The Coding-School Industry Begins to Shake Out

by George Leef

Among the alternatives to going to “real” college is for a student to enrolling a school that teaches one of the most useful of modern skills — coding. The demand for people who can write code for the growing number of things that rely on computers has spawned a large number of schools that will get a student prepared for work in the field in as little as twelve weeks. It costs a lot less than college, and many of the graduates find good jobs rather quickly.

And yet, some of the schools have closed. Is that evidence against the usefulness of these institutions? In this Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins examines the evolving industry of coding schools.

Many of them seem to be doing a good job, but they don’t all provide the level of training needed for some of the top firms, such as Google.

Watkins interviewed the head of a tech firm regarding his hiring and writes,

Some start-up tech companies have recruited coding school graduates with success. In a Martin Center interview, Nick Jordan, CEO of a Durham-based tech company called Smashing Boxes, said, “we’ve had a lot of success with hiring people from code schools.”

Jordan emphasized that the most important characteristic in applicants is the experience, passion, and personal integrity they bring to the table. “It’s just as much about mindset and attitude as about . . . training,” says Jordan. Accordingly, Smashing Boxes has hired individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, including computer science majors and even those who are self-taught in coding and have no official certification.

I think two things are clear: The coding schools fill a need in the market for professional training and they are undergoing the same kind of evolution we saw in the early automotive industry. Pure competition will give us the best result.

Watkins is right in her conclusion:

Even if university-trained computer professionals remain the first choice of most employers, a narrower sector of the market may find boot camps useful. Given that technology is constantly changing, coding schools could help seasoned professionals retool and update their skills. Such a niche industry, however, would hardly be large enough to change the overall landscape of higher education.

Jeb Bush: ‘Trump is Right’ on North Korea, Iran 

by Philip H. DeVoe

Former Florida governor and 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush praised President Donald Trump’s foreign policy in comments made in New York City during the Iran Summit 2017. Asked by the moderator, NBC News’s Nicolle Wallace, to comment on Trump’s behavior toward North Korea and Iran, Bush said he believes Trump’s brash attitude has helped “set the table” in dealing with dangerous regimes. 

“Once in a while, chaos, chaotic words, are helpful,” Bush said. “Regimes need to be called out. Trump is right.” 

During a follow-up question at the summit – which consists of a series of panels by politicians and foreign-policy experts, and which was called to discuss the Iranian threat to the United States – Wallace pressed Bush on his uncharacteristic support for Trump, peppering him with questions about the president’s foreign policy. Bush responded by reiterating his earlier comments, praising Trump for overseeing a foreign policy that “is moving in a more traditional way.” 

Bush continued by criticizing those who are “analyzing [Trump’s] Tweets and twitches” instead of “what [he’s] doing.” Wallace quieted the applause that this line generated by asking Bush about Trump’s flip-flop on NATO. Bush said that he supported Trump’s decision to remain in NATO, contending that it doesn’t matter that the president changed positions, because “he got [it] right the second time.” 

Despite his general praise, Bush criticized the president’s lack of “consistent policy.” Moreover, he credited Trump’s team, not the president, with the move forward, specifically naming Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley as an example of someone “doing a good job.” He concluded his comments on Trump by saying the president must “go from ad hoc to something more clear” in his policy-making process. 

Bush’s support for Trump’s foreign policy is an indicator that Trump has been moving toward a more traditional position. The frequent clashes between the two during the campaign helped Trump sell his promise that he would fight career politicians and Washington elites if elected. Now that Trump is in office, however, he’s finding it harder and harder to fulfill that vow.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale Lunacy’

by Rich Lowry

The Emmy sweep of The Handmaid’s Tale has brought on another bout of commentary about how it has much to tell us about Trump’s America. I wrote about it today:

Based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, the series depicts a misogynist dystopia. Christian fundamentalists have established a theocracy that — after an environmental debacle craters the birth rate — forces fertile women, called handmaids, into sexual slavery. 

Set in contemporary America, the show combines the atmosphere of The Scarlet Letter with 1984. It is bleak, plodding, heavy-handed, and occasionally gripping. What has given it extra oomph is the trope that it is relevant to Trump’s America. This is a staple of the commentary, and everyone involved in the show’s production pushes the notion.

According to Atwood, people woke up after Trump’s election “and said we’re no longer in a fantasy fiction.” The series is indeed highly relevant — as a statement on the fevered mind of progressives.

American College of Physicians Opposes Assisted Suicide

by Wesley J. Smith

Excellent. The American College of Physicians, after studying the issue, has issued a policy statement against the legalization of assisted suicide. From the ACP Position Paper:

Society’s goal should be to make dying less, not more, medical. Physician-assisted suicide is neither a therapy nor a solution to difficult questions raised at the end of life.

