Dear Weekend Jolter,
Imagine if basketball had been invented 50 years earlier: The tall-walking Rail Splitter (pictured with Sun Yat-sen on this 1942 “China Resistance” stamp) would have been the sport’s George Mikan (“Starting at center for the Springfield Stovepipes, Number 16, Abraham Lincoln!”). Nowadays, Mr. Basketball is LeBron James, the multimillionaire icon, much less uneducated than moi et toi, who shot an airball when he positioned himself in opposition to the current China Resistance — the kind that is supportive of Hong Kong freedom lovers who take umbrage at their Beijing overlords (masterminding another round of reneging on the terms of the 1990s deal that returned the former British protectorate and financial powerhouse to the Reds).
Several NR writers have stuffed Mr. James’ kowtowing. For example, Kat Timpf, the Calvin Murphy of NR, soared as she rejected the Lakers’ capitalist star. From her piece:
Allow me to explain: James has tried to brand himself as someone who uses his platform as a damn good basketball player to advance what he believes politically. He’s taken stances on a whole host of social-justice issues, ranging from the killings of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Philando Castile, to what he sees as the need for gun regulation. Many people, particularly in conservative circles, have had a problem with this. Some have said that it isn’t his place to weigh in on these issues, that he should simply play his sport and leave it at that.
I have never been one of those people.
Yes — I do happen to agree with him on many of his past stances. For example, I believe that our criminal-justice system does have a disparate impact on people of color and have repeatedly used my own platform to educate people on this and fight against it. I didn’t agree with everything he said, sure, but to me, my agreement was never even the point. In fact, even if I had agreed with none of it, I was still never going to tell someone to stop using his hard-earned platform to be politically active. When many athletes, including James, were facing exactly this sort of backlash, James said: “It’s about the equality and the freedom to speak about things they feel are unjust” — and I agreed with him.
Now, I’m starting to question my support. Why? Because, although his words may have championed “the freedom to speak about things [you] feel are unjust,” his choices in recent days make me think he should have then added the qualifier: “unless it interferes with me making even more money.”
And then there is WJ godfather Big Jim Geraghty, who laid out the Warriors’ sanctimonious coach Steven Kerr with a very legitimate pick. From his analysis:
Hypocrisy is almost always worth calling out. But calling it out isn’t really enough; it doesn’t really do much to address the underlying issue.
During the Me Too controversy, there were quite a few conservatives who liked pointing out what they saw as glaring hypocrisy from Democrats, particularly regarding Bill Clinton or Hollywood figures. Indeed, that was some pretty pungent and obvious hypocrisy . . . but now what? Do we point at the hypocrisy and then walk away, concluding, “Our work here is done”? Hypocrisy’s a part of the story, but it’s not the sum total of the story or even necessarily the most important part. Yeah, a lot of Hollywood figures turned a blind eye to appalling behavior by powerful figures for a long time; when they pledge to try to the change the culture, should we applaud and try to reinforce that new, better stance, or is it enough to snicker that it will never change?
Perhaps a bunch of conservative China critics were slow to recognize the value of professional athletes speaking out about issues that matter to them most, and they’re conveniently forgetting their past “Stick to sports” arguments when the topic turns to China. Fair hit, lesson learned. But the reversal undermines Kerr’s position.
While in China, Kerr offered familiar criticisms of President Trump and American gun laws, and then made an appalling reference to “our human-rights abuses,” referring to the United States. Kerr is really comfortable speaking truth to power in Washington, and really uncomfortable speaking truth to power in Beijing. His argument about the hypocrisy of his critics is ultimately an excuse for his own hypocrisy.
Let’s move on, but not before sharing wise advice for Mr. James and his money-grubbing fellow hoopsters. It comes courtesy of Mr. B. Bunny: Shaddap, and Shaddap Shuttin’ Up.
Before We Get to the Main Course, You Need to Get Some Give Me Liberty
Rick Brookhiser’s new book is terrific. I should know: The galleys are in my hands. But the real thing — an actual copy of Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea — should be in yours, and will be in two or so weeks, if you’re as smart as I believe you are. More about that (the book-getting, not your intelligence — that’s very real and not debatable!) in a moment. As for right now . . .
. . . permission has been secured to give you a taste of this latest example of Brookhiser Brilliance. Here is a decent and telling slice from the books’ introduction:
The unique feature of America’s nationalism is its concern for liberty. We have been securing it, defining it, recovering it, and fighting for it for four hundred years. We have been doing it since we were a floundering settlement on a New World river, long before we were a country. We do it now on podiums and battlefields beyond our borders.
Our concern for liberty shapes how we live in society and what we know ourselves to be in the order of things: how we relate to each other and what God has made us. Americans are free and equal men and women, marked for liberty at birth. Ignorance and vice may obscure and sometimes even steal our birthright, but we work, stolidly or heroically, to reclaim it.
American liberty is liberty of the person. If liberty is applied to collections of persons, its meaning changes. When a country liberates itself from a colonial or imperial overlord (as dozens have since we did), it wins independence. When the machinery of the state liberates itself from incompetence or customary restraints, it may achieve efficiency or despotism. When a mob liberates itself from habits of good behavior, it produces chaos.
American liberty is about Americans—you, me, her, him. But this liberty is plural; it cannot be experienced alone. If one person living in a tyrannical state were somehow freed from all its supervision and punishments, he or she would experience the immunity of an alien or practice the duplicity of a spy. That person would not enjoy liberty. My liberty as an American is also yours; ours is others’.
We claim it for no other reason than we are persons, and America recognizes the sovereign importance of this fact. We enjoy liberty not because we are people and: people who have the right ancestors, people who practice the approved creed, or people who spend the most money. We enjoy it because we are men and women.
