Look Who Really Was Wiretapping Trump Tower Resident Paul Manafort

by Jim Geraghty

Remember this Tweet from President Trump back on March 4? “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

Last night, from CNN — you know, that allegedly terrible failing network that the President enjoys sending gifs imagining himself hitting:

US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.

The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.

Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.

A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party, the sources told CNN.

The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.

The FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year.

The article notes, “It’s unclear whether Trump himself was picked up on the surveillance,” but considering how often a candidate and his campaign manager speak on the phone, the odds seem pretty good. (The FBI would presumably tap both Manafort’s cell phone and landline, right?)

Perhaps those wiretaps were entirely lawful — in fact, it is pretty likely. But it does mean that the president’s wiretapping claim wasn’t imaginary.

Our David French wonders if the Department of Justice was honest in its past denials of the allegation in Trump’s Tweet:

Obviously, wiretapping Manafort is not the same thing as wiretapping Trump, but the repeated, blanket denials seem disingenuous if Trump is actually on tape. The legal distinctions do matter, but these legal distinctions tend to get lost in the heat of partisan debate. I hope and pray that DOJ officials’ desire to rebut the president didn’t get ahead of their prudence. Would “no comment” have been a better response than a vigorous denial?

At the same time, Trump partisans need to understand that it’s outrageous to wiretap Manafort only if the law and evidence don’t support the DOJ’s action. If there was probable cause that he is or was an agent of a foreign power, his status as Trump’s campaign chair doesn’t and shouldn’t protect him from appropriate scrutiny. Did the FBI do the right thing? Time will tell.


Paul J. Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.

I hope he was dressed!

Looking Closer at the Only Competitive Statewide Governor’s Race of 2017

Tonight, Virginians see Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie face off in another gubernatorial debate. Yesterday, two state universities released new polls on the race; University of Mary Washington’s survey found Northam ahead, 44 percent to 39 percent, while the Suffolk University poll had the race tied, 40 percent to 40 percent. (The individual respondents in that latter poll split perfectly evenly, 202 to 202.)

Something that should worry Democrats: In the Suffolk poll, almost 20 percent of respondents said they had never heard of Ralph Northam; ten percent said the same for Gillespie. (His oh-so-close Senate bid from 2014 probably helps with his name recognition.)

A bit more than 29 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Northam, 22 percent said they had a negative one. The remaining 29 percent said they had no opinion or were undecided. Gillepsie had a 37-28 split on favorability.

Ralph Northam has been lieutenant governor for the past four years, and roughly half the state is unfamiliar with him. What, has he been in witness protection? I was initially underwhelmed with the Gillespie campaign’s “No-Show Northam” theme – mocking Northam for missing a lot of meetings. But maybe this will resonate; maybe the message can be even simpler: Did you know Ralph Northam has been your lieutenant governor for the past four years? If he hasn’t done anything that you’ve even heard about in that job . . .  why would anyone make him governor?

Northam’s campaign is running ads that introduce him to voters — emphasizing his service as a doctor in the U.S. Army and a pediatrician. Notice the closing image of his ad:

“Doctor-Veteran” Northam’s campaign doesn’t want to remind voters he’s been lieutenant governor for the past four years.

It’s mid-to-late September. Absentee voting starts Friday.

One oddity in the Mary Washington poll is also worth spotlighting. More respondents supported Northam than Gillespie, but when asked, “Regardless of how you might vote in the 2017 election for governor in Virginia, as far as you know, do you think most of your neighbors will vote for (Ed Gillespie, the Republican), most will vote for (Ralph Northam, the Democrat), or will most of them split their votes?” Among registered voters, 30 percent said Gillespie and 22 percent said Northam, and among likely voters, 32 percent said Gillespie and 25 percent said Northam. In other words, a slightly larger number of Virginians think their neighbors will mostly vote for Gillespie.

Finally, the Suffolk survey also asked, “Does Senator Tim Kaine deserve to be reelected in 2018 — yes or no?” and 43.4 percent answered yes, 45.8 percent answered no. I would be shocked if Kaine lost next year, but that feels like a terrible number for an incumbent. In fact, this isn’t just any incumbent; this is a guy who had 1.9 million people in the state vote to make him vice president last year!

ADDENDA: My inner taxpayer rejoices, my inner deficit hawk cringes:

A budget that creates fiscal room for a $1.5 trillion tax cut, if adopted, would then be followed by a tax bill that would specify rate cuts and other policy changes that don’t exceed that figure. Calling for a tax cut in the budget would let Republicans lower tax rates while making fewer tough decisions on what tax breaks to eliminate to help pay for the cuts.

Republicans contend that some expiring tax cuts would have been extended anyway and that their plan would boost economic growth and generate revenue, reducing the actual impact on the deficit below whatever overall number they agree on. Still, they may need to make some of the tax cuts expire after 10 years, leaving decisions to a future Congress they may not control.

With this latest turn in budget talks, Republicans are gradually shifting away from an earlier stance some took in favor of a tax plan that fully paid for itself in the first decade.

The Difficulty of Changing the Status Quo in the U.N. General Assembly

by Jim Geraghty

The annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly is the sort of gathering that should be a big deal, but passes without incident or much consequence most years. Almost every major world leader speaks, and the assembled United Nations delegates might as well be listening to their iPods on those translation headphones. (Ever notice that in comic books, villains are frequently attacking gatherings of world leaders? A good plotline would be the villains taking over and realizing how many countries can operate just fine with their heads of state held hostage.)

The big story of this year’s gathering is President Trump meets the world, and he may be able to get some institutional reforms adopted:

The U.S. drafted a 10-point document, “U.N. Reform Declaration,” and asked member states to sign it to attend Monday’s event with Mr. Trump, diplomats said. More than 100 out of 193 member states did so.

The declaration, seen by the Wall Street Journal, combines the U.S.’s agenda for change — including a commitment to reduce redundancy within U.N. organizations — with [Secretary General] Guterres’s vision for management and bureaucratic overhauls.

In the declaration, countries will “commit to reducing mandate duplication, redundancy, and overlap including among the main organs of the United Nations.” The signatories encourage Mr. Guterres to “pursue impactful and field-centric management reforms,” the document said.

Maybe this is a meaningless piece of paper, or a wish list, or just “kumbaya” good feelings that won’t lead to consequential action. But it does say something that when America has a president that the rest of the world allegedly disdains, we can still get a good chunk of the world to sign on to an idea. (It helps that it is, in fact, an actual good idea.)

Then again, Anne Bayefsky, friend of National Review, writes at Fox News that she expects the reform initiative to have no real effect:

It’s an old UN game trotted out whenever Americans get fed up with throwing money down the UN drain or paying for a global platform used to trash the USA’s best interests and spew anti-semitism. It goes by the name of “UN reform.” And President Trump appears to have taken the bait — hook, line and sinker.

The London Bomber Was a . . .  Teenage Refugee?

The fact that a young refugee placed a bomb in the London tube train Friday morning doesn’t mean that the United States shouldn’t accept any refugees. But it does mean that a system of “extreme vetting” and barring refugees from countries where the local government cannot or will not help us determine that they have no ties or sympathies to jihadism is just common sense.

The arrest of the London bomber showcases another colossal problem for our friends in the United Kingdom: This guy entered the country as a 15-year-old refugee . . .  and within three years, he had become a terrorist.

The 18-year-old, who is suspected of placing the powerful device on a rush hour tube train on Friday morning, was detained by Kent police as he tried to purchase a ferry ticket to Calais.

The teenager is thought to have arrived in Britain three years ago as an orphan refugee, who had travelled across Europe to get to the so-called Jungle camp at Calais.

As an unaccompanied child he was allowed entry to the UK and after being processed through a migrant centre in Kent, was found a home with a foster family in Sunbury on Thames.

 . . .  However detectives will [now be] seeking to establish if those responsible for the failed attack had travelled to Britain as genuine refugees, or if they were actually members of Islamic State of of Iraq and the Levant who had been sent to specifically carry out an attack.

Will Geddes, CEO of security consultants ICP, said he believed those responsible may have “infiltrated” the UK.

He said: ‘“I think the age of the man arrested is significant, we are not talking about people in their 40s or 50s we are talking about young people. This is a generational struggle that will be difficult to root out.”

Notice the reference to “failed attack.” Thirty people injured, 19 taken to the hospital, a pregnant woman trapped in a pile of people, others injured by the stampede . . .  this was “failed’ in the sense that it didn’t kill anyone, thank God.

The notion that this young man was some sort of ISIS sleeper is, in a twisted way, reassuring; it means that he was always secretly driven by a hateful ideology that he successfully hid from everyone. The more unnerving — and, I’d argue, plausible — possibility is that he came to London as a terrified teenage orphan, given an opportunity to start a new life with a (presumably) caring foster family in one of the greatest and freest countries of the world . . .  and he absorbed the enthusiasm for radical jihadism and terrorism that is incubating in certain corners of society in the United Kingdom. If all of this checks out, it indicates that the danger to society doesn’t really come from refugees . . .  it comes from how life in the U.K. can change refugees.

It’s worth recalling that the U.S. Supreme Court permitted a good portion of President Trump’s executive order barring certain refugees and countries of origin — at least for now. In June, the Court approved a limited version of the ban  that temporarily blocked refugees and citizens of six Muslim-majority countries. Last week, the court “blocked a federal appeals court ruling that would have exempted refugees who have a contractual commitment from resettlement organizations from the travel ban while the justices consider its legality. The ruling could impact roughly 24,000 people.”


In about a week, the Kurds of Iraq will hold a referendum on whether they want to become an independent state.

Iraqi Kurdistan is already “semi-autonomous,” and the referendum has no legal effect; it’s sort of a giant poll of Iraqi Kurds. But quite a few Kurds, including Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, want international support for “an eventual negotiated exit from Iraq and the declaration of a new UN-recognized state, probably within the next five to ten years.”

The Iraqi government in Baghdad does not like this one bit. Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi denounced the upcoming referendum in an interview this weekend with the Associated Press:

Al-Abadi: Well, our position is that it is unconstitutional, it is illegal, there is nothing that will be taken seriously out of it. It’s like taking public opinion but for us it is illegal, it clearly contradicts the constitution. And especially when it’s done with a vision that there is a problem within the region itself, the Kurdish region. The parliament hasn’t been held for 22 months, so there is a constitutional, legal crisis inside the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) and this is a very, very bad move for the Kurdish population, the Iraqi Kurdish population.

 . . . This is a public invitation to the countries in the region to violate Iraqi borders as well would be a very dangerous escalation.

AP: Is the use of force on the table?

Al-Abadi: It will only come into effect and we will only resort to this to protect our population, to protect our Kurdish population and our Arab and Turkmen and other ethnic populations of our own country. If they are threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily.

Turkey and Iran don’t want an independent Kurdistan on their borders, lest their own adjacent Kurdish populations get the same idea. The Trump administration doesn’t like the referendum, either:

“The United States does not support the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intention to hold a referendum later this month,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday. “The United States has repeatedly emphasized to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat [the Islamic State] and stabilize the liberated areas.”

This probably won’t lead to an all-out shooting war, but if the referendum passes, we can expect increased tensions between the Kurds and the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government, the Kurds, and the United States and its allies have beaten the tar out of ISIS and driven them out of Mosul, but there’s still enormous amounts of work to be done. Most of the cities liberated from ISIS are largely wrecked, and the International Monetary Fund had to loan the Iraqi government $5 billion last year to ensure they had the money to run a government and fight ISIS simultaneously. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Kurdistan says, “to hell with all of you, we’re formally declaring independence,” and then the Middle East finds a new way to have a messy, complicated, violent conflict.

ADDENDA: The Fourth Annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner is about five weeks away! We hope you can join us Wednesday, October 25, at Gotham Hall in New York City.

The theme of this year’s dinner is “Books, Arts, & Manners,” honoring world-class journalist and novelist Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, I Am Charlotte Simmons, and Back to Blood.

The National Review Institute will also honor Bruce and Suzie Kovner with the WFB Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty. The Kovners have supported and led organizations that defend private enterprise, free markets and free trade, protect individual rights, promoted scholarly research that strengthens American democratic principles; fought for education reform, particularly charter schools; and helped ensure the future of the major performing arts institutions of New York City. The master of ceremonies will be James Rosen of Fox News, who I hope will do his William F. Buckley impression at some point during the evening. It’s like he’s possessed.

The event will also feature performances by students of The Juilliard School. More information about tickets and sponsorship can be found here. Hope to see you there.

Berkeley Survives Ben Shapiro’s Speech

by Jim Geraghty

Might as well call this Culture Wars Friday: Berkeley’s campus survives a visit from Ben Shapiro, Harvard University suddenly has second thoughts about Chelsea Manning, and a complicating new wrinkle in the ESPN-Jamele Hill controversy. Also, Showtime’s reboot of Twin Peaks gets what it deserves.

Berkeley Didn’t Burn from Ben!

A pleasant surprise: Ben Shapiro is pleased with his experience in Berkeley! “Well done, @UCPD_Cal and @berkeleypolice! Thank you for restoring order and ensuring the exercise of free speech!”

All in all, considering the expectations for chaos and past problems at Berkeley, the night went pretty smoothly:

Though the campus had prepared extensively for potential violence, Ben Shapiro’s speaking event at UC Berkeley on Thursday went on largely uninterrupted, drawing a peaceful protest that ended in a short march through Berkeley’s streets.

Shapiro, who was invited to speak by campus group Berkeley College Republicans and was co-sponsored by Young America’s Foundation, spoke at Zellerbach Hall to a crowd of about 700 people. Nearly 50 people gathered near Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue [at] about 5 p.m. to protest Shapiro’s appearance, but the crowd soon grew to about 1,000 people by 7 p.m.

“I’m here because I can’t condone people who think that some problems in my culture represent the entire culture,” said campus freshman Simone Muhammad. “I’m here because they’re infringing on my rights as a bisexual and a black woman.”

Ma’am . . .  how? Someone giving a speech you don’t like is not an infringement of your rights. Then again, she’s a freshman, so maybe she hasn’t taken the Constitutional law class yet.

Both the campus and the city prepared for violent retaliation to Shapiro’s event in various ways, including setting up barricades around and inside campus Thursday morning. AC Transit buses with routes running south of campus via Telegraph Avenue or Bancroft Way were also diverted, and BART trains skipped over the Downtown Berkeley station.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office made nine arrests in conjunction with Berkeley Police Department, as of 10:42 p.m.

BPD also received reports of one individual who was injured as a result of a fall, according to Officer Byron White. In a Nixle alert released early Friday morning, BPD confirmed that there were no reported injuries due to violence and no reports of property damage.

Ah Yes, Harvard, that Conservative Traditionalist Citadel!

Quite a few folks scoffed and objected when Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government made Chelsea Manning — convicted of 19 charges, including six counts of espionage — a visiting fellow. Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell resigned from Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in protest, declaring, “I have an obligation to my conscience — and I believe to the country — to stand up against any efforts to justify leaks of sensitive national security information.”

(Near the end of his term, President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to a total of 7 years confinement.)

Douglas W. Elmendorf, dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School, announced he was rescinding the title Thursday night.

We invited Chelsea Manning to spend a day at the Kennedy School. Specifically, we invited her to meet with students and others who are interested in talking with her, and then to give remarks in the Forum where the audience would have ample opportunity — as with all of our speakers — to ask hard questions and challenge what she has said and done. On that basis, we also named Chelsea Manning a Visiting Fellow. We did not intend to honor her in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds, as we do not honor or endorse any Fellow.

However, I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility . . .  We are withdrawing the invitation to her to serve as a Visiting Fellow — and the perceived honor that it implies to some people — while maintaining the invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak in the Forum. I apologize to her and to the many concerned people from whom I have heard today for not recognizing upfront the full implications of our original invitation.

