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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

Dear Joltarians,

More on Elmer Valo and others below, in Baseballery, which, despite having nothing to do with conservatism and having started as a lark, has acquired fans who demand weekly entertainment and (gulp!) vow bodily harm if disappointed.

Speaking of fans, if you are a fan of NR, especially if you are like the kind who watches the game freebie style, I've got ask you, maybe just this once, to buy a seat. It can be in the bleachers if your means are slim, good seats if the means are corpulent, or maybe a luxury box if you are in the mood to splurge bigly. The "game," if you will, is watching NR take on socialism, which is the theme of the magazine's new special issue (much more on that below). The tickets, to seventh-inning stretch this analogy, are the Spring 2019 Webathon, during which NR is ...

May 18 2019

VISIT NATIONALREVIEW.COM

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

Dear Joltarians,

More on Elmer Valo and others below, in Baseballery, which, despite having nothing to do with conservatism and having started as a lark, has acquired fans who demand weekly entertainment and (gulp!) vow bodily harm if disappointed.

Speaking of fans, if you are a fan of NR, especially if you are like the kind who watches the game freebie style, I've got ask you, maybe just this once, to buy a seat. It can be in the bleachers if your means are slim, good seats if the means are corpulent, or maybe a luxury box if you are in the mood to splurge bigly. The "game," if you will, is watching NR take on socialism, which is the theme of the magazine's new special issue (much more on that below). The tickets, to seventh-inning stretch this analogy, are the Spring 2019 Webathon, during which NR is trying to raise $175,000. We're 40 percent of the way toward our goal. That's good, but that means there is still a long, long way to go.

The way this webathon is playing out, it looks like we're playing small ball, which is fine. So maybe you can help by working out that $25 walk, laying down that $50 sacrifice, slapping that $100 single. But do surprise us if you can with a home run, or load the bases and smash that grand slam. (Now we have you playing instead of being spectators!) It will help us win, and when we win, you win, because . . . socialism loses.

Morning Jolt (the daddy of this Weekend edition) author Jim Geraghty cast our webathon as a plea to help NR fight the "socialist zombie resurgence," and while that doesn't fit into a baseball analogy, the fact is, there is a resurgence, and another fact is, NR is the best means of beating it back. Another fact: We can only do that with your selfless help.

We're the home team. Root for us. Heck, as the song goes, root root root for us. Donate to the Spring 2019 Webathon, today. Please. And thank you. And now, let's play ball!

Editorials

1. The markets and policy wonks are roiling about the Xi–Trump / China–U.S. trade standoff. A trade war is not in America's interests, and a return to the table is. From the editorial:

Trump responded to the setback in talks by raising tariffs, and China reciprocated. The escalation of the trade war poses increasing risk to our economy, as stocks have been signaling. The best course for the U.S. now would be to reach a swift resolution in the current talks — getting back to the deal that seemed to be on the table before China miscalculated — and then switch to a strategy for changing Chinese behavior that does not depend so thoroughly on possibly backfiring tariffs.

The president has already hinted at what such a strategy would look like when urging companies to move their supply chains from China to other countries such as Vietnam. That suggestion was doubtless glib, overlooking the costs of re-siting and the distinctive advantages that can accompany investment in China. The intuition that trade with other countries in the region can be useful in exerting pressure on China is, however, correct. It is the same thought that underlaid the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The president took the U.S. out of it, in part because he did not focus on its utility in reshaping the economic environment in favor of our economic model rather than China's. But the other countries involved are moving ahead with the idea, and we should find a face-saving way to revive our participation. Trump has reportedly been open to this suggestion.

2. The spate of abortion restrictions emerging from state legislatures has spurred a discussion of pro-life tactics and strategy. We counsel against counterproductive efforts. From the editorial:

Today's Supreme Court should acknowledge that it failed to settle the national debate on abortion. It should restore the right of the American people to enact laws protecting the lives of human beings who haven't been born. It should finally act on the conclusion of Justice Scalia's Casey dissent: "We should get out of this area, where we have no right to be, and where we do neither ourselves nor the country any good by remaining."

All Americans who support the Constitution and the rule of law should favor dismantling an unjust and unconstitutional legal regime that imposes a policy of abortion-on-demand in all 50 states. The ultimate goal of all pro-life Americans goes beyond overturning Roe and Casey and merely returning the question to the states, of course: We work toward a society in which every child is protected by law and welcomed in life.

Lawmakers in both Georgia and Alabama were acting upon this sound principle, but because lives are at stake, sound principles and pure motives aren't all that matter. Pro-life Americans should think long and hard about whether their righteous impatience is leading them to make imprudent mistakes that will ultimately set back the cause of protecting life.

3. The president’s executive order drops the hammer on Red China over tech security. We say kudos. From the editorial:

The Trump administration took two major actions this week against Chinese telecom companies. First, the president signed an executive order declaring a national emergency over threats to American information technology and giving himself the power to block transactions with telecom companies that are "subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign adversary" — a phrase left undefined but which has been widely interpreted to target Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. Then, the Commerce Department added Huawei to its "entity list," barring it from buying American technology without the approval of the U.S. government. These are bold, and justified, assertions of executive power.