As Americans we claim to have a uniquely clear understanding of human nature and to act in accordance with it. But a desire for liberty asserts itself in other countries, too. The two with which our history is most bound enjoy elements of liberty, as we understand it. We inherited much from our mother country, Britain, and France’s revolution and republics have mirrored, and fun house–mirrored, our own. But Britain’s liberty is deeply rooted in a mold of custom, while France’s is buffeted by storms of passion. Britain still has a crown and classes; France every so often produces a new constitution. This is not a book about almost liberty elsewhere; it is a book about the real thing, here in America.
What follows Rick’s set-up are essays on 13 profound documents, instances, and events — from the ye olde “Minutes of the Jamestown General Assembly” and the “Flushing Remonstrance” to FDR’s “Arsenal of Democracy Fireside Chat” and The Gipper’s “Tear Down this Wall” speech — which, ensembled, make the case for this very real, very American hallmark of we the people (to whom this book is dedicated, by the way).
Now I ask: Doesn’t all this make you want to run out and buy a copy? And I’ll answer for you: Yes. But — Give Me Liberty is not in bookstores until November 5. Your immediate running-out will be not be a mission-completed experience. But 2 — You can order Give Me Liberty right now at whatever online bookseller rings your bell (preferably Liberty): Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple Books.
A Baker’s Dozen Dollops of Creamy-of-the-Crop Conservatism
1. Victor Davis Hanson asks, is America being ‘sinisized’? From the column:
If in the past Chinese Communism impoverished its own citizens but left the world mostly alone, now it has enriched more than a billion people at home and terrified six billion abroad.
Far from a newly rich China becoming Westernized politically, the West and the rest of the world are more likely to become politically repressive like China.
Westerners, who apologize when Islamists kill cartoonists and journalists for supposedly insulting Islam, do not say a word when China puts a million Muslims into re-education camps, bulldozes Islamic cemeteries, and shuts down mosques.
Loud human-rights lions in Europe turn into kittens when it is a question of Chinese organ-harvesting, forced abortions and sterilizations, and the jailing and execution of dissidents.
American environmentalists demand a radical shutdown of the current fossil-fuel-based U.S. economy. They say little about greenhouse-gas emissions from China, the biggest polluter in the world by far.
Outspoken NBA athletes and hip Hollywood celebrities damn the Second Amendment, curse their president, and boycott states they find politically incorrect. But they become abject cowards when it comes to China.
2. Lee Edwards reminds us that three countries went down the Socialist path, bigly, and then U-turned, back to sanity and prosperity. From his essay:
Israel, India, and the United Kingdom all adopted socialism as an economic model following World War II. The preamble to India’s constitution, for example, begins, “We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic . . .” The original settlers of Israel were East European Jews of the Left who sought and built a socialist society. As soon as the guns of World War II fell silent, Britain’s Labour Party nationalized every major industry and acceded to every socialist demand of the unions.
At first, socialism seemed to work in these vastly dissimilar countries. For the first two decades of its existence, Israel’s economy grew at an annual rate of more than 10 percent, leading many to term Israel an “economic miracle.” The average GDP growth rate of India from its founding in 1947 into the 1970s was 3.5 percent, placing India among the more prosperous developing nations. GDP growth in Great Britain averaged 3 percent from 1950 to 1965, along with a 40 percent rise in average real wages, enabling Britain to become one of the world’s more affluent countries.
But the government planners were unable to keep pace with increasing population and overseas competition. After decades of ever declining economic growth and ever rising unemployment, all three countries abandoned socialism and turned toward capitalism and the free market. The resulting prosperity in Israel, India, and the U.K. vindicated free-marketers who had predicted that socialism would inevitably fail to deliver the goods. As British prime minister Margaret Thatcher observed, “the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
3. Frederic Hess exposes the metastasizing academic hostility to free speech. From the analysis:
Free inquiry on campus has come under fire. Survey data make it clear that many students (especially conservative ones) are hesitant to speak up in class. Faculty at schools ranging from Portland State to Sarah Lawrence to Northwestern University have been castigated by campus mandarins for the sin of challenging the regnant groupthink regarding such issues as the legacy of colonialism, the role of campus support staff, and Title IX. In light of that, one might expect academics to man the ramparts of academic freedom in the name of self-preservation.
Even as faculty have been investigated and intimidated for questioning campus orthodoxy, however, the academy has stood mutely by. And yet campus apologists have felt obliged to insist that concerns over attempts to encroach on academic freedom are exaggerated or overstated. For all the hypocrisy and obfuscation, this has at least suggested a professoriate that thinks it’s supposed to defend free inquiry.
That’s what makes a recent turn so disturbing. Some in the academy increasingly argue that the whole notion of free inquiry is a reactionary blemish rather than a bedrock principle. Indeed, in a new book published by Oxford University Press, New York University professor Ulrich Baer has done a signal (if disheartening) service in articulating this ominous new stance.
NYU’s Baer, a professor of comparative literature, German, and English, and author of What Snowflakes Get Right, told Inside Higher Education last week that “the urge to block speech, which is really a reminder that the university’s purpose is to vet ideas and regulate speech so that teaching and learning can proceed, is related to a new generation’s realization that free speech has become a weapon for conservatives to undermine equality and the university itself.” He explained that free speech “is neither a blanket permission to say anything without consequence . . . nor identical with academic freedom.”
