Billionaire at the Barricades

by Rich Lowry

I ran into my old friend Laura Ingraham last week the day her new book launched. I haven’t had a chance to dip into it yet, and there are certainly things I disagree with in it (we’ve had our disputes over the past two years), but I’m sure it’s smart and sharp-elbowed. Even if you are not in sympathy with Trump-style populism, it’s not going away, and Laura is one of its top voices.

 

The Rise of Discretionary Legality

by Rich Lowry

A new feature or our government is what might be called discretionary legality. Checked legislatively after his first two years, Obama stretched the law beyond the breaking point to continue to implement his agenda on all fronts.

Enter Donald Trump. He now gets to pick and choose which of these illegal initiatives to keep or discard or unwind on a timetable to his liking. He’s been pretty aggressive in rolling them back, which is good. But there is a huge element of discretion involved.

He set up a political timeline for rolling back DACA and has reportedly said he may decide to further extend DACA. It hard to see how such a decision would accord with the law — the very illegality of DACA becomes a permission slip to end it immediately, slowly, or not at all. The same dynamic was at play with the illegal cost-sharing-reduction payments to insurance companies. Trump keep making them until he decided not to, and if different voices had prevailed with the administration, he might be making them still.

This is obviously not how the system is supposed to work. But Obama made extra-legality the playing field of our politics in many areas. And with the Senate now largely AWOL, this is the only field where Trump can reliably put up points — or not, as suits him.

 

Helprin and Paris

by Jay Nordlinger

Several weeks ago, National Review had a cruise, or a crossing, from England to New York. One of our guest speakers was Mark Helprin, the novelist — and the political writer, the military analyst, etc. I sat down with him for a Q&A podcast, here.

Our topic? Mainly, his latest book, his latest novel: Paris in the Present Tense. It is a book about love, loyalty, World War II, the Holocaust, France, memory, the War on Terror, courage, honor — in other words, it’s a Helprin novel. It joins the shelf with A Soldier of the Great War, In Sunlight and in Shadow, and so on. (Plus, there are the short stories.) As I said recently, Helprin has struck another blow for truth and beauty. A magnificent novel, real literature.

And our podcast, once more, is here. Just a little appetizer or something.

Of Dinos and Scouts: Some Mail

by Jay Nordlinger

Below, I had a post about “dinosaurs,” or “dinos,” which is what some people are calling us pre-Trump conservatives, perhaps with justification. A reader from Israel sends this note:

Here’s a dinosaur joke for your amusement. A little girl is visiting the natural-history museum, looks at the bones of the T-Rex, and asks the guard, “How old is the dinosaur?” He replies, “This dinosaur is 65 million, 17 and a half years old.”

The little girl asks, “How can you know so exactly?” He says, “Because when I came to work here, I asked how old the dinosaur was, and they said 65 million. That was 17 and a half years ago.”

While we’re on the subject of being dinosauric: My late father-in-law, who lived to be 97, was a professor of classics. In his later years, he used to say, “I’m an ancient historian, in both meanings of the term.”

I further had a post on the Boy Scouts, and its decision to admit girls. A reader writes,

Both my boys are in Scouts, and my older is working on Eagle. Rule of thumb is, make them bust their hump to get it done before girls and cars overwhelm their mind. Right now in Scouts, they’re thinking about camping, hiking, getting in shape for Philmont [a Scout ranch in New Mexico], trying to get leadership positions, learning marksmanship, and a hundred other things. Add girls to all that, and, well …

The Horowitzian Eye on Campus

by Jay Nordlinger

I was going to say that David Horowitz needs no introduction, but pretty much everyone needs an introduction — if only because young people come along, with (reassuring) regularity. Horowitz is a famous lefty-turned-righty, or communist-turned-conservative. He was important when he was on the left, and he stayed important when he went right. In 1997, he published his celebrated autobiography, Radical Son. (The title has its echo, of course, in Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son.)

A few years ago, I wrote a three-part series about David, “A Witness” (Part I, Part II, Part III). He had embarked on a series of his own — a very big series called “The Black Book of the American Left.” You will hear the echo in the title. In 1997, the same year as Radical Son, academics in Europe published The Black Book of Communism. It counted the corpses. David’s Black Book collects his writings as a conservative, and indicts his former comrades and allies.

He is now up to Volume VIII, “The Left in the University,” just published. This is an extremely important subject. “Give me a child until he is seven, and I’ll show you the man,” goes an old saying. Well, you enter college well past seven. Still, a college education can have a great effect on a person — for good or ill.

