Category Archives: Henninger

Yes, Boycott Baseball

WSJ 4/8/2021  By Daniel Henninger

Sherman’s burning of Atlanta wasn’t enough punishment. To clean out any traces of racism 157 years later, Gen. Rob Manfred of Major League Baseball decided the North had to sack Atlanta one more time.

Still, count it as progress that instead of the indiscriminate looting and burning of stores as happened last summer, Gen. Manfred merely ordered the destruction of an estimated $100 million of commerce for Atlanta’s post-pandemic businesses as he moved the All-Star Game to the presumably less morally offensive, if overwhelmingly white, city of Denver.

The CEOs of Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines—headquartered in Atlanta—chirped in their 2 cents of moral condescension. Frankly, Georgia, they don’t give a damn about you.

At issue, one is obliged to insert, is the voting-procedure law passed by Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp. It is not “racist,” as explained in detail by at least three editorials in this newspaper.

As with the routine battles over gerrymandering House districts, this dispute about election law is a political fight between the two major parties. But alongside Georgia, we have the simultaneous trial in Minneapolis of Derek Chauvin, accused of murdering George Floyd during an arrest May 25.

Since that happened, progressives repeatedly have deployed the race card against their opposition, notably over post-pandemic voting legislation. Their goal, again, is partisan and political: to enact H.R.1, which would nationalize federal elections, effectively eliminating a traditional role for elected legislators and other officials in all 50 states.

Yes, politics is hardball. But today we are living through a flood tide of efforts to reduce politics to a permanent confessional on racism. To clear a path for passage of H.R.1, Barack Obama called the Senate filibuster a “Jim Crow relic,” a volatile charge to make in 2021 against so many Americans. Joe Biden, the president of the United States, repeated that lovely thought last week: “This is Jim Crow on steroids, what they’re doing in Georgia and 40 other states.”

In the interests of tit-for-tat, note that in 2016, President Obama sat next to Raúl Castro watching a baseball game, supported by the major leagues, in communist Cuba, whose liberalization since that state visit has been zero.

Though he’s been absent from this column for weeks, it’s time to put Donald Trump back in play. He’s right: Boycott baseball—and the rest of the progressives’ new corporate cancel-culture all-star team, including Patagonia, H&M, Uber, Tripadvisor, Levi’s, Blue Apron, Nordstrom and SoFi.

Why boycott them? Because their leaders assume that most of their customers are compliant saps. Mr. Manfred knows that he can get away with smearing half a Southern state as racist (still), because fans everywhere will yet again choke down the political and personal insult and trudge forward to watch the “home team” play. So they win and you lose in the large-stakes political game being played daily by progressives across America.

It’s worth considering why so many corporate and institutional leaders have rolled over for any wild charge the left lobs at its enemies. There are two reasons—one commercial, the other historically deeper and more important.

Most of commercial life today revolves around one idea—promoting a company’s “brand.” No dopes, the left saw that if they could generate 500 hostile social-media posts against a corporate brand over some made-up woke offense, the CEO, having bet his career with millions in marketing costs, will think his brand is about to be destroyed by groupthink millennials who all at once will stop drinking Coke or refuse to stream baseball on MLB.TV.

Corporate cowardice is worse than ever, but by itself insufficient reason for conservatives to organize commercial boycotts, say, a mass Coke dump-a-thon. A better reason is to save once-rational liberals from destroying themselves and pulling the rest of us down in the woke vortex.

As a song once asked: How did it ever get this crazy? Don’t look to rationality for answers. We knew that was gone when the New York Times’s “1619 Project” gained ground.

Liberal guilt is so common that bookshelves bend beneath volumes explaining it. But after Minneapolis, liberal guilt passed into a new dimension. Liberals surrendered themselves to wokeness. They are wallowing in it.

I suspect the left’s professional activists were as taken aback as anyone at how the middle-aged liberals running big companies and cultural institutions swooned for wokeness. Why so easy?

Up to now, feeling guilty about life’s differences, which are real and complex, has suggested some ambivalence about the causes. Not anymore. Rather than wrestle with the rampant illogic and contradictions inside claims about identity or systemic racism, liberals have given in completely to the narcotic pleasure of total guilt. Finally, they’re free.

