PowerLine -> Why won’t Georgia protect Christian speech on campus?

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PowerLine -> Why won’t Georgia protect Christian speech on campus?

Powerline image at HoaxAndChange

Powerline image at HoaxAndChange

Daily Digest

  • “Making It” in the NYRB
  • Cohn-Heads
  • Why won’t Georgia protect Christian speech on campus?
  • Jane Mayer’s Dossiad (1)
  • Inclusion riders, quotas, and confusion
“Making It” in the NYRB

Posted: 07 Mar 2018 03:18 PM PST

(Scott Johnson)When it was published in 1967, Norman Podhoretz’s memoir Making It met with the publishing equivalent of a lynch mob. It included Podhoretz’s friends and fellow members of the New York literary/intellectual establishment. They found Podhoretz guilty of crimes against taste and discretion.

Among the lynch mob was the New York Review of Books. The NYRB set out to get the job done killing the book. Its first choice to review Making It, the prominent critic Hilton Kramer, disliked the book and was afraid he may have been overly harsh in the draft he submitted. “When I sent it on to the New York Review,” Kramer subsequently told Podhoretz biographer Thomas Jeffers, he was amazed to hear that “the New York Review wasn’t interested in publishing a ‘valentine’ to Norman Podhoretz!” Seeking something tougher still, the editors called on sociologist Edgar Z. Friedenberg (“whom Podhoretz had discovered for Commentary in 1960,” Jeffers dryly noted). Friedenberg delivered the desired pan.

When Making It was restored to print last year in an attractive paperback edition — by the New York Review of Books, under its NYRB Classics imprint — I celebrated. NYRB Classics editor Edwin Frank commented on my celebration: “Making It is a remarkable book–it has a great deal of character and it is of undeniable historical significance–and I’m pleased to publish it in the NYRB Classics series.”

Contrary to what I wrote at the time, Frank added: “It should be clear, however, that the NYRB publishing program does not in any sense exist ‘under the auspices’ of the New York Review of Books. The publishing program is editorially entirely separate from the paper, and none of the editors of the Review had anything to do with the decision to publish Podhoretz’s book.” (I greatly appreciate Frank’s literary judgment and service to literature, but I should add that Frank’s edition of the book states on the copyright page in caps: “THIS IS A NEW YORK REVIEW BOOK PUBLISHED BY THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS.”)

So I celebrate again now that the New York Review of Books itself has published Janet Malcolm’s generous review/tribute to Making It. A shrewd observer notes that Malcolm is normally a killer. Her tribute goes further than she could reasonably have been expected to go. She is not easily pleased, yet she rightly lauds Podhoretz as a writer and a storyteller. She chides the original book’s contemporary reviewers: “Writing as lucid and vital as Podhoretz’s is not often encountered and should have been acknowledged.”

Despite her candid enthusiasm for Making It, Malcolm is unusually discreet in her review. Her review requires a little background and close reading for full enjoyment. She observes at the top of her tribute: “Making It was almost universally disliked when it came out in 1967. It struck a chord of hostility in the mid-twentieth-century literary world that was out of all proportion to the literary sins it may or may not have committed. The reviews were not just negative, but mean.” She makes no mention of the NYRB, of Hilton Kramer, or of Edgar Friedenberg.

Malcolm even admires the narrator of Making It. In another exercise of discretion, Malcolm treats the narrator as a literary construct, not to be confused with Podhoretz himself. She, therefore, praises Podhoretz as the protagonist of Making It while not necessarily approving of the man. In her concluding paragraph, Malcolm can accordingly cough up the obligatory if perfunctory disapproval.

Make no mistake. Malcolm’s essay is perceptive. It helps to heighten our appreciation of a book I believe to be a classic of American autobiography. It makes a contribution in its own right to our understanding. Its appearance in the NYRB simply adds to the delight we can take in it. You don’t have to be Leo Strauss to understand Malcolm’s artistry, but Malcolm’s review deserves a close reading for more reasons than one and I recommend it unreservedly.