On Twitter, Manning responded with all of the even-tempered understanding, graciousness and gratitude that we have come to expect:

Manning also retweeted a statement from a supporter that declared, “It doesn’t surprise me that an institution that has produced many of our most dangerous war criminals and architects of our military and prison apparatuses would remain beholden to the state . . . ” (If Harvard is so terrible, why did Manning accept the invitation to become a fellow in the first place?)

The not-so-hidden secret that emerges from reading Manning’s Twitter feed for more than a few minutes is that we’re dealing with a person who is, in clinical terms, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Manning retweeted a headline calling Morrell a “massive weenie,” called for abolishing the CIA, called for abolishing the presidency, and declared “Nazi Germany had Gestapo, Stalin Russia had NKVD, East Germany had Stasi, now America has @ICEgov.”

Harvard needed this? I suppose Manning defenders might argue that everyone, even a Harvard visiting fellow, has the right to vent their spleen on Twitter, engage in name-calling, smear entire U.S. government agencies by comparing them to history’s greatest monsters, and so on. But if you really believe that, then you can’t really complain about, say, the president’s use of Twitter.

Noah Rothman finds Elmendorf’s statement “disgraceful . . .  Entirely passive aggressive, unrepentant, and fails to address the issue. Morell was right to resign.” I suspect a lot of that letter was window-dressing to hide the fact that he was completely blindsided by the angry response to the Manning invitation. Of course Elmendorf has no problem with Manning’s past decisions or perspectives. But he’s got to try to mitigate the damage to the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, who just lost a prestigious fellow because of this decision. Former acting directors of the CIA don’t just grow on trees.

Back in August 2016, I put forth the seemingly crazy notion that the Right was actually winning the “culture wars,” or that at the very least, the Left had endured a rebuilding year — Target’s bathroom policies, the Ghostbusters reboot, leftist campuses seeing a stark decline in alumni donations, the demise of Gawker . . .  Harvard’s sudden about-face on Manning suggests that 2017 isn’t looking so great, either.

Not Quite Over the Hill . . . 

One more note to add to the controversial comments by ESPN anchor Jamele Hill.

For what it’s worth, ThinkProgress quotes unnamed sources that depict ESPN as in fact quite upset with Hill, and intent upon removing her from Wednesday’s broadcast. The liberal site quotes “two sources familiar with the situation”:

ESPN originally tried to keep Hill off the air on Wednesday evening, but [co-host Michael] Smith refused to do the show without her, the sources said. Both sources also said that producers reached out to two other black ESPN hosts, Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan, to ask them to serve as fill-ins for the show — but Eaves and Duncan did not agree to take the place of Hill and Smith, either.

ESPN disputes this account:

“Yesterday was a hard and unusual day, with a number of people interpreting the day without a full picture that happened,” Rob King, the senior vice president for news and information at SportsCenter, told ThinkProgress. “In the end, ultimately, Michael and Jemele appearing on the show last night and doing the show the way they did is the outcome we always desired.”

“We never asked any other anchors to do last night’s show. Period,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz emailed ThinkProgress after this story was published.

If this account is true, this smudges the emerging portrait of ESPN as a company gripped by paranoid politically-correct groupthink, where Curt Schilling gets dismissed for a meme, Linda Cohn is given a harsh warning, and Robert Lee is reassigned out of a fear of social media memes, but Hill is given free reign. The Disney subsidiary may be afraid of controversy and ire from either political direction — but still deal with offenders on the right differently from ones on the left.

There’s a fairly easy way to keep your existing audience and well-established band identity, avoid unnecessary controversies, and keep advertisers happy: cover sports.

ESPN is not alone among media companies in a strange habit of seeking out those who are known for certain types of controversy, and then recoiling when those figures behave as they always had. This arguably goes back to Rush Limbaugh’s short-lived work on the NFL Sunday show in 2003.

This morning, President Trump tweeted, “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”

ADDENDA: You may have noticed I stopped writing about the Showtime revival of Twin Peaks a couple months ago, and several readers asked what I thought of the finale. Today, I let it all out.

Unfortunately, I can only conclude that the revival was a deep disappointment, driven mostly by the decision by co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost to abandon most of the tenets of traditional narrative — an active protagonist, a clear motivation for the villain, a clear sense of what’s at stake, storytelling set-ups and pay-offs — and instead explore more abstract concepts and moods and vignettes, sometimes resembling a sketch show or dream journal. Professional critics who raved about the series may insist that I set some sort of unfair expectation because I wanted the episodes and series to tell a more complete story. What they’re neglecting is that the show was built on a traditional narrative in the 1990-1991 run, and that the Showtime series was explicitly marketed upon the image and style of the original series. The original ABC series was about both the protagonists and audience investigating; the Showtime series was about both the protagonists and audience waiting.

If Only Someone Had Warned Them!

by Jim Geraghty

Then-candidate Donald Trump, speaking in Arizona, September 1, 2016: “NO AMNESTY! For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry under the rules of the new legal immigration system.”

Last night, after dining with the president, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement declaring, “We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the President. The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”

President Trump, in a series of Tweets this morning: “No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote. The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built. Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!…..”

Er, yes, Mr. President, that is what is generally what “no amnesty” means.

President Trump concluded, “ . . . They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own — brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security.”

Ann Coulter reacts this morning: “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?”

That’s the author of In Trump We Trust. Now she tells us!

Congressman Steve King of Iowa, another big Trump supporter in 2016, reacts this morning: “Unbelievable! Amnesty is a pardon for immigration law breakers coupled with the reward of the objective of their crime. If AP is correct, Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible.”

Breitbart.com goes with the headline: “AMNESTY DON . . .  DEMS DECLARE VICTORY AS TRUMP CAVES ON DACA”

How bad is it? Bad enough to shake the faith of Sean Hannity!

Hannity: “If POTUS doesn’t keep that promise [for a wall], and goes for amnesty, it will be the political equivalent of ‘read my lips, no new taxes.’”

In fact, when you look at President Trump’s biggest fans from the 2016 campaign, a recurring pattern emerges — even before reports of last night’s deal.

Julius Krein, founder and editor of American Affairs: “I can’t stand by this disgraceful administration any longer, and I would urge anyone who once supported him as I did to stop defending the 45th president. Not only has the president failed to make the course corrections necessary to save his administration, but his increasingly appalling conduct will continue to repel anyone who might once have been inclined to work with him.”

Mike Cernovich: “I don’t want anyone to think of me as a pro-Trump guy. I’m going to specifically reject any kind of branding about pro-Trump or whatever . . .  Do you gain anything by risking your reputation, your career, your business, supporting Trump? What is the upside? Backing Trump has been bad for business.”

Stephen Bannon, upon his departure from the White House: “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over. We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else.”

Caitlyn Jenner: “I apologize to all of the trans community. I made a mistake. I will never do it again and I’m getting rid of the [Make America Great Again] hat.”

Gee, if only someone had been around in 2015 and 2016, to warn these poor folks that Trump had no ideological principles; that he was erratic, mercurial and quick to seek out scapegoats; that he had almost no knowledge about how the federal government worked and little interest in learning; that he was temperamentally ill-suited to the daily pressures of the presidency and the inevitable criticism from the press, and that he was more focused on gratifying his own ego and feeling an abstract sense of “winning” than particular policy outcomes or building broad coalitions to enact his agenda . . . 

I kid, of course. All of these people were warned, time and again, with mountains of history and supporting evidence about Trump’s true nature and instincts. But these folks were completely convinced that they knew better.

The Battle of Jamele Hill

A lot of right-of-center sports fans don’t particularly like Jamele Hill, the co-host of the 6 p.m. Sportscenter on ESPN, who tweeted Monday that “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

Late last night, she issued the statement: “My comments on Twitter expressed my personal beliefs. My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light. My respect for the company and my colleagues remains unconditional.”

This portrait of the show raises the question of just what ESPN wanted to do with Hlll and her co-host Michael Smith, and whether their preferred ideas and format really fit with the past identity of SportsCenter, their flagship program of scores, highlights and news. I recall the commercials touting the show as “Sports Music Movies + More”, and thinking . . .  why is ESPN covering music and movies? Doesn’t this implicitly verify the charge that ESPN, which touted itself as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” is turning into a progressive-minded network for people who are only kind-of sort-of interested in sports?

My colleague David French strenuously objects to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declaring that Hill’s statement is “something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.” (It is depressing that once-venerable journalistic institutions like The Hill succumbed completely to the instinct to hype the statement for social media outrage, declaring “White House demands ESPN fire host.” Huckabee’s statement is newsworthy enough as is when you report it accurately.)

I concur with French that I don’t want the White House urging private companies to fire employees for criticizing the president. (It’s also probably counterproductive; the moment Huckabee criticized Hill from the podium, she became indispensible to ESPN, which was not going to let the world think that it had knuckled under and obeyed instructions from a president with a job approval below 40 percent. No self-respecting company would do that.)

But in a world where the slightest whiff of controversy in a statement can get someone fired, it’s hard to begrudge those on the right attempting to demonstrate that the door can swing both ways. This is a world where Google fires engineers for expressing politically incorrect ideas, Berkeley’s campus looks like a war zone preparing for Ben Shapiro’s speech, and a violent mob can encircle Charles Murray on Middlebury’s campus. The American people will not accept a society where only one side of the political debate is acceptable to express publicly. Corporate America cannot be the enforcers of a contingent understanding of the First Amendment, where employment is dependent upon your personal political views staying within the company’s accepted (and rapidly shrinking) parameters.

If Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage is right, that’s more or less what ESPN is doing, with ESPN president John Skipper allegedly berating longtime anchor Linda Cohn for daring to offer some mild and well-founded criticism of the network getting too political for the tastes of some viewers.

ADDENDA: Once again, National Review hopes you can join us for the Fourth Annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner, held Wednesday, October 25, at Gotham Hall in New York City.

The theme of this year’s dinner is “Books, Arts, & Manners,” honoring world-class author Tom Wolfe with the William F. Buckley Prize for Leadership in Political Thought and Bruce and Suzie Kovner with the WFB Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty. The Kovners have supported and led organizations that defend private enterprise, free markets and free trade, protect individual rights, promoted scholarly research that strengthens American democratic principles; fought for education reform, particularly charter schools; and helped ensure the future of the major performing arts institutions of New York City.

The master of ceremonies will be James Rosen of Fox News and the event will feature performances by students of The Juilliard School. More information about tickets and sponsorship can be found here. Hope to see you there.

In Single-Payer, Who Really Pays?

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: the not-so-solid public support for single-payer, the inconvenient details behind the boast that Hillary Clinton “made history,” a stunningly low percentage of Americans can answer basic questions about how our government works, and the former Democratic nominee’s odd interepretation of classic literature.

The Public Preference for Single-Payer Is Oh So Fragile

I’m headed up to New York City today, appearing on CNN to discuss Senator Bernie Sanders’ latest proposal for “single-payer” health care and on CNN International to discuss – well, something, possibly the Sanders proposal, perhaps something else.

The coverage of health care rarely suggests that public support for single payer is a mile wide but an inch deep. But this Kaiser poll from July is usefully illustrative. It found that a majority (55 percent) supports “single-payer,” but when respondents hear the argument that it would give the government “too much control,” then 61 percent oppose it.

When you mention the tax increases, 60 percent oppose single-payer. This concept does not enjoy ironclad support from the masses.

People hear “single payer” and think “ah, that’s nice, somebody else will pay.” Once they realize that they’re the ones paying, they’re reticent, and once they realize that the government will get to make the decisions about what procedures they deem cost-effective and which ones aren’t, the notion doesn’t look quite as appealing against the status quo as it did before.

Put another way, Bernie Sanders wants all Americans to enjoy the speedy, compassionate care that our men and women in uniform enjoyed from the Phoenix offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

What will be intriguing about the coming year is how much Democrats pretend that 2009-2010 is ancient history, and that no one remembers how Obamacare was supposed to provide affordable care to all Americans. It didn’t live up to its promises for many Americans — they didn’t get to keep their plan, they didn’t get to keep their doctor, and they didn’t see a dramatic drop in their premiums.

There’s no way for Democrats to tout their current bold promises about affordable health care without acknowledging their failure to keep their last round of bold promises about affordable health care. Writing at the Huffington Post, Jonathan Cohn acknowledges the obvious facts that many Obamacare fans prefer to ignore:

Millions of Americans still don’t have insurance. Millions who do are stuck with high premiums or out-of-pocket expenses. The new system seems to have particular trouble in more rural parts of the country, where sparse populations make it difficult for private insurance markets to thrive. That’s why Republicans have been able to get as far as they have with their repeal effort — and why even Democrats are talking about how they’d like to improve the system.

Cohn’s also pretty honest about the costs and trade-offs from single payer:

Suddenly introducing sharply lower prices, however justified on paper, would be a severe shock to the health ecosystem. Some combination of job losses and care shortages would likely follow, as hospitals, drug- and device-makers, and other parts of the industry scrambled to readjust their business models.

 . . . [Single-payer supporters] would also need to sketch out a plausible political scenario for overcoming the inevitable political resistance ― again, not just among familiar rogues in the health care industry, like drug companies, but also among the millions of Americans who are pretty happy with the insurance they have today.

If you like your plan . . .   you’re part of the problem now.

What Kind of History Did Hillary Clinton Make?

Hillary Clinton is on her book tour, and you’re still hearing a lot of damning-with-faint-praise plaudits that salute her for “making history” — in the Boston Globe, Glamour, Democrats speaking to RealClearPolitics, and elsewhere.

Yes, Clinton was indeed the first woman to win a major party’s presidential nomination in American history. But the “SHE MADE HISTORY!” rallying cry is a lot of hand-waving to distract from not merely her defeat, but that she had perhaps the easiest path to winning that nomination of any presidential candidate in recent memory, other than Al Gore in 2000. There’s a strong argument that Hillary Clinton was the Democratic party’s presidential nominee-in-waiting since spring of 2008 when she lost the nomination to Barack Obama. If she didn’t have the nomination quite handed to her by the party, she didn’t need to yank it away from anyone else, either.

She was the heaviest of favorites in the primary from the beginning. Back in 2012, 86 percent of Democrats said they had a favorable opinion of her, and 61 percent said they wanted her to be the party’s nominee; the next closest was Vice President Joe Biden with 12 percent. That’s about as big an advantage as one can imagine in this era.

Her primary win would be more impressive if she had defeated Biden, but the vice president chose not to run, in large part because of unforeseen family tragedies. The rest of the field was a freak-show: Jim Webb running for the nomination of a hawkish rural Democratic party that didn’t exist anymore; bland, forgettable Martin O’Malley, neither centrist nor leftist but just kind of there; weird and awkward Lincoln Chafee, pledging to convert America to the metric system. Not even boxing promoter Don King ever lined up a bunch of tomato cans like this.

That left Bernie Sanders, the 75-year-old socialist with little name ID who resembled Larry David and came from a state with three electoral votes. Even then, in late October 2015, Clinton led Sanders in national polling, 62 percent to 31 percent. She headed into the primary fight with way more money, the endorsement of just about every major figure in the Democratic party, and the widespread perception that the Democratic National Committee was attempting to grease the skids for her. The Democratic Party’s “super-delegates” — elected officials whose votes are the equivalent of many, many primary voters — preferred her, 570 to 44.

That’s a huge set of institutional advantages, and yet she still almost bobbled the nomination away! In hindsight, her difficulty in putting away Sanders week after week should have been a screaming klaxon of her deficiencies as a presidential candidate. Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver was prophetic when he wrote in May, “the Democratic Party must decide if they want the candidate with the momentum who is best positioned to beat Trump or if they are willing to roll the dice and court disaster simply to protect the status quo for the political and financial establishment of this country.” Democrats chose to roll the dice, and came up snake-eyes.

