Saturday, August 31, 2019

Bricka Bracka Firecracka Sis Boom Bah!

Dear Weekend Joltarian,

The huts of August are once again heard bowling across the fruited plains, as modern Galloping Ghosts and Horsemen and Blocks of Granite take to the gridiron while beer-besotted and bratwurst-engorged fans and alumni straggle into coliseums and stadia midway through the first quarter, leaving behind exhausted tailgates and heaps of redeemable cans.

College football has commenced, and the pros are set for this coming week (Thursday night, the Packers and Bears: Green Bay leads this historic series, 97–95–6). Yours Truly will likely take another knee this season when it comes to watching, exhausted by the ongoing disrespect shown to Old Glory by virtue-signaling millionaires and free-ride undergrads. Still, the game is a cultural colossus.

And a cause for concerns. The brutality of it all has caused the ...

August 31 2019


Bricka Bracka Firecracka Sis Boom Bah!

Dear Weekend Joltarian,

The huts of August are once again heard bowling across the fruited plains, as modern Galloping Ghosts and Horsemen and Blocks of Granite take to the gridiron while beer-besotted and bratwurst-engorged fans and alumni straggle into coliseums and stadia midway through the first quarter, leaving behind exhausted tailgates and heaps of redeemable cans.

College football has commenced, and the pros are set for this coming week (Thursday night, the Packers and Bears: Green Bay leads this historic series, 97–95–6). Yours Truly will likely take another knee this season when it comes to watching, exhausted by the ongoing disrespect shown to Old Glory by virtue-signaling millionaires and free-ride undergrads. Still, the game is a cultural colossus.

And a cause for concerns. The brutality of it all has caused the great Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck, to pack it in, an old man at 29. The news came, unexpected, and crushing. Jim Geraghty, WJ's godfather and a man who always has pigskin on the brain, reflected. From his piece:

Right now, all over the greater Indianapolis area, there are children with Luck jerseys, who watch every game aired before bedtime, with tears in their eyes. Say it ain't true, Andrew. They don't realize it now, but in a generation they'll be telling their kids about the times they watched Luck engineer an amazing game-winning drive. Sometime in autumn 2044, they'll be watching the 8D VR holo-projection of the Indianapolis Colts against the London Beefeaters, telling their children, "You kids think Rod Schmidlap is good, and he is, but you guys should have seen Andrew Luck in his prime!"

But this is why people watch sports; it doesn't stick to a prearranged script. (Fox Sports used to promote its baseball postseason coverage with the line "You can't script October.") Defeat and disappointment are inevitable, even in the most illustrious careers. Just as it is better to have loved and lost that never to have loved at all, it is better to enjoy those thrilling moments of victory and excellence, even when you know that it could all end with a sudden injury.

Meanwhile and related, there is a big push to reform college sports — isn't there always? Maybe there should be. More below . . . on this and so much else that constitutes the Labor Day Weekend edition of the missive you surely read for penance. This one was compiled in stolen bits from the NR Canada / New England Cruise, crafted mostly in the Crow's Nest, and submitted early because, well, Yours Truly is getting good interwebs service in Nova Scotia.

And now, before we get to all the meat and potatoes, as a service to our readers, we share our favorite stadium chant, courtesy of Mr. B. Bunny.


We remain unimpressed with the President's trade warring and concerned about its possible consequences to America's economy. From the editorial:

The tariffs — along with the uncertainty created by the trade war — are obviously one reason that there are warning signs of rough economic waters ahead, including major downward revisions to recent job-creation estimates. Xi can see this as easily as anyone else. The Chinese economy is more vulnerable to the trade war than ours, and is sustaining more damage, but Xi isn't running for reelection in 2020. Only Trump is.

We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the Chinese have been completely recalcitrant and acted in bad faith, across the decades and during these negotiations. It wasn't Trump who ripped up on almost-completed agreement earlier this year, but the Chinese. They struck what would have been all the meaningful constraints on their behavior and put the two counties back on a collision course.

That said, there are all sorts of ways, besides tariffs, to pressure the Chinese. We could cooperate more closely with others in the region, including by reviving the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We could put a higher priority on concluding free-trade agreements with Japan and Britain. We could bring more cases against China through the World Trade Organization. We could use rifle-shot retaliation against specific instances of Chinese cheating. We could limit Chinese access to our financial markets and our schools. None of this would be as thunderous as announcements of new tariffs, but it'd be more sustainable and likely more effective over the long term.

Lookie Lookie at All These Tasty Goodies – Lookies Like 18! – in the NRO Pantry

1. Chart-o-philic Dan McLaughlin, looking at the stats, answers NO to the question, will the 2020 presidential election be a squeaker, and includes a terrific history lesson on America's dozen close races, which he ranks. Pick a number, any number . . . here's Number 3:

Gerald Ford (R), 1976: Lost

Popular vote: 48.0 percent (lost by 2.07 percent)

Electoral vote: 240–297 (44.6 percent)

The only president never elected president or vice president, Gerald Ford lost a surprisingly close race in 1976 to Democratic former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter. Ford would have won the election if he had swung either New York (which he lost by 4.42 percent after controversially refusing to bail out New York City's fiscal crisis) or a combination of Ohio (Carter by 0.27 percent) and either Wisconsin (Carter by 1.68 percent) or Mississippi (Carter by 1.88 percent). Then again, Ford also won six states by less than 1.5 percent, ten states by less than 2.5 percent. It was a highly competitive race at the end across a broad field of states.

