National Review

The Battle for Free Speech Just Got Intense

Dear WJ Reader,

It has come to this, and so we make our case to the Supreme Court of the United States.

After seven years of arguing and sparring before the extremely liberal D.C. Court of Appeals, we’ve now reached a critical point — a point we believe is critical not only for this institution, but for the First Amendment. And, therefore, for you. Indeed, most legal experts believe that Mann v. National Review is the most important free-speech litigation now before any American court.

The ramifications are so serious we believe the case should not be before just . . . any court. The time has come for this case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. This week, National Review’s counsel filed a petition for writ of certiorari, asking the SCOTUS justices to agree to hear this case in its next term. Free speech must be protected and vindicated, as we argue in a new NR editorial:

At stake in this fight is nothing less than the integrity of the First Amendment — and, by extension, the right of all Americans to engage in robust political debate without being dragged into court by the frivolous and the hypersensitive to be bled dry of their time, effort, and money. That, after seven years, National Review has not yet been freed from this frivolous claim is bad enough. But that inconvenience, real as it is, pales in comparison to the damage that would be done to America’s broader debate were the indifference of the D.C. Court of Appeals to become a chilling national precedent.

A quick refresher is in order: Michael Mann sued National Review for libel over a 270-word blog post that was critical of his now-infamous “hockey stick” graph and its role within the global-warming debate. Naturally, National Review resolved to fight the suit, which represents one of the worst attempts to bully a press organization in recent memory. As our petition for certiorari notes, Mann’s lawsuit presumes that a “subjective, value-laden critique on a matter of public concern can be construed as a provably false fact.” Worse still, it presumes that such critiques can — and should — be litigated in the courts, rather than in the public square. Should Mann prevail, our petition concludes, “the result would be to insert courts and juries into every hot-button political and scientific dispute, to allow politicians to sue their critics at will, and ultimately to chill and deter the robust debate that is the lifeblood of our republic.”

As a Weekend Jolt reader, you know that NR is in the midst of its 2019 Spring Webathon. We have been urging your financial support based on NR’s particular aggressive efforts to combat reemergent socialism. But as you can imagine, our needs are vast, and as you also might imagine, this lawsuit, now in its seventh year, has incurred NR significant out-of-pocket costs. Yes, we have insurance that pays most of the costs of this ongoing threat, but there are also many costs not borne by our insurer. So we ask: If you are thinking about responding to our appeals to battle socialism and to support NR, consider too that your support will help NR literally defend your right to free speech.

Read the editorial and know that this right is under duress. You stand up for it when you stand up for us in this critical matter. Please donate here, knowing you have our deep appreciation.

Editorials

1. It’s no cure-all, but the skills-heavy immigration-reform plan proposed by President Trump deserves plenty of kudos. From the editorial:

Instead, the emphasis would be on a point system and higher-skilled immigrants with extraordinary talents, professional vocations, and academic accomplishments.

The plan also includes an array of welcome enforcement measures, although it’s not clear yet if it includes the most important of all, an E-Verify system for employers that would do much to turn off the jobs magnet drawing illegal immigrants here.

There is a lot to commend in the plan. It would be a significant step toward making our immigration system more rational. With so many people around the world desperate to come here, it is insane that we aren’t choosing the immigrants who best serve our interests. Under the plan, we would favor the immigrants best-suited to thriving in a 21st-century economy, and English and civics tests would select for immigrants with the best chance of easily assimilating.

2. Australia’s elections, gotten soooo wrong by pollsters, result in triumph for conservative PM Scott Morrison. The elite are aghast that the working class has spoken. We are applauding the opportunity to change the country’s political dynamics. From the editorial:

Morrison has thus earned the right to shape a political strategy in his own image. Until now he has been hemmed in by Malcolm Turnbull to his left and by Tony Abbott to his right. Turnbull fell from power largely because his quixotic policy of driving conservatives out of the main conservative party was leaving the party becalmed. As law professor James Allan noted, most of Morrison’s close allies then opted to leave politics, because they were convinced that Labor would easily defeat a post-Turnbull Liberal party. Their happy absence frees Morrison on the left — and in particular allows him to shape conservative policies on energy, taxation, immigration, and much else without having to appease the cultural gods of the media and the progressive middle class. He was given elbow room on the right because the entire Australian Left organized a massive campaign to oust Tony Abbott, an early patron of Morrison’s when he was prime minister, from an affluent middle-class constituency that had been moving leftward for some years. It succeeded and Abbott lost. But he will have gained admirers by the grace and generosity with which he accepted his inevitable fate. For the moment, he will not have direct access to government power.

If Morrison is now his own man, however, he has his work cut out. Labor’s defeat was narrow last week. The Left’s determination to press ahead — in particular with its global-warming extremism — will be undeterred by such a temporary setback. (In that respect it has a “cultish” character, as Peter Smith argues in Quadrant Online.) And Morrison’s victory this week was rooted in a kind of commonsense caution rather than any deeper analysis of why Labor’s and the wider Left’s solutions are dangerously mistaken. If Morrison is to continue to win victories and to navigate the new politics of class realignment, he will need advice, help, and support.

RELATED: John Fund provides election analysis.

3. Crazy Uncle Bernie has a proposal to defund charter schools. Because, socialist. Also because, idiocy. From our editorial:

Some background: Charter schools are a class of public schools operated with some degree of independence from the school bureaucracy and, in some cases, from the public-sector unions. They are the product of a Clinton-era compromise between conservatives pressing for genuine school choice (including vouchers to support families of modest means who, like the Clintons and the Obamas, prefer private schools for their children — but who cannot afford the tuition at Sidwell Friends) and progressives who for political and ideological reasons defend the monopolistic character of the public school systems, no matter how deeply or comprehensively those schools are failing their students, particularly the poor and the nonwhite.

The public-sector unions have soured on that compromise, and so have the most left-leaning Democrats. And so Senator Sanders, the Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate and who currently is seeking the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong, has proposed to eliminate federal funding for charter schools operated by for-profit enterprises (about 15 percent of charters) and to prohibit federal funding for all new charter schools, including nonprofits, indefinitely. Here, Senator Sanders is displaying his comradeship with another Brooklyn socialist, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination and who also has made every effort to gut certain public schools that are very popular in low-income minority communities.

We can appreciate the allure for these ascendant socialists: The public schools are, after all, one of the few critical enterprises in American life in which the state does in fact own the means of production. Those familiar with the history of this kind of system will not be surprised to learn that it works relatively well for the politically connected — and works barely at all for the least powerful.

A Delicious Stew of National Review, Made from 14 Remarkable Ingredients, that Will Satisfy Your Conservative Appetite

1. In the mounting war-talk tensions between Iran and Uncle Sam, writes Seth Frantzman, the Trump administration’s bluster seems to be checking Tehran. From his piece:

In the complex game of wits being played between the Trump administration and the Iranian regime, it appears that the U.S. temporarily checked Iran’s usual behavior. Iran prefers bluster in rhetoric with a careful strategy of extending its influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, knowing that any real battle with U.S. forces will result in Iranian defeat. Tehran can’t risk massive retaliation against its allies or the regime at home for fear that it will lead to instability and the destruction of all it has carefully built up in the last years. Iran is suffering from the effects of recent nationwide floods and from shortages due to sanctions, so it can’t afford a total war, and its allies in Iraq and Lebanon are in sensitive positions of power. In the past, Iran benefited from its opaque system of alliances and its ability to threaten western powers and attack U.S. forces with proxies, even seizing U.S. sailors, without fear of reprisal. It learned in the past that the U.S. preferred diplomacy, but the current administration appears to have put Tehran on notice.

2. Jim Talent takes on the Administration’s Iran critics and points out that there is a policy, a strategy, and success against an enemy of America. From his analysis:

Ever since the Trump administration came into office, it has been seeking to isolate and pressure Iran, for two reasons. The first and most basic reason is that the Iranian regime presents a direct threat to the safety of the United States. That’s why everyone, across the political spectrum, believes that it would be a disaster if Iran acquired nuclear weapons. People disagree about how to prevent that from happening, but they all agree it must be prevented.

Think of the current tension with North Korea. If Iran gets nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them, Iran would be North Korea on steroids.

3. Matthew Continetti zings the MSM’s “warmonger canard” on Iran and our mustachioed pal, which is simply an effort to “save President Obama’s nuclear deal by manipulating Trump into firing Bolton and extending a lifeline to the regime.” From his piece:

It’s a storyline that originated in Iran. Toward the end of April, Zarif showed up in New York and gave an interview to Reuters where he said, “I don’t think [Trump] wants war,” but “that doesn’t exclude him basically being lured into one” by Bolton. On May 14, an adviser to Rouhani tweeted at Trump, “You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead. That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache. Good luck in 2020!”

And now this regime talking point is everywhere. “It’s John Bolton’s world. Trump is just living in it,” write two former Obama officials in the Los Angeles Times. “John Bolton is Donald Trump’s war whisperer,” writes Peter Bergen on CNN.com. “Trump’s potential war with Iran is all John Bolton’s doing. But it might also be his undoing,” says the pro-Iran Trita Parsi on NBCNews.com. “Is Trump Yet Another U.S. President Provoking a War?” asks Robin Wright of The New Yorker. Guess her answer.

4. Andy McCarthy explains how that “verified application” so critical to the get-Trump FISA warrants wasn’t verified and discusses the emerging Comey/Brennan blame-gamery. From the start of his piece:

Here’s what you need to know: In rushing out their assessment of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Obama-administration officials chose not to include the risible Steele-dossier allegations that they had put in their “VERIFIED APPLICATION” for warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) because . . . wait for it . . . the allegations weren’t verified.

And now, the officials are squabbling over who pushed the dossier. Why? Because the dossier — a Clinton-campaign opposition-research screed, based on anonymous Russian sources peddling farcical hearsay, compiled by a well-paid foreign operative (former British spy Christopher Steele) — is crumbling by the day.

As I write, we mark the two-year anniversary of Robert Mueller’s appointment to take over the Russiagate probe — which is fast transforming into the Spygate probe. Special Counsel Mueller inherited the investigation seven months after the Obama Justice Department and FBI sought a FISC warrant to monitor former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page. By then, it was already acknowledged that dossier information was “salacious and unverified,” to quote congressional testimony by former FBI director James Comey.

That was problematic on a number of levels.

5. John O’Sullivan warns the Tories that Nigel Farage and the new Brexit Party pose a very existential threat. From his analysis:

Even before the election results are known on Sunday, therefore, there’s a growing sense that the Brexit party may be a permanent factor in British politics. Opinion polls on how people would vote in a general election show that the party would do less well than in European elections but still run about level with the Tories and Labour. There are deep divisions on policy apart from Brexit that have allowed critics to argue that the party would fall apart once its main goal had been achieved. But the divisions don’t seem deeper than those of other parties, and power or its prospect is itself a unifying social glue. Farage’s rallies around the country are hugely successful — packed, good-humored, more diverse socially and politically than those of the other parties, full of confidence and optimism, and notably without rancor. As with Trump’s election rallies, people seem to find them enjoyable as well as genuinely serious. A kind of Brexit party spirit already exists with many different types of people happy to be together on the bandwagon. It seems less class-bound than any of the existing parties.

And if the Brexit party wins one-third or more of Britain’s votes this week from a standing start, it will change British politics. Such a result would have the effect of a second referendum victory for Leave. It simply would not be possible for Parliament and the mainstream parties to push through a Brexit that doesn’t get the effective consent of Farage and his party. If such a thing is attempted, it will be seen to be anti-democratic and will have to be abandoned quite quickly. It would force the EU to confront the fact that there is little chance of getting a deal like May’s withdrawal deal accepted, and that even if one were to make it into the statute book, it could never be effectively implemented. In those circumstances the EU might simply throw up its collective hands and declare that the U.K. has left without a deal.

6. With May announcing she is stepping down as Britain’s PM, the field of replacements is being handicapped, the front-runner being former London mayor and U.K. foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who new NR editorial intern Sahil Handa reports may prevail in Trumpian fashion, despite the efforts of opposing Tory elites. From his piece:

Trump and Johnson are proof that voters warm to a politician who speaks his mind — even if he does not always understand what he is saying. The former’s well-documented Twitter account is a mixture of hilarious outbursts and incoherent ramblings. Politicalspeak is replaced by spontaneous thought, leaving critics and followers enraged and enthralled. Johnson’s eloquence is a match for any British swot, but he too can be made to look remarkably inept. A 2017 policy interview with the BBC saw the charming campaigner reduced to a bumbling mess. Though he is not yet active on Twitter, his penchant for politically incorrect blunders suggests the platform would suit him well.

A stream of similar gaffes have led many to write Johnson off as a harmless, innocuous fool, more concerned with publicity stunts than with the nuts and bolts of political reform. He has a reputation for being terrifically late, he once bulldozed a ten-year-old Japanese boy in a game of rugby, and he’s the only London mayor to have fallen into a river in spectacularly public fashion. Amid the Brexit campaign, Remainer Amber Rudd, the former Home secretary, offered a live television audience the following character assessment: “Boris is the life and soul of the party, but you wouldn’t want him driving you home.”

7. Michael Brendan Dougherty found a lot that appeals in the prominence-rise of Senator Josh Hawley. From his piece:

And after promising new ideas, Hawley started to unveil a legislative agenda. His willingness to attack Silicon Valley is — in my view — smart politics. Silicon Valley’s leaders have basically spent the last two years apologizing to the “arrogant aristocrats” that conservatives, some of them social-media users, have won elections and other democratic contests in the Western world. Their response has been a suite of political-management tools. The New Jersey man who planned to bomb Trump Tower openly bragged about his financial support of Hamas on Instagram. But populist conservatives are often banned from these platforms, just for the content of their views.

Hawley’s argument against Silicon Valley is rather sophisticated. He charges this industry with diverting talented and ambitious American minds into building socially useless, or destructive, products. It’s a version of the argument Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel has made, that we were promised technological marvels, and we got tweets instead. Maybe you don’t believe that it is Washington’s business to decide which businesses are socially harmful. I’m not sure I’m convinced. But Hawley can charge correctly that social-media companies were advantaged by regulations that treated them as open platforms — like the Internet itself — but given this advantage, social media has destroyed socially useful competitors such as local newspapers. And now, having destroyed these potential rivals for advertising dollars, the social-media companies are acting like publishers, which are subject to entirely different standards.

8. Big Jim Geraghty runs down the 24 Democrats who are presidential wannabes. And no, this isn’t the Kiefer Sutherland countdown. A slice from his piece:

Tim Ryan: Congressman from Ohio. The Democrats’ ambassador to blue-collar America, Ryan is closest to the demographic that most Democrats believe they must win back in order to win Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. But because Ryan echoes Trump in some ways — opposition to free trade, talk about “forgotten Americans,” opposes the Green New Deal and Medicaid for All — most Democrats won’t give him a second look.

Eric Swalwell: Congressman from California. Perhaps no candidate has done more to pitch himself to the Twitter Left, touting himself as the “guns and Russia” candidate. But despite relentless focus on these issues, he’s still extremely little-known. He’s not even listed in the 16-candidate RealClearPolitics national polling average.

Mike Gravel: Former senator from Alaska who left office almost 40 years ago. He’s 89, which makes Bernie Sanders look young. His campaign manager is an 18-year-old high-school senior. This is a good setup for a Hollywood comedy, not an actual presidential campaign.

9. I . . . can’t . . . get . . . no . . . sat-is-fac-shunn: Then maybe church is the answer. A new study, writes David French, shows religious married couples are having a wonderful time. From the end of his article:

As someone who has spent my entire life in religious communities, I’ve always rebelled against the cultural stereotypes. I’ve grown up in communities that often struggled with the exact same moral maladies that inflict the rest of the world but always included systems and networks of encouragement and support. I did not grow up around emotionally stunted prudes. I don’t live around such people now.

There are certainly people who flee religious communities for good reason. There are terrible churches, and there are abusive religious figures, including fathers, husbands, and pastors. But I fear that in our pop culture and in our academies, the anecdotes have overwhelmed the data, and therefore our cultural elites have all too often missed the real story of the meaning, satisfaction, and virtuous purpose in America’s faithful families.

10. Austria’s government is shaken, stirred, and spilled as Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announces a coalition split with the scandal-tagged Freedom Party. Summer intern Declan Leary — in his first-ever NR article — provides an in-depth analysis. From his piece:

The other parties currently holding seats in the National Council (the Greens, with ten, and NEOS, or the New Austria and Liberal Forum, with 7) are both too far to the left and too inconsequential to form a governing coalition. Kurz’s only other chance, then — and it’s a terribly slim one — is for the ÖVP to win a strict majority in the legislature, thereby eliminating the need for coalition. But the jump from 61 to 92 seats would have been a near-impossibility even before this most recent shake-up. Now, the ÖVP will consider itself lucky if it just manages to avoid massive losses.

The FPÖ, on the other hand, finds itself at its highest point of influence in decades. It has seen steady rises every cycle since winning just 18 seats in the 2002 elections, culminating in a 51-seat victory this last election — just one less than the Social Democrats. Especially now that the immensely popular Norbert Hofer, who very nearly became president in 2016, has replaced Strache as party leader, the FPÖ could very well prove a formidable force going forward. This could be bad news for Kurz, given how forcefully he has just condemned them, and how forcefully they have responded.

If Hofer’s FPÖ and Kurz’s ÖVP can mend fences, they may very well grow into one of the most effective movements on the right to govern in Europe in recent memory. Their model could in turn serve as a template for conservatives across the EU to win elections and effectively govern afterward. Kurz’s only other choice is to accept near-certain defeat and watch his country be governed by a new coalition of any of the parties to his left, a coalition almost certain to undo the significant accomplishments of the last two years. There is only one path forward for a conservative Austria, and Kurz was already on it before Saturday’s announcement. It may not be a pretty one, but it’s better than any of the alternatives.

11. Thanks to the monolith of academic leftism, Dennis Prager believes there is a good chance Junior will come out of college giving America and your beliefs the stink eye. From his column:

Those who still believe that one of the primary purposes of American public (and most private) schools is to Americanize students should know this is no longer the case. On the contrary, most American high schools now celebrate every identity except American identity (which the Left brands a euphemism for white supremacy).

Meanwhile, at its commencement next month, the City University of New York will award an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Al Sharpton.

12. Steven Waldman looks at the Founding Fathers and religion, and views Madison as having a better understanding of religious freedom than did Jefferson. From his analysis:

The Protestant Reformation did not reform much, according to Jefferson. John Calvin’s idea of predestination — that God chose some to be saved and that their actions couldn’t alter their fate — disgusted him. By detaching salvation from behavior, it undermined morality. “Calvinism has introduced into the Christian religion more new absurdities than its leader [Jesus] had purged it of old ones,” he explained. Driven by the conviction that history had obscured the moral teachings of Jesus, Jefferson created his own Bible by cutting out all the miracles, including Jesus’s divine birth and resurrection, rescuing the “diamonds” of Jesus’s true teachings from the “dung” that littered its pages.

For Jefferson, spirituality was primarily an individual quest, while Madison believed that organized religion, too, was valuable and must, for the sake of the republic, be purified and strengthened. Jefferson wanted religious freedom in order to end persecution and remove limitations on intellectual creativity; Madison believed that liberty would lead religion to flourish. Jefferson emphasized the freedom to think; Madison, in effect, the freedom to pray.

13. Al Jazeera cranks out some rank anti-Semitism, reports Marlo Safi. From her piece:

While Al Jazeera’s English-language channel is known in the U.S. for its progressive bent and seemingly fitting slogan “Experience. Empower. Engage,” the outlet’s flagship Arabic channel showed its true colors last weekend, in a since-deleted video that denied the magnitude of the Holocaust.

The 17-minute video, featuring a female narrator, was published on May 18 on Facebook with the Arabic caption, “Gas chambers killed millions of Jews, this is what the story is. What is the truth of the #Holocaust and how did the Zionists benefit from it?” The video, according to the BBC, claimed that the toll of the Holocaust had been exaggerated and “adopted by the Zionist movement,” that Israel was the biggest winner from the Holocaust, and that Jews use “financial resources and media institutions” to “put a special spotlight” on Jewish suffering.

Al Jazeera’s statement following the video’s deletion said that the post had “violated the editorial standards of the network” and that two journalists were suspended over its content. But what editorial standards, exactly, is the network referring to? It’s been churning out such anti-Semitic tropes — not to mention Islamist extremism, anti-Shia rhetoric, and Qatari propaganda — since its inception.

14. ABC airs a live staging of episodes from All in the Family and The Jeffersons. Kyle Smith finds the shows tell us a lot about then — life before PC — and now — awash in it. From his review:

ABC’s live presentation reminds us that The Jeffersons was the more interesting show, which in this iteration begins with a snappy take on the gospel-soul theme song, “Movin’ on Up,” this time sung by Jennifer Hudson. Her fellow Oscar winner Jamie Foxx turns out to be very funny mimicking Sherman Hemsley’s nervy-bantam performance as George Jefferson, a child of no means who climbs the ladder and comes to own a dry-cleaning chain and an expensive apartment on the posh Upper East Side. Wanda Sykes plays Louise, his ever-reasonable, slightly exasperated wife. Will Ferrell (stealing the show for the couple of minutes he’s there) and Kerry Washington play Tom and Helen, a deliriously well-heeled interracial couple whose composition irks George. “I’m gonna fix myself a drink — mixed,” George says, when they visit.

George is much more complicated than Archie, and much funnier. George has issues. Archie’s just a racist. Why does Foxx, like Hemsley before him, have so much humming energy? The man pulses and fumes. George has moved on up, and yet he’s still full of frustrated resentment. He’s got money, but the world around him still feels wrong. He’s earned respect, so why is everyone always insulting him?

The slight in this episode is his wife’s friendship with a maid, Diane (Jackée Harry). Consorting with domestics is to George unacceptable. “Some people got to be the Ma’ams and the rest are the mammies,” he reasons. Louise tells George he’s forgetting where he came from. “It’s not a question of where I came from; it’s a question of where I am,” he says. When he suggests hiring Diane, though, Louise objects: She’d rather hire someone else, because it would be unthinkable to hire a friend to be a maid. Diane, when she learns this, is appalled: “I’m glad everybody ain’t as friendly as you are. My kids would starve to death.” No smug sermonizing here.

Commercial Time! But It’s Worthwhile.

Brent Bozell, founder and president of Media Research Center, is a dear pal. And in case you didn’t know it, he’s a nephew of WFB. In two weeks his new book, Unmasked: Big Media’s War Against Trump, co-authored with Tim Graham, will be out in two weeks, and I want to encourage one and all to get a copy (order it “pre-publication” via Amazon at the link above).

The book’s motivation is pretty much summed up as this: There is no fairness or balance. There is only aggression.

I got a review copy a couple of weeks back and was looking through it and found its analysis to be dead on, and its marshalling of facts to be truly impressive. Here’s a passage (I hope I am not violating any embargo!) from the chapter “Defining Our Terms”:

Since they first developed a taste for their own power in opposing the Vietnam War and forcing Richard Nixon to resign in the Watergate scandal, our national news corporations have become increasingly bold in picking winners and losers, explicitly telling voters who they must elect and what “landmark” legislation they must support. When the people fail in their election choices, they are compared to toddlers throwing tantrums. To repeat Peter Jennings’ 1994 quote in its entirety, “Imagine a nation full of uncontrolled two-year-old rage. The voters had a temper tantrum last week.”

The media then try to run the country between the elections, to enlighten obstreperous citizens, the “poor, uneducated, and easy-to-command” types. If they fail in stopping a man’s cause, they cock the trigger and then fire the final bullet: character assassination. The goal is for your values to become as radioactive in the court of public opinion as the man or cause you supported.

As the media became more aggressive in their pursuit of a liberal agenda, with equal passion conservatives who saw through this plastic propaganda rushed to embrace alternative forms of media as they emerged. First it was Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio. The left’s hostility to these uppity conservatives has never waned. Then Fox News emerged on television and overnight became the number one cable news network, so Fox News became Fake News. Leftists wore T-shirts with the Fox News logo and “Faux News” painted on them, along with the slogan “We Distort, You Comply.” They also sold shirts that read “I don’t watch Fox News for the same reason I don’t eat out of the toilet.” They wanted people to cast a strange look at their relatives at the Thanksgiving table when they offered “news” that hadn’t been mentioned on ABC, CBS, NBC, or CNN. News wasn’t “reality” until the preposterously titled “mainstream media” gave it their stamp of approval.

For conservatives there is neither fairness nor balance, nor do the elites believe there should be. These journalists sit on the far left of the ideological spectrum, but they declare themselves centrists, and so virtually all things conservative are “far right.” They even delude themselves into thinking the left — they — are always right and the “Right Is Wrong,” as Arianna Huffington titled one of her silly books. The Huffington Post types dismiss conservatives as a “lunatic fringe” that threatens to “hijack” America.

Conservatives are neither to speak nor to be heard.

Somehow our First Amendment rights are getting a Miranda layering and twist. Anyway, this book will be a great read. I’m very happy for Brent and Tim. Wait until June to get a copy at your bookstore, or order a copy of Unmasked on Amazon, here.

Game of Thrones Finale Geekout

1. David French found the last season “was true to the ethos of the series.” From his take:

But the thing that truly stood out to me — and indeed, stands out across the entire sweep of the series — is the power of a single father, Ned Stark. It was his fate in the first season (and first book) that signaled that there was something different about Game of Thrones. If you’d read fantasy fiction at all, you would have thought that Thrones was Ned Stark’s story. He was the righteous man who would triumph. Instead, he was the righteous man who lost his head. Then we spent the next seven seasons trying to discover the true hero. We thought it was Robb Stark. He was betrayed. We thought it was Dany. She turned. We thought it was Jon Snow, and he was certainly a hero, but was he the hero?

2. Jonah Goldberg thought it was a bust. From his take:

Look, I share David’s love of Game of Thrones. But I thought the finale was largely a bust, for failings David mostly acknowledges in passing (but does not allow to dampen his ardor). The problems with the finale were largely the problems of this entire season. Characters that had been carefully developed over the years, were turned into almost allegorical plot-advancement devices. Subplots that had been teased for just as long were relegated to the dustbins of “Whatever happened with . . . ” “What was the point of . . . ” and “Aw, just forget it.”

3. Kevin Williamson’s take is less about thumbs up or down than it is about seeing Game of Thrones as instructive to the thoughts of political men and women considering either small mercies or utopias. From his article:

There is nothing more dangerous than “vision” in a politician, nothing as hateful to the peace and prosperity of the realm as grand ambitions. The state, as George Washington knew, is at best a necessary evil, and it tends away from necessity and toward evil the less it attends small mercies and the more it attends grandeur and dreams of perfected men in a perfected world. Men are difficult to perfect, which is why utopians have murdered so many of them. They believe they are “on the right side of History.”

That is a story that, like Game of Thrones, always ends where it began.

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. There’s a new documentary soon to be playing on HBO, The Cold Blue, about the unthinkable bravery of American airmen in the Eighth Air Force, bringing the war to Germany, few somehow avoiding the ultimate sacrifice. Kyle Smith has high praise for it (Bonus: there’s a nice potshot at George Clooney). From the review:

The new documentary The Cold Blue is thick with such details, surprising and strange and funny but above all horrifying. The level of everyday heroism on offer almost surpasses our capacity to absorb it. The variety of ways by which men could get killed was vast. What men were expected to do was merely to throw themselves in a storm of lethal fire, go to bed, rise, and repeat.

Even the genesis of The Cold Blue is hard to reconcile with today’s sensibilities. In 1943, William Wyler was already among the most distinguished Hollywood directors, having made Wuthering Heights and Mrs. Miniver. (He would go on to make The Best Years of Our Lives, Roman Holiday, and Ben-Hur and remains the only person to direct three films to win the Best Picture Oscar.) Wyler, a Jew from Alsace-Lorraine who came to America in 1921, volunteered to join the Army in 1942, spending three years as a major and joining bombing missions over Europe to film the 45-minute documentary The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress. Wyler’s extraordinary footage was damaged under difficult conditions, but a team led by director Erik Nelson pored over 15 hours of celluloid Wyler and his team of three cinematographers shot. Nelson assembled The Cold Blue by  combining restored footage shot by Wyler with new scenes and voiceover narration from veterans of those B-17 missions. The resulting document of courage is playing a single night in theaters (May 23) ahead of an HBO debut on June 6, the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

2. Armond White digs folk-rock documentary Echo in the Canyon in part because it’s about music, and not about politics! From his review.

Jakob Dylan (son of the bard) and former Capitol Records exec Andrew Slater made the film as background to their 2015 concert that celebrated the 50th anniversary of folk-rock. The genre was created by a coterie of white counterculture musicians drawn to Laurel Canyon, a hilly, wooded section of Los Angeles, where they were close to Sunset Strip clubs yet still got the feel of living in the country.

That history has sociological significance, but Jakob and Slater resist the PBS and foundation-grant tendency to make a doc that exploits politics as its substance. (It’s nearly impossible to find a recent documentary that doesn’t at some point name-check Obama as proof of the makers’ bona fides.) Echo in the Canyon pays tribute to Laurel Canyon creativity and social license from a Millennial perspective that is politically neutral. And that makes it unique.

Both Jakob and Slater cite a remarkable inspiration: Jacques Demy’s 1969 film Model Shop, an unsuspected time capsule of the folk-rock era’s look, feel, and musical vibe, and of Laurel Canyon itself. Clips from Model Shop intersperse interviews with Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, and Michelle Phillips, while Model Shop extracts complement the concert scenes performed by Jakob and such contemporaries as Beck, Cat Power, and Fiona Apple.

3. Kyle dubs Disney’s new live-action Aladdin a “textureless, humorless, anodyne cinematic gift-shop souvenir.” I don’t think he likes it. From his review:

As the street rat-turned-prince Ali, Mena Massoud is so aggressively bland he could be a missing member of NSYNC, except he can hardly sing. Naomi Scott, as Jasmine, is unspeakably beautiful, but she doesn’t make the audience love her; she just passively expects us to. Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar is too cute to be scary. All of them are out-acted by the magic rug, though none is quite as annoying as Smith, the only star in the show.

Smith does not grasp that he is not Robin Williams and we don’t want him to be Robin Williams. The original was the first movie that figured out how to build around Williams’s frenetic stand-up act, and did it ingeniously. I’m not just saying that because I love Williams’s legendary WFB spoof — “There are a few provisos, a couple of quid pro quos.” Williams was funny and freewheeling. Smith isn’t a stand-up and doesn’t earn laughs, yet the CGI wizards keep altering his look as if he were Williams doing rapid-fire impressions. Nor is he a singer. To observe what he’s doing here is a toothache. Do it a different way, Will. You’re an actor, for heaven’s sake, and a good one.

4. OK, I know you are going to want to read an Armond review titled “Will Smith Goes from Genie to Uncle Remus in Aladdin.” From the review:

Smith’s stardom makes it possible for the Millennial market to tolerate the sort of stereotyping exemplified by James Baskette’s Uncle Remus in Disney’s now verboten Song of the South (1947). That original mixture of live action and animation used Joel Chandler Harris’s Br’er Rabbit tales from the post-Reconstruction era to suit Hollywood’s enlightened taste with respect to American society’s changing race relations after World War II. For several generations, Song of the South has been suppressed by p.c. hypocrisy while less congenial black stereotypes outside the Aesop/Uncle Remus African moralizing tradition gained popularity. James Baskette’s performance of the song “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” won him an honorary Oscar decades before the Motion Picture Academy mandated its annual tokenism. His role should be understood as being in the spirit of informed social benevolence, much like Smith’s.

Eye Candy

1. Kat Timpf claws Alyssa Milano over her #SexStrike campaign. Catch the video.

2. More Kat: She goes off on those who say opposition to dull prexy wannabe Kirsten Gillibrand is somehow a form of sexism. Catch Kat’s video.

3. Rich Lowry shares 5 Reasons why Roe v. Wade is a travesty that needs to be overturned. Watch his video.

4. Charlie Cooke thinks Mitch McConnell’s proposal to raise the smoking age is a violation of federalism. He has a number of other problems too. Stick that in your pipe! Watch it here.

5. Marlo Safi won’t be dunking her doughnuts in “cold brew” java, and finds the redefinition of a rightly hot liquid is . . . Orewellian! And don’t call it “coffee.” Watch it here.

The Six.

1. In the new issue of City Journal, Heather Mac Donald spotlights the Left eating its own in woke NYC law firms that are hardly promoting minorities to partners. Why? From her piece:

Despite the numerous support programs that corporate firms offer for “diverse” attorneys, this academic skills gap is infrequently overcome. Black lawyers at big firms report fewer assignments and less responsibility for major cases. Sander calls this under-assigning “benign neglect.” While most of the attorney quotes in the New York Times story represent a serious misreading of the work environment, the statement about white males getting better opportunities and client contacts is undoubtedly true. The reason for that disparity is not invidious discrimination but partners’ contact with the result of racial preferences.

The retired big-firm partner describes the dynamics created by preferential hiring. “There’s a lot of resistance to working with black attorneys on big cases. No one says: ‘I don’t want this black associate.’ Instead, it is: ‘Jerry can work with him.’” These reluctant supervisors are not racist; they simply know from experience that a significant portion of the black associates are less competitively qualified. (Meantime, those black attorneys who are competitively qualified operate under the stigma of a quota system.) The skills gap shows up most in legal drafting, whether litigation briefs or financial instruments. Preference beneficiaries’ writing is less clearly reasoned, with more analytical gaps, according to the retired partner—who happened to be one of two attorneys in his firm who affirmatively tried to help diversity hires with their writing. A poorly drafted bond indenture can cost the issuer a few hundred million dollars if there is a dispute over the indenture’s financial covenants. Partners are therefore acutely concerned about the quality of work that their clients get.

The liberal partners, the strongest advocates for “diversity,” rarely practice what they preach, instead funneling the results of diversity hiring whenever possible to someone else’s case. In private conversations, they acknowledge the diversity sham but shrug their shoulders: “What choice do we have?”

2. The American Conservative’s John Rodden pays a fitting tribute to the late historian, John Lukacs. From the beginning of his piece:

On May 6—just two days short of V-E Day, as he surely would have noted—we lost our nation’s greatest living historian of modern Europe. The Hungarian-born John Lukacs had for some time suffered from congestive heart failure. He died in his home in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, at the age of 95.

As a young émigré scholar, Lukacs published his first book, The Great Powers and Eastern Europe (1953), at the age of 29. He quickly went on not only to write provocative studies of World War II and the Cold War, but also several biographical portraits featuring the two dominant figures of 20th-century Europe, Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler.

Drawing on his talents as a narrative historian with an almost cinematic feel for pacing and character development, Lukacs repeatedly cast this pair in starring roles as his dueling dramatis personae, the war’s titanic hero faced off against his diabolical nemesis. Lukacs’ most famous book, Five Days in London, May 1940 (1999), in which he portrayed Churchill’s heroic resolve to forswear surrender to Hitler’s Germany during the Dunkirk crisis, was brandished in September 2001 by then-mayor Rudy Giulani as a story comparable to that of his intrepid fellow New Yorkers in the aftermath of 9/11. (Five Days in London was also the chief literary source for 2017’s The Darkest Hour, in which Gary Oldman captured an Oscar for his portrayal of Churchill.)

Lukacs’ international distinction as a scholar of 20th-century Europe has been widely honored in recent weeks. Ultimately, I believe he will rank as a historian alongside such towering 19th-century European predecessors as Jakob Burckhardt and Johan Huizinga. Less well known than Lukacs the eminent historian and outspoken public intellectual, however, was Lukacs the man and teacher, and a word here about those aspects of him is apposite.

3. American Spectator publisher Melissa Mackenzie finds the #MeToo campaign to be, in a word, stupid. From her piece:

How does this bell get unrung?

The vast majority of men are decent. They don’t deserve to be tarred for being men. And women don’t deserve abuse. Women also deserve face time with their superiors. They deserve to be seen as individuals, just as men do.

The #MeToo Movement didn’t do that. The feminists leading the charge and their Hollywood helpers created insulting messages that make normal male behavior seem wrong. Boyhood is portrayed as being wrong.  The Gillette video illustrates the sweeping #MeToo generalizations, generalizations that in reverse, would be viewed as misogynist.

Group identity is antithetical to a fairness because it is bigoted. The solution to a a few men acting badly isn’t to portray every man the same way and punish every man for the actions of a minority of men.

4. Ben Weingarten, in The Federalist, looks at the Democratic Party’s anti-Semites and its leaders who have crude political reasons for not quashing them. From his piece:

The more narrow reason the Democratic Old Guard is leaning into Tlaib and Omar is that they can be used as faux martyrs to score political points: The more provocative their comments, the bigger the backlash from Republicans and thus the larger the cudgel the left can wield against Republicans for “pouncing” and “seizing” on hapless minority women.

Since the provocateurs are Democrats sitting atop the identity politics hierarchy, any attacker must be evil. While Democrats have screamed “racist” and “bigot” so frequently and in such inapt circumstances as to have depreciated such charges, their backing of Tlaib and Omar enables them to continue virtue-signaling and framing their political opponents as deplorable.

Also, by judging critics based on the identity of those being criticized, rather than on the merits of the criticism, the left seeks to render debate in America impossible. Democrats have argued that scrutiny of Muslim congresswomen represents “Islamophobic” “incitement.” This fits the European anti-free speech paradigm whereby “hate speech”—as defined by enlightened progressive leaders—somehow equates to violence, and is criminalized.

5. At Quillette, Zachary Snowdon Smith goes to the University of Melbourne’s Masters in Journalism program and discovers that something has “gone awry at Australia’s best university.” From his piece:

Another peculiar class was Terror, Law, and War, ostensibly a survey of legal and military responses to terrorism. In practice, the class focused almost exclusively on American, European, and Israeli misbehavior, and on the perceived ridiculousness of Australian anti-terrorism measures. Islamist terrorism was left unconsidered except as a hallucination of xenophobic Westerners. As if to drive the point home, one presentation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict referred to Palestinian suicide bombings as “terrorism,” in scare quotes.

We spent a period discussing a televised interview with Wassim Doureihi, spokesman for the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. During the interview, Lateline host Emma Alberici took a combative stance, demanding that Doureihi either clearly denounce the Islamic State’s tactics or admit that he condoned them. Doureihi refused to cooperate, instead pushing the conversation toward Australian mistreatment of Muslims.

The subsequent class discussion became something like a rally: we unanimously acclaimed Doureihi’s dignity and courage and took turns mocking Alberici’s hypocrisy and ill-concealed racism. The teaching assistant declared with apparent pride that she was friends with Doureihi and that he had confided in her that the interview was a trying experience, but necessary. Some of the students who rose to voice their support for Doureihi were so agitated that their voices shook. Somehow, throughout this bacchanal of self-righteousness, the fact that Hizb ut-Tahrir is an explicitly anti-democratic organization that supports the killing of apostates and whose leaders describe Jews as “the most evil creatures of Allah” escaped mention. Evidently, one can’t take sides between liberalism and totalitarianism without knowing the pigmentations of those involved.

6. In Commentary, John Podhoretz looks into the Jewish roots of . . . Marvel. From his piece:

Americans may be full of anxiety about the erosion of our national standing and power, but there is no sign of that erosion when it comes to global mass culture. A century after the man in tramp garb all but invented celebrity, the most popular cultural figures in the world today are a dozen Americans in very different sorts of garb—costumes that were first sketched half a century ago by royalty-denied, day-laboring schleps, mostly Jewish, working for slave wages in the slapdash midtown Manhattan offices of a penny-ante publishing company called Marvel Comics.

Like so much of 20th-century pop culture, the comics business was the creation and handiwork of first-generation and immigrant Jewish businessmen, writers, and artists whose outside-inside position in America gave them a peculiar and useful vantage point. As a character in Michael Chabon’s novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay notes: “They’re all Jewish, superheroes. Superman, you don’t think he’s Jewish? Coming over from the old country, changing his name like that. Clark Kent, only a Jew would pick a name like that for himself.” The Jews who made the comics told contemporary folktales about powerful people often forced by circumstance to pretend to be relatively powerless even as they contested with external evils that wished above all else to destroy them and the society around them—the very society that these stiff-necked people sitting in the culture’s cheap seats felt hard-done-by.

The creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were kids from Cleveland who sold their intellectual property for $130 to a company called DC run by two immigrants named Jack Liebowitz and Harry Donenfeld. DC’s chief rival was a company that would eventually be called Marvel; it was the property of one Martin (né  Moe) Goodman, who brought his nephew Stanley Lieber on board to help out. Lieber eventually changed his name to Stan Lee and became the public face of the business—and, in his own prose contributions to the comic books he wrote and edited, introduced the self-mocking jokey tone of the Borscht Belt to boys across America and helped form their understanding of what humor was.

Baseballery

While discovering the life and times of Elmer Valo during the composition of the prior WJ, the name of teammate Alfred Lovill “Chubby” Dean jumped off the page, “literally” as Joe Biden might say. In the late 30s, there were Dean ballplayers named Dizzy and Daffy . . . who remembers Chubby? WJ does! He’s interesting. Stay with me here.

As we know, Babe Ruth started his career as a pitcher and then found his essence as an outfielder. But who goes in the other direction? Few. Of some distinction in this rare area is Indians Hall of Famer Bob Lemon. Famously moved from the outfield to the mound, Lemon earned a career record of 207–108, leading the AL in victories three times and complete games five times. At the plate, he had a career .232 batting average, bopped 37 dingers, and even in his last season (1958) he was being used as a pinch hitter.

Early in his career, Lemon found himself playing alongside Chubby, who started his career in 1936 as a first baseman for the Philadelphia As, tossed a few games in 1937-8, and then found himself a full-time As hurler in 1939 (that year he hit .351!). Picked up off waivers in 1941 by Cleveland, Dean mixed starting and relief roles for the Indians. A lifetime .274 hitter, he also found himself pinch-hitting plenty. (In the last two games he ever played, both ends of a 1943 doubleheader against the White Sox on September 5, Chubby wasn’t tossing, but was pinch-hitting. Lemon echoed that in his last-ever official appearance on a major league ballfield, July 1, 1958, against the White Sox in Chicago, when he was called on to pinch hit for catcher Dick Brown).

And so one wonders: Did these two fielders-turned-pitchers, Lemon and Dean, ever play together in the same game, as batsmen? And the answer is: Yes. Sorta. Come September 12, 1942, in a Saturday afternoon game against the Red Sox in Cleveland, both were called on to pinch hit. In the 5th, Lemon hit for the great Jim Hegan. He whiffed. In the 9th — two on, none out, trailing by 3 — Chubby was called to pinch hit for journeyman hurler Tom Ferrick (btw: He won Game Three in relief for the Yankees in the 1950 World Series) and then, before he even got into the batter’s box, Dean himself was pinch-hit for by Buster Mills. A plate appearance for Chubby? No. But did he officially play in the game? Yes!

A Dios

There is a piece on bravery that George MacDonald Fraser, a British combat veteran of World War 2 (his war memoirs, Quartered Safe Out Here, is a powerful book) and author of the beloved “Flashman” series, authored in 1998 that NR published. It is titled, “A Remembrance of Heroes Past.” And as it will be a fitting read for this weekend, we make it available to you here.

May I encourage that this weekend you remember in prayer those who died? And why they died? And our obligations to them? As to the latter, Mr. Lincoln so rightly put it:

. . . from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

God’s Blessings on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

I can be emailed recipes, lamentations, and chidings at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

Dear Joltarians,

More on Elmer Valo and others below, in Baseballery, which, despite having nothing to do with conservatism and having started as a lark, has acquired fans who demand weekly entertainment and (gulp!) vow bodily harm if disappointed.

Speaking of fans, if you are a fan of NR, especially if you are like the kind who watches the game freebie style, I’ve got ask you, maybe just this once, to buy a seat. It can be in the bleachers if your means are slim, good seats if the means are corpulent, or maybe a luxury box if you are in the mood to splurge bigly. The “game,” if you will, is watching NR take on socialism, which is the theme of the magazine’s new special issue (much more on that below). The tickets, to seventh-inning stretch this analogy, are the Spring 2019 Webathon, during which NR is trying to raise $175,000. We’re 40 percent of the way toward our goal. That’s good, but that means there is still a long, long way to go.

The way this webathon is playing out, it looks like we’re playing small ball, which is fine. So maybe you can help by working out that $25 walk, laying down that $50 sacrifice, slapping that $100 single. But do surprise us if you can with a home run, or load the bases and smash that grand slam. (Now we have you playing instead of being spectators!) It will help us win, and when we win, you win, because . . . socialism loses.

Morning Jolt (the daddy of this Weekend edition) author Jim Geraghty cast our webathon as a plea to help NR fight the “socialist zombie resurgence,” and while that doesn’t fit into a baseball analogy, the fact is, there is a resurgence, and another fact is, NR is the best means of beating it back. Another fact: We can only do that with your selfless help.

We’re the home team. Root for us. Heck, as the song goes, root root root for us. Donate to the Spring 2019 Webathon, today. Please. And thank you. And now, let’s play ball!

Editorials

1. The markets and policy wonks are roiling about the Xi–Trump / China–U.S. trade standoff. A trade war is not in America’s interests, and a return to the table is. From the editorial:

Trump responded to the setback in talks by raising tariffs, and China reciprocated. The escalation of the trade war poses increasing risk to our economy, as stocks have been signaling. The best course for the U.S. now would be to reach a swift resolution in the current talks — getting back to the deal that seemed to be on the table before China miscalculated — and then switch to a strategy for changing Chinese behavior that does not depend so thoroughly on possibly backfiring tariffs.

The president has already hinted at what such a strategy would look like when urging companies to move their supply chains from China to other countries such as Vietnam. That suggestion was doubtless glib, overlooking the costs of re-siting and the distinctive advantages that can accompany investment in China. The intuition that trade with other countries in the region can be useful in exerting pressure on China is, however, correct. It is the same thought that underlaid the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The president took the U.S. out of it, in part because he did not focus on its utility in reshaping the economic environment in favor of our economic model rather than China’s. But the other countries involved are moving ahead with the idea, and we should find a face-saving way to revive our participation. Trump has reportedly been open to this suggestion.

2. The spate of abortion restrictions emerging from state legislatures has spurred a discussion of pro-life tactics and strategy. We counsel against counterproductive efforts. From the editorial:

Today’s Supreme Court should acknowledge that it failed to settle the national debate on abortion. It should restore the right of the American people to enact laws protecting the lives of human beings who haven’t been born. It should finally act on the conclusion of Justice Scalia’s Casey dissent: “We should get out of this area, where we have no right to be, and where we do neither ourselves nor the country any good by remaining.”

All Americans who support the Constitution and the rule of law should favor dismantling an unjust and unconstitutional legal regime that imposes a policy of abortion-on-demand in all 50 states. The ultimate goal of all pro-life Americans goes beyond overturning Roe and Casey and merely returning the question to the states, of course: We work toward a society in which every child is protected by law and welcomed in life.

Lawmakers in both Georgia and Alabama were acting upon this sound principle, but because lives are at stake, sound principles and pure motives aren’t all that matter. Pro-life Americans should think long and hard about whether their righteous impatience is leading them to make imprudent mistakes that will ultimately set back the cause of protecting life.

3. The president’s executive order drops the hammer on Red China over tech security. We say kudos. From the editorial:

The Trump administration took two major actions this week against Chinese telecom companies. First, the president signed an executive order declaring a national emergency over threats to American information technology and giving himself the power to block transactions with telecom companies that are “subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign adversary” — a phrase left undefined but which has been widely interpreted to target Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. Then, the Commerce Department added Huawei to its “entity list,” barring it from buying American technology without the approval of the U.S. government. These are bold, and justified, assertions of executive power.

Huawei and its Chinese counterpart ZTE have a large and growing worldwide presence manufacturing both consumer technology — phones, laptops — and networking equipment. Huawei is the world’s leading manufacturer of base-station equipment for 5G networks. Everything from driverless cars to consumer technology to critical infrastructure will soon depend on such technology, making telecom networks something of a strategic asset.

 “Against Socialism,” the Second of Twin Special Issues, Is Out, and Here Are Four Examples of the Brilliance It Contains

There’s not a bad piece in the lot of articles comprising the new issue of National Review, the tremendous encore to our May 20 magazine dedicated to defending markets. I encourage you to try on for size one or all of these four recommendations.

1. In “Preserved in Their Poverty,” Theodore Dalrymple explains how socialism destroys the human character. From the beginning of his piece:

True socialists do not want a better world, they want a perfect one. That is why they so often view piecemeal amelioration with disdain or even hostility, and why they are willing to sacrifice the happiness of a present generation for the imagined bliss of a generation to come in the distant future. To adapt the Fool’s words in Twelfth Night very slightly: Present mirth hath no laughter. What’s to come is very sure. In delay there lies plenty . . .

If you tell a socialist that hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in the last few decades by means the very opposite of those of socialism, he will immediately retort that many millions have also not been lifted out of poverty, as if there had ever been, or could ever be, a time in which all people benefited equally from improving economic conditions, or as if poverty were the phenomenon that needed explanation rather than wealth. Until everyone is lifted from poverty, no one should be. Oscar Wilde, in “The Soul of Man under Socialism” (1891), wrote that “it is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property.” The only real solution to the problem of poverty, according to him, was the abolition of property itself; and until it was abolished, the person who used his money in this way was the very worst and most dangerous kind of exploiter, for he disguised the fact of exploitation from the exploited by rendering the exploitation bearable.

2. In one of the issue’s big essays, Avik Roy focuses on how socialized medicine is . . . unhealthy. Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) tells all. From his analysis:

But the NHS is no paradise. Open a random edition of a British daily newspaper and you will likely encounter an article about some egregious problem that the NHS has failed to solve. For example: NHS doctors routinely conceal from patients information about innovative new therapies that the NHS doesn’t pay for, so as not to “distress, upset or confuse” them; terminally ill patients are incorrectly classified as “close to death” so as to allow the withdrawal of expensive life support; NHS expert guidelines on the management of high cholesterol were intentionally not revised after be coming out of date, putting patients at serious risk in order to save money; when the government approved an innovative new treatment for blindness in elderly patients, the NHS initially decided to reimburse for the treatment only after patients were already blind in one eye—using the logic that a person blind in one eye can still see, and is therefore not that badly off; while most NHS patients expect to wait five months for a hip operation or knee surgery, leaving them immobile and disabled in the meantime, the actual waiting times are even worse: eleven months for hips and twelve months for knees (compared with a wait of three to four weeks for such procedures in the United States); one in four Britons with cancer is denied treatment with the latest drugs proven to extend life; those who seek to pay for such drugs on their own are expelled from the NHS system for making the government look bad, and are forced to pay for the entirety of their own care for the rest of their lives; and Britons diagnosed with cancer or heart attacks are more likely to die, and more quickly, than citizens of most other developed nations—Britain’s survival rates for these diseases are, according to an OECD survey, “little better than [those] of former Communist countries.”

3. Kevin Williamson’s article, “The Ignorance that Kills,” nails central planners for never knowing enough and usually causing mayhem courtesy of their ignorance. From his piece:

The socialists of Hayek’s and Mises’s time believed that a properly empowered bureaucracy overseen by a committee of disinterested experts could comprehend the entirety of an economy—within an industry, within a country, or around the whole globe—given sufficient resources and scope of action. This was rooted in what was contemporary scientific thinking. In 1814, around the same time that Charles Fourier was writing his utopian socialist blueprint The Social Destiny of Man, Pierre-Simon Laplace published A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities, in which he posited what came to be known as “Laplace’s Demon,” which he described as “an intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed.” In Laplace’s thought experiment, “if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.” This is the idea of scientific determinism, which holds that if one could know the exact location and momentum of every atom in the universe (Werner Heisenberg had uncertainty), then the future of the universe and everything in it could, in theory, be calculated according to the laws of physics.

The socialists themselves were quite taken with the idea, hence the strange history of “Soviet cybernetics,” by means of which the central planners in Moscow imagined that they might develop a computer system so powerful that it could consider every variable in society at once and spit out scientific maxims about how many acres of potatoes to plant, and when and where to plant them. The prestige of science in the middle of the 20th century was enormous, and such dramatic scientific advances were being made so regularly—in the Soviet Union as elsewhere—that this did not seem entirely implausible.

4. Last but not least, John O’Sullivan pens a terrific essay, “Of Socialism and Human Nature,” discussing why the ideology fails, and succeeds. Here’s a slice:

Much the same is true of apparently high-minded defenses of socialism, often coming from Christian leaders, as a system that is morally superior to materialistic and selfish capitalism. In reality, the scarcity of everyday goods in a socialist economy makes people even more materialistic than they are in the logo-obsessed West. Corruption flourishes to meet de mands that socialism denies. In the later stages of Soviet Communism, a woman would sell herself for a pair of jeans; in Venezuela today, people exchange family heirlooms for a little food. But there are always hard-currency stores for socialist elites—and more than that for Politburo members. When I asked a Mont Pelerin guest in 1974 about his day job, he replied that I must understand why he could give me only the sketchiest account: “I manage the private hard-currency accounts of Soviet leaders in the West.”

Such contradictions and hypocrisies are hidden only from those who don’t wish to know about them. When their existence becomes undeniable, most comfortably off foreign admirers of socialist regimes condemn them only formally and then carry on as before. Their admiration for leftist despotisms is really a roundabout neurotic rejection of their own societies and as such not to be taken seriously. It’s the political equivalent of a society hostess’s dressing like a dominatrix: It’s intended to show contempt for dull middle-class virtues. Hard-core progressives are a different matter. They are serious revolutionaries and either invent contorted justifications for socialist scandals—virtues are transformed by theory into vices and vices into virtues—or simply deny the plain evidence of their own senses: As each socialist paradise is shown to be a kleptocratic hellhole, the caravan of Sandalistas simply moves on to the next one without apology.

Do I Hear Nine . . . Nine . . . And Do I hear Ten . . . Yes, Ten, Thank You and . . . Twelve! Yes, a Dozen NR Pieces, Sold to the Reader in Front of the Computer Screen!

1. Madeleine Kearns’ interview of sexologist Ray Blanchard about transgender orthodoxy, the cost of calling a mental illness a disorder, and much more, is a must. From the interview:

Kearns: As a lay person on this, it seems to me that the sort of vast range of treatments have now been channeled into a narrative of “affirmation” versus “conversion.” How do we make sense of this?

Blanchard: Well I think the use or the application of the words “conversion therapy” to the situation where you are just trying to see if the child can be made to accept his or her biological sex was a deliberate cynical strategy on the part of trans activists to piggyback on the success of the gay-rights movement and say, “What you’re trying to do with children, in getting them to accept their anatomical sex, is the same as what we used to do with gay people and lesbians.” It’s a deliberate attempt to try and piggyback issues that pertained to transsexualism to issues that had pertained to homosexuality, and I think the comparison is specious. It’s a deliberate attempt to confuse the two issues.

Kearns: Yes, it’s been very successful in the mainstream media and so on and so forth.

Blanchard: That’s for sure.

Kearns: Why do you think that is?

Blanchard: That’s a good question. Educated people in general have a sympathy for the downtrodden or the unfortunate that’s built into liberal-arts education in the Western world — and I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s a good thing that people should get some kind of built-in bias towards the underdog and towards the suffering. But I think in this case, that tendency and that bias on the part of liberal media has been misused by trans activists to influence treatment of cases of those who would actually do better in the long term if they could simply accept their anatomic sex, and here I’m talking about the young kids, 60 to 80 percent of whom are going to normalize in gender identity even without any clinical intervention.

2. The state abortion battles have raised, as they always do, an outcry over Roe’s possible overturning. Kevin Williamson explains what that will mean. From his piece:

If you doubt that, try this: Rather than starting with the conclusion that the right to abortion must be protected and then searching the Constitution for support, try doing the opposite: Read the document itself with a little bit of intellectual honesty and see whether the right to abortion is sitting there so plainly that the laws made by the nation’s lawmakers on behalf of the people who elected them should be nullified. There are many abortion-rights supporters who have concluded that as a strictly legal matter, Roe is somewhere between mistaken and preposterous. Almost no one honestly believes that the case was decided on the constitutional merits — and very few abortion-rights advocates honestly expect it to be endlessly affirmed on its constitutional merits, either. This fact is often implicit in their writing, and in their sputtering vitriol.

But the question of what is legal is separate from the question of what should be legal. It is very strange (if you are unused to enduring such great concentrations of stupidity) when a figure such as Representative Brian Sims angrily defends abortion on the grounds that it is legal. Of course abortion is legal. Abortion opponents intend to change the law. It was legal in the United States to own slaves, once. It was legal in Germany to work toward the complete extermination of Jews as a people. The abortions that are performed in the United States are, mostly, legal abortions. That is what abortion opponents propose to put an end to.

3. More on the abortion wars: David French says kudos to Georgia and Alabama for threatening Roe. From his piece:

Both Alabama’s abortion ban and Georgia’s heartbeat law contain a key provision — they declare the personhood of the unborn child. This is a vital measure that is aimed directly at a key portion of the Roe v. Wade opinion. Late last week, I had a lengthy phone conversation with state representative Ed Setzler, sponsor of Georgia’s legislation. He said his bill wasn’t “waving its fist at Roe; it’s answering Roe.”

Specifically, he pointed at a provision in Part IX of Justice Blackmun’s opinion, where Blackmun states that if the “personhood” of the baby is established, then the pro-abortion case “collapses.” The late Supreme Court justice was of course discussing the definition of personhood under the federal constitution. Setzler, however, notes that Supreme Court doctrine has long allowed states to expand constitutional liberties. They can establish standards of religious freedom, free speech, or due process, for example, that go beyond the First and Fifth Amendments. They cannot be more restrictive than the federal Constitution.

4. Even more: Mona Charen clears her throat to give attention to the fact that yeah, there are plenty of pro-life women, that they are ignored by Democrats, and that a Roe reckoning is coming. From her column:

Since the vote making abortion illegal in Alabama, Republican members of the Alabama senate have been targets of accusations — mostly that they are male and white. A number of outlets pointed to the fact that all 25 votes in favor of legislation were white, male Republicans. Okay. But the Alabama house has lots of Republican women. The bill’s sponsor in the lower chamber was a woman, as was the governor who signed the bill.

Those who fixate on the “problem” of whiteness may think this is some sort of knock-out blow, but the truth is that these senators are accurately representing the views of their constituents, including women. A 2018 PRRI survey found that 60 percent of Republican women agreed with the statement “Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned.” This compared with only 47 percent of Republican men. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake notes that women tend to be more religious than men, and this aligns with more conservative views on abortion.

