Dear Weekend Jolter,
This particular weekend brings no relief from the excruciating theater being played out in the chambers of the United States Senate, as Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and a cast of thousands, so it seems, makes a sanctimony-dripping case to impeach Donald John Trump.
POTUS Removal, as the title of Rich Lowry’s new column warns, would be insane. Here’s how it begins:
It’s easy to forget what the Senate impeachment trial is supposed to be about.
It’s not a fight over whether the Senate will call a couple of witnesses that the House couldn’t, or didn’t bother to, obtain on its own.
The underlying question is whether the United States Senate will impose the most severe sanction it has ever inflicted on any chief executive, voting to remove a president for the first time in the history of the country and doing it about 10 months from his reelection bid.
This is a truly radical step that, if it ever came about, would do more damage to the legitimacy of our political system than President Donald Trump’s underlying offense.
If Trump were actually convicted, the 2020 election would proceed under a cloud of illegitimacy. Tens of millions of Trump voters wouldn’t accept the result. They’d see it as an inside job to deny the incumbent president a chance to run for reelection, without a single voter having a direct say. The GOP would be brought to its knees by internal bloodletting, a prospect that Democrats surely would welcome, especially given that it would deliver them the presidency. Republicans would be out for revenge, and instead of a halcyon return to normalcy, our politics would be even more poisonous than before.
Apologies to Olivia De Haviland for dragging her into this, but darn it, the principle setting of The Snake Pit (the 1948 film is one of her acting triumphs) seem just perfect for the nonsense being produced on Capitol Hill. That said, my preference for any cultural references to this affair, which Your Humble Servant believes was mentioned in a previous epistle, is Shari Lewis and her Lamb Chop pals singing “The Song That Doesn’t End.”
OK, put on the bib . . . we’re eating family style. Mangia Mangia Jolt!
But First, Have I Got a Deal for You
It happens all the time. Joe and Jane book the cruise — in this case the NR 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise (taking place April 19-26) — and they opt not to take out travel insurance, and then something not good happens, so they now cannot attend, but they are on the hook for the cabin, and ask for help selling it, at a discount. So: You want to come? Well, do I have a deal for you . . . email email@example.com to discuss your, shall we say, opportunity.
1. There is a new Trump Administration rule that cracks down on “birther” tourism. We find it sensible. From the editorial:
One consequence of this rule is “birth tourism”: pregnant women visiting the U.S. for the sole purpose of giving birth, so that their children will have U.S. citizenship, complete with the ability, years later, to sponsor additional relatives for citizenship. The State Department has announced a new rule aiming to cut back on this practice, not by changing the Constitution in any way, but by refusing to grant visas in cases where this abuse seems particularly likely. The rule is sensible, though its effects may be limited.
The policy pertains to temporary “B” visas, which are granted, for example, to tourists and those seeking U.S. medical care. In essence, the new rule says that birth tourism doesn’t count as traveling for “pleasure” under the relevant statute, and directs consular officers to determine whether birth tourism is the primary purpose of a visit. These officers have been instructed not to ask women if they are pregnant “unless you have a specific articulable reason to believe they may be pregnant and planning to give birth in the United States” — but when there are signs that birth tourism is afoot, the burden will fall on the traveler to prove a different reason for the trip.
The rule still allows pregnant women to come for the purpose of giving birth in U.S. hospitals for medical reasons, so long as they are doing so because of the quality of care and proximity to their home countries — and didn’t, for example, select the U.S. over another destination because doing so would win the child citizenship. Those seeking B visas for medical reasons will also have to demonstrate that they have arranged for care and can pay for it.
2. Along with those attending this week’s March for Life, we applaud recent efforts to curtail abortion on demand, but acknowledge — there is much work to be done. From the editorial:
When the Supreme Court issued its diktat, the New York Times called it a “historic resolution of a fiercely controversial issue.” It is to the great credit of pro-lifers that they refused to let the issue be resolved in this unjust and authoritarian way — and instead protested, argued, organized, voted, and litigated to set it right.
Republican presidents and senators, including President Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, have advanced that work a great deal by putting conservative jurists on the bench, and especially on the Supreme Court. That court is hearing a case this year about abortion regulations in Louisiana. It should uphold those regulations, as the Constitution says not a word to suggest that states lack the authority to enact them. As it upholds them, it should declare that it no longer intends to serve as a review board for state legislation on the subject. It should reverse Roe and its successor cases.
That will not be the end of pro-lifers’ work: far from it. But it will be the end of a sad era in which our government treated vulnerable human beings as unpersons as though it were part of our fundamental law.
You Better Have an Appetite, Because Here are 17 Chops-Licking Entrees of Conservative Savoryness from the Bountiful Buffet Served Daily by NRO
1. Democrats seemed thrilled by the model of power-transferring often practiced in Africa and South and Central America — not peaceful. Victor Davis Hanson says these last three years have seen the Left destroy an important custom. From the essay:
All those Marquess of Queensberry Rules of post-presidential decorum abruptly ended in 2017. What superseded them was, at best, a kind of British-style, European shadow government, in which mostly ex-Obama officials became nonstop activist critics of almost everything Trump has done.
At worst, the endless opposition turned into a slow-motion sort of coup in which progressive, life-tenured bureaucrats leaked, obstructed, and connived to stop the daily operations of the administration — as they often proudly admitted to the media. The subtext was that the Obama-progressive-media complex would create enough momentum to abort Trump’s first term. Or was it that Trump represented such an existential danger to the administrative-state way of doing business that any means necessary were justified to end his presidency?
The locus classicus was Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national-security adviser, and Jack Sullivan, who had been Obama’s White House deputy assistant. Together, they formed the National Security Action organization in early 2018. The two promised that they would offer an “effective, strategic, relentless, and national response to this administration’s dangerous approach to national security.” Translated, that meant that Rhodes and Sullivan would aggregate former Obama officials and progressive analysts to launch nonstop attacks on all of Trump’s foreign-policy efforts. And they have.
