gets more than about two pages of dialogue, even the woman who occupies the center of his thoughts. All we know about her is that she’s Liv Tyler. She doesn’t get to talk, she doesn’t get to do anything, she doesn’t have any characteristics, she’s just His Woman. You might as well have called the film Brad Astra.
I somewhat enjoyed it as an experience, mostly because of the rich atmosphere — immaculate, detailed production design by Kevin Thompson, eye-popping photography by the cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema. Writer-director James Gray, whose habit it is to make prestige films that aren’t very good (We Own the Night, The Immigrant, The Lost City of Z) has imagined a near-future in which man is becoming increasingly comfortable with living away from Earth but also stricken by a hollow realization that nothing out there is going to fix what’s wrong with us. The moon is so thoroughly colonized that it’s practically become a Disney property — Year After Tomorrowland. Is outer space ultimately just another place for man to trash with his bad habits?
12. Robert Zubrin explains the brave new autonomous world where AI and robotics and drones all mix and mingle to undergird tyranny. From the outset of his piece:
In the fall of 1989, the peoples of Eastern Europe rose up against their Communist oppressors. The tyrants ruling these nations had no moral compunction about shooting their subjects down, but fortunately, they couldn’t count on their armed forces to do it. So the Iron Curtain fell, and two years later, even the mighty Soviet Union was brought down when the Red Army, sent into Moscow, refused the orders of those attempting to brutally reinstate Stalinist rule.
But imagine what might have occurred had those soldiers been not human beings but robots, lacking in any sympathy or humanity, ready, willing, and able to reliably massacre anyone the authorities chose to be their targets.
This is the threat posed by the emerging technology known as “autonomous weapons.”
For decades, science fiction has speculated on the theme of robot servants rising up to overwhelm their human masters. Such scenarios remain fantasy, because they require self-reproducing machines with a will to power and the ability and desire to cooperate with each other to carry off a grand collective design — which at this point, anyway, is still quite far-fetched. Instead what we have seen are drone weapons, most typically aircraft, under human command, executing reconnaissance and strike operations by remote control. The military advantages offered by such systems are obvious. Drone fighters, for example, cost much less than piloted fighters, can pull 20 g’s without blacking out, are utterly fearless, and can be sent on one-way missions, if necessary, without human loss. So we are sure to see more of them, and analogous systems developed for land and sea fighting.
13. Tom Duesterberg says the president’s heavy hand is imperiling the potential of his trade policy. From the beginning of his analysis:
After President Trump’s nearly three years in the White House, we can begin to decipher the general outlines of a trade strategy. While moving in the right direction, making up for years of inattention and complacency with regard to the abuse of global rules by China and others, the inconsistent and heavy-handed approach employed by the president threatens to undermine the open-trade-based global economic order and the robust growth of the American economy that has resulted from his more consistent tax, regulatory, and energy policies.
Indeed, the vacillation and unpredictability of Trump’s trade policy have raised economic uncertainty to its highest levels since the 2008 recession, which in turn has weakened investment, employment gains, and market confidence. Even though critics from Europe, former U.S. government officials, and card-carrying free-market purists pine for a return to some aspirational “liberal, rules-based order,” what is really needed is a much more determined and consistent critique of those countries most responsible for undermining the order that actually does reign, and a clearer concept of the importance of trade strategy to strengthening national security, including long-term economic security.
14. Armond White sees the new Mexican flick, Tattoo of Revenge, as a Millenia-challenging film-noir portrayal of the country’s spiritual crisis. From the beginning of his review:
At the end of Julián Hernández’s vigilante melodrama Tattoo of Revenge (Rencor Tatuado), a male heartthrob (Vicente Colmenares, played by Irving Peña), and an androgynous woman (Aída Cisneros, played by Diana Lein) come together in a passionate kiss. The symbolic merging of masculine and feminine romantic pursuits (continued from Hernández’s previous prize-winning films A Thousand Clouds of Peace, Broken Sky, Raging Sun, Raging Sky, I Am Happiness on Earth) is no mere happy ending. Its queerness represents a personalized triumph over the crime, deception, violence, and decadence roiling present-day Mexico. Tattoo of Revenge is an erotic thriller that challenges Millennial viewers with a moral and political subtext.
