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 created the FEC as a six-member, politically independent body so that neither party could use its regulatory power to punish political opponents. H.R. 1 abandons this longstanding structure, refashioning the FEC into a five-member commission that allows a simple majority to investigate and prosecute. The bill does state that no more than two members can be from the same political party, but this wouldn’t stop obvious partisans like, say, Bernie Sanders (who’s technically an “independent”) from being appointed. Adopting these changes would subject the FEC — our election monitor — to partisan control.

The partisan implications of this change are clear. If this bill were to become law under a Democratic president in 2021, he or she would get to appoint all five FEC commissioners. Two commissioners would be appointed for three-year terms, and the other three for six years. All terms thereafter would be for six years. So a Democratic president could, in theory, appoint two Republican members to three-year terms expiring in December 2024, and then again in December 2030, and so on. This would essentially guarantee Democratic control of the FEC for at least six years.

2. Renewables are having a tough time of it in San Bernadino and a growing number of other places averse to massive solar projects and wind farms that slap-chop bald eagles and bats. Robert Bryce reports. From his story:

There are numerous other examples of the growing land-use conflicts around renewable-energy projects. Rural residents in Spotsylvania County, Va., are fighting a proposed 500-megawatt solar project that, if built, would cover nearly ten square miles. According to the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, local residents believe “the project is too big to be near homes and that it poses potential health and environmental risks. They also are concerned about impacts to property values.”

In Henry County, Ind., more than half a dozen small communities have passed measures banning wind turbines within four miles of their borders. In an article last year titled “County Towns Putting Up Walls Against Wind,” Darrel Radford, a reporter for the New Castle Courier-Times, wrote that “there’s still lots of anti-turbine activity” in the county and that “as many as half” of the incorporated communities in the county had passed anti-wind measures.

The land-use fights over renewable energy reflect the urban–rural divide in American politics — a divide that was obvious in the 2016 presidential race. Hillary Clinton won big in urban areas; Donald Trump dominated in rural areas. Big environmental groups and urban liberal voters like the idea of renewable energy and want more of it. But the all-renewable scenario they are pushing depends on what I call the vacant-land myth: There’s an endless amount of unused, uninteresting territory out in the boondocks that’s ready and waiting to be covered with energy infrastructure.

3. Kevin Williamson says the lefty dodge — “It’s anti-Zionism, not anti-Semitism” — ain’t cutting it. From his piece:

Farrakhan has used the same line of defense. But it doesn’t wash. The viciousness and slander of the Democrats’ attacks on Israel are unique; give them a Cuban police state or a Venezuelan dictatorship and they’re kittens, but give them a polity full of Jews and they’re jackals. The double standards and unreasoning hatred of the progressive view of Israel simply does not have an equivalent associated with a non-Jewish state. Even their anti-Americanism is not quite as poisonous.

Anti-Semites? Collaborators? Something in between?

The Democrats have just been shamed into introducing an anti-anti-Semitism resolution in the House. In remarkably cowardly fashion, it does not name any names or even address the “anti-Zionism” dodge.

Strangely, the Democrats can, on occasion, work up some excitement on the question. Democrats love to lambaste the rich for weaponizing their fortunes in political fights. But Representative Jerrold Nadler accused a Republican colleague of anti-Semitism for rendering the name of billionaire progressive activist Tom Steyer as “$teyer.” Steyer, who has pledged many millions of dollars in support of sundry left-wing causes, is an Episcopalian, like his mother.

4. More on the Democrats’ Jewish problem: Jonathan Tobin argues they need to face the reality that there’s room in the inn for bigots. From his piece:

It’s obvious that Omar and Tlaib have taken the measure of their party’s leadership and decided that they have nothing to fear if they continue with their effort to delegitimize supporters of Israel. These controversies are not rooted in a lack of communication. Since their goal is to legitimize both anti-Zionism and a BDS movement whose aim is Israel’s destruction, they aim to shut down criticism they’ve received for their anti-Semitism and falsely link the defense of Israel with anti-Muslim prejudice.

Omar and Tlaib are probably right not to fear Pelosi’s wrath. They know that support is growing on the left for intersectional libels in which every act of Israeli self-defense against terror is termed a war crime and where self-determination for a Jewish majority is labeled apartheid. Indeed, despite the furor over the “Benjamins” libel, as a New York Times feature questioning whether AIPAC “is too powerful” indicated, there is an appreciative audience for attacks on the pro-Israel lobby and its supporters in both the liberal press and the Democrats base. AIPAC’s allegedly limitless power — especially when compared with the power of other political and industry lobbies that operate on Capitol Hill — is more myth than reality, and the group’s actual influence is a function of broad support for Israel and Zionism. But attacks on it remain a good indicator of the persistent appeal of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

5. . . . And I say poh-tah-toe: Charlie Cooke’s Political Jargon-o-Accurator 500 XP hears the Left say “Bring people together” and translates it as “Do what I want.” Read it here.

6. There’s no hypocrisy like the monumental kind, and David French says AOC has it, in galactic proportions. From his article:

You can read the FEC complaint yourself, but in a nutshell: It describes an arrangement where Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, co-founded two PACs — Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress — and then funneled large sums of money from those PACs into limited-liability companies he controlled, without disclosing Ocasio-Cortez’s involvement and without disclosing how that money was ultimately disbursed. Further, the complaint claims that Ocasio-Cortez was a board member of Justice Democrats when it disbursed these funds.

In fact, as a comprehensive report by Andrew Kerr at the Daily Caller News Foundation notes, Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti had legal control over the Justice Democrats PAC while it was supporting Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign.

What’s wrong with this? Well, apart from the obvious potential for financial self-dealing, Ocasio-Cortez’s team may well have violated disclosure laws and contribution limits. Moreover, as we know from Michael Cohen’s guilty plea and the ongoing campaign-finance investigation of President Trump, if evidence emerges that Ocasio-Cortez or Chakrabarti committed knowing or willful violations of campaign-finance law, then they could face criminal prosecution.

7. Democrats on Capitol Hill are proposing a “Wall Street Tax Act” that call for a 0.1 percent fee on all bond, stock, and derivative transactions. David Bahnsen explains just who will pay that tab. From his analysis:

What does this mean for investors? The good news, for now, is that it means nothing, because it is going nowhere. The bill will not have anywhere near unanimous Democratic support (there remain some Democrats who can count, and who are not determined to destroy the American financial economy), and it certainly wouldn’t have Republican support to get through the Senate, let alone overcome a presidential veto. However, the bill may very well have life in a post-2020 world if the Democrats consolidate power, and it is worth understanding why a “tax on high-frequency trading” is no such thing at all. Rather, this is a tax on middle-class investors. . . .

Let’s just cut to the chase beyond the inane pretext for the bill. Who really pays the 10-basis-point fee on every single transaction? Middle-class investors do. A $10 additional charge on a $10,000 stock purchase adds 200 percent to the average trading cost of $4.95 per trade. The massive volume of stocks and bonds bought by mutual-fund investors, 401(k) participants, pension funds, and other investors with an average balance of below $250,000 will marginally suffer the most. The American Retirement Association estimates that the net effect of this bill would be to increase 401(k) expenses by 31 percent.

8. Remember the good old days when women’s sporting events meant women played against . . . women?! Not big dudes . . . identifying? Rich Lowry defends women’s sports. From his column:

This is why we have separate female and male competitions to begin with, so women can showcase their talents and get recognition without being overshadowed by men with inherent physiological advantages. This commonsense reason for separate competitions and separate record books is now falling away.

The International Olympic Committee has dropped a requirement for sex-reassignment surgery for transgender athletes, and it has set a maximum level of testosterone for transgendered women that’s still high for biological females. Even if biologically male athletes get their testosterone levels down, their bodies are still different.

A former Olympic volleyball player from Brazil, Ana Paula Henkel, made this point in an open letter opposing the new Olympic policy. “This rushed and heedless decision to include biological men, born and built with testosterone, with their height, their strength and aerobic capacity of men, is beyond the sphere of tolerance,” Henkel wrote. “It represses, embarrasses, humiliates and excludes women.”

9. Michael Brendan Dougherty offers friendly advice to the President’s critics. From his essay:

And the remaining Never Trumpers are lashing out at the faults of the movement they were in. They complain of the baleful influence of talk radio. They point to the presence of idiots who learn a little anti-liberal patois and rake in a ton of money. Not so far beneath the surface, they occasionally let a contempt for the masses of conservative voters start to sneak in. They welcome liberal readers to thrill at their denunciations of the Right. Soon, someone, possibly here at National Review, will come along for the kill shot and say of them, “They began by hating the populists. They came to hate their party and this president.”

But all I can think when I read them is, “I know what that feels like.” In 2006, I threw in with conservatives who were against the Iraq War at The American Conservative and who generally had a low opinion of President George W. Bush. We also lamented the state of conservative talk radio. We also poked fun at CPAC. We cared deeply about the lines set by National Review. We cheered that they were against Bush’s comprehensive amnesty, but lamented everything else on foreign policy. Like The Bulwark today, we took dissenting Republican congressmen and senators like Ron Paul and Walter Jones on the right, or Lincoln Chafee in the center, and turned them into tea leaves we used to divine a better future.

Some among us went all the way to become “Obamacons.” Actually, a few among NR’s extended family went that way too. We were frustrated and encouraged whenever conservatives that had better standing in the movement admitted that, privately, they agreed with a lot of our criticisms of it. We had a following among writers for The Weekly Standard that probably would embarrass everyone if it were fully understood. What we disliked most of all, I think, was the identification of political conservatism with George W. Bush himself, a man whose second inaugural contained so much revolutionary ambition, it reminded us of comrade Lenin.

10. FCC commissioner Brendan Carr makes the case for the U.S. taking a free-market approach in its “5G” race with China. From the piece:

The United States and China are competing for global leadership in 5G — the transformative new Internet technology that will soon power everything from critical infrastructure to artificial intelligence to household appliances. At stake is $500 billion in GDP and a first-mover advantage that could provide the winner with a decade of economic dominance.

Even more, the race to 5G is a competition between our two systems of government — the central planning and industrial policies of China versus America’s free markets.

Yet reports surfaced last week that advisers to the administration are calling for the U.S. to embrace China-style nationalization as our path to 5G. That’s like looking to Cuba as inspiration for reforming the U.S. health-care system. The U.S. won the race to 4G and secured billions of dollars in growth for the U.S. economy by relying on America’s exceptional free-market values. We must double down on that winning playbook instead of copying China’s, and that is what we at the Federal Communications Commission have been doing for the past two years.

11. Donald Trump’s planned executive order on free speech might, cautions Adam Kissel, have plenty of devils in its details. From his analysis:

Most commonly, institutions fail to provide academic freedom by maintaining speech codes, which are documented restrictions on speech. Most universities have them. Speech codes, by definition, do not pass constitutional muster at public colleges. They also usually conflict with a university’s stated commitments to free speech and academic freedom, whether the university is public or private.

Unlike social pressures and the general campus climate, speech codes are the explicit policies that a watchdog can most clearly identify as violating public policy or the Constitution. Most such policies are campus-wide. They apply in the research lab and in conversation among researchers, in person and across all media, internally and externally. They apply to faculty members and to students at all levels who are lab assistants. They apply to students in the dorms when they are discussing their research with other students and online when they are engaging with the real world.

Therefore, pretty much every unacceptable part of a speech code, wherever and to whomever it applies, should be subject to a federal policy protecting academic freedom for students and faculty members.

In contrast, using the executive branch to fight the merely social pressure of “political correctness,” which characterizes Bias Incident Response Teams, could become a cure worse than the disease.

12. Kyle Smith watched President Trump’s CPAC speech and found he was watching the Entertainer in Chief. From his analysis:

When President Trump began the longest speech of his presidency by giving a full-body hug to an unsuspecting American flag at CPAC, it was one of the most cheerfully photogenic moments of his political career. What can top a president giving a PDA to Old Glory? It was wacky, it was unexpected, it was essentially unimaginable in most other countries. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron to follow suit.

The responses from the left were confused, disbelieving, snippy. “What the hell was that?” asked Colin Jost on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.”

You would think the point would not need to be explained to a professional entertainer, but in the Trump era many elementary things need to be explained, very slowly, to people suffering acute Trump-related loss of cognitive function. What the hell that was, was entertainment. It was fun, and it was funny. It came across as spontaneous and endearing and very, very American. And it was a reminder that in our two-party system, the more entertaining candidate pretty much always wins the election. Be a boring scold, and your chances fade.

13. Conrad Black takes off on the Cohen hearings and carpet bombs Congressional Democrats determined to acquire President Trump’s scalp. From his column:

As the Democrats take to the lifeboats from their foundering ship of impeachment, the unsinkables who have eschewed life vests are still declaiming on the tilting deck. Jerry Nadler is claiming the president’s 1,100 public references to the Mueller inquiry as a witch-hunt constituted obstruction of justice, and the unstoppable talking head Adam Schiff is still repeating the existence of evidence of Trump–Russian collusion (that he can’t identify and no one else has seen). Their fallback position, when they finally take the order to abandon ship on Russian collusion, is to make Trump’s entire career their province and try to paw through everything he ever did commercially, back to childhood lemonade stands. Of course, this will be a complete failure. The president can ignore these subpoenas and restrict compliance to specific issues, and endless trips up the court ladder could easily retard the progress of this nonsense until the public has entirely lost interest. These are not the same Nadler and Schiff of two years ago, who had thin lines of foam and saliva at the corners of their mouths as they solemnly announced that they had cornered the president.

The Trump-hating media did their best with Michael Cohen, a man who again lied to Congress last week, claimed to have flipped against Trump after Charlottesville nearly two years ago, and affirmed that there was no Trump–Russian collusion, although, while the president had never told him to pay off the stripper who was trying to blackmail Trump (Stormy Daniels), he had used a coded method of urging him to do so, which Cohen couldn’t describe. We have descended from hearsay from a self-confessed liar to hear-intuition from the same majestic source, and the Democrats are so desperate they are having him back in the days immediately preceding his incarceration. We have descended from the drama of the conceivable removal of the world’s premier officeholder to the squalid fabricated evidence of a pathetic plea bargainer, ground to powder by the partisan Mueller meat-grinder.

Commercial! For a Holy Product!

Father George Rutler is well-known beyond the confines of his parish on West 34th Street in NYC. The officiant at Bill Buckley’s 2008 Memorial Mass, he’s written many a time for NR, he appears frequently on EWTN, and he’s penned numerous books. Speaking of which, there is a new one: Grace & Truth: Twenty Steps to Embracing Virtue and Saving Civilization, highlighting numerous Catholic teachings that are essential to living an authentic Christian life. And even in these rough “mortars-incoming” times for the Holy Mother Church, he shares its perennial wisdom that he is confident will remedy society’s gravest ills. I told my amigo I was going to give it some love and affection on WJ (this could lead to time off in Purgatory). Amongst the subject matters tackled in the book:

  • How to keep your imagination trained on God
  • How mankind redefines the good to justify its sins
  • How you can more effectively witness to the perfection of Christ
  • How contempt for innocence deadens faith and love
  • How beauty can orient us to God
  • How the Catholic Church keeps human traditions alive
  • How hard times and evil men highlight forgotten truths
  • How evil drowns out truth with sentimentality
  • And much more to help you live as a Christian in our difficult days

The cost is a mere $14.95 for the quality paperback (or $9.99 for the e-book), and the publisher is Sophia Institute Press (weird fact: for three days I was chairman of Sophia’s board of directors . . . which ended when the cops arrived, but that’s a tory for another day). Order your copy directly from Sophia.

Lights. Camera. Punditry!

1. Graham Hillard thinks HBO’s True Detective is conservative at its core. From his review:

What a strange career True Detective has had. Season one of the HBO cop drama swept like a blizzard through the early weeks of 2014, astonishing viewers and critics alike with movie-star performances (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, both superb) and some of the best set design and cinematography ever seen on television. Season two of the anthology series aired a little over a year later and proved almost immediately divisive, splitting its audience between those who believed that writer and show-runner Nic Pizzolatto could rescue an inscrutable plot and terrible casting and those who had eyes in their heads. Though a full accounting of season two’s flaws is beyond the scope of this article, readers who desire a sense of them need only imagine Vince Vaughn saying the words “a good woman mitigates our baser tendencies” in a Very Serious Voice. I tuned in long enough to witness Vaughn and a paunchy Colin Farrell delivering some of the worst screen acting in the history of screens. Then, like a million other viewers, I changed the channel to literally anything else.

Given such a history, season three of the series — which concluded this past Sunday night around the time star Mahershala Ali was accepting his second Academy Award — simply had to succeed. And, for the most part, it did. Set in the Arkansan Ozarks during three separate time periods (many spoilers lie ahead), TD3 follows detective Wayne Hays (Ali) on his search for Will and Julie Purcell, a pair of preteen siblings who vanish while riding their bicycles on a November evening in 1980. Over the course of a 35-year, on-and-off-again investigation, Hays ages and leaves the force, marries and is bereaved, and watches his own children grow into adulthood. The story of the season is the story of the missing siblings, yes, but it is to an even greater extent the saga of Wayne Hays’s life in all of its complexity.

2. Turner Classic Movies’ month-long tribute to journalism films is nothing more than a liberal celebration, says Armond White, of fake news and cynicism. From his essay:

Given this evolution, journalism as depicted in Hollywood (much as in real life) no longer simply provides news; it has brazenly shifted its mission from objectivity to advocacy. We no longer have stalwart Humphrey Bogart in Deadline U.S.A. but arrogant Tom Hanks in The Post and sanctimonious Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight — portrayals that promote the #resistance media combine. A character like Sally Field’s egoistic careerist in Absence of Malice would be inconceivable in today’s Hollywood.

TCM’s nostalgia is stealth activism; Hollywood’s liberal drift is emphasized while journalism’s craven ruthlessness — Nathanael West’s shocking point in the newspaper melodrama Miss Lonelyhearts (1958) — is ignored, just like the contemporary outrages of newspapers and media outlets that operate as partisan platforms.

The mainstream media have misled the public by championing political bias, often hiding sources of information for their own benefit. Today’s covey of mainstream journalists don’t follow a code, but they all hold hive-mind political perspectives, and they command the same status, prominence, and wealth that high-profile journalists always have. The history of journalism in film is based in narcissistic opportunism, and the difference between the media and the public comes down to a class war. It goes back to ex-newsman and novice screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz’s famous 1926 telegram beckoning newsman Ben Hecht to Hollywood: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots!”

3. Captain Marvel One: Heather Wilhelm finds the feminist whoop-de-doo about the film exhausting. From her essay:

Gird your loins, America, for I have a bone-rattlingly powerful tale to tell: In case you haven’t heard, there is a new movie hitting theaters, and it will reportedly change the way you look at the world forever. It is called “Captain Marvel,” and it is based on a comic-book superhero, and the superhero is played by . . . here, you might grab your smelling salts, because this is super groundbreaking and wildly controversial in the year 2019 . . . A WOMAN.

Whoa! I know! It’s mind-boggling! This has never happened before, except when it happened two years ago, when Wonder Woman came out, which was also when an impressively large press cohort collectively and conveniently forgot the countless strong female leads that had occurred even before then! Remember those fevered days? Remember when an alarming number of movie critics simultaneously lost their minds over the sheer raw feminism of Wonder Woman, documenting how they cried at the theater and declaring that viewing Wonder Woman might have been the most powerful experience of their life, which should deeply worry us all if that is indeed really true?

4. Captain Marvel Two: Kyle Smith finds the feminist thought police officers’ angry and flibbertigibbet-y review of the reviewers exhausting too. From his take:

Social media have been buzzing this week with anger and anguish about the gender breakdown of critics of the new movie Captain Marvel. Most are men. There is an excellent reason for this: Most movie critics are men. And there is an excellent reason for that: Men are much more willing publicly to express opinions than women. There is a natural experiment on the matter, which is the letters pages of newspapers. Anyone can write a letter to the editor; there are no barriers to entry. The vast majority of those who do so are male.

“All the negative reviews for #CaptainMarvel are from men,” declared a tweet by the feminerd site The Mary Sue. This assertion can easily be disproven, and it immediately was, as helpful readers appended to that ridiculous claim excerpts from negative notices by Stephanie Zacharek of Time, Mara Reinstein from Us, Kristin Lopez of Culturess, Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press, Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews, etc. The story linked by the tweet hedges a bit with the headline, “Captain Marvel Is Fun and Most the [sic] Negative Reviews Are Written by Men . . . Shocking” before going on to state, in the body of the story, “It is telling that every negative review of the movie was written by a man.” A bit of a waffler, this Mary Sue person. Somewhat of a flibbertigibbet.

5. Captain Marvel Three: To paraphrase FDR, “The only thing to fear, is Twitter itself.” Kyle believes that Captain Marvel was directed with liberal tweets in mind. From the beginning of his review:

Two years ago, Wonder Woman proved a female-led superhero movie could reach the highest levels of the genre, with Gal Gadot proving robust and redoubtable, yet also charming and feminine. I spent Captain Marvel waiting for Gadot. What I got was Brie Larson: charmless, humorless, a character so without texture that she might as well be made out of aluminum.

Captain Marvel might be the first blockbuster movie whose animating idea is fear. Every page of the script betrays terror of what people might say about the film on social media. Give Carol Danvers a love interest? Eek! No, women can’t be defined by the men in their lives! Make her vulnerable? OMG, no, that’s crazy. Feminine? What century are you from if you think females should be feminine? Toward the end of the movie, when a villain preparing for an epic confrontation with Carol, the fighter pilot turned Superwoman, chides her that she will fail because she can’t control her emotions, there is no tension whatsoever. We’ve just spent two hours watching her be utterly unfazed by anything. Giving Carol actual emotions would, of course, lead to at least 27 people calling the film misogynist on Twitter, and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are petrified of that.

6. Captain Marvel Four: Jonah Goldberg thinks it’s a shlock-fest.

7. Armond cheers on Steven Spielberg, combatting the redefining of movies to live-streaming, Oscar-contending Netflix fare, for his fortitude (located amongst the family jewels). From the essay:

Spielberg’s recent box-office flops lost him cultural clout, especially with those who easily fall for the latest trends. In his earlier pronouncement on what’s artistically distinctive about theatrical cinema, he dared to oppose the speciously labeled “Golden Age of Television.” He has riled the lemmings who gave in to binge-watching (what academics call “corporate autism”) and devoted themselves to cable presentations. They don’t appreciate the heightened visual and sensual awareness that makes Spielberg’s particular art form — the cinema — special.

I have not been a fan of Spielberg’s recent politically influenced films (Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, The B.F.G., Ready Player One), so it surprises me that he appears to be going against the progressive mob. But Spielberg’s plan to address the Academy’s board of governors (of which he is the most prestigious member) and propose changing the awards criteria indicates that he has beliefs that go deeper than populist politics. The anticipated articulation of these beliefs (that cinema, unlike television, is an irreducible, visually kinetic art form and is inseparable from the mass human experience) reminds true Spielberg fans that some spark of artistic valor still remains.

Maybe Spielberg can no longer woo ticket buyers in the vast numbers he once did, but he seems to have found some testicular fortitude.

Podcastapalooza

1. Let’s lead off with Political Beats if only to use this as the chance to praise co-host Scotty “Waddy Doo Doo” Betrman — who is the general manager of Hillsdale College’s infamous 101.7 FM — for being named the Michigan Association of Broadcasters’ College Radio Station of the Year. Huzzah! All that said, there’s no new program . . . maybe Scot is sleeping off the celebration.

2. On The Bookmonger, John J. Miller interviews our pal Victor Davis Hanson about his new book, The Case for Trump. It’s always a pleasure to listen to VDH. You can do that here.

3. Next, putting on his The Great Books cape (not sold in stores), JJM is joined by Hillsdale professor Kelly Scott Franklin to discuss Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables. Listen and learn here.

4. Whaddaweek! On the new episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, MBD, and David discuss the Nadler subpoenas, follow up on the North Korea summit, and speculate on Congress’s upcoming vote over Trump’s emergency declaration. Get the wisdom here.

5. Rich then joins up with Andy McCarthy for the new “Waiting for Mueller” episode of The McCarthy Report. Great analysis as usual, heard here.

6. On the new episode of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Charlie and Kevin consider why the young’uns seem to be heading Left. Listen here.

7. Wretch like me: The once-lost “Night Owl” recording of Jonah and Rob Long’s booze-fortified bantering on the recent NR Cruise has now been found, and makes up the content of the new episode of The Remnant. Do listen.

8. I must treat you to the show notes for the new episode of Radio Free California, in which Will and David will discuss the following: State Senator Scott Wiener’s bizarro-world campaign for more teen sex; Representative Duncan Hunter’s traveling rabbit and the GOP’s 2020 prospects; Kamala Harris and Ronald Reagan; and more. As ever, a great show, which you can dig here.

9. In the new episode of Ordered Liberty, David and Alexandra discuss the primacy of the defense of life in the conservative movement, AOC’s monumental campaign-finance hypocrisy, the challenges on the border, and much more. Catch it here.

10. Overlooked from a few weeks back, the last episode of Constitutionally Speaking, during which Jay Cost and Luke Thompson discussed the 1800 presidential election, America’s first-ever power shift. Listeneth, hereth.

The Six

1. Love Affair: At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley Birzer pens an ode to bookstores. From his piece:

At Hyde Brothers Books in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the fall of 2001, I found a first American edition hardback of Christopher Dawson’s seminal 1942 book, The Judgment of Nations, published by Sheed and Ward. Hyde Brothers, to this very day, remains my all-time favorite used bookstore, and I can state with absolute certainly that the discovery of the Judgement of Nations — especially after conversations with Gleaves Whitney and Winston — changed my entire world and outlook upon it. I spent my Thanksgiving break that fall reading and contemplating every aspect of that book — from its sentence structures to its arguments to its implications for academic writing. I can also state with certainty that Sam Hyde, the owner of that glorious Fort Wayne bookstore, knows his stuff.

2. Amigo Chris DeMuth pens the cover essay in Claremont Review of Books. Big, meaty, deep, important — it’s about “Trumpism, Nationalism, and Conservatism.” From the essay:

Now the nationalist insurgencies cast a new light on these issues. The administrative state has emerged since the early 1970s partly in response to two broad social developments — high affluence and high technology. In wealthy, educated societies, many more people have the time, interest, and facility for politics, and they bring many refined, upscale issues to the table. Traditional domestic issues of jobs and economic welfare now jostle with a multitude of new ones concerned with personal health and safety, environmental quality, consumerism, and individual and group identity, dignity, lifestyle, discrimination, and “access.” At the same time, modern technology, especially in mass and networked communications, has radically lowered the cost of political organization. The slightest complaint or enthusiasm can now find far-flung allies, achieve self-awareness as a political cause, and press its claims in the public square and in the Congress.

On the government side, political aspirants and officeholders can now build their careers as solo entrepreneurs, by joining and servicing networks of ideological and economic interest. Party and legislative hierarchies that had long disciplined political careers and policy platforms have lost their clout.

These trends have swamped Congress with demands for action that vastly exceed the capacities of legislative decision-making, with its profuse internal conflicts and elaborate procedures. They are what have led Congress to delegate policymaking to missionary agencies that can be proliferated without limit, and to sigh with relief when courts take prickly issues off the legislative docket. But they have also led to something else. While the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe have become highly affluent, educated, and networked in general, some of us have become so to a much greater degree than others, and the changes in government structure have reflected our proclivities. Declarative government suits the interests and values of Anywheres, while representative government suits the interests and values of Somewheres.

3. Daniel McCarthy’s recent First Things essay proposing A New Conservative Agenda comes up for inspection at Law & Liberty, where Richard Reinsch’s thoughtful response finds good in it, but warns against “meat-cleaver economic nationalism.” From his essay:

McCarthy’s broader claim is that conservatives must use the state to shore up, if not expand, the middle class to forestall America becoming something that resembles a failed Latin American country: middle class outmigration, a gated and guarded elite, and passive, when they aren’t restive, populations who work in service jobs for the elite or the government. It’s a haunting specter, and one that you almost see the rudiments of beginning to take shape in California. This reality of an America bereft of widely shared middle class prosperity is the imperative that leads McCarthy to call for a program of state action. But how will the state do this? Some might say that here the arguments are void for vagueness. I would note that in my native state of Tennessee and the Southeastern region, many manufacturing jobs have been created. Much of this can be attributed, though, to good old-fashioned policies like right-to-work, low taxes, and a favorable regulatory environment. But that’s old-time religion. On to the state.

In a follow-up piece in the Spectator USA, McCarthy says that typical Hayekian and libertarian objections to his plan (you know, the knowledge problem, agency capture, price distortion through clumsy central action) are beside the point. We’ve got a country to save. That concern, he says, is far more central than any classical liberal or libertarian concerns about crony capitalism, rent-seeking, or the typical problems created by the broad use of state power on behalf of economic nationalism. We need to fortify the middle class or we’ll all be gardeners or delivery boys for Bezos. But I embellish. Amazon will have robots delivering its packages.

Who will make the robots? Unspoken but hovering in McCarthy’s analysis are static economic assumptions, I think. He says, “What factories remain in the emerging America will be ever more automated, while the American workforce will be further channeled into the service sector.” There’s no sense of what has been true in American economic life: that jobs will be created that we aren’t even aware of yet. Put differently, how many Americans will be engaged in jobs whose scope, skills, and worth do not even exist. How many currently hold jobs that did not exist in type when they graduated from high school or college, or first started working?

4. At The Catholic Thing, Robert Royal summarized the Vatican’s “Abuse Summit,” and the tone-deafness that seemed to permeate. From his report:

Reform of the kind we need — however much anger and frustration we are going to feel in the meantime — is going to be a long-term project in which we are all going to have to assume new responsibilities. All the more reason not to be swept away by emotions, but to maintain targeted, reasoned pressure on Rome and everywhere else in the Church. We’ve been told that stronger procedures, investigations, documents – maybe even files on McCarrick – are forthcoming. But we know how easy it is for such things to give the impression of action without really doing anything. They need sharp scrutiny for years to come. Priests and laity have succeeded in reforming Rome in the past, and we can do it again if we work at it.

But first, a candid reckoning of the last few days.

The summit suffered from self-inflicted weaknesses from the outset. To identify the main culprit as “abuse of power,” i.e., clericalism, was to adopt a Marxist understanding of the world as primarily constituted by power relations.

It’s also one of the logical results of ideological manipulation, however, carried out earlier by promoters of the sexual revolution. For decades, we were told that rape is not about sex but power (sex per se is always to be defended).

But if a priest beats up a young person, that’s violence – and abuse of power. When he rapes a young person, it’s violence and abuse of power, but also lust, pride, and the whole set of mortal sins. There’s little evidence that we use these categories and think like Catholics, even in the Church, anymore.

5. Gary Saul Morson, writing in The New Criterion, explains why Tolstoy’s War and Peace is “The Greatest of All Novels.” From his essay:

Tolstoy’s amazing talent to see complexity and irregularities overlooked by others not only explains his astonishing realism but also serves as a counterargument to all the “simplifiers.” Readers of Russian literature appreciate its psychological depth, but they are usually unaware that for Tolstoy, as for Dostoevsky and Chekhov, psychology served as an ideological weapon against prevailing ideology. Let me mention a few remarkable instances of how Tolstoy shows that our minds are much more complex than we imagine.

Early in the book, the cunning hypocrite Prince Vasily, hovering near the deathbed of Pierre’s father, maneuvers to cheat Pierre out of his inheritance. When the old man dies, Prince Vasily unexpectedly acts out of character. “ ‘Ah my friend,’ he murmured, taking Pierre by the elbow, and there was a weakness and sincerity in his voice that Pierre had never heard before. ‘How greatly we sin, how we deceive—and for what? I am nearing sixty, my friend — I too — it all ends in death, all . . .’ And he wept.” Another writer might make this moment a turning point in Vasily’s life, or at least allow it to reveal qualities that we will see again, but nothing of the sort happens in War and Peace. So far as we know, Prince Vasily is never sincere again. Tolstoy knows that people are never entirely consistent, that character includes acting out of character; and he demonstrates an uncanny sense of when and how someone might do so.

Vasily maneuvers Pierre into marrying his daughter Helen, who is as corrupt as her father. Pierre suspects her of infidelity, perhaps with his old friend Dolokhov. At a banquet, Dolokhov teases Pierre with intimations he knows his wife rather too well. When Dolokhov grabs a program a waiter has handed Pierre, the latter loses his temper and challenges Dolokhov to a duel. It is at this point that he becomes convinced of his wife’s guilt “and is severed from her forever.” Pierre will doubtless remember, and careless readers do not notice, that he does not challenge Dolokhov because he is convinced Dolokhov is having an affair with his wife. On the contrary, Pierre becomes convinced Dolokhov is having an affair with his wife because he has challenged him. Since that is absurd, memory reverses causality to substitute a more comprehensible story. In this way, people are taken in by the mental equivalent of an optical illusion. No one but Tolstoy would notice this fact about the mind.

6. In Providence magazine, Travis Wussow reports on the disdain Red Chinese officials have for the First Commandment. From his piece:

An outlet focused on human rights in China has reported that in November of last year a squad from the “patrol inspection team” for supervising religious practice in Henan Province arrived at a Three-Self Patriotic Movement church in Luoyang city. The squad combed through the church, and a member of the squad stopped and settled on a display of the Ten Commandments under the pulpit. The official determined that the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” was inconsistent with Chinese policy, and they proceeded to strike it from the display.

According to the outlet Bitter Winter Magazine, the Chinese official responded to the pastor by saying, “Xi Jinping opposes this statement. Who dares not to cooperate? If anyone doesn’t agree, they are fighting against the country. This is a national policy. You should have a clear understanding of the situation. Don’t go against the government.”

This effort by Chinese authorities to censor the scriptures is an outrageous attempt to assert control on not just the practice of Christianity but the meaning of Christianity itself.

BONUS: At Commentary, Noah Rothman checks out the Dems’ failure to call out Anti-Semitism, a mere month after setting an intolerance standard over Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s blackface fiasco. From his piece:

It was only one month ago that the Democratic Party was united in disgust after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam admitted to appearing in photographs as a younger man in blackface. Democrats, Nancy Pelosi among them, insisted that no apology would suffice. Northam had to go. Virginia’s governor did not consent to his own exile, but Democrats nonetheless established a standard. “It is essentially this,” I wrote at the time. “Any act of naked bigotry, even the bourgeois sort that stems from ignorance or social desirability biases, is unacceptable and unforgivable.” Confronted today with a kind of prejudice to which not all its members are entirely hostile, Democrats have revealed how hollow those condemnations really were. The battle for the future of the Democratic Party isn’t over yet, but, for now, Ilhan Omar is winning.

A Reader Writes.

From Sue, in Waterloo, a subscriber to our beloved magazine and consumer of Weekend Jolt and other NR-emailed missives. She is cool and smart and shares her view on how conservatives should be addressing the rising appeal of socialism:

Dear Mr. Fowler,

Thank you for your daily emails in my Inbox. I read them all. I am also a subscriber to National Review.

I am wondering if the recent warnings about how “Socialism doesn’t work – see Venezuela” are the right approach to counter all this talk of how socialism is the answer for America. The way I see it, the fact that socialism doesn’t work, true as it is, isn’t the main point that Americans should be hearing. A few common expenses that benefit everyone, like highway and bridge maintenance, meat inspection, and national defense, do not constitute socialism. “From each according to his ability” is the crux of the matter we should be focusing on when facing all these wide-eyed, idealist utopians. What the socialist tells the worker (or producer of goods or services) is this: “You go ahead and do what you do. Do your best. You just work. WE will decide who receives the fruits of your labor, how much they will pay for it, and how much of the proceeds you get to keep. You do production; we will handle distribution.”

The other name for this scenario is Slavery. And that’s what’s wrong with socialism. I believe this is the message we need to get out there, to as many true Americans as possible.

Sue

Sue, I like how you think. And you’re right. You come to NYC, you come visit. But none of this “Mr. Fowler” lingo allowed!

A Dios

The Lenten fasting has started. Your Corpulence — whose first memory of buying clothes is Mother Dear taking him to the “Husky Boys” department at Gimbels — is imagining that 40 Days and 40 Nights in the wild (or the suburbs) might inspire the soul and also lessen the girth. In the meanwhile, we give prayers of thanks that John McCormack, a Weekly Standard refugee (but a former NR intern), has become an NRI Fellow and Washington Correspondent for your favorite conservative website. Welcome aboard Johnny Boy! Until next week, when the blarney will be thick (pronounced “tick” by the neighbors in County Woodlawn, Bronx), do be good to all, nice to all, sweet to all. Pet a dog, hug a spouse, and buy a ticket on NR’s 2019 Canada / New England Conservative Cruise.

God’s Graces be with You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

Who can accept criticisms of his writing skills or lack of such at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Korea Counseling

Dear Weekend Jolter,

God forbid that thee, me, or anyone in range of North Korea’s popguns gets nuked by one of Rocket Man’s projectiles, whether aimed or stray. But even if the haircut-criminalizing, basketball-rule reinventing sociopath actually hands over all the fuses, does that require pretending that this sadist is a misunderstood frat boy who’d have been an Eagle Scout if only daddy had hugged him more? Is he really worthy of being anyone’s “friend,” Satan aside?

Another question: Could Pudgy, Pops, and Grandpa be history’s most twisted hereditary trio? The author of this missive votes yes. The current chief Commie inherited North Korean’s gulag system from Kims Il-sung and Jong-il and has kept the antique running in perfect condition. And yet he is . . . “very honorable.” And seven times 13 equals 28.

Yours Truly files this on Wednesday (places to go, people to see, airports to loiter). Who knows what grand headlines will appear between now and when your eyes get joltified. Still, Mardi Gras is upon us, which means that Lent is as well. This correspondent and his stained soul have much to atone for and many meals not to eat for atonement’s sake. As we get fitted for our ashes, let’s at least enjoy this week’s edition. May it prove worth your sweet while.

But First, Let Me Ask: Are You Getting Enough Vitamin Sea?

Which is our way of saying, please do check out www.nrcruise.com and consider joining us this August for NR’s glorious Canada/New England cruise.

And then Let Me Encourage You . . .

. . . to sign up for the NR Institute’s 2019 Ideas Summit (it’s taking place March 28-29 at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C., — and only a handful of the hotel’s discounted group-rate rooms for Summiteers are left). Seriously, we have a couple of big-name confirmed-speaker announcements coming up next week. But this week we added to the already terrific speaker roster Congressman Dan Crenshaw, Senator Marco Rubio, White House “Office of American Innovation” chief Brooke Rollins, and our old colleague Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.

And at the Thursday night, at the Whittaker Chambers Award dinner, we’ll be honoring Mark Janus — yep, of Janus v. AFSCME — for being a profile in courage.

So sign up now. And book that last hotel room now (chop chop: our discount “deal” expires on Monday, March 4!). Register and find complete information here.

Editorials

1. And so it now seems that Democratic presidential wannabes will — until the next wacky idea — anchor the party’s primaries on the demand for slavery reparations. As our editorial says, “It’s an unserious proposal, but we’ll do its authors the courtesy of offering a serious answer anyway.” From the ensuing intellectual drubbing:

Paying reparations for slavery is a terrible idea because there is no one to pay reparations and no one to pay them to. There are not any slave-owners left among us and haven’t been for some time. There aren’t any liberated slaves, either. Slavery was a terrible crime and, like all such enormities, it was carried out by real people who inflicted unconscionable suffering on real people — specific people, individuals.

