Uncommon Knowledge: Genocide: A World History Featuring Norman Naimark

by Peter Robinson

Norman Naimark, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and an expert on Eastern Europe and genocides throughout history, brings his considerable expertise to Uncommon Knowledge to discuss the history of genocides from ancient to modern times. Peter Robinson sits down with Naimark to discuss his latest book, Genocide: A World History. Naimark argues that genocides occur throughout history, from biblical to modern times across the world. He considers genocides to be “the crime of crimes, worse than war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

Johnny Carson > Jimmy Kimmel

by Rich Lowry

I wrote about Jimmy Kimmel kissing off Republicans today:

Jimmy Kimmel deserves credit for frankness, if nothing else. In an interview over the weekend, the ABC late-night host said he doesn’t care about losing Republican viewers. 

We’re a long way from Johnny Carson, whose Tonight Show was a national institution that enjoyed a broad audience — and was conducted like one. Carson steered clear of politics and kept his views to himself because it would “hurt me as an entertainer, which is what I am.”

 Kimmel may be an entertainer, but has no such inhibitions. He is willing to say “not good riddance, but riddance,” as he put it in the CBS News Sunday Morning interview, to Republicans put off by his headline-generating editorials in recent weeks.

Once a down-the-middle comedic voice who co-hosted the unapologetically vulgar The Man Show on Comedy Central, Kimmel uttered what could be the epigraph for our times, saying of viewers who strongly disagree with his political views, “I probably won’t want to have a conversation with them anyway.”

The Las Vegas Shooting Is Still Very, Very Strange

by David French

Before I begin, let me re-emphasize what I stated in a post the afternoon after the shooting. Do not read this post as implying any sort of conspiracy theory. In fact, even now — more than two weeks after the terrible event — we don’t even know enough facts to concoct a conspiracy. We do know, however, that the story keeps getting more bizarre. 

Remember the heroic security guard who allegedly helped stop the shooting? He appears to have, well, vanished. Here’s the Los Angeles Times:

The story seemed straightforward: The unarmed security guard approached Stephen Paddock’s room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, distracting the gunman and potentially saving lives.

With a gunshot wound to his leg, he helped point officers to the gunman’s location and stayed behind to evacuate hotel guests.

He was hailed a hero by many, even as the story changed. Twice.

Now, the man that many want to honor and who can help bring clarity about the timeline of the shooting has vanished from the public eye, less than two weeks since the Oct. 1 massacre, which left 58 people dead and more than 500 others injured.

Just before Campos was scheduled to appear at numerous media interviews, he allegedly went to a “Quick Care” health care clinic and hasn’t been seen since. There was an armed security guard outside his house, and now that guard is reportedly gone. No one seems to be suspecting foul play, and as the president of his union notes, “Somebody knows where he is.” But this elusiveness is obviously not quite normal.

Campos’s disappearance is but one odd element in the story. Another, of course, is the shifting timeline of the shooting. Last week, the sheriff’s office released a chronology indicating that Campos was shot six minutes before the gunman opened fire at the crowd, thus raising a host of questions about the timeliness of the police response. Within days, however, the timeline shifted again — this time indicating that Campos was shot around the same time the shooter began his attack:

Friday, however, Lombardo said that he now believes the security guard received his wounds close to the time the shooter started firing. Lombardo said Friday that the initial time he gave of 9:59 was when the security guard attempted to breach a door nearby the shooter’s . . . This comes after Mandalay Bay officials on Thursday disputed the timeline and whether six minutes actually passed between the first gunfire in the hallway and the start of the concert rampage. They said Paddock may have wounded the security guard within 40 seconds of firing into the crowd.

Finally, we still don’t know the shooter’s motive, and this is after police (and the media) have interviewed family members and friends and after the police have “searched Paddock’s homes, scoured his computers, assessed his finances and explored his travel history.” Finding a motive does more than merely help us make sense of a devastating night, it helps us shape policy and culture to prevent future attacks.

The fact that a man could plan one of the worst mass murders in American history and do so without leaving the typical trail of clues and intentions is deeply unsettling. Time and again when mass shooters strike, they leave a trail of bread crumbs — whether they’re deteriorating mentally or radicalizing (or both), the warning signs are often obvious and warnings have often been given. Not this time. 

To be sure, the police know more than the public, and perhaps they know or strongly suspect the motive and haven’t yet disclosed it, but to experience this level of ignorance so many days after a mass shooting is highly unusual. There’s no cause for conspiracy theories, but there’s ample cause for curiosity and confusion. A strange shooting remains very, very strange. 

