Dear Weekend Jolter,
This past Tuesday, NR launched its 2019 Fall Webathon, the second of our twice-annual online fundraisers seeking help to keep the USS Buckley supplied with depth charges to drop on America’s lefty enemies.
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Entreaties and hints having been made, let us get on with the Weekend Jolt.
1. We find President Trump’s decision to hand over to Turkey the matters of ISIS and northern Iraq, where America’s Kurdish allies — despised by the Turks — are sure to face new terrors. From our editorial:
The Trump administration is making a serious mistake. Late Sunday night, it released a statement declaring that Turkey would be “moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria” and that American forces “will no longer be in the immediate area.” The practical result of this statement is obvious: Turkey now has an American permission slip to conduct an invasion into Kurdish territory, kill American allies, and carve out a zone of dominance that will further inflame and complicate one of the world’s most dangerous regions.
There are no easy answers in Syria. While the ISIS caliphate is in ruins, ISIS itself is still potent and active in both Syria and Iraq. The Syrian Civil War grinds on, and the conflict between the Turks and the Kurds has festered for decades. American forces are in a perilous place, but their presence not only helps maintain momentum in the fight against ISIS, it also deters further genocidal bloodshed in northern Syria. The United States should have an exit strategy, but one that neither squanders our tactical gains against ISIS nor exposes our allies to unacceptable retribution.
Trump’s action, unfortunately, raises the risk of both bad outcomes. As Kurds reposition to confront a potential Turkish invasion, they’ll invariably pull back from the fight against ISIS, and while Trump seems to believe (based on Sunday night’s statement) that “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial “Caliphate” by the United States,” the more likely outcome is a loss of control of ISIS detention camps.
2. In the midst of the Ukraine Circus, we advise POTUS to can the antics and strategize for revenge to come in a reelection next November. From the editorial:
President Trump has reacted to the controversy by, as is his wont, filling the airwaves and Twitter timelines with haymaker counterpunches and wild charges. Much of this hasn’t been helpful to his cause and has been unworthy of his office. The president shouldn’t troll the press and his domestic opponents with theatrical calls for China to investigate the Bidens, nor should he ridiculously accuse his critics of treason. Utah senator Mitt Romney’s denunciations of Trump’s statements are sincere and shouldn’t be met with presidential abuse and derision. Trump always acts like he’s one of his own surrogates and, in this case, has often sounded like one of his anonymous supporters on Twitter.
The truth is that, absent some radical change in the dynamic, the House is inevitably going to impeach Trump and the Senate is inevitably going to acquit him. What we’re essentially arguing about is how this impeachment and acquittal will be regarded in the run-up to 2020 by independents and persuadable voters. The president — if he’s capable of it — should pitch his defense to those voters, with the understanding that, from his perspective, the best revenge would be making himself the first president to be impeached and reelected.
3. We call a flagrant foul on the NBA. From the editorial:
If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud, it’s that the NBA (and ESPN and Apple and Blizzard) have united Americans across the political spectrum. Progressives and conservatives alike are repulsed by the rank opportunism and venal censorship of allegedly “woke” American corporations. Each new progressive corporate foray into American politics should be met with an immediate follow-up: “Thank you for your thoughts on pro-life laws in Georgia. Do you care to comment on the concentration camps near your basketball camp in the People’s Republic of China? Do you care to comment on your decision to silence Americans who dissent from Chinese repression in Hong Kong? Do you have any thoughts on aiding Hong Kong police by deleting an app that helps protesters avoid physical beatings?”
While exposing corporate hypocrisy is useful, the much deeper issue remains. American companies seeking access to the Chinese market risk being conscripted into the Chinese system of repression.
But for now, the NBA is exposed. When push comes to shove, it is not progressive. It does not love liberty. It’s a crass commercial enterprise masquerading as a value-laden league. Its “bravest” voices — those who are ready, willing, and eager to uncork angry screeds against domestic political foes — have trouble making the mildest of statements against truly horrific human-rights violations. How “complicated” are concentration camps, exactly? Keep this up, and the NBA may well find that its craven appeasement of 10 percent of its revenue market will cost it dearly with the 90 percent who truly pay its multi-billion dollar bills.
4. Beto O’Rourke, not heading to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but wherever he is going, to cheers he is attacking the roots of American civil society. We condemn the claptrap. From the editorial:
Other candidates have not yet echoed O’Rourke. But the crowd applauded. And his position has not come out of nowhere. President Obama’s solicitor general suggested to the Supreme Court that the tax exemption of religious colleges that oppose same-sex marriage might have to be revisited. Six of the presidential candidates, including leading contender Elizabeth Warren, have co-sponsored the “Equality Act,” which specifically states that religious believers could not invoke the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to ask to escape its new restrictions on private conduct. It would be the first congressional limitation of the religious-freedom law since it was enacted, nearly by acclamation, in 1993. Several of the candidates have also endorsed another piece of legislation that is specifically directed at shrinking the reach of that law.
Put on Your Shades Because You Are about to See a Dozen Examples of Brilliant Conservatism
1. Rich Lowry takes on “1619 Project” distortionist Nikole Hannah-Jones. From his essay:
Hannah-Jones’s account of American slavery is justly excoriating but is careful to leave out anything that might even slightly complicate her story or might prove discomfiting to the Left.
“They were,” Hannah-Jones writes of the first slaves brought to colonial America, “among the 12.5 million Africans who would be kidnapped from their homes and brought in chains across the Atlantic Ocean.” She doesn’t say who kidnapped them. She refers later to “people stolen from western and central Africa.” Again, she doesn’t say who first stole these people so they could be sent across the Atlantic in chains.