More ironic was Hillary Clinton’s announcement in May 2017 that she had officially joined the “Resistance” by forming Onward Together to “stand up” to Trump.
A Related Aside: Amen Tom Fitton.
2. The Biden / Impeachment nexus, brought to you, says Andy McCarthy, by Adam Schiff. From the beginning the article:
You opened the door.
Trial lawyers live in fear of that phrase.
When a trial starts, both sides know what the allegations are. Both have had enough discovery to know what the adversary will try to prove. Just as significantly, both know what their own vulnerabilities are. A litigator spends his pretrial time not just laying the groundwork for getting his own evidence admitted by the court; each side works just as hard on motions to exclude embarrassing or incriminating testimony — evidence that would be damaging to that side’s position but that a court may be persuaded to exclude because it is not clearly relevant.
For an advocate, it is a coup when the judge rules that harmful testimony is excluded. But such rulings always come with a warning label: Don’t open the door. That is, don’t do anything that makes the otherwise irrelevant evidence relevant.
President Trump’s impeachment trial has a Biden door. Adam Schiff has thrown it wide open.
3. Get a (Green) Room! The media’s gooey love for Adam Schiff has me humming the Magilla Gorilla song (“. . . full of charm and appeal, handsome, elegant, intelligent, sweet, he’s really ideal . . .”). Anyway, David Harsanyi recounts the awe-struckedness of the Fifth Estate over the Lord High Prosecutor. From the piece:
All of it was about believable as Schiff’s contention that he is pursuing impeachment to defend the Constitution. But we expect partisans to behave a certain way. The excessive fawning by pundits and reporters over a middling speech by a middling congressman was just insufferable.
If you think I exaggerate, take Greg Miller, a national-security correspondent for the Washington Post, who contended that Schiff is perhaps the most “underestimated” politician California has ever produced, and “will leave a mark on history, exceeding nearly all contemporaries.”
Richard Stengel, the former editor of Time magazine — and now an advocate for overturning the First Amendment — declared: “When we get back to teaching civics in this country—as we must do—Adam Schiff’s sweeping, beautifully-wrought opening argument, should be on the syllabus.”
4. Iran One: The Ayatollah Gang might be incapable of engaging in conventional warfare against the Great Satan, writes Ilan Berman, but it retains the ability to be a nasty threat. From the article:
Domestic conditions, meanwhile, are deteriorating. Inflation is on the rise within the Islamic Republic and is now pegged at over 30 percent. So, too, is joblessness; nearly a fifth of the country’s workforce is currently estimated to be unemployed. Meanwhile, governmental expenditures have surged as Iran’s ayatollahs struggle to keep a lid on an increasingly impoverished, and discontented, population.
All of this, according to CNBC’s analysis, profoundly limits Iran’s ability “to fund a war” against the United States. But that doesn’t mean the threat from Iran is nonexistent. Iran still has the ability to “ramp up its aggression against the U.S.” through the use of its network of proxy forces in the region.
That network is extensive — and lethal. It comprises not only Iran’s traditional terrorist proxies, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and the Palestinian Hamas movement, but also assorted Shiite militias in Iraq (the so-called “Hashd al-Shaabi”) and even Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Recently, it has also made use of the “Shi’a Liberation Army” (SLA), a group of as many as 200,000 Shiite fighters — drawn from Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere — that has been trained and equipped by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and deployed to foreign theaters such as Syria.
5. Iran Two: But, writes Hassan Hassan, the alarmists who predicted World War Three over the death of Soleimani were — what’s the word? — incredibly wrong. OK, that’s two words. From the analysis:
But the dust has now settled, and none of the doomsday scenarios that so many in the media warned about has come to pass. It is true that Iran launched a missile attack into U.S. bases in Iraq, but the attack was merely symbolic. As Iraqi officials revealed the following day, Iran had informed them of an imminent attack on U.S. bases, a message that the Iraqis promptly and predictably passed on to the Americans. No fatalities were recorded, but the Iranian regime still told its followers that dozens if not hundreds of Americans were killed as a result of the retaliation.
Indeed, none of the doomsday scenarios were plausible to begin with. Iran has a narrow menu of options in terms of escalation against the U.S. It is not interested in a direct war with the U.S., nor are any of its proxies or allies in the region. The regime faces increasingly crippling sanctions imposed by Washington, and domestic unrest is building up with occasional street protests. Also, its allies in Iraq and Lebanon have been under unprecedented pressure from grassroots protests, persistent since October. In Syria, the currency is collapsing on historic levels as more than one third of the country remains outside the control of the Iranian-backed government. Iran is embroiled in domestic and regional crises, and many of the gains it made in recent years are still tenuous.
In the panic that followed the news of Soleimani’s killing, that essential context was overlooked. Pundits and former officials warned of a showdown, between Iran and the U.S., that Tehran would not want. When the confrontation did not pan out, critics still maintained that this was mere luck. One journalist suggested that the war was averted because the mullahs in Iran exercised “more restraint” than the U.S. did.
6. John Caldara, president of Colorado’s Independence Institute and a weekly Denver Post columnist for the past few years, was sacked by the paper. As Madeleine Kearns explains, he had the gumption to believe there are but two sexes. Science! From the article:
Jon Caldara, president of Colorado free-market think tank the Independence Institute, who was one of the Post’s most-read writers from 2016 until he was fired this week for stating the obvious, and with whom I spoke yesterday, doesn’t think so. Coincidentally, Tuesday was “George Orwell Day.” Writing in the mid-20th century, Orwell warned us about totalitarian abuses of language and urged people “to see what is in front of one’s nose.” Caldara attempted to do exactly that — specifically: by stating that sex is binary — but doing so cost him his job.
For the past three years, Caldara has written for the Post on a range of issues, especially those related to political and economic freedom. This week, however, Caldara was told that his most recent column (criticizing the lack of transparency among Colorado Democrats on their sex-ed curriculum) would be his last. He had written that gender ideology ought not to be forced into classrooms by the back door. “What are the protections for a parent who feels transgender singing groups and teddy bears with gender dysphoria might be ‘stigmatizing’ for their kid?” he wrote.
