The author of this epistle has been through the “Charm City” (talk about contrived) and the “Monumental City” (that’s got some “Star-Spangled Banner” association, so no eyebrow-raising) plenty of times, but for work or play just twice. Playtime: While with friends at the Inner Harbor, Mr. Newlywed made sport of Mrs. Newlywed and earned himself a goodly and deserved doghouse stay. Worktime: Friend William needed a hand and vehicle to pick up a big honking thing from the Port of Baltimore, which resulted in an undertaking that, if filmed, would have been On the Waterfront 2.
Enough about my sad past. The president has spouted, and the environs of The House that Ruth Was Born In are now in the news, bigly. Back in 2015 our editor wrote about how Baltimore was symbolic as a Great Society failure. But native son Teddy Kupfer last week took some umbrage with the presidential dissing, and with Trumpaphilic spins that explained the tweets — which targeted local congressman Elijah Cummings — as an exercise in drawing national attention to an urban area (led by utterly corrupt pols) circling the drain and in need of help.
All that said, Armond White, who reviews flicks for this here website and has an utterly unique and no-punch-pulling style, happened to come to NR’s HQ this week (a rare but happy sighting) on the same day we published his essay on Baltimore and pop politics and the skewed (thanks to movies and popular tv programs) perceptions of the troubled town. It’s a history lesson that deserves your attention. Here’s a chunk:
This tendency toward Baltimore race caricature would proliferate in the bard’s work. As if to prove some kind of native loyalty, Levinson went on to produce the TV series Homicide: Life on the Streets (1993–99), an urban police drama that used Baltimore’s deprivation as fodder — normalizing urban and moral decay. Levinson followed that with the scabrous HBO series The Wire (2002–8), which introduced a roster of new-generation black stereotypes to authenticate the social fears first put into law through the 1994 Clinton crime bill. Even Obama saluted The Wire (“one of the best shows of all time”) and called the homicidal black gay villain Omar (Michael K. Williams) his favorite character.
Playwright Tony Kushner also praised The Wire, calling it the greatest television he’d ever seen. Given Kushner’s prominence (Angels in America, Spielberg’s Lincoln), this was the ultimate example of bleeding-heart liberal hyperbole, making racial awe, terror, and pity a cultural standard.
And yet, after so much self-satisfying self-delusion, we’re now meant to disregard social fact and cultural observation as racist. We’re not expected to apply our cultural experience to our political sense. The Battle of Baltimore isn’t exactly a battle of words, between President Trump’s tweet about conditions in Baltimore and Representative Elijah Cummings’s race-card-by-tweet defense, but a cultural contretemps suggestive of something more insidious: This sinister propaganda game is really a new culture war in which negative inference is used to distract from the civic issue. The legacy of all these pop artifacts proves what everyone — including President Trump — knows: that politicians have failed Baltimore.
By the way, our late and great colleague, D. Keith Mano, was a Homicide script writer. You should familiarize yourself with his exceptional talent. Here’s his archive.
1. Nyet! The “Moscow Mitch” moniker is hooey. From the editorial:
Senate Democrats asked for unanimous consent to these bills knowing they would not receive it and pretended to be shocked when they didn’t get it. The media then gobbled up a narrative about McConnell stopping action on an issue right after being warned about how serious a problem it was.
To be clear, foreign election interference is, indeed, a serious threat. According to the recent Intelligence Committee report, while there’s no sign that vote totals have been manipulated, there have been successful efforts to access sensitive information such as voter registration.
Less well known, however, is that there’s already been immense progress on this issue. The Department of Homeland Security and the states have gotten far better at addressing it since the 2016 election; Congress provided the states $380 million for election security just last year; under McConnell, the Senate has passed bills to further deter and punish those who interfere in elections. Still, additional efforts are warranted, and some of those efforts could require legislation.
Can You Eat this Heaping Plate of 16 NRO Cannoli? Of Course You Can, and You Will. Mangia Mangia!
1. Ronald Reagan, racist? Jay Nordlinger, sparked by the revelation of a telephone-call transcript from a 1971 chat with President Nixon, digs deep into the broad record of the conservative icon, now under attack. From his report:
I hate what Reagan said to Nixon, in that phone call. It is a mark against him. I also think he was a greatly admirable man, who advanced the cause of freedom, democracy, and human rights. Was he guilty of inconsistencies and hypocrisies along the way? Of course. To say it again, he was a man. Who would ’scape whipping?
What if your phone calls, and other conversations, were recorded? Would you ’scape whipping? If so, you should not be here. You would have ascended by now.
When Reagan was elected president in 1980, I was against him. (I sent a letter to President Carter, commiserating with him.) (In 1976, I had sent a similar letter to President Ford, commiserating with him!) (Maybe I sympathize with the losing side?) In November 1980, I was in eleventh grade, age 16. My town was Ann Arbor, Mich., “a small citadel of the Left,” as I call it.
My views on Reagan began to change at the end of March in 1981 — a little more than two months into his presidency. I wasn’t with him on policy, either foreign or domestic. (What did I know, by the way?) But I took a new look at the man: because, when a bullet ripped through his chest, he handled himself with real courage and grace.
No longer was he for me a cartoon: the dunce, the Neanderthal, the bigot. The nuclear cowboy (“Ronald Ray-gun”). The B-movie actor who, with a smile and some Deaver-crafted hocus-pocus, had gulled people into electing him president. That cartoon was over for me forever.
