The Weekend Jolt

National Review

Moida da Bum!

Dear Weekend Jolter,

All the juice may have been squeezed out of this latest — as Your Humble Correspondent (YHC) types, anyway — Trump-centered controversy, and its aftermath. But YHC wanted to make sure this missive up-frontally drew attention to a recent Andy McCarthy commentary, which reminded YHC of the half-hearted, beer-fortified bellowings one might hear, yesteryear, from a baseball crowd. Such as, “Kill the ump!” This side of a madman or sociopath, even the booziest lout didn’t really want to moida da bum calling balls and strikes.

Andy cuts through the vapors and pearl-clutching that followed the send her back chanting at a mid-July Trump rally, the “her” being keep-it-in-the-family Squad Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. From his piece:

The president thrives on this stuff. His supporters may chant send her back! He’s happy to have her front and center in Washington.

Of course, there has been no shortage of outrage about the chanting, which was so deplorable, as it were, that Trump himself disavowed it the next day — even if he didn’t seem too upset while it was happening. Sorry to say, I can’t get too whipped up about it. Yes, Representative Omar is a naturalized American. As a matter of law, she’s just as much an American citizen as any one of us born in this country. The suggestion that the government should send her back to her native Somalia — because she is “the Other,” because she has the temerity to criticize the president — is obscene. I get all that.

But . . . are we really taking this seriously?

In a column earlier this week, I observed that the president’s tweets suggesting that Squad members should go back home to their native countries were not racist; but they were factually ignorant, politically dumb, and all in all beneath the presidency. After all, three of the Squad are native Americans; the fourth, Omar, is a naturalized American who left Somalia when she was six years old and has been here since she was ten. America is the only home the four congresswomen have even known. Yet, because they habitually run America down, the president could not resist the urge to rail that, if they really believed it was so bad, they should leave of their own volition. Offensive outburst? Yes . . . but he never suggested that the government could or should send them away. No one believes that.

True, some crowd chants have been bloodlusty: Comes to mind, from one historic time and place, “Crucify him!” But your garden-variety crowd-thundering is a caught-in-a-moment, seems-funny, at’ll-show-’em, full-of-hot-air, don’t-hold-me-to-it . . . release. Was this Trump-crowd chant a true cause for concern? Outside! Take your base.

About Killing umpires, you can watch the 1950 movie, starring William Bendix, here.


1. If you think that Iran is going out of its way to try to get bombed, so do we. From our editorial:

Rarely has a foreign country seemed so eager to get bombed by the United States as Iran does right now.

In its latest provocation, Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. It wasn’t a subtle operation. Revolutionary Guard forces rappelled onto the tanker from a helicopter, and if you have any doubt, it was all captured on videotape.

The act raised the stakes in the regime’s confrontation with the West. After the last round, when the Iranians shot down a U.S. drone, President Trump ordered a retaliatory strike that he abruptly cancelled, citing his fears of disproportionate casualties. Our natural instinct would be to hit Iran hard for its depredations and to establish a deterrent against such attacks before they get worse. But in this case, Iran clearly wants to provoke a reaction, which suggests the administration’s more cautious, “rope-a-dope” approach may be the right one.

2. And so goes the GOP, the party of small government . . . which might be willing to buy the bridge in Brooklyn while it’s on a spending spree. Which we condemn. From our editorial:

And what does the Republican party have to say about this looming crisis? Not much at all. It was just eight short years ago that congressional Republicans almost unanimously — in a genuine act of political courage — voted in favor of Paul Ryan’s sensible plan to reform Medicare for Americans under 55 in order to tackle the debt and avoid much more painful changes to Medicare that would be necessary during a debt crisis. Republicans held the House in 2012 but failed to unseat the incumbent Democrat in the White House. They continued to push for entitlement reform and took over the Senate in 2014. But in 2016 Trump won the nomination while promising not to touch Medicare and Social Security, and entitlement reform was a dead letter when he took office with unified Republican control of Congress. The president is now implausibly claiming he will look for big spending cuts during a second term, but his track record suggests he would do no such thing unless a crisis forced his hand.

And what does the other party have to offer? Elizabeth Warren has a plan to spend $1.25 trillion to cancel most student debt and make college free. Beto O’Rourke released a $5 trillion plan to accomplish half of the Green New Deal’s main goal. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan would cost $30 to $40 trillion, and Kamala Harris absurdly claims it can be implemented without raising middle-class taxes, indeed while cutting them.

Margaret Thatcher famously observed that the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money. She might add today that it’s also the problem with Republicans and Democrats.

3. We find President Trump’s plan to reform the federal food-stamp program to be a good thing. From our editorial:

In recent decades, states have run wild with this language, providing trivial “benefits” for the sole purpose of making more households eligible for food stamps. This can be as little as a welfare brochure or a phone number to an information hotline. With these “benefits” in hand, food-stamp applicants no longer have to pass an asset test, and also can have incomes of up to 200 percent of the poverty level instead of 130 percent.

That this makes a mockery of the law goes without saying. The point of categorical eligibility is to eliminate redundant paperwork proving that a family is poor enough to qualify for assistance. The point is not to let states override the eligibility rules for food stamps, a federally funded program, whenever they feel like it — at the expense of taxpayers in other states.