5. At our expense, says Victor Davis Hanson, China has built up an emerging and insidious economic, military, and technological superiority. From his piece:

In military terms, China’s naval strategy is somewhat reminiscent of the ideas of Nazi admiral Karl Dönitz, the sometime genius of Hitler’s U-boat fleet, who argued with varying degrees of success that it was idiotic to repeat imperial Germany’s former failed and bankrupting efforts to match the battleships of the superior British navy ton for ton, when German submarines more cheaply and effectively could tie up the Royal Navy’s assets and deny its ships easy transit in the Atlantic.

The threat of China is not that it will in the near future match America’s eleven carrier battle groups, but that it will, in an effective cost-to-benefit manner, deploy small and more numerous submarines, frigates, and shore-to-ship batteries to create storms of sophisticated anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles that would ensure that key areas of the South China Sea were no-go zones for the fossilized multibillion-dollar flagships of the American navy.

6. Kat Timpf brings her distinct perspective to Alyssa Milano’s #SexStrike foolishness. From her article:

Although Milano may not realize it, her attempt at progressive activism was actually the opposite of feminist. Let me be clear: Calling for women to go on a “sex strike” isn’t “woke” or cool, it is sexist and harmful. Why? Because it promotes the antiquated narrative that women have sex only as a concession or gift to men, not because they enjoy sex for its own sake. This is not feminist; it’s patriarchal.

All too often, we women grow up hearing things that suggest it is somehow wrong or bad for us to want sex. I remember a friend in college telling me that her mom had taught her that “it’s the man’s job to want it; it’s the women’s job to say no.” These kind of colloquialisms can stick with a woman for a lifetime, making her feel dirty or wrong for wanting to engage in normal, healthy human behavior. We’ve certainly come a long way in terms of seeing women as being equal to men, but we are unfortunately still in a place where women who enjoy sex a lot are called “sluts,” while the same kind of desires and behaviors are not only accepted, but also celebrated, when we’re talking about men. It’s stupid, it’s unfair, and Milano is not helping.

If Milano is really as concerned about women’s “bodily autonomy” as she claims to be, then maybe she should start by not telling other women what to do with theirs. I mean, seriously — the irony is so obvious that I can’t believe that she still doesn’t see it and that she actually continues to defend her awful idea.

7. Although the victim of decades of commuter-train torture, I will nevertheless give a nod to Michael Auslin for paying tribute to the choo-choo on the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. From his piece:

It is hard to overstate the importance of the Transcontinental Railroad in American history, yet it must stand near the top of the achievements that helped define the country as one capable of the greatest of endeavors. It also was in some ways the most important event in bringing American into permanent contact with the Pacific world. Begun in the depths of the Civil War, in 1863, it was driven forward not only by the foresight of President Abraham Lincoln, but the near-messianic fervor of men like Theodore Judah, the main architect of the endeavor. The unprecedented undertaking was completed by three railroad companies in just six years, stretching 1,900 miles from Omaha Nebraska, on the Missouri River, to Oakland, Calif., on the San Francisco Bay. The Transcontinental Railroad did not, therefore, actually stretch across the entire nation, but since the eastern half of the continent had already been linked by a web of rail lines, once Omaha was connected to Chicago, the entire country was spanned by iron rails.

It was by no means assured that the path of the railroads would cover the lands they ultimately did. Many argued for lines farther south or north, and the great bulk of the Rocky Mountains had to be avoided. Meanwhile, the challenge of passing through the Sierra Nevada Mountains was considered by some to be near insurmountable, given the terrible trials of the covered wagon pioneers who had struggled up and down those granite chasms just a few decades before. It is mind-boggling to remember that the entire line was constructed without nearly any mechanical machinery: laborers used dynamite to blast through solid rock, and wielded picks, shovels, axes, and hoes to level the ground, lay the beds and ties, and connect the rails. The conditions faced by the Central Pacific’s Chinese laborers (referred to as “Celestials”) were especially hazardous, and despite the racism they faced, they also won the admiration and respect of many on the project for their skill, bravery, and ability to withstand the brutal work.

8. Kyle Smith says goodbye to Veep. From his Corner post:

The final season was somewhere in between, really funny but without the frantically increasing pace of the fifth. Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) continued to be the funniest character on the show as he stumbled close to the presidency from a Congressional seat on a platform of hating Muslims, math teachers, and vaccines. The finale comes up with plenty to do for my second-favorite character, the unflappably pleasant and self-effacing staff-nerd-turned-accidental- politician Richard Splett (wife: Annette Splett), who as played by Sam Richardson had a sunny agreeableness that made him hilariously orthogonal to the back-stabbers around him. (Idea for a spin-off sitcom: Splett. I’d watch.)

The bottomless cynicism and self-interest of the political class on the show makes it a sort of seven-year comedy dissertation on public choice theory. Nobody is out to make hope and change. All anybody wants is to secure advantage for himself, destroy the other guy and stomp on his bloody corpse. In service of its LOL-nothing-matters theme, every other minute the writers came up with a mot that would have been the proudest quip of the year coming from the average political columnist. Take this explanation of the meaninglessness of party platforms: “It’s just the party platform. It’s like a to-do list of things were not gonna do. I mean, ‘restore faith in democracy’? We couldn’t do that even if we wanted to.” The insults were explosively funny: “Right now, you’re about as toxic as a urinal cake in Chernobyl,” “He’s the Pol Pot of pie charts.” Of all the shows ending on HBO this spring, the one I’m going to miss is Veep. Also, the only one I watched was Veep.

9. Harvard lawyers / spouses Stephanie Robinson and Ronald Sullivan got the boot as deans because of lefty students protesting their decision to join accused lech Harvey Weinstein’s legal team. Jonathan Tobin asks, when did the left stop believing in the right to counsel? From his analysis:

Sullivan clearly expected students to understand that even the most repulsive defendants are entitled to legal representation. But he underestimated two factors.

First, the presumption of innocence has been undermined by the #MeToo movement that took off in the fall of 2017 — a movement catalyzed by the accusations against Weinstein. The increased attention paid to all forms of sexual harassment and assault was long overdue. But #MeToo brought with it the idea that one must simply “believe accusers.” Crowd-sourced accusations, such as those on the so-called Sh***y Media Men list, trafficked in unsubstantiated charges of misconduct and threatened to end careers with no due process whatsoever.

10. Wow. The per-family cost of the Trump tariffs is $767, says Michael Tanner, and the burden falls more heavily on the poorer voter. And, it’s going to get worse. From his column:

Trump’s insistence to the contrary notwithstanding, most of the cost of tariffs is paid by American consumers (through higher prices), not by the countries being sanctioned. For instance, it is estimated that the president’s latest round of tariffs on China will cost the American family an average of at least $767.

But that cost does not fall equally on poor and rich alike. To state the obvious, $767 means a lot more to a poor family struggling to pay its bills than it does to a wealthy one. Moreover, tariffs are more likely to fall on goods and services that the poor depend on, daily necessities of which they often lack a reserve supply.

Consider that among the companies that have announced they will be most impacted by the China tariffs are Walmart, Target, and Costco, none of which are known as the store of choice for global elites.

Studies show that the lower your income is, the harder you’ll be hit by tariffs. Tariffs imposed by Trump last year have already cost poor families 0.33 percent of after-tax income, as opposed to 0.28 percent for wealthy families, and hurt single parents even more than they hurt families. Trump’s latest tariffs will likely be even more regressive. And while each new tariff’s impact is relatively small, they cumulatively take a big hit out of poor people’s income.

11. Bill de Blasio looks in the mirror and sees the next president. Jonah Goldberg looks at Bill de Blasio and sees . . . Ferris Bueller. From his new column:

The same dynamic isn’t at work with de Blasio. He didn’t grow up poor, but he didn’t grow up rich either. Politically, he is the consummate example of someone born — or in this case elected — on home plate who can’t understand why no one in the stands is cheering his home run. When he was poised to win reelection, he was asked by New York magazine why he wasn’t more popular. He admitted that he was somewhat mystified. Given the strength of the economy and the low crime rate, “You’d assume they’d be having parades out in the streets” in his honor, he said.

They’re not, because he is a Ferris Bueller. In the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris (Matthew Broderick) jumps out in front of a parade and acts like he’s leading it. De Blasio inherited the successes of Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, two mayors who wrestled the city back from the brink of social and economic collapse.

12. (Warning to Malthusians!) Kevin Williamson makes the case for . . . being born. From his essay:

An interesting fact about our political discourse is that Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich is still a part of it, commanding some attention in spite of his having been spectacularly wrong about every single major claim of his long public career. Erhlich has been delivering homilies on overpopulation since before I was born. Population Bomb, published in 1968, garnered a great deal of attention (and brisk sales!) for its claims that overpopulation made it inevitable that hundreds of millions of people would die of starvation in the 1970s. He was awfully sure of himself, as progressives so often are — “science says!” and all that — writing: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s, hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date, nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”

What happened, of course, was the opposite. Extreme poverty worldwide has been reduced by more than half in the past few decades; to the extent that famine exists at all in the world today, it exists almost exclusively as a political phenomenon, the product of failed states rather than failed crops.

But the cult of overpopulation takes no notice of the facts. Abortion advocates such as Representative Sims habitually present their case in Malthusian terms: He demanded of the elderly woman he was bullying whether she herself would provide for the material needs of the unwanted children who were being chopped to bits and stuffed into medical-waste containers inside the Planned Parenthood facility. Never mind, for the moment, the fact that there are far more American families looking to adopt children than there are abortions performed or children eligible to be adopted — the imbalance is so great that Americans go all over the world looking for children to adopt — and just consider the implicit argument there on its own merits, which is this: “If we think that there might be some inconvenience involved in seeing to the needs of these children, then it would be better to put them to death.”

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. If you prefer your violence amazing and amusing, then Kyle Smith recommends you catch John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. From the review:

At the outset, this sequel promises to be an entire movie of chasing and fighting, an especially sanguinary response to Elmore Leonard’s famed storytelling dictum: leave the boring parts out. A team of screenwriters focuses almost exclusively on cool ways one man might murder another — with, say, a volume of Dante or a blade to the eyeball. One superbly staged fight takes place in an aisle full of display cases stocked with sharp instruments, another in a horse stable, another in the stacks of the New York Public Library’s main branch. The director, Chad Stahelski, is a former kickboxer. He wasn’t hired to faff around with character arcs.

Following a few smashing fight scenes that combine martial arts with an inventive array of props, though, the film settles down in a more conventional and not particularly compelling middle. After a visit with a Russian ballet instructor (Anjelica Huston) who is part of the hidden-in-plain-sight secret society, Wick slips away to Casablanca for some more chatter, with an old frenemy named Sophia (Halle Berry), also part of the network, and a so-so fight with uninteresting thugs who look like extras from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sophia is thrown in for no reason except to check the box marked Bada** Female Character, and the writers give us no cause to take any interest in her because they themselves aren’t interested in her.

2. Armond seconds that motion on John Wick. From the beginning of the review:

It’s a great pop-culture moment when the title character of John Wick 3: Parabellum (Keanu Reeves) is asked, “What do you need?” and straight-faced Reeves, in the lanky hair and facial scars denoting underworld conflict, responds, “Guns, lots of guns.” Finally, the “gun violence” cliché favored by hack politicians and robotic media spokespeople becomes the butt of a joke.

Reeves’s answer repeats his 1999 futurist hit The Matrix, but it also defies moralizing pundits of all persuasions who repeat that “gun violence” malapropism as if screaming for redundant gun-control laws will get to the core of an American social problem. Their hypocrisy ignores the popular, real-world use of weaponry for self-protection and Second Amendment license.

John Wick 3: Parabellum is impudent fun precisely because it exults in all-American freedom from victimhood. The title comes from the Latin Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you desire peace, prepare for war). Wick, a crime-world renegade, defends himself however possible — with guns, fisticuffs, martial arts, any object at hand used as slapstick.

3. I’m thinking Armond doesn’t hate Pasolini. If you are into film history, there’s a lot to learn in this piece. From the review:

“Is sex politics?” In the biopic Pasolini, that question is posed to legendary Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini (played by Willem Dafoe), who responds, “In life, everything is politics.” His answer brings this movie close to understanding the discord now roiling American public intercourse. For Pasolini, sex was a metaphor for spiritual dysfunction, the anguished expression of human desire and its opposite, vengeance — that is, politics.

This ambitious biopic, directed by the renegade American filmmaker Abel Ferrara (whose films Bad Lieutenant, King of New York, The Funeral, and Welcome to New York make him something like an American counterpart to Pasolini), arrives just as unfathomable gamesmanship and political theatrics have frustrated the current administration and discombobulated American society. Pasolini (now playing at Metrograph) explores a filmmaker’s personal and public responsibility in an era when political society races to the bottom. It asks, as did Pasolini himself, How low can we go?

4. From the new issue: Ross Douthat caught Meeting Gorbachev. I kinda think he likes it. From the review:

I am surprised to be writing this review, because I am surprised that the movie I’m reviewing, Meeting Gorbachev, even exists. Not because of its subject, Mikhail Gorbachev’s remarkable career and peculiar ghostly afterlife, which is certainly a worthy subject for a documentarian. But because that subject seems such an unlikely one for this particular director — who is Werner Herzog, existentialist documentarian, Teutonic pessimist, the most instantly recognizable narrative voice in nonfiction film. (André Singer is his co-director.)

Herzog has made movies over the years that touch on politics, but only glancingly and incidentally. His familiar topics are the pitiless grandeur of nature (Antarctic, Amazonian, subterranean) and the human being in isolation and extremis — whether a conquistador going mad in the jungle, a bear-whisperer meeting his demise in wild Alaska, or a POW escaping from a prison camp in Vietnam. I always imagined him regarding politics as somehow beneath his notice, its substance as mere ephemera compared with geologic time, its personalities as vain and strutting figures unaware of their animal nature, their foredoomed mortal state.

Yet here he is, sitting across from the 88-year-old Gorbachev and asking him respectful questions about glasnost, looping in Lech Walesa and George Shultz to comment on the Cold War’s final years, weaving together footage both familiar and unexpected from one of the 20th century’s most important, most unusual, most simultaneously admirable and pitiable political arcs.

The Six

1. At First Things, my dear old amigo Hadley Arkes warns against a risky way of protecting religious freedom. From his essay:

We have just come through a year with the Supreme Court in which the defenders of religious freedom racked up a string of famous victories. Famous, at least, to those who rejoiced in the outcomes and hoped that they foretold something lasting. But there are grounds to be less than cheered when we consider the principles articulated in these decisions. The most notable case here, eliciting the deepest relief and yet triggering a deep bewilderment, was the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips. Phillips’s offense was that he declined to make a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding. The laws in Colorado at the time had no recognition of that form of marriage. Nevertheless, Phillips was charged with a violation of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which barred, among other things, the withholding of services in places of “public accommodation” on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “marital status.”

To the relief of many, Phillips won his case at the Supreme Court. But then we found people surprised and shocked that the same activists, armed with authority in Colorado, had come after Jack Phillips yet again. This time his offense lay in refusing to bake a cake to celebrate transgenderism. (More recently, the authorities have made a public disavowal of their plans for pursuing Mr. Phillips. But that change seemed to spring from avoiding a needless embarrassment, rather than confessing a serious moral error.) The possibility for pursuing Phillips remained because the governing majority of the Court never challenged the ground of the law in that case. They never challenged the claim that the laws in Colorado were on unassailable ground when they condemned discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation,” when they affirmed the rightness of same-sex marriage, and then condemned as wrongdoers, deserving punishment, those who would deny the rightness of same-sex marriage. If those laws are treated as justified and rightful, Justice Kennedy suffered not a trace of doubt that they would override any religious claim based merely on “belief.” His concern—and the decisive point for the judgment—was that the commissioners in Colorado had been gratuitous in their expressions of contempt for the convictions held by Jack Phillips.

2. In the Claremont Review of Books, Christopher Caldwell looks at Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s premier and the boogie man for scads of EUphiles. This is a big and meaty and juice analysis. From the beginning of the essay:

No English-language newspaper reported on it at the time, nor has any cited it since, but the speech Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán made before an annual picnic for his party’s intellectual leaders in the late summer of 2015 is probably the most important by a Western statesman this century. As Orbán spoke in the village of Kötcse, by Lake Balaton, hundreds of thousands of migrants from across the Muslim world, most of them young men, were marching northwestwards out of Asia Minor, across the Balkan countries and into the heart of Europe.

Already, mobs of migrants had broken Hungarian police lines, trampled cropland, occupied town squares, shut down highways, stormed trains, and massed in front of Budapest’s Keleti train station. German chancellor Angela Merkel had invited those fleeing the Syrian civil war to seek refuge in Europe. They had been joined en route, in at least equal number, by migrants from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. For Hungarians, this was playing with fire. They are taught in school to think of their Magyar ancestors as having ridden off the Asian steppes to put much of Europe to the torch (Attila is a popular boys’ name), and they themselves suffered centuries of subjugation under the Ottomans, who marched north on the same roads the Syrian refugees used in the internet age. But no one was supposed to bring up the past. Merkel and her defenders had raised the subject of human rights, which until then had been sufficient to stifle misgivings. In Kötcse, Orbán informed Merkel and the world that it no longer was.

3. Retired Supreme Court coot John Paul Stevens, author of a new memoir, gets roasted by Reason’s Damon Root for his persistence in defending the dreck majority opinion in the Kelo eminent domain ruling. Yeah, it got personal. From his piece:

John Paul Stevens has had it rough. In 2005, Stevens, then an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, authored one of the worst SCOTUS decisions of the past 50 years. Kelo v. City of New London let a local government bulldoze a working-class neighborhood so that private developers would have a blank slate on which to build a luxury hotel, a conference center, and various other upscale amenities. The city’s goal was to erase that existing community via eminent domain and replace it with a new commercial district that would (maybe? hopefully?) fill the local coffers with more abundant tax dollars.

Stevens, the poor soul, has been catching hell for this lousy ruling ever since. Kelo is “the most un-American thing that can be done,” declared Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California, an outspoken liberal. Her ideological opposite, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, has said that Kelo “bastardized” the Constitution. “Government can kick the little guy out of his or her homes and sell those [homes] to a big developer,” Limbaugh objected. Hating Kelo would seem to be the one thing that can bring a divided America together.

In 2011, about a year after he retired from the Supreme Court, Stevens apparently grew tired of the controversy and decided to respond to his critics. “The Kelo majority opinion remains unpopular,” Stevens acknowledged in a speech at the University of Alabama School of Law. “Recently a commenter named Damon W. Root described the decision as the ’eminent domain debacle.” In my defense, I only described Kelo as an eminent debacle because that’s exactly what it is. The destructive ruling paved the way for atrocious real world consequences. It also further mangled the Takings Clause, which forbids the government from using eminent domain for anything less than a legitimate “public use,” a concept that has traditionally been understood to apply to things like roads or bridges—not to swanky redevelopment schemes run by for-profit enterprises. But that constitutional requirement was lost in the eyes of Stevens. “The disposition of this case,” he wrote in Kelo, “turns on the question whether the City’s development plan serves a ‘public purpose.'” Critics like Root, Stevens grumbled in 2011, “mis-described” the case.

4. Somebody send John Horvat a corn dog and a Slurpee. At The Imaginative Conservative, he makes the interesting case for the link (not sausage) between cultural decline and the lack of a true “national” food. It’s an interesting read that goes well with fried chicken or hot dogs. From the piece:

At the same time, I am thankful that American cooks are bringing this world to us. Indeed, they are even saving some of these pastas from extinction as Italian culture decays. We are fortunate that we have the opportunity to appreciate this great culture.

However, just having 500 different kinds of Italian pasta is not enough. We need to express and celebrate our culture.

So much of our cuisine involves enjoying other people’s culture. The restaurant scene is booming nationwide. Our globalized society allows us to experience an enormous and rich variety of truly delectable cuisines. However, so many have no connection with our heritage.

I acknowledge that some American places have excellent local cuisines. However, the cultures that sustain them are dying as in Italy. We are losing our connection with the roots of cuisine because our culture is shattered, fragmented, and undermined by globalization.

I long for an American cuisine that would express our regional cultures on the scale of Italian pasta. How wonderful it would be to have an amazing world of our own “pasta”—national and regional dishes with hundreds of variations—that would speak to us of ourselves and our lands. I would love to see very localized versions of these foods prepared in family homes and restaurants—to the extent that we might know where we are by tasting the different foods. We could then celebrate these great expressions of who we are.

5. From the New York Times, the obituary for George Kelling, who, with the late James Q. Wilson, authored the “broken windows” policing theory that, when implemented, lead to massive reductions in crime in American cities. R.I.P.

6. In the Palestinian Authority, the benefits package for murderers of Jews is trumping health care for the common man. At Gatestone Institute, Bassam Tawil reports on the hate-based standards. From the beginning of his piece:

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided that Palestinians will no longer be able to receive medical treatment in Israel. Last March, the PA Ministry of Health in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, announced that it was halting medical transfers to Israeli hospitals and promised to find alternatives for Palestinian patients in private and government hospitals.

The PA says that it took the decision in response to the Israeli government’s deduction of payments the Palestinian government makes to families of security prisoners and “martyrs” from tax revenues the Israelis collect on behalf of the Palestinians.

A new Israeli law allows the government to impose financial sanctions on the PA for its “Pay for Slay” policy, which encourages terrorists to carry out attacks against Israelis because they know they and their families will be receiving salaries (from the PA government) for the rest of their lives.

One report estimated that the PA spent no less than 502 million shekels [USD $141 million; 126 million euros] of its 2018 budget on salaries and payments to terrorist prisoners and released inmates. At least 230 million shekels [$65 million; 58 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorist prisoners, while another 176 million shekels [$48 million; 44 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorists after they were released from prison, the report revealed. The remaining 96 million shekels [$27 million; 24 million euros] covers additional salary payments and other benefits to the terrorists and their families.

Baseballery

This week righthander Edwin Jackson took the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays, his 14th different team, setting a new major league record.

Back in the good old days, when there were but eight teams in each league, piling up numerous multiple-franchise experiences was obviously more difficult to pull off. Still, Yours Truly is prompted to search for someone who just might have played for all teams in one league. The results so far: The great Eddie Robinson, a four-time All Star first baseman, played for seven of the AL’s eight franchises from 1942 to 1957. He never got to take the field for the Red Sox. And Robinson is still kicking: The former general manager for the Texas Rangers will celebrate his 99th birthday in December.

Of course, Bobo Newsom would seem a likely suspect for the distinction, but he never played for the White Sox or Indians (he did pitch for the Cubs, Giants, and Dodgers, so . . . nine of the original 16). Bobo did have plenty of separate tours for the same teams: Twice for the As, three times for the Browns, and five times for the Senators.

A related oddity: Journeyman outfielder Elmer Valo, whose career began in 1940 with the Philadelphia As and ended in in 1961 with the Phillies, was part of three team relocations. He was with the As in 1954 (he pinch hit — a fly out — in the last As game played at Connie Mack Stadium, a 4–2 loss to the Yankees on September 19), and in 1955 he played for the Kansas City As’ first game (a 6–2 at-home win over Detroit on April 12 in which Valo, pinch-hitting, drew a walk with the bases loaded, breaking the 2–2 deadlock and driving in the game-winning run). He was the next-to-last Dodger to bat in that team’s final game (September 24, 1957) at Ebbets Field (he grounded out in the top of the 9th in a 2–0 win over the Pirates; Gil Hodges, the last Dodger to bat, struck out swinging), and then played in 65 games for the Dodgers in 1958 in their new home town of Los Angeles. Finally, Valo got a pinch-hit single for the original Washington Senators in the teams’ penultimate home game at Griffith Stadium, a 3–2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles; the next season saw the 40-year-old — now used as a pinch hitter — sporting the franchise’s new Minnesota Twins uniform.

Released mid-season, Valo signed on with the 47–107 Phillies as a free agent, and played in a dozen of the team’s MLB record-setting 23 straight losses (the first, a July 29 loss to the Giants, and the 23rd, a 5–2 loss to the Braves on August 20). During that span Valo was 0 for 12 in pinch-hitting appearances. Yikes.

By the way, Valo was involved in another cringe-worthy streak: Just before heading off for Army service in 1943, he played in the first two games of the Philadelphia As’ then-AL-record-tying 20 consecutive losses. But let’s end this on a happy note: Elmer has the MLB record for career walks as a pinch hitter (91)!

Vitamin Sea

Join us in August on the NR 2019 Canada / New England Conservative Cruise. Visit NRCruise.com for complete details.

A Dios

Mickey the dog keeps having seizures (some, truly epic), despite all the meds, and when he starts, Mrs. Yours Truly will hold and comfort him, for long periods. Her compassion is complete and utter, almost unifying. There is a purity to it. It is hypnotic. This is recounted here not for sympathy about the pooch (a good boy, a little bit stonato, but then the brain is beaten up by the episodes), but to recognize the capacity we have for loving, even for a pup. Surely this is a reflection of, an echo of, God’s infinite and incomparable love. He comes to us in whispers (Kings: “. . . and after the fire a still small voice”) and even through a woman embracing and petting a troubled pup. All that rambled, do pet your pup if you have one. Or even a cat. And yes, Meredith, a gerbil.

God’s blessings and graces on you and yours, two- and four-legged,

Jack Fowler

Who will receive late-payment notices, motions to appear, and orders of protection at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

You Better Remember Mama (and NR Too)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

For the record: Irene Dunne was a big fan of NR. A subscriber, she was on the sponsor committee of this esteemed institution’s Tenth Anniversary celebration in 1965. Trés coolio. She was nominated for five Academy Awards, all for Best Actress (alas, she never won). Dunne’s most beloved role (to many, including this fan) was in the 1948 classic I Remember Mama, as Marta Hanson, the matriarch of a Norwegian immigrant family living in San Francisco at the turn of the century. It’s a warm and beautiful film, which TCM will be airing tomorrow (Mother’s Day) at 8 p.m. Eastern. Do watch if you have never seen it.

(Her most National Review–y film was Penny Serenade, written by the great Morrie Ryskind, who was an original editor of the magazine and helped Bill Buckley secure funding for its launch.)

’Tis a dangerous game, but if the dead could speak I would wager nonetheless that Subscriber and Supporter Irene (echoed by Editor Morrie) would be encouraging her fellow NR fans to be responsive to the current 2019 Spring Webathon, in which NR seeks to raise $175,000 (we’re not even a quarter of the way there!) to combat the growing popularity of Socialism.

I Remember . . . Ma(o)ma: Hey, you remember socialism, which is having renewed success wooing the young and witless, ignorant of the scores of millions this evil ideology has left dead (starved during the Holodomor, the Povolzhye famine, the Great Leap Forward — which claimed as many as 45 million Chinese!). And today, in plain sight, it has left once-prosperous Venezuela devastated and its people starving.

Socialism needs to be relentlessly countered. Exposed. Pummeled. Defenestrated. Starved, turnabout being fair play. We can do it. We have to do it! And by “we” I mean us and you: This requires your material help. Moolah. Boodle. Scratch. Loot. One donor to our webathon effort echoed our webathon’s primary contention: “The battle for individual freedom never ends.” We know that at NR. So do many of our readers. We are counting on those folks who recognize the seriousness of the task at hand to assist NR, so we can persist, by making a generous, selfless donation.

Mom said!

Editorials
1. Outflanked politically, presidential wannabe Cory Booker rolls out an outlandish gun-control proposal that he hopes will win the hearts and minds of Democratic primary voters. We say he’s shooting blanks. From our editorial:

Having thus far failed to break through in the Democratic primary, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is seeking to gain an edge in the contest by advancing the most extreme package of gun-control proposals to be touted by any presidential aspirant in two decades. In addition to the usual laundry list — “universal” background checks, a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” the prohibition of standard-capacity magazines — Booker hopes to establish not only a federal registry of guns, but a federal registry of gun owners, too. Under the terms of Booker’s plan, Americans wishing to exercise their Second Amendment rights would have to apply to Washington for permission — not just once, but every five years — and to inform the executive branch of each weapon they own in their home. Exit, Spartacus; enter, Big Brother. As Orwell might have said: He who controls the records, controls the people.

As anyone who has watched the Venezuelan government’s recent confiscation drive can attest, registries of guns and of the people who own them are dangerous and illiberal per se, which is one reason that they remain illegal under federal law. It should be spectacularly obvious that a registry of firearms and their owners is, in effect, a giant map that can be used by its keeper to locate who is armed and how, and, thus, to make their disarmament possible. If that sounds alarmist, look no further than to Senator Booker himself, who continues to argue that the government should use the “terror watch list” — that is, the sprawling, error-ridden list of mostly innocent people that the federal government keeps in secret — to disarm “suspicious” Americans who have been accused, charged, or convicted of no crimes whatsoever. Edmund Burke once wrote that Americans were unique among the people of the world in that they did not wait for an “actual grievance” but instead “augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.” Once again, that tainted breeze has arrived.

2. Jerry Nadler, the Florenz Ziegfeld of the Theater of the Political Absurd, has declared a constitutional crisis. We believe something, or someone, should be declared. From our editorial:

Nothing in the regulations required Attorney General Bill Barr to release any of the report, let alone release it in its entirety. He did anyway with minimal, entirely defensible redactions that the DOJ worked through with Mueller. He then testified for hours in public before a Senate committee about his handling of the report, while declining to appear for more voluntary testimony before a House committee the next day over a process issue (the committee wanted a counsel to question Barr; the attorney general objected, likely because he didn’t like the optics).

Collectively, then, and often working at cross-purposes, the Trump administration has done Congress an enormous favor the last two years. It appointed a special counsel; not only let him finish his work, but cooperated with him (despite Trump’s ineffectual scheming against the investigation); didn’t object to his writing a narrative for public and especially congressional consumption; and with only a brief delay handed the full report, signed, sealed, and delivered, over to Congress to potentially to use as a roadmap for impeachment. (And, oh yeah, the report has been published as a book and is being sold on Amazon.) Most of Jerry Nadler’s work has been done for him.

For the New York Democrat to turn around and have his committee vote to hold Bill Barr in contempt is truly bizarre. Barr’s alleged offense is the redactions. But he has made an almost entirely un-redacted report available to top Democrats to review. They have refused to do so, boycotting the further information that they say they so desperately need.

A Dozen Roses of Wisdom (Another Dumb Flower Analogy) from the Bouquet of Conservatism (Ouch!) We Have for Moms and All Others
1. Andy McCarthy nails it: The Left and its bureaucratic allies are continuing to elevate this smear as an acceptable practice of “justice,” presumption of innocence be damned. From the beginning of his piece:

In gross violation of Justice Department policy and constitutional norms, a prosecutor neither charges nor recommends charges against a suspect, but proceeds to smear him by publishing 200 pages of obstruction allegations. Asked to explain why he did it, the prosecutor says he was just trying to protect the suspect from being smeared.

This is the upshot of the Mueller report’s Volume II. It might be thought campy if the suspect weren’t the president of the United States and the stakes weren’t so high.

The smear-but-don’t-charge outcome is the result of two wrongs: (1) Mueller’s dizzying application of Justice Department guidance, written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), holding that a president may not be indicted while he is in office; and (2) the media-Democrat complex’s demand that only laws they like — those that serve their anti-Trump political purposes — be enforced.

2. More Andy, this time on the FBI’s use of false pretenses to launch the entire collusion shebang. From his analysis:

As I have previously detailed, after the hacked DNC emails were published, Steele (whose sources had not foretold the hacking by Russia or publication by WikiLeaks) simply folded this event into his preexisting narrative of a Trump–Russia conspiracy.

Prior to early July, when the FBI began receiving Steele-dossier reports (which the State Department would also soon receive), the intelligence community — particularly the CIA, under the direction of its hyperpolitical director, John Brennan — had been theorizing that the Trump campaign was in a corrupt relationship with Russia. Thanks to the Steele dossier, even before Downer reported his conversation with Papadopoulos to the State Department, the Obama administration had already been operating on the theory that Russia was planning to assist the Trump campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Clinton. They had already conveniently fit the hacked DNC emails into this theory.

Downer’s report enabled the Obama administration to cover an investigative theory it was already pursuing with a report from a friendly foreign government, as if that report had triggered the Trump-Russia investigation. In order to pull that off, however, it was necessary to distort what Papadopoulos had told Downer.

3. Department of Piehole-Shutting: Rich Lowry claims that we have heard enough already from Robert Mueller, who continues to trash the doctrine of innocence until proven guilty. From his column:

On obstruction, Mueller reached no such decision, and he didn’t write a confidential report, either — his report was clearly meant for public consumption. Besides that, he’s a stickler for the rules.

“Mueller’s action,” Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law School writes at the website Lawfare, “seems inconsistent with what the regulations tried to accomplish, which was to prevent extra-prosecutorial editorializing.”

Worse, as Trump’s special counsel Emmet Flood set out in an excoriating letter, by stipulating that the evidence prevented him “from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred,” Mueller stood the presumption of innocence on its head.

By Mueller’s standard, the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove guilt — the target has to prove innocence. And if the target doesn’t, he will be disparaged in a long-form quasi-indictment spelling out why he’s not exonerated.

If anyone not named Donald J. Trump were subjected to this new prosecutorial standard, it would occasion widespread comment and — one hopes — consternation.

4. David French says that the AG is being persecuted by Democrats. From his piece:

This isn’t a “constitutional crisis.” It’s standard legal sparring that is amply grounded in past precedent and past practice. It would be unlawful for the attorney general to provide Congress with protected grand-jury information. It would be similarly unlawful for the attorney general to provide information subject to validly asserted claims of executive privilege. It would be reckless and irresponsible for Congress to continue to demand wide dissemination of at least some of the classified information in the report and the supporting evidence and at least some of the information and supporting evidence that bears directly on ongoing investigations.

So, if we’re witnessing standard negotiations between Congress and the Department of Justice and standard, competing legal assertions, then why the overheated rhetoric? Why the claims that the “crisis is here.” Aside from the fact that we live in an overheated age, we cannot separate the current proceedings from the lingering fury generated by Barr’s initial rollout of the Mueller report. Democrats are livid that he created his own summary of the report rather than reproducing some version of Mueller’s summaries, and they’re livid that he and Rod Rosenstein issued their own legal opinion that Trump did not obstruct justice.

5. Jim Geraghty fingers five fruitcake pieces of legislation your Friendly Neighborhood Socialist Congressman has drafted to plunder the treasury and make a far less perfect union. From his analysis:

Finally, over in the House, Democrat Frederica Wilson of Florida introduced the Jobs Now Act of 2019, which is interested in creating only one kind of employment: government jobs. Her bill would authorize $1 billion in new spending to be directed to “local government or community-based organizations” to “retain, employ, or train employees providing a public service for a unit of general local government.” Why require localities to come up with the funding for their own government programs and employees, when Washington can send a check? The text of the legislation specifically states that more than half of the grants must be used to “retain employees who are providing a public service and who would otherwise be laid off as a consequence of budget cuts.” The grants would be a get-out-of-consequences-free card for local lawmakers who have chosen to spend more than their tax revenues can cover and more than their local taxpayers are willing to pay.

6. Kevin Williamson gives a refresher course on federalism. From his piece:

The president represents, in theory, some 327 million Americans. Because there is so much lumped into the presidency, it is very difficult to keep presidents democratically accountable. Consider that, for the moment, purely as a technical issue. A member of the House of Representatives typically represents about 747,000 people, not 327 million. (Because of vagaries in the census and single-member states, there is some variation at the extremes: Montana has nearly 1 million in its lone House district, whereas Rhode Island has about 528,000 in its.) If you are one of 747,000, you have a better chance of making your voice heard than if you are one of 327 million. Even better, a member of the New York state legislature represents about 128,000. A member of the Nebraska state legislature represents about 38,000. A representative can get to know and understand a community of 38,000. He is not alien from them, a remote power in a remote place — he is their neighbor.

If the real power in this country rested where it should — with the state legislatures — the political scene would be radically different. A world in which most of the laws that affect your life, most of the taxes you pay, and most of your interactions with the state are overseen by a representative personally known to you is very different from the scene in Washington, that Roman triumph as imagined by P. T. Barnum. If the state legislatures had the sort of power over the Senate and the presidency that they were intended to, ordinary citizens would in practice have more access to political influence rather than less, even though it would be mediated by state-level officials. The direct election of senators creates the illusion of powerful participation, as would the direct election of presidents (and as does the quasi-direct presidential elections we have today). But in important ways, those elections leave people farther from the relevant centers of power — literally. More than half of all Americans have visited only ten states or fewer, and many of them will never set foot in Washington, D.C.

7. More KDW: He lowers the boom on one of the more colossal political jerks of our time: Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims, a terminology junkie. From the article:

How to explain Brian Sims? None of the three most likely possibilities — that he is not very bright, that he is insane, that he is a fanatic — speaks very well of the Pennsylvania state representative, who for some reason decided to accost an elderly woman praying silently in front of an abortion facility, to film the attack, and then to boast about it on Twitter.

It is tempting to lean toward stupidity as an explanation for Sims’s shenanigans, if only because that is the most statistically likely scenario when the subject in question is a member of the Pennsylvania state legislature, as witless a collection of moldering goofs and ravening mediocrities as you will find in any of our state capitals.

But let’s not give short shrift to the insanity option. Sims — who holds elected office and previously worked for the Philadelphia Bar Association — offered a cash bounty to his social-media followers for identifying information with which to “dox” three teenage girls who were praying outside the same clinic. Mentally normal adult men do not go around photographing teenaged girls and then trolling for their names on social media in order to facilitate harassing them. Generally speaking, adult men who go around taking photographs of teenaged girls are considered creeps; Representative Sims is a homosexual, which may spare him the charge of lechery in this matter, but his behavior is still pretty weird.

RELATED: Forthcoming NRI Buckley Journalism fellow John Hirschauer describes how the big leftist creep portrayed himself as courageous while bullying the little lady fingering her rosaries. Read his account here.

8. The Left is ramping up its anti-Semitism, cloaked as support for Palestinians. Victor Davis Hanson calls out the progressives. From his piece:

The examples of progressive hatred of Jews could be multiplied endlessly, but the key question is: Why in this generation and why on the Democratic left?

There, are of course, always white nationalists who voice reactionary anti-Semitism, but most are pathetic fringe groups easily identified and ostracized. For all the invective lodged against Donald Trump, no president has proved more sensitive to Jewish issues and more committed to the survival of Israel. The anti-Semitic extreme alt-right has received no sanction from the Republican party, and it remains a tiny, mostly irrelevant group of losers. In contrast, progressive Jew-hatred is expressed at the nation’s premier institutions, such as UC Berkeley, the New York Times, and the U.S. Congress. Again, why?

The far Left is intertwined with Islamist activists. Both share a hatred of the U.S. and see the Middle East as a postcolonial victim of Western imperialism. Students and urban youth bond with radical Islamists in their shared dislike of the Western countries (such as Israel) in general and the United States in particular.

RELATED: Florida senator Rick Scott zings his intolerant congressional colleagues, who are strangely tolerant when it comes to anti-Semitic Members. Read his piece.

9. David French defends Israel’s right to counterattack Hamas, despite its nefarious tactics, which include putting the local population at risk. From his analysis:

Second, a terrorist army cannot lawfully protect itself from destruction by blending in with civilian populations, fighting from civilian structures, or using civilians as human shields. As the Department of Defense’s Law of War Manual states, the principle of distinction “enjoins the party controlling the population to use its best efforts to distinguish or separate its military forces and war-making activities from members of the civilian population to the maximum extent feasible so that civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects incidental to attacks on military objectives will be minimized as much as possible.”

This means physically separating military and civilian facilities. This means using uniforms, markings, and other measures to make sure that military forces and civilians are “visually distinguished from one another.” And this means refraining from using “protected persons and objects” — civilians or civilian structures — “to shield military objectives.”

Hamas violates every single one of these commands. It uses civilian facilities for military purposes, it tries to blend in with the civilian population, and it uses civilians as human shields. This is crucial — under the law of war none of these things in any way limit Israel’s right to defend itself. So long as Israel otherwise complies with the laws of war, the resulting civilian casualties and damages to civilian structures are Hamas’s moral and legal responsibility. It’s that simple.

10. The once-never-uttered “F-Bomb” has become ubiquitous. Heather Wilhelm asks, what the . . . heck?! From her piece:

In many ways, words can shape our very perception of reality. Edward Sapir, who helped develop the hypothesis of linguistic relativity in the 1930s, put it this way: “Human beings . . . are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. . . . The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group.”

It’s a radical idea, but what if it contains a grain of truth? What does our society’s thunderstorm of public F-bombs do to our greater sensibility, cultural or otherwise? When the worst swear word becomes commonplace, what do we use to describe the truly horrific? What happened to mystery and subtlety? For that matter, what happened to the fashion sense of people who regularly sport shirts that evoke memories of the early routines of Andrew Dice Clay?

It is no surprise, I suppose, that the F-bomb has become ubiquitous as our culture’s exhibitionism has gotten out of control. But here we can draw at least one consolation: Back at the Friars Club in the Sixties, the F-word was shocking and rare, at least when uttered in public. Today, it’s emblazoned in insouciant acronyms on the packaging of mass-produced Burger King meals.

11. A brilliant explanation (IMHO) of the driving forces that have created our current political alignments. Michael Brendan Dougherty sees friendship, or at least alliances, coming courtesy of the enemy of enemies. From his piece:

James Burnham, one of the great pillars of National Review’s early years, theorized that liberty emerges in a society only when there is a conflict within the elite. In his book The Machiavellians, he wrote:

No theory, no promises, no morality, no amount of good will, no religion will restrain power. Neither priests nor soldiers, neither labor leader nor businessmen, neither bureaucrats nor feudal lords will differ from each other in the basic use which they will seek to make of power. . . . Only power restrains power. . . . When all opposition is destroyed, there is no longer any limit to what power may do. A despotism, any kind of despotism, can be benevolent only by accident.

Heading into the next election, one of Republicans’ great strengths is that their voters seem to have imbibed Burnham’s dark vision of how power and liberty are related. These voters are willing to produce a united Republican government — across all three formal branches — because they sense that Democratic control will create a consensus between the state and our modern clerical class. One could say that voters choose Republicans because they are for the separation of church and state.

This modern clerical class is not actually composed of the ordained ministers of what’s left of the Christian church. It is made up of corporate boards, much of the media, and academia. It has its communions in ideas summits, and its occasional witch-burnings in social media. There is in the written Constitution a formal prohibition against the establishment of traditional religions. But this new clerical class understands that unprovable assertions about human nature and human society can be established, so long as they trade under the name of equality.

12. “Race norming” protocols are being used to populate magnet schools in suburban Maryland, writes Mike Gonzalez, and Asian-Americans are now getting noticeably short-changed for admissions. From the beginning of his piece:

Is a public school system in a leafy county straddling the Capital Beltway discriminating against Asian Americans? The feds next door are investigating in a case with national implications, and with good reason: The type of racial balancing that Montgomery County Public Schools is using may well be illegal.

No one questions that the changes MCPS put into effect in 2016 have led to a sharp decline in Asian-American admissions to a middle-school magnet program. In 2016–2017 the drop was 23 percent; the following year it was 20 percent. The numbers for whites, Hispanics, and blacks went up. That in itself should satisfy those who always insist that policies that have a disparate impact on members of an identity group are suspect per se, and need to be reassessed.

And these students and their parents, with the help of the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, have something more substantial than mere impact on their side. Though the district insists its new approach to admissions is color-blind, there is considerable evidence that the effort was in reality an attempt at “race norming,” which is unfair and illegal.

BONUS: Hollywood kowtows to Red China, which in all its nefariousness seems to never be cast in a bad-guy role in fare on the big and little (except for Bosch) screens. This is a terrific analysis by Michael Auslin. From the piece:

Even today, films and novels about evil Nazis, menacing Soviets, and perfidious Japanese are staples of popular culture. Think of The Man in the High Tower or Red Sparrow, neither of which plumb particularly deeply into the psyche of totalitarianism or the dark world of espionage. Yet in the 75 years since Adolf Hitler took the coward’s way out in his dank Berlin bunker, Nazis have never left our consciousness. And while sympathy for elements of the Soviet Union always tinged the perception of America’s elite, the Commies continue to receive a well-deserved bashing.

Beijing, however, has used its growing economic power to shape global public opinion through sophisticated propaganda operations and the blunt use of financial clout. Much of the work of scrubbing anti-Chinese images is done through the coordinating activities of the United Front Work Department. The department, which originated in the early 1940s and was revived in the late 1970s by Deng Xiaoping, reports directly to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and is charged with building support for the CCP and by extension for China as a whole. Overseas Chinese communities, foreign journalists, and Chinese students and professors studying overseas are all targets of the United Front. It attempts to influence or even coerce them into promoting positive images of China and the Party, or to self-censor criticism. The role of state-funded Confucius Institutes in blocking criticism of China on U.S. and foreign university campuses is finally getting attention from Congress and security agencies.

Podcastapalooza
1. Belly up to the Barr: On the new episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, David, and Luke discuss the ridiculous clamor surrounding Bill Barr, the uproar over Trump’s taxes, and legalities around a social media crackdown. Strap on the headphones and get the wisdom here.

2. Assistant / Galley Slave Jack joins his boss on The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg to discuss rank punditry on Bill Barr, the Democratic field, and rank and pop-culture punditry on Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones. Catch the new episode here.

3. On the new episode of on The McCarthy Report, Andy and Rich discuss the possibility of Bill Barr being held in contempt, Robert Mueller’s reliance on the OLC guidance, and much more. Hear it here.

4. Even though it’s a play, King John, by one William Shakespeare, is the subject tackled by John J. Miller and Khalil Habib on the new episode of The Great Books. Prithee, uncle, get thee to thine earphones and heareth.

5. More JJM: He’s joined by Randy Boyagoda, the author of Original Prin, on the new episode of The Bookmonger. Catch it here.

6. On the new episode of Ordered Liberty, David and Alexandra take a look at the Democrats’ attacks on Bill Barr, give quick thoughts about Trump’s finances, ask the question, “If an unborn baby isn’t a human being, what is it?” and finish by exploring why Alexandra was tempted to sign a petition condemning David. Make way, wax: listen up here.

Lights. Cameras. Critics.
1. Kyle Smith likes Tolkien. But let’s not overdo it. From his review:

Filmed in the golden hues of fond memory, Tolkien, directed by Finland’s Dome Karukoski, is a pleasing if somewhat routine bildungsroman about the disturbingly Dickensian youth and happily Dickensian rise of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. The future novelist’s father died when he was a small child, and his mother when he was a teen. He and his brother Hilary were cast into a small group home, where young Ronald (sometimes known as John Ronald) meets a slightly older fellow orphan, Edith, at the piano. (At first she seems straight out of Great Expectations; even her name recalls that novel’s Estella.) Nicholas Hoult ably portrays the adult Ronald, albeit with sufficient English reserve that will make it challenging for moviegoers to warm to him, much less fall in love with him.

It’s taken for granted that we’re here for a bit of insight into The Lord of the Rings, but as with other movies about writers, Tolkien runs into the problem of how to translate into cinematic language the process of sitting at a desk and thinking. And as with other movies about writers, it relies heavily on “Here’s where he got the idea for that” moments. On the Somme, we’re meant to think, as Ronald surveys the wreckage of the battlefield: So this is where Mordor came from. This sort of thinking is reductionist and unfair to the work that goes into creating a novel, though, and much more so for one as huge as Tolkien’s quadrilogy. Millions of men fought in France but only one of them wrote The Lord of the Rings. Ultimately a film about imagination is likely to be frustrating if it sticks to approaching writers as being merely clever about observing and reappropriating elements from what they see around them rather than creating out of nothing.

2. Armond catches the French flick, Olivier Assayas’s Non-Fiction, and sees a lot of vapid MSM heinie-smoochery. Yuck. From the review:

Non-Fiction observes ruthless publishing-industry types. Editor Alain Danielson (Guillaume Canet) resents writer Léonard Spiegel (Vincent Macaigne) for intellectual differences and for having an ongoing affair with Alain’s actress wife, Selena (Juliette Binoche). Alain’s dalliance with bisexual digital techie Laure d’Angerville (Christa Théret) parallels the same envy and deceit. The French tradition of moral relativism echoes the current crisis in which personal satisfaction contradicts our purported principles — that is, how Millennials lie to themselves.

Given this theme, Non-Fiction is neither a fun sex farce, nor a serious one like Max Ophuls’s 1950 classic La Ronde or Whit Stillman’s 1998 The Last Days of Disco (in both films, STDs showed the price paid for communicable immorality). Non-Fiction’s celebration of dishonesty is compounded by IFC, the film’s American distributor, whose changed title for the film overlooks the hypocrisy implied by the film’s original French title: Doubles vies (Double Lives).

3. Professor Joseph Loconte knows a thing or two about Tolkien, and having seen Tolkien, well, let’s just say he found the movie wanting. From the review:

It is refreshing to see a film that takes up the theme of friendship, especially robust male friendship, which was so vital to Tolkien’s life and career. Tolkien (capably played by Nicholas Hoult) establishes a rich circle of friendships at the King Edward’s School in Birmingham. Together with Geoffrey Bache Smith, Christopher Wiseman, and Robert Gilson, the boys fashion a literary-artistic club with no mean purpose: to change the world.

Yet the film devotes more time to idle bantering and boozing than it does to the group’s literary and moral purposes. It also overlooks a crucial exchange: a meeting in December 1914, dubbed “the Council of London,” which was transformative for Tolkien. “In fact it was a council of life,” writes John Garth, author of the magisterial Tolkien and the Great War. The prospect of the trenches had a sobering effect. Late into the night they talked and debated — about love, literature, patriotism, and religion. It was at this moment, and among this fellowship, that Tolkien began to sense his literary calling. “For Tolkien, the weekend was a revelation,” Garth concludes, “and he came to regard it as a turning point in his creative life.”

If the film’s writers wanted to depict such a revelatory scene — which they don’t — it would have required familiarity with an ancient source of wisdom. We no longer appreciate how the educated classes of Tolkien’s generation were schooled in the classical and medieval literary traditions. From works such as Virgil’s Aeneid, Tolkien not only read the mythic and violent story of Rome’s beginnings, but also absorbed the concept of the noble and sacrificial quest. Indeed, probably the most influential work in Tolkien’s professional life was Beowulf, which he read as a young man and considered one of the greatest poems of English literature. Declares its epic hero: “Fate oft saveth a man not doomed to die, when his valour fails not.” Tolkien taught, translated, and studied the poem throughout his career.

4. More Armond and more Tolkien: He finds it pretentious and banal. From his review:

Most bio-pics that depict how famous people achieved success are sold as inspirational, but Tolkien avoids that cliché for another: It urges filmgoers to see Tolkien’s experiences (and perhaps their own) as the source for self-mythologizing flights of whimsy. His life is a mere pretext for transforming history into unreality.

The historical details of Tolkien’s poverty, social and religious influence, individual ambition, and military service during World War I are blended into evocations of Peter Jackson imagery. Finnish director Dome Karukoski and cinematographer Lasse Frank Johannessen are not fantasists, but they work in the deluxe mode of BBC realism that used to be identified with Miramax-style Anglophilia, a distinct brand of pretentious cultural fantasy. It set the fashion for indie-movie dogma that can be seen in the ways that Tolkien follows a liberal agenda: His private imagination is unrelated to any specific belief system; Edith Bratt (Lily Collins), the boarding house occupant he loves, is a budding feminist; and his Platonic friendship with Geoffrey Smith (Anthony Boyle) indicates open-minded sexual solidarity.

It’s all analogous to the Peter Jackson franchise, making each person a stand-in for Ring figures that fans can identify: Tolkien himself is a surrogate for Bilbo Baggins and Aragorn; Bratt, for Arwen; and Smith, for Sam. That fantasy world closes in on itself, but there’s something worse than this pop cannibalization: Tolkien’s near-death WWI experiences in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme structure the film’s flashbacks and flashforwards that subordinate everything to Ring legend. Giving priority to Peter Jackson’s blockbuster doesn’t make what Tolkien lived through profound; it distorts historical and cultural reality. On the battlefield, he envisions fire-breathing dragons as if emphasis on fantasy outweighed the experience of war itself.

5. Kyle explains why the world loves the Avengers. It’s got to do with loving America. From his essay:

Polls designed to reassure American progressives, in times of Republican presidencies, that “our image is suffering irreparable harm overseas” are really just measuring opinions about our national leadership, not our American nature. That essence doesn’t fluctuate with U.S. presidential results. It remains consistently impressive worldwide: Others admire our swagger, our friendliness, our purchasing power. During a period of what American liberals imagined must have been a difficult time for an American to be in France, I spent a lot of time in that country in the years following 9/11 and during the Iraq War and never experienced even the slightest hint of anti-American sentiment. If you want bitter animosity toward America, head for an American college campus, not France. For all of the Left’s yelping back home about anti-French propaganda and those fabled “freedom fries,” what gravely concerned the French was not Washington’s diplomatic problems with Paris but the steep drop-off in tourism after 9/11. The French love America because we come and spend our dollars there. America’s post-9/11 funk was their funk. When America sneezes, the world catches cold. The world is rooting for us.

Which brings me to The Avengers: Endgame, the world’s new favorite movie. It’s about to break the record for worldwide box-office gross (in nominal dollars, at least). The traits of the superhero all-star team are unmistakably American: Iron Man embodies America’s tech dynamism and Silicon Valley arrogance, Doctor Strange is the emblem of our amazing medical advances, and Black Panther personifies America’s long, fraught history of race animosity turned proud multiculturalism. When Tony Stark has some rude thoughts about Captain America’s derriere, Scott Lang corrects him: “As far as I’m concerned, that’s America’s ass.” Just so. Captain America has America’s ass. He’s also got America’s heart and his brawn, his impossible boy-scout goodness. What other country could give the world an equivalent to Captain America? Captain Ecuador? Captain Russia? Captain Azerbaijan? To a certain extent, James Bond is Captain England, but that example highlights the differences, doesn’t it? 007 is not a crusading knight. He is a cynic, not a choirboy. Bond is to Captain America what Humphrey Bogart is to James Stewart.

The Hulk, meanwhile, bears comparison to American foreign policy: Emotions can get the better of him. He doesn’t always think things through. When the Hulk does a lot of damage, though, it’s in the service of doing what’s right. He is a bit sloppy but he is also benevolent. You want him to be on your side, not to go away. The world would be less safe without him.

Eye Candy
1. In the new “Five Points” video, Rich Lowry explains the ridiculousness of the #AntiBarr campaign. Watch it here.

2. Seems like Columbia University has put on a play: There are character roles for Latinos and Palestinians, whites were cast for those roles, no Palestinians tried out . . . and snowflake outrage ensued. Kat Timpf calls them out. Watch it here.

3. Alexandra DeSanctis provides four arguments as to why your tax dollars shouldn’t go to Planned Parenthood. Watch the video.

4. More Kat: She hails the idea of kids running lemonade stands, without needing a government license to do so. Watch her video.

5. From Reason, I recommend this exceptional, award-winning video, which profiles the insane (or, evil) efforts by San Francisco’s lefty politicians to deprive people of their property rights. Watch it here.

The Six
1. Daniel Mahoney pens a brilliant Modern Age essay reflecting on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s writings — in The Gulag Archipelago — about politics the ascent of the soul. From the essay:

In the end, Solzhenitsyn brings together two imperatives: that of moral self-limitation and that of humane self-government. Unlike Tolstoy, who lived in a comparatively free country in the last periods of tsarist rule, Solzhenitsyn did not believe that “only moral self-improvement was necessary.” As he argues in volume 3, part 1, chapter 4 of The Gulag Archipelago, for beings with bodies as well as souls, political liberty matters, too. It is not the ultimate meaning of human existence, but it is “the first step,” a crucial prerequisite for avoiding a fundamental assault on the dignity of human persons. Without political liberty, human beings cannot breathe freely, nor can they exercise the arts of intelligence (and moral judgment) that are at the heart of our humanity.

In the last twenty-five years of his life, Solzhenitsyn became an eloquent partisan of democratic self-government, especially at the local level. He thought it indispensable for developing the civic and moral virtues of a free people. He did not want Russia simply to copy Western democracy, especially in its decayed, relativistic, late-modern forms. But he admired the cantonal and local liberties he saw at work in Switzerland and Vermont during his twenty years of Western exile. In his memoir of his years in the West, Between Two Millstones, Solzhenitsyn provides a moving description of the vigorous and morally serious self-government he saw at work in the Swiss Catholic half-canton of Appenzell in April 1975. It might be said that he admired the hardy “republican” spirit that he saw at work there. This kind of democracy “filled him with respect,” and he hoped it could provide an inspiration for the renewal of local and provincial civic forms in Russia itself. Solzhenitsyn also strikingly noted that the Swiss Confederation is the oldest extant democracy on earth, dating from 1291, and that “it did not spring from the ideas of the Enlightenment, but directly from ancient forms of political life.” Unlike left-liberals in the West, Solzhenitsyn does not identify self-government, or political democracy, exclusively with the philosophy of the Enlightenment.

2. In the new issue of Claremont Review of Books, Joseph Epstein catalogs the march of political correctness’s menace in American culture. From the essay:

If political correctness had stopped at the request for civil behavior, there would have been no difficulty in acceding to it. If homosexual men wish to be called “gay,” if blacks wish to be called “African-American,” if women prefer “Ms.” over “Mrs.” and “Miss,” there would be no problem whatsoever. But the program inherent in political correctness has evolved into something much more ambitious than that. In its current phase, it is revolutionary, seeking a utopia of complete fairness in all institutions—educational, cultural, political—which in its advocates’ interpretation means utter equality for all, excluding only those who violate political correctness’s underlying assumptions and well-known restrictions.

Political correctness attacks all that it finds discriminatory in public and social life. Any perceived discrimination against women, African Americans, or other victim groups is no longer to be tolerated. Nor, of course, should it be, but under the attack of political correctness more than mere discrimination is under attack. The least perceived differences between individuals and groups, whether inherent or acquired through upbringing, are for now to be ignored in order that they may ultimately be eradicated. Political correctness doesn’t allow leeway for differences in intelligence, talent, or strength. Not equal opportunities but equal outcomes are its monomaniacal goal, and it is not overly concerned about the punishing means required to achieve it.