On the basis of substantive ethics, clinical practice, policy, and other concerns, the ACP does not support legalization of physician-assisted suicide. This practice is problematic given the nature of the patient–physician relationship, affects trust in that relationship as well as in the profession, and fundamentally alters the medical profession’s role in society.

Furthermore, the principles at stake in this debate also underlie medicine’s responsibilities on other issues and the physician’s duty to provide care based on clinical judgment, evidence, and ethics.

Control over the manner and timing of a person’s death has not been and should not be a goal of medicine. However, through high-quality care, effective communication, compassionate support, and the right resources, physicians can help patients control many aspects of how they live out life’s last chapter.

In short, these ethical physicians urge greater quality of care for the dying–not facilitation of their killing.

Assisted suicide is just that–suicide. It is not a medical treatment. It is not compassion, the root meaning of which is to “suffer with.”

Assisted suicide advocates are on a campaign to convince medical associations to adopt a position of “studied neutrality” (whatever that means) to the assisted suicide threat. So doing would be an abdication of the ethical obligations of physicians in society. I mean, what could possibly impact the welfare of their patients and the place of medicine in society than legalizing assisted suicide?

The internist members of the ACP understand that assisted suicide is not beneficent. It is, rather–even though unintended–the abandonment of those among us experiencing their time of greatest need for unconditional inclusion, love, and truly compassionate care.

Good for the ACP for leading on this crucial issue instead of hiding under the desk.

‘Hi, Do You Know Me? I’m Your Lieutenant Governor...’

by Jim Geraghty

A new Mason-Dixon poll released moments ago shows Democrat Ralph Northam barely ahead of Republican Ed Gillespie, 44 percent to 43 percent, in Virginia’s governor’s race. That’s the third close poll this week. As noted in today’s Morning Jolt, in the year of “The Resistance” and the start of the alleged great Democratic comeback, Virginia Democrats have ended up with a pretty “meh” and little-known candidate atop their ticket.

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 perfectly 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 still running ads that effectively act as an introduction to voters – emphasizing his service as a doctor in the U.S. Army and a pediatrician. It’s mid-to-late September! Absentee voting starts Friday!

Notice the closing image of his ads tout “Doctor-Veteran” Northam. His campaign doesn’t want to remind voters he’s been lieutenant governor for the past four years! 

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!

Man of Letters, Man of Parts

by Jay Nordlinger

My latest Q&A is with Douglas Murray — go here. Murray is a British writer and intellectual. An “all-rounder,” as they say in his country. He can talk to you about practically anything, and wisely. He has been famous since he was a teenager. His latest book is The Strange Death of Europe — which is No. 1 on the U.K. bestseller list (“I ask you,” as David Pryce-Jones would say).

In this Q&A, I talk with Douglas Murray about politics and policy, of course — politics and policy in Britain, America, and elsewhere. But we also talk about novels, poetry, and music. (Murray himself was brought up in music.)

When you have the time, spend an hour with one of the most interesting writers going (as WFB would say). (WFB would have loved Murray, by the way.) The podcast, again, is here.

Tuesday links

by debbywitt

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, me hearties! Instructions, translators, and the Dave Barry column that started it.

Is there a single food that you can survive on forever?

How Grand Pianos are Made.

Why Blue Is the World’s Favorite Color.

The devastating 1889 Johnstown Flood killed over 2,000 people in minutes.

Bacteria from elite athletes’ poop might boost sports performance.

ICYMI, Monday’s links are here, and include the blue-skinned family, Dr. Samuel Johnson’s birthday, the now-abandoned Russian town that was aiming nuclear missiles at America from 125 miles away, and the Illinois Pre-Columbian settlement of Cahokia.

Manafort To Be Indicted? Was Trump Tower Wiretapped? First Thoughts on Two Big Scoops

by David French

Just when the Russia investigation was sliding onto the back pages . . . tonight happened. The first scoop, from the New York Times, indicates that Paul Manafort may soon face criminal charges:

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.

To be clear, these potential indictments may not be directly related to the 2016 election and may relate to financial dealings independent of Manafort’s relationship with Trump. Mueller is reportedly looking at possible “violations of tax laws, money-laundering prohibitions and requirements to disclose foreign lobbying.”

As if the Times report wasn’t enough, CNN followed up with the revelation that is tearing up Twitter as we speak. The government allegedly wiretapped Manafort, including during times when he worked with Trump:

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.