David reports some horrors on campus, and he calls for an academic bill of rights. He also inveighs against indoctrination. Education ought to be liberal, as in “liberal education,” and illiberalism is a threat to our very democracy, which is liberal.

Often, it takes a conservative to teach “liberals” liberalism.

A couple of days ago, I read about right-wingers at Whittier College, shouting down a pair of California officials. WTF? This was truly man-bites-dog, to me. All my life, I have read about, and witnessed, the Left shouting down the Right. I had never seen, or heard about, the opposite.

In any event, I used to know Whittier College as Nixon’s alma mater. Now I know it for this recent sad event. I’m not sure which they prefer!

But back to the point of my post: David Horowitz has been a leader in trying to hold our universities to account, and I recommend his latest volume, as a record and a service.

No Girlz Allowed?

by Jay Nordlinger

A reader writes,

I have an old Army buddy with over 50 years in the Boy Scouts. Eagle Scout, troop leader, proud to be seen in public as an adult in a Boy Scouts uniform, including shorts and knee socks. He stayed with them through the whole gay thing, but girls in the Boy Scouts was a bridge too far for him. He resigned this week.

This guy has devoted his life to this organization, and they can’t figure out why he’s made a big deal about it.

The Boy Scouts can do what they want, and I have no real standing in the debate. I was not in the Scouts, though I wish I had been — I can barely tie a knot (much less start a fire with sticks). But I do have a strong view on boy-girl stuff.

I rather like single-sex schools (though I never attended one). Why? People have a lifetime to deal with messy boy-girl stuff. (And if it’s not messy, congratulations: You have had a fairly uncommon experience, I think.) There’s time a-plenty to deal with boy-girl stuff.

As a boy, or former boy, I can tell you that the presence of girls skews everything. All you can think of is girls. Other guys won’t tell you this — “Don’t listen to him! The only girl I’m thinkin’ about is helpin’ the little old lady cross the street” — but I will, your ever-faithful correspondent.

Let there be boy-only stuff, and girl-only stuff, like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, for a decent stretch of time before adult life begins. As a rule, it’s better for all involved, I think.

Of course, there are many exceptions, and I bet I’ll hear about some of them. But they are, I think, exceptions that prove the rule.

Dinos, Unite!

by Jay Nordlinger

For a long time now, I’ve thought of George F. Will as one of the freest conservatives in America. He writes what he thinks, with abandon. He is not burdened by calculation. He simply writes what he thinks is true, letting the chips fall where they may.

He has a brilliant mind, yes, and a brilliant pen, yes. But his special ingredients are honesty and fearlessness, I think.

In The Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson has written a tribute to Will, called, straightforwardly enough, “The Greatness of George F. Will.” Last month, I did a podcast with Will, here. That little ’cast will give you a taste of his thought, on topics pressing and timeless.

(True, some topics are pressing and timeless at the same time.)

Will has uncorked another one: a column written with abandon, here. It begins, “With eyes wide open, Mike Pence eagerly auditioned for the role as Donald Trump’s poodle. Now comfortably leashed, he deserves the degradations that he seems too sycophantic to recognize as such.”

Speaking of corking and uncorking, this is what Will says about Senator Bob Corker, who, on deciding to retire from the Senate, found his tongue: “The axiom that ‘Hell is truth seen too late’ is mistaken; damnation deservedly comes to those who tardily speak truth that has long been patent.”

On Twitter today, I have seen two kinds of attack on Will, both coming from the Trump Right. The first is that Will is a “globalist.”

I’m not exactly sure what they mean by this. Will has always been eloquent and staunch on American sovereignty, and on the concept of the nation-state. I suspect they mean that he is too friendly to trade, too friendly to alliances, and too friendly to a leading American role in the world.

He is also too friendly, according to this view, to American ideals, which are also universal ideals, according to those of us who hold them:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

And at Gettysburg, Lincoln affirmed that we are “dedicated to a proposition.”

Populist-nationalist anti-globalists may want to note what Nigel Farage said, while campaigning for Roy Moore in Alabama. Farage, a Briton, had been in Germany, where he campaigned for the German alt-Right — the literal alt-Right, calling itself the Alternative für Deutschland (“Alternative for Germany”).

Farage told Alabamians that they needed to cast their votes for Moore, rather than the incumbent Republican Luther Strange, because “it’s important for the whole global movement across the West that we have built up and we have fought for.”

Global movement, huh? Le Pen, Orbán, and the gang? Sounds a little … globalist.

