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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hong Kong Phooey

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Greetings on this first official weekend of the summer of 2019. Did you spend last night doing solstice tricks? If only to distract from global madness maybe.

Although invited several times by my former NR colleague Bill McGurn, the great Wall Street Journal "Main Street" columnist who did two tours of duty in Hong Kong for the paper's Asian edition and for the old Far Eastern Economic Review, I never visited the former British colony, now erupting in protests for the freedoms the residents of the island-bastion of free markets once enjoyed, their liberties deliberately reduced year-by-year by the Red China promise-breaking overlords who regained control of Hong Kong (as a "special administrative region") in 1997. Barely a memory is The World of Suzie Wong.

A staggering number of residents have taken to the streets in protest of an extradition law. We opine on such below. For want of a nail: Is little Hong Kong's ire the light that ...

June 22 2019


Hong Kong Phooey

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Greetings on this first official weekend of the summer of 2019. Did you spend last night doing solstice tricks? If only to distract from global madness maybe.

Although invited several times by my former NR colleague Bill McGurn, the great Wall Street Journal "Main Street" columnist who did two tours of duty in Hong Kong for the paper's Asian edition and for the old Far Eastern Economic Review, I never visited the former British colony, now erupting in protests for the freedoms the residents of the island-bastion of free markets once enjoyed, their liberties deliberately reduced year-by-year by the Red China promise-breaking overlords who regained control of Hong Kong (as a "special administrative region") in 1997. Barely a memory is The World of Suzie Wong.

A staggering number of residents have taken to the streets in protest of an extradition law. We opine on such below. For want of a nail: Is little Hong Kong's ire the light that might blow the rotten Commie system to Kingdom Come (the basement version)? That's doubtful. But pray on it. Literally. Who knows what might happen then?

Bill's most recent column described the scene, the good guys and bad ones, the consequences likely and far-fetched. Here's a slice of it:

For any protest anywhere, a million marchers would be extraordinary. In Hong Kong, it means 1 out of every 7 people. Yet unlike in 2003, this time the government has reaffirmed it intends to ignore public opinion. In any halfway representative society, Chief Executive Carrie Lam would have to resign. Instead, she insists the measure will move through LegCo on Wednesday as planned.

It's a clarifying moment. China has been moving the goal posts on Hong Kong's freedoms ever since laying its hands on the territory in 1997. Ms. Lam has now shown the world that the interests her government serves aren't Hong Kong's but Beijing's.

Feelings are running high. Sunday's protesters carried signs declaring "no evil law." The American Chamber of Commerce warns that "there are too many uncertainties" and questions why the extradition amendment "should be rushed through." In the Nikkei Asian Review, Jimmy Lai, the pro-democracy chairman of the media company Next Digital, warns it invites corruption: "Even without actual extradition, any time a Communist Party official wants something from a Hong Kong business leader, the businessman will have to weigh the costs of meeting that demand against the potential of extradition to the mainland."

Kurt Tong, the U.S. consul general to Hong Kong, has been similarly frank. In a May interview that appears on the consulate's webpage, the American envoy took a dig at the government's reassurances that Hong Kongers had nothing to worry about. "Fear," he said, "is an interesting emotion because you can tell someone don't be afraid but that's not going to make them not be concerned."

Lots and lots more below on China. And yes, you'll still be hungry for NR content after consuming all of it.

But Before You Hit the Links . . .

I want to encourage you to sign up for the NR 2019 Canada / New England Conservative Cruise, scheduled for August 24–31, commencing in Montreal and visiting terrific ports before ending in Boston. Get complete information at www.nrcruise.com.


1. The people of Hong Kong are "doing something right, honorable, and brave." Their demonstrations for freedom deserve more than lip service from President Trump. From our editorial:

Yet the protest in Hong Kong had a more general object. Citizens are intent on keeping their freedoms, or not letting them go without a fight.

When the British turned over the city to the Chinese Communist Party in 1997, the promise was "one country, two systems," for 50 years. This was always chimerical. Year by year, month by month, the CCP has been chipping away at Hong Kong's autonomy. The Party will not tolerate Hong Kong's brash, uppity independence until 2047.

Five years ago, democratic protests broke out. These were dubbed the "umbrella movement," because people used umbrellas to shield themselves from pepper spray. Earlier this year, eight leaders of the movement were sentenced. One of them, Chan Kin-man, a retired sociology professor, said, "In the verdict, the judge commented that we are naïve" (naïve to believe that a protest movement can attain, or retain, democracy). "But what is more naïve than believing in one country, two systems?"

Abandon All Hope Ye Who Click Here and Expect Not-Amazing Conservative Wisdom

1. Michael Brendan Dougherty, desirous of privacy, is rightly spooked by Silicon Valley's data-massing. And maybe, eavesdropping. From the get-go of his essay:

It at least can feel like you're being spied on by Silicon Valley. Sometimes the ads that are served to us on our phones have a spooky quality that makes it seem like we are being tracked and even heard by advertisers, though the latter is hotly denied and may be infeasible. This weekend, my wife, the kids, and I spent time at my in-laws' for Father's Day celebrations. My children played on a little toy roller coaster for outdoors that their grandmother had bought for them. The next day, Amazon advertised the same product to us. We know Amazon can see the connection between my in-laws' household and our own. It knows we have kids who are the right age to play. But was it actually serving us this ad based on a good guess from our location data and my in-laws' purchase history that we might have enjoyed this toy?

Late on Sunday night, we were drinking a bottle of Argentine wine. For some reason, it made me think of an Australian wine, and I asked my wife if she would like to go back and live there as she did for just three months in 2006. Even though she lived then in the central business district of Sidney, she said she would prefer Melbourne. Within an hour, Facebook showed her a viral article about how Melbourne is the happiest city. Very likely it was a coincidence, but it didn't feel that way.