According to CNN, Manafort had been the “subject” of an investigation that dated back to 2014 that was related to his work for the former Ukrainian government. The surveillance was discontinued “for lack of evidence” but then restarted again under a new FISA warrant “that extended at least until early this year.”

If you read the CNN report closely, you’ll note that there is much that is “unclear” (to use CNN’s words.) The new FISA warrant was allegedly related to suspected contacts between Manafort and Russian operatives, but it’s unclear where his phones were tapped, or if they actually swept up conversations with Trump.

What to make of all this? First, if the reports regarding Manafort are accurate (a big if), then this is disturbing news about the former campaign chair for the president of the United States. As our Andy McCarthy has explained, to obtain a FISA warrant the government has to bring forward evidence sufficient to establish probable cause that the wiretap target is the agent of a foreign power. That’s not a terribly high evidentiary threshold, but if there also exists sufficient evidence to indict Manafort (possibly for unrelated acts), then the stakes escalate considerably.

None of this means that Manafort is actually guilty of anything, but only the most mindless, tribal partisan would look at these developments with anything but concern and alarm. Potential corruption that close to the president – especially when connected with our nation’s chief geopolitical foe – is deeply problematic.

But that’s not all there is to this story. Not by a long shot. Some Trump defenders are taking the news that Manafort may have been wiretapped (possibly even in Trump tower) as vindication of Trump’s claims this March that “Obama had my wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” Department of Justice officials from both the Obama and Trump campaigns have denied Trump’s claim, and on September 4 his own Department of Justice responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by stating, “Both FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets.”

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. 

That’s the key – time will tell. It’s important to understand that we don’t know any of the key facts. Unless and until we see evidence, judgment as to whether Manafort (or anyone else in the administration) is corrupt will have to wait. Final judgment about the FBI’s actions will have to wait as well. The phrase “fog of war” comes to mind. We’re in the midst of a dense fog, and we can barely the road ahead. I know enough to be concerned. I know that conclusions are premature. I also hope that the Robert Mueller continues to work with all deliberate, competent speed. Uncertainty, speculation, and reflexive tribal rage are all bad for the American body politic. In due time, we’ll need light. Lord knows we’ve endured enough heat.

The Emmys Celebrate a Dying Industry

by Philip H. DeVoe

Stephen Colbert opened last night’s Emmy Awards with a jaunty show tune bearing the chorus “the world’s a little better on TV.” The message? Tune into your television to escape problems in the real world, such as global warming, Middle East turmoil, and Donald Trump. The Washington Post carried the sentiment of Colbert’s chanty a step further, singing television’s praises and declaring that Americans are “up to our eyeballs in great television.”

But viewers don’t seem to agree. In fact, general TV audience has declined steadily among all ages below 65-year-olds in the past six years. In the first quarter of 2011, Americans spent an average of 42 hours watching TV per week, according to Nielsen data. By the first quarter of 2017, that number had dropped to 34. The viewership of those aged between 12 and 24 years old has changed by the highest percentage since 2011, a 41 percent decline.

Even the Emmy-nominated shows, those the Post critiques as “great television,” have a desperately small following. A Katz Media Group study found that ABC’s Modern Family is the most watched Emmy-nominated show, at 56 percent of respondents. Every other show falls below the 40 percent line, and seven fall below 10 percent. Over 50 percent of respondents said they had never heard of six of those: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Silicon Valley, The Crown, Atlanta, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Master of None.

So perhaps television isn’t the narcotic Colbert and the Post think it is. In fact, many Americans didn’t hear Colbert’s message last night, for the Emmys aren’t immune from the dropping interest in TV. This year’s awards viewership tied last year’s record low of 11.4 million viewers.

Pardonable Sins

by Ramesh Ponnuru

How far does the president’s power to pardon go? Matthew Franck argued at NRO a while back that certain kinds of presidential pardons would run counter to the logic of checks and balances that informs the Constitution—including its provision for a pardon. He argued that point ably and, to my mind, persuasively, suggesting that courts need not recognize the validity of a presidential self-pardon. (I’d add a humble textualist argument to his case: It strikes me as entirely possible that a “pardon” was understood at the time of ratification as something that by definition had to be done for another; in the same way that you cannot “offend” yourself, you cannot pardon yourself for an offense.)

But the arguments that Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is unconstitutional, made here and here, strike me as much less persuasive. The main argument for this position attempts to reason from the logic of the Constitution, too. The problem is that it assumes that judicial supremacy is a kind of master principle of the Constitution. It assumes, that is, that the Constitution establishes the federal courts as the final word on the meaning of constitutional provisions and that anything that keeps them from being that final word is unconstitutional. Therefore it is unconstitutional for a president to use the pardon to stop courts from determining that an official has violated the Constitution and rectifying the violation; and that’s what Trump did in the Arpaio case.