Alas, their acts of addictive self-release, such as mindlessly canceling Atlanta, will keep disrupting everyone else’s lives. The time has come for an intervention. Boycott baseball.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/yes-boycott-baseball-11617832178?mod=opinion_featst_pos3

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Rule of law or Law of Rulers?

The double-standard is obvious to anyone who can fog a mirror- or should be. Prosecutors have enormous power, and they should be held to a very high standard: equal application of the law. mrossol

WSJ 1/28/2021

The Capitol occupation and riot of Jan. 6 will haunt American political life for years. Condemnation of the invasion of the Capitol is virtually universal, as is support for prosecuting those arrested inside.

By contrast, condemnation of the violence committed during the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests remains selective. Prosecutions for crimes against property or assaults on police are minimal. Last week, New York state Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department for violating “individuals’ basic right to peacefully protest.”

The press is now doing long takeouts on right-wing militias, white supremacists and conspiracy theorists such as QAnon. That’s fine by me. These nuts should be locked up if convicted of crimes.

Meanwhile, the continuing and quite shocking anarchist, left-wing violence in Seattle and Portland, Ore., is inside-page news, if it’s reported at all.

At the White House Tuesday, President Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked whether a federal intelligence-agency review of the Capitol occupiers would extend to the Portland rioters. She said that “all violence happening around the country will be reviewed.” Next question.

Amid 2020’s turbulence, I still think one of the most troublesome political events was that no speaker at the Democratic National Convention mentioned, much less criticized, the violence and looting in numerous U.S. cities.

It is naive and dangerous for the press and responsible political leaders—whether Joe BidenKamala Harris or Donald Trump —to think that closing their eyes to lawlessness won’t break down broader respect for the rule of law itself, assuming that still matters.

If you still need a cold-water bath to wake up to where this is going, it is this quotation in a Journal article about police and military veterans involved in the Capitol invasion. Jacob Fracker, a cop from Virginia, defended himself on Facebook —after his arrest:

“I can protest for what I believe in and still support your protest for what you believe in.” 

In other words: Both sides now believe that no matter what they do, they should be able to get away with it. You rationalized your criminality during the summer as politically justified, and so we will rationalize ours for the same reason.

 

The highbrow explanation for staying quiet about the crimes committed this summer is that the greater moral need is elevating public consciousness about systemic racism, which requires defending at all costs, including looking away from the flames.

In a system that claims to be governed by equality before the law, a bedrock measure of even-handedness should be the reality of prosecution for crimes committed. The Capitol invaders face the likelihood of felony charges, while most of those arrested this summer in hundreds of violent protests were charged with misdemeanors, such as violating curfews.

 

One purpose of prosecution is that otherwise, you “get away with it.” This isn’t just a social observation. Letting off people arrested for clear crimes has become public policy—known as “restorative justice”—in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and other progressive cities, where arguably this is what the voting public wants.

Only inside the cult of critical race theory can a public confused about the content of justice be a good thing. If prosecutors in major cities are dumbing down violent crime, what is the point of giving the system respect? One feels foolish for doing so. The police on the beat have already defaulted to that conclusion.

 

Slippery slope is a cliché, but a colleague once noted that phrases become clichés because they are true. This is a slippery slope. Instead of respect for the rule of law, the majority develops contempt for the rules. Sometime soon, we may tip toward what one might call the mob style in American politics and not just among anarchists. If justice is biased, well, you do what you gotta do. Law-abiding parents thinking they had to bribe coaches to get their children into college were a portent.

Adrian Diaz, Seattle’s new police chief, said Saturday that protesters who vandalize private property will be arrested and prosecuted. But there is no evidence that City Attorney Pete Holmes will prosecute them for much of anything.

Mr. Diaz replaced Carmen Best, who resigned when Seattle’s City Council abandoned the cops and effectively embraced the mobs. Mr. Diaz, may be the final test of whether equality before the law is officially moribund.

Mr. Trump never spoke forcefully enough against the violence below the surface on his side. At her White House news conference Monday, Ms. Psaki did say Mr. Biden condemns the Seattle violence. But sentiment isn’t enough.

