Dear Weekend Jolter,
. . . It’s from an old familiar score.
Admittedly, when Helen Forrest and Harry James worked their magic, the ditty spoke of happy memories. But when it comes to presidential impeachments, there are no happy memories: These things are bona fide clunkers, even when the deck is stacked, as it was against President Andrew Johnson, an antagonizing chief executive if there ever was one. Armed with a temper and a personality steeped in vinegar, the former tailor knew how to make enemies. The political theatrics of Congress’s 1868 effort to impeach the Tennessee Democrat make the current ten-thumbed attempts to erase President Trump look gentle and sweet. One of the 11 articles filed against Johnson charged him with attempting to:
Excite the odium and resentment of all good people of the United States against Congress and the laws by it duly and constitutionally enacted; and in pursuance of his said design and intent, openly and publicly and before divers assemblages of citizens of the United States, convened in divers parts thereof, to meet and receive said Andrew Johnson as the Chief Magistrate of the United States, did, on the 18th day of August, in the year of our Lord 1866, and on divers other days and times, as well before as afterward, make and declare, with a loud voice certain intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces, as well against Congress as the laws of the United States duly enacted thereby, amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled in hearing . . .
True, mother always cautioned never to excite the odium, but still, is that impeachable? In the end, it all flopped — a close call for Andy on the four votes the Senate actually took, but a victory (if you look at it that way) for him nonetheless.
In the end, he ended up gracing a U.S postage stamp. As someday, likely, will President Trump.
We have much to offer this week past from NRO about matters of impeachment, and Iran, and so much more. Get the mouse ready because we have got the links that you need to click.
1. Iran blinks. Sometimes that happens after your eye has been poked. From the editorial:
World War III is off.
The killing of Qasem Soleimani stoked a round of hysteria in the media over the consequences, with serious people on cable TV invoking August 1914.
The formal Iranian military retaliation makes all this look even sillier than it already seemed. The Iranians hit two bases in Iraq in a missile strike carefully calibrated to limit the damage, and indeed, there were no U.S. casualties. Tehran clearly wanted to be able to say it had directly struck at the Americans, while limiting the risk of further confrontation with the U.S.
This suggests that Trump won the first round of this stage of the contest with Iran. He took a key enemy player off the board in Qasem Soleimani and affirmed a red line against killing Americans. In announcing new sanctions against Iran in a White House address, he also made it clear that Iran isn’t escaping from the stringent sanctions box that it is desperate to get out of (hence its series of provocations the past few months).
A Dozen Links, and Then Some, of Essential, Top-Notch Conservative Brilliance from the Stop-Yelling Institution that Stands Athwart
1. The great John Yoo declares that the claims that the president’s action against Soleimani was illegal are full of baloney. POTUS has the Constitution and precedent on his side. From the piece:
But even if opponents of the Trump administration based their criticisms on constitutional principle, and not political expediency, they would still fail. Killing an individual, of course, is not generally legal. Nor is it always illegal. Killing an individual can be legal when it is carried out by the state as criminal punishment for first-degree murder. It can be legal when a police officer shoots an attacker armed with a weapon. It can be illegal when it is murder.
No American law prohibits the targeting of specific enemy leaders. Neither the Constitution nor federal statutes prevent the direct targeting of individual members of the enemy. Only Executive Order 12,333, issued by President Reagan in 1981, states that “no person employed or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” This was a continuation of a similar ban first issued by President Gerald Ford in 1976, which was subsequently reaffirmed by President Carter, and has been followed by every president since.
But while he banned assassinations, Reagan did not define them. Ever since Reagan’s executive order, administrations of both parties have generally defined assassination as the murder of a public figure for political purposes. The killings of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln were assassinations. By contrast, the killing of the enemy in combat is protected by the laws of war. As Hugo Grotius, the father of modern international law, observed in 1646, “it is permissible to kill an enemy.” Legitimate military targets include not just foot soldiers, but the command-and-control structure of an enemy’s military, leading up to its commander in chief. Assassination is different from killing an enemy general, such as Soleimani.
2. Andy McCarthy seconds the motion: Terrorists who are “commanders” are very fair game for a drone visit. From the analysis:
It is interesting to contrast the mid Nineties to today.
Back then, most Democrats were committed to the law-enforcement approach to counterterrorism. While you can debate the wisdom of that, those Democrats were at least serious about making sure that court prosecution was as effective as it could possibly be. In the 1996 overhaul of counterterrorism law, the Clinton White House and Justice Department worked closely with a Republican-controlled Congress. They not only addressed the flaws that made uncompleted bombing plots so challenging to prosecute. They also defined new crimes tailored to how modern international terrorism actually works. These improvements enabled investigators to thwart plots in their infancy; we were also empowered to starve jihadist organizations of funding, personnel, and materiel.
The bipartisan message was loud and clear: We want terrorists aggressively prosecuted but, even more, we want our agents to have the tools to prevent plots and attacks from taking shape in the first place.
Where is that message today?
In neutralizing terrorists and their state sponsors, the venerable law of war is, to my mind, a necessary complement, if not a preferable alternative, to the criminal law. One of many reasons is that, when an enemy is making war on the United States, there is no need to wait for an attack to be imminent in order to justify a defensive, preemptive strike. General Soleimani was an enemy combatant commander for the Iranian regime and the jihadist terror networks it uses in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere. For more than 40 years, Iran has unabashedly pronounced itself as at war with the United States. It has conducted major attacks that have killed hundreds of Americans. In just the past few weeks, Iran’s jihadist militias attacked American bases in and around Baghdad eleven times.
3. Jim Talent says it plain and simple: Iran crossed a line. From the analysis:
So what are the takeaways?
The United States has a clear strategy in dealing with the threat from Iran. It is to strangle the regime until it either comes seriously to the bargaining table or is overthrown by its own people. Whether the strategy will succeed remains to be seen, but the Trump administration has pursued it with consistency and purpose and is achieving demonstrable progress towards the goal.