In his previous column, Caldara had complained about left-wing bias in the media: “One only has to listen to NPR reporters and their pee-your-pants excitement at covering Trump’s impeachment to conclude they still have no idea so much of America considers them the enemy.” Furthering his argument that the liberal press is now woefully out of touch, he referenced The Associated Press’s decision to state in its style guide “that gender is no longer binary.” He said that this was blatant “activism,” since there “are only two sexes, identified by an XX or an XY chromosome.”
7. Kevin Williamson gets handed the baton and concludes that the Post’s editor deserves to be canned, for incompetence. From his analysis:
Narrow-minded stupidity and intolerance are human norms, not human outliers: See, for example, the current campaign to bully liberal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz over his decision to take a case with a high-profile client: Donald Trump, in this case. “Why did Alan Dershowitz Say Yes to Trump?” demands the New York Times headline. Presumably for the same reason he said “Yes” to Claus von Bülow and O. J. Simpson: Because he’s good at his job, likes doing it, and is not in any obvious way averse to the money and attention and other rewards that go along with that. A presidential impeachment is a pretty interesting case to be on the defending end of, I would think. Why would he say anything other than “Yes”? Why would any comparable talent (his critics by and large are not comparable talents) decline such a case? He’s a defense attorney: Cooties are an occupational hazard.
And that, of course, sheds some light on the fiasco at the Denver Post. The newspaper already has been gutted, and it is edited by third-rate journalists because the first-rate and second-rate have better offers. (Irrespective of Jon Caldara’s particular merits, as a former newspaper editor, I can tell you that filling your pages with the work of think-tankers and political hacks, who work for cheap or for free, is one of the things you do when you don’t have the money to hire top-notch columnists.) Maybe that’s a business plan that makes sense to somebody.
But any sensible person (and there are a few of those left in Denver, under its dank cloud of marijuana smoke) would have to ask: What other political positions are mandatory as terms of employment at the Denver Post? What other thoughts are unthinkable? Perhaps Megan Schrader could publish a list for prospects.
8. Wesley Smith reports on Canada’s twisted determination to force all institutions, including hospices such as Delta in British Columbia, to participate in euthanasia’s culture of death. From the article:
On the face of it, the government’s heavy-handedness makes no logical sense. Everyone acknowledges that Delta provides a very valuable service to the community. And it’s not as if the small hospice, with a mere ten beds, has the power to materially impede access to euthanasia in British Columbia, a province of nearly 5 million people. Indeed, since euthanasia was legalized in 2016, only three Delta patients have asked to be killed — and they were able to obtain their desired end by simply returning home or transferring to a hospital directly next door to the hospice. So, what gives?
Angeline Ireland, president of Delta, perceives a direct connection to socialism. When I asked her in an email interview why she thought the government was trying to force the hospice’s participation, she replied, “I would only be speculating,” but “primarily, I think it is ideological and agenda driven. Our provincial government is currently run by socialists. The Left has never valued human life. In socialized medicine the state controls and is all powerful.” She also believes there is a connection to the costs of health care. “I also wonder how much of it is driven by economics. HPC [hospice palliative care] is far more expensive than euthanasia.”
Delta is a secular facility, so what are its bases for refusing to kill? The administrators merely want the freedom to operate the facility according to the precepts of hospice moral philosophy. “HPC and Euthanasia are diametrically opposed,” Ireland tells me. “Our health-care discipline has been practiced for 40 years in Canada and in that time has excelled in providing pain- and symptom-management to people. A patient can be stabilized to live out their life the best way possible. We have seen that people offered Hospice Palliative Care tend not to want euthanasia.”
9. Big Bad Bobby VerBruggen debunks Joe Biden’s study-citing claim that a ban on “assault weapons” had an impact on crime. From the analysis:
Recently, though, some have claimed that the law reduced mass shootings in particular, which account for a tiny fraction of overall homicides but command an incredibly disproportionate amount of public attention. What seems to be true is that the ban years were relatively peaceful on this front, despite covering the rash of school shootings that included Columbine. They were especially peaceful compared with the past ten years or so, which have seen an alarming rise in this form of terrorism.
However, the three most important facts about mass shootings are (A) they have historically been incredibly rare, with entire years passing without one sometimes; (B) they are contagious, with high-profile incidents inpiring copycats and competitors; and (C) they are incredibly variable in the number of fatalities, from a low bound of wherever the researcher chooses to set it (the study Biden cites uses four, not including the perpetrator) all the way up to 58 at Las Vegas. Trying to detect a pattern in data like this, and then attributing the pattern to a single law change that covered the entire country for a ten-year period, is madness.
The new study doesn’t add much to what we already know and is downright bizarre at times. For instance, the authors combine three different data sets of mass shootings, but instead of including all the incidents they found (to be as comprehensive as possible), they included only the incidents counted in all three databases. They also misuse the term “assault rifle,” which refers to a weapon capable of full-auto fire, indicating that not one of the nine authors and not one of the journal’s editors is all that familiar with firearms or the gun debate. (The weapons at issue in the assault-weapon ban are semiautomatic civilian versions of military-style guns.)
10. Uncle Sam and Aunt Samantha (the woke ones) seem to want mommy working, and not at home, writes John Hirschauer, exploring what truly underlies the Democrat’s policy prescriptions for child care. From the beginning of the piece:
For all the dishonesty on display in the Democratic primary, the candidates have been forthright about their desire to have government functionaries raise your children. The candidates’ various “universal child-care” schemes are transparent attempts to farm out child-care responsibilities away from mothers and fathers to federally funded service workers.
The model of domestic life that such policies would encourage is quite unpopular. Nearly 60 percent of Americans — and a majority of both registered Republicans and registered Democrats — believe that children are better off with one parent at home than they would be in a day-care arrangement. The social-science literature tends to offer qualified support for that view. Beyond the practical effects of day-care on children, many parents — even those already in the workforce — would prefer to be home with their children if they could afford to be. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, for instance, 56 percent of women and 26 percent of men with children under the age of 18 said they would rather remain at home than enter the workforce, if given the choice.