Who Chooses to Run a Twitter Poll About the Holocaust Death Toll?

by Jim Geraghty

Do you know anyone who is a Holocaust denier? Or is, shall we say, “Holocaust-denial curious”?

Short-lived Trump administration staffer Anthony Scaramucci is receiving criticism for an odd and disturbing Tweet put out by a social media account bearing his name that polled followers on how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust:

Laifer subsequently Tweeted, “The intent of the poll was to highlight ignorance of the basic facts of the Holocaust. I take full responsibility for it.” What kind of social media consultant puts out a Holocaust tweet without consulting his client? Is it too cynical to think that this was some sort of veiled effort to attract neo-Nazi or anti-Semitic followers?

Scaramucci may not have an anti-Semitic bone in his body, but it’s particularly odd and unlucky to have Tweets that appear to doubt the Holocaust put out under your name.

(For what it is worth, at the time the poll was pulled, 32 percent of the 4,776 respondents were giving incorrect answers below 5 million.) Those who doubt the scale of the horror need to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum as quickly as possible. 


MLB: No White Men Need Apply

by Roger Clegg

Major League Baseball recently announced a “Diversity Fellowship Program” that is explicitly limited to “person[s] of color” and women.

What can I say? This is of course worse than the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which is also illegal, but which at least does not bar people on the basis of race from applying for and obtaining a position. This does.

There is no legal justification for this; Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bans discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex in private employment. Bizarrely, MLB’s announcement includes at end this boilerplate: “Individuals seeking employment at MLB . . . are considered without regards to race, color, . . . national origin, . . . sex . . . ”

Brown Vetoes Obama-Era Campus Assault Rules, Tax Return Disclosure, Gender Pay Data

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Jerry Brown Concurs with DeVos on Campus Due Process Rules

Conservatives find themselves in the unexpected position of cheering some of California Governor Jerry Brown’s recent vetoes.

Most significantly, the Democrat-dominated state legislature wanted to effectively keep the Obama-era standards on sexual assault on campus in place within their state. The Obama administration guidelines, which were never subjected to public notice and comment, triggered some far-reaching changes:

… [they] lowered the burden of proof to a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which meant that accused students could be found responsible for sexual misconduct if administrators were only 51 percent convinced of the charges; it discouraged allowing the accused and accuser to cross-examine each other, reasoning that this could prove traumatizing for survivors of rape; and it stipulated that accusers should have the right to appeal contrary rulings, allowing accused students to be re-tried even after they had been judged innocent.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced in September she was withdrawing those rules and beginning the process of establishing new guidelines.

While vetoing the bill, Brown wrote:

…thoughtful legal minds have increasingly questioned whether federal and state actions to prevent and redress sexual harassment and assault — well-intentioned as they are — have also unintentionally resulted in some colleges’ failure to uphold due process for accused students. Depriving any student of higher education opportunities should not be done lightly, or out of fear of losing state or federal funding.

Given the strong state of our laws already, I am not prepared to codify additional requirements in reaction to a shifting federal landscape, when we haven’t yet ascertained the full impact of what we recently enacted. We have no insight into how many formal investigations result in expulsion, what circumstances lead to expulsion, or whether there is disproportional impact on race or ethnicity. We may need more statutory requirements than what this bill contemplates. We may need fewer. Or still yet, we may need simply to fine tune what we have.

It is time to pause and survey the land.

Brown also vetoed legislation that would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns for the past five years in order to qualify for the California ballot, legislation obviously designed to pressure President Trump. Brown wrote, “Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?” (Interesting irony: Brown failed to release copies of his tax returns during campaigns for governor in 2010 and 2014.)

Brown also vetoed “a bill that would have required companies with more than 500 employees to report median and mean salary data on male and female exempt employees, which would have been published online by the Secretary of State.”

Of course, conservatives won’t like all of the Democratic governor’s recent decisions. Brown signed a slew of other bills, including one to allow Californians to select “gender-neutral” on their driver’s licenses, and a ban on K-12 teachers carrying firearms in schools.

Perhaps most significantly, he signed a “sanctuary state” bill into law that will “limit communication between California police officers and federal immigration agents about people detained by police or in jail awaiting trial. Exceptions include those who have been convicted of at least one of hundreds of serious crimes within the past 15 years and suspects in serious crimes punishable with prison time for which a judge has found probable cause. It also prohibits California officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status.”