The Trump administration estimates that once this loophole is closed, approximately 9 percent of households on food stamps, comprising 3.1 million individuals, will no longer qualify because they fail the asset or income tests. But such a trim would hardly put the program at cruelly low levels of enrollment. The number of recipients grew dramatically in the 2000s even before the recession hit — from about 17.2 million in 2000 to about 26.5 million in 2006 — and reached a high-water mark of 47.6 million in 2013. As of April of this year, it was still at 36 million, roughly where it had been in the 2009–10 period and more than double the enrollment in 2000.

4. Looks like maybe Bob Mueller shoulda stood home (as we used to say on the corner of Oneida and 235th). From our editorial about his bad day:

He stayed within the four corners of the fact and judgments already written down in his report. Rather than adding performative sizzle, he often knew less about his work product than his interlocutors on the right and on the left, and he regularly asked for questions to be repeated. He didn’t even attempt to answer what is the precedent or authority for his not-exonerated standard, even though Republicans were obviously going to press him on it. If this had been a confirmation hearing, he would have flunked

It’s just as well that Mueller didn’t perform the function that Democrats hoped he would. He’s already violated, at minimum, the spirit of the special-counsel regulations that were meant to closely tether special counsels to standard Justice Department operating procedures rather than empower them to serve up de facto impeachment referrals to Congress. This is what Mueller’s office did anyway (with Justice Department officials hesitant to exercise proper supervision lest they, too, be accused of obstruction of justice). It’s even more inappropriate for a special counsel to go and talk about the conduct of someone, in this case, the president of the United States, who hasn’t been indicted or even accused of a crime.

More about Andy . . . and His Terrific New Book

Look at that. Long-awaited and beautiful. My Bronx bro is the author of numerous books, and what may prove to be his most popular is in the on-deck circle, set for its formal release on August 13: Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. This is big and comprehensive, wonderfully written, and documented till the cows and cattle-futures come home.

Encounter Books, the publisher, is offering it for sale, discounted and pre-publication, here. And as a special bonus to NRO and Weekend Jolt readers, an extra 10% will be chopped off when you use the code NATREV. So use it! And enjoy this slice from the book’s Introduction, penned by Andy:

President Obama took care of undermining any classified information prosecution. He had a deep interest in doing so: he had knowingly communicated with his secretary of state through the private system, and he had misled the public about it—claiming to have learned about Clinton’s private email practices from news reports, like everyone else. All of that could be neatly buried in two steps. First, invoke executive privilege (without calling it that—too Nixonian) to seal the Obama-Clinton emails from public view. Second, ensure that the Clinton emails case would never be prosecuted: if Clinton was never accused of criminal conduct, then Obama’s role as a minor participant would not become evidence in a criminal case.

In April 2016, on national television, the president made clear that he did not believe an indictment should be filed against former Secretary Clinton, who, by then, was the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee. Obama explained that, in his considered judgment, Clinton meant no harm to national security. Plus, the intelligence involved, though technically categorized as “classified,” was not really, you know, the super-secret stuff—“There’s ‘classified,’” Obama scoffed, “and then there’s classified.” It was a classic Obama straw man. The criminal provisions pertinent to Clinton’s case did not require proof of intent to harm the United States, only that she was trusted with access to intelligence and nevertheless mishandled it, either intentionally or through gross negligence. Moreover, no one was accusing Clinton of trying to damage national security. That is a different, more serious criminal offense that was not on the table. It was as if Obama were claiming that a bank robber was somehow not guilty of the bank robbery because she hadn’t murdered anyone while committing it.

Of course Mrs. Clinton hadn’t set out with a purpose to harm the country. Her purpose, with a 2016 presidential bid in the works, was to conceal her communications as secretary of state from Congress and the public. Hillary Clinton had been under criminal investigation before—indeed, when she was first lady in 1995, she was very nearly indicted for obstruction and making false statements by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Mrs. Clinton knew that leaving a paper trail, especially one that documents conversations, is how shady characters get themselves jammed up with the law.

One Dozen (Baker’s) Deep-Fried Delicious Doughnuts of . . . Well, 13 Terrific NRO Articles.

1. Could this be the most troubling headline ever published by NR? Here’s Madeleine Kearns’ pause-inducer: “Canada’s Ball-Waxing Horror Show Is Peak Transgender Activism.” What a story of depravity. From the beginning of her piece:

Imagine this. It’s 1990. A feminist novelist is pitching her latest book to a publisher. Set in a dystopian future in which a tyrannical ideology has gripped Western politics, it features female estheticians who have been dragged before a national kangaroo court for refusing to wax a man’s genitals. The publisher worries that the story, about an outrageous affront on women’s rights, isn’t plausible. She suggests something more realistic — how about fascistic men who force women into reproductive slavery instead?

Well, it’s 2019. The Handmaid’s Tale is still fiction. While Wax My Balls, B**** is a real-life horror show.

This week, British Columbia’s Human Rights Tribunal (CHRC) — a self-described “quasi-judicial body created by the B.C. Human Rights Code” — held hearings on whether or not female beauticians should be forced to handle male genitalia. The complainant, known until Wednesday under the alias “J. Y.” owing to a court gag order, is Jonathan/Jessica Yaniv, a self-identified transgender woman.