But many progressive activists have long favored policies that would incentivize parents to remain in the workforce while the federal government subsidizes care for their children. Some have called for a “universal child-care” scheme as a means of increasing female participation in the work force and bolstering economic growth. Jordan Weissmann in Slate mentioned both as reasons to oppose more agnostic child-subsidy plans, which would allow families to choose whether to use the subsidies on day-care services or to offset the costs of raising the child at home. “One of the better arguments,” Weissmann wrote, “for providing child-care services — as opposed to straight cash payments to parents, as some policy wonks have proposed — is that encouraging women to stay in the workforce will create future economic gains.”
11. True, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, nor, writes Kevin Williamson, will the Biden Family Scandal be given media attention.
Because this is the banana-republic era of American politics, the news from Angola hardly sounds foreign at all. With the impeachment drama in full swing and Donald Trump’s enemies wailing about the impropriety of his actions vis-à-vis Ukraine, it is strange that so many in Washington are so studiously not talking about Hunter Biden, or indeed about other Bidens and other members of politically connected families who have grown wealthy through questionable means. The question of whether Donald Trump was trying to pull off a dirty trick against Joe Biden is separate from the question of whether Joe Biden and his family were complicit in corrupt practices abroad.
Peter Schweizer, who specializes in Washington self-dealing and has a new book out on the subject, shares some interesting tidbits in the New York Post. Example: In 2010, the president of HillStone International, a subsidiary of a large construction firm, visited the White House and met with a member of the vice president’s staff. A couple of weeks later, it hired the vice president’s brother, James, in a senior position. Schweizer writes:
James Biden was joining HillStone just as the firm was starting negotiations to win a massive contract in war-torn Iraq. Six months later, the firm announced a contract to build 100,000 homes. It was part of a $35 billion, 500,000-unit project deal won by TRAC Development, a South Korean company. HillStone also received a $22 million US federal government contract to manage a construction project for the State Department.
James Biden had about as much background in construction management as Hunter Biden did in Ukrainian natural-gas developments. But he had a brother in the White House, and that counts for something, surely. Is this obviously corrupt? It is not obviously illegal, but that is a distinct question. Schweizer finds similar situations involving no fewer than five members of the Biden family: James and Frank, his brothers; Hunter, his son; Howard, his son-in-law, and Valerie, his sister. None has been charged with any crime. None is likely to be charged with any crime.
12. Armond White catches a bunch of prison-reform flicks. As usual, he . . . takes no prisoners. From the review:
Three movies Just Mercy, Brian Banks, and Clemency make up the recent boom of criminal-justice-reform movies. It’s been a boom without reverberation — a boomlet — because the trend of activist filmmaking doesn’t really satisfy the movie-going urge.
Not even Michael B. Jordan, the charismatic star of Creed, can lift Just Mercy out of do-gooder drudgery. Jordan’s angry, studly strutting was the only captivating part of Black Panther, and his youthful appeal is misunderstood once again by the makers of Just Mercy when Jordan is cast as virtuous Harvard grad and social activist Bryan Stevenson.
Stevenson goes to Alabama and founds the Equal Justice Initiative to help wrongly convicted prisoners. His first case, derived from Stevenson’s real-life memoir, concerns pulpwood worker Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx), whose incarceration for murder was based on a perjured testimony. It takes a while for the plot to bring these two black men together, yet their meeting lacks personal and social frisson. McMillan is yet another Southern black victim, and Stevenson is eager to be his savior. In self-righteous Hollywood terms, this is To Kill a Mockingbird all over again, laying out familiar inequality issues in an obvious though not straightforward manner. The only difference is that Foxx submerges into the dark, mysterious dirt of countrified misery and acts rings around Jordan.
I won’t overrate Foxx’s credible performance because, while bringing a sense of experience to contrast with Jordan’s sweetly callow youthfulness, it’s still a victim cliché. After Stevenson gives McMillan some hope, Foxx does a lousy speech about “getting my truth back” and has to exclaim, “If they kill me today, I go to that electric chair with a smile.” Only a banjo playing “Dixie,” or a boombox blasting Tupac, is missing.
13. Kyle Smith catches The Gentlemen. It makes him smile. From the review:
I have to admit it — until a few days ago I’d lost my faith in Guy Ritchie. He started well, with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, then moved on to one of my favorite films of the turn of the century, Snatch. After that things went so badly that marrying Madonna wasn’t even the worst mistake Ritchie made. Sherlock Holmes? Rubbish. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.? Hideous. I assume Ritchie would rather not dwell on being the cog in the Disney machinery that generated the Aladdin remake, and I’m happy to forget he did that, too. So: For 20 years, nothing he made deserved to be mentioned in the same breath as Snatch.
Until now! The Gentlemen turns out to be a spiffing revival of that quintessentially 1990s genre, the hilariously bloody smooth-talking gangster opus. Quentin Tarantino was the great prophet of the form, but Ritchie, and others’ films such as Get Shorty and Sexy Beast, kept it going. In The Gentlemen, the hallmarks are in place: a ridiculously convoluted plot that straightens itself out admirably; appealingly lethal protagonists; savagery that is so matter-of-fact, it’s funny. Best of all is the film’s tart, slangy, electrical modus communicandi. In short: This the perfect guys’-night-out movie. I mean, assuming you dudes out there have all seen Little Women, which of course would be an equally fine choice.
14. Pardon the Smith Overdose but Kyle’s takedown of the military record of Pete Buttigieg is a stunning tale of Sergeant Bilko corner-cutting and Commander McBragg tall-talery. From the ending of the piece:
What the hey? This is amazing. Buttigieg flat-out admits that he sees the military as a necessary stepping-stone to political fame, and at the same time he implicitly backs Kerry’s thundering denunciation of the military, in the process of bragging about his own military service. It’s like the scene in A Clockwork Orange in which Alex fondly recalls the life of Christ for guidance — but then reveals he identifies with the Roman soldiers whipping Christ on the Via Dolorosa.
