Dear Weekend Jolter,
First thing’s first: Happy Thanksgiving. I speak for myself, and I’m quite sure the rest of my colleagues, in expressing this institution’s gratitude for all of you, Jolters. 2021 has been nothing if not tumultuous — Inflation! Afghanistan! Border Crisis(es)! Variants! — and there’s simply no way we could have coped without your camaraderie and support, so consider our thanks, given.
Enough with the sap, on with the lumber. It may be a “long weekend” as the vice president puts it, but our masthead still managed to serve up plenty of delicious articles for readers to feast on.
For progressives, it is a time for soul-searching on matters of criminal justice — or at least it should be. In certain circumstances, they wish to be a guillotine’s blade, arguing for conviction for narrative’s sake, or so as to ensure equity of injustice. In others, they seek to decriminalize theft. In cities across the country, Thomas Jefferson finds himself on trial in the name of social justice nearly 200 years after his demise. And in those same cities, violent criminals are being released back into the communities they’re sworn to serve and protect — also, supposedly, in the name of social justice. It’s hard to follow, yes, and harder still to justify on anything other than explicitly partisan grounds.
Nevertheless, they persist. Incoming New York City mayor Eric Adams stands nearly alone among elected Democrats in at least feigning an understanding of the importance of equal protection under the law, and of general order. And even he supports legislation that would allow non-citizens to vote in city elections. A principled voice of reason, he is not.
Andy McCarthy describes the problem like this:
Progressive prosecutors always have the courage of their convictions as long as they’re just gasbagging about their lofty aspirations for society . . . which is to say, right up until their abstractions about “equity,” “systemic racism,” and the need to “reform” our “broken system” crash into the reality of violent, recidivist crime that destroys the lives of flesh-and-blood Americans.
Yep. That just about sums it up. Milwaukee’s district attorney, John Chisholm, whose office released the violent criminal who crashed his car into a crowd attending at Thanksgiving parade in Waukesha, Wis., admitted to the press when he came into office that his philosophy would result in innocent blood being shed: “Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody? You bet. Guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to happen,”
But, he assured us, “it does not invalidate the overall approach.”
As Andy puts it, “So thoughtful! So compassionate! So . . . recklessly irresponsible.”
One approach that retains its validity: Links, lots of them. Here are this week’s!
NAME. RANK. LINK.
American institutions should present a united front against the Chinese regime: All Major Sports Leagues Should Prepare to Pull Out of China
It’s disappointing that we even have to say it, but: Non-Citizens Who Want to Vote Should Become Citizens First
Dan McLaughlin: Tearing Down Thomas Jefferson Over Slavery Is Moral Idiocy
Kevin Williamson: The Fox Fix
Rich Lowry: The Shoplifting Capital of the U.S.A.
Kevin Williamson: The Separatist
Andrew C. McCarthy: Race and the Murder of Ahmaud Arbery
David Harsanyi: No, the U.S. Is Not Backsliding into Authoritarianism
Charles C.W. Cooke: Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema Are Right to Resist the Democrats’ Agenda
Kevin Williamson: Knocking Down Thomas Jefferson Statues Won’t Change Jefferson’s Legacy
Dan McLaughlin: The Four Hundredth Anniversary of Thanksgiving
Andrew Stuttaford: On Keeping in with the (Chinese Communist) Party
Michael Brendan Dougherty: Free Trade Isn’t Free
LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.
Armond White wouldn’t be caught dead in the House of Gucci: Ridley Scott’s Crime Styles of the Rich and Famous
Kyle Smith no le encanta Encanto: Disney Panders to Latinos with a Woeful Effort
Brian Allen rejoices at the appointment of a new director at his old stomping grounds, the Addison Gallery of American Art: A Fabled Museum, with a Terrific New Director, Goes Up, Not Down
MORE THAN A TASTE OF TURKEY
David Harsanyi debunks the silly “science” behind America’s so-called authoritarian slide:
Every few months, it seems, the media report on a new international “study” asserting that the United States is backsliding into authoritarianism. A quick read usually reveals that these reports are little more than compendiums of leftist grievances. It’s unsurprising, then, that Democrats, who these days often confuse their partisan hobbyhorses with “democracy,” love to promote said studies. The newest one bouncing around social media is from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), which contends that “the United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself.” It’s always interesting when we are lectured about “democracy” by a continent which features governments that throw people in jail for speech crimes and control virtually every economic interaction.
As far as I can tell, the United States’ slide in the International IDEA report hinges on three alleged “authoritarian” developments. The first contends that the United States hasn’t done enough to “tackle inequality.” We should, of course, do better in creating opportunities to lift people out of poverty. We disagree on how that can be achieved. But fact is that on a per capita and median basis, we are the wealthiest people of any major nation. We are wealthier than most Europeans who rank higher on the “democracy” list — around $10,000 wealthier on a per capita basis than the Swedes who work at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. To put the preposterous criticism in context, understand that if the United States had compelled more redistribution and generated less wealth but more “equality,” we would likely get a better grade. The International IDEA treats dependency as a democratic value. Many Americans disagree.
San Francisco has chosen decline, Rich Lowry mourns said choice:
The shoplifting problem represents a deliberate choice rather than an unstoppable tide. Modern societies long ago figured out how to maintain civil order such that law-abiding people could buy and sell goods without being systematically preyed on by thieves. It’s just that the Bay Area has chosen to forget.
