The Weekend Jolt

National Review

Just Minutes to Spare

Dear Weekend Jolter,

May is in the rear view mirror, Mr. Mueller has deposited something into the punchbowl as he left the building (plenty of that below), and — of a much more parochial matter — the NR 2019 Spring Webathon approaches its very end this weekend. Indeed, there may be just minutes left, hence the urge of HURRY! to those having a sincere desire to contribute.

Should you? Our original goal of $175,000 has been revised and extended — we are hoping now to reach maybe $200,000 in kind contributions by midnight on June 2. The goal is amended in good conscience, as the true needs of NR are double even that amount. Help us reach it.

Our siren song to get you to reach for the wallet has been NR’s energized efforts to combat the reemergence of socialism — our readers’ generosity helps us do much more to confront this true evil, this threat to the free markets which have saved billions from impoverishment. Our writers have help us with the appeals, and our final such entreaty comes from Michael Brendan Dougherty, who rats out Socialism as a power grab, not a means to freedom or equality. Here’s part of his pitch:

We see how this perverted instinct cares little about dismantling the power of Google and Facebook, and not at all about redistributing their wealth, because socialism never was about equality, but about power and subjection. Our modern socialists see these behemoths as tools that can be used to build socialism together. Digital technologies and publishing disruption have destroyed most of our local newspapers. These companies have essentially brought the public square under their own control. And this culture is bidding them to censor voices like ours, and yours.

NR stands athwart this malign spirit of censorship. And you must do so as well. We have to be strong. It is in the storm that a ship’s crew comes together, doing their various jobs and proving themselves. You have a role to play in these stormy times.

We know you want to give, so please — HURRY! — and do it. Here. With our deep gratitude.

Speaking of MBD

In Michael’s Webathon appeal, he embraces his broader writings, about how the tech gurus have been riding roughshod over social-media platforms, employing a double standard that allows Leftist judge-and-jury geeks to silence conservatives in ways that can be considered arbitrary. But they are indeed quite intentional. He’s just written an important NRO piece, “Silicon Valley, America’s De Facto Censor,” that amplifies his argument. From his commentary:

Let’s stipulate right from the start that Silicon Valley is making up the rules as it goes along. And it is terrible at the job of censorship and political management. It responds to one set of panicked demands in Germany, then another in America. It goes from one publicity crisis manufactured by the mainstream press to another. And we know which direction those cut. The left-winger who was arrested ahead of a plan to bomb Trump Tower bragged on Instagram about donating money to Hamas, an organization deemed terrorist by most Western governments. Facebook, the parent company, did nothing to restrain his behavior. But the weirdos of the online Right — even the fringes — get banned for doing acts of journalism.

Google banned advertising in the run-up to Ireland’s national referendum on abortion rights last year for fear of “meddling,” a claim that it did not substantiate. The campaign looking to introduce legal abortion welcomed the ban, because it plainly helped them. Facebook also censored an ad, by the conservative Iona Institute, that featured a computer-generated image of an intact fetus. It had to reverse that decision later.

The problem goes beyond the large social networks. Banks, credit-card companies, payment processors, fundraising sites, Internet-hosting sites, and registrars have all been pressured to apply some political tests against users. Looked at from a certain angle, left-wing activist groups have asked that tools and tactics developed by the military and private companies to combat the rise of ISIS and al-Qaeda be deployed against conservatives on the home front.

Vitamin Sea

Happy to announce that Mark Janus, the man whose diligence led to the Supreme Court’s powerful 2018 decision upholding the First Amendment rights of government workers — protecting them from engaging in and paying for speech-compelled government-union bosses — will be joining us as a guest speaker on NR’s 2019 Canada / New England Conservative Cruise, scheduled for August 24–31 on Holland America Line’s beautiful Zaandam. Do you want to come? Sure you do! Doctor’s orders: Gotta get you some “Vitamin Sea.” Get that beautiful stateroom at nrcruise.com, where you’ll find complete information about this wonderful trip.

One Big, Beautiful Score (Plus Three!) of Exemplary Wisdom from NRO’s Remarkable Writers

1. Andy McCarthy paints a picture of a media in panic over AG Barr executing the President’s order to declassify documents that might very well embarrass the Obama Administration. From the beginning of his analysis:

Last week, President Trump conferred on Attorney General Bill Barr the authority to declassify documents relevant to his inquiry into what we can collectively call “the Russia investigation.” This includes not only “Crossfire Hurricane,” the counterintelligence probe formally opened by the FBI in late July 2016, but all of the relevant investigative threads, including those pursued by other intelligence agencies — such as the CIA’s collaborations with foreign intelligence services, beginning in 2015.

In other words, the public is about to learn a lot more about decision-making during the Obama administration. As night follows day, the Democrat-media complex went apoplectic. Gone are the days when the press always wanted more information because it perceived its role, vouchsafed by the Constitution, to be the public’s eye on government.

Much of the mainstream media is now in an all but openly declared partnership with one of our two major political parties. Consequently, when a Republican administration is in power or being questioned, classified leaks are the order of the day. When a Democratic administration is under the microscope, we get lectures on the wages of compromising intelligence secrets, especially methods and sources.