Our progressive friends like to talk about their high regard for “diversity,” but they are blind to the real thing: Neither the white population of the United States nor the black one is homogenous; relatively few living white Americans are the heirs, however distant, of slave owners, and a significant and growing population of black Americans has no link to antebellum slavery at all. Some of them, like Barack Obama, are the offspring of more recent African immigrants; others are immigrants from the Caribbean and elsewhere who may have family links to slavery but not to American slavery. The question of what it means to be an “African American” grows more complex by the day.

Such considerations are significant if we are to avoid sinking into the morass of willful racism as a public-policy criterion, insisting upon collective racial culpability and collective racial entitlement. These ideas are alien to the fundamental American creed of individual rights and individual liberties — indeed, we have been at our very worst on racial issues when we as a nation have failed to live up to those ideals, as unfortunately has been the case all too often in our history.

2. A new Trump Administration rule, which will ban the use of federal “Title X” family-planning funds “to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning,” will put a hurt on Planned Parenthood’s treasury. Which makes us smile. From the editorial:

Planned Parenthood wants to be considered a benevolent health-care provider rather than the nation’s largest abortion business, and it wants the cachet of the federal government’s treating it as a valued and non-controversial partner. Hence the frequent, though long-debunked, claim that abortion makes up a mere 3 percent of the organization’s activities. Planned Parenthood’s own annual report tells the real tale: Last fiscal year alone, its facilities performed upwards of 332,000 abortion procedures, well over one-third the estimated abortions in the entire country. Its new president, Leana Wen, was more candid last month when she said that “protecting and expanding access to abortion” is the group’s “core mission.”

So Planned Parenthood and its allies are fighting the new rule for both philosophical and practical reasons. It disagrees with the administration — and with longstanding American law — about whether abortion should be considered a legitimate method of family planning deserving federal funding. And the organization is unwilling to keep its Title X funding by financially and physically separating its abortion business from its other operations. Abortion is its bottom line, not a rounding error.

3. The best possible outcome of the talks that never should have happened in the first place . . . happened, when President Trump walked away from — rather than getting rolled by — the despicable Rocket Man. From our editorial:

Worse, Trump couldn’t help but make boosterish comments about the Supreme Leader, who enslaves and immiserates his people. In Hanoi, he even professed to take seriously Kim Jong-un’s denial that he had anything to do with Otto Warmbier’s murder, as if rogue security services are kidnapping and torturing Americans on their own initiative in the most tightly controlled society on Earth.

All signs were that the North Koreans were heading to a diplomatic win, getting sanctions relief — as well as a U.S. liaison office in Pyongyang and a formal end to the Korean War — in exchange for steps to dismantle its Yongbyon enrichment facility. This is a version of the sucker’s deal that the U.S. has fallen for time and again with the North. Pyongyang’s play is to pocket any economic relief and diplomatic recognition, and then cheat on its commitments. Indeed, President Trump revealed that we are aware of a second, heretofore unknown enrichment facility.

For whatever reason, though, the North Koreans pushed Trump on sanctions relief further than he was willing to go, and the president left the table.

Lent Approaches, So to Prepare for Fasting, this Week We’ll Offer Only 12 Selections from NRO . . . But Be Assured, They Are Plenty Meaty!

1. You’ll enjoy the excellent follow-up to Dan McLaughlin’s reflections of the presidency — and “proud” record — of Ulysses Grant. From the Part Two analysis:

Taking the reins of a war-weary nation at the tail end of a turbulent period in international affairs, Grant’s chief concern was to still the waters. As general of the Army, he had pushed for an invasion of Mexico to dislodge the French and chase out ex-Confederate adventurers such as Jubal Early whom he suspected of further hostile intentions. Then–secretary of state William H. Seward, however, counseled patience, and three events in 1867 vindicated him: The French-backed regime in Mexico fell, Seward completed the Alaska purchase, and the British established the unified Dominion of Canada (in part a response to the realization in 1861 that Canada was unprepared to fend off a feared American invasion). By the time Grant took office, North America was quiet.

The great foreign-policy success of Grant’s tenure was the peaceable resolution of the CSS Alabama claims. America demanded damages from Great Britain, still the world’s most powerful empire, over “neutral” British provision of a warship to the Confederacy. Grant and his secretary of state, Hamilton Fish, managed an international arbitration that gave a substantial monetary award to the United States, reduced tensions with Britain so successfully as to set the two nations on the path to a long-term alliance, and established a new model for the resolution of international disputes. The Alabama precedent was so respected internationally that Grant was later asked to mediate a dispute between China and Japan.

Grant failed at his other major foreign-policy goal, the American annexation of Santo Domingo, the territory that would become the Dominican Republic. Haiti’s island neighbor, which had failed in its first try as an independent state and gone through a period of renewed Spanish control, was receptive to an American purchase, but tenacious opposition in the Senate shot down Grant’s plan. Where antebellum efforts to annex Latin American territory aimed at plowing new fields for human bondage, Grant had other purposes for seeking to annex the Dominican, which he envisioned as an American state: exploiting its natural resources, providing a domestic haven for African Americans fleeing southern repression, and building a naval base to control the approaches to a future Central American canal. (As it happened, it would be a generation before the canal would be built, but the Suez Canal had opened in 1869 and a canal across Panama or Nicaragua was already eagerly anticipated.)

RELATED: Here’s Part One of Dan’s Grant analysis.

2. Rich Lowry’s new column sacks Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots’ owner, who was busted in a Florida sex-parlor sting that shines a spotlight on the lucrative sex-trafficking trade that enslaves thousands of trapped women. From his piece:

The women were lured from China with promises of legitimate work and then trapped in a life of sexual slavery. They were working to pay off debts incurred traveling to the United States. Some of them had their passports confiscated. There was no choice and no escape from a nightmarish existence that makes a mockery of the glamorous image of prostitution in much of the popular culture and belies the term “sex worker.”

Sex with up to a thousand men a year. No change of clothes. Sleep on massage tables. Food from hot plates at the back of the parlor. Moved around from one parlor to the next as pawns of the traffickers.

And this is a major business. According to the anti-trafficking group Polaris, the country’s 9,000 illicit massage parlors make $2.5 billion a year.

They are such a lucrative industry only because the Robert Krafts of the world are patrons. He is a billionaire, famous and the owner of one of the most successful franchises in sports. He presumably has access to women, indeed dates an actress and dancer nearly 40 years younger than he is. He doesn’t have to go to a strip-mall massage parlor for sex.

3. Jim Geraghty nails the phony who is the junior senator from Vermont (by way of Brooklyn and Moscow): Bernie Sanders will attack billionaires but not socialist thugs who starve the people of Venezuela. From his Morning Jolt:

There’s an amazing inversion in Sanders’s worldview, as some of the villains he denounced most frequently were the Central Intelligence Agency, private hospitals, banks, and of course, “millionaires and billionaires,” no matter how they made their money.

Maduro’s stepsons allegedly plotted to skim $200 million from the state-owned oil company, and there are other claims of an attempt to embezzle $1.2 billion. Hugo Chavez’s daughter is believed to be the richest woman in Venezuela, with a personal fortune of more than $4 billion hidden in bank accounts in Europe. (Finally, Bernie Sanders found some “millionaires and billionaires” that he likes.)

Bernie Sanders is a sucker, who will always give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who claims to be a socialist. Most of us, at an early age, recognize that people who claim to act on behalf of others can be selfish. Plenty of people who say they love humanity turn out to treat individual human beings terribly. Plenty of leaders who claimed to fight for freedom turned out to be lusting after power and ruthless in getting it and keeping it. You have to be careful who you trust with authority, because absolute power corrupts absolutely. And you have no obligation to defend someone you once saw as an ally once they start abusing their power and demonstrating cruelty and brutality.

4. More Bernie: The Kid from Brooklyn (no, not Danny Kaye) headed north to establish his particular Burlington brand of foreign policy, which involved much dictator up-cozying. Michael Brendan Dougherty reviews the record of the Commie-lovin’ ex-mayor. From his piece:

In his decades-long career in politics, Bernie Sanders was never more active as a foreign-policy figure than when he was the mayor of Burlington, Vt. He owned it. “Burlington had a foreign policy,” he wrote in his 1997 book, Outsider in the White House. From his mayoral perch he fired off missives to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, demanding better treatment of IRA prisoners held in Northern Ireland. He tried to establish direct relations with the incoming Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, hoping to establish a radio channel that would broadcast the revolution to Vermont. The mayor met with Daniel Ortega to convey that many Americans rejected the Reagan administration’s foreign policy. Ortega, in the many years since, has looted his country, installed hideous light fixtures along the major roads to please his wife, suborned much of the Catholic Church to his rule, and blown past his own constitution’s term limits. The country is sliding into unrest, as the aid that used to come in from the Netherlands and Luxembourg has dried up.

As mayor, Sanders cemented a sister-city relationship between Burlington and the Russian city of Yaroslavl (he and his wife spent their honeymoon in the Soviet Union). Sanders was diplomatic during his trip. After a presentation on central planning, Sanders told his Soviet peers that health care and housing were better in the United States, though they cost much more back in America. When he came home, Sanders praised Soviet train stations and “palaces of culture.” His wife was even more effusive, almost describing the theory of New Soviet Man, when she described a cultural life that wasn’t cleaved off from work, as a mere hobby, but fully integrated into an ideal of community service. Burlington’s foreign policy, as it was then, was driven by idealism (some of it misguided), lots of easy talk about imperialism, and dislike of “Ronald Ray-gun.”

5. George Weigel believes Cardinal Pell, scourge of the miscreants who turned the Vatican Bank into their plaything, was railroaded in his trial in Australia. Not every accusation of a Church “prince” rings true, especially when the reasons for a set-up are galore. Read the analysis here.

6. Kevin Williamson looks at Elizabeth Warren and sees Election’s Tracy Flick, determined and insincere. From his article:

Senator Warren is a seeker after celebrity. She never had much of a legal career (she wrote wills and the like from home) and instead sought the pseudo-celebrity of academia, which offers many attractions: gentle workloads, security, a measure of prestige, and — not least — a stage. Academic life can be very rewarding — Senator Warren and her professor husband earn nearly $1 million a year between them — but that wasn’t enough. Warren became an author of dopey self-help books and an occasional cable-news guest, instructing Lou Dobbs on the tribulations of the middle class. She found a bigger audience in activism, and a bigger one still after securing a very safe seat in the Senate representing Massachusetts, from which comfortable perch she pretends to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted — she’s very comfortable with some of the comfortable, including the big corporate law firms that sponsor her campaigns — as she seeks, ever hungrily, after larger venues.

What she believes is . . . contingent. She was, not too long ago, a full-throated advocate of school choice, writing: “With fully funded vouchers, parents of all income levels could send their children — and the accompanying financial support — to the schools of their choice.” That kind of heresy does not get you nominated by a party run by public-sector-union bosses, and so she has evolved on that and other issues. She reminds me of the womanizing football player in Infinite Jest who approaches his potential conquests with cheerful honesty: “Tell me what sort of man you prefer, and then I’ll affect the demeanor of that man.”

7. Dennis Prager opines about the many stunned leftist spectators who wish deeply for this: that the attack on Jusse Smollett had really happened. From his column:

There is no doubt that most Americans on the left, including black Americans, are distraught over the fact that Smollett faked the “racist” attack on him. Apparently leftists, Democratic leaders, and, most depressingly, many of his fellow blacks wish Smollett had been attacked by white racist homophobes.

Representative Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.), a white leftist, tweeted, “I hope this was not something that Mr. Smollett did to himself, or created.”

Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart told MSNBC there has been “an atmosphere of menace and hate” since Donald Trump was elected president, which made “people want to believe” Smollett’s story. Exactly. Capehart, a black leftist, wanted to believe that racists yelling “This is MAGA country” beat up blacks.

Another black leftist who writes hate columns for the Washington Post, Nana Efua Mumford, wrote: “I wanted to believe Smollett. I really did.” Again, exactly. Mumford wanted to believe that racists yelling “This is MAGA country” beat up blacks.

8. Congressman Jeff Duncan warns that non-citizen voting is the next big cause for the Left, and urges conservatives to take up the fight. From his article’s wrap-up:

Finally, there’s the mutual-benefit argument, which suggests that if aliens are allowed to vote, then they can make common cause with other marginalized groups in our society, and come together for the mutual improvement of our country. This is a classic example of how identity politics erases individuals. Who is to say that a single male alien from Honduras has the same interests as, for example, a female high-school principal who is an American citizen in a low-income community? It is just as likely that they have competing interests. The Honduran might be a construction worker, and therefore might benefit from reduced taxes on the construction industry, while the principal might benefit from increased spending on education. The history of immigration and assimilation is littered with these types of examples.

Part of the reason that none of the stated arguments put forward by leftists hold up to logic is that, even when advancing the radical policy of noncitizen voting, they can’t state their true view: that drawing a distinction between citizens and noncitizens of the United States is immoral. It’s the same principle that leads them to oppose both securing the border with a wall and enacting effective immigration enforcement measures. But, in the same way that a strong border is what protects the citizens of the United States from drug trafficking and terrorism, a strong border between who is and is not a voting member of our Republic based on citizenship protects and upholds the legitimacy of our institutions. Opposing the radical position on noncitizen voting is certainly a worthy effort for conservatives.

9. New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: John Fund writes that Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is as bad as his predecessor, the vile Robert Mugabe. Fund explains that he is helping turn the resource-happy country into Africa’s version of Venezuela. From his article:

Ordinary Zimbabweans have every reason to fear not only the military but every part of their government. Last week the government ended the practice of pegging the value of Zimbabwe’s dollar to that of the U.S. dollar, a 2009 reform that had finally ended the nation’s hyperinflation. Fears of a new round of hyperinflation has helped reduce food reserves such that the nation’s grain-millers’ association says there is now only a week’s worth of wheat in reserve. Zimbabwe now produces less than half of its annual wheat consumption, even while having some of the most fertile farmland and one of the most temperate climates in the world.

During my visit to Zimbabwe, every local I spoke with was wary of being quoted on the record regarding their real feelings about the government. “Everyone keeps their head down for fear it will be chopped off,” said “Captain Jack,” the nickname that one of my drivers from the airport uses in dealing with visitors. “No one has any confidence these people will ever leave power.”

When I asked an employee at my hotel if he had heard of the situation in Venezuela, he just laughed. “Oh, yes, we know about them. We would only remind them that their Hugo Chávez came to power 20 years ago. Our versions came to power nearly 40 years ago.”

While blacks I spoke with were proud that they had won independence from white rule in 1980, they were embarrassed that the country has been so mismanaged since then. “Zimbabwe has all the ingredients to be a successful state — good land, minerals, hard workers, modern farming techniques, proximity to markets in South Africa,” says Rejoice Ngwenya, head of a Zimbabwean free-market think tank. “We don’t have a government that builds on that.”

10. Victor Davis Hanson says Candidate / President Trump’s blunt attacks on China now appear to be the once-horrified establishment’s position. It’s an amazing 180. From the piece:

In Silicon Valley, the good old news of making trillions of dollars over the last 30 years in outsourcing assemblage to China, opening up a huge new Chinese consumer market, and entering joint partnerships has insidiously been eclipsed by the growing reality that our techie masters of the universe were instead deluded Dr. Frankensteins who had helped to birth an unstoppable monster.

Technology was stolen, either by espionage inside the U.S. or by formalized theft as the cost of doing business inside China. Copyrights and patents did not bother China. The scale of environmental damage inside China did not diminish, but accelerated and was manifested abroad. There was no sense of symmetry; in dealing with China, the idea of commercial reciprocity, shared environmental protocols, generalized notions of international commerce — all that simply did not exist. And the reason it did not exist wasn’t sloppiness or insensitivity; it did not exist by design, owing to the Chinese’s arrogance that they were the rising sun and the U.S. was in its twilight — with a few exceptions granted to some of the Western elite who were getting rich largely by accommodating the Chinese warping of trade and technological theft.

Financially challenged colleges and universities had come to rely on full-tuition-paying Chinese students. When stories spread that some Chinese students were acting as organs of the Chinese Communist Party, actively engaging in espionage, or illiberally bullying any critics of China, colleges either ignored such news or regarded its bearers as racists and xenophobes.

11. And then there was the fifth and final part of Neal Freeman’s excellent series, a personal spiritual journey, if you will, about a man in a sincere search of faith, not apparitions; a go at the New Testament; a wondering about the answer to the refrain: Is that all there is? From his essay:

I picked up a Bible given to me in the middle of the last century by Grandmother Freeman. I should report that it is in embarrassingly pristine condition. In a single sitting, and relishing every verse for its King James diction, I read the four Gospels. (Biblical scholar alert! Avert your eyes from what follows. We have disturbing reports of an amateur thrashing about on your turf.) John, who seems to be the heartthrob of doctoral students with his propensity for complexity-verging-on-opacity, did not do it for me. William Blake may have been thinking about John when he wrote: “Both read the Bible day and night, but thou read black where I read white.” I have nothing against John, personally or pastorally, but I have only one lifetime to spend on this project. Nor did Mark or Luke make the tumblers fall into place on my particular combination lock. Both of them are duly chiliastic, but they tend to veer off into clubhouse chatter in what amounts to a Members-Only lounge. I have been elevated from the waiting list, praise the Lord, but I’m still no more than a provisional member of His club.

But Matthew! The much underrated Matthew! To my untrained eye, he must be reckoned either a) the apostle with prophetic powers greater even than the God whose earthly life he chronicles; or b) the world’s most reliable stenographer. The latter seems far more likely, with Matthew cast as the wire-service reporter who, after swearing off color and hype, locks in the timeline and then nails the quotes. Take the sermon of all sermons, which launches in Chapter Five. Matthew records the Beatitudes with what appears to be absolute fidelity to somebody’s original text. We not only have the perfectly sculpted “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth,” but we have the soaring, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Ask yourself: Did Matthew jot down rough notes at deadline, making up stuff like a cable news guy with five minutes to air? Did Matthew get a sketchy translation from some descendant of a shepherd who claimed to wander by the Mount that day? Or did Matthew transcribe faithfully the timeless Word of God in all its shimmering beauty?

12. The beginning of this article by Alexandra DeSanctis may be the saddest paragraph National Review has ever published:

A moral catastrophe unfolded on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Monday. Forty-four Democratic senators voted against legislation that would have required doctors to give the same care to infants who survive abortion procedures that they would give to any other infant.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits!

1. Kyle Smith thinks Spike Lee is a heinie (I was going to write “ass” but this is a family email) for how he acted at the Oscars when his film got denied the Best Picture honor. This is how the piece ends:

Who throws a hissy fit because he wins only one Oscar? I and many others share Lee’s dim view of Green Book, but his outburst was childish, ungentlemanly, unacceptable, and completely ridiculous. No doubt many an Oscar non-winner has tossed an ashtray over the mantelpiece back home after the show. No doubt many have lashed out at managers or assistants on the phone. But to carry on a public meltdown in the middle of the winner’s acceptance speech is outlandish. Lee should apologize, but if he doesn’t, he should never be invited back to the ceremony again, much less be nominated again.

Will that happen? Of course not. Such is the masochism of Hollywood progressives — thank you, Sir, may I have another! — that if anything, Lee’s crybaby act pretty much guarantees he’ll win an Oscar if he ever again makes a film that is a hair better than mediocre. Given that most of Lee’s films are so terrible (Bamboozled, Red Hook Summer, Oldboy, Miracle at St. Anna) that they disappear without a trace, it may be difficult for the Academy to pretend Lee deserves to be honored. But right now all those Beverly Hills bolshies are thinking: Go, Spike, go! Stick it to the Man! Now, Carlos, bring the Mercedes around.

2. More Oscars: Armond White decries their racialization. From his piece:

Filmgoers who maintain their starry-eyed innocence about journalism, the Oscars, and the politics of the movies cannot sense how socially backward and culturally deceiving the racialization of the Academy Awards has become.

A few examples: The very showy acting prizes (which journalists call “the major awards”) went to performers, Mahershala Ali and Regina King, who were repeatedly defined by their racial identity.

What went unmentioned was that each played racially and socially stereotyped roles: It is Ali’s second win for playing a gay man (his first was for Moonlight), and King won for portraying yet another of the Academy’s most favored clichés, the mammy.

When former Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs purged the Academy’s elder members a few years back and instituted quotas to include more ethnic-identified voters regardless of industry status and experience, she set the stage for so many recent race-based Oscar nominations and wins. What looks like social progress was merely rigged electioneering. a politicization of the arts. Through improper journalistic acceptance — and extension — of this practice, film culture is turned into self-congratulatory propaganda.

3. Even More Oscars: No glamour, no pizzazz, so B-listy! Kyle thought last Sunday’s affair was a stinker. From his take:

For the first time ever, all of the acting Oscars went to character actors, four people the average American would not recognize if they were waiting in line ahead of you at the DMV. Sorry, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but your bid to regain a high place in American culture is failing. No one tunes in to the Oscars to get swept away by a Mahershala Ali win, or Olivia Colman, or Rami Malek, or Regina King. All four are talented performers, but the Oscars have always been keen to balance meritocracy with star worship. Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock are not great actresses, but they won their Oscars for Erin Brockovich and The Blind Side because it was their turn, and it was their turn because each of them had charmed us oncreen for many years. If the Oscars forsake glamour and magic — if they lose interest in that mystical quality that movie stars have but mere actors do not — they risk becoming the Independent Spirit Awards. Which are broadcast to an audience of tens on IFC.

When Bradley Cooper suavely escorted Lady Gaga to the stage to sing their duet “Shallow,” from A Star Is Born, then unexpectedly picked up the mic stand and went to sit down next to her at the piano, it was the only time all evening that produced a shiver of movie magic. These two are intriguing, they’re stars, and they multiplied each other’s radiance by sitting close together, casting each other a sidelong look that said, “I’d like to rip your clothes off after the show.” What Cooper and Gaga delivered is what we crave from Hollywood, but it was the only jolt of feeling we got the entire evening. It was the only time there was enough star wattage to power up a small flashlight.

4. My dear colleague Mary Spencer has come to the defense not so much of Woody Allen, but of his art. Do debatable accusations make Annie Hall trash all of a sudden? From the piece:

Although most people are far from perfect, that does not prohibit one from doing and making worthwhile art in the course of a life.

Maya Angelou famously said that as a child she thought “Shakespeare must be a black girl” because his works affected her in a unique and profound way. Her words also highlight the fact that sometimes we place too much importance on who the artist is instead of what he or she produces. Shakespeare’s works didn’t speak less to Maya’s heart, and not because he was a white, British man born in the 1500s. In a similar blind assessment of art on its own merits, if someone awful makes something beautiful, we can still recognize it as beautiful.

The allegations against Allen differ from those against Alfred Hitchcock, for example, whose jealousy and perversion made the process of filming unpleasant. Nobody has accused Allen of emotionally or sexually abusing anyone on set. Yet we are now meant to feel guilty about watching Allen’s movies, while there is a significantly fainter stigma and less public criticism that detracts from Hitchcock and his work.

It makes sense to reject or dismiss art that itself is borne of unpleasant or hurtful circumstances created by the artist, because then it is the art itself that is in question — people should not physically or psychologically suffer unduly for the sake of some director’s presumed genius. But as for a movie that was made under fine conditions, to protest it because of unrelated claims against the director misplaces the blame, to the detriment of justice.

5. Kyle watches the new two-part, four-hour HBO documentary on Michael Jackson, Neverland. Maybe only senators who support infanticide would not be nauseated by the story of the Pop Singer / Serial Pedophile. From the end of his review:

Years after their time with Jackson, both Safechuck and Robson married and had children, and becoming fathers triggered more revulsion at what had happened to them. The final 45 minutes or so of the documentary delve into their depression and torment as well as that of their mothers, each of whom searches her soul at excruciating length. What can it be like to know that you abetted the long-term despoliation of your own son? Safechuck says Jackson abused him for four years; Robson says his nightmare lasted seven years. Both mothers own up to what they did, and neither will ever be able to live with herself again. Says Stephanie, “I danced when I heard that he died.” She thought, “Oh thank God, he can’t hurt any more children.”

Throughout the film, everyone involved marvels at his or her own acquiescence to the acts of a monster. No one heard any alarm bells going off. No one saw any red flags. Both boys and their mothers were fully in the singer’s thrall. Jackson’s fame was central to why he got away with so much. Leaving Neverland is a harsh reminder that supposed role models who ought to be held to the highest of standards can use that notoriety as a way of blinding people to the obvious, odious truth.

6. Armond takes in the cautionary thriller, Neil Jordan’s Greta. From the review:

Is Greta scary? Does it work? Those questions can also be asked of socialism advocates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, who practice political versions of the same deception that Greta deploys on Frances.

This isn’t the top of Jordan’s oeuvre, but sometimes movies gain fascination for the way they absorb and reflect the day’s social currents, including our media-inspired anxiety. That’s what’s so striking about the IMAX scene where Frances instinctively reacts to the artificial replacement for real-life experience. Jordan is aware of how movies and myths operate as a substitute for memory. His horror film offers a metaphor for the Old World failures that naïve millennials dangerously mistake for progressive political alternatives.

7. Kyle finds Apollo 11, director Todd Douglas Miller’s new IMAX documentary, to be “breathtaking.” From the review:

The level of danger Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong faced is dizzying even 50 years later. Oh, three hours before launch, there turns out to be a leak in the rocket? No worries, it’s merely liquid hydrogen. Men were still tightening bolts as the three astronauts were boarding the ship. What is going through your mind if you’re one of this trio? “Uh, fellas, I can’t make it this time, I have a headache . . . I think I left the oven on . . . I don’t want to miss All My Children . . . for the love of God, am I really strapping myself into a 360-foot stick of dynamite?

It’s gobsmacking how Miller manages to flay the nerves when recounting a historical event, but when dumped into the middle of it all, you’re keenly aware that from this vantage point no one knows how this mission will turn out. Looked at up close, the degree of difficulty of every aspect of the voyage is phenomenal. Using animated diagrams and readouts plus film shot aboard the rocket, together with glimpses of controllers in Houston, the director breaks the mission down into discrete segments, any one of which seems like arrogance even to attempt.

The Six

1. In the Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady reports on the escalation of Maduro’s brutality in Venezuela, where the tide is turning against the thug and his Cuban backers. From her piece:

Before Hugo Chávez, democratic Venezuela suffered corruption and misrule but seldom tyranny. That changed when Chávez imported castroismo. Since 2002, thousands of peacefully protesting Venezuelans have been victims of chavista snipers, National Guard beatings and executions and attacks by brownshirts riding motorcycles. Opposition members have been dragged off to dungeons, tortured and convicted by kangaroo courts.

Most recently there has been a targeted crackdown by the Venezuelan special forces in poor neighborhoods that have turned against the regime. On Sunday independent Venezuelan media reported that Mr. Maduro is liberating common criminals from jails with instructions to attack democracy advocates.

As the smoke cleared Sunday, Mr. Maduro and his Cuban handlers still had the upper hand. Yet something big has changed. With so many regime atrocities now recorded and circulated on social media and the privation triggering a mass exodus, Venezuelan suffering under Havana control is no longer ignored.

2. In The American Conservative, Robert W. Merry finds the idea of a socialist like Bernie Sanders being elected President in 2020 is not so far-fetched. From his piece:

If Trump’s presidency is the product of referendum politics, then it also is a product of the country’s willingness to try new things when the political class screws up. Hardly anyone thought Trump could be elected because few analysts sufficiently took into account the degree of ennui and anxiety in the land. But to many Americans, that ennui and anxiety rendered thinkable the prospect of a Trump presidency, whereas in normal times his boorishness and repellent traits would have made him entirely unthinkable as a president.

The campaign of 1980 was also waged in unsettled times, with raging inflation mixed with economic stagnation, sky-high interest rates, and fears of Soviet expansionism. Yet the conventional wisdom was that incumbent Jimmy Carter would likely win reelection because challenger Ronald Reagan was just too erratic, too extreme in his conservative views, and too much of a lightweight. But Reagan won big, not because the electorate suddenly turned conservative in its collective political outlook, but because the incumbent had squandered his claim to the job and because unsettled times called for trying new things, meaning a new president.

3. Very interesting survey data on socialism by our pal Scott Rasmussen from the week prior. From his analysis:

Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe that Socialism represents a threat to America’s founding ideals of freedom, equality, and self-governance. A ScottRasmussen.com survey found that 53% also see populism as a threat to those ideals. Thirty-eight percent (38%) say that’s true of capitalism and 29% see free markets as a threat to those values.

For a small minority of the population, threatening America’s values is part of the appeal of Socialism. Thirteen percent (13%) of all voters have both a favorable opinion of Socialism and see it as a threat to American values.

The survey also found that just 28% of voters see Socialism as primarily an economic ideology. Seventy-two percent (72%) see it as more concerned with other societal issues. The numbers are the same for Populism. However, voters overwhelmingly view capitalism and free markets as primarily an economic ideology (see question wording and crosstab results).

These differing perspectives help explain what some see as a strange disconnect in perceptions of Socialism today. Among American voters who have a favorable opinion of that ideology, 82% also favor free markets. However, it should be noted that most (61%) who like free markets do not like Socialism.

4. Sins of the Fathers, or, How Jesuitical: The College Fix editor Jennifer Kabbany reports that Georgetown University is considering imposing an annual fee on all students to fund reparations. From her story:

Georgetown University students will soon vote on whether they want to tax themselves to benefit the descendants of slaves sold by the university in the 1830s.

Its student government recently authorized a campus-wide student referendum on whether to establish a fund for the families of the 272 men, women and children sold by Georgetown in 1838.

If approved, the semesterly fee would begin to be collected in the fall of 2020 and start at $27.20 per student “in honor of the 272 people sold by Georgetown,” states the student government resolution approving the referendum, a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by The College Fix.

“The proceeds of the GU272 Reconciliation Contributions will be allocated for charitable purposes directly benefiting the descendants of the GU272 and other persons once enslaved by the Maryland Jesuits — with special consideration given to causes and proposals directly benefiting those descendants still residing in proud and underprivileged communities,” the resolution stated.

5. These are my people (half of me anyway) and now that they have thrown themselves into the arms of unfettered abortion, they move on to legal Jew Hate. At Gatestone Institute, Peter Baum blasts the new Irish law that sticks it to Israel. From his piece:

Parliamentarians in the Republic of Ireland are displaying an unprecedented level of hostility towards Israel, unparalleled by that of any other member state of the European Union — inviting the question about Ireland’s long, distasteful history of anti-Semitism, which clearly predates the frequently used pretext of hating the State of Israel.

The “Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018” — supported by the Republican and Nationalist political parties of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein and Independents — would ban the import of goods from Israeli communities located beyond the 1949 armistice lines (the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights). The Irish legislation not only coincides ironically with the U.S. Senate passage of a motion to prevent anti-Israel boycotts, but also constitutes a breach of European trade law.

More disturbing is the combination of ignorance and anti-Semitism displayed by the purveyors of the bill, and evident in their view of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute cause as well as conflicts around the world.

6. At the Foundation for Economic Education (a.k.a FEE) Donald J. Boudreaux makes the case for Frédéric Bastiat having an even standing in the pantheon of economic theorists. From his article:

And so we return to Bastiat. He’s one of history’s most brilliant tellers of economic stories. This fact, I’m convinced, justifies calling Bastiat a great economic theorist.

Consider Bastiat’s famous 1843 “Petition of the Manufacturers of Candles.” In this short essay, Bastiat radiantly conveyed economists’ understanding that artificially contrived scarcities make the general population worse off even if they increase the wealth of a small handful of individuals. Who other than the most benighted protectionist can read Bastiat’s satirical portrayal of sunlight as an unfairly low-priced import and not go, “Aha! Of course inexpensive imports that ‘flood’ into a country no more impoverish that country than does the light sent to us free by the sun!”

Another example is Bastiat’s even-shorter essay “A Negative Railway.” Here Bastiat revealed the flaw in the argument of a gentleman who insisted that if a railroad connecting Paris to Bayonne were forced to have a stop at Bordeaux, the wealth of the French people would be enhanced. The hapless target of Bastiat’s brilliance based his conclusion on the correct observation that forcing trains to stop at Bordeaux would increase the incomes of porters, restaurateurs, and some other people in Bordeaux.

BONUS: Stephen Moore reveals “The Four States of the Apocalypse.”

“I Want to Report a Murder”

“Who was murdered?”

“I was.” If you’ve never seen the great 1950 film noir – D.O.A. – starring Edmond O’Brien, you gotta.

Baseballery

Some 58 men have ended their MLB career by smacking a home run in what turned out to be their final at bat. To many, the most famous of these is Ted Williams’ 521st and final dinger, a solo shot off Orioles reliever Jack Fisher (also infamous for leading the NL in losses in 1965 and 1967) on September 28, 1960, at Fenway Park (the Sox won in the bottom of the 9th).

But maybe the best of the lot belongs to Reds utility infielder Ramon Santiago, in his 13th and final season, who came to bat at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park in the bottom of the 10th on the afternoon of September 27, 2014. On the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates was reliever Bobby LaFromboise, who inherited loaded bases. And then, with two outs, on a 1-0 pitch, Santiago emptied them. His walk-off grand slam won the game for the Reds, 10-6. What a way to say “adios!” Speaking of which . . .

A Dios

Such a world, hellbent on blood sacrifices, carried out on babies (cowards!), while crowds cheer as governors sign madness into law and legislators commend infanticide. God, what gives?! Remember, man, thou art dust: Time for penance, if not for yourself than for those who through the mercy of the Ancient of Days will benefit from your mortifications. Have a wonderful week.

God’s blessing on you and yours,

Jack Fowler

Abuses, accusations false and true, mockery, insults, jabs, blather, and all else (including subscription complaints and any variations of grandmother’s recipe for pizza rustica) can be sent to jfowler@nationalreview.com, who may or may not answer depending on the intensity of the nervous breakdown initiated by your remarks.

National Review

War of the Liberal Worlds

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Our culture and history is strewn with examples — fictional, real, and nefarious — of hoaxes, including some that consume the attention of the Nation and the sanctimony of its Current Wisdom Czars.

Maybe the classic hoax perpetrated on a dupable public happened in 1938, when Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre troupe performed the radio version of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

In movies and books, you have Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird, who contrived a rape and accused an innocent man in an affair that consumed the people of Maycomb, Ala. Death, more criminality, and community asunder-tearing ensued from the hoax.

But that was fiction. Tawana Brawley’s infamous late 1980s hoax (the uproar it created brought Al Sharpton to never-ending national attention) wasn’t fiction. Well, it was fiction — it just wasn’t the crux of a novel.

Between then and now scads of hoaxes, many done for money (Bernie Madoff) but many also perpetrated for the sake of victim creation, have been dumped on America’s head. The latest of this species of hoax concerns Mr. Jussie Smollet.

From the moment the now-arrested actor announced his accusation, NR — led by Kyle Smith — has been all over its dubiousness and all over the immediate fawning reaction of the Left. They cast the attack on Smollet (his cuts made him look like he was hit by a kindergartener) as typical of one that would be made by a white, racist, Trump-loving, murderous America. The back-pedaling that commenced this week has been a thing to enjoy, drop by precious drop, assuming it comes in drop form.

By the way: Charles Barkley’s take has helped burst a dam (aside: Shaq’s laugh is infectious).

There are mucho links about all this below. Enjoy them all.

And, if you are interested in Big Orson’s 1938 radio play, you can listen to it here.

Editorials

1. Former senior editor Jeff Hart, who began writing for NR in 1962, passed away this week. He was 88. From our R.I.P. editorial:

At NR he was WFB’s indispensable right hand, ready to put together a magazine or run an editorial conference on the not-infrequent occasions when No. 1 had some other unbreakable engagement. Sparks could fly — Jeff was a bonny fighter, and his editorial prose showed it — but he guaranteed that the wheels would spin.

Ideologically, Jeff was a fan of Richard Nixon and his attempts to broaden the Republican and conservative coalitions along what Nixon called “new majority lines.” Watergate derailed that strategy, but Jeff was always alert for opportunities to resurrect it. Checking the boxes on intellectual litmus tests was never his thing.

RELATED: Jeff’s writing for NR diminished after 2000, but there are some pieces, including some grabbed from the bound volumes from years prior, that you can find and read at Jeff’s author-archive page.

2. As for the use of emergency powers to fund the border wall, we find it to be a bad idea. From the editorial:

We oppose the president’s decision to declare an emergency and repurpose billions of dollars of defense spending to the border, purportedly to support the military, not because we are confident it will be ultimately blocked by the courts, but regardless of whether it will ultimately be blocked by the courts. Even if the president technically has this authority, using it explicitly to bypass the congressional spending power is an abuse of it.

The laws that the president will use were clearly written with some dire national-security event in mind that would make it impossible for the president to go to Congress with the necessary dispatch. We believe there is a crisis at the border, but obviously nothing of this nature, as witnessed by the years-long attempt by the president to get Congress to fund his border wall, including the latest drawn-out political confrontation and negotiation. The president isn’t acting unilaterally because he can’t go to Congress, but because he has done so and he did not fully get what he wanted.

3. Elizabeth Warren has a plan. Need more be said? Anyway, it’s about day care, and we say it’s a lousy idea that is nothing more than a “parent trap.” From the editorial:

Warren’s idea discriminates in favor of one type of arrangement for child care: commercial day care. Families where one parent stays home with young children — the arrangement that a majority of Americans, and a slightly larger majority of parents, prefer — would get nothing from the proposal, except, possibly, higher taxes. Ditto for families that prefer to rely on Aunt Bee. To the extent these families think day care is bad for children, they have some evidence on their side.

We can also expect Warren’s policy, over time, to yield ever more regulation and standardization. The government will not (as it should not) write a blank check to cover all child-care costs above 7 percent of an affluent family’s income; it will have to impose controls of some kind. Perhaps the result will be a tolerable blend of efficiency and child-friendliness. But there is room to doubt it.

RELATED: Mona Charen slams Warren’s plan in her new column.

MORE RELATED: Ditto for Heather Wilhem, in her column.

4. The rush to embrace infanticide faces a Capitol Hill test that — depending on how you look at — an increasing number of Democrats will pass. Upon them we heap scorn. Deserved deeply. From our editorial:

If abortion-rights proponents concede that perhaps it is inhumane to permit an infant to perish the moment after birth, even if it was meant to have been aborted one minute earlier, they cannot explain why they would permit directly killing that same human being one minute earlier. If they admit that an infant, even an unwanted one, gains rights upon birth, they cannot explain why that same infant has no rights when it is inside his or her mother.

Democrats who oppose this bill will tacitly acknowledge that they believe an infant’s moral status stems not from its developmental stage or its location but from whether it is wanted by its mother. They will reveal that abortion is not a woman’s right to end her pregnancy but her right to end the life of her child.

In voting on this legislation, Democrats must choose between rejecting infanticide and arbitrary beliefs about who gets to live.

You Don’t Need Boots to Hike this Summit

The NR Institute’s 2019 Ideas Summit — in which big conservative minds will make “The Case for the American Experiment” — is now about five weeks off, so Your Correspondent (not one of the big minds) is urging you to sign up.