Ford served as vice president for only nine months and had been president for just over two years entering the fall of 1976, during which time he weathered a pair of assassination attempts. He faced a battery of factors working against him, including high inflation, the hangover from Watergate and his controversial pardon of Richard Nixon, and the collapse of South Vietnam. Carter swept the South outside of Virginia, the last time the region united behind a Democrat. Carter benefited from the youth vote, as the oldest Baby Boomers turned 30 in 1976; since the beginning of exit polling, Ford and Mitt Romney in 2012 are the only candidates to win voters age 30 and up and still lose the election.

Ford also suffered the most bitterly contested primary challenge ever mounted against a sitting president, with Ronald Reagan winning 11 of the 28 primaries, 46 percent of the vote, and 47 percent of the convention delegates. Reagan's conservative revolt captured most of the South and West; Ford would go on to lose nine states in the general election that Reagan had carried in the primaries: Texas (26 electoral votes), North Carolina (13), Missouri (12), Georgia (12), Louisiana (10), Minnesota (10), Alabama (9), South Carolina (8), and Arkansas (6). The nomination remained in doubt all the way to the convention in mid August. Ford, for his part, had to replace his disgruntled liberal vice president, former New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, with Kansas senator Bob Dole, seen then as a more conservative, western voice. Reagan in his electrifying impromptu speech at the convention formally buried the hatchet, but simultaneously convinced most of the audience that the party had nominated the wrong man.

2. John Hood thinks the "new nationalists" are making three big and speculative bets. From his essay:

Although Meyer's "fusionism" didn't produce a true fusion of disparate elements into a single new philosophical compound, it did provide the intellectual container for a political movement that challenged progressives and populists alike who sought to expand the size, cost, and intrusiveness of American government. Was the modern conservative movement always or entirely successful? Of course not. But it arrested government encroachments in some areas and rolled them back in others.

Now, such fusionist thinking is derided as outmoded, incoherent, ineffective, and self-destructive. So-called liberaltarians argue that the natural political and intellectual home of the classical liberal lies with the modern American liberal, the left-wing progressive with whom the libertarian supposedly shares the common values of equality and tolerance. And the new nationalists argue that the future of conservatism lies with populist economics, and with a passionate embrace of the nation-state as the organizing principle of political engagement and civil government.

It is a dramatic moment. Many Americans are frustrated — I get that. I am, too. And trying to fashion new political alliances and institutions must surely be tempting and exhilarating. But I believe both liberaltarianism and conservative nationalism to be doomed enterprises.

3. There it goes. Out of the park. That's where Andy McCarthy knocks this piece, assessing what kind of justice canned FBI fibmeister Andrew McCabe helped preclude, and what kind he surely deserves. From the piece:

In the Obama Justice Department — as extended by the Mueller investigation, staffed by Obama Justice Department officials and other Clinton-friendly Democrats — justice was dispensed with a partisan eye. If you were Hillary Clinton, you skated. If you were Donald Trump, they were determined to dig until they found something — and, even when they failed to make a case, the digging never stopped . . . it just shifted to Capitol Hill.

No one knows the skewed lay of the land better than Andrew McCabe.

The FBI's former deputy director is in the Justice Department's crosshairs. His lawyers are reportedly pleading with top officials not to indict him for lying to FBI agents who were probing a leak of investigative information, orchestrated by none other than McCabe.

McCabe is feeling the heat because the evidence that he made false statements is daunting. So daunting, in fact, that even he concedes he did not tell the truth to investigators. Listen carefully to what he says about the case — there being no shortage of public commentary on it from the newly minted CNN analyst. He never "deliberately misled anyone," he insists. Sure, he grudgingly admits, some of his statements "were not fully accurate," or perhaps were "misunderstood" by his interrogators. But "at worst," you see, "I was not clear in my responses, and because of what was going on around me may well have been confused and distracted."


4. More Andy: He's not a big fan of conducting foreign policy and making formal executive decisions by Twitter. From his analysis:

I doubt the president can "hereby order" anything on Twitter, even an order he has the constitutional authority to issue. There is doubt about whether the tweets even qualify as presidential records. I'm not a stickler on form; I suspect, though, that something more formal is required before the chief executive can truly be said to have executed an order.

That said, it is surprising to see such dismissive commentary about the president's legal authority to issue directives to companies doing international business.

Now don't get me wrong. As I tried to make clear in connection with Trump's repurposing (for border-wall construction) of funds allocated by Congress, I do not believe a president should have legislative powers — at least in the absence of a true national-security emergency, such as an imminent attack. Alas, my druthers are beside the point.

The Constitution expressly empowers Congress to regulate foreign commerce. It is a legacy of 20th-century progressives' erosion of the Constitution's separation of powers that Congress has delegated much of its authority to the chief executive and a sprawl of administrative agencies.

5. Global-warming virtue signalers preened before the G-7 Summit but, once on the scene, flopped on "climate action." Me-first nationalism prevailed, aided by The Donald's nose-thumbing, says Robert Bryce. From his piece:

Now let's look at the U.S., which has cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by a total of 600 million tons since 2008. For comparison, Germany has cut its emissions by about 100 million tons and the United Kingdom has cut its emissions by 169 million tons. To be clear, per capita emissions in the U.S. are far higher than they are in Germany and the U.K.; Americans drive more and live in bigger houses than their European counterparts. Nevertheless, the drop in overall U.S. emissions is nearly as large as what was achieved in all of Europe over the past decade (756 million tons).