Ambitious and calculating Democrats of the future: When you’re trying to portray yourself as Captain America, don’t praise a guy whose first notable public act was dumping all over the military. And certainly don’t remove all doubt by specifically citing the moment the guy was excoriating our boys in uniform and saying they were no better than Viet Cong thugs.
The third thing that stands out about Buttigieg’s military service is his bizarre brag that he used to travel around Afghanistan in various motor vehicles. Has anyone who has ever served the U.S. military on overseas land not driven around? When he launched his campaign last April he bragged about “119 trips I took outside the wire, driving or guarding a vehicle.” That’s . . . not a thing. There are no such stats. Sorties in aircraft are an official military statistic. Motor-vehicle trips are so routine no one would bother to keep track, any more than someone would log how many times Pete Buttigieg took a shower. No one cares. So Buttigieg himself created this phony statistic. Picture it: He made himself a little Hero’s Log but all he had to put in it was “routine trips.” It’s pathetic. It’s hilarious. It’s apple-polishing, résumé-buffing, box-checking, attention-seeking vaporware. Just like his whole career.
15. Timothy Sandefur targets the crazed federal law that actually reduces protections for at-risk American Indian kids. From the piece:
American Indian children are the most at-risk kids in the country, more likely to suffer from abuse, neglect, alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide than any of their peers. There are families out there willing to help them, but federal law says no — because their skin is the wrong color.
I’m not exaggerating. Thanks to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), children eligible for tribal membership are subjected to different rules if they’re abused, neglected, or in need of adoptive homes — rules that are less protective of their safety than those that apply to other kids. Fortunately, a federal appellate court heard a case this week, Brackeen v. Bernhardt, challenging these racially discriminatory standards.
The ICWA is the opposite of affirmative action: It reduces legal protections for vulnerable children based on race. Its “active efforts” rule, for example, makes it harder for state officials to rescue American Indian kids from unsafe homes than other children. Under federal and state law, social workers can remove non-Indian children from abusive parents as long as they first undertake “reasonable efforts” — like making rehabilitation or counseling services available — to help those parents. This “reasonable efforts” rule doesn’t apply to cases involving systematic abuse or molestation, because it would be wrong to send kids back to dangerous homes. But the ICWA imposes the more stringent “active efforts” standard, which requires state officials to go further before removing vulnerable Indian children from their homes, even in cases of systematic abuse or molestation. This means state social workers are forced to return abused Indian children to the families that are mistreating them — a requirement that does not apply to children of other races.
16. Michael Brendan Dougherty mocks the captured-on-film New York Times POTUS co-endorsement of pants-on-fire Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, an act of smug and disconnected philosopher kings. From the end of piece:
But overall, the image of the editorial board was unflattering in the extreme. Long gone from newspapers are the fast-talking, gin-smelling cynics. Here we have a set of people my Irish father might dismissively call “men of quality.” The men wear silk scarves and tortoise-shell glasses. The women are oddly glamorous. They sit in glass box in the sky at a long corporate table flanked by skyscrapers, pronouncing on how the world ought to be. Save for the politics and the fact that they take their income by W-2, it looks like a scene out of an Ayn Rand novel. The hauteur was astonishing. Binyamin Applebaum responded to Andrew Yang — a truly accomplished American who has captured something in the American psyche in his improbable run — by wondering why he was running for president and suggesting that perhaps he run for a councilman’s office instead.
I also have to give credit to the makers of The Weekly for taking the mickey out of the panel of philosopher kings. By the end, the editorial board had talked about how, though they were reassured by Joe Biden’s apparent vigor and health, they found that the case for him was essentially that he’s “a warm body” that can beat Trump. But the camera people caught a glimpse of Joe Biden on the elevator with a black woman who works as security guard in the building. She smiled at Joe and said she loves him, adding, “He’s awesome.” It was the most genuine and least calculated moment of the show. The Times can pronounce on how the world ought to be. But that security guard showed the stubborn way in which the world remains as it is.
17. More MBD: This reflection on Josh Hawley, the press for community, the vanishing frontier that proved a home for the individual, is a copious serving of food for thought. From the essay:
But I think that for Hawley this distrust of Silicon Valley goes down to the philosophical level as well. After all, what is social media but an abstracted world, facilitated conversations and social performances that have been exfiltrated from a real, existing social context? Big Internet provides powerful illusions that the Promethean self-creation is truly possible.
All of this should please someone like me. I’ve been arguing for a decade that conservatives needed to pay more attention to the function of communities. My own book from last year specifically rejects what it calls “the myth of liberation” which encourages us to believe we can create our selves. In the place of this myth, I tried to build a bridge between family and national identity, one that grounds us and gives us a role in a home, and a homeland around it.
But, caring about the American nation means I can’t help but notice that “the individual” is one of America’s inherited romantic archetypes. The American mythology of self-invention and reinvention cannot be extirpated in its entirety as a mere philosophical error. And it cannot withstand sustained rebuke outside a few relatively small circles, filled with creaky conservatives like me.
The New February 10, 2020 Issue of National Review Will Have You Seeing Red
It’s another gem, this issue sporting a retro-Kremlin-vibing, leftward-looking gob of Bernie Sanders, suitable for framing or darts, your call. As is the custom, we share four recommendations from the delicious fare served up between the covers.
1. Kyle Smith does the cover-story honors with his take down of the Red Man from the Green Mountains (yeah, via Brooklyn). From the essay:
You have to admire the crazed focus, though. Sanders has been doing what he does for a long, long time. In Brooklyn he attended James Madison High School, and James Madison was a classmate. In 1974 he insisted no one should make more than $1 million a year. In 1976 he said “the fundamental issue facing us in the state” was that the top one-half of 1 percent of earners gathered in 27 percent of the income. The plutocracy is always the issue, even if we’re talking about 1976 Vermonters whose lifestyle would be mocked by any self-respecting middle-class suburban teen in 2020. “We need a 2nd American Revolution,” he wrote on a legal pad under the heading of “My Political Philosophy” in the mid ‘80s.