3. At The Federalist, Ben Weingarten draws attention to the new documentary, “One Child Nation,” on the unspeakable barbarity of Red China’s butchering, murderous family-planning program. From his piece:

Students of history right up to present-day Venezuela know that economic central planning inevitably results in poverty and misery. A harrowing new documentary on China’s one-child policy shows that this rule holds true for familial central planning as well — but in the case of parents and their children, the devastation extends far beyond the material to the moral and spiritual realm. “One Child Nation,” a Sundance-winning film coming to select theaters this summer, asks us to stare this man-caused disaster in the face before the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) whitewashes it away.

The film is the work of two Chinese filmmakers, Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, who were born in the 1980s near the dawn of the policy. “One Child Nation” is a story of life and loss, brainwashing and corruption, and man’s capacity to engage in unimaginable cruelty at the point of a government gun. It is a story in which human traffickers represent some of the only protagonists, saving the lives of babies otherwise left for dead in marketplaces and on roadsides, lest their parents face the wrath of the authorities.

4. At Gatestone Institute, Alan Dershowitz lays into Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her victim-blaming response to Hamas attacks on Israel. From his piece:

These deaths and injuries were caused by the tactic employed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad: they deliberately place their rocket launchers in densely populated areas — near schools, hospitals and mosques — in a deliberate effort to maximize Arab civilian casualties. This has been called “the dead baby” or “CNN” strategy. The goal is to have CNN and other media show the children and other civilians that Israeli counter-measures have inadvertently killed in trying to stop the terrorist rockets from killing Israeli children and other civilians.

Tragically, this strategy works, because with the media, “if it bleeds, it leads.” The visual media loves to show dead and injured children, without explaining that they are actually encouraging such casualties by playing into the hands of the terrorists.

So, too, is Congresswoman Ilhan Omar encouraging the firing of rockets by Hamas and Islamic Jihad by blaming the Israeli victims for what she calls the “cycle of violence,” instead of blaming Hamas and Islamic Jihad for initiating terrorist violence against innocent Israeli civilians.

In a tweet following the rocket barrage, Omar justifies the double war crimes committed by terrorists who target Israeli civilians while using Palestinian civilians as human shields. She asks rhetorically, how many “rockets must be fired, and little kids must be killed until the endless cycle of violence ends?” This implies that these war crimes are justified by what she calls the “occupation and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

5. The College Fix’s Graham Piro assembles an expansive list of colleges which have taken down artwork and statues lest they melt snowflakes. From his article:

But beyond Confederate controversies, two consistent themes concern the depiction of African Americans and Native Americans, and how prominent figures in American history are portrayed.

Notre Dame recently made headlines for the school’s decision to cover up murals of Christopher Columbus on campus. The movement to get the murals covered began in earnest in 2017, when more than 340 members of the school’s community signed a letter asking the university’s president Rev. John Jenkins to censor the murals. Jenkins agreed.

“Whatever else Columbus’s arrival brought, for these peoples it led to exploitation, expropriation of land, repression of vibrant cultures, enslavement, and new diseases causing epidemics that killed millions,” Jenkins said of Columbus’s legacy, adding that the explorer’s arrival was a catastrophe for native people.

Pepperdine University removed a statue of Columbus in early 2017 in the face of calls to remove the explorer from campus. As a compromise, the school said that the statue would be moved to the school’s campus in Florence, Italy. Despite multiple inquiries by The College Fix, university officials refuse to say whether the statue has been set up, as promised, at its new location. For now, the statue looks like it’s been wiped off the map.

6. At Commentary, Christine Rosen delves into women’s sports getting . . . neutered? . . . by de facto, testosterone-fortified men competing (and winning, bigly). From her report:

And they are dominating their chosen sport. The same week the court ruled against Semenya, a trans woman in the U.S. named Mary Gregory broke records for women’s deadlift, bench press, and squat, as well as scoring a Masters world total record in powerlifting. As former Olympic athlete Sharron Davis tweeted, “This is a trans woman a male body with male physiology setting a world record & winning a woman’s event in America in powerlifting. A woman with female biology cannot compete . . . it’s a pointless unfair playing field.”

In Connecticut, as the Daily Signal’s Kelsey Bolar found, born-female athletes in high school are losing competitive spots (and college scholarship opportunities) to trans women. The state is one of 17 that allow trans women to compete against biologically female athletes. The first and second place winners of Connecticut’s statewide indoor track championships last year (who went on to compete in the New England regional competition) were both trans women, and their victories cost two born-female athletes a slot at the regional competition.

One athlete willing to criticize Connecticut’s new reality told Bolar that, even though many female athletes and their parents are upset that born-male athletes are being allowed to compete against women, “Everyone is afraid of retaliation from the media, from the kids around their school, from other athletes, coaches, schools, administrators.” The athlete continued: “They don’t want to draw attention to themselves, and they don’t want to be seen as a target for potential bullying and threats.” It’s a realistic (if disheartening) concern, as tennis legend Martina Navratilova discovered when she challenged trans orthodoxy on female sports. The impact on female athletics of the Democratic-sponsored Equality Act, which would add gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, became a flashpoint during hearings about the bill in April.

Baseballery
We note today, especially today, two professionals. One from ancient days: Mother Watson. His real name was “Walter L. Watson,” and in 1887 he appeared in three games for the second-place Cincinnati Red Stockings in ye olde America Association. Mother pitched in two of those games, stinking up the joint by giving up 18 runs (9 earned) in 14 innings. He left the Big Leagues for good, after one stint in the outfield, with an 0–1 record and a .125 batting average. Mother died on Election Day in 1898: Shot dead in a barroom brawl, he was only 33. Why “Mother?” The definitive explanation is lost, but some say it had to do with him being virtuous — which doesn’t mesh too well with Watson’s place and manner of expiration.

Not a Mother, but a mother’s mother: We also take note of Johnny “Grandma” Murphy, the Bronx-born three-time All Star who was one of the MLB’s first acknowledged ace relievers. Murphy led the AL in saves four times, and compiled a career 93–53 record, playing 12 of his 13 seasons for the Yankees (his last turn was in 1948 with the Red Sox). Murphy appeared in six World Series for the Yanks — they won every one (Grandma was 2–0 with four saves and a 1.10 ERA in eight Fall Classic appearances). He died of a heart attack in 1970, months after his Amazing Mets (he became the team’s GM in 1967) famously won the World Series. As for the nickname: Grandma’s teammates said the fastidious hurler constantly complained like an old lady.

A Dios
Should I repeat what I did last year — acknowledge that my dear mother has, in Yours Truly, a terrible son? Even though that is true, some tipped-off relation intensely agreed that indeed I was a terrible son, but that my admission of such was insufficient of said terribleness. Would it matter if I acknowledged I am in fact a terribly terrible son? Consider it done! Not that a fire and brimstone email won’t arrive.

Regardless, love you mom, thanks for having me, for your prayers (daily communicant!), for loving me, and even more so, loving Mrs. Yours Truly and our children. And thanks especially for being there that time #5 made his final weeks in utero a thriller. God bless all mothers, biological, spiritual, adoptive, fostering.

His Graces on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

Whose picture could one day appear next to “terrible” in the dictionary, and who can be sent your diatribes and accusations at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: Ah yes, the promised Gran’s Recipe. A few weeks back, on Palm Sunday, I reminisced about my youth, and how on that day my grandmother would make a special dish, pronounced spitsad. Little did I know Cousin Mikey is a fan of this epistle, and an email conversation among cousins ensued and resulted in Sweet Sue sending snapshots of the actual recipe (in Gran’s all-caps handwriting) for Spizzato. I promised to share it, minus family complaints. None came (a miracle!) so it follows. You’ll probably get it right on the third or fourth attempt. But when you do, mamma mia!

Ab’t 2 lbs lamb, not too small pieces

Ab’t 3 lbs dandelions or chickory

Ab’t 9 eggs or enough to cover . . . with cheese (likely plenty of grated parmesan), parsley, pepper beat well

 

Fry meat until brown add water and let cook (same as stew)

Cook dandelions save water

Place meat in roasting pan

Spread veg(etables) add some of water, enough so that eggs will cook

Bake in 375 over until egg is settled

National Review

Can You Help a Fellow American . . .

Dear Generous Jolters,

Bogart repeatedly bothering the same kindly fellow American (played by John Huston) in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is not the exact mood we seek to strike here this week. But since we are in fact going to be asking for financial help, and since WJ is addicted to old-movie references, we’ll use it. At least enjoy the clip of his first panhandle.

We don’t beg or mooch like the notorious Fred C. Dobbs, but we do invite folks to stand alongside us on the ramparts, bayonets fixed, supplying us ammo, as we battle Socialism, which is the theme of NR’s 2019 Spring Webathon.

Our goal is to raise at least $175,000 before May runs out (and more if possible), and our rationale for inviting you to buddy up in NR’s vital derring-do is explained wisely here.

WJ has never denied you a big basket of candy in these epistles, and we freely admit the obvious: Before you get to the sweets, sometimes we have to ask you to first consider matters of institutional importance. Such as: Our respectful request for your material support (translated: your donation) to underwrite our increased and darned-vital efforts to combat the renewed adoration of socialism. You know socialism: It’s that evil ideology that has captured the heart, soul, and marrow of the Democratic party, that stands against practically all the principles you believe, that detests the Founders and the doctrines they wove into this ever-perfecting union.

This fight is real. It’s intense. It’s for plenty of marbles, if not for all of them. Your donation to NR is one way for you to be part of that band of brothers and sisters who will share scars, wounds, and the thrill of socking Socialism in its big fat gob, day in and out on NRO.

Give. Please. Here. And then celebrate your good will by booking a cabin on the NR Canada / New England Cruise! Do that at www.nrcruise.com.

And just for having to endure my pitch (please don’t ignore it!), here’s an editorial freebee: a PDF of a masterful James Burnham “Third World War” column from NR circa 1956, taking on Socialists and the United Front.

All right, the Weekend Jolt awaits. As Mr. Gleason said, and away we go.

Editorials

1. Joe from Scranton has tossed his hat into the ring (no hair plugs were harmed). The talk of him being a “moderate” is about as accurate as is the former Veep being Botox-free. From our editorial:

The effort to win the primaries may make Biden move further left himself: He has already denounced our legal system as “white man’s law,” possibly because it respects the presumption of innocence. (Reporters may wish to get some clarity from him on this question.) Were he to get the nomination, his alleged moderation would become a key selling point.

Step outside the funhouse mirror of Twitter. Biden has for his entire career been a strong, albeit not wholly consistent, supporter of every left-wing cause from higher taxes to hate-crimes laws to liberal judicial activism. Conservatives should not let themselves be fooled into thinking he is a moderate, and neither should actual moderates.

2. Since someone needed to take a jackhammer to this $2 billion infrastructure idea concocted by the Trump / Pelosi / Schumer Triumvirate of Spending, our editors volunteered. From the editorial:

“Infrastructure” is not an undifferentiated commodity, a lump of all-purpose putty that we can just order up more or less of as circumstances dictate. Infrastructure instead consists of many thousands of discrete projects, some of which are mainly federal responsibilities, some of which are primarily state and local jobs that may or may not merit federal assistance. And that is how “infrastructure” should be dealt with: on a case-by-case basis. That is why we have this splendidly specialized array of committees and subcommittees and bureaucracies and congressional procedure. And that, not a once-in-a-generation all-in multitrillion-dollar “fix,” is how responsible adults deal with roads and bridges and the like.

We note that figuring out how to pay for this is at the bottom of the current agenda. To the extent that it’s being talked about at all, there already is fundamental and probably unbridgeable disagreement: Some of the Democrats want to undo the 2017 tax cuts, others want to raise the federal gasoline tax. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) insisted: “It is up to President Trump to work with us by identifying new revenue to support that investment.” But revenue bills originate in the House of Representatives, not in the Oval Office.

3. The worst kind of scandal is an incredibly dumb one, properly referred to as a “scandal.” Like the Bill Barr “scandal.” From our editorial:

It’s hard to know where to begin. Barr’s position was eminently reasonable. He wanted to get the basic verdict of the Mueller report out as quickly as possible, given the inherent interest in the question of whether the president of the United States had conspired with the Russians. He opposed the subsequent release of the summaries of the report, as suggested in Mueller’s letter, because he thought it better that the public get the entire report at once. Which it did. Democrats and the media are acting as if Barr engaged in some sort of cover-up, when he went further than required under the regulations to release all of the report with minimal redactions.

May Flowers, and So Here Are 12 Bloomin’ Fantastic NRO Pieces to Fill that Vase

1. Pants on fire: Jim Geraghty offers a rundown of Joe Biden’s biggest fibs. From his Corner post:

In the 2008 vice-presidential debate, he claimed that the U.S. had teamed up with France to kick Syria out of Lebanon, that the U.S. spends more in Iraq in one month than it had in Afghanistan in six or seven years, and cited recently visiting a restaurant that had been out of business for decades.

In the 2012 vice-presidential debate, he suggested that he had voted against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars when he had in voted for them, understated the income level for the Obama tax hikes by $800,000, claimed that no one had told the Obama administration that U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya wanted more security, and claimed that Obamacare had somehow created $716 billion in new funding that was now being applied to Medicare. It had not.

2. Roger Scruton has been smeared by New Statesman hack George Eaton. Defenestration followed quickly. But Douglas Murray isn’t letting the lefty scribe, or the Scruton-ditchers, off the hook (or leaving Roger under the bus). From his report:

But three weeks ago Eaton flagged up an interview he had conducted with Sir Roger Scruton with claims which seemed suspect from the start. Eaton claimed that Scruton had made a succession of “outrageous” remarks during their interview. In addition to anti-Chinese racism, he claimed, Scruton had said awful things about Muslims, Jews, and various other groups of people. All of this had an effect. Believing that what the New Statesman’s deputy editor said was true, Scruton was widely defamed across the British media. He was then swiftly and ignominiously fired (without even being personally informed) from his position heading a government quango. This latter decision was taken by the relevant minister, James Brokenshire MP, within five hours of Eaton’s original tweets.

The malicious intent which Eaton brought to the interview was evidenced not just by the manner in which he announced its alleged contents, but in his posting on Instagram of a photo of himself swigging champagne from a bottle and saying that this was how he was celebrating the sacking of “homophobe and racist” Roger Scruton.

While everything about this seemed to me suspect, few other people seemed to think so. Indeed, almost everybody else who had an opportunity to ditch Sir Roger did so. This list included nearly all Conservative party institutions and websites as well as numerous Conservative figures. The list included (though was not limited to) former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Danny (Lord) Finkelstein, MP Tom Tugendhat, MP Johnny Mercer, and of course that terrible victim of nominative determinism, Mr. Brokenshire. Like the newspapers, to the best of my knowledge none of these people requested a transcript of the Eaton–Scruton interview. They all decided to leap to judgment, trust George Eaton, trash Sir Roger, and then just move on.

RELATED: Free definition of “quango” here.

3. The fact that whites and blacks are increasingly living in the same neighborhoods seems to have gotten the New York Times good and knickers-twisted. Kyle Smith slaps the liberals who are alarmed at desegregation. From his essay:

You might be value-neutral on this trend (since people should be judged as individuals, it doesn’t matter what demographic boxes your neighbors check), or you might read it as a positive (assuming various cultures are linked to race and ethnicity, being exposed to difference might make you a better or more well-rounded person). But it takes a crabbed and ungenerous soul to find the trend alarming, as the Times does. The paper wonders whether “the area’s sudden reinvention will erase the last remaining signs of its history,” but it cites no examples of anything of historic importance being removed from the South Park landscape. What seems to be happening is that run-down buildings and empty lots are giving way to chic modern homes. To the naked eye, this looks a lot like improvement.

“Nationwide, the arrival of white homeowners in places they’ve long avoided is jolting the economics of the land beneath everyone,” notes a subheadline. “Jolting the economics of” is a curious dysphemism for “increasing the value of.” “Gentrification” has become a loaded word, but it indicates the same phenomenon: money pouring into an area, especially an area that was previously starved of it. Gentrification is a good thing. If you happen to have home equity in a gentrifying area, you are probably getting wealthier. Maybe a lot wealthier. That is a good thing, too. Would the Times prefer that black people who own houses didn’t enjoy robust returns on their investment? To counter these happy tidings, the Times imagines that it must amount to running a sort of gauntlet to patronize a lavish new shopping and dining space: “The food hall is trying to signal that longtime neighbors are welcome, too . . . but they must walk past the new $700,000 rowhomes outside to get here.” “But they must”? I fail to see how walking past a nice house is a daunting experience, unless maybe its owner is firing cannonballs at passersby.

But I’m exaggerating. The Times doesn’t associate these houses with bombardment, merely with slaveholding. The paper sympathetically treats alarmist rhetoric from black residents such as Octavia Rainey, a 63-year-old woman whose home has appreciated considerably. She calls the new houses built by white families, “Gone With the Wind houses, beach houses, slave houses,” comparing second-story porches to “overseers’ perches,” in the Times’ paraphrase of her sentiments.

4. San Francisco is mixing school-assigning and race and, as Fred Schwarz reports, yeah, it’s a mess. From his Corner post:

Friday’s New York Times had an interesting and mostly fair-minded article by Dana Goldstein about San Francisco’s unsuccessful attempts to engineer the racial makeup of its public schools. In pursuit of this goal, some students have had to be assigned to schools that are not their parents’ first or second choice, and that means trouble. It’s hard enough trying to design a school-assignment policy that will satisfy everyone when (as is true in most cities) some of your schools are so bad that no one wants to send their kids there, but setting an additional racial-balance requirement overdetermines the problem even further.

The city used to bus children to schools outside their neighborhoods to achieve racial balance, but this was ruled unfair to Asians. Now San Francisco is still supposed to create racially balanced schools, but without explicitly using race as a factor in deciding who goes where. Good luck with that. The city’s current assignment lottery was instituted in 2011, after decades of lawsuits and litigation and policy reversals.

5. Like Franco, the ERA is still dead. Very. Paul Benjamin Linton and Clarke D. Forsythe explain. From the piece:

The argument that the ERA is still open for ratification is based upon the ratification of the 27th Amendment, which deals with congressional compensation. The 27th Amendment was proposed on Sept. 25, 1789, and ratified by the 38th state (Michigan) on May 7, 1982, more than 202 years later. Because the 27th Amendment was (presumably) validly ratified after more than two centuries, the ERA, so goes the argument, is still before the states. The fallacy of this argument is that, unlike the ERA, which had included a seven-year time period for its ratification, the 27th Amendment had no time limit. Whether the 27th Amendment was validly ratified has no bearing on the viability of the ERA, which died no later than June 30, 1982, the expiration of the extension passed by Congress in 1978.

That the ERA died is evidenced by the fact that there have been multiple efforts to resubmit the ERA to the states, as early as 1983, and as recently as Jan. 26, 2018 (H.J. Res. 35) and March 27, 2019 (S.J. Res. 15). In addition, legislation has been introduced in the House (H.J. Res. 6) and the Senate (S.J. Res. 38) to remove the time limits Congress had adopted for the ERA. If the ERA were still before the states, why would removing the time limits be necessary?

 6. It’s not the kind of One-Percenter status they aspire to: Jim Geraghty takes a WJ encore and looks at the dense back of the Democrat prexy pack. You’ll forgive him the schadenfreude in discussing the current position of Kirsten Gillibrand and her nutty “Democracy Dollars” plan. From his Corner post:

But perhaps the most delicious is New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Back in 2017, Vogue’s cover declared, “2020 Vision: All Eyes on Kirsten Gillibrand.” (Back then I laid out how the glowing profile left a very misleading impression that Gillbrand was an economic centrist, an iconoclast, and a campaigning powerhouse with cross-party appeal.) All eyes may be upon her, but she’s at four-tenths of one percent in the RCP average.

Yes, it’s early. Yes, we haven’t had any debates yet. But it doesn’t get any easier for the candidates at the bottom as they compete for attention, donors, and early support.

Gillbrand is now in the “Throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” stage, unveiling a cockamamie plan “to give every voter up to $600 in what she calls ‘Democracy Dollars’ that they can donate to federal candidates for office.” Yes, she wants to take your tax dollars, give you $600 back, and then allow you to donate that money to political candidates like her.

7. Rich Lowry condemns 8chan and the right-wing hate that spawned last week’s synagogue shooting in California. From his column:

Because everything must be about Donald Trump, the Left blames him for Pittsburgh and San Diego. His critics point to his shabby response to Charlottesville (Trump actually did condemn the white nationalists and neo-Nazis, but posited “fine people” on their side who didn’t exist). Yet Trump was explicitly rejected by the San Diego and Pittsburgh shooters, precisely because he’s so pro-Israel.

His State of the Union address earlier this year was notably philo-Semitic. “We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed,” he said while recognizing a hero of the Pittsburgh massacre. “With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.”

At the same time that an extreme fringe on the right marinates in its own malice, a different sort of anti-Semitism, rooted in hatred for Israel, is getting normalized on the left. It can be seen in the refusal of House Democrats to forthrightly condemn Representative Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitic posts and comments, and in the astonishing publication by the international edition of the New York Times of a political cartoon worthy of Der Stürmer.

8. David French, discussing the culture’s campaign against masculinity, looks at the synagogue madness and sees aggression — one kind that was evil, another kind that was courageous. From his commentary:

The proper response to the reality of general masculine characteristics isn’t denial or indulgence. It’s development. Last Friday, a lone gunman walked into a synagogue in Poway, Calif., and attempted to massacre the congregants. He opened fire when he entered, and a courageous woman named Lori Kaye lost her life shielding the rabbi from the incoming bullets. As the congregation fled, a man named Oscar Stewart (we should report and remember the names of heroes) ran directly towards the gunfire. He yelled at the shooter, threatening to kill him.

The shooter was so startled that he fled, and Stewart pursued him to his car and pounded on his window until an off-duty Border Patrol officer named Jonathan Morales fired into the car.

Think about that moment. Both Stewart and the shooter were aggressive. Both Stewart and the shooter were violent. But one man’s aggression was courageous. One man’s violence was necessary.

9. Robert Joseph and Eric S. Edelman argue that any possible forthcoming nuke treaties must limit the number of Red Chinese and Russian weapons. From their analysis:

It is also important to revisit the fundamental flaws of New START. In 2010, both of us testified against ratification, highlighting the treaty’s shortcomings and providing our prediction, now proven accurate, that U.S. forces would go down and Russia would build up under the agreement. This was consistent with longstanding Soviet tactics that consistently used arms control to limit U.S. nuclear forces in a manner intended to gain unilateral advantages. We also emphasized the failure to limit theater nuclear forces, based on the fiction that nuclear attacks employing weapons with ranges less than 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles) would not be strategic. For those who cared about whether agreements actually reduced the number of nuclear weapons on each side, we pointed out that the new bomber-counting rule contained in the fine print of New START allowed the deployment of more strategic warheads than the nominal 1,550 treaty limit, since it counted each bomber as one without regard to the actual weapons load. And we noted that Russia would likely deploy offensive strategic forces that were not explicitly restricted by the agreement, which it has now done. Finally, we warned that the treaty, in principle and practice, seemed to accept at least some limits on missile defenses and conventional, prompt global-strike capabilities.

10. Abigail Disney – rich, entitled lefty heiress with an important last name – attacked the company that bears her name (along with its CEO, Bob Iger) in a Washington Post op-ed, which led Matthew Continetti to reflect on why folks give a mouse’s arse as to her public squeaking. From his column:

“I like Bob Iger,” she wrote in a Twitter rant this week. “I do NOT speak for my family but only for myself.” And she has nothing to do with the company other than holding shares “(not that many).” But Iger’s compensation in 2018 of $65.6 million is “insane.” Someone has to “speak out about the naked indecency” of it all, she wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post, a newspaper owned by the richest man on Earth. The Trump tax cuts are to blame. Yes, Disney is raising its minimum wage, and gave more than half of its 200,000 employees a $1,000 bonus last year. But it has spent billions more on stock buybacks to — ohmigod — “enrich its shareholders.” And among those shareholders are such undeserving folk as Vanguard and the New York State Common Retirement Fund and CALPERS. Did the retired teacher in Bakersville produce the Emmy award–winning documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell? I didn’t think so. Abigail did, so talk to the hand, Mr. Mutual Fund Investor.

Abigail Disney’s stand for the proletariat is absurd and self-righteous. There is, for starters, the fact that everyone involved in this psychodrama — from Disney to Iger to the owner of the Washington Post — is a super-affluent liberal. Everyone, that is, but many Disney employees, who are not an undifferentiated mass of drones but men and women with a diversity of political views, economic circumstances, work schedules, skill sets, and personal ambitions. Some of them probably liked their tax cut and bonus — and profited from the buybacks as individual shareholders.

Iger is a great chief executive. He has brought Marvel, Star Wars, and 20th Century Fox into the Disney fold, while maintaining quality and preparing a streaming service that will compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime. He’s just about doubled the global revenues of the company, from $34 billion in 2006 to $59 billion in 2018. Disney had more than a quarter of the total domestic box office in 2018, almost twice as much as its closest competitor. Abigail admits that Iger and his lieutenants “have led the company brilliantly.” So what’s her problem? It’s that the world doesn’t conform to her subjective vision of social justice. And since she’s a Disney heiress known only for criticizing her family’s company — sorry, Fork Films is not yet a household name — the media can’t resist giving her publicity. It’s the ultimate man-bites-mouse story.

11. Roberto González and Liza Gellerman explain how Hayek’s teachings predicted what would become of Venezuela courtesy of its leftist economic tyranny. From the beginning of their essay:

Venezuela is a human catastrophe. The evidence is brutally visible and can no longer be explained away by apologists for tyranny. So many people enamored with long-debunked theories had high hopes that for Venezuela — despite the enormous historical and empirical evidence to the contrary — the promise of socialism would work and would not lead to the loss of liberties or drive the once-prosperous nation into poverty. Looking back on the 20th century, we should turn to some of the most prominent thinkers who lived under similar conditions and dissected their experiences for us to learn from. Venezuela’s crisis is a good example of harsh lessons learned by one generation but forgotten by the next.

In 1944, Friedrich Hayek warned in The Road to Serfdom that tyranny inevitably results when a government exercises complete control of the economy through central planning. Over half a century later, beginning with Hugo Chávez’s revolution, Venezuela began its own road to serfdom by expropriating thousands of businesses and even entire industries. The more fortunate companies left before it was too late, while the businesses that remained were handed over to the Venezuelan military, under whose oversight they were neglected into ruins. In a typical demonstration of class warfare, the government publicly vilified these business owners as unpatriotic, greedy lackeys of American interests, claiming that Venezuela’s poverty had been a direct result of their existence.

12. David Beckworth finds that the Fed’s inflation-targeting practice has led to a too-tight monetary policy for the past decade. From the beginning of his analysis:

President Donald Trump has the monetary-policy blues. The Federal Reserve’s four interest-rate hikes in 2018 apparently have him deeply worried that this tightening of monetary policy has weakened the economy. Hence in recent months, Trump has become an outspoken critic of the Fed.

The president’s instincts that something is wrong with Fed policy are actually on point, but he is just scratching the surface of a much deeper problem. The Fed’s current inflation-targeting framework has effectively forced monetary policy to be too tight not just during Trump’s presidency but for the better part of a decade.

Look first at the Fed’s failure to hit its own inflation target of 2 percent. The Fed officially began inflation targeting in 2012 but has been implicitly targeting 2 percent for several decades. The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, however, has averaged about 1.5 percent since 2009. The persistence of below-target inflation means the price level has drifted far below where it was expected to be a decade ago.

Sensational: The New May 20 Issue of NR Is the First of Two Special Issues Combatting the Socialist Menace

Our Esteemed Editor Mr. Lowry and his wise helpers have assembled what we are calling a “Twin Special Issue,” the primo production (May 20, 2019, and available on NRO in its entirety to NRPLUS members) being a full-throated “Defense of Markets.” In addition to “The Week” and “Books, Arts & Manners,” there are a dozen pieces restating the sorely needed case for free markets. Here are four of ’em:

1. Scott Lincicome says that the case for free trade is both economic and moral. From his essay:

Trade and globalization also support American companies and workers, even in manufacturing. The Commerce Department, for example, has estimated that almost 11 million jobs depended on exports of U.S. goods and services in 2016, and foreign direct investment in the United States—the necessary flip side of our oft-maligned trade deficit—supported millions more. Meanwhile, American companies that adapt and thrive in today’s economy most often do so by making use of imports and global supply chains. The San Francisco Fed, for instance, recently estimated that almost half of U.S. imports are intermediate products purchased by American manufacturers to make globally biggest exporters, therefore, are also its biggest importers. Numerous other studies have found that the vast majority of the value of an American company’s assembled-abroad product (such as an iPhone, assembled in China) accrues to the U.S. company, including its workers and shareholders—not to the place of final assembly (despite what a gross bilateral trade balance, which attributes an import’s full cost to its final export source, might say).

These supply chains not only deliver modern marvels at amazing prices but also allow American companies and workers to focus on our high-value comparative advantages, such as professional services and advanced manufacturing, and leave the lower-value stuff to other countries and workers who lack such skills. Imports, the San Francisco Fed study found, also support millions of other American jobs in transportation, logistics, and wholesale and retail trade—indeed, almost half of all U.S. consumption dollars spent on items not “made in the U SA” go to these Americans, not to foreigners.

2. Samuel Gregg looks at the lasting consequence of our dear late friend Michael Novak, whose classic work, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, remains deeply insightful. From his wonderful essay:

Part Two of the book, “The Twilight of Socialism,” is particularly instructive. Here Novak detailed the economic problems bedeviling socialism, whether of the command-economy type or contemporary social democracy. Novak never claimed that economics should be decisive in political choices. But he did think that the basic insights into reality provided by economics—the workings of incentives and self-interest, comparative advantage, trade-offs, the necessity of free prices as carriers of information, attentiveness to the known side effects of particular choices, etc.—should no more be ignored than any other empirically validated observation arising from the social sciences.

The lessons of economics, however, weren’t the primary point of departure for Novak’s critique of socialism. He genuinely wanted to understand why people embrace socialism, and he concluded that it wasn’t simply economic ignorance.

By the early 1980s, Novak argued, socialism had become less about practical economic programs than about (1) certain ideals regarding equality and poverty and (2) deep hostility to capitalism per se. The single-minded pursuit of these beliefs, combined with the tendency to view capitalism in almost demonic terms, meant that socialism assumed the form of what Novak called a “political religion.” This, he believed, was what made socialism erroneous—and very dangerous.

3. David Bahnsen takes on the unpopular task of defending capital markets, without which there is . . . no capitalism. Sense about cents! From his article:

And while Wall Street (along with the NFL, the textile industry, clean energy, big oil, food and beverage, and youth soccer) has had its fair share of fat cats and disrepute, the public’s antagonism toward financiers is not attributable to a few bad apples. There is a hole in the public’s understanding of capital markets, and it explains the contemporary negativity about finance. So we must be very clear—there is no capitalism without capital markets.

That it is necessary to make an argument for financial markets is itself a testimony to the economic ignorance that has permeated our society. But let us state the obvious: While employment and rising wages are vital benefits of a business, they are not its objective. The objective is, rather, the delivery of a good or service to a customer who wants it. So while hampering businesses threatens jobs and wage growth, it also hampers the development and delivery of goods and services that make life better. Ergo, an attack on business is an attack on quality of life.

And any attack on the financial markets is an attack on business. I suppose one could make a list of businesses that, from cradle to adulthood, have been entirely self-funded. It will not be a very long list. Most businesses require capital to start, and most businesses do not generate cash until after they have started. American financial markets, without any provocation or encouragement from government, organically developed an entire industry known as “venture capital” over the last four decades. It has provided capital to countless technology start-ups that have changed the world. The financial terms were set by private economic actors and administered by risk-taking entrepreneurs and investors, and the sophisticated models in which such firms and investors interacted with developers, programmers, and proprietors were all the work of the invisible hand of American financial markets.

4. Robert Atkinson explains that the term “Chinese capitalism” is an oxymoron. Hey, some people need a good explaining! From his piece:

In his classic 1967 book Modern Capitalism: The Changing Balance of Public and Private Power, Andrew Shonfield tried to make sense of the distinctly different flavors of capitalism that evolved in the post-war era: the German model, where large banks played a key role in allocating investment; the Italian model of public–private ownership of key industries; the French model of indicative planning; the Japanese model of state-led industrial policy; and the American and British models of largely free-market, laissez-faire capitalism, albeit leavened with a growing social-welfare state.

He concluded that, notwithstanding their differences, advanced capitalist economies share basic convictions, including that private capital should be at the center of economic activity, that market-based transactions are the key to prosperity, and that private property should be protected. To be sure, the Left and the Right fight over how to achieve the proper balance of these factors—fights that appear to be intensifying—but most agree on the core principles. In short, any differences between capitalist nations are of degree, not of kind.

This has long led defenders of capitalism to suffer from a certain level of hubris: Isn’t it obvious that the capitalist cookbook is the best? One need only look back at the failed Communist experiment in the Soviet Union for proof. Indeed, as Francis Fukuyama told us in The End of History, “the triumph of the West” included a triumph of market-based capitalism.

Videos

1. Alexandra DeSanctis lambasts political extremists who never met an abortion they didn’t like.

2. Kat Timpf is a walkin’ and talkin’ case against student-loan indebtedness.

3. Need we say more than Kat takes on a “fat sex therapist” who plays the race card.

4. Maddy Kearns slams the New Tork Times and others for anti-Semitic actions.

The Six

1. In The American Interest, old pal Chris DeMuth, channeling the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan — and considering the importance of a speech he gave in Rochester, N.Y., in 1986 — reflects upon the nation’s indebtedness and spending debauchery. From the essay:

Pat was exactly right that federal deficits were episodic throughout the nineteenth century. We may put the matter positively: From 1789 through the 1960s, the federal government followed a balanced-budget policy, where annual spending on regular operations was held to annual tax revenues. Borrowing was reserved for emergencies and investments—wars, recessions, natural disasters, and territorial development from the Louisiana Purchase to canals and railroads and highways. And the debts were paid down in businesslike fashion, out of economic growth and government surpluses. This was a bipartisan consensus. Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson agreed on the point. Andrew Jackson—the founder of Pat’s beloved Democratic Party, the frontier populist whose portrait now hangs in the Oval Office—was particularly emphatic. The War of 1812 had propelled the national debt to $127 million, and its subsequent retirement had been complicated by a succession of recessions and financial panics. It remained at $55 million in 1829 when Jackson took office; he resolved to pay it down to zero—and succeeded by the end of 1834 through vigorous administration, ample use of his veto pen, and a booming economy.

This history presents a great conundrum. The government that held to a balanced-budget norm for nearly two centuries was, structurally, the same one we have today. Congress possessed unlimited borrowing power. Taxes had to originate in the House, whose members faced the voters every two years. Presidents were prone to expensive visions and projects. What on Earth were they thinking? Why wasn’t their policy borrow, spend, and elect?

Two considerations seem to have been at work. First was Pat’s “moral dimensions”—the Old Testament admonition, plus the secular obligations not to burden future generations and to keep the powder dry for whatever troubles lay certainly ahead. The second was intensely practical—to police against corruption and mission-creep in the distant national capital. Most citizens had little interest or ability to keep track of what the politicians were up to in Washington. What they did know was that they and their neighbors were highly averse to paying taxes. Voila: holding spending to tax revenues was a natural device for limiting the opportunities for mischief. Budget balancing was more than an elite consensus—it was a popular consensus that practicing politicians were constrained to follow.

2. Consider this Andrew Klavan piece in City Journal about Christianity, in decline, and the many right-of-center intellectuals who bemoan that but who . . . refuse to believe. From the essay:

To acknowledge that our lives are parables for spiritual truths may entail a belief in the extraordinary, but it is how we all live, whether we confess that belief or not. We all know that the words “two plus two” express the human version of a truth both immaterial and universal. We likewise know that we are not just flesh-bags of chemicals but that our bodies imperfectly express the idea of ourselves. We know that whether we strangle a child or give a beggar bread, we take physical actions that convey moral meaning. We know that this morality does not change when we don’t perceive it. In ancient civilizations, where everyone, including slaves, considered slavery moral, it was immoral still. They simply hadn’t discovered that truth yet, just as they hadn’t figured out how to make an automobile, though all the materials and principles were there.

We live in this world of morality and meaning—right up until the moment it causes us pain or guilt or shame or gets in the way of our ambitions or happiness. Then, suddenly, we look at the only logical source of the meaning we perceive and say, “I do not know Him.”

Understood in this way, there is no barrier of ignorance between Christian faith and science. Rather, the faith that made the West can still defend it from the dual threat of regressive religion and barbaric scientism. In fact, it may be the only thing that can.

3. Yeah it’s May, but there are plenty of snowflakes on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford, marginalized, threatened, and triggered by the threat of a conservative (racist!) Churchill Club. The College Fix’s Brittany Slaughter reports. From her piece:

It’s at this campus steeped in tradition that complaints from students of color and their supporters declare the Churchill Club’s existence on campus marginalizes them and makes them feel unsafe and that it supports white supremacy and ethnocentricity. This led the Student Government Association to vote to deny the group on Sunday.

This decision prompted the university’s President Joanne Berger-Sweeney on Monday to overrule the student government’s determination. She cited the Office of Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership’s approval of the club earlier in the semester as the reason why.

Berger-Sweeney’s announcement prompted a crowd of roughly 50 students to storm an administration building on Monday and demand answers, saying they felt unsafe with the Churchill Club on campus and bemoaned that approving it is akin to condoning white supremacy at the school.

4. At Gatestone Institute, Alan Dershowitz answers the ironic question: instead of the infamous anti-Semitic picture it published, what if the New York Times cartoon depicted a Muslim, a Mexican . . . ? From his piece:

There is no inconsistency in defending the right to express bigotry and at the same time protesting that bigotry. When I defended the rights of Communists and Nazis to express their venomous philosophies, I also insisted on expressing my contempt for their philosophies. I did the same when I defended the rights of Palestinian students to fly the Palestinian flag in commemoration of the death of Yasser Arafat. I went out of my way to defend the right of students to express their support of this mass-murderer. But I also went out of my way to condemn Arafat and those who supported him and praise his memory. I do not believe in free speech for me, but not for thee. But I do believe in condemning those who hide behind the First Amendment to express anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic, sexist or racist views.

Nor is the publication of this anti-Semitic cartoon a one-off. For years now, the New York Times op-ed pages have been one-sidedly anti-Israel. Its reporting has often been provably false, and all the errors tend to favor Israel’s enemies. Most recently, the New York Times published an op-ed declaring, on Easter Sunday, that the crucified Jesus was probably a Palestinian. How absurd. How preposterous. How predictable.

In recent years, it has become more and more difficult to distinguish between the reporting of the New York Times and their editorializing. Sometimes its editors hide behind the euphemism “news analysis,” when allowing personal opinions to be published on the front page. More recently, they haven’t even bothered to offer any cover. The reporting itself, as repeatedly demonstrated by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), has been filled with anti-Israel errors.

5. More on the screwing of Scruton: At The Imaginative Conservative, Paul Krause lambasts the profanity of the political philosopher’s rigged sacking. From the end of his commentary:

Roger Scruton will live on because truth is eternal. Those ephemeral forces of hurried spirits will be forgotten. Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Tolstoy et al. live on for all posterity because they grappled with the fundamental questions of life, reality, and the human condition that all thinking persons necessarily grapple with. The Left’s attempt to destroy men of learning is for a very purposive reason, but any person who is moved by the intellect, that is the soul, will find friends in those now deemed hateful for the modern audience. St. Thomas famously said, “The human mind can only understand truth by thinking.” And thinking has defined Sir Roger’s raison d’être.

His writings on metaphysics, human nature, the soul, religion, and beauty; his contributions to philosophical scholarship and exegesis; his reflections on history and human condition; place him alongside a small cadre of figures who tried to use their mind to understand truth by thinking.

It is predictable that his enemies are the ones controlled by their disordered passions who’d prefer to strike at him rather than think with him. The attacks against Sir Roger are nothing less than an attack on the mind veiled with self-congratulatory righteousness which masks the iconoclastic and profane impulses of a now degenerated and ugly society with no respect for, or want, for beauty, articulation, and consideration. Considerate, intellectual, and thinking people have a far different view of Sir Roger than those who claim he gives “intellectual respectability” to the “far-right” and other such “deplorables.” The sacking of Roger Scruton represents the descent into a world of profanity and ugliness, a world in which truth, beauty, and intellectual consideration are condemned and destroyed.

6. What the frack?! A hat tip to our pals Dick and Debbie at RichardYoung.com for alerting us to this sage analysis from Manhattan Contrarian’s Francis Menton on how America’s energy output has (an overrated) Russia . . . over a barrel. From his piece:

It couldn’t be more obvious that the thing that has dramatically weakened Russia is the oil and gas price collapse brought about by the American fracking revolution. Everything else about dealing with Russia is of minor significance by comparison. Yet the heart of Democratic Party energy policy is the suppression of oil and gas production and/or transport, designed intentionally to drive consumption down by increasing prices. During the Obama years, the administration tried to force down production by refusing permission to drill on government lands; but the frackers beat that by doing their drilling on private land where the government couldn’t stop them. When they Obama administration couldn’t stop production, it then resorted to blocking pipelines so that the oil and gas could not get to market. Trump has reversed that policy, although he continues to face resistance from adverse court decisions, let alone from state environmental regulators in blue states who use their own local environmental laws to block pipelines. Meanwhile, the Green New Deal — endorsed by essentially every candidate for the Democratic nomination for President — would do everything possible to reduce and eliminate U.S. fossil fuel energy production.

Here in New York, our governor and environmental regulators, mostly using the pretext of protecting “clean water,” have managed to block essentially all pipelines that would cross the Hudson River to bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania and points West into New England. New England has been left with a shortage of gas for heating. Result: New England needs to import liquified natural gas from abroad in order to keep its homes warm. And what is the source of that gas? According to World Oil here (on December 28), it’s Russia (of course).

Podcastapalooza

1. The late-breaking spanking-new episode of The Editors features Rich, Charlie, Luke, and Xan dissecting Barr, Biden, and Venezuela. Wisdom awaits you here.

2. On the 101st episode of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg, we finally hear from our host’s much better half, the fair Jessica Gavora. Will she reveal secrets? Listen here to find out.

3. Dedra Birzer joins John J. Miller on the new episode of The Great Books to discuss Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout for it here.

4. More JJM, but this time he’s wearing his Bookmonger chapeau to discuss Alienated America with author Tim Carney. Listen here.

5. Give tax breaks to wealthy LA hoteliers, require cities to build Soviet-style housing, cut government services to boost pay of government workers: On the new episode of Radio Free California, Will and David discuss the liberal plan to wreck Golden State. Catch the new episode here.

6. More Remnant: MBD joins Jonah to talk nationalism, patriotism, and identity, the themes of his new book, My Father Left Me Ireland. Begorrah or be gone! I don’t know what that means, but do listen here.

7. On the new episode of The McCarthy Report, Andy mixes it up with Charlie Cooke, pinch-hitting for the traveling Rich Lowry, to discuss Barr and Mueller. And if that’s not enough, then you have a problem. Hear here.

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. Stealing from the new issue of the magazine . . . Ross Douthat, writing his review of Avengers: Endgame with the Notre Dame Cathedral still very much on his mind, finds comparative shallowness in the (“meaningless”) monster hit. From his review:

After the fire at Notre Dame, it was a commonplace that there is no modern equivalent of the Gothic cathedrals—t hat no project nowadays could be toiled at for so long by so many unknown architects and craftsmen, that nothing so vast and elaborate and detailed and complex could emerge as a communal project, the expression of a civilizational rather than an individual genius.

All this is true enough, but if you atend the three-hour experience that is Avengers: Endgame, you may have a sense that you are worshiping in the modern-Hollywood version of the Gothic cathedral. Since the debut of Iron Man in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has slowly risen like a Chartres above the cinematic countryside, its towers raised by 15 directors, scores of screenwriters and composers, a cast of hundreds, and the technical work of thousands upon thousands more.

All movies are collaborative, and most blockbusters these days are sequels or reboots, but the Marvel Universe is still something else: a unified vision sustained across more than a decade of movie making and 48 hours of total saga running time, at a cost of billions and with global box-office returns approaching $20 billion, with no single actor or director dominating, no single movie standing alone above the pack. To watch its culmination—or, rather, the culmination of this phase, since a universe this profitable must continue—is to feel oneself deep inside a pop-cultural edifice, in which the vault of the central story makes space for countless side chapels and stained-glass memorials, serendipitous reminders that the Marvel Universe is vast and that God’s eye is on the lesser superheroes too.

2. Napalm Alert: 40 years later, Francis Ford Coppola’s just-released Apocalypse Now: Final Cut wins Armond’s accolades, especially relative to Avengers fare. From his review:

As a war film with the hip-cynical soul of hard-boiled detective fiction, Apocalypse Now isn’t merely ironic, it’s aberrant. Why? Film history tells us this was an inevitable expression of Baby Boomers’ ingenuousness. The movie brats who had distinguished American films throughout the Seventies were mostly college-educated draft dodgers, and their output (Hi, Mom!, The Landlord, American Graffiti, Taxi Driver, The Sugarland Express, Stay Hungry, The Driver) fully conveyed that pacifist pessimism. Even George Lucas reinterpreted The Searchers, John Ford’s confrontation with historic American racism, into Star Wars, setting in motion Hollywood’s juvenile destiny.

The style-less Star Wars launched American cinema into infantilism. It instilled a taste for childish, mundane, B-movie fantasy absent visual creativity — a new low — whereas the sensibility in Apocalypse Now was ambivalent. Mixing pessimism with astonishment, it expanded cultural unease on a grand 70mm scale (richly photographed by Vittorio Storaro).

The opening scene is extraordinary film-student art. Coppola mounts an unforgettable visual montage of Willard’s Saigon-hotel nervous breakdown: his panicked upside-down eyes, enflamed images of destroyed forestry, and an annoying, time-ticking ceiling fan are intercut with traumatic, roaring helicopter blades. The film works best employing such collages. Overlapping close-ups (Willard’s face, Kurtz’s face, and Asian statuary) are especially cinematic — unrushed imagery that inspires thought and feeling.

3. Kyle Smith sees one flaw in the new French comedy, Olivier Assaya’s Non-Fiction: It lacks comedy. From the review:

This being a French movie, there is much philandering. And this being a French movie, the cheating gets handled in a very particular way. Discussion of the matter stays on the moral and emotional level of “Can you believe this guy I’m married to? He left the toilet seat up again.” When people have heated discussions in the film, they tend to be about things like whether blogging counts as writing.

The bed-hopping on the surface of the film is of less interest to Assayas, though, than a pair of dueling dualisms: the split between our digital and analogue selves, and the split between our true selves and how we come across in works of fiction (such as films). The writer who presents his books as novels, even though they are barely disguised bits of memoir, stands revealed by a text, which in turn is not a text but a picture that refers back to how a detail was changed in one of his books. Tech is rerouting his life even as he resists it. The editor who pushes for more digitization of his field discovers the value in going in a surprisingly analog direction: publishing coloring books for adults. The meta-fictional element gets stepped up when the characters start talking about Juliette Binoche, as Binoche herself sits there playing Selena. Selena allows that she has Binoche’s email address but cannot share it because “that’s not done.”

4. Armond finds Zhang Yimou’s Shadow to be a striking “visual tone poem” with “a cliffhanger more breathtaking than anything in the Marvel Comics Universe.” From the review:

But, most remarkably, the film’s political conspiracy and moral fascination contain such depth of insight that Shadow achieves what deserves to be called visual Shakespeare. (Coriolanus and Measure for Measure immediately come to mind.) The characters’ shared secrets are acted out through private tricks and public hoaxes in scenes that achieve perfect visual expression of human passion: Yu’s sister (Guan Xiaotong) does a deceptive umbrella dance for male soldiers to demonstrate the advantage of “a feminine touch” when fighting. A zither challenge intended to expose Jing and Yu’s deceit is performed spectacularly, with arms spread and long hair alight from their condor-wing movements.

And the wuxia battle scenes are both majestic and brutal, as in Jing’s siege of General Yang’s stronghold through warriors using specially constructed steel umbrellas made of lethal blades to slide downhill. This startling image (red blood splashes the monochrome) updates Kurosawa’s great illusion of Shakespeare’s Birnam Wood in Throne of Blood (Macbeth).

Baseballery

Thanks to the war, the famous “they” have determined, the Saint Louis Browns were able to win their one measly pennant. Which was won quite dramatically.

The pennant was grabbed in 1944, on the final day of the season (October 1) in the last of a four-game at-home series against the Mighty Yankees. The Browns had lead the AL by as many as seven games in mid-August, but then went on an 8–17 run. Come Labor Day, they were trailing the Yanks by half a game, and come the 18th, the Browns trailed the Tigers by 1.5 games. And then baseball’s most hapless franchise (even the Phillies had once played in the World Series) went on a tear, winning 11 of its last 12 games. It entered its final home series tied with the Tigers, and promptly swept the Yankees, regaining first and the AL championship. The boozed-up and aging Sig Jakucki was brilliant in the 5–2 defeat of the Bronx Bombers: He  tossed a complete-game six-hitter. Over in Detroit, at Briggs Stadium, the Tigers were losing to the last-place Senators, 4–1.

The star of the Browns’ victory, though, was replacement outfielder Chet Laabs. Just two years earlier he had clobbered 27 home runs (the second-highest number that season in the AL), but in 1944, playing in just 66 games, he hit only five. Happily for the Browns, two of them came on that sunny October Sunday at Sportsman’s Park. Laabs knocked in four runs (the Browns’ great shortstop, Vern Stephens, knocked in the other with a solo homer) to gain the franchise its sole AL championship before it split for Baltimore a decade later. And there was much rejoicing.

Yep, the Browns lost the “Trolley” World Series that year to the Cardinals, but — so what. Here we are today in 2019, ready to celebrate the 75th anniversary of this worthy and truly singular accomplishment — and wondering if the Baltimore Orioles will admit they are the ex-Browns and concoct some festivities!

Correspondence

Spying an opportunity, Bill W from out California way, likely having just undangled a participle, strikes:

Dear Jack,

You seemed so disappointed that last week’s Jolt brought no attacks from the Grammar Police, so I thought I would put on [the] GP badge and comment on a misplaced modifier, specifically a misplaced prepositional phrase, that slipped into an otherwise exemplary Jolt.

You wrote:

In The Corner, Michael Strain slams Warren’s plan for being ridiculous.

I am not sure what Elizabeth Warren’s plan for being ridiculous is — but it’s working!

Kidding aside, I continue to look forward to your column each week.

Bill W

CA

My nits, freshly picked, thank you. Any and all are welcome to send similar correctives relating to style, grammar, spelling, and, well, intelligence.

A Dios

We pray that any and all who have ever said, “Hey! I really want to go on one of those NR cruises . . .,” will stop with the talking and get with the booking (again, done at www.nrcruise.com). And we further pray that those who have a big honkin’ pang of guilt about never contributing to a past NR webathon will man up or woman up or zir up and donate. Finally, we pray that, with the weather getting warmer and some now sleeping with windows open, neighbors with yapping dogs will not let them out at 5AM to water the grass and make a din over the squirrels and chipmunks.

God bless you and yours, including yours with four legs,

Jack Fowler

Who would appreciate you sending him directions to Flugal Street, or maybe it was Bagel Street, via jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: Next week, Gran’s recipe.

National Review

Joe Who? Joe Momma!

Dear Joe-lter,

So the former Veep and Delaware senator and unsuccessful tormentor of Clarence Thomas is taking a third crack at becoming President of these-here United States. A little-mentioned advantage: He has practiced the accents of major constituencies. His motivation? I’m guessing more than just the thrill a President Biden would have putting (from behind) those Medals of Freedom around the necks of lady awardees.

Anyway, there’s more on such below.

And before we get to it, I’d like to remind you that you are indeed going to book that cabin on the National Review 2019 Canada / New England Conservative Cruise. Get complete information at www.nrcruise.com.

Editorials

1. Elizabeth Warren offers a plan to address student debt. The proctors at NR give her proposal an “F.” From the editorial:

Elizabeth Warren may be the least jolly member of the Senate, but she is nonetheless offering up her best Santa Claus impersonation as she seeks the Democratic presidential nomination, complete with a trillion-dollar-a-decade student-loan giveaway — to be paid for by those on her naughty list.

Senator Warren proposes to pay off Americans’ student loans in a tiered fashion: Up to $50,000 in bailouts for those earning up to $100,000 a year, gradually phased out to $0.00 for those earning $250,000 a year or more. That would eliminate all student debt for about 75 percent of borrowers and provide some reduction for all but 5 percent of borrowers.

Lest this be taken as a warrant to go out and borrow big on the chance that there will be another round of debt forgiveness in the future, Senator Warren also proposes to make college free for all students, not only eliminating tuition costs but also radically expanding federal higher-education spending to cover books, student housing and living expenses, and child care — a parallel welfare state for undergraduates.

So: Free if you’ve already gone and borrowed money for it, and free if you haven’t. As the Democrats’ 2020 presidential-giveaway bidding war gets under way for real, that makes Senator Kamala Harris’s measly hundreds of billions of dollars to pay public-school teachers more look like an amuse-bouche.

RELATED: In The Corner, Michael Strain slams Warren’s plan for being ridiculous. And Robert VerBruggen hits it for being 1023/1024ths batty.

God Bless Kate Smith

Rich Lowry has the patriot’s back. Watch his video.

A Dozen Drafts of Frosty Brilliance to Quench Your Parched . . . Aww Heck, Here’s 12 Great NRO Pieces You Need to Read

1. Victor Davis Hanson reflects on the calamity at Notre Dame Cathedral and reflects on the modern West’s inability to build great things. From his essay:

In truth, Western elites are no longer particularly good builders of even secular things, at least in the fashion of our impoverished Depression-era grandfathers who started and finished the Golden Gate bridge and the Hoover Dam within five years. At times, of course, we can rise to the occasion; the new One World Trade Center was in the end a stunning accomplishment. Hillsdale College is now finishing on time and within budget a huge 30,000-square-foot campus chapel that is cathedral-like in its size and iconography. But for the most part, we can scarcely maintain what others built long ago. Western capital is instead spent on private housing, pensions, social services, health, law, medicine, travel, leisure, and defense rather than invested in grand new dams, bridges, or freeways.

I write this not far from Fresno, Calif., where a concrete overpass stands scarcely a quarter built over the edge of the city, an unfinished testament to a failed, decade-long, $6 billion high-speed-rail line that will never be completed as envisioned; in our lifetime, we will probably never see a foot of track built on this route to nowhere, even if it’s far shorter than the original grandiose plans. The concrete pillars seem a sort of modern-day ugly version of Stonehenge. In a few decades, our youth will wonder who built these strange monoliths and for what superstitious purpose. Since the cancellation of the project a few months, ago, weeds and graffiti already dot the bases of some of the piers, reminding one of St. Jerome’s anguished early-fifth-century a.d. letter on the wastage in Rome in the age of growing barbarism.

Instead, the contemporary West is in an age not of builders but dismantlers. We topple statues by night and rename streets, squares, and buildings — now judged wanting by our postmodern, always metastasizing standards of race, class, and gender — to virtue-signal our angst over our preindustrial moral superiors. Most silently acknowledge that few of us could have endured the physical hardship, pain, or danger of guiding three tiny 15th-century caravels across the Atlantic or could have walked the length of California founding missions. Discovering the New World was difficult, but a dunce can topple Columbus’s statue. How many contemporary American monumental buildings will last for the next 800 years?

2. By Jupiter! However Macron thought he was going to navigate France’s political waters, he’s failed. Reef . . . struck. Michael Brendan Dougherty finds this story to be even bigger than the Brexit fiasco across the Channel. From his analysis:

Macron was elected while promising a “Jupiterian” presidency. Seriously, he used that word. But recently he is reduced to giving hours-long speeches that remind one of a Cold War Communist functionary. This was billed as a listening tour. Here cometh the man, trying to breathe life into a dead political paradigm. But no amount of hot air can restore it. An IFOP poll released last week showed 85 percent of French people think Macron should pay more attention to their concerns. A Pew poll conducted last year showed that 80 percent of French people believe children living in France today will be worse off financially than their parents. Half of French people say their own financial situation has gotten worse or a lot worse in the last year alone.

The protests forced Macron to rewrite his budgets. He introduced a 10-billion-euro package of tax cuts and income rebates that broke E.U. budgetary rules. The offer of forgiveness came quickly from Brussels, but the whole mess highlighted the hypocrisy of a European Union that blesses French profligacy in one breath and punishes the Italian sort in the next. And even this hasn’t satisfied his critics. Many of the competing spokespeople of the Yellow Vests have torn into Macron because he refused their demand for imposing a “solidarity tax” on the rich. Another French public-opinion poll found that 75 percent of French people agree that Macron can be called a “president for the rich.”

The entire program that Macron ran on — the one that so excited centrists of all parties across Europe — is dead. Except for one item: privatization. Shouldn’t American conservatives be excited about privatization coming to the French economy? Given the French record on privatization, probably not. When French politicians talk about privatizing state assets, the result is almost never the creation of a competitive market that drives up quality and drives down prices for service. Instead, the result is giving friends from school — part of the clubbable Parisian elite — a license to extract wealth out of a state asset, with the implicit promise of taxpayer-funded bailouts when the enterprise grinds to a halt. Next on the agenda is selling part of the government’s stake in French airports. A sale of government-run French roads led to declines in road quality and massive toll hikes after 2005. The company that bought it, Vinci, is considered to be a front-runner for the stake in French airports.

3. Charlie Cooke looks at Kamala Harris, anti-gun nut, and says that a President Harris will take action if Congress won’t, and sees tyrant in the making. From his Corner post:

This is disqualifying. Harris is running to head up the executive branch within the United States government. She is not seeking the Iron Throne. Should she win, the powers that she would enjoy as president would be the same on the first day of her tenure as on the hundredth day of her tenure as on the last day of her tenure. They would not ebb and flow; they would not be subject to a shot clock; and they would be in no way affected by or contingent upon Congress’s willingness to acquiesce to her demands. Whatever Woodrow Wilson might have preferred, the American order is Newtonian, not Darwinian.