Huawei and its Chinese counterpart ZTE have a large and growing worldwide presence manufacturing both consumer technology — phones, laptops — and networking equipment. Huawei is the world's leading manufacturer of base-station equipment for 5G networks. Everything from driverless cars to consumer technology to critical infrastructure will soon depend on such technology, making telecom networks something of a strategic asset.

 "Against Socialism," the Second of Twin Special Issues, Is Out, and Here Are Four Examples of the Brilliance It Contains

There's not a bad piece in the lot of articles comprising the new issue of National Review, the tremendous encore to our May 20 magazine dedicated to defending markets. I encourage you to try on for size one or all of these four recommendations.

1. In "Preserved in Their Poverty," Theodore Dalrymple explains how socialism destroys the human character. From the beginning of his piece:

True socialists do not want a better world, they want a perfect one. That is why they so often view piecemeal amelioration with disdain or even hostility, and why they are willing to sacrifice the happiness of a present generation for the imagined bliss of a generation to come in the distant future. To adapt the Fool's words in Twelfth Night very slightly: Present mirth hath no laughter. What's to come is very sure. In delay there lies plenty . . .

If you tell a socialist that hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in the last few decades by means the very opposite of those of socialism, he will immediately retort that many millions have also not been lifted out of poverty, as if there had ever been, or could ever be, a time in which all people benefited equally from improving economic conditions, or as if poverty were the phenomenon that needed explanation rather than wealth. Until everyone is lifted from poverty, no one should be. Oscar Wilde, in "The Soul of Man under Socialism" (1891), wrote that "it is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property." The only real solution to the problem of poverty, according to him, was the abolition of property itself; and until it was abolished, the person who used his money in this way was the very worst and most dangerous kind of exploiter, for he disguised the fact of exploitation from the exploited by rendering the exploitation bearable.

2. In one of the issue's big essays, Avik Roy focuses on how socialized medicine is . . . unhealthy. Britain's National Health Service (NHS) tells all. From his analysis:

But the NHS is no paradise. Open a random edition of a British daily newspaper and you will likely encounter an article about some egregious problem that the NHS has failed to solve. For example: NHS doctors routinely conceal from patients information about innovative new therapies that the NHS doesn't pay for, so as not to "distress, upset or confuse" them; terminally ill patients are incorrectly classified as "close to death" so as to allow the withdrawal of expensive life support; NHS expert guidelines on the management of high cholesterol were intentionally not revised after be coming out of date, putting patients at serious risk in order to save money; when the government approved an innovative new treatment for blindness in elderly patients, the NHS initially decided to reimburse for the treatment only after patients were already blind in one eye—using the logic that a person blind in one eye can still see, and is therefore not that badly off; while most NHS patients expect to wait five months for a hip operation or knee surgery, leaving them immobile and disabled in the meantime, the actual waiting times are even worse: eleven months for hips and twelve months for knees (compared with a wait of three to four weeks for such procedures in the United States); one in four Britons with cancer is denied treatment with the latest drugs proven to extend life; those who seek to pay for such drugs on their own are expelled from the NHS system for making the government look bad, and are forced to pay for the entirety of their own care for the rest of their lives; and Britons diagnosed with cancer or heart attacks are more likely to die, and more quickly, than citizens of most other developed nations—Britain's survival rates for these diseases are, according to an OECD survey, "little better than [those] of former Communist countries."

3. Kevin Williamson's article, "The Ignorance that Kills," nails central planners for never knowing enough and usually causing mayhem courtesy of their ignorance. From his piece:

The socialists of Hayek's and Mises's time believed that a properly empowered bureaucracy overseen by a committee of disinterested experts could comprehend the entirety of an economy—within an industry, within a country, or around the whole globe—given sufficient resources and scope of action. This was rooted in what was contemporary scientific thinking. In 1814, around the same time that Charles Fourier was writing his utopian socialist blueprint The Social Destiny of Man, Pierre-Simon Laplace published A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities, in which he posited what came to be known as "Laplace's Demon," which he described as "an intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed." In Laplace's thought experiment, "if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes." This is the idea of scientific determinism, which holds that if one could know the exact location and momentum of every atom in the universe (Werner Heisenberg had uncertainty), then the future of the universe and everything in it could, in theory, be calculated according to the laws of physics.

The socialists themselves were quite taken with the idea, hence the strange history of "Soviet cybernetics," by means of which the central planners in Moscow imagined that they might develop a computer system so powerful that it could consider every variable in society at once and spit out scientific maxims about how many acres of potatoes to plant, and when and where to plant them. The prestige of science in the middle of the 20th century was enormous, and such dramatic scientific advances were being made so regularly—in the Soviet Union as elsewhere—that this did not seem entirely implausible.

4. Last but not least, John O'Sullivan pens a terrific essay, "Of Socialism and Human Nature," discussing why the ideology fails, and succeeds. Here's a slice:

Much the same is true of apparently high-minded defenses of socialism, often coming from Christian leaders, as a system that is morally superior to materialistic and selfish capitalism. In reality, the scarcity of everyday goods in a socialist economy makes people even more materialistic than they are in the logo-obsessed West. Corruption flourishes to meet de mands that socialism denies. In the later stages of Soviet Communism, a woman would sell herself for a pair of jeans; in Venezuela today, people exchange family heirlooms for a little food. But there are always hard-currency stores for socialist elites—and more than that for Politburo members. When I asked a Mont Pelerin guest in 1974 about his day job, he replied that I must understand why he could give me only the sketchiest account: "I manage the private hard-currency accounts of Soviet leaders in the West."