Furthermore, the reductions in U.S. emissions were largely due not to government mandates but to the shale revolution. Over the past decade, thanks to hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, domestic natural-gas production has nearly doubled. The surge in production has encouraged U.S. electricity producers to shutter coal plants and replace them with ones fueled by natural gas. The result is that in 2018, U.S. coal consumption was at its lowest level since the 1970s. It appears that domestic coal consumption will continue falling over the next few years as lower-cost gas continues to displace coal.

6. Ox-goring: Rich Lowry tells the New York Times to stop whining about the efforts by Trump allies to unearth stupid tweets from Times employees and other journalists dogging the president. From his column:

A spokesman for CNN went further, saying that when government officials, "and those working on their behalf, threaten and retaliate against reporters as a means of suppression, it's a clear abandonment of democracy for something very dangerous."

MSNBC host Joy Reid tweeted (then deleted), "Welcome to the age of digital brownshirtism."

This is the usual hysteria yoked to the usual foggy thinking. The First Amendment is an important protection of press freedom. Yet nothing in it protects members of the press from criticism, let alone criticism over things they have written. Such criticisms are exercises of free speech in response to other exercises of free speech — i.e., public debate.

If the Times and others don't like the weaponization of foolhardy and untoward social-media postings, they can start pushing back against it across the board.

The left-wing organization Media Matters for America exists to publicize (allegedly) controversial statements by conservative media figures toward the end of getting them fired or ushered off the air. If recirculating the past tweets of employees of liberal news organizations is undemocratic, why isn't the work of Media Matters also dangerously authoritarian?

7. Michael Gibson says if the tech whizzes and their venture funders have trouble figuring out complex things such as driverless cars, what can we expect of government bureaucrats dabbling in industrial policy. From the beginning of his piece:

The idea that the government might successfully support and steer innovation is making a comeback as wonks both left and right show a renewed interest in "industrial policy." But faceless functionaries steering anything from D.C. should terrify us all. Even the most credible, savvy venture capitalists and entrepreneurs fail at an astonishing rate. Why would a bureaucrat with a ton of money do better?

To see how difficult it is to push the frontier, take the coming wave of innovation in the auto industry.

Over the past three years now, I have watched from my perch at the corner of Broadway and Front Street in San Francisco as a small fleet of SUVs suffers the most dreadful punishment outside my office window. Circling and circling, sometimes farther and sometimes closer, but always coming back like two-ton boomerangs, these SUVs have taken the same routes around the same city blocks, every day, day after day.

8. David Bahnsen calls out Business Roundtable weinies for the dishonest statement rendered last week that seeks to redefine the purpose of a corporation as policy gobbledygook. From the article:

One of my least favorite expressions in the public square is a successful businessperson or successful athlete referring to their desire to "give back" to their community, usually in publicly and loudly announcing a charitable donation they are making (perhaps a new statement on Matthew 6:4 is in order, but I digress). I am quite a big fan of philanthropy and view it as a vital component of civil society. But one cannot "give back" unless he first received something, and the implication in that well-meaning vocabulary is that one is returning something he took. The language matters. Sharing the fruits of your hard work is laudable and noble, for the very reason that you are voluntarily and sacrificially releasing what is yours, not returning what is not yours.

The language of the Business Roundtable's release is problematic in the same way. The delivery of value to customers is, at its core, the source of profit-making activities in a business. Big bad shareholders do not benefit without profits, and profits do not exist without customers, and customers do not exist without, voilà — value! This axiomatic truth is the textbook definition of free markets — the alignment of interests embedded in the profit motive, where service of others paradoxically drives a better result for oneself.

RELATED: David — the Apostle of Dividends — recently had a great appearance on Steve Forbes' popular "What's Ahead" podcast. Listen to it here.

9. The new Netflix gig by used-to-be funnyman David Chappelle is about defending Michael Jackson and abortion and more. Kyle Smith says plenty of marks are missed. From his review:

If there weren't an audience primed to laugh at everything Chappelle says in his new set — people even chuckle at his mention of Anthony Bourdain's suicide — the act would probably be better described as a monologue than a standup routine. Chappelle is a thoughtful guy and he no longer has to worry about whether there's a laugh every 30 seconds. Even so, he comes across as more aggrieved than funny in a bit on how Kevin Hart was dumped as an Oscar host for having written homophobic tweets many years previously. I expected Chappelle to deliver more on the subject, especially given the thunderous denunciation he gives his audience near the start of the show: "Y'all n*****s is the worst motherf*****s I've ever tried to entertain in my f***ing life. Goddamn sick of it. This is the worst time ever to be a celebrity."

Even in his best bits, as when he mocks Jussie Smollett's ludicrous hate-crime story, the material isn't as strong as you'd have expected. Chappelle says that when Smollett first reported his claims, "African Americans, we were like oddly quiet. . . . The gay community started accusing the African American community of being homophobic for not supporting him. What they didn't understand is that we were supporting him with our silence. Because we understood that this n***** was clearly lying." That seems a bit off; Al Sharpton and many other prominent black Americans publicly backed Smollett. The dividing line was between the crusading social-justice types and those who dismiss identity politics as a power play.