Yaniv has filed 16 different complaints against estheticians in the past year. Yaniv argues that, as a transgender woman, being denied services on account of her gender identity was discriminatory.

2. Boris in in. John O’Sullivan discusses the challenges facing England’s new Prime Minister. From his analysis:

And there will be major battles to come before long. Some of the cabinet ministers who resigned rather than serving under Boris, notably Philip Hammond and Rory Stewart, are already plotting a Remainer resistance to anything that smacks of a No Deal Brexit. They will now be joined by some of the ministers he dismissed. The Remainer media — the BBC, the Times, the Financial Times, and the Economist — will support this resistance, not only because they oppose Brexit but also to protect their own reputation as forecasters. So far they have been consistently wrong on whether May’s Withdrawal Agreement would get through the Commons. Political reporters and “expert” columnists were certain it would win in the end. Now, they are reassembling to argue that if Boris can get anything like an amended May deal through the Commons, he can win an early election before its defects become clear. They assume that the former Remainers in his cabinet will join their campaign from within because there is less in their promise to support a No Deal Brexit than meets the eye: They will have decided in advance that any amended deal the EU offers will be a satisfactory one. That now looks unlikely.

Until a couple of days ago, Boris had one great card to play against this last-ditch Remainer campaign: As Tory leader, he controls the party machine, the next Tory manifesto, and the selection (and de-selection) of Tory candidates. If his Brexit policy loses in Parliament, he can take his case to the country as the Brexit supported by the entire Tory party. Nigel Farage will then be someone he has to satisfy more seriously than any Tory Remainer. Now, he has a second great card: His cabinet looks as though it will give him firm and united support if rebellious Tory MPs give him the excuse to go for an election and a Brexit-minded parliament. too. And the Pound rallied yesterday — which wasn’t supposed to be the market’s response to either Boris or the looming threat of a No Deal Brexit.

3. Conrad Black remains stymied by those suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. From his column:

He was not only the first president who had never sought or held a public office, elected or unelected, or a military position. He also had no knowledge of the official procedures and attitudes in the upper approaches to the presidency. And as he had changed parties seven times in 13 years looking for his chance to try the novel theory of turning celebrity, and often rather crass celebrity, into electability, and had countered media skepticism with social-media direct contact with the people, supplemented by support on the talk-radio circuit, which generally enlists the attention of a lower-middle- and working-class demographic, he had no cadre of political loyalists to assist him. He thus had no bedrock of support in either party or any part of government, and was not treated to the traditional “honeymoon” period with Congress. He was like a threatening alien to the powers that have always been, and they reacted with almost uniform hostility. They generally hoped that he had colluded illegally with the Russians, so they could be quickly rid of him. The proportions of that gigantic fiasco have been appreciated by the president and his supporters, but the effect of it on his enemies has been the bitter embarrassment of the defeated and unconvinced.

Richard Nixon was probably cheated out of the 1960 election; at the least, we don’t know who really won, as with the 2000 Gore–Bush election. But he liked and respected John F. Kennedy, and he had come up through and respected the rough-and-tumble political system. He declined a formal contest of the election, even though President Eisenhower urged him to do it and promised Nixon that Ike’s wealthy friend would pay for it. Richard Nixon declined to put the country through such a wrenching ordeal (as he did over impeachment 14 years later, though there remains no probative evidence that he committed crimes, despite the self-serving claptrap of imperishable Nixonocides who inflict themselves on us on television with depressing frequency). Nixon respected the system. There has been almost no such acceptance of the Trump victory by Democrats. Republicans have generally noticed the side their political bread is buttered on, and many prominent Never Trumpers, such as former Speaker Paul Ryan and Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, have retired. But for most partisan Democrats, he remains a horrible, unimaginable usurper.

4. The fat lady must have sung, because the Tea Party seems over. Brian Riedl can even hear coffin nails being banged. From the piece:

With a president not focused on deficit reduction, and even Republican voters opposing many spending cuts, congressional Republicans largely surrendered on spending and deficit restraint. Instead, they passed a $2 trillion tax cut that represented solid economic policy but did not even attempt to offset the new cost with spending cuts. And in contrast to “starve the beast” rhetoric, these tax cuts led to more — not less — federal spending. Once you’ve cut taxes for corporations, it would be political suicide to turn around and tell seniors that they must now accept cuts to Medicare. Instead, all groups demand their own share of the new benefits.

By early 2018, surrendering Republicans raised the 2018 and 2019 spending caps by a staggering $296 billion, this time with less than $50 billion in offsets over ten years. An effort by conservative House Republicans in 2017 and again in 2018 to trim the growth rate of entitlement spending from 5.9 percent to 5.8 percent per year was rejected by Republican senators for being too radical. Even a rescission bill that would reduce unnecessary spending by a mere $1 billion over ten years — or 0.002 percent of the budget — was defeated in the Republican Senate. Instead, lawmakers renewed billions in new farm subsidies for wealthy farmers and considered bringing back pork-barrel earmarks. Legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare was defeated in the Republican Senate.