“Hillary made history by winning the nomination” is another way of saying “Hillary made history by managing not to lose the nomination with institutional advantages that no other candidate is likely to enjoy for the next few decades.”

And then she headed into a general election with another slew of institutional advantages: her campaign spent twice as much as Trump’s did, the media detested Trump, and the Republican nominee stumbled from one mess to another. Many prominent Republicans skipped their party’s convention in Cleveland while the Democrats’ gathering in Philadelphia went off without a hitch. Clinton may complain about FBI Director James Comey’s last minute reopening (and re-closing!) of the  bureau’s investigation of her, but it’s not like Trump had a smooth final month with the revelation of the Access Hollywood tape in early October. Sure, the first line of Hillary’s obituary will mention she was the first woman to win a major party’s presidential nomination. But it’s likely to continue, “and the loser in the most shocking upset in American political history.”

Americans’ Dwindling Interest in Self-Government

Think of these poll results the next time someone laments that voter turnout is low in the United States. A disturbingly high percentage of Americans can’t name the three branches of government and basically don’t know anything about how their government works.

That’s nearly three-quarters of the American population that can’t cough up “legislative, executive, judicial” on demand and fully 60 percent that can’t name *more than one* of those . . . 

Nearly half of those surveyed (48 percent) say that freedom of speech is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. But, unprompted, 37 percent could not name any First Amendment rights. And far fewer people could name the other First Amendment rights: 15 percent of respondents say freedom of religion; 14 percent say freedom of the press; 10 percent say the right of assembly; and only 3 percent say the right to petition the government . . . 

Another 53 percent believe that illegal immigrants have no rights under the U.S. Constitution.

If you don’t know anything about how the government works, what it does, what it’s supposed to do, or what rights you and your fellow citizens have . . .  I’m fine with you not voting.

ADDENDA: James Heartfield reads Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, What Happened, and finds an astounding passage where she concludes the lesson of George Orwell’s 1984 is the need to “trust our leaders, the press, and experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence.”

Does she think Brave New World is an endorsement of pharmaceutical products, too?

Opioid Crisis Has Reached a New High

by Jim Geraghty

Today making the click-through worthwhile: more jaw-dropping statistics on the scope of the country’s epidemic of addiction to opioids, the risk in trusting Jared Kushner with your presidency, some utopian promises on education in Virginia’s governor’s race, and a key point about the cost of journalism and staying informed.

The Real ‘Opium of the People’ Is . . .

Karl Marx confidently declared that religion is the opium of the people. Come on. America in 2017 is proving that the opium of the people is . . . actual opium, or at least opioids.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 2.6 million people are now addicted to drugs derived from the opium poppy. The CDC says there were 33,000 such fatalities last year, helping turn drug overdoses into the leading cause of death among the under-50s.

If you’re wondering about those estimated 1.5 million working-age people who are missing from the labor force, not working or looking for work . . .  a considerable percentage are probably dropping out of the workforce (and most of life itself) because of their addictions:

Research from the National Safety Council and the NORC research group at the University of Chicago show opioid users miss twice as many days of work than those with alcohol addiction. According to Princeton economist Alan Krueger, 47 percent of prime-age men not in the labor force used pain medication — and two-thirds of that subgroup used prescription drugs.

The most baffling statistic is that within a quarter of U.S. counties, opioid prescriptions exceed one per person, at least according to 2015 statistics. Hey, guys, I think I’ve got a lead on where people are writing phony prescriptions.

Some Trump Lawyers Wanted Jared to Exit Stage Left

Does jumping on the Trump Train require jumping on the Jared Kushner Train as well? Because that’s a jump I doubt I’ll ever be willing to make, because of the accumulating evidence that Kushner just doesn’t have good judgment. Maybe he knows the world of Manhattan real estate really well, but he’s a novice in politics, governing, and the ways of Washington, and it’s hard to believe the president is well served by relying on him so much.

Apparently some of the president’s lawyers agree:

Some of President Donald Trump’s lawyers earlier this summer concluded that Jared Kushner should step down as senior White House adviser because of possible legal complications related to a probe of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and aired concerns about him to the president, people familiar with the matter said.

Among their concerns was that Mr. Kushner was the adviser closest to the president who had the most dealings with Russian officials and businesspeople during the campaign and transition, some of which are currently being examined by federal investigators and congressional oversight panels. Mr. Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, has said he had four such meetings or interactions.

Another issue was Mr. Kushner’s initial omission of any contacts with foreign officials from the form required to obtain a security clearance. He later updated the form several times to include what he has said were more than 100 contacts with foreign officials.

The president’s lawyers were not united in the view that Mr. Kushner should step down.

What does Kushner bring to Trump that no other adviser in or out of government can bring him? Ivanka’s approval?

The Difficulty in Finding True Northam

We haven’t had a new poll in the Virginia governor’s race in about three weeks, and campaign commercials are starting to pop up more frequently on the local television airwaves. In a dramatic change from last cycle, when wealthy Democrat Terry McAuliffe outspent Republican Ken Cuccinelli two to one, this year Republican Ed Gillespie is spending more — $1.7 million compared to Democrat Ralph Northam’s $1.1 million.

The Washington Post notices that a Northam ad tells viewers to go online and check out his tax plan . . . without, you know, actually having a tax plan on his web site.

There is no detailed tax plan on Northam’s campaign website, aside from his call to lower grocery taxes for poor people and to create a bipartisan tax panel.

What’s more, Northam’s campaign said in April it would release a set of “guiding principles” on tax reform within a week. It never did, and a reference to that promise to voters was removed from the campaign’s website — until a reporter pointed it out.

This is what happens on Democratic campaigns when the left hand doesn’t know what the other left hand is doing.

On NRO today, I take a look at another one of Northam’s ads, focused (and focus-group tested, probably) on education and point out that the rhetoric seems pretty rote and aimed more at addressing suburban parents’ feelings than any actual problems in Virginia schools:

Northam pledges in a new commercial that if he is elected, he will raise teacher pay, emphasize science and math, and make college more affordable — because “every child in Virginia should know if they work hard, there is a bright future ahead of them.” The agenda laid out in that commercial is really a list of solutions looking for problems. Virginia students are actually exemplary compared with students in the rest of the country; according to the Virginia Education Department, they ranked best in the country in science and third in the nation in math in the most recent national tests in these subjects.

A study of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics concluded that Virginia teachers rank tenth in the nation in average pay and related benefits, at $63,493 per year. The National Education Association puts the salary alone (not benefits) at merely $50,834, ranking it as the 30th in the country. But that measuring stick leaves out a lot: A first-year teacher in Virginia Beach City Public Schools system will collect $14,492 in fringe benefits including insurance and contribution to the Virginia retirement system. (For perspective, the average per capita personal income in Virginia is $53,723.)

The more I thought about this, the more irked I became at the implied message that the best way to ensure your children have a bright future is just to vote for some guy. What the heck is he going to do for you child that you can’t do?

Can a governor really help your child get a better education? Perhaps on the margins, but how much your child learns in the classroom largely depends upon your child, your child’s teacher, you, your spouse, and perhaps the rest of the community helping out a bit. If you really want your child’s school to get better, then interact with your child’s teacher, join the PTA, volunteer in the classroom, and do all the little things that help young students thrive. Despite the grandiose promises, Northam can’t do it for you while sitting in the governor’s office in Richmond, and neither can Gillespie.

Politicians love this passivity, this pervasive belief that your life stinks and the only thing that can change it is their election and the ever-expanding power of the state.

ADDENDA: Avi Woolf with an observation that I should probably share around the time of our fundraising drive: “Folks, you get what you pay for. You can’t complain about low-quality reporting and empty hot takes if you won’t pay for more.”

Irma Continues Her March through Florida

by Jim Geraghty

Today is September 11. For the rest of our lives, whenever we see an image of the Twin Towers — basically, any image of the New York City skyline between 1973 and 2001 — we’re going to think of that day.

Making the click-through worthwhile: The latest on Hurricane Irma, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg hints he has a disturbing disdain for privacy, a new politically-themed horror show on FX offers some unintended revelations, and National Review offers a special invitation.

Irma, the Southeast’s Unwanted Houseguest

The good news is Hurricane Irma is weakening. The bad news is that it has inflicted a heck of a lot of damage on Florida, and it’s not done yet.

Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a Category 1 storm Monday after it barreled into Florida on Sunday, crashing through the Florida Keys before making a second landfall near Naples on the Gulf Coast and setting a course for Georgia.

It flooded streets, snapped construction cranes and left 58 percent of all Florida electricity customers without power — about 5.8 million accounts — according to Florida’s State Emergency Response Team. The storm has killed at least 20 people since roaring out of the open Atlantic Ocean and chewing through a string of Caribbean islands.

At least 5 deaths in Florida were attributed to Irma, according to ABC News.

At 5 a.m. ET, the center of the storm was about 60 miles north of Tampa, Fla., the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Irma is moving to the northwest at 18 mph with sustained winds of 75 mph.

Irma is expected to weaken further before becoming a tropical storm between northern Florida and southern Georgia on later Monday, the center said.

The current projection has Irma continuing northward and gradually weakening until it becomes a mere tropical depression . . .  in Indiana. (Come on, no one can be that depressed in a state that has Tony Katz.)

The hurricanes have been terrible, but doesn’t it feel like the response has been . . .  well, better? Perhaps the days, weeks, and months after Hurricane Katrina set a low bar, but these past few weeks have shown us the worst of times being met with the best of America. Perhaps it’s appropriate to note this on a date like today.

Houston Texans star J.J. Watt raised more than $30 million, volunteers continue to fly into Texas from all around the country to assist with cleanup and recovery, and a jaw-dropping 122,331 people were rescued or evacuated, along with 5,234 pets.

In Florida, television news crews recorded looters and they were promptly arrested, those sheltered in a hotel were serenaded by actress Kirsten Bell, and even manatees stranded on mudflats are getting rescued by hardy volunteers. The Department of Defense mobilized to help victims in the Caribbean. The only good thing about a disaster is that almost everybody wants to find some way to help:

States are obligated in most cases to pay a “match” for federal disaster aid, generally about 10 percent of the amount the federal government is paying in the immediate aftermath. But FEMA policy allows states to count volunteer hours as a payment toward that match, at $25 per hour. Harrison said that his group has already logged and reported to Texas more than 27,000 volunteer hours worth more than $675,000 toward the state’s required match.

Our Kevin Williamson looks at the fairly short-lived spikes in the cost of gasoline in Texas, the difficulty of getting additional gasoline to Florida before Hurricane Irma hit, and offers an assessment particularly resonant on this day:

Can we handle a couple of hurricanes? Sure. But the world contains uglier truths and wilder dangers – and the world knows where we live. In 2001, 19 misfits with box-cutters changed the course of world history and showed us that we were by no means prepared for the future – or even for the here and now. A little bit of weather can seriously disrupt Americans’ ability to provide themselves with food, fuel, and the other necessities of life. There are worse things than the weather, and we’d better get ready for them.

Why Does the Creator of Facebook Deem Private Life ‘A Lack of Integrity’?

I had not heard this comment from Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, until I encountered it in Franklin Foer’s essay in Sunday’s Washington Post:

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has exclaimed his desire to liberate humanity from phoniness, to end the dishonesty of secrets. “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” he has said. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Tell that to Batman.

Really, if not different identities, don’t we all have slightly-different versions of ourselves that we sort through and showcase throughout the days and weeks of our lives? The kind of person we are at work, the kind of person we are when we’re alone with our spouses or significant others, the kind of person we are with our kids, the kind of person we are when we’re with our friends, and the kind of person we are when with a stranger? Why is it a “lack of integrity” to showcase one side of yourself on a job interview on Tuesday morning and another side of yourself Saturday night? Why on earth does Zuckerberg want to eliminate that? Why can’t we have different images for different groups of people? What on earth would bring this inherently a lack of integrity? Japan has the concept of honne and tatemae, public self and private self; Freud offered his elaborate theories about our ids and hidden desires and sides of ourselves we hide from the world. What makes this 33-year-old so hell-bent on blowing up this concept of human existence?

Foer concludes, “Privacy won’t survive the present trajectory of technology – and with the sense of being perpetually watched, humans will behave more cautiously, less subversively.”

Who knew that the Emma Watson film The Circle was a documentary?

American Horror Story: Hollywood Projection

Our Kyle Smith finds the latest Trump-focused season of FX’s show American Horror Story hilarious, and more than a bit revealing: in Hollywood’s eyes, they’re the bold independent freethinkers, and all of those folks on the right are the hive-like conformists:

When AHS stitches together liberal fears, a lot of ragged seams are left showing. One of the good Trump-hating liberals on the show lectures Kai (a Fox News-watching Trump fan), “You are afraid, we are not,” just before another Trump-hating liberal tells her shrink about all of her debilitating Trump-induced phobias, not excluding a fear of coral. Nor does it make a lot of sense when the Fox News–loving villain gives an angry speech praising collectivism: “Every single member of the hive is completely committed to a single task.” Er, remind me, which party’s last president said things like “preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action”? Which party’s 2016 candidate issued a campaign manifesto called Stronger Together? Which one insists it takes a village to raise a child? To minute the most vivid left-wing fears is to produce a catalogue of projection.

Look, their fear is different!

ADDENDA: All of us at National Review hope you can join us for the Fourth Annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner, held Wednesday, October 25 at Gotham Hall in New York City. (Sounds like the sort of place Batman would hang out, doesn’t it?)

The theme of this year’s dinner is “Books, Arts, & Manners” and we will be honoring world-class author Tom Wolfe with the William F. Buckley Prize for Leadership in Political Thought and Bruce and Suzie Kovner with the WFB Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty. The Kovners have supported and led organizations that defend private enterprise, free markets and free trade, protect individual rights, promoted scholarly research that strengthens American democratic principles; fought for education reform, particularly charter schools; and helped ensure the future of the major performing arts institutions of New York City.

Our master of ceremonies will be James Rosen of Fox News and the event will feature performances by students of The Juilliard School. More information about tickets and sponsorship can be found here. Hope to see you there.

Hurricane Irma Sets Her Sights on Florida

by Jim Geraghty

Jim’s back from the cruise, and here’s what’s in the Jolt to make the click-through worthwhile: Didn’t we leave on this note? A terrible hurricane bears down on America’s shores, Trump practices the Art of the Complete Concession In Order to Get Good Press and enjoys it, and selected highlights from the just-completed Transatlantic National Review cruise.

Batten Down the Hatches, Florida Man!

If you’re in Florida and reading this right now – well, maybe you’ll want to save that cell phone battery. The outlook is about as grim as it gets:

Hurricane Irma tightened her grip on South Florida early Friday, becoming overnight what everyone has long dreaded: a monster hurricane bearing down on Miami and a coast with 6 million people.

Reliable forecast models projecting the storm’s path predictably began to agree on a final, fateful track, with a direct hit along the southeast coast Sunday. Irma is heading west and should continue moving in that direction over the next 24 to 36 hours, forecasters said early Friday, with hurricane conditions in the Keys and mainland starting Saturday night. Tropical storm-force winds should start in the morning.

Irma was located just under 450 miles southeast of Miami at 8 a.m., forecasters said. Sometime Saturday, the storm should begin making a critical turn to the north. But the turn will likely be too late to spare Florida from punishing hurricane winds that extend 70 miles from Irma’s center.

Once again, the odds are good that you know someone who’s evacuating or contemplating evacuation. If you’re north or west of the storm path, maybe ping them and let them know if they need a place to stay for a few days, you’ve got that  lumpy spare bed. In time, we’ll donate money for cleanup

Speaking of money for cleanup, you may have seen an unusual commercial during the football game last night: All of our living former presidents coming together for One America Appeal. President George W. Bush quoted another resident, “We’ve got more love in Texas than water.” According to the organization’s website, “all donations made today will go to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas through the Houston Harvey Relief Fund focusing on the greater Houston region, and the Rebuild Texas Fund assisting communities across the state.” President Trump tweeted his support for the effort as well. Sadly, I suspect the Presidents of the United States of America — the actual men, not the band – may need to launch a parallel effort for Florida in the coming weeks.

