The Weekend Jolt

National Review

It Was Just One of Those Things . . .

Dear Weekend Jolter,

. . . one of those crazy things, a trip to the moon, on gossamer wings.

More like in a hunk of metal with a firecracker in its caboose.

Like nearly all else alive that day, a half century ago, Young Yours Truly and his famiglia were hunkered down in the crowded living room, with heavy lids, fighting off sleep (East Coast, wasn’t it pushing 11 p.m.?), in the glow of the old black-and-white set, watching something remarkable and discernible being projected through the fuzz and grain. Was it really 50 years ago?

It was. And my, the things we thought, the hopes we hoped. At the time, NR was very pro-Moon (we may still be). Not Sun Myung, but the lunar one. From the August 26, 1969 issue, wondering about NASA’s encores, encouraging them, we had this to say:

Critics of the space program are jumping all over Vice President Agnew and others who have urged a go-ahead for ambitious space ventures in the Seventies and Eighties. The attacks take a familiar line: We cannot afford more space extravaganzas while there are pressing needs to be met here on earth.

But NASA’s plans for the next two decades—contingent, of course, on the necessary funding—are much less extravagant than they are awe-inspiring. They fall, as Aviation Week & Space Technology has pointed out, “into four major categories:

“Earth orbital space stations of large, eighty- to one hundred-man capacity . . . supplied by maneuverable, reusable space shuttles.

“Lunar exploration and establishment of permanent scientific bases on the moon.

“Manned exploration of Mars with a 1981 launch target date for a 24-month mission by two six-man crews in tandem spacecraft using nuclear power. . . .

“Unmanned exploration of the far planets in the solar system. . . .”

Thomas O. Paine, NASA administrator, has assured President Nixon that all these plans are feasible if the government will commit annually 0.5 to 1 per cent of the Gross National Product. This spending rate is no higher than the rate for the Sixties. NASA’s budget reached a record high of 0.9 percent of the GNP in 1966 and is now hovering just below 0.5 per cent.

With the frontier of space and its unlimited potential ahead made suddenly accessible by Apollo 11, it is hard to believe the nation will permit the liberal wailers to force it back into its earth-bound shell.

What aspirations! And what denigrations — from the Left. No, not fans of slipping the surly bonds of Earth. And we gave them what-fer for it in this editorial (titled “Flat-Earth Liberals”) in the July 29 issue (published as the heroic trio were lifting off towards that big rock):

Sometimes you can’t help getting the feeling that the liberals won’t be satisfied unless the American space program ends in disaster. Witness James Wechsler’s bubble-headed column in which he coyly empathizes with the space monkey: “I suppose a genera! lack of imagination about the general space frenzy affects these remarks. Possibly I identify with Bonny because I would be both terrified and baffled to find myself floating in space.” says Wechsler, who reminds us that amidst all this “space frenzy,” “kids are dying in Vietnam.” “Shocking and disgraceful” is how Dr. Spock characterizes the moon shot. And listen to Drew Pearson poor-mouthing Apollo 11 in a characteristically churlish comment: “At Cape Kennedy, the U.S. is about to launch the most carefully rehearsed, most expensive, most unnecessary project of this century by which man will reach a piece of drab, radioactive, lava-like real estate hitherto romantic because of distance—the moon.”

No romance in the moon for Pearson. The whole business, in fact, leads him in the same column to a consideration of his favorite subject—sewage With characteristic Drewpian logic he descends from light to muck, from the moon to the Potomac, in which flow “240 million gallons of excrement.” (Along with numerous old Pearson columns, one might add.) And what does this have to do with the moon shot? Well, it seems FDR had a dream of cleaning up the Potomac, as did JFK, but then Wicked Richard Nixon came along and shut his eyes to the sewers and decided to shoot the moon. Unromantic. For out of such stuff as sewers and sewage treatment plants arc liberal dreams of romance spun.

From sewers Pearson moves to Russia, which country, he tells us has done an exemplary job with its rivers. This no doubt, explains, following the Drewpian logic, why the Russians are still unable to send cosmonauts to the moon—one cannot have clean rivers and moon shots too. One puzzles over just how the Drewps will treat the Luna 15 caper, however, for it tends to emphasize the fact that they ignore. Space shots very definitely relied strong feelings of national pride and competitiveness, and the Luna 15 attempt not only mocks the whole pious ideal of international cooperation but demonstrates conclusively that, the U.S. is beating the pants off the Russians.) And so we arrive at the heart of the Drewpian dilemma. Long fond of thinking of themselves as the banner-bearers of human progress, the liberals find that they must not only ignore realities of national competition for the sake of abstract UN-type pieties, but must also carp peevishly about the most imaginative and progressive human adventure of all time. A final step remains. Drewps Wechsler, Pearson, Spock and Co. will soon get honorary membership in the Flat Earth Society. Meanwhile, writing as our astronauts achieve their successful launch, we wish them a successful and glorious trip, a safe and happy return.

Moon nostalgia over. Now, onward to what pulls and pushes the tides of your curiosity — the plentiful wisdom published by your favorite conservative website. But first . . .

A Little Experiment

Would you follow Yours Truly on Twitter? The scene of the crime is https://twitter.com/JackFowler. I will not ask for anything again, at least until Christmas.

