Check out the latest episode of The Editors, in which Charlie, Reihan, and Michael Brendan Dougherty discuss Bannon’s departure, Trump’s speech on Afghanistan, and more!
Decision Desk HQ has just released a poll of likely voters in the primary runoff for the special U.S. Senate election in Alabama, the results of which confirm the widespread popularity of GOP candidate Roy Moore.
No Republican candidate obtained 50 percent of the vote in last Tuesday’s primary, so incumbent Luther Strange will face former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Moore in a runoff contest for the GOP nomination on September 26. In the first round of the primary, Moore received close to 39 percent of the vote, while Strange received just 32.8 percent.
The DDHQ/Opinion Savvy poll out today found that over 50 percent of likely voters say they would vote for Moore if the runoff were today, while just 32.2 percent indicate they’d vote for Strange. Just under 40 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion of Strange, compared to 54.3 percent who view Moore favorably.
These numbers seem to confirm what the primary results already suggested: that Moore has a large base of popularity among Alabamans, unlike Strange, who has never been elected to the Senate. He was appointed by former Alabama governor Robert Bentley to fill Jeff Sessions’s seat when the long-time senator moved to head up the Department of Justice under Trump.
Strange has strong backing from the GOP establishment — he was endorsed by Trump before the August 15 primary and has millions in funding from the McConnell-tied Senate Leadership Fund PAC — but that fact doesn’t seem to be doing him any favors with Alabama voters.
This is somewhat surprising, given that 68.6 percent of voters surveyed in this new poll said they strongly approve of the president, and another 14.8 percent said they somewhat approve of him. Just 14 percent of likely voters in the poll either somewhat or strongly disapprove of Trump. But the Alabama voters who are enthusiastic about Trump seem much more inclined to break in favor of Moore.
Among those who strongly approve of Trump, Moore has a 65 percent favorability rating, while Strange has just 48.2 percent favorability within the same group. Moore leads Strange by over 25 percentage points among respondents who strongly approve of the president and by over 10 percentage points among those who somewhat approve of Trump.
The winner of the runoff will face Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the general election on December 12.
This passage from President Trump’s speech on Afghanistan deserves more attention:
In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.
But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.
Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States. We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region (emphasis added).
Trump’s toughness on Pakistan drew a lot of comment after the speech, with most observers welcoming it. Everyone understands that developing a closer relationship with India, whatever other goods it would accomplish, is a way to put pressure on Pakistan. Agree or disagree with the policy, it’s an intelligible part of a South Asia strategy. Using the threat of action against India on trade, meanwhile, is also defensible as a way of pressuring India to help us in Afghanistan.
Doing both of these things at the same time, however, will be challenging. It means we have to threaten simultaneously to be warmer to India (to pressure Pakistan) and cooler to India (to pressure India). That’s going to require some pretty deft diplomacy from the Trump administration.
Writing for Spiked Online, Naomi Firsht gives details of Britain’s latest attack on free speech (my emphasis added).
Hate is hate’, says Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, explaining the new Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidelines on hate crime. Abusive or offensive messages on social media can now be classified as hate crimes, and the perpetrators subjected to harsher sentencing. A statement on the CPS website says that, ‘in recognition of the growth of hate crime perpetrated using social media’, the CPS will ‘treat online crime as seriously as offline offences, while taking into account the potential impact on the wider community as well as the victim’.
….So what is a hate crime? According to the CPS, ‘a hate crime can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property’. It is officially defined as: ‘Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person’s disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; or religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, or a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.’
What constitutes ‘hostility’? Well, the CPS says it uses the ‘everyday understanding of the word’, which can include ‘ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike’. This effectively means reporting a social-media post which could be deemed unfriendly on the basis of a person’s identity. Thank goodness Facebook never made a ‘dislike’ button, or we’d all be criminals.
It’s wrong to equate online posts with interactions which take place in person. Tweeting something unpleasant is not the same as shouting abuse in the street, and absolutely not on a par with physical assault. Saunders clearly doesn’t agree with this distinction. In an article for the Guardian this week, she drew parallels between the attacks in Charlottesville and Barcelona and online hate. ‘We should remember that there is a less visible frontline which is easily accessible to those in the UK who hold extreme views on race, religion, sexuality, gender and even disability. I refer to the online world where an increasing proportion of hate crime is now perpetrated’, she says. This is madness. To equate horrific terrorism (13 were killed in the Las Ramblas attack) with someone tweeting an ‘extreme’ view on gender or religion is actually quite repellent.
It is repellent—more than repellent—but it also reflects the failure of the British state to get to grips with the problem posed by terrorism specifically, and Islamic extremism more generally. Far easier to go after some jackass who has tweeted something vile, or even just something that ‘offends’ someone else.
More than that, the fact that the test can be subjective (“perceived by the victim or any other person”) and that hate speech can include “unfriendliness” is clearly designed to give the enforcers of silence the widest possible latitude, something that is obviously intended to encourage anyone who thinks that he or she might even possibly fall foul of the censors to hesitate before committing anything, let alone anything that might possibly be construed as a thoughtcrime, to twitter. Chilling effect much?
And if anyone thinks that these rules will be applied fairly, I have a bridge to sell them.