2. Andy Encore: This time he reflects on the up-to-his eyeballs dossier dodgery of former CIA director John Brennan, the one-time Commie-voting ever-bureaucrat, equipped in all the latter’s dark arts. From his analysis:

As is typically the case when Brennan and the CIA have a problem, there’s a big New York Times story putting their spin on it. It has to be parsed exactingly. And there’s some glossary you’ll need, or else you’ll miss the sleight of hand. The two words at issue are informant and source. In common parlance, they are often used interchangeably. But they are saliently different, especially in a story about spycraft. An informant is a cooperator who intentionally provides information to government agents. A source is whom or what the information comes from — often a person, sometimes an operation (like a wiretap). A source can be witting or unwitting. A source can also be the informant (which is why the terms are often conflated), but very often a source’s information is communicated to an informant through one or more intermediaries. An important example: Christopher Steele, who is often referred to as a source, was actually an informant, whose sources were multiple layers of hearsay removed from him.

3. And Take Another Bow: Andy reviews Mueller’s exit speech. From his analysis:

Mueller, after all, did decide there was insufficient evidence on collusion, so he obviously did not understand the guidance to forbid him from rendering judgments on the sufficiency of the evidence. (By the way, that’s why I continue to believe it was a dereliction of duty for him to fail to decide whether there was a sufficient obstruction case.) Moreover, Mueller elaborated that if he could confidently have said there was insufficient obstruction evidence, he would have. That means he thought hard about the sufficiency of the evidence, not that he avoided the issue in his analysis. Plus, if his default position was that the OLC guidance prevented him from doing the prosecutor’s job — which is to decide sufficiency-of-the-evidence questions — he should not have accepted the appointment.

A much more straightforward interpretation is that Mueller believes there is enough evidence to indict, he decided he could not do so under the guidance, and he intentionally left the matter for Congress to resolve — with the advice that felonies may have been committed. That is significant because Congress does not need a prosecutable criminal offense in order to impeach. High crimes and misdemeanors can be felonies, but they need not be. If Congress believes an abuse of power is egregious enough, it may file articles of impeachment.

I would be surprised at this point if House Democrats press ahead with their attempt to call Mueller as a witness.

4. Charlie Cooke smacks the premise that “not exonerated” is somehow a legitimate legal standard in the USA or any allegedly “free” country. From his Corner post:

That’s not how it works in America. Investigators are supposed to look for evidence that a crime was committed, and, if they don’t find enough to contend that a crime was a committed, they are supposed to say “We didn’t find enough to contend that a crime was committed.” They are not supposed to look for evidence that a crime was not committed and then say, “We couldn’t find evidence of innocence.”

RELATED: Charlie’s position drew fire. He returned it.

5. Sahil Handa finds that scientific studies show there are strong benefits to psychedelic drugs, and conservatives need to rethink their position. From his piece:

If conservatives are concerned about the harms caused by hard drugs, psychedelics should be their friend, not their foe. The annual Global Drug Survey reported that mushrooms are the safest drug used recreationally — and crucially, they are better able to break addictions to nicotine, alcohol, and cocaine than all available forms of rehabilitation. They have even been shown to reduce rates of recidivism among criminals, making them a potential salve for our ailing criminal-justice system.

The implications become more interesting when applied to the level of culture. There has long been disagreement within conservatism regarding the proper role of the free market, the question of whether or not the excesses of our economic system commodify that which ought to provide us with meaning. Traditionalists often argue that capitalism requires a spiritual framework to moderate rampant consumerism, and evidence suggests that psychedelics could be of tremendous use in the formation of such a framework.

Mental activity under these substances is similar to that seen in long-term meditators, where the brain’s default mode network — the area responsible for the ego — becomes less active. Attempting to articulate the lived experience of these brain states is similar to articulating any transformational religious experience; mysticism goes beyond the reach of language. In the words of Michael Pollan, the author of a bestselling book on the topic, “‘God’ is sometimes the biggest word we have to describe big experiences.” People are often led to religious fulfilment through moments that seem to go beyond the point of materialist explanation —encounters with the unknown that convince them that reality defies conventional categorization.

6. The SAT folks are trying to cook the books, creating a new “Diversity Score” to pump up the numbers for minority test-takers. Declan Leary grades the effort — it gets an “F.” And that’s graded on a curve. From his analysis:

In a column for Business Insider, Leigh Patel argues that correlation between high SAT scores and high family incomes “undermines any claim that the SAT is objective.” Her complaint is patently absurd. The fact that standardized tests do not produce identical results for different people is evidence not that the tests are flawed but that different people are . . . different. It makes a fair amount of sense that a student from a stable family who has spent eleven years in a well-functioning school district might outperform a child of absentee parents who has been stuck for those same years in schools that barely manage to keep their doors open. This is not a failure of the test, and it can’t be fixed by a simple numerical adjustment for circumstances — it is a function of the circumstances themselves. A comprehensive 2011 study by Sean Reardon, an endowed professor of poverty and inequality at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, indicates wide achievement gaps correlate with family income across the academic board.

Even if accommodation for economic inequality did make sense, though, the College Board’s new metric doesn’t actually offer any, because it takes into account only broad factors such as the median income of the student’s geographic area. Thus it penalizes low-income students from high-income areas simply for living in decent neighborhoods. And it has the potential to encourage gentrification, as it incentivizes wealthy families to move into low-income neighborhoods to give their kids an advantage in the admission process. (The absurd bribery scandal that broke this spring is proof that this should-be-ridiculous hypothetical is more than plausible in 2019 America.) On income inequality, the program will almost certainly do more harm than good.

RELATED: Jason Richwine says the SAT scheme dumbs down the merit-based program. From his piece:

If advocates of affirmative action in college admissions couched their arguments entirely in that social-justice framework, I would find their position more respectable. But giving preferences to lower-achieving students is in no way compatible with a merit-based system. When college administrators favor lower-scoring applicants, with no evidence that their scores underestimate their future success on campus or in the broader world, they have prioritized redistribution over merit. Why not acknowledge that?