2. Baltimore More: Speaking of racists . . . Kyle Smith feels compelled to restate the obvious: that Al Sharpton — Tweet-slobbered by various Democratic presidential wannabes — is not a Civil-Rights Hero. From the piece:
Sharpton holds the position of America’s Senior Spokesman for Civil Rights only because it’s been some time since he’s done anything so egregiously contemptible that it made the front page; the Left simply assumes short memories have sanitized Sharpton’s reputation. I almost wrote “inflammatory reputation,” but that word might be too literal given the arson attack that followed one of his most notorious hate campaigns.
After a black boy, Gavin Cato, was accidentally killed by a motorcade of Jews in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1991, Sharpton delivered an incendiary eulogy at the funeral:
All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no coffee klatch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’.
For extra incendiary effect, he urged the crowd to think of Jews as “diamond merchants” responsible for apartheid in South Africa, and he marched at the head of an angry group of demonstrators on the Jewish sabbath. Rioters subsequently murdered Yankel Rosenbaum, a Jewish youth, in retaliation. Twenty years later Sharpton issued a watery not-quite apology in the form of a Daily News op-ed.
Four years later, in 1995, Sharpton inflamed tensions on Harlem’s 125th Street that culminated in the murders of seven people in an arson attack. The owner of the building in dispute was actually a black Pentecostal church, whose leaders had asked a Jewish tenant to evict a black subtenant, who enlisted the aid of Sharpton and other race-baiters to whip up street protests. At one such demonstration, Sharpton shouted,
There is a systemic and methodical strategy to eliminate our people from doing business off 125th Street. I want to make it clear . . . that we will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.
3. And while we’re at it, Heather Mac Donald, dealing in fact rather than leftist fiction, summarizes the most recent studies that show that the claims of racist police shootings are, yes, bogus. From the outset of her piece:
The Democratic presidential candidates have revived the anti-police rhetoric of the Obama years. Joe Biden’s criminal-justice plan promises that after his policing reforms, black mothers and fathers will no longer have to fear when their children “walk the streets of America” — the threat allegedly coming from cops, not gangbangers. President Barack Obama likewise claimed during the memorial for five Dallas police officers killed by a Black Lives Matter–inspired assassin in July 2016 that black parents were right to fear that their child could be killed by a police officer whenever he “walks out the door.” South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg has said that police shootings of black men won’t be solved “until we move policing out from the shadow of systemic racism.” Beto O’Rourke claims that the police shoot blacks “solely based on the color of their skin.”
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demolishes the Democratic narrative regarding race and police shootings, which holds that white officers are engaged in an epidemic of racially biased shootings of black men. It turns out that white officers are no more likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot black civilians. It is a racial group’s rate of violent crime that determines police shootings, not the race of the officer. The more frequently officers encounter violent suspects from any given racial group, the greater the chance that members of that racial group will be shot by a police officer. In fact, if there is a bias in police shootings after crime rates are taken into account, it is against white civilians, the study found.
The authors, faculty at Michigan State University and the University of Maryland at College Park, created a database of 917 officer-involved fatal shootings in 2015 from more than 650 police departments. Fifty-five percent of the victims were white, 27 percent were black, and 19 percent were Hispanic. Between 90 and 95 percent of the civilians shot by officers in 2015 were attacking police or other citizens; 90 percent were armed with a weapon. So-called threat-misperception shootings, in which an officer shoots an unarmed civilian after mistaking a cellphone, say, for a gun, were rare.
4. Intern James Sutton pens a big analysis on why the California GOP has been in such a sharp decline, and the answer is not enraged Latino voters. Lots here to ponder, to agree with, to disagree with. From the piece:
The California GOP, then, is a loser in the Republican shift away from suburban voters and towards rural and Rust Belt voters. This hasn’t exactly hurt the party nationally, as 2016 saw historic gains for Republicans in the Senate and the creation of the most conservative Supreme Court in the modern era, serving as a rebuke to the much-derided 2012 “autopsy,” which argued that the GOP needed to pass immigration reform, among other things. But Trump’s successes came from essentially doubling down on a shrinking electoral group, the now-legendary white working class.
And if the 2016 results are anything to go by, hairs-breadth victories in the Rust Belt may come at the price of the Sun Belt. Hillary Clinton, the least popular Democratic candidate in recent memory, was competitive in Arizona and won Nevada; Texas, too, is not becoming any redder (to round out the “belt” analyses, the Bible Belt will almost certainly remain a Republican stronghold).
Becoming a battleground state in presidential elections again might be aiming too high for California’s GOP, however. But capturing merely a third of the seats in the state’s congressional delegation would increase the number of California Republicans in the House from seven to 17. A ten-seat gain is not nothing.
5. John McCormack thinks the one bright — but soon to burn out — performer at the Democratic debate was former Rep. John Delaney, who schooled Bernie Sanders on health care. From the report:
Delaney explained that Medicare for All would fund all health-care expenditures at current Medicare rates — only about 80 percent of the real cost of health care, while private insurance pays 120 percent. “So if you start underpaying all the health-care providers, you’re going to create a two-tier market where wealthy people buy their health care with cash, and the people . . . like my dad, the union electrician, will have that health-care plan taken away.”