Here Are a Score and Three More of Moongnificent Articles that Will Rocket Your Intelligence to MOONSA Levels

1. This ain’t your Father’s assimilation: Rich Lowry looks at how Leftist congresswoman Ilhan Omar has become, hatefully, part of the country that saved her. From his new column:

It’s a mistake, though, to think that Omar is anything other than on her way to total assimilation, only on the terms set out by Beto O’Rourke.

American has two assimilation problems. One is immigrants feeling only a tenuous connection to America, and getting isolated in ethnic enclaves. The other is immigrants like Omar — and some of her second-generation colleagues — assimilating into the America of identity politics and grievance.

They have learned to speak not just English, but the language of oppression. They understand our system (at least no less than the average officeholder) but hold it in low regard. They know our history, as taught by an instructor cribbing from Howard Zinn.

They may be citizens, but they are certainly outraged victims.

2. More Lowry: Our Esteemed Editor is ripped over the failure of many to understand the Grandness of the Old Flag. From his column:

Our troops have literally fought for the flag, for its physical advance and preservation. This is the story of color sergeants during the Civil War.

Color sergeants carried the flag —typically, both the U.S. flag and the regimental flag — into battle, and not a weapon. They depended for protection on the color guard, a small contingent of troops dedicated to the task. The flag, held aloft and leading the way, was important as a matter of tactics (to mark the location of the unit in the confusion of battle), of morale (to provide a rallying point for the troops), and of devotion and honor (to lose the flag to the enemy was a deep disgrace).

Needless to say, this was hazardous duty that demanded the utmost bravery and dedication. According to Michael Corcoran in his book on the flag, For Which It Stands, the 24th Michigan Regiment lost nine color bearers on the first day of Gettysburg alone.

3. Victor Davis Hanson looks at the de facto executive officers and major investors in Illegal Immigration Inc. From his piece:

America is increasingly becoming not so much a nonwhite nation as an assimilated, integrated, and intermarried country. Race, skin color, and appearance, if you will, are becoming irrelevant. The construct of “Latino” — Mexican-American? Portuguese? Spanish? Brazilian? — is becoming immaterial as diverse immigrants soon cannot speak Spanish, lose all knowledge of Latin America, and become indistinguishable in America from the descendants of southern Europeans, Armenians, or any other Mediterranean immigrant group.

In other words, a Lopez or Martinez was rapidly becoming as relevant or irrelevant in terms of grievance politics, or perceived class, as a Pelosi, Scalise, De Niro, or Pacino. If Pelosi was named “Ocasio-Cortez” and AOC “Pelosi,” then no one would know, or much care, from their respective superficial appearance, who was of Puerto Rican background and who of Italian ancestry.

Such a melting-pot future terrifies the ethnic activists in politics, academia, and the media who count on replenishing the numbers of unassimilated “Latinos,” in order to announce themselves the champions of collective grievance and disparity and thereby find careerist advantage. When 1 million of some of the most impoverished people on the planet arrive without legality, a high-school diploma, capital, or English, then they are likely to remain poor for a generation. And their poverty then offers supposed proof that America is a nativist or racist society for allowing such asymmetry to occur — a social-justice crime remedied best the by Latino caucus, the Chicano-studies department, the La Raza lawyers association, or the former National Council of La Raza. Yet, curb illegal immigration, and the entire Latino race industry goes the way of the Greek-, Armenian-, or Portuguese-American communities that have all found parity once massive immigration of their impoverished countrymen ceased and the formidable powers of the melting pot were uninterrupted.

4. Roger Scruton was smeared. The smear — instigated by The New Statesman’s George Eaton — was exposed. But the media crowd, as it is wont to do, has moved on, uninterested in repairing a reputation attacked. Kyle Smith looks for the outrage, and sees none. From his commentary:

Yet Scruton has not been made whole. He has not been restored to his post, or a similar one, though the likely next prime minister, Boris Johnson, supports the idea. Eaton remains employed by The New Statesman, albeit with the title “assistant editor” rather than “deputy editor.” A previous statement by Eaton in which he said he stood by the “accuracy” of his original story has disappeared from The New Statesman’s website.

Not until a week after The New Statesman’s apology did the government apologize, in dismal fashion and in the passive voice. Housing, Communities, and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire — the man who fired Scruton — finally said on July 15, “I regret that the decision to remove you from your leadership role within the commission [the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission] was taken in the way that it was.” Mistakes were made. Brokenshire sacked Scruton the same day the original interview was published. Why so slow to acknowledge error? It has been crystal clear since Murray’s April 25 report that Scruton was wronged and should not have lost his government post, much less suffered such a despicable public assault on his good name.

5. Chinese-Americans, fed up with being on the short end of affirmative action and other lefty racist antics, are starting to emerge as a political force, Rong Xiaoqing explains. From the piece:

With this backdrop in place, the emergence of Chinese Trump supporters in 2016 caught many people off guard. David Wang, an independent investor in Los Angeles, founded Chinese Americans for Trump (CAFT) on WeChat during the last election season. He told me it evolved from a three-member chat group that he formed in the summer of 2015 to an 8,000-member network, spread across all states but Hawaii and Alaska one year later.

CAFT members were visible in campaign rallies, they posted and reposted pro-Trump articles on WeChat, and they showed off their support for him with flamboyant displays. In October 2016, Chinese Trump supporters across the country donated money to put on pro-Trump air shows. Small planes pulled banners bearing the words “Chinese Americans for Trump” then hovered for hours, creating a spectacle that even media in mainland China vied to cover.

But, this kind of zeal did not appear out of thin air — the Chinese community had been becoming more vocal for a few years.

