Well, the New York Times drops a bombshell about FBI-eaucrats launching a counterintelligence investigation of the President. Outcry ensues.
As part of the executive branch, the FBI should brush up on the powers of the chief executive. The president gets to fire subordinate executive-branch officials. He gets to meet with and talk to foreign leaders. He gets to make policy toward foreign nations. Especially important to the current investigation, he gets to say foolish, ill-informed, and destructive things.
If the president wants to tilt toward Russia (not that Trump really has, except in his words), he can. If he wants to butter up China’s dictatorial president during high-stakes trade negotiations, he can. If he wants to announce a precipitous withdrawal from Syria and make it slightly less precipitous in a fog of confusion, he can.
And the FBI should have nothing to say about it.
Then on The Editors, Lowry and David go at it, with spectators Michael Brendan Dougherty and Charlie Cooke joining the fracas. Listen here. You gotta!
And then, Rich and Andy McCarthy shred the FBI investigation on the new episode of The McCarthy Report. Listen here. Yeah, again — you gotta!
Now let’s get to the WJ’s abundant serving of conservative meat and potatoes. But first . . . a commercial!
Houston, We Have a Pro-motion
If you live in the area, or will be in town on Wednesday, January 23, think about attending this terrific NR Institute event featuring NRI fellow Richard Brookhiser discussing his new book, John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court. Rick and his happy audience will be at the St. Regis Houston (1919 Briar Oaks Lane). The shebang kicks off with a reception starting at 5:30 p.m., followed by the program — in which Rick will trace John Marshall’s career through landmark decisions and explain how he transformed the Supreme Court into a central pillar of American life. Then there’s a book signing at 7 p.m.
The cost is $25. Of course, if you are an NRI 1955 Society Member, admission is complimentary (and there is a private dinner afterward). For more information contact Francisco Gonzalez at email@example.com. You can R.S.V.P. here. But do it now.
The Shopping Cart Is Overflowing with Delicious National Review Articles
1. You can’t hear enough that we are a union of different states. Of . . . differences. Kevin Williamson makes the case for federalism. From his piece:
The drive for coast-to-coast conformity and homogeneity in political matters — particularly in cultural matters — is one of the most important drivers of the polarization of our politics. A devout Mormon and an evangelical atheist living next door to each other can be perfectly contented neighbors and friends — unless it is decided that one of their creeds and mode of life must prevail over the other’s and become mandatory. Then, they are enemies.
The value of heterogeneity and authentic diversity is partly moral — freedom is good, and the domination of one man by another is no less evil for being a sometimes necessary evil — but it also touches on a practical argument for federalism that gets less attention than it deserves: risk mitigation.
2. Sit down! Sarah Schutte gets her curmudgeon on about the Standing O for anything and everything. From her piece:
Why do we feel it necessary to stand and clap at the end of every school play, middle-school band concert, and community-theater musical?
Please, parents, lower your pitchforks for a moment and hear me out. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of our children and their accomplishments. It takes time and energy to hone a performance and then courage to stand and present it to an audience of peers and parents. But there needs to be a difference between recognizing that effort and recognizing true excellence.
We should be discerning in our applause and praise, giving it when we see a good job well done. Appropriately selected praise signals appreciation for the time and talent of the performers, but it also encourages them to strive for even better and higher goals. A college friend of mine performed with our school’s talented orchestra for four years, and she remembers one music-theory teacher who attended every orchestra concert. Nearly every show, the audience would leap to its feet at the end, applauding enthusiastically. All except this professor — a very kind and dedicated teacher — who stood to applaud for only one of the ensemble’s performances. That one performance, the professor’s ovation assured them, had been truly excellent.
RELATED: Stubby Kaye tells guys and dolls to sit down. He sings it even.
3. Andy McCarthy considers presidential emergency declarations — at least for border fences — the stuff which one might find in a Constitutional twilight zone. From his analysis:
. . . we are in a constitutional twilight zone: In most situations, Congress should not delegate to the president the unilateral power to declare national emergencies; but Congress cannot unilaterally reclaim this power because the Supreme Court has voided the legislative veto; and the courts do not have express authority to review the president’s declaration of a national emergency because Congress did not give it to the judiciary — Congress kept that authority for itself, but got burned by Chadha.
I continue to hope President Trump is just using the threat of an emergency declaration as a bargaining chip to pressure Democrats into a compromise. The threat has been effective. As our editorial and my post argue, there is a crisis at the southern border. It is largely caused by congressional abdication, and — regardless of whether President Trump declares an emergency and tries to build a section of barrier — the crisis cannot be addressed adequately absent legislation. By merely threatening to declare an emergency, the president highlights the crisis, which keeps pressure on congressional Democrats. The moment the president declared an emergency, the script would flip: The media narrative would be lawlessness in the White House, not peril at the border.