Why not? Like it or not, it was Africans who captured other Africans, and marched them to the coast to be sold to European slavers. African slavery existed before Europeans showed up, and it persisted after they left. This, of course, doesn’t make the Middle Passage, so excruciatingly awful it’s difficult to even read about, any better. But it cuts against the impression that she wants to leave that slavery was a uniquely European, and especially American, phenomenon.
Indeed, you might get the idea from reading her essay that colonial Americans were the ones who came up with the idea of racialized slavery. Sadly, it had a long history before Thomas Jefferson showed up on the scene.
2. Andy McCarthy believes the US / Kurd / Turkey situation is a little more complicated than it seems. From his commentary:
Some U.S. military officials went public with complaints about being “blindsided.” The policy cannot have been a surprise, though. The president has made no secret that he wants out of Syria, where we now have about 1,000 troops (down from over 2,000 last year). More broadly, he wants our forces out of the Middle East. He ran on that position. I’ve argued against his “endless wars” tropes, but his stance is popular. As for Syria specifically, many of the president’s advisers think we should stay, but he has not been persuaded.
The president’s announcement of the redeployment of the Syrian troops came on the heels of a phone conversation with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This, obviously, was a mistake, giving the appearance (and not for the first time) that Trump is taking cues from Ankara’s Islamist strongman. As has become rote, the inevitable criticism was followed by head-scratching tweets: The president vows to “totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey,” which “I’ve done before” (huh?), if Turkey takes any actions “that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.” We can only sigh and say it will be interesting to see how the president backs up these haughty threats now that Erdogan has begun his invasion.
All that said, the president at least has a cogent position that is consistent with the Constitution and public opinion. He wants U.S. forces out of a conflict in which America’s interests have never been clear, and for which Congress has never approved military intervention. I find that sensible — no surprise, given that I have opposed intervention in Syria from the start (see, e.g., here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). The stridency of the counterarguments is matched only by their selectiveness in reciting relevant facts.
I thus respectfully dissent from our National Review editorial.
3. Helen Raleigh savages corporations for kowtowing to Commie China. From her piece:
Early last week, we learned Apple pulled a popular app, HK Map Live, from the App Store. Hong Kong protesters have been relying on this app to track police activity on the streets of Hong Kong and to avoid trouble spots. The app also helps bystanders plan their routes to their daily lives without getting caught up in increasingly violent confrontations between the police and protesters. Given the fact that Hong Kong police shot an 18-year-old protester on October 1, China’s National Day, this app could be life-saving for many.
Yet Apple decided to pull the app right after one of the bloodiest clashes between the Hong Kong police and protestors. The company informed the app developer that “Your app contains content — or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity — that is not legal. . . . Specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement.”
It’s hard to believe this is the same Apple whose most iconic ad was a rebel throwing a hammer at the image of a “Big Brother,” or the same company that fought against the FBI’s request to build a backdoor access to an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists.
4. Hans von Spakovsky and John York take on the Democrats’ demand that Facebook “fact check” political speech. From the piece:
With political discourse, as with sports, Facebook’s “let ’em play” approach is for the best. Attempts to tightly referee political discourse often devolve into partisan point-scoring.
As peer-reviewed academic studies show, so-called media “fact-checkers” have a strong track record of partisan bias. Indeed, one very popular fact-checker, Politifact, rated Republicans as more deceptive than Democrats at a rate of about 3 to 1, with no rational justification explaining that discrepancy.
Even the most well-meaning effort to fact-check political statements is likely to be hamstrung by subjectivity. When researchers look at the way mainstream fact-checkers rated the exact same statements by politicians, they found very low agreement. It is difficult to explain that disagreement as due to anything other than the differing personal political opinions and biases of the fact-checkers.
5. Donald Trump received 8% of the Black vote in 2016. After three years of a relentless MSM he’s-a-racist barrage, a new poll has him at . . . 15%. Peter Kirsanow says this should have Democrats in a panic. From the Corner post:
It’s conceivable that the current 85 percent support for the Democratic candidate may increase once the Democrats settle on a nominee ( of course, it could also decrease). Nonetheless, Trump’s 15 percent support among black voters is astonishing given the relentless assertions by Democrats and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) over the last three years that Trump is a racist and white supremacist. Indeed, before the incessant accusations of racism began, Trump received 8 percent of the black vote, yet despite that barrage, his black support has nearly doubled. Most of the increase appears to come from black males, 32 percent of whom prefer him over any Democratic candidate. That’s a major opportunity for Trump, and a troubling prospect for Democrats.
6. The U.S.–China trade war is a slog, with another negotiation chapter occurring this week past. Progress might really happen, says Daniel Tenreiro, if the White House knew what it wanted. From the analysis:
It is unlikely that a deal will be reached at this stage. According to the Heritage Foundation’s Riley Walters, neither the Chinese nor the Americans feel sufficient pressure to make meaningful concessions. For the Chinese, removal of all American tariffs is a precondition for a deal, but the White House does not want to give up the leverage provided by tariffs until it can confirm that China is complying with the requirements of an agreement. The upshot: a continued standoff, with tariffs harming both economies.
At present, trade uncertainty has cost the U.S. up to 0.8 percent of GDP, according to Federal Reserve Board research. The good news is the American economy is resilient enough to continue growing despite tariffs. But with a gauge of American manufacturing health showing its lowest reading since 2009, the repercussions of the trade war are clear, the benefits less so.
At the outset of this trade dispute, administration officials argued that tariffs would impose short-term costs in exchange for the long-term benefits of a liberalized Chinese economy. Two years in, such an outcome appears increasingly fantastical. Instead, both sides eat the costs of tariffs and refuse to budge.