5. Caps off to . . . caps off. Not really, says Veronique de Rugy, who sees Uncle Sam (and the GOP) shirking fiscal responsibility in the new budget deal. From her analysis:

Let me repeat that: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would get $320 billion above the fiscal-year 2019 levels of $597 billion for discretionary spending and $647 billion for defense (plus an additional $69 billion in the Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations fund), while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would not have to worry about his ability to borrow more money for Uncle Sam. Meanwhile, future taxpayers would be saddled with a phenomenally large debt increase and the corresponding promise of higher taxes and slower growth.

We are told not to worry, as some $55 billion of that spending increase will be offset with other savings, such as some Medicare cuts and Customs and Border Protection fees. But when all is said and done, if you believe that these offsets will materialize, I have some oceanfront property in the Mojave Desert to sell you. Whatever Congress and the White House agree to cut this time around is likely to go the way of the 2011 spending caps and be negotiated away in future budget deals.

When this budget deal was announced, CRFB president Maya MacGuineas rightfully noted that “this agreement is a total abdication of fiscal responsibility by Congress and the president. It may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation’s history, proposed at a time when our fiscal conditions are already precarious.” She added that “if this deal passes, President Trump will have increased discretionary spending by as much as 22 percent over his first term, and enshrine trillion-dollar deficits into law.”

6. More on Washington’s profligacy, shared by that of one Donald Trump, by Michael Tanner, who is woeful over the collective failure to rein in spending. From his column:

Yet even by these rather pathetic standards, the $1.37 trillion budget deal reached this week by President Trump and bipartisan congressional leaders stands out for its total abdication of fiscal discipline. The deal throws out the last vestiges of spending caps that were put in place as part of the two-year budget agreement. Those caps have proven largely ineffective — Congress has repeatedly waived them — but this year’s agreement would exceed those caps by $320 billion over the next 2 years.

Actual total spending will rise by some $49 billion. There is no attempt to establish priorities — everyone just agreed to spend more. Defense spending will rise by $22 billion, but domestic discretionary spending will go up by even more, roughly $27 billion. And, as for addressing the urgent need for entitlement reform (the majority of federal spending), not a peep.

Moreover, the deal runs through 2021, thereby protecting politicians in both parties from having to do their jobs during an election year. At least they have their priorities in place. The deal also includes a two-year waiver for the debt limit, removing any possible leverage against future reforms.

As bad as the deal looks on its face, its even worse in context. With only 2 months left in this fiscal year, the deficit has already hit $747 billion, a 23 percent increase since last year. It will almost certainly top $1 trillion by year’s end. From here, it is likely simply to grow worse.

7. Jonathan Tobin warns against those who would poo-poo Red China’s critics. Yeah, even Steve Bannon. From his piece:

In some ways, the threat posed by modern-day China is reminiscent of the Soviet threat that so concerned the highly successful second Committee. Just as China does today, the Soviet Union of the 1970s seemed like a rising threat to a West that some on the right believed was in decline. But the analogy only goes so far. While détente with the Soviets had prominent advocates in both parties, the Soviet regime was loathed by a broad cross-section of Americans in a way Xi’s regime is not.

The decision of the Chinese Communist party to open up the country’s economy to investment from the West starting in the late 1970s created a powerful pro-China constituency in the U.S. business community and in Congress. That diluted Western opposition to the party’s retention of an iron grip on political power or the existence of the laogai — gulag — to which political and religious dissidents were sent. By the end of the 1990s, Congress decided to dispense with the annual vote on Most Favored Nation trading status for China, which had traditionally provided an opportunity to air criticisms of its human-rights record and its efforts to steal Western intellectual property.

What followed was an era in which massive Chinese investment in the United States and trade imbalances became a bigger factor in debating policy toward Beijing than American investment in China. While worries about Chinese economic tactics were aired throughout the last two decades, it was not until the election of President Trump, with his focus on American trade grievances, that growing worries about Chinese power became a major political issue.

8. Alexandra DeSanctis is there with the play-by-play at a Washington forum considering whether paid family leave can be a conservative proposition. From the report:

Republicans, meanwhile, have yet to coalesce around a paid-family-leave plan — or even to agree on whether paid family leave is a conservative idea in the first place. These issues were the focus of an event on Capitol Hill this week hosted by the Ethics and Public Policy Center: “Is Paid Family Leave Compatible with Conservative Principles?”

The event’s first panel featured a debate on the title question. Arguing in favor of paid leave were Aparna Mathur, a scholar in economic policy at the American Enterprise Institute who directs the AEI–Brookings working group on paid family and medical leave, and Kristin Shapiro of the Independent Women’s Forum, who authored the initial policy paper from which GOP politicians have drawn inspiration in crafting their paid-leave bills.

On the other side, Heritage Foundation research fellow Rachel Greszler and Mercatus Center research fellow Veronique de Rugy argued that even Republican proposals for paid leave are fundamentally incompatible with a proper conservative understanding of the federal government’s role.

Much of the opposition from Greszler and de Rugy stemmed from slippery-slope concerns, the belief that, once established, even a limited parental-leave program would eventually be expanded to cover other forms of leave, further increasing the size and scope of the federal government. Their arguments dealt primarily with Shapiro’s proposal — now embodied in two slightly different bills sponsored by four GOP senators — to allow new parents to collect some of their Social Security benefits after the birth or adoption of a child and delay collecting those benefits at the time of retirement.