Tuesday links

by debbywitt

It’s Rita Hayworth’s birthday: here’s an excellent compilation of her dancing, set to Stayin’ Alive.

John Quincy Adams’ Obsession with Weights and Measures.

How Will Martian Laws Differ From Earth’s Laws?

Here’s A Giant Drunk Puppet Roaming The Streets Of An Irish City. Related, an 1860s series of photos illustrating the ’5 stages of inebriation’.

Nathan Straus and the Milk Stations That Saved the Lives of New York City Kids.

We ate the world’s spiciest chip, cried for 45 minutes, then wrote this article about it.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include the anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, a part-time monarch who’s also a full-time auto mechanic, White House leaks from Abe Lincoln’s presidency, and a joyful rock version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.

The Second World Wars

by John J. Miller

Start your day with Victor Davis Hanson: He’s my guest on The Bookmonger, and we have a 10-minute conversation about his new book, released today: The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

The Conservative’s Guide to the 2017-2018 NBA Season

by David French

For the last ten days, the demands have been building. First they were confined to texts and tweets. Then came the calls and letters. Finally, there were the tearful personal visits. The people cried out with one voice, “When? When will we see the 2017-2018 conservative’s guide to the NBA?!?”

Wait no longer, my friends. The day has arrived. Tomorrow tips off the new season of America’s greatest sport, and we Red Americans can’t let our urban Blue brothers have all the fun. So, without further ado, here’s the guide — and in keeping with last year’s tradition, it divides teams by familiar political categories.

Beware, there are more than 2,000 words after the jump.

Keep reading this post . . .

Greenhouse, Overheated

by Ramesh Ponnuru

“It’s hard to overstate the radical nature of what has just happened,” writes Linda Greenhouse. Really? She makes it look so easy. She is writing in the New York Times about the Trump administration’s expansion of a conscience exemption to the contraceptive mandate. Public policy on employers’ obligation to provide insurance that covers contraception is being partially rolled back to . . . where it was during President Obama’s first term. If you’d like to overstate the radicalism of “what has just happened,” a good first step would be not to mention or even allude to that fact. Greenhouse delivers.

Careful omission about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is also helpful. The Obama administration had offered religious groups an “accommodation” designed to respect their consciences while still furthering the goals of the mandate. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the Court, noted that the accommodation had been challenged as an inadequate way of giving conscientious objections their due. But he also noted that the existence of the accommodation clinched part of Hobby Lobby’s case. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows the government to impose a burden on the exercise of faith only if it is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling interest. The accommodation showed that a less restrictive means was possible. Thus simply applying the mandate to a company owned and run by religious objectors could not be allowed.

Greenhouse ignores Alito’s studious refusal to comment on the adequacy of the accommodation—a judgment on which was unnecessary to finish his argument or render the Court’s decision—in order to imply that the Court had favored the accommodation. The new policy differs from the accommodation, and so Greenhouse writes, “Now the Trump administration has played the Supreme Court justices for chumps.” It has not, but that’s the way Greenhouse is treating her readers.

She concludes her column with a malicious flourish: “Conservatives, even the publicly pious ones, don’t seem to have a problem with limiting the size of their families. (Vice President Mike Pence has two children, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has three. Need I say more?) The problem they have is with what birth control signifies: empowering women — in school, on the job, in the home — to determine their life course. That’s what they don’t want to normalize.” Alternatively, they themselves do not object to contraception but respect the conscience rights of those who do, or who object to certain forms of it, and believe that the law commands that respect. No, Greenhouse need not say more. She has already proven that she reads hearts no better than Supreme Court opinions.

Bergdahl Pleads Guilty to Desertion

by Mark Antonio Wright

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. Army soldier captured by the Taliban in 2009 and who, after a controversial prisoner exchange, was brought home by President Obama five years later, pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy this morning in a military court.

The Associated Press reports:

“I understand that leaving was against the law,” said Bergdahl, who admitted guilt without striking a deal with prosecutors, meaning his punishment will be up to a military judge when he is sentenced later this month. . . . 

Bergdahl, 31, has said he walked away from his remote post in 2009 with the intention of reaching other commanders and drawing attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

He told the judge, Col. Jeffrey R. Nance, that he now understands that his actions prompted an intensive search during which some of his comrades were seriously wounded.

“At the time, I had no intention of causing search-and-recovery operations,” he said in court. “I believed they would notice me missing, but I didn’t believe they would have reason to search for one private.”