10. The New York Times' "1619 Project" relies on the failed Confederate economic theory of "King Cotton," says Philip Magness. From the outset of his essay:

'I say that cotton is king, and that he waves his scepter not only over these 33 states, but over the island of Great Britain and over continental Europe!" So thundered Senator Louis T. Wigfall of Texas in December 1860, as an intended warning to those who doubted the economic viability of secessionism. Like many southerners, Wigfall subscribed to the "King Cotton" thesis: the belief that slave-produced cotton commanded a controlling position over the American economy and indeed the world's commercial engines. Developed in the 1850s by political economist David Christy and championed by the radical pro-slavery politician James Henry Hammond, that argument was to be the nascent Confederacy's trump card — an engine of global wealth in which all other economic activities were intertwined. Indeed, no nation would dare make war upon plantation slavery, for if the South suspended its production, in the words of Hammond, "we could bring the whole world to our feet."

The strategy failed. The secessionists effectively self-embargoed what remained of their export crop in the wake of the war's physical destruction and the Union's blockade, and attempts to draw the European powers into the war on the Confederacy's behalf were unsuccessful. King Cotton, in practice, proved nothing more than part self-delusion and part racist propaganda to rationalize the supposed economic necessity of chattel slavery. Modern empirical analysis has similarly debunked its claims: As Harvard economist Nathan Nunn has demonstrated, a strong negative relationship exists between the historical existence of slavery in a county or state and its level of income, persisting to the present day.

Yet despite its historical untenability, the economic reasoning behind King Cotton has undergone a surprising — perhaps unwitting — rehabilitation through a modern genre of scholarly works known as the new history of capitalism (NHC). While NHC historians reject the pro-slavery thrust of Wigfall and Hammond's bluster, they recast slave-produced cotton as "not just as an integral part of American capitalism, but . . . its very essence," to quote Harvard's Sven Beckert. Cornell historian Ed Baptist goes even further, describing slavery as the indispensable causal driver behind America's wealth today. Cotton production, he contends, was "absolutely necessary" for the Western world to break the "10,000-year Malthusian cycle of agriculture."

11. More on NYT's 1619: Michael Brendan Dougherty takes on the project's packaging and the usual suspects' strident defenses of it. From his reflection:

Conservatives have not been caught dumbfounded by the 1619 Project, dropping their picture books of George Washington and his cherry tree, mouths agape at the idea that the journey of black Americans from enslavement, to emancipation, and through Jim Crow and civil rights is central to the American story. We merely stand against the revisionists in emphasizing a fundamental conflict, rather than congruence, between the Revolutionary generation's work in our founding charter and ideals and the reality of slavery. This is reflected in some of that generation's personal and political hypocrisy regarding slavery, almost universally recognized. And it was expressed almost immediately in the growing political conflict over slavery and the attempted exit of the Slave Power from the United States. Some historians also object the project's reliance on a distorting school of anti-capitalist history.

If the aim is to tell the history of our country "truthfully" for the first time, we have to include everyone and everything and seek the right proportion. The 1619 Project has something to offer. It fails when it falls into mere generalities and convenient elisions.

12. Max Eden scores NYC's allegedly "value neutral" curriculum — dubbed "Social and Emotional Learning" — that is anything but. From his piece:

SEL isn't an entirely new phenomenon. Schools have always been in the business of character education. And as University of Arkansas professor Jay Greene pointed out, there is a nearly one-to-one match between the classical virtues and the "competencies" outlined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL): "prudence" is rendered as "responsible decision-making," "temperance" as "self-management," etc.

So, why not simply assign students William J. Bennet's The Book of Virtues? Because, as SEL advocates will privately admit, progressive pedagogues can't abide the word "virtue." Too conservative, too wrapped up in the idea of human nature and teleological ends.

SEL is an effort to promote means shorn of ends, to stress value-neutral methodological "competencies" while remaining outwardly agnostic about the particular or universal good toward which those competencies are directed. Because promoting a value-neutral notion of human conduct is itself a value-laden enterprise, the confused result is a technique-driven approach to social and emotional engineering that teeters between ideologies of relativism and progressivism.

13. Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Mary Eberstadt about her important new book, Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics. From the interview:

Kathryn Jean Lopez: At one point in the book, you write: "The crisis over identity is part and parcel of a larger unraveling. . . . Foreboding saturates the politics and societies of the West today. . . . It is not impossible to hear in today's secular jeremiads a displaced panic for a pandemic no one saw coming: the diminution of the human story itself." How is that not overly dramatic, and if it's not overly dramatic, well, shouldn't we panic?

Mary Eberstadt: Sometimes the truth is dramatic. Ours is one of those times.

As chapter two of Primal Screams spells out, we're now surrounded by evidence that something about the way we live has run amok. Psychiatric problems are rising, life expectancy is falling, and many people in public life are at each other's throats. So-called "loneliness studies" have become a fixture of sociology not only in the United States, but across all of the materially advanced nations. There's also new evidence that loneliness has exploded at the other end of time's telescope — among the young. And of course there is multiplying confusion of all sorts related to gender identity, ethnic identity, and much more.

In other words, we live in a time when a great many people are struggling to answer the most basic human question, "Who am I?" How did it ever come to pass that so many of us don't even know who we are? It's hard to think of a more dramatic turn of events than that existential erasure. I wanted to address that confusion, to see what's really driving it.

Lopez: What does the sexual revolution have to do with identity politics?

Eberstadt: A lot. In part, it's simple arithmetic. Think of all the post-revolutionary phenomena that are quotidian facts of life. Abortion, fatherlessness, divorce, single parenthood, childlessness, the shrinking family, the shrinking extended family: Every one of these developments has the effect of reducing the number of people whom we can call our own. And since we are relational creatures, the result is a great vacuum. That's a lot of what the increasingly panicked flight to collective identities is about.