As a reminder, Britain has been governed by a Conservative or Conservative-dominated government since 2010.
I have no doubt that free speech will come under far more sustained assault should today’s hard left Labour Party come into power (and the way that the Tories are running things, there’s a very good chance of that), but if and when Labour does, the Conservative party will have handed it the tools it needs.
Heckuva job, Theresa
The American legal profession has long operated like a medieval guild, with a host of rules and regulations designed to keep down the number of practitioners. And like other anticompetitive occupational cartels, the impact is worst for poor people. It’s much harder for them to work in the legal profession and the higher costs of legal services is felt most acutely by poor people, who often have to do without legal help when they need it. Just as impediments against a free market in cab service hurts the poor the most, so too with the legal profession.
One lawyer who knows this is Allen Mendenhall and in today’s Martin Center article, he explains why states should ditch American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation for their law schools. ABA accreditation merely increases the cost of legal education and does nothing at all to guarantee lawyer competence. Mendenhall writes of the ABA, “Its onerous and in many cases outmoded regulations drive up the price of law school, forcing schools to reallocate resources away from students and education and towards regulatory compliance.”
A few states allow non-ABA law schools to operate (oddly enough, California among them) and those schools cost much less and are more accommodating to “non-traditional” students. “Law schools that are not ABA-accredited often offer inexpensive, part-time evening or night programs that enable students to work during their studies,” Mendenhall writes. ”Students who cannot afford to take off years of work to pursue legal education can complete these part-time programs in four to five years. This affordable option provides needed access to legal education for low-income students who wish to become lawyers.”
Actually, the Gordian Knot-cutting solution is just to allow the free market full rein in the legal profession. Mendenhall agrees, writing, “If there were no law schools, no bar exams, and no barriers to entry, we could still figure out how to weed out the good lawyers from the bad. In fact, we might even see exciting new advances in the field of online reputation markets that could rank and assess lawyers, giving a feedback mechanism to consumers.” In this regard, he briefly mentions unauthorized practice of law prohibitions. Those laws keep out people who want to compete with licensed attorneys — they protect the guild’s turf. Getting rid of them is, I believe, the key element in legal reform.
Freeing up legal education and the legal profession is one of those issues where left and right ought to agree, the author concludes. He’s right. I would dearly love to see state bar associations try to defend their restrictive rules against those who favor free markets and those who are mainly concerned about “social justice.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics just released this new report on women’s earnings in 2016. The difference in men and women’s earnings hasn’t changed much – on average women earned 81.9 percent of men’s earnings in 2016, compared to 81.1 in 2015.
Undoubtedly some will use this occasion to create headlines about the stubborn “wage gap” and imply that rampant workplace discrimination is what causes men to earn more. But the details in the report tell a different story.
Dig into the numbers a bit and you’ll see that the wage gap is much smaller among younger workers than older workers. Women age 16-24 earn 95 percent of their male peers’ earnings, compared to 75 percent for the oldest age group. This is likely due to a combination of factors: younger women are increasingly well-educated compared to men, earning more bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Also, the impact of the different choices men and women make about children and work accumulates over time.
The report also highlights how women and men cluster into different professions:
Across all occupational categories, the three most common jobs for women were elementary and middle school teacher ($981), registered nurse ($1,143), and secretary or administrative assistant ($708). Each of these occupations employed more than 2 million women in 2016, collectively representing 13 percent of women in full-time wage and salary jobs.
Among men, the most common job by far was truck driver (driver/sales workers and truck drivers, $787). In 2016, 2.7 million, or 4 percent, of all male full-wage and salary workers were truck drivers. Although engineering jobs are shown separately by specialty (civil, mechanical, etc.) in this report, if combined, engineer would be the second most common job for men. In 2016, a total of 1.9 million men were employed full time in the 16 designated engineering specialties (median weekly earnings ranging from $1,526 to $1,901).
Feminists frustrated by stubborn gender roles will undoubtedly be unhappy to see that teacher, nurse, and secretary—classically female professions—still top the list for women. And while, of course it is worth considering how to make sure that women feel welcome in and consider other more potentially lucrative career paths, these women are still better positioned than many men. Certainly the future of women in nursing and teaching seems more secure than that of the millions of men who are in trucking, an occupation which could be largely displaced by automation.
This report is worth reading in full. The sober presentation of data about women and men’s work life provides important insights into our economy and is a welcome change from the usual highly-politicized commentary about anything related to differences between the sexes.
From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:
Trump, the News Networks, and the Protesters All Deserve Each Other
Trump’s speech, in a nutshell: “Look back there: the live red lights, they’re turning those suckers off fast,” Trump said. “They’re turning those lights off fast. Like CNN. CNN does not want its falling viewership to watch what I’m saying tonight.”
Of course, CNN and all of the other networks broadcast Trump’s speech live and in its entirety.