At one of Mr. Biden’s executive-order signings, a reporter should ask the president whose side he’s on in Seattle—Chief Diaz, who wants the book thrown at protesters who commit crimes, or City Attorney Holmes, who just won’t do it. One might even say this is one of those presidency-defining lines in the sand.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-bidens-rule-of-law-problem-11611787715

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Wildfire Sanity. Why’d it take this long?

I guess painful loss creates an incentive, and incentives matter. mrossol.

WSJ – 9/15/2020. by Daniel Henninger

Wow. Overnight, apparently there’s nobody who does not understand that climate policy is not an answer to California’s wildfire crisis.

Even the do-gooder, nonprofit news group ProPublica plaintively asks in a headline, “They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?” The article goes on to assert: “The pattern is a form of insanity: We keep doing overzealous fire suppression across California landscapes where the fire poses little risk to people and structures. As a result, wildland fuels keep building up.”

I guess when thousands of people might be burned out of their homes, it concentrates the mind.

But then why was California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s most quoted response to the fires “Never have I felt more of a sense of obligation . . .to face climate change head on”?

Confusion abounds. One admirable New York Times article makes clear the immediate answer does not lie in climate policy: “Millions of Americans are moving into wildfire-prone areas outside of cities, and communities often resist restrictions on development. A century of federal policy to aggressively extinguish all wildfires rather than letting some burn at low levels, an approach now seen as misguided, has left forests with plenty of fuel for especially destructive blazes.”

But another Times article on the same day insists that “the mechanism driving the wildfire crisis is straightforward: Human behavior, chiefly the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.”

Such sentences are a counsel purely of despair. People who take an interest in global warming can only conclude fires are unstoppable and must be endured as a result of our accumulated planet sins.

I promise no long foray into social psychology, but take the most textbook finding of behavioral economics: “prospect theory,” or the observed tendency of human beings irrationally to overvalue a bird in the hand vs. multiple birds in the bush.

 

This discovery really tells us that people, in their mind’s eye, overweight a potential loss against a potential gain because the loss might be visible to others. Human beings are intensely social creatures even in the ways they systematically misconstrue their own interests. This is also why it’s such an enormous, heavy lift to get past virtue-signaling before we can speak rationally about key matters. We have to spend 20 minutes talking about climate change before we can spend one minute talking about policies that would actually affect wildfires.

But, as I say, their houses burning down are an incentive for people to grow up.

A bit of history: It’s been nearly 32 years since climate change became a mainstream political cause—I date the beginning to then-NASA scientist James Hansen’s public fight with the first Bush White House in 1989. In the decades that followed, as nature dictates, climate politics became institutionalized. Institutionalized means interest groups and business lobbies becoming self-sustaining based on the money that climate fears generate. A cynic might note that during this time the world’s greenhouse emissions rose more steeply than ever. Problems that become institutionalized aren’t solved. They become a multigenerational meal ticket by not being solved.

And yet 32 years have taught us a few things. It was always implausible that the world’s politicians and electorates would require their economies to forgo the advantages of fossil fuels and so it has proved. But we also have discovered a lot about the likely track of future emissions. The world seems to be adhering to RCP 4.5, the second-lowest of the CO2 scenarios sketched by scientists. And not because of penny-ante handouts to solar panels and electric cars, but because of very large social and economic megatrends: urbanization, slower population growth, a shift to service- and digitally-based economies, advancing technology and a declining energy intensity of GDP. One example: Fracking led to a multiyear decline in U.S. greenhouse gas output. Last year, before the pandemic hit, global emissions would have been flat if not for China’s.

Though this column has frequently mentioned the virtues of a carbon tax, nothing is more important for climate change than making sure this socioeconomic progress continues.

Progress in politics is harder to come by, but I can point to some. In the past 24 months, it likely has become impossible for government and private agencies to continue peddling dire climate forecasts, as they have in recent years, based on an unrealistic, worst-case RCP 8.5 emissions scenario.

A surprising thing has happened: Even greens have become embarrassed at the institutionalized dishonesty of such forecasts. (I cited a significant example in a column here in January.)

If we can start being rational about fire-suppression policy, we can start being rational about climate change too.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/finally-wildfire-sanity-11599856913?mod=opinion_featst_pos2

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Progressives to Cities: Drop Dead

“There is no reason for the president to send federal troops into a city where people are demanding change peacefully and respectfully.” Joe Biden. (Which city is he looking at?)