California adopted Proposition 47 in 2014 that made thefts of $950 or less a misdemeanor. Once people realized that they were unlikely to be arrested or prosecuted for stealing less than $1,000, they, of course, responded to the incentive. For their part, the stores advise employees not to interfere with shoplifters, lest they get hurt. Many crimes don’t even go reported.
And so, it is open season for people to take whatever they want.
New York City famously reestablished order in the 1990s based on “broken windows” policing, or a focus on offenses that degraded the quality of life; San Francisco and similar locales are engaged in “broken windows” neglect — the broken windows being at high-end stores struck by emboldened robbers.
This is a polity deciding that it is more important to stay its own hand from arresting and jailing criminals than to protect businesses from getting robbed, protect duly employed people from having to watch reprobates flout the law, and protect neighborhoods from losing retail outlets that they depend on.
Kevin Williamson thoughtfully considers the merits of the employment boycott:
In reality, the politics of cooties has hurt both our journalism and our politics, and hurt them in precisely the same way. Instead of initiating conversations with people who disagree with us with an eye toward persuading them, we spend most of our time talking to like-minded people. As a practical matter, politicians in our time get more juice out of rallying their partisans, inflaming their grievances and valorizing every prejudice, no matter how petty, than they do out of giving speeches to skeptical or disagreeing audiences; in precisely the same way, much of our contemporary journalism is oriented toward flattering readers and listeners rather than challenging them, reassuring them that they hate the right people for the right reasons, and that their hatred is not only justified but sanctified. And if Fox News is a gigantic corporate grievance farm, MSNBC is no less so, and neither is National Public Radio or, angels and ministers of grace defend us, Teen Vogue. There is a reason no beat reporter in this country doing real journalism earns a tenth of what a marquee cable-news mouth-hole does.
(Never mind, for now, the absolute phoniness of these champagne populists presenting themselves as the tribunes of the working classes of the “Real American” heartland against the predation of “coastal elites” or “oligarchs.” Almost every one of them lives in Manhattan, the D.C. metro, or that New York City suburb known as Palm Beach, Fla. None of them chose to make a living or a life in Oklahoma, a Spanish-speaking border enclave, or some economically dead mill town in Ohio. Rush Limbaugh could have landed his Gulfstream G550 back home in Cape Girardeau any time he liked, and Rachel Maddow spent years opining about the plight of the poor while going home to a West Village loft she bought from a rock star. The tribunes of the plebs don’t so much as get downwind from actual poor people or poor communities, unlike, say, your favorite evil elitist correspondent.)
I’ve written for the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others. I did a piece for Playboy back when that was a magazine that sometimes published interesting political writing, and I even had an article in the Atlantic once. That doesn’t mean I love everything on the Times op-ed pages or the Post’s, or everything that Playboy or the Atlantic ever did. It doesn’t even mean that I think those pages are particularly good. (The Times is a hell of a lot better at covering real news than it is at curating opinion columns.) I write for them because sometimes I have something that I want to say for a readership that isn’t National Review’s. That’s the same reason you have seen me on MSNBC or CNN or heard me on left-wing podcasts and whatnot. I don’t want to sound cynical, but journalism is a product that gets moved like any other product, and I’m interested in shelf space. I don’t shop at Walmart very often, but, if I were in the business of selling peanut butter or flipflops, I’d want to be on those shelves, irrespective of what I think about Walmart’s corporate politics, its management, or the other products for sale there. Fox News is still pretty good shelf space for people in the television business, and I don’t blame people for continuing to work there, even if it is something that I myself would not choose to be closely associated with.
Dan McLaughlin takes on the thankless task of defending TJ. Thank you, Dan:
Without rehashing here the whole debate over Confederate icons — which has been going on for years now and has been vigorously debated on this website, sometimes by me — the strongest argument for removing some or all Confederate statutes and monuments is that the Confederate cause was not just flawed in the way that many great Americans are flawed; it was actively wrong, and the people who supported it made the country worse, or at any rate tried to, and thus should never have been memorialized in the first place.
The underlying assumption of this argument is that it is possible to reasonably and rationally distinguish some historical figures from others: We can honor those who did good things as well as bad ones, while dishonoring those who are best known for bad causes. By contrast, a major argument against tearing down statues and monuments in general is that we end up not just disfiguring public places and concealing our own history but also feeding the iconoclasm of mobs who by nature do not reason, and never know when and how to stop. Few things draw people to Trumpism more than a sense that one is dealing with people who can never be reasoned with, only opposed at every turn.
For those of us who still care to reason, however, the City Council’s move is not just an anti-intellectual assault on historical memory; it is also moral idiocy. Jefferson should not be canonized, but building statues is not about sainthood. There is much to dislike in his personality and his long and eventful career, including his service in New York City as our first secretary of state. He was hypocritical, devious, and too easily enamored of radical fads. He lived his whole life off of the labor of slaves and did not take even George Washington’s belated steps to emancipate slaves in his will. For that, he must answer to his Maker. But he was also a monumental contributor to early America — and specifically to many of the things that almost anyone would see as this country’s virtues. There are good reasons why Jefferson has a memorial in the capital and his face on Mount Rushmore, the nickel, and the two-dollar bill, is the namesake of the capital of Missouri and many other American towns and streets, and was until the past few years embraced by the Democratic Party as its founding inspiration.
One Jolt down, one to go with yours truly before a talented, tan, rested, and ready Mr. Berger returns to the fight. I weep for his enemies.