7. White, white, white . . . is the color of our carpet. It’s also the pigmentation of who mostly benefits from Washington State’s progressive policies. And yep, writes Nicholas Kerr, those policies also stick it to black Washingtonians. From the article:

Democrats also dropped a provision that would have ensured that charter schools would receive any increases in local school funding along with traditional public schools. Minorities are overrepresented in most Washington charter schools — the percentage of blacks in these schools is often two or three times the percentage of blacks in the communities in which they operate. Minority parents know all too well how traditional public schools have failed their children, and they are lining up to get their kids in: Almost all have waiting lists.

Further, ever-increasing property taxes in Washington have hit low-income minorities the hardest. My family used to live in Seattle’s Central District, where many of our neighbors were retired black homeowners on fixed incomes. As property-tax demands inexorably rose, these families were forced out of the neighborhood. Simultaneously, rising property values have shut out younger minorities from purchasing their own first homes in Seattle. As Gene Balk reported, in 1970 King County had a 49 percent black-homeownership rate, well above the national average, but now it has the fifth-lowest black-homeownership rate in the country among the 100 U.S. counties with the largest black populations.

8. The Assange case challenges standings on the First Amendment: Kevin Williamson rejects the notion of the press being a protected caste, which makes journalists vulnerable to pretty straightforward U.S. espionage laws. From his commentary:

The dissemination of classified documents is illegal in many circumstances. It is, under what seems to me the plain meaning of the law, precisely the felony of espionage in at least some cases. To decline to prosecute those crimes in the interest of enabling journalism is to create exactly the kind of professional caste privilege that Greenwald rightly warns against. We cannot simultaneously hold that the problem is “empowering prosecutors to decide who does or doesn’t deserve press protections” and then try to solve that problem by empowering prosecutors to decide who does or doesn’t deserve press protections.

I am not a lawyer and do not pretend to speak authoritatively about the Assange case, but the language of the federal criminal code appears — to my great surprise — clear enough about this matter.

And that is the fundamental issue: The government has too broad and sweeping power when it comes to classifying information, it uses that power too eagerly and too thoughtlessly — and too arrogantly, and too corruptly — for that power to be fully compatible with a free and open society. The solution to bad laws is to repeal or reform the law, not to construct a supplementary social theory to support its selective application.

9. Kamala Harris has a plan — maybe a . . . cunning plan? — to close the gender-pay gap. Ryan Bourne, being charitable, calls it “misguided.” From his article:

Take workers who stock shelves in supermarkets and their warehouses. Shelf-stackers in both locations ostensibly do “the same job.” If a supermarket chain gave them the same job title, and all other experience and performance were equal, this legislation would mandate that workers in both locations be paid the same. Yet it is plausible that working in a warehouse may simply be less pleasant than working in a supermarket, if the warehouse is colder or in a more isolated area or those who work there have less agreeable hours. If men have a greater willingness to accept these unpleasant conditions in return for the “compensating differential” of higher pay, this again would show up as a pay gap, with the company being liable for fines under Harris’s legislation. Yet paying both sets of workers the same could create severe shortages of warehouse workers, or surpluses of supermarket employees.

To avoid such fines or outcomes, businesses would likely revise job titles to ensure that people were labeled uniquely. That could lead to hierarchical disputes within companies and presumably to legal challenges, but it would be a solution. The alternative is to face the prospect of running complex regressions and aggregation calculations to determine whether, on net, men and women are equally paid. That would require the intrusive collection of data on employees’ work history or a more rigorous evaluation of employee performance, either of which itself might have undesirable consequences for workers.

10. You want a big, fat, smart, post-vote analysis of the EU elections? And you want it from the expert, John O’Sullivan? Sometimes wishes come true. From his article:

Where the center retreated, however, the populist Right did not always occupy the abandoned position. National populists (which is the approved non-hostile term for describing them) advanced moderately and consolidated their previous gains substantially in the elections. Victor Orban’s Fidesz won 52 percent of the votes in Hungary. Poland’s Law and Justice party held off a multi-party attack from an organized left-wing coalition and won a majority that suggests it will win the forthcoming national elections. France’s National Rally — the latest name for the populist Right party led by Marine Le Pen — narrowly defeated the populist-centrist party of President Macron in France. (Populist-centrism may be a novel concept, and it may prove to be an unsuccessful one, but it’s the best description yet coined of Macron’s ambiguous politics.) The political success of Italy’s populism we outlined above. And in the United Kingdom, the populist Euroskeptic party, titled with stunning simplicity the Brexit party, went from its foundation five weeks ago to become the largest U.K. party in the European Parliament, with 32 percent of the national vote and 29 MEPs. But it hopes to be leaving Parliament soon.

Populism suffered no major defeats anywhere — unless you count (and you shouldn’t) Denmark, where the People’s Party share of the vote was halved because the more respectable social democrats adopted their tough migration policy. On the other hand, populism didn’t win as many votes as the populists had hoped and as the Left and the media had feared. In particular, populists fell well short of taking control of the European Parliament or, as we shall see, even weakening the control of it exercised by the reigning centrist duopoly of Christian and Social Democrats.

11. Ian Murray believes the big winners were the Greens. And he wasn’t referring to romaine lettuce and brussels sprouts. From his analysis:

Yet, less appreciated has been the direction of the left. As I argued in my 2008 book, The Really Inconvenient Truths, environmentalism has replaced social-justice Christianity as the driving force of the Western left. And, with the emergence of globalism, an ideology based around tackling global problems such as climate change has accordingly risen to prominence. Rather than socialists coopting environmentalism, the reverse has started to happen. The Green Parties of Europe are in the process of overtaking the Social Democrats and hard-left parties alike.