It bears repeating once again that there is no “if Congress doesn’t act, I will . . .” clause within the U.S. Constitution, nor is there any provision that accords legislative powers to the president in such cases as he is displeased by the legislature. If Congress refuses to act in an area of its control, nothing happens. That the president — or anyone else — considers Congress’s unwillingness to act annoying or feckless or even dangerous is, ultimately, irrelevant. So, too, is the topic under consideration: immigration, guns, taxes — it simply doesn’t matter. The first section of the first article within the Constitution holds that “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” That grant is absolute. It is not conditional, and the president gets no say over its maintenance.

4. This is possibly the best sub-headline I’ve ever seen on NRO: “Can the EEOC make a funeral home let a male employee cross-dress at work?” Or, asked another way, does the Constitution grant dude pall bearers the right to wear black cocktail dresses? OK, pantsuits. After all, a Framer could have hidden the right in some penumbra. David Cortman considers the lunacy. From his piece:

That may seem like an odd tangent, but it’s actually relevant to a case that the U.S. Supreme Court just agreed to take up. Because the high court granted Tom’s request for review, R. G. & G. R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will consider legal issues that intersect with the Michigan funeral home’s dress code.

What prompted Tom to appeal to the Supreme Court? It was a complaint that a former employee filed with the EEOC. The employee, a male who had worked for the company for over five years, said that he would begin dressing as a woman during work hours as part of a gender transition. But that would have conflicted with the funeral home’s dress code.

Although Tom was well within his legal rights to part ways with the employee, that didn’t stop the EEOC from targeting Tom and his funeral home. The EEOC sued Harris Funeral Homes in an obvious attempt to redefine “sex” in Title VII to mean “gender identity.”

After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit backed up the EEOC, Tom was left with no choice but to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in. The case boils down to whether Congress or the courts — or worse, unelected agency officials, such as those at the EEOC — have the power to rewrite federal law.

5. Rich Lowry mocks the Democrats’ impeachment fantasy. From his new column:

Impeachment would be a symbolic mark against Trump, but at what cost? Impeachment won’t magnify the president’s alleged offenses but will make them smaller as the argument devolves into a microscopic examination of his words and actions (and nonactions).

It would be the most forlorn impeachment ever. Andrew Johnson came close to getting removed. Richard Nixon quit before he got removed. Even with Bill Clinton, there was a moment when it seemed possible some Senate Democrats might flip against him.

With Trump, there is no chance that he would be removed by the Republican-held Senate, which would probably hold a perfunctory, minimal trial, underlining the absurdity of the effort.

Trump’s approval ratings wouldn’t rocket skyward like Bill Clinton’s. But Democrats would suffer the opportunity cost of distracting attention from substantive issues people actually care about, and put their relatively moderate members in an awkward spot.

6. Wesley Smith takes us to the no-longer-fringes of the guano-crazy Left, now occupying some editorial offices at Teen Vogue and National Geographic, and advocating for “Nature Rights” because, after all, rivers are people too. Weeds are people too! From the end of his Corner post:

Rivers, mountains, and forests can’t have duties! If the river floods, for example, can it be sued? Ridiculous.

And yes, of course, nary was heard a discouraging word in the entire story. Good grief, National Geographic is as mainstream as it gets.

People keep telling me to chill, that nature-rights advocacy is just so much radical bloviating that will never happen. But it is happening, as I have repeatedly demonstrated.

The encroachment of “nature rights” onto responsible environmentalism is accelerating. It’s still not too late to stifle it. But that will require taking the threat seriously. We’d better hurry because I sense that time is growing short.

7. Jonathan Tobin high-fives President Trump for his Iran sanctions, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. From his analysis:

Why did Trump do it? He knows that the sanctions he re-imposed after pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have had a powerful impact on Iran. As the New York Times recently reported, the sanctions, contrary to the predictions of Trump’s critics, have had a devastating impact. Among those most feeling the pinch from the austerity imposed by American restrictions on commerce with Iran are the terrorist groups that it funds.

The sanctions, reports the Times, have created an economic crisis for Tehran, causing it to cut down on the money it spends funding both terrorists and the barbarous Assad regime it helped prop up via military intervention in the Syrian civil war. Even Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently conceded that U.S. sanctions have hurt the ability of his Iranian masters to fund his group’s misdeeds.

8. The Armenian Genocide also saw the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Greeks, Assyrians, and Syriacs. Marlo Safi urges Americans to learn about what happened and who did it, in service of preserving its bitter memory. From her piece:

My uncle was ten years old when she told him why she’d fled to Syria. She lived in a village in Turkey heavily populated by Armenians, and her life changed in October 1915, when the Ottoman military raided the village while she was in her garden with her two children, aged two and four. She managed to hide herself and the kids, but from hiding she witnessed her husband get struck over the head by the soldiers as they gathered all of the men ages 13 and over in the town square to be publicly beheaded. She fled Turkey, aimlessly running and eventually finding herself in Syria. Her relief was fleeting; the Ottomans captured her and her children in the Syrian desert, and ordered her to renounce Christ and convert to Islam. When she refused, they killed her two children and threw them into the Euphrates. Her only request before she died in 1971 was that the cloth diaper she had held onto as the Ottoman soldier ripped her child from her arms be buried with her.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and Syriacs shared a similar fate, forced to march through Raqqa and Deir Zor, many of them sold as slaves by Kurds and Bedouin Arabs or forced to seek safety with local strangers, both Muslim and Christian. The Euphrates River became a dumping site for the bodies of those who didn’t make it through, and there were a lot of them: Between 1914 and 1923, the Ottomans killed 1.5 million Armenians and 1 million Greeks, Assyrians, and Syriacs in an ethnic-cleansing campaign motivated by their desire to de-Christianize and Turkify the empire.

9. Our dear friend, the late Michael Novak, was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize in 1994. His lecture at the award ceremony was brilliant. Now, 25 years later, with the encouragement of his family, NRO is delighted to republish his remarks, titled “In Preparation for the 21st Century, Four Lessons from the 20th.” From the beginning of his essay:

As we draw near the close of the 20th century, we owe ourselves a reckoning. This century was history’s bloodiest. At a time they didn’t choose, and in a way they didn’t foresee, more than a hundred million persons in Europe found their lives brutally taken from them. Beyond the war dead, 66 million prisoners perished in the Soviet labor camps. Add the scores of millions dead in Asia, Africa, and the other continents since 1900. Nor is there any guarantee that the 21st century will not be bloodier.

And yet the world has drawn four painful lessons from the ashes of our century. First, even under conditions of nihilism, better than cowardice is fidelity to truth. From fidelity to truth, inner liberty is wrested.

Second, the boast of Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler that dictatorship is more vigorous than “decadent democracy” was empty. It led to concentration camps.

Third, the claim that socialism is morally superior to capitalism, and better for the poor, was also empty. It paved the road to serfdom.

Fourth, vulgar relativism so undermines the culture of liberty that free institutions may not survive the 21st century.

10. As to Biden, Michael Brendan Dougherty asks the obvious question: Why? Given the fact that he must first win a Democratic primary, it’s hard to find a plausible answer. From the piece:

Biden is now so aged in politics that he partially belongs to history. And of course, having been around long enough, he was frequently on the wrong side of it. At least by progressive sensibilities. He sponsored the 1994 crime bill, which is deplored as a sop to racist suburbanites and cops rather than a reaction to horrific crime rates. Earlier than that he opposed mandated school busing to create racially integrated schools. Some progressives are thrilled to see Mayor Pete Buttigieg fight the supposedly homophobic Vice President Mike Pence (Pence’s great offense is that he previously called Buttigieg a “patriot”). But back in 1973, Biden was asked by gay-rights activists about security clearances for homosexuals. Biden responded that his “gut reaction” was that homosexuals were “security risks.” All of these things could be excused in the way Obama’s opposition to gay marriage was, as mere concessions to the regnant taboos and politics of the day. But Democrats want to vote for a leader who inspires them, not one who requires contextualization.

The Biden campaign’s implicit promise is a return to normalcy. But that is a rebuke to the liberal imagination of history, in which Obama was a welcome rupture with the tradition of 42 white men as U.S. president. And in which the arc of history destines Democrats to make another startling break from the norm. There are qualified women in the Democratic race, aren’t there? And women of color. And a gay man. Wouldn’t electing one of them do more, symbolically, than electing another handsy old man on the premise that he is adept at coddling a politically fickle white working class? Biden’s candidacy is an attempt by Democrats to bargain with Trump’s America. Other candidates are promising to cleanse America from what Democrats see as the disgrace or even the sacrilege of Trump’s presidency. Democrats don’t want to bargain with the devil, they want an exorcist.

11. More on Joe: John McCormack investigates whether the former Senator’s mixed voting record on abortion (he was a frequent supporter of bans on federal funding) will hurt him in primaries, considering that some polls show that a third of Democrat voters are “pro-life” and even more claim to be foes of partial-birth and late-term abortion. From his report:

Does that mean Biden is toast in the Democratic primary if he continues to support the Hyde amendment? Not necessarily.

“I think he would be smart to stick with it,” Kristen Day of Democrats for Life told National Review in a phone interview after Biden announced his campaign on Thursday morning. “There’s a third of the Democratic party that’s pro-life. More than that oppose late-term abortions. The pro-abortion vote is going to be split 19 ways or 20 ways. He could differentiate himself with a more reasonable position on this.”

Polling backs up Day’s description of her party: A recent Marist survey found that 34 percent of Democrats identify as pro-life. And in 2014, Quinnipiac asked voters: “As you may know, in 2013 the House of Representatives approved legislation that would ban virtually all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape and incest that are reported to authorities. Would you support or oppose such legislation?” Among Democrats, 46 percent supported the bill, while 47 percent opposed it. As Biden contemplated a presidential bid in 2015, liberal columnist Michelle Goldberg worried that Biden might sign the bill banning abortions later than 20 weeks after conception, when premature infants are old enough to survive outside the womb. But only three Democratic senators voted for the bill in 2018 (Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana).

12. Kevin Williamson looks at two popular series, Game of Thrones and the post-apocalyptic The Walking Dead. They are not liberal fantasies. From his essay:

The great works of art that appeal to the conservative sensibility rarely if ever are constructed as self-consciously conservative stories — propagandistic literature lends itself more readily to progressive causes, in any case. What Coriolanus tells us about populism and mass politics is not true because it is conservative but conservative because it is true. The relationship between the beautiful and the true helps to explain how it is that so many actual Communists in Hollywood’s golden age produced works that were moving, true, often patriotic, often speaking to religious faith, and in many cases profoundly conservative. They weren’t out to make something right-wing, but something great.

I doubt very much that either Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead is the product of an overwhelmingly conservative group of storytellers. (From what I can learn of the politics of the writers, that does not seem to be the case.) But both shows are obliged by the nature of their dramatic structures to consider the fundamental questions of politics, and both invite deeply conservative interpretations.

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. Armond White compares the new movie Fast Color to the cover of Beyoncé’s new album, Homecoming. As usual, no punches are pulled. From the beginning of the r3eview:

Look at Beyoncé on the cover of her new album, Homecoming: Her manicured fingers with rings on the left hand are holding on to her Afrocentric kufi. To keep it from being blown away by the winds of fashion? Or does she simply have a headache? Beyoncé’s latest career move helped me make sense of the movie Fast Color, in which a biracial woman from the Midwest, Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), works through her drug addiction and psychological ordeal and is drawn home to assess her complicated feelings and mysterious, natural gifts.

A government scientist searching to dissect Ruth claims that “this woman can affect the energy of the earth.” Ruth’s superhero characteristics belong to metaphysical sci-fi: She sees colors in the atmosphere and can “rearrange” the sky, turning clouds into aurora borealis–style rainbows. These metaphors for power are comparable to the cultural effect Beyoncé stirs just by releasing new music — and her command of our cultural institutions when she confoundingly gestures toward politics in a Super Bowl tribute to Black Panther militancy or in her Lemonade album’s pandering to the idea of black female agency.

2. Kyle Smith has plenty to say about Mary Magdalene, and especially about Jóaquin Phoenix’s performance as Jesus. From the beginning of his review:

Actors love to think they can play anything, but the job of any half-decent filmmaker is to tell them when they’re not right for a part. If the Rock wants to play Kurt Cobain, try to talk him out of it. Adam Sandler as King Lear is not a great match. And then there’s Joaquin Phoenix. He’s playing Jesus Christ in the new film Mary Magdalene.

In certain situations, Phoenix is a capable actor. I believe he would excel as a meth head, or as a self-hating DMV clerk (possibly with a meth problem). He may make a superb Joker. But Joaquin Phoenix as the Prince of Peace? Here’s a fact the makers of Mary Magdalene seem unaware of: Jesus Christ attracted people to himself. He caused them to love him, listen to him, want to follow wherever he led. One glance at Joaquin Phoenix being morose and anguished and weirdly sinister and the people of Judea would not have said, “Tell us more, teacher.” They would have dialed IX–I–I.

Phoenix’s method-actor version of Jesus — picture Ratso Rizzo in the desert — is a shame because he’s playing opposite Rooney Mara, one of the finest actresses of her generation. She has a quiet, inwardly-lit self-possession that makes her riveting in nearly every role, and she hauntingly embodies Mary Magdalene as a woman who becomes one of Jesus’s followers after undergoing a spiritual crisis that causes a break with her family. She is easily the best element of an otherwise drab film by Garth Davis that falls uneasily between the reverent but overly glossy films about Christ that occasionally appear in theaters before Easter and the revisionist work against which all others are judged, Martin Scorsese’s incendiary but brilliant The Last Temptation of Christ.

3. In Avengers: Endgame, Kyle finds an endearing blockbuster. Gets the tissues! From the review:

That somber aura gives Avengers: Endgame its gravitas, but the movie is also funny, rousing, and, above all, endearing. Any blockbuster can stage a fight or a heist; this one makes us care about the people involved. Endgame is chaotic yet fond, something like a class reunion staged on D-Day. The love this 22-film series has nurtured for a cast of oddballs from Groot to Captains America and Marvel, together with their quality consistency, puts them on a higher plane than the Star Wars and James Bond sagas. The crowds in China may line up for the digital effects, but the thundering fights are the least interesting aspect of a Marvel movie, including this one.

Endgame brought tears to my eyes more than once, not out of sadness but out of appreciation for how well these heroes have been written, and how well they’ve been played. Even Rocket Raccoon and Peter Quill have grown on me, although it took Thor’s brilliant mockery of them to do it. There is no post-credits sequence, but each of the principals gets to take a valedictory bow in the credits. It’s an unusual and well-deserved honor. What a crew! This might be the most staggering quantity of acting talent and star charisma ever assembled for one movie. I counted 14 Oscar nominees, including six winners, but I may have missed some.

4. Armond volleys: He’s not liking Avengers: Endgame. And has a criticism or two of its fans. Break out the asbestos. From his review:

Adults no longer outgrow comic books. Hollywood prefers that they hang on to the adolescent illusion of carefree, escapist pleasure by pretending that the form’s juvenile cynicism is a sign of sophistication — replacing the traditional sources of imaginative thinking. The cultural monopoly represented by the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its latest release, Avengers: Endgame, depends on geeked-up viewers telling themselves that they are having a major cultural experience.

By now the various MCU franchises have expanded so unmanageably that this overcrowded, supposedly final convocation offers no storyline in which distinctive conflicts are resolved. Instead, we get just a laughably familiar (but lucrative) pretext: Endgame’s several surviving Avenger superheroes huddle in a scrum and devise a time-travel do-over.

Last year’s Infinity Wars had worked itself into a narrative corner: killing off most of the major characters for a cliffhanger. The morbidity suggested apocalypse — a comic-book parallel to the Rapture. But nothing so profoundly Christian happens in this anti-mythological jamboree. Infinity Wars triggered faux-tragic fascination. Less urgent than Han Solo’s carbon freeze in The Empire Strikes Back, it was more like the “Who Killed J. R.?” narrative cheat on the TV series Dallas. However, been-there-done-that doesn’t matter to the Star WarsLord of the Rings generation still caught up in toddler enthusiasm: “Do it again, Daddy!”

5. More Armond, the Happy Version: He’s caught the Nuruyev biopic, The White Crow, and likes how the film pirouettes into the hot issue of immigration. From his review:

There is so much patronizing in contemporary immigration film — usually about Africans, as in Grianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea, or about Central Americans, as in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre — that we have lost sight of the most important principles. The White Crow observes immigration experience through the idiosyncrasy of a famous artist rather than in “humanitarian crisis” platitudes, the meanings of which shift according to whoever is mouthing them.

Because Nureyev’s citizen-of-the-world identity is not a political issue, The White Crow avoids the usual sanctimony associated with Western attitudes toward immigration. (Think of those maudlin Statue of Liberty tales that politicians exploit and movies rarely get right – only Jim Sheridan’s In America and the first half of Paul Mazursky’s Moscow on the Hudson came close to justifying “beautiful mosaic” corniness, and it eventually succumbed to piety.)

As The White Crow’s title suggests, its perspective derives from the Russian folk metaphor of “the white crow,” which describes an unusual person, an outsider. The film is clear-eyed about immigration because it focuses on a privileged artist’s selfishness, the part of his humanity that is inseparable from his ambition and probably inherent to his talent.

Podcastapalooza

1. On the brand-spanking-new episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, David, and MBD cover quite the range of topics, from impeachment to Elizabeth Warren’s college loan erasure proposal to the recent condemnation of the famous singer Kate Smith. Listen before the moon comes over the mountain.

The Editors BONUS: In a special episode, Rich and MBD yack about his new book, My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son’s Search for Home. You, buy it; and while you’re driving to the bookstore, listen to the podcast.

2. On the new episode of The McCarthy Report, Rich and Andy discuss the fights breaking out over the Mueller report, Don McGahn’s continued role in the drama, and the upcoming Barr testimony. Listen here.

3. The Radio Free California boys, Will and David, discuss who’s supporting school choice in the Golden State. You’d be correct if you are thinking black people, Latinos, and other working-class citizens. Catch the new episode here.

4. Thomas Sowell is the guest on The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg. Doesn’t get much better than that now, does it? Hear ya go.

5. Check out the new episode of Ordered Liberty, as David and Alexandra discuss Alexandra’s profile of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, detail how criticism isn’t “incitement” and disagreement isn’t “dehumanizing,” and end with a discussion of all the ways the Washington Post is wrong about abortion. Listen here.

6. Kmele Foster joins Scotty and Jefferino to talk up the music of Marvin Gaye on the new episode of Political Beats. You can try to hear it through the grapevine, but I would instead try headphones. Do that here.

7. Big Bad John J. Miller and Hillsdale prof Richard Langworth team up on the new episode of The Great Books to discuss Winston Churchill’s classic memoir, My Early Life. Lend an ear here.

8. Then Susan Page joins JJM on The Bookmonger to discuss her bio of Barbara Bush, The Matriarch. Mom says, listen here.

9. On the new Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Charlie and Kevin talk about Kamala Harris and vacations. I had one once, I think. Anyway, you can listen to all the merriment here.

The Six

1. In Standpoint, Michel Gurfinkel, who knows les rues francaises, says a disaster is unfolding thanks in part to the ineptitude of President Macron. His analysis is fascinating. From the beginning of his essay:

Something quite extraordinary — and revealing — occurred in Paris on February 9, in the middle of France’s new normal, the Yellow Vests’ weekly rampage. According to a pattern established in mid-November last year, and reenacted every Saturday ever since, thousands of demonstrators gathered in the capital and in many other cities throughout the country, chanting slogans against Emmanuel Macron’s government, confronting the police, and attempting to storm public buildings. And as had been the case almost routinely for the three previous months, some Yellow Vests, or thugs (casseurs) acting in their shadow, engaged in much more serious depredations. What was, however, special about this Saturday, dubbed by the protesters as their “Act Thirteen”, was that one casseur was filmed for about four hours, from 2pm to 6pm, by a hidden police camera team which followed him as he progressed, among the Yellow Vest crowd, from the Latin Quarter to the Eiffel Tower on the Left Bank to Avenue George V on the Right Bank (readers more familiar with London than with Paris should perhaps think of a ramble from Tottenham Court Road via Marble Arch to Sloane Square).

2. Was the Notre Dame fire an accident? Maybe, but a bear does you-know-what in the woods with the frequency of French officials lying. Guy Millierè’s analysis for Gatestone Institute is quite troubling. From the report:

If the fire really was an accident, it is almost impossible to explain how it started. Benjamin Mouton, Notre Dame’s former chief architect, explained that the rules were exceptionally strict and that no electric cable or appliance, and no source of heat, could be placed in the attic. He added that an extremely sophisticated alarm system was in place. The company that installed the scaffolding did not use any welding and specialized in this type of work. The fire broke out more than an hour after the workers’ departure and none of them was present. It spread so quickly that the firefighters who rushed to the spot as soon as they could get there were shocked. Remi Fromont, the chief architect of the French Historical Monuments said: “The fire could not start from any element present where it started. A real calorific load is necessary to launch such a disaster.”

A long, difficult and complex investigation will be conducted.

The possibility that the fire was the result of arson cannot be dismissed. Barely an hour after the flames began to rise above Notre Dame—at a time when no explanation could be provided by anyone—the French authorities rushed to say that the fire was an “accident” and that “arson has been ruled out.” The remarks sounded like all the official statements made by the French government after attacks in France during the last decade.

In November 2015, on the night of the massacre at the Bataclan Theater in Paris, in which jihadists murdered 90 people, the French Department of the Interior said that the government did not know anything, except that a gunfight had occurred. The truth came out only after ISIS claimed responsibility for the slaughter.

In Nice, after the truck-attack in July 2016, the French government insisted for several days that the terrorist who crushed 86 people to death was a “man with a nervous breakdown.”

RELATED: In City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple frets about the government’s plan to rebuild the great and ancient Cathedral. From his take:

President Macron’s speech to the French nation about the fire that destroyed so much of Notre Dame contained a terrible threat: he said that the cathedral would be rebuilt, to be even more beautiful than before. This might seem an innocuous, even laudable aim, but the announcement of Prime Minister Édouard Philippe that a competition would be held to design “a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time” should send a chill down the spine of anyone familiar with the efforts of modern architects in Paris, the effects of which can be seen all around the city.

The monumental public buildings constructed using techniques to meet the challenges of our time include the Centre Pompidou, the Tour Montparnasse, the Opéra Bastille, the Musée du quai Branly, and the new Philharmonie, each one of which would gain at least an honorable mention in a competition for ugliest building in the world. The Bibliothèque nationale de France was largely rehoused using the techniques of our time, which included failure to notice that the damp caused by a low water table and sun shining directly through walls of glass were not very good for fifteenth-century books. As for the post-World War II vernacular, with its curtain walls and ribbon windows, it is universally depressing, a single one of its buildings being able to ruin the harmony of an entire street, and in fact often doing so. In central Paris, modern architecture is vandalism; in the suburbs, it is hell.

3. Scrambled eggs are yummy, but something gets broken. National Affairs publishes Oren Cass’s essay in which he, while praising the (prioritized) benefits of trade and open-markets, demands America admit the negative consequences of a “dynamic” economy. From his piece:

Through all these channels, workers can become more productive while consumers can benefit from greater choice, lower prices, and more rapid innovation. Thanks to these effects, the elimination of trade barriers and increase in international trade in the second half of the 20th century produced gains throughout the world, above all in certain developing countries. In the 1960s, less than one-quarter of global economic output traveled across international borders. By 2003, that share had reached half; as of 2015, it stood at nearly 60%.

Yet trade is not without costs. The parties trading almost certainly gain — it is, after all, their choice to make an exchange. If one measured prosperity solely in terms of consumption, this might be the end of the story. Firms and people who once could buy things only on the domestic market now can also buy from the larger international market. What’s not to love? But as Irving Kristol once observed, “Where is it written that the welfare of consumers takes precedence over that of producers?”

From the perspective of worker productivity, the calculus is more complex. In isolation, opening the U.S. market to a global supply of labor could be cause for serious concern. Trade needs to be balanced for the anticipated dynamism to materialize and the net effect on the labor market to be positive. Only if the world buys more from the United States in tandem with the United States buying more from the world will workers not only face greater competition but also enjoy greater opportunity.

That balanced outcome is by no means guaranteed. If trillions of dollars of foreign goods are flowing into the United States, then Americans must send back something in return. But other countries might impose obstacles to American producers selling in their markets and instead acquire U.S. assets like stocks, bonds, and real estate. For instance, what if China sends $50 billion worth of electronics to the United States and we send $50 billion worth of U.S. Treasury bonds back to China? In colloquial terms, China has sent the goods on credit. American production is lower, and government debt is higher. Such an imbalanced exchange is far from the model of prosperity-enhancing free trade taught in economics classes. It is disruptive, yes, but in ways that can reduce opportunities for workers, lower the trajectory of their productivity, and diminish the nation’s real prosperity.

RELATED: Trump administration tariffs on washing machines result in 1,800 new jobs, but each on costs consumers over $800,000. Eric Boehm explains at Reason.

4. Neal Freeman, writing at The American Conservative, makes the case for the movement locating another Frank Meyer, maker of coalitions (and, sadly, not something grown on trees). From his article:

In political terms, Donald Trump is a tidy fellow. When he exits the stage, he will leave behind him no movement and will take with him only the famously skeletal “Trump organization.” He will be remembered more for an aura than a legacy: his appeal has never been ideological but attitudinal and is thus non-transferable. (Who knew that there were tens of millions of voters in 2016 so riled that they could be moved to give them the digital salute? You know, them. The power-tipsy bureaucrats, the globalist toffs, the faith shamers, the financial deck-shufflers, the culture arsonists, the lifestyling aborters. Them.) At the end of the Trump run, there will be left standing only a single Trump Republican outside the immediate family. And if he can grin and bear it for another six years, Mike Pence could be that man. The guesstimate here is that, off at the end, he won’t be. The working assumption is that the handoff would work only if Trump could say credibly to Pence, as Reagan said to Bush 41, “I never could have done it without you.” Trump won’t be able to say that. He thinks he could have done it with Steve Doocy.

Ten years ago, I was convinced that what conservatives needed most was another Ronald Reagan—a political leader with the charismatic power to revive and inspirit our movement. Three years ago, after Trump had busted up the old paradigms, I became convinced that what we needed was another William F. Buckley Jr.—a man who could re-weave the tangled strands of our coalitional fabric into a more-or-less coherent political platform. I am now convinced that what we need is another Frank Meyer: a man who can do the hard doctrinal work to fashion a new governing coalition for a new political circumstance.

Meyer, a man seized frequently by libertarian impulse, was able to club two of his more unclubbable colleagues—the majoritarian Willmoore Kendall and the traditionalist Brent Bozell—into joining the fusionist enterprise. It was an historically successful collaboration and produced, ultimately, a governing conservative majority.

5. At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley J. Birzer head-scratches over the claims by some historians to see political parties conceived and acknowledged by The Founders. From his piece:

Second, as much as historians like to simplify the past by giving men and things easy labels, I couldn’t help but notice—even as early as high school history—that men such as Washington did not—at least during his presidency—refer to himself as a Federalist. Certainly, during the 1787-1788 debates on the ratification of the Constitution, he did, but “Federalist” even in 1787 was not a political party, but an organized movement struggling to get the American people to accept the Constitution. The “Anti-Federalists” have almost nothing in common with one another except for their fear of an oppressive U.S. Constitution. Their radically varied reasons for opposing the Constitution doomed them from the beginning. As president, Washington not only failed to label his position as a political one, but also actively discouraged the creation of political parties. It must be noted, when he did discourage the creation of parties, he did not discourage the breakup of current political parties. Because none existed. His worries were for the future, not the present. Jump forward several decades, and James Monroe and John Quincy Adams still argue against the creation of political parties—not the breakup of those that exist, but to prevent those that might come into existence.

In 1827, we have the first attempt to create a national political party, the Democratic Party, as witnessed by the letters of its architects, Thomas Hart Benton, Martin Van Buren, and John C. Calhoun. The three men—representing the American West, (Proto-) Wall Street, and southern plantation owners—hoped to use Andrew Jackson as their rallying point and figurehead. Never any man’s puppet, Jackson never once referred to himself as a Democrat or a democrat. From his earliest letters to his last, he referred to himself as a [r]epublican. Even during his time in Congress in the late 1790s, he admitted that he liked neither George Washington’s nor Thomas Jefferson’s politics, though he leaned toward Jefferson’s. The very first president to declare himself by his party affiliation was Martin Van Buren in 1837, exactly a half-century after the writing of the U.S. Constitution. From 1837 to the present, I have no doubt that political parties came into existence and continue to exist, but I see very little evidence of anything that we would recognize as political parties before then.

6. At Claremont Review of Books, Jesse Russell reads the re-released Blue: The History of a Color (by French historian Michel Pastoureau), which reveals its symbolic importance over the centuries. Hue are gonna like this! From the review:

Blue was once little-known in the Western palette. Homer’s sea was “wine dark”; blue would not be used as water’s color until the seventeenth century. It has evolved from its original association with warmth, heat, barbarism, and the creatures of the underworld, to its current association with calm, peace, and reverie. Like the unruly green, the Romans associated blue with the savage Celtae and Germani, who used the woad herb’s rich leaves for their blue pigments. These northern barbarians also painted themselves blue before war and religious rituals. The ancient Germans, according to Ovid, even dyed their whitening hair blue.

The Romans, in contrast, preferred the color red—the Latin word, “coloratus” was synonymous with that for red, ruber. The Romans and Greeks did import lapis lazuli, the exquisite blue rock, from exotic locals such as China, Iran, and Afghanistan. But neither used the barbaric blue for important figures or images, saving it for the backgrounds for white and red figures. Even the Greek words for blue, like the names of colors in the Bible, largely were meant to evoke certain states or feelings as opposed to exact visual colors. Blue, like green, was the color of death and barbarism. The nobler colors—white, red, and black—were preferred.

The barbaric tribes that ushered in the Dark Ages after Rome’s fall brought their love of woad-extracted blue into the newly formed Germanic kingdoms. But their ascendant Christian kings adopted Roman trappings: blue gave way to red, at least among the upper class, who delegated blue (along with vegetable consumption) to the peasantry. In its first thousand years, the Catholic Church also largely ignored blue, adopting white, a symbol of purity, holiness, and Christ’s resurrection, as the color for liturgical worship and dress.

Baseballery

It would be harder to be a worse team than the 1935 Boston Braves. There was one: That distinction belongs to the 1916 Philadelphia As, which a mere two seasons prior were the AL Champs, who lost the 1914 World Series (some claim the As threw it to protest their tight manager/owner Connie Mack) to the “Miracle” Braves.

It was the only World Championship won by the franchise in its Boston years. On the squad was a 22-year-old shortstop, Rabbit Maranville, one of the game’s great fielders and a future Hall-of-Famer. More than two decades later, with stints for the Pirates, Cubs, Cardinals, and Robins in between, the Rabbit was ending his career with the same Braves, this time playing second base for a squad that came in so deadly last, sporting a 38–115 record (at different points of the season they had 1–19 and 1–21 runs). Also a teammate: the Bambino. Babe Ruth, age 40 but chubby and busted up, was ending his career with a final fling back in Beantown, where it had all begun for him in 1914. They played in the same game only three times (twice Maranville was a pinch hitter), and on the field together but once: on May 9th at home, in a 5–1 loss to the Cubs. Three weeks later, Ruth called it quits. The Rabbit lasted till the season’s final day and then, at 43, he hung up the gloves and spikes for good.

A small highlight in the Braves’ epically bad season: outfielder Wally Berger led the NL in home runs (34) and RBIs (130). The Babe had the team’s second-most homers: six.

Correspondence

This week the inbox contained no attacks for poor grammar, wrong facts, illiterate logic. But several folks did send sweet communications based on a previous WJ reminiscence about Palm Sunday meals and a sainted grandmother. Karen R emailed the following on Easter. It was received with deep appreciation and a misted eye.

Mr. JF,

Have been enjoying your Weekend Jolt and just caught up on last week’s. Wish I had time to read all the articles. I read yours on Seattle—well-written but what a shame to read of its demise. Haven’t been there in about 10 years, so must have really gone to pot—literally?

Most of all, I loved your reminiscing on your Grandmom. She had to be as wonderful as my Hungarian Nagymom (pronounce nudgemom), who arrived here at 21 by boat and did the whole Ellis Island thing, too. I (too) have such precious memories of wonderful food and wonderful conversations and all the love. How blessed we are to have had such precious souls in our young lives. I miss her so and all those sharing joy with Jesus today in heaven.

Wishing you and yours a most blessed and very happy and relaxing Easter Sunday.

Karen R

Thanks Karen, that was so kind of you to share. Speaking of which: Unless my cousins and siblings convince me I am committing some great crime, I will share one or two of my Grandmother’s recipes next week.

A Dios

Please pray for the repose of the souls murdered on Easter in Sri Lanka.

God’s blessings and Graces on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

Who is a fat and inviting dart board awaiting your projectiles at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Save Us from the Fires of Hell

Dear Holy Weekend Jolter,

Indulge me before we get to the usual fare.

Many people have Notre Dame stories. Visits past, even recent. Visits dashed: Alexandra DeSanctis begins her mournful Corner post, “I never got to see the Cathedral of Notre Dame. And now I never will.” My own son and daughter, this very day in Paris, intent on visiting the Cathedral — The Cathedral — will see devastation.

Their mother and I (or is it me?), on our ill-timed (a brutally cold and snowing French February) and illness-dominated honeymoon in 1986, weak but recovered from a brutal bout of food poisoning (sérieuusment: prostrate on the floor, certain never to rise again, Yours Truly, desiring unction of the extreme kind, moaned the instruction to my as-sick non-French-speaking new wife: “Find phone . . . call a priest . . . last rites . . .”), trudged to a mostly empty Notre Dame. We knocked around slowly and then climbed some ancient staircase to an open area, a snowy and foggy Paris before us. We hung out for a while with the gargoyles, posing with them for . . . sophomoric pictures, reenacting the prior days. All very funny. No more.

Or maybe, not for a long time. Will it rise again? And along with it, a return to belief and an end of an era of unabated secularism, for France and for the West? The calamity may be a divine challenge (that’s my Hand-of-God take). Notre Dame is more than a mere meaningful edifice for Western Culture. Maybe even moreso than St. Peter’s in the Vatican, it was the principle cathedral for Roman Catholicism. After all, it honors the Mother of Jesus, who, we hold, is also our mother. So we too, pas Parisien, have a stake in its . . . resurrection.

Speaking of which: Many Christians, even those who infrequently see the insides of their local cathedral or church, or maybe never attend such, but still hold in their hearts some tiny glowing ember of belief, will attest to such this weekend. It’s celebration is sorely needed, as it is every year: His Resurrection is a triumph over death (where is thy sting?!), a means to salvation, an infusion of grace and joy that we cannot help but share, and a reminder of a profound and affectionate kinship with our brothers and sisters in Abraham, who celebrate Passover for what might be, if my math is correct, the 3,547th time since that night when doorframes were first marked with lamb’s blood.

More Links than a Sausage Factory Await.

1. Is a generation affixed to devices able to read the classics? Teacher Howard Butcher reviews the book carnage and Homer in the age of the smartphone. From his piece:

Although the evidence is anecdotal and fluctuates a bit year to year, certain books appear in the trash with greater regularity than others. Emerson’s Essays and Poems, Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days, Virgil’s Aeneid, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin seem to get orphaned more than most — four to seven copies of each out of roughly 40 students per grade level. To be sure, Homer’s epic poems are thrown out as well, but not in the numbers one might expect. Many students like and keep their copies of The Iliad. This begets the questions how — and why — does Homer’s 3,000-year-old epic poem speak to Generation Z?

Today’s teenagers live in a technology-driven world that consumes many of them. Virtually every student has a smartphone, and many of them have Facebook pages, Snapchat or Instagram accounts, and a selfie obsession. Some students spend incredible hours playing on their XBox or PlayStation 4. I’ve overheard students bragging about how much time they devote to video games — one 17-year-old proudly calculated that he’d spent two years of his life playing one single game. Unsurprisingly, this student barely graduated from high school, despite being a conspicuously bright young man. How his parents couldn’t see that he was addicted to video games and intervene, I’ll never know.

My students and my children tell me horror stories about sexting, catfishing, and predators in chat rooms. When teenagers want to take a break from social media or video games, they can binge-watch Neflix, Amazon Prime, or YouTube or stream free porn 24/7. This kind of extraordinary distraction and endless, irresistible entertainment presents problems that are new in the history of human development. Technology has delivered a true kind of soma and many kids seem to be drowning in it.

2. Kyle Smith has a message for Vox ego Ezra Klein: The true Party of Fear rhymes with “shmemobrats.” OK, Kyle didn’t say that. But he does say something like it. From his piece:

The founder of the young-adult site Vox is back with yet another essay saying, “Relax, conservatives.” This one repeats a favorite myth of the smug-progressive Left, which is that conservatism is powered by “fear.” Klein thinks that if only conservatives would relax about inevitable “change,” and vote accordingly, we could all march forward together into a shiny new era of tolerance, compassion, free-thinking, and love. It’ll be like Woodstock, only with better toilets.

When Klein talks about “change,” he is thinking of demography. He believes conservatives are getting driven off the rails by fears of black people and Muslims and documentation-challenged immigrants and maybe feminists and abstract art. Going back a bit, we had an “inordinate fear of Communism,” in Jimmy Carter’s famous words. Klein is chill about all of these things and urges us to be as fear-free as he is. As all the smugprogs are. As the Democratic party inherently is.

All Klein is actually doing here is proving his status as a bubble boy who never sets foot outside his comfortably furnished, intellectually climate-controlled living space. He is so intellectually dishonest that he is able to fool even himself.

3. John Fund visits old haunts behind the former Iron Curtain, and finds that while the Commies have long vamoosed, left behind were miles of regime red tape and disdain for the rule of law. The experience of our intrepid well-traveled reporter’s run in with Bratislava taxi hustlers is a lesson in economics. From his column:

After I recounted this story to my audience in Bratislava the next day, I got an earful. I learned that the Slovak Transport Ministry had been promising since the 1990s to crack down on taxi pirates, but they’d done nothing. Indeed, when it comes to taxi competition, things have gotten worse in the city. Since April 1 of this year, the taxi app Bolt Taxify has seen 80 percent of it drivers leave the service — after regulations started requiring their drivers to meet stiffer standards.

First impressions in visiting a country are important, so you can imagine the reaction of a foreign investor or tourist arriving in Bratislava. As a Slovak commentator on TripAdvisor warns: “You might end up paying 50 euros for a 2 to 3 mile trip. These ‘so called’ taxi drivers have very bad reputation, work as a cartel, and don’t even let regular honest taxi drivers pick up the customers” at the airport or train stations. He concluded that travelers should “just simply try local public transport.” That advice would not go over well with a potential investor.

Lucia Rakayova, a local Slovakian businesswoman, tells me she has railed for years at the taxi cartel. “I am embarrassed to have to tell my visiting friends and relatives never to take taxis,” she told me. “I have written to the mayor and been told that nothing can be done.”

But there may be a glimmer of hope. Matus Vallo, a local architect who ran and won the job of Bratislava mayor last November as an independent candidate, considers himself a transport expert. He ran on a 300-page plan for civic improvement called the Bratislava Plan. I couldn’t find an English translation, but perhaps he has some ideas for needed reforms of the taxi cartel.

4. Last month, James Buckley gave a terrific prepared speech at the recent NR Institute Ideas Summit on the need to protect the Constitution’s mandate for federalism. We have published it on NRO. From the speech:

The Tenth Amendment’s allocation of powers mirrors those of the venerable Rule of Subsidiarity, which assigns responsibilities to the lowest levels capable of handling them. Its effect is to decentralize political power and ensure, wherever feasible, that the decisions that most directly affect people will be made by those who are the closest to them and most familiar with both their priorities and the relevant facts.

This explicit division of governmental labors proved so effective that in a lecture on the American Constitution, with which he had some problems, the great British historian, Lord Acton, nevertheless concluded that “by the development of the principle of federalism, [the American Constitution] has produced a community more powerful, more prosperous, more intelligent, and more free than any other the world has seen.”

During our first 140 years, Washington largely observed those limits. With the advent of the New Deal, however, it began chipping away at the states’ authority largely through some rather imaginative constructions of the federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce. But with the advent of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, Congress began a wholesale assumption of the states’ responsibilities. This was done through a proliferation of programs that offer states and their subdivisions regulation-ridden grants of money for purposes that are acknowledged to be the sole responsibility of the states.

Congress found its authority to create such programs in an unfortunate Supreme Court construction of the Constitution’s Spending Clause, which empowers it to spend money “to pay the debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” The mischief lies in the words “general Welfare.” During much of our history, the prevailing view was that that phrase did no more than place a limit on Congress’s authority to spend by requiring that federal expenditures serve national as opposed to state or local purposes. Beginning with the 1937 case of Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, however, the Supreme Court has held that in its pursuit of the general welfare, Congress is authorized to provide states with funds with which to implement programs that Congress itself has no power to write into law. The Court recently summarized that holding as enabling Congress to use federal tax revenues to “induce the States to adopt policies that the Federal Government itself could not impose.” But because grants programs deal with matters that are acknowledged to be beyond Congress’s constitutional authority, the Court has ruled that the states may not be coerced into accepting the grants and their attendant regulations. Experience, however, has demonstrated that the states find it enormously difficult to decline them whatever their conditions. Thus the practical effect of the Court’s decision has been to empower Congress to, yes, coerce the states into adopting Washington’s approach to matters that remain the states’ exclusive responsibility.

These programs, which are laden with the most detailed instructions, now provide federal subsidies for virtually every activity in which states and their subdivisions are engaged and have made a major contribution to the federal government’s vast expansion. In the process, they distort state priorities, impose ponderous regulations on myriad state and local activities, and deprive their citizens of effective control over how their own taxes are to be used. In sum, they have converted the states in too many ways into mere administrators of programs created in Washington and overseen by bureaucrats who are the furthest removed from where the money is to be spent. As one former Democratic governor put it, “I honestly wondered if I was actually elected governor or just branch manager of Nebraska for the federal government.”

5. With the collusion cigar having exploded in their purses, Conrad Black is certain that the Democrats will soon face a political reckoning. From his column:

Given the proportions of the scam that has been perpetrated, the principal actors, including those just named, deserve commendation for the imperishability of their unctuousness. These people seem still to be oblivious to the fact that lying under oath and producing false FISA applications are serious offenses. And some of the congressional Democrats, such as Congressmen Nadler, Swallwill, and Schiff (the new-millennium version of “Martin, Barton, and Fish,” made infamous by FDR in 1940), seem to think they have a perfect constitutional right to keep the president in the pillory of their spurious investigations indefinitely. The whole edifice of the Trump moral crisis is coming down in shards around the ears of the Clinton and Obama Democrats.

The numberless candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination will presumably go to hilarious extremes to sidestep the whole Trump-impeachment debacle, but the credibility of the Democratic party, given the total immersion the Clinton-Obama era is about to receive in the Trump-collusion perfidy, will not be unscathed. After the brave launches of the candidacies, almost all of them have floundered. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has done and said absolutely nothing to merit consideration as president, has launched and sunk down the slipways and beneath the waves — her candidacy has attracted zero support. Most of the other candidates are equally unprepossessing. Cory Booker, perhaps the most compulsively verbose candidate since Hubert Humphrey (who was a good deal more thoughtful and entertaining), is apparently full of goodwill, but very inadequate. Kamala Harris seems to have the makings of a good candidate, but she is already tangled up in the runaway leftward nonsense of open borders, socialized medicine, high taxes, and the Green terror. Beto O’Rourke, as foreseen, after a brief flurry, has skateboarded off the dock and been abandoned by the media as an arm-flapping airhead. Elizabeth Warren is everyone’s nightmare of a severe, humorless kindergarten teacher, and she will not recover from her masquerade as a native Indian. Amy Klobuchar is sensible and seems likeable but has no pizzazz and hasn’t made inroads so far with radical normalcy, though its time could come.

6. Stanley Kurtz believes America may just have reached a turning point in the formal reaction of the suppression of free speech on college campuses. From the beginning of his report:

Amid the weekly cavalcade of campus horrors, it’s easy to miss a story that will mark a major turning point in the campus free-speech crisis, whether for good or ill. The growing confrontation at the University of Arizona over students who disrupted a Career Day presentation by Border Patrol agents is not your run-of-the-mill campus outrage. Instead it’s that rare case where student disruptors are facing real consequences for their actions. This is in significant part because of a new Arizona law strengthening discipline for such disruptions. If the university holds fast and the disruptors pay a price for silencing others, the move will carry national implications. Yet if the growing rebellion by anti-free-speech students and faculty at UA gets its way, the university will back down, the border patrol will be permanently barred from campus, and the university president could lose his job. That would be a disaster for free speech, and would mark a new and dangerous turn in America’s campus crisis.

Before taking the measure of the stakes in this battle, we’ve got to review the precipitating incident.

On March 19, a UA student named Denisse Moreno Melchor noticed a pair of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the school. “I was like, ‘Get out,’ and started chanting and disrupting that space until they left,” she told the school paper the next day. The March 19 event that Melchor had — in her own words — disrupted, was a Career Day presentation being given by two border-patrol agents to the school’s Criminal Justice Association. You can see from videos originally taken by Melchor and reposted here that a she is hurling insults at the officers through a door, continuously calling them “murderers,” the “murder patrol,” and an “extension of the KKK.” As the officers are distracted by the chanting, some of the students in attendance move toward the door to help secure the scene.

At that point, a woman later identified as Luisa Pinto, a major in criminal-justice studies and president of the Criminal Justice Association, invites Melchor to sit inside [1:35]. Melchor replies, “Great, I can sit in, the entire time I’ll just be saying that they’re murderers, the entire f***ing time.” In other words, Melchor promises to continue disrupting, even if she’s allowed to sit inside.

7. The failure to make good on the voters’ decision to Brexit may culminate in the destruction of the Conservative and Labour parties, writes Douglas Murray, who is not distraught over that prospect. From his commentary:

The second problem — and the only reason not to favor the constructive destruction of both main political parties — is the possibility of even greater chaos. One of the greatest causes of conservatism itself is the realization, which only grows throughout life, that everything can always get worse. When you imagine that Ed Milliband is the worst Labour leader you can get you soon find yourself facing Jeremy Corbyn. You imagine Theresa May is the worst prime minister imaginable and then you see some of the talent the Conservative party is seriously throwing up as aspiring PM material. So when people say that we couldn’t have worse representation than we currently have from either party I say we should be able to imagine an awful lot worse, because there is a lot of ruin in dying, once-great parties.

Still neither of these quibbles alters the essential point which is that the Conservative and Labour parties have both — in the last three years — shown themselves unfit to govern, unfit to claim to represent the people and unfit really to put themselves up for election. I am all for creative solutions to this impasse, and would welcome the views of readers. All I know is that the idea of voting for either party at the next election is becoming an impossibility. The Conservative party, whose sole redeeming feature used to be a reputation for competency, has shown itself to be ill-disciplined and incompetent. I can see how the European elections can go. The Brexit bloc can vote around the Conservative party, and the Leave bloc can presumably vote around Labour. But what do we do next time we have a Westminster election? The desire to wield the wrecking ball can rarely have been felt among many otherwise generally anti-wrecking types.

8. This might just be the biggest political monkey-wrench of the decade: Nigel Farage’s Brexit party. Madeleine Kearns reports on the impact of the former UKIP bossman’s entry into the European Parliament elections. From her Corner post:

And Nigel Farage, the former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader, has seized it as an opportunity to gain support for his “Brexit party,” launched April 12. According to a YouGov poll, the Brexit party is leading with 27 percent of the vote. Labour is at 22 percent and the Conservatives are trailing behind at 15 percent.

This is bad news for the Conservative party who are — at least ostensibly — the Brexit party. Around 70 percent of Conservative constituencies voted Leave in the 2017 election, and it has been the task of the Conservative government for the past two years to deliver this result. But they haven’t. Failure after failure, broken promise after broken promise; an entirely self-inflicted crisis of trust is upon them, and the gulf between Parliament and ordinary voters is ever widening. The worry now is that the Tories might bleed Euro-skeptics to Farage’s single-issue party.

9. How about we get rid of student loans? Kevin Williamson calls for shuttering “the Bank of Uncle Stupid.” From his essay:

If you make a few gazillion dollars available to finance tuition payments with underwriting standards a little bit lower than those of the average pawn shop, you create a lot of potential tuition inflation. Another way of saying this is that if Uncle Stupid puts a trillion bucks on the table, there are enough smart people at Harvard to figure out a way to pick it up.

We managed to provide college educations to those wanting them for many generations without creating a body of debt larger than all of the credit-card bills in the nation combined. Our colleges have become faintly ridiculous places, in terms of their modest academic ambitions (lookin’ at you, journalism majors, women’s-studies departments, undergraduate programs in business administration), their top-heavy administrative structures (the number of administrators per student has exploded along with college debt, suggesting that colleges are being treated as full-employment programs for the politically connected classes), their resort-style amenities, etc. We accept more students but educate far fewer of them — at much greater expense.

The best way to impose a little discipline on that mess is to make students, their families, and, most important, the institutions themselves carry their own water. The current system is exploitative: The students essentially function as a conveyor belt carrying government money into the universities, leaving borrowers instead of taxpayers on the hook because it looks better from an accounting point of view: If we just gave the universities money, that would show up on the books as an expenditure; lending it to students allows us to pretend that we have created an asset when all we have actually created is a great deal of debt and horses**t.

10. Meanwhile, Jim Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley find college to be a sorting service for entry-level jobs and point to the operations and philosophy of Enterprise Rent-a-Car to pooh-pooh the need for expensive four-year degrees. From their piece:

This is what economists such as Ohio University’s Richard Vedder and George Mason’s Bryan Caplan have been arguing for years: College degrees are simply a signifier — an easy way of telling an employer that you have a basic grasp of the English language, some rudimentary math skills, and the ability to show up on time in clean clothes. On those measures, is a graduate of the University of Michigan any different from a graduate of Michigan State or Northern Michigan University? Not really. Does a 3.8 GPA predict that you will do better or worse at managing a car-rental office than someone with a 2.8 GPA? Probably not. Does majoring in business predict that you will do a better job than an English major or a sociology major or a physics major? It’s unlikely.

The management at Enterprise are saying aloud what many employers know to be true. Bosses who require a college degree are taking advantage of a system that does the sorting for them. They understand that a bachelor’s degree is not really necessary for doing an entry-level job, and that whatever your educational background, you will require significant training to do well in that particular position.

Surely there are plenty of high-school graduates who are qualified to run the front desk at a car-rental office. But finding out who those people are is more time-consuming than just looking at a résumé and seeing a bachelor’s degree. Too bad it costs most kids tens of thousands of dollars — not to mention the opportunity cost of several years out of the workforce — to get that piece of paper.

From the New Issue of National Review Magazine, Four Suggested Pieces for Your Sanity Protocol

I do encourage you to become a member of NRPLUS so you have unrestricted and unlimited access to all of NR’s bounty (otherwise, you can read, gratis, just four magazine pieces a month, which is barely enough intellectual moisture to wet a bee’s lips). OK, that pitch having been pitched, do consider the following:

1. Teddy Kupfer’s cover story is an excellent profile of Mike Pompeo. From the essay:

Being a diplomat is a full-time job—even when you’re off the record.

Pompeo always knows his audience, which is perhaps the best answer to why he’s been able to keep a senior position since the beginning of the Trump administration. April marks one year since Pompeo became secretary of state: an eternity in this cabinet, where top officials come and go as they gain and lose the presidential seal of approval. Pompeo, a California native and former Kansas congressman, has been in Donald Trump’s cabinet since Trump tapped him as CIA director in January 2017.That practically makes him, as South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham recently quipped at a committee hearing, the longest-serving member of government.

Secretary of state is among the most visible, difficult, and challenging cabinet posts. The nation’s top diplomat has to be able to hold forth about international crises of varying sorts without pausing for a briefing. He will be able to speak directly or vaguely as the situation demands, sounding sincere all the time. He should understand foreign customs and possess a baseline level of historical knowledge. Pompeo checks these boxes: On the trip, Pompeo answers questions about Chinese telecom company Huawei, slain columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and disintegrating Venezuela while juggling meetings with controversial Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, persecuted Hungarian civil-society groups, and former Soviet political prisoners. He receives ornate greetings at palaces in both Bratislava and Warsaw. He trudges through snow to visit a NATO base in eastern Poland, and participates in a fraught, more-than-50 nation summit on Iranian issues held in an empty Warsaw soccer stadium.

2. Nostalgia for the 80s has gripped America’s pop culture, reports Peter Tonguette. From his piece:

In fact, rare was the ’80s teen comedy in which the traditional family unit was presented as anything but a positive, or at least benign, force. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off features the hero (Matthew Broderick) evading all forms of authority, but he has no particular animus toward his elders; after all, the elaborate sound-effects system through which he fools his father is installed in his bedroom in his parents’ home! And, in the surprisingly sharp and funny License to Drive, Corey Haim flouts all the rules in his pursuit of wheels, but he is situated firmly within the constellation of a family, including his assertive but tolerant dad (Richard Masur), his daffy, pregnant mom (Carol Kane), and a pair of harmless siblings. This is a family in harmony, more or less. Even when Dad is a Wally World–obsessed fool, like Chevy Chase in the Vacation string of comedies, the family most often ends up where they started: together.

Significantly, a family lacking in two parents was usually seen as a deficit int he cinema of the ’80s. For example, E.T.—a far richer film than anything by John Hughes, let alone License to Drive—touchingly depicts the unavoidable struggles of single motherhood. After her husband has flown the coop, Mary (Dee Wallace) is left to rear her three children, Elliott (Henry Thomas), Michael (Robert MacNaughton), and Gertie (Drew Barrymore). Alas, Mary’s grip on her kids’ comings and goings is so tenuous that she is the last to know of the presence of a space alien in her home. Released two years after E.T., Michael Apted’s Firstborn goes a step further in chronicling the hazards a single mother (Teri Garr) exposes her brood to when she tests the dating waters with a no-good guy (Peter Weller).

3. The Varsity Blues scandal has produced some celebrity mea culpas, and some refusals. Kevin Williamson considers the art, act, and purposes of apologizing. From his piece: From his piece:

Apologies have become almost entirely self-interested affairs—which, in a sense, means that they are not authentic apologies. Which is fair enough, since they are so often demanded for things that are not authentic offenses.

Our apologies are instrumental and, in a popular culture in which people pride themselves on being media-savvy (irrespective of whether they have any real experience in such things), there is a kind of self-conscious cynicism about apologies and the uses to which they may be put. In much the same way that every barstool NFL analyst fancies himself a Bill Belichick in waiting, the gawkers of the political and celebrity worlds (to the extent that they are today distinguishable from each other) like to play spin doctor, thinking of themselves as masters of the dark arts of opinion manipulation.

They do not ask whether the apology was honest, but whether it worked.

4. We run a meaty excerpt from Michael Brendan Dougherty’s new book, My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son’s Search for Home. Which must mean that the following is an excerpt of an excerpt:

So what were our background cultures? Our boyhoods could not have been more different. You had five siblings and two parents at home. You grew up in a tight two-up, two-down in Donnycarney and the streets had hundreds of children in them. The schools that were built to handle this were called “industrial.” One of the most infamous of these, Artane, cast its shadow into your neighborhood. In summers you were sent to your grandparents in Monaghan, to avoid the training in criminality available just out your door. Fathers were deputized by God to rule their homes. The Catholic Church of your youth was a spiritual empire, sending Irish emissaries across the sea. It spoke Latin, threw incense generously, and ran the world as you knew it, because the unquenchable fire of hell burbled beneath everything. People you knew would be genuinely afraid of receiving Holy Communion unworthily.

The heroes of Ireland’s Easter Rising were still venerated as saints. When you were a child, Ireland’s president, a hero of that rebellion, laid a wreath at the jail where his comrades were condemned to death and killed. The life of the nation was serious business. The adult world throbbed with authority and frequently abused it. Maybe Ireland would be poor, but it would be sanctified and creative. This was what one of Ireland’s leading writers calls the myth of Holy Catholic Ireland, a myth that shaped your childhood. A myth that Ireland has spent the last three decades dismantling. The last artifacts of it are eagerly chucked away.

Lights. Cameras. Critics.

1. Armond White checks out Red Joan and finds himself watching a political sob story about treason. From his review:

Judi Dench plays title character Joan Stanley as a kindly widow suddenly exposed by the British government for her activities, 60 years earlier, relaying wartime bomb secrets to Russia. Crone Joan’s mummified on-trial look (Dench’s facial wattles, a padded, thick rump, and flabby legs with an ankle monitor) dissolves into flashbacks played by pouty Sophie Cookson, who beams a girlish complexion and period hairdos as a student at Cambridge University. Cookson never locates her character’s sexual-political tension, which was the key to every characterization in the film version of Mary McCarthy’s The Group, because that complexity isn’t part of this film’s reverential concept.

Young Joan is seduced by a pair of sexy Jewish radicals, Sonya (Tereza Srbova), who teaches her espionage tricks, and firebrand Leo (Tom Hughes), who talks of religion when he has politics in mind. Their exoticism, flaunting past political persecution, is meant to excuse WASP Joan’s uncritical fascination.

Asked, “Who politicized you then?” Old Joan’s response, “That’s a strange way to put it,” epitomizes the disingenuousness of red-diaper-baby filmmaking that dodges political intent and refuses to admit its Communist sympathies. This is where Red Joan stops being entertainment and becomes romanticized indoctrination. Leftist attitudes are dramatized as the norm.

2. Well, our Humble Correspondent very much likes The Searchers, John Ford’s classic film. But yeah, it’s way too revered. Kyle Smith wants to put an end to all the genuflecting. From his takedown:

Apart from its stunning Monument Valley photography, The Searchers is mostly hokey and thinly written. (Spoilers follow.) Wayne’s Ethan Edwards, a returning Confederate soldier, stops at his brother’s frontier house in West Texas in 1868 and takes an immediate dislike to the brother’s adopted son Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) because the youth has slightly darker skin indicating some Indian ancestry. In a Comanche raid, everyone but Martin and Ethan is either killed or taken captive, and the two men spend five years tracking the chief, Scar (Henry Brandon), to find Ethan’s missing niece, Debbie (Natalie Wood). By the time they find her, she is fully assimilated into the Comanche and doesn’t want to return to the whites. Ethan decides that she’s been polluted by miscegenation and tries to kill her, stopped by Martin. The closing minutes of the film contain two sudden, unexplained changes of heart: Debbie resolves to return to the whites, and Ethan decides to rescue her instead of murder her, seemingly on the spur of the moment.