2. RELATED: Jess Maga believes there is a sensible, middle-ground way to approach the protection of user privacy from Big Data. From his analysis:

Yes, the vast amounts of data collected by companies around the world should shock even the least privacy-conscious individual. How collected data is handled by these companies also largely remains shrouded in mystery, and that lack of transparency is a problem for anyone who believes in better educating consumers and letting the market correct itself. The best methods for protection are to remain aware of the permissions apps are requesting from your devices, download apps only from trusted developers, and consider installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on devices with information that you wish to keep secure while interacting with the Internet.

There still exists a legitimate need for information to be collected by companies if they are to maintain and improve the services virtual consumers use every day. Nor will there ever be a way to guarantee complete online privacy or data security to consumers; anyone who uses the Internet should recognize that doing so inevitably carries some risk. But something like Rubio's proposal, which aims to extend pre-Internet privacy protections to the web, would be sensible. Holding tech companies accountable for the same sorts of data spillage that would violate the law if they came from a "traditional" or "analog" company seems to be a much simpler solution than a complete digital firewall designed by the oldest members of Congress and put in place to protect consumers from themselves.

3. John Fund attended the premier of Phelim McAleer's FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers — the new play that features actors Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson reading the gooey / political texts and testimony of notorious FBI extra-marital-affairing FBI colleagues Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. From his piece:

Playing the adulterous FBI lovers, Cain and Swanson made the most of this material. Reading their text messages from binders on stage, they played the couple as smug, immature, smirking know-it alls, but Cain and Swanson also read aloud the couple's emojis and exaggerated punctuation for added emphasis. Every reference to a text that ended with a "winky face" or "five exclamation points" was met with howls of laughter from the audience.

Cain plans to support President Trump in 2020 but told me after the play that he is a political independent who is "super liberal" on all the social issues. But he does wonder why Hollywood has so been so resistant to balancing its comic savaging of the Trump White House. "Tonight was sort of a Saturday Night Live thing," he told the Washington Post at the play's after-party last week. "Why aren't they [SNL] making fun of Strzok and Page?"

Good question. Playwright Phelim McAleer, who along with his wife Ann McElhinney has produced several conservative films financed by Internet crowdsourcing, says the answer is obvious. "The Left dominates the arts to such an extent, they refuse to produce plays or movies even if they know they'll be popular and the material is gold," he told me. McAleer notes that the play's original theater venue in Washington, D.C., tore up the contract with McAleer after they learned more about the content of FBI Lovebirds. "They claimed they had one angry threat and had to cancel, but we get threatening tweets by the hour."

4. America's Roman Catholic bishops have met to consider the scandals. Declan Leary finds them a sorry and incompetent and even ugly lot. From his report:

A procedural crackdown is necessary, to be sure. But a plan and an institution that are by nature and habit reactive cannot possibly meet the challenges that face the USCCB. Does anybody seriously believe that clearer guidelines for reporting abuse after the fact will solve the problem? Does nobody recognize the moral and cultural rot that has brought us to this point in the first place? It is probably no coincidence that the peak of the crisis (from the late 1960s to the early '80s, roughly) accompanied one of recent history's most dramatic shakeups in Church culture, and that abuse declined dramatically with the restoration of order and tradition after the post-conciliar dust had settled. The Church, especially in America, has progressed by leaps and bounds on this issue in recent years, but this has largely been a result of careful cultural adjustments and increased standards and formation in seminaries. The major procedural reforms (e.g., the Dallas Charter) have mostly been ineffective and highly controversial. That may be because the problem, and consequently its solution, have never been about procedure.

Nevertheless, over three days that feel as long as the two millennia these men seem desperate to forget, the bishops debate meticulously on the ins and outs of the new guidelines for reporting, investigation, and accountability. "Meticulously" is the right word, though not in any positive sense. It's like watching the proceedings of a struggling student government or a small-time city council. They even have a parliamentarian, though he's had trouble with his flight and has to show up late. His name is Schnurr (Dennis Schnurr, archbishop of Cincinnati), a bit of onomatopoeia that must give voice to general public feelings toward the USCCB.

Some of the questions might raise some eyebrows. (One bishop seems particularly concerned that sexual improprieties between a bishop and a consenting adult should not be treated too harshly.) Most of them are just procedural. (How will the proposal to apply the Dallas Charter to bishops work, since we can't write letters of suitability for ourselves? Will mandating the participation of lay experts in investigations nationwide solve the problem? Are we allowed to do that?)

5. How truly demented are Red China's leaders, who, as Wesley Smith explains, continue to "strip mine" political prisoners — especially Falun Gong practitioners and ethnic Uyghurs — of their livers, kidneys, you name it (all up for sale on the black market!)? The answer is: in the extreme. From his Corner post:

This is unspeakably evil. But the vaunted international community doesn't have the fortitude to pressure China into actually stopping this horror, nor do countries and large companies want to lose the money that would result from taking such action. These faults and weaknesses being a given, we certainly shouldn't expect China to do the moral thing any time soon.

Still, there has been too much reporting for too long about this profound human-rights abuse to ethically continue to look the other way. The question thus becomes: Will the U.S. specifically outlaw traveling to China for the purpose of buying an organ — just as we do participating in pedophilia tourism overseas? (Spain, Israel, Italy, and Taiwan have passed such laws already.) I can't think of one argument against pursuing such a course.

If we don't at least do what we can, it seems to me that we make ourselves complicit in allowing the demand for black-market organs forcibly harvested from murdered prisoners to continue unimpeded — and the blood of the slaughtered victims will also be on us.

6. Oberlin Encore. Conservatives continue to spread the word on the big boomerang that has klunked the thick skull of the Academy Left. Rich Lowry explains what happens when the Woke get Whacked. From his new column:

Now, an Ohio jury has identified an entirely new variety, woke privilege, and resolved to hold people who believe they are protected by it to account.