Big News first: The Summit’s gala event — the Whittaker Chambers Award dinner — will feature the presentation of said award to Mark Janus. Yeah, the guy from the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision. Yep, the guy who, in the face of relentless intimidation, fought for the protection of government-union workers’ First Amendment rights.

That takes place on Thursday night, March 28th, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, DC, where the entire Summit shebang will occur on the day and the next.

There are a lot more participant names to be . . . named . . . in the soon-offing, but so far here’s a list of some Summit speakers: Kevin Hassett, Brooke Rollins, Tammy Bruce, Robert Bryce, the Hon. James L. Buckley (hooray!), Matthew Continetti, Charles C. W. Cooke, Lee Edwards, David French, Jonah Goldberg, Leonard Leo, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Richard Lowry, Andrew C. McCarthy, Jay Nordlinger, John O’Sullivan, Ramesh Ponnuru, Reihan Salam, Luke Thompson, Kevin D. Williamson, and last but never least, John Yoo.

NRI has a special rate and bloc of hotel rooms at the Mandarin through March 4, so don’t dawdle. Get complete information here.

Who Wants Links to 14 Wise and Profound NRO Articles Published These Last Few Days? You Do! And Here They Are.

1. Dan McLaughlin and his colorful charts celebrated President’s Day by talking up the reputation of no. 18, Ulysses S. Grant. From his article:

Despite Reconstruction’s successes in destroying slavery and secession and burying the hatchet between white northerners and white southerners, however, its failures — some on or before Grant’s watch, many more starting as soon as he left office — have haunted us ever since. Like Lincoln, Grant wanted to pursue a Reconstruction policy that would be both magnanimous toward white southerners and supportive and protective of freed slaves. But he ran rapidly into the hard reality that white southern society, as a whole, was hostile to giving African Americans any rights beyond the barest recognition of the end of slavery.

Rather than stage a futile guerrilla war on federal authority as a whole, groups such as the Ku Klux Klan initiated a campaign of terrorism targeted at freed blacks and their rights. It was a shrewd effort to drive a wedge between northern whites and southern blacks by giving white northerners what they had bled for (the Union) while testing the limits of their willingness to permanently occupy the South to protect a minority of the population that wasn’t treated as the white man’s equal even in the North. In the long run, the resistance gambled correctly: The northern public eventually gave up.

2. Andy McCarthy lays into the hottest weasel word now in regular use: “collusion.” From his column:

The reason for the collusion label is obvious. Those peddling the “Putin hacked the election” story have always lacked credible evidence that Trump was complicit in the Kremlin’s “cyber-espionage.” They could not show a criminal conspiracy. Connections between denizens of Trump World and Putin’s circle might be very intriguing, and perhaps even politically scandalous. But only a conspiracy — an agreement by two or more people to commit an actual criminal offense, such as hacking — would be a reasonable basis for prosecution or impeachment.

This dearth of proof was significant. The Russians apparently started hacking operations in 2014, long before Trump entered the race. The FBI first warned the Democratic National Committee about penetration of its servers in September 2015. By the time Trump won, the Bureau and U.S. intelligence agencies had been working hard to understand the nature and extent of Kremlin-directed hacking operations for two years. The investigation was so high-level, so intense, that shortly before the election, there were confrontational conversations between CIA director John Brennan and his Russian counterpart, FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov, and later between President Obama and Russian president Putin.

Yet, as thorough as the investigation was, no one could credibly say Trump was a participant in Russia’s malfeasance. The best Obama’s notoriously politicized CIA could say was that Trump was Putin’s intended beneficiary.

3. More Andy: He disagrees with Secretary of State Mike Pomeo’s decision on “Isis bride” Hoda Muthana, barring her reentry into the US on the grounds that she is not a citizen, thereby precluding criminal action against her. From the beginning of his article:

I had a column in the New York Post yesterday morning about the so-called “ISIS bride,” Hoda Muthana, who is detained in a Syrian refugee camp and now pleading to come back home to her family in Alabama. I argued that, despite the fact that she has treasonously waged war against our country, she had a right to be readmitted if she tried to enter because she was — according to the facts available at the time — a natural-born American citizen.

Now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that Muthana will not be allowed to reenter the U.S. because she is not an American citizen: While born in America, she was the daughter of a diplomat and thus not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. As the secretary put it in his statement, “Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States. She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States.”

This conclusion is disputed by Muthana’s family and allies, and they may have a case. I would strongly urge the Justice Department to file an indictment against Muthana for treason, material support to terrorism, and any other readily provable offenses. She is less likely to press the issues of citizenship and right to enter if she understands that she faces prosecution and, very likely, lengthy imprisonment if she succeeds in coming here.

4. You really must read this entire Kevin Williamson piece on the Left’s use of “merciless sympathy.” Here’s how it begins:

Jussie Smollett’s phony hate-crime story could have been taken apart in 24 hours, except for one thing: Nobody wanted to be the first to call bullsh**.

Who will bell the cat?

Not the police, and I don’t blame them. Smollett is a vocal critic of President Donald Trump who checks two protected-category boxes: He is gay and he is black. No police officer comes out ahead in any encounter in which he has to explain that he isn’t a racist or a gay-basher.

There isn’t much evidence that racist or homophobic attacks have increased in the Age of MAGA — partly because such episodes are so vanishingly rare in the United States that they are difficult to measure — but this is one of those things that everybody knows with such unshakable certainty that nobody really ever bothers to check. Imagine being the first cop to catch a whiff of baloney on Smollett’s tale of martyrdom.

Saying as much — especially in a city such as Chicago — would be to put one’s career on the line. Never mind what would happen if you were wrong about that — even being right but not right beyond all doubt would be professional suicide. For that matter, being unquestionably right but right too soon might have been just as bad.

Tell me you can’t hear it. “How dare you victimize him a second time! White privilege! Racist police!” Etc.

The same rhetorical strategy was deployed in the attempted character assassination of Brett Kavanaugh: merciless sympathy.

5. Truth Smooth. As to the Jussie Smollett debacle, Ben Shapiro finds the Left’s immediate all-in reaction — despite the obvious flaws in the wannabe-victim’s story — is just a sign that what matters is the narrative, not the facts. From his column:

Celebrities weighed in, too. Actress Ellen Page went on Stephen Colbert’s late-night show where she blamed Vice President Mike Pence for the attack. Cher tweeted, “VILLAINY, RACISM, HOMOPHOBIA, PROMOTED BY MOST INFAMOUS [clown emoji] IN [world emoji], IS THE POISON THAT KILLS [American flag emoji].” Singer Katy Perry tweeted, “Standing with and sending love to @JussieSmollett today . . . this is a racist hate crime and is disgusting and shameful to our country.” Director Rob Reiner added, “The horrific attack on Jussie Smollett has no place in a decent human loving society. . . . No intolerance! No DT!”

Then there were the Democratic politicians. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted, “The racist, homophobic attack on [Smollett] is an affront to our humanity.” Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.), who is running for president, called the Smollett incident a “modern-day lynching.” Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed anyone willing to question Smollett’s account, stating, “The attack was not ‘possibly’ homophobic. It was a racist and homophobic attack.”

Why did so many on the political Left buy into the obviously incredible story from the moment that it broke? Because it perfectly fit narratives that the Left loves: the narrative of America as racist, homophobic hellhole; the narrative of Trump supporters as violent bigots; the narrative of Trump himself as an inspirational figure for such violent bigots. The story was too good to be true. So no one cared whether it was or not.

6. Did you believe Smollett’s malarkey? If you did, Kyle Smith has 25 common-sense questions he’d like you to answer. Here are three from his assemblage:

If you were beaten up, would you somehow remember to pick up your Subway purchase afterward?

If you were subjected to a vicious, racist, homophobic, life-altering attack that included a hint of lynching, would you really leave the rope draped around your neck and calmly walk, not run, home?

Would you then walk past the security desk at your apartment building without telling anyone what had happened?

7. More Smith: After the hoaxer was arrested, the shocked MSM chorus bellowed, “Why would Jussie do it?” Kyle, whose BS detector hit red the day news broke about the alleged “hate crime,” zeros in on CNN’s mind-boggled Brian Stelter for his particular display of dumb-struckery. From the piece:

Stelter was a toddler when a black teen named Tawana Brawley made up a story about six white men raping her, smearing her with feces, scrawling “KKK” and “n****r” on her torso with charcoal, and leaving her in a trash bag. He has lived nearly his entire life in the era of hate-crime hoaxes. He surely remembers the Duke-lacrosse gang-rape hoax of 2006, the University of Virginia gang-rape hoax of 2014, the incident just after Trump’s election when a woman on the New York City subway claimed drunken white men had ripped off her hijab. There are lots of other examples. Hey, do you remember as far back as January, when an Indian man tried to portray himself as the victim of a hateful mob of Trump-backing teenage goons? George Will once wrote of campuses, “When they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” When the media can be relied upon to credit hysterics and axe-grinders the way campus administrators do, America effectively becomes a vast campus.

The reasons for Smollett’s hoax didn’t boggle anyone’s mind, assuming that the mind in question was functioning above the level of someone who eats a bowl of lead-paint chips for breakfast. In America, victimhood is currency. It is easily converted into actual currency, and if Smollett had gotten away with his hoax, he had every reason to expect that his vastly increased celebrity would have led to the salary bump Chicago police said he wanted from his show Empire.

If Stelter was awake in this country in the days following January 29, he noticed what Smollett gained after the phony attack: Nationwide attention. Outpourings of sympathy. Messages of support from the president and leading presidential candidates. Heartfelt encouragement from activist groups and high-ranking celebrities and also Ellen Page. Wall-to-wall coverage on TMZ. A coveted long segment on Good Morning America. For two and a half weeks, the previously obscure performer was the most talked-about actor in America, and this during Oscar season. (Sorry, Christian Bale and Rami Malek.)

8. Speaking of “hate crimes,” they’re just a smidge more common than unicorns. Peter Kirsanow reports the data that the MSM seems to have no interest in conveying, because . . . narrative. From his Corner post:

But facts confound the narrative. FBI statistics for 2015 (the most recent available at the time of the 2018 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Hate Crimes Hearing ) show that there were 1,997,700 violent crimes in the U.S. A total of 5,850 crimes were designated hate crimes — whether violent or non-violent. There were 15,696 cases of murder or manslaughter in the U.S., of which 8, or .0005, were designated hate crimes. There were 764,449 aggravated assaults, of which 681, or .00089, were designated hate crimes. There were 124,047 rapes, of which 12, or .000096, were designated hate crimes. There were 327,374 robberies, of which 120, or .00036, were designated hate crimes.

Despite media flogging, there’s little credible evidence of an appreciable increase since then. In 2017, nearly 90 percent of reporting police departments registered zero hate crimes in their respective jurisdictions. True, not all hate crimes are reported. But neither are non-hate crimes. Moreover, not all incidents designated as hate crimes are motivated by animus toward the victim’s identity, and that’s not counting hoaxes or dual-motive cases.

9. Conrad Black can barely contain his laughter as he looks at the Democrats’ 2020 field. From his column:

This desultory parade of chipper, chirpy, wildly implausible, and unknown people putting themselves forward as the 44th successor to General George Washington at the head of the American people, as the sun sets on the impossible dream of reeling back and overturning the 2016 election, has proved a teeming breeding ground of completely unfeasible policy advocacy. An absurd ritual has developed, as unknown people pop up on our television screens, apologize for something in their obscure pasts as inadequately politically correct, and then stake out uncharted political waters. Spurred on by the ubiquitous and demiurgically verbose Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an inexhaustible storehouse of naïve political opinions, these candidates outdo each other in policy fatuities. She proposed 70 percent tax rates on the highest personal incomes, and the venerable Bernie Sanders, two generations ahead of her, chimed in at 77 per cent. He and Ocasio-Cortez still fit the comparison I made recently of them with the old Marxist guru Herbert Marcuse and the Spanish Communist La Pasionaria.

10. Rich Lowry looks at the big downside of firing an FBI director. Hell hath no fury like a Comey scorned. From his column:

Consider the lunacy of this: By providing Trump with a memo justifying Comey’s firing, Rosenstein participated in the scheme that the FBI considered a possible crime, or the culmination of a Russian plot. Then Rosenstein turned around and appointed a special counsel, whom he oversaw, to investigate the possible crime to which he was a party.

It’s also absurd that the FBI officials considered the firing of Comey to be potential obstruction of the investigation that they were continuing, and indeed making more serious by making the president an explicit target.

The comments that Trump made about Russia that McCabe and Co. found so disturbing were hardly damning. In his cover letter over Rosenstein’s memo, Trump mentioned that Comey had told him three times that he wasn’t under investigation. This was true, and Trump was frustrated that Comey wouldn’t make it public. That doesn’t make him a Russian agent.

11. As to this rebirth, of a sorts, of socialism, Matthew Continetti looks into where it came from, and how to stop it. From his piece:

If the death of the socialist idea was the most important political event of the last century, then the rebirth of this ideal must rank high in significance in the current one. Just as nationalism has reasserted itself on the political right, socialism has grown in force on the left. In the 21st century, the two ideologies are estranged and antagonistic twins, paired in Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The Democratic victory in 2018 has elevated socialism to a height it has not reached in the United States in more than a century. Only in recent weeks, however, have defenders of democratic capitalism become aware of how great the socialist challenge really is. Only now are we beginning to formulate a response.

Take your pick of the headlines. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the most talked about Democrat in the country. Her fellow member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Rashida Tlaib, opened the 116th Congress by saying, “Impeach the mother****er.” Their comrade Ilhan Omar apparently wants to offend every Jewish American by the end of her term. The Green New Deal, Medicare For All, eliminating employer-based health insurance, marginal tax rates of upwards of 70 to 90 percent, requiring corporations above a certain size to obtain a federal charter, the expropriation of wealth, heavy inheritance taxes, free college, universal basic income, abolish I.C.E., the anti-Semitism that has long been socialism’s fellow traveler — what was once radical and marginal is now embraced and celebrated by a large and vocal part of the Democratic party.

12. The Intolergencia is hounding Christian celebrities. David French takes on the new Woke Progressive jihad. From the beginning of his piece:

You may have missed this news, but Chris Pratt, one of the most likable celebrities in modern American life, is now problematic to some people. But he’s not alone. Justin Bieber, Kylie Jenner, and Selena Gomez are under scrutiny now also. Their crime? They’ve attended Evangelical churches — such as Hillsong and Zoe — that don’t make it crystal-clear that they adhere to the new progressive sexual orthodoxy.

That’s the thrust of one of the more intolerant Washington Post op-eds I’ve ever read, an essay by Post digital producer Drew Goins condemning Pratt for attending a church that doesn’t say that it “affirms” gay marriage and gay sex. You see, it’s not enough to be “welcoming” — loving each person who walks through the doors and inviting them to join in worship and seeking a saving relationship with Christ — these churches must be “affirming.” They must depart from Christian orthodoxy, or their celebrity members will pay a steep public price.

13. So Pete Wehner has left the GOP. The Left applauds. Yours Truly yawns. Still, AEI’s Peter Wallison dives deep into the foolishness and sanctimony behind the decision. From his piece:

But Wehner says that the Republicans are now “Trump’s party.” This is essential to his explanation for why he has abandoned the GOP, but it simply reflects his acceptance of what is little more than another trope of the Left, asserted to diminish the GOP. In reality, if the GOP is anyone’s party, it is still Ronald Reagan’s. Reagan articulated a set of policies — smaller government, lower taxes, individual initiative, conservative jurists, an assertive foreign policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, and many others — that essentially codified the Republican view. Trump, up to now, appears to be following that Republican catechism. Does that make the GOP Trump’s party, or is Trump simply an acolyte in Reagan’s? When Trump disappears from the governmental scene, no matter how successful he may be as a president, he is likely to be seen as a Reagan-restoration figure, but without Reagan’s ability to build a consistently winning coalition.

Yet Wehner now views the party — including the party as it existed before Trump — “through the clarifying prism of Donald Trump, who consistently appealed to the ugliest instincts and attitudes of the GOP base.” In other words, despite the fact that Trump is doing exactly what he promised he would do, Wehner has come to the view that Trump’s allegedly racist words, during the 2016 campaign and today, are the dominant source of his continuing Republican support. This is not remotely plausible.

Indeed, the “clarifying prism” Wehner describes is grossly distorted. He cites no polls or other evidence for generalizing about the attitudes of Trump’s base, much less the GOP as a whole. Of course, Trump has said some harsh and unworthy things about immigrants. For all I know, maybe he himself harbors racist attitudes. But to say that his “base” — whatever that is — and the whole Republican party hold these views, or support Trump because of them, is a scandalously unfounded charge.

14. Marlo Safi is into leather books. Tradition needs preserving. It’s . . . bound to happen. Read her piece here:

A few companies specialize in recreating the aesthetic of old books, and Gryphon Editions is one of them. CEO Dasha Stein and her husband Jeff tell me that most leather-bound-book companies are gone. Gryphon Editions has been trying to keep in circulation not only the classic texts that they print, but the beauty of the book covers that used to line bookshelves and that are slowly becoming extinct.

Based in Omaha, Neb., today, Gryphon Editions has been in operation since 1975. It was founded to produce leather-bound editions for lawyers and doctors, collected into a “Classics of Medicine” and a “Legal Classics Library” series. After the success of these collections, they branched out to create “libraries” for other subjects, including psychiatry and dentistry, and in 1980, Alan Dershowitz was appointed chairman of the editorial advisory board, where he wrote special introductions for the legal-profession collection. In 1990, Gryphon began developing their “Classics of Liberty Library” which included texts such as Common Sense and The Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine. Their newer collections include the “Conservative Tradition Library,” which is prominently featured in the pages of National Review, and include everything from Socialism, by Ludwig Von Mises, to the more recent Scalia’s Court: A Legacy of Landmark Opinions and Dissents.

A New Issue of National Review Has Appeared and From Its Contents, Four Majestic Examples of Brilliant Prose Have Been Extracted in Part, Attended by Links

1. Patrick Brown pens a meaty piece on why public policy should support mothers who choose to stay at home. From his essay:

Beltway and Wall Street types seem to believe that it’s best for a family to have two working parents. Surveys of the general population tell a much different story.

In a 2015 Gallup poll, 56 percent of women with a child younger than 18 said they would ideally like to stay home and care for their house and family. Even among mothers who were currently working full- or part-time, 54 percent wished they could stay home, but couldn’t. In a 2013 Pew poll, only 7 percent of mothers of young kids said they believed that the “ideal situation” was for mothers in their position to work full-time, would be to work part-time. Most Americans agree that kids would do best with a parent at home. Clearly, there are many moms whose vision of “having it all” does not include a fulltime job, although they are forced into the work force through economic necessity.

In our economic system, continuous employment is expected, full-time work is prioritized, and benefits are tied to unbroken longevity. That arrangement is uniquely unsuited to the desire of women — and some men — who want to balance the demands of early parenthood with career advancement or with just putting bread on the table. Many women are pursuing both a high-power career and a meaningful family life, and they deserve more support from industry and society. Even more women, however, wish they could afford to take time off to raise children but can’t for fear of incurring financial risk or sabotaging their future job prospects.

What does public policy offer them? The aggressively centrist paid-leave plan proposed by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution suggested “improv[ing] women’s attachment to the labor force and their ability to continue pursuing their professional desires.” The D.C. think-tankers mean well, but for many — maybe most — American women (and many men), “professional desires” don’t necessarily include a corner office, a ride up the corporate ladder, or journal citations.

2. The great Andrew Stuttaford profiles one of the most central of the EU-crats, Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker. From his article:

Juncker came into office promising a highly political” commission, but, although he can boast of some technocratic achievements — such as this year’s trade deal with Japan — his political record, scarred by that rising populist challenge and, above all, Brexit, contains little to brag about. Brexit will, of course, remove the British brake on ever closer union, but that silver lining will accrue to a future president. The cloud is all Juncker’s.

A tin ear (fêting Marx’s 200th birthday was not a way to win over restless Eastern Europeans) and embarrassing public displays (his sporadically strikingly un steady gait has, however, been blamed by loyal officials on sciatica rather than alcohol) have all contributed to an impression of growing disengagement from a job Juncker recently described as “hell.” All this has made all the more credible allegations that he has fallen under the sway of a German puppet master, Martin “The Monster” Selmayr, the authoritarian Euro fundamentalist who was until recently his chief of staff. These fears were exacerbated when, in a charade rushed through in a few minutes and relying on a legally questionable technicality, Selmayr was appointed the commission’s secretary general (its top bureaucrat) in February 2018. Any opposition at the top of the commission was — it is claimed — muffled by talk of increased retirement benefits. After looking into the matter, the EU’s ombudsman expressed serious reservations last year. These were confirmed in a final decision issued on February 11: “Mr Selmayr’s appointment did not follow EU law, in letter or spirit, and did not follow the Commission’s own rules.” Meanwhile, in December, a vast majority of the normally docile European parliament had passed a resolution calling for Selmayr’s resignation. None of this has made any difference. Juncker will step down when his term ends later this year, but the Monster will continue to preside from his new lair.

3. In the cover story (you should see the cover!) our old colleague Travis Kavulla checks out the New Green Deal and the problems it might pose for the GOP. From his article:

If government commandeers the energy industry for a Green New Deal, that sector stands to profit enormously under a business model that rewards uneconomic investments. These state mini– Green New Deals are not so much a transition to least-cost sources of clean energy. They are vehicles to deliver favors with a green gloss. This type of bargain has passed legislatures or been approved at the ballot box in about a dozen states.

If Republicans do not come up with a persuasive policy response to such deal-making, it portends to be the eventual model for a federal Green New Deal — not the one progressives want but, as with health care, the one they’ll have to live with after the sausage-making is done. Republicans have often supinely capitulated to state-level energy-policy logrolling because too many of them view the utility as a trustworthy example of private business rather than as an instrumentality for perverse incentives. The GOP includes a skeptical camp, too. But all too often it traffics in an explicitly anti-clean-energy message, raving about climate science, the shadow flicker of wind farms, and the electromagnetic field of smart meters. The atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases has not been higher since the dawn of human civilization than it is today. No debate about the niceties of climate science can eclipse this basic fact. It is prudent to encourage the development of power plants that emit no greenhouse gases, or less of them.

Fortunately, there is a more persuasive and elegant response to the Green New Dealers than what many Republicans have been pitching. Democrats have said that consumers are demanding clean energy. They then have demanded massive government programs to invest in it — or to co-opt monopolies to do it for them. Why not instead, if consumers are demanding clean energy, adopt policies that would make it easier for them to get it through their own choices? What

4. Yippie-ki-Jay Nordlinger heads west to hang with some cowboy poets. From his piece:

In the Western Folklife Center, high-school students recite poetry—their own and others’. A girl named Masha is originally from Moscow — not Idaho but Russia. She recites a poem attributed to Elizabeth I. A Russian girl at a cowboy festival in northeastern Nevada channeling a 16th-century British monarch — only in America.

Later, the governor of Nevada is in the house. He is Steve Sisolak. His wife, Kathy, is also introduced — described as “the first Chinese-American first lady in American history.” They and the rest of us are treated to Sourdough Slim. “I’m glad to be here,” he says. “Of course, as an accordion-playing, yodeling cowboy in the 21st century, I’m glad to be anywhere.” He is quality entertainment.

I’m back in the breakfast room, on my last morning in town. “Does anyone have a poem?” asks the hostess. A young man speaks up: “I don’t have my hat with me, but I do have a poem.” Yes, you’re allowed to recite one without wearing a cowboy hat. “I’ll read a poem by a poet you probably all know here: Wild Bill Shakespeare. This is very brief — Sonnet 51.”

Podcastapalooza

1. On the new, Flaying-of-McCabe episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, David, and MBD also discuss Smollet and Old Man Sanders’ next prezy bid. Listen up here.

2. Charlie returns to The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg to discuss Trump’s declaration of emergency, our decaying constitutional framework, accents, and more. Pay heed here.

3. If you really want to get to the bottom of this McCabe lunacy, then tune your ears to the new episode of The McCarthy Report. Andy and Rich are waiting for you, here.

4. Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is what John J. Miller and Liberty University’s Karen Swallow Prior are talking up on The Great Books latest podcast. Check it out here.

5. More JJM: On The Bookmonger, he sits down with Landfall author Thomas Mallon to discuss his new work. Listen here.

6. David and Alexandra have Chris Pratt’s back on the new episode of Ordered Liberty. Listen up here.

7. Notre Dame law prof Jeff Pojanowski joins Scooby Dooby Scot and Jim-Jam-Jumpin-Jive Jeff on Political Beats to gab about Pavement. The band, not the thing that smells of asphalt. Groove to the conversation here.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits.

1. Kyle Smith finds The Tree of Life to be “one of the most awe-inspiring films of the 21st century.” There’s a new “extended-cut” release of the 2011 movie (188 minutes). Our expert says it’s worth the time. From the review:

The Tree of Life is an eloquent, majestic film, but I add a word of caution: It’s far outside the mainstream of contemporary filmmaking. It can’t be taken in the way we ordinarily view films at home — while we send texts to friends, check email, finish up a work project, wander out for a bowl of chips. If you can’t put your devices out of the room and set up an undisturbed, cinema-like setting in which to watch it, don’t bother. Without your full concentration, the film will mean nothing to you. If you indulge yourself a couple of diversions, you won’t even make it to the end. And you’ll be depriving yourself of something wonderful.

2. Armond White declares war on Never Look Away and Cold War, two of this year’s foreign-film Oscar nominees, both of which “look a lot like Hollywood’s own politically woke claptrap.” From his review:

Never Look Away itself actually demonstrates the avoidance of artistic complexity. Von Donnersmarck specializes in the middlebrow art of self-congratulation. How ironic that his film about an artist figure uses a storytelling style that sidesteps artistic innovation and never challenges comfortable taste. (Its drama has a complacent, Sydney Pollack air.) Instead of recalling Fassbinder, Godard, or even Paul Verhoeven films that confront narrative conventions, Von Donnersmarck uses banal methods to underscore disapproval, in hindsight, of Nazis and East German socialism. Scenes of Kurt’s aunt enticing off-duty bus drivers to turn their depot into an orchestra’s horn section, her nude piano-playing breakdown, Professor Seeband’s mutilation of his own daughter, and Kurt’s various art-punk tantrums are all just schmaltzy virtue-signaling. . . .

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War continues Hollywood’s fascination with political sacred cows in a sleeker vein than Von Donnersmarck’s leviathan. Yet Cold War similarly patronizes European modernity and turns it into soft-core kitsch.

Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot play Zula and Wiktor, Polish WWII survivors who exploit each other through sex and art. They meet as Cold War envoys, representing Polish musical culture in a nationalist troupe; then both escape to the West and enjoy the licentious, promiscuous titillation of jazz (also a theme of Pawlikowski’s Ida). They’re doomed lovers but mainly desperate characters whose ruthlessness is so glamorized beyond a political context that it seems to represent traits of modern, Millennial self-interest.

3. Armond listens to Agenda, the new four-track recording of “dance-pop sophisticates” the Pet Shop Boys (the guys that fix dogs, not your pickup), and, well, Armond gives it a thrashing, as only he can. From his review:

Pet Shop Boys lead singer–lyricist Neil Tennant and composer Chris Lowe are British Boomers who made their name with elegant, thoughtful, and danceable tracks during the 1980s, including “West End Girls” and the Dusty Springfield collaboration “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” 1993’s Very is their masterpiece. But this new song discards their pop savvy for left-wing populism.

“It’s all meant ironically,” Tennant told Clash magazine, yet the EP’s ironies confirm that PSB are up to date, clued in to why Millennials admire a neophyte demagogue like Ocasio-Cortez: They see themselves in her googly-eyed, unschooled optimism. Her image confirms their naïveté as a moral and political virtue, and the lead track’s cringe-inducing message name-checks many of her slogans and clichés, even some “Green New Deal” idiocies that have become media commonplaces. (The current crop of pusillanimous Democratic presidential contenders call the deal aspirational.)

But “Give Stupidity a Chance” won’t fire up Spotify or Pandora subscribers; it’s merely a hummable yet oddly unwinning try. PSB’s rejection of conservative nationalism pitches them into an ideational trap: By denouncing their adversaries, they take on the worst accusatory aspects of America’s Ocasio-Cortez and Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, who both capture PSB’s attention because, sadly, they qualify as pop-media icons. PSB possess wit beyond AOC, but they know that the Left-weaned pop audience cannot resist a young-dumb rabble-rouser.

4. On this Oscar Weekend, Kyle chimes in to say that the Best Picture contest is a “surprisingly exciting” too-close-to-caller. From his take:

So what film might take advantage of faltering front-runners and pull off a big upset? A Star Is Born? It didn’t get a Best Director nomination and has been shunned all awards season. BlackKklansman might have a chance — but Black Panther is also nominated, and it won the actors’ guild equivalent of Best Picture. Having both of them in the mix could split the vote if any voters are thinking, “It’s high time a movie directed by a black person won Best Picture — that has only happened twice in the last five years!” That leads us to The Favourite: It could be framed as a win for feminism, since its principal characters are women (having a lesbian love triangle); unlike the dopey Green Book, it has a hip, mordant sense of humor and a cool, artsy director (Yorgos Lanthimos); and the Academy lavished it with ten nominations overall. The Best Picture winner is usually the one with the most nominations (or tied for it). But is The Favourite anyone’s favorite? It’s been in theaters since November and it’s grossed only $32 million, barely ahead of the notorious audience repellent Moonlight. 

How Yours Truly Is Predicting Oscar Winners This Year

Going to my tried, true, and trusted source: The Online Magic 8 Ball.

The Six

1. At Religion Unplugged, Clemente Lisi recognized President’s Day — the Holiday Formerly Known as George Washington’s Birthday — by considering the first president’s strong stand for religious freedom. From his essay:

Many know the importance Washington had to the founding of the United States. A decorated general who commanded the colonies against Great Britain during the American Revolution, he went on to serve as the republic’s first president. Washington also took part in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which established a new American government. For those reasons, he is widely referred to as the “Father of His Country.”

What has largely been forgotten over the course of the last two centuries is Washington’s faith and dedication to religious freedom before that became a political buzzword and a fight in the courts between conservatives and liberals. Although he was a member of the Anglican church (Episcopalian following the Revolutionary War), Washington recognized America’s pluralism and the constitutional role of religion in public life, historians said.

Indeed, Washington’s willingness to protect religious minorities is one of the many legacies this great man has left behind.

2. Three cheers for nuke power. In City Journal, James Meigs looks at the new voices seeking to offset the fading support for atomic-based (clean!) energy. From the article:

Political activism isn’t the only headwind facing U.S. nuclear operators. Solar and wind power today receive extensive federal and state subsidies. More than half of U.S. states have also enacted Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), mandating that utilities use more of these alternative energy sources. These programs are promoted as efforts to “de-carbonize” the energy grid, but nuclear power — a genuinely carbon-free electricity source — is usually excluded from both subsidies and RPS mandates. On top of all that, natural-gas prices bottomed out in 2016 — after dropping more than 80 percent from their peak a decade earlier — and have since stayed relatively low. Utilities are increasingly turning to gas as the most inexpensive way to generate reliable power. Squeezed between heavily subsidized competitors on the one side and historically low prices on the other, it’s no wonder that roughly half the nation’s nuclear plants are in economic trouble.

Have we reached the beginning of the end of the atomic era?

3. At Gatestone Institute, Amir Taheri wonders if, as Iran’s mullahs mark their fourth decade of power, their masquerading as patriots will divert attention from their scoundrel-ish seeking of refuge. From the beginning of his piece:

What do scoundrels do, when caught red handed in their shenanigans? According to an old proverb they wrap themselves in a flag and seek refuge in patriotism.

Something close to that seems to be happening to the Khomeinists dominating Iran, thanks to their control of the nation’s finances and monopoly on guns. As it marked its fourth decade in power, the regime implicitly admitted the bankruptcy of its narrative, according to which the 1979 revolution was prompted by a desire to “revive Islam” which, after the death of the Prophet, with the exception of the brief caliphate of Ali ibn Abi-Taleb, had been in agony. Thus, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was given the title of “Ihyagar” or “Reviver” of Islam.

Last Monday, however, Hojat al-Islam wa al-Moslemeen Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, told a different story to marchers in Tehran marking the 40th anniversary of the mullahs’ seizure of power.

He shouted: “The Islamic Revolution was firstly made to protect Iran.”

How so, you might wonder.

4. At Law & Liberty, Tony Williams considers the questions raised by Jay Cost in his book, The Price of Greatness: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the Creation of American Oligarchy. From his piece:

But the fact remains that the Federalist domestic and foreign policies of the 1790s such as enforcement of the whiskey tax or American neutrality did not seem to have led to the creation of an American oligarchy. There was not a small cabal of individuals or families controlling the strings of government or the economy. As we examine the domestic and foreign policy events of the decade, there may have been a few questionable episodic schemes related to finance that were carried out but there was no oligarchy running the country.

Curiously, the story continues about halfway through the book without one of its protagonists (because Hamilton perished in the duel with Aaron Burr) and delves into the Republican presidencies of Jefferson and Madison which swept in a Jeffersonian wave of spending cuts and smaller government — including the expiration of the national bank in 1811 — into national policy. As Cost notes, the Republican policies were disastrous for the country, leaving it woefully unprepared to fight the War of 1812. After the war, President Madison had a change of heart and embraced a Second National Bank, mildly protective tariffs, and internal improvements, albeit with a constitutional amendment for the latter.

5. If you made America great again, what would that mean? In National Affairs, Ryan Hanley delves into the task by finding out what leader might have already made his country great (again). From his essay:

But what exactly does it mean to make a nation great? And what exactly do those drawn to such promises think they’re likely to get in return for supporting them? Here the waters get murky fast. The clever and well-read have a whole host of terms at the ready to explain these promises. Calls for national greatness, they say, are expressions of nationalism, or maybe populism, or maybe plain and simple nativism. But invoking “isms” dodges the real question. For even if these or other such categories can explain why national greatness appeals to so many today, they leave still unanswered the crucial question of what exactly “national greatness” is.

Regarding that crucial question, we get little insight from those who most often invoke the term. In 2016 it was notoriously central to Trump’s campaign, for instance, but by January 2017, even before he had taken the oath of office, the president-elect had already coined his re-election slogan for 2020: “Keep America Great.” While this breathtakingly abrupt shift says much about the man, it gives little insight into the concept. Things don’t get much better when we turn from the politicians to the pundits. National greatness of course had a history in our country before the 2016 campaign; back in the 1990s, some will remember, David Brooks called for a “national-greatness conservatism.” But “national greatness” for Brooks was a catch-all — something that involved “grand American projects” and “global purpose” and “common mission.” Yet this too sheds little light on the concept, and we don’t get much more from Brooks’s open-ended conclusion that “[i]t almost doesn’t matter what great task government sets for itself, as long as it does some tangible thing with energy and effectiveness.”

6. Over at Real Clear Books, Barton Swaim has high praise for The Idol of Our Age: How the Religion of Humanity Subverts Christianity, Daniel J. Mahoney’s new, widely acclaimed book. From the review:

Mahoney gives a name to the heresy passing itself off as Christianity, and to my mind it’s about as unsatisfactory as “liberalism” was for yesterday’s Christian materialists: humanitarianism, or “the religion of humanity.” The word “humanitarianism” suggests inner city soup kitchens and aid workers handing out medical supplies in third-world countries, but Mahoney has reasons for his choice of terms. Humanitarianism in this sense holds that the Christian’s highest and, perhaps, only duty is to exhibit compassion and fellow-feeling toward humanity as a whole. The humanitarian’s chief concern is with humanity in the abstract, the supposed plight of faraway peoples of whom the humanitarian likely has little or no direct knowledge. Humanitarianism looks with suspicion on any attitude or religion that treats one’s own family, church, neighborhood, city, or country with special affection. “Good works, humanitarian works, are welcomed, of course, but one can love Humanity through a vague and undemanding sentimentality, Mahoney writes. “Loving real human beings is another matter altogether.”

Baseballery

Fans of the National Pastime know that one of the game’s oddest, and maybe even most disturbing, moments came in 1951, when St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck, a stunt guru, caused a sensation by having 3’ 7” Eddie Gaedel come up to bat, pinch-hitting to lead off the second game of an August 19 doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. There is a famous image that captures the comical scene of the miniscule strike zone and one of the four balls, caught by befuddled Tigers catcher Bob Swift. Swift had made the obvious suggestion to Tigers starter Bob Cain (who took the victory, 6–2) to “pitch him low.” That landed Gaedel on first base.

About Gaedel pinch hitting: The Browns’ starting lineup included Frank Saucier in right field, which was nothing more than an ignominious set-up for him to be yanked for the diminutive baseball oddity. This would prove to be Saucier’s biggest baseball moment. His meager MLB career was limited to 18 games in 1951: 14 at-bats, one hit (a double) and one RBI. But of note, he was a great American: His baseball career ended in part because he returned to active military duty for the Navy during the Korean War (Saucier had also served for more than three years in World War II).

The Gaedel stunt ended when Browns manager Zack Taylor yanked him for pinch runner Jim Delsing. A journeyman who played decent ball for five teams over a decade, it proved to be his baseball claim to fame.

As for Gaedel, everything about him seemed short, including his troubled life: in 1961 he was beaten to death. His murderer was never found (in fact, the case was never truly investigated).

A Dios

I pray this week that those in the media who desperately need a thick, steaming slab of humble pie — chock full of lima beans and brussels sprouts and liver chunks — get it, and that The Great Big Dad will tell them that if they don’t eat it then and there, they’re going to find it the next morning in their bowl of Cheerios.

God Bless You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

Bracing for your critiques at jfowler@nationalreview.com

National Review

Boo! Booze Boo-Boos

Dear WJ Reader and Imbiber,

Before we belly up to the bar, I thought I’d give a plug to my pal Scott Rasmussen, who is back in the polling saddle. His latest presidential-race tracking numbers were released on Valentine’s Day, and show President Trump with a 50 percent “total approval” of likely voters. Scott adds a little comparative gimmick: At the same presidential point in time in 2011, Barrack Obama had a 48 approval rating.

Now bartender . . .

So much of the history of this Nation, conceived in Liberty and pickled in moonshine and marinated in lager, is dedicated to the proposition that the bartender buys back the fourth drink. How America, land of the Whiskey Rebellion (pictured above — looks like some ancient revenuer getting a little tar-and-feathers treatment from the locals), endured a decade or thereabouts of Prohibition remains a mystery, because so much of our national being — never mind revenues! — has been emeshed (e-mashed!) in the fruit of the vine; the sudsy byproduct of yeast, hops, barley, malt, and water; the juniper-smelling liquid distilled in the tenement bathtub; and the tooth-melting White Lightning dripping from coiled stills deep within the woods primeval.

Admittedly, our War of Independence began over another liquid libation, tea, but that aside, other than baseball and Old Glory, ’Murica is about booze in its many breeds and variations.

On the GDP front, bottles with labels that admit to a “proof” comprise many big and growing businesses, or booznesses (rimshot!), whose product is exported hither and yon. And now for the grim news: The alcohol industry and the many many jobs it provides to many many a household is at risk from the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and the ensuing retaliation from other nations. The unintended consequences of trade warfare on this particular industry is increasing pain, sharp enough to make your head spin (like after that fourth Harvey Wallbanger which followed your third Tom Collins). See below for a link to a must-read story about this overall to-do. Play this while you read it.