The problem is that a conception of judicial power this exalted just isn’t anywhere in the Constitution, isn’t required for it to function, and runs against the very existence of the pardon power. If it’s an attack on the rule of law whenever a president blocks the courts from saying what the law means for particular cases, then every pardon is such an attack. There’s just no getting around the fact that the Constitution includes a pardon power as, among other things, a check on judicial power.

The U.S.-Style Liberal–Conservative Divide Doesn’t Translate to Pakistan

by Reihan Salam

While reading the Washington Post’s coverage of Pakistani politics, I noticed that reporters Pamela Constable and Shaiq Hussain describe Imran Khan’s Pakistan Justice Movement as “liberal.” I’ll admit that this surprised me a bit, and I thought I’d explain why.

First, the conservative-liberal divide doesn’t really apply to Pakistani politics. There, parties are separated along two axes: ethnic ties and relationship to the military.

The parties do, of course, have official ideological platforms. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was founded as a socialist party. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) or PML-N — the faction of the PML headed by Pakistan’s recently deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif — is technically a center-right party. And Khan’s Pakistan Justice Movement (known in Pakistan as PTI) was founded as a centrist party, in that it would oppose both of the above. The ideologies of the main parties, however, have never been as important as their ethnic affiliations. In elections, PML takes Punjab, PPP takes Sindh, BNP takes Baluchistan, and so on. PTI does not have an ethnic base, which is why, through careful tailoring of messages, it appealed to both urbanites who had grown disillusioned of the two main parties and, at the same time, to Islamists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it has the biggest presence in any national or regional assembly.

The second dividing line is relationship to the military, which gets complicated. PPP and PML-N both claim to be staunch democrats now, but they have been somewhat supportive of military rule when it interrupted a government headed by the other party. PTI likewise purports to be fully in favor of democracy, but there have been persistent rumors that the military has backed it as a way to weaken the PPP and PML-N. It is hard to say what the real story is, as is the case with just about all things relating to Pakistan. But Khan has acknowledged that Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former military ruler, brought him into politics and there are some PTI policies that line up with what the military wants, such as talks with the Pakistani Taliban.

All of which is to say that though Imran Khan might personally be a liberal, the PTI is not accurately described as a liberal political movement, nor does it make much sense to think of any party in Pakistan in those terms.

Why does any of this matter? When a particular political movement is characterized as “liberal” in the pages of the Washington Post, it serves as an implicit seal of approval. The message is that here we have a party committed to the rule of law, representative government, and protecting the rights of religious minorities, among other good things. But is that really true of PTI? The jury is still out.

Vaping, #Science and Public Health

by Andrew Stuttaford

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to make things easier for cancer by making things more difficult for vapers.

As John Tierney explained in a recent article for the Wall Street Journal that’s bad news for New Yorkers:

Since the electronic cigarette arrived around 2010, the rate of smoking in America has plummeted. Yet progressive do-gooders are now throwing tobacco a lifeline. Last month New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed new restrictions on e-cigarettes. A limited number of vendors will need licenses to sell them, and vaping will be banned from many apartment common areas. This will only push smokers away from the most promising method for kicking their deadly habit.

De Blasio’s behavior is, however, just another example of a wider problem in public health, one with implications that extend far beyond Gotham. In a much longer article for August’s City Journal, Tierney took a closer look.

Some  extracts:

Less than 15 percent of Americans realize that vaping is much less risky than smoking, while nearly half mistakenly think that vaping is as harmful as, or more harmful than, smoking—meaning that millions of smokers have been dissuaded from making a switch that could prolong their lives. The public-health establishment has become a menace to public health.

Tierney sets out the mission creep that has characterized the public health establishment’s definition of its agenda, a mission creep that has generated plenty of jobs for those who have signed up for it and, of course, plenty of opportunities to proclaim one’s own virtue by bossing other people around.

A quote:

“We believe in the freedom of the individual in the matter of cigarette smoking,” the American Cancer Society president told Congress in 1964, explaining his group’s opposition to legislation that banned smoking. “To achieve our goal we rely on persuasion and public and professional education.”

Yes, Virginia, there is a slippery slope.

There’s plenty in the piece to consider, including a welcome de-demonization of nicotine and a discussion of the beneficial effects of Swedes’ fondness for snus (a form of smokeless tobacco treated  in such a  way that it appears to eliminate or avoid carcinogens).