4. A Boy Named Sue: Maddy Kearns looks at NYC’s new law to allow choosing a gender at birth. From the beginning of her piece:
Imagine that a man walks into a courtroom and swears to tell “my truth, the whole of my truth, and nothing but my truth, so help you all.” Imagine your incredulity as, for whatever reason, he gives an outlandishly false testimony. Imagine your dismay as the judge explains that all subsequent evidence and, especially, all cross examination, must support the man’s “truth,” and as he instructs the members of the jury that they, too, must affirm it.
“You be you. Live your truth. And know that New York City will have your back,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told a cheering crowd last year. He was referring to the introduction of a bill — since passed and signed into law — that allows New York City residents to change the sex on their birth certificate to M, F, or, if they like, the gender-neutral X, in order to conform their legal status to their “gender identity.”
Unlike sex, which is an objective and observable fact, “gender identity” — one’s sense of being male, female, or something else — is entirely subjective. It is a feeling. To say so is not to be dismissive or hurtful toward individuals who experience a disconnect between their birth sex and their sense of gender identity (i.e., “gender dysphoria”). It is merely to insist that the purpose of public records, such as birth certificates, is not to affirm or reflect our feelings — however strong or distressing they may be — but to document the truth, rather than your truth or my truth, for practical, legal purposes.
5. More Men Stuff: Even us normal okay guys suffer from “toxic masculinity,” so toxic that our anti-stubble providers feel compelled to blind us with some virtue signaling. Ben Shapiro looks at the new Gillette ad that takes a razor to its customers. From the column:
We’ve maligned masculinity as a society because men are likely to do the greatest harm to others. The vast majority of violent criminality comes from males; the vast majority of sexual misconduct comes from males. But we’ve made a mistake in blaming the presence of males for that issue. It’s a massive mistake to blame “toxic masculinity” rather than recognizing that toxic masculinity is often the result of a dearth of genuine masculinity — the kind of masculinity that leads men to stick around and father their children in the first place. The alternative to masculine presence is no masculine presence — and lack of masculine presence leads to toxic masculinity, deprived men acting out of hurt and anger.
6. Even More Men(tions): Michelle Malkin slaps P&G-owned Gillette’s “Toxic Sanctimony.” From her column:
Like many Silicon Valley giants (hello, Facebook and Twitter) and SJW-hijacked sports enterprises (hello, NFL and ESPN), Gillette is now openly discriminating against its consumers-turned-critics to curry political favor with the Me Too movement. Savvy social-media observers caught the company throttling negative comments and dislikes on its YouTube video. They can manipulate likes and deplatform dissenters. But they won’t be able to disguise the bloodletting effect of toxic sanctimony on their bottom line.
7. And then David French takes the controversy to unload on the persistent cultural attacks on real masculinity. Read his piece here.
8. Alexandra DeSanctis is in D.C., which is more than can be said for some pro-life Republican senators, who miss an important vote on banning federal funding of abortion. From her report:
Four out of the five Republican senators who missed the vote signed on to a letter to President Trump earlier this week, emphasizing the existence of a pro-life majority in the Senate. “Public support for pro-life policies will send a strong signal that attempts by Democrats to alter decades of established, bipartisan policies will be met with resistance and failure,” the letter read in part.
“With pro-life ‘champions’ like these, who needs Planned Parenthood?” a senior Republican aide told National Review. “This is embarrassing. You can’t call yourself pro-life if you can’t even show up for the vote designed to show that we’ve got a pro-life majority.”
RELATED: As the March for Life starts a-marching, Alexandra explains its selflessness.
9. PETA’s new cause is to browbeat consumers to stop buying Canada Goose coats. Before the fur starts to fly, the group does recommend jacket brands, including those made of synthetics. Which, as Mary Spencer points out, are made from oil, which biodegrade ever-so slowwwwwly, which . . . finds PETA petard-hoisted. From her piece:
It is absurd of PETA to put the brunt of responsibility on consumers with limited options, but this is becoming an increasingly common position for the animal-rights group. PETA has endorsed practices that have much more toxic results than the production of animal-derived goods at a time when warnings about the environment are growing louder.
The process of creating and maintaining synthetic coats takes a toll, the garments themselves remain pollutants for hundreds of years after they are discarded, and when they are washed for everyday use, they shed additional plastic fibers. According to the Guardian, “researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that, on average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each wash.”