There are a lot of really valid criticisms to can be made of the press and its coverage of the Trump administration. CNN retracted a story that a Russian bank linked to a close ally of Trump was under Senate investigation. Back in early June, FBI Director James Comey said many stories about the Russia investigation were “dead wrong.” The New York Times turned over op-ed space to Louise Mensch, who is an increasingly incoherent conspiracy theorist. No objection to the president is too small, silly, or petty to ignore; the Washington Post ran an op-ed claiming Trump’s use of the term “Paddy Wagon” was an insult to Irish-Americans. Large portions of the coverage of Trump’s presidency are one-sided, thinly-sourced, full of personal and gratuitous criticism, and represent a media all to eager to step into an oppositional role that it largely abandoned during the Obama era, particularly the earliest years.
But with all of these options, Trump has to pick an example that is not only false, it is glaringly false to anyone watching the speech on television at the time!
How CNN can squander the moral high ground: Afterwards Don Lemon declared, “He is clearly trying to ignite a civil war in this country. He has not tamped down race, and I’m just going to say — I mean, if he was on my team in this newsroom and said those things, he would be escorted out of the building by security.”
Got that? “Clearly”! It’s not a frustrated man venting and ranting about how unfair all the media coverage of him is – as if he’s the first president to ever encounter a hostile press; he really should ask one of the Bushes how nice the media was to them – he’s “clearly trying to ignite a civil war.”
Yes, last night’s speech in Arizona was Trump at his worst: angry, blame-shifting, rewriting history, rambling, vague…
Video recorded on a downtown Phoenix street Tuesday night shows a lit object that begins smoking after striking a police officer as the scene outside President Donald Trump’s rally descended into chaos.
The video was recorded by a reporter for The Arizona Republic at 8:36 p.m. from an area near the intersection of Second and Monroe streets in downtown Phoenix. That’s the spot where thousands gathered to protest the president and his supporters.
Seconds prior to the object hitting the officer, yellow smoke rises from something on the side of the street where the protesters are standing. While the scene already is tense, it escalates seconds after the projectile hits the officer, who is standing in line with other law-enforcement members.
So these are our options. A blustering, buffoonish, blame-shifting president or anarchists who try to hurt cops.
It’s Gene Kelly’s birthday: here the famous “Singin’ In The Rain” dance.
15 of the Dumbest Inventions in the 20th Century.
Photos of Victorian living rooms from the 1800s.
This 1957 film on how grocery stores work is a hoot.
NASA’s ambitious plan to save Earth from a supervolcano.
Gallery: the Topiary Trees of San Francisco.
ICYMI, Monday’s links are here, and include a latitude/longitude digits explainer, ranking sci-fi spacesuits, a Navy SEAL explains what to do if you’re attacked by a dog, and the weird journey of Dorothy Parker’s ashes.
Honestly, this is the dumbest time to be alive. Earlier this afternoon Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis tweeted that ESPN had removed an Asian announcer from an upcoming University of Virginia football game because — get this — his name is Robert Lee:
ESPN pulled Asian announcer Robert Lee off the UVa home opener to avoid offending viewers: https://t.co/2Oz22i4Vpx— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) August 22, 2017
Surely not, you’re thinking. No one is this politically correct, right? Even though Clay’s a sharp guy, his sources can’t be right, can they? Well, maybe so. Clay next reported that ESPN responded with a statement. Our own Charlie Cooke reproduced it below:
“We regret that this became an issue,” said the people who made it an issue. pic.twitter.com/jENzFZpcGo— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) August 23, 2017
Then it broke out everywhere, with multiple sports reporters claiming ESPN sent them the same thing. For example:
ESPN just emailed me the same statement Clay Travis got. pic.twitter.com/BE5YCKx3qs— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) August 23, 2017
There you have it, sports fans. It’s entirely possible that the nation’s premiere sports channel — not Oberlin College, not Evergreen State, not Yale — has reached peak political correctness. A real person had his assignment changed because he shares the same name as a former Confederate general. Parents, if your last names are Grant, Meade, or Sherman, might I suggest Ulysses, George, or Bill as boy’s names? They’ll have an inside track at ESPN.
I would say that you have to laugh or you’ll cry, but that’s not right. ESPN is beclowning itself. Laughter is the only good response.
As we reflect on Trump’s renewed commitment to the war in Afghanistan, it’s worth remembering that in many ways it’s not only America’s longest conflict, it’s also our most democratic war. We launched it at a time of historic national consensus, Congress explicitly and overwhelmingly authorized the use of force, it’s now been pursued through parts of three presidential administrations – two Republican and one Democrat – and each and every step of the way it’s been fought with an all-volunteer force.
That last point is, I think, significantly under-appreciated. In a post lamenting Trump’s decision to reinforce Afghanistan, my friend Rod Dreher refers back to the failed effort in Vietnam and the disappointments of the Iraq War, and says this:
We have lived through Vietnam. We have lived through the debacle of Iraq. And yet — and yet! — we will allow Washington to send thousands more American soldiers to fight and die in a war we cannot win.
This isn’t quite right. When a person enlists in a time of war, yes they’re “sent” to the conflict, but they also choose to go. In fact, many soldiers in the most dangerous jobs are often double or triple volunteers. They volunteer to join the military, they then volunteer for combat arms, and then some even take the additional step of volunteering to be at the very tip of the spear (for example, to join special forces).