7. John Hirschauer looks at the big heap of political correctness on the Cancel Culture warpath over Atlanta Braves’ fans continued use of the “Tomahawk Chop.” From his piece:
The postseason provides the requisite pretext for an otherwise athletically illiterate pundit class to dip its toes into the world of professional baseball. So, naturally, the “tomahawk chop” chant has of late drawn the ire of those wont to have their ire drawn. Amid a growing swell of Twitter outrage, a reporter with the St. Louis Dispatch asked St. Louis Cardinals rookie pitcher and Cherokee Nation member Ryan Helsley what he thought of the chant. Helsley, who had just pitched against the Braves in the National League Division Series, said that he found the chant to be “a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” one that “depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual.” He lamented that Natives are “used as mascots” by the Braves and other teams.
While some in the press have since disseminated Helsley’s view as if it were representative of all Native peoples, among Native Americans themselves there has long been a diversity of opinion on the merits of Native iconography and mascots. Indeed, the lack of consensus among tribes and Native people on the issue continues to stymie the efforts of activists who want to eliminate all Native-themed mascots from the sports world. To take but one example of the frequently surprising results pollsters get when they ask self-identified Natives about the issue, a Wolvereye poll from earlier this year found that the adjective such respondents most commonly associated with the Washington Redskins’ team name —a brand far more fraught and controversial than that of the Braves — was “proud.”
8. Terf Wars: OK this a two-parter, because Madeleine Kearns saw and heard so much at a recent D.C. LGBTQ rally outside the Supreme Court that trying to cram her brilliant observations into one article would not suffice. From the first part:
Wandering through the crowds I then came across a group of four 18-year-old girls. They had just started as freshmen at American University and this was also their first rally. I asked what brought them out here today. To celebrate their queer and lesbian identities and to offer support to other LGBT people! Why all the labels? “Because it gives us a name to how we’re feeling,” one explained. None of them knew what the cases being heard at the Supreme Court were about, but they had a vague idea. They were about discriminating against LGBT people. Which they’re obviously against. How did they hear about the rally? “We found out about this event at our [college’s] center of diversity,” one explained. What’s that? “It’s a really good community for LGBTQ people and their allies.”
Like the first young man, I put the Martin Luther King idea to them. They considered it. “But it doesn’t hurt to respect someone else’s identity,” one said. I agreed but gave a handful of scenarios — real scenarios — in which overlooking a person’s biological sex has hurt people, mostly women and children.
“Well, I don’t know how much we can read into these kinds of one-off cases,” one said. I then walked them through some of the feminist arguments about redefining sex (which they had never heard before). “Are you talking about terfs?” [trans-exclusive radical feminists] “Because terfs are really problematic for a number of reasons,” one said. I gave an example of a “terf” I know, a lesbian who is not attracted to trans women because, though it’s considered impolite to say, trans women are men. Is it transphobic for her not to want to date a trans woman? “A woman with a penis?” At this, the girls became visibly uncomfortable. “Oh, we’re only 18,” one said. “We don’t know so much about the sex stuff. You’d need to ask someone older.”
Where did I leave you? Oh, yes. I was sitting on a wall, waiting for the cops to move, and two men had just finished telling me about the nasty “terfs” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) who hold the bigoted view that women can’t have penises — “ever!”
After the cops gave us the greenlight, the LGBTQ protestors — accompanied by yours truly –charged down First Street. I never did learn how to count crowds in journalism school, but my guess, as I mentioned earlier, would be that the LGBTQ activists outnumbered the “terfs” & co at a ratio of around ten to one.
9. Maybe daddy and mommy didn’t hug you enough, but Kevin Williamson, bouncing off all the recent Joker psychobabbling, says the cause-hunting is easy; it’s confronting the existence of evil sans explanation that deserves some storytelling. From the essay:
The problem of evil has bedeviled Christian thinkers from the beginning. Men of faith and men struggling to keep their faith alike have found themselves paralyzed by the question: “How could it be that God, being both good and omnipotent, allows evil in the world?” Often this is asked in relation to some private tragedy: “Mr. Smith was a good man — why did he get cancer?” Denis Leary was covering the same moral territory in his standup act back in the Nineties: “John Lennon takes six bullets in the chest. Yoko Ono is standing right next to him, not one bullet! Explain that to me, God!” This is the adolescent form of moral theology, based on the presumption that God owes us an explanation, that we are entitled to have Him justify Himself to us. The existence of evil requires no more divine justification than the existence of anything else, but we keep trying, because we would rather believe almost anything, no matter how absurd — consider the intellectual careers of Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, or Michel Foucault — rather than face the terrifying facts of the case.
10. Kyle Smith thinks that Gemini Man cuts the cheesy. From the review:
Billy Lynn was a notorious catastrophe, yet Lee is giving it one more go with the Will Smith vehicle Gemini Man, a much more expensive film that has a third gimmick to go with the 3D and the high frame rate: Will Smith plays both a 51-year-old character and a 23-year-old version of the same. Watch Will fight himself! This is a pretty cheesy idea in itself but, together with the tech and the 1990s-style screenplay, it’s as if Cheddartown blew up and landed on Gorgonzolaville. The filming style makes all acting look bad and all action look contrived. It’s as if we’re watching a live Disney World stunt show; it’s impossible to get lost in the story because everything seems like it’s being staged right in front of you. The clarity of the images is a paradox: Because it strips away the veneer that makes illusions work, it plays as both hyper-real and hyper-fake. Even if Gemini Man weren’t clotted with dated tough-guy banter that’s strictly out of a Rainer Wolfcastle flick (“We need a missile and YOU are the missile” is the kind of thing the super-assassins tell each other), it would come across as a two-hour cringe of a movie. It’s baffling that Lee is doubling down after Billy Lynn was so soundly rejected, but after this movie flops, I expect the question of high-frame-rate filmmaking to be settled.