In the days and weeks after his capture, vast U.S. resources were poured into the effort to locate him, with several units suffering casualties in the search.

The Bergdahl saga, which the Obama administration initially trumpeted as a triumph of its foreign policy, quickly became controversial as details emerged about the price the U.S. paid — five Taliban fighters held at Guantanamo Bay — for a man whose capture occurred under less-than-clear circumstances.

But despite the murky circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture, Obama national-security adviser Susan Rice took to ABC’s This Week to declare, unequivocally, that Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction.”

Bergdahl, who now faces sentencing, could spend the rest of his life in prison. It’s sorry end to a sorry episode.

The Case for Taxing Colleges and Universities

by George Leef

Colleges and universities (the non-profit ones, anyway) don’t pay any taxes. Should they?

In today’s Martin Center article, Jenna Robinson makes the case that they should not be completely tax-exempt. Specifically, she argues that college property used for non-educational purposes should be taxed. She notes that “close scrutiny of university property in North Carolina reveals that many higher education entities in the state — both public and private — are engaged in considerable commercial activity.” For example:

The PNC arena in Raleigh is the home of NC State basketball. But it also hosts professional hockey games, concerts, and events such as Disney on Ice.

The Carolina Inn at UNC-Chapel Hill bills itself as “the only hotel on campus!” It provides event space for UNC Board of Trustees meetings and rooms for university visitors. But it also rents space for wedding receptions, parties, and meetings. Rooms start at $198 per night.

The Washington Duke Inn (owned by Duke University) has an 18-hole championship golf course, home of the Duke University Golf Club. Six PGA Professionals and one Master PGA Professional are on staff and available for group or private lessons.

The problem here is that local residents have to pay taxes to cover the costs of providing services for those commercial property uses. Taxing the schools for those expenses would be entirely fair.

It’s true, Robinson observes, that some schools make voluntary payments to their localities to help defray the costs they impose. They’re called PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes). Duke, for example, pays Durham some $400,000 per year and Harvard pays Cambridge $10,000,000. But it seems those payments are light compared with what they’d owe if their property were assessed like other real estate is.

Robinson concludes,

The argument for granting non-profit entities exemptions from taxation is that they provide public goods. In the case of universities, the public good is education. But institutions that sell commercial goods in competition with private businesses are not providing public goods and should not be regarded as non-profit institutions while engaging in commercial activities. Nor should local taxpayers bear the burden of universities’ business ventures or unfettered expansion. Higher education’s commercial activities should be treated as what they are: big business. And taxed accordingly.

I agree. Higher education should bear its costs fully. So should students.

The Washington Post’s Bizarre Opioid Story

by Robert VerBruggen

For the past day I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around this lengthy exposé from the Washington Post. (For those who prefer TV, 60 Minutes has a broadcast version.) Pretty much everyone who reads the piece comes away outraged that the pharmaceutical companies managed to triumph over the Drug Enforcement Administration, getting Congress to “effectively strip[]” the agency of its “most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.”

I can certainly believe that drug companies deserve a lot of blame for the opioid epidemic and have far too much sway over the people who are supposed to be policing them. But I just can’t get over how incredibly weird everything about this particular illustration of those facts is.

This is going to be a very long post, so if you’re reading from the Corner’s homepage, join me after the break.

Keep reading this post . . .

Local Television News and the Return of the Crime Issue

by Jim Geraghty

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times makes a point about the focus of Republican Ed Gillespie’s campaign in Virginia:

…his advertising reflects what he thinks will actually move the electorate: He is spending the bulk of his money on commercials focused on the statues, which make no mention of his view that the South was “on the wrong side of history,” and illegal immigrants. One of his immigration ads features amply tattooed Salvadoran prisoners meant to be members of the menacing gang MS-13, a target of the president’s.

I’d argue Gillespie’s MS-13 ad is as much a crime-themed commercial as an immigration-themed one, and it’s worth keeping in mind that northern Virginia has an indisputable MS-13 problem.

Virginia’s gang problems may pale in comparison to the country’s most crime-ridden venues, but it appears to be slowly but surely growing worse:

“We have seen a resurgence of MS-13 in the past four or five years,” said an FBI agent who spoke with WTOP on the condition of anonymity. A Fairfax County gang task force leader who has tracked MS-13 for more than 15 years says the gang is “much more violent” than ever.