The jury handed down a staggering $11 million verdict against Oberlin for a smear campaign against a local business, and it awarded another $33 million in punitive damages to the targeted mom-and-pop store, Gibson's Food Market and Bakery.

The damages will certainly be reduced, but the verdict is a shot across the bow of well-heeled institutions tempted to join social-justice mobs.

Oberlin thought that it could defame Gibson's as racist with impunity, that the hothouse rules of campus politics applied (i.e., anyone accused of racism is ipso facto guilty of racism), and that no one would question its superior righteousness and cultural power vis-à-vis a mere local business.

7. Kevin Williamson looks at moral relativism, and absolutism, and sees where conservatism fits. From his essay:

The Right has always been comfortable with moral ambiguity, most plainly in the matter of foreign policy. That was especially true in the Cold War, when conservatives went to great lengths — often too far, and sometimes far too far — defending such characters as Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet as bulwarks against Communism. F. A. Hayek's overwhelming admiration for the Chilean dictator was sufficient to inspire a chiding letter from Margaret Thatcher, who described the general's methods as "quite unacceptable." Nelson Mandela was the leader of a revolutionary Communist movement and refused to foreswear political violence, but what he was up against was not a Madisonian republic. Perhaps it was the demands of political rhetoric, but conservatives have from time to time failed to cleave to the knowledge that necessary evil is evil.

And these calculations were not limited to foreign affairs. Consider the watershed moment that was the debate over the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Buckley had opposed the 1964 law, but there were few more trenchant critics of George Wallace's racial record when the segregationist ran for president in 1968. There were — and are — legitimate concerns that the federal approach to civil rights, particularly in the matter of "public accommodations," invited invasive micromanagement and created real constitutional problems. (It is the reason we are still having a debate over outlaw bakers.) There were political calculations at work, too, to be sure: Barry Goldwater, who had been an important civil-rights advocate in Arizona and in federal office, pronounced himself eager to "hunt where the ducks are." But the fact was, and is, that the question is morally and politically complicated, and that there are good-faith reasons for disagreement about the legal particulars.

8. ". . . High taxes and poor social services, premodern infrastructure and utilities, poor transportation, tribalism, gangs, and lack of security." Victor Davis Hanson is describing America's first Third World state . . . the allegedly "golden" one: California. From his essay:

California's transportation system, to be honest, remains in near ruins. Despite the highest gas taxes in the nation, none of its major trans-state freeways — not the 99, not I-5, not the 101 — after 70 years off use, are yet completed with six lanes, resulting in dangerous bottlenecks and wrecks. Driving the 99 south of Visalia, or the 101 near Paso Robles, or the 5 north of Coalinga is right out of Road Warrior — but not as dangerous as the fossilized two-line feeder lines such as 152 into Gilroy, or the 41 west of Kettleman City. The unspoken transportation credo of Jerry Brown's aggregate 16 years as governor apparently was "If you don't build it, maybe they won't need it."

Meanwhile the concrete carcass of the recently cancelled multibillion-dollar high-speed rail system dots the skyline over Fresno. Bureaucrats now insist that more billions must be spent to ensure that a short segment of the least traveled route will be finished, though they obviously do not anticipate spurring a new tourist or commercial corridor between Merced and Bakersfield.

High-speed-rail gurus insist on salvaging something of the boondoggle not because they have an economic rationale justifying more dollars — they would be far better invested in improving freeways, airports, and rails — but largely out of pride and shame that demand some small token rescued from a very bad pipe dream.

9. The winnowing of the Tory-leader field has happened, but it is worthwhile, even in retrospect, to examine the handicapping John O'Sullivan provides. From his analysis:

Boris will be susceptible to pressure in the few months after he becomes leader, and both Leavers and Remainers have expressed fears or hopes that Boris is so unreliable that he will turn on his current supporters and find some way to betray them and Brexit when its difficulties become apparent. Now, I don't buy this picture of Boris nor the predictions, shaped by a Remain media, of the near-impossible difficulties of Brexit. But many Tory MPs either believe both or, to be more precise, hope that they're true. They might gradually drift back towards the delusion Stewart embodies, that they can risk the softest of soft Brexits without electoral catastrophe.

Three factors argue not.

10. The suburbs deserve to come in for a hit, says NR intern James Sutton, for their role in the housing crises affecting California's big cities. From his piece:

But a large source of the affordability crisis actually lies outside the purview of the city governments. Cities, after all, are not the only places where people live. California cities, especially in the north, exist within a complex ecosystem of smaller cities, suburbs, and towns. San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, for example, all lie within the nine counties of the Bay Area. Los Angeles makes up the heart of the sprawling Southland, bounded by Ventura County, Orange County, and the Inland Empire.

These suburbs, from the tract-home vastness of Orange County to the idyllic small towns of Marin, are leaving cities to shoulder the housing crunch alone. While the state sets regional housing targets on eight-year cycles, enforcement is incredibly weak, and many municipalities fall far short of reaching their goals.

On top of all of this, suburban communities, having lower density to begin with, resist building housing the most. The somewhat impenetrable process by which regions assign housing targets to municipalities tends to leave larger cities holding the rope; small, wealthy suburban communities often have laughably low targets. Beverly Hills, for example, has to add only three units during the current cycle.

For all the press that urban NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) voters get, the suburbs are where NIMBYs have really conquered all before them. Towns with high rates of home ownership have seen meteoric rises in home prices since 2008, and homeowners enthusiastically organize to protect their investments. Small-town politicians live in fear of backlash from angry residents who oppose almost all new housing.

11. Jay Nordlinger has a long and deeply interesting chat with Natan Sharansky, and memorializes it. From his article:

Charles Krauthammer told me something else, concerning Sharansky: He came out of nine years in the Gulag basically untouched, unscarred — in mental and emotional balance. "It's as though he had gone to the Caribbean to lie on the beach for nine years," Charles said. I mentioned this to Bukovsky, when we talked several weeks ago. The same was true of him, he said (twelve years in the Gulag): "If they don't break you, you come out all right. If they do — you don't."

