The LEGO Batman Movie

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Back in 2014, I thought The LEGO Movie was great, and I thought LEGO Batman was one of the best things about it, so I really expected to like this more. But…

It's a lighthearted look at Batman's dysfunctional go-it-alone-ism. On one side, he refuses to accept the help of would-be allies. On the other, he avoids acknowledging the necessity of his relationship with his perennial villain adversaries, particularly the Joker.

That neurosis is tested when Joker is sent to the Phantom Zone, where a lot of bad guys get dispatched at the end of their movies: there's Sauron, Voldemort, Godzilla, Kong, even Jaws (the shark, not Richard Kiel). Joker promptly dumps his old allies (Harley Quinn, Bane, Riddler, …) and uses the new ones to unleash a fiendish plot against Gotham. It turns out that Batman needs the help of his own crew: the accidentally-acquired Robin, Alfred, and Barbara Gordon.

All this is accompanied by a lot of jokes, both inside jokes and outside jokes, and they're pretty clever, and thank goodness for subtitles, because I would have missed a lot of them otherwise. But the teamwork-is-good moral is laid on with a heavy hand, and that doesn't help the movie.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-27

Proverbs 24:17-18 discourages gloating, but not because it isn't nice:

17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
    when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
    and turn his wrath away from them.

Closely related to advice that Napoleon (never quite) offered: "Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself."

The Proverbialist adds the whimsical fickleness of a wrath-dispensing Old Testament God. You don't want to get on His Bad Side.

■ Peter Suderman at Reason notes that the New CBO Report Says the Senate GOP Health Care Would Make Obamacare's Problems Worse. What "problems"? Well, the very problems that Senator Mitch McConnell said back in January that he wanted to fix!

At the time, Republicans had not released their own health care legislation, or shared the framework for their plan. But now they have, and it is hard to square McConnell's criticisms of Obamacare with the legislation his office helped produce. According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate released this afternoon, the Senate health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), would make every single one of the issues that McConnell mentioned worse.

There might be a few Republicans out there that realize that the iron fist of Your Federal Government is absolutely lousy at imposing a grand design on provision of health care services to customers. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have much influence.

■ Nancy Maclean’s recent taxpayer-funded smear job on Nobel Prize-winning economist and scholar James Buchanan also managed to tar-and-feather GMU Econ prof Tyler Cowen. Russ Roberts lays out the details, and concludes: Nancy MacLean Owes Tyler Cowen an Apology. It's a detailed demonstration of how Maclean de-contextualized Cowan's arguments to make him appear to be "a sinister enemy of American institutions and democracy."

Of course I am not an unbiased reader of these issues. I was a fellow at the Mercatus Center for nine years. Tyler Cowen was my colleague. I’ve interviewed him many times for EconTalk and I’ve learned much from him. But I think the full quotes of Tyler Cowen make it clear that MacLean’s portrait of at least this essay of his are not accurate. I hope Nancy MacLean, who is a chaired professor of history at Duke University, will concede that her characterization of Tyler Cowen’s view of democracy is inaccurate or at least incomplete. She owes Cowen (and her readers) an apology.

Maclean's response to Roberts is appended, and it appears no apology is forthcoming.

■ At NRO, David French shares Three Thoughts on the Masterpiece Cakeshop Cert Grant. (The Supreme Count has agreed to hear the case of a Colorado baker who might be forced, against his conscience, to bake a cake for a gay wedding.) Here's thought one:

First, don’t let anyone tell you that this case is about status-based discrimination. The bakery is no more discriminating against gay people than a baker discriminates against white people if he declines to bake a Confederate flag cake. The baker bakes cakes for gay customers. He didn’t want to lend his talents to send a specific message — namely, approval of gay marriage.

Thoughts two and three are at the link. Spoiler: the whimsical Justice Kennedy might be key, as he has a First Amendment angel sitting on one shoulder, and a LGBT-friendly demon sitting on the other.

Power Line's Steven Hayward notes a new discovery out west: Seattle Discovers Gravity Is Not Socially Constructed.