Some say a key moment came in 2013 when comedian Jimmy Kimmel aired a segment on his tongue-in-cheek late night show on ABC, in which he seemed amused by a six-year-old boy’s proposal to solve the problem of America’s skyrocketing national debt owed to China. “Kill everyone in China,” the boy said. The segment prompted tens of thousands of Chinese-Americans to protest in more than 20 American cities, the largest such national protest of Chinese-Americans in anyone’s memory. Kimmel apologized.

6. Oren Cass proposes that employers be paid to train workers. From his essay:

The centrality of employers to effective job training is now understood across the political spectrum. Answering the question “Why Is the U.S. So Bad at Worker Retraining?,” The Atlantic summarized the view of scholars that federal programs have been “too divorced from employers’ needs, too unrelated to workers’ interests, too light-touch, and too limited in their reach, among other flaws.” According to a bipartisan group convened by Opportunity America, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Brookings Institution, “Employers, educators, scholars and policymakers agree: there can be no effective career education without employers. . . . That’s the only way to ensure that students are learning skills in demand in today’s job market.”

But employers’ interests are not necessarily aligned behind the task. Firms face a serious problem in attempting to capture a return on their investments in training because, insofar as such training increases the productivity of their workers, those workers can command a higher wage, whether within the firm or by leaving for a competitor. Economists have proposed various ways to square this circle; for instance, if firms invest in the “specific” human capital of workers — skills that are valuable only within the particular firm — then the worker can’t command a higher wage in the market and the employer can capture the training’s value. Or, if workers are more loyal to a firm that invests in them, good training could boost retention even when the workers might be able to obtain a higher wage by leaving.

7. Senator Josh Hawley has introduced new legislation that aims to put a big chunk of the student-debt onus on higher-ed institutions. Robert VerBruggen has some thoughts about the principles and practicality of the ideas. From his piece:

His second bill requires “colleges and universities to pay off 50 percent of the balance of student loans accrued while attending their institution for students who default, and forbids them from increasing the cost of attendance to offset their liability.”

The idea of a “money-back guarantee” for college isn’t crazy; it forces schools to take responsibility for their students’ outcomes, rather than accepting students who don’t have the skills to graduate, collecting tuition for a few years, and then sending the kids along poorer, indebted, and lacking a credential.

But I’m not sold on the idea of forbidding colleges “from increasing the cost of attendance to offset their liability.” I’m not sure it’s possible to enforce such a rule — and while higher ed in general is inefficient, I’m not sure it’s possible for every college to shoulder a new liability without raising its prices at all. Further, if tuition hikes resulted from this legislation, they would basically “price in” half the school’s default risk, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

8. It’s hard to feel sympathy for the kahuna of Planned Parenthood, America’s Abbatoirs ‘R’ Us, Lena Wen, whose presidency was . . . aborted . . . due to her insufficient trans-ling wokeness, as Madeleine Kearns explains. Intersectionality is a mischievous thing. From her piece:

Wen is also right to be skeptical of incorporating gender ideology into Planned Parenthood’s mission. According to its own slogans, Planned Parenthood is America’s number one provider of “women’s healthcare,” which means it really ought to be able to define and identify the category of women.

Whatever else one may think of her, Wen is a medical doctor with a scientific approach. But gender ideology, which is profoundly anti-scientific, proclaims that anyone who identifies as a woman is a woman. The comedian Steven Crowder, of YouTube notoriety, recently tested this out. “We wanted to see just how all-in they are,” Crowder said.

Posing as a transgender woman called Stephanie, Crowder purchases Plan B at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Given that Crowder has not undergone any surgeries for this role, he is quite clearly a man in a wig. But the nurse handed it over no problem. For a man, Plan B is not only unnecessary but potentially dangerous, causing infertility, loss of libido, and erectile dysfunction.

RELATED: Alexandra DeSanctis reports on the organization’s internal roilings and upheavals. Read it here.

9. Nancy Pelosi’s new in-caucus AOC & Co. foes having sparked a presidential Tweet-storm while a “national conservatism” conference was afoot in D.C. has Michael Brendan Dougherty pondering the need for, and difficulties facing, an emerging national conservatism movement. From his piece:

This controversy happens as a number of intellectuals, journalists, and activists are gathering in Washington to discuss and elaborate on the rise of “national conservatism.” And I can’t help but think we need it more than ever.

My contention is that nationalist politics will be an eruptive force in the life of Western democracies. These movements and politics emerge when the normal sense of national loyalty — the peace that exists between neighbors living under a shared law in a shared territory — becomes disturbed or agitated. War or irredentist claims can bring out extreme forms of nationalism. We have “national conservatism” because the irritants are serious, but not so extreme. America has undergone or is undergoing several trends that bring nationalist passions to the surface of politics: rapid urbanization, mass immigration, and some social dislocation that is related to economic globalization.

The projects that nationalism would take on in this environment might include promoting respect for America’s endangered traditions, providing a vision for an American nation that includes and assimilates the last great wave of immigration, a vision that restores democratic accountability in politics on issues of trade and citizenship. That is, a conservative nationalism would seek to help all Americans, of new and old stock, to feel at home in their country and with each other.

10. Senator Lamar Alexander is taking on surprise medical billing, which hits households for one out of every five in-network emergency-room visits. Small bore but targetable and fixable, yes? From his piece:

Insurance companies already negotiate with doctors, hospitals, and other health-care providers to establish in-network, market-based rates. Under the bill, providers who don’t join insurance networks would be paid the median, or middle, amount set in each local market. The Congressional Budget Office estimates this approach would save taxpayers $25 billion over the next ten years. . . .