Does Sharansky agree? Yes, he does.

I remember something from his book, Fear No Evil. For a time, he was able to study the Bible alongside a fellow zek, a fellow prisoner, a Christian named Volodya. They called their study sessions "Reaganite readings." Why? Because they had heard that the American president declared a particular year — 1983 — the "Year of the Bible."

Here in the coffee shop, I ask Sharansky about Volodya: What became of him? Does he know? Has he ever seen him, post-Gulag? Yes. The man was a Christian activist, and he taught French to earn a living.

Nine years in the Gulag were hard, of course — very. Almost unspeakably so. In Israel, Sharansky spent nine years in politics: 1996 to 2005. These were not easy either, he says, in their own ways. (Sharansky was the head of four different ministries plus deputy prime minister.)

I remember well that Sharansky argued against an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, on the grounds that it would be very bad for Israelis and perhaps worse for Palestinians, who needed to build up democratic institutions, else they would be at the mercy of extremists. Does he still believe that the withdrawal was a mistake? "Of course," he says. "And I argued and argued with Arik about it" ("Arik" being Ariel Sharon, who was prime minister in this period).

12. Kyle Smith has seen Toy Story 4 and says the franchise, like the bread left overnight on the kitchen counter, has gone stale. From his review:

Despite the film's quick pace and breezy good nature, the overall effect is mediocre, and TS4 is easily the weakest effort in the series so far (the correct ranking of the four is, of course, 2, 1, 3, and then 4). Most of its narrative energy is expended on a question that doesn't matter much even within the movie. As Woody and Forky try to make their way back home, someone points out that "Kids lose toys all the time." Quite so: Kids freak out over a lost toy, just as they will bawl nonsensically about a hundred other things ("I don't want the blue cup, I want the PURPLE CUP!!!"). But give them 15 minutes and a snack and they'll move on. So why should we care whether any given toy gets reunited with its kid, much less care enough to sit through a movie about it? In previous Toy Story installments, we cared because the toys had feelings and would be crushed if they weren't played with. Here, that motive is abandoned: The suggestion is that toys can be perfectly happy, maybe even more self-actualized, living on their own. The kid, in this movie, doesn't really need the toys, and the toys don't really need the kid. Oh.

13. Not liking Toy Story 4, for other reasons (consumerist indoctrination), is Armond White. From his review:

In Toy Story 4, the familiar characters including Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), are joined by a new creation: Forky (Tony Hale) is not an expensively manufactured doll but a doohickey handmade by Bonnie, this story's new human child progenitor (a mixed-race girl to replace the original white boy Andy). Bonnie invests wishing into Forky, a plastic spork outfitted with pipe-cleaner arms and pasted-on eye decals. No different from a perfectly used ragdoll, Forky recalls the lonely desperation of Blade Runner's toymaker who said he made his friends himself. But that notion is even darker and more complicated than Pixar's nihilistic Wall-E. Thus, Bonnie's awkward, Asperger-spectrum imagination brings unfair competition to Pixar's toy-movie monopoly, so Forky is characterized as a snarky, neurotic outcast, an existential threat to the regular toy characters who are easily marketable tie-in products.

Toy Story 4's unsurprising journey-home plot confirms that Pixar practices Big Tech industrial hypnotism. Fans — Pixarnoids — who don't think outside the toy chest, or even care about the development of ideas, will settle for routine, politically correct placation. This comes in the form of Woody's old flame Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who returns from the first film as a newly empowered woman. She even instructs Woody about "change."

14. There's a new HBO series called Euphoria, and Kyle has seen Episode One. Maybe you won't want to. From the beginning of his review:

Of HBO's new series Euphoria, its creator and writer Sam Levinson says, "There are going to be parents who are going to be totally f***ing freaked out." There is no "but" coming. The freak-out is the point, at least if the premiere episode is to be believed. HBO needs a zeitgeist-capturing successor to Sex and the City and Girls, so Euphoria seems to have been formulated on a mission to make the latter seem quaint and the former positively Victorian. The one-hour pilot contains material beyond what is ordinarily found in even an R-rated movie, including a teen nearly perishing in a drug overdose, a shot of an erect penis and a spectacularly awful scene of a transgender girl getting sodomized by a middle-aged man. There's also a teen slashing herself, nudity of the barely legal variety, two teens having sex in a swimming pool at a party in full view of others filming the act on their phones, a teen fooling her mom about a drug test after affixing a bottle of someone else's urine to her thigh, a scene in which a seemingly gentle boy chokes his sweetheart during sex because that's how he's seen things go in porn videos, plus lots of scenes of teens being nasty, vindictive, and duplicitous. Judd Apatow's 21-year-old daughter Maude is in there somewhere, but at least she isn't the one getting sodomized. Whatever can Levinson be saving for episode two, airing Sunday? A montage of 17 penises, according to reports. Can't hardly wait. Levinson has said he wanted the scene to feature "like, 80 more." Let's hear it for restraint! 

Sex and the City and Girls were original, witty, and astute television shows, but Euphoria seems to mistake being shocking for being interesting. After an hour of relentlessly grueling material I was reminded not of any previous HBO show but of Kids, the rebarbative, now-forgotten 1995 movie about bored/alienated/drugged youth its producer/publicist Harvey Weinstein turned into a cultural event for about ten minutes, until people actually saw the thing. (It grossed $7 million, so it sold roughly one ticket for every think piece written about it.) Like Euphoria, Kids implicitly asked the public, "Please notice how outrageous we are. Please?" Levinson is really pushing for "Conservatives in a Tizzy over Euphoria" headlines. I don't doubt that he'll get them. Is he trying to do anything more?

15. Armond pays tribute to the late Franco Zeffirelli, whom he dubs "an unlikely conservative hero." From his reflection:

Zeffirelli may not appear to be a conservative's ideal, but his film oeuvre signifies the social engagement, and a preserve of spiritual values, that conservatives have lost during the culture wars of the past several decades.