The other attack on George F. Will? It’s that he is a “dinosaur,” whose “day is over.”

Dinosaurs have been on my mind lately, and not because I’ve been to a natural-history museum. I am more interested in natural rights at the moment (and always).

Yesterday, Bill Kristol was on C-SPAN, serving as the guest on a call-in show, and one man phoned to say this:

“I used to call you guys, Mr. Kristol, ‘RINOs.’ Today I call you ‘dinos’ — because you’re dinosaurs. You’re done. You don’t even know why. You never get it, you can’t get it, you won’t get it. And good for you, you know? I’d love to see Trump reelected, and the next one after him Rand Paul. Have a good day.”

Kristol responded that he was happy to lose, as long as he went down swinging. As long as he went down fighting for the principles he believes are right and true. He also said that he never liked the charge “You don’t get it.” He first heard it from the feminist Left. They wielded it as a cudgel against those who balked at their program. Now we hear the same thing, every day, from the Trump Right.

Maybe we do, in fact, “get it” — their point of view — but have our own point of view, which is different?

Anyway, back to dinosaurs: It seems to me that conservatives — real conservatives — have always been called “dinosaurs”: relics of the past, not nearly with-it enough to “get” the present.

I’m no Russell Kirk, but I think I know this: A healthy respect for the past has always been a component of conservatism.

Tell you something light. Our great friend — National Review’s great friend, Bill Buckley’s great friend — Van Galbraith was a banker, among other things. When he was a quite senior banker, he and some other eminences had their offices in a certain wing of the bank. One and all liked to call this wing “Jurassic Park.”

Well, I’m happy to be in the park with them.

And remember this, dear ones, dear conservatives: The remnant is not just what’s left over. The last of the Mohicans. It’s the standard — the bit of fabric — by which the whole can be reconstituted.

Keep the light on.

Pro-Trumpers Shout-Down Liberal Speakers at Whittier College

by Stanley Kurtz

A disturbing report from FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) describes the shout-down of California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra and California State Assembly Leader Ian Calderon by Pro-Trump, MAGA hat-wearing protesters. Disruptors shouted slogans like: “Build that wall,” “lock him up,” “respect our president,” and “American first.” Becerra’s question and answer session with Calderon was severely disturbed and cut short as a result.

From the video and from FIRE’s account, the shouters do not appear to have been students. In fact the audience as a whole seemed to have been made up primarily of non-students. Apparently, Whittier allowed its facilities to be used for a general community meeting with public officials. According to FIRE, the hecklers have lately been making a practice of disrupting meetings targeting Democratic officials.

Whether these disruptors were students or not, this is a very bad sign. Commentators both right and left have warned leftist campus disruptors that they are endangering their own rights by shouting down others. That kind of danger may be hard to take seriously on campuses where the left clearly dominates. Yet in a deeply divided country, the end of free speech for some could easily cascade into chaos, conflict, and the end of freedom for all.

These Pro-Trump disruptors may not have been students, but their methods and message could spread. If we don’t stop the epidemic of shout-downs now, chaos and civil conflict may follow someday soon.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at [email protected]

A Protest Seeking a Point

by Jim Geraghty

The angry and horrified reaction to the Harvey Weinstein scandal is taking some unexpected turns. Actress Rose McGowan had her Twitter account temporarily suspended; Twitter said this was because one of her Tweets included someone’s non-public phone number. Quite a few Twitter users noticed the company seems to have an exceptionally arbitrary and unclear policy on suspending accounts. The company will yank a pro-life ad from Rep. Marsha Blackburn quick, while plenty of people keep getting vile, hateful and threatening messages. (I wrote about Twitter’s arbitrary account suspensions and the ”Trust and Safety Council” here.) 

Today, some women are forsaking Twitter in protest of the McGowan suspension; before signing off, they’ve used the hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter. (It’s like a much, much less consequential version of Lysistrata.)

As model/television personality Christine Tiegen puts it, “No secret timeline checking, no tweets, no clicking the bluebird square. They need to see we matter. I’m boycotting for many reasons. To stand with the victims of sexual assault, online threats and abuse. And…to boycott the fact our demented, p**** grabbing president can tweet nuclear threats of war I can’t even see.”

It’s a free country, and Tiegen can protest as she sees fit. But groups of women voluntarily silencing themselves seems like a counterintuitive method of protesting exploitation and abuse that is largely protected by a “code of silence.” One would think that if anything, women need the opposite, to be louder and more widely heard.