And using the same coat from year to year will do little less damage. The amount of microfibers that synthetic coats and jackets release into water when washed only increases as the garment age. The same study found that “older jackets shed almost twice as many fibers as new jackets.”
10. Victor Davis Hanson runs down historic, new, and now, new new anti-Semitism, which has found a home in the House Democrat caucus. From his essay:
Soon it became common for self-described black leaders to explain, to amplify, to contextualize, or to be unapologetic about their anti-Semitism, in both highbrow and lowbrow modes: James Baldwin (“Negroes are anti-Semitic because they’re anti-white”), Louis Farrakhan (“When they talk about Farrakhan, call me a hater, you know what they do, call me an anti-Semite. Stop it. I am anti-termite. The Jews don’t like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that’s a great name. Hitler was a very great man”), Jesse Jackson (“Hymietown”), Al Sharpton (“If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house”), and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright (“The Jews ain’t gonna let him [Obama] talk to me”).
Note that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton both ran as Democratic candidates for president. Sharpton officially visited the Obama White House more than 100 times, and Wright was the Obamas’ longtime personal pastor who officiated at the couple’s wedding and the baptism of their daughters and inspired the title of Obama’s second book.
In the past ten years, however, we have seen an emerging new, new anti-Semitism. It is likely to become far more pernicious than both the old-right and new-left versions, because it is not just an insidiously progressive phenomenon. It has also become deeply embedded in popular culture and is now rebranded with acceptable cool among America’s historically ignorant youth. In particular, the new, new bigotry is “intersectional.” It serves as a unifying progressive bond among “marginalized” groups such as young Middle Easterners, Muslims, feminists, blacks, woke celebrities and entertainers, socialists, the “undocumented,” and student activists. Abroad, the new, new bigotry is fueled by British Labourites and anti-Israel EU grandees.
11. Kevin Williamson checks out David Webb’s white privilege. From the piece:
Somehow, we as a culture have managed to forget that ad hominem is a rhetorical fallacy. Which is to say: Relying on the ad hominem mode of argument means that you are stupid, if not generally and categorically stupid then limited-purpose stupid in the context of the debate at hand.
Dennis Prager, relating the story above, mentions that he was denounced — as he must be denounced! — before a college campus speech as a racist, sexist, homophobe, and . . . anti-Semite. Prager is Jewish. He has made opposing anti-Semitism a fundamental part of his public career. The reaction to that news was predictable: “Oops. Well, he’s still a racist, sexist, homophobe . . .”
I’ve heard Charles C. W. Cooke dismissed as a fundamentalist Christian (he’s an atheist) and Guy Benson denounced as a homophobe (he’s gay). I have even heard myself denounced as a sellout self-hating black man (I’m white). We have been the beneficiaries of Voltaire’s prayer: “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.”
12. Jim Geraghty compiles 20 things you might not know about Kamala Harris. Here’s the list, and here’s Number 16:
Starting in 1993, Harris began dating Willie Brown, then the speaker of the California Assembly and later a candidate for mayor of San Francisco — a relationship that brought her in contact with many of the city’s political and financial movers and shakers. Early in 1994, Brown named her as his appointee to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, a job that paid $97,088 a year. Six months later, he named her to the California Medical Assistance Commission, a post which paid $72,000 a year.
Into 1994, press accounts described Harris as Brown’s girlfriend. He was still married, and in his early 60s; she had just turned 30. The relationship had a surprising and tumultuous end, as James Richardson describes in Willie Brown: A Biography:
Columnist Herb Caen all but predicted two days after the election that Brown would wed Kamala Harris, his constant companion throughout the campaign. “Keep an eye on these two,” Caen wrote. No mention was made of what Brown would do about Blanche, to whom he was still married. But the day after Christmas, Brown stunned his friends by announcing that he was breaking up with Kamala. Brown invited Blanche to appear with him on stage for his swearing-in and to hold the Bible. A television reporter from KPIX caught up to Blanche, who had kept a low profile throughout the campaign, and asked her what it was like to live with the future mayor.
“Difficult,” was her one-word answer.
13. Big Jim is on a roll, finding another score of didjaknows about . . . Joe Biden. From that list, here are Numbers Five and Six:
FIVE: Biden cosponsored the 1984 Crime Control Act, which abolished federal parole, reestablished the death penalty, expanded civil asset forfeiture, and increased federal penalties for cultivation, possession, or transfer of marijuana.
In 1991, Biden bragged about the sweeping scope of civil asset forfeiture: “Under our forfeiture statutes, the government can take everything you own. Everything from your car, to your house, to your bank account, not merely what they confiscate in terms of the dollars of the transaction you’ve been caught engaging in. They can take everything!”