4. The Red China hissy fit over the NBA is a microscopic concern when compared to Beijing’s global maritime strategy. Douglas Feith and Adm. Gary Roughead have the concern-worthy details. From the piece:
President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative involves huge infrastructure construction projects around the world. China uses the initiative to link itself to useful facilities and also to promote its own information-technology standards and e-commerce platforms, aiming not just to obtain commercial clout but to give Chinese officials access — clandestine as well as overt — to vast quantities of technological, commercial, personal, and other information — all of which is exploitable economically and strategically.
A major element of Belt and Road is a globe-girdling network of maritime ports. China owns, operates, or has plans to own or operate ports in scores of places, including Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, Morocco, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
The Chinese government integrates commercial and strategic activities to a much greater extent than do Western governments. One of its most important national-security initiatives is what China calls the Military-Civilian Fusion Policy. President Xi boasts of China’s commitment to taking advantage of civilian business activities to strengthen China’s military power.
5. President Trump’s Syria pullout is a blunder, says Rich Lowry. Of Obama proportions. From the analysis:
The pullback has managed, astonishingly enough, to alienate both the Kurds and Turkey from the United States. Usually, given the historic enmity between the two, it’s possible to alienate only one at a time. After we dumped them, the Kurds have fallen into the arms of the Assad regime, while Turkey will be as hostile to the U.S. as ever once Congress gets done trying to punish it for its invasion.
Just like Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq, Trump’s pullback in Syria is a belated reaction to the Iraq War. Obviously, there is no political support on the right or left for invading and occupying a Middle Eastern country with tens of thousands of troops again. But there’s a vast distance between the height of the occupation of Iraq, when we had 150,000 troops fighting a war of counterinsurgency, and our minimal commitment in Syria aimed at creating and supporting a proxy force to do the hard fighting against ISIS.
To throw both the Syria and Iraq interventions together under the rubric of “endless war” is to fail to make distinctions. It’s senseless to oppose a relatively cost-free action in Syria that has succeeded in its own terms (the ISIS caliphate has been defeated) because the Iraq War was fought for years at a high cost with dubious results. It’d be like opposing the invasion of Grenada because the invasion of Normandy required so much blood and treasure.
6. Smollet, thy name is Warren. So sayeth Kevin Williamson. From his piece:
Elizabeth Warren has long pretended to be a person of color — a “woman of color,” the Harvard law faculty called her. (That color is Pantone 11-0602.) What Senator Warren has in common with Jussie Smollett turns out to have nothing to do with skin tone. Smollett, you’ll recall, regaled the nation with the story of a couple of violent, Trump-loving, MAGA-hat-wearing white supremacists who just happened to be cruising a gay neighborhood in Chicago on the coldest night of the year, who also just happened to be fans of Empire, who also just happened to have some rope at hand. Who happened, as it turns out, to be a couple of Nigerian brothers and colleagues of Smollett’s.
Fiction, yes. Deployed, as we are always told when these lies are exposed as lies, in the service of a larger truth, a truth of which such habitual and irredeemable liars as Warren, Biden, Smollett — and Lena Dunham, and the so-called journalists of Rolling Stone, and the perpetrators of a thousand phony campus hate-crime hoaxes — are the appointed apostles.
“Does anybody seriously believe it was not as everyday as sunrise that employers made pregnant women leave their jobs 50 years ago?” CNBC’s John Harwood demanded in defense of Warren. Perhaps it has not occurred to Harwood, who purports to be a journalist of a kind, that the relevant question is not whether this sort of thing happened in the past to a great many women but whether this particular thing actually happened to this woman, which does not seem to be the case: The minutes of the local school-board meeting quite clearly document that Warren was offered a contract for further employment, which she declined. She was forthright in her account of the episode at earlier points in her life. She seems to have suddenly remembered the discrimination sometime between when she began advertising herself to the Ivy League as a Cherokee and the day when the Cherokee finally shamed her into knocking it off.
7. Madeleine Kearns reveals the origins of the transgender movement. From her piece:
Let’s start with medicine. When sex-change surgeries became surgically possible in the post-war period, it was understood to be something of a euphemism. Of course, a person couldn’t literally change from one sex to the other, it’d be more accurate to call it genital surgery, but people were trying to be euphemistic. These procedures were highly controversial, in part because they weren’t always that successful.
You might’ve seen the movie The Danish Girl, and you’re familiar with the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson’s book, in which he talks a lot about Paul McHugh, the psychiatrist who had to put an end to the surgeries in the 1970s at Johns Hopkins University, which he described as “collaborating with madness.” That’s how he called it. People who wanted to change their sex back then were called transsexuals. That was a term popularized by an endocrinologist, Harry Benjamin. Demand was fairly low; it was mostly males wanting to become females. It’s complicated, but sexologists realized there were two types of male-to-female transsexuals.
There was the homosexual transsexual. That’s the person who feels inconspicuously feminine and uncomfortable as a man and is actually a deeply sympathetic figure, I think. Then there’s the person with autogynophilia. That’s the person who finds the thought of themselves as a woman to be sexually exciting. Studies of interviews with such individuals, conducted by sexologists like Ray Blanchard or Anne Lawrence, suggest that it’s anything ranging from a man who’s turned on from the check assistant’s calling him “ma’am,” to somebody who likes to urinate on sanitary pads and to pretend they’re menstruating, and many other things that I think many of us would find too unpleasant to dwell on so early in the morning.
In my friend Douglas Murray’s new book, The Madness of Crowds, he explains that the struggle for defining things turned into this hardware versus software issue. So, intersex for instance, is very much a hardware issue. You can’t exactly get concerned about somebody who has a hardware issue because that’s not their fault. Of course, the reality with homosexuality is that it’s most likely some kind of combination of the two. People may be predisposed to certain proclivities, then there’s environment and so forth, but in any case, like Martin Luther King’s point, don’t define people by that.