Hernández explores our contemporary nightmare by creating his own personal mythology: Film student Vicente is fascinated by a series of revenge attacks signed by the mysterious La Vengadora, who tattoos a large scorpion on the torsos of men accused of rape and then posts the humiliating images in the media. La Vengadora’s photos remind Vicente of avant-garde art by the radical feminist Aída Cisneros, who presumably committed suicide after being brutalized. Cisneros’s legend is exploited by talk-radio charlatan Divinidad Martínez (Itatí Cantoral), “The Sultry Voice” whose dabblings in occult superstition, broadcast on XEZ, captivate “every corner of Latin America.”
In this dizzying narrative, Hernández emulates and heightens the obsessive intensity of film noir. Tattoo of Revenge riffs, specifically, on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — as if that grotesque but popular franchise was rebooted by a conscientious art filmmaker. Vicente’s investigation (“It’s all blurry, but it’s as absurd as my life. Nobody understands their own life anyway”) plays alongside Aída’s secret missions. Deep, glowing black-and-white procedural imagery (seen in old-fashioned slide-projection frames) alternate with scenes of imagined guilt and desire in emotionally accented hues, plus full-color flashbacks.
15. Michael Brendan Dougherty thinks Jeremy Corbin is stepping in stinking absurdity with Labour’s new (incoherent!) Brexit policy. From his piece:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has treated the Brexit party as an existential threat to his Tories. When 21 members of his own party voted against his ability to threaten a no-deal Brexit in negotiations with Brussels, he expelled them from the party. Farage called it an act of leadership.
Corbyn feels less free to swat away the Lib Dems. He still insists on trying to chart a middle path that satisfies both Labour’s Brexiteers and its Remainers, and he’s making himself and the party look ridiculous in the process. Corbyn’s policy is that, if elected, he would begin renegotiating a softened Brexit withdrawal agreement with the EU, perhaps considering a customs union, that he claims would be much better than the current one, or anything Johnson can put together. Once he got 27 nations of the EU to agree to this, he would turn around and hold another divisive national referendum, giving the people a final say on it. The two options would be the Corbyn “Remain Lite” deal or simply remaining in the European Union. Corbyn wouldn’t campaign either way, and likely wouldn’t oblige his party to campaign for the deal that he’d negotiated on their behalf.
This is a stinking absurdity too crazy even for the Europeanists. Foreign leaders and allies don’t want to waste time negotiating a deal with a government when that government isn’t interested in wholeheartedly supporting or implementing it.
16. Bless Me Father for I Have Strawed: As we veer ever closer to the USSR circa 1930s, John Hirschauer checks out NBC’s appeal (no doubt made from electricity-chomping, air-conditioned offices in its massive 30 Rock skyscraper) for “climate confessions.” From his piece:
The network announced that it is soliciting “climate confessions,” admissions of public and private sins against the natural environment and the climate. The sacrament, far from the ornate wooden lairs of Catholic lore, occurs on one sordidly animated webpage, where your transgressions against Gaea are plastered for all to see, in a communal ritual of denunciation. Atop the site is a promise to uphold the seal of the confessional, assuring penitents that their “confessions” will be kept anonymous.
“Tell us,” NBC insists with ecclesial verve, “Where do you fall short in preventing climate change?” It even provides an examination of conscience in miniature: “Do you blast the A/C? Throw out half your lunch? Grill a steak every week?”
Contrite sinners were all too happy to admit their faults: “I compost at home, but not at work,” reads the confession of one offender; “I want to install solar panels but am waiting for state/federal incentives to do so!” grieves another. Like any good religion, there were apostates; one heretic nailed this to the digital door: “I run my AC 24/7. I’m not going to sweat to appease this climate religion.” Another wrote, “I eat meat every day. And won’t stop, because it’s good.”