Well not quite gravity, but close enough for post-modernist work. You know how liberals like to attach taxes on cigarettes so we’ll buy fewer of them, and on alcohol so we’ll drink less, etc? Funny, though, how the basic lesson of supply and demand and price sensitivity falls by the wayside when it comes to the minimum wage.

The occasion is a recent study showing that a boost in the minimum wage to $11/hour caused low-wage workers to take home $125/month less in wages.


Last Modified 2017-06-27 11:04 AM EDT

The Gods of Guilt

[Amazon Link]

Continuing on the Michael Connelly project: this book brings us up to 2013! I'm still a little concerned that I'm not reading them as fast as Connelly is writing them. Oh well.

This is a Mickey Haller (aka the "Lincoln Lawyer") novel; his half-brother Harry Bosch makes a brief cameo. Mickey is at a personal low point. His daughter despises him for defending a drunk driver that went on to kill one of her friends. His ex-wife is pretty pissed about that too. He was defeated in his bid to be elected District Attorney. So it's back to his normal work, defending generally less-then-admirable people for crimes which they often actually committed. And he skates right up to (probably over) the edge of ethics and law in doing so.

(It's a tribute to Connelly's writing ability that Mickey remains a likeable character.)

But the main story here is the defense of a "digital pimp" accused of killing one of his prostitutes. He designs and maintains their "escort service" websites, and gets a cut of each, um, service fee. I must admit this path to riches did not occur to me when I was in the website game.

Irony: the pimp hires Mickey because he came recommended by the murder victim; Mickey defended her years back (and Mickey had thought she'd left the profession). The pimp maintains his innocence, but that's not too important to Mickey; can he come up with an alternate theory that might trigger reasonable doubt in a jury?

This is Connelly at his storytelling finest. I usually read at a reasonable pace, scheduling a few dozen pages a day. I ripped through this one like a madman, eager to find out what happens next.


Last Modified 2017-06-27 11:07 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-06-26

■ I'm not sure what to make of Proverbs 24:15-16:

15 Do not lurk like a thief near the house of the righteous,
    do not plunder their dwelling place;
16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
    but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

So the bottom line is: rob the wicked, it's easier? That can't be right. Or is it?

■ We've posted a number of links with the opposite opinion, but in the interest of equal time, here's David Harsany at the Federalist: The GOP Senate Health Care Bill Isn’t Great, But It’s Better Than Obamacare.

If Republican leadership had told conservatives in 2013 that they could pass a bill that would eliminate the individual and employer mandates, phase out Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, cut an array of taxes, and lay out the conditions for full repeal later, I imagine most would have said “Sign me up!” Especially if they contemplated the only other viable option: ziltch.

I'm trying very hard to care about this, and not having very much luck. In theory, I'd get behind any bill that might move the country toward a free market in health care, but that seems to be not in the cards.

■ Prof Don Boudreaux opines on the new book purporting to study the Nobel prize winning scholar James Buchanan, and deems it Fiction

As is true of GMU Econ alum Dan Mitchell, I haven’t yet read Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.  And I’m unlikely to do so any time soon, for what I’ve read and heard about it, this book is a work of fiction masquerading as a work of non-fiction.  MacLean, I gather, tries to show that the scholarship of my late Nobel laureate colleague, Jim Buchanan, somehow fueled efforts by right-wing plutocrats to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses.

Prof Boudreaux further demolishes MacLean's argument. It's interesting.

■ At Heat Street, Emily Zanotti reports: Chicago Gay Pride Bans ‘Jewish Pride’ Flag Over ‘Safety Concerns’.

Members of a Jewish LGBT group in Chicago were said they were insulted and confused after Chicago Pride parade organizers said their “Jewish Pride” flag—a rainbow banner with the Star of David—made other marchers feel “unsafe.”

When you're on the left, some issues trump others.