8. Michael Brendan Dougherty warns that Facebook cannot become a President Warren’s Ministry of Truth. From the commentary:
Warren says that “Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once through negligence.” This is not knowably true, though liberals and progressives have done their best to claim otherwise since Trump’s election. In 2008 and 2012, Democrats were thrilled that Barack Obama was able to use Facebook very effectively, often exploiting the same techniques they deplored and viewed as conspiratorial when used on a smaller scale by groups aligned with the right. A decade ago, progressives fantasized about social-media-powered revolutions of the young across the world. In the years since, the median age of a Facebook user has gone up dramatically and now resembles the median age of a Donald Trump voter. Trump won the election, and we know that voters and his campaign interacted across Facebook during the campaign that preceded it. But it is still difficult, if not impossible, to determine how much Facebook caused his election to happen and how much it simply reflected his ascent.
One thing that’s certain is that the resulting controversy has not helped either our politics or Facebook’s public image (and thus its bottom line). Warren’s standard would have the potential to make future such controversies even more intense. Facebook’s certification of political ads would involve the company in more controversial political judgments and events, not fewer. To progressives who believe history’s arc bends in their direction by right, it would make Facebook appear more guilty when democracy threw up a surprise result. And it would arguably make the platform more powerful and desirable as a political ad space, which is an odd goal for an avowed opponent of corporate power to pursue.
9. James Sutton finds San Diego’s GOP mayor, Kevin Faulconer, worthy of observation and maybe emulation. From the report:
In an interview, Faulconer attributes his ability to win elections in a city where only 22 percent of voters are registered Republicans to a political brand that is “not about partisanship, but leadership.” This may sound like a boilerplate talking point, but it contains a lesson that Republicans seeking a toehold in blue states could learn from: Mayors are simply not subject to the same partisan pressures as legislators and other elected officials. If they eschew divisive, bomb-throwing bombast in favor of a focus on competent, productive governance, voters will reward them.
Faulconer’s rise and tenure is a case study in this dynamic. He was elected in the wake of the resignation of scandal-ridden Democratic mayor Bob Filner, with San Diego’s finances in deplorable shape. He promised to fix the city budget and did, establishing a low-key, technocratic image that helped him easily win his bid for a full term. It helped that he made an effort to reach out to voters who wouldn’t typically vote for a Republican. His campaign headquarters was located in a historically black city neighborhood, and he stressed throughout our interview how important that physical presence was in connecting with local residents. The result was that people knew him not “as a Republican,” he said, but as a competent mayor.
If Faulconer’s success were just a matter of personal temperament and a concerted effort to transcend party labels, other California Republicans might be forgiven for assuming he doesn’t have much to teach the struggling state party. But as he closes out his second term, Faulconer has zeroed in on an issue that the state’s overwhelmingly Democratic leadership has failed to address: the homelessness crisis. Though the issue is not his only his policy focus, he trumpets it as one that Republicans should zero in on.
At the recent California Republican party convention in Palm Springs, Faulconer devoted the bulk of his keynote address to discussing the explosion in the state’s homeless population. It is, he said, “not merely an issue in California, but the issue,” one that offers California Republicans a golden chance to present themselves as a viable alternative to their Democratic rivals. In our interview, he highlighted San Diego’s recent efforts to grapple with the crisis. Most crucially, he has committed the city to offering every homeless person services and housing. San Diego can now offer any persons living on the street housing, and compel them to enter it if they refuse. It’s a real accomplishment, though he is quick to caution that “housing first” cannot become “housing only.” If the goal is to keep people off the streets long-term, he argues, it is just as important for shelter services to connect homeless people with treatment and counseling as it is to give them a place to stay.
10. Douglas Murray takes on the game and consequences of Internet-shaming and www-schadenfreude. From the article:
In February 2018, only a few months before Sarah Jeong’s appointment to the New York Times editorial board, the paper had announced another recruitment, that of a 44-year-old tech journalist called Quinn Norton. The Internet immediately went to work, and — as they later would with Sarah Jeong — analyzed her Twitter feed. Again they found tweets that were, in the language of social-justice campaigners, “not good.” Among the things that were found were a number of tweets from 2013 in which Norton had used the word “fag.” As in “Look, fag” and (on one occasion with another Twitter user with whom she was rowing) “you s*** eating, hypersensitive little crybaby fag.” On another occasion — back in 2009 — Norton was found to have used the most unacceptable word of all. In 2009, in a row with another Twitter user, she had replied, “If God had meant a n***** to talk to our schoolchildren, He would have would have [sic] made him president. Oh, but wait . . . Um.” Just seven hours after the New York Times had announced its new hire, it backpedaled by saying Norton would not in fact be joining the paper.
In a subsequent piece in The Atlantic Norton explained what she thought had happened. She acknowledged that many things she had written and tweeted in the past had been ignorant and embarrassing. She also explained what it felt like to, in her words, have a “doppelganger” version of herself swiftly emerge online. In common with other people who had been the subject of online shaming this version of her that people were railing against was not “who she was” but a hideous, simplified, out-of-context version of tiny parts of herself.
She explained that she believed herself to have been the victim of what she referred to as “context collapse.” This is another term for the collapse of the divide between private and public language, where a conversation meant for an in-group becomes known to an out-group with no knowledge of the original context of the discussion. Norton said that her use of the “n” word had been in the context of an online row in which she was “in support of [President] Obama.” Since Norton had been in friendly as well as unfriendly rows with various white racists it was possible that she was using vile language to mirror back at someone who was also using vile language. Elsewhere her engagement with “Anons” (members of the activist collective “Anonymous”) was explained to be the reason for her use of the word “fags.” Such language gets used in such groups, but clearly does not transfer well to the world of the New York Times. The two worlds met, Norton was history there, and the world stampeded on.