Smith’s character Henry Brogan is a hit man working for one of those secret spy agencies within the spy agencies. He is heading for retirement when he gets double-crossed by the spook (Clive Owen) in charge of the new Gemini project and is forced to go. On. The. Run. While a team of expert killers gives chase, in Georgia, Henry joins forces with a marina worker named Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is actually an undercover super-spy herself. Yes, this is one of those movies where a 93-pound woman lays waste to a series of expertly trained 200-pound men and yet we’re not supposed to laugh.
The fastest, sharpest killer on Henry’s trail is Junior, the 23-year-old Will Smith. Young Smith looks fantastic. Hollywood’s latest obsession is digitally de-aging older actors, and we all marveled at this effect when it appeared just three years ago in Captain America: Civil War, which de-aged Robert Downey Jr. Now the technology is all but finished, pretty much seamless. I’d hate to be starting out as a young actor today.
11. Martin Scorsese disses comic-book flicks . . . from America’s basements a million cries of outrage are heard . . . and Armond White reports on the cultural tides coming in and out. From the piece:
Scorsese has taken an essentially conservative position, and the backlash it has raised is analogous to fiscally conservative but culturally liberal variations in social policy.
It felt like betrayal to those Roger Ebert lemmings still worshipping Scorsese as America’s greatest filmmaker simply on the basis of his love of visual extravagance and violence. MCU worshippers are encouraged to enjoy action and violence for its fantasy, not the shocking realism of the bar fights in Mean Streets, the surreal gunplay in Who’s That Knocking?, Harvey Keitel’s aggressive masculine threat in Alice, the self-punishment in Raging Bull, or the sociopathy in Taxi Driver.
Scorsese was reacting against the degradation of cinema’s artistic purpose more than against Hollywood practice itself. That his personal gangster-movie franchise suggests little more than a mob-violence theme-park ride is ironic; the repetitions of Raging Bull, GoodFellas, Casino, and The Departed have contributed to the modern viewer’s reliance on overwrought, impotent machismo and a thirst for irresponsible vicarious thrills. In other words, comic-book movies.
When Scorsese said, “I don’t see them. I tried, you know,” his apologetic demurral indicates exhaustion with formula — not excitement with visionary voluptuousness as seen in the Zack Snyder films that belong to the mythological mode of Scorsese’s hero John Boorman.
12. Love Thy Neighbor, Low-Cal: Robert VerBruggen does his analytical stuff and sees that there is tension between diversity and trust. From the piece:
To prepare readers to be underwhelmed, the authors point out that only 5 to 10 percent of the variation in people’s trust levels stems from differences across contexts like neighborhoods, as opposed to differences among individuals within those contexts. In other words, it’s common for someone to be much less trusting than his neighbor, but comparatively rare for a whole neighborhood to be much less trusting than another one. Further, diversity levels are just one feature that differentiates one context from another, alongside more directly pertinent ones such as crime rates.
On average across all the studies, diversity accounts for . . . something like 0.7 percent of the variation, above and beyond what we can explain with other variables. I don’t think a finding that small should play much of a role in the immigration debate. But the paper also notes some interesting patterns within these results and suggests avenues for further research.
For one thing, the effect of diversity on trust is most apparent at lower levels of geography. Diverse neighborhoods see lower levels of trust much more reliably than diverse countries do. Presumably this is because the demographics of someone’s neighborhood affect his day-to-day life a lot more than the overall demographics of his country do.
For another, different types of trust have different relationships with diversity. Trust in neighbors is most clearly lower when diversity is high. Interestingly, trust in members of out-groups is least clearly affected, suggesting that the phenomenon here is not just about racist backlash to immigration, though some people may hesitate to admit to survey-takers that they distrust out-groups specifically.
There are other interesting complications to this research as well. Different ethnic groups often have different levels of trust, so if you control for the ethnicities of the people who answer a trust survey, you separate out two different effects. You might find, as Caplan summarized Putnam’s results, that “‘diverse’ communities have low trust, but the reason isn’t that diversity hurts trust; it’s that non-whites — especially blacks and Hispanics — have low trust.”
Another Edition of Your Favorite Magazine Is Out: You Will Find the October 28, 2019, Issue of NR . . . Energizing!
This is the annual issue in which we provide a special section on energy, and then there are a bunch of terrific articles and profiles elsewhere, so howzabout we share six links so you can have a real conservative hunker-down?
1. The cover essay is by Douglas Murray, and in it he looks at the Brexit knot and the constitutional problem facing England. From the essay:
For almost three years May tried to untie the knot. Her government initiated Article 50, the previously unused mechanism by which member states are supposed to be able to leave the EU. That set the Brexit clock ticking, for the departing country is meant to leave the EU two years after the Article 50 process is initiated.
As we survey the resulting problem it is worth remembering that all of this was done with the approval of Parliament. Now that the opposition parties are resisting efforts to leave, they and some segments of the governing Conservatives like to pretend that Parliament is representing the people against the government’s injudicious wishes. But this is to assume that the British public has no memory as well as no voice.
For all the major parties in the British Parliament voted to approve the holding of a referendum on the EU. Some—such as the Liberal Democrats—had made it party policy to hold such an in/out referendum before David Cameron’s Conservative party promised the same. Parliament also oversaw the initiating of the Article 50 process, a process that Cameron and other “remain” campaigners in the 2016 referendum had described many times and very plainly. If after two years the U.K. and the EU could not agree on the terms of the separation, then the U.K. would leave the EU without a deal. Which would mean, among other things, trading on World Trade Organization rules.
Yet sharp-eyed observers will have noticed that the two-year deadline came and went (in March) and then again (in June) after extensions were requested and granted. And so Britain remains in the European Union. And it was here that Prime Minister May came across the most intransigent portion of the national knot.