Donald Trump Delivers Remarks on Iran Deal

by Alexandra DeSanctis

Below is the full video of President Trump’s remarks this afternoon on the Iran deal, during which he stated that the administration “cannot and will not” certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement:

The president has decided that the U.S. will remain in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that was established under President Barack Obama in 2015, but the Trump administration will not certify to Congress that Iran has complied with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA).

“I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification,” the president said. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout. That is why I am directing my administration to work closely with congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons.”

After detailing many of Iran’s violent campaigns and violations of international law and sanctions, Trump announced that his administration wants to reach a new agreement to amend the INARA in light of Iran’s failure to comply.“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” he added. “It is under continupis review, and our participation can be cancelled by me, as president, at any time.”

Trump described the new policies as “several major steps we are taking to confront the Iranian regime’s hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon. Our policy is based on a clear-eyed assessment of the Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world.”

“The regime harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden’s son. In Iraq and Afghanistan, groups supported by Iran have killed hundreds of American military personnel. The Iranian dictatorship’s aggression continues to this day. The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and provides assistance to al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist networks.”

“The United States is far from the only target of the Iranian dictatorship’s long campaign of bloodshed. The regime violently suppresses its own citizens. . . . Given the regime’s murderous past and present, we should not take lightly its sinister vision for the future.”

Study Finds Background-Check Laws in Wa. and Colo. Did Nothing

by Charles C. W. Cooke

In the Guardian, Lois Beckett highlights a new study that has found that background-check laws in Washington and Colorado have “had little measurable effect”:

In Colorado and Washington state, advocates spent millions of dollars, and two Colorado Democrats lost their seats, in the effort to pass laws requiring criminal background checks on every single gun sale.

More than three years later, researchers have concluded that the new laws had little measurable effect, probably because citizens simply decided not to comply and there was a lack of enforcement by authorities.

The results of the new study, conducted by some of America’s most well-respected gun violence researchers, is a setback for a growing gun control movement that has centered its national strategy on precisely the kind of state laws passed in Colorado and Washington. A third, smaller state, Delaware, passed a background check law around the same time and did see increases in the number of background checks conducted, the study found. But a similar background-check law in Nevada passed in 2016 has also run into political hurdles and has never been enforced.

“These aren’t the results I hoped to see. I hoped to see an effect. But it’s much more important to see what’s actually happened,” said Garen Wintemute, one of the study’s authors. Wintemute is a University of California Davis emergency room physician and has been conducting public health research on gun violence for decades, sometimes self-funding his research when federal funding dried up.

As Beckett notes, the study:

did not attempt to analyze whether the new background check laws in Delaware, Colorado and Washington had any effect on gun violence or gun crime. Instead, it asked a simpler question: did a law requiring more background checks actually result in more background checks being conducted?

Fair enough. But in practice this is a distinction without a difference given that the entire rationale for such laws is that more background checks lead to less gun violence. If, in fact, such laws don’t lead to more background checks, then what’s the point in them? The only answer I can think of is, “because the law makes people more careful about to whom they sell guns.” But given that the authors’ operating theory for the failure in Washington and Colorado is that “citizens simply decided not to comply and there was a lack of enforcement by authorities,” even that seems weak.

Undoubtedly, we will hear that the lack of enforcement, rather than the law itself, is the problem. Indeed, Winutemen himself makes this claim:

The conclusion readers draw from the new study should not be that the background policy is “no good”, Wintemute said. “It’s evidence that these policies may need more assertive enforcement.”

To my ears, though, that argument not only sounds rather naive — how can you assertively enforce a law against transactions you don’t know about? — it also fails to take into account the trade-offs involved with any controversial piece of legislation. The sheriffs who have refused to prioritize the law are not doing so in a vacuum; they are doing so because they live in areas in which there is mass resistance to this sort of regulation, and because they do not wish to damage their relationships with their communities. In theory, those officers could be replaced, and the states in question could demand the stepping up of prosecutions post hoc. But at what cost? In rural areas especially, co-operation between the citizenry and the police is vital. Damage it, and things might get worse overall. (That, incidentally, is why the confiscation fantasy is so absurd; at a stroke you’d wipe out goodwill toward law enforcement and make policing much, much more difficult.)

For a long while now, gun-control advocates have sold background checks as a panacea of sorts, and implied that any skepticism toward them must be motivated less by earnest disagreement and more by greed or obstinacy. That a writer in the Guardian is citing “some of America’s most well-respected gun violence researchers” concluding that such “laws had little measurable effect” should damage that presumption considerably.