@kevinNR writes on Civil Asset Forfeiture: Where Due Process Goes to Die:

Current asset-forfeiture practice, like much that is wrong with U.S. law enforcement, has its roots in the so-called war on drugs. The practice of seizing assets is ancient: It dates back at least to 17th-century maritime law, under which ships illegally transporting goods would be seized, along with the contraband inside. Asset forfeiture was used against bootleggers during Prohibition, but it really came into its own in the Reagan era, when the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 empowered federal and local law-enforcement agencies to take property from drug kingpins for their own use. The sudden, unlikely inventory of exotic cars and yachts possessed by law-enforcement agencies inspired that great cultural document of the 1980s: Miami Vice.

The practice was also the premise for a season-five story arc on Justified. But that's about the best that can be said for it. (Season Five was widely considered to be the worst season, even so it was still better than 95% of the dreck on TV.)

There's a long quote from Clarence Thomas in Kevin's article, so you'll want to read that.

Hillbilly Elegy

A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

[Amazon Link]

What's an elegy? I had to look it up to be sure: It's "a mournful, melancholy, or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead." I believe the author, J. D. Vance, is referring to the culture he grew up in. It's not dead, but he's left it behind.

The book is pretty good. As I type, it's number seven on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list, and it's been on the list for forty-seven weeks. Many of these sales, I think, have been to parents giving the book to their kiddos: "See, as bad as you think we were, things could have been lots worse. Specifically, your mother will never demand that you provide her with a clean urine sample that she can provide to her employer as if it were hers."

J. D. Vance, the author, tells the story of his life so far, concentrating on the hillbilly family and culture in which he was immersed growing up. It's brutally honest, and makes no excuses for the various dysfunctions. And there are a lot: e.g., drug abuse, as noted above. Family ties are unstable; at last count, I think J. D.'s mom was on husband number five, and those husbands were interspersed with numerous live-in boyfriends. Paradoxically, family loyalty is strong; funerals, weddings, graduations are all well-attended by even distant relations. (J. D. distinguishes between his "nuclear" family, relatively small, and his "extended" family, which due to all the serial marriage is huge, fluid, and difficult to track.) Generosity is rife, even to a fault.

The hillbilly culture is prone to irresponsibility, short-term thinking, and short-fused conflict, both inside and outside family bounds. In the modern world, this makes long-term employment in non-menial jobs a rarity, and financial stability even rarer. (The generosity mentioned above can cause expensive mistakes.) Within families, psychological warfare seems unremitting.

And more. J. D. is observant and insightful at what makes him and his culture tick. His story is one of both escape and acceptance. Thanks to a loving grandmother (who I pictured as Margo Martindale playing a less criminal, but more profane version of Justified's Mags Bennett) who provided good advice without necessarily following it herself. J. D. (eventually) gets decent grades in school, joins the Marines, attends Ohio State, gets into (to his own surprise) Yale Law School, finds his eventual wife, and… wrote this book. Each step of the way is tricky, and things could have easily gone wrong. A cameo appearance is made by Amy Chua, the famous "dragon mom", who was J. D.'s contracts prof at Yale; her mentoring helped hugely.

OK, I said: good for parents to give their kids. But also… you can't help but notice that a lot of the "hillbilly" dysfunctions are working their way into white working-class cultures in general. That's cause for even more concern.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-25

■ I think we have to classify Proverbs 24:13-14 as, at best, a strained simile:

13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good;
    honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.
14 Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:
    If you find it, there is a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

Reader assignment: compare and contrast with Proverbs 25:27 and Proverbs 25:16. Not to go against the Good Book, but it's difficult to extract consistent honey-based wisdom from Proverbs.

■ This has been stuck in my craw for a while, so it's not quite timely, but anyway. Powerline's John Hinderaker uncovers Another Left-Wing Science Scandal. It involves glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide RoundUp.

A simple Google search on glyphosate will give you a lot of scary/ominous (and a few level-headed) results. But the scary ones are really scary and seem to come from ostensibly reputable publications like Scientific American ("Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells") and National Geographic ("What Do We Really Know About Roundup Weed Killer?"). And the resulting fear, uncertainty, and doubt has made pictures like today's Getty image very easy to find.