For Parliament had always been of a different view than the people. Though the public had voted by a majority to leave, around two-thirds of members of Parliament had been in favor of Britain’s remaining in the EU. And so as the deadlines came and went, MPs came up with ever more objections to the deadlines that were hurtling towards them. Most popular among them was their decision that “no deal” Brexit would be a disaster and that the public had “never voted for ‘no deal.’” And while it is true that the public had not been asked any such specifics in the simple in-or-out question, it had voted “out,” and the potential consequences of this had been explained. Yet a Parliament that wanted “in” attempted to persuade itself and the public that the Brexit knot was just too complex for any mortal to undo. Meaning—reluctantly or otherwise—that it really made much better sense to remain “in.”
2. Charlie Cooke visits Justice Neil Gorsuch in his SCOTUS chambers, where they talk Constitution, “originalism,” and much more. From the piece:
Of particular concern is the delegation of legislative power to the executive branch—a development that trades a “very public, very raucous process” in which “minority rights . . . play a special role” for “lawmaking by one person.” The U.S. Constitution, he explains, “put the legislative power in a branch full of all sorts of checks and balances within itself. Two houses, responsive to different electorates at different times, have to concur, and then get the president’s agreement, or override his veto. . . . Forget about the Senate rules! That alone puts minorities at the fulcrum of power. That’s what’s going to protect your rights at the end of the day: the vulnerable, the unpopular, the pariah.”
What happens if this system is bypassed? “You’ve bought yourself a king. Or maybe worse yet: What if the president can’t even control the executive-branch official? You’ve bought yourself an unelected king—an unresponsive-to-anybody king, who may be subject to capture, because, as you know, federal agencies can be captured by those they regulate. . . . What happens to the average person? They can’t capture the agency. So you wind up with an awful lot of law, and some of it protects interests that don’t need protection, and makes life particularly difficult for the people who can’t protect themselves on K Street.”
3. And then John McCormack grabs a beer and talks GOP turkey with Nebraska’s incumbent conservative senator, up for reelection in a conservative world amok-running. From the profile:
Why does Sasse, who has publicly mused about leaving the Republican party and who is so plainly conflicted about the Republican president, even want to serve another term in the Senate?
That question has been raised by many of his critics, but especially by those who say the Nebraska senator is a show horse, not a legislative workhorse. New York magazine columnist Josh Barro wrote that Sasse “ran for office as a ‘healthcare expert.’ Then, where was he during the health law debate? Even setting Trump aside, he seems to have no interest in all the non-commencement-speech aspects of the job.” During his first term, Sasse wrote two books, but he never put any sort of comprehensive alternative to Obamacare into legislation.
The failure to repeal and replace Obamacare was a collective failure of the Republican party—with leaders in Congress and the White House deserving an extra share of blame—and there’s no reason to think one Senate freshman could have changed the outcome. But Sasse, a former assistant secretary of health and human services, in the Bush administration, did indeed run for the Senate as a candidate uniquely qualified to go after Obamacare. NATIONAL REVIEW even put him on the cover, as “Obamacare’s Nebraska Nemesis.” In 2015, he introduced a bill to temporarily provide tax credits in the event the Supreme Court invalidated Obamacare, and earlier this year he introduced a bill expanding health-savings accounts, but he really wasn’t in the thick of the Obamacare-repeal debate in 2017. Why not?
4. Mario Loyola, in the special section’s lead piece, takes on the political threats to America’s shale-gas revolution. From the piece:
The new numbers beggared belief. Official estimates had put North Ameri ca in its last decades of recoverable oil and gas. Suddenly the U.S. and Canada each had 500 or 600 years or more of recoverable reserves. It was like discovering the huge Texas fields of a hundred years ago all over again. By the time Obama’s Clean Power Plan was released, the fracking boom was already on its way to creating a million jobs in U.S. manufacturing as a result of much cheaper electricity, a boon for which Obama promptly took credit. Last year, America surpassed every country in OPEC to become the world’s largest producer of oil and gas.
In a comical irony, fracking may be reducing carbon emissions more than all the world’s climate policies put together. According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. carbon emissions from energy production are down 11 percent from the historic peak of 2007, largely thanks to the displacement of coal by natural gas in electricity generation. By contrast, Europe’s draconian climate measures have reduced carbon emissions by only about 8 percent in that time, while in the Asia-Pacific region carbon emissions have jumped more than 40 percent.
But shale formations brimming with oil and gas can be found all over the world. So why did the fracking boom happen only in North America? The answer is simple: Canada and the United States are the only countries whose energy producers are private companies, and the only ones where subsurface minerals can be privately owned. So North American companies have an incentive to innovate that no government could have: competition.
By tapping into shale, fracking has unleashed a historic revolution. And American natural gas can reshape the world energy market—if we can transport it. Besides rapidly tilting the trade balance in America’s favor, exports of liquefied natural gas (or “LNG”) from the United States will make Europe and Asia less dependent on Russia and the Middle East for natural gas, increasing America’s global influence.
5. Mark Mills is shocked by America’s woeful electrical grid. From the analysis:
If America, say, tripled its wind and solar capacity, matching Germany’s share from those sources, we’d still be a long way from a hydrocarbon-free grid. Germany’s massive Energiewende policy hasn’t come close to achieving its stated goal of radically lowering carbon dioxide emissions, but the nation now has Europe’s highest electricity rates.
More relevant in our digital age are implications for reliability, as subsidies and mandates impose on grids more electricity from wind and solar, energy sources that are inherently “variable,” a term-of-art that the Department of Energy uses. “Variable” because, unlike conventional power plants, the output from wind and solar machines is dictated by the vicissitudes of nature. Obviously there’s the diurnal variability, but the greater challenge for reliability is that both wind and solar experience unpredictable episodic declines as well as wide seasonal swings.