Now before we get to the WJ meat and potatoes I hope you chow down on this President’s Day Weekend, here is . . . a commercial.

“Didn’t I Meet You on a Summer Cruise?”

The great director Roger DeBris asked that of Accountant Bloom, and though the answer was “no,” the fact remains that someday you might ask the same of the people you will have met, during the week of August 24-31, on Holland America Lines’ beautiful MS Zaandam, home to the National Review 2019 Canada/New England Conservative Cruise. Here are the essentials:

  • It’s affordable (prices start at only $2,499 a person).
  • The itinerary is terrific — Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Sydney, Charlottetown. The growing speaker line-up — Rich Lowry, Charlie Cooke, Kevin Williamson, Jay Nordlinger, John O’Sullivan, and Maddy Kearns — includes former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, author Peter Schweizer, conservative legal expert Cleta Mitchell, Acton Institute founder Fr. Robert Sirico, AEI scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, and City Journal editor Brian Anderson. It will make for excellent discussions of the day’s primo topics.
  • The NR exclusives — seven scintillating seminar sessions, two fun-filled “Night Owl” sessions; three revelrous pool-side cocktail receptions; one late-night “smoker” featuring superior cigars (and complimentary cognac); and intimate dining on at least two evenings (and likely three) with a guest speaker or editor — will greatly enhance an already superior voyage.

You’ll want to go. You will go. Get complete information (and a per-person discount of $200 if you sign up this month) at www.nrcruise.com.

Editorials

1. Jew-Hate is alive and well and living in the seat occupied by the representative of Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, Ilhan Omar. We’re having none of her filth. From our editorial:

The old proverb about race in the United States held that in the North they embraced African Americans as a group but rejected them individually, whereas in the South they might embrace African Americans on an individual basis but hated them as a group. American progressives who insist that they are not anti-Semites but only anti-Israel take something like the southern view: They hate Jews as a national entity, not on a case-by-case basis. If that is the best they can say about themselves, that isn’t very much.

But it certainly is not the worst they can say about themselves. The Left and the Democratic party tolerate anti-Semitism openly expressed, period: From the Reverend Al Sharpton and his Jewish “bloodsuckers” in Crown Heights to the footsie-playing with Farrakhan to Representative Omar’s trafficking in the worst of 1920s anti-Semitic mythology, anti-Semitism is now a regular part of politics among Democrats, from the far-left radicals who see in Israel an extension of American imperialism to those who appeal to the anti-Semitism that is all too common among African Americans and Muslim Americans, the latter of whom are an important new Democratic constituency. This is the reality that informed Representative Omar’s libel.

2. Well, the paltry Wall funding is a lousy deal. From our editorial:

If this is a disappointing state of affairs, it’s a product of poor choices, by Trump and congressional Republicans, on one of the president’s top political priorities. It was malpractice not to get more funding for a border barrier out of Congress when it was held by Republicans (though the Democrats might have filibustered any deal they didn’t like). It was bizarre that the White House didn’t formally request more funding last year, before Trump drastically increased his demand to $5.7 billion near the end of process. Finally, it was foolhardy to lurch into a shutdown without a viable strategy for getting out of it.

At least the current deal doesn’t reflect Nancy Pelosi’s vow not to approve a dollar for a border barrier, and Democrats backed off their demand in the negotiations for a hard cap on ICE detentions.

3. The (nominally) most Catholic state in the nation, Rhode Island, is making plans to duplicate New York’s infanticide depravity. We urge legislators there to defeat this literally inhumane proposal. From our editorial:

The bill is already cosponsored by more than half the members of the Rhode Island house. Democratic governor Gina Raimondo, a self-professed moderate, has vowed to sign it, writing of the bill, “I believe that no one should get in the middle of a decision between a woman and her doctor and that no woman should have to [choose] between health care and making ends meet.”

The bill’s supporters say it would merely codify Roe v. Wade, spin included in the bill text. Too few voters realize that the Supreme Court’s precedents effectively create a right to late-term abortion. But as expansive as the Court’s rulings have been, the bill goes further. The Court has allowed states to ban partial-birth abortion and to declare that life begins at conception; the bill removes both of these provisions from state law. The Court allows states to refrain from subsidizing abortion, too, but the bill can be read to require state funding for elective abortions.

4. Omar Strikes Again: The ignorant Lefty clashes with President Trump’s nominee for Venezuela special envoy, Elliott Abrams. From our editorial on the House freshman:

In short, Elliott Abrams is one of the wisest, most experienced foreign-policy heads in this country. He is also a steadfast advocate of freedom, democracy, and human rights, or American values, if you like.

Yesterday he appeared on Capitol Hill and encountered Ilhan Omar. She is a freshman House member — a Democrat from Minnesota — who has had a lively first month. We editorialized about her and anti-Semitism on Monday (here).

She called Mr. Abrams “Mr. Adams.” (Congratulations, Elliott, you’re a Gentile!) She got a lot else wrong too. She swiped at Abrams for the Iran-Contra affair — and refused to let him defend himself. She went on to accuse him of being complicit in the rape, murder, and mayhem of Central America — El Salvador, in particular.

To see this performance on C-SPAN, go here.

A great many hailed this performance, certainly on the old anti-Reagan left. It was as though the Christic Institute and CISPES had come back to life. Social media rang out with the old charges, the old smears, the old libels. Not all of Abrams’s enemies are on the left, of course. David Duke, of Klan fame, or infamy, chimed in with “Rep. Omar clashes with Zionist war criminal.”

You Can Stop Smacking Your Lips, Because Here Are 16 Delicious and High-Calorie NRO Articles, Fresh from the Oven

1. More kudos to President Trump for naming David Malpass to head the World Bank, this time from David Bahnsen. From his article:

If there is to be a World Bank at all, its core mission must be rediscovered. Facilitating a dependence on interest rates below market levels is not a sustainable mission, is distortive to economic stability, and creates malinvestment that is revealed as such at the most inopportune times. Using the bank’s vast financial resources to drive a turn towards “strong growth principles” (Malpass’s words) is not to reject the World Bank’s mission, but rather promotes the greatest of solutions for the world’s poorest countries. His agenda centers around accountability — finding ways to measure success so that the dollars provided from the bank can be optimized and constantly in pursuit of their most effective allocation. Malpass sees transparency as fundamental to accountability and has promised to enforce requirements that borrowing nations reveal the terms of their debt agreements. It strikes me that someone demanding this basic step from those the bank lends money to probably cares about the viability of the lender more than those cheerleaders of the institution who fail to demand such do.

Those genuinely supportive of the mission of the World Bank should praise the substance of David Malpass’s criticisms. China received nearly $2 billion in loans from the World Bank in 2018 alone and yet is the world’s second-largest economy, with unfettered access to capital markets. The argument Malpass makes is irrefutable: When World Bank resources are used to help powerful countries that do not need them, the mission of the bank is called into question.

2. Corporate welfare is for losers . . . which would mean taxpayers. Russell Latino looks at some recent deals that have gone very awry. From his article:

Across the country, cities and states spend billions every year trying to either entice new companies to set up shop or persuade existing ones to stay put. They do the same with professional-sports teams.’

Yet even with a mountain of academic evidence showing that such corporate-welfare schemes have little to no overall positive economic impact, the politicians — Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike — continue falling for every outlandish promise of more jobs and an economic boost for their communities.

In most cases, businesses’ location decisions are based on things like the availability of a qualified work force, general business climate, and quality of life. Even in cases where a business receives corporate welfare, the incentives make a difference at most one quarter of the time.

More often, corporate welfare is icing on the cake for a decision that was already baked in. In 2016, Northrop Grumman raked in millions from Maryland taxpayers. Lawmakers expressed concern that the company — which was already located in the state — might be lured away by subsidies from other states.

3. Funny (not) that the original “New Deal” sought to bring electricity to the overlooked countryside, while the Green New Deal flips that: It’s nothing less than an assault on electrical power for rural America. Robert Bryce looks at how the plan would cost Old MacDonald billions. From his article:

For New Deal politicians such as Representative Sam Rayburn (D., Texas), Senator George Norris (R., Neb.), and Senator Burton Wheeler (D., Mont.), the need for cheap electricity in rural America could no longer be ignored. Rayburn grew up on his family’s 40-acre cotton farm near the north Texas town of Bonham. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1912 at the age of 30, Rayburn never forgot where he came from or how hard life was for farmers. Without electricity, Rayburn said, rural farmers and ranchers were merely “unwilling servants of the washtub and water pump.” As he famously said: “I want my people out of the mud and I want my people out of the dark.”

Rayburn, who would go on to be the longest-serving speaker of the House in U.S. history, was the co-sponsor of both the Public Utility Holding Company Act and the Rural Electrification Act. Those New Deal laws yielded quick results. By 1950, nine out of ten farms in America were connected to the electric grid, a reversal of the situation that existed just 20 years earlier. Between 1940 and 1970, the amount of electricity produced by rural cooperatives jumped more than 200-fold. Over that same time period, the cost of residential electricity in the U.S. fell dramatically, going from 3.8 cents per kilowatt-hour in 1940 to 2.1 cents in 1970.

4. Más on the GND: David French sees it as a con job. The target? The Democrats’ base. From his take:

Look back at the list of presidential-candidate endorsers of this plan, all experienced politicians, all with years of experience working through the American legislative process. Now look back at the promises above. If you believe for one second that any material provision of the Green New Deal will become policy, you’re being conned.

A competent media could and should prove as much in mere moments. A competent media could and should ask Kamala Harris at every campaign stop for her precise plan to “guarantee a job with a family-sustaining wage” to every person in the U.S. A competent media could and should rush to press Elizabeth Warren about her precise plan to completely overhaul American power generation in a mere ten-year span without crushing the economy.

5. Dan McLaughlin says it matters if presidential wannabe – and alleged mean boss – Amy Klobuchar treats her minions like crapola. From his analysis:

In the specific case of Senator Klobuchar’s mistreatment of subordinates, Democrats will be hard pressed to claim that this is a new avenue of criticism. John Bolton, now the national security adviser, was filibustered by Senate Democrats when President Bush nominated him as U.N. ambassador in 2005, in large part on the basis of claims that he was abusive to subordinates (see this contemporary report by Jay Carney, later Obama’s press secretary, for a taste). And of course, reports of Donald Trump’s emotional outbursts and demeaning treatment of the people who work for him have been a daily staple of Trump criticism for the past three and a half years and are expected to be part of the Democrats’ case against Trump in 2020. Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair draws the parallel explicitly: “Terrified Aides Say Amy Klobuchar Is Just Like Trump.” Clearly, this line of attack is good for the gander.

Indeed, more trivial claims of mistreatment have led to much more extensive press coverage. Mitt Romney was almost universally regarded by his subordinates as a model boss, but a story about Romney driving to a vacation spot with his dog on the roof of his car led to a colossal, years-long media feeding frenzy. Seamus the dog was mentioned more than 80 times just by the New York Times columnist Gail Collins, in near-nightly jokes from David Letterman, and in jibes from the Santorum and Obama campaigns. Seamus was the topic of international media coverage, televised questions for the nominee from Diane Sawyer and Chris Wallace, a New Yorker cover, a “Dogs Against Romney” protest group, a Snopes fact check, even a song by Devo. The Atlantic’s David Graham wrote of “America’s Enduring Seamus Obsession,” and the Boston Globe’s Neil Swidley, who originated the story, ruminated on “What our fascination with Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus says about our culture.”

Ultimately, there are two main reasons why Klobuchar’s treatment of subordinates is particularly newsworthy: because it calls into question her executive temperament, and because it conflicts with the public image she tries to project.

6. What the Northam / Fairfax lunacy in Virginia is teaching us about the new mores of the American Progressive Left. Professor Victor Davis Hanson is at the lectern. From his essay:

Get used to far more of this.

America is a multiethnic, multiracial society in which victimization leads to career dividends, attention, and psychological rewards. Yet intersectionality hinges on the various indecipherable strata of identity politics — especially when no one knows which DNA strand or ancestral narratives trump others. Add the 1960s left-wing legacies of promiscuity, sexual discovery, and let-it-all-hang-out, get-with-it, -all-is-groovy New Ageism, now mixed with 21st-century Victorian progressive prudery — and the result is a weird new hipster profile in sackcloth, as randy and as gross as Woodstock and yet as condemnatory as the Anti-Sex League of Orwell’s 1984.

The rules of sexual congress are being radically redefined among the elite as requiring veritable contractual agreements along every step of each encounter. When it comes to destroying careers, there is no statute of limitations, and no need for due process, cross-examination, or factual evidence.

Once a society establishes a system of rewards and punishments that favor accusation and force-multiply it through enhancements of race and gender, then fairness and truth become secondary considerations. Much less valued are notions of human frailty and atonement. Truth becomes a narrative of a particular class of victim, to be adjudicated in mob-like and often electronic arenas, without much attention to testimony, evidence, or witnesses.

7. Rich Lowry lambasts the New York abortion/infanticide law. From the end of his new column:

It is telling that pro-abortion advocates resort to euphemism even in this season of extremism. The New York law is called the Reproductive Health Act, an audacious abuse of language; the law is hostile to reproduction and dismissive of the health of unborn children. Two New York legislators wrote a defense of the law that constantly referred to “abortion care,” as if the addition of “care” softens the reality of what they are supporting.

The wordplay is cute, but the fact is that they deliberately denied the most innocent and vulnerable any explicit protection from heinous violence. This isn’t pro-choice. It isn’t humane. And it doesn’t have anything to do with medicine. In New York, pro-abortion advocates have shown us what they really are, and no one should ever forget.

8. John Yoo and James Phillips make the case for a restoration of the separation of powers. From their essay:

Thomas Jefferson believed “the leading principle of our Constitution is the independence of the Legislature, executive and judiciary of each other.” The Constitution allows only very specific ways for one branch to intrude into the affairs of another. It explicitly grants the president a limited veto, subject to override by two-thirds of both houses of Congress. The Constitution creates limited exceptions to the president’s exercise of the treaty and appointment powers by requiring Senate advice and consent — otherwise, the executive would enjoy both powers alone.

Progressives have long criticized this “formalist” approach to the separation of powers for restricting their ability to create new forms of government to handle problems unanticipated by the Founders. They usually have in mind agencies such as the Federal Reserve Bank, which seeks to shield interest rates from political manipulation by making its board independent, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which grants its director a ten-year term. But it has also led to hundreds of alphabet agencies, ranging from the Federal Communications Commission to the National Labor Relations Board to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which regulate large swaths of the economy and society without having to obey the president or observe the Constitution’s limit on legislation to laws that survive both houses and receive presidential signature.

Unfortunately, even the Supreme Court of conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist gave its blessing to this perversion of the Constitution’s original scheme. In Morrison v. Olson (1988), the Court upheld the original independent-prosecutor law, which prevents the president from removing the counsel except for cause. Even though all of the justices agreed that prosecution remained fundamentally an executive power, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote for a 7-1 majority that this did not necessarily compel presidential control. According to the Court, Congress could shield the independent counsel from direct removal with a “for-cause” provision, which limited the president’s traditional discretion to fire any executive official for any reason. Acting through the attorney general, the president could still supervise the independent counsel to ensure he or she did not violate the law or DOJ policy. “We simply do not see how the President’s need to control the exercise of [the counsel’s] discretion is so central to the functioning of the Executive Branch as to require as a matter of constitutional law that the counsel be terminable at will by the President.” Outweighing any intrusion into presidential power was Congress’s need to advance an important public purpose: to solve the conflict of interest inherent when federal law enforcement investigated those at the upper rungs of government. The following year, in Mistretta v. United States (1989), the Rehnquist Court upheld an even more misbegotten creature, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which claimed the power to set sentencing factors for every federal criminal trial in the nation.

9. One place where efforts to reduce political polarization should be directed is the college classroom. Which is exactly where such stuff ain’t happening, writes Ilana Redstone Akresh. From her essay:

Our universities are failing students by teaching them that there’s only one right way to understand our most vexing inequalities and social problems. This undoubtedly disproportionately affects students focusing their studies in the social sciences, but the near universality of cross-disciplinary general-education requirements (such that many students, regardless of their area of study, are required to take courses in the social sciences) suggests that almost no student is immune.

In sociology, for instance, we teach students about a wide range of social disparities. This entails conversations about the causes of those differences. Yet we do students an enormous disservice teaching them only about the possible structural causes of those disparities — aspects we can blame on the “system” or on “institutions.” Students learn, for example, that the gender pay gap is due to systemic labor-market discrimination against women and a devaluation of women’s work. These are likely contributing factors. But when pressed on the topic, most students can’t name a single additional factor that might contribute to the wage difference (such as variation between the sexes in job preferences or priorities).

I have had a chance to see this firsthand in an undergraduate course I am currently teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Aptly, the course is called Social Problems. It is an intro-level course in the sociology department and serves as a gateway to the major. On the first day of class, I told students that I would be teaching from multiple political angles — i.e., from a “heterodox” perspective — an approach that would necessarily include conservative viewpoints that are likely heard less often in their other classes.

We’re now almost four weeks into the semester and it’s clear that these bright, engaged students are not being exposed to the range of perspectives that they will need in their lives after college. I expect that, in this regard, they resemble students at many other institutions across the country. They are led to believe that our most difficult problems have simple causes and that those causes are rooted in structural bias that the right policies will fix. In addition, they are taught that this is the only right way to view these challenges.

10. California’s ginormously costly Train to Nowhere boondoggle, now largely abandoned, is the Green New Deal in a choo-choo setting, says Kevin Williamson of this and other outrages that find their root in the need to have “plans.” From his article:

Progressives love trains. They hate cars. There’s a reason for that.

The fundamental progressive idea is central planning. In the progressive imagination, society is a puzzle to be solved, a grand Rubik’s Cube that can be adjusted and readjusted and experimented with until — perfection! The progressive looks at society the same way a child looks at a model railroad set or an ant farm — which is to say, from a point of view that is effectively godlike. Human beings, their families, their desires, their pleasures, their dreams, their businesses, their associations, their communities — all of these are only chessmen to be moved around in pursuit of utopia.

A car can go basically anywhere its driver wants. A train can go only where the central planners have preordained. It is for this reason that trains have long been at the center of the progressive vision. And not only the progressive vision: Such modern utopians as Ayn Rand find in the railroad the model of the kind of society they desire: a society that is designed, that proceeds according to plan. Whose plan? Preferably one of their own, of course, but they’ll get on board for almost any old plan if the alternative is no plan at all.

There is another vision of society: that it is organic, that many of its best and more effective institutions are spontaneous orders, that all sorts of magnificent and enriching things are the result of systems that have no one in charge of them at all. That isn’t a manifesto for anarchism, but for what conservatives call “well-ordered liberty.” What is that? Aren’t ordered and liberty mutually exclusive? As conservatives understand things, the purpose of government is to govern: enforcing contracts and protecting property, rights, and liberty, which provides the security that is necessary for spontaneous orders to thrive.

11. Booze Boos Boo-Boo: President Trump’s tariffs have give America’s alcohol industry the DTs. C. Jaerrett Dieterle and Clark Packard roll out the barrels of facts. From their analysis:

President Trump’s tariff policies are the most prominent example of this disconnect. The administration’s aluminum tariffs, meant to protect the domestic aluminum industry, have had a disproportionate negative impact on beer manufacturers. Because aluminum is used in beer cans, the tariffs are driving up production costs for brewers. According to analysis by the Beer Institute, aluminum tariffs are costing breweries nearly $350 million a year and putting around 20,000 beer-related jobs at risk.

The damage to the alcohol industry from tariffs extends to other drinks as well. In response to U.S. tariffs, Canada, Mexico, China, and the European Union have all slapped retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey. Several distilleries have already forecast higher prices as a result, which could dampen consumer demand and stymie the job-producing potential of the spirits industry. Meanwhile, small craft distillers looking to expand into Europe have seen their market access dry up.

Lost in all this is the fact that the American drinks industry has some of the best job-growth potential in the country. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, breweries, wineries, and distilleries created the second-most manufacturing jobs of any industry in 2017. These numbers don’t even include support industries that are tied to drinks, such as barrel manufacturers or bottle producers. With new breweries and distilleries opening every day, the growth seems primed to continue — if policymakers will let it

12. Esquire had the temerity to run a cover story about a white 17-year-old low-ambitioned boy. Pretender-outrage ensued. Michael Brendan Dougherty checks out the knicker-twisteds. From his piece:

Esquire magazine launched a series of reported essays this morning with an article titled “The Life of an American Boy at 17.” It featured a tall, handsome, but not particularly dynamic white kid from Wisconsin who thinks he’s likely to end up working at a “water plant.” Thousands of people who don’t subscribe to Esquire, or normally read Esquire, or fit in with Esquire’s target demographic are furious about the choice of subject. Or at least they are pretending to be. Our future water-plant worker is just too unbearably privileged for the leading minds of New York media. He shouldn’t be represented this way. For reasons that aren’t altogether clear.

The outrage that this article exists in is recursive in quality. It begins with a presumption that this particular subject, a tall white teenager who vaguely supports the president, should not be “centered” — or given attention at all, that he has earned too much attention. Again, these aren’t Esquire subscribers or regular readers. The question occurs: “Aren’t you in control of your attention? Couldn’t you just ignore this article?” Apparently not. And because there is outrage that he got attention, the controversy itself becomes the cause of further controversy. The people claiming they don’t want to “center” Esquire’s cover subject draw him into the center of a hurricane.

13. Real “health care” — not the Cuomo version — saves lives instead of killing them. Alexandra DeSanctis explains how the “Groningen Protocol” has come to America. From her article:

Unborn children like the Simpsons’ daughter are rarely so lucky. Until now, technology hadn’t yet developed enough to offer parents a possible cure in utero. Instead, the medical community began to advocate terminating the lives of these fetuses. According to a 1999 study, 64 percent of fetuses diagnosed with spina bifida were aborted worldwide during that decade.

Some countries take this even further. In 2017, CBS News published a feature piece examining how Iceland is “leading the world in eradicating Down syndrome births,” as if the country had managed to develop a cure for the chromosomal disorder. Instead, the country has used a combination of prenatal testing and “therapeutic” abortion to systematically exterminate children prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. At last count, only one or two infants with the condition are born in Iceland each year — the lucky survivors.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, the so-called Groningen Protocol allows for neonatal euthanasia of “severely ill” newborns. Killing such children is permitted up to the age of one in “the presence of hopeless and unbearable suffering.”

14. Jonathon Tobin recommends not accepting Congresswoman Omar’s “phony alibis for hate.” From his column:

In her apology statement, Omar also said that she continued to be concerned about “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry.”

If lobbying per se were the issue, Omar wouldn’t have confined her examples to lobbies whose views she opposes but might also have mentioned Planned Parenthood or the Council on American–Islamic Affairs, a group linked to supporters of Hamas terrorists, which also contributed to her congressional campaign. And, tellingly, not long after she issued her apology, she retweeted with praise a Twitter thread by a supporter who engaged in a vitriolic attack on supporters of the “Israel lobby” that repeated the same themes about Jews using money to seek power.

Omar’s focus on “the Benjamins” and the supposedly malign influence of lobbies also ignores the truth about AIPAC.

For all its mythic status, AIPAC’s power in terms of the money connected to its supporters and their influence is actually dwarfed by that of Planned Parenthood or a commercial lobby such as those that support the pharmaceutical industry. The broad bipartisan pro-Israel consensus in Congress is not the result of campaign contributions or clever lobbying tactics. It is a result of Israel’s popularity, which is reflected in opinion polls and stretches far beyond the influence of the Jewish community or political donors.

15. You’ll like this: Jennifer Braceras takes on the newest charge of “sexism” — wondering if female candidate X is likeable, or like Hillary, not likeable. From the beginning of her article:

Pantsuit nation is already crying foul. Fresh off the “Hillary lost because of sexism” tour, many purveyors of female victimhood are gearing up for a do-over.

With at least five women running for president (Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren have all announced their candidacies, as has Representative Tulsi Gabbard), the 2020 election cycle promises to be historic.

But rather than celebrate the rise of female politicians, many on the left are already excusing defeat by blaming sexism.

The latest culprit? “Likability” — that intangible constellation of personality traits that help candidates connect with voters on a personal level.

16. There’s an important SCOTUS establishment-clause case approaching concerning atheist attempts to remove the “Peace Cross” — the Bladensburg Veterans Memorial, which honors 49 Maryland men killed in action in World War One. Alexandra McPhee has the story:

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument from advocates for and against the preservation of a World War I–era veterans memorial, the Peace Cross, in Bladensburg, Md. The crux of the case, American Legion v. American Humanist Association, is the question whether a two-county commission offends the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution by maintaining the cross-shaped memorial.

Advocates of letting the memorial stand at an intersection along National Defense Highway urge that its shape should not dictate its removal because it is chiefly a monument in honor of Prince George’s County’s war dead. They also stress that the commission accepted ownership of the memorial owing to traffic-safety concerns more than 30 years after private parties constructed it. At Family Research Council, we agree with the 84 percent of Americans who, according to one survey, say that the memorial should stand. Our nation has long accommodated and even facilitated religion in the public square. We argue that an unapologetic recognition of the religious nature of public monuments such as the Peace Cross is perfectly consistent with the establishment clause.

Weekend Jolt Is Brought to You by Victor Davis Hanson’s Forthcoming Book, The Case for Trump.

Yours Truly was in the midst of drafting a Corner post about the new VDH book, out March 5, when Rush Limbaugh did my work by spending a big chunk of his program on Thursday doing the same. This is cribbing on steroids:

RUSH: I have to tell you, folks, Victor Davis Hanson, I interviewed him for The Limbaugh Letter on Tuesday. The man is brilliant. He is one of the most gifted writers. He loves President Trump. He has a new book called The Case for Trump.

Now, I come across books now and then, and I heartily recommend those I really like. But I’m just flat-out telling you to get this one. If you believe in Donald Trump, if you believe in the whole “Make America Great Again” agenda, if you want to read some of the most intelligent defense of Trump, the most intelligent defense and explanation of Trump’s agenda.

If you want to have a compendium in front of you of every effort that has been mounted to get rid of Donald Trump and what impact it has had, if you want to have a book that’s filled with well-intentioned advice for the country as it relates to this effort to get Trump, if you want to read a book that is devoted to the Trump agenda and to Trump being reelected and why, if you want to have a book that will explain to you what would have happened to this country if Donald Trump had not been elected, if you want to have a book that has all of this written in easy-to-understand, easy-to-follow, simple language — you read this book.

Order Victor’s book here.

Rats! This Stuff Should Have Been in Previous WJs!!

What was I thinking? What was I drinking? (Answer: Black Sambuca; strictly medicinal.) Our old paysan Neal Freeman weighed in with the second and third installments in his five-part series on the WASP. As in the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant . . . that type once believed to populate and rule the US of A.

1. In Part Two, Neal looked at the faith aspect of the WASP, and sought to remind that nope, all roads do not lead to Rome. Here’s how his essay begins:

I have been wandering in the desert for so long that I’m not sure where a search for faith should begin. The possibilities seem dauntingly numerous. Should it begin with the wise men of letters — with those famously persuasive witnesses named Belloc and Chesterton and Lewis and such like? Should it begin with the brand-name leaders of institutional religion, in either their homespun or elaborately costumed iterations? Should it begin with the sacred texts of Scripture that have stood the millennial test of time? Should it begin by just looking around, with a window-shopping tour of the houses of worship currently on offer? Or, as long as I’m up and around anyway, should it begin by engaging seriously if not literally with the pamphleteers prospecting at my front door?

My undisciplined answer in recent months has been, as students of the reserved New England personality could have predicted, all of the above. I started by spreading the word round my personal and professional circles that, as I now intended to commence an inquiry of faith, spiritual guidance would be welcome and tales of inspiration would be especially well received. The response has been immediate, torrential, and quite beyond my capacity to absorb. Friends and associates have been crowding in, pressing tracts into my hands, inviting me on “journeys” in bewildering variety, warning me against false prophets (who, it appears, are swarming in ominous numbers), pointing me in the direction of epiphanic possibility. One well-intentioned neighbor insisted that I join him on a tour of the Holy Land where I could “walk in the steps of Christ.” (Whoa. Now I’m intimidated. I’m not ready to walk in the steps of Joel Osteen.) Over these past few months I have been the recipient of copious amounts of instruction, uplift, and prayerful concern, and for all of those good intentions, I have advanced not a single step closer to God.

2. And then Neal switches focus a bit to look at prayer, his new . . . hobby? practice? prompted in part most recently by votives lit for the Angry White Male, Mr. Kavanaugh. From the reflection:

As you can see, I’m new at this business. Praying, that is. With my devotional habits unformed, and the guide rails still in the packing crate, I have been wildly promiscuous, spraying off prayers in all directions and on too many quotidian occasions. When I pause to think about it, of course, I understand that it is not in His nature to fire up a 24/7 Help Line for the resolution of my passing whims, be they political, social, animal, or vegetable. (This praying has always been a tricky business. George Carlin, who was the last of our truly incorrect comedians, was once asked if he prayed. A famously lapsed Catholic, Carlin replied, “Sure, but not to God. I pray to Joe Pesci. He seemed like a guy who could get things done.”)

My problem is that I don’t pause to think about it. I now leap to prayer as a first resort. I’m the boy who can’t wait to take his bike for a spin on birthday morning. Plainly, I need some structure to this new life of prayer, some rigor that, it would seem, does not come pre-assembled from the packing crate. The last thing I want is for Him to check Caller ID, mutter “Oh, him again” and then make Himself unavailable.

3. And then this week comes and brings with it Part Four, in which Brother Freeman discovers the Decline and Fall of the Protestant Sermon. From his essay:

It was toward the middle of the Sixties when I first noticed that my church had promulgated its own foreign policy. In matters of war and peace, as also in matters of wealth and poverty, Episcopalians rolled out a series of pronouncements — in sermons, so-called — that were both rhetorically perfervid and objectively anti-American. From the exquisitely carved pulpits of what had once been houses of worship, those of us still trapped in the pews were informed that in Latin America, in Europe, in Africa, and most egregiously of all in Southeast Asia, America’s policy was, in a mendacious usage of an old and honorable word, wrong.

Why was America wrong? Well, take your pick, responded our triangulating pastors. America was wrong because we were disproportionately prosperous or, in the alternative, because we were historically tainted. In the WASPiest of the WASP churches, there was even the suggestion, at first cloaked and furtive, that America was wrong because we were white.

These pronouncements were not based in Scripture. They were not even based in thought. They reflected, rather, a fatal attraction to the editorial page of the New York Times, which for two generations had served as Holy Writ for the secular Left. (Just curious. Can anybody out there tell me when Times editorial writers stopped providing supporting argument for their daily asseveration? My own attention has flagged.)

Recommended Viewing

The great Brian Lamb conducts one of his terrific C-Span Q&A interviews with my old NRO colleague, Helen Andrews, who discusses shame storming. She is so damn smart. Watch it here.

Podcastapalooza

1. On the new episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, MBD, and Luke discuss Trump’s new wall agreement, the uproar around the Green New Deal, and presidential wannabe office meanie Amy Klobuchar. Listen here.

2. At Radio Free California, Will and David want to know if they can call ‘time of death’ on the state’s insane high-speed-rail boondoggle. It’s must-listen stuff, heard here.

3. Caracas fracas: On the new episode of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg, as our host of hosts interviews AEI big brain Roger Noriega about Maduro’s chances, and Venezuela’s future. Hear here.

4. Never a dull moment: On The McCarthy Report, Andy and Rich discuss John Dowd’s scorn for the Mueller probe, Andrew McCabe’s new book, and recent developments in the Manafort case. Catch it here.

5. You’ll flank me for this: Carl von Clausewitz’s On War is the subject of The Great Books’ new episode, in which host John J. Miller talks about the classic book for wannabe generals with Macalester College’s Andrew Latham. Ten hut! Fix earphones! Listen!.

6. On the “Failure to Launch” edition of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Charlie and Kevin discuss a trifecta of flops today, covering the Green New Deal, California’s high-speed train, and Amazon’s departure from an NYC headquarters. T-Minus Zero: Blast-off on your earbuds here.

7. The great Robert W. Poole has a new book out, titled A Think Tank for Liberty, and he joins JJM on The Bookmonger to discuss it. Catch the discussion here.

8. Over at Ordered Liberty, David and Alexandra discuss Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic tweets, the rape accusations against Justin Fairfax, and the kerplopping Green New Deal. Listen up here.

The Six

1. Hasta luego? Maduro’s turmoils are very real, but it doesn’t mean Venezuela is out of the tyrannical woods. The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady explains. From her column:

Nicolás Maduro’s decision to block humanitarian aid to the starving Venezuelan people is no surprise. It’s already well-established that the dictator and his Cubans backers are tyrants.

What really matters politically is the effect of new U.S. Treasury rules mandating that payments for Venezuelan oil go to an escrow account for the government of interim President Juan Guaidó. As the Journal’s Kejal Vyas and Bradley Olson reported Feb. 4, the restrictions “are making it difficult for the Maduro regime to secure payment for the oil.”

A severe cash-flow disruption increases the odds that Mr. Maduro will have to move out of the presidential palace. Even so, democracy advocates had best not get ahead of themselves. Many risks would remain even if Mr. Maduro retires.

2. Stick a fork in the humanities, writes Gilbert Seawall for The American Conservative. It’s been self-inflicted. From his essay:

Lacking self-awareness, many liberal arts professors blame “soulless” business schools and STEM programs for their woes. Capitalist greed and technocracy are at fault, they insist. In fact, motivated, highly industrious students, who come from modest circumstances and are often foreign-born, are exactly what colleges and universities seek out. Their outlook toward higher education tends toward the contractual and transactional. Coming as likely as not from distressed circumstances, they want to monetize what they have learned. Family expectations that graduates will do something to advance their finances and status often drive the education project. Such students are not mere careerists and grinds. They want to avoid economic hardship that they have known firsthand, unknown to cosseted children of privilege. Forgoing shared assumptions of reality, and making ambiguity and uncertainty their studies’ core, the liberal arts might seem pointless in the minds of increasingly practical students.

The sciences are able to devalue moral judgment and empathy more easily than the humanities. That is not a good thing, as faculties drained of benevolence might be monsters, but there are right answers in science, at least most of the time. The sciences can protect their integrity through built-in empiricism, proofs, and replication. The humanities do not enjoy such innate protection. For students who want a baccalaureate credential, but who don’t want to work too hard, the humanities and social sciences offer fail-free courses of study that the hard sciences do not.

Not all able students think crafting a philosophy of life is an unaffordable luxury. As University of Toronto psychologist Jordan Peterson’s popularity demonstrates, many youth remain starved for models of thought and action. These include those forcibly dispossessed of once hallowed traditions, possibly ridiculed if Christian, tainted by ancestry, cast as unduly privileged. But perennial wisdom that flows from Athens and Jerusalem is not where the action is, according to most humanities faculties, unless it’s there to be flogged and ridiculed, or re-purposed to serve contemporary polemics. The weaponized humanities offer students little except angst and ressentiment, which is what a few seek — but not many —and probably not the most discerning, well-adjusted, or personable among them.

3. Douglas Murray, writing for Gatestone Institute, looks at how British officials find secretive Holocaust commemorations to be . . . winning. Damn this is disconcerting. From the beginning of his essay:

Remember the Holocaust exhibition in London that couldn’t be staged last month — the exhibition at Golders Green about Muslims who helped to save Jews from the Nazis in Albania during the Second World War? The small exhibition appeared clearly intended for two reasons. First to try to build trust between a new local mosque and the large Jewish community in Golders Green, and second, to remind Muslims in Britain that hostility towards Jews is an ancient and modern evil. The intentions behind the exhibition seemed good.

Not everyone, however, in Britain’s Muslim communities approved. The radical Islamist website “5Pillars” said that there was a problem about the exhibit. They said that it had originated from Yad Vashem, a memorial and research institute. Of course, Yad Vashem just so happens to be in Israel — and any contact with the state of Israel is absolutely verboten to many Islamists, such as those at “5 Pillars” (who of course would deny many accusations of anti-Semitism). So, “5 Pillars” denounced the Muslims and others who were supportive of the Holocaust exhibition being shown in Golders Green. They said that Muslims and non-Muslims who thought the Holocaust exhibition should go ahead were “Zionists.” Then, in a demonstration of the sway that such Islamist groups seem to have in their own communities, the exhibition was promptly cancelled.

4. In Quillette, Richard Hanania provides the evidence to buttress the conservative claim that Twitter treats them more harshly than it does liberals. From his piece:

Are prominent Trump supporters more likely to break neutrally applied social media terms of service agreements than other voters? Perhaps. But are they four or more times as likely? That doesn’t seem credible.

Indeed, it is not difficult to find cases of liberals engaging in speech that appears to cross the line while not being punished for their transgressions. This includes the case of Sarah Jeong. After she was hired as an editorial writer for The New York Times, it was discovered that over the years she had posted dozens of messages expressing hatred and contempt of whites. When conservative activist Candace Owens copied some of Jeong’s tweets and replaced the word “white” with “Jewish,” she was suspended from the platform. Perhaps realizing how hypocritical this looked after they had not taken any action against Jeong, Twitter allowed Owens back on, but only after she deleted the offending tweets.

5. In First Things, Daniel McCarthy lays out a “New Conservative Agenda.” Here’s how the must-read essay ends:

The idea that economic nationalism is not compatible with free-market economics is absurd. The history of America from the founding to the New Deal belies the idea that nationalist economics is bad for business or growth. Its virtue is that it is good for labor and political stability as well. From growth, a contented middle class, and moderate political culture flow a strong country and stronger families and citizens. In the early decades of the twenty-first century, when nations and supranational institutions are in turmoil, those benefits are of existential significance.

The ideal of Jefferson’s agrarian America (as distinct from its too often plantation-based reality) was a nation of virtuous yeomanry — small, independent farmers capable of providing for their families themselves. Abraham Lincoln’s vision was of a country in which working men, not only farmers, could improve their standards of life. In the twentieth century, the American dream became a thing to which every salaryman could aspire: a good job; enough money to buy a house, start a family, and retire; and the chance to watch one’s children rise to a higher station. In the twenty-first century, that dream has given way to delirium — feverish uncertainty about whether in midlife one will have to become an Amazon deliveryman or a Walmart greeter, and anxiety about whether one’s children will be tech-company winners or endlessly indebted gig workers.

6. Writing for The Algemeiner, Cory Booker’s old Oxford BFF, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, lays out his very personal dismay over the presidential wannabe’s sell-out of Israel. From the story:

My closest friend since his years as a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, where he served as president of my organization The Oxford L’Chaim Society, Cory was once considered the greatest ally the Jewish community might ever have in elected office. Having spent countless hours studying Torah texts with me, Cory was able to dazzle Jewish audiences with his insights on the Parsha, often quoting passages that we practiced together in Hebrew.