Sanders was visibly angry at times. When Delaney noted he was the only candidate with experience in the health-care business, Sanders snapped: “It’s not a business!” Sanders’s response to Delaney’s argument about the true cost of health care was that Medicare for All would save $500 billion a year by “ending all of the incredible complexities that are driving every American crazy trying to deal with the health-insurance companies.”
“Listen, his math is wrong,” Delaney replied. “I’ve been going around rural America, and I ask rural hospital administrators one question: ‘If all your bills were paid at the Medicare rate last year, what would happen?’ And they all look at me and say, ‘We would close.’”
6. Boris Time: Kyle Smith has popped and buttered the kernels and settles in for endless entertainment from 10 Downing Street. From his piece:
Whether Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, can deliver Brexit is unclear, but never before in its thousand-year history has Britain been led by a bankable, undeniable, tried-and-tested TV star. Welcome to the BoJo Show. It’s going to be a hoot.
A superannuated political hack once told me that the weekly sparring session called Prime Minister’s Questions [PMQs] was “the greatest show in the West End.” That was during the premiership of David Cameron, the P.R. man–turned–pol. Cameron was slick, smooth, and controlled, but the difference between him and Johnson is like the difference between Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Britney Spears. If PMQs is intrinsically the best show in the best theater district in all of Europe, what happens when its star is an actual showman, a guy who owes his fame and ultimately his ascent to No. 10 to his many appearances on the comedic quiz show Have I Got News for You?
It’s been more than a quarter-century of hacks, flacks, and bureaucrats guiding the United Kingdom since the Iron Lady was chased out of Downing Street. Johnson’s predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, was so boring that the only detail the political cartoonists could work with was that she sometimes wore leopard-print kitten heels. The Johnson era, however long it may last (and it may last quite some time, indeed), promises to be a giddy romp. Dull moments are hereby canceled.
7. John O’Sullivan, on the Brexit Watch, thinks that a special parliamentary by-election taking place in Wales might have a strong influence on the outcome of Leave / Stay, and on the length of PM Boris’s honeymoon. From his analysis:
If the Tories lose, that would cast a blight on the honeymoon that Boris seems to be enjoying with the voters since he announced a new cabinet with only four of May’s Remainers in it and declared that he would deliver Brexit by October 31 with or without a deal. If the Lib Dems do indeed emerge as victors, moreover, that would freshen the winner’s laurels, which have been withering on Swinson’s forehead since she said she wanted a second referendum but would oppose Brexit even if it won. She later retracted, but most people believe she was sincere the first time, and the damage was done. A clear win would remove the memory of that.
The stakes were raised further when the Greens, the Welsh Nationalists, and the “Independent” group of anti-Brexit MPs announced they would not field separate candidates but instead ask their supporters to vote Lib Dem. The election will thus be seen as a battle royal in which Leave and Boris are pitted against Remain and Swinson. And it’s a battle in which the odds were against the Tories even before the Greens etc. decided to throw their votes to Swinson’s Lib Dems — Brecon and Radnor is a natural Lib Dem seat and is represented by them in the Welsh Assembly. The Tories have won it only twice.
In these circumstances, how should Brexiteers vote? Oddly enough, it’s not an obvious or easy choice, because there’s also a Brexit-party candidate in the mix. Brexiteers must therefore decide which is more important to them: extending the voters’ honeymoon with Boris and Leave by giving him this little local victory; or keeping the Tories committed to a Real Brexit by showing that the threat from Nigel Farage is still very much alive. If they want to extend Boris’s honeymoon, voting Tory is the way to go. It’s as simple as that.
8. Andy One: Mr. McCarthy explores the “OLC Guidance” on prosecuting a president and the fundamental dodge of the Mueller Report. From his analysis:
Because (a) the president was the principal subject of the obstruction probe and (b) the objective of such a criminal investigation is to indict wrongdoers, the pertinence of the OLC guidance is obvious. The question is: What is the effect of its application?
Until Mueller’s investigation, I would have thought this was straightforward. The president may not be indicted while in office. Notice: This does not mean the president may not be investigated while in office; nor does it mean the president may never be indicted. The investigation may proceed while a president serves his term; if the prosecutor finds sufficient evidence to charge a criminal offense, an indictment may be obtained from the grand jury as soon as a president is out of office.
That is, just as in any other case, the criminal allegation must be investigated, and a charging decision must be made. The only difference is: If the case is judged worthy of indictment, the indictment must be deferred until a president leaves office. This is key: The point of the guidance is not to give presidents a special defense that is unavailable to other Americans. Presidents are not above the law. The guidance is not of substantive significance; it is merely a matter of timing: In deference to the awesome responsibilities of the presidency, we do not permit the chief executive to be burdened during his term by the consuming effort and anxiety of defending against a criminal charge. Presidents are not spared forever from these burdens that other accused persons must bear, just while in office.
That, however, is not how the OLC guidance was construed by Mueller — or, I should say in light of Mueller’s patent unfamiliarity with the Mueller probe, by whoever on the special counsel staff was actually running the investigation.
9. Andy Two: Mr. McCarthy’s follow up looks at how the Mueller legal team spun the guidance with the goal of buttressing Congressional Democrats’ efforts to impeach the president. From the commentary:
In Part Two, we explore why Mueller’s staff of very able lawyers, many of them activist Democrats, twisted the OLC guidance. (Spoiler: Their priority was to get their evidence to Congress, intact and as quickly as possible, in hopes of fueling an impeachment drive, or at least damaging Trump politically.) We also analyze how attorney general Bill Barr deftly dealt with the Mueller staff’s gamesmanship.