President Trump has narrowed America’s commitments in the Middle Eastern theater but has restored the credibility of those that remain. The move against Soleimani was an ingenious stroke in that regard; it was bold but surgical, and the effect of it as a demonstration of American resolve will be comprehensive and long-lasting — and not just in the Middle East.
It would be a mistake for the administration or its supporters to adopt a triumphalist attitude regarding this episode. The Iranians used the sanctions relief from the JCPOA to upgrade their arsenal of precision ballistic and cruise missiles and to spread more of those missiles to their proxies in the region. They have greater capacity now to damage American assets in the region, though they would exhaust that capacity quickly — and the administration has just sent a powerful message that the response to any conventional attack would be certain and overwhelming.
All of that is a reason why the president’s sanctions policy is so necessary. It starves the Iranian regime of the resources it needs to grow stronger. It’s also a reason why the move against Soleimani was well chosen and well timed.
4. There’s another President Andrew to whom the current POTUS has timely similarities — Jackson. So assesses Rich Lowry. From the piece:
Suddenly, the neocons had cachet again (Vox warned that “the Iraq War hawks are back”), and we were about to launch yet another endless war. Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani, New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote, repeating a common refrain, “has brought the United States to the brink of a devastating new conflict in the Middle East.”
There’s no doubt that the operation against Soleimani carried risks, but it didn’t transform Trump into a conventional interventionist. In fact, taking out Soleimani was wholly consistent with the president’s approach to the world that can’t be plotted on a simple hawk/dove or neocon/isolationist axis. As a Jacksonian, Trump is none of the above, combining a willingness to whack our enemies with a distaste for ambitious foreign interventions.
The Jacksonian label is the famous construction of foreign-policy analyst Walter Russell Mead, who traces the tradition back to Andrew Jackson and the cultural influence of the American backwoods. Jacksonians are content to let the world sort itself out, except if they perceive a threat, in which case they react with great ferocity.
5. The Leftist tears over the death of Soleimani are captured by A.J. Cashetta. From the piece:
Meanwhile, exaggerations of Soleimani’s greatness and the depth of his intellect are common. Time magazine compared him to Cardinal Richelieu and Machiavelli. Prompted by Fareed Zakaria’s claim that Soleimani was “regarded in Iran as a completely heroic figure, personally very brave,” Anderson Cooper compared him to Charles de Gaulle. Rosanna Arquette compared Trump to Hitler for killing the great Soleimani.
Clichés about the killing abound. Wag the Dog charges are popular, as are parallels to Bill Clinton’s firing missiles at al-Qaeda targets during his impeachment. Squad members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib tweeted, respectively, that “Trump wants war“ and “we cannot stay silent as this lawless President recklessly moves us closer to yet another unnecessary war.”
Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University, writes on his Facebook page that “the targeted assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Iraq is the first major salvo of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.” Lest anyone miss his subtlety, Dabashi announces “this is Wag the Dog galore.” His advice — “do not trust a word coming out of US or Iranian officials’ — being at least 50 percent accurate should improve his average. But like most of his Facebook rants, this one quickly devolves into bizarre conspiracy theories, such as his assertion that “the New York Times etc just like the state media in Iran are now the official mouthpiece of US and Iran propaganda.”
Also popular is the stability cliché, which claims that killing Soleimani destabilized the Middle East. One less prone to groupthink might ask, When was the Middle East stable? Was it in the good old days before the Trump administration, or perhaps before 9/11? Or was it before the Iranian Revolution, or the Balfour Declaration, or the Ottoman Empire?
6. More Rich: What Nike whiner and racism-charger Colin Kaepernick declared about Soleimani wasn’t just a lie, says Our Esteemed Editor — it was a stupid lie. From the beginning of the column:
In the torrent of idiotic commentary unleashed by the killing of Qasem Soleimani, Colin Kaepernick’s deserves a place of honor.
The NFL washout and Nike persona who makes sure the company doesn’t produce any overly patriotic sneakers tweeted, “There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism.”
For Kaepernick, Soleimani is just another dark-skinned man brutalized by the United States. The Iranian terror master was, in effect, driving while nonwhite and paid the ultimate price. For all we know, the operator of the MQ-9 Reaper drone that took him out was making a white-supremacy hand signal while unleashing this racist attack.
This interpretation of events takes identity politics to a whole new level, defining the blood-drenched hit man for a terrorist, profoundly anti-Semitic, deeply intolerant theocracy as a victim, based on his skin color alone.
Obviously, no one will mistake Colin Kaepernick for an original thinker; he’s only repeating things he’s read or been told, in a slightly more lurid form. His worldview is disproportionately represented in academia and on the left, which objects to calling Soleimani a monster (hence, Elizabeth Warren’s pathetic backtracking after forthrightly condemning Soleimani in her initial statement).
7. Victor Davis Hanson catalogues the infecting powers of the corrupt Steele Dossier. From the article:
James Clapper and John Brennan. James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence under Barack Obama, and John Brennan, the former CIA director, both previously had been caught lying under oath to Congress. Both then apologized, and their illegal behaviors were excused without legal consequences. But both once again have not told the full truth about their own knowledge of the Steele dossier, its unverified and mostly false information, and the role they both played in circulating and promulgating the dossier to the media and high government officials. That both directors were deeply involved in spreading the dossier around Washington, leaking its comments, and then denying their roles while they worked as paid television commentators on CNN and MSNBC only ensured the rapid erosion of their beltway careers and reputations. And both still may have a rendezvous with federal prosecutors in regard to the dossier.
The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A number of federal judges approved FBI and DOJ requests to surveille Carter Page both before and after the 2016 presidential election, supposedly as a way to learn of Trump-Russia collusion.
None of the judges seriously probed government lawyers about the dossier before their court. Although they were told in a footnote that it was a product of opposition research, apparently none asked the nature of such sponsorship.
