PowerLine -> The Russian Revolution at 100 + The Uranium One scandal

Powerline John Hinderaker at HoaxAndChange

PowerLine -> The Russian Revolution at 100 + The Uranium One scandal

Powerline image at HoaxAndChange

Powerline image at HoaxAndChange

Daily Digest

  • Should Boalt Get the Boot?
  • A Freeport Question For Our Time
  • The Russian Revolution at 100
  • The Uranium One scandal
Should Boalt Get the Boot?

Posted: 22 Oct 2017 04:26 PM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

Lawyers will know that U.C. Berkeley’s law school has long been known as Boalt Hall, named for John Boalt, a prominent 19th century California lawyer whose estate donated the money for Berkeley to start a law school way back in 1906. But there’s a problem: it seems Mr. Boalt harbored some racist views, in particular against the Chinese. You can read a paper Boalt delivered in 1877 entitled “The Chinese Question,” in which he argues that Chinese assimilation is simply impossible.

You know what is coming next: a campus controversy about whether formally to drop Boalt’s name from the law school. (It’s already kinda, sorta happened. A lot of people are already just saying “Berkeley Law” instead of Boalt Hall.) There has been set in motion a “Berkeley Law Committee on the Use of the Boalt Name.” The committee is soliciting comments from faculty and students, so perhaps against my better judgment, I have submitted the following comment:

There deserves to be a sober discussion about what to do in the numerous cases where important historic figures fall woefully short of our current understandings of justice and equity. The case against John Boalt could just as easily be applied to Woodrow Wilson, and the attachment of his name to the School of Public Affairs at Princeton. (In fact some Princeton students have so argued that his name should be formally dropped.) What standard should be applied?

I often draw the attention of students to a passage in Justice John Marshall Harlan’s famous and celebrated dissent in Plessy vs. Ferguson [the infamous “separate but equal” decision] that is strangely omitted from the presentation of the case in nearly every con law casebook, which runs thus: “There is a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race.” But from here Harlan complicates the judgment we might draw from this fragment by noting that it constitutes yet another weakness in the majority argument in Plessy, namely, that we do not segregate Chinese in our streetcars–only blacks. What then is our final judgment on Harlan? (And should we also strike Harlan’s name from any honor roll or building that may exist?)

As repugnant as John Boalt’s views read today, Harlan’s comment reminds us that it was a well nigh universal view. I’m hard pressed to think of many examples of a serious contest of that view from that time. How did we come to change that view? Might it be better to keep the unvarnished truth of figures like Boalt, Harlan, and Wilson rather than airbrushing them out of sight, and thereby contribute to a forgetfulness of the path of change over the decades?

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if I have triggered anyone.


A Freeport Question For Our Time

Posted: 22 Oct 2017 02:13 PM PDT

(John Hinderaker)

A reader writes:

Scott has referred to the famous “Freeport Question” posed by Abraham Lincoln to Stephen Douglas in their debates.

The Freeport Question, paraphrased simply, was: as President, would you take the position that the people of a territory have the power to exclude slavery from it (notwithstanding the Dred Scott decision)?

It was intended as a rhetorical and logical trap for Douglas as an advocate of “popular sovereignty” on slavery in new territories in tension with the Dred Scott decision.

We may have something similar for the Democrats now, helpfully provided by an unlikely source, Roger Cohen in the New York Times, quoting a savvy GOP consultant:

As Chuck Coughlin, a Republican political consultant who once worked for Senator John McCain, put it…”A Democratic Party that can’t tell me how many genders there are, that ain’t flying in this country.”

Just so! I am picturing debates where the simple, straightforward question is posed to both candidates, asking for their and, by implication, their parties’ positions:

How many genders are there?

Any answer other than the simple Anglo-Saxon word of one syllable beginning with the letter “T” has just got to be devastating for the Dems.

GOP candidate: “Two.”

Dem candidate: “Blah, blah, gobbledygook, obfuscation of the obvious, blah, blah, etc.”

Makes me wish I had thought of this myself.

Our correspondent has a point. Any Democrat who wants to win his party’s nomination, or have any hope of turning out his party’s base in the general election, must toe the anti-science line that genders, being entirely a social construct, multiply endlessly. Let a hundred flowers bloom! as a pre-Bernie Sanders Socialist once put it.

My memories of long-ago biology classes have grown dim, but I am pretty sure there are X chromosomes and Y chromosomes, but no A, B, C, D, E, F or G chromosomes. Not everything is a social construct, which is another way of saying: reality exists. A proposition against which the Democratic Party pretty consistently rebels.

To me, the biggest uncertainty in this scenario is whether the GOP’s nominee in 2020–presumably Donald Trump–will have the common sense to give the right answer to the gender question.


The Russian Revolution at 100

Posted: 22 Oct 2017 07:53 AM PDT

(Scott Johnson)

The New York Times has humiliated itself with the series of essays on the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution that it has published under the rubric of Red Century. Michelle Malkin peeked in on it here. I peeked in on it in “The Times revisits the old-time religion” and drew on the great Harvey Klehr’s contribution to the series in “The romance of Soviet stooges.”

This week’s New York Times Book Review does substantially better. In her weekly newsletter, Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul seizes on the publishing industry’s contribution to the centenary. She links to the reviews and essays she has assembled to cover major biographies of Lenin (review by Josef Joffe) and Stalin (review by Mark Atwood Lawrence), and many new works of Soviet history (review by Joshua Rubinstein), including a new book by Anne Applebaum, Red Famine (review by Adam Hochschild).

She also links to reviews of other books examining the present-day ripple effects: Masha Gessen’s The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (Russia under Putin, review by Francis Fukuyama), and Maria Alyokhina’s Riot Days (recounting the Pussy Riot musician’s time in prison, brief review by Sophie Pinkham).

The Review also invited the novelist Martin Amis, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott to write essays on the books that to their mind best illuminate the events of October 1917 (links go to their essay).

This is a rich and informative set of reviews and essays. Consider this unusual (for the Times) blast of truth from Martin Amis, making a point that is front and center in The Gulag Archipelago(indeed, Amis’s essay runs with a photo of Solzhenitsyn):

It was not a good idea that somehow went wrong or withered away. It was a very bad idea from the outset, and one forced into life — or the life of the undead — with barely imaginable self-righteousness, pedantry, dynamism, and horror. The chief demerit of the Marxist program was its point-by-point defiance of human nature. Bolshevik leaders subliminally grasped the contradiction almost at once; and their rankly Procrustean answer was to leave the program untouched and change human nature. In practical terms this is what “totalitarianism” really means: On their citizens such regimes make “a total claim.”

Highly recommended.


The Uranium One scandal

Posted: 22 Oct 2017 06:04 AM PDT

(Scott Johnson)

Andrew McCarthy brings an expert prosecutor’s eye to his NRO column explicating the Uranium One scandal. He wants readers to understand that it is not just, or not mainly, a Bill and Hillary Clinton scandal, though it is that. It is also an Obama administration/Obama Department of Justice scandal; it is a Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein scandal as well. My friend Andy’s expert analysis arrives at a straightforward conclusion: “This stinks.” Read the whole thing here.


Leave a Reply