SIX: In June 1991, Biden bragged that his legislation would make more crimes eligible for the death penalty than would an alternative offered by the Bush administration and Senator Strom Thurmond: “The Biden crime bill before us calls for the death penalty for 51 offenses. . . . The president’s bill calls for the death penalty on 46 offenses.” He boasted, on final passage of compromise legislation, that it was “the single largest expansion of the federal death penalty in the history of the Congress.”
14. While Alger Hiss’s spindly, bird-watching carcass would be a-moldering in some wormy grave if it hadn’t been cremated, his Commie spirit, and all it meant and still means to so many, is marching on. Kevin Williamson explains why. From his piece:
Bill Scher writing in Politico in June: “Republicans are now having their own Alger Hiss moment. [Maria] Butina’s alleged efforts to ingratiate herself with conservative movement organizations and the Republican Party shows that Russia’s interest in Donald Trump is not an operation focused on one man.” Sebastian Gorka, writing in The Hill in October, compared Brett Kavanaugh’s ordeal to the Hiss-Chambers hearings: “The left has a philosophy: The end justifies the mean. [sic] In the late ‘40s, the end was to protect communist fellow-travelers ensconced inside Washington’s halls of power. Today, it is to prevent a constitutional originalist from becoming an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Not even past.
Hiss still has his apologists, in spite of the Soviet archival evidence of his activities. Hiss is not history because the New Deal is not history: It remains, in its way, the central dispute in American politics. (What does Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez call her fatuous daydream? A “Green New Deal.”) Hiss must be exonerated because the conception of the New Deal must be immaculate. Navasky writes: “The Republican right tried to use Whittaker Chambers’s allegations against Alger Hiss to discredit the entire New Deal.” But the question is larger than that. Navasky continues: “If Alger Hiss, who seemed the model of high-minded idealistic liberalism, was the secret agent of a foreign power, no one was above suspicion.”
15. Local Girl Makes Bad: So the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute withdrew an award to totalitarian hack and former Commie Party VP candidate Angela Davis after her BDS-apologist credentials were out, which in turn caused a pro-Davis backlash and a recognition from the pinheads on the Birmingham City Council. From Jonathan Tobin’s story:
Davis and her defenders have sought to depict her critics as racists. But the idea that a person with a record of support for totalitarianism and consistent anti-Semitism deserves to be honored as a human rights-advocate is an insult not so much to the Jewish community but to genuine civil-rights heroes who fought for justice — and not, like Davis, to defend injustice.
One needn’t re-litigate the history of Communism or her personal role in Black Panther violence to understand that neither Davis nor the liberals who fawned over those who committed violence did nothing to make the United States a better place or to destroy the edifice of institutionalized racism that once prevailed in this country. Similarly, her support for efforts to destroy the one Jewish state on the planet and her cheers for those who shed Jewish blood to advance that despicable cause is antithetical to advocacy for human rights.
16. Mitch Pearlstine makes the case for MBA ladies considering licensed plumbers for future husbands. From the kick-off of his article:
The U.S economy is aching for many more highly skilled, technically trained people. But what if men end up limiting their eventual marriage prospects if they pursue careers in the trades or other jobs that don’t require a four-year degree? Some proportion of women who have bachelor’s and post-baccalaureate degrees avoid romantic involvements with such guys, holding out for those with B.A.s, M.B.A.s, or J.D.s. Which is to say, they seek potential husbands who have degrees that are more generally esteemed than those earned in a year or two. Same with the kinds of training acquired via apprenticeships or in the armed forces.
This is a vital matter because young men who enjoy working with their hands might choose not to pursue careers in construction and manufacturing (among other fields), for fear that women will dismiss them out of hand as life partners.
American economic growth and prosperity are already constrained by our having too few skilled men and women in technical occupations. This problem threatens to grow worse as highly skilled Baby Boomers continue to retire at rapid rates — 10,000 a day, by one estimate — while they are not succeeded by enough younger people who are sufficiently trained.
Brexit, Come What (Theresa) May.