Such contradictions and hypocrisies are hidden only from those who don't wish to know about them. When their existence becomes undeniable, most comfortably off foreign admirers of socialist regimes condemn them only formally and then carry on as before. Their admiration for leftist despotisms is really a roundabout neurotic rejection of their own societies and as such not to be taken seriously. It's the political equivalent of a society hostess's dressing like a dominatrix: It's intended to show contempt for dull middle-class virtues. Hard-core progressives are a different matter. They are serious revolutionaries and either invent contorted justifications for socialist scandals—virtues are transformed by theory into vices and vices into virtues—or simply deny the plain evidence of their own senses: As each socialist paradise is shown to be a kleptocratic hellhole, the caravan of Sandalistas simply moves on to the next one without apology.

Do I Hear Nine . . . Nine . . . And Do I hear Ten . . . Yes, Ten, Thank You and . . . Twelve! Yes, a Dozen NR Pieces, Sold to the Reader in Front of the Computer Screen!

1. Madeleine Kearns' interview of sexologist Ray Blanchard about transgender orthodoxy, the cost of calling a mental illness a disorder, and much more, is a must. From the interview:

Kearns: As a lay person on this, it seems to me that the sort of vast range of treatments have now been channeled into a narrative of "affirmation" versus "conversion." How do we make sense of this?

Blanchard: Well I think the use or the application of the words "conversion therapy" to the situation where you are just trying to see if the child can be made to accept his or her biological sex was a deliberate cynical strategy on the part of trans activists to piggyback on the success of the gay-rights movement and say, "What you're trying to do with children, in getting them to accept their anatomical sex, is the same as what we used to do with gay people and lesbians." It's a deliberate attempt to try and piggyback issues that pertained to transsexualism to issues that had pertained to homosexuality, and I think the comparison is specious. It's a deliberate attempt to confuse the two issues.

Kearns: Yes, it's been very successful in the mainstream media and so on and so forth.

Blanchard: That's for sure.

Kearns: Why do you think that is?

Blanchard: That's a good question. Educated people in general have a sympathy for the downtrodden or the unfortunate that's built into liberal-arts education in the Western world — and I think that's a good thing. I think it's a good thing that people should get some kind of built-in bias towards the underdog and towards the suffering. But I think in this case, that tendency and that bias on the part of liberal media has been misused by trans activists to influence treatment of cases of those who would actually do better in the long term if they could simply accept their anatomic sex, and here I'm talking about the young kids, 60 to 80 percent of whom are going to normalize in gender identity even without any clinical intervention.

2. The state abortion battles have raised, as they always do, an outcry over Roe's possible overturning. Kevin Williamson explains what that will mean. From his piece:

If you doubt that, try this: Rather than starting with the conclusion that the right to abortion must be protected and then searching the Constitution for support, try doing the opposite: Read the document itself with a little bit of intellectual honesty and see whether the right to abortion is sitting there so plainly that the laws made by the nation's lawmakers on behalf of the people who elected them should be nullified. There are many abortion-rights supporters who have concluded that as a strictly legal matter, Roe is somewhere between mistaken and preposterous. Almost no one honestly believes that the case was decided on the constitutional merits — and very few abortion-rights advocates honestly expect it to be endlessly affirmed on its constitutional merits, either. This fact is often implicit in their writing, and in their sputtering vitriol.

But the question of what is legal is separate from the question of what should be legal. It is very strange (if you are unused to enduring such great concentrations of stupidity) when a figure such as Representative Brian Sims angrily defends abortion on the grounds that it is legal. Of course abortion is legal. Abortion opponents intend to change the law. It was legal in the United States to own slaves, once. It was legal in Germany to work toward the complete extermination of Jews as a people. The abortions that are performed in the United States are, mostly, legal abortions. That is what abortion opponents propose to put an end to.

3. More on the abortion wars: David French says kudos to Georgia and Alabama for threatening Roe. From his piece:

Both Alabama's abortion ban and Georgia's heartbeat law contain a key provision — they declare the personhood of the unborn child. This is a vital measure that is aimed directly at a key portion of the Roe v. Wade opinion. Late last week, I had a lengthy phone conversation with state representative Ed Setzler, sponsor of Georgia's legislation. He said his bill wasn't "waving its fist at Roe; it's answering Roe."

Specifically, he pointed at a provision in Part IX of Justice Blackmun's opinion, where Blackmun states that if the "personhood" of the baby is established, then the pro-abortion case "collapses." The late Supreme Court justice was of course discussing the definition of personhood under the federal constitution. Setzler, however, notes that Supreme Court doctrine has long allowed states to expand constitutional liberties. They can establish standards of religious freedom, free speech, or due process, for example, that go beyond the First and Fifth Amendments. They cannot be more restrictive than the federal Constitution.

4. Even more: Mona Charen clears her throat to give attention to the fact that yeah, there are plenty of pro-life women, that they are ignored by Democrats, and that a Roe reckoning is coming. From her column:

Since the vote making abortion illegal in Alabama, Republican members of the Alabama senate have been targets of accusations — mostly that they are male and white. A number of outlets pointed to the fact that all 25 votes in favor of legislation were white, male Republicans. Okay. But the Alabama house has lots of Republican women. The bill's sponsor in the lower chamber was a woman, as was the governor who signed the bill.