There is thus a significant moral difference between our all-volunteer force and a conscript army. This isn’t an example of the state commandeering citizens and making them fight in a hopeless war, but rather of citizens freely joining and willingly laying their lives on the line even though they’re fully aware that the fight has been long and frustrating. Some would say that the volunteer military — and the lack of shared sacrifice — makes it “easier” to fight a war. I disagree. When war depends on willingness to serve, it places and additional check on political foolishness. People can vote with their feet to leave or to join, and millions of American have voted since 9/11 — they’ve voted to join, they’ve voted to fight, and many of them have voted to fight time and again
Of course the presence of willing recruits doesn’t remove the need for wise decision-making. A foolish war is still a foolish war even if young men and women are willing to fight, but this conflict is substantially less divisive and far more sustainable in large part because no one is being forced to die in a foreign land. .
After reminding the world that Canada is “a country of laws,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the nation will no longer be ignoring refugees who enter the country illegally. Faced with a rash of border crossings from the U.S. and growing criticism of his quixotic approach to border control, Trudeau’s decision marks a major turning-point from his campaign.
Evidently, Trudeau is recognizing what any head of state who campaigns for radically loose immigration policies must at some point: Opening borders poses serious problems, both practical and political. Angela Merkel is facing pressure to accept an upper limit of refugees in Germany, and many see Britain’s exit from the European Union as a rebellion against the EU’s more liberal refugee policy.
Canada’s refugee problem has grown exponentially in the past few months. In all of 2015, only 2,900 crossed over the U.S. border into Quebec illegally. Since July 1 of this year, that number has reached 6,800. Over half of those account for the first two weeks of August alone. A large number of these have fled the U.S. in fear of Donald Trump’s aggressive stance on illegal immigration and his proposal to make legal immigration a more exclusive process. Trudeau has not been vague on social media in his criticism of Trump’s border control policies, tweeting in January that Canada welcomes all, because “diversity is our strength.”
Enforcement is enforcement, however, and no progressive message of inclusion could save Trudeau from having to uphold his country’s laws. He informed the refugees on Sunday that they would be expected to go through the country’s “rigorous” screening process, reminding them that illegal crossing doesn’t allow them to circumvent existing laws.
This shouldn’t surprise. Canada’s process is one of the most rigorous in the world. Refugees aside, those who wish to immigrate to Canada must contend with a merit-based system similar to the one Trump proposed earlier this month. Skilled labor, points for French- and English-language proficiency, and high levels of education are all pre-requisites. As Trudeau is discovering, tone does not an immigration policy make.
Roger Scruton — now Sir Roger Scruton — is a British philosopher, novelist, composer, etc. I like to talk with him from time to time about pressing issues and eternal ones. Sometimes they are in the same group. My latest podcast with him is here.
We begin by talking about the “post-truth age.” In a recent article, Sir Roger wrote,
The concept of truth has been the victim of massive cyber-attacks in recent decades, and it has not yet recovered. The most recent attack has come from social media, which have turned the Internet into one great seething cauldron of opinions, most of them anonymous, in which every kind of malice and fantasy swamps the still small voice of humanity and truth.
We also talk a bit about President Trump. In that same article, Sir Roger wrote,
This extraordinary person, whose thoughts seem shaped by their very nature to the 140 characters of a tweet, makes no distinction between the true and the false and assumes that no one else makes such a distinction either.
Elsewhere, Sir Roger wrote the following, about the late political scientist Kenneth Minogue:
In many ways he was a model of the conservative activist. He was not in the business of destroying things or angering people. He was in the business of defending old-fashioned civility against ideological rage, and he believed this was the real meaning of the freedom that the English-speaking peoples have created and enjoyed. For Ken Minogue, decency was not just a way of doing things, but also the point of doing them.
Could Sir Roger expand on that? He does in this podcast.
We also talk about an issue now hot on the right: patriotism versus nationalism. Those marchers in Charlottesville, chanting “Blood and soil” and stuff about the Jews: Are they nationalists? What is patriotism?
I ask Sir Roger about some of the current lingo (which is also an old lingo): “America First,” “globalist,” etc. We talk about democracy. And about Ukraine (and therefore about Russia). We further talk about the welfare state: Are there things — important things — that a free market can’t handle?
On the subject of the market: President Trump recently attacked Amazon, the online retailer, as a blight on America. What are the merits and faults of that argument?
I also ask Sir Roger about smartphones and the social media: A lot of us are absorbed in those things. Are we lost, in a sense? We are connected — but are we also disconnected, in a way? Are fundamental human skills eroding?
Finally, we talk a bit about music and books. In a recent podcast, Norman Podhoretz said that the No. 1 novel is Anna Karenina. Sir Roger is inclined to agree, mentioning other candidates as well.
You are never finished talking with Roger Scruton. But the podcast does end. A conversation with this fellow is an education, a comfort, and a joy (and sometimes a provocation). Check him out.
I began my work against assisted suicide in 1993.
In the intervening years, I have witnessed a very disturbing change. When I began, the emotional zeitgeist of society focused intensely on preventing suicide. Today, in many cases, the emotional oomph (if you will) supports suicide, not in all cases to be sure, but certainly in some.