Swedish men have the highest rate of smokeless tobacco use in Europe—and, not coincidentally, the lowest rates of smoking and smoking-related diseases. It’s estimated that 350,000 lives would be saved annually if the rest of Europe followed Sweden’s example. But instead of encouraging this trend, the European Union has banned snus everywhere except Sweden, preferring the same prohibitionist approach as America.


And then there’s this:

Faced with a much more popular new competitor, pharmaceutical companies have responded by supporting restrictions and taxes on vaping devices (just as they have long lobbied for restrictions on the sale of smokeless tobacco). As Monica Showalter reported in the Observer, the firms have contributed substantially to Democrats leading the anti-vaping efforts in Congress, including Senators Ed Markey, Sherrod Brown, and Richard Blumenthal.



The prohibitionists have persuaded localities to extend smoking bans in public and private places to include vaping, even though e-cigarettes emit vapor that causes none of the irritations or the dangers claimed for secondhand smoke. They’ve promoted heavy new taxes on e-cigarettes, a policy that harms public health by reducing the incentive for smokers to switch, but it’s been welcomed by state officials (like New York governor Andrew Cuomo) eager to replace the cigarette-tax revenue they’re losing as smoking declines.

Follow the money.

But out of this mess may come political opportunity

Now that Republicans control the White House and Congress, they have a chance to combine sound science with smart politics on vaping. Grover Norquist, the influential Republican strategist who runs Americans for Tax Reform, has discovered that vapers are much different from smokers, whom he found impossible to mobilize against cigarette taxes. Vapers don’t feel guilty about their habit. They show up at rallies and volunteer in campaigns that have helped block e-cigarette taxes and defeat anti-vaping Democrats in local and state elections. “The Democrats have made an unforced error,” Norquist says. “They’ve poked a hornets’ nest. There are 10 million vapers in America, and that demographic will easily double in the next decade.”

Norquist wants the Republicans to use vaping as a wedge issue against Democrats, particularly among younger voters. Vapers are part of what he calls the Leave Us Alone Coalition, which includes gun owners, users of Uber and Airbnb, homeschoolers, and others with firsthand exposure to Democrats’ big-government policies. Vape shops, like gun shows, have become an informal network for spreading the word. “Vapers look in the mirror and feel virtuous,” Norquist says. “They’ve quit smoking, or at least cut back. They’re doing the right thing for themselves and their families, and now these contemptuous nanny-state jerks want to take away the products that are saving their lives. Believe me, this is a vote-moving issue.”

Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson was expected to lose his reelection bid last November, but he pulled off an upset with the help of vaper-led rallies, volunteer work, and donations…

How much difference that really made, I don’t know, but, judging by this video, at least something….

Read the whole thing.

Judging While Catholic

by Ramesh Ponnuru

After Dianne Feinstein and other Democratic senators lit into a conservative Catholic judicial nominee for her religious views, it was refreshing to see people who are neither Catholics nor conservatives come to the nominee’s defense. Noah Feldman and Princeton University president Christopher Eisgruber have rejected Feinstein’s line of attack against Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett.

A progressive Catholic, on the other hand, has come to the senators’ defense. Michael Sean Winters, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, raises two questions. First, are conservatives trying to have it both ways? They demand that religious people be able to participate in public life without casting aside their religion. Can they then ask that the religious views of these participants in public life be placed beyond scrutiny? Second, shouldn’t Barrett’s faith inform her judging?

To start with the second question: The religious-conservative defense of faith in public life has usually been focused on legislators rather than judges. That’s because, as conservatives especially stress but others also recognize, legislators are supposed to have a bigger role in shaping the laws according to their values than judges are. Even in the legislative arena, Catholic conservatives have generally also emphasized the necessity of grounding laws in reasons that are accessible to those with different religious views. But faith has more room to influence the conduct of a legislator’s job than a judge’s.

That does not mean that a judge’s Catholicism should have no impact whatsoever on his performance of his job. Much of this controversy began because Barrett wrote an article about how a judge’s Catholicism might affect recusals in death-penalty cases. Catholicism should also buttress some of the judicial virtues. All judges should be truthful about and obedient to the law, but Catholic judges have a reason that atheist judges do not: It would be a sin to be anything else.

One can grasp this point without denying that an atheist can be a good judge, or affirming that a Catholic judge is more likely to be a good judge than a Jewish or Protestant judge. Think of the parallel to charity: Nobody would say that it is incidental to Catholicism, but Catholics do not assert a monopoly on it.