I believe the Senate’s solution, which protects patients and empowers local markets to determine the price of health care, is the best way forward.

11. If you thought either The Dance of the Cukoos or Puffin’ Billy is the greatest song ever written, Jay Nordlinger would disagree. He has other ideas.

12. Cash is proving hard to come by for the Dems’ second-tier prexy wannabes. Jim Geraghty looks at the second-quarter campaign funding reports, and finds some hopefuls that have hope, and little more in the tin cup. From his analysis:

Until the formal end of their campaigns, I’ll have a lot of fun mocking this small army of candidates known as The Asterisks. But for now, let’s pause and have a few molecules of sympathy for those “rising star” politicians who are painfully learning that their stars will rise no further. You work hard, you have success at the state level, you think you have impressive accomplishments, you think you’re charismatic and like-able, and then one morning you wake up to find you’ve got less support in New Hampshire than the Hollywood New Age guru. Politics is rough, man.

John Hickenlooper had the kind of resume that usually looks good: two-term mayor, two-term governor of what was, not long ago, a hard-fought purple state. He’s got a quirky sense of humor, which you would think would be worth something, but nope. He can’t break past one percent anywhere.

As far back as 2017, publications like Vogue gave Kirsten Gillibrand the glossy “she could be the next president” treatment. She had replaced Hillary Clinton in the Senate, cosponsored a slew of bills, voted against every Trump nominee. Her fans raved about her retail politicking skills, but apparently they’re worthless. She’s visited New Hampshire 55 times! Five of the last six polls in that state have her at one percent.

13. Kevin Williamson was in Hong Kong, watching the protests against Peking’s power grab, watching the US formally defer to the ChiComs. From the beginning of his report:

Most Americans do not know the name Carrie Lam, chief executive of the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China,” but her constituents here in this vivacious, sprawling city know the name of the American chief executive, and they pay close attention to his words — closer attention than he does, possibly.

Hong Kong boasts the freest economy in the world, with a Heritage Economic Freedom score of 90.2 and a first-place ranking for 24 years running. (The United States is foundering down in twelfth place with a score of 76.8.) Its 7.4 million residents conduct their daily affairs with a fascinating combination of Chinese prolificity and Swiss efficiency. In real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, its economy today is 16 times what it was 40 years ago, having grown at more than twice the U.S. rate in those years. It has low taxes and light regulation by global standards, but its freewheeling capitalism coincides with an urban public life that is remarkably orderly by comparison with American cities. (Chicago has one-third Hong Kong’s population and more than 30 times as many murders.) Hong Kong is, in short, a miracle of human ingenuity.

REMINDER: Do order Kevin’s out-next-week book, The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics.

14. Big families — and I do mean biggg — are the subject of Sarah Schutte’s interview with Rachel Campos-Duffy, wife of a Congressman, yes, but mother of nine kids. From the most-interesting Q & A:

SS: You’ve talked a little bit about how faith has played into your marriage — I think you and your husband have been married for 20 years now? How do you maintain your marriage in the middle of busy schedules?

RCD: So there’s ritual, right? There’s a lot of ritual and tradition around being Catholic. There are weekly rituals: You go to Mass, you pray at night, you pray around the dinner table. We do have very busy schedules, and it’s tough with Sean’s schedule in particular, but when we’re all together, that’s just part of who we are. It’s not even something we really think much about, it’s just part of what we do. I’m so happy I married a fellow Catholic because I think that marriage is tough enough — that’s one area that’s just not something we argue about. There’s no contention about it because we’re both on the same page.

My motto as a parent has always been that my job isn’t to get you into Harvard, it’s to get you into Heaven. And I think a lot of parenting can be simplified by following that motto. My daughter goes to a very liberal university, and she said that she was sitting around at night in her dorm with a bunch of other college kids, and somebody brought up the question, “Would you rather your kid be smart or kind?” And she was the only one in the group who said she would prefer to have a kind child. I thought it was a really sad commentary on our culture. But I do think that’s kind of interesting. What do you value? What’s the priority?

Every kid is going to be his or her own individual, they all have their own style of doing things, but if being a good person, being kind, being considerate of others is your priority — versus all the other things that the world is telling us that we have to do as parents in terms of extracurriculars, and showing up to this, and going to this game, or making sure they have this material object — especially for a busy mom with a lot of kids, I think that simplifying is better. At least that’s what’s worked for me.

15. More interviews: Madeleine Kearns goes Q & A with Professor Allan Josephson, who lost his job at the University of Kentucky because he refused to preach from the Gospel of Transgenderism. From their discussion:

MK: You mentioned earlier about the politicization of this particular field of medicine more generally and gave the example of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which last year issued a widely criticized policy statement endorsing “gender affirmation” [psychological, medical, and surgical sex-change treatments for minors]. You said something very interesting: that for people who aren’t familiar with this process, this could seem like there’s a medical consensus, when actually, it is a very small number of people driving this change.

AJ: It’s a political process: correct. And the way committees are formed, various people who have various interests get on them. They do intense work, and sometimes very good work, but it often doesn’t meet the scrutiny of a scientific statement. An organization affirming a position is not necessarily science, but it is a group of people agreeing to say something.