There has been a concomitant downgrading of suicide prevention intensity. As I wrote a few years ago, we now have what I call “invisible” suicide prevention campaigns.
I write this because there is a very good article in First Things by UC Irvine psychiatrist Aaron Kheriaty that explores the general issue of suicide. He diagnoses the causes of our crisis as coming from a loss of hope, and to some degree, the decline of religious practice (as distinguished from affiliation).
I intend to dig deeper into his article later. But for now, I want to focus on the assisted suicide aspect.
I have long believed that promoting assisted suicide–even if you call it something else, like “death with dignity” or “aid in dying”–sends an enervating message to the suicidal that self-killing is an acceptable answer to suffering and life’s most difficult problems.
Indeed I believe that the elevation of Brittany Maynard to movie star levels of adulation and celebrity–solely because she promoted and committed assisted suicide–was a tremendously destructive and subversive act that could help push people in dark directions.
Kheriaty discusses that question too. From, “Dying of Despair:
The law is a teacher, and American law increasingly teaches indifference to life when it runs up against respect for radical autonomy.
California and Colorado recently joined four other states in permitting doctors to assist terminally ill patients to take their own lives. In the same week that Gov. Brown signed the California bill, two British scholars published a study showing that laws permitting assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington have led to a rise in overall suicide rates in those states.
I wrote about that study here too. Back to Kheriaty:
These findings should not surprise us. We know that publicized cases of suicide tend to produce copycat cases, often disproportionately among young people. Recall the recent spate of adolescent suicides in Silicon Valley. Social scientists call this “the Werther effect,” from Goethe’s eighteenth-century novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, in which the protagonist, thwarted in his romantic pursuits, takes his own life with a pistol. After the book’s publication, a rash of suicides among young men using the same means alarmed authorities in Germany…
The case of fourteen-year-old Valentina Maureira, a Chilean girl who suffered from cystic fibrosis, illustrates both effects while highlighting the power of social influences.
Maureira made a YouTube video begging her government to legalize assisted suicide. She admitted that the idea to end her life began after she heard about the case of Brittany Maynard, the twenty-nine-year-old woman who campaigned for the legalization of assisted suicide before ending her own life.
Maureira, however, later changed her mind after meeting another young woman suffering from cystic fibrosis who encouraged her to persevere in the face of adversity. Her father complained that the media were only interested in her story when she wanted to die.
If Maureira had killed herself, we never would have known she would, one day, change her mind.
But that fact won’t resonate at all with those who increasingly believe that suicide, at least of the sick, is a right rather than a cultural crisis. They will simply shrug and sniff, “She didn’t do it so what’s the problem?”
But there is a huge problem that could be taking the lives of some who would later want to live. Consider: We now see suicide parties extolled in the media–even joint suicides and euthanasia killings of elderly couples. Movies promote suicide of the sick and elderly. And one can’t discuss assisted suicide with out seeing the photo of a beautifully smiling Brittany Maynard holding a puppy.
In all of this, I am reminded of a quote from Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne. Writing in the wake of widespread public support for a father who murdered his daughter because she had cerebral palsy, Coyne worried:
A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.
We aren’t there yet, but if we aren’t careful, we could become a pro-suicide culture, or at least a suicide-indifferent one.
Indeed, when it comes to the ill, disabled, and elderly, many of us are already there. And the casualties are mounting.
On the homepage today, we have the second and final installment of my “Salzburg Journal” (here). I talk a bit about Joseph Calleja, the Maltese tenor. Indeed, he made an album of that title: The Maltese Tenor. In Salzburg, he sang with Plácido Domingo, a former tenor who enjoyed some success, now a baritone. I also talk about Teodor Currentzis, the unusual and phenomenal Greek conductor. And many other characters and issues.
Here’s one item:
There are Jehovah’s Witnesses about — faithfully offering their literature. I have always sympathized with them. Now that they have been banned in Russia — I have more sympathy than ever. I admire their willingness to stand for their faith.
I also see Mormons, a pair of them, with their white shirts and their name tags. “Elder” So-and-so, each name tag says. These guys look so very young. They must have balls of brass, to do what they do. I admire them as well.
This afternoon, a reader has written me,
I chuckled at your description of the Mormon missionaries. As a former “Elder” — I did my time in Norway (one reason I enjoy your Oslo journals) — I can tell you that sheer terror is the norm. You should check out the language center in which missionaries-to-be train. After only six weeks, they’re thrown into the world with nascent language skills and fear and trembling. Somehow it works!
If you’d like to read a little music criticism, I have two posts for you: this one, on Krassimira Stoyanova, the Bulgarian soprano, and this one, on a performance of Ariodante, the Handel opera, with Cecilia Bartoli in the title role.
Like a lot of people I struggle somewhat with the issue of Confederate monuments. I understand why a devastated region would want to memorialize its war dead, and why we wouldn’t want to tear such memorials down years later; I also understand why a black parent wouldn’t want to walk his kids past a monument to people who fought to keep their race enslaved.
A seductive argument, however, is that these aren’t really war memorials at all. The greatest burst of memorial-building happened not right after the war, but roughly a half-century later, when the South was still getting Jim Crow up and running and North–South tensions were on the wane. Could it be that these are not monuments to dead ancestors, but rather intentional representations of white supremacy? If so, a hard question becomes a pretty easy one.