Like a self-scourging monk, or Jimmy Carter in the Seventies, Sanders makes a totem of discomfort. In his standard travel rider he stipulates that his hotel rooms be refrigerated to a Muscovite 60 degrees. All of that cold concentration could pay off. This mutt has been chasing the capitalist automobile for half a century, but as of 2020 his jaws are almost in reach of the rear bumper. From a Sandersista point of view, the most embarrassing and worrying item on his résumé is not his famously loopy 1972 essay delving into erotic fancy (“A woman enjoys intercourse with her man—as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously”), his even nuttier 1969 speculation on the secret sources of disease (“The manner in which you bring up your daughter with regard to sexual attitudes may very well determine whether or not she will develop breast cancer”), or his sandpaper-meets-woodchipper attempt at folk singing on a 1987 album. No, the source of worry must be his disturbingly moderate eight years as mayor of Vermont’s principal city, from 1981 to 1989. He managed to get the place rechristened the “People’s Republic of Burlington” among the coffee-shop wags. He posted a Eugene V. Debs poster in his office (“Union. Socialist. Revolutionary,” read the legend) and flew the red flag by spending his (working) honeymoon in the Soviet Union, in sister city Yaroslavl, Russia. But he didn’t much undermine capitalism. “I’m not going to war with the city’s financial and business community and I know that there is little I can do from City Hall to accomplish my dreams for society,” he told the New York Times back then. Instead of raising taxes to plutocracy-punishing levels, he wrung savings out of various city agencies. Business sighed with relief. True, he presented the (nonprofit, tax-exempt) University Medical Center of Vermont with a $2.9 million tax bill, but this was apparently a negotiating salvo. A judge ruled against Sanders in toto. Yet a decade later, with Sanders having been in Congress for eight years, the hospital did agree to pay $325,000 a year in fees in lieu of taxes on a rising scale, a practice that became widespread.
Now 30 years liberated from the responsibility of actual management, Sanders is free to run his mouth about the depravities of capitalism even after his income has soared into the seven figures on the basis of his book, published just after the 2016 election, Our Revolution. He is so far left that even he sounds a bit amazed that key sectors of the Democratic party have ranged still farther to the left.
2. Daniel Tenreiro finds the Xi’s Red China expansion project thwarted in Taiwan. From the piece:
Mao Zedong, who inaugurated the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, is believed to have read Romance of the Three Kingdoms obsessively as a boy. Upon taking the helm, Mao followed Luo’s exhortation and prioritized the reoccupation of the empire’s peripheral regions, including Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia. After the 1911 revolution that unseated the Qing Dynasty, the Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Mongols resisted Chinese rule with varying degrees of success. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) viewed the loss of these regions as an extension of China’s humiliation at the hands of foreign powers, and despite the occasional upheaval, China has since maintained control over those peoples.
In recent months, though, that control has faced heightened resistance. The mass detention of Muslim Uyghurs has drawn condemnation from the international community, while pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have undermined Beijing’s rule in the semiautonomous region. But as a major territorial claim the PRC has yet to annex, democratic Taiwan may represent the greatest extant challenge to the Chinese empire.
On January 11, 2020, that challenge grew more potent when the Taiwanese reelected President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive party (DPP). In a rebuke of the pro-Mainland policies of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), voters cast a record-setting 8 million ballots for the incumbent, who advocates greater distance from Beijing. Stopping just short of formally declaring independence, her administration has boosted military spending, ceased dialogue with Mainland officials, and strengthened ties with Southeast Asia. Her victory embodies a stunning reversal of fortune for Beijing, whose leaders only recently believed they were on an inexorable path towards regional dominance.
3. So They Say: Bryan Garner addresses the plural assault on the singular pronoun. From the essay:
After the Supreme Court declared in Obergefell v. Hodges that people have a constitutional right to same-sex marriage—and that legal point was firmly settled—a new progressive issue came to the fore: transgender rights. Lots of people now objected even to references to he or she on grounds that these references excluded people who saw themselves as neither a he nor a she. The binary nature of language is itself discriminatory, the argument ran (and still runs).
The argument had arisen before Obergefell was decided in 2015, but it came into public consciousness only afterward. By 2017, it had become de rigueur to name one’s preferred pronouns. In New York City, it was common in certain circles to append these to your name in oral introductions: “Hi, I’m Mariellen: she/her.” Or “Hi, I’m Michael: they/them.” In academic circles—or politically correct circles, some would say—the prevailing custom became to put your preferred pronouns in the signature block of all emails. . . .
“But language doesn’t work that way,” I said. “Efficient solutions get worked out naturally. If there are many or even dozens of possible pronouns, people can’t possibly remember.”
“They’re just going to have to. We’re talking about people.”
4. Jay Nordlinger profiles liberal free-speech absolutist Geoffrey Stone, the University of Chicago law prof. From the piece:
This university is a famously—you might even say notoriously—serious place. Yet Stone is well aware of conditions elsewhere. He knows about the shoutings down and the disinvitations and all the rest of it. Furthermore, he is concerned about the “chilling effect” on illiberal campuses. This does not refer to the weather. It means that, if a person has seen others punished for speaking out, he will keep his mouth shut.
That person does not have to be censored—he does it himself.
Several years ago, there was a rash of incidents that were bad news for free speech. In 2014, for instance, Rutgers University invited Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, to give its commencement address. She accepted. But protests against the invitation were so severe and hysterical, she begged off.
The president at Chicago, Robert Zimmer, surveyed the national scene and decided to form a committee: the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago. He asked Professor Stone to chair it. From it came the Chicago Statement, with its principles.
A sample: “Although members of the University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.”
The Chicago drafters never intended their statement to be adopted by others— it was for their university only. But that’s the way it happened.