Ford was primarily a painter of tableaus, and like many of his films, this one suffers from dialogue that is almost entirely flat and functional. Max Steiner’s score is typically overbearing and melodramatic. The acting (especially by Hunter) is mostly terrible. A scene in which the searchers meet two women who have been rendered hysterical after capture by the Indians is so broadly played that it’s practically camp. The romance between Martin and his frontier sweetheart, Laurie, is leaden. The slapstick humor (such as when Ethan kicks an Indian woman down a hill or when Martin falls over the same bench twice) is excruciating. Unlike in Howard Hawks’s Red River, Wayne’s character doesn’t have a well-crafted arc, just a sudden lurch from fury to kindness, and there is no comparing the depth of the Ethan-Martin bond with the one between Thomas (Wayne) and Matt (Montgomery Clift) in the earlier film. Red River is Shakespearean. The Searchers is merely pretty.

The Six.

1. Writing for the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse, Professor Daniel J. Mahoney (a trustee of NR Institute!) takes on the Euro-Intelligentsia critics of national leaders — Orban in Hungary, Poland’s “Law and Justice” party — who are pointed defenders of their nation-state in the face of the EU monolith. From the essay:

Do Poland and Hungary remain free countries? Yes. Is there fear in the streets of Warsaw, Budapest, and other Polish and Hungarian cities? No. Observers should not confuse Orban’s animosity toward George Soros with anti-Semitism. Soros, a partisan of transnationalism and radical libertarianism, shows little respect for the Jewish religion and is no friend of the state of Israel. Applebaum is right about one thing: Polish elites are divided in two, and old friendships, including political friendships, have been severed. But elections are free, and political liberty is intact.

The Law and Justice government is sometimes clumsy and inept, as when it sponsored legislation criminalizing those who blamed Poland for the Holocaust. To be fair, they do have reasons to be defensive, from American reporter Andrea Mitchell’s recent conflation of the “Polish and Nazi regime” to Israeli officials’ linking of Polish anti-Semitism to the genocidal crimes of the Nazis. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe, militant and aggressive anti-Semitism flourishes unchecked in Islamic and Leftist circles. Have these critics no eyes to see?

2. Sooner or later you arrive at every subject. Such as: Walrus Tragedy Porn. At The Global Warming Policy Forum, learn about the lengths to which climate-change hystericists will go in order to create propaganda about rising seas and melting ice and man-badness.

3. The day before Notre Dame went ablaze in Paris, Raymond Ibrahim (who has frequently contributed to National Review) penned a timely report for Gatestone Institute, bringing attention to the daily attacks — particularly in France — on Catholic churches and statuary. From his piece:

Countless churches throughout Western Europe are being vandalized, defecated on, and torched.

In France, two churches are desecrated every day on average. According to PI-News, a German news site, 1,063 attacks on Christian churches or symbols (crucifixes, icons, statues) were registered in France in 2018. This represents a 17% increase compared to the previous year (2017), when 878 attacks were registered — meaning that such attacks are only going from bad to worse.

Among some of the recent desecrations in France, the following took place in just February and March:

Vandals plundered Notre-Dame des Enfants Church in Nîmes and used human excrement to draw a cross there; consecrated bread was found thrown outside among garbage.

The Saint-Nicolas Church in Houilles was vandalized on three separate occasions in February; a 19th century statue of the Virgin Mary, regarded as “irreparable,” was “completely pulverized,” said a clergyman; and a hanging cross was thrown to the floor.

Vandals desecrated and smashed crosses and statues at Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur, and mangled the arms of a statue of a crucified Christ in a mocking manner. In addition, an altar cloth was burned.

Arsonists torched the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris soon after midday mass on Sunday, March 17.

Similar reports are coming out of Germany. Four separate churches were vandalized and/or torched in March alone. “In this country,” PI-News explained, “there is a creeping war against everything that symbolizes Christianity: attacks on mountain-summit crosses, on sacred statues by the wayside, on churches… and recently also on cemeteries.”

Why? Applying the old condition, you get three guesses and the first two don’t count. Read the piece.

4. In the previous WJ, Yours Truly drew attention to the mounting crises of crime and hellhole-ish-ness in San Francisco and Seattle. In City Journal, Christopher Rufo assesses the Seattle situation and the role of hyper-elites in suppressing the outrage of a populace with an aggressive and sanctimonious #SeattleForAll campaign. From his piece:

A quarter-century ago, social critic Christopher Lasch observed the beginnings of this kind of phenomenon, arguing that America’s political and cultural elites were starting to revolt against the people. While during Lasch’s time this elite contempt was directed against “middle America”—an early iteration of today’s “deplorables”—coastal progressivism has now reached the point that the new elites have gone into revolt against themselves. In Seattle, the emerging activist class—billionaire philanthropists, multimillionaire politicians, and likeminded commentators in academia and prestige media—has begun an information offensive against the liberal, wealthy, educated residents of a city that gave Hillary Clinton 92 percent of its votes. Scolding the public to be more “compassionate,” this new hyper-elite has shown only contempt for middle-class residents in Seattle’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.

The biggest problem with such top-down management of public knowledge is that it prevents honest debate—which Seattle desperately needs. The gap between elite rhetoric and on-the-ground reality continues to widen. In the most recent polling, 68 percent of Seattle voters say that they don’t trust the mayor and city council to solve the homelessness crisis—yet the foundations, the communications firms, and the mayor’s office keep lashing out at dissenters. In The Revolt of the Elites, Lasch revealed the danger of ignoring public opinion and limiting debate to elite influencers: “Since political debate is restricted, most of the time, to the ‘talking classes,’ as they have been aptly characterized, it becomes increasingly ingrown and formulaic. Ideas circulate and recirculate in the form of buzzwords and conditioned reflex.”

5. More from City Journal: University of Tulsa professor Jacob Howland laments what has happened at his school, “hit by a perfect storm of trends currently tearing through the American academy: the confident ignorance of administrators, the infantilization of students, the policing of faculty, the replacement of thinking with ideological jargon, and the corporatization of education.” From his essay:

With Upham’s retirement in the fall of 2016, TU’s problems expanded into the realm of education. The crisis we now confront is essentially moral and metaphysical. At stake is whether we will continue to be a liberal university: a place where young people, briefly sheltered from the noisy imperatives of the day, may take root in the rich soil of the common human past and grow into mature, independent individuals.

Upham was replaced by Gerard Clancy, a psychiatrist who served as president of the University of Oklahoma–Tulsa from 2006 to 2014. Clancy’s proudest accomplishment is developing psychiatric-outreach programs for homeless people. His therapeutic sensibilities have informed all his work as TU’s president, starting with the university’s Strategic Plan for 2017–2022. Entitled Building the Foundation for a Great Story and a Greater Commitment, the plan asks not what we want students to learn, but “How do we want TU students to feel?” The answer consists in the four pillars of the new TU Commitment: accepted (“physically, emotionally and spiritually safe”), engaged (“not talked down to, you have a voice and a desire to be heard”), empowered, and launched on a voyage of self-discovery. The administration takes the TU Commitment seriously: an annual Commitment Cup and quarterly Pillars of the Commitment awards recognize employees who promote its goals in an exemplary way, and the provost signs every email to the faculty, “With commitment.”

6. In Modern Age, Jeremy Friedman reviews a quartet of books on Stalin, and delves into a lingering ambiguity about the dictator and his ownership of evil. From the review:

Some have sought to argue that Stalin’s personality, perhaps deriving from childhood traumas, is the essence of the story, a personality that remained hidden to some degree from Stalin’s comrades until it was too late to stop him. For others, the evil of Stalin is the age-old evil of Russian tyranny and expansionism, a bloody legacy that has been the source of centuries of oppression and threats to both ordinary Russians and Russia’s neighbors. For those who see Russia as a continuing menace, who see Putin as a dangerous heir to Stalin’s legacy, such a story has obvious temptations. Finally, there are those who locate the evil of Stalin’s regime in communist ideology. The centralization of power and the system of terror necessary to impose such an ideology on a country the size of the Soviet Union, the force required to mobilize an entire population to build socialism in such conditions, and the de facto imposition of a permanent state of war with the outside world meant that any such regime, were it to succeed and remain faithful to its purposes, would have had to commit crimes of this magnitude.

While this tripartite typology necessarily simplifies many aspects of the debate, especially as each of the three directions contains several possibilities within it, it is a useful way of clarifying what is at stake in the historiography of Stalin today.

Book Recommendations

Of course you saw above the excerpt of Michael Brendan Dougherty’s book, My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son’s Search for Home. April 30th is the official publication date, so use that link to pre-order a copy through Amazon.

Now, I have just got my hands on the galleys of Steve Auth’s The Missionary of Wall Street: From Managing Money to Saving Souls on the Streets of New York.

Do yourself a favor and preview it here. Or check out this short video. If you are into CNBC and FBN then you have likely seen Steve, a classic Wall Street guy who knows a ton about investing. But something (God!) called him to engage his faith in an unorthodox way, so for the last decade he has been doing missionary work on Manhattan’s lonelier streets and alleyways. They’re not as godless as you’d think.

This is really inspiring stuff. You go get a copy and I’ll leave it with this about the book from Jason De Senna Trennert, bossman of Strategas:

Auth reveals that the toughness and humanity that allowed him to be a Wall Street star also allowed him to try to save souls on the mean streets of New York. A story told with both candor and tenderness, The Missionary of Wall Street just might restore your faith in humankind. It will certainly challenge your preconceived notions of those who seek to restore souls and those whose souls need restoring.

Baseballery

Since its modern era began in 1901, our National Pastime has seen three Paris-born men play in the Majors. Racking up the most playing time was infielder Steve Jeltz, who had turns with the Phillies and Royals from 1983-1990. A weak hitter, he dinged but five home runs in 2,041 plate appearances. But as these things happen, of course he clocked two of them in consecutive plate appearances in a wild 15–11 Phillies win over the Pirates on June 8, 1989. Fun fact: The Pirates scored 10 in the top of the first, which proved to be one of the greatest blown leads in MLB history.

Other Parisians playing in the Majors: Duke Markell, who tossed five games for the St. Louis Browns in 1951, with a 1–1 record that included a September 27 complete-game win over the Detroit Tigers at Sportsman Park (attendance: 560), and Paul Krichell, who caught for the Browns in 1911-12 but is better known for being a key scout for the New York Yankees, signing Hall-of-Famers Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Phil Rizzuto, and Whitey Ford, and many other stars. More about Markell: In his first game — called in to relieve against the White Sox — he himself was relieved by Satchell Paige. Cool.

RIP: Then there are Major Leaguers who died in France. Elmer Gedeon only played in a handful of games for the Washington Senators in 1939. Back to the minors the next years and then, drafted. He soon found himself in the Army Air Force, was trained as a bomber pilot and, commissioned a Captain, served as an operations officer with the 394th Bomb Group based in England. Today, April 20, is the anniversary of his death: In 1944, piloting his “Marauder” as part of a bomber group targeting a German VI rocket facility in the ancient French village of Bois d’Esquerdes, he delivered his payload, and then his cockpit took a direct hit from German anti-aircraft fire. He was likely dead before the plane crashed. Captain Gedeon is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Read about this extraordinary man here.

A Dios

Now, we leave you with our sincere prayer to the Creator that he affords you all the blessings you and yours need. And with one last article recommendation: A few years back we uncovered this gem by the late Keith Mano. It’s titled “Easter Meditation.” I am sure you will find it inspiring.

Happy Easter to all my Christian friends, and to my brothers and sisters in Abraham, a Blessed Passover,

Jack Fowler, who has refused the blindfold as he awaits the email firing squad, targeting jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: There are several movie versions of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. In many foreign places, it is known as “Quasimodo” — as if “of Notre-Dame” was a mere qualifier. But whether the setting for the performances of Lon Chaney, Charles Laughton, Anthony Quinn, or others, it really is the ancient edifice that is the star. To quote the bell-ringer: Sanctuary! Sanctuary! It is a special place that, oremus, will rise, anew.

Oh yeah, you can watch the Lon Chaney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame here.

National Review

So You Thought You Were Going to Get Away with It

Dear Joltarian,

So many knickers are in so many twists over Attorney General William Barr’s testimony before Congress this week, in which he alleged that there might have been government spying on the Trump White House. Yes, as Rich Lowry says in his new column, Barr used the “s-word.” Commence pearl-clutching. There are plenty of goodies in this edition of Weekend Jolt, but before you heap your plate from the all-you-can-eat buffet, please do read Rich’s new column, bluntly titled “Yes, Investigate the Investigators.” From it:

The Mueller probe was a national trauma. Its boosters didn’t experience it as such, of course. They enjoyed it and played it up and hoped for the very worst. But it cast a shadow over the White House, occupied an inordinate share of the nation’s political attention, and saddled innocent people with large legal bills.

And for what? To establish that the far-fetched theory that the Russians coordinated with the Trump campaign indeed wasn’t true, and to take a pass on pronouncing one way or the other whether President Donald Trump allegedly obstructed justice?

You don’t have to be a deep-state conspiracy theorist to want to know how this got started and why.

We should try to find out as reliably as possible how much FBI and other officials were legitimately freaked out by some of the Russia connections of Trump associates, and how much they were acting in an amateurish panic and out of partisan malice.

How was it that a garbage anti-Trump dossier gathered by an ex–foreign spy from shadowy Russian sources came to set so much of the media narrative about the Russia probe, and evidently have an outsize influence on the thinking and the actions of the FBI?

If your curiosity about Spy Smasher, the mid-40s Republic Serial, has been piqued, well don’t just wonder. Go ahead and watch Episode One, “America Beware”!

Hey, You Forgot Something!

To sign up for the NR 2019 Canada / New England Conservative Cruise, scheduled for August 24-31 and starting in Montreal and ending in Boston. Get complete information at NRCruise.com. And sign up by Monday to get our early booking discount!

Editorials

1. Chick-fil-A is once again under attack from leftist municipal officials who don’t want the chain of yummy food operating in their locality (and, in San Antonio and Buffalo, in local airports). We hit back. From our editorial:

In 2012, a wave of Democratic city officials, including the mayors of Boston and San Francisco, threatened to block Chick-fil-A from opening restaurants in their cities, and Chick-fil-A’s customers responded with an immense “buycott” as a show of support. By the end of 2012, the storm appeared to have passed.

Until now. While ThinkProgress has continued to call attention to Chick-fil-A donations for years, this year San Antonio and Buffalo decided to act. And once again Chick-fil-A faces explicit, official retaliation not for any incidents of discrimination in its stores, but rather for the constitutionally protected freedom of expression of its associated foundation. This is intolerable on two counts.

First and most importantly, it is plainly and clearly unconstitutional for government officials to punish private corporations for the political or religious views of their owners or affiliates. This basic principle of constitutional law was recently reaffirmed in a federal court in California, when an Obama-appointed district judge protected a “living history” farm from public reprisal against the conservative views of its owner. When the local school district canceled field trips to the farm in protest of the owner’s private political views, the court’s ruling was clear: “Defendants cannot terminate [the trips] for unconstitutional, retaliatory reasons.”

2. Hey Bernie! Yeah you, the socialist millionaire. Your health plan? It stinks! On hot ice. From our editorial:

But the expense of the bill — which would necessitate large increases in debt, in middle-class taxation, or in both — is hardly the only objection to it. Scores of millions of people with private health-insurance plans, the vast majority of whom are satisfied by them, would be forced to participate in a government plan instead. Roughly another 20 million on Medicare Advantage, again mostly satisfied customers, would find their plans terminated, too, for being too market-like for socialist tastes. At the same time, the plan would impose unprecedented and draconian reductions in pay for medical providers, which is bound to have a negative effect on the supply of care.

3. “Gender identity” is the sacred cow, and there is aggressive genuflecting to it on Capitol Hill, where the “Equality Act” is picking up political steam. We say there was never such a Pandora’s Box. From our editorial:

Already we are seeing the harmful effects of such policies. In the state of Connecticut, two biologically male students who self-identified as transgender finished first and second in an event in the girls’ high-school track championships. A biological man asked the Massachusetts attorney general’s office to force a women’s spa to wax his genitals. In Palm Springs, Calif., three teenage girls encountered a naked man showering in the women’s locker room. All of these incidents are part of a social and legal revolution that the Equality Act would advance.

Such arrangements could clearly be easily exploited by predators. Sex offenders across the United States have been able to get access to women’s spaces by “identifying as female.” Women at a federal detention center in Texas sued the government on the grounds that being housed with male inmates put them at risk of sexual abuse. In the U.K., the Ministry of Justice confirmed the findings of a women’s-rights group that more than 40 percent of prisoners identifying as transgender are registered sex offenders. The inquiry was conducted after a male rapist who self-identified as transgender sexually assaulted several female inmates.

4. About the Barr attacks, we say it’s a product of “absurd rage.” From the editorial:

The question, as Barr said the other day, is whether this surveillance was properly predicated. Barr is being attacked as a partisan hack for saying he’s going to find out. Democrats fear that Trump will use — and exaggerate — whatever is found for his own political purposes, but this isn’t a good reason to oppose Barr’s determining whether the FBI conducted itself with good judgment and in good faith during this episode. The public certainly has an interest in knowing the facts, which is why as many documents related to the beginning of the probe and its conduct should be released as possible.

Barr is also taking a beating for redacting the forthcoming Mueller report. But it is his responsibility to take out grand-jury material — a D.C. court of appeals decision just affirmed that this material can’t be released to Congress under current statute — classified information, and disparaging references to people incidentally related to the probe. This is simply good practice, and Barr has said he’s combing through the report with Robert Mueller. You know, just like Roy Cohn would.

Get Your Smart Conservatism Here! Ten Terrific Must-Read NRO Pieces that Will Make a Spring Weekend All the More Springier

1. Michael Gibson makes a powerful analysis as to why San Francisco, like that old quart of milk, has turned. It’s a wonderful bit of writing. From the piece:

If you can stomach all that blandness, I wish you luck with the appalling. Up and down the city’s disorienting hills, you notice homeless men and women — junkies, winos, the dispossessed — passed out in the vestibules of empty storefronts on otherwise busy streets. Encampments of tents sprout in every shadowy corner: under highway overpasses, down alleys. Streets are peppered with used syringes. Strolling the sidewalks, you smell the faint malodorous traces of human excrement and soiled clothing. Crowded thoroughfares such as Market Street, even in the light of midday, stage a carnival of indecipherable outbursts and drug-induced thrashings about which the police seem to do nothing.

The confused mumble, the incoherent finger-pointing tirade, the twitch, the cold daemonic stare, the drunken stumble and drool — these are the rhythms of a city on the edge of a schizophrenic explosion.

The cause of this blight is codified nostalgia and greed. (Nellie Bowles where are you?) Baby Boomer civil servants act as urban taxidermists stuffing and mounting a dead city so it always resembles the past. The San Francisco Chronicle tells us that there is indeed a mayor, and maybe even a chief of police, but it is not known who is actually in charge. Housing and zoning committees obscure responsibility for governance. But somewhere in the bureaucratic hierarchy faceless city functionaries administer labyrinthine regulations that benefit the rich over the poor, the old over the young, the here over those to come, the past over the future.

In one of the more comical examples of this sclerosis, a real-estate developer worked for five years and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to show that a proposed housing development wouldn’t cast shadows on a nearby playground or destroy the historic character of the laundromat it sat atop. In another, it took two years for a woman to open an ice-cream shop.

RELATED: Yours Truly on Seattle becoming a you-know-what-hole. Read it here.

2. Victor Davis Hanson bemoans how San Fran has become a pricey heckhole, and how the Golden State’s insatiable liberal government is devouring its taxpayers. From his new column:

San Francisco ranks first among America’s largest cities in property crimes per capita. The massive concrete ruins of the state’s quarter-built and now either canceled or postponed multibillion-dollar high-speed-rail system are already collecting graffiti.

Roughly a quarter of the nation’s homeless live in California. So do about one-third of all Americans on public assistance. Approximately one-fifth of the state’s population lives below the poverty line. About one-third of Californians are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s health-care program for low-income residents.

California’s social programs are magnets that draw in the indigent from all over the world, who arrive in search of generous health, education, legal, nutritional, and housing subsidies. Some 27 percent of the state’s residents were not born in the United States.

Last month alone, nearly 100,000 foreign nationals were stopped at the southern border, according to officials. Huge numbers of migrants are able to make it across without being caught, and many end up in California.

A lot of upper-middle-class taxpayers feel not only that California fails to appreciate their contributions, but that the state often blames them for not paying even more — as if paying about half of their incomes to local, state, and federal governments somehow reveals their greed.

3. More Chick-fil-A: Fearless Leader Rich Lowry plucks and fries the leftist bigots who despise the company because of the traditional religious views of its founders. From his new column:

In San Antonio, the leader of the anti-Chick-fil-A effort, City Councilman Roberto Treviño, explained that, “Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport.” The irony of discriminating against Chick-fil-A in order to demonstrate the city’s famous open-ness was, of course, lost on him.

As for everyone feeling welcome, it’s not as though Chick-fil-A refuses to serve or hire anyone. It didn’t become the fastest-growing restaurant chain in America, projected to take third place in sales after McDonald’s and Starbucks, by putting obstacles between hungry patrons and its sandwiches (except for on Sundays, when it is closed).

The hostility to Chick-fil-A stems from a controversy back in 2012 when its CEO, Dan Cathy, made statements opposing gay marriage, and the foundation established by the company’s founder contributed to politically engaged social-conservative groups. There was nothing wrong with this, but since most profit-seeking enterprises don’t like controversy, Cathy said the company would back off the gay-marriage debate and focus on the chicken.

It has, but its critics still detect a lingering stench of Christianity.

RELATED: You have to catch this Rich Lowry video on 5 Reasons why Chick-fil-A’s chicken-blank enemies are wrong.

4. From his retirement Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has fired a bunker-buster letter upon the last six decades of a Roman Catholic “faith” that has forgone the Other Wordly because its leaders (liberal theologians) and key players (gutless bishops) became too entranced by the God-less-ness that is Complete This-Wordliness. Michael Brendan Dougherty reflects on Big Ben tolling for Holy Mother Church. From his analysis:

Pope Emeritus Benedict has allowed the publication of a letter he addressed to bishops and cardinals who met in February to discuss the problem of child abuse. The letter is a collection of personal remembrances and acid observations about other churchmen, theologians, and recent Church history wrapped around an argument.

The Emeritus Pope’s argument is explosive. (The full text can be read here.) In summary, Benedict charges that a revolutionary spirit from the world entered the Church in the 1960s. Possessed by that spirit, arrogant theologians determined on creating “another Church” destroyed the traditional moral theology of the Faith, leading to a complete breakdown of moral discipline in the clergy and even a generalized spirit of blasphemy, which Benedict intimately and unforgettably connects with the phenomenon of child abuse. Along the way, he points out how, having abandoned a traditional understanding of the Catholic faith, bishops and cardinals felt no compulsion to protect the Faith itself, and allowed the rights of accused clergy to develop in such a way that they totally obliterated the prerogative of serving God and passing on the faith to the next generation. “The Church is dying in [people’s] souls,” he observes in a spirit that reads equally mordant and mournful.

Although he does explain his own view that abuse can be adjudicated as a crime against the Faith, the former pope tries to transcend a debate that he views as too focused on managerial or technical solutions. Benedict XVI argues that churchmen themselves must be converted into believers who fear and honor a living God. “Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.”

5. Brexit Madness: Conrad Black finds Parliament’s nose-thumbing of the referendum result is a deeply serious matter that makes the Mueller probe look insignificant. From his piece:

The United Kingdom is now in the climax of the greatest failure of British national government since the debacle of the American Revolution. Though it is not violent, there has not been such a rending of British national opinion, involving the structure of its vital political institutions, from the War of American Independence to these recent days of intense dispute over Britain’s departure from the European Union. The British have earned, over many centuries, the respect of the whole world for their talents at government — in devising durable and adaptable institutions in democratizing but retaining their monarchy, in the greatness of their Parliament at critical moments in the development and defense of democracy, and in the great and generally civilizing influence Britain has exercised over vast swathes of all inhabited continents except South America. To all but a comparative handful of insensate Anglophobes, the general competence and effectiveness of British political life is assumed. The country played the balance of power with often exquisite perceptiveness from the rise of the nation-state in the 16th century to Munich in 1938, and after that fiasco retrieved its error of appeasement with a heroic war that earned for Winston Churchill and his countrymen the homage of the whole world. Though this was not what Mr. Churchill particularly wished, he managed, with the greatest dignity in all history, the transition from being one of the world’s co-equal greatest powers to being the principal and influential ally of the stronger of the world’s two superpowers with consummate elegance and suavity.

And now this premier democratic state, with essentially the same political institutions gradually devolving for 900 years, and no real civil strife or profound upheavals in 370 years, is on a knife-edge of whether it will regain its sovereignty or not. In summary, the European Union, which aspires to “an ever closer union” of its 28 members, has engendered an irregular and unsettled transfer of jurisdiction from the national governments of the member states to a centralized European government in Brussels. It has stirred serious reservations in many member countries over its authoritarian regulation and lack of real accountability, either to member countries’ governments or to the toothless talking shop of the European Parliament.

6. Amherst College has published the woke-iest thing yet — so woke you’ll never again need caffeine! — a “Common Language Guide.” Madeleine Kearns puts on her rubber hip boots and tromps through the Lefty muck and mire. From her piece:

It defined “critical race theory” as a “theoretical framework that critically examines the intersections of race, power and the law” and condemned the view (admittedly naïve, especially given the content of the document) that society has moved beyond racialized barriers. It described such views as a deadly “post-racial ideology,” capable of causing “racial battle fatigue,” which can result in “high blood pressure, anxiety, frustration, shock, anger and depression.”

A section on gender identity theory included definitions of “tucking: the practice of concealing the penis and testes so that the person’s front is flat, or without a bulge, especially in tight clothing.” Indeed, “tucking,” we learn, “involves pushing the penis between one’s legs and then putting underwear or tape on to keep it in place. It can also involve tucking the testes back up inside the person.” As well as “binding: a method reducing or flattening the appearance of one’s chest” by which the author clearly means breasts belonging to a female.

Think such practices sound uncomfortable and unhealthy? Worry that obsessing about students’ genitals is odd? Be careful. That might count as “transphobia.”

Gender identity also covered new terms such as “boi: masculine-presenting queer black women whose gender presentation can be more fluid and/or androgynous than completely masculine.” The heading “sexual and romantic identity” included definitions of “BDSM,” “demisexual,” “demiromantic,” all framed positively or neutrally, while “heterosexual privilege” was named as another sin.

7. While conservatives continue to make the case for a larger Navy, if only to offset China’s monster ambitions, the Pentagon, reports Seth Cropsy, is making the weird / terrible case to retire the USS Harry S. Truman. From the beginning of his piece:

The Pentagon wants to reduce the Navy’s carrier fleet. In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on March 26, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said that aircraft carriers remain “vital” to the United States’ security. Shanahan also insisted that a carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, which needs refueling for its nuclear reactor so that it can stay in the U.S. fleet for another 25 years, should be tied up to save money for the “future force.” The two assertions are contradictory. “Future force” includes unmanned planes that would fly from carrier decks. Laying up the Truman would reduce the carrier fleet below its congressionally mandated level of eleven, which U.S. combatant commanders say is insufficient to meet their requirements. Cutting the carrier force would undercut the rationale for investing in future technology — for example, unmanned planes.

The large problem is that the military service best suited to deter China’s regional and global ambitions — the U.S. Navy — is not being funded at a level commensurate with the reemergence of great-power competition. The U.S. needs both enough ships to meet its global commitments and advanced technology to equip them. Cutting either to fund the other is like giving up your health insurance to replace a leaking roof.

Arguments for retiring the Truman stand up neither to facts nor to reason. The cost savings from failing to refuel the Truman in the fiscal year that begins this October would be no more than $17 million. Greater savings would accrue in later years. They amount, in constant dollars, to less than 75 percent of the Truman’s original cost — a lot of money, but worth it to keep the carrier fleet at the absolute minimum needed to meet the U.S.’s peacetime commitments in the Middle East and Indo-Pacific.

8. Caleb Whitmer can answer any question you have about crazy (and likely unconstitutional) state liquor laws but were afraid to ask. A shot from his pint:

The scenes and themes of Mississippi’s alcohol dramas are performed regularly around the country, just with different players. A Supreme Court battle over liquor-license residency requirements could have started in any number of states besides Tennessee. In fact, 33 others (including Mississippi) and the District of Columbia all signed on to the suit in support of Tennessee’s stringent rules. More than just a question about the constitutionality of a particular regulation, though, Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Blair could end up having profound implications on the states’ authority over alcohol under the 21st Amendment.

TWSRA v. Blair began when Tennessee’s alcohol regulators were poised to grant liquor licenses to two store owners who did not meet the two-year requirement (one license was for liquor-store megachain Total Wine, the other for a family operation in Memphis). TWSRA, a trade association representing the state’s liquor stores, threatened to sue if the state did not follow the law and deny their applications. In other words, industry reps used restrictive licensing requirements to keep out competition in a move so ham-fisted that it could be a case study for an Economics 101 class on “rent-seeking” and the unintended consequences of regulation. Tennessee’s alcohol regulators complied, although, one gets the sense, somewhat reluctantly.

During Supreme Court arguments last month, Justice Brett Kavanaugh expressed skepticism about the rather tortured reading of the 21st Amendment that justifies rules such as Tennessee’s. The amendment’s language prohibits the “transportation or importation” of alcohol into states that don’t want it, while saying nothing explicit about other powers the states have over alcohol regulation. The very existence of the 21st Amendment, however, implies that the Constitution views alcohol as different from other goods. The question is how different — and what does that difference mean to the states? The Court is considering TWSRA v. Blair in context of the Constitution’s protections for interstate commerce. It will likely decide whether Tennessee’s liquor-licensing rules are discriminatory against the residents of other states — and then whether the 21st Amendment actually allows such discrimination. Meanwhile, Justices Elena Kegan and Neil Gorsuch “fretted aloud” that a ruling against the two-year rule would undermine other state regulations on alcohol and welcome further legal challenges.

9. Please do read Michael Brendan Dougherty’s Corner post on the relentless efforts by the British Left (which of course includes its media) to smear Roger Scruton.

10. Daniel Pipes was in the thick of the campus lunacy at Harvard in 1969. He reflects on the 50th anniversary of students uprising and the emergence of college radicalism, and how it made him a conservative. From his piece:

The would-be revolutionaries of the late 1960s went on to change the fundamentals of American academic life, eventually bringing on such delights as women’s studies, political correctness, micro-aggressions, and intersectionality. That descent still continues, not only with far-leftists almost everywhere dominating the humanities and social sciences, but with their radicalism growing more intense and intolerant.

That takeover and bust culminated my political education. I emerged from high school in 1967 without strong views on the burning issues of the day. Even before the bust, I favored an American victory in Vietnam; but the Harvard tumult permanently consolidated and directed my views, making me the dedicated conservative I am today.

The bust also prompted me to fathom why I had isolated myself among the tiny minority of student anti-Communists. I concluded that my foreign experience in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa had caused me to appreciate the United States as most of my peers did not. My generation came of age in the halcyon 1950s; so, when great issues appeared in the next decade (assassinations, Vietnam, civil rights), it responded with outraged disappointment. But not me, for I knew the outside world.

The Six

1. I missed this a couple of months back. My pal Darcy Olsen, who is a champion of foster-care and child-protection reform, and plenty else, wrote for Arizona Central about the quick step from social services to sex slavery. It is profoundly disturbing what can happen to children when in the hands and responsibility of “officials.” From her piece:

This year, an estimated 18,000 American children will disappear, but their families will not be looking for them. Neighbors will not canvas the streets. Our Facebook feeds will not show their pictures. And after six months, the records of their existence may close entirely.

This is the fate awaiting children who vanish while in the care and custody of America’s child-protection system. Some run to escape abuse. Some follow false promises of love and security. Still others are kidnapped outright.

No matter the reason for falling off the grid, many of these boys and girls will resurface on the black market as child sex slaves. According to the FBI, more than half of trafficked children in America were in the care of social services when they disappeared. That is a damning statistic for a system whose sole purpose is to keep children safe.

2. Connecticut is considering implementing tolls in order to feed the government beast. Hired to do an objective study on the do-we-need-tolls question is . . . an international toll-advocacy group. Marc Fitch does a bang-up job for Yankee Institute to expose the fix-is-in way government works, and to report on the general lunacy of this push for tolls. From his piece:

Scholarly reviews of tolling projections show there exists an “optimism bias” in many of the studies conducted by consultant organizations.

A 2011 report by the Transportation Research Board found administrative, operating and collection costs for toll facilities were 33.5 percent. CDM Smith pegged the administrative and operating costs at “just under 10 percent of gross annual toll revenue,” or about $100 million per year.

A 2009 review of tolling studies and papers published in the Transportation Research Record found “These studies found that tolled projects tend to suffer from substantial optimism bias in forecasts, with predicted traffic volumes exceeding actual volumes by 30% or more about half the time.”

Similarly, a report by the Denver Post in 2006, noted that “86 percent of new toll roads in eight states failed to meet expectations in their first full year.”

The Denver Post wrote that “cases where the consultants doing the revenue and traffic forecast either had an interest in seeing the road get built or were later awarded additional work on that road” or “where the road’s revenue projections were used as a negotiating tool to secure favorable financing terms rather than as an impartial scientific study,” were especially troubling to investors.

But Connecticut is not discussing construction of a new road or bridge or adding additional lanes which would be tolled.

Rather, Lamont and some state lawmakers are looking to toll every lane of existing highway extensively – something that has never been done before and is considered “new territory,” for the Federal Highway Administration.

3. At The College Fix, Christian Schneider reports on the new batch of allegedly non-partisan federal “Truman Scholar” awards — not a single recipient is an identifiable conservative or Republican, but plenty are liberals and Democrats. From the beginning of his story:

None of the nearly 60 recipients of a prestigious $30,000 federal scholarship granted in 2018 reported that they had ever worked for a Republican political candidate or conservative organization, according to an analysis by The College Fix.

The lucrative Truman Scholar awards are given to college juniors, who receive $30,000 to attend graduate school and pledge to serve three of their first seven years after graduation in public service.

The federal scholarship is supposed to be nonpartisan and given simply to “persons who demonstrate outstanding potential for and who plan to pursue a career in public service.”

But the slate of 2018 recipients lean heavily left in both their political work history and the issues which they pledge to address.

4. Richard Samuelson — academic, former NRnik — isn’t as bowled over by the Varsity Blues scandal as others seems to be. Writing at Law & Liberty, he explains why. From the beginning of his commentary:

You might have heard the adage, “There will be prayer in schools as long as there are tests in schools.” The same goes for cheating on tests.

There will be bribery, deception, extortion, and other crimes as long as old Adam walks the earth. That, at least, was my initial reaction to the college-admissions scandal. Are we, to borrow Stanley Fish’s phrase, surprised by sin?

Clearly, however, my reaction was unusual. Many Americans are fixated on the story. Talk radio, I gather, could not get enough of it. What did I miss? America has an elites problem. Again, that is not news. Reconciling our creed of egalitarianism with the reality of elite leadership has been a tricky business since the Founding. Consider the great debate between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on that topic. In our generation, the problem is focused on our schools, the selective ones in particular. Admission to an elite school seems to be the entrée to the upper echelons of American society.

Were we well-governed, and were it apparent that people who are doing well financially seemed to be decent people who treated their fellow Americans with respect, the problem would be much less acute. If the election of Donald Trump signifies anything, it is that many Americans are unhappy. As several commentators have noted, for many, electing Trump was a way of extending a giant, metaphorical middle finger in the direction of our elites.

5. NYC mayor Bill de Blasio flexed his demagogue muscle with a $773 million-dollar plan for the “renewal” of failing schools. In the April issue of Commentary, our dear pal Naomi Schaefer Riley gives the program the hairy eyeball and sees . . . an unmitigated disaster. From her article:

Five years later, de Blasio has now all but admitted failure. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he said, “I’m at peace that with the information we had and the structure we had at the time, it was a sensible approach.” But he added, “I would not do it again that way.” At one point, he suggested that the problem was expecting results too fast: “We put ourselves on this very aggressive three-year timeline. In retrospect, that was probably an unrealistic timeline in some cases.” But even after adding a fourth year to the program, the results were not there.

The overall cost: a staggering $773 million. All of it down the tubes. What’s even more staggering is that the three quarters of a billion dollars flushed down the toilet is merely a drop in the bucket for a system with an annual budget of $24 billion—not even 1 percent over five years. But the fact that such a sum has produced next to no results and has done tangible harm to kids who could have gone to a different school rather than being trapped inside an unsalvageable institution is worthy of public outcry. Philanthropists like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Walter Annenberg discovered to their sorrow that they could pour hundreds of millions of dollars into urban public-school systems without even creating a ripple. But that was private money, theirs to play with. Every dollar spent by de Blasio came from taxpayers.

Of the 50 schools that remained in the Renewal program—some closed because they didn’t improve and others dropped out—enrollment dropped considerably, as much as 17 percent between 2014 and 2018. Despite claims at public hearings, most parents know a failing school when they see it. If they can get their kid out, they will.

6. At Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti asks the Sixty-Four-Thousand Rial Question: When will the Iranian regime collapse? From his piece:

The Islamic Republic of Iran today, through its terror proxies and puppet regimes, has been extending its hegemony to many capitals of the Middle East: Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sanaa. Iran continues to threaten the Middle East, the Mediterranean basin and potentially Europe. Forty years after its theocratic revolution in 1979, the mullahs speak (wishfully, one assumes) of a “declining” America.

“America cannot manage its own affairs now”, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of the powerful Guardian Council, said on state television. “Millions of people are hungry there and America’s power is in decline”. Such declarations may be intended to hide Iran’s own terrible decline, fleeing reality and crumbling from within.

Iran was the first country, in 1979, to bring down a secular, pro-Western government and replace it with an Islamic theocracy. The experiment, however, seems to have failed. Instead of bringing prosperity and freedom, it brought poverty and repression. Even without considering the terrible persecution of women, journalists, academics dissidents and sexual minorities, the Iranian regime is crumbling.

Statistics published by the World Bank note that Iran has had an appalling economic meltdown over the past 40 years since the Islamic clerics came to power. Its drop in economic rankings relative to other countries has been “one of the steepest declines in modern history.”

BONUS: With European Parliament elections scheduled for May 23, former UKIP boss Nigel Farage explains in The Telegraph why he is launching the new Brexit Party.

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. Armond White finds the new HBO flick Native Son to be an art crime that disavows social changes that have improved and complicated black American identity and self-sufficiency since the civil-rights era. From the beginning of his review:

HBO’s new update of Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas novel Native Son cleverly drops the name of 1990s rapper Biggie Smalls (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) so as to avoid dealing with changes in black American culture since Wright published his novel in 1940.

Director Rashid Johnson and screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks want to make sure we know that the ideas in Wright’s legendary book have been subsumed in their politically correct, avant-garde (i.e. “post-black”) consciousness. The advent of hip-hop, in which black American youth proclaimed their social awareness, preceded Johnson and Park’s conceit by rapping rebellious self-assertion that wasn’t always politically expedient (Biggie’s breakthrough was the Junior Mafia song “Get Money”).

Hip-hop’s new independence — and Biggie’s autonomy — contradicts every example of persecution that Bigger Thomas stood for, but Wright ‘s protagonist remains the classic figure of oppressed black youth: condemned to poverty, crime, murder, and extermination by the state. James Baldwin hated the archetype’s standing in American literature (“Everybody’s Protest Novel” he called it) and especially in the political imagination.

Still, Bigger Thomas’s infamy outstrips any Baldwin creation; his fate has reasserted itself this millennium through sentimentalized discussions about “the black body,” police brutality, and mass incarceration. The fact that we cannot escape Bigger Thomas’s ghost is partly due to Johnson and Park’s fashionable decision to subvert Wright’s cautionary book — as well as Biggie’s most audaciously funny rapscallion recordings — and turn out one more urban-tragedy scenario, now carrying the imprimatur of HBO slickness. (The film was originated at A24, the company responsible for Moonlight.)

2. Take The Office-style mockumentary, add a trio of burbs-living vampires, and you have the new FX sitcom series, What We Do in the Shadows. If the full sunlight, Kyle Smith admits he likes it. From his review:

There’s a sad-sack, Dunder Mifflin aspect to What We Do in the Shadows even before we meet an office Dracula. He’s the most common type, apparently. The “energy vampire” doesn’t literally suck your blood, he just sucks all the energy out of your room, house, or cubicle. This small, bald man in a cardigan named Colin (Mark Proksch) is the one who most terrifies all of the others. Unfortunately for them, his superior knowledge of the intricacies of the New World makes him indispensable. Even more unfortunate for the other vampires, his natural attraction to the dull and the bureaucratic tends to sabotage their romantic aspirations. Colin’s idea for launching a total-domination scheme involves catching a city bus to a zoning-board meeting. Colin licks his lips with ecstasy: “It’s a smorgasbord of banality and despair!” The vampires do have some ordinances they’d like to propose — no noise during daylight hours, a ban on turtlenecks — but like many other citizens, they learn you not only can’t fight City Hall, you can’t even figure out where to file the paperwork to announce your proposal to fight it in the first place.

3. Armond finds Peterloo to be . . . almost great. From the get-go of his review:

‘We can all deliver a speech” brags a 19th-century argumentifier, one of many crowding Mike Leigh’s impressive but imperfect political history Peterloo.

As in his other period films, Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake, and Mr. Turner, Leigh draws a bead on English history in order to vivify modern concerns — in this case, the 1819 massacre by British troops storming a political rally in Manchester’s St. Peter’s Field. It’s Leigh’s response to the millennium’s revolution rhetoric, that leftist call for change and transformation, plus its fatalistic move toward disaster.

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet “England in 1819” immortalized the homegrown tragedy known as “Peterloo,” balancing nationalist pity and monarchist rage — a testament to the British gift for rhetoric, and Leigh is after a similar poetic effect. Instead of documenting history, Peterloo details personal characteristics of that moment through Leigh’s special, behavior-based, actorly focus on British social psychology. The film’s panorama suggests social-media cacophony in 19th-century dress — even briefly touching on the snarky competition among egotistical journalists.

The massacre and the tension leading up to it are conveyed through the speech and manners of Manchester’s impoverished workers, its selfish politicians, single-minded militants, and reformers. They mirror the Brexit present, making visible the class differences of a country that, even in its regional dialects, still is united by language, still struggling through its own sense of history. Leigh showcases the impassioned speeches, domestic debates, interjections, and protestations by Shelley’s countrymen.

4. But Kyle thinks Leigh and his Peterloo thing is a Marx-loving (Karl, not Groucho) stinkeroo. From his revioo:

Leigh is rightly praised for the naturalism and authenticity with which he invests his films, famously assembled with much creative input from his actors, and for taking enough distance from his characters that the audience is free to draw its own conclusions rather than having a message shoved in its face or being urged to feel a given emotion. He can’t fairly be accused of being sentimental or didactic or on-the-nose, or of choosing a movie-movie ending instead of sticking closer to the frustrations and ambiguities of life. He tends to the detached and circumspect, which makes him as proper a choice as any to carry the British flag into world cinema.

Which is why this bristling, pugnacious, wearyingly didactic film is so inexplicable. To watch Mike Leigh make a mistake like this is like watching Yo-Yo Ma try to play the cello with a fireplace poker. Leigh’s magistrates fulminate in tones that make Emperor Palpatine look measured, then we switch over to the workers’ speeches, which are equally bombastic in the other direction. Leigh can’t even settle on a route into the story; he begins with a battle-dazed lone soldier returning from Waterloo in order to connect the two instances of bloodshed, but soon after the young man gets home and pathetically searches for work, Leigh forgets about him. We come across him again toward the end, but since we know him so little, his fate isn’t affecting. The rest of the cast mostly consists of mouthpieces for good or evil. The only characters who get more than superficial treatment are Hunt (played with a kind of strangled dedication by Rory Kinnear), who has some fine qualities but is also insensitive to the people for whom he is supposedly fighting, and a working-class woman who argues that protests will do more harm than good for their lot.

5. More Armond, this time finding a lot in the craft of certain character actors in Best of Enemies. No, not the WFB v. Vidal documentary, but Robin Bissel’s new flick on early-70s school-desegregation in the South. From the review:

Elitist Hollywood is unqualified to promote brotherhood, but The Best of Enemies comes close by reminding us of Hollywood’s egalitarian character-actor tradition. In The Best of Enemies, Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell portray the real-life black activist Ann Atwater and white former Ku Klux Klansman C. P. Ellis, who both, in 1971, got past dissension and strife to help desegregate their local North Carolina public schools.

Atwater and Ellis came together from the extremes of their divided community, while Henson and Rockwell — not bloviating celebrities but character actors specializing in outsiders and oddballs — honor their subjects’ individual eccentricities.

The always-game Rockwell starts with Ellis’s working-class idiosyncrasy: “The most emotional moment of my life was being inducted into the Klan.” Ellis’s Klan presidency (he’s given the fanatical moniker “Exalted Cyclops”) reveals the desperation behind the culture of racism. Rockwell does not betray his character’s honest, slow self-realization, and writer-director Robin Bissell keeps Ellis’s turning-point speech free of platitudes. This isn’t a fantasy bigot like Rockwell’s Oscar-winning role in Three Billboards but is based on clear insight into envy and competition, not the fear and resentment favored by most histories of racism. Ellis’s complexity is palpable in Rockwell’s very canny Brandoesque Southern accent.

Henson scores similar complexity. After her Oscar-nominated neo-Mammy turn in Benjamin Button and the ratchet excess of TV’s Empire, Henson reclaims her craft. Outfitted in sloping, cantilever breasts, her face twisted into a fist as wound-up as her kinky wig, Henson impersonates the intractable side of “Rough-house Annie.” It’s too bad that Henson only gets the anger right — as when calling out Ellis’s cowardice. But could any Black Lives Matter–era character actress resist commercialized fashionable rage? Understanding Atwater’s religious-based perseverance — when she thrusts her Bible against Ellis’s rifle — requires an actress to show even greater daring.

6. Armond encore: He sees the new French flick Sauvage/Wild as “revisiting the conflict between gay liberation’s sexual outlawry and queer rights’ absolutism” and challenging a liberal/conventional/PC take on homosexuality. Maybe not your cup of tea as entertainment, but the review is a powerful piece of writing and commentary, as usual. From the review:

What would Democratic-party presidential aspirant Peter Buttigieg make of Sauvage/Wild, the new French film about a gay sex hustler who refuses all the societal norms? Leo (played by Félix Maritaud) isn’t running for public office; he’s one of the young men who pick up customers in the Bois de Boulogne. It’s not to make money but to live freely. Without a job, a spouse, or political affiliation — he is “without roof or law,” to repeat the title of Agnès Varda’s 1985 film Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond), which chronicled the habits of a modern homeless wanderer.

Buttigieg’s personal sexual declaration is not our concern, but his progressive political stance meets a provocative challenge through director-writer Camille Vidal-Naquet’s raw, unflinching narrative in Sauvage/Wild.

The Leo characterization is so politically incorrect in his disregard of money, property, hygiene, and the shameless company he keeps that he defies the glib virtues ascribed to a candidate such as Buttigieg and by which the mainstream media always give the edge to such a figure. During a free clinic’s medical check-up, a matriarchal doctor advises Leo to give up crack cocaine; he looks at her perplexed, not understanding the connection between health and pleasure. In interviews, Vidal-Naquet reveals his own politics by describing Leo as a “sex worker,” but Varda (who made the pioneering prostitution film Cleo from 5 to 7) knew better, preferring to avoid any convenient liberal label for her social outlaw.

7. And let’s hear one last time from . . . Kyle. He’s seen Shazam and – Shazam! – it makes him want to cringe. From his review:

My cringe muscles got a major workout in Shazam!, the way they do when in the presence of a floundering standup comic. I wanted to laugh, just to save the movie some embarrassment, but nothing funny was happening. I think I reached maximum cringe when the movie acknowledged it was ripping off Big by throwing in a step-activated keyboard scene but then couldn’t figure out anything to do with the idea. Boy-turned-adult superhero Billy Batson (Zachary Levi) runs across the keyboard, so does a pursuer and that’s it. No comedy twist, just “Remember this much better movie on the same subject?”

Casting is a crucially underrated component to blockbuster movies, and Levi’s effort to be the new Tom Hanks is a total failure, even worse than the same character’s bland portrayal by Asher Angel, a featureless boy-band type, when he’s in his 14-year-old body. The young Billy has been cast out of a succession of foster homes while trying to find the mother from whom he was separated as a little kid, and has developed some toughness and cynicism as scabs over his psychic wounds. None of this is particularly well conveyed by the teen actor, but what’s bizarre is that, after a visit with a wizard from another dimension gives Billy superpowers and an adult body, this smart teen inexplicably turns into a wide-eyed bozo. As played by Levi, the adult Billy Batson never stops mugging and shrieking and pratfalling, more Pee Wee Herman than the cool Marty McFly–style teen he is in his real body. Billy’s new foster brother, Freddy (played by Jack Dylan Grazer, nephew of the producer Brian Grazer), is almost as irritating to watch as Levi, rushing through his lines with no comic timing whatsoever. Freddy has a mild disability, and the other kids in the foster home are a multicultural gang of winsome sweethearts, and all of these details are the equivalent of neon sign reading, “You will adore us.” In other words, lazy screenwriting. You don’t get to issue orders to your audience.

Baseballery

Consider the long history of the National Pastime’s original teams and — using World Series participation as the barometer — how can’t you deny that some franchises have been jinxed? That there are some areas where baseball and the law of averages are sworn enemies. Yankees, Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers . . . all that repeated glory. The Phillies, Indians, Cubs, White Sox . . . when do the fates compensate them for decades of rote despair?

Yours Truly feels — not pity, but sorrow . . .  ok, pity — especially for the fans of the White Sox. The club went 40 years between its 1919 “Black Sox” World Series loss and its 1959 appearance (also a loss, to the Dodgers), and then waited another 46 years till its next (and last) Fall Classic entry (the Sox swept the Astros in 2005). Add to the droughts this: In all the in-between years, there were few where the club was in a true pennant race. But let us celebrate that true exciting one, in 1964, when, under Al Lopez, the Sox finished in second place, one measly game behind the Yankees. Down the stretch both teams played ferociously and battled the Orioles, who as late as September 15 were in first, tied with Chicago. (Sad Sidebar: Over in the Senior Circuit, the Phillies, ahead on this date by six games, were set to embark on baseball’s epic September meltdown.)

The Sox won their last nine games, but the Yankees launched an 11-game winning streak on the 15th and took sole possession of first on the 19th. It was never relinquished.

What could the Sox have done? Not even the Magic 8 Ball knows. Among the what-ifs, though, are two painful and providential losses: On September 19, at home, they dropped a 10-inning pitching duel to the lowly Washington Senators — complete games for loser Joe Horlen and winning pitcher Bennie Daniels. The score: 1–0. Which replayed four nights later in Los Angeles. In their last loss of the season, the Sox dropped another 1–0 contest to the Angels, a nascent rally snuffed out in the second when Ken Berry — on first courtesy of a walk — was gunned down at 3rd by right fielder Lou Clinton trying to advance on a single by J.C. Martin. Had either of those contests gone the other way . . . if only . . .

A Dios

For this particular weekend, which will kick off Holy Week for some of us, let’s end WJ with The Palms. Caruso belts it out in the French original, and then there is Nelson Eddy, en anglais.

I’ve always loved Palm Sunday. My little Italian grandmother would make this wonderful dish — she called it spitsad (typed here in phonetics, and probably distorted by poor recollecting) — that was a combination of lamb chunks (many still attached to cleaved bones), egg, and either escarole (I think) or possibly broccoli rabe. Baked in this big pan. We crammed into her kitchen and demolished it. So delicious! Gran is dead now 15 years — she left for better parts a few weeks shy of her 103rd birthday. What a life: She saw Vesuvius erupt, endured the entire Atlantic sailing/Ellis Island experience, saw Halley’s Comet twice, worked in the children’s department at Saks (sold Mrs. Kennedy shorts and undies for the future president), watched Benny Hill with her grandson late at night. Wistful but wonderful memories.

Anyway, if you take enough freebies tomorrow, here’s how you can weave a cross made of palms.

God’s blessings on you, your family, and those who have gone before us,

Jack Fowler

Who tries to hide but cannot because too many people know his email is jfowler@nationalreview.com, where complaints and insults and correct spellings of “spitsad” can be directed.

National Review

Lost in (Personal) Space

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Our Kyle Smith begins a recent piece by stating “Joe Biden is a creepy old goat.” Geez, what does Kyle have against goats?

The former Veep and prexy wannabe — who maybe caught “Too Many Kisses” too many times at the Scranton Bijou when he was growing up — has come under barrage for his history of hair-sniffing / hand-slipping / lip-kissing / thigh-touching / space-invading ways. But before you could say Pepé le Pew, Joe tried to get woke: He’s promised to rein in the touchy / feely / smoochy ways, which he blamed on the tune Bushel and a Peck being stuck in his noggin (OK, I made that up). He’s swearing off the Bela Lugosi act and has got himself back to thinking presidential thoughts. It’s all in the rear-view mirror. Or is it?

Maybe form your opinion on that after you listen to the new episode of The Editors, in which Rich Lowry, Charlie Cooke, and Michael Brendan Dougherty discuss His Goatiness’ flap and its persistence, plus Joe’s response, and what it all likely means for November 2020. Listen here.

More on Joe below. More on a lot below. We have an Ideas Summit on which to report, a new issue of NR with which to tempt you, and the usual all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of fattening, delicious goodies on display.

Editorials

1. We commend President Trump’s challenge to GOP lawmakers to come up with an alternative to Obamacare. From the editorial:

Republican senators are not notably eager to take up this assignment; their leader Mitch McConnell has suggested that the Senate will wait for the White House and the Democrats to reach a deal before it tackles health care. Republican strategists say the senators are right: Why put forward a plan and open Republicans to attack over it, when the party can concentrate instead on making the case against Democratic proposals to kick Americans off their health insurance and move toward a government monopoly? Why should Republicans reprise the experience of 2017–18, when they bled public support while trying to pass a health-care bill, spent the next election on the defensive on the issue, and then lost dozens of House seats?

A flaw in this cynical calculation is that Republicans cannot prevent Democrats from attacking them over health care by abandoning the issue; if that strategy worked, the 2018 elections would have gone very differently. Most of the Republicans who will be running for office in 2020 have already gone on record wanting to replace Obamacare. The Republican administration is urging its abolition in court. Democrats already have enough warrant to accuse Republicans of seeking to eliminate a health law on which many millions of Americans rely. Republicans can choose whether to respond to that attack by pointing to their own plan, or by letting Democrats devise a caricatured conservative plan to tie to them.

From the New April 22, 2019, Issue of National Review: Feast Your Eyes and Brain on These Four Pieces.

1. Andy McCarthy lays into “Mueller’s Folly.” From his article:

Comey, despite repeatedly telling Trump he was not a suspect under investigation, stunningly announced in March 2017 congressional testimony that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign for possible “coordination” in Russia’s cyber espionage. Increasingly frustrated by Comey’s refusal to state publicly the assurances he’d given Trump privately, the president fired the FBI director on May 9. In announcing the dismissal, Trump relied on a memorandum by Rosenstein, which cited bipartisan condemnation of the director’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton emails caper during the 2016 campaign.

Why did a personnel decision that Rosenstein himself had endorsed be come, just eight days later, Rosenstein’s pretext for a sprawling special-counsel investigation? The hapless deputy AG — a Republican careerist who had carefully cultivated good relations with Democrats — miscalculated that he would be lauded for his memo. Democrats, he failed to grasp, had moved on from rage over Comey’s role in Hillary Clinton’s defeat (particularly his public reopening of the criminal investigation against her a few days before the election). By the time Comey was canned, the FBI director had become useful as a thorn in Trump’s side, especially after he announced the Trump/Russia probe (in contravention of Justice Department rules against public commentary about investigations).

When Trump ousted Comey, Demo crats posed as apoplectic. Trump clumsily tied Comey’s firing to his conduct of the Russia investigation in statements in an NBC News interview and (appallingly) during a White House visit by Russian diplomats. The president clearly meant that Comey had been falsely depicting him as complicit in Russia’s perfidy, but Democrats pounced, spinning Trump’s statements as admissions that Comey had been removed to impede the Russia investigation—notwithstanding that Trump never shut the probe down and even told NBC he wanted it done properly. The heat intensified when, based on a leak from Comey, the New York Times reported that Trump had leaned on the FBI to drop an investigation of former national-security adviser Michael Flynn.

2. In the cover essay, Matthew Continetti explains why the late Charles Krauthammer still matters. From his piece:

Perhaps the most important distinction is between negative liberty and positive liberty. Paraphrasing Isaiah Berlin, Krauthammer wrote in a 1997 column, “What the monists —  the believers in the one true truth, Marx and Rousseau and (by implication) such Third World deities as Mao and Ho and Castro — are proclaiming is not freedom. What they offer may be glorious and uplifting and just. But freedom is something very different. Freedom is being left alone. Freedom is a sphere of autonomy, an inviolable political space that no authority may invade.”

Krauthammer’s career testifies to the power of argument. “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race,” Mill wrote; “posterity as well as the existing generation, those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” It’s as if the public sphere were a giant atom smasher, flinging arguments against one another and seeing what emerges.

3. Transgender ideologues, reports Madeleine Kearns, are imposing life-long harm on children, using standards that are, to say the least, unreasonable. From her essay:

Transgenderism is the theory that each person has an innate gender identity that is distinct from that person’s sex. Theories about gender identity were pioneered by sexologists and academics in the mid 20th century, and they remain widely contested and poorly understood. Despite this, they are being applied in a radical and experimental way to children worldwide. Parents and professionals agonize over the fear that young people will suffer physical and psychological harm from the application of transgender theory, but all too often they are cowed into submission.

Some American girls have had double mastectomies as young as 13. Planned Parenthood operates on an “informed consent” basis — meaning that young people are briefed on “both the risks and the benefits” of cross-sex hormones and do not require a letter of referral from a therapist. The organization’s website states: “If you are eligible, Planned Parenthood staff may be able to start hormone therapy as early as the first visit.” Meanwhile, in 2015 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a $5.7 million taxpayer-funded grant for a five-year study on “the impact of early medical treatment in transgender youth.” According to a progress report, the minimum age for the cross-sex-hormones cohort was decreased from 13 to eight.