The Art of the Surrender

It’s not a good deal in the eyes of conservatives or Republicans, but I don’t get why anyone should be surprised. Trump has a much stronger appetite for good press than he does for limited government.  When President Trump does what Democratic Congressional leaders want, he will get good press. It appears we’re entering a new chapter of the Trump administration, one where he’s eager to work with the Congressional minority to enact his priorities rather than the majority:

Wednesday’s agreement on $15.25 billion in relief for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, combined with a three-month extension of the government’s funding and its borrowing limit, was followed by further outreach to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.).

The Harvey package, originally proposed by Democrats and approved on an 80-17 vote, now heads to the House, which is expected to vote on it on Friday. The House approved a smaller hurricane aid bill, without anything else attached, earlier in the week. Many conservatives there are reluctant to vote to increase the debt limit without taking any other steps to curb federal spending. But most, if not all, Democrats are likely to support it, as are many Republicans from Texas, Louisiana and Florida, all states affected by or bracing for the storms.

You can see the logic from Trump’s perspective; he relied on Congressional Republicans to send him an Obamacare repeal and replace bill, and they couldn’t do it. So why shouldn’t he turn to the Democrats? He gets some agenda items done and he doesn’t end up looking foolish. The people who nominated him to enact a Republican agenda end up looking foolish.

Of course, a sudden shift like this on the president’s part will make for one of the more spectacularly awkward “strange new respect” moments for the media and some Democrats. “Hey, remember that president who we were pretty sure was a neo-Nazi white-supremacist fascist demagogic aspiring-dictator? It turns out he’s pretty reasonable when it comes to infrastructure spending and eliminating the debt ceiling . . . ”

[Insert “Mussolini made the trains run on time” joke here.]

Notes and Highlights from the National Review Cruise . . . 

The cruise was another reminder that we at National Review have the best readers in the whole wide world, and I thank each and every one of you, whether you were able to join us on the cruise or not, whether you read the print magazine or just the web site, whether you love us or just tolerate us or just read us to see what we’re rambling about now.

I asked former attorney general Michael Mukasey whether he thought former FBI director James Comey’s July 5, 2016 press conference, during which he criticized Hillary Clinton for sloppy handling of classified material but not recommending criminal charges, was Comey’s version of “splitting the baby like King Solomon.” (You’re probably familiar with the story: Two women came to King Solomon, each claiming to be the mother of an infant, with no way of determining who was telling the truth. King Solomon suggested that the child should be cut in two, which each mother having half. One mother, horrified at the thought, immediately conceded her claim, saying she would rather have her child raised by another woman than to see it cut in half. The King ruled that her willingness to sacrifice demonstrated she was the real mother, and awarded her custody.)

Mukasey agreed, but pointed out, “Comey forgot that King Solomon is remembered as wise because he didn’t actually split the baby. If he had, he would have been remembered as Solomon, that maniac who ran around chopping babies in half.”

Author and all-around savant Mark Helprin is deeply concerned that the United States has a much smaller military than it will need to meet the challenges to come. He wants to see 1,000 F-22s, a 500-ship Navy — and preferably a 600-ship one – missile defense, and a lot more air capacity to rapidly deploy troops – C-5, C-17, and C-130 cargo aircraft.

In a panel discussion touching on national security, our David French raised a thoroughly unnerving thought that the North Korean regime’s nuclear capacity and appetite for risk grow concurrently — so that as they develop more weapons and more precise delivery systems, they will behave more aggressively and provocatively toward the United States and its neighbors. This appetite for conflict is almost certain to lead to confrontation.

 John Hillen, who chairs NR’s board of directors, began by asking the audience where the Libyan nuclear program was right now. The answer is in Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, voluntarily surrendered after the Iraq War. We hear a lot about the failures in American foreign policy, and we ought to, but it is worth remembering that previous administrations have managed to defuse a few bombs in their time. He offered a skeptical assessment of whether Afghanistan could ever become a stable country; in his time there he found it so far behind in poverty, technology, and tribal divisions that it couldn’t be fairly described as Stone Age banditry; it still “aspires to Stone Age banditry.”

James Lileks to Douglas Murray, trying to summarize the differences between, say, Nancy Pelosi and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn: “Our Left is not as lefty-left as your Left.”

On one of my panels, Reihan Salam, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Kevin Williamson noted that at least two big economic debates of our time — the long term stability of our entitlement programs and trade — are marked by concentrated costs and dispersed benefits.

Most government spending is the reverse, dispersed costs but concentrated benefits: We would all benefit from lower taxes if the government reduced spending, but those who benefit from farm subsidies, the National Endowment for the Arts, or the Weed Agency raise holy hell whenever someone proposes cuts to those programs.

Americans are wary about entitlement reform, because they know that if the United States shifted from Social Security – where you get a monthly payment, no matter what — to universal 401(k)s that gained or lost value depending upon the market’s performance, many would be better off, but some people could make bad investments and end up with less than they would have with the status quo.

Similarly, almost all Americans enjoy the fruits of free trade; if you don’t believe me, check your clothing labels. But we’re all moved by the image of a closed factory, with a padlocked gate and “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS” sign. Free trade benefits most people but less expensive imported goods will hit some domestic producer hard, and that minority is a lot more visible than the modestly reduced prices for all of those imported goods.

I mentioned a point that isn’t original but is still worth keeping in mind when discussing public opinion on economic issues like this: Human beings are largely moved by stories and images, not by numbers and data. The numbers might say that collectively Americans are better off with free trade, but we remember the images of the shut-down factories and workers being laid off – and that influences people’s thinking and reactions much more than numbers on a spreadsheet.

This is one of Trump’s gifts; unlike policy wonks, he thinks in stories and images instead of numbers or data. This may not make for better policies, but it is a campaigning gift for connecting with people. Unsurprisingly, President Trump’s performance so far was a regular point of discussion on the cruise; I’d say most NR cruise-goers were still Trump fans, some vocally and strongly so, quite a few generally pleased but irked with the Tweeting and drama.

ADDENDA: Thanks to Philip DeVoe for filling in while I was on the cruise. I saw several readers declaring on Twitter that Philip nailed the tone of this newsletter so well, they didn’t even realize that I wasn’t writing it. And let’s face it, there’s no higher compliment than being mistaken for me.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season Grows Worse

by Philip H. DeVoe

Today making the click-through worthwhile: Hurricanes are hammering the Atlantic basin, the latest New York state government boondoggle arrives in the small town of Jamestown, N.Y., and the state of modern journalism.

No Way, Jose

Hurricane Harvey looks like just the beginning of the Atlantic basin’s worries, as tropical storm Jose has been upgraded to a hurricane, joining Hurricane Katia and Hurricane Irma. Irma poses the most immediate threat to the Caribbean and the U.S. — as the most powerful storm in the Atlantic basin’s recorded history, it has already claimed eleven lives and damaged 95 percent of structures in Barbuda.

Irma is expected to make landfall in Florida early Sunday morning, and Florida governor Rick Scott and Miami mayor Carlos Gimenez have begun preparations for one of the worst storms to ever face Miami. Scott has deployed the National Guard, and an evacuation order from Gimenez for Miami-Dade County went into effect today at 7:00 a.m.

The evacuation orders are the largest since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and came as Miami-Dade was the regional holdout in not instructing at least some residents to flee in advance of the storm. Broward issued its evacuation orders for coastal areas on Wednesday morning and said 14 shelters would be opening. On Tuesday, Monroe County ordered residents and tourists to begin leaving Wednesday. . . . 

In all, about 150,000 people are covered by the order.

Mayor Gimenez stressed that if Miami-Dade residents plan on leaving, they must leave quickly, to avoid the disastrous effects of gridlock evacuation traffic.

Boondoggle in the Boondocks

New York governor Andrew Cuomo is planning on building a comedy museum in Jamestown, N.Y., which is six and a half hours from New York City and four from Pittsburgh. The price tag? Only $50 million.

Jamestown? It’s a place of “empty storefronts and underused buildings,” according to the New York Times. . . .  Home to some 31,000 souls, it doesn’t exactly scream “arts capital.” There’s a reason the most popular museums tend to be concentrated in cities rather than scattered randomly in rural areas, hamlets, and deserted islands: One museum, especially one small museum, isn’t usually enough to make tourists to go much out of their way. Especially a museum that proposes to offer stuff few want to see in the first place.

Cuomo selected Jamestown because it is the birthplace of Lucille Ball, a widely recognized comic — but for a style that had mostly disappeared by the late 1970s. By comparing the proposed comedy museum to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., which is four hours away from Manhattan, proponents of the museum have suggested it will enjoy similar attendance.

But why would people flock to Jamestown for comedy? As Kyle Smith reports for NRO, the museum would need upwards of 114,000 visitors to be profitable with tickets costing $20 each. Cuomo has a lot of faith in his project: He said last month that he believes it will be a national attraction.

Let’s look at what else he believes: He avers that the project could create “scores” of jobs, according to the New York Times. Wow, scores? As in, maybe 40? Most of them presumably in such areas as custodial work, gift-shop attendant, and ticket-sales clerk, with a handful of cushy “curator” gigs steered toward reducing by two or three society’s surplus of holders of Ph.D.s in “culture studies”? If 40 jobs result, that’s $250,000 Cuomo is spending per job.

What the comedy museum will really be is a monument to the New York government’s notorious over-spending. Now that I would drive six hours to see.

When Opinions Become Facts

Writing for NRO, Johnathan S. Tobin explores how authors of fake news stories still believe the facts are true, despite clear evidence that they were not. The phenomenon goes back to 2004’s CBS News story claiming George W. Bush was a frequent no-show during his time in the National Guard. CBS’s Dan Rather was quickly fired upon the network’s discovery that many of the documents used as evidence had been forged. To this day, however, Rather believes he was correct.

His conviction that Bush was lying and needed to be taken down was greater than his duty as a journalist to report facts rather than arguments. . . . 

While Rather’s conduct seemed to illustrate the traditional liberal bias of the mainstream media, his exit from CBS was also seen as an object lesson of what happens when journalists let their political opinions get the better of their professional judgment. But though his conduct was viewed, perhaps incorrectly, as an outlier in 2004, by 2017 such attitudes are now very much mainstream.

Many of today’s journalists believe facts are secondary to convictions and beliefs. Take the Russia collusion “investigation” into Trump. James Comey testified during his Senate hearing that the foundation for the media’s case at the time, a New York Times article suggesting Trump’s campaign had colluded with Russians [right?], was found to be factually untrue. “Have you found any evidence of collusion?” “Not at this time,” Comey replied. Yet journalists remain undeterred.

Smith concludes by observing that the line between opinion and fact has been blurred in today’s journalism, which leads to opinions being considered as facts.

But while opinion is one thing – even on shows where there is no longer a semblance of balance with respect to the voices arrayed against Trump — letting that same spirit insinuate itself into investigative reporting is quite another. Groupthink in which negative stories about Trump are assumed to be true until proven false and even then are allowed to linger in the public imagination (such as the claim that a wave of bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers was inspired by Trump even though the crime was the work of a disturbed Israeli teenager).

ADDENDA: A Texas woman slipped out of her handcuffs and stole the police car she was being held in yesterday. She then led police on a 20-mile pursuit, reaching speeds of nearly 100 mph. The video’s quite incredible.

Trump’s DACA Decision and the Way Forward

by Philip H. DeVoe

This morning on the click-through: Trump’s DACA decision, how congressional Republicans have wrought the controversy surrounding DACA, and the flawed logic that supposes disasters help the economy.

The Stay Is Over

On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced the president’s decision to rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. The DACA rescission is good policy, putting an end to the five years of functional amnesty for many who were brought to the U.S. as minors by their illegal-immigrant parents. The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. given deferred status under DACA tops 800,000, and fixing the errant executive order has been a promise of Trump’s since his campaign — and one many conservatives support wholeheartedly.

In the administration’s statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered another reason to rescind DACA:

The Department of Justice cannot defend this overreach,” Sessions said. “There is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws. Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism. The compassionate thing is to end the lawlessness, (and) enforce our laws.”

Tuesday night, however, Trump tweeted that he plans to revisit his executive action should Congress fail to pass legislation that replaces DACA:

Trump’s promise to use executive power to correct an overreach of executive power is a head-scratcher, and, as NR editor Rich Lowry tweeted, needlessly gave away leverage in the coming negotiations with Congress.

Finish the Dang Fence!

President Trump’s decision to rescind Obama’s DACA mandate has sparked a flurry of controversy. The Left holds up anecdotal examples of children who are “left behind” by the law, as Republicans in Congress debate how to move legislation to address the president’s decision.

But, as Michael Brendan Dougherty writes for NRO, congressional Republicans are actually responsible for the backlash Trump is facing on the DACA decision:

The fact is that Republicans were, by sins of omission and commission, complicit in the buildup of a population of illegal immigrants in America that is well over 10 million strong. Sure, at some point they intended to grant most of them amnesty of some kind. But in the meantime, people who have built their whole lives in a country they have no legal right to be in are vulnerable in so many ways. They are vulnerable to employers who cheat them of wages, to landlords who cheat them of rent, and to criminals who can take advantage of their unwillingness to call the police. And finally, they are vulnerable to sudden shifts in the political wind, as Trump’s rescinding of DACA shows.

By hemming and hawing, by campaigning on strong borders and implementing amnesties, by generally allowing the illegal immigration problem to pile up and grow out of control, congressional Republicans have, once again, demonstrated their futility when it comes to enacting legislative reform.

And now, as it were, the chickens have come home to roost.

Broken Windows, Broken Economies

Too often, the spirit of confidence and general optimism after a natural disaster leads to the argument that hurricanes such as Harvey are actually good for the economy. As French economist Frederic Bastiat explained in his classic work That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen, however, this “broken window” fallacy supposes something dreadfully wrong about the way money moves about an economy.

The broken-window fallacy begins by summarizing the common opinion about disasters at the time: That if a son breaks a window in his father’s shop, the father will spend money to pay the glazier, the glazier will use the money to buy shoes, and so on. But, as Michael Tanner writes in NRO, Bastiat observed that this is not true. Breaking windows, in fact, are bad for the economy:

Nevertheless, as Bastiat pointed out, that leaves out a crucial calculation: what the shopkeeper would have done with the money if he had not been obliged to buy a new window. What the broken-window advocates miss is the elements that are not seen: “It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another,” The accident only means that the shopkeeper has spent six francs to bring himself back to the economic state he was in before the window was broken; he is no richer for it, but six francs poorer.

Equally, rebuilding Houston won’t improve the U.S. economy, only, as Tanner says, “restore some of what was lost.” With a devastating $20 billion price tag, Harvey is certainly no broken window. But it’s no promise for an economic boom either.

ADDENDA: The RNC has paid for a geofilter on Snapchat, a photo-based social-media app, targeted at the Bob Menendez trial:


What Are Our Options on North Korea?

by Philip H. DeVoe

Making the click-through worthwhile: North Korean aggression opens talks of U.N. sanctions, Christie’s path to the Senate, and opting out of public-school sexual-education programs.

Sanctioning North Korea

In response to North Korea’s nuclear test this weekend, its most powerful yet, the U.S. began pressuring the U.N. to levy sanctions against the Kim regime. Senior Trump officials have said that cutting off oil and other fuels to North Korea is the “last best chance” to end North Korean aggression diplomatically.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that the U.S. is even considering stopping all trade with North Korean allies if the tests continue.

Experts, however, have questioned whether the U.S. economy can survive such a decision: Trade with China, North Korea’s most important ally and trading partner, accounts for $650 billion of the U.S. economy. Last year, North Korean trade with China totaled $3 billion. As a comparison, the U.S. exported $11 billion in corn alone in 2016.