As for the first question: There would be nothing wrong with asking Barrett about her view of the relationship between faith and judging. She did, again, write a law-review article on one aspect of that relationship. A senator could reasonably ask her to summarize her views, or raise an objection to her argument. Defenses of Feinstein’s remarks pretend that’s all she was doing. Feinstein’s actual remarks suggest that she was treating the strength of Barrett’s faith as evidence against her fitness to be a judge. That’s what her aides have kept doing since the hearing.

Catholics of all stripes should recognize what’s wrong with that stance, and for that matter so should non-Catholics. Thankfully many of them do.

The Rival Approaches to Islam

by David Pryce-Jones

Ibn Warraq is the pseudonym of someone evidently born and brought up a Muslim but who as an adult finds that rationality means more to him than Islam. The pseudonym is all that stands between him and a death sentence for his critical writings. “Why I Am Not a Muslim” is the giveaway title of one of his books, and “Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate’s Defense of Liberal Democracy” is the giveaway title of another. And now he comes out with yet another book, The Islam in Islamic Terrorism, and very magisterial it is too. “A propensity to violence is embedded in the core principles of Islam,” he writes, demonstrating how this propensity repeats down the centuries and across borders. Every time and everywhere the violence is a phenomenon of the faith, not a reaction to poverty or to some wickedness supposedly imposed by outsiders and unbelievers such as, for instance, Western colonialism. Terrorists, says President Trump, are “sick and demented,” while Mrs. May calls them “cowards.” Such opinions stem from Western ways of judging conduct, and are irrelevant in this context. Jihadis are committing mass-murder and self-sacrifice in the belief that Islam demands this of them. Ibn Warraq’s courage in saying so is as admirable as his learning.

At just the same time, by coincidence, Christopher de Bellaigue happens to have come out with a virtually opposite view in his new book The Islamic Enlightenment, also a giveaway title. With one foot in journalism and one foot in universities, he singles out an elite of Ottoman Turks, Persians, and Egyptians who in the past were Westernizing modernizers in one field or another. He makes out a heroic story of reform whose whole point is that Islam is open to opportunity and has no propensity to violence. It is rather bad luck that the book has been overtaken by events so cruelly.

Intellectually, we’ve been here before. Some used to tell the harsh truth about Communism, others were sentimental about it, finding an aspect to praise. The rival approaches to Islam are just the same, and the stakes are just as high.

The London Bomber Was a… Teenage Refugee?

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

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 it’s just common sense to have a system of “extreme vetting” and to bar refugees from countries where the local government cannot or will not help us determine that incoming individuals have no ties or sympathies to extremism.

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 be now 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 people, others injured by the stampede… this was “failed’ only 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 Supremes approved a limited version of that temporarily blocked refugees and citizens of six majority-Muslim 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.”

Monday links

by debbywitt

Dr. Samuel Johnson (wiki) was born on this date in 1709: here’s a selection of his insults and Scotland-bashing comments.

The now-abandoned Russian town that was aiming nuclear missiles at America from just 125 miles away.

How to Get Breasts like Apples: Beauty Tips for the Early Modern Woman.

How the Frozen Lake Battle in Game of Thrones Was Filmed.

This Family Has Had Blue Skin For Centuries — Here’s Why.

The Mysterious Illinois Pre-Columbian Settlement of Cahokia.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include 19th century money saving tips, IBM’s 1937 corporate songbook, the definitive sandwich family tree, and how honey is harvested.

Heroes and Anti-Heroes of the ‘Working Class’

by Jay Nordlinger

Last Friday, a Fox Sports personality went on CNN and made the following statement: “I’m a First Amendment absolutist. I believe in only two things completely: the First Amendment and boobs.” He went on to affirm what he had said, proudly. CNN’s anchorwoman then cut short the segment.

Judging from Twitter, a lot of people on the right thought that the sports guy was pretty cool. He had struck a blow for conservatism and against political correctness — and on CNN, the hated network!

This is what I begin my Impromptus with today: conservatism versus crudity. (Here.)

On Friday, I jotted a little tweet (as one does). I said, “For decades, some of us have been campaigning against political correctness. We don’t mean, ‘Behave like a jackass instead.’ You know?”

I got many responses, one of which I’d like to reprint and comment on here. A man said, “Not amazed that a foppish neo-con and @CNN shares the notion that working class talk is verboten. Neither are heroes of the working class.”

This tweet is an interesting specimen. It is not especially Right and not especially Left. It is certainly populist. And it speaks to a mindset that is very old. You find it on both right and left.

First, there is the assumption, or assertion, that “workers” would talk about “boobs” while speaking on television to a female anchor. This expresses a very low opinion of “workers,” and an unjust one, too.