As we observed at the end of Part One, Mueller’s report makes the whopper of the claim that prosecutors construed to OLC guidance to forbid them to make a charging decision on obstruction because they were trying to protect President Trump.
Well, Justice Department protocols prohibit prosecutors from prejudicing suspects by publicizing the evidence against them unless and until they are formally charged. The idea is that the government must refrain from speaking until it files an indictment. For at that point, the person becomes an “accused” under the Constitution, vested with all the due process guarantees our law provides: assistance of counsel, confrontation of witnesses, subpoena power — the full array of rights to challenge the government’s indictment.
10. Kevin Williamson, author of The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, appeared on Morning Joe to promote his new tome, and the Twitter reaction, well, sorta proved the book’s point. Our colleague followed the reaction. Here’s a slice:
Naturally, Twitter went ape after my appearance, which is the nature of Twitter, a place where people go to behave like chimps. (I do not exempt myself from that; social media never brought out the best in me, either, and my decision to stop using it is right up there with going to bed at 9:30 p.m. on the very short list of good choices I have made about my daily routine.) The usual banality and dishonesty were intensified this time around with the help of NARAL, which sent out a tweet claiming that I’d gone on Morning Joe and said some outrageous things about abortion and capital punishment, two subjects which did not in fact come up at all. (Here is the video. For those of you interested in my views on those subjects, here is an account of them I wrote for the Washington Post.) NARAL is of course not known for its honesty — it is a shill for the abortion industry that cannot even bear to keep the word “abortion” in its name — and neither are the rage-monkeys on Twitter.
NARAL’s lie had, as of this writing, been retweeted and liked about 5,000 times. Theater critic Adam Feldman of Time Out New York, whom I do not know and who probably does not share my politics, took the time to point out to NARAL that this lie is a lie. That was retweeted three times and liked nine times — and, of course, ignored by NARAL, which has declined to retract its libel or correct itself.
The ensuing performance-art/group-therapy Caffeine-Free Diet Maoist outrage circus has practically been lifted from the pages of my book. The lies are there, as is the stupidity: There have been calls to boycott CNN over my appearance (Morning Joe is on MSNBC) and sensitive middle-aged men have raged that they will burn their Dawson’s Creek DVDs in protest. (I use my middle initial in my byline partly as a courtesy to Kevin Meade Williamson, the gifted screenwriter behind Dawson’s Creek and much else, who must surely wish that I were named Bob. Occasionally, someone sends me a script or a treatment meant for him, and I always encourage those would-be Hollywood moguls to visit me at my office in Los Angeles as soon as possible to discuss the project. I don’t think the Scottish socialist and poetry publisher Kevin Williamson gets quite as much collateral damage.) Two reporters for Yahoo! — and it is difficult to believe that this story took two reporters — wrote the obligatory piece of lazy journalism, headlined: “Conservative commentator Kevin Williamson is in the hot seat again after an appearance on Morning Joe.” Which is to say: Two working journalists published a news article about a bunch of anonymous nobodies on Twitter sent into an emotional meltdown by an event that — in case you’ve missed this part—did not happen. The fact that there were two names on that byline — Gisselle Bances and Arjuna Ramgopal — means that Paul Krugman finally has some competition for the title of laziest man in journalism.
11. Keeping with the theme, Heather Wilhelm finds the Twitter mobbing of Mario Lopez — who dared to find trouble with little kids declaring themselves to be transgender — to be a smear, the kind that is, for her, ruining journalism. From her article:
Anyway, remember Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals? Remember that book’s detailed instructions on how to fight dirty when it comes to political warfare, including the maxim that one should “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”? That’s what a writer at Yahoo and the good folks at Twitter did to Lopez this week. It should alarm us all.
“Mario Lopez: It’s ‘dangerous’ for parents to support transgender kids,” blared an insistent headline Wednesday on Yahoo News. Not long after, a Twitter Moments headline popped up — what a coincidence! — declaring that “Mario Lopez’s comments from June on the #BelieveWomen movement and embracing gender expression in young children are receiving backlash.” Oh, wow! An online “backlash”! How very unusual! How exceedingly rare! The supposed evidence for this sweeping Twitter Moments statement, of course, was a link to the article at Yahoo News.
Here is a useful tip for navigating our bonkers new media culture, which is unfortunately dominated by a sizable group of over-educated knuckleheads who spend almost every waking hour on Twitter and wouldn’t know reality if it walked up in a clown suit and personally invited them to a Maoist struggle session: If you read on the Internet that something or someone is receiving a “backlash,” there is a sizable chance that the “backlash” in question actually consists of three or four tweets from random anonymous accounts. These accounts may or may not be run by middle-schoolers, the Russians, or the criminally insane, and they also usually have about 16 followers each.
12. Conrad Black has a theory on how the Russia Investigation will boomerang and play out. I like how this guy thinks. From his column:
What must be the ultimate step out on the limb is the media campaign to obscure to the public the fact that impeachment requires likely conclusive evidence of serious crimes, and to create the misconception that it is like a non-confidence vote in the parliaments of Britain, Canada, or Israel. It isn’t really a criminal matter at all; it’s just acute distaste, and severely unseemly behavior and utterances. This is why there is this febrile overreaction to Trump’s clever ploy of painting four new extremist congresswomen as the true face of the Democrats, and over his powerful reply to histrionic abuse of the acting Homeland Security director by the decayed 13-term relic of corrupt Democratic bossism, Baltimore [ward-heeling] congressman Elijah Cummings. The media echo chamber is shrieking “racist” from the Washington rooftops, but Trump has never been tainted with the least hint of racism. The facts are that the four congresswomen are socialists, dislike Israel, trivialize the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and compare adequate if crowded facilities for those who have crossed the southern border illegally with Nazi death camps. Trump is commendably liberating the American political vocabulary from the extreme constraints of political correctness.