14. Exposing Iran's in-the-shadows tactics is Israel's intentional strategy in dealing with Tehran, writes Seth J. Frantzman. From his analysis:

What is Israel's strategy in all this? The goal is to draw Iran and its allies out of the shadows. Over the past decade, inflamed by the 2015 Iran deal, Tehran has increased its weapons transfers to Hezbollah, sent thousands of advisers to support the Syrian regime, and helped mobilize a network of militias in Iraq. Some of this was used to fight ISIS, or enemies of Bashar al-Assad. But with the ISIS war and Syrian conflict winding down, these groups are turning their threats toward Iran's adversaries. Tehran is obsessed with destroying Israel, as can be seen in its frequent statements and militaristic parades. It has launched drones from Syria into Israel in February 2018, rockets in May 2018, and a rocket in January 2019. Hezbollah threatens that its 150,000 rockets can strike all of Israel.

Air strikes on Iran's network of proxies force the network out of the shadows. It can't hide in villas in southern Syria, or launch drones at night, or stockpile ballistic missiles in Iraq if it is looking over its shoulder and increasingly making mistakes through its aggressive and open threats. Iran is used to playing a double game of moderates and hard-liners, sending its smiling foreign minister to the recent G7 while boasting of its allies' drone technology striking Saudi Arabia.

15. The Left's push to delegitimize the Constitution (well, some hard-right Catholics are into this too) as an act of slavery permission is addressed by John Hirschauer in his take on an important book. From the beginning of his piece:

Princeton historian Sean Wilentz's 2018 book No Property in Man is a sober account of the relationship between the United States Constitution and slavery. The book readily acknowledges that it was a relationship marred by hypocrisy and half-measures; "the Constitution's proslavery features," Wilentz concedes, "were substantial." But he asserts that it was the antislavery delegates at the Constitutional Convention — from avowed abolitionists to pragmatic incrementalists — who sketched a path for future abolitionists to eliminate slavery altogether.

That the book stops short of endorsing William Lloyd Garrison's view of an irredeemable Constitution, "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell," has been sufficient for younger historians to question its author's credibility. In his review of No Property in Man, Nicholas Guyatt, once a student of Wilentz's at Princeton, accused his former professor of being primarily interested in "politics rather than history." Guyatt claimed that Wilentz's book "has a narrow understanding of antislavery politics, focused principally on Congress and debates among white elites" rather than those "who struggled to establish pathways out of slavery via the Underground Railroad" or others more directly impacted by the economy of human bondage. That Wilentz's book is explicitly an examination of the antislavery politics of Congress, which necessarily involved exploring "debates among white elites," is never considered. Ultimately, Guyatt claims, Fredrick Douglass and others were "acting not as historians, but as activists" when they expressed an antislavery constitutionalism. "Wilentz, while approaching us as the former," Guyatt laments, "is as much the latter as any of his subjects."

This, and other critical reviews like it, give short shrift to Wilentz's treatment of the fraught relationship between slavery and the Constitution. His is a balanced case: While he resists the impulse to exonerate the Founders, who granted key concessions to pro-slavery southern delegates that fortified the practice of chattel slavery, he likewise rejects Garrison and his modern exponents who would deem the Constitution exclusively pro-slavery. By refusing to codify the notion of "property in man" in the Constitution, Wilentz argues, the Framers left open the possibility that a future Congress would abolish the practice outright, though they themselves had neither the votes nor the fortitude to do.

16. We are spending our grandchildren's money, warns Michael Tanner. A reminder that never gets old. A snippet of his piece:

"Oh Lord, give me chastity," St. Augustine is reputed to have said. "But don't give it yet." So it is with Republicans who have vowed to show some fiscal discipline — sometime during President Trump's second term.

But while we are waiting, the Congressional Budget Office has announced that this year's budget deficit will top $960 billion, $63 billion more than predicted in May of this year. And next year's deficit will almost certainly exceed it. After that, the era of trillion-dollar deficits is here to stay. By 2029, CBO reports our $22 trillion national debt will top around $34 trillion.

President Trump may accomplish the truly Herculean feat of becoming a bigger deficit spender than President Obama. And he'll do it without a catastrophic recession to deal with.

How did we get here? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it wasn't the Republican tax cut. In fact, when compared to 2018, tax revenues went up 3 percent in the first nine months of fiscal year 2019. Would they be even higher in the absence of those cuts? Maybe. But the real problem, as usual, is out-of-control spending.

17. Jed Rubenfeld is open to regulating Big Tech, but isn't cool with the idea of busting them up as monopolies. From his article:

No matter the motivation, it's a terrible idea.

The incompetence, inflexibility, lack of creativity, short-termism, capture, and corruption endemic to government-controlled projects bode poorly for the shape-shifting Internet, where innovation is crucial and new technologies emerge every week. Bureaucrats can't get high-speed rail to America; our public schools are among the worst-performing in the world, measured in dollars per outcome; our infrastructure is crumbling nationwide. Do we really want the Internet run by government too? As Nobel-prize-winning economist Jean Tirole points out, the classic public utilities (railroads, electricity) involved technologies that changed relatively slowly for long periods; with the Internet, government intervention is likely to be "obsolete by the time it is implemented."

The public-utility model didn't even work for AT&T — which managed to overcharge consumers anyway, and which leveraged its monopoly on the telephone wires into predatory control over new products and services. Which brings us to the second much-advocated strategy for reining in Facebook and Google: using antitrust law to break them up, as AT&T was finally broken up in the 1980s.