16. Armond White is liking Barbarians. From the beginning of his review:

Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude (Aferim! and Scarred Hearts) always deals with the artist’s responsibility to portray history and morality. The lead character of his latest film is a female stage director, Mariana Marin (Ioana Iacob), tasked with mounting the reenactment of a historical event that includes disgraced national figures such as Deputy Prime Minister Mihai Antonescu (1904–1946), a dictator whose 1941 speech gives this new film the most startling title of the year: “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians.”

Jude is in super-allegorical mode. Barbarians concerns theater and the communal basis of art, but it is really about the pressure Jude feels in his obligation as a filmmaker, an art intellectual concerned about the past, and a citizen whose work addresses the public today. Exploring political and artistic folly means that Barbarians is also a comedy. (The badass title reproves egotistic boasting about “the right side of history.”) It confronts and partakes of arrogant political will — no other movie this year has a more daring subject.

17. John Hirschauer profiles the pigmentary privileged politics of Beto O’Rourke, hoisted on a multicultural petard. From his piece:

The myth of Robert-as-Beto is in its death throes, but it remained alive in O’Rourke’s home state in the not-too-distant past. Texas-based radio host Chris Salcedo told InsideSources in March that he would “still hear from Latinos who think that Beto’s Hispanic.” Political columnist Ruben Navarette told them the same: “Long before he entered the race against Ted Cruz, I was talking to a Texas lawmaker who was telling me all about Beto O’Rourke, and I said ‘Oh, he’s Latino, right?’ And he said ‘No, no, no — His real name is Robert Francis!’ And I said ‘Huh?’”

The genius of Pat’s appropriative moniker is that Robert Francis would inevitably become Beto in some essential way; even if he wasn’t Hispanic himself, the mere fact that he spoke extemporaneous Spanish and represented a majority-Hispanic area would, through a tenuous kind of osmosis, grant him minority status with none of the commensurate difficulty that entails. Stephen A. Nuño all but said so in his 2013 NBC op-ed “Why a non-Latino should be in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus;” in addition to his fluency in Spanish and the makeup of his district, Nuño reasoned, “O’Rourke is decidedly progressive on social issues and has been a vocal proponent of comprehensive immigration reform.”

RECOMMENDATION: Read John’s piece while listening to Brenda Lee sing I’m Sorry.

18. Kyle praises Seinfeld on the show’s 30th anniversary. From his essay:

Seinfeld, which debuted 30 years ago this month on NBC under the title The Seinfeld Chronicles and today streams on Hulu, blew up the sitcom by declining to pander to the supposed expectations of an audience studio execs firmly believed was barely paying attention and under no circumstances wanted to think. By the time the show really started to hum in its third season (1991–92) — the first time it dazzled me was with an out-of-nowhere parody of the conspiracy theory at the heart of Oliver Stone’s JFK, which was then in theaters — you could tell the writers were doing what they thought was funny, not serving up slop for the masses. If non–New Yorkers didn’t get it, Seinfeld didn’t care. If dumb people didn’t get it, Seinfeld didn’t care. Everyone I knew in New York was watching it in 1992 and thinking, “At last, a show set in New York that’s actually about us! They’ll never get this in the heartland.” The following season it was the third most-watched show on TV, and for the rest of its run it never finished a year below second. Along with Sex and the City, which launched in 1998, it changed the one-word perception of New York City from “dangerous” to “fun.”

If the show centered on characters, its chief subject was mores, or etiquette. Etiquette is a Sierra Nevada of comedy gold, and nobody else had staked much of a claim on it. Should a note making reference to the arrival of a baby employ an exclamation point? What is the minimum distance someone should maintain while engaging in conversation? Is it okay to sleep with the cleaning lady at work? Should you spare a square for your desperate neighbor in the adjoining bathroom stall? Can you re-gift a present? Seinfeldian misunderstandings are grounded in reality, not the contrived dumb-guy misconstructions of Friends’ Joey Tribbiani.

In an exchange related almost verbatim in episode ten of season five, one Seinfeld writer asked a Chinese postman if he knew where a nearby Chinese restaurant was, and the postman took this as a racial inference. But the writer didn’t think Chinese people knew where all the Chinese restaurants are, he thought letter-carriers knew. Such is the fractious nature of this city and its inexhaustible pool of umbrage. Seinfeld captured it beautifully, in the Talmudic spirit of tearing a situation apart from every angle, with such concision that it popularized lots of neologisms and phrases for its various embarrassments and predicaments. Close-talker! Double-dipper! Shrinkage!

19. Jimmy Quinn post-games this past week’s National Conservatism conference. From his report:

What is National Conservatism? For three days, starting on Sunday and continuing through Tuesday, an impressive group of academics, journalists, and political figures from across the American Right gathered in the ballrooms of a D.C. Ritz-Carlton to ponder that question. They aim to establish institutions guided by the sentiments that led to Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. Yoram Hazony, a political philosopher who published a book called The Virtue of Nationalism last year and organized the conference, described the three-day event as “the coming together of diverse bands of conservatives.” Talks that toggled between anti-libertarians and Calvin Coolidge scholars, isolationists and defense hawks, Silicon Valley venture capitalists and long-time social conservatives put that diversity on full display.

Despite this plurality of views, or maybe because of it, a common understanding of conservative nationalism took shape at the conference: The nation is the most logical vessel for political organization known to man, and supranational entities threaten the social attachments that allow for human flourishing. Those attachments have been frayed by decades of unfettered capitalism and inattention to traditional social structures, like the family and organized religion.