11. Hare Trigger: Armond White takes in Jojo Rabbit and, frankly, hates it. Dig the review:
Bad ideas are in vogue, which makes Jojo Rabbit a candidate for this week’s zeitgeist movie. It’s a two-ton whimsy about Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a ten-year-old German cherub during World War II, so fascinated with Der Führer, the leader of his country’s ideals, that he envisions Adolf Hitler as his imaginary friend.
As played by Taika Waititi, Funny Adolf behaves childishly and runs alongside Jojo with gangly, clown-like gestures during an outing with Hitlerjugend troops. Although given to making angry-face speeches about Aryan superiority and silly anti-Jewish pronouncements, Funny Adolf represents Jojo’s ignorance of Third Reich ideology and his pre-adolescent hero-worship.
But don’t worry, writer-director Taika Waititi, best known for the Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok, hasn’t made Hitler a superhero on the right side of history; instead, Waititi’s calculated political correctness lampoons political idolatry as immature, low-information folly. Jojo Rabbit ought to expose the projection of fears and self-loathing that’s become the common feature of far-left ideology, but it avoids that realization and settles for being a zeitgeist satire that targets the political infatuation of others, not your own.
No wonder Jojo Rabbit won over award-season shills at the recent Toronto Film Festival, where it took the same audience prize as last year’s Green Book. Award-givers have become as obtuse as little Jojo in conflating political self-righteousness with artistic excellence. This foolishness recalls what Pauline Kael ridiculed as “Nazi junkie” movies; only now it happens with flicks about identity politics.
12. Springtime for Hitler? Kyle Smith, brimming with anticipation, saw Jojo Rabbit and — wanting so much to gush — thought it . . . unfunny. From the review:
Hitler provides rich potential for comedy, yet despite trying really hard, I didn’t laugh once in Jojo Rabbit. Do two or three half-chuckles count? Not really. Johannes, or Jojo (a wide-eyed kid named Roman Griffin Davis), is a fully indoctrinated Hitler Youth, complete with the uniform suggesting Fascist Cub Scouts and a ridiculous fear of Jews. Early scenes having him romping through training exercises with his fellow Aryan middle-schoolers under the watchful gaze of a dissolute German officer (Rockwell is ideal for this part) who lets slip that the war is about to be lost, so nothing much matters. It’s Berlin in 1945. Assisting him is a Teutonic wench (Rebel Wilson) who reminds me of the lady concentration-camp commandant in Seven Beauties. Things get a bit confusing for Jojo when he’s asked to demonstrate his master-race cruelty by wringing the neck of a rabbit. He can’t do it. The kids mock him as a timid, frightened little thing — Jojo Rabbit. He’s so frustrated that he blows himself up with a grenade, because playing with live hand grenades is the kind of thing Nazi kids do, I guess. It’s 1945, anything goes.
Jojo recovers slowly, thanks to his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler, played by the writer-director of the movie, Taika Waititi. Hitler is (mostly) a genial sort who pops out behind beams and has dinner with Jojo to offer fond advice and reminders about the perfidy of the Jews. Jojo and his mom (Scarlett Johansson in hausfrau mode) are making do without the man of the house, who is off fighting in Italy but hasn’t been heard from in two years. To add to all of his sources of confusion, Jojo discovers there’s a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) living in a secret room upstairs.
By the time this setup is established, though, the movie, adapted from an obscure 2006 novel called Caging Skies, is running on fumes.
13. Shuffle Off to Albright-Knox: Brian Allen is in Buffalo and digs “a wonderful, idiosyncratic collection” located at “an unusual architectural campus.” From the article:
I visited this week before the museum’s closure in early November for a big, new building project. It now has two great buildings. Its neoclassical 1905 building is an elegant gem, cool, columnar with Edwardian flash. It’s not big. It’s gracious and welcoming, but it’s a temple of art. The Saint-Gaudens caryatids on the entrance frieze — they’re the best visitor-services people — suggest you enter with a clear, disciplined frame of mind. You take a breath when you walk through the museum. You leave feeling the experience is unique to you. Caryatids don’t ask for money and don’t tell you where the bathroom or shop is. They suggest you think. Sculpture is so good at that, especially when it’s 30 feet in the air.
The 1962 building addition by Gordon Bunshaft is a spare modernist box. It pulled the architecture of the Gilded Age — the 1905 building — toward the Space Age, still leaving the original building with a place of pride. It’s a fake one.
The Bunshaft building is a passive-aggressive space. It wins by pretending to lose. It’s squat and brown, and could be the executive building of a big business. It’s anonymous, but, when it opened in 1962, it was, all of a sudden, the new entrance. The steps to the old entrance were blocked by a Berlin Wall–type thing. The 1962 building has exhibition space, in corridors, with the art lined up, like the shops at Penn Station.
On November 4, construction starts on a third building, and that pulls the place into the 21st century. It’s a 30,000-square-foot new building designed by Shohei Shigematsu and OMA America. OMA is an international firm with roots in Japan. The new building will be transparent, with lots of glass and big, naturally lit spaces for art. It’s not passive-aggressive. The big box will loom and direct. It will win by winning. I think it will be beautiful, but I think this with reservations.