Britain provides a great example. The Labour Party, currently hard-left under its leader Jeremy Corbyn, is being squeezed in both its heartlands from different directions. In the urban northeast of England, which has reliably voted Labour since the party’s founding, voters deserted en masse to the nationalist Brexit Party. In the south, with a more highly educated and cosmopolitan population, a substantial number of Labor voters went for the Greens this time, and many said they did so because of policies other than Brexit. While most say they will return to the Labour Party at the next general election, Labour will face continual pressure from the Greens going forward.

12. Douglas Murray exposes the spin of the aghast British press over the election results. From his piece:

By any honest analysis the night belonged to Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party, which won 31.6 percent of the overall vote, winning 29 seats. The next-largest party was the Liberal Democrats, just over 20 percent of the vote and 16 seats, which is quite a lead for Farage. The runners-up of Labour (ten seats), the Greens (seven seats), and the Conservatives (four seats) struggled to make their performance look like a success. But the most striking thing about the reaction to the results was the effort to claim them as evidence that Britain wants to remain in the EU.

For instance, the BBC was caught claiming that the night was a wild victory for Remain parties. In full-on Pravda mode, the BBC reported that the night had seen “Anti-Brexit” parties out-perform “Pro-Brexit” parties. Indeed, it claimed the Anti-Brexit had beaten Pro-Brexit 40.4 percent to 34.9 percent — a figure arrived at by, among other means, including the Conservative party as an “Anti-Brexit” party. The Conservative party has certainly had its problems of late. And there is very little reason to trust them with anything in terms of promises or delivery. But the party’s stated stance remains that it is committed to ensuring Britain leaves the EU. It is certainly not an explicitly “Anti-Brexit” party.

13. Jonathan Tobin reminds all that a forgotten reason for the increase in European anti-Semitism — often blamed on popular movements — is massive Muslim immigration. From his piece:

Earlier this month, a New York Times Magazine story titled “The New German Anti-Semitism” reported that “police statistics attribute 89 percent of all anti-Semitic crimes to right-wing extremists.” But the same article went on to question that statistic. According to the Times, when German authorities can’t directly attribute a motive for an attack on a Jewish target (and they often cannot), they ascribe it to the Right. But a European Union survey of German Jews conducted last year showed that a plurality of Jews who say they experienced anti-Semitic harassment said the perpetrators were Muslim extremists. Yet, as the Times noted, the German government has been insisting that country’s anti-Semitism problem has not been imported from the Middle East.

The German government, as Klein’s controversial statement on kippahs made clear, is far from indifferent to anti-Semitism, whatever its source. The Bundestag recently voted to condemn the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement against Israel. Yet the government seems far more focused on the threat from the right and the growth of what it describes as Islamophobia in response to the massive influx of Syrian refugees who arrived after Merkel opened up the borders to them.

14. Titus Techera finds Paul Cantor’s new book, Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American Dream: Con Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, and Zombies, an excellent look into the American soul. From his article:

Cantor sees tragedy and popularity combine in the American dream. Work hard, be honest, apply yourself to your work and you will, sooner rather than later, get what you want, which is a private middle class life: marriage, kids, and a couple of cars in the garage, plus the knowledge that you’re part of the greatest nation in the world, indeed, in world history. Being middle class means above all being respectably productive and honestly loving the country. It certainly means being law-abiding. That is not a bad bargain at all, which is why many people, including Cantor himself, want it and get it.

When it doesn’t work out, it’s not always a matter of some people being too weak for it—others might be too strong and, instead of simply missing out on the American dream, turn out to be villains. Americans find it easy and not unpleasant to look at stories about the downtrodden, the oppressed, the unlucky, and the victims of catastrophes. Suffering is a very attractive spectacle, as we know from TV, but it’s also an opportunity for us to act as moral creatures of a loving God. These are the undeservedly poor or wretched; we are the most charitable nation on the planet because we don’t want to share their fate.

But life is not all morality and piety. Normal people like you and me not infrequently become angry or contemptuous. Indeed, if the Internet is any evidence, there is a lot of hatred inside of us. Internet behavior signals a certain dissatisfaction with our American dream, a suspicion that it’s not as true as we want it to be. Maybe we need to work harder to get it right, which is why we have religious awakenings, political reforms, civil-rights struggles, and even a Civil War. We are capable of being less ordinary—even of becoming violent.

We are tempted now and then to look beyond our condition of social equality and think about what is possible for human beings other than the middle-class lifestyle. This is why, Cantor avers, we all loved Westerns once and now, deprived of them, are obsessed with medieval Romances that turn violent or with the doings of the English aristocracy. Here, we see people above our stations and below our morality. They are not decently productive people—but their passions have a shocking splendor to them, since in love and in cruelty they are far less restrained than we are.

15. Conrad Black pens an excellent R.I.P. of the late, great historian, John Lukacs. From his remembrance:

He once told me that when he appeared at the federal building in Valley Forge during the Korean War to hand in his income-tax return, the official who received it said that of all the scores of people who had appeared in the last couple of days for the same purpose, John Lukacs was the only one who was smiling, and asked the reason for that. John replied that he was a refugee from Hungary, that he knew what the United States had done for the defeat of Nazism and fascism and the deterrence of international Communism, and that he calculated that his modest income might yield enough tax revenue to buy one shell for the main armament of an Iowa-class battleship and he was proud to provide it.