If the goal is protecting privacy and speech, this is another poor idea. To begin with, it's not clear that even the biggest Internet behemoths are actually illegal monopolies (as opposed to just very successful businesses), so this strategy is guaranteed to be fought in court for years and years, wasting resources, paralyzing the industry, and possibly failing in the end. Second, one thing you can't say about Facebook and Google is that they overcharge consumers (at least in money). Finally, the AT&T break-up, complex though it was, was relatively easy to operationalize through regional segmentation, which doesn't work online. Having ten regional Facebooks makes no sense at all, and no one is seriously proposing it. Instead, the most popular idea is to hive off functionally separable platforms, like Instagram from Facebook, or YouTube from Google, or to prevent platforms such as Amazon from offering their own products. This might help combat the sheer size and power of Big Tech and limit some anticompetitive practices, but apart from potentially reducing cross-platform data aggregation, an antitrust break-up would leave the core businesses intact and leave the core problems of privacy and speech unsolved.

18. Armond White finds Blinded by the Light to be over-caffeinated wokeness. From the beginning of his review:

In Blinded by the Light, a Pakistani-British teenager, played by Viveik Kalra, becomes a Bruce Springsteen fanatic. The supposed irony of a brown-skinned kid's hero worship is so shallow that it's insulting — part of the Great Awokening, the cultural hoodwink already seen in Black Panther and Into the Spider-Verse.

Although set in the Eighties, this saccharine film misrepresents the contemporary phenomenon of celebrity-worship as a means of political complacency (extract Springsteen, insert Beyoncé, Jay-Z, or Taylor Swift).

Blinded by the Light is titled after a 1973 Springsteen track that was itself an imitation of Bob Dylan's mythologizing, borrowing the Bard's messianic, struck-by-lighting revelation. Springsteen's attempt at self-invention mixed social self-consciousness with narcissism in ways that were overwhelmingly romantic and, at best, profoundly so. At worst, it was also phony and ultimately delusional, although the media sold it differently. This movie continues that con.

Springsteen's deification — his establishment respectability and current status as a venerable liberal — confirms that "rock-and-roll rebellion" has become the safest kind of conventionality. Javed takes Springsteen as an icon of the personal and social goals he seeks for himself. But through Javed's supposedly enlightened infatuation, director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) also misrepresents the history of pop diversity. Blinded by the Light actually avoids everything that is interesting about cross-ethnic pop culture.

Ol' Man River Knows Something

He knows you need to consider coming on the National Review 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise, scheduled for April 19–26. It's a go, but our big fear is it's the morning of August 18 and you — yes, you! — are kicking yourself because 1. You had wanted very much to come, 2. You sure as heck were going to reserve a cabin, and 3. You even started filling out the application, but 4. For some unknown reason (well, you know it — that Wallflower Gene kicks in and whispers "you won't fit it" and "you won't know anyone" and "they'll all look at you like you have broccoli stuck in your teeth" — damn that is a mean Wallflower Gene!) you chicken out.

Don't. Sign up at Be confident that for a week or more you'll be hanging with 140 cool and groovy and friendly folks — including ace speakers such as Daniel Hannan, Amity Shlaes, Charles Kesler, Sally Pipes, Seth Lipsky, and NRniks Rich Lowry, John O'Sullivan, David Pryce-Jones, Jay Nordlinger, and Kevin Williamson.

Where will they — you! — be heading? You'll embark the AmaMora in Basel on the 19th, and (there's an optional two-night pre-cruise stay in sweet Zurich and Lucerne), along the merrily-down-the-streaming sojourn of locks and bucolic sights, visit Strasbourg, Cologne, and the riverports of Rüdesheim, Ludwigshafen, Breisach, and Lahnstein, before arriving in Amsterdam on the 25th (and staying on the AmaMora overnight).

In each port, numerous expert-led tour options will be available (they are all part of the cruise package!), and while we're sailing to the next destination, we'll be holding our panel sessions — that's when our invited speakers will consider the day's most pressing issues (from politics and the 2020 elections to policy and the future of Europe).

Your stateroom, the tours, all meals (sumptuous!), port fees, gratuities, and taxes are included in the cost (prices start at only $4,299 a person) and in addition to that are the exclusives, which are part of NR's popular cruise-event program (honed over 25 years and 40+ voyages!):

  • seven scintillating seminars featuring editors and guest speakers;
  • two fun-filled "Night Owl" sessions;
  • three revelrous pool-side cocktail receptions;
  • intimate dining on two or three evenings with a guest speaker or editor (with complimentary, unlimited wine and beer served with every lunch and dinner);
  • one late-night smoker featuring cigars and cognac;
  • numerous tours and excursions in every port;
  • complimentary high-speed Internet / wi-fi in each stateroom.

Great discussions, great speakers, great ship, great sites — Great Caesar's Ghost why haven't you signed up yet?!

The Six

1. Former Oberlin prof Abraham Socher takes to Commentary to lament the conduct of his former employer. From his article:

In August 2017, nine months after his arrest, Jonathan Aladin pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of attempted theft, aggravated trespassing, and underage purchase of alcohol. His friends pled guilty to the first two charges. All three students read statements to the court acknowledging that Allyn Gibson had been within his rights to detain them and that his actions had not been racially motivated. On the sidelines of the court, the director of Oberlin's Multicultural Resource Center and interim assistant dean of students, Antoinette Myers, texted her supervisor, Dean Raimondo. "After a year"—that is, after the students were eligible to have their criminal records expunged—"I hope we rain fire and brimstone on that store," Myers wrote.