Starting with The Taming of the Shrew (1967), with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, one could dismiss Zeffirelli's Shakespeare updates as examples of boisterous, jet-set fluff. But the classically trained Zeffirelli was one of those conservatives fully able to converse with the public on terms analogous to new Vatican rulings — he looked at tradition and convention with modern sincerity, and added Liz & Dick's movie-star glamour.

This was the gift of Zeffirelli's pop art, which peaked with Romeo and Juliet and then redefined itself with his surprisingly devout 1973 film Brother Sun, Sister Moon, in which he appropriated a biography of St. Francis of Assisi as an allegory for the post-hippie Jesus-freak movement. The film plays out a rejection of bourgeois values through a new pair of comely performers, Graham Faulkner as Francis and Judi Bowker as St. Clare, both embodying hippie camaraderie at a precise stage of Christian benevolence — the era's ingenuous sanctification of long-haired poverty-chic, replete with infectious songs by pop star Donovan.

16. More Kyle: FX has a #MeToo-enhanced show called Fosse/Verdun that Kyle argues should really be called (and conceived as) Fosse. It is a most-illuminating rant. From the review:

How, the creators and their bosses wondered, should they work #MeToo into the show? Correct answer: They should have ignored it and carried on as planned. Actual answer: Just as #MeToo morphed almost instantaneously from a movement about punishing sexual misbehavior in men to an affirmative-action reparations/hiring policy for Hollywood women, the makers of Fosse/Verdon decided they had to apply a sort of retroactive affirmative-action admittance policy to the genius club, or at least to the important-figures club. Hence Gwen Verdon, a forgotten hoofer whose work barely survives anywhere unless you count the memory of elderly Broadway veterans, had to be sanctified and made the equivalent of Fosse, a larger-than-life figure who directed Sweet Charity, Pippin, and Chicago on Broadway and the films Cabaret, Lenny, and All That Jazz. Sure, the series tells us, Cabaret was a revolutionary screen musical unlike anything ever seen before on screen and won eight Oscars (including one for Fosse over Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather), but did you know Verdon picked the gorilla costume used in the "If You Could See Her from My Eyes" number? Clearly the whole movie would have fallen apart with a lesser costume.

I'm wondering how far #MeToo feminism is going to take its logic. Maybe next year we'll get a show called Rembrandt/Mrs. Rembrandt. No! Foolishness. What am I thinking? It would have to be Mrs. Rembrandt/Rembrandt. Still not enough. She had a name, you know. Saskia van Uylenburgh/Rembrandt. Actually, who cares about Rembrandt? Men's stories have been told for too long. Time for some herstory. Coming soon on FX: Saskia. Do we know enough about Saskia to fill up eight hours of television? Never mind. We'll just imagine her being suffering yet proud, suffused with unrecognized brilliance, a woman ahead of her time. It'll sweep the Emmys. Get Michelle Williams on the phone; she'll play it to the hilt. (You think I'm joking: The New Republic's television critic Rachel Syme wrote "Fosse/Verdon is a pas de deux. . . . Part of me wishes it was a solo." Guess which character she considers expendable?)

17. What is the point of having a border, wonders Mark Krikorian, if there are no consequences to defying it. And more than wonder, he backslaps President Trump's announcement to deport illegals. From his Corner post:

But it isn't just bloviation, despite claims to the contrary (CNN, for example, called the tweet "a populist launchpad for his reelection campaign"). What Trump was referring to is a plan by ICE to find and remove recent illegal-immigrant families from Central America who have gone through the whole asylum process, failed to win their cases, were ordered deported (i.e., received a "final order of removal"), but are still here. As the Washington Post noted, "According to Homeland Security officials, nearly all unauthorized migrants who came to the United States in 2017 in family groups remain present in the country." In fact, virtually none of the "unaccompanied" minors and families who've infiltrated across the border since Obama sparked the border crisis in 2012 with his DACA decree has been removed, despite that fact that only a small share of them actually managed to get asylum.

So Central American illegal aliens need only to bring a minor with them across the border, turn themselves in to the Border Patrol, say they fear return, and they'll not only be released into the U.S. but if they lose their asylum case (or never bother to apply at all, which is true about half the time), they'll get to stay forever anyway? A more powerful incentive to rush northward cannot be imagined.

The New, July 8, 2019, Issue of National Review Is Hot Off the Press. Here Are Four Pieces That Will No Doubt Monopolize Your Attention and Thoughts.

As ever, we remind readers that there is an instant way to have access to these magazine pieces, which appear on our website days — if not weeks — before the Mail Man sticks them through the slot in your front door. That way is thisaway: Become an NRPLUS member. There: You've been told.

1. Chris O'Dea scores the cover with an excellent essay on how Red China has weaponized — yes, weaponized — the global supply chain. Logistics is power. From his essay:

The first vector of weaponization is a physical network of ports under Chinese control in locations that provide China with various forms of economic leverage: access to minerals, energy, or food; ability to deploy cyber-surveillance; and potential to deny access to U.S. naval vessels. Having built the ports that enabled China to become the world's manufacturing platform, and having completed the artificial islands China needed to secure its claims over the South China Sea, Chinese state-owned port-construction companies are projecting Chinese maritime power with projects in the European Union, Latin America, East and West Africa, the Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia. Much attention is focused on large greenfield projects in developing nations, but China has built its network largely by acquiring control of up-and-running assets that play an essential role in developed economies.

The second component is the introduction of Chinese cyber-capabilities, including the installation of digital networks at Chinese-controlled sites, typically by Huawei, and a subsea cable network being built by Huawei's marine unit that will nearly encircle the globe by the end of this year. Chinese state-owned companies are leading a rapid, digitally enabled consolidation of the logistics sector—bringing together supply-chain functions that had previously been performed by separate companies, adopting centralized IT systems to control distribution from the doors of factories in China to the doors of consumers in America, and developing a wide array of technologies that can be used for both commercial and military purposes.