Yet if a judge is apprised that the evidence before him to support a federal surveillance warrant is based on political opposition research, and the dossier was related to candidate and then president Donald Trump, would it not be prudent to ask attorneys to name who had paid the dossier’s author? Worse still, in winter and late spring 2018, Representative Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) had twice warned the eleven-justice FISA court that the Steele dossier was unreliable and had not been a sound basis to authorize surveilling an American citizen. Nunes and his House colleagues were essentially ignored and dismissed by the court.
8. Bummed out: John Hirschauer decries the Supreme Court’s failure to take up Martin v. City of Boise. From the beginning of the piece:
The Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Martin v. City of Boise. The plaintiffs in Martin were six homeless residents of the city of Boise, Idaho, each of whom was cited for violating municipal statutes banning “camping” and sleeping on public property. Five of the plaintiffs were sentenced to time-served for their violation of the city ordinances. In making its decision, the Ninth Circuit weighed, in the majority’s words, “whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment bars a city from prosecuting people criminally for sleeping outside on public property when those people have no home or other shelter to go to.”
The merits of the laws are certainly debatable. What seems clear is that no reasonable person alive at the Founding would have considered them to violate the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.” For one thing, it’s unclear that the Framers meant for the Eighth Amendment to impose substantive limits on what states can criminalize, rather than restrictions on the types of punishments they can impose. For another, vagrancy laws were unremarkable features of most state legislatures at the time of the Founding. Maine and Massachusetts both enacted laws in the spring of 1788 that called for “suppressing and punishing . . . Rogues, Vagabonds, common Beggars, and other idle, disorderly, and lewd Persons,” and for the subsequent commitment of such persons to a “convenient house or houses of correction . . . for the keeping, correcting, and setting to work of” them.
Even if one were to ignore the historical evidence, however, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling is just as puzzling in its interpretation of relevant case law and its application of precedent, making the Court’s denial of certiorari all the more bizarre.
9. Conservatives are making the case that the Constitution’s “nondelegation doctrine” needs revival. Robert VerBruggen sizes up arguments for and against. From the analysis:
But back to the Supreme Court’s history of nondelegation jurisprudence. Until the New Deal era, the administrative state was relatively small, and while the Court rearticulated the nondelegation doctrine several times after Wayman, it never actually struck down any laws as running afoul of it. Two laws did bite the dust in 1935, but then activity mysteriously ceased again, despite the explosive growth of the administrative state. So what happened to that “fill up the details” standard?
Essentially, in the wake of the 1937 “switch in time“ that prevented FDR’s court-packing scheme, the Court ignored the old nondelegation doctrine in favor of a line from a 1928 decision that might have been intended to restate the usual rule rather than rewrite it: “If Congress shall lay down by legislative act an intelligible principle to which the person or body authorized to [act] is directed to conform, such legislative action is not a forbidden delegation of legislative power.” Providing an “intelligible principle” is a much lower bar to clear than is providing everything except the “details” on subjects of “less interest,” and a Court eager to sign off on sweeping legislation liked the former test better.
Thus did we lose sight of an important constitutional principle that is fundamental to the very design of our government, has roots in the philosophy that guided the Founders, and was endorsed by the Supreme Court in our country’s first half-century of existence — or so Gorsuch’s argument goes.
10. Michael Brendan Dougherty says that five years after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the West has failed to grapple with its implications. From the analysis:
But Western politics has been being transformed by this act, and the year it ushered in, 2015, was the year that the Tories won a surprise majority in Parliament, setting in motion the Brexit referendum of 2016. It was the year of Angela Merkel’s statement “We can do it” — when she offered to welcome 1 million refugees in defiance of the Dublin accords. It was the year Donald Trump took his ride down the escalator and into the presidential race. It was the year in which Abdelhamid Abaaoud used the flow of refugees to travel between Syria and Europe while he masterminded the Bataclan-theater massacre that claimed 131 victims that November. It was after the Bataclan that Ann Coulter said, “They can wait if they like until next November for the actual balloting, but Donald Trump was elected president tonight.” People laughed. But she was right.
Some reacted to the Charlie Hebdo massacre by asking for more restrictions on speech that “punches down” or criticizes groups of people who are on the margins of society. But for a larger set of people, the event joined the cause of free speech with open and hostile criticism of Islam and Islamic immigration. It linked free speech with criticism of a dunderheaded and naïve elite. Without a robust culture of free speech and offense-giving, terrorists would dictate the limits of permissible debate and speech. Without free speech, a mandarin political class would continue to impose the open borders agenda that they deemed “good” even if all the consequences of it were intolerable.
There were, I think, two distinct manifestations of this new politics. Most substantially, there was the rise of populist nationalism and the center bending toward it. Hungary’s Viktor Orban was already steering in this direction from the start of the migration crisis, and his stature in Europe rose as a result. European political parties such as Poland’s Law and Justice or Italy’s Lega rose as well. If one word could be used to describe their political project it is “custodianship”: custodianship of a nation-state, a culture, or a people. For nationalists, the nation matters because it is theirs. Putatively liberal leaders including Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have responded to this challenge by making a show of becoming hawkish about borders. Macron engaged in practically staged confrontations on the issue, and Merkel made a deal with Turkey to keep refugees from continuing to flood into Europe.
11. Department of Acceptable Satire: David Harsanyi stings CNN for its attacks on the Babylon Bee. From the beginning of the piece:
Did you know that CNN has a reporter on the “disinformation” beat?
I’ll skip the cheap joke about his never having to leave the office, and note that the network is now grousing about the Christian conservative satire site the Babylon Bee, which has earned the ire of a number of liberals for making jokes at their expense.
The story drawing CNN’s outrage — “Democrats Call For Flags To Be Flown At Half-Mast To Grieve Death Of Soleimani“ — is good satire. It slightly exaggerates the reaction many on the left have had to the killing of the Iranian mass murderer. Anyone who read the Washington Post’s headline calling Soleimani a “most revered military leader,” watched ABC’s Martha Raddatz offering adulatory treatment of the terrorist from Iran, or listened to Elizabeth Warren struggle to call him a murderer after her initial statement is in on the joke.