But the U.S. has other options:

[The U.S.] could more broadly target Chinese companies that do business in North Korea. But that could prove ineffective against a Chinese government that worries that trade limits could worsen conditions in the North, making the situation there even more unpredictable.

“If it really started to send their economy into a tailspin, they could lash out in a more extreme way,” said John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul.

North Korea’s test of a nuclear weapon on Sunday prompted White House officials to threaten new sanctions targeting businesses and countries that have continued to do business with Pyongyang. That prompted criticism from China on Monday, which called the idea of trade measures against it “unacceptable.”

“This is neither objective nor fair,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said at a daily news briefing.

With the increased frequency and intensity of nuclear tests, North Korea has made itself Trump’s top priority. By refusing to rule out force to deter further aggression from North Korea, the president has remained open to all possible options. Cutting off trade with China, however, is probably not realistic.

Christie for Senate?

So reads the headline of an article by John Fund in NRO, who writes about an interview Chris Christie gave on the possibility of taking New Jersey Democrat Bob Menedez’s Senate seat, should the latter be convicted of corruption.

Governor Chris Christie refused to rule out the possibility that he could replace New Jersey’s U.S. senator Bob Menendez if the Democratic lawmaker is convicted on fraud and bribery charges in a trial that begins this week. “I don’t give Shermanesque statements on anything,” Christie told an interviewer for MSNBC’s Morning Joe program. “Listen, we’ll see what happens in this trial. We don’t know if there’s even going to be a vacancy and if there is, whether I’ll still be governor to replace it. What I’ll guarantee the people of New Jersey is . . .  I’ll pick the person I think is best to represent New Jersey’s interests in the U.S. Senate.”

Christie can’t pick himself, but he could resign as governor, leaving Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagano to appoint him. New Jersey is a consistently blue state, and the seat is not likely to flip with any candidate but Christie. Plus, Christie could help push Trump bills through the Senate at a time when even a 52-seat Republican majority hasn’t been enough to enact major legislation.

Winning a full six-year term in 2018 would be challenging, however, especially considering the historic unpopularity of governors-turned-senators: All five have lost reelection.

Amid the uncertainly, Fund believes Menendez’s conviction is one thing we can count on:

Even though convictions of a public official for bribery have to involve proof that any gifts led to official action by the public official, the evidence against Menendez is unusually comprehensive and sordid. Prosecutors will cite e-mail exchanges and even sworn testimony from the pilots who ferried Menendez to his lavish vacations to prove their argument that Menendez “paid” for the allegedly illicit gifts using the “currency of his Senate office.”

Tricky Laws Push the Transgender Agenda in Public Schools

Margot Cleveland explores the legal obstacles in some states’ sex-education laws to parents opting their children out of education about traditional intercourse:

The California legislature specifically excluded “gender identity” from the state’s notice and opt-out requirements, by providing in Section 51932(b) of the Education Code: “This chapter does not apply to instructions, materials, presentations, or programming that discuss gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation, relationships, or family and do not discuss human reproductive organs and their functions.”

So, contrary to the parents’ assumption that the local administrators of Rocklin Academy failed them and their children, the blame lies with the California legislature, which purposely exempted gender identity from both the notice and opt-out mandates of its sex-education provisions.

Rocklin Academy is the school where, last week, a kindergarten teacher staged a “transition ceremony” for a boy who wanted to dress like a girl. After the ceremony, a first-grader was disciplined for “misgendering” the student.

Cleveland goes on to add D.C. and Colorado to this list, noting that only Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Texas have a blanket opt-out right for all sexuality-based education. Until the other state legislatures fix the loophole, she advises parents to pull their students out of the public-school system or lobby the states to change the laws.

ADDENDA: The U.S. is well represented in the women’s U.S. Open quarterfinals this year, where four of the eight qualifiers are American: Coco Vandeweghe, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys. Good luck, ladies!

The Growing North Korea Crisis

by Philip H. DeVoe

Happy Labor Day. Today’s Jolt is a bit truncated: Here’s an update on North Korea and Hollywood.

North Korea Detonates Nuclear Weapon; Mattis and Trump Respond

News out of North Korea, as the nation tests a new nuclear weapon:

The crisis with North Korea escalated Sunday as President Trump reviewed military options and suggested sweeping new economic sanctions in response to the crossing of a dangerous threshold by the isolated nation in detonating its most powerful nuclear weapon ever.

Defying Trump’s blunt warnings, North Korea claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb that could be attached to a missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.

Though not yet confirmed, Pyongyang’s apparent show of force was extraordinary — the hydrogen weapon is vastly more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and drew swift condemnation in capitals around the globe. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the action “absolutely unacceptable.”

President Trump signaled to reporters that the U.S. has not ruled out retaliating against North Korea. When asked after leaving St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., Sunday morning how the U.S. planned to respond, the president answered, “We’ll see.”

As we’ve come to learn, “we’ll see” is Trump-speak for “I’m not going into details with you, but we’re leaving all options open.” Defense Secretary James Mattis gave a more definitive answer at a press conference outside the White House yesterday, warning of “a massive military response” to a threat against the U.S. or its allies.

A Flop of a Summer

NRO’s Kyle Smith writes about the dreadful summer Hollywood’s been having:

“This film’s not perfect!” could have been the tagline for any number of films released this horrendous summer. Sales were the weakest since 2006, off a huge 16 percent from last summer. From the big-screen adaptation of Baywatch that no one was waiting for to chapter eleventy-five of Pirates of the Caribbean and the umpteenth Transformers movie, it has been the Summer of Flops. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword cost something like $175 million but earned $39 million in North America. Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets cost about the same and took in about the same. The Emoji Movie piled up only $78 million. Alien: Covenant drew $77 million. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower didn’t even make it to $50 million. The Mummy, an ambitious effort from Universal to launch a new universe of interlocking horror titles, earned only $80 million and seems likely to be remembered mainly for the unintentionally hilarious performance by Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The only movies that made any money the entire summer were Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3, and, on a smaller scale, Dunkirk, Baby Driver, and Girls Trip. Even Pixar stumbled with its second-lowest-grossing effort among its 18 releases, Cars 3. Half a dozen hits can’t make up for the losses racked up by dozens of flops. Nor does the fall look particularly promising.

High-profile releases in the next few weeks, such as Stephen King’s It, hope to give the movie industry a late-season boost in ticket sales, but these won’t help turn Hollywood around.

When the movie industry has had market lulls in the past, they have often looked to new sources of revenue or new demographics to pull in. Videocasettes, DVDs, and the Chinese market come to mind. But Hollywood doesn’t seem to have any new ideas or gimmicks, and with people leaving their houses less often, it seems the movie business is in trouble. As Smith quotes from an August headline, it’s “‘time to panic.’”

ADDENDA: For those of you missing Jim’s Twin Peaks updates, here’s one from NRO.

Chemical Blasts Release Hazardous Waste into Houston Waters

by Philip H. DeVoe

Making the clickthrough worthwhile: Chemical explosions add more danger to Houston, a banana peel sparks a conversation on race at Ole Miss, and a Slate op-ed praises the socialist behavior Harvey has brought to Houston.

The Latest Catastrophe in Houston

Explosions at a Houston-area chemical plant have complicated rescue efforts and escalated the danger in a region already grappling with Hurricane Harvey:

When the hurricane blew in, workers at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Tex., faced the problem of keeping the plant’s volatile chemicals cold. The plant had 19.5 tons of organic peroxides of various strengths, all of them requiring refrigeration to prevent ignition.

But the power went out, and then the floodwaters came and knocked out the plant’s generators. A liquid nitrogen system faltered. In a last-ditch move, the workers transferred the chemicals to nine huge refrigerated trucks, each with its own generator, and moved the vehicles to a remote section of the plant.

That was doomed to fail, too. Six feet of water swamped the trucks, and the final 11 workers gave up. At 2 a.m. Tuesday, they called for a water evacuation and left the plant to its fate.

Early Thursday, two loud pops signaled an explosive combustion in one of the trucks, and a black plume of smoke spread from the plant, sending 15 police officers and paramedics to the hospital. All eight remaining vehicles are now likely to burn, said Robert W. Royall Jr., assistant chief of emergency operations for the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office.

We are “watching physics at work,” Arkema spokesman Jeff Carr said Thursday. “Probably a couple more tonight.”

Arkema isn’t the only plant to succumb to floodwaters, however. The failure of several Texas chemical plants in the wake of the storm has alerted plant managers and chemical-manufacturing organizations to the permeability of their backup systems. Bill Hoyle, a former senior investigator for the Chemical Safety Board, told the Washington Post that the explosions are “a wake-up call for an industry and their safety regulators who have not adequately taken action on lessons from Hurricane Katrina as well as the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.”

Just as Fukushima threatened the region with the devastating effects of nuclear fallout, Texan chemical plant explosions such as Arkema threaten to add fuel to an already uncontrollable fire in the form of hazardous petrochemicals:

The plant produced organic peroxides, which are used in a variety of products including pipes, plastics, acrylic paints, countertops and pharmaceuticals. A company spokesman estimated that 19.5 tons of chemicals were at the site. Small amounts can irritate the skin or damage corneas, and in larger amounts could cause liver damage, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). But the company spokesman said “the issue is a combustion event, not a chemical release.”

The Arkema emergency raises anew a host of concerns for chemical manufacturers. After the 1984 tragedy in Bhopal, India, in which a chemical leak from a Union Carbide plant killed more than 2,000 people and injured many thousands more, then-Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) pressed for legislation requiring chemical companies to describe their own worst-case scenarios.

Hopefully, our response to these disasters will eventually help make chemical plants safer, especially during floods.

Everyone’s Going Bananas

A banana stuck to a tree ended a fraternity retreat at the University of Mississippi early after three students told Greek life leaders that they were frightened and upset about the racial implications. From National Review’s Kat Timpf:

The leaders then shared their concerns with the rest of the camp, and one of the attendees, Ryan Swanson, admitted that he had placed the peel on the tree — explaining that he had actually not done so because he hates people of color and wants to intimidate them, but because he just couldn’t find a garbage can to put it in. But it didn’t end there: In fact, it prompted an entire day of “camp-wide conversation” about the racist “symbolism, intended or not” of the banana, a conversation that made some students feel so upset that they didn’t feel “safe” enough to stay, which ultimately led to the rest of the retreat being canceled altogether.

One of the “hurt, frightened” students claimed the peel reminded her of a display of bananas hanging from nooses at American University in May, directed at the school’s first female black president. As Kat points out, Swanson carelessly tossing his peel on the tree’s trunk is far different from hanging bananas from nooses.

The student, president of historically black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, even found something to complain about in the way the peel was discussed.

“I just don’t feel as though it was being facilitated in a constructive way,” McNeil told [the Daily Mississippian]. “At that point, we didn’t feel welcome; we didn’t feel safe,” McNeil continued. “If we didn’t feel wanted or safe at the camp, our best option was to leave.”

There are no reports of what exactly was said during the banana-peel-gate discussions that made some students so upset, but the school’s administration is reportedly working on a plan to help the students who are still coping.

Bananas were provided as a breakfast option during the retreat, which is probably how Swanson got ahold of one, so will they be removed from future retreats? And the school’s cafeterias?

Houston Doesn’t Show America at Its Best, Apparently

NRO’s Kyle Smith responds to an article by Katy Waldman for Slate, in which she laments the eventual recession of the progressive, socialist spirit of collectivism brought out by the Harvey disaster.

Underlying the piece is an old impulse of the Left dating back to Lenin and beyond: A wish to keep society in emergency mode because of the opportunities it opens up. Catastrophe tends to loosen up all that red tape that gets in the way of progressive action. Catastrophe leads to immediate mobilization. Catastrophe gives us spontaneous collectivism. Why can’t we have collectivism always and everywhere, not just in the Houston area when 50 inches of rain falls on it? Waldman is looking toward the aftermath of Harvey and fears that this disaster will be allowed, in the deathless words of Rahm Emanuel, to “go to waste”; i.e., it won’t lead to a major leftward turn for Texas or the U.S.

Waldman celebrates a suspended “norm” in Houston, where “something lovelier and more communal has been allowed to flourish in their place.” While Waldman — and many on the left – believe cooperation and community dies under capitalism, Smith uses a quote by F. A. Hayek to push back: Capitalism actually facilitates “the extended order of human cooperation.” Business owners want their customers to like them, they want their stores to be welcoming, and they provide good services to keep business flowing.

If it is cooperation Waldman wants, a centralized authority isn’t the answer. “‘Utopia’ means nowhere. It isn’t achievable. The conservatives in Texas understand this better than most.”

ADDENDA: Cy Young winner and MVP pitcher Justin Verlander was traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Houston Astros yesterday evening. Twitter users have unearthed a 2012 criticism of the pitcher from President Donald Trump, Tweeted the morning of the third AL Championship game, while the Tigers were up 2-0 in the series against the Yankees:

Verlander’s ERA in that game was 1.08.


Have a good Labor Day weekend!

New Details in Senator Menendez’s Corruption Case

by Philip H. DeVoe

First, your Harvey update: Floodwaters led to a series of explosions in a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, early this morning. Port Arthur is now underwater, and the death toll has risen to 37.

Now, making the clickthrough worthwhile: the prosecution releases the details of Senator Bob Menendez’s case, Richard Parker eulogizes the “death” of Texas’s rugged individualism in Politico Magazine, and baseball errs (and then makes amends) with its plans for the Astros.

Do Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

The prosecution in the Bob Menendez trial has released the details of its case against the New Jersey senator and his co-defendant, Salomon Melgen. Menendez was indicted for accepting a slew of bribes from Florida eye specialist Salomon Melgen in exchange for promoting Melgen’s business.

Flights on a private jet, vacations in a Paris hotel suite and a Caribbean villa, and nearly $800,000 in campaign contributions were some of the bribes Sen. Bob Menendez received to promote the business and personal interests of Florida eye specialist Salomon Melgen, a 14-count federal indictment charged Wednesday.

In exchange, the indictment said, Menendez tried to help Melgen keep $9 million that Medicare said he overbilled the government; pressed the State Department to provide visas so Melgen’s girlfriends from Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Ukraine could study in or visit Florida; and pushed for federal pressure to sway the Dominican government over a port security contract Melgen owned.

Menendez and Melgen have been friends for more than 20 years, and the senator has stressed that they often exchanged gifts. To get a conviction, legal experts said, the government is going to have to prove that the benefits Melgen provided were specifically tied to official actions by Menendez.

The trial may have immediate political consequences: The prosecution is attempting to shoot down the senator’s request for breaks during the trial so he can attend Senate votes or participate in debate. Prosecutors argue that the regular activities of the court and its pursuit of justice shouldn’t be put on hold for politics.

Menendez’s absence would increase the GOP’s thin 52-48 margin in the Senate, which might make things a bit easier for Mitch McConnell. Of course, that would also mean Menendez’s constituents wouldn’t be fully represented in the Senate in the interim, and there are many crucial issues that will be taken up in the next few months (e.g., the debt ceiling, funding the government, a Hurricane Harvey–relief bill, etc.).

To put Menendez’s trial in historical context, of the twelve sitting senators who have been indicted, four were acquitted, one had his charges dropped, and two of the verdicts were overturned. That only four senators have been convicted of a crime while in office certainly says something about our democracy. It’s reassuring to know we live in a country where the senators might not be as corrupt as we think.

Unless that is . . . you’re from New Jersey, which is the only state to have two senators indicted. The other, Harrison Williams, was also one of the four convicted.