The most threatening aspect of China's commercial triad is that the physical network of ports, ships, and terminals serves as a force multiplier for China's cyber-aggression. From drones that monitor operations to facial-recognition technologies that control access to container yards, port facilities provide nearly perfect cover for cyber-espionage. There's a lot going on in a seaport, and all of it is controlled and monitored by technology that feeds information over digital networks to buyers, sellers, regulators, financial institutions, and transportation companies. In short, ports are power. Power over imports and exports, power over economic-development policies, construction, shipbuilding, land transport, and electricity grids—and power over the digital information needed to move goods through global supply chains that originate in China and Southeast Asia. These critical supply lines have increasingly come under the influence or control of a handful of Chinese state-owned companies.

2. David Mamet (yeah, him!) suggests works of American women who deserve to be "in the canon." From his article:

Fashions in literature, of course, change. When I was young, Willa Cather was out of print, and generations of schoolchildren have had their interest in reading destroyed by The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye.

But here is a list of women authors not "out of favor," but, today, forgotten and unread. Their works should be cherished. Among the earliest American novels is Charlotte Temple, by Susanna Rowson (1762–1824), a romance of the early colonial period. See also The Linwoods (1835), by Catharine Maria Sedgwick. Miss Sedgwick wrote here of the Revolutionary War and the battle between the colonials, based in Boston, and the royalists in New York. For anyone interested in Washington and that war, this is as close as you're going to get and a smashing yarn.

She wrote at the same remove (50 to 60 years) as did Tolstoy from the Napoleonic wars, Margaret Mitchell from the Civil War, and, for that matter Mario Puzo from the Mafia turf wars. That is, they, and Sedgwick, wrote of the Grandparent Stories, which they had heard at the kitchen table and which had become part of family lore.

Imagine, in The Linwoods, one reads the impressions of people who actually knew Washington.

The great novel of the antebellum South is Uncle Tom's Cabin. Mrs. Stowe wrote the hell out of it. It is an indictment of slavery, which, as Lincoln said, "started the Civil War"; it has been overlooked and, indeed, excoriated (by those who cannot have read it), as the phrase "Uncle Tom" has come to mean an appeaser. But his character is nothing of the kind; he is a Christian trying to live a godly life in the midst of human horror. (See also Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.)

3. Hal Brands and Peter D. Feaver make the case for why the Iraq War was a mistake, why its defenders were wrong, and why its critics were too. From their essay:

There are no two ways about it: The Iraq War was a tragic mistake. The war was waged on premises that proved to be faulty or false: that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons programs was growing and urgent, that the post-war stabilization and democratization of Iraq could be accomplished quickly and on the cheap, and that taking down Saddam's regime could cause a democratic chain reaction throughout the Middle East. It was also informed by a hubris that resulted from the unexpectedly quick and seemingly decisive victory over al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, which led the Bush administration to dismiss many warnings from outside observers about the impending showdown with Iraq. As these premises and illusions collapsed following the invasion, the United States found that it had stumbled into a conflict in which the benefits were lower than expected and the costs were far higher. Those costs, in lives and treasure alike, made punch lines of the Bush administration's pre-war optimism. Matters only got worse for years after March 2003, as the administration's failure to adequately prepare for or rapidly adapt to the challenges of stabilizing Iraq left American forces stuck in an intensifying maelstrom.

In fairness, not every post-invasion decision was wrongheaded or disastrous. Against formidable odds, U.S. officials managed to keep the prominent Shia ayatollah Ali al-Sistani from urging his followers to violently oppose the American occupation, which would have made matters in Iraq vastly worse. And some of the decisions that backfired most severely by alienating the Sunnis— such as disbanding the Iraqi military and pursuing aggressive de-Baathification—were rooted in an understandable need to appease Iraq's majority Shia population. But the mistakes were numerous, and debilitating in their cumulative effect.

4. Daniel J. Mahoney reviews an important new book by Richard Reinsch and Peter Lawler, A Constitution in Full: Recovering the Unwritten Foundation of American Liberty. From the review:

As Richard Reinsch and the late Peter Augustine Lawler, two remarkably talented students of American political thought and Western political philosophy, argue in their thoughtful and provocative new book, our country's appeal to natural rights was indispensable in the effort to "discredit the communist or fascist reduction of the particular person to nothing but an expendable cog in a machine." And rights are certainly not arbitrary or groundless, given to us capriciously by a state that can take them away at will. They do indeed have real roots in human nature and the order of things. The problem, as Lawler and Reinsch see it, is that these rights are increasingly disconnected from the traditions that gave rise to them and from the ends and purposes of human freedom. Many libertarians and soi-disant classical liberals, and almost all progressives, ignore or explain away the essentially relational character of human existence in the name of an ever more unconstricted view of personal liberty. This conception of liberty is severed from the moral foundations of democracy: loyalty to country; the love, support, and discipline of the family; and the eternal verities conveyed by traditional religion. These are among the precious "moral contents of life," as the French political philosopher Pierre Manent calls them, without which liberty degenerates into a nihilistic form of self-assertion or, at best, an indifference to human excellence or to the primordial distinction between good and evil. Without its conservative foundations, liberty withers and turns against itself.

Lawler and Reinsch are fully committed to the dignity of the relational person and to the defense of the American republic. They believe that human beings should never be "civic fodder," as was often the case in the classical republics; species fodder, as with the preferred understanding of our dogmatic Darwinians who subordinate the person to the "survival of the fittest"; or "History fodder," as happened in the totalitarian democides of the 20th century. Following Alexis de Tocqueville and the great 19thcentury American Catholic thinker Orestes Brownson, Lawler and Reinsch defend "liberty under God and the law" (the admirable locution is Tocqueville's). For the authors, the Founders are best understood as wise and gifted statesman and not theorizing revolutionaries. They were "conservative revolutionaries," men of principle and prudence, who appreciated, or at least took for granted, the moral and cultural inheritance, what the authors call the "providential constitution," that made possible a humane and ordered liberty in the United States.