That some people believe the Babylon Bee piece is also a sign that it is good satire. How many Americans, after all, still believe that Sarah Palin, rather than Tina Fey, said, “I can see Russia from my house?” Satire relies on a level of plausibility. If the only brand of political humor permitted is vapid enough for even the dumbest or most humorless person to comprehend, we’re going to end up in a world with a lot more Andy Borowitzes.
12. More Harsanyi: Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment game-playing has been a blunderfest. From the article:
A new piece in Time magazine does shed some light on the thought process behind Pelosi’s decision to refuse to hand over articles of impeachment to a Senate whose majority doesn’t want them. One of the most interesting nuggets in the piece isn’t that Pelosi — portrayed as courageous risk-taker — had gotten the bright idea from CNN; it’s that she specifically got it from noted felon John Dean, Nixon’s former White House lawyer. Now, Dean is often portrayed as a patriotic, whistleblowing impeachment expert — which is true insofar as he planned the Watergate coverup, and then informed on everyone whom he conspired with after they were caught. His real expertise is cashing in on criminality for the past 50 years (I wrote about Dean’s slimy past here).
Surely Pelosi, blessed with preternatural political instincts, wouldn’t rely on Dean’s advice? Surely Pelosi wasn’t browbeaten into doing this by podcast bros and talking heads on America’s least popular major cable-news network?
Because whatever you make of the case against Donald Trump, it’s getting increasingly difficult to argue that this amateurish, constantly shifting effort by the House has been effective. After two dramatic emergency impeachment hearings, a pretend standoff, and massive cooperative coverage from the media, poll numbers haven’t budged. They may even have ticked back toward Donald Trump.
13. Goodness Glaciers: Kyle Smith mocks the deadline-obsessed climate alarmists. From the piece:
The glaciers in Glacier National Park have been shrinking for more than 100 years (as the USGS points out, since 1900 “the mean annual temperature for GNP and the surrounding region has increased [by] 1.8 times the global mean increase”), so on current trends they’ll be gone someday “in the next few decades.” Who knows how long current trends will last, though? A 1923 Associated Press report said the glaciers would “almost disappear” in 25 years. So, gone by 1948. In 1936, the Arizona Republic reported that the glaciers would “vanish within 25 years.” So, 1961. A 1952 AP report alluded to “naturalists” who said the glaciers would be gone in 50 years. So, 2002. In 2009, National Geographic News asked, “No More Glaciers in Glacier National Park by 2020?” A New York Times report a few years ago pushed the date back to 2044.
Other predictions have proven sillier. The Boogeyman is a capricious fellow, so you never want to promise that he will do any specific harm on any specific date. What if he decides to go bowling that day? What if he complains of lumbar throbbing and calls in sick? Then you might embarrass yourself the way ABC News did in 2008, when it produced a special about a Boogeyman-ruled future, hosted by Chris Cuomo, in which we were asked to believe that on June 8, 2015, milk would be $12.99 a carton (not $12.76 or $13.09?), gas would be $9 a gallon, and large parts of Manhattan (seen in a snazzy graphic) would be underwater. The map suggested that my apartment on the West Side would currently be occupied by Aquaman, but nearly five years later I can report that I am still here and that I am able to type these words without any snorkeling gear. The term “fake news” did not yet exist in 2008, but you can see why it had to be invented. What is the purpose of the brand “ABC News” if it can’t be distinguished from sci-fi?
14. Robert Zubrin is seeing red, and thinks: Onward, Mars, and Damn the Microbes! From the piece:
It is even possible, though by no means certain, that the first photosynthetic organisms did come from Mars, since there is natural transport of material from Mars to Earth, as meteoric impacts on the Red Planet scatter fragments that land here. In fact, we still get about 500 kilograms of Martian rocks landing on Earth every year, with a lot more imports coming in annually back in the solar system’s early days when the impact rate was far greater. Careful examination of these rocks has shown that large portions of their material were never raised above 40 degrees Centigrade during their entire career of ejection from Mars, transit through space, and reentry and landing on Earth. So any microbes contained in such rocks would have survived the trip and arrived on Earth in large numbers long ago.
It is this reality, the natural transport between planets, that underscores the irrationality of all back-contamination alarmism, regardless of whether it comes in Simon’s hysteria over the possible arrival of alien photoautotrophs or in the desire of NASA’s Planetary Protection office to take extreme cautionary measures to prevent the return of Martian pathogens. Essentially, government efforts to stop robotic or human Mars explorers from transporting dangerous microbes back from Mars fall into the same category as a campaign by the border patrol to stop tourists from bringing migratory Canada geese into the United States in their cars.
A broader point also eludes the planetary protectionists: that every biological resource on Earth (be it water, organic materials, or actual living organisms) has always been a target for exploitation by millions of species of animals, plants, and microbes already here, actively and constantly evolving and perfecting themselves for that very purpose. There might be water-consuming photosynthetic organisms on Mars, because there is some water and sunlight there. But there is a lot more of both here, and far greater opportunity to evolve life forms to maximize their exploitation. How threatening is the Jamaican bobsled team to the prospects of the northern countries in the winter Olympics? The best water-eaters in the solar system — and the most dangerous pathogens for terrestrial macroflora and macroflora — will always come from Earth.
15. Armond White shares his top twenty films from the last decade. Here are two selections from the list:
Man of Steel (2013) Because Zack Snyder’s attempted epic of D.C. Comics films turned Hollywood’s worst commercial tendencies into astonishing reconsiderations of myth and beauty, I’ve dubbed him ZSnyder (in memory of the 2016 passing of Vilmos Zsigmond, groundbreaking cinematographer of the ‘70s). ZSnyder’s first Superman film holds up over repeated viewings as the decade’s most daring and unparalleled expression of our moral and aesthetic needs.