Building a 100-megawatt solar or wind farm instead of a combustion-based 100-megawatt power plant has consequences. Conventional plants produce the same amount of electricity day or night, summer or winter, anytime required. A solar or wind machine varies from 100 megawatts under peak conditions to half that during the off-season and, with daily regularity, falls to zero.
6. Speaking of energy, the supercharged Kat Timpf takes a turn writing for the magazine, and it is a terrific account of comedian Dave Chappelle’s pushback against political correctness. From her piece:
The truth is, out in the Real World, humor that isn’t afraid to push boundaries has always been popular. South Park (a show that has joked about subjects ranging from Mohammed to the Virgin Mary to Caitlyn Jenner to the death of Trayvon Martin) was just renewed through a 26th season. At the end of September, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will begin its 14th season, even though the last one featured comedic episodes on topics that the Woke Warriors would certainly say you may not joke about, such as the transgender-bathroom debate and Me Too.
There’s empirical evidence suggesting that the people who support extreme levels of political correctness are the ones who are, as Martin put it in his review of Chappelle’s special, “out of touch with today”—not the other way around. A study released last year by the international research initiative More in Common, titled “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” found that 80 percent of the population believes “political correctness is a problem in our country,” including 61 percent of traditional liberals. Like a beautiful but mean high-school bully after losing the Student Council election, the PC Police have learned they are not as popular as they thought they were.
How, then, did they get so powerful? It’s simple: Cultural censorship through fear. The social-justice crowd has become the dominant voice on cultural affairs not because their views are actually the most popular, but because they are so good at silencing the others.
For many Americans, the prospect of being called “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” or otherwise “problematic” has become more terrifying than death itself. People are afraid of being “canceled”; the Thought Police know hat. They don’t have to worry about finding silly things such as “logic” or “facts” to prop up their positions—they have a much easier route: your fear.
We Three Books of National Review Are . . .
So before we get to the main course, let’s recommend three books — one out, two on the cusp of release — that no true conservative can be without.
Uno: Andy McCarthy’s best-selling Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency is an exceptional work of history and judgment, and since the colluding never seems to end, a must-read.
Due: Coming out on Election Day (that’s November 5) is Rich Lowry’s already-much-talked-about The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free. It is impossible to resist serving you a whistle-wetting slice:
When abstracted from his combative rhetorical style and more idiosyncratic policy enthusiasms (e.g., taking Iraq’s oil), the rudiments of Trump’s nationalism should be hard to oppose, or would be in a more rational time than one we live in.
In his widely panned Inaugural Address, Trump said that “a nation exists to serve its citizens” and that “we are one nation,” sharing “one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.” What is the alternative to this vision, one wonders? Serving the citizens of other countries? The nation as a collection of tribal and other interest groups that doesn’t share a common destiny?
On foreign policy, Trump was considerably more grounded that his predecessors. In his 2005 Inaugural Address, George W. Bush, a champion of universal freedom, quite seriously promised to spread freedom everywhere around the world. In 2009, Barack Obama, in his more soaring moments a self-styled “citizen of the world,” predicted how “as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself,” and averred, “America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”
Trump simply left it at, “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
This, too, should be uncontroversial. Where, historically, many nationalists around the world have fallen down is not recognizing the right of other people to self-government. Trump has repeatedly made it clear that his nationalism is broadly applicable.
Hey: If you pre-order the book, go to this Google Docs thingy, input the requested info and proof of purchase, and the Sons of Warvan or some other galactic force will send you a real, honest-to-goodness Rich Lowry–signed bookplate that you can slap on that sucker!
Tre: Wait a moment . . . November 5 is also the official publication date of Richard Brookhiser’s new book, Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea. Rats! There’s no slice to offer now, but next week we’ll rectify that by offering a slice and a scoop of ice cream. The delay should not keep you from pre-ordering a copy now.
By the way, here is what Kirkus Reviews has to say about Give Me Liberty: Brookhiser “grounds his spirited argument for American exceptionalism in the idea of liberty. . . . An engaging history of admirable episodes from America’s past.”
1. At Law & Liberty, our old pal David Frisk reviews Nicholas Buccola’s new book, The Fire Is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America. From the review:
Nonetheless, the Buckley position would in fact have maintained more white domination of the South for longer. In the same year as the Cambridge debate, Louis Waldman, a prominent liberal labor attorney, published in the New York State Bar Journal an essay called “Civil Rights-Yes, Civil Disobedience-No,” a case against mass lawbreaking for higher moral purposes. Buckley’s skepticism of the civil rights movement went further than Waldman’s non-racial discussion, and further than arguments against the federal government’s constitutional authority to enact a sweeping civil rights law. The title of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s short book Why We Can’t Wait perfectly expressed his movement’s moral urgency. In stark contrast, Buckley can be said with little exaggeration to have held that African-Americans—although ultimate justice was, he conceded, on their side—must wait.
That position is indefensible in decent discourse today. But although it’s a true description of Buckley’s view as far as it goes, it is only a partial description, because he also believed and urged that the white South act in the interest of its large black minority, not merely its own. It must, he said, begin working toward fair treatment and full citizenship for African-Americans and must conscientiously persist in this. Its apparent self-interest should not stand in the way of that goal. Buckley’s total position was still a world apart from King’s “why we can’t wait,” which by 1965 had become the mainstream view, at least as publicly expressed, in American politics. As such, it is easy to mock or condemn. Yet it also had something in common with the militant Baldwin’s perspective: This is such a deep human problem, both said, and it’s ultimately about the heart and soul. It should also be noted, again, that the book ends in late 1965. Buckley certainly accepted the civil rights revolution that was completed, legally speaking, by the end of the decade. Buccola shows that in 1964, and again this probably isn’t well-known, he had sympathized with the segregationist Alabama governor Wallace’s candidacy in the Democratic presidential primaries. In 1968, Buckley publicly and privately denounced Wallace, then a third-party presidential candidate.