Those who fixate on the "problem" of whiteness may think this is some sort of knock-out blow, but the truth is that these senators are accurately representing the views of their constituents, including women. A 2018 PRRI survey found that 60 percent of Republican women agreed with the statement "Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned." This compared with only 47 percent of Republican men. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake notes that women tend to be more religious than men, and this aligns with more conservative views on abortion.

5. At our expense, says Victor Davis Hanson, China has built up an emerging and insidious economic, military, and technological superiority. From his piece:

In military terms, China's naval strategy is somewhat reminiscent of the ideas of Nazi admiral Karl Dönitz, the sometime genius of Hitler's U-boat fleet, who argued with varying degrees of success that it was idiotic to repeat imperial Germany's former failed and bankrupting efforts to match the battleships of the superior British navy ton for ton, when German submarines more cheaply and effectively could tie up the Royal Navy's assets and deny its ships easy transit in the Atlantic.

The threat of China is not that it will in the near future match America's eleven carrier battle groups, but that it will, in an effective cost-to-benefit manner, deploy small and more numerous submarines, frigates, and shore-to-ship batteries to create storms of sophisticated anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles that would ensure that key areas of the South China Sea were no-go zones for the fossilized multibillion-dollar flagships of the American navy.

6. Kat Timpf brings her distinct perspective to Alyssa Milano's #SexStrike foolishness. From her article:

Although Milano may not realize it, her attempt at progressive activism was actually the opposite of feminist. Let me be clear: Calling for women to go on a "sex strike" isn't "woke" or cool, it is sexist and harmful. Why? Because it promotes the antiquated narrative that women have sex only as a concession or gift to men, not because they enjoy sex for its own sake. This is not feminist; it's patriarchal.

All too often, we women grow up hearing things that suggest it is somehow wrong or bad for us to want sex. I remember a friend in college telling me that her mom had taught her that "it's the man's job to want it; it's the women's job to say no." These kind of colloquialisms can stick with a woman for a lifetime, making her feel dirty or wrong for wanting to engage in normal, healthy human behavior. We've certainly come a long way in terms of seeing women as being equal to men, but we are unfortunately still in a place where women who enjoy sex a lot are called "sluts," while the same kind of desires and behaviors are not only accepted, but also celebrated, when we're talking about men. It's stupid, it's unfair, and Milano is not helping.

If Milano is really as concerned about women's "bodily autonomy" as she claims to be, then maybe she should start by not telling other women what to do with theirs. I mean, seriously — the irony is so obvious that I can't believe that she still doesn't see it and that she actually continues to defend her awful idea.

7. Although the victim of decades of commuter-train torture, I will nevertheless give a nod to Michael Auslin for paying tribute to the choo-choo on the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. From his piece:

It is hard to overstate the importance of the Transcontinental Railroad in American history, yet it must stand near the top of the achievements that helped define the country as one capable of the greatest of endeavors. It also was in some ways the most important event in bringing American into permanent contact with the Pacific world. Begun in the depths of the Civil War, in 1863, it was driven forward not only by the foresight of President Abraham Lincoln, but the near-messianic fervor of men like Theodore Judah, the main architect of the endeavor. The unprecedented undertaking was completed by three railroad companies in just six years, stretching 1,900 miles from Omaha Nebraska, on the Missouri River, to Oakland, Calif., on the San Francisco Bay. The Transcontinental Railroad did not, therefore, actually stretch across the entire nation, but since the eastern half of the continent had already been linked by a web of rail lines, once Omaha was connected to Chicago, the entire country was spanned by iron rails.

It was by no means assured that the path of the railroads would cover the lands they ultimately did. Many argued for lines farther south or north, and the great bulk of the Rocky Mountains had to be avoided. Meanwhile, the challenge of passing through the Sierra Nevada Mountains was considered by some to be near insurmountable, given the terrible trials of the covered wagon pioneers who had struggled up and down those granite chasms just a few decades before. It is mind-boggling to remember that the entire line was constructed without nearly any mechanical machinery: laborers used dynamite to blast through solid rock, and wielded picks, shovels, axes, and hoes to level the ground, lay the beds and ties, and connect the rails. The conditions faced by the Central Pacific's Chinese laborers (referred to as "Celestials") were especially hazardous, and despite the racism they faced, they also won the admiration and respect of many on the project for their skill, bravery, and ability to withstand the brutal work.

8. Kyle Smith says goodbye to Veep. From his Corner post:

The final season was somewhere in between, really funny but without the frantically increasing pace of the fifth. Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) continued to be the funniest character on the show as he stumbled close to the presidency from a Congressional seat on a platform of hating Muslims, math teachers, and vaccines. The finale comes up with plenty to do for my second-favorite character, the unflappably pleasant and self-effacing staff-nerd-turned-accidental- politician Richard Splett (wife: Annette Splett), who as played by Sam Richardson had a sunny agreeableness that made him hilariously orthogonal to the back-stabbers around him. (Idea for a spin-off sitcom: Splett. I'd watch.)