Second, there is the very phrase “working class.” When I was growing up, I used to hear it from the Left — from the Marxists — all the time. When they said “working class,” they mainly meant workers they liked. They did not mean all workers. These days, I tend to hear “working class” from the Right, more than from the Left. Regardless, the class card is played from either hand, so to speak.

Does “working class” have a legitimate meaning in America? What workers belong to the “working class” and what workers are excluded from it? Is there any distinction between the speech of Marxist professors and the speech of right-wing populists? Where do the Bernie bros leave off and the Trump bros begin?

Third, the tweeter says that neither I (the “foppish neo-con”) nor CNN is a “hero of the working class.” The Soviet Union, remember, bestowed a title: “Hero of Socialist Labor.” You can hear the same kind of rhetoric in America today, and not from the Left, exclusively.

Such interesting times, these are.

American Assassin

by John J. Miller

My review of American Assassin, the new movie: Thumbs up.

Best part: During the climactic scene, we learn that the Navy has a ship called the U.S.S. Flynn. This is a hat tip to the late Vince Flynn, the author of the books upon which the movie is based.

Seven years ago, I podcasted with Flynn about American Assassin. And here’s my new recent podcast with Kyle Mills, the author of Enemy of the State, which continues the series that Flynn started.

Normalizing Suicide Parties

by Wesley J. Smith

Back in the early 1990s, my late friend Frances invited me and other of her friends to attend her suicide party. We all said no with an exclamation point! Such a thing was unthinkable. We would help Frances through the difficulties in her life, but we would not validate her self-destruction. With those closest to her unanimous in their objections, Francies changed her mind.

(Frances eventually killed herself about two years later under the influence of Hemlock Society–now Compassion and Choices–how-to-commit-suicide proselytizing literature–an event that thrust me into anti-euthanasia advocacy with a piece in Newsweek called “The Whispers of Strangers.”

What was shocking then, is being normalized now–and fast. Indeed, dying at the conclusion of a ”going away party” (as Frances wanted to call hers) is openly promoted in the mainstream media as best kind of good death, a phenomenon I have written about before.

The latest example comes in a New Yorker essay by Cory Taylor, a woman with a terminal illness. From, “Questions For Me About Dying:”

Yes, I have considered suicide, and it remains a constant temptation. If the law in Australia permitted assisted dying I would be putting plans into place right now to take my own life.

Once the day came, I’d invite my family and closest friends to come over and we’d have a farewell drink. I’d thank them all for everything they’ve done for me. I’d tell them how much I love them. I imagine there would be copious tears. I’d hope there would be some laughter. There would be music playing in the background, something from the soundtrack of my youth.

And then, when the time was right, I’d say goodbye and take my medicine, knowing that the party would go on without me, that everyone would stay a while, talk some more, be there for each other for as long as they wished.

As someone who knows my end is coming, I can’t think of a better way to go out. 

For her maybe, but what about those invitees she loves? Has she considered the deleterious impact her “better way out” could have on them?

I cannot fathom anyone putting their friends and loved ones in the position of having to decide whether to attend a suicide party. Indeed, it seems to me such a course would be profoundly selfish as it would force friends and loved ones into either validating the suicide and becoming morally complicit in the death by attending–or risk “social martyrdom,” that is, ostracism by other friends and family for being “judgmental,” or even, accused of abandoning the suicidal person. 

This kind of advocacy is also deeply subversive on a societal level. Suicide prevention experts believe that suicide is catching, and that glamorizing or approving of the act can be persuasive to other suicidal persons by making it appear attractive.

If we aren’t careful, we may get to the place that people who hang in to the end and complete a natural death process will be viewed as chumps–perhaps even selfish for wasting financial, medical, and emotional resources deemed better spent elsewhere.


Some Constitution Day Reading

by Yuval Levin

One of the very great blessings we enjoy as Americans is the written Constitution we have inherited, and are called on to perpetuate and strengthen. It is, as Lincoln memorably put it (echoing Proverbs 25:11), the picture of silver that houses our apple of gold—the self-evident truths at the core of our founding. And it is an extraordinary model of institution building, which we are in particular need of these days. 

On this date 230 years ago—September 17, 1787—the Constitution was signed by its authors, and began its challenging journey toward ratification. It seems only fitting to spend Constitution Day reading the document and reading about its meaning and sources, its framers’ hopes and intentions, its history, and its (far from ideal, alas) current condition. There is far more worth reading than you could hope to fit in a day, of course, but a few favorites that you can find for free online might be particularly worthwhile if you’re looking. 