The fact that the students' guilty plea was the result of a plea deal, as most criminal convictions are, and that the students' allocution was compelled by the court (a feature of criminal justice with deep roots in common law) encouraged many students and faculty to believe that somehow this had still been a racist incident. How, exactly, was never made clear. What should Allyn Gibson have done with an underage customer who had just shown him a clearly fake I.D. and now had two bottles of wine under his shirt? Perhaps if Gibson had said something like "Come let us reason together: I can't sell you wine, but I can share a nice cold Snapple with you while we discuss my family's exceedingly thin profit margins and how we are both oppressed under neoliberalism," things would have been different. They might even have found out that they had something in common, since Jonathan Aladin was the student treasurer at Oberlin, which also has thin margins.

2. At the J. G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Anthony Hennen considers the latest efforts to reform college sports, on both the academic and student-health fronts. From the conclusion of his commentary:

The current incentives of college sports don't favor student-athletes or education. "I really think the conversation starts with the NCAA putting education at the forefront and having the decisions that they make indicate that. It's really setting that example that we are first and foremost educational institutions, and we as a policing body prioritize that," Colin Williams wrote.

The NCAA often claims self-reform, but rarely enacts anything beyond minor changes. In 2004, then-NCAA president Myles Brand proclaimed that "landmark legislation marks the beginning of a sea change in college sports" after new academic standards meant to improve graduation rates were announced. But lackluster academic achievement remains a problem, as the University of North Carolina's scandal showed.

"The issue, or the challenge, is something must be put in place to establish true governance to protect the welfare of our students," Fritz Polite said.

That challenge, though, might only be met by outside politicians driving reform, an outright boycott by the public, or a refusal from student-athletes themselves to play in the current system. Until then, most athletic reforms will remain ideas without force, stymied by university officials and compliant politicians.

3. More Oberlin: The college's anti-male bias, reports Lexi Lonas in The College Fix, has percolated in an important lawsuit. From the beginning of the piece:

Can colleges openly discriminate against male students accused of sexual misconduct, "so long as they masked their bias in any particular proceeding"?

That's the question at stake in a Title IX lawsuit against Oberlin College, now before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the accused student, "John Doe."

The liberal arts college found John responsible for sexual assault based only on his sex partner allegedly saying "I am not sober," then expelled him.

Unlike the much higher profile defamation lawsuit filed against Oberlin by a local bakery, which received a multimillion-dollar jury award, the college won John's Title IX lawsuit at the trial court last month.

The judge found that John failed to show that the allegedly incorrect finding against him was the result of gender bias.

John's brief to the 6th Circuit argues that this is not a credible reading of his evidence, particularly the comments of then-Title IX Coordinator Meredith Raimondo, who is now the dean of students.

4. At Law & Liberty, Douglas Rasmussen answers the question, "what is the state of liberty?" From his essay:

The defense of liberty as classical liberalism or libertarianism understands it is very much in intellectual disarray, because the appeal to a reality that is both the source and standard for truth has been rejected by many philosophical schools to which many contemporary classical liberals and libertarians adhere—such as constructivism and conceptual pragmatism. Further, many classical liberals and libertarians act as if metaphysics is not important, but they do so at their intellectual peril. As I think of it, that peril may turn out to be not only intellectual. For if there is no basis in reality that supports their championing of liberty, and if such a view does not comport to the demands of so-called public reason, then not only are classical liberals or libertarians without intellectual support but they are also seen as a threat to the prevailing Zeitgeist. Indeed, they are candidates to be shouted down or possibly silenced.

Yet, there is also here a second point that should concern free-market economists. Economics is simply being ignored by many thinkers, and, of course, by politicians, because there is no nature to human action for economics to describe and hence no laws of economics that capture natural necessities. The alleged negative effects of regulations, such as minimum wage law or tariffs, are not seen as anything that must result. Rather, economic laws are only intellectual constructions that derive their necessity and cogency from themselves and not from the real world. They do not describe "facts" to which public policy must conform. Instead, they are seen as a projection of a neo-liberal ideology that is really nothing more than a disguise for the rich and politically powerful. To put it crudely, and in classical Marxian language, economists are seen just as apologists for certain class interests.

5. At Gatestone Institute, Raymond Ibrahim recounts the persecution of Christians in June 2019. I wonder what I was doing June 9 while far away, the carnage was plentiful. From his report:

Mali: On June 9, Islamic Fulani gunmen massacred at least 95 Christians — including women and children. During their rampage in a Christian village, they set it ablaze before leaving; several of the slain were burned alive. “About 50 heavily armed men arrived on motorbikes and pickups,” a survivor recalled. “They first surrounded the village and then attacked — anyone who tried to escape was killed. . . . No one was spared — women, children, elderly people.” Security sources confirmed that the raiders also randomly killed domestic animals in the village. It was “virtually wiped out.”

Burkina Faso: Islamic terrorists slaughtered 29 Christians over the course of two separate raids. The first took place on Sunday, June 9, in the town of Arbinda; 19 Christians were slaughtered. The next day, another ten Christians were murdered in a nearby town. An additional 11,000 Christians fled the region and were left displaced; they feared if they were to remain in their villages they would be next. “There is no Christian anymore in this town [Arbinda],” said a local contact. He added that “It’s proven that they [terrorists] were looking for Christians. Families who hide Christians are [also] killed. Arbinda had now lost in total no less than 100 people within six months.” These June attacks follow a string of Islamic terror attacks in the West African nation over the preceding six weeks that left at least another 20 Christians dead.