1. The Prime Minister’s Brexit implementation plan got squashed. It’s prompted ten thoughts in the big brain of John O’Sullivan. Here is Thought Number 4, from the article:
Another factor at play here is the confusion that May herself causes by constantly reiterating her absolute determination to achieve Brexit and fulfill the instruction given by the voters in the referendum. That doesn’t deceive the Westminster village, but it has persuaded others that she is a symbol of Brexit at any price. In reality, she is a symbol of subordinating Brexit to the wishes of a Remain establishment and cabinet without seeming to do so. She is thus a cause of confusion and an obstacle to any fruitful change of government and/or Tory policy in response to last night’s defeat. Her rhetoric will probably remain strong, but she will likely be as weak towards the Labour and Tory Remain Ultras like Dominic Grieve as she has been towards the EU negotiators and the establishment. Unless she undergoes a Damascene conversion, she will now open negotiations with Opposition parties and her own Remainer rebels on the next Plan B while ramping up her Brexit language to keep Brexiteers happy and Boris at bay. This kicking the can down the road works until you run out of road, which in this case will be the 29th of March — and that means on present form that she will try to get the EU to agree to a postponement of Brexit. That would keep open a Pandora’s Box of competing alternatives to Brexit that the fixed date was intend to close firmly.
2. Michael Brendan Dougherty looks at May’s loss and sees it as a product of the clash between Parliament’s legal supremacy and the will of the people expressed via the Brexit referendum. From his analysis:
I happen to think rejecting May’s very imperfect deal at this late stage was too risky. A second referendum would be more divisive and politically destructive than the first, and would likely yield the same result: a narrow majority for Leave and a surly Parliament reluctant to carry that out in policy. And failing to deliver on Brexit at all could do irreparable harm to the Tory party and to the government’s democratic legitimacy.
But May, to her credit, is not fooling herself by thinking she can save this deal. She is essentially putting herself in Parliament’s hands and trying to discover what kind of deal can actually command a majority. The going assumption, fed by reports from Germany, is that a delay of Article 50’s ejection of the U.K. from the EU can be had.
But even after such a delay, Parliament may discover that it has no working political majority willing to stand behind any Brexit. Northern Irish ministers don’t want Northern Ireland to be treated differently and may be willing to tolerate the U.K. remaining in the customs union. English Brexiteers despair of being in a customs union if the U.K. loses its ability to shape the rules, thinking it vassalage. The Labour party is led by a not-so-secret Red Brexiteer, Jeremy Corbyn. The overwhelming political lagoon forces Labour to reject every May-negotiated Brexit as ruinous, trying to please their Remain and Leave constituencies at the same time.
3. Maddy Kearns interviews Douglas Murray about Brexit and, on this side of the populist pond, The Donald. Read it here.
4. Kevin Williamson argues that unilateral free trade may be a way for the UK to implement a de facto Brexit. From his piece:
The United Kingdom has the power to write its own trade accord with the European Union — a trade accord consisting of two words: “Yes, please.”
The born-again mercantilists and daft neo-nationalists fundamentally misunderstand trade: The benefits of trade are the imports; the exports are the cost. Contemporary trade skeptics — and American nationalist-populists in the Donald Trump mode are not least among them — get it backward. They hear about “trade deficits” and, misunderstanding that term — it is an intentionally misleading one, after all — believe that our trading partners are somehow getting over on us. Difficult as it is to believe in the particular — that you’ve been victimized by your new Mercedes — it somehow feels plausible as an abstraction: They get $50 billion, and we get only $30 billion. Of course, they get only $30 billion worth of actual goods and services, while we get $50 billion worth.
Unilateral free trade may sound like a radical idea, but other countries have had pretty good luck with it, including one that may be of interest to the English: England. When the English rescinded the Corn Laws in the middle of the 19th century, they did not do so as part of a broad and reciprocal agreement with their grain-producing trade partners, some of whom — the French — they didn’t particularly like. They did it because the sensible English finally came to the sensibly English conclusion that English people would be better off as a whole if there were more food coming from more sources at better prices, even if that diminished the earnings of the relatively small cartel of big landowners who had benefited the most from anti-trade measures. Great Britain in fact grew vastly wealthy while maintaining trade arrangements that paid relatively little attention to reciprocity even in principle. British territories, notably Hong Kong, grew wealthy while following much the same model.
1. I don’t believe pictures come and then quickly head down a memory hole. They stay (TCM!). And can continue to impact (Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Passion of Joan of Arc), oui? So even though the six-storied The Ballad of Buster Scruggs got the reviewer treatment when it appeared several months back, it’s still game for analysis, and at Law & Liberty, Molly Brigid McGrath gives it her all.
The penultimate story, “The Gal Who Got Rattled,” portrays Alice Longabaugh (Zoe Kazan) as she travels west in a wagon train. When her brother, a failed businessman full of quick certainties and false hopes, dies of cholera, Alice accepts a proposal of marriage from Billy Knapp (Bill Heck). Definitely improvements on the protagonists who came before, Alice and Billy are not motivated by power, mere survival, or money. They share a gentle Christian faith, a sense of justice, and a desire to settle into a farming life, hoping for a meaningful old age with the comfort of family. They share also the conviction that nothing in this life merits certainty. As Billy puts it, echoing “Ozymandias,” “Down the ages, from our remote past, what certainties survive? And yet we hurry to fashion new ones, wanting their comfort.”