Much of this fear springs from a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which, back in 2015, declared that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic". But, as Hinderaker quotes a Reuters report:

Previously unreported court documents reviewed by Reuters from an ongoing U.S. legal case against Monsanto show that [National Cancer Institute epidemiologist Aaron] Blair knew the unpublished research found no evidence of a link between glyphosate and cancer. In a sworn deposition given in March this year in connection with the case, Blair also said the data would have altered IARC’s analysis.

This has caused articles in left-wing publications wouldn't seem out of place in Reason or National Review. Example:

As of yet, there are no signs of IARC backing off its conclusion that RoundUp causes cancer. “Despite the existence of fresh data about glyphosate,” reported Reuters, the agency is “sticking with its findings.”

But the cat is out of the bag. During an EPA budget hearing Thursday, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to look into the withheld evidence on RoundUp. [UC Berkeley professor of genetics, genomics, and development Barry] Eisen, meanwhile, worries that IARC’s handling of this case will damage public perception of the group. “This is going to end up undermining people’s confidence in this agency’s ability to do this well,” he said. “They don’t seem interested in getting to the bottom of these things. These decisions seem based in politics.”

Readers, that's from Mother Jones, not previously thought to be a part of the toady corporate press. Wow.

This is something to keep an eye on, mainly to see if all those mainstream publications will back off their scaremongering.

■ The Supreme Court giveth, but also taketh away. Specifically (as Eric Boehm writes at Reason): Supreme Court Deals Blow to Property Rights.

When governments issue regulations that undermine the value of property, bureaucrats don't necessarily have to compensate property holders, the Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court voted 5-3, in Murr V. Wisconsin, a closely watched Fifth Amendment property rights case. The case arose from a dispute over two tiny parcels of land along the St. Croix River in western Wisconsin and morphed into a major property rights case that drew several western states into the debate before the court.

The whimsical Justice Kennedy voted with the reliably-statist Breyer/Kagan/Ginsbug/Sotomayor bloc. Jazz Shaw at Hot Air quotes Justice Thomas:

Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not.

One can only hope that President Trump will get some more chances to appoint replacements.

■ I am a mild baseball fan, and I'm in agreement with (superfan) George F. Will, who reports from Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park: Baseball’s Pace of Play Needs Some Juice.

From Little League on up, players emulate major leaguers, so Major League Baseball’s pace-of-play problem is trickling down. Four innings into a recent College World Series game here, just seven hits and three runs had consumed 96 minutes. During a coach’s visit to the pitcher’s mound, the other team’s three base-runners visited their dugout to confer with their coach. The Congress of Vienna moved more briskly.

Will suggests (among other things) limiting catchers' visits to the mound. I'd suggest an outright ban, enforced by hungry wolverines, but there are probably downsides to that I'm not considering.

■ And Mr. Ramirez notes that elephants can forget, or at least pretend to:

GOP Repeal

URLs du Jour

2017-06-24

■ Chapter 24 of Proverbs has been at best a mixed bag so far, but Proverbs 24:10-12 is just plain wonderful:

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
    how small is your strength!
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
    Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by a Union Leader LTE from Richard Whitney, who's on the shitlist of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Why? Well, there's a clue in the headline: Feeding Stoddard bears is safe and beneficial.

Most citizens are unaware that Fish and Game officers can walk on to anyone’s property, any time, without notice or a warrant. As long as they are at a distance from your house and grounds, they can film you or watch you anytime without your knowing about it. What happened to the Fourth Amendment? We no longer live in a Live Free or Die state.

Mr. Whitney challenges Fish & Game's mantra "a fed bear is a dead bear", and (although I have zero expertise) it seems he knows whereof he speaks.

■ At NR, David French reminds us: Anti-Free-Speech Radicals Never Give Up.

Lest anyone wonder about the actual definition of “hate speech,” look to campus and liberal activist groups. At Evergreen State College in Washington, a progressive professor’s statement against racial separation and division was deemed so hateful that he couldn’t safely conduct classes on campus. Influential pressure groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center label the Ku Klux Klan and other genuine racists “hate groups” but also apply the same label to mainstream Christian conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council. The SPLC has branded respected American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray a “white nationalist.” Moreover, it’s far more forgiving of leftist extremism than of moderate speech that is conservative or libertarian.