17. Mark Mills’ fascinating take on the new craze of “flight shaming” speaks Truth to Power . . . usage. Tree-hugging keyboard jockeys have got a lot of ’splainin’ to do. From the piece:
Perhaps a more useful way to compare obvious and “hidden” energy behaviors would be to invent an entirely new unit of measure. Let’s propose, in honor of flight-shamers, something we could call a personal jet-air-mile, or “p-JAM.” A single p-JAM is the energy used by one person flying one mile on a commercial jet. One can convert the energy used for any activity, be it driving or Web surfing, from British thermal units (BTUs) or gallons of gasoline into p-JAMs.
Using the p-JAM metric, we see that trains don’t yield much energy savings. Your personal fuel use riding a fully loaded train is about 0.7 p-JAMs each mile, or a mere 30 percent less than flying. Drive a mile alone in a typical SUV and you burn two p-JAMs per mile. Car-pooling with three passengers drops per person fuel use, on average, to 0.5 p-JAMs per mile.
Meanwhile, watch an HD movie on your mobile device and, on average, you are personally responsible for burning five p-JAMs every hour. That’s not the fault of the device in your hand; it’s your pro rata share of the energy use “hidden” in the hardware of the Internet’s infrastructure. The lion’s share of digital energy use happens in the “invisible” infrastructure, the networks and the thousands of datacenters that constitute the core of the World Wide Web. Each of those warehouse-scale computers burns through some 100,000 p-JAMs every hour. For perspective, consider that a typical Empire State Building–sized skyscraper sips just 3,000 p-JAMs an hour.
Did You Ever See a Great Blue Heron in Flight?
These birds aren’t to be found in my Connecticut neighborhood, but up in Maine last week (running away for a few days with Mrs. Yours Truly), while we were sitting on a little dock at sweet Thomas Pond, two of these beautiful creatures flew just overhead, squawking loudly, flapping those massive, majestic wings, startling the bejeebers out of us.
After the surprise, the glee subsiding, the bejeebers restored, I returned to the task at hand: reading the galleys of Rich Lowry’s forthcoming book, The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free, which is coming to a store near you on November 5 (but use that link to find plenty of places where you can order it, as they say, “pre-pub”).
You want to know what the book is about? Here’s how Harper Collins’ expert copywriters describe what is going to be a big deal:
In The Case for Nationalism, Lowry explains how nationalism was central to the American Project. It fueled the American Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution. It preserved the country during the Civil War. It led to the expansion of the American nation’s territory and power, and eventually to our invaluable contribution to creating an international system of self-governing nations.
It’s time to recover a healthy American nationalism, and especially a cultural nationalism that insists on the assimilation of immigrants and that protects our history, civic rituals and traditions, which are under constant threat. At a time in which our nation is plagued by self-doubt and self-criticism, The Case for Nationalism offers a path for America to regain its national self-confidence and achieve continued greatness.
I took the passing herons as an omen: Our Fearless Leader is a bird lover. I returned to the galley and immediately spied a jewel of a sentence and thought: gotta share this in the WJ. If only to give the tiniest taste of Rich’s style and tone in this opus. Sharing:
Anti-nationalists especially went to avert their gaze from our conquest of the continent or even excoriate it. But if we had remained the coastal country we were in the 18th century, we would have been a significant, but not a world-historical, nation. Size matters. The Swiss have ideals. Does anyone give a damn?
No, but I’ll give a Damn! Now go order that copy.
And by the way, Rich’s latest column takes on the anti-vaping crusade. From his piece:
About 11 million adults vape, and some percentage of them are former smokers or would be smoking in the absence of e-cigarettes. A robust study in the United Kingdom found that vaping is twice as effective as other common nicotine replacements in getting smokers to quit. The flavors, according to surveys of users, are a big draw for smokers quitting traditional cigarettes.
It’s manifestly absurd to ban vaping products and leave cigarettes, including flavored cigarettes, on the market.
Another source of the current panic is that teen vaping is way up. In 2017, 11.7 percent of teens reported having vaped over the past 30 days; in 2019, 27.5 percent did. There’s nothing to suggest that this increase in vaping is encouraging real teen smoking, which continues to decline and has fallen to less than 6 percent.