All radical political movements in sophisticated countries become more and more extreme until the sensible people force a deescalation: Thermidor in the French Revolution (1794), the New Economic Policy in Russia (1921), and, in the more genteel and bloodless convulsions of Washington, the censure of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in 1954. I predict that the Democrats will not be able to sustain any public interest in this farce during the congressional summer recess, that the Senate Judiciary Committee will start lifting the rocks on Democratic skullduggery in the early fall, and that the first indictments from the special counsel investigating the spurious investigators of Trump will come in late autumn. The usual pattern will be followed: Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, already before the grand jury, will implicate Comey, who will implicate former attorney general Lynch, who will lay it on Obama. I doubt that Obama will be prosecuted, but his Mr. Clean image will not survive. And what now appears to be the only hope that Senators Sanders, Harris, and Warren have of stopping Joe Biden rests, with rich irony, on whether the new special counsel, John Durham, finds any complicity of the former vice president in this debacle. When the indictments come, it will develop unstoppable momentum and acquire a name like Comeygate. The trend has been constant from the beginning to the present: a protracted failure of the Democrats to stop the Trump phenomenon despite the employment of extraordinary dirty tricks to do it.
13. Meanwhile, Matthew Continetti finds the impeachment penchant will not go away for Capitol Hill Democrats. From his column:
But President Trump and Republicans would be wrong to assume that the Democrats’ drive to impeachment has ended. The will to overturn the 2016 election never depended on Mueller. He was merely the most likely instrument of Trump’s undoing. Democrats have called for impeachment since Trump’s inaugural. What they have lacked is the means. Maxine Waters raised the idea in February 2017, months before Trump fired James Comey and set in motion the train of events culminating in Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. Tom Steyer launched Need to Impeach in October 2017, a year and a half before Mueller filed his report. Last January, on the first evening of the House Democratic majority, Rashida Tlaib declared her intention to “impeach this m—f—r.”
The impeachment resolution the House voted on last week had nothing to do with Mueller or his report. It found Trump guilty “of high misdemeanors” and “unfit to be president” because of his “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.” The measure didn’t even pretend to have a relationship with actual criminal or civil law. It received 95 votes nonetheless, all Democrats, including the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The same man who, after Mueller’s belly flop, argued before the Democratic Caucus that he has enough material to begin impeachment right now. Mueller’s testimony might not increase the number of House Democrats for impeachment from less than half (40 percent) to a majority. But it’s not as if that percentage is about to decrease, either.
Democrats overwhelmingly support impeachment. Forty percent of adults in the most recent Economist/YouGov survey say Congress should try to impeach President Trump. That number rises to 70 percent among Democrats. It is no wonder why. Trump is a one-man rebuke of progressivism, of political correctness, of a humanitarianism that does not recognize citizenship or national borders. Since 2016 an entire media-political infrastructure has been built to push the messages that Trump’s election was illegitimate, Trump’s actions in and out of office are criminal, and Trump ought to be excised from the government as quickly as possible. Even if Mueller and his report fade from view — and there is no guarantee they will — the president’s adversaries will continue to search for the annihilating angel who will deliver them from Donald Trump.
14. David French finds Senator Josh Hawley’s aggressive efforts to have government (the same folks who run the DMV!) oversee major social media platforms to be a threat to free speech. From his analysis:
I fully agree that social-media platforms should reform their speech policies. I also agree that too many Americans spend too much time on their phones. But there is a dramatic difference between declaring that something is a problem and believing that government should act to solve that problem. In fact, the very determination that government should act — rather than relying on a free citizenry to exercise its liberty responsibly — can be harmful to a nation and to a culture.
The SMART Act is a remarkable attempt at micromanaging the design of popular online products. It would ban, for example, “infinite scroll” (the feature that allows you to thumb rapidly through a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed), the “autoplay” of a new video after the user finishes the one he initially selected (on sites like YouTube, but not on the ultimate autoplay device in American homes, your television), and certain gaming features on social-media apps, such as Snapchat’s “streaks” (which record how many consecutive days you’ve communicated with friends).
Welcome to the Republican Daddy state. It responds to a social challenge with a blunt instrument that hurts responsible users of popular applications — which is to say, the overwhelming majority of all users — while not providing any concrete evidence that it will cure the extraordinarily complicated underlying problem it’s attempting to address: the rise of anxiety, depression, and polarization that correlates with the rise of social media and the smartphone but is caused by a multiplicity of factors.
I’m getting a strange sense of déjà vu. Remember the height of the Clinton administration, when the V-chip was going to help American parents shield their children from the depravity of television? In the years after we saw unconstitutional bans on the sale of violent video games to minors.