Speaker after speaker called for stronger government intervention in the economy, almost uniformly rejecting libertarian principles. Tucker Carlson, one of the keynote presenters, received a warm reception for his theory of the case, evidently shared by the conference hall. “The main threat to your ability to live your life as you choose does not come from the government anymore, but it comes from the private sector,” the Fox News host said. Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) entranced the crowd with bromides against a “cosmopolitan consensus” boosted by woke progressives and conservatives with too much faith in markets.

20. Jonathan Tobin says The Donald should relish a challenge from former conservative congressman Mark Sanford, better known to some as a faux Appalachian hiker. From the column:

The conceit of his candidacy is that Sanford’s conservative credentials and favorite-son status in South Carolina could make the contest in that crucial early primary state competitive. But the logic behind this strategy is faulty.

It’s not just that an incumbent congressman who couldn’t convince fellow Republicans in his home district to vote for him is ill-suited to persuade them to topple an incumbent president. (A similar argument applies to Beto O’Rourke.) The president is enormously popular in South Carolina and won that state’s primary in 2016 by a large plurality in a multi-candidate race. South Carolina isn’t unique in terms of Trump’s popularity among GOP voters, which topped 90 percent nationwide in late June, and there’s little reason to believe that his latest controversies have done anything to change that.

Trump’s level of support within his party far exceeds that of any of the incumbent presidents who were hurt by primary challenges. And it’s why, far from hurting Trump, a serious effort by Sanford, Weld, or any other Never Trump fantasy-league candidate might actually help the president.

Without any sort of primary challenge to Trump, the Democrats will dominate the news in the first half of 2020. A contest in Weld’s New Hampshire or in Sanford’s South Carolina would allow the president to intrude into news cycles that would otherwise be about Democrats trashing him.

21. Jim Geraghty reports on the urban fact of big cities without kiddies. From the piece:

Ask a parent what kind of community they want, and they’ll probably start with three traits: to be able to afford to live there, to be safe, and for the community to have good schools.

All of those hip coffeeshops, gluten-free bakeries, and bike paths are nice to have in a city, but they’re catering to the tastes and disposable income of single people and DINKS – “double-income, no-kids” couples. Parents may like the art galleries, hip restaurants, and all of that, but they need good public schools. They also suddenly have new expenses like a crib and diapers and baby clothes and baby food, so all of a sudden, they examine the cost of living in their neighborhood much closer. They probably would prefer an extra bedroom to turn into a nursery. And as the kids get bigger, the idea of having a front yard or backyard or both starts to look really appealing. Young parents might want to stay in a city, but the cities are unaffordable. . . and some cities don’t seem all that sad to see parents go.

It’s not that there are no good public schools in America’s big cities. It’s just that you’re less certain to get a good elementary school, a good middle school, and a good high school based upon where you live. Those of us who have house-shopped in northern Virginia know that real estate prices are often directly connected to which side of the school district lines it is on. If you find a home that has good schools for your child from ages 5 to 18, you’ve hit the lottery. . . or you may need to hit the lottery to live there.

22. David French scores the BDS crowd for its illegal, discriminatory ways. From his analysis:

The fundamental truth about BDS is that while not all of its supporters are anti-Semites, the movement itself is anti-Semitic in its intent and effect. Many of its most prominent supporters are crystal clear about their purpose. The Jewish Virtual Library has collected some of the more egregious quotes for posterity:

“BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state.”

“BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine.”

“Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

“The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel. . . . That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”

23. Armond wants to dethrone The Lion King, which he says is deceptive, PC-ridden, and a pretender to the original. From the beginning of his review:

What the 1994 cartoon treated as cute satire — in the song “Hakuna Matata” sung by warthog Pumbaa and meerkat Timon — rings hollow in this new version where those creatures possess ugliness rather than charm and promote special-group interest. None of this can be defended as a trendy political allegory as some reviewers contend. Besides, the underlying praise of monarchy is always a problem for fashionable, egalitarian, supposedly woke Afrocentricity.

Disney’s blatant cultural agenda explains the disaster of The Lion King. We can clarify the film’s deception by highlighting its production-purchase cycle and recognizing the unmistakable — not coincidental — political objectives of the filmmakers. This is how it works. It’s a Dishonor Roll:

Jon Favreau (Director): After turning Marvel’s Iron Man to visual dung, he is now Disney’s fake-reality hack and is key to understanding how this digitally rejiggered Lion King (like Favreau’s Jungle Book) continues the con job of Marvel’s Black Panther. Favreau’s unnamed African veldt might as well be New Wakanda.

Donald Glover (Simba): His dubious street cred as rapper Childish Gambino distorts the film’s bildungsroman concept, as he sells a CGI version of his ghetto-pathology TV series Atlanta.

The Six

1. At Gatestone Institute, Judith Bergman reports on Sweden’s descent into criminal violence, and, to some, war. From her piece:

On July 1, National Police Chief Anders Thornberg said that the situation is “extraordinarily serious”. He claimed, however, that the police have not lost control of the gangs and that the main task is to stop the growth in the number of young criminals. “For every young man who gets shot, there are 10-15 new ones ready to step in,” he said. Only a few days later, however, he added that Swedes will have to get used to the shootings for the foreseeable future:

“We think this [the shootings and the extreme violence] might continue for five to ten years in the particularly vulnerable areas,” Thornberg said. “It is also about drugs. Drugs are established in society, and ordinary people buy them. There is a market that the gangs will continue to fight over.”