Three murders associated with the gang have been committed in Virginia this year; two more were committed in Montgomery County, Maryland, last year. A total of 30 suspects believed to be connected with the gang have been arrested in these killings, including 10 juveniles, some of whom are being charged as adults. (Not all the victims were connected with MS-13.)

And 29 members of MS-13 were arrested recently in a nationwide gang crackdown, including 11 at a house in Falls Church in April.

The gang deals largely in drug-running, extortion (in the form of protection rackets) and sex trafficking, a number of sources in and out of law enforcement said…

A 2009 report by the task force said that there were about 3,000 MS-13 members in Northern Virginia. Now, [Jay Lanham, a retired assistant chief of the Prince William County police and executive director of the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force] estimates there are “over 5,000 easy.” But he doesn’t know the exact number for sure and that leads to the other reason for MS-13’s resurgence in the area: a lack of money for gang prevention.

Beyond that, research indicates that those who follow local news closely are more likely to vote; this is why the commercial breaks on your local news stations are filled with political ads as the election approaches. And what topic does local news love to cover, perhaps more than any other? Crime.

If it bleeds, it leads. The odds are good that your local news broadcast this evening will be heavily shaped by the police scanner. Local television news crews love crime stories because they’re pretty easy (show up at the crime scene or courthouse steps and point the camera) and straightforward. The story often offers dramatic visuals: police tape, distraught victims or eyewitnesses, statements from the police spokesman, composite sketches, flashing police lights, etcetera. It offers human drama and scale, and reporters can genuinely argue they’re serving their community, spotlighting terrible crimes, giving victims a voice, and so on.

So when the average northern Virginia local news viewer sees a Gillespie ad about MS-13, he probably doesn’t think about how Virginia’s overall, non-violent crime rate is holding steady. He probably thinks, “thank goodness someone wants to do something about those terrible shootings, drug trafficking, and sex trafficking that I just heard about during the news.”

Austria’s Election

by Andrew Stuttaford

As John Fund notes in his piece (on the home page) on Austria’s election, the right’s success (including a strong showing for the populist Freedom Party and a  shift to the right within the establishment-right People’s Party) is yet another consequence of Angela Merkel’s decision (fueled, in my view, mainly by panic, arrogance and narcissism) to throw open the doors of her country to nearly a million people (a mix of refugees and economic migrants) in 2015.

John writes:

Christian Kern, the left-wing Social Democratic chancellor of Austria, lost his job because of his own party’s involvement in opening Austria to 75,000 new migrants. Germany borders Austria, and many refugees and economic migrants entered Germany through Austria, with 75,000 remaining.

In the Financial Times, Tony Barber frets that the “challenge of how to contain Europe’s radical right continues”.

Well, one place to start might be for centrists to start acting like centrists. You have to live in a very tough little bubble to believe that a largely uncritical belief in the virtues of mass immigration, multiculturalism and the EU’s ‘ever closer union’ is anything other than radical.

Meanwhile, at the end of a recent and characteristically wide-ranging article (it’s well worth your time) in the New Statesman, John Gray observes:

Demolishing national and cultural identities makes moral and political sense if – and only if – the result will be better than the liberal societies that have actually existed. Yet these societies are highly fragile settlements, regularly disrupted by war and economic crisis. Today they are also threatened by [a ‘liberal’] ideology that wages war on their past. Societies that repudiate their historic inheritance in this way leave themselves defenceless against the dark forces that are now re-emerging. As George Santayana might have put it were he alive today, those who deconstruct the past are condemned to repeat it.

Brendan O’Neill responds to the Austrian election over at Spiked. I don’t agree with everything O’Neill has to say on this, but he is right to identify the Freedom Party’s success with the “failure of the mainstream, especially the left mainstream, to connect with people’s concerns about cultural and existential issues of nationhood, democracy and migration in the 21st century”. I don’t think that’s the whole story (Austria is Austria and the Freedom Party has, as O’Neill notes himself, been a force for quite some time), but it’s a significant part of it.

And then:

Austria makes two things clear. First, that the much-discussed ‘end of populism’, which became a huge, excitable talking point following Macron’s victory in France, is a fantasy. Populist politics and parties aren’t going away, because the questions they raise, or at least the public concerns they tap into, are still there, bristling, unresolved. What does Europe stand for? Who should decide on issues such as mass migration? Isn’t democracy preferable to technocracy? And why should I vote for politicians who have nothing but disdain for my way of life, my values, and my right to have a say? People will keep asking and thinking these things.