Posted: 07 Mar 2018 09:59 AM PST

(Steven Hayward)So Trump’s senior economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is resigning because of Trump’s announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs. The tariffs are likely a bad idea—unless you think Trump is merely making this move as part of his “art of the deal” strategy and will end up with some trading partners altering their behavior and trading rules. Perhaps it will work out this way. It wouldn’t surprise me if it does. But why anyone should be surprised at Trump’s announcement is a mystery: the one issue where the protean Trump has been consistent for 30 years is trade. And it is highly entertaining to see the New York Times cope with its cognitive dissonance over this, such as the column Monday entitled “Don’t Worry About Trump’s Tariffs.” Heh.

Cohn, however, was an odd choice for Trump, for one simple reason: Cohn is a Democrat, who according to all accounts was angling hard to be the senior economic adviser in a Hillary Clinton Administration. As the former head of Goldman Sachs (have you noticed that this now marks the fourth administration in a row where a Goldman Sachs person is at the center of economic policy?), it didn’t matter to him whether Trump or Hillary won the election.

Who will Trump pick to replace Cohn? I’d prefer Larry Kudlow, who supported Trump early and loudly, and who had considerable input into the tax reform legislation. But Larry is adverse to trade protectionism and also favors a strong dollar, and it is not clear whether Trump favors a strong dollar. (A weak dollar supposedly helps American exports, of course. On the other hand, a strong dollar would mitigate some of the cost increase on imported steel that the tariffs will cause.) According to some inside sources of my own, Trump picked Jerome Powell over John Taylor (the long time conservative favorite) to be the new chair of the Federal Reserve because Powell favors low-interest rates, as does Trump. And low-interest rates will hold down the value of the dollar, as well as help real estate interests, which is what Trump knows best.

One further note: a lot of people have been noting that Reagan often instituted specific tariffs and trade protectionist measures, despite being a free trade cheerleader. Quite true, and equally problematic: his own economic advisers produced estimates of the net job losses and higher cost to consumers of his trade moves. However, what is lost in memory is that Reagan often instituted trade protections to head off much worse protectionist legislation from Congress, where there was a bipartisan consensus for many protectionist proposals. Reagan used his veto to stop several protectionist measures that did reach his desk, but in other cases, he compromised to keep his vetoes from being overridden. In other words, Reagan consented to something bad to prevent something worse. A reasonable choice for any statesman under the circumstances. But right now there is very little support in Congress for the kind of tariffs on steel and aluminum that Trump is proposing.

As usual with The Trump Show, stay tuned for the next episode. . .


Why won’t Georgia protect Christian speech on campus?

Posted: 07 Mar 2018 08:49 AM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)Georgia’s public colleges and universities have been using unconstitutional speech zones to suppress Christian speech in a state where traditional Christians make up a large part of the citizenry. The most notorious case involves Gwinnett College. Its speech zone policy has been challenged in court, and Attorney General Sessions has directed the Department of Justice to file a “statement of interest” supporting the challenge.

One would think that a bill to protect campus free speech in Georgia would take on speech zones. After all, in most states considering such legislation, free speech zones rank high on the list of abuses dealt with. As Stanley Kurtz says:

Speech zones are generally the easiest problem for legislatures to fix. The initial wave of campus free-speech laws specifically targeted speech zones as an easily outlawed, facially unconstitutional practice. Most often zones were banned with strong bipartisan support.

But not in Georgia. There, says Stanley, a bill meant to protect free speech on campus has been stripped of all protections against speech zones.

According to Stanley, this is the result of intense lobbying by the universities. The presidents of the University of Georgia and Georgia State University have denied or downplayed all campus free speech problems. In fact, Stanley reports, the president of Georgia State University denied that there was a national campus free-speech crisis at all.

Tell that to Christian students at Gwinnett State, where the right to free expression is confined to two tiny speech zones that occupy less than 0.0015 percent of the campus, and are open only 18 hours a week. And where a student preaching a standard Christian message about Jesus within the zone was silenced because he violated campus policy on “disorderly conduct,” which applies to anything that “disturbs the comfort” of the listener.

Tell that to the Christian student organization at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University that was forced to confine its pro-life display to a tiny out-of-the-way speech zone consisting of less than 0.08 percent of Kennesaw’s 405-acre campus. The Christian group alleges that an administrator said if it removed the pro-life posters she deemed most “controversial,” she would upgrade their protest to a less out-of-the-way zone. The group refused to be censored and thus was relegated to an area far away from students. By contrast, the university permitted an LGBT group to reserve all seven speech zones for its “Pride Day” demonstration.

Stanley concludes that without protection against free speech zones, nobody’s speech will be safe on Georgia’s public college campuses.