1. Elizabeth Warren pledges a President Warren would appoint impartial judges, and then, as Greg Weiner notes in Law & Liberty, promises a SCOTUS spot for a labor advocate. From the analysis:
Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Harvard Law School, has a plan—of course she does—for guaranteeing an “impartial and ethical judiciary” based on “the basic premise of our legal system,” which is “that every person is treated equally in the eyes of the law.” Shortly before its unveiling, she tweeted a promise to nominate “a demonstrated advocate for workers” to the Supreme Court.
In other words, she seeks a justice who would violate Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which requires jurists to disqualify themselves from cases in which they have “a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.” The Code does not apply to the Supreme Court, but buckle up: The aforesaid “plan for that” would extend the ethical rules to the Supreme Court, which means Warren is promising to appoint justices whose conduct she will seek to classify as unethical.
This tangle of contradiction—as to her plans, Warren likely wants us to behold the magnificence of the forest, not the individual trees—illustrates the outcome-based constitutionalism that has infected American jurisprudence. It may be true, as Chief Justice John Roberts has said, that we do not have Obama judges or Trump judges. But we are apparently supposed to have worker judges or employer judges, abortion judges or gun judges.
Conspicuously lacking from Warren’s plan for an impartial judiciary is any sense of what that means for the judge’s role in the constitutional order. The bulk of the plan seeks to root out among judges the corruption Warren sees lurking around the corner of every disagreement. Judges retire to escape ethics inquiries; take away their pensions. “Ban judges from owning or trading individual stocks.” Supreme Court justices would have to explain recusal decisions. She would apply to Supreme Court justices the judicial code of conflict. She would fast-track impeachment of judges by changing the rules of the House of Representatives.
2. More Weiner: This time in the new issue of National Affairs, he explains the difference between morality and moralism. From the essay:
One of the most striking features of contemporary American politics is that political rhetoric is increasingly moralistic while the actual ability of governing systems to achieve moral ends is in decline. These are related phenomena: Moralistic politics is prone to stalemate because it disdains such instruments of effective political practice as barter and compromise. Its insistence on its own correctness, elevated to the urgency of the moral plane, makes compromise not merely imprudent but indefensible. Because of its tendency toward monomaniacal focus on single issues to the exclusion of all others, it cannot engage in horse-trading.
Where the politician sees shades of gray and operates in a world of contradictions and tensions, the moralist, hostile to nuance, perceives only darkness and light. This has a dual effect. First, it limits what is often the very value being proclaimed — liberty — since the moralist denies the variety of moral concerns and forecloses options other than his own. When moral questions are oversimplified, there is no room for liberty and the responsibility that should attend it. When imperatives are categorical, prudence is impossible. This dissolves liberty in favor of a one-dimensional and allegedly unimpeachable moral truth.
Second, cautious, partial steps toward moral ends cannot satisfy the moralizer because he operates in an environment in which more of the object in view is always better than less. Moralism cannot tolerate the fact, evident to James Madison in Federalist No. 10, that disagreement is “sown in the nature of man.” The moralist thus has neither the capacity nor the desire for intellectual empathy, the ability to see an issue from another’s point of view.
In short, for the moralist, unlike for the statesman, to “let justice be done though the heavens fall” is an acceptable tradeoff, for the options are identical: The pursuit of justice may bring down the heavens, but so will the persistence of injustice. The issues are always ultimate. The stakes of success and failure are the same.
3. In the new issue of Commentary, Josef Joffe refuses to genuflect for the religion of climatism and its apostle, Little Miss Thunberg. From the essay:
For the believers, the debate is closed, and exhortation has segued into excommunication. No more catty humor, like that on display in the unforgettable bumper sticker from the 1970s: “Save the Planet! Kill yourself!” Those who reject the faith are “climate-change deniers,” as in “denying the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:23). Relate Climatism to Judeo-Christianity, and the psycho-structural analogies abound.
First, you need a prophet like Isaiah who rains damnation on the wayward. “Woe to a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers! They have forsaken the Lord and turned their back on him” (Isaiah 1:4). Greta, and Gore before her, replicates the language of the Good Book. Today, penitence demands renouncing the obscene material pleasures that doom our planet with megatons of noxious gases.
Second, invoke the apocalypse, as in the Revelation of St. John (Revelation 13:13), where God will “make fire come down from the heavens.” Religion, pagan or monotheist, is shot through with cosmic angst attacks. The Deluge goes back to the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh epic (1800 b.c.e.). Sodom and Gomorrah are incinerated for their debaucheries. Egypt is punished with the Ten Plagues to force Pharaoh to “let my children go.” Hardly had they fled when God wanted to slay them all for praying to the Golden Calf. In a brilliant plea, Israel’s greatest prophet, Moses, manages to stave off extinction. God reduced the death sentence to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
Today, the harbingers of doom are armed with assumptions, models, and data. Melting ice will raise sea levels, swallowing coasts and islands. What the floods spare will be devastated by droughts or hurricanes. The most recent sign from up high is the darkened skies over the Amazon’s rain forests, the “lungs of the world,” which presages collective death by asphyxiation. For the first iteration of this threat, one need only go back to Revelation 6:13: “The sun became black, and the whole moon became as blood.”
4. Erdogan was planning this ethnic cleansing all along, reports Malcolm Lowe at Gatestone Institute. From his report:
It is now clear that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan intended the annihilation of the Syrian Kurds already two years ago. Moreover, his plans became evident to the US military by the beginning of 2019 and were conveyed to President Trump at that time.
In order to disguise his plans, Erdogan revealed them stage by stage, by making first lesser and then greater demands on the US military, to which Trump agreed — sometimes in the course of telephone conversations with Erdogan. So Erdogan was able to hoodwink the US military up to January 2019 and to hoodwink Trump up to the current invasion: Trump resolutely defied contrary advice from the military (and from everyone else).