15. John Hirschauer commends the honesty of Candance Bushnell, in her post-fertile years now bemoaning her decision to go kidless. But he has little sympathy. Maybe even no sympathy. Who’s . . . kidding . . . who? Anyway . . . from his reflection:
It’s easy to be reductive and say that all feminists are anti-family. I’m not sure that’s fair. But there’s no question that some of feminism’s most iconic thinkers were virulently opposed to homemaking, marriage, and the nuclear family itself. Take Betty Friedan, who in her now-canonical tome The Feminine Mystique insisted that “women who ‘adjust’ as housewives, who grow up wanting to be ‘just a housewife,’ are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps . . . . they are suffering a slow death of mind and spirit.”
Feminist author and practicing witch Robin Morgan said much the same, declaring that feminists “can’t destroy the inequities between men and women until we destroy marriage.” And Linda Gordon, in an (often misquoted) article in the journal Women, cautions against destroying the family outright but longs for the day that “families will be finally destroyed” as “a revolutionary social and economic organization permits people’s needs for love and security to be met in ways that do not impose divisions of labor, or any external roles, at all.”
These are but three frequently cited examples in an intellectual tradition replete with anti-familial and anti-maternity sentiments. But it isn’t merely archival feminist literature that denigrates children and motherhood. It is the dominant cultural narrative: Go to college, work in HR, sleep around, don’t get married, participate in the Women’s March, and enjoy your childless twilight years as Chelsea Handler prescribes: “binge-watch[ing] ten hours of Storage Wars.”
But as Candace Bushnell has apparently discovered, life can be lonely when you’ve made a god of yourself.
16. John and intern Declan Leary tag team to exorcise America Magazine — the house organ for US Jesuits — for its smug/woke decision to publish a “Catholic” defense of Marxism. That’s the same thing we used to call “Godless Communism.” From the beginning of their takedown:
No sensible person has, of this writing, ever alleged that Dorothy Day was insufficiently amenable to Communism. So, that the Jesuit magazine America published a piece titled “The Catholic Case for Communism” — which asserts that Day, despite her relative sympathy for the movement, ends up unfairly dismissing the compatibility of a fully-realized Communism with a Catholic social order — suggests something unfortunate about its editors.
Day’s conclusion is antiquated, in the eyes of author Dean Dettloff. “A whole Cold War has passed since her reflection,” he writes, “and a few clarifying notes are now worthwhile.” It is either a baffling display of historical illiteracy or a dazzling display of commie bravado that Dettloff presumes that the Cold War will aid him in facilitating a positive understanding of his preferred philosophy.
Apparently oblivious to the brutal realities that forced the Cold War in the first place, he praises Day for “affirming the goodness that drives so many communists then and now.” In this, she “aimed to soften the perceptions of Catholics who were more comfortable with villainous caricatures of the communists of their era than with more challenging depictions of them as laborers for peace and economic justice.” Does he honestly believe that in 1933 — 1933, when Comrade Stalin was deliberately starving millions of Ukrainians in pursuit of peace and economic justice — Westerners were unduly harsh in their “caricatures of the communists of their era”? What exactly were they supposed to think of the Holodomor?
Dettloff almost cedes this point, admitting that “communism in its socio-political expression has at times caused great human and ecological suffering.” But that Dettloff, without a hint of irony or self-awareness, invokes the “suffering” of the environment in the same breath as the 100 million human deaths that Communism cost in the past century gives the lie to his pretensions at high-minded contrition for the sins of his comrades.
1. At Acton Institute’s Powerblog, Ben Johnson goes after America Magazine’s publishing of “The Catholic Case for Communism.” From his analysis:
While author Dean Dettloff claims to own Marxism’s “real and tragic mistakes,” he downplays these to the point of farce. He admits, without elaboration, that “Communism in its socio-political expression has at times caused great human and ecological suffering.” That seems a rather anodyne way to describe decades of imperialism, censorship, and torture; the Gulag archipelago, reeducation camps designed to eradicate the victim’s entire personality, and the systematic industrial slaughter of 100 million people (and still counting in North Korea, China, and Cuba).
In this America essay, the plight of Communism’s victims is reduced to the level of “ecological suffering.”
Similarly, Dettloff obfuscates about Communism’s hatred of religion in general and Christianity in particular. He will allow only that Marxist-Leninists “were committed Enlightenment thinkers, atheists who sometimes assumed religion would fade away in the bright light of scientific reason, and at other times advocated propagandizing against it.”
Had Communists restricted themselves to propaganda, they would have failed before taking power rather than 70 years afterward. The Bolsheviks murdered 2,691 Russian Orthodox priests, 1,962 monks, and 3,447 nuns in 1922 alone. Dettloff obliquely admits Communists persecuted religious people “at different moments in history” – apparently the Marxist equivalent of “some people did something.” In reality, Communist persecution of the Church was near-universal. The same cycle unwound in Spain, Hungary, Albania, North Korea, and Xi Jinping’s China. Its boot has fallen on the necks of such luminaries as Cardinal Mindszenty, Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, and an obscure Polish priest named Karol Wojtyla.
2. More Boris: Gatestone Institute’s Con Coughlin declares that Boris Johnson’s PMship will revive Britain’s global standing. From his piece:
The appointment of Boris Johnson as Britain’s new prime minister offers the serious prospect of a radical improvement in the bilateral ties between Washington and London following the froideur [chill] that came to define the transatlantic relationship under the outgoing prime minister, Theresa May.