6. In the Telegraph, the great Andrew Roberts defends the US/UK "Special Relationship" while calling out the shame-attempting Emmanuel Macron, who seems obtuse to his positioning France as Germany's valet. From the article:

For Macron, whose own country has been the junior partner – one might almost say historic vassal – of Germany for six decades now, to sneer at Britain is utterly hypocritical. Of course describing a British prime minister as an American president's puppet or poodle has been a staple of European caricaturists going back to Harold Macmillan and JFK. It was even suggested of Margaret Thatcher's relationship with Ronald Reagan.

In fact, however, the strength of the Special Relationship is that the leaders of Britain and America are able to disagree strongly, but can do so as friends. Boris Johnson was therefore firmly in the mainstream of history when he took a divergent stance on the China trade war, telling President Trump at Biarritz: "We are in favour of trade peace on the whole. The UK has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade."

Being able to disagree in a friendly way with American presidents – as Thatcher did with Reagan over the invasion of Grenada, and Winston Churchill often did with Roosevelt over the grand strategy of the Second World War – is part of a British premier's job, and that is why I have read so many obituaries of people who have prematurely written the obituary of the Special Relationship.

With the bromance between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, we are seeing yet another golden age of the Special Relationship, which is good news for both countries and for the world.

BONUS: Our dear pal, Robert Agostinelli, gives permission to print this letter-to-the-editor submitted to the Telegraph. It is an unvarnished response to Andrew Robert's op-ed, a no-holds-barred assessment of Monsieur le Président. You may want to read with your asbestos spectacles. Here it is, in toto:

Often bullies come from the smallness of being if not outright cowardice. President Emmanuel Macron fits the bill in both regards.

No student of history but well steeped in the tyrannical throes of the socialist dogma he so covets he has been a sad failure since his "invention" as a leader.

His hatred run deep. First for the remnants of the enlightened Christian ethic of his very own nation which he systematically serves to undermine. A devout secularist who inspires tribalism and is explicitly responsible for the accelerated soft jihadism currently enveloping every major French Ville. While striking a pose as a reformer, tinkering at the edges of the rigid "contract sociale" he has lit the flame of insurrection by the gilet jaune in turn castrating any hope of economic growth under the false deity of climate change.

His embrace of the tyrannical failed concept of the EU is a logical extension of his flawed belief system. Like all failed nation state leaders pointing to external culprits is a tried and true path of tactical misdirection here he is in league with his heroes from Stalin, Mao,Castro, Maduro et al.

Andrew Roberts has used his usual laser scope to slice through the charade and hustle by "dear Emmanuel". As clear minded as he is brave Mr. Roberts throw the curtain aside on this would be wizard and his make believe Oz.

His smug disregard for the hopes and aspirations of his own people, the fairest of which have in turn colonized both England and America in search of a better life marks him as an enemy of good by any other name.

Instead of his seething resentment for the will of the English people and his extended denial of the traditional power and goodness of the resilient "special relationship " he should show a modicum of gratitude to our nations. A simply reading of the history he rejects would demonstrate the real vassal is his and the boot of tyranny he so embraces would be far greater had we not the will to collectively show up in Normandy to take back freedom for all of Europe and in turn remain a friend despite the insult on injury received.

His bluster will soon turn on him with hurricane force in his sad meltdown to the oblivion whence he belongs.

For Later This Coming Week: A Day I'll Always Remember

It was the Third of September . . .


Reader Phil wrote and thought this article would have me shouting "Amen!" and he was right, about how the National Pastime is played today — how even to some of its once stars (Lou, Goose, the guy who tried to kill Ray Fosse) it is proving unwatchable, its strategies dying in order to feed the home run beast. Sayeth The Goose:

I can't watch these games anymore. . . It's not baseball. It's unwatchable. A lot of the strategy of the game, the beauty of the game, it's all gone. It's like a video game now. It's home run derby with their [expletive] launch angle every night.

About the home run: rummaging through the statistics of years gone way by, it is remarkable how few dingers were dinged in the mid 40s in the AL. Take 1944: the league's eight teams hit a combined 459 home runs. That's an average of 57 per team. In 1945 it got worse: 430 homers for a per-team average of 53. Particularly incapable of putting the ball over the fence were two teams, the Chicago White Sox, which hit but 22 homers in 1944 and 27 in 1945, and the Washington Senators, whose un-Ruthian players hit 33 and 22 homers in the same years. Amazingly, the punchless Nats still nearly pulled off the pennant in 1945, trailing the Tigers by a game and a half in a battle that lasted from mid-August until the season's final day.

Why the paucity of home runs: Was the ball dead, courtesy of WW2? A challenge for those who are fanatics and know the answer and are thrilled to share it with this ignorant correspondent. My secret agent friend at the Hall of Fame sent along this 2013 Bleacher Report article that is a history of America's favorite white ball.

A Dios

We have such good supporters and friends. This 40-somethingth NR cruise that is now in the Zaandam's rear-view mirror — it was a wonderful week — was another special opportunity to spend time with them. To amend Bismark, God protects the United States of America . . . and National Review. We thank Him for this.

God's Blessings and Graces and Tender Mercies, May They Shower Upon You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, who is quite ready to receive tips on combatting sea legs and any other messages and recipes at

P.S.: Don't forget to come to Palm Beach in October and help National Review Institute as it awards the 2019 William F. Buckley Jr. Prizes, this year honoring Rush Limbaugh and Gay Gaines.


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