John’s particular hero was Winston Churchill, an eminently worthy subject of such admiration, even if he tended to ascribe to Mr. Churchill more of John’s own views than the great British prime minister actually espoused. One of the last times I saw John Lukacs was when he was accompanying Sir Winston’s daughter, Mary Soames, to Budapest for the dedication of Churchill Square in that city. He believed Winston Churchill was the preeminent European statesman of the 20th century, and we had many lengthy and entirely cordial exchanges in which I suggested that Churchill tried to straddle between Europe, the Commonwealth, and the United States in a way that was beyond Britain’s strategic post-war competence, though I yielded nothing to him in my admiration of Sir Winston. As a Roosevelt biographer, I had, to some degree, a natural rivalry with him in the attribution of credit for the deliverance of the West in World War II; there was plenty of credit for both.

16. Netflix threatens to boycott Georgia, woke about the state’s pro-life “heartbeat,” but Kyle Smith is betting that the likely outcome is that money will talk, and Hollywood BS will walk. From his piece:

Hollywood has threatened boycotts in Georgia before. When the producers of Gone with the Wind wished to hold the premiere in Atlanta, Clark Gable was outraged that black cast members would not be able to attend the event with the white cast owing to the Jim Crow laws then in effect. Did Gable, or anyone else, actually boycott the event, though? Nah. When Hollywood’s moral values collide with dollar values, it’s usually no contest. Neither Gable nor anyone else important connected with Gone with the Wind was willing to go to bat against racism if they felt it might cost them.

Which was why it was so amusing when George Clooney, in accepting his 2006 Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Syriana, cited the treatment of Gone with the Wind costar Hattie McDaniel as an example of Hollywood’s courageous liberalism. He bragged that Hollywood was “a little bit out of touch” in that “We’re the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects, we are the ones — this Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.” Clooney either didn’t know or didn’t care that McDaniel was not allowed to sit in the main part of the room with the white Academy Award nominees. Even at the Oscar ceremony itself, then held in a hotel ballroom, blacks were effectively forced to sit in the back of the theater.

17. HBO documentary Running with Beto gets smithereened by Kyle Smith. Medic! From the review:

The speediest bong-rip-to-hangover moment comes when O’Rourke is captured answering a question about the NFL’s national-anthem protesters — posed by a voter who disagrees with them — by supporting them unequivocally and even saying, “I can think of nothing more American.” We watch the Facebook meter excitedly clocking up millions of hits. Beto is viral! Ellen DeGeneres wants to meet up! So does Stephen Colbert! The Washington Post says O’Rourke has conquered the Internet! The morning after arrives with campaign chief David Wysong: “So the Cruz campaign, they’ve got their negative hit. It’s what they wanted. . . . Beto’s favorabilities have gone downward.” Maybe there are some things more American than insulting the American flag.

Campaign field director Zack Malitz, rallying legions of campaign volunteers who have that eerie Children of the Damned glow, is shown announcing that “Tuesday, November 6, is the day the world ends.” (Rrrrrrrrip!) “There is no day after that.” (Exhale.) “Elections are a matter of life and death!” (Rrrrrrip!) “This is possibly the most important thing that most of us will do with our lives.” (Exhale.) How does everyone feel about this the day after? Two minutes earlier, we watched one of Beto’s forlorn sons lamenting that, while he is used to his dad being away, “my mom’s gone, like, three days a week now, and so for half the week there’s, like, no one there.” The kids are so desperate for contact that they’ve resorted to writing letters to Dad. I doubt the sequencing here is meant to remind us that raising children is possibly the most important thing most of us will do with our lives, but that’s the takeaway for everyone who isn’t such a political zombie that he lives only for the netherworld of knocking on strangers’ doors and telling them the fate of a single Senate race is going to make a big difference in their lives. As it turned out, even if O’Rourke had won, the Senate would have remained in Republican hands. His candidacy really didn’t matter very much at all.

18. Even More Kyle . . . which today means Even More Kyle Not Liking Something. Which in this case is Rocketman. Not much liftoff for this Elton John biopic. From the review:

Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, a dutiful biopic with music that was free of dancing, Rocketman is a musical that uses its tunes as fancies to illustrate John’s various triumphs and tribulations, complete with Broadway chorus boys whirling in the background. A problem with this approach is that the lyrics, which John did not write, don’t much fit his life story. So “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” gets shoehorned in as a description of what it’s like playing in quarrelsome pubs. This is the kind of contrivance that kept happening in Rock of Ages, the disastrous 2012 jukebox musical about 1980s rock.

Also unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman ditches the classic original recordings in favor of inferior recreations. Taron Egerton does a decent job as Elton John, but for a guy who shows up for work dressed as a glitter-jumpsuit batboy or a disco gladiator chicken, he’s awfully glum. He enters the movie dressed as Satan from the South Park movie, then sits down for some anger, confession, and healing with a twelve-step group whose sessions create a boo-hoo framing device around the movie. Egerton does set a record unlikely ever to be equalled by performing “I’m Still Standing” for a second time on the big screen; the last time he did it as a gorilla called Johnny in the animated Sing, and that scene was far better than anything in this movie.

19. The first words of Armond White’s review are “Ava DuVernay’s Netflix propaganda series When They See Us . . .” So you might have a clue about the tone of what follows. Great stuff, as ever. From the review:

You’d be mistaken to think that DuVernay’s title is a sequel to Jordan Peele’s Us, addressed to black viewers who are woke to the African-American phenomenon of distrust in “the white gaze,” or that she examines the perpetual anxiety of living in a suspicious, punitive culture. Fact is, DuVernay’s latest prank (after the insipid civil-rights epic Selma, her obtuse constitutional-amendment doc 13th, and her fantasy/box-office flop A Wrinkle in Time) is designed to appease her benefactors. She plays to the empowered white media elite, her film- and TV-industry sponsors, who enjoy the self-reproach that comes with being reminded of their own privilege. It’s clever career shtick: DuVernay specializes in white guilt and feeling helplessly culpable in the racism committed by others of their class.