The claims of prominent clinicians justifying such interventions are baffling. Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental psychologist and founding member of the Child and Adolescent Gender Center clinic in San Francisco, claimed that toddlers can send a pre-verbal “gender message” by tearing barrettes out of their hair and saying things such as “I. Boy.”

4. John Miller reflects on those fellow Michiganders, the “Polar Bears,” who a century ago were fighting the Commies in the brutal far north of the USSR. From his article:

At sunrise, following a sleepless night of trudging through the cold swamps of northern Russia, a couple of men from Detroit made breakfast. Corporal Morris Foley and Private Bill Henkelman brewed tea and opened a can of corned beef. As Foley prepared to finish the last of the beef, Henkelman spoke up: “Let’s save enough for after while.” Foley refused. “There might not be no after while.”

It turned out there wasn’t, at least not for Foley. Later that morning—on September 20, 1918, by the village of Seltso on the Dvina River—his company formed a skirmish line and charged a nest of Russian machine gunners. Bullets ripped through Foley’s face and neck. “Foley had his jaw shot off,” reported a sergeant. Somehow, the young man survived his brutal injury long enough to join a retreat. He died near his original position and was buried close to where he had scarfed down his beef.

Today, Foley’s recovered remains rest in Troy, Mich., in the 200-acre White Chapel Memorial Park Cemetery, alongside the graves of 55 other American soldiers who died fighting Communists in the frozen wilds of northern Russia in 1918 and 1919. They’re marked by one of the most striking sculptures to be seen anywhere, let alone at a cemetery: a snarling polar bear, carved in white marble by the artist Leon Hermant. It’s a tribute to what some U.S. soldiers took to calling themselves a century ago: the “Polar Bears.” They were the first and only Americans to fight a shooting war against Russian Communists.

Scenes from the NR Institute Ideas Summit: Nationalism Conversed (Not Debated)

At National Review Institute’s terrific 2019 Ideas Summit, a highlight was the Whomp in the Swamp to-do between Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg over the meaning of “Nationalism.” Jim Geraghty moderated. C-Span covered. Some colleagues reacted. Watch the Whomp here.

1. Kevin Williamson considers the term and sees an image: The parade. And he is not a fan of them. From his essay:

To the extent that 2016 vintage nationalism has produced a policy agenda at all distinguishable from the old Republican stuff, it is anti-capitalist and anti-liberal: in favor of trade restrictions and suspicious of big business, especially banks, anti-immigration, anti-elitist, longstanding tendencies to which American populists from William Jennings Bryan to George Wallace and Ross Perot have been stubbornly attached. That these represent an orientation toward the actual national interest is not obvious: Tariffs function mainly as a sales tax on American consumers and as a crutch for certain U.S.-based firms that wish to be protected from foreign competition. There is more to a nation than its economy, but markets are national institutions, too, and far from the least important of them. Hostility toward these does not serve the nation, even if it serves the interests of some of the nation’s people.

With apologies to the often misunderstood Charles Erwin Wilson, the interest of General Motors is not synonymous with the national interest. There is no substantive nationalist argument for privileging the business interests of U.S.-based firms that produce steel over those of U.S.-based firms that consume steel. Occasionally one will hear arguments that the existence of a thriving steel industry is in sum important to the country in a way that exceeds the value and interests of the firms that compose that industry, but this is ultimately a very limited line of reasoning, one that could be deployed on behalf of any industry, from frisbees to wine. (The national-security case for traditional heavy-industry protectionism is in practice a limitless warrant; Senator Rubio, who also was kind enough to speak at the NRI event, has defended sugar subsidies as a matter of national security, a deficiency that is more irksome in so admirable a senator). It is difficult to say with a straight face that we must act to preserve the frisbee factories as a matter of national interest — because they are our frisbee factories — and not many nationalists, even the perfervid ones, in practice begrudge the French their oenological excellence or the Germans their automotive genius or the Canadians whatever it is they are good at. They do produce cabernet sauvignon in Ohio, after all.

If our nationalists do not think very much of the parts of America that are actually thriving — many of them the envy of the world — and do not think very much of U.S.-led developments, such as international trade, that have enriched the country immeasurably, then what is it they are thinking of?

2. Rich made an argument that Israel is a nation, and has been for millennia, even in the wilderness. David French has a different take on the Biblical dot-connecting. From his rebuttal:

God was preserving a people, not a form of government applicable to other peoples. Abraham isn’t a model for Bismarck. To have enduring value, nationalism always has to be trumped by something else — a higher value beyond the self-interest of its people. For the nation of Israel, that something else was God’s specific purpose and calling for the Jewish people. For the United States of America, it’s the ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence.

Indeed, the great meaning of the Civil War wasn’t that it was a nationalist triumph over secessionists (a competing nationalism movement), but rather that the triumph represented a “new birth of freedom.” The nation could have survived merely by defeating Confederate armies and suppressing the rebellion. But the greater virtue was the transformed polity.

Yes, there are moments when nationalism is vital. Wars for national survival come to mind. But the enduring unity of a people must be based on something greater, and the value of the nation is measured by factors well beyond its mere existence. Israel stands as a symbol of the power of the virtuous purpose and divine providence, not of divine preference for national governments.

3. And Rich rebuts. From his Corner post:

In sum, I don’t think God ordained nationalism, but I do think nationalism created our system of independent, sovereign nation-states that has proven quite favorable to self-government, democracy, and peace — things that anti-nationalists support, so long as they don’t have to acknowledge nationalism’s contribution to them.

4. And then Jonah volleys on the question of just what “self-government” means. From his Corner post:

According to Merriam-Webster, self-government means “government under the control and direction of the inhabitants of a political unit rather than by an outside authority.” Note how this definition doesn’t include the word democracy. I presume Rich agrees that self-government and democratic self-rule are different things because he lists democracy separately from self-government. As I think I mentioned in our discussion, Woodrow Wilson’s conception of “self-determination” — essentially the term for self-government at the time — wasn’t as democratic as the propaganda of the time, or the text books of today, suggest. Wilson believed that nations should be free to “choose” their own systems, even if the system they chose wasn’t democratic and wasn’t chosen democratically. This is a common view among many progressives and quite a few paleo-conservatives as well. It usually manifests itself in phrases like “Who are we to judge how other countries live?” or “Who are we to impose our values on other countries.” After all, Cuba and North Korea have “self-determination” but they don’t have democracy or the rule of law.

The relevance here is that self-government/self-determination is the goal of many anti-colonial movements of “national-liberation.” But not all national-liberation movements yield . . . liberty. Many of the nations that threw off the yoke of colonialism or alleged “Western hegemony” were very nationalistic, but they were also often very ugly dictatorships. For every India that moved in fits and starts toward democracy — thanks in part to the legacy of British colonialism — there were probably two or three that moved toward dictatorship. In other words, the line between nationalism and “self-government” to democracy is hardly a straight one.

Over at the NRI website there are pictures galore, and C-Span video (it covered the Summit live on the last day), for your enjoyment. A lot of people are particularly interested in the conversation on populism between Tucker Carlson and Michael Brendan Dougherty. Watch it on C-Span here.

Finally: The great Lee Edwards, who participated in the Summit on a panel discussing the legacy of Bill Buckley, follows up with a terrific NRO article assuring that WFB’s spirit was very evident at the affair. From his piece:

Bill Buckley too was a fighter who challenged the liberal zeitgeist, with National Review as his primary weapon. He took the struggle into the streets in 1965 when he ran for mayor of New York City. Ever the fusionist, he reached out to conservative Republicans and blue-collar Democrats on his way to receiving 13.5 percent of the vote. In The Emerging Republican Majority, the political analyst Kevin Phillips wrote that the Buckley campaign uncovered populist Democrats who helped Richard Nixon and Reagan gain their landslide victories.

If he had been a speaker at the NRI Ideas Summit, Bill Buckley would probably have reminded the attendees of a tried and true political axiom that some conservatives seem to have forgotten: Politics is about addition, not subtraction; multiplication, not division. Fusionism was Buckley’s guiding principle as he built the conservative movement that remains a major political force to this day.

A final comment about a question frequently asked at the Ideas Summit: “Should conservatives welcome populists or not?” Here is what Bill Buckley once said: “I would rather be governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than by the Harvard University faculty.”

If You Were Searching for 13 Links to Amazing NRO Pieces, You Have Come to the Right Place

1. There is a talented young writer, Alec Dent, a senior at the University of North Carolina, who wrote this wonderful commentary about the new movie Hotel Mumbai and how it addresses the now often-mocked power of prayer. From the beginning of his piece:

It’s a sad, sad thing that Hotel Mumbai reflects our time so well. The film, which received its wide release last week, is based on the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, focusing on the massacre and the hours-long hostage situation that took place in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Hotel Mumbai is masterfully done, and if another movie has been as successful at placing the viewer in the middle of a mass shooting or, indeed, even attempted to do so, it doesn’t immediately come to mind. Director Anthony Maras has created an atmosphere of almost nonstop panic and intense dread that would give any horror movie a run for its money; it’s a terrifying film that is all the more frightening because you know that the story you’re watching unfold is an account of real events. And Hotel Mumbai hits all the closer to home in the wake of the events in Christchurch just last month. The film is unique and also timely in its message about “thoughts and prayers.”

It’s common for the religious among us to pray for victims after a mass shooting occurs. And it is just as common for such prayers to be mocked and derided. Some critics fear that thoughts and prayers replace legislative action, but many seem to disapprove of the act of prayer itself, casting it as a useless act. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez provided a tone-deaf example of this following the Christchurch shooting, as she tweeted out: “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?” Neil deGrasse Tyson offered a similar message after the Parkland shooting last year, tweeting, “Evidence collected over many years, obtained from many locations, indicates that the power of Prayer is insufficient to stop bullets from killing school children.” Such condescending remarks display a profound ignorance of the role of prayer in the life of religious practitioners, and they are strongly, and unexpectedly, rebuked in Hotel Mumbai.

2. The legacies of our founder are many. Matthew Continetti considers WFB’s wide-ranging influences. From his essay:

Buckley’s skill at repartee not only stopped the opposition in its tracks. It won him converts. His comedic timing and drollery suggested that no matter how important political debate was — and Buckley thought it hugely important — one can never forget that there are aspects of life that should remain outside of politics.

As Buckley wrote: “I like, roughly, in the order described: 1) God, 2) my family, 3) my country, 4) J. S. Bach, 5) peanut butter, and 6) good English prose. Should these biases be identified when I write about, say, Satan, divorce, Czechoslovakia, Chopin, marmalade, and New York Times editorials?”

That expansive list of Buckley’s loves tells us something about the capaciousness of his heart and mind. The size of his personality and impact is why there is not a single Buckley legacy but several.

3. Big Jim Geraghty sized up Joe Biden’s being caught short in this smoochy / rub-y “scandal” — as Veep, he benefitted from a MSM that served as a “reputational bodyguard.” Come 2019, they ain’t there no more — or, as Joe might say depending on the crowd he was addressing, no mo’. Anyway, he got away with something for a long time. From the story:

A lot of us have been making fun of Joe Biden for decades. He’s got a goofy charm, but half of what comes out of his mouth makes no sense. In the 2008 debate with Sarah Palin, he declared, “Along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon,” and everyone just acted like he hadn’t hallucinated a major foreign-policy event. His gaffes are particularly tone-deaf, he’s a blustery blowhard, he’s been wrong about a heck of a lot in his long history, and he’s often an egomaniacal BS artist.

For eight years, Biden got away with a lot because the media chose to perceive him as that “wacky, lovable Uncle Joe” and if the media paid too much attention to his flaws outside of comic relief from the usually serious Obama, it would call into question Obama’s judgment in picking him.

Biden didn’t just start touching women in public this way recently. In BuzzFeed, Katherine Miller writes, “Everybody already knows what they think about Joe Biden putting his hands on people, because we’ve all seen this happen in public. We’ve seen Biden kiss people at public events! We’ve all had years to think about it!” And not many people were upset about it while Biden was vice president — at least not many people on the Left; our John Fund mentioned this in 2015, as did Victor Davis Hanson. I wrote that year that “Biden’s style is a bit ‘hands-on.’”

4. More from Jim on Joe, and the media’s decades-long delayed reaction to the creepy antics of its favorite hacks. From his piece:

When I first heard about Lucy Flores’s account of her encounter with Joe Biden, I reacted with great cynicism. Here we have a Bernie Sanders supporter who is making an issue out of Joe Biden’s characteristically buffoonish behavior, five years after the fact, in a fairly transparent effort to scare him out of the 2020 presidential race. As Kyle Smith observed, after eight years of the media painting Biden as America’s wacky, lovable uncle and perfectly qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, it is now socially acceptable to declare, “Joe Biden is a creepy old goat. Everyone knows this.”

But if you read Flores’s essay, you’ll notice that she’s diagnosing the same phenomenon about the national media and Democratic party that many of us on the Right have been complaining about for a long time: The degree to which allegations of inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct are taken seriously — particularly whether they rise to the level of columns declaring “It’s time for a national conversation” — is heavily shaped by how important the accused is to the cause of progressivism at that given moment. In 1998, almost the entire Democratic party rushed to save Bill Clinton; now it’s okay to declare his behavior appalling and worthy of a forced resignation. We could only see Chappaquiddick portrayed on the silver screen after Ted Kennedy’s death.

5. Oh, to be a lefty Virtue Signaler! As Victor Davis Hanson notes, there is hardly ever a price to pay when caught in a hoax, scam, or scandal. From his essay:

The result is that progressive actors and institutions understand that even their bad behavior will be contextualized rather than audited. Such medieval-style exemption gives them a natural blank check to overreach and to act unethically, crudely, and even unlawfully — as they might not have if they had expected ramifications.

After all, Johnny Depp, Peter Fonda, Robert de Niro, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and other exhibitionists factored into their obscene presidential vituperation that the powers that matter to them — movie moguls, film critics, media hosts, neighbors in their tony zip codes, universities — would award their hate or at least nod at it. Far less vitriol aimed at President Obama would have earned social and career ostracism, whether one was an erstwhile birther like Donald Trump or a Missouri State Fair clown wearing an Obama mask. Had Mike Pence hugged, kissed, squeezed, and blown the hair of women and girls in the serial fashion of good old liberal Joe Biden, he would have likely been asked to step down from his vice presidency.

The career of liar, conspiracist, racist, and anti-Semite Al Sharpton took off after his Tawana Brawley hoax — soaring onto cable TV and into the hugs of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The likes of a Bill Maher, Alec Baldwin, Barbra Streisand, Joe Biden, and Harry Reid know they can say almost anything they wish, on the premise that their occasional racist, sexist, and hate-filled slurs were long ago indemnified by cheap progressive virtue-signaling.

6. Jonah Goldberg responds to the latest nagger from David Neiwert — longtime barnacle and blogger for the unrivaled shake-down operation, the Southern Poverty Law Center — who lives to disassociate down-and-dirty fascism from its lefty-loving economics. From the Corner post:

If all Neiwert wanted to do was argue that Fascism in Europe was about blood and soil, violence, nationalism, and racial purity, I would still argue he’s being too simplistic. But simplistic isn’t necessarily synonymous with untrue or indefensible. But part of my argument was that the ideas that led to Italian Fascism and, to a lesser extent Nazi Fascism, were in the air across the west. American progressives and many British socialists cared far, far, far more about biological and racial purity than the pre-1938 Italian fascists ever did. Notions of the glory of military struggle can be found in the rhetoric of the war-minded Teddy Roosevelt and the pacifist author of the Moral Equivalent of War William James (whom Mussolini claimed as a major influence). The nationalization and militarization of politics and society was a dream of countless progressives and found its apotheosis in the goon squads of the American Protective League and, later, in the industrial armies of Hugh Johnson’s Blue Eagle.

Neiwert cannot countenance, never mind rebut, any of these facts – including the widespread admiration of Mussolini by American and British intellectuals in the 1920s and early 1930s (the title of my book comes from a speech by H.G. Wells calling for Western “liberals” to become Liberal fascists or “Enlightened Nazis”). This is because his definition of Fascism must indict American conservatives — and only American conservatives. (Note: I am not a fan of Dinesh D’Souza’s effort to take my argument and twist it into the kind of indictment of liberals Neiwert levels at conservatives or that I was accused of doing.)

As for “economics” always being an “afterthought” in Fascism, this would have been a shock to the fascists and to their admirers around the world. Read the Nazi Party platform of 1920; about half of the planks are about economics. Without the economic turmoil in Weimar, the Nazi party — with its incessant calls to destroy capitalism — would not have found any purchase.

7. To hell with “ze” and “zir” — Graham Hillard says conservatives need to say ixnay to the demands of transgender ideologues. He and she rule! From his essay:

The United States is now half a decade into the “transgender moment” declared by The Atlantic and other media outlets in the months before and after Obergefell v. Hodges settled the anterior matter of same-sex marriage. Yet unlike the gay-rights movement, which pursued judicial victories and cultural legitimacy with equal fervor, the struggle for transgender equality has thus far been fought largely in the court of public opinion, the occasional executive or jurisprudential expansion of existing anti-discrimination provisions notwithstanding. To the extent that the average American engages with transgender issues at all, he or she is more likely to do so emotionally or intellectually than legally, facing pressure from social norms and the informal demands of etiquette rather than the written requirements of the state.

Certainly this could change. The New York City Commission on Human Rights’ various guidelines regarding gender expression and employment provide an example of how it might, as do the handful of school-bathroom cases making their way through the courts. Yet so pronounced has been the transgender movement’s influence on the American mind that further alteration of the nation’s laws hardly seems necessary. On the subjects of identity and the nature of gender, the sexual avant-garde is steadily gaining the field. On the question of language, their battle may already be won.

8. A big judicial upset happened in Wisconsin, where the wildly outspent, vilified conservative Christian (bigot!!) Republican Brian Hagedorn beat liberal icon Lisa Neubauer in the open-seat race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The victory solidifies the conservative majority. John McCormack has the skinny.

RELATED: More context on the race, and the leftist onslaught against Hagedorn, comes from David French. From his piece:

The headlines were brutal. On February 14, one in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Hagedorn had founded a Christian school that “allows bans on teachers, students, and parents in gay relationships.” In other words, his school — like thousands of other Christian schools — banned sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Its statement of faith included the entirely orthodox declaration that “Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes the only normative pattern of sexual relations for men and women, such that marriage ultimately serves as a type of the union between Christ and his church.”

On February 20, another Journal Sentinal headline contended that Hagedorn had been paid $3,000 for “speeches to legal organization dubbed hate group.” The “hate group” was my former employer, the Alliance Defending Freedom. And who “dubbed” it hateful? The discredited and scandal-ridden Southern Poverty Law Center.

9. If you’re not Orthodox, the Putin Regime ain’t loving you, especially in the Eastern Ukraine. Doug Bandow reports on how religious freedom is under attack in Russia, aided and abetted by Orthodox Church leaders in Moscow. From his article:

However, persecution merged with politics even more brutally in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow backed local separatists. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom rated Russia a tier-1 persecutor, warranting treatment as a “country of particular concern.” Reported the USCIRF: “Russia represents a unique case,” being “the sole state to have not only continually intensified its repression of religious freedom since the USCIRF commenced monitoring it, but also to have expanded its repressive policies to the territory of a neighboring state, by means of military invasion and occupation. Those policies, ranging from administrative harassment to arbitrary imprisonment to extrajudicial killing, are implemented in a fashion that is systematic, ongoing, and egregious.”

Many have suffered, in Russia generally, in Chechnya and Dagestan, and in Crimea. The USCIRF explained that “the Russian government views independent religious activity as a major threat to social and political stability, an approach inherited from the Soviet period.” Groups must register; the government can regulate their activities; at the instigation of the Orthodox Church, the state treats blasphemy as a crime; evangelism and worship by disfavored groups are treated as extremism and terrorism; and “religious groups not affiliated with state-controlled organizations are treated with suspicion.” The government, now nationalist rather than Communist, treats the Orthodox Church as a de facto state church.

10. The birthday of Cesar Chavez is de facto Mexican-American Day in the US, and also noted as Border Control Day because — didja know? — that CC was, per Mark Krikorian, “a fierce defender of America’s borders as a means of helping struggling American workers better themselves.” From his commentary:

A useful window into Chavez’s views on border control comes from a speech he delivered almost exactly 40 years ago at the National Press Club in Washington. The speech came in the midst of a strike against lettuce farmers by Chavez’s United Farm Workers union, and the core of Chavez’s complaint was that the federal government was refusing to enforce immigration laws, thus siding with the farmers against the workers.

Many labor unions perfectly embody Eric Hoffer’s observation that “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” But in this case, as in others, there’s a reason the movement got started in the first place. Farmworkers are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation given the nature of their workplace, and they’re not covered by many of the legal protections enjoyed by other workers.

In the specific case Chavez was addressing, he claimed that over an eight-and-a-half-year period, post-inflation hourly pay for lettuce-pickers had increased a total of less than 8 percent, while those working piece-rate were actually getting paid less in 1979 than they had been in 1970. All this while, Chavez claimed, the lettuce farmers’ earnings had increased far more than inflation. As Chavez told the National Press Club, “we couldn’t live with what we were getting paid.”

11. As Jon Riches reports, there’s an important case before the Supreme Court — Kisor v. Wilkie — that could upend the current precedent that empowers bureaucrats to be the judge and jury when it comes to interpreting regulations. From his piece:

One of the most offensive of these doctrines is known as Seminole Rock or Auer deference, after the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that memorialized them. These cases stand for the proposition that when an administrative agency interprets its own regulation, reviewing courts must give “controlling weight” to the agency’s interpretation, unless it is plainly erroneous.

The issue before the Court in the Kisor case is whether courts should dispense with these doctrines at the federal level — and with the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch, there is a strong likelihood the Court will do precisely that. This is wonderful news for those who believe in the rule of law and due process, as well as for those who have fallen under the extraordinary power of regulatory enforcement action.

Not so encouraging, however, is that 36 states have adopted some form of deference doctrine when interpreting legal questions involving state administrative agencies. So even if the Supreme Court gets it right in Kisor, state courts may still defer to regulators. Some state supreme courts, including Wisconsin’s and Mississippi’s, have reversed these doctrines in recent years. But state legislatures can also work to restore due process. Because most states model their administrative procedures acts on the federal version, a simple amendment to these laws can eliminate deference in the states.

12. Once upon a time, people took pen in hand and wrote long letters (on paper!) to others. Sarah Schutte is the apostle for the ancient custom, calling (beautifully) for its rebirth. From her gorgeous piece:

After finding the appropriate pen, you realize that pens imply the act of handwriting — a touchy subject for many. Before you complain about your illegible scribble, though, remember: Letters take time, concentration, and forethought for a reason. The less you care about your handwriting, the less legible it will be. Handwriting gives you time to form your prose, strengthening it and refining it as you move from one sentence to the next, varying the pace, playing with tone, and doodling. Yes, doodling is an undeniable part of handwriting, and it helps with the next reason for why letter writing is deeply important.

To write a letter is to tell a story, to share some of our life with someone dear to us. It is the story of those important and mundane events that shape our everyday lives. Letters take forethought and concentration because they are a process, a kind of reflection. Because of the travel time and response time, weeks can pass between letters, and these weeks are full. Claim to lead an uninteresting life? Think again. Stories surround you, and it all depends on the perspective you take. Too much to write about? Choose the most important events and, in reflecting on those, you may discover some smaller and more important ones hiding in plain sight. And those doodles? Well, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

13. About time a little WJ attention was directed to Brian Allen — who pens a weekly art column for NRO. Mea maxima culpa. This week past he talked up the Toledo (Ohio, not Spain) Museum of Art show on Frans Hal, the 17th-century painter whose show-focused works are about families. Get the paper towels and sponges: Everything here seems . . . juicy. From the review:

I love Hals for his brio. He takes what were likely dour, hard-working Dutch businessmen and their dowdy wives and invests them with joy, warmth, even a touch of abandon. They’re mobile, breathing, and agile. They’re sometimes forbidding, but usually they’re huggers and kissers, and looking at them makes me think of good food and music. I’m always drawn to what I call “zafdig,” or juicy painting, in part because I learned about art at a museum with plenty of Renoirs and Sargents.

Hals is a zafdig painter and distinguished himself from many other Dutch artists in his style and in his preference for portraits. When the Nazis started bombing London in 1939, George VI wanted his bomb shelter decorated with paintings of cows at pasture by Aelbert Cuyp, also Dutch and Hals’s contemporary. If I were George VI, Cuyp, like plenty of Dutch art, would have bored me into stupefaction, if not outright submission to the Germans. Hals makes for joy. His work is a metaphor for life and promise.

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. There is a new documentary out, The Brink, about sloven-meister Steve Bannon (who has lied about Your Humble Correspondent!), and Kyle Smith has seen it and finds the subject indeed on the brink . . . of irrelevance. From the beginning of the review:

Steve Bannon is talking about Birkenau. Auschwitz, you see, was a bit jury-rigged but, ah, Birkenau. Real pros did that one. “Oh my God, it’s precision engineering to the nth degree,” he says, “by Mercedes and Krupp and Hugo Boss. It is an institutionalized industrial compound for mass murder.” It’s the look in his eye that’s striking as he says these words. He doesn’t look sorrowful. There’s a glint of wonder there. He talks about all the boring bureaucracy, all the meetings and coffee cups, all the otherwise rational people involved in building Satan’s playground, how they all distanced themselves from “the moral horror of it.”

I don’t know in what context Bannon started musing along these lines, and I’m not sure I want to know. His Holocaust remarks come at the outset of The Brink, director Alison Klayman’s cinema-vérité look at Bannon’s rough ride since he was first ousted from President Trump’s White House and then separated from the Breitbart site and his major financial backers, the Mercer family. Later in the movie Bannon is inviting reporters over to his townhouse to watch what he calls a “propaganda” movie about Trumpism, and he lightheartedly asks, “What would Leni Riefenstahl do?” Bannon seems to think he offers some kind of roguish, politically incorrect charm, but he’s the only one who sees it. If you don’t want to be called far-right or to be accused of playing footsie with fascists, a handy rule of thumb is: Don’t compare yourself to the director of Triumph of the Will.

2. Armond White sees Us and what he’s watching is a freak-show characterization of black American identity. And then there is his take about writer / director Jordan Peele as a charlatan. From the outset of the review:

The title of Toni Morrison’s new essay collection, The Source of Self-Regard, indicates what should be the point of the horror-comedy Us, if Us had a point. Morrison figures out the roots of identity, personal awareness, and artistic ambition. Through 43 compositions mostly about race, reprinted without original dates and bound in a subtly defiant pink jacket, the Nobel prize winner reintroduces herself to the woke generation. Morrison’s examples of belles lettres contradict Jordan Peele’s low-brow Hollywood-backed hucksterism, yet she addresses the generation that Hollywood has learned to control, especially in this moment, when “inclusion” and “diversity” are little more than marketing strategies. How better to sell Black Lives Matter tickets than by calling a movie “Us”? 

The actors who portray the besieged black family in Us were obviously cast for their dark skin tone. Writer-director Peele apparently likes the political horror-comedy frisson of colorism, using Lupita Nyong’o (Patsey in 12 Years a Slave) and Winston Duke (M’Baku in Black Panther) the same way he cast Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out — as ultra-blacks. This nontraditional Hollywood casting is more than counterintuitive; it’s a specious form of authenticity. Peele emphasizes racial difference — taunting it — but without Morrison’s in-depth exploration.

3. Unplanned is proving to be a very powerful film. Kathryn Jean Lopez knows it well and shares its message. From her new column:

I think that’s the power of the new movie Unplanned. It’s the story of a woman and her desire to help women, to have a purpose, to do something good with her life. She believed she was doing that as a volunteer in college and then when she worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. It also hurt the hearts of some of those dearest around her — her parents, her boyfriend who became her husband — who believed that the abortions done at her clinic were the ending of human lives. But they loved her through that intimate, emotional difference of opinion. Love can do that. Love is sacrificial and hopeful and accepts people as they are.

I watched Unplanned thinking of so many of the caricatures we sometimes make people into. With certain words or associations, we jump to conclusions about people, ascribing all kinds of ideas and values and motivations that might not be fair. One opinion voiced, one article tweeted, and we may write off people, un-friend them, dismiss them as nothing short of everything we perceive wrong with the world.

4. More Unplanned: Abby Johnson — whose personal story is the movie’s basis — and Lila Rose explain how it tells the truth about abortion. From the outset of their piece:

Abortion may be one of the most hotly debated topics in America, but it’s a word that not many people can readily — and accurately — define. The abortion industry uses vague terms like “choice,” “autonomy,” “reproductive rights” or “reproductive health,” “essentially a miscarriage,” and “gently emptying the uterus” to cloud the conversation. In a discussion of abortion, we are told to consider only the mother and her choice. The other party is only a “product of conception” or an “undifferentiated mass of uterine matter.”

Equally vague is our language about the way abortions are performed, which we hardly ever hear described in medical terms. That is why the recently released film Unplanned is so important. Seeing the truth about abortion will change people’s minds on the procedure and society’s view of this heinous human-rights abuse. It did for us.

5. Madeleine Kearns watches The Aftermath. Seems like she finds it to be a little better than meh. From her review:

Director James Kent’s new film, The Aftermath — starring Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke, and Alexander Skarsgard — takes one such marriage as its subject. Set in 1946 Germany, it follows the failing union of a British couple, Lewis (Clarke) and Rachel (Knightley) Morgan, and the latter’s adulterous affair with a handsome German widower, Stefan (Skarsgard).

The movie begins with Rachel traveling to Hamburg, where Lewis, a British colonel, is stationed. The two are happy to be reunited, but there is clearly a great deal of unspoken tension between them. Rachel is uneasy in her new home — a stately country manor requisitioned by the British military — and is made all the more so when Lewis allows Stefan and his troubled teenage daughter Freda, who had owned the home before Germany’s defeat, to stay with them. . . .

To be fair, the story it isn’t altogether boring. Generally, the dialogue and characterization are compelling. Knightley skillfully combines vulnerability and passion. When she bursts into tears, we believe her. But the scenes that explore the nature of war — which is perhaps the more interesting theme here — are lagging. It is never made clear, for instance, what it is that Lewis is doing in Hamburg. He may have PTSD from the war, but instead of having it brought to life in flashbacks or otherwise explained, we’re forced to make do with the occasional sidelong reference to his combat experiences. The threat of Freda’s Nazi boyfriend is similarly ill-developed and proves little more than a catalyst for a narrative resolution that otherwise might not have arrived.

6. Kyle is diggin’ Bonnie and Clyde, the new Netflix movie about the repugnant, cowardly thieves who are finally exposed for what they were. From the review:

Retelling Bonnie and Clyde from the point of view of the actual heroes of the story is a superb idea that took far too long to come to screen. Hired by the governor of Texas, “Ma” Ferguson (Kathy Bates), aging ex-Rangers Frank Hamer (Costner) and Maney Gault (Harrelson) are given a special mandate to end a reign of terror that left 13 people dead, yet was celebrated as a romantic tale of sexy desperadoes who were folk heroes to the newspapers of the Great Depression and later easily adapted into symbols of Sixties liberation.

Channeling Hamer’s rage and disgust, The Highwaymen attacks the myth of Bonnie and Clyde, who are seen only in glimpses. Far from robbing banks on behalf of hapless victims of the Depression, the Barrow gang mostly stuck to soft targets such as gas stations and grocery stores. Yet ordinary Americans were enthralled by the rebel legends and are seen concealing information to cover for the killers — though they were cheap, vicious cowards who would do anything for a buck. Governor Ferguson (Kathy Bates) replies to reporters pushing the Robin Hood narrative, “Did Robin Hood ever shoot a gas station attendant in the head for four dollars and a tank of gas?”

John Fusco’s shrewd and meditative script has fun trolling Bonnie and Clyde: The scene in the earlier film in which Bonnie dramatically reads aloud her poem about her life and anticipated death inspires a scene in which Hamer and Gault consider the same poem and note that it’s moronic. “Used to be, you had to have talent to get published. Now you just have to shoot people,” notes Gault. In another scene Gault just about has Clyde in his sights when the bandit’s car is suddenly mobbed by adoring fans.

The Six

1. When it comes to hoaxes, you’ll find the file drawer under “Hate Crimes” to be burgeoning. In Commentary, Wilfred Reilly has the stats and the facts. From his essay:

Our nation is not racked with hate crimes. When people in positions of power or visibility say that it is, they should be rebuked for it. I have done a great deal of research on hate crimes in America, and the tragically underreported fact is that an enormous number of such incidents reported over the past decades turn out to have been hoaxes. While Jussie Smollett’s case transfixed the nation, it is merely the most recent of a long line of politically motivated fake bias crimes. It’s difficult to think of a more compelling task for American scholars than to point out the dangerous lies behind this invented crisis.

My research and analysis of hate-crime hoaxes began informally. When I was a graduate student several years ago, I became interested in two widely reported incidents near my hometown of Chicago. The first was the burning to the ground of a popular gay-owned lounge in inner-suburban Oak Park. The second incident involved students at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where I once applied for an academic job, reporting death threats by apparent hate-group members who put up hangman’s nooses. Strong stuff.

2. At Gatestone Institute, Raymond Ibrahim reports that the UK’s “venomous” Home Office is saying “no” to persecuted Christians and “yes” to Christian persecutors. From his report:

Concerning the asylum process, she said that whenever she responded to her Home Office interviewer, “he was either chuckling or maybe just kind of mocking when he was talking to me. . . . [H]e asked me why Jesus didn’t help you from the Iranian regime or Iranian authorities.”

These two recently exposed cases appear to be symptomatic not only of a breathtaking lack of logic that flies in the face of history ― God obviously did not always save those who believed in Him ― but also what increasing appears to be a venomous Home Office bias against Christians. For instance, when Sister Ban Madleen, a Christian nun in Iraq who had fled the Islamic State, applied to the Home Office to visit her sick sister in Britain, she was denied a visa ― twice. Another report cites a number of other Christian orderlies who were denied visas, including another nun with a PhD in Biblical Theology from Oxford; a nun denied for not having a personal bank account, and a Catholic priest denied for not being married.

3. At The American Conservative, Bill Wirtz, recently canned because he tipped over a sacred cow, considers how deeply biased European media outlets are against conservatives. From his piece:

A bit more than a year ago, I was fired from a public radio broadcaster after I submitted a column criticizing the overblown and overpaid public sector in my home country. Echoing my more recent episode, an editor claimed my statement that the public sector is inefficient was “not factual.” Here as well, I was initially brought in to diversify the range of opinions. On the same taxpayer-funded broadcaster, you can listen to a wide range of left-wing pseudo-intellectuals day in and day out, lambasting global predatory capitalism and recommending the creation of new welfare programs.

Sometimes they do get caught.

German public broadcaster ADR was recently found to have commissioned a framing document by a linguistic expert, in order to find ways to demonize opponents of Germany’s media royalty, which taxes all citizens to fund public broadcasting. The linguist recommended that those who do not want to pay the fee shouldn’t be labeled simply as opponents, but as “questioning the authority of democratic decisions.” She also recommended that ARD portray those opponents as acting “contrary to democracy,” “untrustworthy,” and “disloyal.” Rejecting the media fee should be portrayed as “asking for less democracy.” She even suggested new slogans for ARD: “Others want profits, we want cultural profits,” “TV without censorship for profits,” “excellence instead of profits.” The idea was to demonize both opponents of the licensing fee and private media companies that could replace the functions of public broadcasting.

4. Playing off of Russell Kirk’s The Roots of American Order, Jeff Pollett — in a new essay for Modern Age — compares the five great cities (Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and Philadelphia) that Kirk described as the bases for the success of the American civic project, with five modern cities that are agents of chaos and the engines for uprooting order. From the essay:

Which brings us to our fifth anti-city, and the most inhuman and anti-human of them all, the one that possesses all the vices of the others with none of their virtues: Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley has dedicated itself to the quick buck, to novelty, to constant stimulation and growth, and to the destruction of the relationship between past and future. Its fundamental modes of operation—innovation and piracy—have no aim other than a constant burrowing deeper into people’s lives and minds. Its aim, if it has one, is to turn us into cyborgs, appendages to the gadgets it creates.

Could anyone in Silicon Valley write sensibly about love, about death, about the need for face-to-face communication, or about the rhythms of nature? The answer is decidedly no, and the evidence is in part displayed in an utter hostility to the parameters of existence. In their quest to bypass death, the Siliconians have denied all limits to human being and knowing. All wisdom begins in knowing the limits of our humanness. But the Siliconian revolt is a pressing beyond all limits, and thus a pressing beyond wisdom and beyond that which makes us most human. The transhumanist movement, which believes that consciousness is but a series of algorithms that can be downloaded, is an anti-humanist movement precisely because it seeks to negate the fact that we are embodied creatures, part of the physical world, to which we have obligations and from which we draw our sustenance.

5. The Panam Post publishes an op-ed from lawyer and novelist Emmanuel Rincón, who provides a harsh assessment of Venezuela, then and now. (Hat tip to our friend Alberto de la Cruz at Babalublog for alerting us to this troubling analysis.) From the piece:

Hydroelectric power:

1986: The final stage of the Raúl Leoni Hydroelectric Complex enters into operation, which with an installed capacity of 10,235 MW becomes the largest hydroelectric power station in the world at the time. A year later, the “San Agatón” Hydroelectric Power Plant was inaugurated, the first stage of the “Leonardo Ruiz Pineda” Hydroelectric Generation Complex, belonging to the Uribante-Caparo Development of the CADAFE company. In 1988, work began on the construction of the Macagua II hydroelectric dam on the Caroní River.

2019: Only in the month of March, Venezuela registers 5 blackouts nationwide.

Sports:

1987: During the Copa Libertadores, the goalkeeper of Unión Atlético Táchira, scores a goal from his own side that contributes to the team’s 3:2 victory over Independiente de Avellaneda.

2019: Vinotinto players do not have uniforms.

6. At Law & Liberty, Greg Weiner reflects on how today’s political correctness will be tomorrow’s infraction. From his essay:

Now, let us specify what, in an age of political correctness, is obligatory: the N-word that Mark Twain stands accused of using too often in his masterwork is objectively offensive, and Washington and Jefferson are accountable for enslaving people, which must be weighed opposite their ample virtues. But the phenomenon of political correctness, as Hawthorne teaches, is nonetheless fundamentally about progress at the expense of the past. What frustrates those accused of violating the tents of political correctness is that the goalposts are constantly moving in the name of progress. The moral authority is never Burke’s “collected reason of ages.” It is always the omnipresent now, oriented toward the glorified future.

This faith in the now arises from a boundless confidence in contemporaneous reason that in turn implies a conception of man as the measure. It is not possible, or perhaps it is not necessary, to believe in reason’s limitations when man is not accountable to anything that transcends himself. The notion of permanence, and its transcendent nature, imply limits to human reason that the cult of progress cannot accept, for permanence declares there are some things reason cannot change or fully comprehend.

Progress, by contrast, rejects the past by necessity. Terminology that was commonplace in what Hawthorne called “yesterday’s newspapers” is consequently offensive today. The same is true of political positions. Barack Obama could not win the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 because the health-care reform he signed in 2010 — then considered revolutionary — left too much room for the private insurers that the champions of Medicare for All deplore today. Among elements of the right, the issue is less progress than the present: Fealty to the sitting president can upend long-standing norms because the standard is not tradition but rather today. On either account, whether progress or presentism, there can be neither heroes — they come from the past, a foreign country — nor traditions.

Baseballery

I’m going to blame or credit, however it is best taken, Peter T with the delicious dollop of info about what is considered (not by Yankees fans) the greatest game ever played — Game Seven of the 1960 World Series, which of course featured Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the 9th. His was the 78th plate appearance of the game, a 10–9 see-saw slugfest that saw 24 hits: Not once before he drilled Ralph Terry’s pitch did any Pirate or Yankee strike out. And only five walks were issued. That’s an amazing feat: Bat was hitting ball, and nearly every batter put the leathered orb in play. And get this: The game took only 2:36 to play.

From the fevered brain in the Land of Coulda: This might have ended with another Yankee championship but for a decision by Casey Stengel — whose brilliant career as Yankee manager would end five days later when the ownership game him the heave-ho (blaming his age, 70) — in the top of the 8th: Bobby Shantz (the AL’s MVP in 1952) had come in to relieve in the 3rd inning with the Bronx Bombers trailing 4–0. For the next four innings he held the Pirates scoreless while the Yankees clawed back, and in the top of the 8th, the Yanks ahead 7–4 with men on second and third bases with two outs, Stengel let Shantz hit. He lined out, ending the rally. In the bottom of the 8th, pinch hitter Gino Cimoli tagged Shantz for a single, Bill Virdon then hit the famous hit-a-rock grounder that took a wicked hop and clocked shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat, Dick Groat followed with a single, and the Pirate floodgates opened: a five-run rally erupted. The drama didn’t end though: Yanks promptly tied the score in the next frame. And then came the Maz homer.

Interesting: Pirates pitcher Harvey Haddix — whose 1–0 loss in a famous 1959 near-perfect outing against the Braves is considered one of the National Pastime’s greatest performances (he pitched 12 perfect innings before getting tagged in the bottom of the 13th) — gave up those two Yankee runs in the 9th, earning him a blown save. But the Mazeroski homer earned him the victory, his second of the series (he started and beat the Yanks, 5–2, in Game 5 in The Bronx). Take the W, because it’s better than the L.

Department of Corrections

In which my medical ignorance is exposed. Correspondence from Dr. Eric C of Youngstown, know-it-all, who, in fact, knows it all:

I am writing to criticize your metaphor, because I know that you are a punctilious stylist, and would want to know this. I have no criticism of the ideas you present in your newsletter.

You write “The media would be wise to express humility, sorrow, and remorse, because that might go some way toward defibrillating their own flatlining reputation.” The idea is right; the expression is wrong.

I have a fair bit of familiarity with defibrillators, thankfully from the handle side, not the paddle side. Defibrillators are used to treat, as their name implies, ventricular fibrillation (VF). The electrocardiograph (ECG) in VF is anything but a flat line. The ECG shows chaotic up and down zig-zagging, not the orderly progression of defined wave forms seen in a normal cardiac rhythm. Application of a brief electrical current across the heart depolarizes all the voltage-bearing elements of the heart, and allows the heart’s electrical activity to resume in normal fashion.

In contrast, a flat-line ECG represents no electrical activity in the heart at all. All the potentially voltage-bearing elements of the heart are already depolarized. (A mannequin has a flair-line ECG.) Defibrillating a person with a flat-line ECG is as beneficial, as the Yiddish proverb says, as cupping a corpse. Defibrillation is not used on patients who have flat-line ECGs. . . .

Thank you for your newsletters. I find them insightful and interesting, even if they are episodically imperfect in cardiology.

A Dios

Last weekend, Yours Truly drove a rickety UHaul truck many hundreds of miles on I-95 in the pouring rain. A rosary was said. No accidents happened. Thank you, Lord! More will be said this week. May I humbly recommend that you find a way to offer thanks for those things which . . . merit thanks.

God’s Blessings on You and Your Flock,

Jack Fowler

Who stands, or sits, ready to receive your missives about misunderstandings related to medical devices — or anything else for that matter — sent to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: Harpo Marx, sans freres, had a cameo part in Too Many Kisses. Good thing for his shtick that it was a silent movie, but . . . it seems he did in fact speak in it (or, maybe more accurately, he intertitled!). You can watch the clip here.

National Review

The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, Tra La . . .

Dear Jolter,

. . . Bring promise of merry sunshine. And, so goes the song, more promises of a summer of roses and wine. Let’s add hefeweizen too. There are lots of reasons for sunny happiness and celebrating this week, at least at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At 30 Rock, well, not so much. More on the Mueller report and the fallout — along with so many other worthwhile items — can be found below.

Before we get to them, to honor the fact that Opening Day has indeed happened, we’ll tip our baseball cap to a piece by Alexandra DeSanctis, in which she laments the forthcoming rule changes for the National Pastime. During the Seventh-Inning Stretch, read Major League Baseball’s Identity Crisis.

Editorials

1. A good day for race hoaxers is a bad day for America, dragged through a contrived and criminal scandal that thrilled the MSM. Jussie Smollett pays no price, and we share in the outrage. From the beginning of our editorial:

Rarely do we find ourselves nodding vigorously in agreement with Rahm Emanuel or David Axelrod, but both onetime Obama lieutenants expressed needful levels of disbelief and disgust at the surprise outcome of L’Affaire Jussie Smollett. “Hate crimes are loathsome. Faking them is insidious and shouldn’t be excused,” Axelrod wrote on Twitter after the Cook County State’s Attorney dropped all charges against Smollett for faking the supposed January 29 attack on him by a raging pair of Trump supporters. “Despite Smollett’s denials,” Axelrod added, “nothing the prosecutor said in dismissing the case supports that. If prosecutors have evidence that contradicts the indictment THEY brought, they should share it today.” Emanuel, in perhaps his finest public performance ever, called the disposition of the case “a whitewash” and asked “Is there no decency in this man? A grand jury saw the evidence (and) realized this was a hoax — a hoax on the city, a hoax on hate crimes, a hoax on people of good values who actually were empathetic at first. And he used that empathy for only one reason . . . himself.” Axelrod deftly summarized the moral hazard in another tweet: “You can contrive a hate crime, make it a national news, get caught and-if you are a well-connected celebrity-get off for $10K and have your record expunged and files sealed.” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said, “I think this city is still owed an apology” because “at the end of the day, it’s Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax.”

2. The prolonged and unnecessary Mueller investigation would have likelier found a unicorn. It’s over, but the hysteria isn’t. And the meas aren’t culping. There’s plenty to condemn. From our editorial:

It always seemed unlikely, if not outright preposterous, that the Russians would have entrusted a sensitive intelligence operation to the most shambolic general-election campaign in modern memory. There was no reason to collude with the Trump campaign, in any case — the Russians obviously hacked Democrats’ emails, on their own, and then released them via their WikiLeaks cutout, on their own. Nonetheless, even as Mueller indictments and plea deals piled up, with no suggestion of collusion in sight, Trump critics could never give up on the idea.

The media was obsessed, and always implied there was some devastating revelation just over the horizon. MSNBC and CNN took every minor scooplet from outlets such as the Washington Post and the Daily Beast and blew them up into major stories. The press, in its zeal to believe the worst, sometimes published too-good-to-check erroneous reports. Otherwise serious opinion writers accused Trump of being a traitor or perhaps a Russian asset since 1987. John Brennan assured everyone that there was no doubt that there was collusion. Democrats such as Adam Schiff said the same.

It’d be a nice contribution to the public discourse if any of these people admitted they were wrong, but instead they will all move on, looking for the next blockbuster to destroy Trump looming somewhere over the next hill.

3. Kamala Harris has a plan to spend your money — on a major Democrat voting bloc. We think it’s idiotic. From our editorial:

Senator Kamala Harris has proposed a $315 billion program to raise teachers’ salaries by $13,500. There is nothing quite as fine to the worst kind of politician as buying an election with someone else’s money. Given that teachers’ unions are the financial bedrock of Democratic campaigns — together the NEA and the AFT were the third-largest spender in politics, and they donate almost exclusively to Democrats, with most of that money derived from dues deducted from teacher salaries — this is the Democrats voting tax dollars into their own political coffers, world-class logrolling.

That aside, it’s also lousy policy.

Dozens of academic studies over the years have failed to establish any consistent link between changes to teachers’ pay and students’ educational outcomes. The most reasonable interpretation of those data is that teachers’ compensation already is well above whatever hypothetical point it would need to be raised to for educational purposes. But Senator Harris frames this instead as a question of social justice.

Get Ready for April and All the Showers of Multicultural Lunacy that Will Rain on Our Heads by Reading these Baker’s Dozen NRO Water-Resistant Pieces

1. Amen, Andy McCarthy: For what did we need a special prosecutor if in the end he was going to punt on his obligations? A terrific and dead-on analysis by NR’s expert on this entire Blank Show. From his piece:

The most telling revelation in Attorney General William Barr’s letter about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s much-anticipated final report is that Mueller has punted on the main question he pursued for nearly two years of investigation: Did President Trump commit an obstruction offense?

The Barr letter gingerly states that, after making a “thorough factual investigation” into alleged instances of obstruction, Mueller “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.” Since making a prosecutorial judgment was Mueller’s job, that means he defaulted. What did we need him for?

Not only that, but Mueller determined that it would be better for the attorney general to make the prosecutorial judgment. So, for the millionth time, what the hell did we need a special counsel for? If the Justice Department, in Mueller’s judgment, was perfectly well-suited to make the call, how could there possibly have been a conflict so profound that it was necessary to bring in a special counsel in the first place? A special counsel, mind you, who recruited his staff from the Justice Department, transferred the cases he brought to Justice Department components, and, now, has ultimately delegated his decision-making responsibility to the Justice Department.

The lack of a so-called collusion case is no surprise, as I contended in my weekend column. As far as President Trump and his campaign were concerned, there never was a case of the only kind of actionable collusion that would have been of interest to a federal prosecutor: knowing complicity in Russia’s cyber-espionage operation to influence the 2016 campaign.

2. More Mueller. Victor Davis Hanson repeats his excellent and obvious observation: “Had Hillary Clinton just won the 2016 election, there would have been neither a Mueller investigation nor much talk of Russian collusion.” But we had one, with a process that became in part its purpose. From his analysis:

Robert Mueller spent over $30 million and 674 days in vain ferreting out “collusion” not because it was necessarily difficult to prove such a charge either true or false. After all, the basis for the allegation, the veracity of the Steele dossier, could have been easily and quickly adjudicated.

Indeed, already by May 2017 and the beginning of Mueller’s investigation, the dossier was roundly denounced as fraudulent. FISA transcripts of surveilled conversations had already apprised officials that there was no direct evidence of collusion, which is why Peter Strzok, well before Mueller began, had privately warned his paramour and soon to be fellow Mueller team member, Lisa Page, that “there’s no big there there” to the collusion charge.

What explains the cost and length of the Mueller investigation? It’s not the (relatively easy) challenge of adjudicating collusion. It’s the politicized make-up of his team, which relentlessly and expansively drove on to tag any Trump aide with almost any crime imaginable.

Mueller could have saved the nation a great deal of national angst and division had he only insisted on a brief series of special requisites in his personnel selections: 1) None of his lawyers and investigators should have donated either to the Trump or Clinton campaign; 2) there should have been some numerical parity between Democratic and Republican members; 3) attorneys should not in the past have directly defended either the Trump or Clinton Foundation or any aides who had previously worked for Trump or Clinton; 4) they should not have transmitted on government devices any prior hyper-partisan praise or invective concerning either Trump or Clinton.

3. Fallout: The conspiracy-addicted media circles the drain ever more quickly. Kyle Smith hovers over the whirlpool. From his essay:

The media would be wise to express humility, sorrow, and remorse, because that might go some way toward defibrillating their own flatlining reputation. The vast majority of conservatives and a big majority of moderates simply think the media are no more to be trusted than a toddler with Oreo crumbs on his face who vows he has not strayed near the cookie jar.

In the last two years, half of Americans say their trust in the media has decreased, while only 8 percent report increasing trust. By a margin of 69 to 29, Americans agree that the media are more interested in advancing their point of view than reporting all the facts. Three-fifths agree that the media covers matters in order “to delegitimize the views held by President Trump and his supporters.” Sixty percent of independents and 93 percent of Republicans agreed with that last item. The media have become an amen chorus of liberals chanting liberal refrains to liberals. The signature phrase of our moment is Fake News. And the Hindenburg of Fake News just went up in flames.

RELATED: Rich Lowry asks “Why was Trump acting so guilty?” And then answers: “It turns out that he was acting innocent, only in a typically combative, over-the-top Trump fashion.” Read his new column.

4. More Kyle: No one has been more on to Jussie Smollett from the get-go of “the great Subway Sandwich ambush of 2019” than has our insightful culture critic, who lays into the hate-crime hoaxer’s charges being dropped. From his Corner post:

The toxic repercussions of this are quite obvious and have already begun. The prosecution’s action allows Smollett, for his part, to proclaim complete vindication and revert to his story that he was viciously attacked by two guys. The media is now rushing back to Smollett’s side, or to advise us that the whole thing is so mysterious and complex that we should just shut up about it. Ludicrous as Smollett’s account is, damning as the evidence against him is, the likes of CNN’s Brian Stelter are shrugging and saying, “Hey, I guess we’ll never know what happened!” You would have to be very thick to think this, given the changing nature of Smollett’s story and its many far-fetched details. But if Smollett is innocent of fabricating a hoax, why would he submit to even a minimal punishment of, in effect, paying a $10,000 fine? Isn’t he the aggrieved party here? You aren’t supposed to be fined for getting beaten up by two thugs. . . .

It ought to be blindingly obvious to Chicago prosecutors that if a hate-crime hoaxer is allowed to get away with it, this constitutes an engraved invitation to others who might be inclined to paint themselves as victims and bask in the inevitable national-cynosure status while precious police resources get tied up in one of the most dangerous cities in America on the investigation of nonexistent crimes.

5. Whether the parents are flying a helicopter or pushing a snowplow, Michael Brendan Dougherty thinks its time for them to let their kids be free range. From his article:

My childhood neighborhood had silent guardians, the old Italian-American ladies who watched the streets and intervened in the play of children when property or limbs were in danger of being broken. There were also the stay-at-home moms who felt a duty to “our kids,” the kids of the neighborhood, whether they really knew the parents or didn’t. And the kids themselves wanted to be outside, and called each other to come out. Sometimes shouting up to bedrooms, other times calling on the phone, or knocking on the door to ask if I was home and could come out to play. There was a social expectation that kids would be outside and the world had to accommodate them.

That social expectation does not exist where I live. As Sammual Hammond, a researcher for the Niskanan Center, put it to me, there’s been an “enclosure of the parental commons” in our lifetime. For those who don’t remember their AP European History basics: The commons were lands that, well, commoners could use. They could find streams to fish in, or pastures to graze their cattle in, or to cut turf out of its bogs for fuel. The enclosure of the commons entailed kicking the commoners off the land and bringing it under greater commercial control by the owner or lord of the land, usually with massive gains of income for the lord, and the loss of a safety net for many commoners.

Something akin to this is happening to parenthood. The helicopter and snowplow parents with means have withdrawn their children from the street, and often their homes from the “parental commons,” the system of expectations and resources that were held in common by members of a neighborhood that allows it to support its own kids’ socialization without intense supervision and micromanagement.

6. What a phony Andrew Cuomo is on . . . well, pick a subject. But today’s focus is on “affordable housing,” which there is plenty of in New York City, if you are wealthy. As for why the supply-and-demand process has been kneecapped by the Big Windbag in Albany, who claims to be a champion of affordable housing, Kevin Williamson explains. From his analysis:

With that kind of résumé, you’d think that Cuomo would be doing something to make housing in New York more affordable. In fact, he’s doing the opposite.

Turns out that it’s hard to build new housing with no utility connections.

With new residential towers planned for several communities in New York City’s Westchester County suburbs, Con Ed has declared a moratorium on new gas connections. You can thank Andrew Cuomo for that: At the behest of moneyed environmental interests, Cuomo has stood athwart the building of practically any new conventional energy infrastructure, including pipelines for clean-burning natural gas. The Left is opposed to such new infrastructure full stop, part of an ideological crusade against natural gas and other plentiful sources of energy. Without additional pipeline capacity, Con Ed cannot deliver gas to its customers — and, unlike the Cuomo administration, the utility has decided against making promises that it cannot keep.

The Cuomo administration has criticized Con Ed for failing to propose “alternative solutions,” but natural gas is the alternative solution — to heating oil. Natural gas is cheaper and cleaner — if you can get it.

7. Are there Marquess / Marquessa of Kings/Queensbury Rules for Civility in the transgender debate? Language needs to be more Frank (or, Francine?), writes Maddy Kearns. From her piece:

“Presents as female” was the go-to phrase before journalists began describing the anatomy of a trans rapist with words such as “her penis.” When “transsexualism” became a surgical possibility, it was clear that a person who “changed” sex under the knife had undergone physical changes in order to resemble the opposite sex. They hadn’t literally become the opposite sex. Many people made noble efforts to accommodate transsexuals — including linguistic accommodations — for whom life was undoubtedly difficult.

When “transgenderism” first took off, many applied a similar logic. It seemed not only easier but kinder to acknowledge people who had discovered their “true gender” (whatever that meant) according to their preference. On an interpersonal level, it’s nice to be nice. But in the public square — in the realm of debate — assertiveness was and is still needed.

Put it another way. If a Christian and an atheist appeared on a public platform to debate the subject of religion, and they avoided blasphemous language (i.e., denying or disrespecting divine revelation) at all costs, how could the atheist make a convincing case? How could he be frank and forceful if offending his opponent was his primary concern?

Yet in the gender debate . . . the consensus on tact has obviously been exploited. A formerly “courteous” reference to a trans woman as “she” is now supposed to signify the speaker’s acceptance of “her” literal and absolute femaleness.

8. Managed trade, including a U.S.–China agreement that may total an on-paper trillion dollars in purchases, is a lousy idea, says Frank Lavin. Where tariffs rule, free markets are assigned to the clearance rack. From the get-go of his analysis:

If a U.S.–China trade agreement is reached, get ready for an announcement of a Chinese commitment to purchase U.S. goods. The sums could be tantalizing, with figures of up to a trillion dollars mooted. But before any celebration, let me wave a warning flag: I encountered similar proposals for purchase agreements as commerce undersecretary in the George W. Bush administration, and there were sound reasons why these purchase agreements were consistently avoided.

First, they represent not a policy success, but a failure. Since the end of World War II, the United States has fought for a rules-based trading system to allow us to prosper alongside other like-minded participants around the globe. We have supported free-market economics and accepted the outcome as long as the process is fair. Trump’s approach represents a break with this policy; instead of free and fair trade, his goal is managed trade. But managed trade treats the symptoms of global economic malaise rather than the causes. In place of the traditional strategy of working for open, rules-based economies, it reduces the U.S. to using tariff power to hustle other nations.

Second, there are practical objections. There is no universally accepted measurement for these agreements. Are we discussing the posted rate for an item, or the actual sales price — common practice in industries such as aircraft? Are we discussing new purchases, or are we also adding in existing plans and commitments, partially double-counting? Are we looking at sales this year or a longer time-frame? And with products such as automobiles, do the dollar amounts refer to the ex-factory prices, the dealer’s prices, or the retail prices?