The leader of the opposition party Moderaterna, Ulf Kristersson, called the situation, “extreme for a country that is not at war.”

2. At The American Mind, Daniel Mahoney responds to Yoram Hazony’s essay, “Has Conservative Rationalism Failed?” It is a largely supportive take, but addresses a reliance on a “narrow, abstract reason.” From the commentary:

Hazony also makes many important and necessary distinctions. For instance, liberty under God and the law, with its accompanying recognition that “all men are in the image of God,” by no means entails a false equivalence of ways of life. The dissolute and the dishonorable cannot claim that their ways of life are just as worthy of recognition and respect as those who honor the Ten Commandments or the natural moral law. Hazony rightly calls for the restoration of personal and political honor where honorable self-regard informs a freedom worthy of the name. Without honor, moral conscience (not to be confused with a poisonous subjectivism), self-respect, and self-limitation, democracy withers and inevitably gives way to the dictatorships of relativism and political correctness that we see all around us. This is even more insidious than the “soft” or “mild” despotism that Alexis de Tocqueville evoked (and feared) at the end of Volume II of Democracy in America. It is a democracy that is no longer “God-fearing.” It is also one that recklessly undermines all the inherited and precious moral contents of life. There is nothing “liberal” or “conservative,” or decent and choice-worthy, about a political and social order that endlessly repudiates sound tradition and our civilized moral inheritance.

Hazony is a sure guide on these themes. And how helpful for him to remind us that even the politically liberal Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw that the stakes of the emerging world conflict in 1939 had as much to do with the survival of religion and moral decency as with human liberty. All three were and are beholden to rich and civilizing traditions, and not just to the abstractions of “human rights” or a liberalism shorn of its historical and moral context and specificity. Churchill and de Gaulle also invoked the survival of Western and Christian civilization in their great wartime addresses (see, for example, the peroration of Churchill’s great “Finest Hour“ speech of June 18, 1940). One could not combat the vicious nihilism of the totalitarians of the Left and Right without appealing to the rich and capacious traditions of a Western civilization rooted in reason and revelation, sound tradition, and a hearty and decent patriotism.

3. More response to Harzony in The American Mind: Charles Kesler says conservative rationalism is not “Enlightenment” rationalism. From his essay:

Yet the target of Hazony’s critique is not really Enlightenment rationalism, it is “conservative rationalism,” the futile, foolish, and self-defeating efforts by Catholic natural law thinkers and Straussian scholars, among others, to appeal to “universal reason” themselves and for conservative purposes. In general, he writes, “conservative rationalism has failed,” both by not making things better and indeed by making them worse. By “endorsing the methods and assumptions of Enlightenment rationalism, conservative rationalism has contributed something to the calamity,” leaving once-healthy traditions “largely without defenders.”  These conservative theorists didn’t see that any appeal to “universal reason” would play into the Enlightenment’s hands. But why? Is there no other kind of reason besides universal or Enlightenment reason? Hazony does not quite say.

His long quotation from John Selden, the 17thcentury English jurist and expert on the Hebrew scriptures and polity, does not prove what he means it to prove. Selden is not criticizing “Enlightenment rationalist claims,” he is objecting to the ancient philosophers’ varying opinions on the nature of good and evil, just and unjust. This variety was well known to the ancients, and formed the subject of several of Cicero’s dialogues. Variety is not chaos, however, and Selden exaggerates the extent of these philosophical disagreements. Even the teachers and schools of thought that denied any form of natural justice or right (Carneades being a prime example) did not deny the naturalness, and reasonableness, of other virtues like courage, moderation, and, above all, wisdom. But again, it is the faculty of reason itself, taken alone, not “Enlightenment rationalism,” that the Englishman criticizes.

4. At The College Fix, Jessica Resuta reports on lefty academics’ hostility to math because . . . racist! Maybe it’s got something to do with the chalk being white? Not sure. From the beginning of her story:

“Math equity” doesn’t mean 1 + 1 = 2.

The term refers to the growing insistence among educators that teaching math in the classroom comes with some inherently biased methodology that must be addressed.

Proponents of “math equity” also stress the importance of social justice issues such as race, diversity and gender in math education — a trend that’s catching on.

More professors and educators are tweeting under the hashtag #MathEquity to share strategies on the topic, and webinars and other pedagogical sessions on it abound.

“Equity-based mathematics teaching requires more than implementing new curriculum or using specific practices because it involves taking a stand for what is right,” the website for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics states.

“It requires mathematics teachers to reflect on their own identity, positions, and beliefs in regards to racist and sorting-based mechanisms. It involves noticing students, learning about the worlds they live in, and building mathematics that comes from these worlds. And finally, it involves engaging other educators in partnerships to build equity-oriented communities.”

5. You’re more apt to commit suicide if you’re unchurched — so informs new studies, and so reports our former NR colleague, Ericka Andersen, in the Wall Street Journal. On a positive note, Ericka writes, “startup churches” are providing an alternative in those American areas where there is a real suicide epidemic. From her piece:

Church attendance rates have fallen considerably in recent decades. That’s partly the fault of the faithful. Religious leaders have sometimes alienated those who might be receptive to their message, barking from the pulpit without humility, grace or love. For some prospective parishioners, church elicits thoughts of judgment and doom.