If even the dominant view in Georgia can be ostracized and banned at its universities through flagrantly unconstitutional acts, then the rights of every student in the state are will be subject to the whims of irresponsible administrators. Georgia deserves better.

I agree.


Jane Mayer’s Dossiad (1)

Posted: 07 Mar 2018 05:54 AM PST

(Scott Johnson)Former British spy Christopher Steele worked with Fusion GPS Glenn Simpson to get the contents of Steele’s dossier into the media before the 2016 election. Byron York reported that Steele personally briefed reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, the New Yorker, and Yahoo, all to little or no effect. Mother Jones’s David Corn gave the received version of Steele’s story on October 31 in “A veteran spy has given the FBI information alleging a Russian operation to cultivate Donald Trump.”

Corn’s account gave us the heroic version of the dossier. Howard Blum followed up in the credulous Vanity Fair article “How ex-spy Christopher Steele compiled his explosive Trump dossier.” Blum’s article is useful in helping us understand the line Steele and his employers were peddling to the FBI and to the media.

Blum’s starstruck article presented Steele and Simpson (but especially Steele) as the heroes of The Dossiad. Read how Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson threw caution to the winds and selflessly gave their all to save the republic from Donald Trump. As I see it, this version of the story enacts an update on The Dunciad. I have called it The Dossiad. In this case, however, the satire is unintended. Only the Dullness remains.

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy painted a portrait of Glenn Simpson in this spirit in “The digger who commissioned the Trump-Russia dossier speaks.” I commented on Cassidy’s column in “Glenn Simpson: The New Yorker version.” Despite the New Yorker’s reputation for fact-checking, Cassidy’s laughable error of fact about the Steele dossier — “his first memorandum, which was thirty-five pages long and dated June 20, 2016” — remains uncorrected. (Steele’s June 20 memo was three pages long. The entire Steele dossier posted on BuzzFeed is itself 35 pages long.)

Now comes the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer to give us the definitive version of The Dossiad in “Christopher Steele, the man behind the Trump dossier.”Subhead: “How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia.”

Mayer’s article is 15,000 words long. Reading it is an ordeal. It’s not all Dullness. She mixes Dullness with Dishonesty. Indeed, in Mayer’s Dossiad, Dishonesty predominates.

The dishonesty permeates the article and it is infuriating. An article at least as long Mayer’s is needed to disentangle and rectify it. Mayer’s pretense of impartiality in adjudicating questions of fact and credibility must count as the article’s leading misrepresentation. If only she had a sense of humor, one might think surely she jests.

Mayer collects tributes to Steele from colleagues present and past. He is her hero. He is a super spy with impeccable Russian sources. Even so, the super spy had no idea for whom he was working when Simpson hired him in 2016. Behind Simpson — as we know now thanks only to Rep. Devin Nunes and his Republican colleagues — lay the law firm serving as counsel to the Clinton presidential campaign, the Clinton campaign itself, and the Democratic National Committee. Steele compiled his dossier in the service of the Clinton presidential campaign.

In his testimony before congressional committees, the incredibly devious Glenn Simpson insisted that Steele didn’t know the identity of his clients while also insisting that he had otherworldly powers to discern the veracity of his Russian informants. It didn’t add up.

Mayer is not completely dull. She depicts Steele as a super spy. She ignores Simpson’s testimony on this score and instead reports: “Several months after Steele signed the deal [with Fusion GPS], he learned that, through this chain, his research was being jointly subsidized by the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C.”

So it only took Steele “several months” to figure it out for whom he was working. How did he learn it? When did it come to him? How did he arrive at the realization? What do you mean exactly by “through this chain”? What did Steele think about it? You can bet that nobody in the New Yorker’s editorial “chain” cut the answers to these questions for reasons of space. Mayer’s curiosity has predictable limits.

Mayer’s article should not be ignored. Mayer and the New Yorker mean to fix — repair and set — the Democrats’ storyline. The article has not yet attracted the attention and commentary that it deserves from knowledgeable observers. As of this morning, I recommend Chuck Ross’s Daily Caller post “6 revelations in that Christopher Steele puff piece” and George Neumayr’s American Spectator column “Jane Mayer’s publicity work for Christopher Steele.”