Through hindsight awareness, DuVernay’s draining, four-part saga repeatedly touches on bureaucratic insensitivity — the indifference of district attorney Robert Morgenthau (Len Cariou); the vengeful, careerist obsession of prosecutor-turned-crime-novelist Linda Fairstein (Felicity Huffman); and the helpless dutiful peoples’ attorney (Vera Farmiga). Their apathy toward the five youths converges into the straw-man figure of Donald Trump, whose peripheral ruling-class commentary at that time (presented in TV-news flashbacks) is routinely condemned. It’s as if, even back in the day when citizen Trump was a hip-hop music idol regaled for audacity and bling, he was singularly responsible for New York racism. DuVernay’s political animus (“That devil wants to kill my ,son” scoffs a mawkish Harlem Five mom) makes for blinkered history.

20. What is squat? Kat Timpf says that’s what AOC knows about the First Amendment. From her piece:

See, when Ocasio-Cortez asks: “For those who believe in ‘free speech’: whose free speech do you believe in?” she completely misses the point of the First Amendment. She completely misses that you absolutely cannot “believe in . . . free speech” and also want to give that right to only a specific group of people. In that situation, it is bound to be the case that only the elite, only the people in power (whom she has made a career railing against) will have that right. The people who have power over you will also have the power to determine what you do and do not say about it.

Let me be clear: You either stand for free speech or you don’t. You either stand for the First Amendment or you don’t. You either believe that every citizen has the right to speak freely (with, as I mentioned, the exception of direct, credible threats), or you want the government to be able to have the power to decide which opinions are or are not acceptable. Which opinions are or are not imprisonable.

I myself choose freedom.

21. Matt Continetti wonders if Biden is the new Hillary. From his Corner post:

Biden is vulnerable on foreign policy. His credentials and standing in the bipartisan foreign-policy establishment may reassure Beltway insiders and voters looking for experience and an internationalist outlook. This same resume, however, makes him vulnerable to the charge that the policies he supported for a generation did little to create peace and prosperity. Trump made that argument both in the Republican primary and in the general election in 2016. It worked.

As I write, Biden has a large and stable lead over his Democratic opponents. He beats Trump in a head-to-head matchup by 8.1 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Remember, though, that Clinton’s advantage was even greater in the summer of 2015. After 16 months of Trump attacks, 77,000 voters in three states denied her the presidency. The same could happen again to a nominee easily caricatured as the epitome of Beltway cluelessness. What looks like Joe Biden’s greatest strength — electability born of experience — may also be a debilitating weakness.

22. Senator Josh Hawley tees off on judicial nominee Michael Bogren, who dabbled in what many find to be anti-Catholicism. From his article:

Michael Bogren is a nominee for a judicial seat in Michigan. He is currently defending the city of East Lansing, Mich., in a lawsuit brought by Steve and Bridget Tennes. The Tenneses are a faithful Catholic family who operate Country Mill Orchard and Cider Mill. After they stated publicly that they believe in the Bible’s teachings on marriage and adhere to those beliefs for their business, the city barred them from participating in the local farmers market. They were then forced to sue the city to defend their rights.

Mr. Bogren responded with a scorched-earth strategy in his litigation against the Tennes family. He wrote, “Plaintiffs attempt to dress their arguments up in a shimmering gown of First Amendment and religious righteousness and parade it down the runway of moral superiority. When stripped of its costume, however, what lurks beneath is simply this: discriminatory conduct.”

He compared their Christian beliefs about marriage to the racism of the Ku Klux Klan, arguing that following the teachings of their faith by not celebrating same-sex weddings on their farm was “no different than the ‘White Applicants Only’ sign.” He also attacked the sincerity and the consistency of their beliefs, arguing that they only “selectively” apply their faith to their lives.

23. Ramesh Ponnuru artfully schools Hawley’s conservative critics. From his piece:

Would conservative senators be obligated to look past a judicial nominee’s past work for Planned Parenthood — arguing, let’s say, for a constitutional right to subsidies for abortion — because everyone has a right to a lawyer? Would a conservative White House be so obligated? What if the nominee had spent much of his career providing such representation? Or — if the social-issue context is too much of a distraction — would conservatives be obligated to say it’s perfectly fine for a Republican administration’s nominee to have argued for Obamacare’s individual mandate while working for health insurers?

We want to foster and protect a culture in which clients’ views are not automatically imputed to lawyers and nobody is so unpopular or politically controversial that he cannot get legal representation. Hawley’s critics are right about that, and indeed Hawley claims to agree with that goal. Embracing an absolute principle to further that goal is a more dubious matter.

NR Institute Seeking Regional Fellows in Dallas, San Francisco, and CHICAGO!

Summer is coming and you’re thinking . . . beach. As you should. But think past that a smidge, because it will be October before you know it, and the question will be . . . will you be an NRI Regional Fellow?

Amigos and amigas, now — now! — is the time to consider, and apply for, this terrific program. Let’s get to the formal lingo: National Review Institute is seeking applicants for its Fall 2019 Regional Fellowship Programs in Dallas, San Francisco, and — brand-spanking-new this fall — Chicago.