Wild Grass (2010) Alain Resnais surpassed his French New Wave legacy, an Old Master attaining fresh relevance. He unexpectedly discovered the common touch. Who knew his modern moral tale was also summing up pop culture itself?
The First NR Issue of 2020 Is Available, and Baby, This One Is Fertile with Conservative Wisdom
The January 27, 2020 issue of your favorite conservative magazine is hot off the presses, into the ether, and ready for your eyeballs (especially for NRPLUS subscribers, who face no “behind-the-paywall” contentions). Totally subjective, here are four selections from the feast:
1. In 2016, David Harsanyi found himself among the large Never Trump brigade. He reflects on his writings and thinking then, and now, on the silliness in its conservative remnants, and on the increasing derangement of the Left. From the article:
So while I don’t like Trump any better today than I did when writing those critical pieces, I do live in the world that exists, not the one I wish existed. And that world has changed. What I didn’t foresee when writing about Trump’s candidacy was the American Left’s extraordinary four-year descent into insanity.
My own political disposition during the past four years has hardened into something approaching universal contempt. When I defend the president—as far as I do—it is typically in reaction to some toxic hysteria or the attacks on constitutional order that Democrats now regularly make in their efforts to supposedly save the nation from Donald Trump—whether they’re calling for the end of the Electoral College or for packing the Supreme Court, or they’re embracing shifting “norms” that are wholly tethered to a single overriding principle: get Trump.
Recently, for example, New Yorker editor David Remnick, the kind of high-minded, sane person we’re expected to take seriously, argued that removing President Trump from office was not merely a political imperative but a necessity for the “future of the Earth.” Four years ago, we might have found such a panic-stricken warning absurd. Today, such apocalyptic rhetoric is the norm in media and academia.
As the Democrats’ allies in the media stumble from one frenzy to the next, it has become increasingly difficult to believe any of it is really precipitated by genuine concern over Russian interference or improper calls with a Ukrainian president or dishonesty or rudeness. The president has become a convenient straw man for all the political anxieties on the left, which have manifested in an un healthy obsession and antagonism toward the constitutional system that allowed Trump to win.
2. In the cover essay, Lyman Stone explores the reasons behind the global, and American, baby bust, and the problems facing policies which might try to encourage people to have more children. From the essay:
It turns out, parents aren’t stupid. They know that by having a baby they will incur material and emotional costs for decades to come. They won’t choose to do so just because they landed a job or the Christmas bonus was bigger this year, and indeed, rising wages could discourage fertility by encouraging parents to spend more time at work. Lifetime fertility is better predicted by lifetime experience of things such as economic volatility (large swings in boom-and-bust cycles) than by lifetime experience of economic growth—greater economic uncertainty yields lower fertility.
In fact, the key economic determiner of fertility isn’t income at all. Rather, at both the macroeconomic and the individual level, the economic variables most predictive of childbearing are asset value, net worth, and homeownership. When the price of rental housing rises, fertility falls. Reductions in mortgage payments owing to interest-rate shocks boost fertility in indebted households. When the price to buy a new home rises, fertility falls for younger people but rises for older ones. Birth rates have just begun to increase in the second quarter of 2019, which is to say about two years after the homeownership rate for Americans under 35 stopped falling and began rising again. In 2016, according to the Federal Reserve, the net worth of households headed by 20- to 35-year-olds had not risen from its post-recessionary lows at all. The best economic predictor of childbearing in a society where fertility has already fallen to around two kids per woman is permanent income.
In short, it’s not just what people earn and how much it costs to live today, but what people expect to earn and spend in the future. Thus, personal experience of economic volatility reduces birth rates by reducing the optimism people feel about their economic futures. Lack of savings, delayed homeownership, or excessive student debt can reduce fertility even if debt-service costs are low, because young people correctly recognize that their long-run disposable income will be lower. The economic problem of childbearing is primarily a problem not of near-term liquidity but of long-run viability. As a result, things that worsen young people’s prospects of lifetime disposable income can be expected to reduce fertility: things including insolvent pensions leading to expectations of higher future taxes, strict land-use rules, occupational-licensing rules, many long years spent accruing debt while in school, delayed promotion as Baby Boomers stay at their desks well past normal retirement age, etc.
3. “Happy Warrior” duties are happily performed by Kyle Smith, who recounts the Left’s meltdown over Ricky Gervais’s Hollywood hypocrite-callout while hosting the recent Golden Globe Awards ceremony. From the column:
The funniest comics are the ones who sound like they get their inspiration paging through all the nonsense we keep bringing up here at NR. The Left is starting to get very nervous about where comedy is headed, issuing prickly warnings that making fun of those who command the cover of Vanity Fair or get called Person of the Year by Time constitutes “punching down” and is hence not allowed. What if you’re making fun of people like Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Jennifer Aniston, though? Is it “punching down” to crack wise at a centimillionaire celebrity? Jennifer Aniston has been a goddess of the screen for 25 freaking years and still commands a salary of $1 million per week for her Apple TV drama The Morning Show. At the Golden Globes earlier this month, host Ricky Gervais reminded the audience (as Aniston waited to present an award) that Apple “runs sweatshops in China” and added, “You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for, unbelievable. . . . If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d all call your agent, wouldn’t you?” You could almost hear Meryl Streep and every other aggressive progressive in the room saying, “How dare Ricky Gervais inject politics into Hollywood’s annual Trump-bashing dinner?”
As the assembled pretty people prepared their lectures on global warming (Russell Crowe), abortion (Michelle Williams), and Iran policy (Patricia Arquette), Gervais pleaded with them to do otherwise: “If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech, right? You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God, and f*** off. Okay?”
That was a conservative thing to say only if conservatism is the same thing as common sense.