Messing with Texas

Richard Parker, writing in Politico Magazine, offers his analysis of the situation in Texas:

When Gov. Greg Abbott won election in 2014, he said of his agenda: “We will celebrate the frontier spirit of rugged individualism.” Since then, he and the legislature have sought to limit government power — except their own. They have enabled individuals to more freely carry guns and knives and diverted taxpayer money from public to private schools. Most recently, Abbott led the failed effort to nullify local tree ordinances — regulations limiting tree removal — because these posed, Abbott argued, a threat to individual freedom.

But Harvey has changed all that.

“A Texas-sized storm requires a Texas-sized response, and that is exactly what the state will provide,” Abbott said Monday in Corpus Christi. “While we have suffered a great deal, the resiliency and bravery of Texans’ spirits is something that can never be broken. As communities are coming together in the aftermath of this storm, I will do everything in my power to make sure they have what they need to rebuild.”

This is a man whose signature boast was that he got up every day, went to work and sued the federal government, who has called for a constitutional convention to strip power from Washington and yet, on Monday, said, “To see the swift response from the federal government is pretty much unparalleled.”

Parker’s tone deafness — in an article positing that Harvey’s legacy might signal the end of “the Lone Star State’s rugged individualism” — is hard to fathom. While state, local (and federal) officials seem to have reacted competently under the circumstances, the true story of the last week has been private citizens spontaneously rising to the occasion to help their families, friends, and communities in need. The “Cajun Navy” of flat-bottom boats, canoes, and bass boats is the product of the local citizenry — not the federal behemoth in Washington or even the state government in Austin.

To Parker, “self-reliance” must mean something like “dying in a flood before letting the government help” — most Texans, however, believe it means taking the initiative to help your neighbors, your community, and even strangers in an emergency. also ignores the fact that Texans — and most Americans — don’t hate the federal government, they just don’t trust it, especially when it comes to disaster relief. Governor Abbot’s award of an “A+” to FEMA isn’t some sacrifice of rugged conservative values, it’s an acknowledgement of a government that’s functioning properly.

Then, Politico published a cartoon (in a now deleted tweet) accusing Texans of hypocrisy for accepting federal aid while the state harbors a secession movement:

The irony is that despite a popular association of Texans with secession, California currently has the nation’s largest secession movement, at least according to available polling. In August 2016, a Public Policy Polling study found that 59 percent of Texans oppose secession and 26 percent support it. Even if Hillary Clinton had defeated Donald Trump and won the 2016 election, only 40 percent of Texans would support secession, with 48 percent opposing.

In a March University of California–Berkeley study, however, 68 percent of Californians opposed secession but 32 percent support it. And while the last serious Texan push to secede was after the 2012 election, significant numbers of Californians have supported their movement three times since then.

Major League Error, Revised

On the homepage, Michael Brendan Dougherty laments the decision by Major League Baseball officials to move the Houston Astros’ games this week against the Texas Rangers to “an empty stadium in Florida.”

The obvious thing to do was to play this week’s games in Arlington, Texas. It would have inconvenienced the Texas Rangers and their fans to some degree — especially if it happened under the terms originally offered, where a series played this week at the Rangers’ home stadium was traded for another in the last days of the regular season played in Houston. Rangers players would have ended their season on an extraordinarily long road trip. All true.

Alternatively, the Astros could have agreed to play at Arlington without getting a series in Houston in return. The Rangers had already said they would dedicate the gate from the games to relief efforts in Houston. However, despite not getting an exchange of home fields over the course of the season, the Astros reasoned that Houston would still be unsuitable for this weekend’s series against the Mets, and so the Astros might as well create a temporary home for themselves this week in Florida. Indeed, some Astros players have families that are displaced and homes under water.

Thankfully, the Astros did the right thing and have started to backtrack:

The Houston Astros are going back home. The team announced Wednesday that the Astros will play their first home game since being relocated by Hurricane Harvey.

The club will play a double-header against the New York Mets on Saturday, and conclude the series Sunday. All games will be played at Minute Maid Park, the Astros home stadium.

Already, the prediction that baseball can help heal a broken community is coming true. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner commented that the decision will “provide an opportunity for families to start returning to some aspect of familiar life.” Baseball has the power to bring people together, distract them from hardship, and give them something to root for. The people of Houston — and all Texans — certainly need all three.

Also, the Astros have announced that the Carlos Correa jerseys the team had planned to give away during the game will now go to a local charity, and the first 5,000 tickets will go to first responders.

Well done, Astros.

ADDENDA: Planned Parenthood asked its Twitter followers to “Fill in the blank: The person I’m going out with can never ______. Tell us your dating dealbreakers.” Unsurprisingly, it backfired on them, with comments ranging from “Think abortion is acceptable” to “Sell kids for spare parts.”

Editor’s Note: The article originally referenced “Politico’s Richard Parker’s analysis” of Hurricane Harvey and its effect on Texas. The wording has been changed to clarify that Parker, whose opinion piece was published in Politico Magazine, is a freelance columnist from Texas.

When Image Trumps Character

by Philip H. DeVoe

Today, making the click-through worthwhile, it’s Harvey all around: an update on the status of the storm and the inspiring togetherness it has bred; Harvey’s impact on the government shutdown; and Heelgate, possibly the most undeserving Watergate analogy yet.

When the Levee Breaks, People Come Together

The five-day total of Harvey rainfall has reached 52 inches, and a Harris County Flood Control meteorologist estimates that up to 30 percent of Houston is underwater.

This morning, Harvey — now a tropical storm — made its second landfall, in southwest Louisiana. Yesterday, a levee at Columbia Lakes broke, but thankfully many had already evacuated the resort village, which lies southwest of Houston. The death toll has now reached 30.

As disasters often do, Hurricane Harvey has brought out the best in people. The city and county police have rescued 6,100 Houstonians from the waters. Now-viral videos depict a CNN reporter helping rescue a geriatric from his home and a chain of volunteers leading a pregnant woman — in labor during the flooding — into the back of a rescue truck. One video shows neighbors celebrating their safety with shots from a bottle of what a reporter erroneously calls water.

Houston Texans defensive end J. J. Watt’s YouCaring page has far surpassed its original goal of $200,000, now totaling more than $5.5 million. You can donate using the link attached. University of Mississippi’s Kappa Sigma fraternity has promised to donate $0.25 for every retweet and $0.10 for every like on a Tweet it posted 17 hours ago. See the current totals below:

This selfless act of philanthropy deserves special commendation, especially considering the frequent criticisms that Greek organizations are privileged and out of touch. And, of course, because they’re college kids. Let’s face it, they don’t have much money.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has upped his donation to $10 million for disaster relief, and actress Sandra Bullock became the latest to join Kevin Hart’s appeal to celebrities for Harvey donations, putting $1 million in the growing pot. God bless them all, and God bless the men and women risking their lives to save the affected. If you want to say a prayer, the intercession to St. Medard — the patron saint against bad weather — is a good one.

With all these heroes demonstrating American togetherness, I don’t even want to mention the few who have used the storm as a moment of politicization. But I will leave with you this Slate article, where a Dear Prudence submittal asked if it’s worth arguing with his girlfriend over her decision to donate only to groups that help affected animals, fearing a donation to the Red Cross will support someone who voted for President Trump. Thankfully, Prudence — Slate’s Mallory Ortberg — said the girlfriend’s decision is “nonsensical and unconscionable.”

Shutting Down the Shutdown

From The Street:

Hurricane Harvey’s devastation along the Texas coast has reduced the likelihood of a U.S. government shutdown next month, according to the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

That’s because lawmakers could face a backlash from allowing a partial shutdown at a time when federal relief efforts are underway, Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a report late Tuesday. The odds of a shutdown have fallen to about 35%, from a 50% chance earlier this month, they estimated. . . . 

“Allowing a partial government shutdown when federal relief efforts are underway would pose greater political risks than under normal circumstances, raising the probability that lawmakers will find a way to resolve disagreements,” the analysts wrote.

The Republican-led Congress will most likely avoid allowing a government shutdown to impede disaster relief, not wanting to repeat funding mistakes made during Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy. As always, the wild card is Trump, who has insisted that he will veto any continuing resolution that doesn’t earmark money for his border wall. While Trump’s best-case scenario is a continuing resolution with Harvey funding and border-wall money, congressional Democrats wouldn’t stand for a bill backing them into a political corner.

As Forbes’s Stan Collender – a veteran of both the House and Senate Budget Committee staff – predicts, if Congress is smart, they’ll put disaster relief funding in an individual appropriations bill, delaying the debate over border-wall funding for another session. Trump could veto that, forcing an ethical dilemma for the Democrats, but we shouldn’t be too worried. He hasn’t indicated hardness of heart so far, saying on Monday that Harvey victims would see “very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president.”

Don’t Be a Heel

Melania Trump stepped into a flood of controversy (I’m sorry):

Melania Trump’s sky-high stilettos are the hardest-working footwear in the White House.

The first lady has been known to reach for a minimum four-inch heel rain or shine, and apparently, not even one of the most brutal storms in U.S. history can lead her to change up her footwear.

Tuesday morning, FLOTUS was spotted boarding a plane en route to Corpus Christi, Texas, alongside President Donald Trump for a briefing on Hurricane Harvey, and despite light showers in Washington, D.C., and a disastrous storm near her destination, Melania paired her on-trend silky olive bomber jacket and black trousers with five-inch stilettos. . . . 

Given the catastrophic nature of Harvey, Twitter is alight with critics calling into question Melania’s glamorous departure look. “Not an expert, but are stiletto heels the best footwear for a disaster zone?” wrote one Twitter user. Another referred to FLOTUS as “disaster Barbie.”

She probably didn’t expect to get attacked by the same publications that celebrate heels as signs of empowerment. As Vanity Fair said: “And then there’s Melania. Her aviator sunglasses and army green jacket say, ‘Business,’ and, ‘Let’s get down to business,’ and, ‘Hello, my name is Tom Cruise and I’m here to give you the business.’ The heels scream, ‘Who’s in for brunch?’”

One thing the heels didn’t scream is “feminism,” despite a report just two months ago from the same magazine where they did. VF celebrated Helen Mirren’s brave choice to wear heels in the 1960s; now, the actress says, heels are a staple of the modern feminist.

“What-about”-ism aside, the publications’ criticism come from a frustration with the indignant attitude the heels convey on the First Lady, considering her trip was to visit an area where millions are suffering from major flooding. But, as basic fact checking would reveal, the Trumps didn’t visit a flood area at all:

But Trump’s early trip to the state came with some risk. His predecessors largely avoided landing in places where law enforcement resources — required for any presidential visit — are still being used for search-and-rescue missions.

The White House insists it has taken steps to mitigate any drain on local assets as Trump makes stops in Corpus Christi, along the Gulf Coast, and in Austin, the Texas capital.

Those stops were designed to keep Trump at a distance from the most devastating damage in and around Houston, which has experienced historic flooding after Hurricane Harvey’s landfall on Friday.

“The President wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn’t disrupt the recovery efforts that are still ongoing,” Sanders told reporters Tuesday morning aboard Air Force One.

After Corpus Christi, Trump will head to Austin, Texas to visit an emergency operations center.

In fact, Melania was wearing the heels while boarding the plane. When she arrived in Corpus Christie, she had changed into a button-down, a trendy FLOTUS hat, and, yes, sneakers.

More importantly, though, judging the president by minor quirks in his and his wife’s behavior are irresponsible criticisms. Instead of focusing on his policies — how he’s approaching disaster funding, what impact it will have on the government shutdown — some decided to deride Melania’s fashion choices. And do we really need a media focused on shoes? Heelgate is an example of how detail-focused many in the media have become when covering the president, equating the superficial and the real and ignoring in-depth analysis on merits, choosing instead to judge by emotion.

In fact, Vogue raises a good question by including “The White House’s Continual Failure to Understand Optics” in the headline for their Heelgate report. Why do we care so much about optics? Maybe we should be demanding media organizations that value quality of content over quality of image.

ADDENDA: Sean Spicer finally met Pope Francis. Recall from Trump’s visit to the Vatican earlier this year that the former press secretary was snubbed from the papal audience.

But nothing will beat Jim Harbaugh’s visit to Vatican City, when he gave the Holy Father Wolverine-themed Jordans and a University of Michigan football helmet. Hail Mary, indeed.

As Flooding Continues in Houston, Texans Still Need Your Help

by Jim Geraghty

This is the last Jim-written Morning Jolt until September 8. I’ll see some of you on the National Review cruise this week.

Texas Still Needs Our Help

The outlook for Houston is mixed; every charity that was mobilizing to help the victims yesterday is still doing so today, so if you feel like helping out financially or with your time, you can find links to all of them here. I’ve got friends evacuating and friends holding up and hoping the waters stop at their home’s edge. The good news is everybody I know has checked in on social media lately.

The rain slowing means that the waters will recede eventually — but “eventually” means the danger of floodwaters continues:

Rain still pelted the city, but rainfall totals were expected to fall sharply, opening some roads and neighborhoods. Officials now anxiously monitored rising river levels, which swelled with the rainfalls of the past two days. The Brazos River at Richmond, about 30 miles south of Houston, measured nearly 52 feet Tuesday morning and was expected to crest at 59 feet by Thursday — four feet greater than the record high set last year.

Outside help continued streaming into Houston. Search-and-rescue crews from Florida, California, Utah and other areas staged at different trouble spots around town. Walmart was shipping 2,000 kayaks to the area to help stranded residents.

Gov. Greg Abbott activated the state’s entire National Guard force, increasing to 12,000 the number of guardsmen deployed to flooded communities.

“Texas (officials) and FEMA will be involved here for a long, long time,” Abbott said. “Until we can restore things as back to normal as possible. But we have to realize it will be a new normal for the region.”

The death toll is at 14 victims so far.

Pyongyang, This Is Not the Time to Push Us.

These North Koreans do not know when to stop tugging on Superman’s cape, or spitting into the wind.

North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan Tuesday, the latest in a string of direct provocations that have destabilized the region and triggered global alarm.

The missile — the first Pyongyang has fired over Japan’s main islands since 2009 — prompted a fiery response from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“This outrageous action of firing a missile over our country is an unprecedented, grave and serious threat that seriously damages peace and security in the region,” he said. “We have firmly protested to North Korea.”

Mr. Abe called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. He said he spoke by phone with President Donald Trump for 40 minutes and that the president gave a “strong commitment” to Japan’s security.

This is why I am skeptical of both the “we need to reach out diplomatically” crowd and the “our scary rhetoric is escalating the conflict” argument. The Obama administration sure as heck wasn’t interested in fighting a second Korean War, and Trump administration has been quiet since the president’s “fire and fury” remarks. Pyongyang has a clear path to de-escalation; they just refuse to take it.

The American government and its allies cannot make any clearer that we have no interest in invading North Korea. (If the regime collapsed from within, well, we wouldn’t shed any tears.) But the perhaps not-quite-sane leadership in Pyongyang refuses to believe it, and clings to the paranoid belief that a U.S. strike could occur at any time, keeping the country on a war footing and cementing their draconian control over the people.

Eric Talmadge of the Associated Press lays out how North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un might think he could hit America first and then deter a counterpunch:

The trigger for North Korea could be unusual troop movements in South Korea, suspicious activity at U.S. bases in Japan or — as the North has recently warned — flights near its airspace by U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers out of their home base on the island of Guam.

If Kim deemed any of those an imminent attack, one North Korean strategy would be to immediately target U.S. bases in Japan. A more violent move would be to attack a Japanese city, such as Tokyo, though that would probably be unnecessary since at this point the objective would be to weaken the U.S. military’s command and control. Going nuclear would send the strongest message, but chemical weapons would be an alternative.

North Korea’s ability to next hit the U.S. mainland with nuclear-tipped missiles is the key to how it would survive in this scenario. And that’s why Kim has been rushing to perfect [them] and show them off to the world.

“The whole reason they developed the ICBM was to deter American nuclear retaliation because if you can hold an American city or cities at risk the American calculation always changes,” said Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a nuclear strategy specialist.