2. It’s troubling to entrust Turkey’s leadership with anything but spreading misery and brutality, and at Gatestone Institute, Burak Bekdil has some apt comparisons to Uncle Joe from Georgia (the other one). From the analysis:
More recently, on September 22, a Turkish man received a record-breaking prison sentence for insulting Erdoğan. Burhan Borak, a resident of the predominantly Kurdish province of Van in eastern Turkey, was sentenced to 12 years and 3 months in jail, for seven social media posts in 2014. The sentence was the severest punishment for cases of insult against the president, according to Borak’s lawyer. (Between 2010 and 2017, 12,893 cases of insulting the president were filed, according to Professor Yaman Akdeniz, an academic and cyber rights activist.) With that, Erdoğan holds the title of the world’s most insulted president — a title he could have lost to Stalin if the Soviet dictator were still alive.
Instead of Stalin’s gulags, Turkey has its courts. On September 20, a Turkish court held its first hearing of a case against two Bloomberg reporters accused of “trying to undermine Turkey’s economic stability.” The allegations against Kerim Karakaya and Fercan Yalınkılıç are based on a 2018 story they wrote about how Turkish authorities and banks were responding to the biggest currency shock in the country since 2001.
“They’ve been indicted for accurately and objectively reporting on highly newsworthy events,” said Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait. “We are committed to them and to press freedom and hope that the judiciary will do right by acquitting them.”
Thirty-six other defendants, including prominent economist Mustafa Sönmez and journalist Sedef Kabaş, are also on trial for their social media comments on Turkey’s economy and banks.
The pro-Erdoğan media are full of joy over the trial. “This [Bloomberg’s report and social media accounts] is an economic coup [d’état],” wrote Ali Karaasanoğlu, a columnist for the Yeni Akit daily and a staunch supporter of Erdoğan. “You [addressing the defendants] are suspects of a serious crime of aiming to appreciate the U.S., British and EU currencies.”
3. Author Pew Ewert may be the guy who inspired brat Great Thunberg to hector us internationally on climate change. But writing at Acton Institute’s Transatlantic Blog, Ewert has some advice for the globe-hopping Swedish teen, who may be an in-the-making revolutionary. From his piece:
To be sure, climate and environment are important topics. However, their solution is not found in panic, but in well-conceived plans. In her speeches Greta has repeatedly, and apparently with growing frustration, declared that politicians do nothing, and that the causes behind the climate threats are found in the capitalist system. But both claims are untrue. Instead, the climate situation calls for skilled and bold entrepreneurs who can invent, and market, climate-benefitting tools for the twenty-first century. The solution lies in making such decisions that would make a real change, instead of sending general accusations against those who are making a positive impact.
Several people have called Greta Thunberg a modern prophet. Uncompromising as she may be in challenging authorities, she does not fill the role of an Old Testament prophet. She does not pretend to be the voice of God. On the contrary, her message reflects a hope for earthly salvation, whereby mankind can save itself from the evil forces behind the climate threat. This view has its deficiencies as well; the real culprit in this drama is not the market economy, but rather the ego-centred, short-sighted philosophy which appears all over the field of human activity: among individuals, politicians and yes, even radical youth movements.
Here is also where Greta’s message may turn downright dangerous. Her concluding words to the UN—“Change is coming, whether you like it or not”—ring uncomfortable historical bells. The same applies to her words which were highlighted on the UN building some days earlier, that it is no longer good enough for the politicians to do their best: “Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.” Such revolutionary phrases have swept over the world before, rarely with good consequences.
4. At The College Fix, editor Jennifer Kabbany talks up Mary Eberstadt and her new book, Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics, which declares feminism has proven self-defeating. From the piece:
“When this all started out, feminism looked like a jubilant, bra-burning liberation movement, but as the decades have rolled on it’s become something very different, which is this masculine, snarling, angry entity — and again this swagger is just a form of looking tougher than one is in a world where the risks are higher,” Eberstadt said.
“I think we see this in the #MeToo movement, there is a lack of social knowledge about the opposite sex, and that is why students arriving on campuses are arriving primed to believe the most outrageous lies about the opposite sex, like all men are rapists, or like the kind of lies that all men embrace by watching pornographic narratives and having those be their source of information about the opposite sex,” she said. “So we have a lot of people in both sexes who don’t know the other side well at all.”
With that, today’s university administrators now act like parents and umpires, but the trend’s explanation runs deeper, she said.
“You throw out the Christian rule book and it turns out people will try to reconfigure relations between the sexes with some kind of rule book,” Eberstadt said. “So now we’ve got the consent rule book, these Draconian codes on campus, all meant to substitute for what the traditional family and the traditional religion did, which is to rein men in with rules.”
5. At The American Mind, Robin Burk worries about an American Collapse, and believes there is a “rethink” that will prevent it. From the essay:
Networks, and in particular adaptive networks, impact our lives today at every level from the local household to the increasing inability of transnational structures and agreements to provide stability and well-being to the citizenry of the West.
And not only of the West. Globally-oriented trade and other agreements have destroyed traditional communities and societies elsewhere as well. Radical Islamist terror networks and violent groups like Antifa are only two examples of the response such disruption triggers—and those networks are themselves enabled and empowered by modern technologies, financial networks, and other networked systems originally devised in the West.
If political thinking is to be effective in the face of the progressive Left’s collectivist juggernaut, it must address the centrality of complex adaptive networks in our lives today. Such networks have deeply disrupted the status quo economically, socially, and geopolitically. Anodyne talk of free markets (while corporations cozy up with regulators) and of the primacy of the individual (while ignoring the physical and virtual community contexts within which we all live as individuals) has deeply failed. The current populist wave that elected Donald Trump to the White House is one evidence of that.