9. More on Washington’s profligacy, shared by that of one Donald Trump, by Michael Tanner, who is woeful over the collective failure to rein in spending. From his column:

Yet even by these rather pathetic standards, the $1.37 trillion budget deal reached this week by President Trump and bipartisan congressional leaders stands out for its total abdication of fiscal discipline. The deal throws out the last vestiges of spending caps that were put in place as part of the two-year budget agreement. Those caps have proven largely ineffective — Congress has repeatedly waived them — but this year’s agreement would exceed those caps by $320 billion over the next 2 years.

Actual total spending will rise by some $49 billion. There is no attempt to establish priorities — everyone just agreed to spend more. Defense spending will rise by $22 billion, but domestic discretionary spending will go up by even more, roughly $27 billion. And, as for addressing the urgent need for entitlement reform (the majority of federal spending), not a peep.

Moreover, the deal runs through 2021, thereby protecting politicians in both parties from having to do their jobs during an election year. At least they have their priorities in place. The deal also includes a two-year waiver for the debt limit, removing any possible leverage against future reforms.

10. Erica Thomas, martyr and . . . mythmaker. John Hirschauer finds the controversial Georgia legislator and alleged victim to have pants that are very much on fire. From the beginning of his story:

The newest chapter in that expansive compendium of progressive myth and fable: The Verbal Assault of Representative Erica Thomas.

Once upon a time, Erica Thomas, a state legislator in Georgia, roamed the aisles of a local grocery store for a handful of canned goods and snack foods. Georgia, you’ll remember, is not exactly friendly to minorities — this is the same state (per another fable in the collection) that denied Stacey Abrams the governorship by unfairly suppressing the votes of foreign nationals and Westview Cemetery interrees. Thomas is not simply courageous; she is a trailblazer. A Ruby Bridges for our time.

11. Armond White finds Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood to be his best film. Here’s his review’s summary:

Tarantino’s pop sadism vents the undigested frustration of the juvenile mentality. The hit parade of half-obscure pop tunes is a mere distraction, proof that Tarantino’s understanding of pop music — like his understanding of movies — is far shallower than we imagined. The Mamas and the Papa’s trenchant “Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)” has been used more felicitously elsewhere, as was The Rolling Stones’ “Out of Time,” which Hal Ashby scored in Coming Home so that it expressed the forgotten romance and regret behind Sixties political anxiety. Once Upon a Time gets at Hollywood’s seamy underbelly in ways I never expected. It is easily Tarantino’s best film, but we still suffer his fundamental problem of poisoned nostalgia.

12. Meanwhile, Kyle Smith finds Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood to be self-indulgent. From the outset of his review:

I love Quentin Tarantino, and it hurts to watch a loved one who just can’t stop indulging his appetites. Once Upon a Time. . . in Hollywood is a really good 100-minute movie rattling around inside a 160-minute space. It’s like one of those huge boxes you get from Amazon that contains about nine cubic yards of pillowed plastic, plus a small paperback book. The movie is a plea for cinematic gastric-bypass surgery. Whole chunks of it — hell, most of the material about one of the two principal characters — are merely decorative.

I’d still recommend the movie, barely, because the last 20 minutes are so great, but I’ll say nothing about what happens in them. Just as an otherwise good film can leave you in a foul mood if its ending doesn’t come off, a terrific last act can make up for a lot of shortcomings. I left the theater in high spirits.

13. More Kyle, this time pleased that anti-woke comedians are calling out the virtue signalerati.

If anyone is to save us from the wokescolds, it’ll be the comedians.

How alarmed the Left must be at this increasingly obvious new trend: Some of the biggest names in comedy are saying much the same things conservative columnists say, only in joke form. Standup comics are supposed to be the bought-and-paid-for property of progressivism, a means of “fighting the power,” tribunes of the counterculture and legatees of the sanctified Lenny Bruce and George Carlin.

What if the counterculture becomes the culture, though? Then comics start to sound like the counter-counterculture. What they have going for them is truth. As in a libel proceeding, truth is an absolute defense for a comedian. It makes the jokes sting and reverberate, especially when it’s a truth that no one is supposed to state aloud. Comics are some of the last people left in America who can get rewarded rather than punished for repeating inconvenient truths. You know who else is in that category? A lot of us writers at National Review. Worlds collide.

Aziz Ansari these days is sounding very interested in the most salient cultural development in American life the last few years, which is the ascent of the wokescolds. After being given a severe scourging by the social-media mob after he was targeted by a lengthy piece of revenge porn relating embarrassing details about a consensual sexual encounter, he is sounding feistier than before in his new Netflix special, Aziz Ansari: Right Now.

“The American Worker”: Here’s a Mouth-Watering Taste of the New Issue of National Review Magazine

If you have a subscription to NRPLUS (get yours here if you’re not yet a member) you can read all the wonderful pieces assembled for this very special issue, four chosen here from the dozen published, collectively looking at the challenges facing the men and women who are bringing home the bacon.

1. Robert VerBruggen says POTUS has every right to brag about the economy. From his article:

On regulation, Trump undeniably broke with President Obama’s tendency to add far more red tape to the economy than he removed. The regulatory apparatus of the Trump administration is stocked with libertarian-leaning experts, and new regulations (especially those deemed “significant” for having economic effects of at least $100 million) have slowed significantly. He’s also removed some old regulations— thanks in part to a “one in, two out” rule by which regulators must undo two regulations for each one they add— though this has been less aggressive than some had hoped.