In Defense of Ben Shapiro’s Bravery

by Philip H. DeVoe

In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Jane Coaston accuses conservative commentator Ben Shapiro of exhibiting “hollow bravery” during his much-publicized speeches on campus. Coaston outlines what she considers to be Shapiro’s trick:

Set up a speech in a progressive bastion, ideally a college campus full of coastal elites who have never left their bubble. Spar with snowflakes who are offended by something he says about race or gender and perhaps even believe he never should have been invited in the first place. Post the exchange on the internet and use it as proof that the cultural consensus is stacked dramatically against conservatives.

She continues:

What Mr. Shapiro does on campus is shadow boxing meant to pander to his conservative fans whose values dominate mainstream American culture. If he wanted to be genuinely brave, he’d challenge some of the wrongheaded ideas held by his right-wing fans.

Coaston is right that some campus speakers employ this tactic, and to the irritation of many other conservatives who want our message to be taken seriously. But Shapiro cannot be counted among this group. On the contrary, his speeches are popular less because he takes on “liberal snowflakes” and more because he is reasoned and rational and fair. Moreover, the claim that Shapiro doesn’t challenge wrongheaded right-wing ideas is simply incorrect. Just two weeks ago on NRO, he criticized Trump’s statement on the National Anthem protests. In February of last year on his news website, the Daily Wire, he criticized Republicans’ support of confirming a right-wing nominee to the Supreme Court, preferring instead a nominee who will defend the Constitution alone. And, of course, he has rebuffed the alt-right frequently and with vim. 

His March 2016 decision to leave his position as editor-at-large of Breitbart, though, might be the strongest piece of evidence. From his statement on the decision: 

Indeed, Breitbart News, under the chairmanship of Steve Bannon, has put a stake through the heart of Andrew’s legacy. In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully, and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda . . . 

Perhaps what Coaston means is that Shapiro refuses to challenge ideas she believes to be wrongheaded.

Left Fails to Praise Trump’s Nomination of Kirstjen Nielsen to DHS

by Alexandra DeSanctis

Donald Trump announced yesterday that he has nominated Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, filling the position vacated by John Kelly, who left DHS in order to serve as the president’s chief of staff. Nielsen served as Kelly’s deputy at DHS and went to the White House with him after Reince Priebus’s departure in July.

This move has yet to merit a single glowing report from the mainstream media or from left-wing pundits and politicians who love to praise powerful women — at least when those women are progressive. Nielsen’s nomination is just the latest instance of this double standard in action.

From my NRO piece last month on the Left’s single-sided praise for empowered women:

Left-leaning media outlets and commentators never tire of glorifying powerful women who supposedly outstrip men on their rise to the top. But that praise is utterly contingent on whether or not those powerful women hold the progressive-approved point of view on every issue. As soon as an accomplished woman fails to fall in line with the preferred Democratic agenda, the feverish applause for female accomplishment immediately dies out.  . . . 

Either every successful woman deserves to be praised for furthering the goal of female empowerment, or public figures should be judged based on the content of their accomplishments rather than their gender. It is intensely hypocritical for those on the supposedly pro-woman left to demand that all women swear utter fealty to progressivism or risk complete destruction at the hands of popular culture. A truly feminist approach wouldn’t force conservative women to make that choice.
 

This unfair dichotomy has been readily apparent throughout Trump’s presidency so far. At every turn, he has been accompanied and aided by powerful women: Kellyanne Conway, the first female campaign manager to secure a presidential victory; communications director Hope Hicks, who played a prominent role behind the scenes of Trump’s successful campaign; Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who currently serves as only the third White House press secretary in history.

None of these women have received acclaim from progressives for their indisputable success. In fact, they’re often treated as if they were traitors to all women because they dare to work in the Trump administration. Surely there is room to disagree with Trump’s methods, and it’s understandable that progressives would dislike his policy choices. But anyone who claims to care about female empowerment for its own sake must acknowledge and praise the president for his willingness to entrust women with crucial leadership roles.

The Real Problem with Trump’s Ending of Insurer Subsidies

by Robert VerBruggen

There’s been a lot of panic and confusion on the left since the announcement last night that Trump will end the federal government’s (illegal) payment of “cost-sharing reduction” (CSR) subsidies for insurers. But perhaps the panic should be more on the right. There are unintended consequences here that I discussed in August, and that are worth reiterating today.