Who should apply? The ideal applicant for the program — which helps participants develop a deeper understanding of the foundations of conservative thought — will be a mid-career professional (ages 35-50), with an interest, but not professional experience, in policy or journalism. Past Fellows have represented diverse industries and professions ranging from oil and gas, finance, real estate, medicine, sporting industries, law enforcement, education, nonprofits, and the arts.

The program takes place over eight moderated dinner discussions. The 2019 Class will run from September to November. Moderators include popular NR writers and leading academics at local universities. The rewards of participating are plentiful and will last a lifetime. The deadline to apply is July 15, but we encourage interested conservatives, libertarians, and the curious to apply as soon as possible.

Do that pronto. You’ll find more information about the program here. What if you don’t live in one of the three program cities, but know folks who do and who might be NRI Fellow material? Go ahead and please share with them this link. Now get the suntan lotion!

The Six.

1. Hell Hath No Fury Like a Union Hack Scorned: At Yankee institute for Public Policy, the great conservative think tank of Connecticut, run by the as-great Carol Platt Liebau, writer Marc Fitch reports the tale of Hartford parents who find the authorities knocking on the door after they publicly criticize teachers who don’t teach. From his report:

An April 16 Hartford Board of Education meeting attended by state representative and Hartford teachers’ union vice-president Joshua Hall, D-Hartford, turned rowdy when Hartford parent, Jessie Pierce Jr., confronted the board saying teachers were failing to educate Hartford’s students.

Two days later, the Department of Children and Families opened an investigation into Pierce regarding his 8-year old son, a student in Hartford’s Parkville Community School.

Pierce claims a second investigation was initiated regarding his 97-year old father who lives with him.

Pierce says the DCF worker informed him the investigations were launched by an anonymous complaint originating from the school.

Reached by phone, the DCF investigator assigned to Pierce’s son confirmed the anonymous complaint originated out of the school and was lodged on April 18.

“I feel like it was retaliation for me saying the teachers are not doing a good job,” Pierce said in an interview.

2. At City Journal, Troy Senik returns to his old native stomping grounds in Southern California. Something happened in the eleventh minute. From his piece:

Visiting a familiar place after a long absence is a bit like seeing a friend’s child for the first time in years: you can perceive changes invisible to those who experience them incrementally. My sense of Southern California, a place known throughout the world for its dynamism? That it was in the early stages of succumbing to entropy.

Not all the signs were novel—for as long as I can remember, Los Angeles has been a city where people buy ridiculously fast cars only to drive them 8 mph on clogged freeways—but some were strikingly new. Years of drought-driven water-rationing left the landscape receding to its natural brown. A failure to build new housing yielded outrageous rents for buildings well into their senescence. Stopping into a Target in a middle-class part of Long Beach, I saw no fewer than four homeless men camped out inside the store, the clerks studiously avoiding eye contact with them. It was that little behavioral tell—the passive acceptance of decline—that unnerved me. I had seen it before, a decade earlier, in San Francisco’s notoriously disordered Tenderloin neighborhood. At least there, it came with a patina of bohemian chic. This was surrender in the suburbs.

3. More Golden State: At California Policy Center, Ed Ring expounds on the state’s Homeless Industrial Complex. From his essay:

Here’s how the process works: Developers accept public money to build these projects to house the homeless – either “bridge housing,” or “permanent supportive housing.” Cities and counties collect building fees and hire bureaucrats for oversight. The projects are then handed off to nonprofits with long term contracts to run them.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right? The problem is the price tag. Developers don’t just build housing projects, they build ridiculously overpriced, overbuilt housing projects. Cities and counties don’t just collect building fees, they collect outrageously expensive building fees, at the same time as they create a massive bureaucracy. The nonprofits don’t just run these projects – the actual people staffing these shelters aren’t overpaid – they operate huge bureaucratic empires with overhead and executive salaries that do nothing for the homeless.

An example of wasteful spending can be found in the homeless shelter being built in Venice Beach, where a permanent population of over 1,000 homeless have taken over virtually every public venue, including the beach. Because their tents are now protected by law as private space, they not only serve as housing, but as pop-up drug retailers and brothels. To get these folks off the streets and off the beach, a 154 bed shelter has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council. It will be a “wet” shelter, meaning druggies and drunkards will be able to come and go as they please. The estimated cost for this shelter so far is $8 million, which equates to over $50,000 per bed. Why doesn’t anyone ask why?

4. At The Imaginative Conservative, Mark Malvasi considers the Progressives’ ideological lust for The Great War. From his essay:

Reluctant to intervene in Europe, Wilson had delayed as long as possible before committing American troops. “It is a fearful thing,” he told Congress, “to lead this great peaceful people into war, in the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to hang in the balance.” He described his obligations as commander-in-chief as “distressing” and “oppressive.” Wilson also feared the consequences that entry into war would have for the future of his domestic program. “Every reform we have won will be lost if we go into this war,” he told the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels. Other Progressives shared his apprehension. Jane Addams proclaimed that military preparation and involvement would distract from reform efforts at home and “will set back progress for a generation.” Entry into the war, it seemed, threatened disaster for the Progressive movement.