The bottomless cynicism and self-interest of the political class on the show makes it a sort of seven-year comedy dissertation on public choice theory. Nobody is out to make hope and change. All anybody wants is to secure advantage for himself, destroy the other guy and stomp on his bloody corpse. In service of its LOL-nothing-matters theme, every other minute the writers came up with a mot that would have been the proudest quip of the year coming from the average political columnist. Take this explanation of the meaninglessness of party platforms: "It's just the party platform. It's like a to-do list of things were not gonna do. I mean, 'restore faith in democracy'? We couldn't do that even if we wanted to." The insults were explosively funny: "Right now, you're about as toxic as a urinal cake in Chernobyl," "He's the Pol Pot of pie charts." Of all the shows ending on HBO this spring, the one I'm going to miss is Veep. Also, the only one I watched was Veep.

9. Harvard lawyers / spouses Stephanie Robinson and Ronald Sullivan got the boot as deans because of lefty students protesting their decision to join accused lech Harvey Weinstein's legal team. Jonathan Tobin asks, when did the left stop believing in the right to counsel? From his analysis:

Sullivan clearly expected students to understand that even the most repulsive defendants are entitled to legal representation. But he underestimated two factors.

First, the presumption of innocence has been undermined by the #MeToo movement that took off in the fall of 2017 — a movement catalyzed by the accusations against Weinstein. The increased attention paid to all forms of sexual harassment and assault was long overdue. But #MeToo brought with it the idea that one must simply "believe accusers." Crowd-sourced accusations, such as those on the so-called Sh***y Media Men list, trafficked in unsubstantiated charges of misconduct and threatened to end careers with no due process whatsoever.

10. Wow. The per-family cost of the Trump tariffs is $767, says Michael Tanner, and the burden falls more heavily on the poorer voter. And, it's going to get worse. From his column:

Trump's insistence to the contrary notwithstanding, most of the cost of tariffs is paid by American consumers (through higher prices), not by the countries being sanctioned. For instance, it is estimated that the president's latest round of tariffs on China will cost the American family an average of at least $767.

But that cost does not fall equally on poor and rich alike. To state the obvious, $767 means a lot more to a poor family struggling to pay its bills than it does to a wealthy one. Moreover, tariffs are more likely to fall on goods and services that the poor depend on, daily necessities of which they often lack a reserve supply.

Consider that among the companies that have announced they will be most impacted by the China tariffs are Walmart, Target, and Costco, none of which are known as the store of choice for global elites.

Studies show that the lower your income is, the harder you'll be hit by tariffs. Tariffs imposed by Trump last year have already cost poor families 0.33 percent of after-tax income, as opposed to 0.28 percent for wealthy families, and hurt single parents even more than they hurt families. Trump's latest tariffs will likely be even more regressive. And while each new tariff's impact is relatively small, they cumulatively take a big hit out of poor people's income.

11. Bill de Blasio looks in the mirror and sees the next president. Jonah Goldberg looks at Bill de Blasio and sees . . . Ferris Bueller. From his new column:

The same dynamic isn't at work with de Blasio. He didn't grow up poor, but he didn't grow up rich either. Politically, he is the consummate example of someone born — or in this case elected — on home plate who can't understand why no one in the stands is cheering his home run. When he was poised to win reelection, he was asked by New York magazine why he wasn't more popular. He admitted that he was somewhat mystified. Given the strength of the economy and the low crime rate, "You'd assume they'd be having parades out in the streets" in his honor, he said.

They're not, because he is a Ferris Bueller. In the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ferris (Matthew Broderick) jumps out in front of a parade and acts like he's leading it. De Blasio inherited the successes of Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, two mayors who wrestled the city back from the brink of social and economic collapse.

12. (Warning to Malthusians!) Kevin Williamson makes the case for . . . being born. From his essay:

An interesting fact about our political discourse is that Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich is still a part of it, commanding some attention in spite of his having been spectacularly wrong about every single major claim of his long public career. Erhlich has been delivering homilies on overpopulation since before I was born. Population Bomb, published in 1968, garnered a great deal of attention (and brisk sales!) for its claims that overpopulation made it inevitable that hundreds of millions of people would die of starvation in the 1970s. He was awfully sure of himself, as progressives so often are — "science says!" and all that — writing: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s, hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date, nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate."

What happened, of course, was the opposite. Extreme poverty worldwide has been reduced by more than half in the past few decades; to the extent that famine exists at all in the world today, it exists almost exclusively as a political phenomenon, the product of failed states rather than failed crops.

But the cult of overpopulation takes no notice of the facts. Abortion advocates such as Representative Sims habitually present their case in Malthusian terms: He demanded of the elderly woman he was bullying whether she herself would provide for the material needs of the unwanted children who were being chopped to bits and stuffed into medical-waste containers inside the Planned Parenthood facility. Never mind, for the moment, the fact that there are far more American families looking to adopt children than there are abortions performed or children eligible to be adopted — the imbalance is so great that Americans go all over the world looking for children to adopt — and just consider the implicit argument there on its own merits, which is this: "If we think that there might be some inconvenience involved in seeing to the needs of these children, then it would be better to put them to death."