Here’s the tangled web of policies this decision takes place in: Obamacare requires insurers to give special breaks on cost-sharing (deductibles and the like) to lower-income folks who sign up for “Silver” plans. The government is supposed to reimburse the insurers for this cost, but Obamacare didn’t provide funding and Congress has refused to as well. Therefore, when the federal government stops funding the subsidies illegally, insurers will have to provide these discounts out of their own pockets — and you can bet they’ll raise premiums on Silver plans to compensate.

The problem is that other federal subsidies are tied to, you guessed it, Silver-plan premiums. So according to the CBO, while there will be some instability for a couple of years as everyone adjusts to the new reality, there won’t be a cost increase for enrollees in the end. In fact, people who get Bronze or Gold plans will benefit; their own premiums won’t go up, but their subsidies will rise with Silver premiums. The federal government will actually spend more money, and more people will be insured. That kind of sounds like a victory for the Left to me.

Here’s a handy collection of bullet points from the CBO’s report on this subject:

The fraction of people living in areas with no insurers offering nongroup plans would be greater during the next two years and about the same starting in 2020;

Gross premiums for silver plans offered through the marketplaces would be 20 percent higher in 2018 and 25 percent higher by 2020 — boosting the amount of premium tax credits according to the statutory formula;

Most people would pay net premiums (after accounting for premium tax credits) for nongroup insurance throughout the next decade that were similar to or less than what they would pay otherwise — although the share of people facing slight increases would be higher during the next two years;

Federal deficits would increase by $6 billion in 2018, $21 billion in 2020, and $26 billion in 2026; and

The number of people uninsured would be slightly higher in 2018 but slightly lower starting in 2020.

Hollywood Loses Its Right to Lecture Anyone

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Hollywood Loses Its Right to Lecture Anyone

For decades, the stars and powerful players of Hollywood instructed us about which political candidates deserved election. They told us which causes were worthy of support and which ones needed to be opposed. In their works and in their speeches, they told us how to be a better person.

Hollywood, you don’t get to lecture us about anything anymore. You’ve had a serial sexual predator operating in your midst as an open secret for decades and no one did anything about it. He appears to have abused his way through a wide swath of the industry’s women with no significant consequence in the film, publishing and media industries.

Or when they did respond, their actions were insufficiently consequential. They created an entire sub-genre of jokes, allusions, and villainous portrayals of Harvey Weinstein: a character on Entourage, Tom Cruise’s wildly over-the-top character in Tropic Thunder, jokes on 30 Rock, a joke at the Oscars. But no one could quite bring themselves to actually do something that could stop him.

His behavior didn’t really harm his image within the industry, at least as far as the general public could tell. A 2015 analysis of 1,396 Oscar speeches found that Harvey Weinstein was the second most-thanked individual; he was thanked more frequently than God.

We can’t blame his victims; Weinstein was powerful and they were comparably powerless. But we can blame everyone who worked with him. His contract more or less spelled out that the company expected to have regular complaints of inappropriate sexual conduct and that as long as he paid settlements, the company would take no action:

TMZ is privy to Weinstein’s 2015 employment contract, which says if he gets sued for sexual harassment or any other “misconduct” that results in a settlement or judgment against TWC, all Weinstein has to do is pay what the company’s out, along with a fine, and he’s in the clear.

 

According to the contract, if Weinstein “treated someone improperly in violation of the company’s Code of Conduct,” he must reimburse TWC for settlements or judgments. Additionally, “You [Weinstein] will pay the company liquidated damages of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance.”

 

The contract says as long as Weinstein pays, it constitutes a “cure” for the misconduct and no further action can be taken. Translation — Weinstein could be sued over and over and as long as he wrote a check, he keeps his job.

You can find bad people in every industry, and you can find sexual harassment in every industry. But I suspect that most American companies would refuse to set up an arrangement like this for a man with a long and infamous history. A contract like that is just far too risky in terms of litigation and bad publicity if ever revealed. Imagine going to your boss and attempting to negotiate that you can never, ever be fired for sexual harassment of employees.

Yes, Weinstein was powerful, but he was not the only powerful person in Hollywood. No other studio head ever heard these stories and felt a need to address this injustice?

How is it that almost every actress seemed to know, but none of the actors whose careers were built by Weinstein knew? Are we to believe that the biggest-name stars in the industry feared that Weinstein could end their careers?

What are we to make of the claims that Weinstein is just the tip of the iceberg?

“There’s a lot of abuse in this town,” said producer and director Judd Apatow. “Young actresses are mistreated in all sorts of ways by powerful men who can dangle jobs or access to exciting parts of show business. I think a lot of people are mistreated and they don’t realize how badly they’re being mistreated.”