And the second thing it makes clear is the utter failure of the left to understand, engage with, and possibly even mould or lead the populist feeling in Europe right now. Across the continent, ballot-box revolts are taking place, against Brussels and against the old politics, and many on the left can only say: ‘This is dangerous and racist.’ They’ve thrown their lot in with the status quo, meaning the right can clean up, reaching out to a rebellious, anti-establishment spirit that the left foolishly fears and even wants to destroy.

That’s too narrow. There’s a ‘populism of the left’ that’s rising too, most notably, perhaps, in Greece (Syriza), the UK (Corbyn’s Labour), France (Melenchon) and Germany (Die Linke), and not just there. It may be fueled by a different mix of discontents, but it might well turn out to be no less of a harbinger of turbulence ahead.

Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Phil, in relating the sad tale of Laura Moriarty, you write:

In the novel, Moriarty’s fifth, the U.S. government deports Muslims to internment camps in Nevada for practicing their religion, which move is marketed to Americans as “better for everyone’s safety.” This invites indifference from the book’s protagonist, Sarah-Mary Williams, a young white girl who “isn’t concerned with the internments because she doesn’t know any Muslims” and believes media and government reports praising the set-up. That is, until Sarah-Mary meets Sadaf, a Muslim boy interred in one of the camps. After a while, her perceptions change, and she sets out to free him.

Struggling to grasp how this could possibly be offensive? Well, struggle no more. On Goodreads, reviewers take issue with the fact that Sarah-Mary decides to help. This, they argue, is reflective of an offensive ”white savior” narrative by which Moriarty suggests that minorities such as Sadaf need someone white to save them.

It’s perhaps a mistake to delve too deeply into the “logic” employed by the reflexively angry, but I can’t help but wonder what chance Moriarty had of escaping censure here. The conceit of her novel is that a minority group (in this case: Muslims) has been interned by the majority (in this case: non-Muslims). In consequence, Moriarty had only three options going forward: 1) To have her main white character support, or remain indifferent toward, the internment; 2) to have her main white character actively fight against the internment; or 3) to ignore white characters completely and focus exclusively on members of the minority. Per the synopsis, she opted for the middle course, after a brief change-of-heart narrative. For this, she has been attacked.

But wouldn’t she also have been attacked if she’d chosen either of the other options? Suppose that the Sarah-Mary character had been wholly indifferent throughout the book. Suppose that Sadaf had been left to orchestrate his own escape. Suppose that not a single white person did anything to help, or that instead of Sarah-Mary, Moriarty had chosen a non-imprisoned Muslim as her hero. Would that have been better? Would that have spared Moriarty from the “f*** this book” reviews and the “f*** you for perpetuating the idea that marginalized people need to suffer” barbs? Would it be better to depict a society in which white supremacy reins unchecked than one in which a “white savior” does something good?

There’s simply no answer to those questions, of course. Why not? Because there are no rules here. There’s an endgame, and then there is anything that will get us there.

Which is to say that the people who are outraged by this book are simply hooked on anger, and, that in order to ensure that they maintain a healthy supply of it, they have constructed an unfalsifiable worldview in which absolutely everything can be cast as evidence of their marginalization. If this book isn’t written in the first place, well that’s indicative of a broader cultural failure to grapple with the worst fears of America’s minorities. If the book is written, it shouldn’t have been, and serves as ample evidence of the author’s moral rot — and of our culture’s rot too. If the minority characters have to help themselves, that proves we live in a white supremacist hellscape. If the characters are saved by the majority, that merely feeds a “white savior” narrative. And so on and so forth. It’s f*** you for this, and f*** you for that, and f*** you for not knowing the rules we just invented.

When I first heard that there was a controversy around this book I assumed it was because those who had read the synopsis were bothered by the idea that a majority of their countrymen would be fine putting Muslims into camps. That instead we’re seeing outrage because a fictional girl helps a fictional boy escape imprisonment is the silliest thing I’ve heard for a long time.

Of Course Jeff Sessions Will Defend Transgender Individuals

by Alexandra DeSanctis

The New York Times reported yesterday that U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions has personally dispatched a federal hate-crimes lawyer to Iowa to aid in the prosecution of a man charged with murdering a transgender high-school student.

The article’s headline — “Aiding Transgender Case, Sessions Defies His Image on Civil Rights” — and overall tone seem to express some measure of shock at the idea that Sessions does not, in fact, approve of the systematic targeting of transgender individuals.