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. If you prefer your violence amazing and amusing, then Kyle Smith recommends you catch John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. From the review:

At the outset, this sequel promises to be an entire movie of chasing and fighting, an especially sanguinary response to Elmore Leonard's famed storytelling dictum: leave the boring parts out. A team of screenwriters focuses almost exclusively on cool ways one man might murder another — with, say, a volume of Dante or a blade to the eyeball. One superbly staged fight takes place in an aisle full of display cases stocked with sharp instruments, another in a horse stable, another in the stacks of the New York Public Library's main branch. The director, Chad Stahelski, is a former kickboxer. He wasn't hired to faff around with character arcs.

Following a few smashing fight scenes that combine martial arts with an inventive array of props, though, the film settles down in a more conventional and not particularly compelling middle. After a visit with a Russian ballet instructor (Anjelica Huston) who is part of the hidden-in-plain-sight secret society, Wick slips away to Casablanca for some more chatter, with an old frenemy named Sophia (Halle Berry), also part of the network, and a so-so fight with uninteresting thugs who look like extras from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sophia is thrown in for no reason except to check the box marked Bada** Female Character, and the writers give us no cause to take any interest in her because they themselves aren't interested in her.

2. Armond seconds that motion on John Wick. From the beginning of the review:

It's a great pop-culture moment when the title character of John Wick 3: Parabellum (Keanu Reeves) is asked, "What do you need?" and straight-faced Reeves, in the lanky hair and facial scars denoting underworld conflict, responds, "Guns, lots of guns." Finally, the "gun violence" cliché favored by hack politicians and robotic media spokespeople becomes the butt of a joke.

Reeves's answer repeats his 1999 futurist hit The Matrix, but it also defies moralizing pundits of all persuasions who repeat that "gun violence" malapropism as if screaming for redundant gun-control laws will get to the core of an American social problem. Their hypocrisy ignores the popular, real-world use of weaponry for self-protection and Second Amendment license.

John Wick 3: Parabellum is impudent fun precisely because it exults in all-American freedom from victimhood. The title comes from the Latin Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you desire peace, prepare for war). Wick, a crime-world renegade, defends himself however possible — with guns, fisticuffs, martial arts, any object at hand used as slapstick.

3. I'm thinking Armond doesn't hate Pasolini. If you are into film history, there's a lot to learn in this piece. From the review:

"Is sex politics?" In the biopic Pasolini, that question is posed to legendary Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini (played by Willem Dafoe), who responds, "In life, everything is politics." His answer brings this movie close to understanding the discord now roiling American public intercourse. For Pasolini, sex was a metaphor for spiritual dysfunction, the anguished expression of human desire and its opposite, vengeance — that is, politics.

This ambitious biopic, directed by the renegade American filmmaker Abel Ferrara (whose films Bad Lieutenant, King of New York, The Funeral, and Welcome to New York make him something like an American counterpart to Pasolini), arrives just as unfathomable gamesmanship and political theatrics have frustrated the current administration and discombobulated American society. Pasolini (now playing at Metrograph) explores a filmmaker's personal and public responsibility in an era when political society races to the bottom. It asks, as did Pasolini himself, How low can we go?

4. From the new issue: Ross Douthat caught Meeting Gorbachev. I kinda think he likes it. From the review:

I am surprised to be writing this review, because I am surprised that the movie I'm reviewing, Meeting Gorbachev, even exists. Not because of its subject, Mikhail Gorbachev's remarkable career and peculiar ghostly afterlife, which is certainly a worthy subject for a documentarian. But because that subject seems such an unlikely one for this particular director — who is Werner Herzog, existentialist documentarian, Teutonic pessimist, the most instantly recognizable narrative voice in nonfiction film. (André Singer is his co-director.)

Herzog has made movies over the years that touch on politics, but only glancingly and incidentally. His familiar topics are the pitiless grandeur of nature (Antarctic, Amazonian, subterranean) and the human being in isolation and extremis — whether a conquistador going mad in the jungle, a bear-whisperer meeting his demise in wild Alaska, or a POW escaping from a prison camp in Vietnam. I always imagined him regarding politics as somehow beneath his notice, its substance as mere ephemera compared with geologic time, its personalities as vain and strutting figures unaware of their animal nature, their foredoomed mortal state.

Yet here he is, sitting across from the 88-year-old Gorbachev and asking him respectful questions about glasnost, looping in Lech Walesa and George Shultz to comment on the Cold War's final years, weaving together footage both familiar and unexpected from one of the 20th century's most important, most unusual, most simultaneously admirable and pitiable political arcs.

The Six

1. At First Things, my dear old amigo Hadley Arkes warns against a risky way of protecting religious freedom. From his essay:

We have just come through a year with the Supreme Court in which the defenders of religious freedom racked up a string of famous victories. Famous, at least, to those who rejoiced in the outcomes and hoped that they foretold something lasting. But there are grounds to be less than cheered when we consider the principles articulated in these decisions. The most notable case here, eliciting the deepest relief and yet triggering a deep bewilderment, was the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips. Phillips's offense was that he declined to make a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding. The laws in Colorado at the time had no recognition of that form of marriage. Nevertheless, Phillips was charged with a violation of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which barred, among other things, the withholding of services in places of "public accommodation" on the basis of "sexual orientation" and "marital status."