As Clyde Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute details in the 2019 edition of his “Ten Thousand Commandments” report, Trump and Congress quickly wiped out 14 rules that the Obama administration had finalized in its closing months, and withdrew or delayed more than 1,500 more that had not been finalized. Among much else, the administration dropped the Clean Power Plan and recently finalized a replacement that’s far friendlier to the coal industry; scrapped “net neutrality”; and chipped away at Obamacare, both through executive action and with the help of Congress. Trump is also finalizing a plan to halt the Obama administration’s attempt to double vehicle fuel-economy standards by 2025.

One can argue about whether the benefits of these various pre-Trump policies were worth the costs—but one cannot argue with the reality that forcing businesses and individuals to comply with regulations does cost money. Exactly how much money is hard to say. From 2017 through the end of this year, the ad ministration’s Office of Management and Budget has put the savings of Trump’s deregulatory efforts at about $50 billion (in “net present value”), which works out to about $400 per household. Naysayers have downplayed such estimates and quibbled with the administration’s accounting, accusing it, for example, of taking credit for efforts that actually began under Obama. Future savings are even harder to estimate, but for what it’s worth, the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers claims that “after 5 to 10 years, [the administration’s] new approach to Federal regulation will have raised real incomes by $3,100 per household per year.”

2. Charlie Cooke kicked off the onslaught of wisdom with his piece — echoed by a few more — that the path to the American Dream does not necessarily make its way through the campus Ivory Tower. From his essay:

Today, college has become our go-to yardstick for minimal competence. Take a look at almost any job listing for almost any desk job in any city, and you will see “college degree” listed as an essential requirement. The argument in favor of this arrangement is that if a candidate can demonstrate that he has completed such a degree, he can be assumed to be both relatively smart and capable of sticking with things to their end. Which, in some cases, is of course true. But it is telling that none of the other experiences that demonstrate capacity and tenacity tend to make an appearance in the listings. Know what else demonstrates an ability to stick things out? Military service. Running a small business. Working at a charity. Training as a plumber. Working on a farm. Learning to weld. Keeping another job for a long period of time.

Are these regarded as inferior occupations? Increasingly, they seem to be. In a 1780 letter to Abigail, John Adams wrote that he “must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy,” while his “sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.” There is a great deal in this observation, and, within the context of late-18th century, mid-revolutionary America, Adams’s assessment was spot-on. Nevertheless, were his words to be taken literally, such a progression would eventually create a society without any food. That we are able to study poetry and music is a great and worthwhile luxury—a luxury of which we should be both jealous and proud. But now, as ever, it remains a luxury that is paid for by those who continue to engage wholeheartedly in the other callings to which Adams refers. No society, however smart, will last long if those who enjoy that luxury come to look down upon those who make it possible.

3. Steven Camorata shows that unskilled immigration reduces labor-force participation. From his piece:

The decline in labor-force participation is not the only troubling trend in the labor market. Wages have stagnated or declined for the less educated as well. Pew Research reports that since 2000, the bottom quarter of earners saw just a 4.3 percent real wage increase—equivalent to an annual raise of just 0.2 percent. Analysis by the Economic Policy Institute of wages for men without a bachelor’s degree shows they earned no more in 2018 than they did in 1989. Compared with 1979, they actually earn less. And low wages cannot help but undermine work incentives.

Some factors contributing to labor-force dropout and wage stagnation have nothing to do with immigration. They include “skill-biased technological change,” which means that new technology has reduced demand for less educated workers. Automation is one of the most prominent examples of this phenomenon. Opening up trade with China and other low-wage countries has also tended to further reduce demand for less educated workers here in the U.S.

Of course, if demand for less educated work in the U.S. is down because of technology and globalization, then it makes little sense to continue to let in so many less educated immigrants. Census Bureau data from the first quarter of 2019 show that 5 million adult immigrants without a bachelor’s degree have been allowed to settle in the country just since 2010. Roughly half of them are illegal.

While it is by no means the only factor, there is both anecdotal and systematic evidence that immigration is contributing to the decline in work and wages among the less educated. Some of the best anecdotal evidence comes from a series of EEOC suits brought by Americans who have been shut out of jobs by employers who prefer to hire foreign-born Hispanics.

4. Ramesh Ponnuru argues that the reality of post-secondary life requires a shelving of the college-or-bust mindset that dictates America’s high schools. Time to rethink. From the article:

But we also need to rethink what happens in high school. The assumption that everyone should go to college has by now deeply affected the structure of education for ninth- through twelfth-graders. Turning away from the college-for-all mentality will require changing, among other things, our view of the purpose of high schools, our criteria for judging them, and their academic standards and curricula.

It has come to be widely assumed that the purpose of high school is to prepare teenagers to go to college. Mistaken ideas about the necessity and feasibility of getting everyone to go to college encouraged this assumption, but there were other reasons for making it. Third grade follows second and fourth follows third. In each grade from kindergarten through junior year of high school, the point is to prepare a child for the next one; and that next one is essentially the same for all students. Moving from senior year of high school to freshman year of college appears to be the next logical part of that sequence.