At first, Erdogan demanded the removal of Kurdish militias only west of the Euphrates river. This was the proclaimed aim of his so-called Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch (the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Kurds from the Afrin area). With that accomplished, he began demanding a Turkish-controlled “security zone” east of the river, to be 32 kilometers deep. The US responded by agreeing to joint US-Turkish patrols in the area. Erdogan demanded that the Kurdish towns in the area should dismantle the fortifications that they had raised to defend themselves from the Islamic State (ISIS). The Kurds agreed, reassured by the US military that this step would remove any excuse for a Turkish invasion.
Finally, in October 2019, Erdogan asked Trump in a further telephone call to remove US troops from the patrols and Trump agreed, believing that by threatening Turkey on Twitter, he could deter a Turkish invasion. The invasion started forthwith. It has been stalled, maybe, now that the Kurds have invited the army of the Assad regime to deploy throughout northeastern Syria up to the Iraqi frontier. If so, the beneficiaries will include Iran, America’s arch enemy, which can now see its yearned-for highway all the way from Tehran to Quneitra on Israel’s border.
5. More Gatestone Institute: Guy Millière checks out the case of journalist Érik Zemmour and the continuing diminishment of free speech in France. From the speech:
Zemmour’s speech describes a situation already discussed by various writers. Zemmour is not the first to say that the no-go zones are dangerous areas the police can no longer enter, or that they are under the control of radical imams and Muslim gangs who assault and drive out non-Muslims. Zemmour is not the only writer to describe the consequences of the mass-immigration of Muslims who do not integrate into French society. The pollster Jerome Fourquet, in his recent book, The French Archipelago, points out that France today is a country where Muslims and non-Muslims live in separate societies “hostile to each other”. Fourquet also emphasizes that a growing number of Muslims living in France say they want to live according sharia law and place sharia law above French law. Fourquet notes that 26% of French Muslims born in France want to obey only Sharia; for French Muslims born abroad, the figure rises to 46%. Zemmour merely added that what was happening is a “colonization”.
Zemmour had been hauled into court many times in the recent past and has had to pay heavy fines. On September 19, he was fined 3,000 euros ($3,300) for “incitement to racial hatred” and “incitement to discrimination”, for having said in 2015 that “in countless French suburbs where many young girls are veiled, a struggle to Islamize territories is taking place”.
In a society where freedom of speech exists, it would be possible to discuss the use of these statements, but in France today, freedom of speech has been almost completely destroyed.
Writers other than Zemmour have been hauled into court and totally excluded from all media, simply for describing reality. In 2017, the great historian Georges Bensoussan published a book, A Submissive France, as alarming as what Zemmour said a few days ago. Bensoussan, in an interview, quoted an Algerian sociologist, Smaïn Laacher, who had said that “in Arab families, children suckle anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk”. Laacher was never indicted. Bensoussan, however, had to go to criminal court. Although he was acquitted, he was fired by the Paris Holocaust Memorial, which until then had employed him.
6. Something Queer Here: The College Fix’s Maria Lencki reports how at the University of Alabama, “LGBT Month” celebrated plenty of “queer identities” — gay men not among them. From the article:
A public university is hosting programming for LGBTQIA+ History Month in an effort to educate students about different spectrums of sexuality, with the school offering program on half a dozen queer identities. Conspicuously absent among them: Gay men.
The University of Alabama marks October as LGBTQIA+ History Month and as part of its monthlong programming is hosting talks for students about various types of LGBT “identities and their histories,” according to the school’s website. The programming covers well-known LGBT variants such as lesbianism and bisexuality, as well as more avant-garde sexualities and identities including asexuality, aromanticism, pansexuality, transgenderism and gender non-conformism.
Yet the university’s scheduled list of LGBT talks does not include a presentation on gay men, a demographic that forms a significant percentage of the LGBT community.
The talks are sponsored by the university’s Spectrum organization, the stated goal of which is to provide “understanding and education within the university and its surrounding communities of LGBTQIA+ individuals and (prevent) discrimination against them.”
The College Fix reached out to the school’s Spectrum group, university media relations and the school’s Safe Zone club to ask why the presentation subjects excluded gay men and if the school is planning on hosting any events specifically for or about that demographic. The Fix also inquired about how LGBTQIA+ History Month started at the university and how well-attended the events are. None of these organizations responded to multiple emails.
R.I.P. Mike Uhlmann
The former aide to Senator James L. Buckley, Claremont professor, philanthropy guru, expert on the electoral college (here’s a still-important NR piece he wrote in 2004), champion of the unborn (he helped President Reagan author Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation for The Human Life Review in 1983), and so much more, especially a friend to many, passed away early this month.
We remembered this important figure in the history of conservatism in The Week in the current issue of NR:
Michael Uhlmann was a friend of this magazine and a servant, and quiet leader, of American conservatism in politics and academe. An alumnus of Yale, Virginia, and Claremont, he served as assistant attorney general in the Ford administration and as an assistant to President Reagan. Between his jobs in the executive branch, Uhlmann presided over the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, where he was guided by the insight that “the consumer is, in fact, a much more complex animal than dreamt of by those who have put his personal stamp on a lot of regulation.” (Translation: Ralph Nader didn’t speak for everyone.) He taught at Claremont and George Mason and was a senior scholar at the James Wilson Institute, and the Ethics and Public Policy Center claimed him as a senior fellow. He allied with the pro-life movement, arguing especially against euthanasia and assisted suicide — his book about them is titled “Last Rights?” He died on October 8, at age 89. With gratitude for his lasting intellectual contributions: R.I.P.