“Are we really willing to risk Los Angeles or Chicago in retaliation for an attack on a U.S. military base in the region?” he asks. “Probably not.”

That, right there, is Kim’s big wager.

If “no” actually is the answer, then North Korea has a chance — though slim and risky — of staving off a full-scale conventional attack by the United States to survive another day.

Of course, a successful North Korean attack on American city requires A) their missile to launch correctly, B) our defense systems to fail in shooting it down, and C) their nuclear bomb detonating correctly.

A Quick Thought on the Evolution of Taylor Swift

I’m sure my pop culture podcast co-host will have more to say about this upon my return, but . . .  the latest song by Taylor Swift offers the lyric, “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh! ‘Cause she’s dead!”

Remember when Taylor Swift first hit it big, back in the last Bush years? Remember how she seemed like a breath of fresh air, with an onstage persona that seemed humble, down-to-earth, level-headed, a refreshing change from the self-absorbed narcissism of other pop stars of that era? People made fun of her seemingly-perpetual “surprised face,” but she always acted genuinely overwhelmed by the admiration of her fans and recognition of her talents by the music industry.

That was a long time ago, and it’s unrealistic to expect Swift, who became arguably the biggest and most influential pop star in America, to remain the same in either her onstage or offstage personas. But as Swift moved from country to pop, and came to dominate the pop charts, did she become less . . .  distinct?

Now she’s in another flashy music video with elaborate computer-generated effects, with another plethora of elaborate costume changes, served by computer-generated snakes, surviving a computer-generated car crash, berating the media for false reports about her, pledging that some unspoken rival or foe will pay for wrongdoing . . .  Maybe you love this video, maybe you hate it, but doesn’t it feel . . .  familiar, from the Thriller-like zombie makeup in the beginning to the biker chic to the models lined up on an assembly line? The well-trod themes are:

Being famous is difficult.
The media is unfair to me.
I have been wronged.
I am stronger than this adversity.
I will overcome this, and those who wronged me will suffer the consequences.

In other words, she’s singing the kinds of songs and making the kinds of videos we would not have been surprised to see Madonna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, or Pink offer not too long ago.

In short, separate from good or bad, isn’t the “new Taylor” kind of . . .  generic?

By the way, the pop culture podcast is now available on iTunes.

ADDENDA: Yuval Levin and Mona Charen say farewell to the recently departed Mike Cromartie.

A hoaxer boasts that he managed to get Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor to re-tweet made-up details about a criminal investigation into Trump. Is that really a difficult thing to do? In terms of degree of difficulty, isn’t this the prank version of making a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich?

How You Can Help the Victims of Hurricane Harvey

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: What we need to do to help Texas right now; why a mandatory evacuation of the city of Houston might been even more dangerous than what we have now; and Antifa shows its true, dark colors in Berkeley in front of the television cameras.

Texans Need Help. Let’s Show Them They Can Count on Us.

If you know someone in Texas, the chances are good you know someone who’s facing some hard times from Hurricane Harvey. I’m doing my best not to text, direct message, and ping them on Facebook every hour on the hour. Everyone in that region, know that everybody outside of your neck of the woods is praying, thinking of you, and looking for ways to help.

National Voluntary Organizations in Active Disasters, an association of organizations that mitigate and alleviate the impact of disasters, is asking for volunteers and donations. Through their site you can find every charity of every stripe: the Red Cross, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, the United way, etcetera.

A friend of mine is helping coordinate donations for the Texas Diaper Bank. A lot of disaster relief organizations think of and prep for everything except a lack of diapers, so the San Antonio-based Texas Diaper Bank focuses on this basic necessity for families with young children. They’re restarting their operations of collecting and distributing diapers at 8 a.m. Monday morning local time.

For the Red Cross, you can donate here, or pick up your phone and text REDCROSS to 90999. You’ll instantly send $10 to the organization, with the fee on your next cell phone bill.

FEMA expects that more than 30,000 people will need temporary shelters when the rain ends and 450,000 people will register as disaster victims.

Houston’s airport received a little more than sixteen inches of rain yesterday. The previous daily record was a bit more than eight inches.

Don’t Let Anyone Tell You the Decision to Evacuate Houston Is An Easy Call.

It’s a little early for finger-pointing in the preparations for Hurricane Harvey; most cities and municipalities are prepared for a big storm but not necessarily a once-in-a-century or once-in-a-millennium flooding. One commentator on the morning shows half-jokingly said that if they had to build Houston all over again, they might have picked a different spot than a broad, flat plane next to a gulf coast that experiences hurricanes.

On Friday, Texas governor Greg Abbott more or less strongly urged those in the Houston area to get out: “Even if an evacuation order hasn’t been issued by your local official, if you’re in an area between Corpus Christi and Houston, you need to strongly consider evacuating,” Abbott said. “What you don’t know, and what nobody else knows right now, is the magnitude of flooding that will be coming. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you could be subject to a search and rescue.”

Local officials did not agree with the governor.

“At this time I can reemphasize there will be no mass evacuations called,” said Harris County Judge Edward Emmett, who is responsible for overseeing emergency operations, at a joint press conference with Turner on Friday. He noted that several coastal towns within Harris County, where Houston lies, had issued voluntary evacuations because of the storm surge.

A mandatory evacuation of Houston isn’t theoretical for the city; residents went through this in 2005 with Hurricane Rita. That storm, which appeared quite powerful while moving through the Gulf of Mexico, arrived one month after Hurricane Katrina, with local and state officials determined to not underestimate the threat. They may well have overestimated the threat — not their fault, as the strength and direction of hurricanes are hard to predict — and the evacuation brought its own cost in human lives: “An estimated 2.5 million people hit the road ahead of the storm’s arrival, creating some of the most insane gridlock in U.S. history. More than 100 evacuees died in the exodus. Drivers waited in traffic for 20-plus hours, and heat stroke impaired or killed dozens. Fights broke out on the highway. A bus carrying nursing home evacuees caught fire, and 24 died.”

For almost everyone involved, the evacuation was a hellacious ordeal:

The large number of residents fleeing from Hurricane Rita overwhelmed the infrastructure of many rural East Texas communities. On September 22, 2005, in one rural county alone, it was estimated that 150,000 vehicles sat bumper-to-bumper on four lanes of a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 45 north of Houston. The congested roadways prevented emergency medical workers from quickly responding to the medical emergencies of evacuees, including dialysis, oxygen, insulin, births, and deaths. Extended evacuation times caused major fuel shortages. Vehicles of every type ran out of gas and became stranded along the evacuation routes, worsening the congestion. A trip that usually takes three and a half hours became a 24-hour drive during the evacuation. When evacuees did reach their rural destinations, their huge demand for goods and services such as food, water, ice, and restroom facilities soon overwhelmed supply. Temperatures soared to 100 degrees and humidity hovered at 94%. Evacuees were forced to turn off their car air conditioners to conserve fuel or to keep engines from overheating. Lack of adequate restrooms along evacuation routes forced evacuees to use blankets and towels as privacy screens to construct makeshift facilities along the roadside. This unsanitary disposal of human waste created potential public health hazards such as the spread of infectious diseases and the contamination of the ground water supply.

The areas that have been declared a disaster area from Hurricane Harvey are the home of 6.8 million people in 18 counties. That is a stunning amount of people to attempt to move with 24, maybe 48 hours’ warning before the storm hits.

Now picture all of these people stuck in traffic on the road as Hurricane Harvey makes landfall . . .  and then the flooding begins. As bad as it is to be stuck in your home as floodwaters approach, the roof of your house is probably higher than the roof of your car.

This mess in Houston is really bad. An attempted evacuation might have gone even worse than it did during Rita, however.

The Fascist Antifa

A headline in the Washington Post many on the Right probably figured they would never see:

The article doesn’t soft-pedal it, either:

Their faces hidden behind black bandannas and hoodies, about 100 anarchists and antifa – “anti-fascist” — members barreled into a protest Sunday afternoon in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.

Jumping over plastic and concrete barriers, the group melted into a larger crowd of around 2,000 that had marched peacefully throughout the sunny afternoon for a “Rally Against Hate” gathering.

Shortly after, violence began to flare. A pepper-spray wielding Trump supporter was smacked to the ground with homemade shields. Another was attacked by five black-clad antifas, each windmilling kicks and punches into a man desperately trying to protect himself. A conservative group leader retreated for safetybehind a line of riot police as marchers chucked water bottles, shot off pepper spray and screamed, “Fascist go home!”

All told, the Associated Press reported at least five individuals were attacked. An AP reporter witnessed the assaults. Berkeley Police’s Lt. Joe Okies told The Washington Post the rally resulted in “13 arrests on a range of charges including assault with a deadly weapon, obstructing a police officer, and various Berkeley municipal code violations.”

Antifa is not a peaceful movement, it does not promote “tolerance,” and its methods and motivations epitomize the fascism they claim to oppose. Their tools are intimidation and violence, their target is anyone who isn’t them.

(I’m reminded of that op-ed by Yoav Fromer in the Post declaring, “the willingness to employ organized violence to achieve political goals remains a signature quality of only one side. And it’s not the left.” Violence sure looks like a signature quality of Antifa to me!)

Where were the police? They let the mob take over out of fear of violence:

The decision by police to step aside and allow black-clad demonstrators to take over Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Sunday was based on the safety of officers and protesters, a spokeswoman for the Berkeley Police Department said.

For hours, some 400 law enforcement officers from Berkeley, Oakland, UC Berkeley and Alameda County had control of the scene at the park, stopping anyone who entered at a single checkpoint, where they confiscated anything on a list of banned objects, including skateboards, eggs and any items that could be used as weapons.

But shortly after the scheduled 1 p.m. start time of an anti-Marxism rally, hundreds of black-masked agitators arrived at the scene. Rather than trying to take on the horde, the clearly overwhelmed police force allowed hundreds of people to pass barriers and enter the park unchecked.

The police effectively surrendered control of the park to guys in black masks, who promptly began physically assaulting people.

Is this America?

Do people wonder why Trump’s “law and order” rallying cry resonates?

ADDENDA: Speaking of “law and order,” Jon Gabriel lays out the aspects of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s record that you may have missed:

During one three-year period, his Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office didn’t properly investigate more than 400 alleged sex crimes, many of them involving child molestation.

In all, the department improperly cleared as many as 75% of cases without arrest or investigation, a fact outlined in a scathing report by the conservative Goldwater Institute.

When local journalists delved into Arpaio’s dealings, he had them arrested, a move that ultimately cost taxpayers $3.75 million. We paid $3.5 million more after the sheriff wrongfully arrested a county supervisor who had been critical of him.

About the same time, Arpaio sought charges against another supervisor, a county board member, the school superintendent, four Superior Court Judges and several county employees. All of these were cleared by the courts and also resulted in hefty taxpayer-funded settlements for his targets.

As a U.S. District Court judge presided over a civil contempt hearing, Arpaio’s attorney hired a private detective to investigate the judge’s wife.

On the pretext of going after an alleged cache of illegal weapons, a Maricopa SWAT team burned down an upscale suburban Phoenix home and killed the occupants’ 10-month-old dog. There were no illegal arms, so they arrested the resident on traffic citations.

Regardless of his approach to illegal immigrants, the rest of Arpaio’s record paints an ugly and abusive portrait, one that is far from what any real conservative should expect from law enforcement.

Looks Like Harvey Is Daring to Mess with Texas

by Jim Geraghty

Everybody on the Texas coast, be careful.

Forecasters said they expect Hurricane Harvey to make landfall on the middle Texas coast, between Corpus Christi and Matagorda, on Friday night or early Saturday, and then stall along the coast through the weekend.

As of 11 p.m., Thursday, Hurricane Harvey was about 180 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The hurricane was moving northwest, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Harvey is currently a Category 2 hurricane, but is expected to make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane, with winds upwards of 110 mph.

The wind-field of the hurricane has expanded, so a higher storm surge is projected for the upper Texas coastline. Coastal flooding is also predicted to be an issue over the weekend and possibly into next week because of strong onshore winds that will keep water piled up along the coastline.

Residents of Calhoun and parts of Matagorda counties were ordered to evacuate their homes as Harvey neared. The threat prompted the city of Galveston to issue a voluntary evacuation call for the West End Island, and for Galveston County to extend the same to Bolivar Peninsula.

The Houston region could be seeing rainfall and feeling the storm’s winds by late Friday morning.

The Weather Channel is forecasting some eye-popping numbers: Between North Padre Island and Galveston, a storm surge of 6 to 12 feet; then throw another foot or more of rain on top of that:

Earlier this morning, Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, declared, “If you have been asked by local officials to evacuate in TX, your window to do so is closing.”

Kasich-Hickenlooper. Try to Contain Your Enthusiasm.

Axios has an intriguing scoop this morning, although I have my doubts that it will come to fruition:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) – ”the Johns,” as insiders are calling them – have been making a flurry of joint appearances to talk about state-driven improvements to health care.

But Axios has learned that their duet is part of an alliance that’s gaining momentum toward a possible joint independent bid for president in 2020, likely with Kasich at the top of the ticket.

Insert all appropriate caveats: It’s August 2017, and we have no idea what the state of the Trump presidency, the country, the economy, the world stage, etcetera, will be in 2020.

If you’re a vehement Trump foe, you want the anti-Trump vote split in as few ways as possible. Whether or not the Green Party re-nominates Jill Stein, there will be a Green Party nominee, and that nominee will almost certainly be insisting that the Democratic nominee is a sellout corporatist squish who will not bring about real change. The Libertarians will nominate someone touting limited government in the abstract, and some anti-Trump Republicans might drift in that direction. (Again, why would anti-Trump Republicans reward Kasich, one of the guys who played a key role in ensuring Trump won the nomination in 2016?)

So imagine a 2020 ballot that looks something like this:

GOP: Trump-Pence
Independent: Kasich-Hickenlooper.
Democrat: Kamala Harris-Sherrod Brown
Green: Winona LaDuke-William Kreml
Libertarian: Austin Peterson-John McAfee

It’s a lot easier for even a hobbled president with the advantages of incumbency to hold onto a plurality than a majority. Presume the Green and Libertarians amount to their usual 2 to 6 percent of the vote in most states. With Kasich and Hickenlooper running as an independent ticket, Trump and Pence just need to hold on to the largest slice of the remaining 95 percent or so, instead of needing close to half. The threshold of a win becomes the high 30s instead of close to 50 percent.

How confident should Democrats or the Kasich-Hickenlooper team be that they wouldn’t lose a bunch of 37-34-33 splits in key states? President Trump has had a really lousy run for a while, and his approval rating remains in the mid-to-upper 30s or low 40s. Assuming that’s his floor of support, that doesn’t look so bad in a three-way race.

Let’s not forget: Donald Trump was wildly outspent, went through three campaign managers, had a lot of his party stay away from the national convention in Cleveland, outsourced his ground game to the Republican National Committee, kept having disastrous news cycle after another, and faced the raging enmity of the national political press throughout the race. And he managed to win 304 electoral votes (with two faithless electors). Now give him the advantage of incumbency (a Rose Garden campaign, etcetera) and recall we’ve reelected four of the last five presidents.

The mission for the Democratic nominee in 2020 is to win the states Hillary won and find another 38 electoral votes. For the sake of argument, assume the independent ticket headed by Kasich wins his home state of Ohio; this leaves Trump with 288 electoral votes, assuming he keeps all the rest of his 2016 states red. But Kasich winning Ohio would keep those 18 electoral votes out of the Democratic nominee’s pile as well. If Hickenlooper helps the independent ticket carry Colorado, that’s 9 electoral votes that the Democrat will have to make up elsewhere.

Axios reports, “Some establishment Dems are apoplectic about the idea of Hickenlooper teaming up with a Republican.” They probably should be.