It's a good fight to make. Although nobody (yet) is literally "staggering toward slaughter" (see above), this is no time to falter.

■ At Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Jason Brennan notes a new book by historian Nancy MacLean, and deems it a "hit piece" on the late James Buchanan (the Nobel Prize-winning scholar, not the lousy President). And asks: Conspire Me This: Is Nancy MacLean a Hired Gun for the Establishment?

Brennan notes that Buchanan's crime was a clear-eyed and unsentimental look at how government actions are corrupted by interest groups to screw over everyone else. And so?

So, along comes Nancy MacLean. The government paid her over $50,000 to smear Buchanan and people like him. Rather than challenge his ideas, she accuses him of this and that. Yet, all the while, Nancy is quite literally a hired gun for the government seeking to rationalize its oppression and abuses.

The National Endowment for the Humanities should be abolished.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-23

■ Your Pun Salad Challenge du Jour is to distill useful advice or insight out of Proverbs 24:8-9:

8 Whoever plots evil
will be known as a schemer.
9 The schemes of folly are sin,
and people detest a mocker.

Things have changed since those days. Now, you can get a lucrative TV gig when your sole meager talent is mockery. Just ask Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Chelsea Handler, …

■ Thank goodness for people willing to plunge into the sausage that comes out of the legislative process. For example, Michael F. Cannon of Cato looks at the "Better Care Reconciliation Act": Senate Republicans Offer a Bill to Preserve & Expand ObamaCare. As you might expect, Cannon blows big holes in it. The details are dispiriting, here's the bottom line:

The Senate bill is not even a step in the right direction. If this is the choice facing congressional Republicans, it would be better if they did nothing. Consumers would continue to struggle under ObamaCare’s regulations, but those costs would focus attention on their source. The lines of accountability would be clearer if Republicans signed off on legislation that seems designed to rescue ObamaCare rather than repeal and replace it.

That's an excellent idea.

■ Megan McArdle is also a reliably knowledgable pundit on the topic, and her take is similar: Republicans' Health-Care Bills Boil Down to ... More Obamacare.

Well, you know, if you tilt your head to one side and squint a little, you can sort of see … Obamacare.  I called the House health care bill “Obamacare Lite,” but compared to the Senate bill, the House was offering a radical new taste sensation. The Senate bill touches very little of the underlying architecture of Obamacare; all it does is eliminate the insurance mandates, cut spending and give states somewhat more autonomy in how those dollars are spent. Repeal Obamacare, you say? They’re barely even worrying it.

It would make a lot of sense to run away from this.

■ Had enough? Sorry, one more. Peter Suderman at Reason: The Senate GOP's New Health Care Bill Is Just Obamacare, But Less Of It.

For Republicans, this might be the notable failure to think beyond the terms set by Obamacare. It means that Senate bill not only won't be Obamacare repeal, it might not even be Obamacare lite. Instead, it might be Obamacare lite—later. And later could easily turn out to be never.

Well, we'll see what happens.

■ I can only assume that there's a mole inside the New York Times editorial department, because they published an op-ed from Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Q. Nomani, displeased at the treatment they received at a recent Senate hearing. Kamala Harris Was Silenced. Then She Silenced Us. Although California's Senator Harris gets the headline, as we've mentioned before, she was not alone in her indifference:

Both of us were on edge. Earlier that day, across the Potomac River, a man had shot a Republican lawmaker and others on a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Va. And just moments before the hearing began, a man wearing a Muslim prayer cap had stood up and heckled us, putting Capitol police officers on high alert. We were girding ourselves for tough questions.

But they never came. The Democrats on the panel, including Senator Harris and three other Democratic female senators — North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill — did not ask either of us a single question.

Maggie's just not interested in learning anything that might not fit into her narrative.