But what can we say about complex adaptive networks? Political theorists are not, for the most part, prepared to delve into the mathematics of modern network science. Fortunately, they don’t need to be. What follows are a few insights that can already be gained from this new discipline. They present a challenge and opportunity for new political thought.
6. The Hotel California seems to be the model for the EU’s position on the UK and Brexiting. At The Imaginative Conservative, Joseph Pearce laments over the Euro Elites’ relentless hypocrisy. From the reflection:
How many times do the British people need to “check out” of the European Union before they are allowed to leave? When will the political establishment practice the democratic principles that it claims to advocate?
The answers to these questions appear to lie (in both senses of the word) in a surreal reliance on Orwellian doublethink and newspeak. Thus, for instance, the pro-EU lobby claims that Boris Johnson is betraying democracy and being undemocratic in trying to expedite the will of the people. At the same time, the pro-EU lobby supports the egregiously undemocratic shenanigans of the political establishments of both London and Brussels to thwart the people’s will. This is made manifest in the Machiavellian meddling of British politicians and the refusal of the draconian EU to accept any “deal,” however conciliatory. And then, when all deals are stonewalled by the Brussels monolith, Boris Johnson is condemned as an extremist for pursuing a “no deal” Brexit.
In similar Orwellian fashion, the popular will of the people is treated with contempt and condemned for being “populist.” Take, for instance, the contempt expressed by spokesmen for the Liberal Democrats, the most pro-EU of the UK’s mainstream parties, who argue that it was a mistake to have offered the British people a vote on whether they wished to remain in the European Union (clearly, according to the Liberal Democrats, the people should be made to stay in the EU whether they like it or not); or take the lament of David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, confessing that he had agonized about his role in allowing the referendum, regretting his decision and feeling that it was a mistake. What Mr. Cameron seems to have forgotten is that he and his party only offered a referendum because it was the only way that the Conservatives could steal back the necessary votes from those who had voted for UKIP, without which he and his party could not have won the election. It was, therefore, a cynical move on his part, made necessary by the realpolitik which is the only ethical principle that career politicians follow. It was presumed by Cameron and the Conservatives that the overwhelming one-sided pro-EU propaganda during the referendum campaign, peddled by the unholy alliance of mainstream media and mainstream politicians, would ensure that the British people would vote “politically correctly,” i.e. that they could be frightened and bullied into accepting the chains of their slavery in fear of something worse.
About That Mann Suit
For the legally curious, here is a timeline and list of SCOTUS filings, mainly amicus curiae briefs on behalf of NR’s petition asking the Court to take up the case. Have at it!
July 19, 2019: Petitioners Reply in Support of Certiorari
July 5, 2019: Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, and the Individual Rights Foundation as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners in support of National Review’s cert petition.
July 5, 2019: Brief of Amici Curiae former United States Attorneys General Supporting Petitioners in support of National Review’s cert petition.
July 5, 2019: Brief of Amicus Curiae Stephen McIntyre in Support of Petitioners in support of National Review’s cert petition.
July 3, 2019: Amicus Brief of the American Center for Law and Justice in Support of Petitioners in support of National Review’s cert petition.
July 3, 2019: Brief of 21 U.S. Senators as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner in support of National Review’s cert petition.
July 2, 2019: Brief of Amicus Curiae Dr. Judith A. Curry in Support of Petitioners in support of National Review’s cert petition.
June 20, 2019: Brief of Amicus Curiae Judicial Watch in Support of Petitioner in support of National Review’s cert petition.
June 20, 2019: Brief of Amicus Curiae Mark Steyn in Support of Petitioners in support of National Review’s cert petition.
June, 2019: Motion for Leave to File Brief of Amicus Curiae Southeastern Legal Foundation in Support of Petitioner in support of National Review’s cert petition.
May 21, 2019: National Review Petition for Writ of Certiorari asking the United States Supreme Court to rule on Mann v. National Review.
As the National Pastime’s 2019 playoffs progress, we’ll drop a timely name here: Ralph Branca. What an awfully nice man. Best known for giving up that famous home run to the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson in the 1951 National League playoffs, he also found himself the unlikely starting pitcher in baseball’s first-ever playoff game. That took place in 1946, when the Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals ended the regular season tied for first place — the NL settled matters by extending the season to a best-of three additional games (so, technically, they are considered regular season games).
On October 1st at Sportsman Park, Branca — who had a mere 3–0 record coming into the game, with two of those wins September shut outs — faced off against Cardinals ace Howie Pollet, who that season led the NL in wins (21) and ERA (2.10). It wasn’t a good outing for the Dodgers’ righthander — he lasted 2 2/3 innings and took the loss. Two days later, the Dodgers, back in Brooklyn, lost 8–4 as the Cardinals took the pennant (the Birds would eventually win the World Series against the Red Sox).
No, the playoffs were not made for Ralph Branca. Back to that 1951 series against the Giants: Branca also started and lost the playoff’s first game, 3–1, with Thomson also tagging him for a two-run home run.
Ah well, Ralph Branca — Mr. Branca, as he was known — was a great guy. He worked with the Old Man selling insurance, and every once in a while would come over to the house and toss the baseball around with the kids on East 235th Street. What a thrill that was.
Do check out Kevin Williamson lauding a governor’s call for a day of prayer and fasting.
ISI Fellow Wonder William Nardi hails from Central Massachusetts, in the neighborhood where Thomas Aquinas College — the doctrine-loyal institution that has been a happy enclave for over four decades in California — has now established an East Coast campus in nearby Northfield. He tells a great story about this expansion, occurring in the face of New England’s rising secularism. Read his account here.
Then pray for the success of our webathon. And after you pray, donate!
God Bless You and Yours, and Tiny Tim,