The answer is different for different monuments, and I think case-by-case determinations are necessary. But today I spent a little time playing amateur historian, mining Google Books for references to Confederate statues published between 1895 and 1920, years that roughly bookend the huge surge of statue-building. I didn’t find any smoking gun directly tying Confederate memorials to Jim Crow (which is not to say there necessarily would be one if that was the purpose). But alongside paeans to dead soldiers, I found a lot of endorsements of the Confederate “cause,” which of course had been the preservation of slavery even if southerners couldn’t bring themselves to admit it decades later. Many of these monuments, in other words, celebrate the Confederacy and its goals, not just the men swept up and killed in the war.
Here is a particularly good source, the History of the Confederated Memorial Associations of the South. It draws together articles and letters from various groups that worked to build these monuments and was published in 1904. The entire volume is dedicated to “the Confederate Soldier and All who loved, lost or suffered, in that Cause, The grandest that ever rose, The purest that ever fell.” Search the book for the word “cause,” and you see that many of the individual groups saw fit to mention similar sentiments in their essays.
Another haunting report comes from a 1915 edition of Confederate Veteran, reporting on a statue in St. Louis that was removed last month. (Missouri was a border state, but some residents chose to fight for the Confederacy.) The inscription on the statue reads, in part,
To the Memory of the Soldiers and Sailors of the Southern Confederacy.
Who fought to uphold the right declared by the pen of Jefferson and achieved by the sword of Washington. With sublime self sacrifice they battled to preserve the independence of the states which was won from Great Britain, and to perpetuate the constitutional government which was established by the fathers.
Actuated by the purest patriotism they performed deeds of prowess such as thrilled the heart of mankind with admiration.
A final tidbit I stumbled upon and found interesting: An enormous statue in Raleigh, N.C., boasts that the state was “First at Bethel, Last at Appomattox,” both of which refer to times its soldiers were shooting at Union troops.
For me, the question of whether a statue should go is very much tied to the question of what it was supposed to say. I’m from Wisconsin, and living in Northern Virginia probably doesn’t give me any southern cred nowadays, either. But personally, I wouldn’t want my state, local, or federal government celebrating the South’s “cause” in any context.
Any sort of extremism in Germany sets off alarm bells, and Michael Stuerzenberger may well be some sort of extremist. He sounds as if he is making a reasoned argument against the mass immigration that is changing the identity of Germany but there’s no way of knowing what’s really going on in his head. He has been mixed up with the Freedom Party and PEGIDA, both of them small anti-immigration pressure groups that their critics make sure to call racist and Islamophobic.
A Munich court has just sentenced him to six months imprisonment. This is because he put on Facebook a photograph taken in Berlin in about 1942 of Haj Amin Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, greeting a prominent Nazi in uniform complete with swastika arm-band, by the look of him it is Robert Ley. Other Nazis in uniform are in the background. There is nothing very special about it. Often reproduced are far more compromising photographs of the Mufti in the company of Hitler or Himmler. The Mufti hoped to participate in the Holocaust and the Allies hoped to try him as a war criminal. Whatever might have been Stuerzenberger’s motive in publishing that photograph, the judge sentencing him is forbidding free speech and dropping the historical record down the memory hole. “All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary.” George Orwell, where are you? Worst of all, officially sanctioned abuse of the law compels the violence it is trying to defuse.
The New York Times headline was warning enough:
The Moral Voice of Corporate America
Wearily I turned to the wise, too often neglected words of Milton Friedman:
In a free-enterprise, private-property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.
I turned back to the Times:
[A] surprising group of Americans is testing its moral voice more forcefully than ever: C.E.O.s.
After Nazi-saluting white supremacists rioted in Charlottesville, Va., and President Trump dithered in his response, a chorus of business leaders rose up this past week to condemn hate groups and espouse tolerance and inclusion. And as lawmakers in Texas tried to restrict the rights of transgender people to use public bathrooms, corporate executives joined activists to kill the bill.
These and other actions are part of a broad recasting of the voice of business in the nation’s political and social dialogue, a transformation that has gained momentum in recent years as the country has engaged in fraught debates over everything from climate change to health care.
A transformation that (regardless of whether it is in the interests of a good cause or not–and Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville was indeed, and to say the least, unimpressive) is beginning to look a lot like corporatism. That’s a term that’s often misunderstood, but this definition from Wikipedia (my emphasis added) will do well enough for now:
Corporatism… is the sociopolitical organization of a society by major interest groups, known as corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labour, military, patronage, or scientific affiliations, on the basis of their common interests…It is theoretically based on the interpretation of a community as an organic body
And it’s worth noting that corporatism fits very uneasily into our understandings of democracy.
Back to the Times:
And in a rebuke to the president, who suggested that both the racist groups and the counterprotesters marching in Charlottesville were to blame for the violence there, a wave of chief executives who had agreed to advise Mr. Trump quit his business advisory councils, leading to the dissolution of two groups.