Other Progressives were more optimistic. For them, the war presented unique opportunities to remake American society. Mobilization would require extensive government intervention into the economy. Among the casualties of war, the Progressives were eager to count their old nemesis: individualism. “War necessitates organization, system, routine, and discipline,” intoned the journalist Frederick Lewis Allen. “We shall have to give up much of our economic freedom. . . . We shall have to lay by our good-natured individualism and march in step.” The philosopher John Dewey saw in war inestimable “social possibilities” sure to constrain “the individualistic tradition,” to afford “an immense object lesson as to the absence of democracy in most important phases of our national life,” and to instruct Americans in “the supremacy of public need over private possessions.” In time, even many Progressives who had initially doubted the wisdom of American entry into the war came to ignore the grim realities of a conflict that had been raging in Europe for three years and chose instead to focus on the social, political, and economic benefits that they convinced themselves the war would bring. To the dismay of Randolph Bourne, there had emerged “a peculiar congeniality” between the Progressives and the war. “It is as if the war and they had been waiting for each other. One wonders what scope they would have had for their intelligence without it.” What scope, indeed? For there was nothing at all “peculiar” about the Progressives’ embrace of war.

5. At Quillette, Eoin Lenihan exposes Antifa’s cheering section: journalists. From the piece:

Christopher Mathias, a senior reporter for the Huffington Post, applies the same cynical approach. Like Wilson, Mathias’ byline seems to pop up whenever Antifa stages violent protests—and he always can be counted on to deliver a play-by-play that favors Antifa. But he goes even further than his Guardian counterpart. Unlike Wilson, Mathias actually doxes individuals whom he suspects of being right-wing extremists. His doxing sources for an article about suspected extremists in the U.S. military included Unicorn Riot, an anarchic Antifa journalist collective, and other shady sites that exist as a sort of in-house 4chan for the Antifa movement. (Mathias cited similar sources when he published identifying details of a Texas schoolteacher, and of a Virginia police officer.)

Mathias’ apparent modus operandi is to gather doxes of individuals whom Antifa or Antifa-friendly groups suspect of being right-wing extremists. He (or a colleague) at Huffington Post then reach out to the target’s employer asking for comment, leveraging the media outlet’s name to ensure the individual is called out. Then Mathias posts the doxes in his column while investigations are ongoing. As with Emily Gorcenski’s First Vigil site, Mathias broadcasts detailed personal information whose release seems designed to destroy the reputation of the accused, no matter the results of any subsequent investigation. It’s unclear how this behavior differs from ordinary, everyday Antifa-style online activism.

6. Smear by Association: At Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray looks into an egregious and contrived double standard. From his piece:

One of the favourite tactics of the far-left in the West today is to carry out hit-jobs by utilising the tool of ‘adjacency.’ This is the new only slightly fancy term for what has usually been known as ‘guilt by association’. Where there was once an agreement that people should be held responsible for their own views, now they can apparently be held responsible for the views of anyone beside whom they once stood.

So for instance, last month Jordan Peterson was denied a visiting fellowship at Cambridge University because he had once been photographed (at a post-speaking event meet-and-greet) with somebody wearing a T-shirt saying ‘I’m a proud Islamophobe’. Activists who wish to take decent people out of the parameters of legitimate discussion no longer merely smear them by trying to claim that their opponent is an extremist. Instead, they hint that even if their opponent might not be an extremist, here – for instance – is a photograph of him standing beside someone better able to be described as an extremist. Thus has the smear machine found a happy pastime and a fairly useful tool in its game of political warfare.

This tactic is rarely used by the right against many on the left. Or if it is, its legitimacy is denied. For instance when the British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, for instance, is endlessly pictured with Islamist extremists or a whole range of anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, it is agreed that he is not ‘adjacent’ to these people, but merely to be pursuing his often strangely uncredited role as the international community’s informal peace-keeper-in-chief. His proximity to the worst people is never evidence of ‘adjacency’: merely of saintliness at best, and bad luck at worst.

Baseballery

If only there were a playoff for last place! The National League in 1916 could have used one. As the season entered its last month, one team, the Cincinnati Reds, was solidly in the deepest part of the basement, trailing the Cardinals and Cubs by nine games, and the Pirates by 10 ½. And then Saint Louis (whose line-up star was rookie Rogers Hornsby) lost 25 of its last 30 games. The Reds, meanwhile, went on what was for them a tear: taking 14 of its final 30 contests.

On the season’s penultimate day, Cincinnati was still in sole possession of last place, a game separating them in the standings from the Cards. It disappeared: On October 1 at Redland Field, the home team’s ace, Fred Toney, blanked the Pirates 4–0 while St. Louis lost its 13th consecutive game, a 6–3 stinker to the Cubs.

And that’s how 1916 ended: No team in 8th place, but two tied for 7th, with equal 60-93 records.

Of related interest: The great Christy Mathewson, traded late in the season from the Giants to Cincinnati as player/manager, pitched in just one game for the Reds. It came on September 4 at Weeghman Parks, as Wrigley Field was originally known, a complete-game victory over the Cubs. It was the last game of the future Hall of Famer’s career.

And: The Reds’ lineup was a classic of names. On the roster were Greasy Neale (who became a great football coach and is in the NFL Hall of Fame), Ivey Wingo, Heinie Groh, Baldy Louden, Limb McKenry, and “cup of coffee” Twink Twining.

A Dios

Yours Truly is road-warrioring this week past and trying these final words of drivel with a head about to slam into the keyboard. How about we stick a fork in this week’s missive? But not before urging prayer for those who have gone before us, old souls — the lady down the block who was so nice to you when you were a tyke, the old grouch who wasn’t, a spinster cousin long dead — you know, the kind of folks now forgotten, but who may be needing your prayers to push them over that finish line. That’s me getting all Roman Catholic on you. Don’t go and start a Reformation though. Find another way to petition the Creator for a sprinkling of his graces and goodness on a person or situation that so sorely needs such.

God Bless You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, who will accept your dad jokes, grammar policing, full-throated bellyaches, and IOUs at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

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