To the relief of many, Phillips won his case at the Supreme Court. But then we found people surprised and shocked that the same activists, armed with authority in Colorado, had come after Jack Phillips yet again. This time his offense lay in refusing to bake a cake to celebrate transgenderism. (More recently, the authorities have made a public disavowal of their plans for pursuing Mr. Phillips. But that change seemed to spring from avoiding a needless embarrassment, rather than confessing a serious moral error.) The possibility for pursuing Phillips remained because the governing majority of the Court never challenged the ground of the law in that case. They never challenged the claim that the laws in Colorado were on unassailable ground when they condemned discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation," when they affirmed the rightness of same-sex marriage, and then condemned as wrongdoers, deserving punishment, those who would deny the rightness of same-sex marriage. If those laws are treated as justified and rightful, Justice Kennedy suffered not a trace of doubt that they would override any religious claim based merely on "belief." His concern—and the decisive point for the judgment—was that the commissioners in Colorado had been gratuitous in their expressions of contempt for the convictions held by Jack Phillips.

2. In the Claremont Review of Books, Christopher Caldwell looks at Viktor Orbán, Hungary's premier and the boogie man for scads of EUphiles. This is a big and meaty and juice analysis. From the beginning of the essay:

No English-language newspaper reported on it at the time, nor has any cited it since, but the speech Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán made before an annual picnic for his party's intellectual leaders in the late summer of 2015 is probably the most important by a Western statesman this century. As Orbán spoke in the village of Kötcse, by Lake Balaton, hundreds of thousands of migrants from across the Muslim world, most of them young men, were marching northwestwards out of Asia Minor, across the Balkan countries and into the heart of Europe.

Already, mobs of migrants had broken Hungarian police lines, trampled cropland, occupied town squares, shut down highways, stormed trains, and massed in front of Budapest's Keleti train station. German chancellor Angela Merkel had invited those fleeing the Syrian civil war to seek refuge in Europe. They had been joined en route, in at least equal number, by migrants from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. For Hungarians, this was playing with fire. They are taught in school to think of their Magyar ancestors as having ridden off the Asian steppes to put much of Europe to the torch (Attila is a popular boys' name), and they themselves suffered centuries of subjugation under the Ottomans, who marched north on the same roads the Syrian refugees used in the internet age. But no one was supposed to bring up the past. Merkel and her defenders had raised the subject of human rights, which until then had been sufficient to stifle misgivings. In Kötcse, Orbán informed Merkel and the world that it no longer was.

3. Retired Supreme Court coot John Paul Stevens, author of a new memoir, gets roasted by Reason's Damon Root for his persistence in defending the dreck majority opinion in the Kelo eminent domain ruling. Yeah, it got personal. From his piece:

John Paul Stevens has had it rough. In 2005, Stevens, then an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, authored one of the worst SCOTUS decisions of the past 50 years. Kelo v. City of New London let a local government bulldoze a working-class neighborhood so that private developers would have a blank slate on which to build a luxury hotel, a conference center, and various other upscale amenities. The city’s goal was to erase that existing community via eminent domain and replace it with a new commercial district that would (maybe? hopefully?) fill the local coffers with more abundant tax dollars.

Stevens, the poor soul, has been catching hell for this lousy ruling ever since. Kelo is “the most un-American thing that can be done,” declared Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California, an outspoken liberal. Her ideological opposite, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, has said that Kelo “bastardized” the Constitution. “Government can kick the little guy out of his or her homes and sell those [homes] to a big developer,” Limbaugh objected. Hating Kelo would seem to be the one thing that can bring a divided America together.

In 2011, about a year after he retired from the Supreme Court, Stevens apparently grew tired of the controversy and decided to respond to his critics. “The Kelo majority opinion remains unpopular,” Stevens acknowledged in a speech at the University of Alabama School of Law. “Recently a commenter named Damon W. Root described the decision as the ’eminent domain debacle.” In my defense, I only described Kelo as an eminent debacle because that’s exactly what it is. The destructive ruling paved the way for atrocious real world consequences. It also further mangled the Takings Clause, which forbids the government from using eminent domain for anything less than a legitimate “public use,” a concept that has traditionally been understood to apply to things like roads or bridges—not to swanky redevelopment schemes run by for-profit enterprises. But that constitutional requirement was lost in the eyes of Stevens. “The disposition of this case,” he wrote in Kelo, “turns on the question whether the City’s development plan serves a ‘public purpose.'” Critics like Root, Stevens grumbled in 2011, “mis-described” the case.

4. Somebody send John Horvat a corn dog and a Slurpee. At The Imaginative Conservative, he makes the interesting case for the link (not sausage) between cultural decline and the lack of a true "national" food. It's an interesting read that goes well with fried chicken or hot dogs. From the piece:

At the same time, I am thankful that American cooks are bringing this world to us. Indeed, they are even saving some of these pastas from extinction as Italian culture decays. We are fortunate that we have the opportunity to appreciate this great culture.

However, just having 500 different kinds of Italian pasta is not enough. We need to express and celebrate our culture.

So much of our cuisine involves enjoying other people's culture. The restaurant scene is booming nationwide. Our globalized society allows us to experience an enormous and rich variety of truly delectable cuisines. However, so many have no connection with our heritage.

I acknowledge that some American places have excellent local cuisines. However, the cultures that sustain them are dying as in Italy. We are losing our connection with the roots of cuisine because our culture is shattered, fragmented, and undermined by globalization.