The forthright engagement of these and other executives with one of the most charged political issues in years — the swelling confidence of a torch-bearing, swastika-saluting, whites-first movement — is “a seminal moment in the history of business in America,” said Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation and a board member at PepsiCo.
“In this maelstrom, the most clarifying voice has been the voice of business,” he said. “These C.E.O.s have taken the risk to speak truth to power.”
Clarifying. Risk. Truth to power.
To repeat myself: Oh please.
The New York Times:
Even this past week, it was easy to discern careful calculations made by executives who chose to speak out against Mr. Trump. Many faced calls to resign from the presidential advisory councils, and the prospect of boycotts if they did not.
But they also faced notable and new kinds of pressure from within — from employees who expect or encourage their company to stake out positions on numerous controversial social or economic causes, and from board members concerned with reputational issues. In the past week, business leaders have responded with all-staff memos and town-hall meetings.
Left out of the discussion (at least judging from this report) were shareholders, the people who, you know, own these companies and for whom these executives, notionally at least, work.
The New York Times writer does mention actions taken by “companies on the conservative end of the ideological spectrum”, citing Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby, but both those companies are privately held and, I suspect, accountable to their shareholders on moral and political issues in a way that the hero CEO’s praised by the New York Times are not.
Starbucks, however, is a public company, and while its record (until very recently) of making money for shareholders has been extraordinarily impressive, it’s still somewhat disquieting to see its chairman (admittedly a virtue-signaler of long standing) come out with mush like this:
“You must define your core purpose for being. We stand in the interest of something greater than just making money.”
Starbucks sells coffee.
Of course, if such public declarations of goodness are good for business, then they are easy to justify, and, to be fair, the writer of the article touches on this:
[S]ome executives have concluded that speaking out on issues of morality can improve more than their reputations — it can benefit recruitment, morale and even sales.
That sales come last and are qualified in that way—even— says something, nevertheless…
The article ends on a ringing note:
The C.E.O.s had found their voice.
Fine, fine, but they are speaking from a pulpit paid for by other people’s money.
I’m not convinced they remember that.
In the Guardian, Afua Hirsch proposes that Nelson’s column should be removed from the center of London’s Trafalgar Square:
It is figures like Nelson who immediately spring to mind when I hear the latest news of confederate statues being pulled down in the US. These memorials – more than 700 of which still stand in states including Virginia, Georgia and Texas – have always been the subject of offence and trauma for many African Americans, who rightly see them as glorifying the slavery and then segregation of their not so distant past. But when these statues begin to fulfil their intended purpose of energising white supremacist groups, the issue periodically attracts more mainstream interest.
Why Nelson? Because he was, per Hirsch:
a white supremacist. While many around him were denouncing slavery, Nelson was vigorously defending it. Britain’s best known naval hero – so idealised that after his death in 1805 he was compared to no less than “the God who made him” – used his seat in the House of Lords and his position of huge influence to perpetuate the tyranny, serial rape and exploitation organised by West Indian planters, some of whom he counted among his closest friends.
This sort of argument is precisely why so many people resist the call to remove to Confederate statuary, and why they do so on the grounds that any acquiescence to the request will start a far-reaching burst of iconoclasm with no obvious end. As one might imagine, I am extremely sympathetic to the calls to remove monuments to insurrection and to Jim Crow, and I have no particular problem with drawing the line for ineligibility at “wasn’t a violent traitor.” But I remain skeptical that, once begun, the project would be halted neatly. This, I should note, is not because I can’t see a logical cut-off point. I can. Rather, it’s because I don’t trust the people doing the agitating to agree to that point — or, if they do somehow concur, to stick to whatever was agreed. First it’s “no statues for traitors”; before long it’s “no statues for people who were wrong on important issues.” And then we’re all lost to the madhouse.
Admiral Nelson was a man of many flaws. But we are not, I hope, suggesting that it is those flaws that were the most interesting thing about him. Nor, I’d hope, are we seriously proposing that they are why he is perpetually celebrated. Nathan Bedford Forrest is known primarily for his key role in the Civil War, and for his role in founding the KKK. Jefferson Davis is known primarily for being the president of a country that was, by the words of its own charter, staunchly opposed to the Declaration of Independence. Horatio Nelson, by happy contrast, is known as the man who twice defeated Napoleon at sea, and, in so doing, confirmed Britain’s unparalleled naval supremacy. Did Nelson agree with Wilberforce on the question of slavery? No, he did not. And yet his unmatched tactical brilliance helped to pave the way both for Wilberforce’s ultimate triumph, and for the Pax Britannica in which that triumph was set. Indeed, after the British abolished the slave trade in 1807 — a move that seems obvious and natural now, but that was radical at the time — Nelson’s successors took manumission to heart. As the BBC noted in a recent review, “the Royal Navy’s role in the suppression of the transoceanic slave trades represents a remarkable episode of sustained humanitarian activity, involving patient diplomacy and problematic wrangling over treaty arrangements, dangerous and exacting naval operations, and intense political debate at home questioning the cost and purpose of the patrols.” And how, one has to ask, were the British able to do this? Because, thanks to Admiral Nelson, they enjoyed almost complete control of the seas.