■ If you can't figure out how to breach the NYT paywall, John Sexton at Hot Air excerpts their op-ed, and comments:

I can’t improve on the take by these two women who seem legitimately concerned about human rights and especially women’s rights in the face of primitive and barbaric practices. It’s a shame that their experiences, and the lessons they’ve drawn from them, are so easily dismissed by Democratic women in the Senate. But then, when the former Democratic President of the United States is telling the world that “ISIS is not Islamic,” maybe this sort of avoidance of uncomfortable truths doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

I also tweeted about this, but I don't expect a response.

@JonahNRO asks the musical question: Are Things Getting Better?

The standard brief against the president, from the Left and much of the desiccated center, is that Donald Trump is a threat to the constitutional order. I do not dismiss this view out of hand, and if President Trump were much more popular, I’d worry about it more. But to date, things aren’t working that way.

When you were expecting much, much worse, things simply being bad is sort of a relief.

■ Matthew Continetti has come to the reluctant conclusion about so-called "experts": They’re Wrong About Everything.

Events are turning me into a radical skeptic. I no longer believe what I read, unless what I am reading is an empirically verifiable account of the past. I no longer have confidence in polls, because it has become impossible to separate the signal from the noise. What I have heard from the media and political class over the last several years has been so spectacularly proven wrong by events, again and again, that I sometimes wonder why I continue to read two newspapers a day before spending time following journalists on Twitter. Habit, I guess. A sense of professional obligation, I suppose. Maybe boredom.

I'd like to hear Tom Nichols in response. Maybe Matthew needs to pick his experts better.

Fences

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Let's see… One Oscar win (Viola Davis, for Best Supporting Actress), three nominations (Best Picture; Denzel Washington for Best Actor; Best Adapted Screenplay for August Wilson). So, yes it's good. But it's way too long.

Or maybe it's just that I like Action Movie Denzel better than Serious Drama Denzel. Maybe I should bump that Magnificent Seven remake a little higher in the Netflix queue.

Anyway, Mr. Washington plays Troy Maxson, a Pittsburgh garbageman. He's had a rocky life: a talented baseball player, years before that could have brought him riches. A prison stint for homicide. But now (the movie's set sometime in the late 50's) he's settled down in a small house with wife Rose (Ms. Davis) and son Cory. There's a grown son from a previous relationship, who (initially) seems to be a deadbeat with dreams of making it as a musician. There's brother Gabe (Mykelti Williamson, Limehouse from Justified!) who's permanently deranged from dreadful war wounds. And best friend Bono, who's a calming and wise presence. Everybody's more or less saintlike, except…

Troy is a complex bundle of love, appetites, charm, frustrations, and rage. There's a lot to admire about him, but also a lot to despise. You can almost see the angels and demons perched on his shoulders. What held my interest was whether his good qualities would prevail over the bad. Unfortunately, the movie went on for a long time after this question was answered to my satisfaction. Everybody just kept talking.

August Wilson wrote the screenplay (uh, before he died) based on one of his many plays. These roots show, as most of the movie is set in the Maxson household.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-22

■ A slightly obscure Proverbs 24:7:

7 Wisdom is too high for fools;
    in the assembly at the gate they must not open their mouths.

So back in ancient Israel "assembly at the gate" was a thing, and fools were admonished to not cause problems there. What would a modern equivalent be?

@kevinNR writes About That Russian ‘Interference’.

Even if one assumes the very worst about President Trump and the people around him (as I am inclined to do), it is unlikely that evidence of collusion would be uncovered because — this is key — it almost certainly is not there. I don’t expect to see any evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians for the same reason I did not expect to see any evidence of collusion between Lois Lerner’s politicized IRS and President Obama: The invisible hand of the corruption marketplace can do its work without a lot of committee meetings. Lerner didn’t need to be told to persecute conservative political groups, and the wild boys in Moscow weren’t waiting for the keen thinking of Donald J. Trump before they got moving on whatever it is they were actually up to. Contact between the two wouldn’t serve anybody’s interests — it would have endangered both parties’ interests.

This is turning into the Democrat equivalent of the "must be a pony in here somewhere" joke.