Upon his rise into the Senate, however, Cory’s support for Israel has cratered. He notoriously voted for the Iran nuclear deal, which presented a clear-cut existential threat to Israel and did so even as his senior Democratic senator from New Jersey, the heroic Bob Menendez, led the charge against it. When it was brought before the Senate subcommittee on Foreign Affairs, Cory betrayed his moral convictions when he voted against the Taylor Force Act, a law that merely forbade the Palestinian Authority from using American taxpayer funds to finance the families of terrorists. Even as his pro-Israel support evaporated, however, some expected presidential-candidate Cory to adopt a more sympathetic approach to the Jewish State. Perhaps in his efforts to represent the entirety of Democratic America he might finally commit to the Democratic Party’s stated approach — and his own countless promises — to be a stalwart friend of Israel.

This past Thursday — less than a week into his race — Cory removed all doubt as to just how firmly he would pander to anti-Israel extremists whose support he believes he needs to secure his party’s nomination. Cory voted against a critical federal anti-BDS bill, itself designed simply to protect Israel from being brought, economically, to its knees. Known as the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act (S.1), the act provides legal cover to state governments that seek to stymie the BDS movement. The law passed 77-23, earning yeas from every Republican except one, and with a substantial 25 Democratic senators supporting the bill.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits!

1. Kyle Smith gets pinned by Fighting with My Family. From the review:

Maybe you can, but I surely cannot, resist a film whose production entities include Britain’s Film4 (12 Years a Slave, Secrets & Lies, Trainspotting, etc.) and WWE Studios (sweaty oiled men pretending to pummel each other for entertainment and profit). Fighting with My Family puts a British sense of humor inside a chassis of American gusto. It’s as if Hugh Grant became a NASCAR driver.

The title, taken from a 2012 documentary about a real English family, is more literal than figurative: Saraya “Paige” Bevis (Florence Pugh) grew up in a working-class clan of pro wrestlers in Norwich, England. As a little kid, she is seen complaining to Mum and Dad that her big brother is choking her. Dad (an ursine Nick Frost) tells the boy he’s not doing it right; mum (Lena Headey) challenges the girl: “What are you going to do about it?” Then mum and dad eagerly watch the action.

As the kids grow into adults, the family stars in cheesy pro-wrestling exhibitions in small-town England. Written and directed by Stephen Merchant, the co-creator with Ricky Gervais of The Office and previously the co-director of the 2010 movie Cemetery Junction, Fighting with My Family is best in these very funny early scenes, which have some of the oddball spirit and freshness of The Full Monty along with the same appreciation for the scruffy, glamour-challenged corners of England. Merchant himself appears briefly as a shocked upper-middle-class dad whose daughter becomes pregnant by Zak (Jack Lowden), Saraya’s brother. He and his staid, tweedy wife try to maintain their composure at the table with the wrestling ruffians and their loutish dad, who confesses he once did eight years in prison. What for? “Violence, mostly.”

2. Armond White disses Pixar and finds the art of cartooning reclaimed in Ruben Brandt, Collector. From the review:

Ever since Pixar revamped Disney animation from drawing to digital, its 3-D artifice has also set the dominant style for baby-sitting fare. With few exceptions — such as The Iron Giant, Monster House, Coraline, The Adventures of Tintin, Winnie the Pooh, Paranorman, The Secret of Kells, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Lego Movie, and My Life as a Zucchini — most animated features seek the simple shiny-new-thing response.

But Milorad Krstic, a Slovenian filmmaker working in Hungary, uses modern animation technique and inspiration to restore the form’s connection to the tradition of hand-created fine-art in Ruben Brandt, Collector. Krstic converts the Eastern European style of poster-art animation to museum culture. The title figure is a psychotherapist (voiced by Iván Kamarás) experiencing high-art vertigo; he suffers from nightmares about art-canon masterpieces from Velázquez, Manet, and Botticelli to Van Gogh, Warhol, and Hopper. This obsession intrigues his patients, including kleptomaniac Mimi (voiced by Gabriella Hámori), who ironically advises, “Possess your problem.” This leads to a series of thefts in international museums, including the Louvre, the Uffizi, the Tate, and MoMA.

3. Armond finds the gay-politics complication Sorry Angel to be a near-masterpiece. From his review’s get-go:

The agenda statement in this week’s New York Times op-ed “How Green Book Gives Short Shrift to a Gay Life” condemns that banal film, continuing the paper’s program to outline and influence the way people think about social issues — in this case, the on-screen depiction of gays. Green Book becomes another of those middle-brow films like Call Me by Your Name and Moonlight through which the mainstream media dictate a civil standard while ignoring more complicated and difficult films such as Sorry Angel, a politically challenging near-masterpiece that challenges gay political correctness.

Set in 1993, still the AIDS era, Sorry Angel opposes the Times’ presumption that gay men must be seen simplistically, as victims of conservative social policy and cruel fate. Director-writer Christophe Honoré dramatizes many complexities in the uneasy romance between middle-aged writer Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps) and his young-adult paramour Arthur (Vincente Lacoste).

Baseballery

My heart broke to see Rich Lowry opine encouragement for adopting the designated hitter in the National League. As I wipe tears off the keyboard, I must admit that there is a thrill amongst some Baseball Ancients to discover those beautiful cases where pitchers . . .hit.

Such as . . .

On July 15, 1966, the two best teams in the American League — the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers — were locked in an extra-inning struggle at Tiger Stadium. Detroit had recently acquired pitcher Earl Wilson from the Red Sox, for whom he had clubbed eleven home runs in the previous two seasons (in fact, Wilson hit what would prove to be the game-winning home run off Bo Belinksy in his June 26, 1962 no-hitter of the Los Angeles Angels). The Birds’ ace reliever Stu Miller had already been on the mound for four innings when, in the bottom of the 13th, with two on and two out, Tigers manager Bob Swift had Wilson pinch-hit for Tigers reliever Bill Monboquette. He got the win thanks to Wilson, who clobbered a three-run walk-off homer.

A Dios

Pray for the people in Venezuela, and that their long torment under the Chavez-Maduro Reign of Starvation and Terror ends.

God’s profound blessings on you and yours,

Jack Fowler

Who can be deluged with defenses of the designated hitter at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Happy Birthday Abie Baby

Dear Weekend Jolter,

This week coming up we mark the 210th birthday of the Rail Splitter. Let’s celebrate with this Abie Baby ditty from Hair.

Hard to believe — or is it? — that some 154 years after he was murdered in Ford’s Theater, obtuse Democrat politicians in Richmond are still caught up in their party’s ancient bigotries. Or caught on their own modern political petards. Our Esteemed Leader, Mr. Lowry, opines in his new column:

If ever wearing blackface — even in the 1980s, as both Northam and Herring did — is a career-ender, and if we are supposed to “believe all women,” then all three of these Democrats have to go.

Virginia is an indication of an inflamed and unforgiving Democratic mood that will define the party’s battle for the 2020 presidential nomination.

Democrats are about to embark on the first “woke” primary, a gantlet of political correctness that will routinely wring abject apologies out of candidates and find fault in even the most sure-footed. The passage of time will be no defense. Nor the best of intentions. Nor anything else.

Any lapses will be interpreted through the most hostile lens, made all the more brutal by the competition of a large field of candidates vying for the approval of a radicalized base. The Democrat nomination battle might as well be fought on the campus of Oberlin College and officiated by the director of the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

By the way, Rich, author of Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream—And How We Can Do It Again, knows a thing or two about this week’s Birthday Boy. I recommend his 2013 NR piece, “Lincoln Defended”: It may prove worthwhile reading for you.

In Lieu of Editorials . . .

. . . of which NRO published zero this week, we present this commercial: The Sainted James L. Buckley Will Be Speaking at the NR Institute’s 2019 Ideas Summit. I think an exclamation point is probably best suited for that announcement, so . . . !

Except there Is an Editorial!

At the last moment, before this missive’s Author hit the SEND button, what should appear but —

1. We lay into the Green New Deal. Doncha think it’s green . . . from mold? Anyway, you gotta love an editorial that begins, “Speaking of bovine flatulence.” From the blast:

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was supposed to be the Democratic party’s fresh new face — so why is the honorable lady from the Bronx trafficking in ideas from the 1930s?

The Left really has only one idea: control. At the end of the Cold War, when socialism stood discredited and the memory of its atrocities and repression were fresh in the minds of people who had just watched the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and much of what it stood for, the partisans of central planning found themselves in need of a new host, and what they found was the environmental movement — another vehicle for supplanting liberalism and free markets with five-year plans and political discipline. Hence the joke about “watermelons,” the new lefty activists who were green on the outside but red on the inside. The metaphor may occasion some eye-rolling and is prone to abuse, but it speaks to an undeniable truth: Environmentalism has been since the fall of the Soviet Union the world’s most important vessel for anti-liberal and anti-market forces.

Eleven Sensational NR Articles Do I Hear Twelve? TWELVE!

1. And no, a 6’ 3” rabbit named Harvey is not his pet: Jim Geraghty reveals 20 things you probably didn’t know about Senator Cory Booker, BFF of T-Bone. Here are Items 6 and 7 from the list:

SIX: For most of his early career, Booker strongly endorsed school choice and vouchers. From the Manhattan Institute speech:

I have always been, up until maybe four or five years ago, a strong advocate for the old-fashioned way of educating children. I supported public schools only. Even charter schools made me a little uncomfortable when I first heard about them. But after four or five years of working in inner-city Newark, I began to rethink my situation, rethink my philosophy, rethink my views on public education, simply because of the realities I saw around me. Being outcome-focused started to change my view in favor of options like charter schools, contract schools, and, yes, vouchers.

He added that “the implementation of vouchers is not a panacea. If it is used as a guise for disinvesting in education as a whole, then I will never be in favor of it. But I will support it if it is part of a larger system of education for our children.”

SEVEN: As recently as 2016, Booker spoke to the American Federation for Children, a pro-school-choice group headed up by current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Then, he bragged that Newark was ranked the fourth-most choice-friendly city in the country and declared to the organization, “There are some people in this room who really were the difference makers as I was climbing the ladder in Newark, N.J. with a vision for transforming that city.”

2. Fred Fleitz says President Trump’s Iran Deal pullout has been a smashing success. From his analysis:

Some Trump critics predicted that any effort by the president to re-impose U.S. sanctions lifted by the JCPOA would have little effect since other parties to the agreement — in particular the EU, Germany, France, and the U.K. — would not follow suit, but numerous European companies have resisted pressure from their governments to defy re-imposed U.S. sanctions. On January 31, European leaders announced a special finance facility to help European firms skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran, but that initiative is months behind schedule and few experts believe it will work.

Instead, as a result of re-imposed U.S. sanctions, European airlines Air France, British Airways and KLM ended service to Iran last year. European companies Total, Siemens, and Volkswagen also withdrew from Iran, along with U.S. companies GE, Boeing, and Honeywell and the Russian oil firm Lukoil. In November, Germany’s Bundesbank changed its rules so it could reject an Iranian request to withdraw 300 million euros from Hamburg-based trade bank Europäische-Iranische Handelsbank, to protect the central bank’s relationships with institutions in “third countries.” That is, the United States.

Before the U.S. withdrawal, JCPOA critics made strong arguments about the accord’s weaknesses, especially Iran’s refusal to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors access to military sites. The lone exception is the Parchin military base, self-inspected by Iranians. There the IAEA obtained evidence of covert nuclear-weapons work. There were other credible reports of Iranian cheating before the U.S. withdrawal, including several from German intelligence agencies. Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and David Perdue raised Iranian noncompliance and cheating on the JCPOA in a July 2017 letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

3. Toy Story 4 has PETA peeved over Bo Peep and her shepherd’s hook. Kat Timpf shears the multicultural wooliness. From her piece:

Oh boy. A few things here. First of all, it is important to remember that Bo Peep is not real. That’s right: She’s a completely made-up, animated character. This means that, regardless of what sort of tools or accessories she’s carrying, she’s actually not going to be hurting any sheep. Why? Because, in order to hurt sheep, you have to first of all be real.

Make no mistake: Reports of animals being abused like the ones referenced in the statement are disturbing. I don’t like to hear things like that, and I completely understand why they might make someone upset. Here’s the thing, though: If there are real sheep being actually hurt out there in the world, why not focus your energy on that? Why not make that the focus of your press release? It seems like that would be a better way to change hearts and minds than attacking a beloved fictional character for her fictional shepherding tools. If anything, those kinds of attacks hurt the cause more than they help it — because they make you sound far too ridiculous to even be worth listening to.

4. Stephen Moore high-fives the President for appointing David Malpass to head the World Bank. From his article:

Malpass’s willingness to challenge the Bank’s status quo could make him a savior to poor nations as they try to jump-start growth and lift incomes. Inside the Bank headquarters, it is clear he will rattle some cages, hold Bank economists and lenders accountable, and shift the U.S. role to one based on actual performance, rather than good intentions.

The World Bank’s mission is to serve as a lender and economic adviser to poor and financially distressed countries for vital development projects. But over the past half century, the Bank has leant hundreds of billions of dollars with precious little to show for it in terms of poverty reduction.

5. But Mark Krikorian ain’t doing no high- or low-fiving for the President’s SOTU claim for increasing legal immigration. From his analysis:

Legal-good/illegal-bad is actually the default setting for mousy and irresolute Republican politicians: Demonstrate toughness to voters by demanding better enforcement, while swearing your allegiance to the continued importation of 1 million legal immigrants (and hundreds of thousands of “temporary” workers) every year, thus soothing employers looking for cheap labor and showing the New York Times how non-racist you are.

But it’s nonsense. Whether the concern is jobs, welfare, schools, or assimilation, legal and illegal aliens have similar impacts. Not necessarily identical, of course. Take welfare use. More than 60 percent of households headed by illegal immigrants use at least one federal welfare program, higher than the legal-immigrant rate of nearly 50 percent. But both groups are much more likely to use welfare than the native-born. Even legal immigrants with college degrees are twice as likely to use welfare as comparable natives.

Even the illegality of illegal aliens isn’t as important a distinguishing feature as some might think. Obviously, rampant illegal immigration undermines the rule of law; I don’t think I need to prove my bona fides in that regard. But legal and illegal immigrants are not different species — they come from the same countries, live in the same communities, often share mixed-status households, and are even the same actual people; the Public Policy Institute of California has estimated that more than 40 percent of new green-card recipients have been illegal aliens at some point. Heck, some people toggle back and forth between legal and illegal. Take Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, the Egyptian terrorist who murdered two people at the El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport on the Fourth of July, 2002. He arrived on a tourist visa, legally, then failed to return when his permission to stay here expired, thus becoming an illegal alien. Later, he applied for asylum, becoming legal again temporarily, but again failed to leave after he was turned town, thus becoming illegal again. Finally, his wife won the Diversity Visa Lottery and he, as her spouse, also got a green card, thus becoming legal again, at least until he was shot dead by El Al security.

But what of the rationale the president offered? Do the hot economy and the low unemployment rate really justify turning away from his former “Hire American” lodestar? Only if you’re a businessman in a bubble.

6. RELATED: If President Trump plays the emergency-declaration card to fund a border wall, John Yoo says that yep, the law is on his side. From the beginning of his analysis:

It seems increasingly likely that President Trump will declare a national emergency at our southern border in order to access funds to build a wall. Last week, I had the pleasure of debating National Review’s very own David French on the legality of such a move in a Federalist Society-sponsored tele-conference. I wanted to take the opportunity to further explain my defense of Trump’s legal authority in response to David’s excellent points.

David and I agree that Congress has not placed any serious limits on the president’s power to declare an emergency and that the Supreme Court was unlikely to second-guess him. For much of our history, presidents have understood the Constitution’s grant of “the executive power” to include a power to declare national emergency. Thomas Jefferson effectively did so in response to Aaron Burr’s effort to raise a rebellion in Louisiana; Abraham Lincoln did so, with far more justification, at the start of the Civil War; FDR did so, with far less justification, at the start of his presidency in response to the Great Depression; and Harry Truman did so at the start of the Korean War.

In 1976, Congress enacted the National Emergency Act in its burst of post-Watergate reforms designed to restrict presidential power. While the new law terminated most existing emergencies, it did not set out any definition of a national emergency or limit the president’s ability to declare one. The law only sets out the process for publication and congressional notification of the president’s declaration. So David and I agree that there are few limits on the president’s ability to declare an emergency for good reason. Indeed, every president since 1976 has used the NEA to declare a national emergency, several under circumstances far less immediate than this one, and the Supreme Court has never overturned one.

7. Trees Gotta Bend: David French sees progressivism, not environmentalism, at the core of the “Green New Deal.” From his piece:

This isn’t environmentalism, it’s intersectionality. And it’s intersectionality supplemented with a giant dose of income redistribution and economic populism. As part of the Green New Deal, the resolution laments the concentration of wealth in the hands of the top 1 percent and seeks to “guarantee a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.”

Oh, and the Green New Deal also includes a pledge that the federal government will make sure that “all people of the United States” receive “high quality health care, affordable, safe, and adequate housing, [and] economic security.” The fact sheet even pledges to provide economic security for all those who are “unable or unwilling to work.” (Emphasis added.) To fight climate change, we have to make sure that Bubba never has to leave his Xbox.

8. Jonah and David play “What’s the Best Cold War Movie” on Twitter. Mr. Goldberg, fresh from White Owls binging, even pens a Corner post boasting a list of six flicks that had The Expert — and we all know who he is — all a-chuckle. Oh, silly children, go outside and play now. This, as Yours Truly by chance wrote some weeks back in The Corner, is the answer.

9. John O’Sullivan reflects on Gosnell, Cuomo, infanticide, and the President’s State of the Union speech. From his essay:

My memory of this scene was jolted when, watching the State of the Union, I saw most in the serried ranks of Democrats remain seated and still when President Trump arrived at the following passage:

Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world. And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he basically stated he would execute a baby after birth. . . . To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb. Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life.

The words alone are a significant moment in America’s public life. Trump may not be the perfect mail-carrier for this message, but he delivered it. And he did it firmly, clearly, and without apology, when so many others — not excluding bishops — conceal it inside larger packages of welfare and budgetary policies designed to keep the conscience of the nation asleep. Powerful though Trump’s words were, however, they made less of an impact than the reaction of the Democrats.

Trump’s words were topical. Most of those watching at home had seen the New York Democrats cheering the state legislation that allows partial-birth abortion, and they knew about the Virginia governor’s endorsement of similar legislation before “racism” swallowed him up. They knew, therefore, that Trump wasn’t making it up or even exaggerating. He was telling it like it is. That’s important because, as regular readers of my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru know well, one of the reasons for the survival of such an extraordinarily permissive legal abortion regime as the U.S. has enjoyed since Roe v. Wade is that most people have no idea of just how permissive it is. Much effort on the Democratic side goes into keeping the public ignorant on that point, because, as the “pro-choice party,” they benefit from the voters’ unawareness of what exactly it is that they support.

10. You want to know about “Asymmetrical multiculturalism.” Yeah, you do. Eric Kaufmann has an excellent essay that is required reading. From the piece:

Hostility to the multicultural Left mattered for the Trump vote, but not as much as opposition to immigration. While political correctness looms large in elite circles, its effects weaken as one moves down the social scale and out from major metropolitan areas. By contrast, immigration’s effects are more evident to average Americans. Moreover, in comparing Trump and Brexit voters, I find that direct hostility to the politically correct Left is much less important for populism in Britain and, by extension, Europe.

The most important effects of multiculturalism’s contradictions are therefore indirect: creating political space for national populists. When liquor can’t be legally sold, bootleggers move in. So too, when no mainstream party will touch immigration, will a political entrepreneur eventually create a black market to cater to this demand.

Many on the right were only too pleased to piggyback on the Left’s narrowing of the Overton Window. The free-market Right has, quite naturally, always been keen on a motivated, low-cost labor force. Historically in the West, populist sentiment and trade unions acted as a brake on business’s desire for more immigration. The multicultural Left thus played a critical role in expanding the concept of racism to encompass immigration, removing the issue from political contestation and converting the union leadership to the cause of high inflows. This enabled an issue coalition to form between the pro-business Right and multicultural Left.

These dynamics were especially clear in the United States in the period up to 2016, when the Republican National Committee reflected the pro-immigration views of elite fiscal conservatives, religious conservatives, and neoconservatives. During the Republican primary, Trump was the only one of 17 candidates to make immigration restriction a central feature of his campaign because others were unwilling to challenge pro-immigration norms. This was the key factor helping him win the nomination. Likewise, in the presidential election, my ANES models show that immigration was the pivotal issue for both non-voters and Obama voters who switched to Trump.

Likewise in Sweden. In 2013, interior minister Tobias Billström was attacked by the media and other politicians as racist for suggesting that the country needed to set limits on the number of incoming immigrants and asylum seekers. The following year, the populist Sweden Democrats burst onto the scene with an unprecedented 12.9 percent of the vote. In Germany, the mainstream parties’ liberal consensus over the 2015 migrant crisis opened space for a new populist party, the AfD, to emerge as the country’s third largest.

11. Like all taxes, soon or later carbon taxes simply go to feeding the beast. There’s a sad Canadian tale to be told, and Peter Shawn Taylor tells it. From his piece:

On your side of the fence, the Climate Leadership Council’s plan — recently backed by 27 Nobel Prize–winning economists and other economic luminaries — calls for a nationwide tax starting at $40 a ton on carbon dioxide emissions, on efficiency grounds. (All figures in U.S. dollars.) It vows that “the majority of American families . . . will benefit financially by receiving more in ‘carbon dividends’ than they pay in increased energy prices.” A tax that pays you sure sounds appealing! But a word of caution: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Up here in Canada, we’ve been burned by the same promise.

Back in 2008, the province of British Columbia similarly proposed a carbon tax in the interests of economic efficiency and as a way to reduce greenhouse gases. The government promised that “every dollar raised will be returned to the people of B.C. in the form of lower taxes.” And for the first few years, it was true to its word. Tax revenue from the carbon tax was used to lower personal and corporate income-tax rates — and economists everywhere lauded the concept. A joint study by Duke University and the University of Ottawa declared B.C.’s plan to be “textbook policy.” Then politics happened.

After a few years, the B.C. government discovered that tiny annual cuts to personal and corporate tax rates weren’t as politically rewarding as originally thought. So, it switched to spending its carbon-tax revenues on higher-profile subsidy programs like film- and television-production tax credits. By 2013, the program ceased to be revenue neutral. And following a change in government in 2017, all carbon-tax revenue is now funneled straight into general revenues. B.C. taxpayers are thus the victims of a decade-long betrayal. Having agreed to a carbon tax based on the promise of strict revenue neutrality, they find that their so-called textbook carbon tax has become just another garden-variety government tax grab. Then again, maybe your Congress is more trustworthy than our parliaments . . .

12. Victor Davis Hanson sizes up modern Jacobins off the Democratic party, and their intentions to remodel America. From his piece:

Open borders and the elimination of ICE will also be the stuff of 2019–20 Democratic debates. But they will be “debated” only in the sense that all contenders will either agree or go well beyond both positions in order to support blanket amnesty. In other words, the problem of illegal immigration would not be 20 million or so illegal aliens who have entered and resided in the country unlawfully, but no problem at all.

Millions more could arrive as they pleased. Caravans would become not the stuff of dramatic news accounts, but rather dreary daily events as thousands of the “other” exercised their global “rights” and “migrated” to the U.S. Or as Univision’s Jorge Ramos put it, the border is “nothing more than an invention.”

The subtext would be radical demographic change designed to finish flipping the southwestern United States to blue in the Electoral College. It would also fuel the growing narrative that America requires far more recalibration of constitutional “issues” if it is ever to achieve parity for the arriving impoverished and oppressed underprivileged, who have supposedly legitimate historical racial and class grievances against neocolonialist Yanqui culture.

What is unspoken about the current illegal-immigration issue is the assumption that open-borders activists and their supporters do not just believe that Spanish speakers have a right to enter the U.S. as they please, but also that they have a far greater right than anyone else from Asia, Africa, or Europe. This is the chauvinistic and ethnically exclusive position, not the inclusive, liberal, and pro-diversity stance.

A New Issue of Ye Olde National Review Magazine Is Hot Off Ye Olde Press

And here are four selections from a smorgasbord of tasty conservative treats.

1. We publish a lengthy editorial making the case for handling the ouster of Maduro and his Cuba-backed regime of thuggery in Venezuela. From “The Week”:

The U.S. government recognized Guaidó as the sole and legitimate president of Venezuela. Since then, many other governments have followed suit: in Latin America, Europe, and elsewhere. President Trump demonstrated leader ship on the issue.

In response, Maduro cut ties with the U.S. and demanded the departure of our diplomats. He also turned to his tried-and-true populism — the stuff that won Chávez election in the first place, those years ago. “Don’t trust the gringos,” Maduro told a crowd of his supporters, gathered in their red shirts. “They don’t have friends or loyalties.” They only want to “take Venezuela’s oil, gas, and gold.” For good measure, he tweeted, “Let’s defend our sovereignty. . . . The streets belong to the people!”

The U.S. has now imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. It has promised humanitarian aid to the suffering Venezuelans. It has applied an array of diplomatic and economic pressures. This is to the good. Russia, China, and other bad actors are doing all they can to prop up the dictatorship. Guaidó and the opposition need all the help they can get.

Elliott Abrams, our old friend and contributor, has been appointed special envoy for Venezuela. This is further good news. Best known for Middle East diplomacy, Abrams is also a crack Latin Americanist. In the second Reagan term, he was assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs. At this juncture, certainly, we would not recommend U.S. military intervention. For one thing, it is not necessary. The chavista regime can be shoved out by other means. And Maduro can live out his years in Havana, at least until freedom comes to Cuba, too.

2. Ramesh Ponnuru looks at why, and how, Leftists come to the defense of infanticide. From his article:

They are also swimming in a current of opinion that has become ever more favorable toward aggressive advocacy of abortion. The old Democratic mantra from the 1990s, that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare,” has been discarded as too defensive. That language no longer appears in the Democratic platform. Another change: A previously coded endorsement of taxpayer funding of abortion, noticeable only to activists, has become explicit.

Supporters of legal access to late-term abortion have made several related arguments in its defense in response to the unwelcome public attention to the issue. They say that late-term abortion is extremely rare and happens only in exceptional circumstances, as Governor Northam suggested. These were the same claims that supporters of partial-birth abortion made when bans on it were being debated. In that earlier debate, the claims were shown to be false, with one abortion-industry official admitting that he had “lied through [his] teeth” on national television.

In its most recent estimate, the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion think tank, reports that 1.3 percent of abortions take place after the 20th week. (We don’t have more fine-grained numbers than that.) Its most recent estimate for the number of abortions annually in our country is 926,200. Taking both numbers together implies that roughly 12,000 abortions after week 20 take place every year. That is more than the number of gun homicides reported by the FBI. A Guttmacher review of the literature in 2013 concluded that most abortions after the 20th week are not sought “for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.” Anyway, neither the

3. Deal, or No Deal? Or Fair Deal? For generations, Democrats and Leftists have used the language of war to justify their assault on our freedoms. Jonah Goldberg has the issue’s cover essay, and he looks at that language behind the push for statism. From his essay:

I have also chronicled elsewhere how — under the National Recovery Administration (NRA), run by General Hugh Johnson, the director of the draft in World War I—the New Deal militarized vast swathes of American society. The Blue Eagle was the insignia of service for businesses in this new moral equivalent of war. “In war, in the gloom of night attack, soldiers wear a bright badge on their shoulders to be sure their comrades do not fire on comrades,” FDR explained. “On that principle those who cooperate in this program must know each other at a glance.” Johnson sought to reorganize the American labor force as vast industrial armies of the kind that intellectuals had imagined since Edward Bellamy’s utopian novel Looking Backward. But he also believed mobilization begins at home: “When every American housewife understands that the Blue Eagle on everything that she permits to come into her home is a symbol of its restoration to security, may God have mercy on the man or group of men who attempt to trifle with this bird.”

The New Deal took other World War I blueprints off the shelf. The NRA was modeled on Wilson’s War Industries Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission modified the wartime Capital Issues Committee of the Federal Reserve, the Re construction Finance Corporation was a rehash of the War Finance Corporation. And so on.

It should go without saying that the New Deal has remained the ideological idée fixe of American liberalism, and from Truman’s Fair Deal to Kennedy’s New Frontier to Johnson’s Great Society and War on Poverty to Barack Obama’s “New Foundation” and Cold War–nostalgic rhetoric about “Sputnik moments” and “economic patriotism” to Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, American liberalism has been recycling the same motif over and over again, often without realizing it. Even the mantra of the early Obama administration, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” depends on the logic of the moral equivalent of war.

4. Ross Douthat catches up with First Reformed. From his review:

Instead let me offer some Oscar counterprogramming, with recommendations for two smaller movies, flawed and fascinating and available on your television or computer now, that should have been in the ranks of Best Picture nominees but weren’t, and that contain two of the best male performances of the year.

The first is First Reformed, which did manage to grab its writer-director, the famously complicated Paul Schrader, a Best Screenplay nomination — Schrader’s first Oscar nod ever, somewhat staggeringly, despite all his long-gone collaborations with Martin Scorsese. The official subject of the movie is climate change: It’s the story of a Protestant pastor in some wintry upstate New York setting, played by Ethan Hawke in a fantastic good looks-gone-to-seed performance, who is radicalized by his contact with a young, despairing would-be eco-terrorist (Philip Ettinger) and the young man’s pregnant wife (Amanda Seyfried) and begins to consider some kind of direct action against the local polluter who’s also a donor to his church.

Lights. Cameras. Critics.

1. Armond White has seen Brawl in Cell Block 99. His suggestion: So should you. From the review:

By lucky coincidence, I caught up with S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99 the same week that pandering governors Andrew Cuomo and Ralph Northam both jumped the shark on Roe v. Wade to promote infanticide in the name of states’ rights.

Of all the violent incidents in Zahler’s grindhouse thriller, the grisliest was a gangster’s repeated threat to dismember a woman’s in utero fetus “limb by limb.” It resembled a politician’s heartless manipulation, the cunning use of law as extreme social engineering — in this particular case, to control the baby’s father, the film’s protagonist, Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn), a two-fisted white Southern Christian who is not just an action-movie hero but an archetype of today’s media-disenfranchised electorate.

Abortion in movies isn’t necessarily a Juno-cute part of the culture war. Consider that Zahler specializes in the grotesque, which makes him an apt, even prophetic, reporter on emotionally driven issues; his schlockmeister approach successfully challenges news-journalist sanctimony. He works in macabre genres (see, for example, the cult favorite Bone Tomahawk), but now the macabre — the horror of legalized pre- and post-natal murder, endorsed by governors — has become politically feasible.

2. Seen it and loved it, as has and does Kyle Smith. We’re talking about Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old. It’s astonishing. From his review:

A line at the conclusion of They Shall Not Grow Old might be the driest closing credit I’ve ever seen at the movies: “Filmed on location on the Western Front, 1914–1918.”

And how: This monumental cinematic achievement re-creates the experience of war like no documentary I’ve ever seen. Steering clear of all political and strategic matters, Peter Jackson’s intensely moving and technically amazing documentary seeks only to answer the question, “What was it like to be a British soldier in the trenches?” It does so to a degree that will astonish you.

Jackson, the New Zealander who directed the Lord of the Rings films, owes his existence to the Battle of the Somme. His English paternal grandfather was wounded on the battle’s first day, and while home (temporarily) to recuperate, he met and married Jackson’s grandmother in 1917. He survived several other war injuries, and Jackson’s father was born three years later. Such is Jackson’s fixation on the Great War that his own personal collection of such items as uniforms and even artillery pieces proved helpful in making this matchless documentary, which began with a request from the Imperial War Museum in London to forge a narrative out of some 100 hours of filmed images and 600 hours of interviews with veterans.

3. More of Kyle liking stuff. Like . . . Never Look Away. From the review:

Today Germany stands at sufficient distance from its past to enable a new, more considered way of reckoning with it, and in addition to the luxury of time the German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has enjoyed the benefit of living part of his life in New York and later California. Insight often accompanies distance. Donnersmarck, who won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for The Lives of Others (2006), seeks a broader, deeper, richer explanation for Germany, its self-inflicted catastrophes and their sequels. He notes, in a New Yorker profile, “Because of all the terrible suffering Germany caused in World War Two, there wasn’t a lot of focus on what the German people suffered, understandably. But many people were apolitical, and suffered the way [the painter Gerhard] Richter’s family suffered, and the way mine did.” The Lives of Others, about the moral wreckage caused by the Stasi surveillance state in East Germany, is rightly praised as one of the best films of this century. Yet his new effort, Never Look Away, which has just hit theaters after it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar (and also for Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography), is even better. It’s ex­pansive, it’s sublime. It’s one of the very few films I’ve seen this century that I call a masterpiece.

4. And more of Armond: The praise gushes for Legend of the Demon Cat. From the beginning of the review:

The Marvel Comics Universe epitomizes how sci-fi comic-book fantasy has become an obsession unto itself. But something is missing, and that lost essence inspires Chen Kaige’s Legend of the Demon Cat, the latest proof that China’s pop filmmakers continue to outclass the MCU.

Think of it as a creative trade war, where action vs. myth, and American commercialism, having abandoned the moral tradition, is failing. But Chen’s new film is a spectacular win.

It’s a fable with modern parallels: There’s unrest in the capital Chang’an City during the Tang dynasty of the seventh century. After the mysterious death of the emperor (who has not closed his eyes for a week), aspiring poet Bai Letian (Huang Xuan) is assigned as the court scribe to chronicle the leader’s legacy and a series of strange killings that occur. A Japanese exorcist, the shaman Kukai (Shota Sometani), is brought in to assist Bai in tracking down a sinister cat. Together, they investigate the history behind the feline’s mysterious tragedies.

In other words, a political metaphor is examined for its spiritual essence. Kukai is told, “Behind the illusion is reality,” and this key line unlocks the film’s many visual, sensual wonders.

Podcastapalooza

1. This week on the new edition of The Editors, they and MBD and Charlie discuss the meltdown of Virginia Democrats, takeaways from Trump’s SoTU, immigration, and forked-tongue Elizabeth Warren (in addition to the Rich / David smackdown on the NBA). Clean out the wax, insert the buds, and listen here.

2. On The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg, said Goldberg interviews Commentary’s Noah Rothman. Punditry and nerdery ensues. Get your nerd on here.

3. Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop is discussed by John J. Miller and Hillsdale College’s Dedra Birzer on the new episode of The Great Books podcast. Listen here or say three Hail Marys.

4. Northam and his Gang of Virginia Democrat Cut-Ups are the topic of the new episode of Ordered Liberty, where David and Alexandra also rate the SOTU and an important SCOTUS case. Grab the headphones and lend an ear here.

5. Stephen Miller joins Big Scot and Bad Jeff on Political Beats to talk turkey — or maybe potatoes — about U2. Listen up me darlins, right here.

Breaking Podcastapalooza . . .

On an As-WJ-Goes-to-Press episode of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg, our host interviews NR’s great mate: Daniel Hannan, MEP and Brexit leader. It’s a terrific episode, which you must listen to, and maybe right here.

The Six

This week, let’s focus on think-tank essays and writings. Why? Like I tell the kids — because I said so, that’s why! Wonk you very much.

1. Heritage Foundation is releasing a three-part series of papers examining the intersection of mental illness, violence, and firearms. John Malcolm and Amy Swearer are the authors. From Part One:

While a strong association between untreated serious mental illness and acts of mass public violence exists, not all public mass killers have a history of identifiable symptoms of mental illness. Some mass public killers commit acts of violence due to a set of repugnant but otherwise rationally derived beliefs. Dylann Roof, who murdered nine individuals at a predominantly African American church in Charleston, held views of extreme racism and white supremacy. While his violent and extremist ideology is sickening, there are no indications that he exhibited delusional or psychotic symptoms that caused him to believe this ideology.

Similarly, Major Nidal Hassan, who killed 13 and wounded 32 during a violent attack at Fort Hood, Texas, may have been exceptionally angered by his perceived concerns over Muslim soldiers being deployed to fight other Muslims, and subscribed increasingly to radical jihadist beliefs. And Rizwan Farook and his wife Tasheen Malik were also motivated not by mental illness but by ideology when they murdered 14 and wounded 24 in San Bernardino, California, in 2015. Like Roof, however, Hassan, Farook, and Malik had no discernable history or signs of mental illness.

A number of mass killers could also reasonably be described as “irrationally disgruntled and full of rage” but may not have been suffering from a diagnosable mental disorder. For example, in 2010, Omar Thornton shot and killed eight co-workers at Hartford Distributors in Manchester, Connecticut, before committing suicide. On the day of the incident, Thornton had been forced to resign after he was caught on a surveillance video stealing beer from a warehouse and was implicated in the theft of empty beer kegs. After being escorted off the premises, he returned with two handguns and opened fire on his former co-workers. Thornton called 911 and informed the operator that his shooting was motivated by racism he experienced in the workplace. There are no indications he suffered from a mental illness.

A similar incident occurred in 1986 in Edmond, Oklahoma. Postal worker Patrick Sherrill was facing possible dismissal due to management concerns over his job performance and reprimands for irritable behavior. One day after being verbally disciplined by his supervisors, Sherrill arrived at work with three handguns, shooting and killing 14 co-workers before killing himself. Like Thornton, there is little evidence Sherrill was mentally ill in any clinical sense, and official reports on the shooting concluded it was likely the result of job-related frustrations.

2. At Cato Institute, Brandon Valeriano and Benjamin Jensen take on “The Myth of Cyber Offense.” From the paper:

Great-power competition in the 21st century increasingly involves the use of cyber operations between rival states. But do cyber operations achieve their stated objectives? What are the escalation risks? Under what conditions could increasingly frequent and sophisticated cyber operations result in inadvertent escalation and the use of military force? The answers to these questions should inform U.S. cyber­security policy and strategy.

In the context of recent shifts in cybersecurity policy in the United States, this paper examines the character of cyber conflict through time. Data on cyber actions from 2000 to 2016 demonstrate evidence of a restrained domain with few aggressive attacks that seek a dramatic, decisive impact. Attacks do not beget attacks, nor do they deter them. But if few operations are effective in compelling the enemy and fewer still lead to responses in the domain, why would a policy of offensive operations to deter rival states be useful in cyberspace?

We demonstrate that, while cyber operations to date have not been escalatory or particularly effective in achieving decisive outcomes, recent policy changes and strategy pronouncements by the Trump administration increase the risk of escalation while doing nothing to make cyber operations more effective. These changes revolve around a dangerous myth: offense is an effective and easy way to stop rival states from hacking America. New policies for authorizing preemptive offensive cyber strategies risk crossing a threshold and changing the rules of the game.

3. Copyright laws have been rocked in recent decades by firms (Disney!) seeking to protect works that were heading for the public domain. At American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rosen reports that the extensions are expiring, and wonders about the fate of the famous Mouse named Mickey. From the essay:

Fast forward half a century to 1976, when Walt Disney’s copyright on Mickey was just a few years from expiring, and Congress enacted a new statute that did away with renewals altogether and extended copyright protection to 50 years after the death of the author or, when a company owns the rights to a work, 75 years from its creation. This bought Disney another 19 years of protection and effectively prevented any work published after 1922 from entering the public domain.

But sure enough, in 1998, with the 2003 expiration of the Mickey rights looming, Congress again extended the term, this time to 70 years following the author’s death and to 95 years for corporate creations.