(By the way, you can order the book here.)

5. Heck, let's toss in a bonus link: El Jefe Rich Lowry's review of Ballpark: Baseball in the American City, by Paul Goldberger. If it is one thing our esteemed editor loves besides this here magazine, it is the National Pastime. From his review:

Goldberger relates the history of baseball through its physical facilities and the business, real-estate, and design considerations that created them. You couldn't do this with any other major sport. It's rare that a football stadium or basketball or hockey arena becomes memorable in its own right. The experience of baseball, in contrast, is caught up in its surroundings.

Even watching a game on TV played at Trop in Tampa Bay, the SkyDome in Toronto, the Coliseum in Oakland, or the New Comiskey (ridiculously called "Guaranteed Rate Field") is less appealing than at a place with some character.

Ballpark is a lovely book that is oversized but still manageable to hold and read, and it has enough drawings and photographs to illustrate Goldberger's points about each park. He catalogues the journey from ballparks shoehorned into city streets, to the wrong turn into monochromatic dual-use forms, before an unexpected, triumphant return to the traditional.

(And you can order Ballpark here.)

NR Institute Seeking Regional Fellows in Dallas, San Francisco, and Chicago

We've established that Summer is here. So you are thinking . . . beach. As you should. But think past that a smidge, because it will be October before you know it, and the question will be . . . will you be an NRI Regional Fellow? Amigos and amigas, now — now! — is the time to consider, and apply for, this terrific program. Let's get to the formal lingo: National Review Institute is seeking applicants for its Fall 2019 Regional Fellowship Programs in Dallas, San Francisco, and – brand-spanking new this fall — Chicago.

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

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

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

The Six.

1. At Gatestone Institute, Judith Bergman reports on how Red China has become the perfect high-tech totalitarian state. Big Brother is watching, and then some. From her piece:

Physically persecuting religious minorities, however, does not suffice for the Chinese Communist Party. It also seems to have campaigned against Christianity in schools throughout the country. It has, for instance, forced students to swear an oath to resist religious belief. Teachers were also indoctrinated to “ensure that education and teaching adhere to the correct political direction.” Classics taught in schools have been censored: In Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, references to the Bible were deleted, and references to Sunday service or God in stories by Anton Chekhov and Hans Christian Andersen were expunged.

Additionally, the use of ‘sensitive’ words related to religion, such as ‘prayer’, are not allowed in the classroom.

In both the oppression of religion, as in the censorship of free speech, the Chinese Communist Party is utilizing high-tech means to achieve its goals. There are reports that Xinjiang is being used as a testing ground for surveillance technology: Uighurs in Xinjiang, according to a report published in the Guardian, are “closely monitored, with surveillance cameras mounted over villages, street corners, mosques and schools. Commuters must go through security checkpoints between all towns and villages, where they undergo face scans and phone checks”. China uses facial recognition technology that matches faces from surveillance camera footage to a watch-list of suspects.

2. Daniel Pipes, in the Washington Times, considers the opportunities a leader like Matteo Salvini — who has severely reduced Italy's illegal immigration — presents to the debt-ridden country's future. From his piece:

On the other side stand those who wish to celebrate not just the nation of Italy and its glorious national culture but also its many distinctive regions, with their long histories, mutually-unintelligible dialects and renowned cuisines. Venice, for example, enjoyed independence through 11 centuries (697-1797), developed a unique method of glass-making (Murano), and has its own school of music composition. Civilizationist pride in this heritage stands in direct contrast to universalist attitudes.

The person of Matteo Salvini, 46, drives the civilizationist impulse to preserve. A career politician who joined the then-marginal Northern League at age 17, he became a Milan city councilor at 20 and rose through the party ranks, finally taking on and defeating the party's longtime boss in 2013. As the new leader, he quickly turned a regional party into a national one (dropping "Northern" from the name) and made control of immigration his central message.

Mr. Salvini so dominates the League and drives Italy's politics that the country's future course depends in large part on his priorities, skills, depth, vision and stamina. Should he succeed in turning the ports closure into a long-term solution to the problems of immigration and Islamization, his current electoral success presages a watershed for Italy. But if he fails in this attempt, Italians will not soon again have an opportunity to control their borders and assert their identity and sovereignty.

3. At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley Birzer gets all gooey over the Articles of Confederation. From the beginning of his essay:

The Articles of Confederation have been denounced for so long that no one bothers to denounce them anymore. Almost every American and almost every single person around the world who studies American history at any level considers the Articles a failure. The failure of the Articles is as sure as the sun rising tomorrow. It's just an accepted "truism" that they did not work and that we Americans needed something to replace them.

Even those who take seriously the criticisms of the Constitution by the anti-Federalists typically believe the Articles a disaster.

A close examination, however, reveals that Articles were quite successful at several things, including: 1) keeping the peace (overall); 2) securing as well as keeping our independence; and 3) passing the most powerful piece of legislation in the history of republics, The Northwest Ordinance.

4. It's the 25th anniversary of the publication of Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy, and at Claremont Review of Books, Francis Sempa thinks that the milestone should prompt a reassessment. From his reflection:

Kissinger identifies two persistent philosophies in America's approach to the world: Rooseveltian (Theodore, not FDR) and Wilsonian. He describes Theodore Roosevelt as "the first American president to insist that it was America's duty to make its influence felt globally, and to relate to the world in terms of a concept of national interest." America's security, T.R. understood, depends on the global balance of power.