While, in public, Mrs May offered loyal pledges of support to Donald Trump, and professed to enjoy a warm personal relationship with the American president, the reality was that the personal chemistry between the two leaders was often awkward, with Mrs May often failing to grasp Mr Trump’s radical approach to global affairs.
The differences between the two are best summed up by Mrs May’s failure to heed Mr Trump’s advice on handling the challenging Brexit negotiations with the European Union. Mr Trump suggested London needed to play hardball with Brussels, even suggesting at one point that the UK should sue the EU as part of its negotiating strategy to demonstrate that it meant business.
This advice was completely contrary to Mrs May’s mindset, as prevarication, obfuscation and a desperate desire to avoid confrontation at all costs were the characteristics that defined her premiership. Consequently, the negotiations resulted in the EU dictating the terms of the settlement. The subsequent withdrawal agreement was deemed so unacceptable that it failed to win the approval of the House of Commons, thereby ending Mrs May’s premiership.
3. Wither the Vatican: George Weigel, in The Catholic World Report, riffs on the Clerical Left’s assault on the John Paul II Institute in Rome, its faculty of doctrine-abiding moral theologians all summarily canned last week in a historic Church purge. From his report:
So these stubborn and, it now seems, ruthless men bided their time. In recent years, they have continued to lose every serious debate on the nature of the moral life, on the morality of conjugal life, on sacramental discipline, and on the ethics of human love; and the more intelligent among them know it, or at least fear that that’s the case. So in a bizarre repetition of the anti-Modernist purge of theological faculties that followed Pius X’s 1907 encyclical Pascendi, they have now abandoned argument and resorted to thuggery and brute force in order to win what they had failed to win by scholarly debate and persuasion.
That unbecoming score-settling is why the senior faculty of the John Paul II Institute was abruptly dismissed last week, and that is why there is absolutely no guarantee that, in the immediate future, the Institute that bears his name will have any resemblance to what John Paul II intended for it. Cardinal Angelo Scola, emeritus archbishop of Milan and a former rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, described what is afoot in Rome these days as “torpedoing” the John Paul II Institute through an academic “purge.” 150 students of the Institute signed a letter saying that the changes underway will destroy the institute’s identity and mission; in the present Roman circumstances, they have about as much chance of being heard as Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky had at the Moscow Purge Trials in 1937-38.
That these Stalinistic acts of intellectual brigandage against the theological and pastoral heritage of Pope St. John Paul II are being carried out by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia – who came to international attention in 2017 for having commissioned a homoerotic fresco in the apse of the cathedral of Terni-Narni-Amelia – is ironic in the extreme. Paglia was simply another ambitious cleric when his work as ecclesiastical advisor to the Sant’Egidio Community drew him to John Paul’s attention. Years of sycophancy followed, during which Paglia would brag about how he had turned the pope around on the subject of murdered Salvador archbishop Oscar Romero by telling John Paul that “Romero was not the Left’s bishop, he was the Church’s bishop.” Paglia’s appointment as Grand Chancellor of the John Paul II Institute – a position for which he had and has no discernible qualifications – was puzzling when it happened two years ago. But now it, too, comes into focus: he is acting precisely like those who manipulated the Synods of 2014, 2015, and 2018, i.e., another cabal of ambitious (and, frankly, not-so-bright) clerics who continually lost arguments and then tried to compensate by brutality and threats.
4. At Intercollegiate Studies Review, Michael J. Pearce considers the matter of conservatives who want to save our culture. From the beginning of his essay:
At the heart of being a conservative there are two agreements—an agreement we make with the people of the past and an agreement we make with the people of the future.
With the people of the past we agree to sustain the efforts they made to create the world we live in today. We make an equally important agreement with the people of the future that we will pass our world and its culture along to them in better shape than we found it.
These agreements are not promises to freeze culture and repeat it. To attempt to do so would be to pervert human nature, which has always been inquisitive and inventive, always seeking out better ways to create those things that sustain us. Conservatives are not afraid of new ideas, but they are careful that the introduction of them is done mindfully, with consideration of the impact these things may have on the cherished features of our culture. Will they prove truly beneficial in the future or harm the things that we prize?
It is easy to forget this contract and to pretend that the past doesn’t matter, and some idealists even propose to destroy the old ways and replace them with Utopia. This impulse to “smash it up” is driven by awareness of the failings of our civilization. But the impulse to destroy ignores the strengths of our civilization, and we cannot surgically remove the bad things without facing the impact such an intervention would have on the good things. Sometimes change has unintended consequences.
5. John Daniel Davidson, writing at The Federalist, presses the immigration point that the U.S. needs to force Central American potentates to plug the migrant flow. From his piece:
But if we’re serious about solving the border crisis, safe third country pacts aren’t nearly as important as forcing Central American elites to tackle corruption, organized crime, and drug cartels. Corruption affects almost every area of society in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and helps fuel the violence and poverty that migrants say is driving them to seek protection in the United States. It’s long past time to stop pretending that the leaders of these countries aren’t at least partly culpable for this state of affairs, or that nothing can be done to put pressure on them.
Consider a recent article in The New York Times that chronicles the stupefying levels of corruption in Honduras, where organized crime has infiltrated the highest levels of government.
Reporter Sonia Nazario spent a month in the country earlier this year, and gives a harrowing glimpse into conditions that are driving the crisis on the U.S.’s southwest border. “There are two main ways to get rich illegally in Honduras. One is to take money from drug cartels to help them move Colombian cocaine to the United States,” she writes. “The other way is to steal from the public coffers.”