4. Michael Doran has high praise for Rich Lowry’s acclaimed book new book, The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free, which he calls “engaging and timely.” From the review:
Lowry reminds us just how deep the American reverence for the flag runs. Symbolizing the union of the states and the personal freedoms that the union safeguards, it played a starring role in one of our defining conflicts. During the Civil War, he writes, “northerners sometimes referred to the conflict as the ‘War Against the Flag,’” a reference to the firing by the Confederate forces on the flag at Fort Sumter. Lowry’s understanding of the flag as a symbol of the highest ideals of the American nation recently received tacit support from none other than James McPherson, a Princeton professor and the leading historian of the Civil War. In December, McPherson joined with four other prominent historians to critique the 1619 Project of the New York Times Magazine. The project contends that the racism on which slavery was based is a defining element of the American experience, one that shaped our institutions and the most significant events in our history.
In a long interview about his critique of the Project, McPherson discussed, among other topics, the motivation of American soldiers who fought for the North in the Civil War. “The initial motivation,” McPherson explained, “was revenge for the attack on the flag.” Over time, “that broadened into an idea . . . of taking revenge against what they were increasingly calling ‘the Slave Power.’” In other words, to a significant portion of Americans the flag represented not just the unity of the nation but its aspiration to ensure liberty and justice for all, regardless of race. In the intervening 160 years, that portion has only increased. Today it undoubtedly encompasses the vast majority of Americans.
When we debate the flag and what it symbolizes, Lowry argues, we are discussing the nature of citizenship. “The criterion for citizenship in the United States is not attachment to a set of ideas but birth within our borders,” he writes. “This standard . . . speaks to a deep belief in the specialness of the land such that it confers extraordinary privileges to those born here.” Privileges, but also obligations—in the form of responsible citizenship.
Amity Schales has written a powerful book. It is the most interesting and substantive account of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon’s “war on poverty” to date—and just in time. In Great Society: A New History, she notes that “just as the 1960s forgot the failures of the 1930s, we today forget the failures of the 1960s.” Shlaes has written 510 pages of argumentation, with detailed description and telling digression that traces the arc from the unbridled hopes of the early Sixties to the enormous administrative expansion of the “second New Deal” to the missteps in implementing it that became all too apparent in the Seventies.
The book opens with the roles played by socialist author Michael Harrington, famed for writing The Other America, a book on Appalachian poverty, and Tom Hayden of Students for a Democratic Society in forming the ethos of the ‘60s. And then, by way of largely but not entirely biographical accounts, it shows how figures such as United Automobile Workers president Walter Reuther, Los Angeles mayor and Great Society critic Sam Yorty, Johnson-administration antipoverty czar Sargent Shriver, policy intellectual Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and economist Arthur Burns shaped the Great Society and its aftermath. The advantage of such an approach is that it doesn’t neglect the “great men” of the time, while adding depth. Shlaes tells us that LBJ and Nixon conducted themselves as if they were “domestic commanders in chief.” But the book also incorporates the broader social and economic currents that centralized American life.
1. At The College Fix, editor Jennifer Kabbany interviews two Venezuelan students on a US speaking tour, determined to educate woke American college students about the evils of Socialism. From the beginning of the piece:
When Jorge Galicia and Andrés Guilarte tell college students socialism is no utopia, they speak from experience.
The two young intellectuals were born and raised in Venezuela and over the last decade saw their country transformed into a place they barely recognize.
As exiles seeking asylum in America today, they’re telling any young person who will listen: the virus is socialism.
“No one else can know what happened in Venezuela but a Venezuelan, and we are experts on that,” said Guilarte, 25.
Galicia, 24, adds “I definitely see America committing a lot of the same mistakes Venezuela committed.”
Galicia and Guilarte are currently visiting college campuses nationwide warning young people against socialism, and told The College Fix in a joint telephone interview on Wednesday their message could not be coming at a more critical time.
2. At The Imaginative Conservative, Benedict Kiely heralds Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as a defender of Christianity. From the reflection:
The curious marriage between radical Islam and the secular liberalism of the elites in Europe is, at least on the surface, difficult to comprehend, but if Mr. Orbán is correct and it is essentially an attack on European culture and civilization, the ugly union becomes more obvious. On a spiritual level, secularism and radical Islam hate the cross and the victory it signifies. European civilization and culture is—or was—inescapably a Christian culture, and the hatred for that culture and history is almost a hallmark of the left. Academia and the media place all the ills of the world at the door of Western colonialism, oppression, and the evangelization of the Church. The recent Amazon Synod at the Vatican was a perfect example of how that mindset has entered the highest levels of the Church. The naïve glorification of “native cultures,” resplendent in a prelapsarian world in union with nature, then destroyed by the proclamation of the Gospel, was symbolized perfectly by the presence of the pagan fertility statue of Pachamama in the Vatican itself.
Europe, said Mr. Orbán, is “in deep trouble.” The cause he identifies is its deliberate and organized desire to forget or eradicate its Christian identity. The liberals are using what the Hungarian Prime Minister called the “muzzle of political correctness” to accomplish their death wish, which, coupled with the advancement of radical Islam, will eventually produce, if this self-loathing continues, a Europe that will be cut off from its roots. Any horticulturalist knows that a tree will die when it is rootless.
Hungary has no intention of allowing that to happen. This is obviously the reason why the policies of the Orbán government to promote the family, Christianity, and authentic Hungarian culture are so relentlessly condemned by the empty vessels who direct the European Union, which is the most hostile agency in Europe towards orthodox Christianity.
Hungary’s Christian revival is a small sign of hope in an otherwise bleak European landscape. Christians, said Mr. Orbán, have the “right to defend our culture and the way of life that has grown from it.” It is precisely this language which so antagonizes both the liberal intelligentsia and the forces who wish to radically change Europe itself. Hearing about the persecution of Christians in other cultures, the “greatest mistake Europeans can ever make,” Mr. Orbán warned, is “to say this could never happen to them—it is much closer to us than many people think.”