Politicians are mocked in this story by the yappy dog “President Pierce,” who has nothing to say yet won’t shut up. The dog’s namesake, the union’s 14th chief executive, is remembered mainly for being ineffectual in a time of need. The story underlines the tragedy that most politics is, despite the rare Lincoln, full of meaningless noise.
Alice, lacking her own certainties, too easily follows others’ leads, precipitating the incongruously ghastly ending of this longest and warmest of the movie’s vignettes. For mortals to live well, they have to try not to be easily rattled — which is to say, they need some hopeful resolve. While Shelley’s “Ozymandias” despairingly reminds us that all things human pass, Alice’s mistake is despairing too quickly of this life — which foils the story’s promise of a meaningful communal existence. We must navigate between easy conviction and no conviction — between false hope and despair.
2. At the Wall Street Journal, Tanka Varadarajan interviews a bereft but determined Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was murdered last year in the Parkland school shooting, about broader culpability — namely, the school system’s politically correct policies for dealing with emerging threats, like gunman Nikolas Cruz, a.k.a. Prisoner 18-1958. From the piece:
Mr. Runcie and his supporters called their policy “discipline reform.” Violent students had to attend “healing circles,” among other sorts of in-house, nonjudicial remedies. The result, says Mr. Pollack — so agitated that he almost shouts — is that “mentally disturbed students, violent psychopaths like 18-1958, are right there in the classroom with normal students like my daughter, and with teachers who don’t know how to deal with them, since they can’t bring in the cops.” As Mr. Pollack writes in his forthcoming book: “His entire life, 18-1958 was practically screaming, ‘If you ignore me, I could become a mass murderer.’” Parkland, he says, “was the most avoidable mass shooting in American history. 18-1958 was never going to be a model citizen, but it truly took a village to raise him into a school shooter.”
Mr. Pollack describes the Broward County School District as “Ground Zero for a horrible approach to school safety that spread across America.” In January 2014, the Obama administration issued guidelines to the nation’s school boards, directing them to adopt Promise-like policies or risk a federal investigation and loss of funding. The report of the Trump school-safety commission, published Dec. 18, recommends abolishing such programs. “School boards won’t be hounded anymore to put these policies in place,” Mr. Pollack says. “But there’s nothing to stop a board from choosing to adopt Promise.” And Broward County has not abandoned it.
3. Paul Brian writes for The American Conservative about his trip to France, where the “Yellow Vests” are not going away, and even strengthening. From his piece, about observations in Rouen:
The owner of a chocolaterie near Joanne of Arc Church said she doesn’t like when protesters break windows or cause damage, which is hard to clean up and expensive, though she noted that her store has not been damaged. Another man looking at the march, who declined to give his name, said he did not support the yellow vests. “I work,” he said. “They break things.”
Nonetheless, current support for the yellow vests is around 60 percent, according to a poll from Elabe, and plenty of bystanders were more supportive. Ben Les of Rouen said he empathizes with the yellow vests position and does not see their protests ending anytime soon. “They have nothing to lose,” he told TAC.
Antoine Souali, 33, who owns a bar on Rue du Général LeClerc in downtown Rouen, also expressed some support for the yellow vests. “Most people work but at the end of the month they have nothing,” he said. “In France there’s a lot of taxes. We have good social security but the services are declining because the government puts the interest of the rich above the normal people and close hospitals and schools.” Souali added that while he sympathizes with the frustrations of the yellow vests, his bar has had its business negatively affected by the protests.
4. The preening progressive artistes who dictate cultural fashion and taste hate their audiences, says Joel Kotkin at City Journal. From his piece:
As movies and television shows in both the United States and Britain today increasingly adopt the feminist, gay, and racial obsessions of their makers, they have written off a large portion of the less politically “woke” audience. Many of these shows, such as Britain’s venerable Doctor Who, have hemorrhaged viewers since taking on a more preachy, PC aspect. “It’s supposed to be entertainment,” one disgruntled viewer complained. Late-night television, now dominated by stridently anti-Trump comedians, also has seen ratings drop in recent years; no show has close to the number of viewers, let alone the iconic status, enjoyed by the late — and largely apolitical — Johnny Carson.
This trend reflects the loss of contact between creative elites and much of the country. Gone forever is the widely shared culture between the upper-class arbiters of popular taste and an ascending middle class that flourished in the mid-twentieth century. In that era, the yeomanry read both classic and contemporary works, from Ruth Benedict to Saul Bellow, while watching televised Shakespeare plays — one of which, according to Fred Siegel in his Revolt Against the Masses, attracted a remarkable 50 million viewers.