Each extension followed vigorous lobbying from Hollywood and other content creators eager to prevent lucrative properties from falling into the public domain. Critics argued that maintaining copyright protection 70 years after the death of the artist badly upended the careful balance that copyright provides in inspiring and incenting creativity while vindicating the rights of the public.

4. My old amigo Hadley Arkes, bossman of the James Wilson Institute, penned a Natural Law Manifesto, which I encourage all to read. Here’s how it commences:

We want to proclaim again the case for natural law, and offer a kind of Natural Law Manifesto. We announce here nothing new to the world, much in the way that James Wilson, at the origin of the Constitution, proclaimed that we were not, under this Constitution, inventing new rights. The object of the Constitution, he said, was “to acquire a new security for the possession or the recovery of those rights” we already possess by nature. The great Blackstone had famously said that, on entering civil society, we give up those unqualified rights we had in the State of Nature, including the liberty of “doing mischief.” To which James Wilson asked, in a Talmudic question, “Is it part of natural liberty to do mischief to anyone?” In other words, as Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Aquinas had it, we never had a “right to do a wrong.” Even in the state of nature we did not have a right to murder or rape, and therefore as we entered civil society, the laws that barred people from murdering and raping never barred them from anything they ever had a rightful liberty to do. And so, what rights did we give up on entering civil society? The answer given by Wilson and Alexander Hamilton was: none. As Hamilton said in Federalist 84, “Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing.” Hence there was something not quite right in the notion of a Bill of Rights reserving to people rights they hadn’t surrendered to the state, for that implied that they had indeed surrendered the body of their rights to the state and that they were holding back now a few they hadn’t surrendered. The very purpose of the Constitution — the purpose that directed all branches of the government, not merely the courts — was the securing of those “natural rights.” One could deny that point, as Hamilton said, only by slipping into the teaching of Thomas Hobbes and supposing that there were no rights before the advent of a government, no morality antecedent to civil society. As Hamilton pointed out, in Hobbes’s view morality was all conventional. We could not expect anyone to accept any moral restraints on his conduct, for until there were laws, he could have no assurance that there were moral truths out there that anyone would respect.

5. At Competitive Enterprise Institute, Angela Logomasini rashes the attack on plastic bans. From the article:

This year, several states are considering statewide plastic shopping bag bans, including New York, Washington, and New Hampshire. But before imposing bans, politicians should stop and think about why consumers like plastic bags. They are lightweight, easy to carry, sanitary, and don’t fall apart if they get wet. These attributes are particularly valuable for commuters — especially for senior citizens and disabled people who might find themselves hauling groceries home on a rainy day.

Plastic bags are also inexpensive compared to alternatives because plastic products require far fewer resources over their lifecycles — from energy to water to storage and disposal space — than the alternatives. According to researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, if we banned all plastic packaging and replaced it with glass and metals, global energy consumption would double.

6. At the Mises Institute, Robert Murphy sees the economic argument for a carbon tax is a great idea — for a work of fiction. From the end of his analysis:

Dozens of heavy-hitting economists have sent a letter to the WSJ, praising a bipartisan revenue-neutral carbon tax that halts climate change, eliminates inefficient government regulations, and makes most families richer. It would be more fitting for Nobel laureates in literature to pen such a plea, because it’s based entirely in fiction.

As many of these same economists recognize in their other work, there are institutional reasons that government wastes money and produces counterproductive regulations. The only way the “border adjustments” and rebate checks will actually limit the economic fallout from a new carbon tax, is if the scheme fails in its ostensible purpose of sharply curtailing emissions. The simple fact is that rapidly reducing U.S. emissions through a massive new tax is going to have huge economic consequences. If some economists think that this cost is worth it, they should make the case plainly to the public and policymakers, rather than engaging in misleading talk about dividend checks.

Baseballery

The longest game in baseball history should be better known as the contest in which two opposing pitchers hurled complete games. Of 26 innings. By current practices, an ace in any bullpen might rack up that number over four or five games. But on the cloudy and drizzly afternoon of May 1, 1920, at Braves Field in Boston, the home team and the Brooklyn Robins played to a 1–1 tie in a nearly four-hour game called for darkness after the final out was made in the 26th inning. On the mound for the final out was the Robins’ Leon Cadore, a 68–72 career pitcher who spent most of his ten years hurling for Brooklyn. Registering the first and final of the Robins’ 78 outs was Braves’ hurler Joe Oeschger, an 82–116 career pitcher who also threw for the Giants, Phillies, and Robins before he hung up the spikes in 1925.

The previous year, while pitching for the Phillies, Oeschger tossed a 20-inning complete-game tie against the same Robins (Hall-of-Famer Burleigh Grimes, the opposing pitcher in that 9–9 battle, also went the distance).

Some interesting extras about the 26-inning contest: Two future Hall of Famers — the Braves’ Rabbit Maranville and Brooklyn’s Zack Wheat — played the entire game; the Braves’ second baseman, Charlie Pick, was hitless in 11 at bats (still an MLB record); and both Oeschger and Cadore pitched no-hit ball for the final six frames.

Goodbye, Frank: Rookie of the Year, MVP in both leagues, Triple Crown winner, Hall of Fame member, last manager of the Montreal Expos, and first manager of the Washington Nationals (ok, same thing) Frank Robinson passed away this week. R.I.P. Here’s his Cooperstown speech. And at NRO, Dan McLaughlin, a.k.a. “Baseball Crank,” writes this very fitting tribute.

One Last Commercial!

Folks of the Right: There is new conservative fiction being published. Jerry Welch, subscriber and reader of these WJ missives, is the author of the popular arse-kickin’-action Legacy series, which he launched several years back with Warren Murphy (known for founding the Destroyer series and as screenwriter for Lethal Weapon 2 and The Eiger Sanction). Legacy #7 — titled 100 Proof — came out a few months back: Check it out, and the series’ six prior numbers, at Amazon. A compendium of these will be out soon.

A Dios

Have a delightful week and do remember to get a card and a box of chocolates sooner than later. Turner Classic Movies is showing Brief Encounter to mark Saint Valentine’s Day — if you’ve yet to see this classic, now’s your chance.

God bless you and all those who hold a place in your heart,

Jack Fowler

Who can be bombarded with accusation and snits at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

King Cuomo, Governor Herod

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Well, it’s not the first time a political leader called for the death of children.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Such a blood lust. Who thought Albany was a portal to infernal regions?

About the “Abortion Maximalists,” Jonah Goldberg finds their moral high ground to be at the bottom of a ditch. From his new column:

Many people have trouble being 100 percent certain that a fertilized egg or a blastocyst is a human being, but vanishingly few of us dispute that a delivered baby outside the womb is a human being. And it is not a large leap in logic or morality to believe that a partially delivered viable baby is a human being. If you want to argue that the status of the baby gets murkier as you wind the clock backward, fine. But that’s a different argument. It’s not murky at 40 weeks.

In debates over the death penalty, there is one thing virtually everyone agrees upon: It’s profoundly wrong to execute the innocent. Our criminal-justice system is rightly crammed with all manner of checks to minimize the risk of a terrible mistake. Well, a viable baby is surely innocent, too. And yet, among abortion-rights maximalists, it is considered the morally sophisticated position to remove as many checks as possible from preventing infanticide. If you think it’s worth tolerating a certain number of baby killings to protect abortion rights, you should say so. But please don’t pretend the moral ground you’re standing on is very high.

Editorials

1. Events may prove this initial takeoff, but our take on the Stone arrest is that his crimes, whatever they may be and if they indeed exist, represent a “C-List Caper.” From the editorial:

After WikiLeaks began publishing hacked DNC emails on July 22, the indictment alleges that a “senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton campaign.” There is no indication of who did the “directing.” Stone has denied it was Donald Trump, but it is not clear he’d be in a position to know that. In any event, Stone is said thereafter to have “told the Trump campaign about potential future releases” (emphasis added). That is, the Trump campaign did not know what WikiLeaks had or would do, and the best Stone could do was surmise what it might have and might do.

We rehearse this detail to point out that, after more than two years of investigation premised on then–FBI director James Comey’s highly irregular public announcement (in congressional testimony shortly after Trump’s inauguration) that the bureau suspected Trump-campaign “coordination” in Russia’s espionage efforts, the special counsel has never alleged a conspiracy between Trump associates and the Kremlin. In fact, his indictments indicate that Russia orchestrated hacking operations on its own and passed the stolen emails to WikiLeaks, which published them. The Trump campaign obviously hoped to benefit from anti-Clinton revelations of any kind and from any source, no matter how unsavory. But the Stone indictment elucidates what Mueller’s earlier Russian indictments indicate: There is no reliable evidence of Trump-campaign complicity in Russia’s hacking, the campaign did not know what Russia stole, and it had no connection to WikiLeaks’ acquisition or publication of Democratic emails — which themselves had scant bearing on Mrs. Clinton (she is virtually absent as a participant, though it is clear that the DNC favored her over rival Bernie Sanders).

Given how suspicions over Russia connections have roiled over politics and cast a cloud over the White House, it is past time for the Justice Department to state whether it stands by the explosive suggestion in then-director Comey’s testimony, subsequently reiterated by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, of Trump–Russia coordination.

2. Americans are shocked, and Canadians are likely freaking out: Kamala Harris wants to be president of a nation with no private health insurance. From our editorial on the “tin-pot authoritarian”:

Senator Harris is — and always has been — a fundamentally unserious politician, an opportunist who will say whatever she thinks needs saying in the moment. Asked about her ideas on gun control, she proposed locking members of Congress in a room and forcing them to look at photographs of maimed children. That kind of thing may play with the witless and rage-addled hyper-partisans in Portland and Brooklyn, but it is far from being a serious proposal.

And it is not as though Harris doesn’t know how to design a robust policy program: While she was district attorney in San Francisco, she oversaw an energetic effort to arrest poor people for the misbehavior of their children. As attorney general of California, she abused her investigatory powers to harass political opponents until a federal court made her knock it off. She’s a tin-pot authoritarian when it suits her.

And apparently that’s what suits her when it comes to health care.

3. About the blood lust, which is increasingly sacramental in the Democratic party — we condemn the infanticide. From the editorial:

Killing a two-month-old infant is rightly prohibited and punished. Unborn children late in pregnancy differ from two-month-olds in no way that could plausibly justify this radical difference in treatment. To allow them to be killed, to expose them to lethal violence, to treat them as non-persons, is manifestly unjust. It is unjust to do these things even if one does not directly participate in the killing. And that injustice lays moral obligations on all of us.

Those Democrats who have taken this extreme position should reconsider it. Those who have not should repudiate it. Republicans should expose the Democrats’ indefensible position to the light. So should journalists, by reporting on the Democrats’ stance rather than simply repeating their spin. Catholic bishops should stir themselves to do real pastoral work on those Catholic politicians who have fallen into this grievous moral error, which includes reminding them that those who obstinately persist in it have broken communion with the Church.

4. We say good riddance to the INF Treaty. From the editorial:

In theory, the INF forbids both the U.S. and Russia to develop ground-based conventional and nuclear missiles of a certain range. In practice, the treaty constrains only one of its signatories — the United States — to our profound disadvantage. Evidence began to mount in 2008 that Russia was developing missiles that violated the INF, but the Obama administration remained silent, pushing ahead with the misbegotten New START arms-control treaty and waiting until 2011 to mention its concerns to Congress. In 2014, the administration declared for the first time that Russia was in violation of the treaty for testing a ground-launched missile. No matter: In 2017, Russia deployed that missile, the SSC-8, near Volgograd.

Obama’s embrace of more arms control and his gentle efforts to coax the Russians back into compliance failed. Trump’s break with that unsuccessful approach is welcome and, by the way, is a step that he almost certainly wouldn’t take were he secretly working to advance Russian national interests.

A Commercial, but a Darned Good One. So Buy the Product.

Every other year NR Institute hosts a biennial Ideas Summit, and 2019 is one of those aforementioned biennial years, so folks, whip out the calendars and the Bic pen, mark the dates of March 28–29, and plan to get yourself to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C., to participate in this year’s assembly of 500 fellow conservatives — including an amazing (and growing) line-up of speakers — as we focus on “The Case for the American Experiment.”

I have a funny feeling there are plenty of new Members of Congress who would be opposed to that Case. You have that same feeling? Yeah, well, the Case needs pals. So come to the Summit and be part of that band of conservative brothers and sisters making the case for restating the case.

Jazzed up by the exceptional marketing pitch, you exclaim: “I must attend!” You ask: “Where can I get more information? Where can I register?” Glad you asked: Here.

OK, before we move on, I need to say that while this Case is my favorite case, every once in a while I prefer this case.

A Dozen Gems Mined from the World’s Greatest Conservative Website

1. Ramesh Ponnuru finds the “Infanticide Craze” to be firmly anchored in the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe and Doe decisions. From his analysis:

Republicans have reacted to the New York law and the Virginia bill with justified horror. But it’s important to identify correctly what we should be horrified about. The central provisions of these laws and proposed laws do not liberalize abortion policy beyond the status quo. The Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence has for decades effectively forbidden any state from prohibiting abortion even late in pregnancy.

Roe v. Wade held that states could prohibit abortion late in pregnancy only if they made an exception for abortions meant to protect the pregnant woman’s health. Justice Harry Blackmun’s majority opinion in that case mentioned several health harms that unwanted parenthood could cause. Roe’s companion case, Doe v. Bolton — written by the same justice and handed down the same day — also suggested that health should be read broadly. As Blackmun put it, “the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.” An exception this broad would of course swallow any prohibition: An abortionist will always be able to say that in his professional judgment, having the child would have adverse emotional or familial consequences.*

2. Alexandra DeSanctis lambasts the indefensible morality of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, the champion of de facto infanticide and more, if he can conjure up ideas. From her piece:

This fallen son looks less like Saul and more like Judas — selling the innocent to save his political soul.

Not only did Cuomo personally lobby for the RHA for years, but he insists that the bill’s ample pro-abortion provisions still aren’t enough. He has promised to campaign for having the right to abortion, including late in pregnancy, written into the state constitution. And lest you consider him a dedicated federalist, recall that he swore to sue the federal government should Roe ever be overturned.

But Cuomo’s passion for abortion rights is still more sinister than that. On the evening that he signed the RHA, the governor announced that the spire of Freedom Tower, the building erected in lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood, would be lit up in pink to celebrate the occasion, a jubilee for the unlimited right to choose death for the defenseless.

Just beside Freedom Tower, two pools mark the spot of the 9/11 terrorist attack. Around each of them are inscribed the names of every person murdered that day, and beside the names of eleven of those women the carved stone says, “and her unborn child.” Beneath Cuomo’s shrine to abortion on demand, the real story is written: These are human lives.

3. Vice President Mike Pence tears into the Left’s brazen push for de facto infanticide, and maybe not even so de facto. From his piece:

This shameless embrace of a culture of death is startling to every American who cherishes life. Not too long ago, the Democratic party’s stated position was that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” It was this widespread rejection of late-term abortion that led a large bipartisan majority in Congress to pass the partial-birth-abortion ban in 2003. But now look at how far the Democratic party has fallen.

To support, let alone cheer, late-term abortions not only marks a disturbing step backward by so-called “progressives” — it also violates every demand of human decency. As modern science has moved the point of viability ever earlier in pregnancy, most Americans have agreed that a child who can survive outside the womb deserves a chance at life. Only a handful of countries, including China and North Korea, allow late-term abortions.

4. John Allison says conservatives need to make the moral case for capitalism. Cost analyses of crazy socialist ideas just ain’t enough. From his piece:

Conservatives have opposed these socialist proposals by pointing out how much they will cost. For instance, they’ve trumpeted a Mercatus Center study estimating that Medicare-for-all would roughly double the federal budget. They have explained how high tax rates would hurt economic growth. And they’ve demonstrated how a $15 wage floor would hurt small businesses and reduce job opportunities.

These arguments are all correct. But they do not address the root of why these policy proposals are wrong. By merely citing the financial or economic challenges of implementing them, conservatives cede the moral high ground and tacitly accept the Left’s premises.

To win the battle of ideas, conservatives must fight on philosophical grounds, explaining why these policies are immoral. They must make the case based on ethics rather than economics because the latter is downstream from the former. It is only a matter of time before a purely economic or logical argument loses to a moral or emotional one.

In practice this means explaining why the fundamental principle of collectivism underlying these socialist proposals is immoral: It violates the individual rights upon which societal progress and happiness are based. Collectivism is backed by compulsion, where one side wins and the other loses, rather than voluntary trade for mutual benefit.

5. John O’Sullivan takes you on the Brexit Politics roller coaster. It would be advisable not to have eaten beforehand. Read his analysis here.

6. You know what’s a dumb idea? If you ask Jonathan Tobin, he’d say legislation to ban government shutdowns. From his column:

Yet, just as important, a shutdown ban would also accelerate the already alarming process by which the legislative branch has abandoned to executive agencies its constitutional mandate to govern the country. As awful and politically ineffective as government shutdowns might be, the threat to force one at least preserves the pretense that the federal structure is run by the people’s representatives rather than enduring due to the inertia of a spending process that mandates that the money keep flowing even when there is no legal consensus on how it may be spent. Ensuring that the legislative process can have no effect on spending means that the government runs itself rather than operating at the pleasure of those elected to govern.

For all the good intentions of those behind a shutdown ban, and with the knowledge of how destructive they are, this legislation does as much (if not more) to damage democracy as the spectacle of gridlock does, or even the suffering of unpaid government employees.

7. Honest inquiries into the causes of gender dysphoria are increasingly verboten by the lefty Thought Police. From Madeleine Kearns’ report:

On the panel, she was joined by Kara Dansky of the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), Hacsi Horvath, a lecturer in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California (who identified as transgender for more than a dozen years), and Julia Beck, a lesbian writer and producer of Women’s Liberation Radio News, who was kicked off Baltimore’s “LGBTQ Commission” for stating that only females can be lesbians.

“When a child says they’re transgender, we as a society have been taught to accept and celebrate this announcement,” Chavez said. She then showed a clip of Jazz Jennings, star of the American TV series I am Jazz, as he had a “farewell to penis” party to celebrate his upcoming surgery at age 17.

“But there are many parents who are not celebrating,” Chavez said after the clip. “They are suffering in silence. They know their children were not ‘born in the wrong bodies.’”

Chavez then shared four stories, seen by National Review, from parents who wished to remain anonymous. The first was of a 13-year-old autistic child who believed herself to be transgender after watching a school presentation. Without evaluation or therapy, the mother was told by a “gender therapist” to buy her child a breast binder and put her on puberty-blocking drugs. If she didn’t comply, she was told, her child would face a high risk of suicide. She only realized later how inaccurate and baseless this clinical advice had been.

8. Colin Dueck and Congressman Mike Gallagher make the conservative case for NATO and its role in protecting U.S. national-security interests. From their analysis:

The conservative case for NATO is not that it strengthens liberal world order. Rather, the conservative case for NATO is that it bolsters American national interests. In an age of great-power competition, as identified by the Trump administration, America’s Western alliance provides the U.S. with some dramatic comparative advantages. The United States, Canada, and their European allies have a number of common interests and common challenges with regard to Beijing, Moscow, terrorism, cyberattacks, migration, nuclear weapons, and military readiness. NATO is the one formal alliance that allows for cooperation on these matters. It is also the only alliance that embodies America’s civilizational ties with Europe — a point forcefully made by President Trump when he visited Poland in 2017. Properly understood, NATO helps keeps America’s strategic competitors at bay, pushing back on Russian and Chinese influence. In all of these ways, the U.S. alliance system in Europe is a bit like oxygen. You may take it for granted, but you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Now consider the alternative. American withdrawal from NATO would be a grave error. Not only would it surrender the above advantages and undo existing progress in Europe. It would also have negative long-term implications globally pertaining to America’s foremost long-term strategic challenge: namely, the People’s Republic of China. As Beijing extends its influence worldwide, U.S. disengagement from NATO would send the signal that the United States is an unreliable friend. America’s allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific would have to rethink the integrated security architecture we have painstakingly built since Eisenhower’s day. This is not to mention the obvious and immediate tactical and operational military advantages that would accrue to Russia in Europe, shifting the balance of power against the United States.

9. Denmark, Something’s Rotten: Alarms are going off over this Jussie Smollett MAGA-attack. Kyle Smith looks at the claims. From his piece:

Surveillance video shows Smollett walking into an apartment building and past security guards without stopping to ask them for help or to tell them he had just been subjected to a vicious assault and hate crime. In this video, he was wearing a rope around his neck “like a necktie but shaped like a noose,” according to a police spokesman. At some point the police were contacted and Smollett was interviewed in a friend’s apartment at 2:42 a.m. He asked police to turn off their body cameras so the encounter would not be recorded. At this point, he was still wearing the rope around his neck, police said.

So let’s recap what Smollett says happened, together with what Chicago reporters have heard from police. Two men recognized a gay black actor from a TV show at 2 a.m. on a Chicago street during an extreme cold snap while he was on his phone. Instead of taking the phone from him, they began to shout slurs at him. The assailants happened to have a rope and an unknown liquid with them. They put a rope around his neck, but instead of strangling him with it, they just left it there and then ran away. Instead of calling the police immediately on the phone, Smollett walked into an apartment building and past security, without informing anyone about the alleged assault, and he kept the rope around his neck for some three-quarters of an hour. He neglected to tell the police about the MAGA remark in this first interview, revealing it only later in a subsequent interview. He took himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital that morning and was released later in the morning. TMZ posted a picture of Smollett with a small scratch or cut beneath his right eye.

10. More Kyle. He goes to a comedy show to see Colin Quinn’s take on an emasculated industry. From his take:

The name of Quinn’s show is Red State Blue State, and on the surface Quinn is staking out some neutral territory between enemy camps in the culture war. But he isn’t really, because he understands who the aggressors in that war are. One side is begging to be left to its own ways, and it isn’t the side shouting “tolerance.” And when he defines red states vs. blue states, he says, “Red states, a little bit racist. Blue states, a little bit fascist.” The audience didn’t see that one coming. There was a sharp intake of breath at the Greenwich Village venue when Quinn noted that the Left hates free speech. The collective thought bubble over the audience’s head read, “Who, us? We merely want to destroy teens who wear unapproved hat messages and ban films that are critical of Hillary Clinton.” . . .

Making common-sense observations carries a tinge of radicalism these days. “1492 to 1992, I never heard a bad word about Christopher Columbus . . . Now it’s like Manson’s birthday all of a sudden.” A society that starts questioning its own holidays, he notes ruefully, has turned on itself. He need hardly state which political persuasion is driving this unfortunate trend, which side is on the attack, which side is eager to destroy.

11. The foes of due process are furious that the ability to destroy the lives of young men is stymied by new regulations. David French looks at a scalp-demanding New York Times column. From his piece:

Let’s make this very clear: When campus activists argue against the Trump administration’s due-process guidelines, they are arguing for the power of campus administrators to punish (mainly) young men for alleged acts on or off campus without cross-examination, without seeing available evidence, without a live hearing, and under definitions of the alleged offenses far broader than those that apply under relevant law.

“Wait a second,” you might be saying to yourself. “Why such an emphasis on campus courts?” Indeed, if we’re talking about actual sexual assault, actual rape, and actual sexual harassment, each of these offenses is prohibited by criminal and/or civil law. There are existing legal processes for punishing these crimes whether they occur on or off campus. A campus tribunal is hardly an alleged victim’s only recourse.

A convicted rapist doesn’t get a “coveted job.” He doesn’t attain “more power as time goes on.” Individuals found responsible for sexual harassment in courts of law not only have to pay damages, they carry with them the stain of that public record for the rest of their lives. But no conviction in criminal court or finding of liability in civil court can occur without the very due process that campus activists decry.

12. Victor Davis Hanson explains why he thinks the Latino vote may be more Trump-trending than one might think. Here is one among several reasons, explained in this Corner post:

The “new” Democratic party not only show signs of a new more insidious anti-Semitism — as we’ve seen from comments by Senator Feinstein, Harris, and Hirono, and the surreal and barbarous statements coming out of Virginia and New York on third-trimester abortion (and near infanticide). But it is now becoming anti-Catholic to a degree not seen in decades in America. Why would a devout Catholic wish to side with such bigotry? Trump is on the right side of the abortion and the religious-discrimination issues.

BONUS: Swedish journalist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is in Caracas, reporting on the tumult in the streets as Maduro thugs snoop, prowl, and intimidate. From the beginning of her report:

“There are colectivos on every corner.”

My bodyguard points them out to me, the seemingly inconspicuous men standing a few feet away. The men belong to the colectivos, the heavily armed Maduro-loyalist gangs policing this city, always ready to intimidate and attack anti-government protesters.

Just after he points them out, one of them walks up to me and asks for my phone and passport. I hand him a copy of my passport and show him my phone. Without even bothering to search it, he tells me to delete whatever is on there.

I do as he says while he watches me, and when I am finally allowed to go I realize he didn’t think to check my phone’s trash. So I post the videos and photos, all in succession, while my bodyguard drags me away.

It’s only my second day in Caracas but already my third run-in with the alternative law in this city. There’s a growing sense of unease in me as I realize how truly totalitarian this country has become, creating a culture of desperation and fear. You fear everyone, not just the regime, but also all those who are on its payroll, wielding weapons in the name of this twisted socialist dream.

Podcastapalooza

Your Truly has been horsewhipped, internet-style, for not providing links to our panoply of podcasts as of late. The lashes hurt. So clear out the wax and strap on the headphones:

1. On the new edition of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, MBD, and Reihan continue their discussion of the Democratic presidential candidates, condemn a heinous Virginia abortion bill, and finish up with a look at the antics of Roger Stone. Hear here!

2. Given Andrew Cuomo’s hell-bentness, it’s fitting that on The Great Books, John J. Miller and his Hillsdale colleague, Stephen Smith, are doing the deep-dive into Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, divided into separate episodes on Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Folks, if you have never read this collective galactic classic, you at the least need to listen to these amazing discussions. Also: There will be a quiz.

3. More JJM: on The Bookmonger he interviews Sohrab Ahmari about his conversion story, From Fire By Water. Listen here.

4. David French and Alexandra DeSanctis use the new episode of Ordered Liberty to discuss efforts in New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Vermont to slaughter late-term abortion restrictions. Powerful stuff, heard here.

5. The craze that has gripped the Golden State, where new governor Gavin Newson has declared war on Huntington Beach, fills Radio Free California hosts Will Swaim and David Bahnsen with copious commentary, shared in the new episode of their dynamic podcast, which can stroke your eardrums here.

6. On the new episode of Constitutionally Speaking, Jay Cost and Luke Thompson discuss the foreign crisis of 1793 to 1795 and its impact on the development of executive power. You don’t have to be a Constitution geek to find this discussion to be very interesting. Geek or not, listen here.

7. On the new episode of The McCarthy Report, Andy and Rich discuss the rather theatrical arrest of Roger Stone and the likely outcome of his case. You have the right to remain listening, here.

8. On the new episode of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg, his Hostness and guest Kristen Soltis Anderson consider . . . Will Howard Schultz be president? . . . Is Gen Z worse than Millennials? . . . Who will win the 2020 Democratic nomination? . . . and much more. Catch it here.

9. More Schultz: On the new Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Charlie and Kevin discuss the presidential wannabes, Seattle, and the veering ever leftward Democratic party. Catch the wisdom and wisecracks here.

Lights. Cameras. Critics.

1. In his take, Armond White finds the “nostalgic noir” Serenity to be a conservative “cry for help” by filmmaker Steven Knight. From the review’s get-go:

They don’t make movies like To Have and Have Not anymore. That 1944 Humphrey Bogart thriller (best remembered as the film debut of Lauren Bacall) is deliberately evoked in the nostalgic noir Serenity, by British screenwriter-director Steven Knight. Borrowing the premise of that Bogart–Howard Hawks–William Faulkner classic for this Matthew McConaughey vehicle, Knight’s movie is not entirely comparable, but Serenity dares a moral reckoning worthy of Knight’s predecessors.

McConaughey’s Baker Dill, a haggard tuna-fisher in Plymouth, Fla., not only recalls Bogart’s expatriate boat owner, he’s also an Iraq War vet — expat from contemporary cynical America. He’s lost something and searches for it in an uncatchable ocean prey. (So he’s also Melville’s Captain Ahab and Hemingway’s Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea.) His odyssey is interrupted by a visitor from the past: ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) in the same sultry white attire and blond tresses as Kathleen Turner in the ’80s neo-noir Body Heat. She wants Baker to kill her abusive husband (Jason Clarke), a boorish millionaire who is also cruel to Baker’s stepson Patrick (Raphael Sayegh).

These generational crosscurrents are key to Knight’s ambition as well as his failing. He attempts to fit conservative moral precepts familiar to old-fashioned film lovers into modern, immoral license appropriate to video-game culture. Sixties college kids recognized Bogart’s alienation, which made his heroes seem cool for rejecting society’s hypocritical norm — just as Baker does. Knight makes sure that Baker keeps to his moral obligations, split between manliness (sex with local Diane Lane, post-divorce chivalry with Hathaway); brotherhood (black shipmate Djimon Hounsou); and fatherhood. But these qualities oppose Ready Player One–style autistic solipsism. Conservative and progressive narrative paradigms clash.

2. Jonah Goldberg gets out the review manual (a couple of years back he guest-programmed on Turner Classic Movies!) and weighs in on Glass, which likes (but doesn’t love). Here’s why.

3. Armond sees Miss Bala. He doesn’t totally trash it. From his review:

The new action movie Miss Bala is steeped in three kinds of sentiment that all generate contemporary political interest: Mexican-immigrant controversy, feminist distress, and Hollywood patronization.

Miss Bala’s story of an American Latina make-up artist, Gloria Fuentes (Gina Rodriguez), who visits a beauty-contestant friend in Mexico and then gets abducted by a drug cartel, copies a Mexican film of the same name by Gerardo Naranjo that was a 2011 Oscar submission. This remake is the sort of claptrap that used to be called a B-movie, or a straight-to-video release, yet its half-seriousness falls just short of nonsense.

Director Catherine Hardwicke (best known for Twilight, the only watchable entry in the teenage-vampire franchise) inadvertently reveals some of the myths behind purely emotional arguments about the border.

Gloria is told “You weren’t hired to think” by a prissy fashionista, but below-the-border misfortune requires that she drop her American-girl naïveté and fight for her life and personal identity.

4. Kyle Smith reflects on the Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, and how it corroborates the claims that the King of Pop was a serial child molester. From his piece:

To some extent, we as a society have set aside the many horrific and entirely credible claims against Jackson simply because we want them not to be true; for the same reason, Bill Cosby got a pass for a surprisingly long time. Jackson’s unfortunate early demise, his apparent closeted homosexuality, and his wounded, childlike nature have made fans fiercely protective of him, with the media largely sidestepping the issue since he died in 2009. What punishment can be visited upon him posthumously? Should he be erased from the culture the way Cosby has been? Should radio stations and deejays stop playing his many great records the way broadcasters have stopped airing The Cosby Show? I’m not sure they should. But the label of serial child molester must be forever attached to Michael Jackson’s name. It should be reiterated constantly like an anti-honorific, the way we take care to refer to President Carter or General MacArthur.

5. More Kyle. He’s not to thrilled about the new Netflix flick, Velvet Buzzsaw. From his review:

As it is no longer 1987, you tend not to come across many goofy Stephen King movies about people being terrorized by inanimate objects anymore. If such a script made its way to the Hollywood studios, it’d be unlikely to attract Oscar-level talent such as Jake Gyllenhaal, John Malkovich, and cinematographer Robert Elswit. So why are all three of these people participants in the new Netflix movie Velvet Buzzsaw, a cheesy thriller about vengeful paintings coming alive and murdering people who exploit the dead artist who painted them? I have a theory.

Velvet Buzzsaw is on the surface a satire about the silliness of the contemporary art world, but that realm is pretty much beyond the reach of parody. Only news writers can adequately capture the comedic content of today’s art. What 21st-century Swift or Voltaire could compete with the following 2001 news item from the New York Times: “An installation that the popular and pricey British artist Damien Hirst assembled in the window of a Mayfair gallery on Tuesday was dismantled and discarded the same night by a cleaning man who said he thought it was garbage.”

Another Commercial, This One about a Job at NRI

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The Six

1. At The Spectator (UK), John Keiger explains how French president Emmanuel Macron is dix pouces in his fight against Euro-populists. From his analysis:

In France, discontent has been brewing for years. Emmanuel Macron managed to set it alight by embarking on a series of reforms that sparked the gilet jaunes movement. In Europe it has been brewing too, and now Macron seems to be repeating the trick. Here the antipathy is from populist governments opposed to his ideas, not only on a future Europe but also his lesson-giving in how those countries should govern themselves. International politics are following a similar pattern to national politics. Macron sweeps onto the international stage with new ideas for reforming Europe, he accompanies that with acerbic throw-away quips on the competence and morality of particular leaders, they riposte and, gradually, individual protests coalesce into an axis of angry opposition to the French president.

2. And similar targeting of Euro weenies and their French poster boy, Bernard-Henri Lévy — who is trying to rally the elites to attack national populist movements — comes from Scott McConnell, writing for The American Conservative. From his essay:

A wiser political strategy for the neoliberal Merkelist and Macronist parties would be to downplay their ideological distinctions and present their candidates, however disingenuously, as unexceptional center-left and center-right patriots. Macron has been attempting this, with some success, in his own battle against the gilet jaunes. He now appears on TV with a French national flag prominently at his side, and seeks to woo audiences with flattering patriotic references to France’s “uniqueness.”

But here comes Lévy, organizing a public letter signed by 30 writers and intellectuals throwing down the ideological gauntlet in the coming elections. “The idea of Europe is in peril,” Lévy and his co-signers intone. It is being attacked by “false prophets drunk on resentment and delirious at their opportunity to seize the limelight.” France’s elections in May, say Lévy and his signatories, “promise to be the most calamitous we have known.” He summons Europeans to “a new battle for civilization.” Urgently they “sound the alarm” against “these arsonists of soul and spirit who want to make a bonfire of our freedoms.” And Lévy isn’t stopping at a mere public letter. He promises a tour of two dozen European cities beginning in March. At 70, he bids to become the continent-wide face of resistance to the Euroskeptic parties. . . .

So now this aging and very rich philosophe will be a most prominent public face of the campaign to save Europe from the Euroskeptic parties. The election debate in general is likely to be fascinating and without precedent. The right-wing and nationalist parties have, in general, a nuanced view of Europe—their nationalism, such as it is, is directed not against other Europeans, but against mass immigration from beyond Europe’s shores. Their views are roughly those held by Charles de Gaulle: that a Europe of nation states is more likely to sustain and nurture the creative aspects of European civilization than a Europe dominated by bureaucrats who have elevated freedom of movement and universal human rights into an ersatz religion. But much remains much to be worked out in practice.

3. Our old NR pal Tracy Lee Simmons writes a wonderful piece for The Catholic Thing on listening to the recorded talks of the famous Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. From his piece:

These talks open a clear window on Merton the teacher. And one thing we see is that, however edgy and occasionally heterodox Merton might have made himself in some of his published writings, when he spoke to the monks of high and consequential things, he hugged the shore a good deal more than might be supposed by his critics. He relished detail — names, dates, ideas fleshed out. He preferred that the monks know something and not be satisfied with a few scraps of minimal information on any one topic.

Nonetheless, anybody should be warned that these talks, even when strung together by themes — a series on the Latin Fathers or the Twelve Degrees of Humility or poetry or Faulkner, for instance — aren’t “courses” in any systematic sense. Merton was too digressive, too ready to amble up interesting by-ways on route to a larger point. But that’s what makes the talks valuable and, more often than not, pleasantly diverting. Some people are interesting simply when holding forth about anything.

One nicely surprising discovery for me was prompted by a passing remark of Br. Paul who revealed a point once made by Fr. Louis (as Merton was known within the monastery) during those heady days when the Vatican II was still meeting in Rome. St. Thomas Aquinas, Merton said, was a theologian read by almost no one anymore, so far had he fallen out of favor — which fact, Merton said, gave the monks a splendid reason for reading him.

4. And you thought “grooming gangs” was just a British perversion, silly. At Gatestone Institute, David Brown reports on how the practice can be found in places as remote as tiny town in Finland. From his piece:

What hits hardest in the little town of Oulu in Finland is a disturbing sense that history is repeating itself here and nothing has been learned from the well-documented lessons of the past. Instead there seems to be a hope that with a few overdue statements this problem will go back underground and the noise will go away.

Initial reports suggest that the abused girls and their parents were not necessarily believed; the police responded only after the strong intervention of the father and step-father of one victim, who set a trap for one of the groomers online. It was this intervention that led a local councilman to uncover the fact that in a two-day period, “a total of 8 men with migrant names had been incarcerated for child sexual abuse, aggravated child sexual abuse and aggravated rape.”

Only after this information became public did the local police finally issue a warning to parents about the threat faced by their children:

“Recently, in the Oulu region, cases have emerged that foreign-born, often non-Finnish men have attracted minors to get in contact with them. At worst, contacts have led to serious sexual offences.”

The Oulu police say they have recently been informed of dozens of cases where adult men tried to lure young girls online. “That’s the reason for our warning,” said Detective Superintendent Markus Kiiskinen.

All of this uproar comes at a politically awkward time for Finnish politicians, just three months before parliamentary elections scheduled for April 14. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, who maintained a firm silence on the matter during all of December 2018, has now changed course to appear concerned and action-oriented.

5. More from The Catholic Thing: Professor Anthony Esolen is keeping score of the sins committed against the Covington Catholic High School kids. They are prejudice, vindictiveness, calumny, cowardice, contumacy, sacrilege, detraction, obscenity, malice, and violence. Wow. From his piece:

A lot of people began to have second thoughts. Others roamed over the Internet to find something, anything, that would cast the school in a bad light. Some said that the boy did not himself write his sometimes ungrammatical apologia, explaining what happened. They had, of course, no evidence for their accusation.

This was the sin of CALUMNY. By this time, people knew quite well that the boys had not sought out any confrontation, and that they had been already abused by grown men aplenty.

To abuse the weak — children, women, youths — is at least a sin of COWARDICE, and to call them “faggots” and “incest kids” compounded the abuse with the sin of OBSCENITY. To withhold the truth about the context of the incident, truth that would mitigate any guilt, or exonerate entirely, is to commit the sin of DETRACTION.

The Indian with the drum and his group showed up at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception the next evening, attempting to disrupt the Mass. This was a sin of SACRILEGE, against the holy place and the worship of innocent people; in the context of what they had already done, it was the sin of CONTUMACY, and of SOWING DISCORD.

6. In City Journal, Lance Morrow finds that the Left’s fixation on adolescent behavior reflects a stunted moral intelligence. From his piece:

It is as if progressives in the era of Donald Trump are stuck in what physicists call a “metastable state,” an adolescent condition of mind — and a ridiculous place to have one’s thoughts detained. Is it not odd for a society to argue crucial moral issues on the basis of the behavior of teenagers, debating great matters by trying to read the smile of a 16-year-old on Facebook? Do progressives understand that adolescence (volatile, experimental, mostly ignorant, and naturally running to extremes) should not be the territory on which to thrash out these issues? At work here — besides a massive failure of adult responsibility — is the cynical manipulation, for political gain, of shallow adolescent emotions.