The alternative is to regard the end of high school as a capable adulthood. Schools should help parents equip young people to make good decisions—to exercise choice intelligently and responsibly, rather than to make the one obvious choice of going to college.

BONUS: The issue includes the usual sections, “The Week,” and reviews and columns galore in “Books, Arts & Manners.” The lead review, by Noah Rothman, is a praise-filled one of Kevon Williamson’s just-out The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics. And here, book buyers, is a slice:

Williamson’s innovation is to treat the social-media environment as a marketplace in which the chief commodity is outrage. In his telling, social media functions as a simple economy in which attention sought constitutes labor and attention paid amounts to remuneration. The problem for consumers in the outrage economy is that the product is neither gratifying nor durable. And its by-products are severely harmful.

Social media do not encourage discourse but rather “anti-discourse,” a form of dialogue in which communication is actively discouraged. They do not augment culture but have fostered the rise of “Instant Culture.” As forums, they pretend to promote egalitarianism but instead foster social stratification and enforced conformity. And ultimately, what this marketplace produces isn’t thought but ideological struggle sessions, quick takes about late-night comedians “destroying” their targets, and memes — a form of communication only marginally more sophisticated than pheromone secretion.

Williamson sees much of the angst in this virtual public square as rooted in the desire to seek or impose social solidarity. “As it stands,” he writes, “the Party of the Masses is on the rise and the Party of the Minorities is in decline, not because the masses have more votes but because the unarticulated project of populism is the pursuit of conformity and homogeneity.” The titular “smallest minority” is the individual, and the individual is a concept that haunts the populist imagination like a specter.

The Smallest Minority is particularly relevant to the recent internecine feud on the right over the value of collegial discourse itself. Among conservatives in good standing, a heated argument rages over whether the permissive nature of liberalism’s tolerance for diversity of thought and expression sows the seeds of liberal society’s degradation and, ultimately, of its destruction. This is not a new debate. The ideas animating it can be found in the works of Herbert Marcuse and in Germany’s commitment to streitbare Demokratie — the state-sponsored suppression of ideas inimical to classically liberal thought. “The case for toleration is never more than an inch away from being suffocated by the desire to punish,” Williamson observes.

The Six

1. At the James G. Martin Center, Charles Rounds looks into the leftward rush of law-school students. From the beginning of his analysis:

Back in 2010, I wrote a piece for the James G. Martin Center entitled Bad Sociology, Not Law bemoaning the marginalization of common law doctrine in the American law school curriculum. My point then was that, increasingly, law students were just learning about legal doctrine in their classes rather than being called upon to master the prevailing legal doctrine itself in all its complexities.

Put differently, law teachers are devoting more classroom time to policy (what should be) and less to the prevailing law’s basic anatomy (what is). At Harvard Law School, for example, Agency, Trusts, Evidence, Business Associations, and Family Law are no longer required classes and have not been for some time.

Competently addressing the nuts-and-bolts needs of the middle class when it comes to the rendering of legal services has not been a serious pedagogical goal for quite some time now in most of the prestige law schools.

On the other hand, students in the first year at Harvard are required to participate in “ungraded reading groups” that “allow students to explore an intellectual interest outside the scope of the foundational first-year curriculum.” The course catalog informs us that “topics” are as “diverse” as “legal responses to terrorism, regulation of climate change, Biblical law, detective fiction, conservative jurisprudence, artificial intelligence, and bioethics.”

2. Bradley Birzer leaps into the time machine at The Imaginative Conservative, presses the PAST button, and tenders a list of the 10 primo conservative books published between 1924 and 1954. From his piece:

In 1950, Ray Bradbury published his most beautiful of novels, The Martian Chronicles. Throughout the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, science fiction existed as a genre with little more respect than pornography. Indeed, the “pulp” releases of other worlds actually sold next to periodicals and books wrapped in brown paper on the drug store shelves. A man endowed with seemingly infinite imagination, Bradbury wrote The Martian Chronicles as a critique of western imperialism and conformity. The book, in no uncertain terms, promoted the good, the true, and the beautiful. Aldous Huxley pronounced it “poetry.”

Taken from his Walgreen lectures at the University of Chicago, Eric Voegelin published The New Science of Politics in 1952. Inspired by a footnote to a book translated and edited by Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Voegelin dedicated his scholarship from the late 1930s to the end of his life to the exploration of the 20thcentury manifestations of Gnosticism. All of modernity, he feared, carried with it the wicked notions of knowledge and certainty at the expense of faith and mystery. In his drive to understand all things, man simply deconstructed the world, leaving it at the mercy of powers rather than ideals.

The eighth book, The Quest for Community, came from the hands of a Marine, a scholar dedicated to the preservation of American and western civilization, a professor of sociology, Robert Nisbet. The Californian believed one could understand the modern world as actually embodying “two worlds of allegiance and association. On the one hand, and partly behind us, is the historic world in which loyalties to family, church, profession, local community, and interest association exert, however ineffectually, persuasion and guidance. On the other is the world of values identical with the absolute political community—the community in which all symbolism, allegiance, responsibility, and sense of purpose have become indistinguishable from the operation of centralized political power.”