Everyone would prefer that teens not develop a vaping habit, but this presents nothing close to the health issue presented by combustible cigarettes.
1. At City Journal, Rafael A. Mangual warns that mass decarceration — increasingly advocated by liberal politicians who yearn for America to match West European rates of hooesgow occupancy — will actually lead to an increase in violent crime. From his report:
Two things are clear from the data on recidivism and violent crime: the vast majority of prisoners who get released will go on to re-offend at some point; and even during the fastest period of prison growth in America, more than one-third of those convicted of violent felonies had an active criminal-justice status when the offense was committed (i.e., they were on probation, parole, or out pending the disposition of a prior case).
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) conducted a longitudinal study of recidivism among released state prisoners, following a cohort of more than 400,000 across 30 states for nine years. It found that 83% were rearrested for a new offense at least once during the nine-year period. This figure is significantly higher than the recidivism rate found in some previous studies that used a three-year benchmark. As the results of the BJS study make clear, a three-year benchmark period is inadequate. Only 68% of the prisoners in the BJS study had been arrested within three years. Indeed, “six in 10 (60%) of the 1,994,000 arrests during the 9-year period occurred from years 4 through 9,” and 47% of those not arrested in the first three years were arrested at some point thereafter, according to the study. Even 43% of the prisoners over the age of 60 were rearrested at some point.
It is worth noting that most offenses go unreported, undetected, and unpunished. That a released prisoner was not arrested within three years of his release does not necessarily mean that he did not commit any crimes.
2. Gatestone Institute’s Denis MacEoin reveals how the United Church of Christ has produced a toxic document that favors one side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Go ahead. Guess which side. From his analysis:
Welcome to yet another skewed guide on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. After a vote to support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in 2015, an organization affiliated with the UCC, the UCC Palestine Israel Network (UCCPIN), published a guide to Israel-Palestine affairs. Titled, “Promoting a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel,” and sub-headed “A Guide for United Church of Christ Faith Leaders”, this toxic document is a desperately one-sided, inaccurate, and counter-factual exercise in futile politics. Legally, UCCPIN operates under the aegis of one of the denomination’s local conferences. Its Guide is, therefore, not the direct work of the church’s leadership, but is clearly endorsed by a section of it.
The Guide most certainly does not favour either justice or peace in the Holy Land, as its contents show on every page. Some delegates, opposed to the resolution, identified its one-sidedness. Joanne Marchetto, of the Penn-Northeast Conference of the UCC, said during the 2015 vote that she was “uncomfortable with how this resolution is presented… This is a great injustice to the land, and I think we need to hear both sides of the argument.” The guide produced by the church regrettably rejects any call to hear more than the Palestinian narrative and anti-Israel arguments. At the end, it has a four-page list of resources, books, DVDs, websites, a reading list, educational material, alternative travel organizations, and films. Not one of the many items on this list is remotely pro-Israel. All are hard-line pro-Palestine activist materials and links. The UCCPIN Guide does not pay even lip service to the notions of fairness, dual narratives, or a need for mutual understanding. The pro-peace Jewish or Israeli voice is silenced, while Palestinian hate speech, genocidal threats, and endless terrorism do not, at any time, come in for criticism.
3. Williams College hosts a sci-tech symposium to which white contributors are explicitly not permitted. Brittany Slaughter at The College Fix has the details. From the story:
Part of the application process asked applicants to write a couple sentences proving themselves as a member of a “historically underrepresented group.” Yet the application also provides an equal employment opportunity statement that people from all backgrounds are welcome.
Chosen scholars will receive a $500 honorarium and be hosted by Williams College as they present their papers to the audience, organizers state, adding “we aim to create an inclusive, intellectually enriching experience for all involved, including the visiting speakers and the faculty and students of Williams.”
Williams College Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of Science and Technology Studies Laura Ephraim is the point of contact for the event. For the last three weeks she has ignored repeated phone calls and emails from The College Fix seeking comment on the event.