“Startup churches,” also known as “church plants,” are turning this narrative on its head. Such bodies are usually made up of only a few dozen attendees. They meet in rubbery middle-school gyms or local businesses after hours. They’re planted strategically by committed faith leaders in vulnerable geographic and demographic populations. Think of places where suicide rates may be higher than average—rural, poverty-stricken and isolated communities.

Some 42% or more of church-plant attendees have not been to church in many years, or ever before, according to a 2015 study by Lifeway Research. It’s not that startup churches are necessarily more effective at helping attendees than established mainline Protestant or Catholic congregations. Rather, these new churches are more effective at simply getting more vulnerable people through the door.

6. At The Daily Signal, the great Lee Edwards — a historian of communism — provides a wonderful rundown of NR’s recent special “Against Socialism” issue. From his summary:

National Review’s analysts believe that such dreams will inevitably become nightmares as they have in the 40 some nations that suffered under socialism.

The record of failure without exception is clear. It remains for conservatives to expose the impossible promises of the socialists, drawing on the conclusions of National Review’s experts:

Socialism is not compatible with the Constitution. . . .

Socialism is very good at generating vast shortages of the essential things in life.

Socialism can never know enough to plan all our lives every day.

Socialism tries to make all of us equal to one another.

Socialism is very good at promising all the benefits we’ll never see.

Socialism in Great Britain had one outstanding success—Margaret Thatcher.

Socialism was responsible for making Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union the most polluted and degraded places on earth.

Socialized medicine as practiced in Great Britain and Canada is bad for people’s health.

American socialism is on the rise because of widespread social and cultural poverty in America.

What is to be done? It rests with you and me. We must get to work exposing socialism for the fraud and failure it is and taking back our culture and our country.

EVEN MORE MAHONEY BONUS. The Hungarian Review published Dan’s excellent remembrance of Cardinal József Mindszenty, the great Hungarian churchman who was imprisoned by both the Nazis and Soviets (the latter tortured him) and who served as a symbol for anti-Communists in conservatism’s early years. Now advancing in the process for becoming a Catholic saint, the renewed attention results in reflections on what he meant for his native country, and for international relations. From the piece:

Even before the detestable Mátyás Rákosi and the Hungarian Communists came into uncontested power in Hungary in 1948, subjugating the centrist Smallholders’ Party once and for all, Mindszenty had fully earned his anti-totalitarian credentials. As the new Archbishop of Esztergom, the Prince Primate of Hungary (to use a traditional title he insisted on preserving), he had no illusions about either Bolshevism, as he freely called it, or Nazism. As he put it so well in his Memoirs: “Both Nazism and Bolshevism insisted that they had to penetrate our country in order to replace a faulty past by a happy new world. The Communists, in keeping with their doctrine, announced that the past had to be uncompromisingly liquidated.” Against such insane Promethean impatience and such full-fledged totalitarian mendacity, Mindszenty told the Hungarian people that he would fearlessly defend “eternal truths […] the sanctified traditions of our people”. Mindszenty, who thought of himself as a historian of sorts, had closely studied the persecution of the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches in the Soviet Union, as Document 68 in his Memoirs (“Communism and the Russian Orthodox Church”) attests. As the Cardinal wrote in that 1948 document, “all the Church’s efforts at peaceful coexistence and humiliating cooperation [with the Bolshevik state] were in vain. A kind of inner compulsion, something akin to fear of the spirit and the soul, drives it to struggle against religion.”

Baseballery

Earlier this week, Twitter lit up, as it does, with news that the great Bob Gibson has pancreatic cancer. This lousy news comes on the heels of the death of Jim Bouton, another hard-throwing righthander. Both men starred in the dramatic 1964 World Series: both won two games, but Gibson took MVP honors courtesy of his complete-game triumph in the deciding Game Seven. Three years later, he won the same award with an epic three-victory performance over the Red Sox, again prevailing in the deciding Seventh Game.

A year later, now facing the Tigers, it almost happened again. Alas, in the seventh inning of that World Series final game, with two outs in a scoreless duel against eventual MVP Mickey Lolich (who took his turn with an epic post-season performance, beating the Cardinals three times and even clubbing the only home run of his 16-year career), Curt Flood misjudged a fly ball, leading to a two-run triple by Jim Northrup and an eventual 4–1 Detroit victory.

But what a complete career, before and during October. Bob Gibson was a true warrior — he once pitched with a broken leg! — who won 20 or more games five times, won 19 games twice, had over 3,000 career strikeouts, 255 complete games, and 56 shutouts. And his 1.12 ERA in 1968 — Damn! He also smacked 24 home runs and hit .206 for his career — not too shabby. In a pitcher’s era, he was, along with Sandy Koufax and Juan Marichal, the best. We wish for him God’s mercy as he deals with this latest test.

A Dios

This missive is filed from Las Vegas, where the Weekend Jolt author is attending the amazing Freedom Fest conference, here waving the NR flag. Some people salute. On East Coast time, a descent into the hotel lobby at 4:00 AM finds lots of people awake, doing the kinds of things, Yours Truly (never been here before) assumes, that are only doable here. At 4:00 AM. Returning to the room to pound out this missive, the tomfoolery gets sidetracked because of an email from a dear NR pal who is enduring cancer, à la Gibson, likely unbeatable. Please, if you can, offer a prayer for him, for his comfort. It will not be without purpose or consequence.

God bless You and Yours and the Brave Who Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth,

Jack Fowler

Who can be reached at jfowler@nationalreview.com, no matter if the tide is coming in or going out.

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