Of course, the headline is correct, in a sense: Sessions is defying his public image. But it’s a false image, crafted by wily media and political opponents who portray him as a bigot and refuse to acknowledge the reasonableness of his decisions as attorney general.

From the Times piece: “In taking the step, Mr. Sessions, a staunch conservative, is sending a signal that he has made a priority of fighting violence against transgender people individually, even as he has rolled back legal protections for them collectively.”

This is a faulty comparison, and it pervades the article, which never acknowledges the innumerable and important differences between investigating and punishing the murder of an innocent individual — a potential hate crime — and choosing to relax Obama-era regulations that overstepped the bounds of federalism. To contrast these two policies is completely irresponsible.

“While it is of course good that D.O.J. is aggressively pursuing this case, it would behoove Sessions to connect the dots between his policies that promote discrimination and hate that can result in death,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil-rights division under Barack Obama, told the Times.

Gupta would like us to believe that, unless the Justice Department compels every school in the nation to essentially dissolve gender distinctions and open all bathrooms to people of both sexes — in some cases overriding the wishes of students, parents, and teachers — Sessions is in effect allowing, or even contributing to, hate crimes such as last year’s murder in Iowa.

Such a claim is absurd. Sessions has led the Justice Department in rolling back a series of regulatory overreaches by the Obama administration not because he has an irrational animus against transgender or other minority individuals, but because, as a conservative, he believes many of these policies should be determined at the state and local level.

Reducing federal-government control over every aspect of public life is the essence of conservative politics, stemming from the belief that individuals and their communities deserve the freedom to determine their own local policies without the encroachment of an unaccountable bureaucracy. And none of the rules Sessions relaxed have been proven essential in protecting the dignity or human rights of transgender people.

If progressives are unable to see the distinction between workplace hiring rules or bathroom guidelines and prosecuting a man charged with murdering a transgender person, they do a serious disservice to their own cause. And they slander Sessions, who has never once indicated a lack of respect for the dignity of transgender individuals.

Unreleased Teen Novels Now Targets for the Outrage Mob

by Philip H. DeVoe

Even though Laura Moriarty’s new book, American Heart, hasn’t been released yet, it had already attracted the ire of the perpetually offended. On Goodreads, the novel has been slammed for supposedly pushing a “white savior” narrative. Yesterday, an independent critics’ website, Kirkus Reviews, removed its positive review “because some of the wording fell short of meeting [their] standards for . . . sensitivity.” Whatever happened to not judging books by their cover?

In the novel, Moriarty’s fifth, the U.S. government deports Muslims to internment camps in Nevada for practicing their religion, which move is marketed to Americans as “better for everyone’s safety.” This invites indifference from the book’s protagonist, Sarah-Mary Williams, a young white girl who “isn’t concerned with the internments because she doesn’t know any Muslims” and believes media and government reports praising the set-up. That is, until Sarah-Mary meets Sadaf, a Muslim girl on the run. After a while, her perceptions change, and she sets out to help her in her quest for freedom.

Struggling to grasp how this could possibly be offensive? Well, struggle no more. On Goodreads, reviewers take issue with the fact that Sarah-Mary decides to help. This, they argue, is reflective of an offensive “white savior” narrative by which Moriarty suggests that minorities such as Sadaf need someone white to save them. Here is the top-rated review, for example:

f*** your white savior narratives
f*** using marginalized characters as a plot device to teach the white mc [sic] how to be a decent person
f*** you for perpetuating the idea that marginalized people need to suffer in order to be worthy of “humanity”
f*** this book and everyone who thought it would be a good f***ing idea

According to a Facebook post by Moriarty published this weekend, the “white savior” narrative isn’t true given the conclusion of the book. Indeed, instead of believing only she can save Sadaf, Williams realizes “that she alone can’t save anyone.” Moriarty points out that most of the Goodreads reviewers “openly admit to not having read the book,” which means their understanding of the book’s message must be limited to the introduction provided on the website.

Moriarty writes in her post that, despite these reviews, she felt vindicated by a positive review on the website Kirkus Reviews, which, in part, called it a

“ . . . moving portrait of an American girl discovering her society in crisis, desperate to show a disillusioned immigrant the true spirit of America.” [and] “sensible, thought-provoking, and touching . . . and so rich that a few coincidences of plot are easily forgiven.”