The text of the Constitution, which is the place to start, is of course easy enough to find online (or why not let Hillsdale send you a copy you can keep in your pocket?). But I’ve found the annotated version offered by the National Constitution Center interesting and valuable beyond the simple text sometimes. 

On sources of the Constitution, there is an astonishingly rich and not so widely known resource available from the University of Chicago Press and the Liberty Fund. They have digitized all five huge volumes of The Founders Constitution, an extraordinary anthology of source materials on every constitutional provision gathered by Chicago professors Philip Kurland and Ralph Lerner, and made them all not only available but cross-linked and referenced in a way that makes the whole just immensely useful and interesting. Lerner was my teacher—and what a teacher!—so I’m partial, but it’s really an exceptionally useful and under-appreciated free resource. Do have a look.

Among the sources frequently excerpted in The Founder’s Constitution is James Madison’s collection of his notes on the Constitutional convention. It’s an almost day by day recounting of the convention, and in many places is utterly fascinating. You can find a very usefully arranged form of it for free here, courtesy of the National Heritage Center for Constitutional Studies. The notes are one man’s observations, and they were also almost certainly doctored a bit by Madison in later years to improve his own image (the evidence, collected for instance by Mary Sarah Bilder, certainly suggests that Madison cleaned up his views on slavery years after the fact, and proffered exculpatory justifications not made at the time for his support at the convention of Hamilton’s very bad idea that presidents should serve lifetime terms). But it is by far the most extensive contemporaneous source we have on what went on at the convention, and it makes for fascinating reading. 

And speaking of Madison and Hamilton, if you’re going to read about the Constitution you should of course also take up the Federalist Papers. They are readily available online in lots of places for free (this site hosted by Yale Law school is an easy one) and they really just make for endlessly rewarding reading. Different papers become pertinent at different moments in our national life. And the authors’ wrong turns can sometimes be as interesting as their most piercing insights into timeless political truths. (I had the privilege last summer to lead a small group of students in discussing some of those apparent mistakes, and I learned an enormous amount from the experience. I wrote a bit about one facet of it here.)

More contemporary reflections on constitutionalism and its condition are of course available in very great abundance and it would not be easy to make just a few suggestions of much value. National Review is often full of them, needless to say, as are the Claremont Review of Books, National Affairs, and other publications. But one place to go for reflections on a particularly important set of constitutional questions, and one perhaps especially relevant for our time, is the Winter 1987 issue of The Public Interest. It was a special issue commemorating the bicentennial of the Constitution, and it featured some extraordinary essays by Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, James Q. Wilson, Harvey Mansfield, Walter Berns, Tom Pangle, Michael Malbin, Glenn Loury, and Jeremy Rabkin. If you like that kind of thing, you’re really going to like this one. Many of the authors, probably not by design, seemed to gravitate toward the question of what kind of moral character or virtue the Constitution requires of citizens and leaders, or assumes they will possess. This is, I think, a particularly important question today and one we don’t think about enough. 

Our constitutional system is in some trouble at this point. It has seen worse times, I would venture, but it has seen better ones too. And I think the immense distractions from core governing questions that are so characteristic of this moment keep us from seeing the nature of the problem. Everyone gravitates to the pandemonium surrounding President Trump, and it could be that in time he will end up posing some serious challenges or threats to the constitutional system (and that his most intense opponents and critics may too). But in constitutional terms, I think we confront a bigger problem now, rooted in Congress more than in the presidency. The problem takes the form of a kind of dereliction—a dearth of appropriate ambition that leads to an inclination to shift blame, shirk responsibility, and delegate power rather than use it within the bounds of the constitutional framework. 

Conservatives at different times tend to complain about the overreach of the executive and the judiciary, and such overreach is surely dangerous. But in both cases it is abetted, and perhaps originally motivated, by an inexcusable underreach (if you will) on the part of the Congress, and a loss among its members of a clear sense of what their role and their institution’s role ought to be in our system. 

It seems to me that if Donald Trump has so far shown a tendency to do damage to our constitutional infrastructure it is largely (though not exclusively) by bringing this proclivity—this inclination to treat the institution he occupies as a platform for celebrity performance rather than one instrument of national self-government—to the presidency. His predecessor did some of this too, of course, and Trump has taken it further. He seems more likely to endanger the system by his feebleness as an executive than by any excess of strength. “A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government,” Hamilton wrote in Federalist 70. And “a feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution.”

But the problem is nonetheless still centered in the Congress. And a solution that might bring some reinvigoration of our constitutional system will need to start in Congress and to involve meaningful institutional reform there. 

But maybe complaints should be for another day. Today is for studying our Constitution and for celebrating it. And the more you do of the former, the more you’ll want to do of the latter.