I long for an American cuisine that would express our regional cultures on the scale of Italian pasta. How wonderful it would be to have an amazing world of our own "pasta"—national and regional dishes with hundreds of variations—that would speak to us of ourselves and our lands. I would love to see very localized versions of these foods prepared in family homes and restaurants—to the extent that we might know where we are by tasting the different foods. We could then celebrate these great expressions of who we are.

5. From the New York Times, the obituary for George Kelling, who, with the late James Q. Wilson, authored the "broken windows" policing theory that, when implemented, lead to massive reductions in crime in American cities. R.I.P.

6. In the Palestinian Authority, the benefits package for murderers of Jews is trumping health care for the common man. At Gatestone Institute, Bassam Tawil reports on the hate-based standards. From the beginning of his piece:

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided that Palestinians will no longer be able to receive medical treatment in Israel. Last March, the PA Ministry of Health in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, announced that it was halting medical transfers to Israeli hospitals and promised to find alternatives for Palestinian patients in private and government hospitals.

The PA says that it took the decision in response to the Israeli government’s deduction of payments the Palestinian government makes to families of security prisoners and “martyrs” from tax revenues the Israelis collect on behalf of the Palestinians.

A new Israeli law allows the government to impose financial sanctions on the PA for its “Pay for Slay” policy, which encourages terrorists to carry out attacks against Israelis because they know they and their families will be receiving salaries (from the PA government) for the rest of their lives.

One report estimated that the PA spent no less than 502 million shekels [USD $141 million; 126 million euros] of its 2018 budget on salaries and payments to terrorist prisoners and released inmates. At least 230 million shekels [$65 million; 58 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorist prisoners, while another 176 million shekels [$48 million; 44 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorists after they were released from prison, the report revealed. The remaining 96 million shekels [$27 million; 24 million euros] covers additional salary payments and other benefits to the terrorists and their families.

Baseballery

This week righthander Edwin Jackson took the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays, his 14th different team, setting a new major league record.

Back in the good old days, when there were but eight teams in each league, piling up numerous multiple-franchise experiences was obviously more difficult to pull off. Still, Yours Truly is prompted to search for someone who just might have played for all teams in one league. The results so far: The great Eddie Robinson, a four-time All Star first baseman, played for seven of the AL's eight franchises from 1942 to 1957. He never got to take the field for the Red Sox. And Robinson is still kicking: The former general manager for the Texas Rangers will celebrate his 99th birthday in December.

Of course, Bobo Newsom would seem a likely suspect for the distinction, but he never played for the White Sox or Indians (he did pitch for the Cubs, Giants, and Dodgers, so . . . nine of the original 16). Bobo did have plenty of separate tours for the same teams: Twice for the As, three times for the Browns, and five times for the Senators.

A related oddity: Journeyman outfielder Elmer Valo, whose career began in 1940 with the Philadelphia As and ended in in 1961 with the Phillies, was part of three team relocations. He was with the As in 1954 (he pinch hit — a fly out — in the last As game played at Connie Mack Stadium, a 4–2 loss to the Yankees on September 19), and in 1955 he played for the Kansas City As' first game (a 6–2 at-home win over Detroit on April 12 in which Valo, pinch-hitting, drew a walk with the bases loaded, breaking the 2–2 deadlock and driving in the game-winning run). He was the next-to-last Dodger to bat in that team's final game (September 24, 1957) at Ebbets Field (he grounded out in the top of the 9th in a 2–0 win over the Pirates; Gil Hodges, the last Dodger to bat, struck out swinging), and then played in 65 games for the Dodgers in 1958 in their new home town of Los Angeles. Finally, Valo got a pinch-hit single for the original Washington Senators in the teams' penultimate home game at Griffith Stadium, a 3–2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles; the next season saw the 40-year-old — now used as a pinch hitter — sporting the franchise's new Minnesota Twins uniform.

Released mid-season, Valo signed on with the 47–107 Phillies as a free agent, and played in a dozen of the team's MLB record-setting 23 straight losses (the first, a July 29 loss to the Giants, and the 23rd, a 5–2 loss to the Braves on August 20). During that span Valo was 0 for 12 in pinch-hitting appearances. Yikes.

By the way, Valo was involved in another cringe-worthy streak: Just before heading off for Army service in 1943, he played in the first two games of the Philadelphia As' then-AL-record-tying 20 consecutive losses. But let's end this on a happy note: Elmer has the MLB record for career walks as a pinch hitter (91)!

Vitamin Sea

Join us in August on the NR 2019 Canada / New England Conservative Cruise. Visit NRCruise.com for complete details.

A Dios

Mickey the dog keeps having seizures (some, truly epic), despite all the meds, and when he starts, Mrs. Yours Truly will hold and comfort him, for long periods. Her compassion is complete and utter, almost unifying. There is a purity to it. It is hypnotic. This is recounted here not for sympathy about the pooch (a good boy, a little bit stonato, but then the brain is beaten up by the episodes), but to recognize the capacity we have for loving, even for a pup. Surely this is a reflection of, an echo of, God's infinite and incomparable love. He comes to us in whispers (Kings: ". . . and after the fire a still small voice") and even through a woman embracing and petting a troubled pup. All that rambled, do pet your pup if you have one. Or even a cat. And yes, Meredith, a gerbil.

God's blessings and graces on you and yours, two- and four-legged,

Jack Fowler

Who will receive late-payment notices, motions to appear, and orders of protection at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

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