5. At The Imaginative Conservative, Joseph Mussomeli shares life lessons, which include looking at the very individual, and not labels. From his piece:
This mistaking of weakness for goodness dangerously pervades our society. We never seem to discern the difference between those who refuse to do evil and those who simply lack the capacity to commit evil. This explains much of the absurd commentary on the Left which caricatures all immigrants as decent, hard-working, heroic figures. While this is an understandable reaction to the equally absurd notion that all immigrants are rapists, thieves, and murderers, we have a hard time realizing that being poor and vulnerable is not a moral litmus test for decency and integrity. We fall into this trap over and over again, all over the world. In my own experience, the so-called democratic opposition in Cambodia, as well as many would-be reformers in many other countries, are not much better than those in power — except that they lack the power to demonstrate just how bad they would be as rulers. My favorite example of this is the fall from Liberal grace of the Burmese Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. For years I endured listening to my diplomatic colleagues speak of her in soft, reverential tones as if she were another Immaculate Conception. The horror they now feel at the realization that their saintly icon can act in a pragmatically ruthless manner now that she has power should be a cautionary tale not to mistake weakness for goodness.
6. The College Fix’s title suffices: “Transgender activists gearing up to rewrite Harvard Medical School’s curriculum.” From Sarah George’s report:
The new program seeks a broad overhaul of the medical school’s curriculum in order to eliminate “assumptions or errors about sex and gender, such as conflating sexual orientation with gender identity, presuming gender is immutable or treating heterosexuality as a default.”
“The plan encompasses curriculum reform, faculty development, continuous quality assessment and global dissemination, as well as increased efforts to recruit and support students, faculty and staff with interests or experience in [sexual and gender minority] health,” the announcement on Harvard Medical’s website reads.
The College Fix reached out to numerous officials at the medical school for more information on the planned overhaul. Harvard Medical School Dean for Medical Education Edward Hundert did not respond to The Fix’s queries. Faculty members John Dalrymple, Jennifer Potter, Alex Keuroghlian, and Jessica Halem, who are leading the initiative, also failed to respond to queries on the matter. The Fix also asked officials at the school for a copy of the initiative and clarification on which elements of the curriculum are subject to change; the school did not respond.
BONUS: Tim Carney at The American Conservative has a big piece on how ex-Churchgoers (much more so than even the manufacturing abandoned) are a major part of the Trump bloc. From his essay:
And herein lies the best, deepest explanation of “how we got Trump.” Trump’s improbable likeness to a mega-church preacher allowed him to capture the love of a huge swath of the electorate that previously tuned out or voted for Democrats. The people who came to Trump, especially early in the primaries, weren’t really joining the GOP and they weren’t primarily seeking policies. They didn’t even necessarily believe Trump would bring back their jobs. Many of Trump’s earliest and most dedicated supporters were seeking a deeper fulfillment.
They came to Trump seeking what they had lost because they had lost church.
When Trump caught so many political commentators off guard, we looked for an explanation amid the closing factories, but we should have been looking for the closing churches.
And this is a story much bigger than Trump. Trump’s early appeal was his declaration that “the American Dream is dead,” as he put it in his campaign launch. Faith in the American Dream is the weakest where people lack strong religious institutions where they can seek deeper meaning.
Lights. Cameras. Critics.
1. Kyle Smith finds more upside than down in Support the Girls, now doings its thang on Hulu. From the review:
A feminist comedy about Hooters seems to promise the special kind of excruciation that one can normally expect to find only in an extra huffy Jezebel post. Yet Support the Girls, a film that briefly appeared in theaters last August and is now streaming on Hulu, manages to be endearing and sweet. It’s a film about sexual exploitation that understands how taking advantage goes both ways.
Support the Girls, which stars an impressive Regina Hall as the manager of a sports bar called Double Whammies, drolly considers the plight of women playing highly sexualized roles. Lisa, played by Hall, gets to work fully clothed, but her barmaids and waitresses wear half shirts, short shorts, and tall boots as they serve up suds and smiles to a crowd of sports-loving men.
2. Armond White watches The Wife, starring Glenn Close, and see a whiny, pseudo-sophisticated #MeToo melodrama. From his review:
Now, in The Wife, Close plays #MeToo, #TimesUp, and Hillary Clinton. She’s Joan Castleman, a stoic figure of female ambition — so alabaster white that she sometimes resembles a George Washington portrait — who is oppressed by her dishonest, needy husband, Joe (Jonathan Pryce), a novelist who just received the Nobel Prize in Literature. This hilarious, trendy role has put Close on the fast track of the current awards race — part of film-industry mania that is unconcerned with film art and more interested in rewarding topical subjects and politically correct attitudes.