3. At Claremont Review of Books, Adam Rowe looks back to the 1850s and finds an America even more divided than today. From his piece:

The nativist backlash over immigration was only one of several grievances that alienated the electorate from the political parties that represented them. “Malignant distrust of politicians as self-centered and corrupt wirepullers out of touch with the people spread like an epidemic during the 1850s,” Holt writes. A series of wrenchingly abrupt cultural, economic and technological changes discredited older party issues without supplying new ones. Immense economic growth, which an ascendant class of capitalists celebrated as unalloyed progress, felt like a catastrophe to countless displaced laborers, artisan manufacturers, and small farmers.

The result was a confused combination of reckless confidence and radical despair, of boundless prosperity and unchanneled discontents. Here, too, the crisis of the 1850s echoes suggestively in the present. What an eminent historian has labeled “the Age of Capital” almost exactly coincides with the years American political historians designate as the Civil War era. A decade of unprecedented material prosperity and technological progress was also a decade of equally unprecedented political gridlock, corruption, and violence. Technological shifts that had developed slowly at the margins of American life suddenly accelerated with revolutionary momentum. Between 1848 and 1853, 17,000 miles of railroad were laid in the United States, nearly tripling the total from previous decades. The optimism this “silent revolution” inspired was almost boundless, and so too was the inchoate frustration of those who found themselves economically displaced or their communities transformed. “Popular government follows in the track of the steam engine and electric telegraph,” Lincoln’s secretary of state William Henry Seward observed. But these revolutionary technologies also destabilized existing democratic institutions.

4. Maria Polizoidou reports at Gatestone Institute about the transition of Greece from a Socialist rule. There’s a lot of damage to be undone. From the beginning of her piece:

The July 7 elections in Greece have ushered in a new era of promise, with the victory of the center-right New Democracy Party leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, over the incumbent prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, head of the left-wing Syriza coalition.

The vote represented the Greek people’s frustration and disgust not only with the failures of the Syriza-led government, which wreaked havoc on the economy and state institutions, but with the accompanying widespread corruption and anarchy that overtook the country.

The new government took office with an apparent sense of genuine purpose, seemingly intent on exacting immediate change. The new Minister for Citizen Protection, Michalis Chrysochoidis, for example, set to work with the encouraging pledge to reform the police force. He announced that he would make law enforcement more efficient, through better recruitment policies, backup for anti-crime units and by enabling raids into virtual “no-go” zones, such as Exarchia, a hotbed of drug-dealers, anarchists and illegal immigrants.

Speaking of which, the new government has transferred the handling of illegal immigration from the auspices of the Ministry for Migration Policy to that of the Ministry of Citizen Protection, treating the issue as a national-security threat.

5. Sickening: America magazine, the USA house organ of Jesuits, has published a piece, The Catholic Case for Communism. Read it, if only to know how demented the Pope’s religious order has become. And then go over to The American Conservative and read Rod Dreher’s blast.

6. At City Journal, Kay Hymowitz beats back the Lefty claim that “gentrification” of neighborhoods is dressed-up racism. From her piece:

For many on the Left, gentrification remains a dirty word, synonymous—or at least closely associated—with racism, oligarchic developers, neoliberalism, and even genocide. Fortunately, not all gentrification-watchers are so dystopic. Less excitable observers harbor reasonable concerns about poor residents forced to resettle in blighted areas, unscrupulous landlords, and the disruption of familiar neighborhoods.

A just-released working paper from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve could shake up the conversation. Several previous studies have already cast doubt on the conventional wisdom that gentrification causes widespread displacement of poor, longtime residents. “The Effects of Gentrification on Well Being and Opportunity of Original Resident Adults and Their Children” goes further by recasting gentrification as a potential force for income integration and social mobility.

Unlike many previous studies, the paper, by Quentin Brummet of the National Opinion Research Center and Davin Reed at the Fed, is longitudinal, giving not just a snapshot of neighborhood residents but a picture over time—comparing education, income, and employment outcomes for residents who stayed in the changing neighborhood and those who moved. The authors were able to do this by compiling census data on the residents of low-income, central-city neighborhoods of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. in 2000 and comparing findings for the same people in the 2010-2014 American Community Survey.


My son Andy, who works for the Knights of Columbus, has a thing about Knights who were major leaguers. Such as The Bambino. Earlier this week he texted me about a Knight, Joe Quinn, who had two particular distinctions. A hugely popular second baseman who played from the mid 1880s until 1901, Quinn was the first Australia-born athlete to don a major-league uniform (it took a century for the next man to come up from Down Under). Distinction Two: He managed the worst team in MLB history, including the pre-“Modern Era.” The 1899 Cleveland Spiders had a 20–134 record. No team has ever come close to being that bad. The Spiders drew a measly home-field attendance of 6,088 — for the entire season. After beating the lowly New York Giants on August 25, the Spiders went on a 1–40 tear, the sole interrupting win coming on September 18, when they beat the Washington Senators 5–4. The Mighty Quinn ended his career there in 1901, and after that spent his years living in St. Louis, running a successful undertaker’s business. Many joked the Spiders were a corpse on which he learned his craft.

A Dios

Thanks to those who shared prayers requested last week. If you haven’t yet, get yourself a copy of Kevin Williamson’s new book, The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics.

God’s Graces and Sweetness, May They Pour on You and Yours Like a Cooling Rain,

Jack Fowler, who is ever approachable for fun and profit at

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