Williams College’s media affairs office and several faculty members in the Science and Technology Studies program at the school also ignored repeated requests for comment.
The only person at the college willing to return numerous requests for comment was an administrative assistant in Science and Technology Studies who said they were unsure who could help The College Fix with its questions.
4. At The American Conservative, Gilbert T. Sewall tells the sorry tale of Modesto, Calif., dystopia. From his piece:
Unemployment is high, but more to the point, many incoming Modesto residents are not looking for jobs, incapable of holding them. Too uncouth or troubled to be employable, an army of marginal itinerants—not exactly homeless but close, without any attachment to the locale—is content with Section 8 housing and family services. It’s a life of EBT and Medicaid, of getting by tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow.
McHenry Avenue cuts through the center of town. There’s an empty shopping mall with its anchor store boarded up and peeling. Down the street, a security guard in dark glasses with a serious pistol strapped to his leg holster is vaping outside the unmarked entrance to a turquoise warehouse building. This turns out to be Phenos, a big-box marijuana dispensary. Dozens of cars sit in its huge parking lot. They come and go day and night, Mercedes SUVs and wrecks, truckers and teenagers, everyone doping up. Uptown, the handsomely built and landscaped Planned Parenthood Modesto Health Center is the place to go for quickie abortions. Close by, the Emerald Tattoo parlor pitches Tattoo Financing No Money Down on a bright day-glow green sign.
Who pays for the dope, abortions, and tattoos? That’s often hard to determine. Inked, unexercised, pasty women with greasy ponytails range from plump to morbidly obese. Unkempt, bearded men flashing angry eyes dare anyone to mess with them. Modesto’s demi-monde comes in white and color, much of it covered in florid body tattoos that reify insane slogans, fantasies, and ideations. “Drugs, homeless, your shit being stolen, with sloppy drunken fights and even someone getting shot or stabbed,” is how one resident describes low-life Modesto.
5. At Commentary, Wilfred McClay takes on the New York Times’ “1619 Project” and finds the paper distorts American history. From his essay:
But to acknowledge that slavery and its effects have been woven deeply and indelibly into the fabric of American society, and will always be a part of the American story, is one thing. To say that they represent the predominant forces shaping American life down to the present—that is quite another.
There are two fundamental sets of questions, then, to be asked of the 1619 Project.
First, are its fundamental assertions plausible? Do they rest on a solid and uncontroversial scholarly basis? Is there an evidentiary basis at all for saying that “everything exceptional about American history” rests upon slavery?
The second set of questions involves what we are to make of the New York Times’ decision to take on this project in the way that it has. Is it the proper role of a journalistic organization, especially one as powerful as the Times, to promote and advocate for a particular interpretation of American history? Do such actions constitute responsible journalism? Do they contribute to the solution of our current problems through the introduction of honest, unflinching, and fair-minded consideration of the issues raised by the American experience with slavery?
Or are they doing something far less creditable, less balanced, and more polemical, using a distorted and one-sided account of our history to intervene in our current political wars, in ways that can only broaden and deepen those conflicts, and turn them into far worse forms of warfare?
The answer to the second set of questions will depend on what we conclude about the first set. And with them the Project seems to go astray almost immediately.
6. At Law & Liberty, Titus Techera finds wisdom amongst the laughs as he contemplates comedian Dave Chappelle’s broadsides at wokeness. From the outset of his essay:
Dave Chappelle’s hilarious new Netflix special, Sticks & Stones, confirms him as this generation’s most famous and daring comic in America. He’s also therefore the most strangely positioned—a black liberal who has dedicated his career to mocking the piety of the wealthy white liberals who consider themselves arbiters of taste in popular culture.
This is the most important and obvious fact about Chappelle. He’s what Americans pride ourselves on, a rugged individualist, a man who doesn’t take his opinions either from mobs or elites. Why aren’t there more like him? Why don’t we call for more like him? Perhaps it’s because he’s too independent, famously willing to walk away from $50 million because he didn’t want his studio and audience to rule him. He’s what hardly any celebrity wants to be, since celebrity depends on flattering audiences, which requires conformism, following fashions—treating the latest moral prejudices as the eternal truths of revealed religion.