Although Kissinger clearly identifies with Roosevelt's global realism, he also understands that Woodrow Wilson's global "moralism" has great appeal to American elites, especially those intellectuals and analysts who often influence U.S. foreign policy. The Wilsonian approach to the world seeks to spread American values and institutions throughout the world. As Kissinger describes them, Roosevelt was "the warrior statesman; Wilson was the prophet-priest. Statesman, even warriors, focus on the world in which they live; to prophets, the 'real' world is the one they want to bring into being."

For Kissinger, Wilsonian moralism has had at least two negative impacts on American foreign policy. First, it has resulted in the United States intervening in international disputes in which no concrete national interests were at stake. Second, it has sometimes resulted in America sacrificing national interests on the altar of high-sounding universal ideals. Too often, idealism has trumped realism with unintended but disastrous consequences. Kissinger's Diplomacy, like Mackinder's Democratic Ideals and Reality, was intended to persuade democratic statesmen, as Mackinder put it, to "adjust…ideals of freedom to [the] lasting realities of our earthly home."

5. At Law and Liberty, Paul Seaton considers Trump and Political Philosophy: Patriotism, Cosmopolitanism, and Civic Virtue, which sizes up POTUS from the perspective of history's great political philosophers. From his essay-review:

On the Right are two sorts of analysts: pro-Trump and anti-Trump, each dividing into subgroups. Among the pro's are the (almost) unqualifiedly and the qualifiedly so.  Another division among the pro's is those who defend the man directly and those who do so contextually—that is, as the lesser of two evils. Among the anti's are those who are adamantly against him and those who are more mixed in their negative assessment. On the right, the pro's invoke Aristotle, Hamilton, and Lincoln to appreciate Trump, while the anti's invoke Aristotle and Lincoln to criticize him. The Republican divide between Trump supporters and Anti-Trumpists is thus reproduced at a rarefied intellectual level.

Both sides are aware of the need to justify invoking these august points of reference, more so with Aristotle, but the American giants as well. As a result, one hears about the relevance of historical perspective and philosophical learning. In some important respects, this is borne out. I will speak of these at the end. But the significant disagreements in judgment dividing these learned writers who appeal to the same authorities also indicate what the medievals knew: that Authority has a wax nose. Or more seriously, that learning needs to be complemented by other intellectual and moral qualities, dispassion and judgment.

6. Connecticut circles the drain, writes ace economist Daniel J. Mitchell at his International Liberty blog. You'll find all the grim facts here.

2020 with KLO

Annually, Saint Benedict Press publishes these beautiful soft-leather (OK, imitation, but still suh-weet) spiritual books, "A Year with . . . ," which offer daily reflections on that year's primary focus. Well, I am happy to inform WJ readers that SBP's 2020 book — A Year with Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living — will be available soon, and has as its author our pal and colleague, Kathryn Jean Lopez. You can pre-order her book (I am very happy for KLO!) at the link above, but here is a snippet from the publisher's promotional copy. I think it might appeal to a lot of people:

There's so much noise. Everything can seem like a distraction. Distraction, in fact, seems our oxygen. When was the last time you saw people talking on an elevator? We seem to plug in everywhere. We have earphones and screens and don't evenlook up, never mind find time for silence. Our hearts need quiet. How are we ever going to pray otherwise? How could we ever possibly know God's love and will, and the truth about ourselves and the world without resting in Him?

Resting in Him. What does that even mean? In A Year with the Mystics, popular National Review journalist and commentator Kathryn Jean Lopez, who writes and speaks frequently about faith and public life, and prayer and the Church, offers readers a tour of the magnificent variety of mystical writing in the heart of the Church. Featuring reflections from both household and contemporary names like Saint John Paul II, Mother Teresa and Edith Stein, as well as titanic historic figures such as St. Catherine of Siena and John of the Cross. The words of these holy men and women of prayer are presented in accessible doses ideal for daily prayer amidst the seemingly all-consuming busy-ness of life.

Each page is an invitation to enter more deeply into the life of faith. What does the road to union with God look like? What is a dark night? What is true love of the Trinity? What is this Church as bridegroom business?


Is there a doctor in the house? How about a vendor? A paid attendee? Could there have been a less anticipated, actual baseball game than the one played in Philadelphia's Shibe Park on Friday, June 10, 1938? It featured two of the National Pastime's iconic basement-dweller franchises, the 18–26 Philadelphia Athletics and the 15–27 St. Louis Browns. It was witnessed by . . . 154 people. Shibe's capacity was 33,000. There may have been more ushers and vendors than fans.

To make the home town fans' loneliness worse, the Browns' ace, good old Bobo Newsom, pitched a complete-game, 8–4 victory (and even smacked two hits, scored two runs, and drove in one).

The E-Mail Man Cometh

Per the previous Weekend Jolt, in which Yours Truly expressed disdain for the papal desire to translate the Lord's Prayer, this missive was prompted:

I was raised a Lutheran in a church not at all sympathetic to Catholicism, but we were taught in confirmation class that God never leads us into temptation. I'm still not a Catholic, but I'm with the Pope on this one.

God bless,


Thanks Emil, and our rejoinder will refrain from heresy jokes and all other jocular comebacks and comments except to say your position here is duly noted.

A Dios

Enjoy this summer day, mindful of the glory and beauty of creation, of the divine beneficence that surrounds us. But that Wesley Smith item haunts me and urges me to in turn urge that we be mindful of this too: It's likely that right now, in China, a person is being murdered and his organs harvested . . . because he was a Falun Gong practitioner, or for some other reason that mystifies and dispirits. For the soul being brought this moment to Our Maker, even by the hands of depravity, pray — because your prayers do matter — that the suffering is swift and over, that it ends immediately with an eternal, comforting embrace by the Redeemer.

Sorry to end on such a grim note, but be of good cheer: The barbeque and the cold one will still be there waiting for you post-prayer.

God Bless You and Yours, and All Who Cry Out in Torment,

Jack Fowler

Who can be reached, à la Emil, for reactions and rebuttals and even nasty wisecracks at jfowler@nationalreview.com.


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