7/22/2020. WSJ by Daniel Henninger

On Tuesday the New York City sky was clear, blue and filled with sunshine. That’s it for this week’s good news. We turn now to Portland, Ore.; Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and all of America’s other seemingly Godforsaken cities.

President Trump watches a lot of television, so he’s seeing the same daily urban nightmares we’re seeing. It’s hard not to sympathize with his instinct to send in federal authorities to restore civil order to cities like Portland, as he proposed Wednesday with the expansion of an urban anticrime initiative called Operation Legend to Chicago and Albuquerque.

It’s equally hard to disagree that, other than protecting federal facilities, Mr. Trump should let all of these smug Portlandia American cities stew in their own juices.

I loved it when Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, said the federal presence “is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism.” Where’s Groucho Marx when we need him to make sense of nonsense?

 

Still, no matter one’s politics, it is sickening to see this happening to any U.S. city—mobs hammering and burning buildings along Portland’s streets and then a carbon-copy mob battering Seattle.

Days before, we’d watched video of two groups of police beaten bloody on the Brooklyn Bridge. Days later 15 people were wounded in a gun battle at a Chicago funeral for the victim of a drive-by gang shooting.

There is a serious matter of civil order at issue here, but if you can look beyond the mayhem, something else quite sad is happening. The irrepressible vitality of these cities—their reason for being—is disappearing, undone by pandemic, lockdowns and a new culture of permanent protest.

For years, I’ve been on the email list of Spike Wilner, the owner-founder of two jewel-like jazz clubs in New York’s Greenwich Village—Small’s and Mezzrow. Mr. Wilner’s weekly paeans to jazz and the people who play it are always a good, diverting read. This week’s email was different. Here is a chunk of it, because he’s got the city exactly right:

 

“It’s hard to describe but the feeling is gone, the vibe absent. The thing that made New York, New York is missing. What’s it like now?

“It’s very tense. People are very anxious and angry. Everything is closed or, if open, listless. There is no nightlife. If you leave your apartment after 9 p.m. it’s a complete ghost town inhabited by wraiths and zombies, dangerous people. . . . In certain parts of town you have a mob of folks partying outside, like a street fair. Other folks keep their masks tightly on and live in fear. The only place I’ve found some civility and warmth is the city playgrounds where I take my daughter each day. The children are oblivious to the pandemic and just play and climb.”

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Outside wartime, with bombardments turning blocks into rubble, I’m hard put to think of any precedent for what is happening to these U.S. cities now. The enforced pandemic closures and isolation were bad enough. But the endless protests—with their instinct to violence and atmosphere of dread—have broken the spirit of many cities.

The political story of the 2016 presidential election was Donald Trump’s identification of overlooked lower-middle-class white voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. A new political division may be taking place now in big cities—between progressive elites and working-class residents, primarily the people who own or work for the storefront businesses that are the lifeblood of these cities.

A story recently in Crain’s New York Business described how the outdoor dining tables of restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen on Manhattan’s West Side are overrun by disturbed or half-dressed beggars, whom Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has housed in nearby hotels. Said one restaurant owner: “Every bit of progress this neighborhood has made over the years is stepping backwards.”

 

During New York’s 1970s financial crisis, the Daily News ran a famous headline about then-President Gerald Ford —“Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Here’s the update—“Progressives to Cities: Drop Dead.”

People living and working in these cities, most of whom consider themselves liberal, are being sold out by progressive politicians and activists blinded by politics to the quality of daily life.

Progressive prosecutors refuse to prosecute. Cops are holding back because progressive mayors and governors don’t have their backs.

Responding to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive that no alcohol can be served without food, many bar owners say they won’t survive. The state’s Labor Department just reported an unemployment rate in the Bronx of 24.7%, Depression level.

The progressive ruin of major cities inhabited by liberals is a significant political event. Consequences that might have emerged over years have been compressed into months by the pandemic and protests.

It is doubtful many will check the box for Mr. Trump in November, but who knows? Their alternative is Joe Biden, whose contribution to the urban chaos this week was: “There is no reason for the president to send federal troops into a city where people are demanding change peacefully and respectfully.” Which city is he looking at?

Write henninger@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/progressives-to-cities-drop-dead-11595458490?mod=trending_now_pos5

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