Among Others: At The American Mind, Ryan P. Williams offered a warm tribute. Steven Hayward bids farewell to his pal in Power Line. And at Law & Liberty, Michael Greve fondly remembers an old friend. As does the great Hadley Arkes at James Wilson Institute.
My old pal Jeremy Beer has a new book coming out in mid-November: Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player, about the Negro League legend considered by many to be the greatest-ever ballplayer who never wore a Major League uniform — Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Tris Speaker rolled into one, per his teammates and foes — and who had a profound role in the game’s integration.
In the 1940s, Charleston caught Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey’s attention as a scout for the organization, work he performed up through his death, having recommended several outstanding players, including catcher Roy Campanella. Beer’s evenhanded narrative makes a convincing case for Charleston as the greatest baseball player who never played in the majors. This is a solid hit for baseball historians and fans alike.
National Pastime junkies are going to love this book. Here’s a slice I cut (with permission!) from the first chapter:
Baseball’s integration wasn’t complete—the Yankees, Phillies, Tigers, and Red Sox had yet to field a black player—but with Mays, Irvin, Doby, Robinson, Newcombe, Campanella, Aaron, Minnie Minoso, and Ernie Banks the Major Leagues now had a cadre of established and rising black stars. What reason was there, in October 1954, to dwell on the old days? To revisit the era in which men like Charleston had excelled? To do so was embarrassing and painful. The wound of baseball’s segregated history was still fresh, progress stupefyingly slow. Black civil rights activists’ eyes were focused on the needs of the present, including implementation of the desegregation order handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court just a few months earlier in a case called Brown v. Board of Education. The erstwhile defenders of baseball’s and society’s racial status quo had no interest in being reminded of the talented players they and their predecessors had ignored. Everyone seemed to agree: let the dead bury the dead.
When news of Charleston’s passing came, then, it did not spark curiosity among those outside the diminishing Negro Leagues community about this man known as an—if not the—all-time Negro Leagues great. It amounted to little more than the fact that another old black ballplayer had died. He was said to have been incredible, but who could tell? Even if you were curious to learn more, there were no reliable statistics, no audio or video evidence, no books, no reference materials, nothing with which to substantiate virtually any claim made about Oscar Charleston or any other player whom you hadn’t seen with your own eyes.
Charleston’s death gained only the briefest mention in non- black sources. The Sporting News ran a one-paragraph notice. Charleston’s hometown Indianapolis Star ran a short obituary. The Philadelphia Inquirer ignored his death completely, even though he had lived in the city for nearly fifteen years. Thus did Oscar Charleston enter an afterlife of persistent, and entirely unmerited, obscurity.
For the rest of the 1950s and 1960s Charleston’s name was rarely mentioned outside the black press. That was true, of course, of virtually every Negro Leaguer who never played in the Majors. But even those black players who became big league stars during the postwar period generally refrained from name-checking Oscar. Jackie Robinson, the African American with the biggest public platform in the 1950s and ’60s, never mentioned Charleston in his various autobiographies and articles, even though Charleston was closely involved with Branch Rickey’s plan to break baseball’s color line. For Jackie as for most others—including Hank Aaron—who made their names in the post–1947 world, the Negro Leagues were something about which to be embarrassed. Jackie’s teammate Roy Campanella attempted to credit Charleston for helping to scout him, but in his 1959 autobiography either he or his ghostwriter mistakenly devoted a paragraph to “Oscar Robertson” rather than Charleston. Suffice to say that the Cincinnati Bearcats basketball star, although he grew up in the same Indianapolis neighborhood as Charleston, had nothing to do with Campanella’s entry into the National League.
It took the opinionated and iconoclastic Ted Williams to puncture the imaginative barrier segregating pre-integration black players from their white contemporaries and the black stars who came later. “The other day Willie Mays hit his 522nd home run,” said Williams from the podium during his 1966 Hall of Fame induction speech at Cooperstown, New York. “He has gone past me,” Williams continued, “and he’s pushing, and I say to him, ‘Go get ’em, Willie.’ Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel. Not just to be as good as someone else, but to be better. This is the nature of man and the name of the game. I hope that one day Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro players who are not here only because they weren’t given the chance.”
It was the first time any inductee had such a thing. Williams’s speech spurred the Hall of Fame to begin seriously considering pre-integration black players for induction. But note that Williams only called for Paige’s and Gibson’s election specifically. Earlier stars like Charleston remained absent from his, and everyone else’s, radar.
Now Jeremy is no dope: Averse to shoveling snow, he lives in Phoenix. And that’s where, on November 14, there will be a groovy book-launch event (at Changing Hands Bookstore), where Jeremy will be interviewed by Arizona Republic reporter Nick Piecoro, who has the Diamondbacks beat. Info about the event is here. Go if you can.
This is typed at my daughter’s home. She is a school nurse, something is being delivered, someone had to be there, Mr. Someone can bang out WJ here just as well as anywhere. Sadie, the beloved rottweiler, whines the whole time, feet away, wanting attention. She loves Mr. Someone. The feeling is mutual. Whining or not, dog spelled backwards . . . Pets come and go. When they go, they take a piece of our heart with them. For those who ache right now over a Fido, called home to play catch with Abraham, lend a prayer. And on a more human level, pray for brave souls in Hong Kong who risk life and limb for the rights many of us, this side of Mr. James, continue to believe to be unalienable.
God’s blessings on You, Your Family and Your Loved Ones, Even the Four-Legged Kind,
Jack Fowler, who can be shocked and awed by your thoughts if conveyed to firstname.lastname@example.org.