3. At Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti discusses the latest slaying of Christians by Islamic terrorists in Nigeria — and the public indifference by Europeans who cannot do enough to weep over injustices to Muslim immigrants. From the article:
Martha Bulus, a Nigerian Catholic woman, was going to her bridal party when she was abducted by Islamic extremists of Boko Haram. Martha and her companions were beheaded and their execution filmed. The video of the brutal murders of these 11 Christians was released on December 26 to coincide with Christmas celebrations. It is reminiscent of the images of other Christians dressed in orange jumpsuits bent on their knees on a beach, each being held by a masked, black-clad jihadist holding a knife at their throats. Their bodies were discovered in a mass grave in Libya.
On the scale of Nigeria’s anti-Christian persecution, Martha was less fortunate than another abducted girl, Leah Sharibu, who has now been in captivity nearly two years and just spent her second Christmas in the hands of Boko Haram. The reason? Leah refused to convert to Islam and deny her Christianity. Nigerian Christian leaders are also protesting the “continuous abduction of under-aged Christian girls by Muslim youths…”. These girls “are forcefully converted to Islam and taken in for marriage without the consent of their parents.”
Nigeria is experiencing an Islamist war of the extermination of Christians. So far, 900 churches in northern Nigeria have been destroyed by Boko Haram. U.S. President Donald J. Trump was informed that at least 16,000 Christians have been killed there since 2015. In one single Nigerian Catholic diocese, Maiduguri, 5,000 Christians were murdered. How much bigger and more extended must this war on Christians become before the West considers it a “genocide” and acts to prevent it?
The day after Christians were beheaded in Nigeria, Pope Francis admonished Western society. About beheaded Christians? No. “Put down your phones, talk during meals”, the Pope said. He did not speak a single word about the horrific execution of his Christian brothers and sisters. A few days before that, Pope Francis hung a cross encircled by a life jacket in memory of migrants who lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea. Last September, the Pope unveiled a monument to migrants in St. Peter’s Square, but he did not commemorate the lives of Christians killed by Islamic extremists with even a mention.
4. More Meotti, More Gatestone: Is France a budding Islamic Republic? From the piece:
While French prisons have become a breeding ground for jihadists, the Islamization of the cities’ suburbs, the banlieues, is proceeding full tilt. The weekly Le Point recently devoted a cover story to the “territories conquered by the Islamists.” In many of these areas, violence rages; 1,500 cars were torched there on New Year’s Eve. In recently published book, “Les territoires conquis de l’islamisme” (“The Territories Conquered by Islamism”), by Bernard Rougier, a professor at the University Sorbonne-Nouvelle and director of the Center for Arab and Oriental Studies, he explains that Islamism is an “hegemonic project”, splintering working-class neighborhoods. These “ecosystems“, he states, work on a “logic of rupture” of the French society, its values and institutions, and are built on mosques, bookstores, sport clubs and halal restaurants.
Hugo Micheron, a researcher at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, suggested that jihadists are comfortable in “territorial and community isolation”. “Today,” said the president of the Ministry of Education’s Conseil supérieur des programmes, Souâd Ayada, “the visibility of Islam in France is saturated by the veil and the jihad.”
While Islamist preachers and recruiters are out on the streets, seeking out the weak minds that will form the first line of their holy war, political Islam also forms electoral lists in France’s suburbs. French President Emmanuel Macron opposed banning these political groups. “France is a budding Islamic republic,” noted the Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal. In those “territories”, he said, live many of the terrorists who attack France, from the Kouachi brothers of Charlie Hebdo to the jihadists who murdered scores of people at the Bataclan Theater.
Two populations who live “side by side” would soon find themselves “face to face”, said Gérard Collomb, a former Minister of the Interior. He was right. Islamists are also housed inside public institutions.
Islamists have, in addition, recruited dozens of French soldiers and ex-servicemen who have converted to Islam. Many have come from commando units with expertise in handling weapons and explosives. France is turning into a “society of vigilance” in its fight against the “Hydra” of Islamist militancy, as Macron said.
5. At City Journal, Boston University prof Matthew Stewart says lefty kvetchers must pick one or the other: multiculturalism or “cultural appropriation.” From the piece:
In Salem, Massachusetts, the Peabody Essex Museum offers a case study in the mainstreaming of cultural appropriation. Cross-cultural appreciation has sustained the museum for centuries. America’s oldest continuously operating museum, PEM has long displayed exotic artifacts associated with the maritime trade—but patrons must now read a guilt-ridden disclaimer when visiting the museum’s exhibits. “Cultural appreciation and exchange are vital parts of any society, but appropriation is complicated and tied up with complex power dynamics and histories of oppression,” the message reads. “Cultural appropriation occurs when ‘appreciation’ becomes theft, when ‘exchange’ is one-sided, or when marginalized cultures are reduced to stereotypes.”
As with other definitions of cultural appropriation, the PEM statement does not offer any guidelines on how to know when “appreciation becomes theft” or when “exchange is one-sided.” The best it can offer is a statement from Jezebel founder Anna Holmes: “You can’t always prove appropriation. But you usually know it when you see it.”
No well-intentioned person favors “marginalized cultures” being “reduced to stereotypes,” but cultural-appropriation watchdogs see these offenses everywhere, even in instances where harm was clearly not intended. Consider the case of high school senior Keziah Daum, who wore a cheongsam to her prom, setting off a Twitterstorm of condemnation. Daum chose the dress because she thought that it was beautiful and would set her apart on a special night. But activists admonished Daum, who is white, for wearing a traditional Chinese garment. Her defenders, including some Chinese-Americans and native Chinese, argued that her selection complimented Chinese culture. Critics attacked them in turn as inauthentic, or—in the case of Chinese nationals—lacking the social authority to speak about American minorities. To Daum’s woke critics, every ethnic group must stay in its own lane.
6. At The American Mind, “Peachy Keen” checked out the recent gathering of the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops and finds obtuseness prevailing in the face of emptying pews. From the reflection:
When I decided to join up with the Caths, I knew the eyesore church in which I would serve out my RCIA sentence was a pink 1970s atrocity. But what did I expect, a bunch of masons in Van Nuys to recreate Chartres just for me? It’s not about the aesthetics, Peachy. You have to look beyond the linoleum, you snob, I was told by the lifers—like prison inmates telling the fresh meat that the Friday mystery loaf is actually pretty tasty if you put enough Tabasco on it.