9. President Trump has appointed frequent NR writer Stephen Moore to the Fed. If you thought the media had spent all of its hysteria energies, you’d be wrong. John Fund checks out the hair-burning and pearl-clutching. From his piece:

But to Beltway guild members, he is a member of the hated school of supply-side economics, which holds that economic incentives matter a great deal. Supply-siders assert that tax cuts and sound fiscal policy can help boost the U.S. economy out of the economic doldrums it fell into after the recession of 2008. The supply-side tax cuts of the Reagan administration fueled the booming economy of the 1980s. Trump’s tax cuts have helped ignite a surge in jobs and wages accompanied by a stable, strong dollar.

But to Washington’s policy guild, this record is all the more reason to oppose and belittle Moore. Because Moore has been an architect of President Trump’s policies and authored a book called “Trumponomics,” he can’t be expected to maintain the independence of the Fed, his critics say. He has backed Trump’s 2016 campaign call for the establishment of a monetary commission to look under the Fed’s hood. Yet another sin is that he has called for the Fed to follow a “price rule” that tracks oil and other commodities in setting interest rates. In many ways, it would resemble the rule that Fed chairman Paul Volcker used to tame inflation in the Reagan era. The Fed prefers its own measuring system, which has often led to its own mistakes — such as in the run-up to the 2008 recession. The Fed often makes jarring midcourse corrections: Last December, it planned on raising interest rates twice during 2019. On March 20, the Fed decided there would be no interest hikes at all.

Moore’s response: “Keep the rules stable over time, and you’ll have a stable price system.”

Perhaps worst of all in the eyes of Beltway guild members is that Moore would be an “independent” voice challenging the Fed bureaucracy. He has certainly not kowtowed to it in the past, as so many bankers have. “Donald Trump wanted to drain the swamp. The Fed is the swamp,” Moore has said.

10. Kyle Sammin believes there is a conservative case to be made for Puerto Rican statehood. From his argument:

To see how federalism would look if Puerto Rico were admitted as a state, we need only examine our neighbor to the north, Canada.

In most respects, Canadians are just like Americans: a majority-English-speaking, majority-Protestant people living in a collection of former British colonies. The exception to the rule is Quebec. When Canada began the gradual process of securing independence from the United Kingdom, federalism was seen as the only way to unite the English-speaking Protestant provinces with the French-speaking Catholic one. And while the differences between Catholic and Protestant are less important to most people nowadays, the differences between French- and English-speaking Canadians remain and have helped preserve the federal nature of Canada’s union when other centralizing, progressive trends in Canadian politics might have destroyed it.

Even when Canada’s government is to the left of ours, federalism is maintained, with foreign affairs and economic policy mostly handled in Ottawa and cultural and educational matters dealt with at the provincial level. We think of Canada and the U.K. as both having socialized health care, and that’s true. But the two systems are not managed the same way. Britain’s National Health Service is the sort of top-down model that conservatives in this country fear; Canada’s model is managed by the provinces, not unlike our Medicare system. Both systems would probably entail too much government intrusion for most Americans, but the Canadian version offers more local control, and works better, than Britain’s.

11. But to Sammin’s argument, John Hawkins says nada doing. From his rebuttal:

Setting aside how obviously bad it would be for the Republican party to add a new center-Left state that would mostly vote for Democrats in the House, Senate, and White House while occasionally sending a Susan Collins–style Republican to D.C., I think it’s worth asking a question that very seldom seems to be asked in Washington anymore: How would this benefit the American people?

Keep in mind that Puerto Rico is extremely poor. As of 2017, the per capita income there is only slightly than half that of Mississippi, which is the worst-performing state in the U.S. by that measure. Moreover, 50 percent of Puerto Ricans live in poverty. It’s also worth noting that the word “bankruptcy” never appears in Sammin’s column. Yet the territory has been incapable of paying its debt since 2017. Put simply, Puerto Rico is an economic sinkhole. The General Accounting Office has estimated that the added tax burden coming along with statehood would cause enormous job losses and damage the economy of Puerto Rico even further. What benefit would the American people get from adding to the union a bankrupt state with a tanking economy?

Puerto Rico has had difficulty getting back on its feet after Hurricane Maria. While I have no qualms about criticizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Trump administration, it’s hard to believe that the same government that led Puerto Rico into bankruptcy doesn’t bear a large share of the responsibility for the botched recovery. The media love to point the finger of blame at a Republican president in situations like these (see George W. Bush after Katrina), but it doesn’t matter how much aid a government agency provides to a nation if the local government can’t, whether owing to incompetence or for other reasons, help its own people.

12. More KDW: In a great piece explaining the benefits of America’s booming and beneficial natural-gas industry, he delves into a brilliant comparison of the political, godless Left and Christian Right. From his piece:

Here’s a little political inside baseball for you. In spite of all of the breathless nonsense from dress-over-the-head second-raters such as Chris Hedges, the Christian Right has never had the kind of influence inside the Republican party attributed to it by its critics. And, if you’ve ever worked inside conservative activism, you know exactly why: They’ll pray for you, but God Himself has a hard time getting any of His biggest fans to write a check. It’s a different story for the Pagan Left. (Too much, you think? Let’s see: apocalyptic narrative, punitive floods inflicted by an angry somebody, reformist social agenda, obsession with other people’s sinful lifestyles, indulgences for the likes of Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, zany fundamentalists who turn up their noses at science in defense of the scriptures — tell me environmentalism isn’t a quasi-religious movement.) The Pagan Left will write a check, a big honking one, a flood of them — consult Tom Steyer. As a consequence, it has a far bigger cultural and political footprint inside the Democratic party than the issues alone would merit.

And it has declared war on energy infrastructure from gas pipelines to power plants to depots receiving coal for export. If your belief is that the production and consumption of energy is an activity that comes with inevitable environmental consequences that have to be mitigated, then natural gas looks like a win: In nine-tenths of political disputes, the most relevant question is: Compared with what? And natural gas looks pretty good compared with the current alternatives: fossil fuels that pollute more, alternative sources that are more expensive and that require backup from conventional sources, etc. Not to say that something better might not come along: There are some guys down in Houston right now operating a natural-gas facility that releases no emissions at all into the atmosphere.

But not everybody sees this as a question of tradeoffs. Some people have an ideological-bordering-on-metaphysical belief that more energy consumption is bad, full stop, and that what the human race really needs is less: less consumption, less production, less energy — and, preferably, fewer people, too. That isn’t really environmentalism, exactly. (Whose environment?) It’s a different kind of creed. If that’s your thing, it’s a free country, but spare me the lectures about how much you “f*****g love science.”

13. What did Obama know, and when did he know it? In The Corner, Peter Kirsanow wonders aloud about the MSM’s failure to look into why the Russia probe is covered with his fingerprints. From his post:

In the wake of the Mueller report’s completion, Barack Obama continues to stand aloof — a god king exempt from the trifling concerns of mortals.

The mainstream media remain invincibly incurious regarding the former president’s role in the Russia affair. Presumably, underlings in Obama’s national-security apparatus were running about obtaining FISA warrants, leaking, unmasking, and spying on a presidential campaign and transition without the former president’s involvement, let alone direction. He remained oblivious despite Lisa Page’s September 2, 2016 text to Peter Strzok that “potus wants to know everything we’re doing.” Everything? There was a heckuva lot going on.

You’d think that there might be one or two questions for the man who’d assembled one of the most incompetent national-security teams in history. Congressional Democrats maintain that there were Russians behind nearly every tree and shrub in Washington during the 2016 election cycle, yet those charged with protecting the U.S. and its election system against such foreign interference — DNI James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe — seem primarily to have been disturbed about such interference after Trump won. Interestingly, news reports indicate that when the National Security Council’s cybersecurity experts were poised to respond to Russian election meddling, Rice told them to “stand down.” Attorney General Lynch didn’t even give Trump a standard defensive briefing about Russian attempts to infiltrate his campaign. Their nonfeasance and malfeasance are of little concern to the press. Rather, the press seeks out their wise commentary.

Podcastapalooza

1. On the new episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, David, and MBD discuss the many angles of the newly arrived Mueller report, including the media’s reaction, political ramifications, and much more. Thrill your ears, here.

2. Then on The McCarthy Report, Rich and Andy dive deep into the Mueller Opus. You’ve got to pay attention, here.

3. On The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg, our globe-trotting host, fresh from international mystery, forgoes a guest and opts for rank punditry. You’ll find it ear-resistible.

4. More Mueller Timing, courtesy of Ordered Liberty and the analysis of David and Alexandra. Listen here.

5. On the new episode of Radio Free California, David and Will discuss Michael Avenatti’s 14 minutes of fame, state senator John Moorlach’s German-inspired alternative to high-speed rail, the widening education achievement ga,; Senator Kamala Harris’s call for a massive pay hike for public school teachers, and so much more. Catch all the action here.

6. Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments is the topic on the new episode of The Great Books, with host John J. Miller picking the brain of EconTalk’s Russ Roberts. Listen here.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits.

1. Flap your ears all you want pachyderm, but Kyle Smith thinks Dumbo is having trouble getting off the ground. From his review:

The challenge for director Tim Burton in his live-action remake of Dumbo is to go back as far as the original (1941) and re-create its wonders in a low-tech setting. Moreover, the atmosphere of the first movie is a bit low-key for today’s high-strung era of film. The first Dumbo, at only 64 minutes, is a cute fable from the dawn of animated features, when there was something automatically special about them because they offered more soul than cartoon shorts, which were defined by slapstick comedy.

Confronted with an already-thin story, Burton decided to stretch it out, creating a movie that’s neither grand nor a waste of time. His version, starring Danny DeVito and Colin Farrell, pokes gently along without much forward energy or conflict for 75 minutes, at which point it turns frenetic. For the most part Burton is content simply to revel in the heavily digitized, storybook production design, which is as rich and splendid as is usual for his films. For much of the movie, the only unresolved conflict is that Dumbo would quite like to see his mother again, though since he doesn’t speak, this translates on screen only in his sad eyes.

2. Armond White believes S. Craig Zahler’s Dragged Across Concrete is a conservative action movie with spiritual depth. Don’t believe me? What, are you one of my kids?! From the review:

At last, we have an American filmmaker who has experienced Tarantino and got past it. Zahler’s surprisingly felt art is not predicated on movie violence, even though genre violence is his métier. Despite Zahler’s heightened form of crime fantasy, Dragged Across Concrete presents a strangely naturalistic worldview. Instead of imagining how heartless — or “cool” — mankind can be, Zahler looks for hidden virtues in each situation, no matter how bizarre. Ridgeman, Lurasetti, and Slim shift between being foes and allies. Dare I say, Zahler dramatizes what, in classic Westerns and crime films, used to be considered their Americanness.

Most Hollywood movies — post-Tarantino — distract us from viewing American life as a unique experience. Zahler gravitates toward the violent and the outré as comic aspects of American greed and lust. But he doesn’t stop there, as Tarantino does. Zahler’s characters are full of yearning (uncorrupted desire and love). That explains the plot digression about an anxious new mother (Jennifer Carpenter) reentering the workforce. Her fate triggers the heroic rescue action that will determine each man’s familial resolve.

3. Meanwhile, Armond has seen Dumbo too. Was it filmed using an elephant gun? From his review:

Now Disney’s remakes function as attacks on our cultural legacy. Social-justice ideas and politically correct sentiments replace the morals of fantasy tales that we once held in common. Dumbo’s story of a baby pachyderm born with oversize ears to circus elephant Mrs. Jumbo makes for the quintessential Hollywood expression of mother-love, a far more powerful theme than the now-popular notion that tiny yet enormously cuddly Dumbo represents the eternal adolescent outsider. (This snowflake theme is shamelessly repeated in The Greatest Showman, about P. T. Barnum, and just about every “personal” indie film.)

Starved of maternal affection, Dumbo is subjected to ridicule (the circus’s snooty, nattering claque of imperious female elephants are as hostile and mutually intimidating as an Internet mob). The “Baby Mine” song sequence, of the mother elephant embracing and cradling her child, is psychologically astute, but it iconically depicts undulating, biomorphic limbs to symbolize sensual primal emotions — a high point in the art of animation. From there, Dumbo’s story arc leads to the child-protagonist’s self-acceptance rather than society’s evolution. (Disney’s animators tested scenes of Dumbo achieving celebrityhood, including endorsement deals for assorted products, but scrapped them for brevity: The original movie runs an astonishingly satisfying 64 minutes.)

The artistic experience perpetuated by classic Disney films helped filmgoers hold on to fundamental social and spiritual principles. Disney’s omnivorous gnawing and spewing of its timeless inventory desiccates the emotional essence of those films. (Think of The Lion King and Aladdin and Mary Poppins all morphed into Broadway tourist attractions and then live-action reboots.)

The Six

1. Niall Ferguson believes that the history-ended Cold War that supposedly melted a few decades ago has got its Arctic groove on. Alarm bells sound. Or gong. From his essay:

I had been reading too much Henry Kissinger. I should have listened more to Graham Allison, another Harvard-trained veteran of US national security policy. When he told me he was writing a book on the US-China relationship with the title Destined for War, I was incredulous. Chapeau, Graham. You were right.

“When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power,” Allison wrote, “alarm bells should sound: danger ahead. China and the United States are currently on a collision course . . . War between the US and China in the decades ahead is not just possible, but much more likely than currently recognised. Indeed, on the historical record, war is more likely than not.”

Since the publication of Destined for War two years ago, the world has gone his way. It’s as if Allison’s “Thucydides trap” — derived from the ancient Greek historian’s observation that war between Athens and Sparta was inevitable — has a magnetic force, drawing the US and China towards it.

“What made war inevitable,” wrote Thucydides, “was the growth of Athenian power and the fear this caused in Sparta.” In the space of barely a year, Americans have suddenly grown fearful of the growth of Chinese power. What was once the position of a few alarmists is the new orthodoxy in Washington, shared by Republicans and many Democrats, foreign policy wonks and technology nerds. We may not be destined for a hot war, but we certainly are on track for a cold one.

2. In The Daily Signal, old NR colleague and amiga Ericka Andersen finds that spiritual communities — “church plants” — are reaching the unchurched and helping heal some of America’s still-reeling Rust Belt communities. From her piece:

America’s epidemic of despair includes another telltale symptom: a decline in church attendance, civic engagement, and the closing of churches at record rates across the country. Today, at least 100 churches close per week nationwide, and more people across the board identify religiously as “none” more than ever before, according to the Pew Research Center.

Older churches attempting to remain relevant have trouble retaining members and adapting to the needs of their communities. Additionally, 61 percent of pastors report a decline in attendance and 68 percent admit they had no involvement in church planting, which is one of the best ways to reach unchurched Americans who are desperate for outreach.

Here, we’ve reached a bedrock tool for changing the trajectory of the nation: church planting.

It sounds simple, and even boring if you’re unfamiliar, but the proof of concept attached to this growing trend is important. It’s not an experiment, requiring results from a body of research to prove it’s working. The proof is already available: Local church plants are springing up like weeds and meeting people where they are today.

In Indianapolis, Indiana, where I live, a contingent of church leaders intends to plant small churches in each corner of suburbia and down every dirt road bordering a cornfield.

If you think there are too many churches where you live already, you’re wrong. Many old school, traditional churches have long lost appeal to a generation that is drown in despair or that long ago lost interest in “organized religion.”

3. In 2016 in City Journal, our friend Scott Johnson, founder of Power Line, wrote a bracing piece about then-emerging Minnesota political star Ilhan Omar. He reported on her tricky marriage history. From that piece:

As many candidates do, Omar has made her personal background an integral part of her campaign. But neither the candidate nor the reporters who covered her have shown much interest in exploring one aspect of her personal story that recently came to public attention: the fact that she is not legally married to the man she advertises as the husband and the father of her three children. In fact, she is legally married to another man—who may be her brother. A posting on the SomaliSpot discussion board alleged that Omar had married the man touted as her husband in 2002 before marrying her brother for fraudulent purposes in 2009. The post, which seems to have been written by someone from Minneapolis’s Somali community, was quickly deleted. By the time it came to my attention, the post was only available via a Google cache (now also deleted). If the story is true, however, it suggests that Omar had engaged in some kind of dishonest activity in connection with her marriage to her brother (which by itself would be illegal).

I originally checked out the SomaliSpot story online through the Minnesota Official Marriage System. Inputting Omar’s name, I found that the two marriages cited in the discussion board post checked out as indicated. The site reflected Omar’s 2002 marriage to her advertised husband, Ahmed Aden (later Ahmed Hirsi), and her 2009 marriage to Ahmed Nur Said Elmi (identified in the SomaliSpot post as Omar’s brother). A few days after the primary, I submitted written questions to representatives of the Omar campaign, citing the SomaliSpot post, and asking whether Omar’s second marriage had been entered into with her brother for dishonest purposes. That same afternoon, I received a message from Omar’s press contact indicating that the campaign would get back to me later that day. I didn’t hear back from campaign officials directly, but I did receive a response from Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Jean Brandl. It provided no answer to my question, and implied that the question itself evidenced bigotry against Omar and her candidacy for public office.

As they say, Oh Brother! Anyway, as Omar’s prominence continues to prominate, Johnson’s reporting has come under attack in a way that shows just how oily it can be to deal with members of the MSM and their flying monkeys. Check out this Power Line account by Scott on his dealings with a reporter from The New Yorker. And then the high-and-mighty Snopes shows its colors.

4. There was a Privilege-Amockathon at Viterbo University, and Christian Schneider was there for The College Fix to capture the vilification screed. From his piece:

During the panel, called “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” the six participants traded stories about how they have personally experienced white privilege in their lives. (The “Invisible Knapsack” refers to a term coined by feminist Wellesley Professor Peggy McIntosh to describe the tools of “unconscious oppression” whites carry with them at all times.)

Yet while the panel was primarily focused on white privilege, Gostonczik quickly moved on to other types of privilege enjoyed by more fortunate citizens.

She argued “socioeconomic privilege” allows wealthy people access to health care, education, and the ability to take an unpaid internship to better one’s job prospects. If one has socioeconomic privilege, Gostonczik said, their parents likely went to college, meaning they are also expected to do so.

Gostonczik also mentioned those with “Christian privilege,” meaning holidays you celebrate are always recognized, you get days off from work and school, the decorations around campus and town fit your holidays, and you get to hear Christmas music playing in stores and on the radio. Christian privilege means politicians likely share your faith and your views – “anti-abortion laws, for example.”

When discussing “male privilege,” Gostonczik said she had recently heard a story on NPR about how NASA had to cancel an all-female spacewalk because there weren’t enough space suits to fit female astronauts.

“Not a single one of the male-identified astronauts would have a problem walking in space, whereas for female-identified astronauts, one-third of them are not able to walk in space because there’s not a space suit that fits them,” she said.

5. At The University Bookman, Carl Rollyson reviews Zachary Leader’s The Life of Saul Bellow. From his review:

All of Bellow’s later works get their due, with Leader showing how expertly Bellow crafted fiction out of his biography. A case in point is Leader’s treatment of Ravelstein (2002), inspired by Allan Bloom, famous as author of The Closing of the American Mind (1987), a jeremiad against the college curriculum that no longer took the classics seriously and made possible a culture of relativism and permissiveness. The book became a huge best seller with a great send-off by Bellow himself, who associated many of the ideas in the book with his own lamentations about the chaos of contemporary culture in novels like Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1970). Bellow and Bloom taught together at the University of Chicago and evidently became so close that Bloom encouraged Bellow to write about him. Bellow had to decide whether to write a memoir or a novel. That he chose the latter is not surprising, since fiction gave him the freedom to write a book animated by his friend but not slavishly bound to facts in the manner of biography, a genre Bellow distrusted because it distorted truth by hewing too closely to fact. Only fiction provided a broad enough context to capture a figure as protean as Bloom.

The energy of Ravelstein when Bellow was well into his seventies is impressive, but that is not what many critics wanted to discuss. Bloom, a homosexual, had been discreet about his private life and Bellow had outed him, suggesting, as well, that Bloom had died of AIDS. To considerable uproar from Bloom’s friends and other critics, Bellow confessed some regret about exposing his friend. Leader does not take sides, and in this instance, I wish he had done so. However many resemblances are to be found between Ravelstein and Bloom, they are not one and the same, and Bellow—usually not shy about brushing off his detractors—should have said nothing or struck back. Even a biography of Bloom would not have been Bloom. It would have been a book. That people persist in faulting novelists or biographers for offering skewed accounts of their subjects seems ridiculous to me. What life is not askew? The answer to one biography is another biography, as we have it now with Atlas and Leader and the other Bellow biographers that Leader never forgets in his honorable narrative.

6. Francis Sempa, writing in Claremont Review of Books, credits America’s Cold War (the original!) victory to the great James Burnham, one of NR’s founding editors and a great influence on Bill Buckley. From his essay:

Burnham repeated this geopolitical analysis in his Cold War trilogy: The Struggle for the World (1947), The Coming Defeat of Communism (1949), and Containment or Liberation? (1952). In those books and his National Review columns, Burnham outlined the strategy of “liberation” or “rollback” that Ronald Reagan implemented during the 1980s.

Burnham acknowledged that containment was a necessary first step in winning the Cold War, but it was too defensive to achieve victory. U.S. policy, he wrote, should seek to “penetrate the communist fortress” and “reverse the direction of the thrust from the Heartland.” Our policy should “undermine communist power in East Europe, northern Iran, Afghanistan, Manchuria, northern Korea and China.” The Western powers, Burnham argued, should launch a subversive political, economic, cultural, and propaganda offensive against the Soviet Union. Such a strategy would result in putting the Soviets “on the political defensive. . . . The walls of their strategic Eurasian fortress . . . would begin to crumble. The internal Soviet difficulties, economic and social, would be fed a rich medium in which to multiply.”

Moreover, the West had allies within the Soviet Empire. “[T]he smashing of communism,” Burnham wrote, “should be accomplished from within, rather than by a war from the outside.” When the peoples and nations of the Soviet Empire “have rid themselves of their communist masters,” Burnham predicted, “we will find it easy enough to solve the now unanswerable riddle of ‘how to get along with Russia.’”

Two years later (in The Coming Defeat of Communism) Burnham called for a broad and sustained propaganda offensive that would declare that the United States and the West stood against communist totalitarianism, and for individual liberty and institutional restraints on power.

U.S. policy, Burnham argued, should attempt to cultivate allies within the Soviet bloc—the Catholic Church, Muslim populations, political dissidents, and nationalist forces that yearned to break free of the Soviet yoke. He suggested that in “Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, the Roman Catholic community constitutes a powerful Resistance element” that could be used to undermine Soviet rule. This would include covertly supplying weapons and other assistance to any armed resistance forces within the Soviet Empire. Burnham also urged Western policymakers to exploit divisions within the communist movement, supporting, at least temporarily, communist leaders who acted independent of Moscow.

Baseballery

You’d think someone who would have led the league (or, leagues) in batting average more than once, proving they were not pan flashes, would have a lifetime batting average north of the magical threshold of .300. Well, maybe you wouldn’t think that, but Yours Truly does, and has since eons ago, after that day when he came across the record of Ferris Fain, the A’s first baseman who led the AL in batting in 1951 and 1952 (but possessing of such a temper that he was traded the next season). He played his last games for the Indians, having earned a career batting average of .290. Wow, Yours Truly thought.

Who else had Fain’s distinction? A couple of guys. Over his 20-season career, Mickey Vernon led the AL in batting in 1946 and 1953 (both times for the Senators, although he played for the Indians in 1949 and 1950), and hit .286 for his career. His old teammate, Pete Runnels, eventually playing for the Red Sox, led the AL in batting in 1960 and 1962 (he finished second in 1958 and third in 1959). Over his 14 years, his batting average was .291. Runnels’s teammate, Hall-of-Famer Carl Yastrzemski, followed his 1962 feat by leading the AL in batting in 1963, which he repeated in 1967 (when he won the Triple Crown) and 1968 (his .301 that season was the lowest-ever for the Junior Circuit’s primo batsman). But even though he led the league in hitting three times, Yaz (who played for 23 seasons!) chalked up a .286 average.

In the NL, there were four multi-year B.A. leaders who had career averages lower than .300: the Giants’ Barry Bond (in 2002 and 2004), the Dodgers’ Tommy Davis (in 1962 and 1963) — he played for 11 teams over 18 seasons — the Pirates’ Dave Parker (in 1977 and 1978), and the Cardinals’ Willie McGee (in 1985 and 1990). McGee, who began and ended his career in St. Louis, was traded in late August, 1990, to the AL-contending Oakland A’s (who would lose the World Series to the Reds) — but had enough ABs to win the NL batting title. He’s the only person to be recognized as one league’s best hitter while having been traded to the other league.

A Dios

Last week I headlined this missive using the plural of Cracker Jack. It’s singular. Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize. But singular. Mea culpa. Culpas even. That said, don’t be too mean with your April Fools’ pranking. And as ever, pray for your enemies.

God’s Blessings and Graces on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler,

Who receives criticism and corrections of his use of grammar, poor spelling, and the dangling of his participles at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

Hey! You need to come on the National Review 2019 Canada / New England Cruise! Visit www.nrcruise.com for complete information.

National Review

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jacks

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Time, friends, to PLAY BALL! Once upon a 1978, your humble servant, hawking vittles at The House that Ruth Built — the lowest of men on the totem pole — was relegated to selling ice cream on cold nights. But for whatever hitch, there was that one sunny Labor Day doubleheader against the Tigers when The Young Vendor was assigned peanuts, and sold many a bag thanks to deadly aim and the guys in Row R, Seat 17, so proud to show My Date in Seat 18 his ability to one-hand the tossed parcel of salted nuts. Yes, sweet memories of The Bronx are possible.

But . . . long before September’s games in lengthening shadows, there must come Opening Day, in all its glory, unlocking the spirit of spring, providing the opportunity for camaraderie and bonding, for the sounds of cheers and bat-meets-ball cracks and ball-meets-mitt pops and throngs singing the National Anthem, for elevating ’Murica in all its ’Muricany greatness. God bless you Abner Doubleday.

Our Esteemed Editor saw fit to make this institution’s flagship product boast of an Opening Day-ish cover. Bless him too. See more about the contents of the new issue (April 8, 2019) of National Review below, amidst the usual smorgasbord of links and foolishness. Which we will get to after . . .

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Editorials

1. Democrat presidential wannabes have an increasing problem with the concept behind the S in US of A. Their new bugaboo is the electoral college. From our editorial defending it:

Insofar as there does exist a serious argument against the Electoral College, it is increasingly indistinguishable from the broader argument against the role that the states play within the American constitutional order, and thus from the argument against federalism itself. President Reagan liked to remind Americans that, far from serving as regional administrative areas of the nation-state, the states are the essential building blocks of America’s political, legal, and civic life.

In our era of viciously divisive politics, the states are arguably more necessary than they have ever been. Critics of the Electoral College bristle at the insistence that it prevents New York and California from imposing their will on the rest of the country. But the Electoral College guarantees that candidates who seek the only nationally elected office in America must attempt to appeal to as broad a geographic constituency as possible — large states and small, populous and rural — rather than retreating to their preferred pockets and running up the score. The alternative to this arrangement is not less political contention or a reduction in anger; it is more of both.

2. See the link below to Rich Lowry’s column, but before that, we blast America’s most infamous hate-hustling group, the Southern Poverty Law Center. From the editorial:

In 1994, the Montgomery Advertiser reported that the Southern Poverty Law Center was a toxic atmosphere for its black employees, who said they “felt threatened and banded together.” At the time, SPLC co-founder Morris Dees pooh-poohed the report, claiming that the “most discriminated people in America today are white men when it comes to jobs.” This month, SPLC employees notified management that “allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racism threaten the moral authority of this organization and our integrity along with it.” Dees, 82, was fired.

By any fair or rigorous standard, it’s difficult to impugn Dees’s character based on either the old charge of racial discrimination or the current, still-vague allegations. But Dees’s leadership of the SPLC has done enough to impugn his character, and by the SPLC’s own standard, both incidents could be enough to designate the organization a “hate group.” Far from being a nonpartisan watchdog genuinely dedicated to exposing racism and extremism, the SPLC has spent recent decades stoking fear and hostility for fun and funds. That is Dees’s legacy as he departs.

If You Were Looking for Links to 12 Spectacular and Wise NRO Articles and Essays, You Can Stop Looking. Here They Are.

1. An absolutely wonderful treatment, remembrance, love letter to the late Jeff Hart has been written by Jay Nordlinger. Read it here.

2. Matthew Continetti weighs in on “Operation Varsity Blues” and finds the college-admissions scandal another example of the bankruptcy of the elites. From his article:

The scandal also points to the flagrant hypocrisy of Hollywood liberalism. No class is more moralistic, more hectoring, more obnoxiously activist than the Hollywood Left. They barrage Americans with displays of their virtue, their calls to humanitarianism, their paeans to multiculturalism and feminism, their slanders of President Trump, Vice President Pence, Republicans in general, and conservatives in particular. And they have great sway in national politics. A Democrat’s future depends on the beneficence of Hollywood donors — donors who were well represented among the individuals charged in Operation Varsity Blues.

The entertainment-industry liberals talk a good game. But look at their actions. Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are synonymous with predation. Jussie Smollett was a B-list celebrity until he faked a hate crime against himself and blamed it on supporters of Trump. Now we have actors breaking the law so their kids can go to USC.

Why on earth should we take political cues from these people? By what right do they portray themselves as enlightened, as advanced, as more sophisticated than half the country, even while they lie, cheat, steal, and assault? Plenty of baddies doing nasty things understand that donations to the Democratic party and its interest groups insulate them from scrutiny and criticism — right until the moment they go to jail. These people aren’t interested in the common good. They are interested in themselves.

3. Joseph Loconte profiles Oxford mathematician John Lennox and his role as the intellectual defender of Christianity. From the piece:

Now, at 75, Lennox has distinguished himself internationally for his intellectual defense of Christianity. He has debated — and, according to his admirers, bested — celebrated atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Peter Singer. A fellow in the philosophy of science at Oxford, he writes books that explore the essential compatibility between the scientific quest, rightly understood, and religious belief. Newton, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo: All believed in a God who created and sustained the universe. “Instead of the founders of modern science being hindered by their belief in God,” Lennox reminds me, “their belief in God was the motor that drove their science.”

Citing Lewis’s approach in works such as The Abolition of Man, Lennox assails the notion that science is the only pathway to truth, or that it can explain the mystery of the human condition. In his sights are thinkers such as Peter Atkins, a professor of chemistry at Oxford who claims that “there is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.”

Lennox discerns in this a self-defeating materialism. In books such as God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? he argues that the scientist’s confidence in reason ultimately depends on the existence of a rational and purposeful Creator. Otherwise, our thoughts are nothing more than electro-chemical events, the chattering of soul-less synapses. “If you take the atheistic, naturalistic, materialistic view, you’re going to invalidate the reasoning process,” he says, “because in the end you’re going to say that the brain is simply the end product of a blind, unguided process. If that’s the case, why should you trust it?”

4. America’s civic education is in desperate need of reinvigoration. Alexander Khan believes that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson show the way. From his essay:

Rebuilding a system of liberal education that teaches our students to become active citizens will be far from easy. Fortunately, we have a guide in the famous friendship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. These two great Founders, though often at intellectual odds, maintained their roughly 50-year friendship through intellectual discussion, investigation, and a desire to learn. In 1784, John Adams wrote of Jefferson, “He is an old Friend with whom I have often had occasion to labour at many a knotty Problem.” Adams later wrote to Jefferson that this “intimate correspondence with you… is one of the most agreeable events in my life.” For these two men, friendship and education were intimately connected.

What does a spirit of friendship mean in the setting of liberal education? Looking to the letters of Jefferson and Adams, it seems that this spirit is not one of simple open-mindedness, but rather of committed engagement with each topic, idea, and argument. It involves a readiness and ability to defend one’s positions and to engage with the ideas of others, and cultivates enthusiasm for that exchange. All involved care enough to prepare, so all are pushed to think their arguments through. The discussion is unencumbered, unrestricted, and free. This leads friends to think deeply, defend vigorously, and argue fully. The best cases are made, and the strongest counters are given. Friendship fosters true intellectual engagement.

5. In his new column, Rich Lowry clobbers the MSM-loving Southern Poverty Law Center, now enduring (how sweet it is!) “a remarkable comeuppance for an organization that has weaponized political correctness for its own money-grubbing.” From his piece:

Imagine a left-wing outfit with the same shoddy standards as Joe McCarthy, but with a better business sense.

Cleareyed, fair-minded people on the left have long recognized the SPLC as a fundraising tool masquerading as a civil-rights group, but its absurd overreach has in recent years earned skeptical coverage from the likes of The Atlantic and PBS.

The SPLC never sees honest disagreement over contentious issues if it can see “hate” instead. It named the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom hate groups for opposing gay marriage. It designated perfectly respectable restrictionist immigration groups like the Center for Immigration Studies for the offense of favoring less immigration. It labeled the American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers as complicit in “male supremacy.”

6. Rachel Hoff and Roger Zakheim find much to be desired in the Trump Administration’s gimmicky plan to further fund America’s military. From the beginning of their analysis:

As the details of the Trump administration’s budget request trickle out in the coming weeks, President Trump is likely to tout it as a fulfillment of his promise to rebuild the military. And, on the surface, it’s easy to see why. The $750 billion top-line military-spending request represents the real 3 to 5 percent growth most defense experts believe is necessary to recover from the damaging effects of sequestration and meet the challenges outlined in the National Defense Strategy.

But as much as the administration’s top-line defense number matters, it’s also important to look beneath the surface at how it proposes to spend all that money. And viewed that way, the budget’s flaws become much more apparent.

The administration’s request relies on a number of work-arounds to reach the $750 billion that will allow President Trump and Pentagon leaders to make good on their commitment to rebuilding the military. The most obvious and egregious is an inflated budget for Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, which is intended to fund warfighting needs. The president’s budget includes $174 billion for OCO, including $9 billion to cover shortfalls in military-construction funding created when President Trump declared a national emergency to fund the border wall.

7. Andy McCarthy finds a piece of proposed legislation — the “Vladimir Putin Transparency Act” — is an example of everything that is wrong with Congress and its bend to delegate its own authority to the Executive Branch. From his analysis:

In our system, investigation and prosecution are functions of executive discretion and judicial due process. This is why, to take the most notable examples, the Constitution prohibits bills of attainder (which single out a person for punishment without trial) and ex post facto laws (which criminalize conduct that was legal when committed). The Framers wanted Congress to write the laws but stay out of the enforcement business — the two tasks in one set of hands being, notoriously, a recipe for tyranny. While Congress may urge the executive to conduct an investigation, it has no constitutional authority to direct that this be done.

Not surprisingly, then, when we read the legislation closely, we find that that the Putin Act, if ever signed into law, would express the “Sense of Congress” that the executive branch (specifically, U.S. intelligence agencies) “should”: (1) “expose key networks that the corrupt political class in Russia uses to hide the money it steals, (2) “stifle Russian use of hidden financial channels,” and (3) “do more to expose the corruption of Vladimir Putin.” But it would not mandate an investigation.

(By the way, did Republicans realize that the provision about Russia’s use of hidden financial channels is a shot across the bow at the president? It says investigators should “stifle” Russian “real estate investments”; it has been widely reported that Kremlin-connected Russians have invested heavily in Trump Organization properties. Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff says his sprawling investigation of Trump businesses will focus on money laundering — which obviously entails tracing the potentially criminal sources of Russian funds used to purchase Trump real-estate offerings.)

8. Conrad Black looks at Beto and find a “boutique candidate” who will get consumed by a hectoring MSM and the Woke Police. And then comes the whaling. No words minced here:

It is an operation to praise, but when Beto O’Rourke is comparing the Battle of Normandy to saving the earth from carbon use as he waves his arms around in an Iowa high school, the electoral process is becoming worryingly unserious. (Cory Booker, who is no prize for intellectual depth either, was using the same metaphor in a similar Iowa setting, but spared us the frenetic hand signals.) O’Rourke’s great and presumably unsought contribution to this campaign is that he is going to attract the fire of all the media, very soon. They are already shifting. The immense, grunting media monsters, snorting fire and pawing the ground and trying in their Jurassic minds to think of how to lay this president low, have picked up the succulent scent of a ludicrous and clangorous political imposture ardently seeking its own destruction. The media of America will not allow this asinine mockery of a presidential campaign to go another week before it picks up this wild, scrawny, noisy, incoherent nincompoop and shreds him. Somehow, he raised $8.5 million running for the U.S. Senate in Texas, and came close to ousting Ted Cruz. A special psychiatric counsel should be appointed to find out what peculiar mass mental infirmity afflicted millions of Texans to consider this quack.

Let us be clear: This isn’t a matter of policy differences. This man is a boob, a dolt. He is vulgar and ungrammatical, knows nothing, and makes no sense. He can’t keep his mouth shut for five seconds and he is wired like an early helicopter with a vertical rotor on its tail: he can’t gabble out his nonsense without waving his arms around. He knows everything, meaning nothing, is incapable of making a correct factual statement, and throws in the f-word for emphasis, even where there is nothing to emphasize. Yet he is performing a valuable role: This is the candidate the media have been looking for. They savagely attacked Donald Trump three years ago because they thought he was a rich vulgarian blowhard who couldn’t speak in sentences, didn’t know anything, couldn’t run a two-car funeral, stole his money, and colluded illegally with a foreign power. There was never any truth to any of that, apart from Trump’s boorishness at times, which has almost completely ended. But Trump had some weak moments.

BETO RELATED: The subject is rich for parody, and Big Jim Geraghty provides the take-up of a glossy-mag profile.

9. You say you want a revolution: Kevin Williamson gives the psychological forensic profile of today’s Democrat leaders who, like many sociopaths, want to burn things down. From the beginning of his essay:

The Senate. The Electoral College. The First Amendment. The Second Amendment. The Supreme Court. Is there a part of our constitutional order that the Democrats have not pledged to destroy?

There are some Democrats out there in the sticks — a lot of them, in fact — who simply don’t understand the constitutional order. They believe that the United States is a democracy, John Adams et al. be damned, and, in fact, they often are confused by the frankly anti-democratic features of the American order, because they have been taught (theirs is a pseudo-education consisting of buzzwords rather than an actual education) that “democratic” means “good” and “undemocratic” means “bad.”

But the Democrats in Washington are a different story. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris went to law school. They understand the American constitutional order just fine.

And they hate it.

SUGGESTION: Read the piece while Talking Heads’ Burning Down the House plays in the background.

10. More Kevin: Gun-manufacturer Remington is being sued over the Sandy Hook school killings, a tort perversion permitted by Connecticut’s politicized judiciary. À la Willie Sutton, KDW sees the obvious: This is about money. From his piece:

The lawsuit against Remington alleges that the company’s marketing practices contributed to the Sandy Hook massacre. “Remington may never have known Adam Lanza, but they had been courting him for years,” a lawyer for the plaintiffs said. But it is not clear that Remington courted Lanza at all — and it is quite clear that the company never courted him successfully, inasmuch as he stole the Bushmaster rifle he used in the crimes from his mother, whom he murdered. Connecticut has a law against “unfair trade practices,” which is a very odd way of looking at a mass murder.

So, in sum: Remington’s private-equity owners acquired Bushmaster and formed a new company. That company sold a rifle to a distributor, which in turn sold it to a federally licensed gun dealership, which in turned sold it — legally — to Adam Lanza’s mother. She was murdered, and her rifle was used in a horrifying massacre . . . and . . . if you squint . . . this somehow leads back to the marketing department at Remington, which advertised the Bushmaster rifle as a cousin to the standard-issue U.S. military rifle, which it is.

The lawsuit against Remington is bogus. It has little to do with Connecticut commercial law and everything to do with a substantive gun-control agenda and the opportunistic inclination to wring money from institutions that have a great deal of it.

11. John Yoo and James Phillips file the tenth and final part of their series, in which they seek to lay out a course for constitutional restoration. This last essay considers the Fourth Amendment, which precludes unreasonable searches and seizures, and how privacy exists in a high-tech world. From the essay’s outset:

We close our series on the new Roberts Court and restoration of the Constitution’s original understanding with the issue most distant from the Framing: the rise of a new high-tech world. We now hold the equivalent of yesterday’s supercomputers in our pockets. Communications occur instantly, from encrypted messages to Twitter blasts that reach millions. Entrepreneurs make fortunes by analyzing and harvesting the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data produced each day. Governments search the data to find terrorist networks or launch foreign propaganda. From business to politics, success depends on reading the tea leaves we electronically leave behind with social-media posts, texts and emails, or Google searches.

As inevitably as the weather, the hand of regulation has followed. While using the data for itself, the state seeks to regulate the businesses and individuals that create it. We have only begun to figure out whether the rules of privacy that governed paper records, telephone calls, and the mails will continue to apply, and how, to emails, texts, video clips, and social media. Not only does technology create more data that individuals want to protect; it also expands the government’s ability to search and manipulate. Where the line will fall between new technologies, regulation, and privacy will likely become the greatest legacy of Chief Justice John Roberts’s Supreme Court.

The Court will have the opportunity to correct the mistakes of its past. In the 1950s and ’60s, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren sought to adapt constitutional rules to electronic technologies such as the telephone. The liberal Warren Court ignored the Bill of Rights’ text and original meaning as part of a broader effort to remake the criminal procedure of the Constitution in its own image. We may again be facing a similar revolution, not out of fear of police and prosecutors, but out of unfounded worries about a Big Brother government. How the Roberts Court handles these coming issues will reveal much about how originalist the Court actually is.

12. Brad Polumbo smacks the Democrats’ plans to have an LGBT presidential debate later this year as nothing more than a stunt. From his piece:

Like much of what’s pushed by progressive LGBT advocates, this forum is a purely symbolic gesture that exemplifies the natural consequences of identity politics run amok. Pleasant buzzwords aside, an LGBT-only presidential debate is entirely pointless and only serves to distract from more pressing issues. Worse, it inflates the reputation of hyper-partisan gay-advocacy organizations that often do more harm than good.

What exactly would be debated? It’s hard to imagine any potential Democratic challenger offering a dissenting viewpoint on issues like gay marriage or transgender inclusion in the military. If anything, this “debate” will likely devolve into a revolving cycle of virtue-signaling agreement, with each candidate competing to sound more sympathetic to the gay plight than the others. That’s not productive — it’s performative.

Indulging such identitarian excesses would come at a cost. After all, there is a finite number of debates to be had during a limited campaign season. So any debate dedicated exclusively to LGBT issues is a debate not dedicated to the opioid crisis, poverty, the national debt, or any of the other countless maladies plaguing our society. In a time when gay-marriage rights are settled law, assigning entire news cycles and presidential forums to “debate” the less significant LGBT issues still in contention seems, well, nonsensical.

I Don’t Care If I Ever Get Back  . . . From Reading the New Issue of National Review

And herewith we share links to and selections from four pieces of brilliance offered by the April 8 issue, which you could be reading right now if you had a subscription to NRPLUS.

1. Michael Brendan Dougherty’s cover essay explains Why We Love the Game. (Hey, it’s easier when you are a Yankee fan!) Anyway, from the article:

If baseball is a republic unto itself, more must be said about the peculiarities and glories of minor baseball leagues that nurture young talent and nurse major-leaguers who are recovering from injury. Compare them with the junior circuits of other sports. College football and basketball exist for the colleges, their alumni, and cable television networks. Big college sports is a moneymaking bonanza for everyone but the athletes who generate all the value. The best college games are played on primetime cable television. These sports belong to specific college towns, and the benefits flow to certain regions. Their pageantry is beautiful and grand, but it exists as if behind a gated community. Unless you belong to the school in some way—a proposition that is expensive—the victories can never truly be “yours.”

Meanwhile, minor-league baseball is played in most midsize and small cities across the country, leaving only a few Plains states out. The major-league teams, through their affiliates, reach out deep into the country. For some fan bases, minor league teams become extensions of the major-league squad that they love. The most dutiful fans of the Mets from Queens will gather together in Coney Island for their Cyclones. The Boston Red Sox grabbed the Sea Dogs franchise in nearby Portland, and now Mainers can watch balls sail over their own version of the Green Monster in left field.

There is a humility in minor-league baseball. The pay is small, perhaps too small. The crowds are usually small, or barely existent in the low-A leagues. Sometimes the towns are small, and the culture of the minor-league game still has something of a local circus and vaudeville about it. Former National League MVPs such as Ryan Howard and future Hall of Famers such as Chase Utley put on their cleats and mash homers in small towns such as Batavia, N.Y., wearing jerseys that say “Muckdogs” on them. But minor-league fans are passionate fans. And these local franchises, often owned and supported by local businessmen, put on a great family-friendly show several nights a week. Aspiring relief pitchers and minor-league lifers throw pails of water at running plastic sausages. And as July comes around you usually get a game and fireworks. The Muckdogs had their own team poet, Bill Kauffman, who once worked for the American Enterprise Institute.

2. Dan McLaughlin, better known to many by his @baseballcrank handle, sings the praises of Tom Seaver, who announced recently his dementia and an end to his public life. It’s a beautiful tribute. From its start:

There’s a saying that “athletes die twice: once when they take their last breath and the other when they hang it up.” For baseball legend Tom Seaver, a third death looms: dementia, which led the 74-yearold former pitcher to announce that he will make no further public appearances. He will be missing when the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Miracle Mets is commemorated in June. For a man as proud of his cerebral presence on the ballfield as Seaver was, retiring to a vineyard in California is preferable to being in public when he no longer feels in command.

In his 1967–81 heyday, “Tom Terrific” was always in command. He epitomized the perfectly balanced pitcher: power and control, brains and brawn, fastball and slider, talent and work ethic, strong arm and strong legs, consistency and durability, individual success and team triumph. He was handsome, dignified, quotable, a fierce competitor and a respected gentleman, the beau ideal sports hero. Other star athletes got bachelor pads in Manhattan; Seaver lived in Greenwich, Conn. He was often compared to Christy Mathewson, the dashing early-20th-century New York Giants icon of brains, sportsmanship, and integrity. Like Matty, who came from Factoryville, Pa., Seaver seemed a born New York sophisticate despite an uncosmopolitan upbringing in 1950s Fresno, Calif.

Seaver made himself into a great pitcher. A skinny teen, he filled into a man’s body in the Marines and working in his father’s raisin factory. Starting at Fresno City College, he impressed coaches enough to transfer to Rod Dedeaux’s storied baseball program at the University of Southern California. Behind the seamless consistency of Seaver’s games and seasons were an intense competitive drive, relentless sweat, and an obsessive, scientific study of pitching: the mechanics of throwing, the art of keeping batters off-balance, the business of knowing everyone’s weaknesses. After his playing career, he became a broadcaster and expert-at-large on pitching. Into his seventies, Seaver was apt to spend long hours working in his vineyard, and not because he needed the money. It’s who he is.

3. Michael Doran provides an insightful examination of Victor Davis Hanson’s new bestseller, The Case for Trump. From the review:

Three-quarters of Hanson’s book focuses not on Trump himself or on his policies but on the awesome gap that has grown between “the two Americas”—the people in Selma and similar towns and cities ravaged by globalism, and the bicoastal elite. “Their once prosperous and stable community did not really deserve to erode,” Hanson writes of his fellow townsmen. “They were and are certainly not lazy or stupid people, and they had sought all sorts of remedies to redress their plights and save their town.” These people are not in a position to write book-length analyses about why they came to embrace an orange-hued, uncouth Manhattan billionaire as their defender. But Hanson is. The unstated goal of The Case for Trump is to give a voice to these voiceless people.

Hanson has been living on the fault line between cosmopolitan and small-town America for all his adult life. Is there a better analyst of it? Is there, for example, another conservative pundit who is as well versed in the intellectual origins of the social-justice movement? Thanks to the losing academic battles that Hanson waged in the 1990s and early 2000s against multiculturalism and intersectionality, the academic fads that spawned contemporary progressivism, his familiarity with these doctrines is thorough. This intimacy adds nuance to his analyses that is lacking in many other conservative writers.

On an intellectual level, those movements are shoddy and threadbare, but as tools for imposing discipline on organizations—academic, bureaucratic, or corporate—they are highly effective. They foster an institutional culture that silences dissent. Merely to question the progressives’ “diversity” initiatives is to declare oneself a bigot, a person of “privilege” seeking to keep minorities down.

4. Douglas Murray explores the rapidly spreading virus of anti-Semitism among the Left. From his essay:

There is a fine example of this in Gregor von Rezzori’s luridly titled masterpiece Memoirs of an Anti-Semite (1979). In “Youth,” one of the five stories that make up that magnificent novel, he details a proud young man’s relationship with an older Jewish woman. For all the benefits she brings him, this “Black Widow” can never fully win over her young gentile lover. For she is on one hand to him an embodiment of a type of Jewish shop owner of the Central European pre-war stripe, and for this he hates her. Where she goes with him, people know whom he is with and that she is a Jew. He worries about being seen with her and is mortified when people he knows from the rest of his life see them at a restaurant. Yet whenever she attempts to bridge the canyon in any way, to adapt, to integrate into the world of her proud young gentile, she makes another mistake. The only thing worse than a Jew who refuses to integrate is a Jew who makes even the slightest effort to integrate. A Jew who is attempting to integrate looks “suspicious,” “artificial,” and “unsuitable.” Rezzori’s narrator reveals that “we saw the so-called assimilated Jew as aping us.” To be Jewish is to be different. To try to be the same is to be Jewish. It isn’t that the accusations and hate can come from a couple of directions. The problem is that they can always come from every direction imaginable.

Europe has been relearning this lesson. Last year one of the heads of the Jewish community in Berlin warned German Jews not to wear a kippa or other sign of their faith in public in the major German cities. Of course it is not as though Germany has had any deficit of anti-Semites. But the warning struck an icy chord for at least two reasons. The first was surprise that this situation, of Jews being at risk of attack in public places for being identifiably Jewish, had come about so swiftly again in Germany. The second was that everybody knew, though few wanted to say, just what was the cause of this resurgence in threats to Jews. On this occasion the cause was not the neo-Nazi movements that still bubble in the subterranean recesses of that country. The threat came from the fact that Germany has taken in a large number of migrants from Muslim countries in recent decades and that not all of these people viewed Jews with the eyes of most post-Holocaust Germans.

Podcastapalooza

1. On the new episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, David, and Michael discuss the New Zealand shooting, Elizabeth Warren’s Electoral College jihad, and Beto’s chances. You gotta listen, and you can do that here.

2. Hear me heathens and wizards and servants of sin! And you too. On the new episode of The Great Books, John J. Miller discusses the very first novel, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, with Hillsdale professor Todd Mack. It’s not an impossible dream: you can indeed listen to the podcast here.

3. The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg does a policy deep-dive into the opioid crisis, with our host picking the big brain of practicing psychiatrist Dr. Sally Satel. Catch it here.

4. More JJM: On the new episode of The Bookmonger, he is joined by Fr. William Miscamble, author of American Priest, to discuss his book and its subject, the legendary, long-time Notre Dame University president, Father Ted Hesburgh. Win one for the Miller and listen here.

5. On a sorta-recent episode of Political Beats, hosts Great Scot Bertram and Jeffy-Pop Blehar are joined by guest Jay Cost — co-host of Constitutionally Speaking — on the new episode of Political Beats to discuss The Black Crowes. Strap on the headphones and listen here.

6. Speaking of Constitutionally Speaking, on the new episode, Jay and Luke discuss Marbury v. Madison and the origins of judicial review. Hear ye, hear ye, here.

7. It’s the all-Beto episode of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, with Charlie (“I don’t get it.”) and Kevin discussing the wannabe’s character and chances. Pay attention and gain insight here.

8. On the new episode of Ordered Liberty, David and Alexandra handicap the Democratic field, break down how Twitter is pulling Democrats dangerously left, and mount the ramparts to defend the Electoral College. Ride to the sound of the gunfire, here.

9. On an jam-packed episode of Radio Free California, Will and David discuss Devin Nunes’s Twitter suit, how state lawmakers have stepped into the admissions scandal (accompanied by circus music!), Kamala Harris’s call for reparations, and much more (March Madness!). Put on your seatbelt and turn up the volume, here.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits!

1. Kyle Smith catches Alex Gibney’s new HBO documentary — The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley — about Silicon Valley whiz Elizabeth Holmes and her failed biotech startup, Theranos. He finds it a “penetrating” look at hubris. From his review:

Gibney, whose many previous docs include Sinatra: All or Nothing at All and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, chronicles how 700 employees, burning through hundreds of millions of private capital, tried to bring Holmes’s vision to life but kept running into barriers — like the laws of physics. Those who pointed out the impossibility of what they were being asked to accomplish would be told, sniffily, that they weren’t Silicon Valley material and could easily be replaced. Techs would simply fake results by, for instance, sneaking the samples out of the machines and taking them out to actual labs for analysis. One employee who tried to fix the machines describes what it was like reaching into the Edison, which ground up glass vials as contaminated blood sloshed around, and it sounds like something from a Saw movie. (Playing up the dread, Gibney plasters the soundtrack with intrusive, annoying music that sounds like it came from a movie about demonically possessed children). While all of these technical problems were mounting, Holmes would spend her time doing photo shoots, wooing VIPs, and having long meetings to discuss details like what to call the company cloud service. She came up with “Yoda.”

2. Armond White finds Captain Marvel ruins Women’s History Month, and that the release of the restored version of Sidney Lumet’s 1966 movie, The Group, exposes “the fakery of women’s pictures today.” From his piece:

In time for Women’s History Month, Kino has restored Sidney Lumet’s 1966 film of Mary McCarthy’s novel The Group. An underrated artifact from the era of second-wave feminism, it combines women’s melodrama and personal political observation. McCarthy’s eight Vassar graduates facing the adult world in The Group’s 1933–40 setting personify women’s ambivalence about their social roles and WASP privilege. Lumet interweaves vignettes crudely, yet through McCarthy’s sexual frankness and the actresses’ emotional honesty (especially Shirley Knight’s Polly, Joan Hackett’s Dottie, and Joanna Pettet’s Kay), The Group exposes the fakery of women’s pictures today. Nora Ephron’s legacy is many steps down from McCarthy’s. We have settled for shrill exploitation in chick flicks, superheroine parity, and the devious political propaganda now disguised as monthly social-group “celebration.”

The Group anatomizes its upper-middle-class clique through their individual romantic exploration, New Deal zealotry, selfish careerism, even their sexual impulses. (Elizabeth Hartman’s Democratic character, Priss Hartshorn Crockett, conforms to her Republican obstetrician husband, and Candace Bergen’s lesbian, Lakey Eastlake, unnerves them all.) These period exploits are part of anti-Communist McCarthy’s foundational portrait of pre-’60s political confusion; an a capella girls’ glee-club soundtrack provides daring, ironic commentary. The Group doesn’t seem dated but feels even more timely — more necessary — now that crass Hollywood suppresses basic sexual instincts and progressive indie filmmakers attempt to redefine sexual ideology.

3. Kyle goes to the movies and states something that should be obvious about the new Vince Vaughn/Mel Gibson cops-gone-bad flick: “If you show up for something called Dragged Across Concrete, you had better be prepared for anything.” From the review:

Yet this gritty, intense tale of cops gone bad isn’t quite as shocking as either of the two previous efforts from the imaginatively brutal writer-director S. Craig Zahler. In 2015’s Bone Tomahawk, Zahler staged the single most unsettling torture-murder I’ve ever seen on screen. Zahler’s sophomore effort, Brawl in Cell Block 99, was breathtakingly violent, but was also pulp perfection. His third film, Dragged Across Concrete (which is debuting this week both in theaters and on video-on-demand platforms) doesn’t gush with blood, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t gratuitously unpleasant. In particular, the mistreatment of two female characters is so nauseating that I suspect the female audience for this movie will be fairly close to nil. Even in movies in which bodies pile up like cordwood, there is something infuriating about the abuse of an innocent lady.

So beware, but also take notice, because Zahler is the most bewitching maker of B movies working right now. This gripping but difficult movie melds 1970s grindhouse cinema with the harshly funny wisecracks of hardboiled 1940s Raymond Chandler detective noir. Two cynical, deadpan detectives, Brett (Mel Gibson) and Anthony (Vince Vaughn), get suspended for roughing up a Latino suspect in an incident that goes viral after being filmed by a witness. Anthony, who is planning to propose to his girlfriend, is happy to wait it out. But Brett, increasingly bitter about living in a neighborhood where his daughter can’t walk home from school safely, is determined to use his time off to rob some drug dealers so he can move to a better place.

4. If You go to see Us, know that Kyle has already done so, and thinks it’s trite and less than satisfying. From his review:

Step forward, Jordan Peele, the Oscar-winning writer-director of Get Out, the first horror movie since The Exorcist to win a major Academy Award. With his second film, Us, Peele hews more to the horror side than the Oscar side. The new one has a bit of the satiric nature of Get Out, but it isn’t nearly as much fun, nor is its social subtext particularly deft. Moreover, those who were hoping that Peele would continue to offer mordant commentary on the state of race relations in America are going to be disappointed. For nearly an hour in the middle of the film, during endless scenes of chasing and screaming and killing of the kind we’ve all seen in dozens of stalker pictures and zombie epics, I kept looking at my watch and wondering when Peele would finally come to the point. When he did, it was sort of worth the wait, but only sort of.

The Six

1. At Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern unveils a long list of abuses by British officials and cops hostile to Christian street preachers. Would these protectors of multiculturalism be so ready to slap handcuffs on an imam? From the beginning of his piece:

The unlawful arrest of a Christian street preacher in London has drawn attention to the continuing use of hate speech laws to silence Christians in multicultural Britain — even as incendiary speech by Muslim extremists is routinely ignored.

On February 23, Oluwole Ilesanmi, a 64-year-old Nigerian evangelist known as Preacher Olu, was arrested at Southgate Station in North London after complaints that his message about Jesus was “Islamophobic.” A video of the arrest, viewed more than two million times, shows how two police officers ordered the man to stop preaching because “nobody wants to listen to that,” confiscated his Bible and then arrested him for “a breach of peace.”

The video was filmed by Ambrosine Shitrit, co-founder of Eye on Antisemitism, a London-based organization that tracks anti-Semitism on social media. Shortly before Ilesanmi’s arrest, Shitrit had seen him interacting with another man, who turned out to be a Muslim. She thought the Muslim was about to assault Ilesanmi when she went over and started filming with her phone. When the police arrived in response to an emergency call, the Muslim man left the scene.