We often date the “century of peace of prosperity” that preceded the First World War from the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 to the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in 1914. But it would be just as fair to push the start back a decade or so — to the string of decisive naval victories that Nelson did so much to engineer. Napoleon’s defeats at both Aboukir Bay and Trafalgar represented a sincere setback to his dream of matching the British at sea, forced the abandonment of any plan to invade the British Isles, and put a swift end to the French Empire’s nascent re-enslavement project. In consequence, Britain quite literally “ruled the waves” until the end of Second World War, at which point that crucial privilege was handed silently over to the ascendant United States. In helping to forge the modern world — and, dare I say, “the West” — Nelson has few peers. The same cannot be said, alas, of opportunistic op-ed writers in the Guardian.
Supporters of the rule of law will be overjoyed to hear that the Department of Justice has officially closed down Operation Choke Point. In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R.-VA), Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd confirmed that the Department of Justice has closed down all its initiatives that formed part of the Operation.
Operation Choke Point ostensibly used legal and regulatory pressure to “choke off” the financial oxygen for businesses that were exploiting consumers. In fact, the operation had a far wider effect. Early subpoenas issued to banks had attached a guidance document (regulatory “dark matter,” as my colleague Wayne Crews puts it) from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) that warned banks to consider “reputational risk” in their banking relations. The list of industries that could engender such risk included firearms and ammunition sales, pornography, and short-term (“payday”) lending. In other words, industries that were not illegal but of which the previous administration disapproved. Banks responded by cutting off relationships with all these businesses, even ones with whom they had long and trouble-free histories.
After an outcry, the FDIC withdrew its guidance. Nevertheless, businesses continued to report trouble in continuing or establishing banking relationships.
Mr. Boyd’s letter calls Choke Point “misguided” and goes on to say “We reiterate that the Department will not discourage the provision of financial services to lawful industries, including businesses engaged in short-term lending and firearms-related activities.” This should go some way towards persuading banks that they will not come under pressure from the Justice Department for establishing banking relationships with non-politically correct industries.
His letter was followed up by another from Acting Comptroller of the Currency, Keith Noreika, to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R.-TX) that welcomed the DoJ’s confirmation that Choke Point was over and stated that his office “reject[ed] the tactics and goals” of the operation. He went on to say that OCC “rejects the targeting of any business operating within state and federal law as well as any intimidation of regulated financial institutions into banking or denying banking services to particular businesses.”
Both these letters are welcome, as this means that three agencies (including FDIC) have now repudiated the abuse of due process that Choke Point represented. Whether this will stand them in good stead in their defense against a lawsuit brought by payday lenders remains to be seen – the case was allowed to proceed last month on the basis that the plaintiffs had a plausible case for relief.
There is however one player in this game who has yet to fold its hand. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) appears in the DoJ records to have distanced itself from Choke Point at the beginning, but there are clear signs that it has been aping the operation’s tactics. The CFPB’s supervisory powers allow it not only to investigate banks that deal with certain businesses but to instruct them not to tell anyone about it.
If the Bureau, which is unaccountable to Congress, is now the de facto home of Operation Choke Point, even if it is not called that there, then these letters will be of small comfort to business owners and their customers. All the more reason for President Trump to fire Richard Cordray and rein in this unconstitutional agency.
One of the questions I get asked most frequently on Twitter and by e-mail is, “Why did you publish this piece, when you also published that piece?” Sometimes this inquiry takes a polite and earnest form: e.g. “What is NR’s position on X?” More often, though, it comes via those generally witless “life comes at you fast!” memes that you see across social media. In both cases, the underlying charge is a simple one: hypocrisy — or, at least, inconsistency. “National Review supports the death penalty, but also opposes the death penalty. Life comes at you fast!” “National Review favors the drone war but also finds it abhorrent! Life comes at you fast!” “National Review defends the NSA’s metadata collection program, but also opposes it strongly! Life comes at you fast!” Etc. Given how regularly I am asked about this, I thought I’d address it publicly.
Ultimately, this question is built upon a misunderstanding of what a magazine — and, indeed, what National Review — is supposed to be. By design, NR has a large stable of writers, all of whom are conservatives, but not all of whom agree on everything. In consequence, we host some pretty robust debates between individual authors. Lately, we have published Rich Lowry v. Kyle Smith on Confederate monuments; Ramesh Ponnuru v. Kevin Williamson on the child tax credit; David French v. myself on Kim Davis; and Michael Brendan Dougherty v. Casey Michel on the wisdom of arming Ukraine. As the Trump presidency has progressed, we have invited a similarly broad array of reactions from our editors, contributors, and everyone else besides.
This is not — and should not be — a party-line shop. I disagree with Reihan on taxes, with David French on a range of military matters, with Jonah on the death penalty, with Gerald Walpin on the NSA, with Arthur Herman on the meaning of Confederate statuary (and more), with Kyle Smith on Guardians of the Galaxy and Sgt. Pepper, and so on and so forth. And that’s fine. That’s how it should be. Unless a piece is signed “The Editors,” it’s the view of a given writer and nobody else, and there’s nothing peculiar about its being next to a contradictory or opposing argument on the homepage. Life comes at you in a variety of different flavors.
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