I knew I was not going to get Sistine ceilings and Gregorian chants. I knew I would be baptized by a tanned, white-haired gentlemen who resembled Liberace’s younger brother and spent weekends in Palm Springs with a close male friend.
I knew all this going in.
When Mount Pedophilia erupted, I was assured, it’s ever been thus, the priests are human and sadly all too fallible, just worry about yourself and your own sins, Peachy. There is a wonderful Word on Fire video you should watch that will really help put it in context.
When priests offered pandering, meandering homilies about racism and immigration and excuses for molesters that included phrases like “a few bad apples,” things that made me want to convert on the spot to something else, anything else, I was admonished, the homilies are never good, didn’t you know that? Why are you even paying attention to such petty details? Even bad priests still give communion, it’s about the consecrated body of Christ, not what the priest says. Stop being so shallow, Peachy!
BONUS: At the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, chief economist Ray Keating analyzes the latest data about inter-state migration, and repeats the obvious finding: Big Government suffocates entrepreneurship. From the piece:
The top states with net domestic migration loss were California (-203,414), New York (-180,649), Illinois (-104,986), New Jersey (-48,946), Massachusetts (-30,274) and Louisiana (-26,045).”
Let’s see where these states landed on SBE Council’s “Small Business Policy Index 2019: Ranking the States on Policy Measures and Costs Impacting Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth,” which ranks the 50 states according to 62 different policy measures, including assorted tax, regulatory and government spending measures.
As for the worst states in terms of net domestic migration losses in 2019 vs. 2018, all six ranked in the lower half of the 50 states on the Index – with three coming in among the four worst states. Louisiana came in at 29, Massachusetts at 38, New Jersey was dead last at 50, Illinois registered 35th, New York came in at 47, and California was second worst at 49.
As for states losing population in 2019, 8 out of these 10 losers again ranked in the lower half of the Index – and five falling among the worst seven states.
Forfeits are a modern baseball rarity, and when such does happen, it’s likely the result of fan idiocy. And sometimes a result of ownership idiocy, as evidenced in 1974, when the Cleveland Indians held a 10-cent “Beer Night” that has become the stuff of legend.
On a Tuesday night in early June, over 25,000 suds enthusiasts showed up for a game against the Texas Rangers. As the beer flowed, the mischief increased, and both teams struggled to deal with boozed-up fans who began to invade the field between innings. Down 5–1 in the sixth, the Indians scratched their way back to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth — and that’s when things went (beer) nuts. A fan jumped the fence and tried to swipe the hat off Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs (that season’s AL MVP), who clocked the would-be thief. That prompted a flood: Hundreds of drunken Indian fans stormed the field to attack the Rangers. Also besieged: the umps. They called the game and declared a forfeit win for the Rangers.
Of related interest: Four men who played that night were involved in a previous forfeit, the infamous final game of the Washington Senators. Played on Thursday night, September 30, 1971, against the Yankees before a home crowd of 14,460, the Senators were leading 7–5 in the top of the ninth. But when the great Bobby Murcer grounded the ball to Senators reliever Joe Grzenda to register the second out, a mob of base-stealing souvenir hunters stormed the field. The umps had no choice but to hand the Yankees a forfeit win.
On 10-cent beer night, Ranger Toby Harrah was at short (and recorded two hits). He also recorded a hit during the 1971 forfeit as a Senator (the Rangers’ former identity). He was also the last man to take the batter’s box for the Senators, but as Tommy McCraw was caught stealing second base to close out the Eighth inning, Harrah’s at-bat was not even registered as a plate appearance.
Also playing in 1974: Yankee right-fielder Rusty Torres, who in 1971 hit a homer and single off Senator starter Dick Bosman. Both were Indian teammates in 1974, and made the Beer Night brew-ha-ha box score, with Torres getting a clutch (but pointless) pinch-hit single in the ninth, and Bosman relieving starter Fritz Peterson in the fourth (he gave up five hits — including a double and triple by Harrah — and three runs).
Oh yeah: A few weeks later, on Friday, July 19, at the same beer-besotted Cleveland Stadium field, Bosman would no-hit the World Champion Oakland As, a 79-pitch four-Ks jewel that was nearly perfect but for a throwing error made by Bosman himself.
Stumbling through his usual online haunts, Your Humble Correspondents discovered that it is the (Catholic) feast day of a most unusual 7th-century hermit saint: Vitalis of Gaza. Get this:
When Vitalis was about 60 years old, after many years in the desert, he gave up the hermit thing and went to Alexandria. There he became a day laborer. He would work all day at back-breaking tasks to earn a wage and then proceed to the local brothel to spend it.
Every night, this former hermit found himself with a different prostitute. You can imagine what the local Christians thought! Vitalis was ridiculed and harassed. People even approached the Patriarch to try to have him excommunicated, but the Patriarch refused to act on hearsay. Vitalis’ life became rather miserable until one day he was attacked in the street and killed. When he was found, he was clutching a paper with 1 Corinthians 4:5 written on it: “Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts.”
But the Christians of Alexandria had already judged. “Good riddance,” they thought, until his funeral. Dozens (if not hundreds) or former prostitutes attended his funeral, and each testified that she owed her soul to Vitalis.
Some sources allege he was killed by a pimp, others by a righteous fool punishing the monk for a presumed hooker addiction. Whatever the reason, he is a martyr, and an inspiration of sorts — if people are capable of such holiness, we might be capable of at least a measly daily prayer for some worthwhile cause. Such as, possibly, God instilling humility on public figures who could stand a dose of shut-upedness.
Until our next encounter . . .
God’s Graces on You and Your Family and Friends and Even Enemies,
Jack Fowler, who can be charged with intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S.: If you want to come on the NR 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise, chop chop: Just three lovely staterooms remain. Find out all sorts of information at nrcruise.com.