This is the first part of what I intend to be a series. I hope to keep the series short, useful, and readable. If you have any helpful comments, please direct them to me at [email protected] com.

JOE adds: I look forward to Scott’s series. I listened in full to yesterday’s hour-long interview of Jane Mayer on NPR’s Fresh Air. Host Teri Gross practices a standard method in her interviews. When the story or issue is about conservatism or a member of the conservative movement, she interviews a liberal journalist who has written about that story or figure. When the story is about a liberal or a member of the liberal movement, she interviews the principal himself. This discredits her journalism comprehensively.

The interview with Mayer conforms to this practice. While listening to it, I encourage readers to recollect their college days. Most of us have spent a late night with someone who has had too much to drink. Such people like to invent movie ideas. Typically the movie ideas are both stupid and full of plot holes. The teller can sound grasping, or desperate, yet oddly self-amused. It is in this voice that Mayer speaks on Fresh Air.


Inclusion riders, quotas, and confusion

Posted: 06 Mar 2018 09:32 PM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)Yesterday, I commented on actress Frances McDormand’s call for Hollywood stars to insist on “inclusion riders” in their contracts. These riders, as I understand them, would condition starring in a film on the producer’s willingness to hire a certain percentage of minorities and women for the production.

Stacy Smith, the originator of the idea, has explained that this means “for on-screen roles that are supporting and minor, they have to be filled with norms that reflect the world we live in.” Expanding on this odd statement — how does one fill roles with “norms”? — Smith insisted that in contemporary dramas, the cast would consist of approximately 50 percent women, 50 percent minority, 20 percent people with disabilities, and 5 percent LFBTQ. Mercifully, historical dramas where the formula doesn’t make sense would be exempt.

So “inclusion riders” impose quotas, right? Not according to Kalpana Kotagal, a lawyer who worked with Smith on the idea. She objects that “‘quota’ is such a loaded and dangerous word in this society — it invokes this sense that somehow under-qualified people are going to get my job.” In fact, she claims, the diversity rider “doesn’t say you have to hire somebody who fits demographic group even if you don’t think they’re qualified.”

This was the dodge used by radical civil rights lawyers 40 years ago to cope with charges that they were advocating quota hiring. It is as lame now as it was then.

Quotas don’t exist only when an employer is required to hire unqualified people to fill them. They exist whenever an employer is required to reach or approach a certain level of minority or female hires.

And they are unlawful when they cause employers to prefer less qualified candidates over more qualified ones. It doesn’t matter that the minority candidate is qualified for the job. If the non-minority candidate is better qualified and the employer selects the minority candidate to meet a quota or numerical goal, that’s unlawful discrimination.

The other dodge in Kotagal’s defense of inclusion riders is her claim that they “don’t say you have to hire somebody who fits a demographic group even if you don’t think they’re qualified.” If an employer commits to a quota and falls short, it isn’t sufficient to say you didn’t think the minorities you rejected were unqualified. If challenged, you will have to prove they were unqualified (or less qualified than the white candidates you selected).

If it were otherwise, inclusion riders would be without force. The racists, sexists, and homophobes who, in the view of McDormand, Smith, and Kotagal, control Hollywood would have an easy out. The riders would be just another meaningless gesture.

Thus, diversity riders, if enforceable, would enable judges and juries to substitute their view of who is best qualified to act in a film role for the view of the producer and director. Judges do enough dictating in our society without deciding who should appear in our movies.

Finally, I found it interesting that the originator of the diversity rider concept spoke of it applying to “supporting and minor roles.” Why not major roles?

Is the idea that supporting and minor roles are not important enough for qualifications to matter much? That seems true of extras appearing in a crowd scene. In that case, it makes sense to select people who “look like” the crowd one would expect to find in that setting. But if we’re talking about true supporting cast members, even those in small roles, Hollywood cannot fudge on qualifications for the sake of diversity without reducing the quality of its product and running afoul of the law.

But maybe the focus on supporting and minor roles are intended to enable A-listers to insist on diversity riders without creating the risk that one day they will lose big roles because they are white. After all, if diversity riders are necessary as a matter of “social justice” or to stop Hollywood before it discriminates again, the financial backers of movies should require that half of the total number of leading roles in the films they back (taken collectively) go to minorities, 20 percent to people with disabilities, and so forth.

That way, Hollywood can take its rightful place in the vanguard of America’s march to insanity.


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