Twenty-first-century American middle-class society indulges adolescents well into their twenties and beyond. Masses of young people move back in with their parents, deferring adult life in favor of a sort of liminal, embryonic state. Yet here we see progressives placing adolescents at the center of their moral imaginations, as if the moods of teenagers were the mirror of their most consequential thoughts.

Good-bye Peter

A National Review contribution arrived from a man in San Francisco. His name was Peter Magowan. That Peter Magowan? The one who owned the San Francisco Giants? The same. So traveling out thataway, Yours Truly petitioned if I could pay a visit, and he said yes, and we visited, and for close to two hours at that meeting, the first of several, we talked about our love for the National Pastime, and in particular about his once-upon-a-time love, as a New York City boy, for the team that used to play at the Polo Grounds.

The reason there is a Giants team still in San Francisco is that Peter — who had moved there decades ago and had spent years running Safeway Corp. — stepped up, cobbled together a group of investors, and bought the franchise, which looked like it was headed for Florida, fleeing the shabby and windy Candlestick Park. As the managing partner, he led the efforts to build a new stadium (now named Oracle Park) — privately funded and considered one of the Major League’s best ballfields.

Peter was a sponsor of NRI’s 2016 Buckley Prize Dinner and of our 2018 Buckley Legacy events. He introduced many people to this institution. A delightful man, of happy temperament and serious conservative beliefs, he battled cancer and the troubling aftermath of a liver transplant. He was put through the ringer relentlessly. This week the cancer won out. To his wife Debby, another delightful soul, and his family, we pray that Peter rest in deserved peace, enjoying the intimate company of Christy Mathewson, Willie McCovey, Bobby Thompson, Mel Ott, and Fred Snodgrass.

Baseballery

The Philadelphia As were one of baseball’s great teams (winning nine AL pennants and five World Serieses between 1901 to 1931) before a strapped Connie Mack busted up his talented squad after the 1932 season. It was one of those clubs that marked the 1950s as a decade of franchise moving – in 1955 the As were sold and headed to Kansas City (where they were just awful for their 13-year tenure).

The Philadelphia As played their final game not in the City of Brotherly Love, but on a Sunday afternoon in late September in The Bronx, the 50-103 cellar dwellers facing the second-place Bombers, who came into the game with a mirror-image record of 103-50. In the bottom of the sixth, the As leading, the Yanks threatening, the 5-11 Marion Fricano took the mound in relief of Art Ditmar (who later pitched a couple of decent years for the Yanks, but got shellacked in his two starts against the Pirates in the 1960 World Series). Fricano would be the last man ever to pitch for the historic Philadelphia team. In 3.2 innings, he held the Yankees to four hits and one earned run, picking up the save. (The journeyman infielder and player / manager, Eddie Joost, got the As last hit, a single, in the ninth).

After a dismal few performances in Kansas City the following year, Fricano was sent to the minors, taking his 15-23 career record with him. Fricano never pitched again in the majors. But he did his franchise proud one night in The Bronx.

A Dios

By the time you read this, Punxsutawney Phil will likely have already seen his shadow in Gobbler’s Knob. Make of it what you will. Be aware that 31 Days of Oscar are upon us. And in your spare moments, consider the souls in Purgatorio — there may be one who gets sprung courtesy of your sole heartfelt Hail Mary.

God bless you and all those you hold dear,

Jack Fowler

Who can be contacted this side of Purgatory at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

The (D)Ox-Bow Incident

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Let’s state the obvious: There have been better weeks, and few worse ones.

The first time the film appeared on the family television screen was about seven or eight years ago, and since then Mr. and Mrs. Yours Truly have watched it some half-dozen times. The Ox-Bow Incident is truly powerful, the kind of movie that somehow tricks you into thinking / hoping that maybe this time the outcome will change. Is there a better film that takes on the evils of rushing to judgement?

Victor Davis Hanson appropriately cited it in his Corner post about quick-to-convict chatter over the Lincoln Memorial encounter / confrontation last Sunday between students from Covington Catholic High School and leftist “Native American elder” Nathan Phillips (which came hot on the heels of the BuzzFeed fake newsery). It’s staggering how vehement the talk was among the liberal elite to destroy the lives of these young men.

Back to the flick: Turner Classic Movies will be broadcasting it on Saturday, February 16, at 11:30 a.m. (EST). There’s also a good chance that it will likely be available “on demand” for some days after. If you haven’t seen it, consider doing so.

And Now, a Related Opinion from the Old Testament

Courtesy of the original Author and of a WJ correspondent who sought to instruct the writers of this esteemed entity, from Proverbs 18:17 — “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.”

Editorials

1. We score the Pelosi-rejected Trump offer of temporary DACA amnesties for wall funding. From the editorial:

Trump is right to try to shake something loose in the shutdown showdown. Majority leader Mitch McConnell will take up his package later in the week, forcing the Democrats to filibuster a compromise package that would reopen the government. This puts Republicans on a less defensive footing, but it won’t change the fundamental fact that Democrats hate the idea of giving Trump any kind of victory on the border barriers and believe that they have the upper hand in the political fight over the shutdown. At the moment, Trump wants a negotiation and Pelosi wants a humiliation, a clear and convincing defeat for the president.

There isn’t any downside for her, because her base fully backs her maximalist position and the media never call her out for her recalcitrance. If she were head of the Republican caucus in a confrontation with a Democratic president, obviously the coverage would be very different.

2. The Covington Affair. Lessons learned (some, hard). From our editorial:

Because the culture wars are approached as a zero-sum game, many of the most committed progressives are now desperately trying to formulate a reason to continue slandering them and attempting to chase their parents into unemployment and penury. That speaks to the sorry state of our democracy: Why bother trying to persuade or convince your fellow citizens when you can simply make them into pariahs? The Times, in articulating the “fuller picture,” went so far as to suggest that to invoke the name of Donald Trump — or to simply wear a hat bearing his famous slogan — constitutes a “racially charged taunt.” These are not, for the most part, ideas offered in good faith: They are stratagems deployed to delegitimize certain political points of view. If supporters of the president are to be condemned as engaging in racial provocation for simply saying his name, then the conversation has nowhere to go.

All of this exposes a larger and more serious deficiency: in citizenship. Good citizens with proper respect for themselves, their neighbors, and their country do not seek to destroy the lives of a couple of teenagers in the pursuit of a transient and petty political advantage.

3. Venezuela votes. Donald Trump flips Socialist strongman Maduro el birdo and recognizes opposition is Juan Guaidó as President. We encourage strong U.S. support. From the editorial:

The U.S. government, in the person of President Trump, has recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela. So have many Latin American governments, plus Canada. Maduro has responded with the tried-and-true populism that won Chávez power in the first place.

“Don’t trust the gringos,” Maduro told a crowd of his supporters, gathered in their red shirts. “They don’t have friends or loyalties.” They only want to “take Venezuela’s oil, gas, and gold.” For good measure, he tweeted, “Let’s defend our sovereignty. . . . The streets belong to the people!”

U.S. policymakers have long had a dilemma: refrain from helping forces such as those arrayed against Maduro’s regime, leaving them to their own devices; or help them and see them labeled CIA stooges. “They’re going to call them CIA stooges anyway,” Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen once said, in the context of Cuba. “We might as well help them.”

That applies to Venezuela, now. The United States should give all the support it can to Juan Guaidó and the movement he leads.

4. Trump’s Wall standoff crumbles. We encourage the President to settle for a quarter loaf. From the editorial:

We were never bullish on the shutdown, so don’t count us among the shocked and outraged that it has produced nothing more than an agreement to negotiate more.

President Trump and the Democrats agreed to reopen parts of the government that had been shut down for three weeks while they talk more about border funding. This obviously is not what the advocates of the shutdown had hoped for. But given that Trump took ownership of the shutdown before it started in his Oval Office showdown with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and the administration didn’t have a clear strategy, the hopes of the advocates were never very realistic. And shutdowns are not a promising tactic anyway. That they don’t work was the point of Mitch McConnell’s country adage that “there isn’t any education in the second kick of a mule.”

Point of Personal Privilege

Heather Wilhelm has a terrific column (does she ever not?) urging journalists addicted to Twitter — and becoming increasingly complicit in the uproars and tornadoes instigated and compounded there — to go cold turkey. To bail. Read the whole thing, but here’s a chunk for your immediate satisfaction:

Here I present a mystery: If a columnist idly comments on the news in a forest, as opposed to instantly broadcasting her knee-jerk, gut reaction to the world via Twitter — something no one should ever do, but we’ll get to that in a bit — does it even make a sound? Elsewhere, out in the digital distance, an alarming percentage of our chattering class spent Saturday industriously diving headfirst into a fact-deprived, wild-eyed online rage mob. As a nation, we’re still cleaning up the factual wreckage.

While there are many potential explanations for this media debacle, one should seem almost screamingly obvious: Twitter.

Media mistakes, and even media dishonesty, are nothing new. But this type of story — complete with a short video clip and screenshot perfectly calibrated to confirm one side’s ideological biases — was tailor-made for the land of the retweet. Without Twitter, this frenzied display of snap judgments and public shaming would probably have vaporized before it was even a twinkle in a writer’s eye.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Twitter is a disastrous scourge, which is particularly unfortunate given that a large bulk of the nation’s media is hopelessly addicted to Twitter. It is a great carbuncled pixel-based den of rumors, as bleak as one of those depressing old Wilfred Owen poems about the Great War. Also, don’t look now, but it may or may not be destroying our entire civilization from within.

With this in mind, I have a suggestion: Each and every responsible member of the media should immediately and dramatically declare a Twitter strike, preferably while wearing a monocle.

A Dozen and Then Some Articles that Could Only Be Improved by Frying Them in Bacon Fat

1. The Circle Game: Victor Davis Hanson reflects on the Mueller probe, going round and round and . . . From his piece:

In sum, one result of the entire Mueller inquest is that we are now witnessing one of the greatest political scandals in U.S. history, given that

1) the FBI conducted a secret investigation of the sitting president of the United States and kept it from all oversight, based on nothing other than unfounded accusations from untrustworthy sources and the FBI’s policy differences with candidate and later President Trump;

2) presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the middle of the 2016 campaign hired a foreign national, British subject Christopher Steele, to conduct opposition research on her rival Donald Trump, and she hid her use of campaign funds to pay for the ensuing dossier by funneling the payments as “legal fees” through both a law firm and an opposition-research firm;

3) members of Obama’s Department of Justice and FBI deliberately and repeatedly misled FISA courts by presenting a dossier as evidence without disclosing that it was unverifiable, paid for by Hillary Clinton, used circularly for “corroborating” news accounts, and authored by a fired FBI informant — all of which was previously known to the top echelon of the FBI and DOJ;

4) key members of the U.S. government in the FBI, DOJ, CIA, and State Department took great pains in the midst of a presidential campaign to spread knowledge of the unverified dossier among top government officials and to ensure leaks of the dossier to the media;

5) few involved in any of these felonious acts are currently under investigation, and fewer are apt to be subject to criminal prosecution, given the hysteria over the supposed Trump collusion;

6) Mueller’s top lieutenant, Andrew Weissmann, by intent or default, probably had a role in the deception of a federal FISA court that was deliberately misled by fellow DOJ attorneys who withheld information that they knew would impugn their own evidence.

2. The Covington Affair recalls Orwell’s 1984 warning about “facecrime,” writes Kyle Smith. From his piece:

Mulling over what Orwell got right and wrong will be the work of decades to come. The video screens he envisioned are indeed ubiquitous, but they’re in our pockets, not run by a central authority. Orwell got one purpose of incessant video monitoring right, though: to identify and punish those whose facial expressions don’t conform to the cultural orthodoxy.

The Covington Catholic High School boys, it is now obvious, were initially charged with facecrime. Regardless of everything else we know now about the Lincoln Memorial incident, they remain guilty of that. And also hatcrime, the newest hate crime. I initially thought the bizarre reluctance to let go of the original, false narrative was due to people’s stubbornness about admitting their first impression was incorrect. Now it’s becoming clearer that in the eyes of some, nothing could even partially excuse the Covington kids.

RELATED: More from Kyle on “Native American elder” Nathan Phillips, liar.

MORE RELATED: Charlies Cooke says Phillips is full of malarkey.

3. More on Phillips: David French compares his various interviews (CNN, Detroit Free Press) post-contretemps and finds the lefty rabble-rouser spewing falsehoods, inconsistencies, and sheer nonsense — which the MSM laps up. From the wrap-up of his Corner post:

I’ve been to dozens of high school football and basketball games. In the South at least, this is what student bodies do. They chant. They jump around. They get loud. And if they’re being taunted by racists, it actually seems like a constructive response to hate speech. Don’t engage, have fun. But then came Nathan Phillips, he walked into their midst, he sang words they didn’t understand, and then he spewed falsehoods in the national media. Why are so many progressives taking his word as true? Because he’s telling the story they want to hear, not because he’s telling the truth.

4. Kavanaugh was Act One. Covington Catholic, writes David, is Act Two. From the piece:

Over the last 72 hours, I’ve been asking myself a simple question: What would happen if a group of Black Israelites had spent an hour taunting my son’s high-school football team? How would they have reacted if a Native American elder had walked into their midst – apparently not saying anything intelligible to them, but rather banging a drum and chanting inches from one kid’s face. Would they have thought that was an effort at “peacemaking,” or just more taunting? What would they have said if some of the people walking with that elder had yelled insults at them?

I ask those questions, but I’m pretty sure I know the answer. The boys wouldn’t have reacted all that differently from the kids at Covington Catholic. They would have sung different songs, they would have chanted different chants, and maybe one or two of the kids would have lofted an obscene gesture in the direction of the Black Israelites. In other words, they would have been kids, and barring some sort of overt criminal act, the blame for any tension that followed should rest with the adults who behaved so aggressively and strangely (and, let’s face it, walking through a group of boys chanting and banging a drum is not exactly normal behavior). If a kid responds poorly to a challenging situation, you reprimand him. You teach him.

5. The new liturgical life for many, even churchgoers, is modern mass-media, writes Michael Brendan Dougherty in a terrific piece — against the Covington backdrop — on . . . a Christ-less Christian culture, repetition, devotional reading, and white teen boys in MAGA hats. From the piece:

And it doesn’t stop just because you stopped going to church. Despite many commentators pretending that America is a very religious country in Western civilization, the vast majority of people here don’t go to a church or synagogue or other house of worship in any given week.

And even for the people who do go to church, their “liturgical life” is still mostly made up of modern mass media: television, film, news websites, etc.

Last year, when the Brett Kavanaugh nomination ran into controversy, scores of writers convicted Kavanaugh based on their remembered experience of a completely different set of characters, and a completely different school. They wrote quite sincerely that their experiences “shed light” on this other situation. They had a parable in their heads, something they had meditated on for years. They’d seen it replicated in popular films. It was true. Just like the Duke Lacrosse rape was “true” and the Rolling Stone article about the UVA gang rape was true. This is what jocks are.

6. For Kevin Williamson, the Covington Affair exposes a crisis of citizenship, and journalistic integrity. From his article:

And the fact that a couple of children in MAGA hats engaged in boorish behavior — which isn’t even a fact, as it turns out, but a lie constructed and wholesaled with malice aforethought — wouldn’t have told us one damn thing about Donald J. Trump, his administration, or his political supporters at large. The fact that we had a momentary national moral crisis over the (as is turns out, fictitious) actions of a couple of nobody teenagers is all the evidence anybody needs of the fundamentally hysterical and unserious times in which we live. In a sane world, nobody cares about whether a 16-year-old boy somewhere . . . smirked.

Everybody who has pretended like that smirk tells us something serious about the state of the world is a liar and a fraud. I don’t mean the people who were legitimately taken in by the deceit — especially those who have had the honor and self-respect to admit their errors and correct them — but those who willfully persist in the lie. I’m talking about you, Ruth Graham of Slate, still trying to justify by whatever pathetic means are available what everybody with any sense knows to have been an exercise in pure horses***. I’m talking about you, editors of the New York Times. You sorry specimens are poor excuses for journalists, which, of course, we already knew. What’s more relevant here is that you are bad citizens. Trafficking in lies and distortions because you think the guy in the White House is kind of gross is unworthy of adults with responsible positions in a free society that depends on honest and functional institutions.

7. The evidence is in, but neighboring diocese (Lexington, KY) Catholic bishop John Stowe (who gained some notoriety two years ago by saying Mass for a radical “LGBT” outfit that seeks to change Church teaching on homosexuality) remains intent on throwing the Covington Boys under the bus in what Ramesh Ponnuru calls “a bad and even a disgraceful op-ed.” More from Ramesh:

But then the bishop’s letter actually gets worse. He concludes,

The pro-life movement claims that it wants more than the policy change of making abortion illegal, but aims to make it unthinkable. That would require deep changes in society and policies that would support those who find it difficult to afford children. The association of our young people with racist acts and a politics of hate must also become unthinkable.

Let’s, charitably, attribute some of this language to bad writing. Ordinarily when an author claims that a movement “claims that it wants” something, the implications are that the author is not a part of that movement and that he has some doubts about its sincerity. And at this moment let’s pass over the claim that support for Trump is simply a “politics of hate” (which is a gross slander of most Kentuckians, whether or not support for Trump is justified). Here we have, at the end, the reintroduction of a claim of “racist acts” that the bishop refuses to describe, let alone substantiate. Effectively he is saying, “These Catholic children are probably guilty of all the accusations even though I can’t go into any of the questions about whether or not they were.” He won’t commit himself to a position on what offense justifies his throwing the kids under the bus.

The bishop was right about one thing: He does owe an apology; actually, several of them.

8. The MAGA cap is the Left’s new excuse for a thousand transgressions. Rich Lowry comes to its defense. From his piece:

It speaks to the marketing genius of Donald Trump that he managed to create not just a potent piece of campaign memorabilia, but a cultural marker that will forever be associated with this period of our national life.

The MAGA hat denotes support for him, yes, but also a certain boldness and unwillingness to be bullied that isn’t merely symbolic — people occasionally get assaulted for doing nothing other than wearing the caps.

And why not, if the cap symbolizes only one thing for the Left? As Commonweal magazine columnist Mollie O’Reilly wrote of the Covington controversy, “You don’t let your kid wear a MAGA hat and then act offended when they get taken for a racist.”

Well, there’s the minor detail that your kid might not be remotely racist. It should be incumbent on adults to realize, much though they hate Donald Trump, that not everyone who supports him or wears his political paraphernalia is a hater.

9. NRO begins a five-part series on the WASP. Our old pal Neal B. Freeman kicks it off. Here’s how his piece begins:

One of the most heuristic things ever said about a member of my family was said by William Bradford, governor of Plymouth colony, the early American settlement located in what would, at a later day, become the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Writing in his memoir, Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford said of my paternal ancestor William Brewster, “He was tenderhearted and compassionate of such as were in misery but especially of such as had been of good estate and rank and were fallen unto want and poverty.” What was remarkable in that encomium, of course, was not the contention that Brewster was a nice man. Down through the centuries, the record would probably confirm that my family has produced at least one nice man every generation or so. What was remarkable was that Brewster was revered not so much for his work in comforting the afflicted as for his success in comforting the formerly comfortable. As the Elder — the spiritual leader, that is to say — of a small band of English Christians who decamped first to Leiden, Holland, and then to America in 1620 on the good ship Mayflower, Brewster was tending to a relatively well-placed and well-connected flock. These were merchants and farmers, men of the law, men of the Book.

These Pilgrims, as they came to be called, were not low-born or criminal elements fleeing authority in search of a second chance. (For the footloose and felonious, conveniently, there would soon be Australia.) These were proper Englishmen, some of them educated, which was rare in those days, and most of them with “good prospects.” What set them apart from the rest of their countrymen was a determination to worship God according to their own lights, free from the constraints imposed by the almighty Church of England, and free as well from an English king increasingly given to what the Pilgrims perceived to be papist tendencies. These Pilgrims were men and women willing and in notable cases eager to subordinate the temporal to the transcendent. They were, as history would later inscribe, the brave souls who brought across a vast ocean and then planted in the hard soil of New England the radical and very American idea of religious freedom. That idea took root, deep root. Almost two centuries later, the Constitution’s framers would begin the First Amendment this way: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

10. Former NR colleague from ancient days, now Professor (at California State University, San Bernardino) Richard Samuelson, looks at the border crisis and what it says about self-government. From his piece:

The common citizen is, obviously, not competent to decide many technical questions. But when it comes to issues such as “How many additional people do we wish to join us in the United States each year?” we are emphatically in the realm of questions on which the judgment of the average citizen is entitled to equal respect with that of the economist, engineer, or college professor. Do most Americans, does our governing class, still understand that? I fear that the answer is no.

In sum, the crisis of the border is a crisis of democratic accountability. Can government of the people, by the people, and for the people long endure if government does not feel obliged to follow the laws our duly elected representatives have passed?

11. This is hugely unsettling — Maddy Kearns piece on a UK charity determined to change laws to allow sex-change for gender-confused little ones. From the piece:

At grassroots, Mermaids is still permitted to train thousands of teachers, police, health-care providers, and politicians. In its workshops, Mermaids shows a graph with Barbie at one end and a G.I. Joe action figure at the other and ask teachers to think about where their pupils might fall. Does a boy exhibit typically girly behaviors such as a wearing tutu? Could be a trans girl! Does a girl play with trucks, etc.? Could be a trans boy! Of course, this logic enshrines archaic gender stereotypes and has no scientific basis. Which is the precise reason that Turner, a liberal and a feminist, refutes it.

12. Senator Mike Lee ponders: Could a conservative populism repair America’s racial divide? From his piece:

President Trump won all eleven of the low-social-capital states east of Texas. Around 15 to 25 percent of whites in these states identify their ancestry as “American.” This group is overwhelmingly composed of southern whites, and it ranks below nearly all ancestry groups in terms of median household income. Nationally, the correlation across states and counties between low social capital and the share of the population that identifies as “American” is stronger than it is for all but a few of the major ancestry groups.

As J. D. Vance describes in his memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, in this struggling region of the country, individuals’ poor habits and decisions limit their opportunity. But he also highlighted the impact of economic shifts and policies that have been either inadequate or ill-designed.

It is incumbent on conservatives — those of us who support the free enterprise system — to recognize that bad policy can inhibit access to free markets and better policy can enhance opportunity within them.

A populist conservatism — if it can find the right balance between promoting personal responsibility and addressing economic, social, and policy barriers to success — might be able to unite Americans across racial and cultural lines rather than dividing them. And it could strengthen conservatism overall at the same time.

13. To the catacombs! David French looks at white progressive populism’s blatant Christian-Hate. From his piece:

The combination of ignorance, fear, and hatred wielded against conservative Christians in progressive quarters is disturbing. Just in this new year, we’ve seen two progressive senators aggressively question a Christian judicial nominee because of his membership in a mainstream Catholic service organization, we’ve seen a days-long attack on Karen Pence for teaching part-time at a Christian ministry, and we watched a stunning online feeding frenzy against students at a Catholic boys’ school based on a misleadingly clipped video segment of a much longer confrontation.

Moreover, we just concluded a Supreme Court term in which progressive governments attempted to erode the constitutional firewall against compelled speech by attempting to compel Christians to advance messages they found immoral. California attempted to compel pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise free or low-cost abortions. Colorado attempted to compel a man to custom-design a cake for a gay wedding.

14. Big Jim Geraghty gives us a look-see at the controversial freshman Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, facts’ loose-player. From his piece:

In her CNN interview, Omar was asked about a recent tweet about Senator Lindsey Graham that declared, “They got to him, he is compromised.” (While she did not specify who she meant by “they,” from the context it seems clear she’s referring to President Trump and his allies.) Asked about that comment by CNN, Omar answered, “Graham has told us how dangerous this president could be if he was given the opportunity to be in the White House, and all of the sudden he’s made not only a 180-turnaround but a 360-turnaround.” (The congresswoman probably needs a refresher on geometry: If you turn 180 degrees, you have reversed direction; if you make a 360 degree turnaround, you are facing the same direction you were before the turn.)

When CNN anchors asked if she had any evidence to support her claim, she said, “The evidence really is present to us. It’s being presented to us in the way that he is behaving.” Pressed further, she backtracked slightly, saying it “was just an opinion based on what I believe to be visible to me — and I’m pretty sure there are lots of Americans who agree on this.”

Most recently, she weighed in on the controversy surrounding the Covington Catholic students, protesters from the Black Hebrew Israelites religious group, and Native American demonstrator Nathan Phillips. Omar tweeted, “The boys were protesting a woman’s right to choose & yelled ‘it’s not rape if you enjoy it’. . . They were taunting 5 Black men before they surrounded Phillips and led racist chants . . . Sandmann’s family hired a right wing PR firm to write his non-apology.” The comment about rape was not from a Covington Catholic student, the Black Hebrew Israelites had called the students all manner of offensive slurs, and if Omar genuinely believes it’s wrong for a teenager unexpectedly thrust into the public spotlight to hire a public-relations firm, she will presumably denounce the Parkland Teens any day now. Omar later deleted the tweet.

15. Dan McLaughlin thinks long and hard about why America seems to be in a panic over immigration. From his piece:

A vicious cycle of waning civilizational self-confidence looms when the native-born have few children. A self-assured society envisioning opportunities for burgeoning young families has less reason to fear that new entrants will replace the existing culture rather than assimilate into it. Low-birth-rate countries, by contrast, grow dependent on importing new people to sustain the work force and the tax base for retirement programs. Immigrants are not a luxury but a need. With fewer homegrown children, newcomers and their children take on outsized visibility in communities, schools, and popular culture.

The backdrop of these anxieties is a one-two punch of loss of trust in institutions and an atomization of society that leaves people less connected to communities. The 2008 credit crisis and its aftermath, in particular, left a residue of corroded optimism and shaken faith in elites. And specific to immigration, there has been a long series of political broken promises over border security that has fed cynicism about government’s sincerity, from the empty promise that the 1986 amnesty would resolve illegal immigration to the failure to add border fencing authorized over a decade ago.

The gathering radicalization of the Left on immigration is partly a matter of ideological tribalism, partly a reaction to the Right, and partly due to Washington gridlock that stymied “comprehensive” reform in 2007 and 2013, leading to unilateral executive action by Barack Obama, which in turn was stymied by the courts. Political events like the California initiatives of the 1990s also accelerated the radicalization of both sides: The Left saw in them a dark anti-immigrant menace, while the Right saw popular initiatives thwarted in the courts and overrun in practice.

The social ills run deeper: epidemic addiction, decaying civic organizations, spreading loneliness and isolation, and declines in marriage and churchgoing. Immigrants did little to create these problems, but people are less apt to welcome strangers when they see their way of life and social contract as brittle, their government as unwilling or unable to respond, and their economic safety net as strained to bursting.

16. A lousy anniversary happened this week: it’s been 44 years since FALN terrorists detonated a bomb at NYC’s historic Fraunces Tavern, killing four, including NYPD officer Frank Connor, whose son Joseph writes about how justice for these murders remains elusive. Here’s how his article begins:

Forty-four years ago today, terrorists shattered my family. Sadly, the war against these individuals and their benefactors continues to this day.

My father, 33-year-old Frank Connor, and three other innocent men were murdered, while scores were injured and maimed, on Jan. 24, 1975, when the Marxist Puerto Rican terrorist group Armed Forces for National Liberation (“FALN”) blew up New York’s historic Fraunces Tavern during a crowded lunchtime. The FALN appointed themselves my father’s judge, jury, and executioner, profiling, targeting, and savagely murdering so-called “reactionary corporate executives.” The Connor family had planned to celebrate my ninth and my brother’s 11th birthday that very night.

17. Is any American politician more enraptured by uterine butchery than New York Governor Andrew Cuomo? He was a beaming ghoul this past week, reveling in leading the fight to pass a new law permitting legal abortion in the Empire State up to the moment of birth. Find the report by Alexandra DeSanctis here.

18. John O’Sullivan considers the particular importance of the U.S. ambassador to England, historically and in the position’s present occupant, Woody Johnson (who J O’S rates highly). From the get-go of his piece:

Are ambassadors important? Are they even necessary? Not as much as they used to be. When presidents and prime ministers can talk directly on secure “hotlines” in a crisis, an ambassador actually makes fewer significant decisions than when diplomatic letters took weeks to shuttle back and forth between capitals. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter at all. If a president respects his ambassador’s political acumen, his view of a foreign government and its policies will be influenced by ambassadorial advice. Still more important, an ambassador with a strong public personality can be an effective spokesman for his country’s policies abroad.

Few ambassadors are really good at this second role. They’re happier negotiating quietly behind the scenes than making bold statements on public platforms. But Woody Johnson, the businessman and philanthropist who is Trump’s current ambassador in the United Kingdom, is shaping up to be an exception. Though Donald Trump and his policies are not always the easiest sell in the U.K., especially in fashion-conscious and politically correct London, Johnson does more than defend them well. He also offers frank criticisms of British policy when he thinks it’s drifting in the wrong direction.

He did exactly that three weeks ago, just at the point when U.K. politics was entering its latest downwards spiral on Brexit. That was supposed to reach some sort of weary climax with a parliamentary vote on Theresa May’s deal with the EU last Tuesday. It didn’t. Though voted down by the single largest vote against a major proposal from a U.K. government in British history, the deal is still around. Mrs. May wants to tweak its controversial features and present it yet again to Brussels and the Commons. Latest estimates suggest it will be finally decided in early February, maybe seven weeks before Brexit Day, the 29th of March, when Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. But no one is certain that will happen. Resistance to it and other routes to Brexit continues among Remainers in Parliament, but May’s deal is unpopular with most Brits even in her own Tory party, in part because it would more or less prevent U.K. free-trade deals with non-EU countries such as, well, such as the United States. And this was the issue that Johnson took on during the BBC’s regular morning radio show with both barrels.

I Want That Money!

So said Max Bialystock and so say liberal academics who argue for a 70 percent tax rate. Well, in fact, they don’t admit that — but confiscating the contents of your wallet is exactly what they’re up to, as economist Ed Conard writes in this excellent NRO piece.

A Quartet of Brilliance from the February 11, 2019 Issue of National Review

Here are four articles and essays that are a sampling of collective greatness published for your fortnightly enjoyment (which you truly will enjoy, with immediacy, when you become a member of NRPLUS).

1. The cover essay, by Charlie Cooke, is a hit on “Our Vain, Languid, Excitable, Morbid, Duplicitous, Cheap, Insular, and Mawkish Media.” Otherwise titled, “Bad, Press.” From the essay:

Our national press is a national joke. Vain, languid, excitable, morbid, duplicitous, cheap, insular, mawkish, and possessed of a chronic self-obsession that would have made Dorian Gray blush, it rambles around the United States in neon pants, demanding congratulation for its travails. Not since Florence Foster Jenkins have Americans been treated to such an excruciating example of self-delusion. The most vocal among the press corps’ ranks cast themselves openly as “firefighters” when, at worst, they are pyromaniacs and, at best, they are obsequious asbestos salesmen. “You never get it right, do you?” Sybil Fawlty told Basil in Fawlty Towers. “You’re either crawling all over them licking their boots or spitting poison at them like some Benzedrine puff adder.” There is a great deal of space between apologist and bete noire. In the newsrooms of America, that space is empty.

It’s getting worse. Despite presenting an opportunity for sobriety and excellence, the election of President Donald Trump has been an unmitigated disaster for the political media, which have never reckoned with their role in Trump’s elevation and eventual selection, and which have subsequently treated his presidency as a rolling opportunity for high-octane drama, smug self-aggrandizement, and habitual sloth. I did not go to journalism school, but I find it hard to believe that even the least prestigious among those institutions teaches that the correct way to respond to explosive, unsourced reports that just happen to match your political priors is to shout “BOOM” or “BOMBSHELL” or “BIGIFTRUE” and then to set about spreading those reports around the world without so much as a cursory investigation into the details. And yet, in the Trump era, this has become the modus operandi of all but the hardest-nosed scribblers.

The pattern is now drearily familiar. First, a poorly attributed story will break — say, “SOURCE: DONALD TRUMP KILLED LEON TROTSKY BACK IN 1940.” Next, thousands of blue-check journalists, with hundreds of millions of followers between them, will send it around Twitter before they have read beyond the headline. In response to this, the cable networks will start chattering, with the excuse that, “true or not, this is going to be a big story today,” while the major newspapers will run stories that confirm the existence of the original claim but not its veracity — and, if Representative Schiff is awake, they will note that “Democrats say this must be investigated.” These signal-boosting measures will be quickly followed by “PERSPECTIVE” pieces that assume the original story is true and, worse, seek to draw “broader lessons” from it. In the New York Times this might be “The Long History of Queens Residents’ Assassinating Socialist Intellectuals”; in the Washington Post, “Toxic Capitalism: How America’s Red Hatred Explains Our Politics Today”; in The New Yorker, “I’ve Been to Mexico and Was Killed by a Pickaxe to the Head”; in Cosmopolitan, “The Specifics Don’t Matter, Men Are Guilty of Genocide.”

2. Ramesh Ponnuru looks at the aftermath of the Tucker Carlson monologue, and the many reactions it prompted, especially regarding free markets. From his essay:

Treating economic liberty as something that has value in itself does not mean that it can never be limited. In America, governments at all levels condition, regulate, and infringe on free markets in countless ways, and there are no signs this will change. The religion Carlson indicts has few real adherents. But there is a kind of mental inertia that can afflict conservatives, a habit of looking at social problems with the assumption that they are the optimal result of markets or aren’t related to markets at all, and so either way nothing worthwhile can be done. It is good, then, to be reminded that free-market principles are not absolute.

American elites deserve to have their complacency punctured, too. Our ruling class does not regard the country as a set of resources to be pillaged, which is the impression Carlson gives, but it can be awfully self-absorbed. Opioids have been killing roughly as many Americans each year as the Vietnam War did in total, and politicians and journalists have been slow even to notice. Within recent memory the country went through a severe economic crisis, a crisis brought on by bad public policies and elite misbehavior. American elites spent much of its duration obsessed with the national debt (on the right) and health care and same-sex marriage (on the left) rather than with jobs and wages. Our political life would look wholly different if either of these things were not true. Perhaps this is why Carlson’s cri de coeur felt right to many commentators even though many of its specific points do not hold up.

The specifics matter, of course. Restrictions on trade and immigration are central to the populism that Carlson mentioned in his monologue; there are compelling reasons to doubt they would be a great economic boon for Americans in distressed communities. Polls suggest that Americans have in recent years become much more supportive of trade and immigration and that few Americans consider curbs on either a high priority.

But the larger context, political and moral, matters too. The Republican voter base has become more and more working-class, and marriage is in retreat within the working class. These trends make it more imperative than ever for conservatives to do what they — and everyone, really — should always be doing: thinking harder and better about how to help families flourish.

3. Tracy Lee Simmons reviews Andrew Robert’s new mega-biography, Churchill, Walking with Destiny. From the review:

But most readers will come to this book eager to plow headlong into those years between 1935 and 1945 when Churchill’s actions elevated him from mercurially successful politician and best-selling author, historian, and journalist to national savior.

We’re walked methodically through every documented move marking Churchill’s emergence as a prophet crying in his own wilderness to warn of the threat that Hitler’s rise to power and hegemonic intentions posed to Europe. And with each move, he met greater derision — derision made all the more vigorous by his already compromised reputation for hyperbole, bluster, and bad judgment. Yet he persisted; Churchill knew how and when to shamelessly promote himself, but when his country’s fate was at stake, it was country first and only.

Half the book traces his lonely road with the resistant likes of Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain and back into power as he returned to the Admiralty, followed by his call to 10 Downing Street in May 1940, the Battle of Britain, the American alliance, the touchy relations within a coalition government, and the rest of the long slog of danger, dash, and privation the war imposed on the United Kingdom and her allies — and with it all, the courage he instilled among a bedraggled people by, as President Kennedy later put it, “mobilizing the English language and sending it into battle.” A salient point to make about 1940, Roberts says penetratingly, is not that Churchill stopped a German invasion but that he prevented the British government from negotiating an ignoble peace.

4. Jay Nordlinger has a discussion — JNo questions and JNo answers — about the arts, or, as it might be titled, The Arts. From the article:

What role does great art play in society? Some societies prize it more than others. The same is true of individuals. Not everything appeals to everybody. WFB was not much for sports. Some are not much for the Great Outdoors. Woody Allen said, “I am two with nature.” I know people in classical music who are always trying to make classical music popular. “Don’t waste your time,” I say. “There’s a reason they call pop music ‘pop music,’ you know: It’s popular.” Classical music will never be popular. But that’s all right: There will always be a minority who cherish it, and keep it going.

But everyone should have an appreciation, right? “Should” is an interesting word. In one sense, we should all have pretty prom dates and Corvettes. I think everyone should be exposed to art — and sports and science and everything else. But I learned long ago that tastes vary, and that it’s foolish to expect, or even want, others to share yours.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits.

1. Puntastic: Gotta love the title of Armond White’s new article, “The Oscars Give Themselves a Black Aye.” From his piece:

How have the Oscars changed in the nearly 30 years since Spike Lee made Do the Right Thing, his only good film, and his dumbest, BlacKkKlansman? The latter has just given Lee his first Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director — honors that fans and pundits felt were denied to him because Do the Right Thing, a folkloric screed about urban racism, was considered “too young, too black, too strong” for the Academy’s formerly hidebound traditional liberalism. (In 1989, the Academy preferred the benign race homily of Driving Miss Daisy.)

This year, Lee gets in the running for Best Activist not because BlacKkKlansman is any good, but simply because it represents the first time Lee’s on- and off-screen politics have been in sync with the mainstream media and post-Obama Hollywood. Before BlacKkKlansman, Lee played the role of querulous, peripatetic hustler; his rude, antagonistic shtick (which became a clue to his insecurities and an occasion to stoke white guilt) was always considered too black, too petulant.

Remember how, back in ’89, two New York Magazine writers (a political columnist and a film reviewer) alarmed readers, warning that Do the Right Thing would cause riots? Now, thanks to BlacKkKlansman’s tacked-on agit-prop about Charlottesville and a silly, last-minute jibe at President Trump, the film industry — like the liberal media — has convinced itself to approve the film. #Resistance encourages riots.

2. Kyle Smith looks at the Oscar nominations as an exercise in nervous Hollywood wokeness. From his piece:

The Academy is caught in a bind between the white-knuckle, sweating-at-the-temples terror it feels at the prospect of being called racially insensitive by 75 people on Twitter and its desire to draw lots of viewers and retake a privileged place in the capital of American culture from the tumbleweed exurbs where it now resides. This year, though, salvation appeared to be at hand: A lot of movies that did boffo box office — A Star Is Born, Black Panther, A Quiet Place, Mary Poppins Returns — were also seen as viable Oscar candidates. Some hoped that Crazy Rich Asians or even Mission: Impossible — Fallout might be invited to the dance, too.

How did all this work out? So-so. A Star Is Born and Black Panther did indeed get Best Picture nominations as did the surprise blockbuster Bohemian Rhapsody, which as recently as two months ago appeared to have no chance whatsoever of edging its way into that conversation. (This is because the film is obviously not one of the best of the year, and also because it was directed by an alleged sexual predator, Bryan Singer, who was fired during shooting.) But neither A Star Is Born nor Black Panther was nominated for Best Director, indicating that the Academy isn’t head-over-heels about either. And all of the other audience-pleasers were rejected: A Quiet Place, Mary Poppins Returns and Crazy Rich Asians got no important nominations whatsoever. Instead, the slate of nominees filled up with movies audiences either haven’t liked (the strange Queen Anne lesbian comedy The Favourite, the let’s-laugh-at-Dick-Cheney’s-heart-attacks movie Vice) or have been tepid about (Green Book, BlacKkKlansman). Roma, a slow-moving black-and-white Netflix drama in Spanish with no stars which received a token theatrical release, tied for the lead with ten nominations.