The video shows Ilesanmi pleading with police, “Don’t take my Bible away. Don’t take my Bible away.” An officer responded: “You should have thought about that before being racist.” A popular blogger known as Archbishop Cranmer tweeted what many people doubtless felt: “Dear @metpoliceuk, Setting aside the appalling ignorance of these two officers, would you handle a copy of the Qur’an like that?”

RELATED: Do read Maddy Kearns’ NRO article on the UK’s be-woken fuzz.

2. At Law & Liberty, Brendan Patrick Purdy investigates the question of whether defending guns is a fading freedom. From his essay:

The debate concerning the Second Amendment and gun control is often framed as a clash between those that consider “the right to keep and bear arms” as an essential part of being an American and those who consider “America’s Gun Culture” to be one of many sub-cultures in the United States, albeit a dangerous one that is not representative of the whole. Or to phrase the debate as a query: is the right to keep and bear arms an intrinsic feature of America’s free society?

There is the text of the Second Amendment itself, but there is no concurrence on how to interpret it between those who believe in a robust right of self-defense and those who favor restrictions on guns and ammunition as well as their accouterments. This latter group typically focuses on what Antonin Scalia in District of Columbia v. Heller called the prefatory clause of the Amendment concerning the militia.

But surely the history of the United States from the Pilgrims through the Revolutionary War will give us the historical context of the Second Amendment, and in particular, what is meant by, for example, “militia” or “arms.” Likewise, Americans’ attitudes and uses of guns from the late 18th century to the present day will tell us how the Second Amendment has been manifested in the lives of Americans. David Harsanyi’s First Freedom: A Ride Through American Enduring History with the Gun offers a well-researched and an enjoyable read as the answer to this question: is the right to keep and bear arms part of America’s freedom culture just as the rights of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments are, or is it merely a Revolutionary War relic like the Third Amendment? Harsanyi affirms that the Second Amendment is America’s First Freedom—it is the freedom that all of the other individual rights rest on, and remains as important today as it was when it is was ratified.

3. Steve Malanga crushes it at City Journal, castigating the rush of states to legalize marijuana use in the face of mounting scientific evidence of its bad physical and psychological effects. From the get-go of his piece:

After Colorado and Washington State voters gave a thumbs-up to recreational marijuana use in 2012, cannabis advocates needed another six years to win legalization battles in eight additional states. But in 2019 alone, at least eight more states seem ready to pass laws permitting recreational pot. Driving the legalization surge are several claims fast becoming conventional wisdom: marijuana is not only not harmful, but it’s also therapeutic; legalizing pot will end the unjust imprisonment of casual users, especially in minority communities; lawful pot, further, will help eliminate drug black markets and the violence that accompanies them; once able to regulate and tax pot, states will enjoy a fiscal windfall, as an era of responsible marijuana use dawns.

It’s an enticing narrative, but most of it is wrong. Even as the legalization push gains momentum, scientific journals report mounting evidence of the drug’s harmful psychological effects and social consequences. “There’s a tremendous gulf between what everybody thinks they know and what’s actually happening,” says Kevin Sabet, a former drug-policy advisor in the Obama White House and cofounder, with former congressman Patrick Kennedy, of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “What’s going on with the scientific research is not filtering down to the public.”

Pockets of resistance to the pot movement are emerging, however. Some minority-community leaders reject the social-justice rationale for legalization, fearful of legal pot’s impact on their neighborhoods. Doctors treating the physical and psychological effects of marijuana are increasingly disputing the notion that it is “medication.” States seeking a fiscal windfall from marijuana are finding that, if you tax it at high rates, you drive the market back underground. And some legislators are urging decriminalization instead of full-on legalization. Right now, the odds appear stacked against cannabis foes, but an earlier campaign for legalization, which began in the 1970s and looked unstoppable, fizzled out after enough people were educated about the drug’s effects. Something similar may eventually happen again—but the cost to the country, in the meantime, could be significant.

4. There are few Vatican observers with more knowledge and sense than Robert Royal, who puts pen to paper for Claremont Review of Books to give his take on five recent tomes about Pope Francis. From his review:

From the very beginning, Francis spoke about globalized capitalism as an “economy that kills”—not noticing that it has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. With his first full encyclical, Laudato Si’ (subtitled “On care for our common home”), he made extreme, unrealistic environmentalism a kind of touchstone of his papacy. And he has pushed immigration—essentially open borders—in ways that, combined with his insistance that Islam is a religion of peace, have cost him respect in Europe. And not only in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Brexit Britain, but even in Italy, where 50% youth unemployment has made utopian schemes for resettling large numbers of mostly poor Middle Eastern and African immigrants deeply unpopular. Francis’s positions are unfailingly couched in terms of “mercy”—a slippery word often invoked in this pontificate that has taken on ideological as well as traditional meanings.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this kind of politics was the 2016 conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus. Modern Catholic social teaching dates from 1891, when Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum, the first attempt by a pope to respond to the Industrial Revolution and modern societies’ changed economic conditions. Leo rejected socialism as incompatible with human nature and good social order, but accepted modern capitalism and industry insofar as they acted responsibly and in harmony with moral principles. Instead of the revolutionary class struggle, he called for cooperation between business owners and workers, even allowing a proper role for labor unions—long thought in Europe to be socialist tools—partly inspired by American models.

5. Channeling Ralph Cramden: At The New Atlantis, Robert Zubrin, conservatism’s space guru, proposes offering a purpose-driven plan to open the lunar frontier. From his essay:

If we want to explore the Moon, and prepare to go beyond, we don’t need a space station in lunar orbit — but we could use a base on the Moon itself. A Moon base would be much more than a stopping point; it could also be a site for producing hydrogen–oxygen rocket propellant from water on the Moon. This is a powerful propellant that has been a mainstay of rockets for decades, used by the Saturn V and the space shuttle. After years of scientific speculation that there may be deposits of frozen water in permanently shadowed craters near the Moon’s poles, a study published just this August provided the first definitive proof of water ice in the craters, finding that in some areas it may be present in concentrations of 30 percent by weight in the topmost layer of soil. Mining this water and electrolyzing it into hydrogen and oxygen would allow vehicles to refuel on the Moon. This would provide the means not only to return from the Moon, but also to travel from place to place on the Moon, thereby markedly lowering the ongoing cost and increasing the capability of a sustained lunar exploration program.

What we need is a plan for establishing a propellant production base on the lunar surface and sending humans back and forth, using technology we already have or could readily create within the next few years. In particular, the recent spectacular success of SpaceX’s reusable Falcon Heavy rocket, first launched in February and offering a much lower per-pound cost than previous launchers, opens up dramatic new possibilities for establishing an ongoing crewed lunar mission on the cheap. NASA has for years been building its own massive rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), which is projected to cost the agency over $2 billion per year for the next five years and is currently scheduled to first fly in 2020. But the Falcon Heavy and the smaller Falcon 9 — both already flying — put the goal of a Moon base within reach, and at a much lower price.

By choosing to establish a base on the Moon, we can restore the confidence of the human spaceflight program and enable it to take on the greater challenges awaiting us on Mars and beyond. We can reaffirm our identity as a nation of pioneers and make a powerful statement that the future belongs to the forces of liberty by once again astounding the world with what free people can do. We can do this all — if we proceed with purpose.

6. One more from The New Atlantis. Jon Askonas looks toward Silicon Valley and sees that what it manufactures is gobbled up by authoritarians. From the essay:

Big Tech companies have thus married a fundamentally expansionary approach to information-gathering to a woeful naïveté about the likely uses of that technology. Motivated by left-liberal utopian beliefs about human progress, they are building technologies that are easily, naturally put to authoritarian and dystopian ends. While the Mark Zuckerbergs and Sergey Brins of the world claim to be shocked by the “abuse” of their platforms, the softly progressive ambitions of Silicon Valley and the more expansive visions of would-be dictators exist on the same spectrum of invasiveness and manipulation. There’s a sense in which the authoritarians have a better idea of what this technology is for.

Wasn’t it rosy to assume that the main uses of the most comprehensive, pervasive, automated surveillance and behavioral-modification technology in human history would be reducing people’s carbon footprints and helping them make better-informed choices in city council races? It ought to have been obvious that the new panopticon would be as liable to cut with the grain as against it, to become in the wrong hands a tool not for ameliorating but exploiting man’s natural capacity for error. Of the two sides, cheer for Dr. Jekyll, but bet on Mr. Hyde.

Baseballery

Since the first All Star Game was played in 1933, someone would have to be that guy — the one with the most-ever MLB at-bats who was never selected to play in the mid-season contest. Discounting for players whose careers straddled or preceded that 1933 divide (after all Ty Cobb was never an All Star), the That Guy is Tony Phillips, the any-position (besides pitcher and catcher, he played them all) 18-season veteran who began and ended his career (1982 to 1999) in Oakland, and had stints in between with the Tigers, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays, and Mets. A career .266 hitter, he registered 7,617 official at-bats — and having lead the AL in walks twice (with seven seasons in the Top 10, and ranking 40th all-time!), he heard Ball Four called 1,319 times, giving him a .374 on-base percentage in 9,110 plate appearances (he played in 2,161 games). Beloved by his teammates, he played his last game on August 15, 1999. By the boxscore it seemed like a nice way to end it: Phillips, age 40, led off the game with a single, then stole second and scored on a Jason Giambi double. In the third he slammed a two-run homer, and then followed that with walks in the fourth and sixth innings. But when he tried to break up a possible double play on Randy Velarde’s ground ball, Phillips caught a spike sliding into second, breaking his leg. Career over. True, not defined by “all-star,” but a proud one still, by any measure.

Tony reminds us that you’ve always Gotta Have Heart.

Leave It on Red!

I tell my pal David Bahnsen — who is a pretty smart dude when it comes to investing — that this is my strategy, and then admit that when black comes up, as is certain, “Craps you lose!” will be the consequence of my foolishness. So, looking for a wiser way to make sure Mrs. WJ has a few pennies to spend in my fast-approaching dotage and her widowhood, I eagerly await April 9, when David’s new book, The Case for Growth: Investing in a Post-Crisis World, is out. Here’s his pitch for why this book, now:

Both the tech bubble burst of 2000, and the financial crisis of 2008, poked significant holes in the primary investment belief of too many investors today—that one can just blindly withdraw from principal, and that equity returns will keep up. Too many investment advisors have taken the path of least resistance, not aware of the risk in systematically withdrawing from what, at times, will be a declining portfolio.

Investors seeking to accumulate money for their future needs, and investors needing to withdraw money now for a present need, both have one thing in common: Dividend Growth investing represents a powerful weapon in the achievement of their objectives.

Market volatility is not something any investor can escape, but benefitting from it (for accumulators reinvesting dividends), and being insulated from it (for withdrawers taking only from a growing flow of dividend income), are achievable results for those who understand the time-tested, sustainable, intelligent strategy of investing that is Dividend Growth.

Sounds smart. Also sounds like you should order yourself a copy. And while you’re doing that, maybe also order a copy of his highly acclaimed 2018 book, The Crisis of Responsibility.

A Dios

At Religion Unplugged, Clemente Lisi sees March Madness as a time with a special Catholic aspect. Read his piece.

As for Saint Joseph’s Day this past week, everyone in the WJ house had the flu (some still), and the last thing the afflicted needed to see or smell was a zeppole. Next year Joey, I promise.

Say a prayer of thanks and blessings this weekend for my pal and NR’s dear amigo Peter T, whose eyes always wander down to the Jolt’s bitter end, but maybe not today — he’s getting married. Kudos to you and Mrs. T. May the Angels in the Outfield find some time to visit their church during the ceremony.

God’s blessings on them . . . and on you and yours,

Jack Fowler

Who can be emailed at the end of the bench, where he’s happily spitting out sunflower-seed shells, at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: How about this as a caption for the photo above: “Ike One!” Rimshot!

National Review

Go Ahead and Whack for the Daddy ‘Ol

Me Darlins

Ahh, ‘tis a glorious weekend! Tomorrow (Sunday) being a happy day for the Irish, the Feast Day of one of the Emerald Isle’s patrons, Saint Patrick (he shares the distinction with Saint Brigid of Kildare and the great evangelist Saint Columba), let’s just for this weekend ignore the political and moral inanities afflicting its natives. May tomorrow we O’Briens and Ryans and Sheehans and Meehans and all merry sons and daughters of the diaspora enjoy ditties (see below) and such liquids — aye, fruit of the barley, aye, frothing ale — that might quench a thirst or cure an ill (“even the cripple forgets his hunch when he’s snug outside of a jug of punch”) or set one to a jig. But whatever you do, no, nay, never try to imitate Johnny McEldoo when he got on his homeric load.

The print pictured above, a gift to me, depicts an April 1861 scene (outside the “old” St. Patrick’s Cathedral in lower Manhattan), of the famous Fighting 69th. It became part of the as-famous Irish Brigade, whose bravery and sacrifice in the Civil War, in particular inviting certain death by storming Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg in December 1862, would make the hardest heart weep.

But no weeping today or tomorrow. Here’s my advice: Watch Errol Flynn and the boys sing the Garry Owen, then read your Jolt, then dance your jigs and drain your glasses.

Editorials

1. It’s hard to improve on the title: “The Democrats’ Election-Reform Bill Is an Unconstitutional, Authoritarian Power Grab.” From the beginning of our editorial:

At some level, you have to give House Democrats some credit for ambition. They may have just sent to the Senate the most comprehensively unconstitutional bill in modern American history. It’s called the “For the People Act,” and it’s a legislative buffet of bad ideas.

The alleged purpose of the bill, H.R. 1, is to “expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for public servants.” In reality, the bill represents an extraordinary federal power grab. At every turn, it grants federal regulators more power. Time and again, it renders federal election law more complex — creating a chilling effect on political communication through sheer uncertainty and confusion.

The free-speech problems are so obvious that free-speech organizations on the left and right are united in opposition. Comprehensive analyses from the Institute for Free Speech and the American Civil Liberties Union are worth reading in their entirety and raise remarkably similar concerns.

At a time of extraordinary public harassment, boycotts, intimidating public shame campaigns, the act would expand financial-disclosure requirements, including in some circumstances requiring public disclosure of the names and addresses even of donors who did not know about or perhaps even support the political message of the organization they funded. Donors may give money, for example, to fund one aspect of an organization’s mission only to be involuntarily exposed as a “political donor” when the organization chooses — without the donor’s knowledge or consent — to mention a politician by name in a different context. As the ACLU points out, “it is unfair to hold donors responsible for every communication in which an organization engages.”

RELATED: Rich Lowry blasts Nancy Pelosi’s threat to free speech.

2. We believe President Trump needs to check his temptation to do a 180 and promote higher levels of legal immigration. From the editorial:

It may have been a mistake to insist on the point given the lack of congressional support for cuts. But the administration is now sending signals that it is erring in the opposite direction. Over the last month, Trump has suggested on a few occasions that he wants higher immigration levels. In the State of the Union address, he ad-libbed that he wanted legal immigration “in the highest numbers ever.” At a White House event with Apple CEO Tim Cook and other business leaders, Trump said, “So we want to have the companies grow. And the only way they’re going to grow is if we give them the workers.”

3. We continue to oppose actions which make a shambles of representative government, as Congress continues to neglect its Constitutional duties. We encouraged them to oppose the emergency declaration. From our editorial:

A vote to disapprove of Trump’s emergency declaration obviously won’t reverse this long-term trend. It will show, though, that at least a fraction of one of the political parties is willing to stand up for how our constitutional system is supposed to work — even when the underlying political objective is a worthy one, even when it means crossing a president of their own party, even when it is politically inconvenient.

4. As Brexit stumbles toward a disappointment, thank you Theresa May, we remain supportive of no deal versus the alternatives. From our editorial:

Moreover, 17.4 million people voted to leave the European Union and both main political parties — Conservative and Labour — promised to honor this result. If Brexit is fumbled or sabotaged by the politicians voters will be justified in feeling an enraged sense of betrayal.

At this point, there aren’t many good options. We still favor cashiering May for a more committed and less politically compromised replacement, and support a no-deal exit over a delay that is only a way-station to ignoring or reversing the Brexit vote, which is what what much of the political establishment hopes for. One way or the other, Britain seems to be stumbling toward, at best, a Brexit not worthy of the name, and as painfully and chaotically as possible.

5. California governor Gavin Newsom says so what to capital punishment, issuing a blanket reprieve to hundreds on death row. We castigate the unmitigated arrogance. From the editorial:

The reprieve power that Newsom wields is intended to be applied on a case-by-case basis, as a final check against judicial error or egregious injustice. It is not intended to be invoked indiscriminately as a means by which to nullify or thwart well-established laws that the executive happens not to like. During his press conference, Newsom repeatedly used the word “moratorium.” Perhaps this was an attempt to cast minds back to that brief period in the 1970s during which the death penalty was ruled nationally unconstitutional. But, in truth, Newsom’s recalcitrance has little in common with that moment. There exists no pending litigation or constitutional challenge to California’s arrangement, and there exists no confusion as to the integrity or meaning of the underlying statute. Newsom just dislikes the status quo and so has resolved to change it by force.

The arrogance of his position is remarkable. Californians were asked as recently as 2016 whether they wanted to abolish capital punishment in the state and not only answered “No” by a margin of six points but voted to speed up the appeals process in concert with that refusal. It is entirely reasonable for Newsom to have been disappointed by that result; in California, as everywhere else, the death penalty is a topic of considerable debate. It is not reasonable, however, for Newsom to seek to undermine that result in its entirety. What, Californians might well ask, is the purpose of having a system of legally binding propositions if the executive branch can reverse them on a whim? What, by the same token, is the California legislature for? And why convene juries — and guide them in painstaking detail through complex and difficult questions — if their judgment is to be summarily replaced by a single officer in Sacramento?

Nothing Lite Here: A Dozen Pints of Frothy and Amber Intellectual Hydration, Each One Tasting Great, Each One Filling — But Still, You’re Wanting More!

1. The Democrats have chosen Milwaukee as home to the party’s 2020 national convention. Kevin Williamson sees it as a fitting choice, given the intensity there of failed liberal policies. From his piece:

The Democrats should pay a visit to Milwaukee North Division High School, where they can meditate upon these astounding data: Daily attendance rate: 62.3 percent; four-year graduation rate: 31.7 percent; ACT language proficiency: 7.5 percent; ACT math proficiency: 0.0 percent; percentage of students in the lowest language and math categories: 80 percent and 87.5 percent, respectively.

In response to a particularly stupid column by Paul Krugman a few years back, our friend Iowahawk shared an interesting discovery: Schools in progressive Wisconsin on average outperform the schools in low-spending, Republican Texas — but the schools in Texas outperform the schools in Wisconsin when it comes to outcomes for white students, black students, and Latino students, each of which group produced higher test scores in Texas than in Wisconsin. Wisconsin came out ahead not because it does a better job with any particular group of students but because it is overwhelmingly white. In other states black and Hispanic students trail their white peers, too, but seldom as much as they do in Wisconsin’s graduation rates.

The Democrats own Milwaukee, which hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1908. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez et al. will be cheered to know that Milwaukee has had three times as many socialist mayors as Republicans since the beginning of the 20th century.

Reparations? How about a functional high school?

2. Newt Gingrich wades into the “5G” tech fight between Uncle Sam and the Chicoms and says busting up government monopolies is the means to achieving victory. From his piece:

The current regulatory system is outmoded, broken, and incapable of allowing private companies to bring the United States to global leadership in 5G. It is also a clear impediment to new companies who want to get in the game — and is not the right system for creating full coverage to rural America.

Presently, we have a government-created oligopoly in which companies spend so much money purchasing spectrum from the government that they are left with no money to invest in new infrastructure or expanded coverage. Companies buy pieces of the spectrum at an auction for incredible amounts of cash. Sometimes they use the spectrum for their services. Sometimes they simply hold on to it and keep it out of the market, doing nothing. Spectrum has been traditionally treated like real estate, and the FCC has been the auctioneer and broker. Indeed, spectrum has brought a ton of money to the government. The high demand for it has meant startup carriers need tremendous capital even to try to compete at auction with the likes of AT&T, T-Mobile, and other major carriers.

3. Matthew Continetti looks on in fascination as the Center-Left collapses. From his column:

Bernie Sanders has no interest in stopping Omar. He recognizes that she represents the impending transformation of the Democratic party into something more closely resembling the British Labour party. Labourites elected avowed socialist Jeremy Corbyn party leader in September 2015. The years since have been spent in one anti-Semitism scandal after another. Sanders wants desperately to be the American Corbyn. If anti-Semitism is the price of a socialist America, so be it. Remember what Stalin said about the omelette. I’m sure Bernie does. If Democrats can’t rebuke Omar swiftly and definitively, if they have trouble competing with Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram cooking show, how will they be able to stop Sanders from carrying his devoted bloc of supporters to plurality victories in the early primaries, and using the divided field to gain momentum just as Trump did?

So far this year the Democrats have floundered in a pit of racism, sexual assault, and anti-Semitism. They’ve embraced policies akin to infanticide, and announced plans to expropriate wealth, pay reparations for slavery, eliminate private health insurance within two years, and rebuild or retrofit every building in the United States before the world ends from climate change twelve years from now. Throughout it all, they’ve received a pass from the know-nothing media. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Sanders have all made the claim that Omar has done nothing but criticize the policies of Bibi Netanyahu. That’s a bald-faced lie, a falsehood not one of the hundreds upon hundreds of reporters covering the Democratic field has scrutinized. These are the very people who have spent the past three years sermonizing on the importance of truth in politics, and they are doing Bernie’s work for him. Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution insists that the Democratic party continues to be center-left. But the election returns and public-opinion data that support her thesis become much less important when the party’s biggest stars make a hard-left turn. The Democrats seem ripe for a takeover by Bernie and his pals, or at least for a blistering and incendiary battle for control similar to what the GOP experienced last time around.

4. Not Yanging your chain: Teddy Kupfer profiles the Dem presidential wannabe way-outsider phenom, meme aficionado Andrew Yang, who plans to revive the economy by giving everyone a grand a month. Nice non-work if you can get it! From his report:

Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants and founder of recruitment nonprofit Venture for America, is running for president as a Democrat. Citing dysfunction and technological flux, he has staked his intrepid campaign on the message that the economy “is going wrong for millions of people” and that he will make “big moves” to right it. It’s landed with the NEETbux crowd. And so Yang has replaced Donald Trump as the meme candidate. On Twitter and 4chan, the red hats are being swapped for pink hats evoking the “vaporwave” aesthetic. The half-ironic #YangGang is the new half-ironic #MAGA. Few commentators know what to make of Yang himself. All that’s clear is that, having amassed more than 65,000 small-dollar donors, he will, improbably, be permitted to participate in the first Democratic primary debate.

Yang is not simply an avatar for the dispossessed. Less problematic than Trump, he has become a wider phenomenon in the net-literate world. Journalists have approvingly referenced #YangGang in a way that they never could the assorted tropes of the alt-right. Yang has been clever, doing everything an outsider without the instant name recognition and deep pockets of Donald Trump ought to do to generate buzz. He’s been written up in Bloomberg and Vox. He’s appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast, in what his campaign manager says was a breakthrough. He’s gone on Sam Harris’s podcast and Ezra Klein’s, the Breakfast Club radio show and Tucker Carlson Tonight. He’s held town-hall events in Iowa and New Hampshire. And perhaps most important, he operates a well-run, good-natured Twitter account.

5. Ron DeSantis may have proven a little less than an All-Star nominee (weren’t you in a panic about Florida?) but as governor, he seems to be knocking it out of the park. Deroy Murdock thinks he is everywhere, all the time, and succeeding. From his column:

Since his January 8 inauguration, DeSantis has done far more than rearrange the gubernatorial furniture. Indeed, he has led a burst of pro-market, limited-government reforms that are making Florida even greater.

  • Most significantly, DeSantis replaced three Florida supreme court justices who were required to retire at age 75. His appointees — Barbara Lagoa, Robert J. Luck, and Carlos Muñiz — have shifted the court’s composition from four liberals and three conservatives to one liberal and six conservatives. This jump to the right should keep the Sunshine State’s top tribunal safe for constitutionalism.

  • DeSantis pioneered Florida Deregathon — a one-day summit in which agency heads targeted red tape, especially in occupational licensing. While eye surgeons and airline pilots should certify their competence, why do nail polishers and boxing timekeepers need Tallahassee’s permission to work? Florida’s 1,200-hour training requirement for new barbers, for instance, stymies competition by boosting costs and headaches for new entrants.

    DeSantis summoned the chiefs of 23 professional-licensing boards to Orlando to “discuss, debate, identify and recommend substantive regulations that can be targeted for immediate elimination,” as his letter told these officials. “I see this event as a first step toward creating a regulatory climate as welcoming as the Florida sunshine.”

6. At The Bulwark, Gabe Schoenfeld review-trashes Victor Davis Hanson’s new book, The Case for Trump, sprinkling Nazi-inference powder on the author. Who responds. If you enjoy a good carpet-bombing, you’re in for a treat. From VDH’s response:

Reductio ad Hitlerum

In his review, Schoenfeld tosses out names such as Carl Schmitt and Martin Heidegger, the Third Reich Jew-haters in service to Hitler, to suggest, with a wink and nod, that I play a comparable role in relation to Trump.

Schoenfeld certainly has an odd sense of timing. The same day that Schoenfeld, an adjunct Hudson fellow, leveled his smears in The Bulwark, I was speaking at his own home Hudson Institute about the book. I discussed, among other things, Trump’s support for Israel and the dangerous anti-Semitic drift of the Democratic party, a theme I repeated again that evening on television. I guess by dropping the names of Nazi sympathizers Schoenfeld wants to imply that I am anti-Semitic (how odd from a former supportive editor of Commentary, where I have authored a number of essays) — an unhinged trope that he ran into the ground in the past, especially in despicable attacks against Trump supporters such as Roger Kimball.

In amateurish praeteritio style, after indirectly comparing me to Third Reich anti-Semites, and in general to those who praised Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, Schoenfeld then clears his throat and says he is not really saying that I am a Stalinist, a Nazi, or a genocidal Maoist. As a two-bit practitioner of apophasis, he claims he referenced such names, you see, only to suggest there is a long tradition of traitors (such as myself) of the intellectual class who abased themselves in writing propaganda.

And again, what was my Nazi-like thought crime?

I offered an analysis of how Donald Trump, despite often crude rhetoric and behavior, won the primary and general election of 2016, and for his first two years, enacted a successful agenda of economic growth and foreign-policy recalibration while ensuring superb judicial picks and seeking to address the stagnation of the American interior.

7. We are, admits Yalie Kyle Smith, a nation of Felicity Huffmans, consumed by diploma worship. From his piece:

A thing that occurs to you if you attend an elite college or university, as I did, is that most of the professors teaching you are more or less the same beleaguered time-servers who would be teaching you at any other school. I well remember the sad, unshaven schlump in corduroys who taught one of my introductory English courses: He was fine. He knew his stuff. But so did the people who taught me English at my public high school. Sure, at name-brand colleges you can attend huge lectures given by name-brand professors who appear on television and the op-ed pages and the bestseller lists — but they’re just lectures. These days anyone can listen to a lecture given by a world-class expert on virtually any subject by going on YouTube. The actual interactive teaching in these lectures is done by beleaguered grad students in rumpled clothing.

By the time I’d graduated from Yale College in 1989, I had concluded that the value in the experience came more or less entirely from my classmates, not my teachers: I met a lot of wonderful, brilliant, hilarious fellow students. But couldn’t graduates of just about any half-decent college say the same? For that matter, I’ve met a lot of wonderful, brilliant, hilarious people at the various jobs I’ve held over the years. There are a lot of wonderful, brilliant, hilarious people working at the New York Post, for instance. The Post paid me to be a part of their gang, whereas my family and I paid Yale.

8. Michael Brendan Dougherty warns: Beware of Bernie. Very beware. From the wrap-up of his analysis:

None of the “candidates of the future” has so far excited Democrat voters. Not Kamala Harris. Not Amy Klobuchar. The only serious polling challenge is Joe Biden, who is not currently in the race — perhaps because of his tendency to implode his own presidential candidacies, or other bad memories. The normal phalanx of high-powered Democratic consultants and policy entrepreneurs are not attaching themselves to Biden. Unlike Biden, Sanders never opposed student busing and doesn’t have a history of racially inflammatory comments.

Finally, and this is an important point: One of Sanders’s greatest advantages is his stubbornness. Sometime in the 1990s, Americans got used to the idea that politics is entirely phony. It’s all “spin.” All candidates “pivot.” Donald Trump has a very unfaithful relationship with the truth. At the same time, Trump’s character is transparent. People knew what kind of man Trump really was when they voted for him. Sanders’s lifelong adherence to social-democratic politics, his willingness to sit on the margins because of his fidelity to that vision, is his greatest asset. The whole world has grown soft and inconstant. Sanders is a rebuke to that. Republicans and conservatives need to take him very seriously.

9. More MBD: On the Brexit beat, he urges the UK parliament to take the deal it has. From his analysis:

It is one the ironies of Brexit. A movement to champion parliamentary sovereignty is discovering, perhaps with horror, that Parliament truly has all the cards. The people can try to impose an agenda on it by popular referenda. And the two major parties will dutifully campaign on manifestos that commit them to implementing the result. But it won’t happen the way voters expect. Their politicians feel nothing about breaking promises that they hated making in the first place.

The riddle at the heart of this are the harder-line Tory Brexiteers. Why do they keep voting with Labour against the withdrawal agreement that May negotiated? Yes, they object to various parts of the “backstop” that keeps the U.K. attached to EU customs rules until a future trading relationship is finally negotiated. They fear it is a trap and want legal assurances that they can escape it. May’s own assurances that U.K. payments to the EU as part of their separation agreement could be withheld if there is bad faith do not suffice.

10. Inspired maybe by a bowling alley, Dan McLaughlin finds plentiful lanes for the plentiful crop of 2020 Dem presidential wannabes. This is in depth and detailed and, if you like charts, your fantasy awaits. From his analysis:

Political observers tend to see the “lanes” in a primary mainly in terms of issues and ideology. Sometimes, that’s true: Bernie ran hard against Hillary as too corporate-friendly, and Obama ran against her on the Iraq War, just as McGovern had run an uncompromising anti-Vietnam race. Yet, as we have seen, other factors better explain the dynamics of many past Democratic contests.

Opinion polls paint a divergent picture of the Democratic electorate. On the one hand, many Democrats tell pollsters that they are moderates who want the party to run a moderate candidate. Just because they are angry at Donald Trump doesn’t mean they are suddenly eager to self-identify as socialists. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of the electorate as a whole found that 87 percent of voters are enthusiastic about or comfortable with an African-American candidate, 86 percent with a white man, and 84 percent with a woman, but only 37 percent with a candidate over age 75, and 25 percent with a socialist. This is not good news for Bernie Sanders. Candidates such as Biden, Klobuchar, and Hickenlooper, who frame themselves as the mainstream Main Street alternatives, can benefit from this.

11. Trade Fight Uno: Nicholas Phillips cheers the looming demise of the investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) component of U.S. trade agreements. The charge: It is essentially corporate welfare. From his piece:

On March 21, 2018, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was summoned before Congress to defend the Trump trade agenda. There was a lot riding on his testimony. Talks with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were hitting a wall, and Congress was growing increasingly skittish about the tariff-happy president’s rejection of the bipartisan consensus in favor of free trade. They turned to Lighthizer, an experienced trade litigator and mainstream Republican, for assurance that there was an adult at the controls. And one of their most important requests was that Lighthizer continue to defend a cornerstone of American trade policy: a shadowy system known as investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS).

ISDS allows foreign investors to sue governments for decisions that harm the value of their investments. America’s trade agreements with foreign states require that each party’s investors get “fair and equitable” treatment from the other party’s government. But if a dispute arises and the agreement provides for ISDS, the foreign investor doesn’t go to the domestic courts of the host country. Instead, he brings his claim before a panel of three private arbitrators, chosen by the parties, who have the power to award enormous judgments without any outside review or appeal. ISDS enjoys bipartisan support in Congress because it protects Americans who invest in countries with weak judiciaries and corrupt regulators. Those countries agree to ISDS in order to incentivize American investment. It’s supposed to be a win-win.

12. Trade Fight Duo: Hold your horses, respond Gary Hufbauer and Euijin Jung ISDS encourages trade and investment. From their rebuttal:  

The rules of ISDS protect firms that invest abroad against unfair treatment by foreign governments in three major ways. First, they restrict direct and indirect expropriation. Direct expropriation means outright seizure of foreign firms’ property without compensation; indirect expropriation refers to opaque taxes and regulations. Second, ISDS ensures that foreign firms enjoy the same rights as domestic firms (national treatment) and third-country firms (most-favored-nation treatment). Last, ISDS requires governments to provide “fair and equitable treatment” to foreign firms. ISDS rules are enforced by international arbitration, which enables foreign firms to challenge unfair treatment by local governments and win money awards.

While ISDS is designed to protect investors, it also serves as a seal of “good housekeeping” for developing countries that wish to attract foreign firms. ISDS provisions are so popular that they have been written into some 2,200 bilateral investment treaties and free-trade agreements. To date, around 565 arbitrations have been conducted under the auspices of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a body housed within the World Bank. Foreign firms have filed just 16 cases against the U.S. government and have never won an award.

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. Nothing to sneeze at: Kyle Smith goes back à temps, maybe even back in fois, to consider one of his favorite films, the 1970s French comedy Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (playing in our hood for a limited time). From his piece:

Sussing out the Gallic attitude toward sex in the many French films on the matter brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s famous quip about Henry James: “He writes fiction as if it were a painful duty.” Sex is approached as something of a grave responsibility in many French films, yet rarely is it attached to any moral considerations. Adultery, notoriously, merits less than a shrug, as is fitting in a country where the wife and mistress of departed president François Mitterand stood nearly next to each other at his state funeral. Mitterand first met that mistress when he was about 40 and she was 13 (though their relationship reportedly began in her early twenties), and this detail also causes little vexation in the French mind. Huge age gaps are routine in French sex comedies. The widow Mitterand’s comment on the matter after that funeral was “It wasn’t a discovery or a drama. I’ve taken responsibility for it.” She took responsibility! Suffice it to say that in France one enters a different world in affairs of the heart.

An especially droll postcard from Planet France is one of my favorite 1970s comedies, Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 1978. I find irresistible Frenchness in stone-faced lines such as “Everything bores me and excites me at the same time.” The film is not easy to find these days; no streaming service offers it and you can’t rent it via Amazon’s online video store, although you can get it via Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service. (Remember that?) There is a rare opportunity to see the film on the big screen, from March 15 to 21, in downtown New York City’s recently renovated Quad Cinema, as part of a retrospective celebration of the work of 79-year-old director Bertrand Blier, whose next film is about to debut in France and stars — who else? — Gérard Depardieu.

2. Armond White says German filmmaker Christian Petzold’s Transit is a trendy knockoff of Casablanca. From his review:

If Transit satirized today’s European art-film tendencies, it might have achieved the zeitgeist shock of Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux, but, instead, this movie proves that film culture at large has reached a stage where moviemakers and reviewers devote themselves to maundering and following social trends. That’s why no good, original film has emerged from Sundance or South X Southwest in decades. Conservative filmgoers need to realize this fact and be wary of it. Hollywood and its wannabes work to keep filmgoers aligned with political fashion and hipster schmaltz.

3. Kyle checks out Triple Frontier and sees tough-talking incompetents scaling mountains of stupid. From the beginning of his review:

“We’re a dyin’ breed, boys,” says one of the ex-military hotshots after yet another cockup in Netflix’s action thriller Triple Frontier. Well, yes, according to Darwinian logic, stupidity is supposed to be hazardous to your breed.

Despite the Academy Awards background of its creators, Triple Frontier appears superficially to be one of those cigar-chomping 1980s actioners in which Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone or (if the budget was tight) Lee Marvin or Chuck Norris would summon a swaggering squad of thunder-eaters and hell-belchers to thrash their way into the jungle to take out a drug lord, or an alien, or an alien drug lord.

4. Armond takes in The Eyes of Orson Welles, the new biopic documentary. Unlike Welles talking with Joseph Cotton in the Ferris wheel, I won’t step on his lines. From his review:

Tension between art and politics marks the new documentary The Eyes of Orson Welles. The strain begins as director Mark Cousins circles around the enormity of his subject — as if interest in genius and Renaissance man Welles needed sociological justification. Beginning far afield with a camera panning Times Square, Cousins muses about Obama, Trump, and the modern age (“What would you have done with the Internet, Orson?”). But this proves unnecessary once Welles’s art — his debut feature film, Citizen Kane — is foregrounded.

Cousins soon gets to the memorable flirtation scene between publishing tycoon Kane (played by Welles) and working-class singer Susan Alexander: “I’m wriggling both ears at the same time. It took me two years in the best boarding school in the world to learn that trick. The boy that taught it to me is now president of Venezuela.” The scene’s suddenly timely coincidence is amusing, but such prophetic irony is proof of Welles’s artistic resonance that transcends politics.

The Six

1. At Law & Liberty, Samuel Gregg considers the lasting impact of John Maynard Keynes’s The Economic Consequences of Peace. From his essay:

Having worked in the British Treasury during World War I, Keynes attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference as one of its representatives on Britain’s official delegation. His experience of the negotiations proved so disillusioning that Keynes resigned from the civil service in May 1919 and returned to academic life at Cambridge.

Much of this disappointment was vented in Keynes’ portrayal of Woodrow Wilson, the then-hero of European liberal and American progressive opinion. The American president, according to Keynes, simply wasn’t up to dealing with tough-minded wheeler-dealers like Clemenceau and Lloyd George. Wilson’s aspirations of realizing progressive ideals on an international level subsequently became ensnared, Keynes despaired, in “gloss and interpretation,” “a web of sophistry and Jesuitical exegesis,” and “all the intellectual apparatus of self-deception.”

A related frustration for Keynes was that the Treaty included “no provisions for the economic rehabilitation of Europe.” The negotiators in Paris, he believed, had not understood that a lasting postwar European peace required a sound economic foundation. To the extent that they considered economic subjects, their focus was upon with the reparations that Germany owed the victors. Even worse, Keynes wrote, the Allies addressed economic issues “as a problem of theology, of politics, of electoral chicane, from every point of view except that of the economic future of the States whose destiny they were handling.”

2. In the new Modern Age, Bill Kauffman makes a strong case for reviving the Obama-sullied reputation of Andrew Jackson. From the essay:

But to call Jackson an “economic libertarian” is stretching it a bit. The phrase may with justice be applied to the Loco Focos, the Northern radical libertarians whose leading light was another duelist, the journalist William Leggett, as well as to those more Jeffersonian-than-Jefferson “Old Republicans” of the South, carriers of the Spirit of ’76 such as John Randolph, Nathaniel Macon, and John Taylor of Caroline. Jackson was not among their number, “being too western, and, thus, too pro-expansion,” notes Birzer.

Unlike Donald Trump, whose enthusiasm for public works is redolent of a 1980s New Jersey or Pennsylvania politico, Andrew Jackson had constitutionalist scruples regarding federal subsidy of internal improvements, as evidenced by his 1830 veto of federal aid for the Maysville Road, which traversed rival Henry Clay’s state of Kentucky. Jackson was no votary of Clay’s “American System” of tariffs, a national bank, and generous national subvention of roads and waterways, though surely he also relished vetoing a project close to Clay’s heart. Take that, you corrupt bargainer!

3. At Gatestone Institute, Gordon Chang calls out President Trump for ineptly negotiating with North Korea. He proposes a far greater emphasis on the satanic regime’s human-rights violations. From his piece:

The president at CPAC summed up his perceived predicament this way: “It’s a very, very delicate balance.”

But is there really a “delicate balance”? Trump and predecessors have thought they should not vigorously raise human rights concerns while negotiating on various matters with the ruling Kim dynasty of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

American leaders have been wrong. The best way to get what we want from North Korea, whether it be “denuclearization” or anything else, is to reverse decades of Washington thinking and raise the issue of human rights loudly and incessantly. The same is true with regard to North Korea’s sponsor and only formal ally, the People’s Republic of China.

The U.S. has deterred a general attack on South Korea since the armistice of July 1953, but apart from this achievement, American policy toward North Korea has been an abysmal failure. A destitute state has held the most powerful nation in history at bay, while getting away with, among other things, building weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and proliferating WMD technology and ballistic missiles.

4. At the Free Beacon, Joe Shcoffstall finds that the extremist Southern Poverty Law Center is awash in cash (over $500 million in assets), with a lot of that parked overseas — in one of the kinds of places Leftists claim are havens for “dirty” corporate and conservative money. From his report:

Despite the fall in revenue, the SPLC’s vast investment portfolio expanded in 2018, which included a drastic increase in the amount of money it has parked overseas. By the end of 2018, its non-U.S. equity funds rose to $121 million, an uptick of nearly $30 million from the $92 million it had parked in offshore investments throughout 2017.

While little is known about its actual transfers to offshore entities, in 2017 the Washington Free Beacon discovered foreign forms from the group that showed a small fraction of its previous transactions to a number of entities located in the Cayman Islands. Those foreign forms are not required to be publicly disclosed by the SPLC and are the only known forms showing the nature of its transfers to offshore entities. The SPLC also has interests in Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands.

In addition to the $121 million now in non-U.S. equities, the far-left organization reported $91 million in U.S. public equity funds. Its U.S. and non-U.S. equities include publicly traded stocks of domestic and international corporations. The $92 million the group had tied up in U.S. public equity funds last year was $16 million more than it had the year before.

The SPLC also had $60 million in private equity funds, or investments in buyouts, venture capital, and distressed companies while another $24 million was in real asset funds, which include investments in real estate and natural resources such as oil, gas, and commodities, according to its forms.

5. The College Fix’s senior reporter Christian Schneider explains how American universities created a generation of intolerant white liberals. From his analysis:

The Atlantic study breaks down political prejudice on a county-by-county basis, allowing us to see that the most politically intolerant spots in America are also the most progressive hotbeds among the educational elite.

Travis County, Texas, for example, is home to the University of Texas-Austin, and resides in the top 1 percent of politically prejudiced counties, according to The Atlantic. Alameda County, California, home of UC-Berkeley, is in the top 10 percent of prejudiced counties, as is Boulder County, Colorado, home of the University of Colorado-Boulder. Dane County, Wisconsin, home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, ranks in the top 1 percent of politically prejudiced counties.

As Rod Dreher pointed out at The American Conservative, one of the most intolerant counties in America appears to be Middlesex County, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University. Dreher notes that Princeton and Yale both reside in counties that are “considerably more prejudiced” against conservatives.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some conservatives and counties as equally as prejudiced against liberals. There are. But the spots in America most likely to educate our elites have a strong bias against conservatives, which has a trickle-down effect.

EXTRA: Christian is the author of the acclaimed recent work of, yes, humor: 1916: The Blog. It’s funny stuff. Last month our Sarah Schutte interviewed our old pal about his fictional look at a Woodrow Wilson world with a WWW.

6. At Quillette, Bo Winegard says he was wrong to find progressivism “regrettable but mostly tolerable.” He has come to believe that “Social justice progressivism encourages at least six tendencies that are inimical to the norms, values, and ideas that have allowed the West to flourish.” Read the entire essay, of which this is from his assessment of how progressivism misunderstands human nature:

The most fundamental flaw of this thinking is that it is premised upon a profoundly inaccurate view of human nature. Many have suggested that this view is “blank slatism,” or the belief that human traits are highly plastic and largely determined by social forces. However, I think this is only partially correct. Contemporary progressivism is, more accurately, a selectively blank slate ideology. It is eager to posit genetic causes for obesity, addiction, and homosexuality, and only becomes skeptical of genetic explanations when they appear to contradict sacred values or strongly held policy preferences. Instead, it seems to meld cosmic egalitarianism (the belief that all demographic groups are roughly the same on all socially valued traits) with a Rousseauian optimism about the fundamental decency of human nature. These erroneous ideas directly promote at least two dangerous tendencies: (1) blaming discrimination for all disparities in society; and (2) promulgating policies that sound noble but will likely fail because they contradict human nature.

Because progressivism is dedicated to the view that all demographic groups are roughly the same, it sees almost any disparity as a manifestation of bigotry. This is why so many were outraged by James Damore’s “Google memo.” Damore had the temerity to suggest that sex disparities in tech-jobs were likely (partially) caused by genetically influenced differences between men and women, and that approaches to diversity that ignored these differences were doomed to failure. This violated a sacred progressive value about demographic similarity and therefore provoked a furious backlash. Similar stories abound. For progressives, the only just and acceptable outcome, it seems, is absolute demographic equality in all socially valued occupations.

But, because demographic groups are different from each other, the only way to achieve this equality is to contravene principles of procedural fairness and to promote people not because of talent but because of their demographic profiles. This, however, only increases society’s obsession with demographic characteristics, violates basic notions of fairness, inflames ugly resentments, and decreases social productivity and efficiency because it misallocates human talent. Better, it seems, is to stick with the West’s great achievement in promoting a largely meritocratic society in which talent and skill are rewarded with pay and status and employers are encouraged to ignore irrelevant immutable characteristics such as race or sex and to live with the inevitable disparities, knowing that most of them are not caused by malice but by natural variation.

BONUS: At First Things, Fr. Paul Mankowski reviews American Priest, the new bio about legendary Notre Dame University president Theodore Hesburgh — written by Fr. Wilson Miscamble. Can’t wait to read it. As for the review, itself a joy to read, here’s how it wraps up:

Walking around the Notre Dame campus in his retirement, Hesburgh saw his legacy enshrined in two substantial buildings that already bore his name: One is the Hesburgh Center for International Studies, the other is the university library, bearing the famous Word of Life exterior mural depicting Jesus surrounded by apostles, saints, and scholars. Hesburgh told Miscamble he came to regret the absence of any women in the mural, a remark that dates the change in his sensibilities and those of our own time (according to which exogenous gender assignment is itself iniquitous). What is dismaying is Hesburgh’s inability to unwind, his ceaseless need to fine-tune his reputation, here—as in the Wall Street Journal interview—by his genuflection in the direction of feminism. He passed his life in the gaze of the Lidless Eye of his obituarist. Perhaps for this reason he fails to humanize himself convincingly, even in the indiscretions confided to his biographer. Like Evelyn Waugh’s Apthorpe, he “tended to become faceless and tapering the closer he approached.” Were his private correspondence to be published, it would almost certainly reveal nothing he didn’t already make sure that we knew about himself.

There is one delightful exception, an occasion in which Hesburgh cashed in his chips and gratified an impulse for its own sake. Having done some favors for Jimmy Carter, he browbeat the president into muscling him onto a Lockheed SR-71 for a wholly gratuitous supersonic flight. Able for once to be a boy as well as a man, the author of The Humane Imperative got himself a ride on the fire truck to end all fire trucks. He had bought much shabbier wares at a much dearer price; one hopes he enjoyed it.

Baseballery

There was many a Son of Erin who played professional baseball, but in modern times — i.e., post 1901 — well, you can count them on one hand (with nine fingers). The last true (Republic of!) Irishman to play in a Major League game was the Washington Senators’ cup-of-coffee Joe Cleary, who on August 4, 1945, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Red Sox, came in to relieve struggling starter Sandy Ulrich. Cleary gave up five hits, three walks, and threw a wild pitch. He did strike out Red Sox pitcher Dave Ferris. It was a gruesome performance: In one-third of an inning he gave up seven earned runs. He never threw another major-league pitch. Cleary’s career ERA is 189.00.

But let us be broad. Last year, the young P.J. Conlon, born in Belfast (Baseball-Reference.com accords such nativity in the United Kingdom, and not Ireland, northern or any-thern), pitched in three games for the New York Metropolitans. He also gave up seven earned runs, but in 7 2/3 innings stretching over three games, giving him an un-Cleary ERA of 8.22. Still, Begorrah!

Listen and Enjoy Me Buccos!

1. Finnegan’s Wake

2. Whiskey in the Jar

3. Juice of the Barley

4. Wild Rover

5. Jug of Punch

A True Story Worth Sharing this Weekend

Patrick J. Collins was considered an exceptional horseman, and by reputation owned many. Indeed, on East 35th Street (just down the road from NR’s historic headquarters), before construction of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel claimed much of the land, PJC owned much property, where he kept his stables. He was a very rich man, an immigrant, quite “lace curtain,” involved with Tammany Hall, and . . . my great grandfather.

In 1917 he was chosen to be the Grand Marshall of the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. It is quite a distinction and from an ancestral perspective, an honor. But the truth must be told. Grandpa Collins was the third choice. And as for the parade itself, the day, according to the formal account, “broke cold and gray and a rainstorm of monumental proportions swept over the city.” It did not abate. So, with 50 “aides,” all on horseback, as was he, Grand Marshall Collins road through the downpour from 42nd Street to the corner of Madison Avenue and 50th Street, where from his window at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a dry Cardinal Farley could see and bless the drenched cavalry. And there ended what the official history of parades calls “the smallest and shortest procession in recorded history.”

Short, small, drenched. Still, Great Grandfather, you were the Grand Marshall of a NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. And that’s grand, even if the shindig wasn’t. Not many people can make that claim, which is way beyond cool (not that my Italian side would hold that view). Today I’ll knock one back in your memory. Sláinte!

A Dios

As for that Italian side: Saint Joseph — who during the recession of 1992 helped me sell two houses I kid you not — will get his due on Monday. My paysans feel that the Saint Patrick’s celebrating too-overwhelms the attention the Lord’s stepfather deserves. I tell them: you can’t fight City Hall, especially when Tammany runs it. But to compensate, on the 19th join me in finding an Italian pastry shop and snagging some Zeppole di San Giuseppe. Even if you are abstaining from sweets, mangia! You will not regret it.

That said, back to the Green: Let us raise A Parting Glass. Good night, and joy be with you all.

God’s blessings on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

Can you resist Andy Williams singing Danny Boy? No!

National Review

Are You Ready for Some Summit?

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Now if I could reach through this screen and smack you to get your attention about National Review Institute’s 2019 Ideas Summit — which has the timely theme of “The Case for the American Experiment” — I . . . wouldn’t (smack you). Because you are smart and you already know this will be a terrific two-day event (March 28 – 29 in Washington, D.C., at the Mandarin Oriental) and the fact is, you’re just about to reserve your tickets (register here, mes amis).

But what if you are just about to . . . just about to? If you need a nudge to get to that next step? Well how about this great line-up that seems to be getting better every day. And it seems to be getting better because . . . it is!

Already we shared the very good news that Mark Janus, the “average guy” who was the force behind the Supreme Court’s landmark 2018 free-speech ruling (named . . . Janus), will be receiving the Whittaker Chambers award at the Summit’s Thursday-night dinner). And we’ve long ago broke the news that the great James L. Buckley (who turns 96 today — HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a truly great American!) will be there to make the case for federalism.

But wait, there’s more: Adam Carolla has confirmed that he will come and handle the “Night Owl” duties to discuss his new First Amendment film, No Safe Spaces. And Tucker Carlson will be having a conversation with Michael Brendan Dougherty about his now-famous “monologue.” And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has just confirmed that he will be joining us to discuss the Trump Administration’s foreign policy.

I almost forgot: supercool freshman Congressman Dan Crenshaw has also said yes to our invite (he’ll be discussing “The New Socialism”).

Will you? Say yes to our invite (consider this such)? Unlike what’s between my ears, folks, NRI 2019 Ideas Summit space is limited. Register today, now, here!

You’ve been nudged. Now let’s have us a heapin’ helpin’ of some Jolt.

Editorials

Apologies mesdams and missyeurs but there warnt none the week past.

The New Issue of NR Magazine Has Burst off the Presses, and Its Contents Eagerly Await Your Peepers.

The March 25, 2019, issue has gotten ink on paper and is in the mail. While some wait for the postman to bring the jewel of wisdom to your mailbox, NRPLUS subscribers and members enjoy it immediately. That’s a pitch for joining, in case you didn’t notice. Now that that’s done, here are four selections — one, admittedly, rather self-serving — from the issue that should tickle your fancy.

1. Avik Roy and John Yoo make the case for the GOP to be aggressively courting Asian-American voters. From their essay:

In just two generations, Asian Americans have become America’s most successful ethnic group. As a share of the U.S. population, Asians have grown from barely 1 percent in the early 1960s to more than 6 percent today. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the Asian-American population grew by nearly 50 percent. The Asian vote is now large enough to swing elections in Virginia and Nevada.

If conservative values really are the values of family, personal responsibility, education, and hard work, the most conservative demographic group in America is Asians. The divorce rate for non-Hispanic whites is 40 percent; for Asians, it is 21 percent. The teen birth rate for whites is 17 percent; for Asian Americans, it is 8 percent. The illegitimacy rate for whites is 29 percent; for Asian Americans, it is 16 percent.

Asians also value merit and hard work, just as conservatives do. Take educational attainment: Thirty-six percent of white Americans have a college degree, while 54 percent of Asian Americans do. Asian families push their children hard to score at the top of standardized tests and achieve sterling grade-point averages. They rightly prize the great benefits of being educated at our world-beating universities. Opposition to race-based affirmative action at Harvard University, the University of California, and New York City schools has brought out Asians in support of conservative arguments for meritocracy and against race-based quotas.

2. Jay Nordlinger grabs us by the lapels and shakes us to make us realize how Nicaragua has become a hellhole. From his report:

Here in Mexico City, at a meeting of the Oslo Freedom Forum, journalists and activists from Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba are comparing notes. It seems—astonishingly—that there is now less room for free expression in Nicaragua than there is in those other two despotisms. Protests in Nicaragua are illegal. So are tweets critical of the regime. So is the singing of the national anthem. So is the raising of the national flag. (Those last two acts are interpreted as anti-Ortega.)

Since April 2018, 350 people have been killed, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. But that number is based on death certificates. The real number, says Maradiaga, is more than a thousand. In most cases, death certificates are not issued. Officially, there are 620 political prisoners—but there are hundreds more, says Maradiaga, whom the regime does not want to acknowledge as prisoners. Then there is the matter of exile. More than 80,000 people have fled the country, half of them to Costa Rica.

Among those in Costa Rica is Edipcia Dubón, a former legislator. “I never thought I would be an exile,” she says. Last May, she traveled to the Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway. On her way, she stopped in Miami and met with her fellow Nicaraguans. She also gave interviews, including one to CNN. This got the attention of Laureano Ortega Murillo, the singer, who issued a tweet. He called Dubón an enemy of the state, basically— which made it too dangerous for her to return home.

3. The issue includes a special financial section, which in turn includes a terrific piece by David Bahnsen that asks the frightening question: Did the Financial Crisis end? From his essay with the answer:

The economy spent these years of great monetary assist expanding, but only modestly. The significant increase in government spending had the effect of “crowding out” investment in the private sector, and while unemployment slowly but surely declined, wage growth remained stagnant and the lion’s share of economic improvement was felt by those who owned financial assets whose valuations were pushed higher as the Fed held its discount rate down. But the Fed did something else as well, and in spades: It re-leveraged corporate America. Mortgage borrowing by home owners leveled out and never picked back up to pre-crisis levels (thank God). Consumer debt likewise leveled out and never re established an upward trajectory. But corporate America returned to pre-crisis levels of debt relative to GDP and then exceeded them.

Aggregate U.S. corporate debt sat at $4.5 trillion at the beginning of 2009, the low point of the financial crisis. It sits at $8.5 trillion now, the effect of a 131 percent increase in middle-market lending (lending focused on companies too large for small-business loans and not large enough for traditional senior bank-loan funding),a 160 percent increase in investment-grade-bond issuance for triple-B-rated debt (the lowest credit rating in the investment-grade universe), an 81 percent in crease in senior bank loans (those legally first in line to be paid before any other debt or equity instrument), and a 76 percent increase in private investment-grade debt.

This is not cause for alarm, per se. It was the stated objective of the Federal Reserve, in conducting quantitative easing, to reliquefy the American economy, and that reliquefication found its way into the corporate sector. The $4 trillion increase on the Fed’s balance sheet coincides almost perfectly with a $4 trillion increase in corporate borrowings. For the most part, that debt has been put to productive use. Hiring has increased, wages have increased, and clearly profits have increased.

So why can’t the Fed just declare victory and call it a day?

RELATED: David has a new book coming out in early April: The Case for Dividend Growth: Investing in a Post-Crisis World. You can pre-order at Amazon.

4. The cover essay is by Yours Truly (were all the other NR writers drunk or ill?). It is about Mark Janus, the Illinois government worker who took his fight — to protect the First Amendment rights of five million such workers — to the Supreme Court, and won (So long, compulsory dues). It’s also about the political aftermath of the Janus ruling. From the piece:

Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at Mackinac Center for Public Policy and a labor-policy expert, describes Janus as “a tremendous victory” and says that “the size of the victory was a big surprise to most followers of the Court.” Because of the Friedrichs vote in 2016, they felt reasonably sure that in Janus “the Court was goig to uphold the First Amendment rights of public employees.” However, “Alito went further and said that all public employees must opt in to their union” if they want to belong to it, rather than being automatically enrolled and allowed to opt out.

This “affirmative consent” requirement “breaks new ground,” Vernuccio says. It’s unambiguous. Now a government employee must, essentially, tell an employer, “Yes, I want to pay dues or agency fees” before funds can be deducted from his pay. The days of automatic withholding ended along with Abood. The unions’ reliable money spigot was reliable no longer. The Janus decision could impoverish unions if “affirmative consent” in practice severely reduces the revenue they collect from dues. The political consequences are immense.

Unions are fighting the efforts by conservative groups to inform government employees—both union members and nonmembers—of their new Janus rights. Indeed, AFSCME and other government-employee unions, including the powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU), were reacting even before Janus was handed down. For unions, the Friedrichs decision had been at best a temporary win: Donald Trump’s election, and Gorsuch’s nomination and confirmation, meant that a defeat of some kind, and likely sooner rather than later, was in the offing.

You Want Scrumptious? We Got Scrumptious! In Fact, A Baker’s Dozen of NR Articles That Are So Scrumptious Your Brain Is Growing Taste Buds!

1. The Cato Institute tag team of Ilya Shapiro and Nathan Harvey want to explain to you what left-wing populism — it’s legislative name is “H.R. 1” — looks like (hint: approaching ugly). From the piece:

One of the most worrisome “reforms” is tucked away in the bill’s Federal Election Commission provisions. After Watergate, Congress c