Of course, his business is comedy, not a morally enlightened debate, so expect vast, unquenchable resources of vulgarity in his work. But do not be deceived therefore that vulgarity is mindless or simply deleterious. Vulgarity is unavoidable in our pop culture, but Chappelle’s includes a strong moral-political argument, that vulgarity is truly closer to our nature than moral preening. His example suggests that people who try to make careers by stoking popular indignation are not as serious as the people who laugh at such pretensions.
Wearing my old Boston Braves lid, visions of The Bambino dance in the thick skull underneath — it was his last team after all. His first team was the Red Sox, and in his initial four seasons in Beantown (1914–1917) The Babe did nothing but pitch, compiling a 67–34 record and becoming one of baseball’s dominant southpaws: He led the AL in complete games in 1917, with 35, and the previous year led the league in shutouts (he had nine, and the humdinger of the lot came in a 13-inning August 16 contest at Fenway Park — he scattered eight hits in a 1–0 win against the great Walter Johnson). In his final two years in Boston, Ruth kept pitching (compiling a 22–12 record) while he developed into an everyday player and slugger (he led the Majors in home runs both seasons).
Of peculiar interest are the few times when Ruth, transformed into a slugger in pinstripes, took to the mound as a lark: In 15 seasons he pitched five times for the Yankees, and, amazingly, in each game earned a victory. His last effort came at Yankee Stadium on the final day of the 1933 season, as the second-place home team beat the Red Sox 6–5. Ruth took the complete-game win, the 93rd and last of his career, giving up 12 hits. In his penultimate performance, in 1930, again on the season’s last day, Ruth pitched another complete game against the Red Sox (playing at Braves Field), winning 9–3 as he scattered 11 hits and struck out three.
1n 1921, Ruth pitched twice for the Yanks, and registered two victories, although the second one was an embarrassment: Coming into the game (a 7–6 win against the Athletics on October 1) in the eighth inning, sporting a 6–0 lead, The Sultan of Swat proceeded to give up six runs. The tie game went into the bottom of the 11th, when the Yanks scored and earned Ruth, still on the mound, his W. The previous year, 1920, in his first appearance as a pitcher for the Yankees, he started a June 1 game at the Polo Grounds against the Senators and left after four innings with the Yanks commanding a 12–2 lead (they would prevail 14–7).
Those five Yankee wins piggybacked on Ruth’s final four 1919 appearances on the mound for the Red Sox — he won three and saved another — giving him a career-ending eight-game winning streak, which was strung out over 14 years.
Very cool regarding Ruth’s last appearance as a pitcher: Playing right field that day for the Sox was Joe Judge, who had first faced Ruth in 1915 as a rookie for the Senators (he went 1-for-3 as Washington beat Boston, with Ruth pitching in relief for loser Smokey Joe Wood). In that final game, he went 0-for-2 with a walk against Ruth. And Judge was also in the lineup in Ruth’s first pitching appearance as a Yankee (Judge went 0-for-1 with a walk against the Bambino).
Away in Maine, myself and her — or is it “they” or “them”? . . . Let’s go with “The Better Half” — saw the Milky Way, perceptible but faint thanks to a blazing, almost-full moon. The Milky Way is, again, not something seen in the home neighborhood. So the night was special.
No matter the sky views, the Creator deserves our constant praise, but sometimes the glory of it all, the immensity of it all, best seen on clear cool nights in the heavens above, makes the heart leap with joy. Thank you kindly, oh Ancient of Days, for allowing us to see this sliver of what You have wrought.
God’s Blessings on You and All You Love, May His Light Shine on All,
Jack Fowler, who can be reached by amateur and real astronomers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S.: Coded messages . . . to Sarah and Tim, kudos and God’s blessings and graces upon you, . . . to Shaven Scotty, don’t blow it — you had better be funny, . . . and to the Mayor of Murray Hill, love you.