“Everyone knew [about Weinstein’s alleged behavior], just as they know about other high-profile people with power in the industry who get away with the exact same things,” said screenwriter and producer Kelly Marcel (“Saving Mr. Banks” and the upcoming “Venom.”) “This is far-reaching, it is endemic, and we have to believe that the toppling of this mogul will lead to the toppling of others…. This is a bigger issue than taking down one person.”

Hollywood has demonstrated an amazing propensity for believing the problems are “out there” – out in middle America, where the audience lives – instead of within its own industry, actions, and behavior. Back in 2015, after winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Arquette closed her speech with:

To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.

Everyone in the room stood up and applauded, including all the producers and studio heads who negotiate the salaries for actresses. I remember thinking, when she’s discussing “wage equality,” who do they think she’s addressing? Apple? IBM? Exxon? Or is she speaking quite literally to the audience sitting directly in front of her, who apparently pay actresses significantly less than actors? It’s not you, me, or the shoe salesman from Des Moines who decide how much an actress gets paid. It’s a handful of powerful people, who apparently so insulated by thick layers of denial that they can’t even tell when they’re the ones who are getting called out on national television.

The legal and media worlds are close to having their lecture rights revoked as well.

Does Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s excuse that the tape of Weinstein admitting groping a woman didn’t prove “criminal intent” sound right to legal experts? Bennett Gershman, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, writes “if Vance allowed the sexual abuse case against Harvey Weinstein to go forward, a jury would have convicted Weinstein in about three minutes.”

Why did the top brass at NBC News give Ronan Farrow so much grief and opposition while he was working on this story? How many thinly-sourced or single-anonymously-sourced reports have we seen over the years – particularly in political journalism! – while Farrow is told that his report, with interviews with eight women, was insufficient.

How much can viewers trust NBC News today?

The Irish Left, Symbolic and Real

by Michael Brendan Dougherty
An Irish Stamp for an Argentine Marxist

Demand for the Irish stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of Che Guevara’s death is “unprecedented” reports An Phost, Ireland’s postal service. The demand is driven by the entirely appropriate controversy over honoring the communist killer.

The last time I saw Che’s image in Ireland was at a hurling match for Cork’s GAA club played in Thurles. Cork is known as the rebel county, and their color is red. A Cork fan in the stands held a flag pole with a red flag bearing Che’s image, and underneath it was another red banner often flown at Cork matches, the Confederate Battle flag

Irish officials have offered the tissue thin justifications for the stamp in Che’s Irish heritage; his father Ernesto Guevara Lynch had Irish heritage. And the famous Che icon, found on t-shirts and posters was also designed by an Irish artist in 1969. Letters on the Che stamp sent to the Irish Times sum up the debate almost perfectly. One citizen says he is disgusted that the postal service is honoring a mass murderer. Another says he is glad the stamp angered the Cuban-American lobby, which he blames for the parlous condition of Cuba’s economy. I don’t have to explain to readers here why the stamp is a nasty gesture, honoring one of the worst political movements of the 20th century.

What I can add is the observation that the gesture of this stamp is oddly consistent with Ireland’s oddly inconsistent political culture. Although Ireland has the same culture war found everywhere else in Western politics, the two main parties in Ireland  are not very ideological, and the official ruling ideology of the country could be described as low-tax clientelism, with a streak of hard left politics around the edges . But mainstream Ireland has lots of patience for purely symbolic leftism. The election of the avowed socialist Michael D. Higgins to the mostly-ceremonial role of President fits the pattern. 

For what it’s worth, Ireland’s modern left has a supremely colorful history, told exhaustively in The Lost Revolution by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar. Here’s a capsule of it.  Readers may recall that during the Troubles in Northern Ireland the Irish nationalist paramilitary went by the name, the Provisional IRA. Provos, for short. That name is a reminder of its split in 1969 with the Official IRA, whose members came to be known as the Officials or “Stickies.”

The Provos felt that the IRA had drifted too far into Marxism, and were irrelevant in a renewed sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland.  In fact many Northern Irish Catholics  in the late 1960s denounced the IRA as cowards, for refusing to fight the Orange State. The Official IRA found it nearly impossible to attract working class Ulster Protestants to their Soviet ideology. Working class Protestants preferred the sectarian leader Ian Paisley and his Democratic Unionist Party, now in coalition with Teresa May’s Tories.  The Officials denounced the Provos as “xenophobes” for their nationalism and abandonment of Stalinist politics. But, ironically, it was the Provos who attracted the support of support of the Soviet Union and the international communist movement, because their campaign of terror was inflicting real costs on the British state.