It’s a good opportunity to see how this self-delusion works: From the start, director Björn Runge frequently cuts to Close making Susan Alexander’s “What about me!” grimace. Sure, enough, The Nation praises the characterization as “a woman of many layers and volumes,” showing Joan’s “voicelessness.” This makes The Wife a pseudo-sophisticated melodrama about sexism in the academic and publishing worlds, inspired by post–2016 election resentment. (Joan’s WASP defensiveness evokes Clinton’s comment to NPR about why women, in her view, are disinclined to support female candidates: “I’m talking principally about white women — they will be under tremendous pressure from fathers and husbands and boyfriends and male employers not to vote for ‘the girl.’”)
3. Kyle raves about Never Look Away, the new flick from Germany’s Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (of The Lives of Others fame). From the kick-off of his initial take:
I was about 15 minutes in when I thought, “This is probably a great film.” An hour and a half later I found myself checking my watch frequently, because though I knew the movie was going to run over three hours, I was dreading the ending. I spent the third hour of thinking about what makes a masterpiece and why this one, gloriously, qualifies. It’s about the biggest themes (art, war, love, death), it’s emotionally overwhelming, its dialogue is lapidary, its musical score transporting. It’s one of the best films of the decade.
More Kyle: He likes what he sees in M. Night Shayamalan’s Glass. From the review:
Glass takes place mostly in a mental hospital where the head shrink (Sarah Paulson) has rounded up the three leading figures from the previous two movies. She tells each — Kevin (James McAvoy), David (Bruce Willis), and Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) — that he is suffering from a delusion that he’s either a superhero (David) or a supervillain (the other two). David has become an online sensation known as the Overseer or the Green Guard after the color of his poncho; Kevin’s alter ego, the Beast, has seemingly superhuman strength and agility and joins with the other personalities to form the mighty force called “the Horde.”
The shrink, though, patiently explains that there are plausible explanations for everything each of them has done — Kevin, who was seen scuttling up walls and across ceilings in Split, is simply a practiced rock climber; David isn’t psychic but just really good at reading body language and facial cues — and that the road back to mental health means that they must acknowledge there is nothing supernatural about any of them. Elijah, a.k.a. the evil mastermind Mr. Glass, begs to differ: He thinks comic books are documents of some archetypal truths that lie buried within humanity. I suspect if we explored Mr. Glass’s library we’d find not just DC and Marvel (to both of which Shyamalan includes on-screen allusions) but also Nietzsche and Jung.
Glass is no worse than Shyamalan’s other scams, particularly Split, which mimicked Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs but without comparable compassion or social alarm. Split was simply trite, but in Glass, Shyamalan ups the exploitative ante — adding social collapse to serial-killer-threat and girl-victim dread. Glass repackages Shyamalan’s harebrained gimmicks for the same reviewers and filmgoers who prefer Marvel’s F/X stunts to Zack Snyder’s visionary expression of mankind’s mythological needs. This film’s jail-clinic scenes where the three protagonists are lined up (under observation by psychiatrist Sarah Paulson’s imitation of Jodi Foster’s Clarice Starling) are so banal yet absurd that they seem to parody what kids think is profound about the Marvel franchise.
Here’s a terrific 17-minute film capturing much of Opening Day ceremonies, and clips of the game, at Yankee Stadium in 1934, the Bronx Bombers taking on the Philadelphia As. The home team prevailed, 1-0. The film’s quality is great, as is the sound, and Fiorello La Guardia throws out the first pitch (a couple of times!).
Now a totally unrelated but interesting fact I stumbled over: In his first career game, for the Mets in 1966, rookie Nolan Ryan tossed two measly innings against the Atlanta Braves, and faced three future Hall-of-Famers: Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, and Joe Torre (who tagged him for a homer).
Rest in Peace Mel Stottlemyre, the brought-low Bronx Bombers ace in the late 1960s and early 70s. A workhorse on the mound, but . . . about your bat: There will always be that great summer day in 1965 when you hit an inside-the-park home run at Yankee Stadium to beat the Red Sox.
Today my old intern Sara T gets married, and — snow be damned, or darned — Mrs. Yours Truly and I will go, and celebrate. Sara’s a doctor — see what interning pour moi can one day mean for a youth? Mazel tov!
God’s blessings and warmth on you and yours,
P.S.: If I am not laying on the driveway clutching my chest with one hand, holding my snow shovel in the other, I will respond to any communication sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.