■ Jay Nordlinger writes on China dissidents: Hard Choices, Hard Lives.

It is a vicious period for human-rights lawyers in China. The boss of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, has cracked down on them, hard. Two years ago, the Party rounded up some 250 of them, in what has become known as the “709 Crackdown.” (The arrests started on July 9.) These lawyers have been tortured, some of them into insanity.

There's a link to a longer article by Jay. It would be nice to think that this would be the kind of thing to stop President Trump from kissing up to the Chinese dictator. Not holding my breath.

Power Line blogger Scott W. Johnson writes on his legal woes, all due to his attendance at President Trump's 100-day reception for conservative media in the White House: Don’t Subpoena Me, Bro.

In a sequel to this particular magic carpet ride, however, I have now been caught up in the so-called “travel ban” litigation challenging President Trump’s executive orders “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” On June 10, I was served with a letter and draft subpoena from Tana Lin of the Keller Rohrback law firm’s Seattle office alerting me to my “document preservation obligations with respect to documents that are relevant or potentially relevant to this litigation.” Lin represents plaintiffs in Doe v. Trump, venued before Judge James Robart in the federal district court for the Western District of Washington.

It's chilling, in a legal sense. Johnson notes that it seems "like glorified harassment of a conservative writer."

■ At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Steve Kolowich starts the joke: 2 Professors Walk Into a Dumpster Fire .... The profs are Lawrence Tribe of Harvard and Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth, the University on the Other Side of the State.

"Bizarrely," wrote Mr. Nyhan last weekend, Mr. Tribe "has become an important vector of misinformation and conspiracy theories on Twitter."

Nyhan is far from a Trump apologist, but he's one of the few honest liberals; he's on the "Blogs I Read" over there on the right, but he seems to have gone over to mostly-Twitter these days. Pun Salad tweaked him years ago here and here.

■ Emily Zanotti at Heat Street reports on the dialog between California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Pun Salad Hero Eugene Volokh: Sen. Dianne Feinstein Defends Campus Fascists Instead of Free Speech. You will not be surprised who got the better of the argument.

[Senator Dianne] claimed that a university could stop a conservative speaker from taking the stage just to protect students’ “general welfare.”

“I think particularly in view of the divisions within this nation at this time which are extraordinary from my experience, I think we all have to protect the general welfare too. And I appreciate free speech but it’s another thing to agitate, it’s another thing to foment, and it’s another thing to attack.”

Constitutional scholar and law professor Eugene Volokh, was forced to explain, slowly and in terms Feinstein could understand, that it’s the government’s responsibility to protect Constitutional guarantees of free speech. A simple difference of ideas is not “fomenting” an attack—students have a choice on how to behave.

Is the 84-year-old Senator immune to education? We'll see, I guess.

■ Charles C. W. Cooke, writing at NRO notes that the FBI Report on Alexandria Quietly Debunks the Gun-Controllers’ Talking Points

Over the past two decades, Democrats have focused on three major proposals for reform. They are: 1) That all private transfers should be contingent upon a federal background check; 2) That firearms that look a certain way should be classed as “assault weapons” and prohibited from sale; and 3) That civilians should be forbidden from buying magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. None of these proposals intersect with what happened in Alexandria.

Specifically, the shooter bought his weapon in Illinois, which had (and has) some of the strictest gun-purchase restrictions in the country.

■ Jazz Shaw (a Navy vet), at Hot Air, notes the heroism of Gary Leo Rehm Jr.: Paying The Last Full Measure Of Devotion On The USS Fitzgerald

Petty Officer Rehm was someone who was up topside at one point as the emergency unfolded. He had “made it” to where there was fresh air and the chance to escape if the ship wound up foundering. He could have chosen to stay there. He could have bailed out. But he didn’t. He went back down below decks into that hellscape of flooding and blaring alarms to rescue his crewmates. He did so repeatedly, saving twenty of them. But his last trip to get the remaining men was one too many.

It's a sobering, inspiring story, and—oh yeah—something not "fit to print" at the New York Times.