The Stickies went on to a variety of careers and roles in Irish life. So many of them adopted an entryist strategy in Irish media that the London Review of Books could say in 2010, “ It would be hard to spend even a day in Ireland reading the papers, listening to the radio and watching television without coming across a former Official.”  Some other Irish communists went on quixotic missions to North Korea for military training. And one Irish left winger, Seán Garland became one of the most notorious international counterfeiters of American dollars, selling his “supernotes”  to the North Korean regime.

This legacy of the Officials is part of why so much of Irish media leans to the left yet constantly betrays this unmistakable fear that somewhere, out there, middle Ireland scorns them. Issues like the Che stamp are an opportune time for them to take the temperature.

Friday links

by debbywitt

This rock version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” will make your day.

From 1962, predictions of what the world in 1975 would look like

The lonely lives of scientists: Researchers inflated dead dolphin penises to fake sex with dead dolphin vaginas. More at NatGeo.

Tomorrow, October 14, 1066 is the anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings.

King Bansah: Part-Time Monarch, Full-Time Auto Mechanic.

White House leaks when Abe Lincoln was President.

ICYMI, Tuesday’s links are here, and include the man-sized cages hanging from a medieval German Church steeple, the 732 Battle of Tours, beer that helps menopause symptoms, and wi-fi balloons for Puerto Rico.

Circumcision Good forWomen’s Health

by Wesley J. Smith

“Intactivists”–the nutty name anti-circumcision activists have given themselves–who aim to outlaw infant circumcision, claim that the procedure has no benefits and constitutes child abuse.

Baloney. There are at least mild health benefits for men, to the point that the American College of Pediatricians recommends that the choice of whether to circumcise be left to parental discretion.

Now, it seems that circumcision is also good for women’s health in the reduced transmission of STDs and other benefits. From The Lancet study:

Strong, consistent evidence was found for protection against cervical cancer (eight of nine studies involving women in multiple non-African settings), cervical dysplasia (four of five studies involving women in Africa and other continents), herpes simplex virus type 2 infection (six of six studies, including one RCT, involving women in Africa, Asia, and the USA), chlamydia (four of five studies, involving women in five continents), and syphilis (six of six studies, involving women in Africa and Asia).

There’s more, but I don’t want to risk eye-glazing.

The utter obsession some have about outlawing circumcision–whether undertaken for religious or health reasons–has always puzzled me.

But now we know that other than emotion and a bizarre belief expressed by some intactivists that sex isn’t as good for the circumcised, there appears no substantial reason to oppose the practice, much less outlaw it.

 

Poetry

by William W. Runyeon

WE DO NOT LIVE IN THE SHADOW

We do not live in the shadow of the pyramids,

or of the great cathedrals, or of the Eiffel Tower,

or of the Titanic, or of cities abandoned

or destroyed, or of ancient graveyards,

sometimes unearthed by highway construction,

or of more modern graveyards, closer to home,

 

but we pass through these shadows

with some often unstated sense of their presence;

a passage that at first seems nearly random,

an anecdotal awareness of whatever

sense of the culture into which we are born

rises up into the enterprise of that day’s living;

 

a self-serving illusion of coherence

cannot be dismissed, nor may it

be fairly embraced; we hold neither the light

nor the shadow, but live them both,

a passage making its pattern, day and night,

sunrise defiant of the rubble, whatever its form.
 

— This poem appears in the October 30 print issue of NR.

A Conflict of Health-Care Visions

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Yuval Levin quotes Peter Suderman on how Obamacare forces policymakers to choose between propping it up and undermining it. I think that’s a byproduct of Obamacare’s fundamental ambition to push us toward universal comprehensive insurance, that is, insurance that pays for routine care. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to prefer a system with more room for catastrophic coverage: policies that insure against major expenses but leave routine care to be paid out of pocket.

I don’t think the liberal arguments about how markets can’t work in health care are right, but they are right if “work” is defined as “produce universal comprehensive insurance.” Markets aren’t going to do that. To get there requires an extremely tightly regulated and subsidized market, or a government-run system. It requires, that is, Obamacare or something to its left. Comprehensive coverage isn’t viable on a large scale if people who think it’s a bad deal for them can choose something else. So nearly any deregulatory move is going to undermine universal comprehensive insurance: It’s going to make it easier for people to choose something closer to catastrophic coverage.

That’s why bipartisan dealmaking on Obamacare is almost impossible: The parties want to push the health-care system in opposite directions.