Honduran officials have been endlessly creative at stealing from public coffers. As Nazario explains, this often takes the form of nonprofits that get no-bid government contracts and do the work at inflated prices or don’t do anything and still get paid. Two nonprofits linked to the family of President Juan Orlando Hernández pocketed $87 million in such contracts between 2014 and 2017.
6. At The American Conservative, Graham Daseler tries to untangle the rat’s nest of free speech and social media, where censoring giants and opinionated bots stride. From his essay:
The trouble with the internet-as-public-square analogy invoked by Justice Anthony Kennedy is that in an actual town square the identities of the citizenry are visible for all to see. Among the many things that a public square provides is a forum for the display of personal character. (It’s no coincidence that, for centuries, the public square was the location of choice for feting heroes, pillorying reprobates, and executing criminals.) Not so on the internet. Even the sites (Facebook, Instagram, Tinder) that do attempt to impose some accountability on their users are highly depersonalizing, largely because they deprive them of the social cues—a frown, a smile, a sigh—that help them read their interlocutors’ intentions. This is one reason it’s so difficult to tell the difference between irony and bigotry on the web. The confusion is so pervasive that a term has been coined to describe it, “Poe’s Law,” which states that it’s impossible to parody an extreme opinion online in such a way that someone won’t mistake it for the genuine article. And yet there are times when the anonymity of the internet is a godsend. Political dissidents, corporate whistleblowers, and sexual minorities around the world all depend on social media to get their stories out, while keeping their names and faces hidden. Consider the consequences if we were to force gay men in Nigeria, atheists in Pakistan, or critics of Mohammad bin Salman in Saudi Arabia to walk openly through their digital town squares.
These are issues that the news industry has been grappling with for the better part of two decades. Journalism and social media have commingled so much lately that many people have begun asking whether the social media giants need to be reclassified as publishers rather than platforms. It’s an appealing idea. For years, the sites have been having it both ways, helping themselves to all the benefits of the publishing world—social influence, editorial control, and enormous ad revenue—while enjoying the legal protections that shield platforms from prosecution. Their defense, that they’re mere conduits for conversation, like the phone company, is absurd, and not only because they employ so many censors. Just as important, their algorithms give them a level of editorial control that newspaper magnates of old could only have dreamed of. That’s what makes them so appealing to advertisers: they can personalize the information flow to each and every user. Facebook even ran an experiment in 2012 in which, to field-test the effectiveness of their business model, they successfully manipulated the emotions of nearly 700,000 users by secretly feeding one group positive news and the other negative news. It was, in a way, a fascinating psychological study, proving that, in the words of the study’s authors, “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion”—not exactly the type of thing you’d associate with a neutral platform.
BONUS: Mahoney Time! We can never get enough of Professor Daniel J. Mahoney, who joins podcast The Patrick Coffin Show to discuss how humanism has subverted Christianity. Listen here.
A few men have had the distinction of taking the field for four different Major League teams in the same season. Among the distinct there is another distinction: a pitcher who lost at least one game for each member of the quartet. That honor, if you will, belongs to Willis Hudlin, who performed the feat in 1940. Hudlin, known as “Ace,” was a righthander known for being the mainstay of the Cleveland Indians from the mid 1920s until the late 30s, when the baton was passed on to a teenager named Bob Feller.
Hudlin and his worn-out arm started the 1940 season in Cleveland. There, he won his first two games before getting knocked around at Fenway Park on May 6, earning his first loss. It would not be his last. After another terrible (decisionless) start against the Browns, the Indians released him. With days Hudlin signed as a free agent with the Washington Senators, and won his first victory for the them on May 26 — an extra-inning complete game against the Philadelphia As (Johnny Melaj’s inside-the-park walk-off homer settled the contest). It would be the last of his 158 career victories: In his next start, on June 1 against the Detroit Tigers, Hudlin gave up five runs in two innings, and added another loss, for a second team that year. Released soon thereafter, he was signed by the New York Giants as a free agent. In his sole National League appearance, a July 21 start against the looming World Series champion Cincinnati Reds, Hudlin gave up six runs in five innings, and took his loss with him to the Crosley Field showers. He was released later that week.
His fourth and final team for the season was the Saint Louis Browns, who acquired Hudlin in early August. In his only start for the hapless squad, pitching August 11 against his old Indian teammates, Hudlin couldn’t make it out of the second inning. He gave up five runs in what turned out to be a 12–4 shellacking. And his fourth loss for his fourth team.
Hudlin left baseball until 1944, when the same Browns — on the way to their only St. Louis pennant — brought him back. It turned out to be for one game: An at-home relief appearance against the Tigers on August 11, in the midst of a red-hot pennant race (the Tigers trailed the fist-place Browns by three games). Taking the mound in the top of the eighth, Hudlin blew a 3–2 lead. It was his last game, and the 154th and final loss of what was, all in all, a decent baseball career, which, like many, ended with a whimper instead of a bang.
I wish the best to you and yours this first weekend in August, as we approach the end of the dog days, which still retain their bark and bite. Looking ahead, looking into the soul, my copy of Kathryn Jean Lopez’s new book, A Year with the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living, arrived this week. It’s a beautiful tome. Consider ordering yourself a copy.
God Bless One and All,
Jack Fowler, whose advice and opinions can be ignored, and who can be told so, at firstname.lastname@example.org.