1. City Journal’s Judith Miller takes note of an incredibly pressing First Amendment case (yep, National Review v. Mann). From the piece:
The case poses an additional danger, argues Theodore Boutros, Jr., a First Amendment expert at Gibson Dunn. “This kind of defamation case threatens to chill free and open debate about the important issue of global warming and how to address it from a policy standpoint. Whatever your views and opinions are on the topic,” he said, “we should all want as much information and input as possible so we can make the right decisions as a society.” Mann, a public figure with a powerful platform, “has ample ways to respond to attacks on his work without resorting to a lawsuit that contradicts basic First Amendment values.”
Writing in defense of National Review, William McGurn, a Wall Street Journal columnist, warned that if the lower court rulings stand, NR is unlikely to be the last such defendant. “What’s to prevent, say, Charles Koch from suing Greenpeace for accusing him of having funded a ‘junk study . . . loaded with lies and misrepresentations of actual climate change science’?”
Michael Carvin of Jones Day, who is representing National Review, said that he was stunned by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal. He suspects that the relative lack of media coverage of the case reflects the unwillingness of many liberal news institutions to defend the First Amendment rights of a conservative outlet like NR. “If a conservative had filed a similar suit against, say, The Nation,” he said, “imagine the indignation and fury.”
2. Gatestone Institute’s Guy Millière nails the depressing French cultural insanity and tolerance for anti-Semitism in an article titled “France: Smoke Grass, Kill a Jew, Skip the Trial, Go Free.” From the piece:
Less than a year after the murder of Sarah Halimi, on March 23, 2018, another Jew, Mireille Knoll, was murdered in Paris. The main suspect, Yacine Mihoub, was accused by his accomplice, Alex Carrimbacus, of having stabbed Knoll as he shouted “Allahu Akbar,” because “the Jews have money.’“ Mihoud’s lawyer said that his client had not been in a “normal state” at the time of the crime, but added that it was an anti-Semitic murder. He did not explain how Mihoud was sufficiently aware of his actions to go to his mother’s apartment after he murdered Knoll and asked her to wash the knife he had used to kill his victim. (Mihoud’s mother is now accused of complicity in the murder).
Muslim anti-Semitism has long been ignored in France. The only book in French devoted to the subject — A Survey on Muslim Anti-Semitism: From Its Origins to the Present Day by Philippe Simonnot — actually justified Muslim anti-Semitism by claiming that the Jews living in the Muslim world had supported European colonizers, and adding that Jews support Israel, a “new colonial enterprise based on Muslim land theft.”
A “manifesto against the new anti-Semitism,” by a journalist, Philippe Val, and signed by 250 politicians, writers and artists, was published in Le Parisien on April 21, 2018, less than a month after the murder of Knoll. Perhaps driven by a desire to spare Islam and not to say clearly that the actual victims of Muslim anti-Semitism are Jews, Val wrote “Muslim anti-Semitism is the greatest threat to 21st century Islam”.
A few days later, in Le Monde, a text signed by thirty imams was published, saying that “Islam is not guilty,” and that the problem comes from “harmful ignorance.” The text added that there was a solution: “reading the Qur’an.”
3. At Commentary, our paisan David Bahnsen carpet bombs the wealth-tax lunacy perpetuated by POTUShontas Elizabeth Warren. From the essay:
One of the fascinating things about the debate on a wealth tax is the intense disagreement within the highly insular world of leftist economists over the rationale for it: the notion that wealthy people are not paying “their fair share” of taxes. Knowing that the data don’t support the idea that wealthy (even über-wealthy) people in our society are “under-taxed,” Warren came to this fight loaded for bear: She has pointed to a study from two economists at the University of California at Berkeley claiming that the top 400 earners in our society pay a blended tax rate of 23 percent of their income, while the bottom 50 percent of earners pay a blended rate of 24.2 percent.1
The Berkeley economists arrive at such a startling conclusion by doing a few incredible things with their data. Their study:
a) ignores the child tax credit and the earned-income tax credit. In other words, it pretends that certain taxpayers who literally pay $0 in federal income tax pay anywhere from $1,400 to $5,600 that they do not pay.
b) ignores transfer payments, which essentially means it counts the tax one pays for a transfer of wealth, but not the transfer of wealth itself. When Social Security payments are included, the numbers reflect a highly progressive tax code. None other than Jason Furman, chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, had to point this out.
c) uses projections for 2018 tax receipts made before the numbers for 2018 tax revenues had been released, and with no explanation of how their estimates for the unknowable 2018 data were calculated. What is known is that the authors of the study use a different methodology for calculating tax receipts from the one they used in their own prior work. One can be forgiven for wondering why this might be.
Related: You will find Robert VerBruggen’s NR mag review of Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream, David Bahnsen’s new book (out next Tuesday) right here.
4. At The Imaginative Conservative, Mark David Hall tracks the Left’s increasing disdain for religious liberty. From the piece:
As the 2020 presidential campaign heats up, conservatives would do well to reflect on two important speeches made last fall that were virtually ignored by the media. In September, President Trump gave an excellent address at the United Nations where he made it clear that religious freedom is not just an American constitutional right, it is a God-given right that should be respected across the globe. A month later, Attorney General William Barr made virtually the same argument in a speech at the University of Notre Dame.
As late as the 1990s, Democrats and Republicans were able to work together to protect religious liberty. Most notably, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 passed in the House without a dissenting vote, was approved 97 to 3 by the Senate, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Unfortunately, the political left has begun to abandon religious freedom. The Obama Administration showed little concern for religious liberty when it required businesses to provide contraceptives and abortifacients to employees, even when business owners had religious convictions against doing so. It also offered a rare challenge to the doctrine of ministerial exception, a legal protection which holds that religious groups should be free to choose, in the words of Chief Justice John Roberts, “who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission.”
5. At The Federalist, Willis Krumholz checks out oh-so-benevolent billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s concocted plan to save Black Americans. Get the asphalt, because the Road to Hell needs paving. From the analysis:
Perhaps for the first time in many years, politicians are directly competing for black votes. This goes hand-in-hand with signs that black America is no longer monolithically supporting Democrats. For example, President Donald Trump’s approval rating among black Americans is in the mid-30s.