Time to Push Back Against the Cuban Regime’s Brutal Attacks on Americans

Credit the editorial board of the Washington Post for publicly discussing two facts that most people aligned with the board’s general philosophy would prefer to ignore. First, despite President Obama’s outreach, the Cuban regime is every bit the ruthless brutes they always were. Second, most liberals and the left-of-center foreign policy establishment prefer to avert their eyes from shameless, violent acts of provocation by regimes like this . . .  and it’s not clear that our own State Department is ready to respond appropriately.

President Barack Obama’s much-hyped restoration of relations with Cuba was a bet that diplomatic and economic engagement would, over time, accomplish what 50 years of boycott did not: a rebirth of political freedom on the island. So far, the results have been dismal. In the two years since the U.S. Embassy in Havana reopened, repression of Cubans — measured in detentions, beatings and political prisoners — has significantly increased, while the private sector has remained stagnant. U.S. exports to Cuba have actually decreased, even as the cash-starved regime of Raúl Castro pockets millions of dollars paid by Americans in visa fees and charges at state-run hotels.

Now there’s another sinister cost to tally — the serious injuries inflicted on the U.S. diplomats dispatched to Havana.

News organizations have since provided shocking details: At least 16 American diplomats and family members received medical treatment resulting from sonic attacks directed at the residences where they were required to live by the Cuban government. A number of Canadian diplomats were also affected.

CBS News reported that a doctor who evaluated the American and Canadian victims found conditions including mild traumatic brain injury, “with likely damage to the central nervous system.”

That is an illegal assault on our people that differs only in scale to the attack on our embassy in Tehran back in 1979. Just what are we willing to do about it?

ADDENDA: Thanks to John Micek for his kind words about the Morning Jolt over at PennLive.

Ed Gillespie’s Clever Play in the Virginia Gubernatorial

by Jim Geraghty

Today making the click-through worthwhile: Ed Gillespie re-uses a shrewd move in Virginia’s governor’s race, why a government shutdown would be another example of Republicans shooting themselves in their own feet, and how Twitter makes journalists dumber.

A Familiar Move From the Gillespie Playbook

Really late in Virginia’s 2014 campaign, everyone thought Democrat incumbent Mark Warner was going to skate to an easy victory over Ed Gillespie. September polls had Warner up by 20 and the final Real Clear Politics average had the Democrat ahead by almost 10 points.

Then, in late October, the Republican aired an ad during Monday Night Football when the Washington Redskins were playing the Dallas Cowboys.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a bill to force the Redskins to change their name,” the narrator says in the ad for Gillespie. “Mark Warner refused to answer if he supports the bill or not. Why won’t Warner fight the anti-Redskins bill? Why won’t he answer the question?”

“I’ll answer the question,” Gillespie then said with a chuckle. “I’ll oppose the anti-Redskins bill. Let’s focus on creating jobs, raising take-home pay and making our nation safer, and let the Redskins handle what to call their team.”

It was a precisely targeted message for Washington Redskins fans in the northern Virginia suburbs. There was little or no sign that the Mark Warner campaign sensed any vulnerability on this issue or the race overall.

Warner won by about one percentage point.

Yesterday Ed Gillespie tweeted that ESPN’s decision to reassign Robert Lee from a University of Virginia football game represented “When political correctness becomes self parody.” At this point, Gillespie doesn’t have a good way to tie his Democratic opponent, Ralph Northum, to the idiocy of the network’s decision. But the theme is the same: incoherent political correctness has invaded the world of sports, and Gillespie is as tired of it as you are, Virginia.

We’ll see if that theme has the same traction in 2017.

Government Shutdowns Are Stupid.

Funding for the federal government’s operations runs out on October 1. Congress needs to pass additional appropriations bills before then to keep the government open; the bills may or may not end up including significant funds to begin construction of the border wall that President Trump promised on the campaign trail last year.

At his rally in Phoenix, Trump declared, “Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”

Over at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw suggests President Trump might as well dig in his heels and shut down the government if Congress won’t send over a funding bill that includes wall funding:

If he vetoes a bill without funding for the wall, a number of things would almost undoubtedly happen.

The Democrats would scream bloody murder and blame him.
The media would scream bloody murder and blame him.
The establishment GOP leadership would cluck their tongues and call it “regrettable” or something similar.
The President’s poll number might take a slight additional hit, but remain somewhere in the 30s and his base would love him.

 . . . what in that scenario is different from each morning’s news out of Washington lately? That’s just another day at the office for Trump. He’s always spoiling for a fight, and this would be a big one. That scenario ends in one of two ways. The first is that Congress caves and comes up with at least some money to start construction on the wall, giving Trump room to claim a big win rhetorically if not in substance, and the government reopens. The second is the unheard of idea that enough Democrats and Republicans come together with some compromises to override the veto and pass a bill where both sides get something. (And the government still reopens.)

What does Trump really have to lose? And for that matter, what does the country really have to lose?

What does Trump have to lose? A government shutdown probably enhances the risk that Nancy Pelosi will be the next Speaker of the House. We’ve seen government shutdowns before, all under a Democratic president and Republican control of Congress. For the federal government to shut down when Republicans control the House, Senate, and White House will be a supreme embarrassment, a vivid verification of the accusation that Republicans are incapable of governing. Republicans should be able to pass a bill to fund wall construction, full stop.

A lot of conservatives insist that government shutdowns are inconsequential, mostly because they themselves do not immediately see the impact.

A quick refresher on the sorts of things that happen when the government shuts down, based upon our experience in 2013:

Death benefits to military families won’t get mailed out. About 1.4 million active-duty military personnel remain on the job but won’t get paid until a new deal is signed into law — or unless Congress passes and the president signs a separate military pay bill.
Active National Guard units also must continue to work. About half the Pentagon’s civilian workforce (roughly 400,000 workers) are furloughed — temporary unpaid leave until further notice.
All Smithsonian Museums and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo close to the public. This inevitably leads to national news reports about the grade schoolers who saved up for a class trip to Washington only to find all the museums closed.
All National Parks close.
Most workers at the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs are furloughed as “nonessential” and won’t be around to process visa and passport applications. If you don’t have a passport, you won’t be getting a passport.
Most of the federal law-enforcement personnel stay on the job, but not all: At the FBI, 30,208 of 35,267 employees are deemed essential and stay on the job. At the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): 7,437 of 8,842 employees are excepted, and at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF): 4,206 of 5,117 employees are excepted.
Regarding illegal immigration, “Citizens and U.S. businesses will not be able to access E-Verify, the Internet- based system that allows employers to voluntarily determine the eligibility of prospective employees to work in the United States. Over 404,000 employers are enrolled, with more than 21 million queries run through the system during FY 2012.”
Social Security benefits checks will continue to go out, but if you’re applying for benefits, the workers won’t be there to process your request.

You can shut down the federal government for a couple of days before people feel any genuine frustration — more if it’s a weekend. But after a while, people get irritated that they’ve paid their taxes and the people running the government can’t work out an agreement to keep the whole operation working as it should.  

(One caveat: it’s possible Congressional Republicans and the Trump White House could cooperate to pass funding bills to mitigate the most unpopular consequences of a government shutdown.)

During a government shutdown, people who don’t care about politics and who don’t follow the news closely usually respond, “Why can’t those knuckleheads get their act together?” If there is a government shutdown this fall, people will respond, “why can’t those Republican knuckleheads get their act together?” Yes, Democrats are not helping get the funding bills passed, but with great power over the federal government comes great responsibility. Voters could well get fed up with the drama and dysfunction of Republican control of Washington and decide to vote for Democrats next November.

Twitter Reveals the Vocabulary Limitations of Headline Writers

I think social media, particularly Twitter and the ability to dash off half-formed thoughts instantly, is making a lot of people in the world of news journalism dumber. Look, none of us is perfect, none of us are born with complete knowledge of everything, and the desire to write a dramatic headline can obscure dry facts. But some of these mistakes are difficult to excuse.

Reuters made two embarrassing mistakes while touting its coverage of ESPN’s decision to reassign sportscaster Robert Lee from a University of Virginia football game. The first was a Tweet declaring, “Confederate General Lee namesake pulled from upcoming University of Virginia football.”

Merriam-Webster gives Reuters a tiny sliver of coverage on this usage, defining namesake “one that has the same name as another; especially one who is named after another or for whom another is named.” But Robert Lee, the Asian-American sportscaster, is not named after Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. Reuters later deleted the original Tweet and offered another with a clarification.

The mistake that stuck in my craw was this Tweet: “Confederate General Lee doppelganger [sic] pulled from upcoming University of Virginia football broadcast.” Ever hear someone attempting to sound smart by using a word they just learned, but they use it incorrectly? That’s what we appear to have here with the person running Reuters’ Twitter account. Two people who share the same name are not doppelgängers.

The sound of the word hints at its German origins (it literally translates to “double walker” or “double goer”) and it comes from that culture’s mythology.

Doppelgänger is a German word [meaning] “double goer” and refers to a wraith or apparition that [casts] no shadows and is a replica or double of a living person. They were generally considered as omens of bad luck or even signs of impending death — a doppelgänger seen by a person’s relative or friend was said to signify that illness or danger would befall that person, while seeing one’s own doppelgänger was said to be an omen of death.

Some accounts of doppelgängers, sometimes called the ‘evil [twin,’] suggests that they might attempt to provide advice to the person they shadow, but that this advice can be misleading or malicious. They may also attempt to plant sinister ideas in their victim’s mind or cause them great confusion. For this reason, people were advised to avoid communicating with their own doppelgänger at all costs.

One of the more intriguing tales of a doppelgänger comes from Abraham Lincoln, who claimed to friends in 1860 that he had seen two “separate and distinct” reflections of himself in a mirror. His account: “I never succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I once tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was somewhat worried about it. She thought it was a “sign” that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not see life through the last term.”

(Why yes, doppelgangers are a recurring concept in Twin Peaks.)

Anyway, journalists and copy editors, if you don’t know what a word means, don’t use it in a headline.

ADDENDA: A really astute observation from John Podhoretz: “The thing about good entertainment for adults is that it does not exclude the young — rather, it can show the young that there are wonders into which they can grow and that will help them to grow.”

 That’s “entertainment for adults,” not “adult entertainment”!

Angry Trump and Angry Protesters Meet in Arizona

by Jim Geraghty

Today making the click-through worthwhile: President Trump vents his anger in a late-night rally in Phoenix while protesters outside throw canisters at cops, ESPN makes perhaps its wildest and dumbest capitulation to political correctness yet, and the embarrassing public spat between Hollywood director Joss Whedon and his ex-wife raises some good questions about how we measure a good person.

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 broadcasted Trump’s speech live and in its entirety.

There are a lot of really valid criticisms to 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.

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: Afterward 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 . . . 

Then we look at the opposition outside:

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.

ESPN: Endlessly Stupid Progressive Nitpickers

Where is someone within corporate America who is willing to say “enough” when the most asinine forms of political correctness attempt to enforce their will?

In the wake of the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., ESPN has pulled announcer Robert Lee from broadcasting University of Virginia football games because he shares a name with the famous Confederate general Robert E. Lee, according to Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis.

ESPN reportedly provided Outkick the Coverage with the following statement: “We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue.”

I don’t care if it “felt right” to all parties. Robert Lee the sportscaster has nothing to do with Robert E. Lee the Confederate general. What, did they think viewers at home would see an Asian man saying, “Hi, I’m Robert Lee, and welcome to ESPN’s coverage of University of Virginia Cavalier football!” and somehow interpret that as an endorsement of the Confederacy or slavery?

You cannot insulate yourself from someone else’s stupidity.

We can only imagine what’s going through the mind of sportscaster Robert Lee; a corporate statement that it “felt right to all parties” and that he didn’t object doesn’t mean much. ESPN just went through a brutal round of layoffs. How much does any given employee at the network want to make a stink about any decision from above?

David French: “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.”

Speaking of ESPN, today on NRO, I look at recent financial troubles at the sports network, as well as the University of Missouri and Marvel Comics. In each case, it’s overstating it to say that a turn to the Left has single-handedly brought those institutions to dire straits. But the perception of overt politicization seriously exacerbated the normal challenges faced by those long-standing, once-widely-respected establishments.

In each case, the institution sought to placate or win over a non-traditional audience or customer base consisting of the social justice warrior crowd. The problem is that there’s limited evidence that the social justice warrior crowd wants to enroll and pay full tuition, watch televised sports or sports chat shows, or collect comic books — at least in the numbers necessary to support those institutions. And in making that political shift, those institutions alienated their existing base of support, whether it was alumni and prospective students, sports fans, or comic book readers.

ESPN, the University of Missouri, and Marvel were all founded and thrived with missions that were quite different than “promote the progressive agenda.” Progressives took the wheel and decided to substitute their political mission for the institutions’ previous missions of sports coverage, education, and workforce preparation, and telling fun superhero stories. And with the Left at the steering wheel, they drove right off the road into a ditch.

How Do We Measure a Good Person?

Insert all the appropriate caveats. Messy divorces can bring out the worst in people, and angry accusations and counter-accusations are sadly par for the course. We never really know what someone else’s marriage is like behind closed doors.

Kai Cole, the ex-wife of Hollywood director Joss Whedon, offered a blistering portrait of her ex in an essay contending he publicly proclaimed high-minded feminist ideals while having multiple secret affairs with (unspecified) actresses in his productions.

“I want the people who worship him to know he is human, and the organizations giving him awards for his feminist work, to think twice in the future about honoring a man who does not practice what he preaches,” she wrote.

Whedon’s representatives said the “account includes inaccuracies and misrepresentations which can be harmful to their family, Joss is not commenting, out of concern for his children and out of respect for his ex-wife.”

I was reminded of Eleanor Clift’s assessment after Senator Edward Kennedy died:

Feminists who proclaimed “The personal is the political” made an exception for Kennedy. They argued that the political outweighs the personal: if a politician’s private life doesn’t interfere with his public life, why should it be a problem? You have to search hard to find an example where Kennedy’s personal behavior affected his public life.

Is a voting record in line with feminists’ preferences a get-out-of-consequences free card for womanizing and making “waitress sandwiches” with Chris Dodd? The subsequent experience of Bill Clinton would suggest so, which makes the whole enterprise look as cynical and corrupt as buying indulgences. “I’m a good person by doing X, so I don’t have to even try to stop doing bad behavior Y.”

How do we measure a good person? I’m not so sure your publicly-professed beliefs are supposed to provide moral cover for how you actually treat other human beings you encounter. If Cole’s description is accurate, it suggests that Whedon felt like writing strong female protagonists, endorsing Democrats and public professions of progressivism in general justified seeing portions of his casts over the years as a personal harem. Some folks wondered if the concept of Whedon’s short-lived television series Dollhouse – imagining a world where attractive young people were brainwashed into being the full-service playthings of the wealthy and powerful — was Whedon’s cynical perspective of Hollywood. Perhaps he wasn’t just depicting the exploitative nature of the entertainment industry in the abstract.

Maybe the ugly portrait of Whedon offered by Cole is accurate, and maybe it isn’t. What is worth noting is that Hollywood and the performing arts community in general, which loves to celebrate its own progressivism, feminism, and overall shining virtue, is still notorious for its “casting couch.” Last month, Equity, the United Kingdom trade union for actors, issued a manifesto declaring, “No sex act should be requested at any audition.” The need to state that rule is rather revealing.

Every year during awards season, actors, directors, and screenwriters come together and use their acceptance speeches to tell America that they should try to be more like the noble paragons of virtue in Hollywood. It is somehow less than surprising that many Americans ignore them.

ADDENDA: In case you missed it because of the delayed posting: an edition of the pop culture podcast discussing how every big media company seems to want its own streaming service, Amazon’s Communist-mocking Comrade Detective, upcoming fall television shows from the inspired to the idiotic, and our listeners’ picks for the best commercials of all time.