Last Friday, however, Kirkus announced it had decided to rescind its positive rating, suggesting its decision was fueled in part due to negative reactions to its review. Even though the reviewer was an “observant Muslim person of color,” the review apparently fell short of their “standards for . . . sensitivity.” The editors, in a note published to the website, said they are “evaluating the review and will make a determination about correction or retraction after careful consideration in collaboration with the reviewer.”

Moriarty, meanwhile, urged followers of her Facebook account not to fill Goodreads with five-star ratings to combat the negative ratings, but to purchase the book when it is released and rate it honestly. She concluded her post by pointing out the “sad irony” that a reviewer’s independent opinion about a book praising diversity and freedom is being suppressed by the howling of the mob.

Why Virginia Democrats Are Right to Be Nervous

by Jim Geraghty

On paper, Democrat Ralph Northam holds a small but fairly consistent lead in the polling of Virginia’s gubernatorial race. The most recent survey, from Emerson College, puts Northam ahead of Republican Ed Gillespie, 49 percent to 44 percent (with a margin of error of 5.5 points).

But Democrats don’t feel confident at all. Last week Paul Krugman wrote about the race in a tone of panic:

For whatever reason, however, Virginia isn’t getting nearly as much play in national media or, as far as I can tell, among progressive activists, as it deserves. Folks, right now this is where the action is: Virginia is now the most important place on the U.S. political landscape — and what happens there could decide the fate of the nation.

The Washington Post studied its own surveys and concluded, “far fewer Virginia voters are closely following the campaign than at similar stages in the past three gubernatorial elections.”

Last week, Sam Stein reported:

Democratic operatives working on the race and those closely following it are more openly panicked that complacency has set in. . . . three Democratic sources have told The Daily Beast that Northam’s internal campaign polling has the race within the margin of error, and not at the outer edges of that range.

Democratic anxiety is probably driven by three distinct causes. The first is a hangover from 2016. Last year many Democrats were absolutely certain that Hillary Clinton would win, and many believed she would beat Trump in a landslide. Like a quarterback who endures a brutal blindside hit, the Democrats “hear the footsteps” — they’re on alert for another rude surprise on Election Day. (The disappointing finish for Jon Ossoff in the runoff in the Georgia special House election might even compound this.) It’s worth noting that not only did Hillary Clinton win Virginia in 2016, this is one of the few states where she performed better than Barack Obama did in 2012.

The second cause is concern that Northam might resemble Hillary Clinton in the wrong ways. Like Hillary, Northam was considered the moderate in the party primary, and is a party loyalist asking voters to continue an era of Democratic governance. Neither one is a whirling dervish of raw political charisma. Like Hillary in 2016, Northam is offering voters the status quo with a bit more spending.

But the third cause seems like the best reason to worry. In both the 2013 gubernatorial race featuring Ken Cuccinelli and the 2014 Senate race featuring Gillespie, the Republican candidate dramatically overperformed compared to the final polls. The final RealClearPolitics average in 2013 had Cuccinelli trailing by 6.7 points; he lost by 2.5 points. The 2014 result was even more dramatic; the final RCP average put Democrat Mark Warner ahead by 9.7 points; he won by eight-tenths of a percentage point. Is this a “shy Tory” effect? Are Virginia Republicans particularly reticent to tell a pollster they’re voting for the GOP candidate? Is the Virginia Republican get-out-the-vote effort worth a few extra percentage points? No one in Virginia politics knows for certain. But it suggests that a small Democratic lead heading into Election Day might not be so reliable.

Apple Turnover

by Roger Clegg

Once again we learn that, in Silicon Valley as elsewhere in Corporate America, there is no place for politically incorrect truth-telling. What’s more, what the law says is not even part of the conversation.

The latest kerfuffle involves Apple’s vice president of “inclusion and diversity,” who made the following statement during a panel discussion: “There can be twelve white blue-eyed blond men in a room and they are going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”

Well, talk about your mansplaining, and isn’t that just what you’d expect to hear from some corporate white guy?

Except that this particular executive happens to be a black woman, and of course she’s exactly right. Those twelve individuals may have wildly dissimilar life stories and outlooks, and for that matter you could also choose twelve people of wildly dissimilar ethnicities but nearly identical upbringing and mindset.

If Apple thinks having a diversity of life experiences and background is important in assembling a good team, fine, but why use skin color, national origin, and sex as a proxy for how people grew up and what they believe? That’s stereotyping, and by the way Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex in employment. (I discussed all this a decade ago in testimony before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — see especially parts III and V.)

No matter. The outcry was immediate and loud, and an apology has been issued.