Enter Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, who just launched his new plan for black America, the Greenwood Initiative, named after a site of both incredible black achievement and pain.
Bloomberg, speaking to a mostly white audience of only several hundred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, unveiled his plan’s three points. The plan is a perfect example of the failure of center-left policy concoctions meant to help black Americans, invariably cooked up by rich liberals.
First, Bloomberg plans to create “one million new Black homeowners.” To accomplish this, Bloomberg would have the federal taxpayer offer “down-payment assistance,” and bring millions into the banking and credit-score system. He would also start “enforcing fair lending laws, reducing foreclosures and evictions and increasing the supply of affordable housing.”
Too bad we’ve already tried this, and it terribly hurt black Americans. Starting in the 1990s, under a dubious legal theory called “disparate impact,” so-called affordable housing advocates successfully sued banks when different racial groups received differing loan offers and rates. It didn’t matter that the underlying incomes or credit scores completely explained the racial disparity. As long as an overall racial disparity existed, lenders and insurers faced legal liability.
6. No surprise, but still jarring: At The College Fix, Christian Schneider reports on the survey which shows that for every Republican scholar, there are nine lefty Dems. From the article:
According to the researchers’ new statistics, the greatest disparity in partisanship among college professors in the Northeast, which favored Democrats by a 15.4 to 1 ratio. Partisanship was also highest among female professors, who registered as Democrats by a 16.4 ratio, compared to men, who only favored Democrats by a ratio of 6.4 to 1.
Among disciplines, anthropology is most aggressively partisan, with professor registrations favoring Democrats by a 42.2 to 1 ratio. Sociology (27 to 1) and English (26.8 to 1) were the next most Democratic-leaning majors surveyed, while the most balanced discipline was economics at only 3 to 1.
Langbert and Stevens’ analysis went a step further and considered political donations by professors to partisan candidates. According to federal donation data, professors donating to Democratic candidates outnumbered those giving to Republicans by a 95 to 1 ratio.
Of the 12,372 professors the researchers examined, only 22 donated exclusively to Republicans, while 2,081 wrote checks to Democrats.
In terms of raw dollars, donations by professors favored Democrats by a 22 to 1 ratio, suggesting that Republican professors tend to donate more per contribution.
Heartbreak being part and parcel of baseball, did a team ever have a string of it as bad as did the Brooklyn Dodgers, particularly in 1950 and 1951? Of the latter year, the Bums lost the NL pennant in a three-game playoff against the hated cross-town Giants, the blame assigned to a Ralph Branca sinker that didn’t.
But maybe the blame deserves to be shared. After all, the Dodgers were in the playoffs because they had let a one-time 13 1/2-game lead in the standings collapse (while the Giants finished the season on a 37-7 tear, including a 12–1 pile-up in the final regular-season games, forcing the three-game playoff). Had Brooklyn (it went 24–20 over the same period) lost one less game and won one more game, there would have been no playoffs, no eternal fate for Branca, so . . . what’s a good candidate for that one should-won game?
As good a candidate as any was the 4–3 loss to the Phillies on Friday, September 28 at Shibe Park in the City of Brotherly Love. Ahead 3–1 going into the bottom of the Eighth, Brooklyn starter Carl Erskine served up a two-run homer to Phillies catcher Andy Seminick, knotting the score. The Dodgers went three-up, three-down in the top of the ninth, and then in bottom of the frame, future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn, who hit .344 that season, lead off with a single, was sacrificed to second, and driven home by third baseman Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones’ walk-off single. It’s the game the Dodgers could have won.
And it was Ashburn who arguably cost the Dodgers the pennant the previous year, when the Phillies topped Brooklyn by two games to earn the team’s first title since 1916 (in 26 of the ensuing season, they had finished in seventh place or dead last in the NL!). It was another exhibition of baseball’s amazing Fall dramatics: On the last game of the 1950 season, the Phillies — owning a five-game losing streak — found themselves at Ebbets Field on Sunday, October 1. A loss to the charging Dodgers, who had won six of their last eight games, would force a playoff. And in the bottom of the eighth, that’s where things looked like they were heading. It was a 1–1 pitching duel between NL aces Don Newcombe and Robin Roberts, who put the Phillies’ pennant hopes at risk by walking leftfielder Cal Abrams, and then serving up a single Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese. With two on and no one out, Duke Snider strode to the plate, and smacked his league-leading 199th hit of the season, expecting to drive in his 108th run . . . .
But that wasn’t to be. Centerfielder Ashburn fielded the line drive and threw a perfect peg to catcher Stan Lopata.
You can see the play on this video at 0:45 — no one was ever more a dead man at the plate than was Cal Abrams, who had been waved home. Scored an 8–2 out, it was more so a dagger in Brooklyn’s heart. Still having two outs in the bank, the Dodgers failed to bring anyone else home, leaving loaded bases, and in the top of the ninth, having . . . dodged . . . catastrophe, the Phillies broke open the game by tagging Newcombe for three runs, all of them coming on leftfielder Dick Sisler‘s dinger (watch it here, at 0:20). Brooklyn’s last licks were for naught: Roberts set down the side in order. And the Phillies were heading to the World Series.
Today, referring to Saturday the 25th, is the day on which my James will be getting married to Tara. The Better Half and Yours Truly are thrilled that this wonderful woman will become a part of the family. Jim’s siblings feel likewise. This will be a smallish affair, but one we hope of huge consequences. Pray that Yours Truly will someday sooner than later be Grandpa Truly. But more importantly if you spare the prayer do ask God to bestow his graces and blessings on them and their marriage and all good that will come of it.
Truly Yours, with Prayerful Wishes for God’s Abundant Graces to Shower Down upon You,
Jack Fowler, who can be called out at the plate or told whatever else you might need to get off your chest at firstname.lastname@example.org.