3. Armond has immense praise for Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book. From his piece:

As Godard’s montage moves from culture to culture, through different eras of reportage and make-believe, The Image Book considers nothing less than the irony of classical art in competition with political reality. It’s a poetic analysis that achieves its power through metaphor and allusion, linking not-random images to specific mythic resonance: There’s the breathtaking “Lie to me” scene from Johnny Guitar; personalized literary references to Orpheus returning from his long journey; Henry Fonda discovering a law book in Young Mr. Lincoln, then pacing a jail cell in The Wrong Man; a lance piercing the body of Fritz Lang’s hero in Siegfried, then a similar lance thrown through Jean Cocteau’s body in The Testament of Orpheus.

Godard describes how images like these “dazzle our eyes with the transformation of reality,” but then his global sophistication forces him to structure his survey so that Western culture (“Under Western Eyes”) faces the incursion of the Middle East (“Arabia: Lost Paradise”). This section introduces a different montage style — disquieting images of deprivation, terrorism, Arab porn, female subjugation, even Obama smiling with a Saudi prince — that combines exoticism with agitation. (“Why dream of being king when you can dream of being Faust?”) Godard’s international-politics montage reaches for some kind of elusive, prophetic meaning. It’s facile at a higher level than other political punditry, but it’s also personally accountable and expressive — as when new shakey-cam technology is linked to his own hand painting a landscape.

The Six

1. At Reason, Richard Rothstein pens a troubling essay about the historic role of the federal government in ensuring segregation in housing. From his piece:

By the mid-1950s, housing projects for whites had many unoccupied units, while those for African Americans had long waiting lists. Eventually, as whites continued to leave the inner cities, almost all public housing was opened to African Americans.

At about the same time, industry began to leave urban centers. Automakers, for example, closed many downtown assembly plants and relocated to rural and suburban areas to which African-American workers had less access. Good urban jobs became scarcer and public housing residents became poorer. A program that originally addressed a middle-class housing shortage became a way to warehouse the poor.

Why did white-designated projects develop vacancies while black-designated ones faced more demand than supply? The disparity largely resulted from an FHA program that guaranteed loans to builders of working-class suburban subdivisions — with explicit requirements that black families be excluded and that house deeds prohibit resale to them.

This was not an act of rogue bureaucrats. It was written policy, in blatant violation of the Fifth, 13th, and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Federal Housing Administration published a manual used by real estate appraisers nationwide, specifying that loans for suburban development could not be federally subsidized if an “inharmonious racial group” would be present or was already nearby. Suburbs like Levittown (east of New York City), Lakewood (south of Los Angeles), San Lorenzo (across the Bay from San Francisco), and hundreds of others were created in this way, ensuring their racial homogeneity and isolation.

After World War II, the white novelist Wallace Stegner was recruited to teach writing at Stanford University. Given the housing shortage, he could find no place for his family to live, so he joined a cooperative of 150 families that bought a large ranch adjoining the university with a plan to build 400 homes. Banks, however, would not extend loans for such subdivisions without a federal guarantee — the construction of so many houses for which there were yet no buyers with approved mortgages was just too risky. And the federal government would not guarantee the Stegner project because three of the 150 families were African-American. The co-op refused to expel its black families, disbanding instead. A private developer purchased the land and, with FHA support, built an all-white subdivision in its place, complete with federally mandated deed restrictions prohibiting resale to black families.

2. In the New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof praises Cuba’s health-care system, which blogger John Suarez debunks at Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter. From his post:

Cuba has a two tiered health care system one tier for the nomenklatura and foreign tourists with hard currency that offers care with modern equipment and fully stocked pharmacies, then there is a second tier which is for the rest  with broken down equipment, run down buildings and rooms, scarce supplies, a lack of hygiene, the denial of certain services and lengthy wait times. Healthcare professionals are poorly paid and lack food.

On December 28, 2017 the Spanish news service EFE reported that the Castro regime had dismantled a network of medical officials and workers who’d adulterated a medicine for children made at the laboratories of the state-owned drug company BioCubaFarma. They replaced the active substance methylphenidate with a placebo substance in the manufacture of the drug marketed as “Ritalin.” The active substance was sold on the black market. Nevertheless, The Miami Herald had an article touting the importance of importing drugs from Cuba on December 14th.

The statistics and numbers that the international community has access to with relation to the Cuban healthcare system have been manipulated by the dictatorship. Katherine Hirschfeld, an anthropologist, in Health, Politics, and Revolution in Cuba Since 1898 describes how her idealistic preconceptions were dashed by ‘discrepancies between rhetoric and reality,’ she observed a repressive, bureaucratized and secretive system, long on ‘militarization’ and short on patients’ rights.

Hat Tip to the good people of Babalu Blog.

3. At the Wall Street Journal, my old NR colleague Bill McGurn takes on the shaming of Second Lady Karen Pence, who has the nerve to be a Christian-school teacher. From his column:

In the narrow sense, the vilification of Mrs. Pence makes prophetic Justice Samuel Alito’s prediction in his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision throwing out all state laws against same-sex marriage. Justice Alito saw a perilous future for those who still embraced the view Mr. Obama once claimed to hold. “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes,” he wrote, “but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

In the larger sense the faith-shaming of Mrs. Pence exposes an inversion of tropes. In history and literature, typically it has been the religious side that can’t tolerate the slightest disagreement from its dogma and behaves like outraged 17th-century Salemites when they think they have uncovered a witch.

Now look at the Immanuel Christian School. Those who run it know they and those who think like them are the big losers in America’s culture war. All they ask is to be allowed, within the confines of their community, to uphold 2,000 years of Christian teaching on marriage, sexuality and the human person.

4. In the new issue of Commentary, economist James Pethokoukis makes the case for growth, and the rightward rhetoric against it. From his article:

Yet a growing number of policymakers and pundits on the left and right are questioning the primacy of growth as the key objective of national economic policy. Democrats and progressives are focused on new policies to redistribute wealth, such as Medicare for all, a federal jobs guarantee, or a universal basic income. Meanwhile, Republicans and conservatives, grappling with a president who questions the value of free trade and immigration, have grown publicly skeptical of market capitalism. “The free market has been sorting it out for a while, and America has been losing,” said Vice President Mike Pence. And they have become skeptical of the core goal of increasing economic growth.

Leading the charge among the wonks is Oren Cass, a Manhattan Institute scholar and former policy director for the 2012 Mitt Romney presidential campaign. In his new book, The Once and Future Worker, Cass writes that although “economic growth and rising material living standards are laudable goals . . . they by no means guarantee the health of a labor market that will meet society’s long-term needs.”

Growth skeptics’ criticisms range from the ahistorical to the utopian. Of course, a fast-rising tide of economic growth does not guarantee that all boats will rise at the same pace or at a pace that society deems sufficient. “Guarantee,” after all, is a strong word. Depending on the strength one attributes to it, it’s possible nothing can “guarantee” the outcome that some growth critics want: all winners, no losers, no trade-offs, no disruption. But if by “guarantee” we don’t mean “ensure with ironclad certainty” but only “approximate more closely than any available alternative,” then economic growth remains society’s best bet. Indeed, this very urge to undervalue growth’s benefits is the surest sign that growth in America has become a victim of its own success.

5. At Gatestone Institute, Lawrence Franklin bemoans the Vatican’s capitulation to Red China. From his piece:

After a series of recent meetings between the Holy See and China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs, Pope Francis dispatched a delegation in mid-December to meet with leading bishops of the pro-Vatican “Underground Church” and Chinese government officials. The delegation was ostensibly in China to pursue “practical steps” to implement the provisional agreement the Holy See had reached with China.

In reality, the Papal delegation may have been sent to China to make certain that the agreement’s final implementation proceeded smoothly. The delegation included the Vatican’s President-Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli. The Archbishop carried a document signed by the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin and by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

The delegation’s Papal directive instructed at least two prominent Catholic bishops of the “Underground Church” to retire or share their official duties with bishops approved by the CCP. While the exact wording of the Holy See’s letter remains secret, some Vatican observers, presumably reflecting the Pope’s decision to reverse years of resisting Beijing’s demands, cited a few reasons for giving in. First, the Church probably needs to eliminate confusion among Catholics in China over the schism between Vatican-approved and regime-approved bishops. Another possible reason for the Vatican’s apparent flexible stance is that a Church-state compromise would be necessary to improve pastoral care for existing Catholic faithful. The decision by the Vatican not to publish the letter, however, may suggest that the regime is also demanding that the Holy See break relations with Taiwan before it can normalize diplomatic ties to China. This supposition is based on the character of Beijing’s previous agreements establishing bilateral relations with other countries, including Panama. Other countries that cut ties to Taiwan in order to open up embassies in China include the tiny African country of São Tomé and Principe as well as El Salvador. The prerequisite that states desiring formal ties with China must first sever formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan rests on Beijing calls its “One China” policy.

6. Richard Reinsch has a very interesting University Bookman review of the Michael Federici-edited book, The Catholic Writings of Orestes Brownson, using it to discuss the question of Catholic loyalty to America. From the review’s outset:

A question that most had thought long answered has returned to stir and prick the conscience of faithful Catholics in America: How loyal to America should they be? This question has been renewed primarily because of contemporary controversies over marriage and religious freedom, and a palpable sense that when the Democratic Party again wields unified federal power it will harass and go after Catholic institutions should they fail to bow to the latest iterations of sexual liberation and identity politics. These political battles have sparked a number of recent essays and books from post-liberal Catholic thinkers who say that America’s origins are rooted in the worst aspects of liberal modernity: secularism, individualism, materialism, and relativism. America’s undoing is largely inevitable, they argue, owing to the philosophic, anthropological, and political errors that have shaped it, and what we are presently witnessing is the beginning of this fated end. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s string of judicial opinions that highlighted a self-defining liberty rooted in emancipated human will serves as a revealing coda to an American constitutionalism breathing its most pure expression.

But other Catholic minds have asked, must we hope against all practical judgment for the return of some neo-medieval unity of church and state, as the integralists are at pains to teach us? Are we really stuck with wishing for a modern day Ruth to capture the administrative state to protect Catholics, as Adrian Vermeule seemed recently to be counseling in American Affairs? Should we just wait it out with our local Tridentine Latin Mass community, Benedict Option style? Others, more historically minded, have asked, have we been here before?

BONUS: Writing for The American Conservative, James Jeffrey shares his jades experiences as a reporter with NGOs and UN workers in Africa. Read it here.

Baseballery

Mariano Rivera, the . . . hitter. The new Hall of Famer pitched in 1,115 games (1,211 when you include the postseason), but chalked up a measly four hitless regular-season plate appearances. And one RBI! In a June 28, 2009 game against the Mets at Citi Field, Mo came in to pitch in the bottom of the 8th inning. In the top of the 9th, the Yankees (ahead 3-2) had two on with two outs, and the Mets’ All-Star reliever, Francisco Rodriguez, intentionally walked Derek Jeter to load the bases, in order to pitch to Rivera. He walked, driving in an insurance run. The Sandman shut down the Mets in the bottom of the inning to earn his 18th save of the season. Kudos to one of the National Pastime’s truly great citizens.

Twenty Lashes with a Wet Noodle

In the previous edition of this missive, your Humble Correspondent wrote in the P.S. “If I am not laying on the driveway clutching my chest with one hand . . .” Several grammarians, readers of this thingy, wrote to set me straight about the correct usage of lay and lie. I won’t tell you who or whom wrote. Their efforts are appreciated but in effect pointless, as I will never get the hung or hang of the distinction.

A Dios

Pray for National Review. Even Mo had blown saves. Also pray that my knowledge of grammar and punctuation grows. And that my waistline shrinks. And that Tony Oliva gets elected and admitted to the Hall of Fame someday.

God’s blessings on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

Who for his sins will accept your lashings and diatribes and snide remarks if emailed to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

FB Aye Aye Aye

Dear WJer,

Well, the New York Times drops a bombshell about FBI-eaucrats launching a counterintelligence investigation of the President. Outcry ensues.

David French thinks this action is prudent and proper. Rich Lowry responds that this is crazy. Separately, in his column, Rich blasts the agency for “trampling norms.” From his piece:

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 francisco@nrinstitute.org. 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.

The Six

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.

4. But Armond wants to shatter Glass (baa dumm dumm tshhh). Well, maybe not shatter. From his review:

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.

Baseballery

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.

A Dios

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,

Jack Fowler

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 jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

(Soylent) Green Energy Plan

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Things religious now behind us (some of us anyway) until Lent deprives us of M&Ms and ice cream, the WJ should start the year with some appropriate institutional bowing, which is accomplished by noting from the get-go El Jefe Rich Lowry’s column on the crazy-pants “Green New Energy” Plan being offered by the new Democrats (i.e., Socialists) in the House, led by toothy economist and bartendress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. From our Editor’s opining:

The Green Energy Plan would take one of the country’s unadulterated policy triumphs of the past 20 years, the revolution in oil and gas drilling, and trash it for no good reason. It would throw hundreds of thousands of employees in this industry out of work. But don’t worry — they could get a federally guaranteed job and perhaps grow fruits and vegetables in their backyards.

The case for the Green Energy Plan is based on the alleged climate crisis being so dire that it must overwhelm all cost-and-benefit analysis. Actually, we have already been making incremental progress in reducing emissions, thanks largely to natural gas, which the Green Energy Plan can’t abide. While global emissions have been increasing since 2005, U.S. emissions have been declining.

Even if we were to kneecap ourselves with the Green Energy Plan, the world’s biggest emitter wouldn’t follow suit. According to research by the green group CoalSwarm, China is now developing as much new coal capacity as currently exists in the U.S.

(RELATED: Jonah Goldberg’s new column calls the Green New Deal “a triumph of recycling” — and not cans.)

It got me thinking about harebrained schemes with an emerald shade, which got me thinking about Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston (his dinner scene with Edward G. Robinson is succulent!), which got me thinking about the famous old NR subscription commercial starring Chuck and Bill Buckley. It most definitely wasn’t Shakespeare, but I wrote Heston’s lines, and hung with him and Ed Capano at the studio, and talked about the LA riots as we rode back to NR’s old offices on 150 East 35th Street. And there he was greeted by a startled research assistant (we’ll call him Paul M) who declared: “Charlton Heston. I loved you in Planet of the Apes.”

OK readers, time to get out of this rabbit hole. Joltio, ergo sum!

Editorials

1. We reported in the last WJ about how Democrat senators are applying de facto religious tests for Trump judicial nominees who are members of (shudder!) the Knights of Columbus. This week we level a formal editorial condemning the hounding. Here’s how it ends:

The plaques of America’s war memorials are filled with the names of Knights. The first American officer to die in World War I was a Knight. The last officer to die was a Knight (a chaplain). Of all nations’ combatants, the last man to be killed, seconds before the Armistice took effect, was a Knight. President Kennedy was a Knight, and several councils are named in his honor. Numerous other anecdotes can be added here.

But the volume of such tributes, the size of its membership, the number of its councils, the dollars donated, and the hours volunteered, while inspiring, are irrelevant to the religious liberties of Americans. What troubles us is the principle at stake, which strikes at the core of the republic. The senators who have engaged in this decidedly un-American conduct need to apologize to the nominees unjustly treated, to the Knights of Columbus as an institution, and to their constituents for representing them under false pretenses.

2. Yeah, there is indeed a crisis at the border. From the editorial:

More physical barriers are part of the solution. The goal of the migrants is simply to set foot into the United States and then perhaps stay for years or never leave as their asylum claims are adjudicated. It gives us more control if it is harder to cross illegally and they can be made to apply at ports of entry. We saw a real-time example of the usefulness of a barrier when the caravan that arrived late last year in Tijuana was prevented from simply walking into the country by border fencing. The experience in places such as Yuma, Arizona, is that fencing has significantly diminished illegal crossings.

The fence isn’t a panacea, though. Even if Trump gets all the fence he wants in the current showdown, it will take years to build and, at roughly an additional 200 miles, obviously not cover the entire border. It would be more important to fix the rules around asylum and our handling of Central American families and minors so we aren’t so hamstrung. In its little-noticed current offer to Democrats in Congress, the administration proposes measures to encourage Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries instead of showing up here after an incredibly dangerous journey.

3. We say no to the idea that the President can have Americans (wait! what happened to the Mexicans footing the bill?!) pay for the Wall by declaring an emergency. The wrap-up from the editorial:

An attempt to spend unilaterally on the fence would almost certainly get tied up in the courts immediately. In the most favorable scenario for the administration, it eventually prevails in a Supreme Court loath to second-guess even dubious military-related determinations by the commander-in-chief. In the meantime, the administration will have built nothing new on the border and created another precedent for unilateral government sure to be exploited the next time a Democrat occupies the White House.

4. Just stop already, Congressman. From the end of the editorial:

Steve King may be clumsy, dangerous, bigoted, or some mix of the three. Whatever he is, he doesn’t deserve the support of conservatives.

And Now I Plug A New Book – So You Pay Attention

My good pal Nick Adams, founder of Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness, as happy a warrior as you will ever meet, was a big hit on the recent NR cruise, and he let us know there about his new book coming out from Simon and Schuster, Class Dismissed: Why College Isn’t the Answer. I’m sure that will enthrall my professor friends, but as they say, noogies of toughness.

Nick is a passionate guy, an American accidentally born in Australia, who sees the US of A as that last great and only hope. Looking at college dropout rates, tuition costs, college loan debt, and the aching need in our economy for trade careers — which offer a life that’s both economically-sustainable and soul-pleasing — Nick sees what many other see: that for millions of young Americans, college is not the answer. What about the teenager for whom sitting in a classroom is unfulfilling and frustrating? What about the kid with a skillset that can’t be nurtured on campus.

My pal ain’t just whistling Waltzing Matilda. Since a lot of the college decision-making process is as much about mom and dad as it is about kiddo, he’s structured Class Dismissed: Why College Isn’t the Answer, as a resource to consider next steps. Toward what? Maybe to college. But maybe to a great trade and a fulfilling and contented life — employed, fat, happy, and with no debt.

Learn more about the book here. Order it here at Amazon. The publication date is January 29.

Hot, Gorgeous, Lovely: This Sampling Is a Perfect 10.

1. We are privileged to publish another Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn work: The first-time in-English translation of his 1974 speech, “The Orbital Journey,” upon receiving the Golden Matrix award from the Italian Catholic Press Union. From Daniel J. Mahoney’s preface:

The Golden Matrix address has certain advantages over the Harvard address: It is sparer, less polemical, and perhaps even more weighty and philosophical. It is also less immediately preoccupied with the issues of the day. It is high-minded in every sense of the term. Eschewing narrowly political and grossly ideological categories, Solzhenitsyn provides a measured account of the “orbital journey” of modern man and the modern project in both East and West. His address is a clarion call for civilized humanity to reject the theocratic temptations of the medieval world as well as the materialist hegemony of an unbounded modernity. He calls for the restoration of balance in the human soul and the human world: One must resist the tyranny of the spiritual — which forgets the centrality of human freedom to a life well lived — but also the debilitating opposing claim that Man is the highest measure of the universe. Solzhenitsyn calls on his contemporaries to have the wisdom “to discover once again that man is not the crown of the universe, but that there exists above him a Higher Spirit.” Attentive readers hear the voice of Solzhenitsyn, the conservative green, the eloquent critic of “cruel modern tyrannies” and of the accompanying illusion that socialism, coercive and devoid of higher spiritual content as it is, can restore balance to the human world.

The address also includes a luminous critique of “bloody physical revolutions” (as in France after 1789 and the Soviet Union after 1917). They “lead not to a brighter future, but to worse perdition, to worse violence.” Both here and in the Harvard address, Solzhenitsyn suggestively traces the possibility of a “moral revolution” that would move beyond the excesses of modernity, yet without returning to the spiritual despotisms of the past. He never advocates going back, only up, from modernity.

2. Victor Davis Hanson wonders if American higher education can be saved. From his essay:

On the one hand, higher education’s professional schools in medicine and business, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs in math, science, and engineering, are the world’s best. America dominates the lists of the top universities compiled in global surveys conducted from the United Kingdom to Japan.

On the other hand, the liberal arts and social sciences have long ago mostly lost their reputations. Go online to Amazon or to the local Barnes and Noble bookstore, and the books on literature, art, and history are often not the products of university professors and presses.

Few believe any more that current liberal-arts programs have prepared graduates to write persuasively and elegantly, to read critically and to think inductively while drawing on a wide body of literary, linguistic, historical, artistic, and philosophical knowledge. In fairness, that is no longer the aim of higher education. When students at tony colleges present petitions objecting to free speech or the right of guests to give lectures, they are usually full of grammatical errors and often incoherent.

3. Jim Geraghty finds 15 things you probably don’t know about presidential wannabe Elizabeth Warren. From the rundown, here’s Number 7:

Warren was, at one point, a passionate advocate for school-voucher programs. The Two-Income Trap, the 2003 book she co-authored with her daughter, had this to say on the subject:

Any policy that loosens the ironclad relationship between location-location-location and school-school-school would eliminate the need for parents to pay an inflated price for a home just because it happens to lie within the boundaries of a desirable school district.

 A well-designed voucher program would fit the bill neatly. A taxpayer-funded voucher that paid the entire cost of educating a child (not just a partial subsidy) would open a range of opportunities to all children. With fully funded vouchers, parents of all income levels could send their children — and the accompanying financial support — to the schools of their choice. Middle-class parents who used state funds to send their kids to school would be able to live in the neighborhood of their choice — or the neighborhood of their pocketbook. Fully funded vouchers would relieve parents from the terrible choice of leaving their kids in lousy schools or bankrupting themselves to escape those schools.

As she joined the Democratic party and became increasingly prominent in it, Warren’s position changed. By 2018, she was denouncing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for “using her vast fortune to bankroll radical K–12 ‘school choice’ policies and private voucher programs,” and she decried voucher programs as an effort to “further drain funds from public education and programs serving low-income and working Americans.”

4. Jonathan Tobin cautions that Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden might be petard-hoisted in 2020 thanks to the Democrats’ ever-radicalizing base. From his piece:

Biden had long since outrun any criticism defenders of Thomas’s accuser, Anita Hill, had thrown in his direction by the time he became Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the fall of 1991, when Thomas’s fated was being decided, he was blamed for the harsh questioning to which Hill was subjected by some senators. But he could also point out that Thomas blamed him for allowing last-minute attacks on his character to be launched in the first place. When Thomas claimed to be the victim of a “high-tech lynching” on national television, he was directing his anger at Biden rather than the other members of the committee’s Democratic majority.

A decade after Obama’s ascendance, however, the criticisms have returned, and Biden finds himself in the same position as Sanders.

Of course, neither Biden nor Sanders is a genuine #MeToo villain, even by the debased standards of guilt and innocence that have reigned over the past year. But the Times’s exposure of the Sanders campaign may make it even easier for Democrats to favor a female candidate or, at the very least, make it harder for them to nominate an old, white male with pre-October 2017 #MeToo baggage of any sort.

5. Kyle Smith watches the Golden Globes (so we didn’t have to). Amidst the mud he found a truffle. From his essay’s conclusion:

Yet one American did manage to balance emotion and good humor in a freewheeling speech that was heartfelt without being mawkish: Jeff Bridges, capturing the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, went full Dude in a strange but wonderful series of remarks in which he thanked by name his directors (the Coen brothers, Michael Cimino, Peter Bogdanovich — who “kicked the whole party off for me, man”). Cimino, whose first film was Bridges’ Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and who later won an Oscar for The Deer Hunter, reassured the actor when he wanted to bail on the film: “Jeff, you know the game tag? . . . You’re it. You are the guy. You couldn’t make a mistake if you wanted to.” That proved an amusing segue into the very Dude-ian remark, “You know, I’ve been tagged. I guess we all have been tagged, right? We’re all alive. Right here, right now! This is happening. We’re alive.” Far out, man! Bridges moved on to an unexpected disquisition about R. Buckminster Fuller (whom Bridges called “Bucky”), saying that the little rudder, or trim tab, on a ship’s rudder steers the big rudder, which steers the ship. “All of us are trim tabs. We might seem like we’re not up to the task, but we are, man. We’re alive! We can make a difference! We can turn this ship in the way we wanna go, man!” That’s the Hollywood we want: grateful, funny, whimsical wackjobs. Enjoy yourselves, you Dudes, instead of imploring us to take you seriously.

6. It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green (with apologies to Kermit): Robert Bryce lays into the idiocy of all-renewable energy, which happens to be very un-green. From his analysis

The Green New Deal has been endorsed by scads of liberal politicians including New York governor Andrew Cuomo, former California state senator Kevin de León, media darling and newly sworn-in Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and anti-hydrocarbon activist Josh Fox. The goals of the Green New Deal are nothing short of radical. As the website for the left-wing think tank Data for Progress explains, the Green New Deal aims to “transform the economy and the environment in ways that achieve sustainability, equity, justice, freedom, and happiness.” Achieving happiness has never been easy. Even harder will be the Green New Deal’s aim of completely eliminating the use of coal, oil, and natural gas by 2050.

How all this happiness and energy legerdemain will be achieved is anyone’s guess. Supporters are particularly vague about how they would find the hundreds of billions — or even trillions — of dollars needed to attempt such a plan. Nevertheless, there is one unassailable fact about the Green New Deal: It is not green. Indeed, the entire notion of an all-renewable-energy system is the antithesis of environmental protection and scenic conservation.

7. I’m almost loath to link to this because I have developed Ocasio-Cortez Fatigue Syndrome, but that said, Kyle Pomerleau finds her call for a 70 percent tax on moneybags to be unworkable. From his analysis:

Ocasio-Cortez has yet to release the specifics of her new plan. However, her comments imply that she wants to add an eighth tax bracket of 70 percent on incomes over $10 million. What this means is that if you are a very high earner, such as a successful actor, musician, or business owner, you would need to pay 70 cents for every dollar you report in taxable income over $10 million. It’s not clear yet whether it would apply only to earned income, or if it would apply to all income, including capital gains, dividends, and business income. However, given her stated goal, it is likely the latter.

For sure, there is a lot of money earned by the roughly 16,000 tax filers with incomes over $10 million. IRS data show that this group reported more than $482 billion in adjusted gross income in 2016. The Washington Post recently estimated that on a purely “static” basis (not accounting for any behavioral changes), the federal government could raise more than $700 billion in additional revenue over the next ten years if the federal government enacted a top tax rate of 70 percent.

Unfortunately for the congresswoman, estimates that show a significant increase in revenue from a 70 percent tax rate on incomes over $10 million are unrealistic. This is because individuals — and their accountants — would react to the new 70 percent rate by finding ways to report less income. They would save 70 cents for every dollar not reported above that threshold.

8. As much as you thrill to the Triple Lindy, you wince at the Double Doink, about which, among other sports stuff, Jay Nordlinger writes in The Corner.

9. Now that the American Psychological Association has labeled manliness and masculinity as harmful, Heather Wilhem wants to know: Who will kill the spiders in her house?

This week, the American Psychological Association delivered some sad news for fans of “traditional masculinity.” According to the organization’s new “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men,” the “harmful” ideology of masculinity — marked by “stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression” together with “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence” — has got to go.

Here I imagine a mournful, windswept cowboy — preferably Val Kilmer from Tombstone, or maybe Harrison Ford from Indiana Jones, but wearing a ten-gallon hatriding off into the sunset, slumped and grim, dragging a sad cache of uneaten rare steaks and unused power tools behind him. Farewell, traditional masculinity! You are too toxic! The APA told us so! Don’t let those swinging Old West barroom doors hit you on the way out, causing the old-timey piano music to abruptly stop and all the dust-strewn poker players who may or may not have tuberculosis to turn and stare at you in shock and dismay!

Reader, I don’t know how you feel about all this. I, for one, find it very upsetting, for one simple and selfish reason: Who is going to kill all the spiders that make their way into my house?

RELATED: The backlash to the APA had the outfit spinning, to which David French — who leveled an initial sharp attack on the shrinks’ idiocy — called BS on the spin, and said the APA cannot be given a pass.

10. Brian Allen tells a quite interesting story of the old, prestigious, and greatly troubled National Academy of Design (I didn’t even know it existed, but then there is a lot I don’t know) has fixed itself. Yeah, I think you should learn about this — here’s a chunk from the story:

Fourth, and best of all, the NAD is now living within its means. In politics, causes usually evolve into movements, then businesses, and finally rackets. In the arts world, ambitions might start as grand but often turn grandiose, then grotesque, and finally draining and debilitating. The NAD will eventually find a new home that includes a nice, small exhibition space to show selections from its superb permanent collection of art on a rotating basis, in a happy resolution to an internal debate that had long raged among members.

Since the 1820s, academicians have given their work to the NAD, so it owns important things. Over the last 15 years, the NAD has produced some fantastic shows of this work, shows that produced important art-history scholarship. These shows, it seems, became a controversy among the academicians as the institution’s situation got more and more dire. Many didn’t see the point of doing shows on the work of dead members. To them, it was an expensive distraction that refocused the NAD away from living artists and toward fundraising, marketing, outreach to schools, loans for shows, and all the other things that concern museum people but not artists.

The rotating-exhibition scheme has eliminated that problem, and, together with all the NAD’s other changes, gone a long way toward resolving the existential question of how museum-like the institution should be. A few years ago, back when that question was still open, it changed its name to the National Academy Museum. But it’s not really a museum. It’s an artist-run organization with a collection. As one telling new step, it’s changed its name back to what it was for a hundred years: the National Academy of Design.

Thus Spake Tucker.

The Fox host’s now-famous / viral monologue has launched a fleet of NRO responses and rebuttals. Here we go . . .

1. Jim Geraghty too wants to “put families first,” but defining what that means — and clarifying some facts (such as on America’s manufacturing base) — leads to some sharp criticisms of the Carlson spiel. From his Morning Jolt take:

NBA superstar LeBron James opened up a school for at-risk students in his old hometown of Akron that includes STEM summer courses as well as GED courses and job placement for parents. (Around this time, President Trump mocked LeBron James as stupid.) Carlson’s last book, Ship of Fools, depicted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos as some of the fools on the cover. Zuckerberg has pledged to give away 99 percent of his fortune during his lifetime, and his personal foundation has built a massive medical research facility. Jeff Bezos just committed $2 billion to a “split between the Day 1 Families Fund — helping homeless families — and the Day 1 Academies Fund — creating a “network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities.”

Aren’t these folks who have skin in the game and who are demonstrating a long-term obligation to their communities?

2. David French sizes up Carlson’s speech as victimhood populism and calls on conservatives to reject it. From his critique:

I’m not sure where he’s getting the idea that America’s wealthy citizens care more about the Congo than their own country. In 2017, Americans gave more than $410 billion in charity, and the idea that this charity flows principally overseas is ludicrous. Gifts to international charities represented only 6 percent of total giving, and foreign aid represents roughly 1.2 percent of the federal budget, an inconsequential sum compared with the immense sums we spend in the United States on economic development and social welfare. America is consistently one of the most charitable countries in the world, whether measured by volunteerism or money.

American public policies are flawed, yes. The American people are imperfect, yes. But any argument that American elites (a group that includes, by the way, enormous numbers of first-generation college grads and people who worked brutal hours to achieve economic success) represent an uncaring, indifferent, exploitive mass is fundamentally wrong. In fact, the better argument is that well-meaning Americans have spent their money poorly (on ineffective charitable programs and destructive welfare policies), not that they don’t care.

Carlson is advancing a form of victim-politics populism that takes a series of tectonic cultural changes — civil rights, women’s rights, a technological revolution as significant as the industrial revolution, the mass-scale loss of religious faith, the sexual revolution, etc. — and turns the negative or challenging aspects of those changes into an angry tale of what they are doing to you.

3. J.D. Vance finds Carlson has scored big on his point that the market is no panacea for maladies, and the worship of it is troubling. From his piece:

Surely our response can’t be: “Well, the market will take care of it.” The market is not a Platonic deity, floating in the sky and imposing goodness and prosperity from on high. It is the creation of our choices, our laws, and our democratic process. We know, for instance, that pornography has radically altered how young boys perceive their relationships with women and sex, and that the pornography industry has acquired a lot of wealth in the process of creating and distributing that content. Just last month, we learned that a Chinese entity created the first gene-edited baby, using a technology developed in the United States. Some company, here or there, will eventually create a lot of prosperity by using this gene-editing technology (called CRISPR) in an unethical way, quite literally playing God with the most sacred power in the universe — the creation of human life. In the past few years, it has become abundantly clear that Apple — despite self-righteously refusing to cooperate with American security officials — has willingly complied with the requirements of the Chinese surveillance state, even as China builds concentration camps for dissidents and religious minorities. And, as Carlson mentioned, there are marijuana companies pushing for legalization, though we know from the Colorado experience that legalization increases use, and from other studies that use is concentrated among the lower class, causing a host of social problems in the process.

All of these entities are doing what the market demands, and in some ways, it’s hard to blame them. But shouldn’t our laws and policy make life harder for them? Or should conservatives cry “small government” every time someone suggests an intervention and stick our collective head in the sand, pretending there’s no relationship between market actors and the civil society we say we believe in?

4. In The Corner, Yuval Levin says Carlson is on to something about the tensions between markets and social order. From his post:

The things we value are therefore sometimes in tension with each other. When that tension arises, we have to prioritize, and that prioritization has to be guided by an idea of human flourishing that lets us roughly figure out in individual instances when and how far the demands of market competition need to be met and when and how far those of family, faith, community, or country need to be met. There is no perfect formula for doing this, obviously. But there are better and worse ways to do it, and our society has not been doing it well enough in this century, which has left a lot of ruin in a lot of people’s lives.

One key to finding this balance is to recognize that the market is a means, not an end. We should be immensely grateful for the benefits it has brought us — the ways in which it has made us better able to pursue good ends. But we should not mistake it for those ends, and so should be willing to constrain its reach when it undermines them instead of advancing them, which happens. Conservatism has ceded its economic thinking too thoroughly to libertarianism since the 1990s in a way that has caused us to forget this. It is time for that to change, and so for some rebalancing of our priorities.

5. David Bahnsen, author of Crisis of Responsibility, in which he addresses the same maladies, says Tucker makes big and important points, but takes the wrong view as to what is behind the Crisis. From his piece:

Tucker is perhaps right that many affluent, established people in society are not as interested as they should be in “people below them getting and staying married,” though I suspect he and I mean this in very different ways. Tucker indicates that the winners of globalization should be helping to raise wages in Detroit or Dayton. I, however, wonder how much more good we could be doing by what Charles Murray refers to as these people “preaching what they practice.” The playbook for a prosperous and dignified life is well known, and where the social and moral decisions that facilitate such have been put into practice has created a real “coming apart” amongst whites in this country (a cultural as much as an economic separation). Those who have finished school, found a committed relationship, and waited to have kids until marriage; stayed married; avoided drug abuse, infidelity, and other destructive decisions: These people know what has worked for them, and yet time and time again seem willing to publicly tout for a certain moral relativism that is actually the exact opposite worldview of what created the prosperous life they enjoy. I am sure many corporate executives do not spend a lot of time thinking about the effects a free-trade deal might have on Dayton, Ohio, but I am equally sure that they do not adequately promote the benefits of making good and responsible decisions. I think Tucker is focusing on the wrong omission.

Andrew Breitbart famously said that politics is downstream from culture. The problem I have with Carlson’s screed is its willingness to accept that various policy decisions are driving the culture. Indeed, Tucker’s economic proposals are only the secondary problem, flowing from his inversion of cause and effect. The difficult task of cultural repair will bring about positive economic and political effects; Tucker is mistakenly focused on getting the politics and economics right to fix the culture.

6. Back to David, who says Tucker has made an important point about how rising female incomes have impacted marriage and the family. From his Corner post:

I didn’t read Tucker as condemning women’s educational and income achievements, I read him as stating a challenging fact. If women continue to achieve academic success and economic success (a good thing!), but they persist in desiring to marry higher-earning men (an understandable thing!), and male wages decline or remain stagnant (a bad thing!), then we will face an increasing threat to our nation’s marriage culture. Since we do not want women to fall back educationally or economically, we need two things to happen at once. First, we want male educational achievement to surge and male incomes to no longer remain stagnant — thus increasing every family’s financial stability. Second, we want our nation’s men and women to form lifelong healthy bonds regardless of income disparities. After all, income is important, but it’s not a stand-in for the virtues that truly bind families together.

7. Kevin Williamson reminds us that Bill Buckley was on to these maladies back in 1959, when he wrote Up from Liberalism.

8. But Kevin isn’t buying the Carlson spiel, and thinks penny-counting Americans shouldn’t either. From the end of the essay:

I will get into this at greater length in my book, but Tucker Carlson’s argument that the state’s job is to see to our happiness, rather than to see to public order, represents a return to a political primitivism associated with the medieval period, when everyone, peasant and lord alike, knew his place and could be sure of his role in this kingdom and in the Heavenly Kingdom, a clockwork universe in which the great majority of people may have been miserable in absolute material terms but in which they had confidence in the fixity of the social order, and hence in the security of their own status. The emergence of primitive capitalism disrupted that order, and the emergence of global capitalism has, in a similar way, disrupted the postwar American social order.

As Yuval Levin and others have argued, it is nostalgia for that order — or our mythologized misrecollection of it — that animates much of the politics of our time, especially the frustrated and fearful populism whose partisans do not seem to understand that they can have a 1957 standard of living any time they choose, and that it can be had on the cheap.

9. Kyle Smith says sorry TC — government ain’t the solution. From his comeback:

The insane clown posse in Washington may not care about your problems, but they aren’t the cause of them either. The rise in single-parent families, and the mismatches in the marriage market that (for instance) make it difficult for high-achieving women to find husbands, are indeed worrisome, but is Sheryl Sandberg really to blame for telling women to lean in? Sandberg’s book is aimed solely at the narrow layer of women at the very top of the socioeconomic cake who seek the biggest jobs in their fields. The wealthy children of these wealthy women will be fine. The children of married people will in general be fine. (Can we really be worried about helicopter parenting and, at the same time, latchkey kids abandoned by their CEO moms?) Sandberg is a red herring. Carlson worked her into his spiel in a clever way, to capitalize on anxieties about changing sexual roles, but if Mom is a billionaire Facebook exec, or thinking about becoming one, you really aren’t the kind of person America needs to fret about.

The salutary effects of marriage, especially when it comes to rearing children, are well established, and government could shore up families a bit via tax incentives, but that doesn’t seem to be what Carlson is talking about. He’s talking about something deeper: Who killed the American working man?

10. And then Michael Brendan Dougherty unloads on Carlson’s critics. Here’s a slice:

Shapiro writes that “the economic systems that allow families to thrive are the same economic systems that allow all human beings to thrive: free markets.” And that Carlson “blames both the welfare state and trade policy — as though tariffs aren’t merely an indirect form of wealth redistribution.”

Imagine I had written a long screed about government waste in spending. In that screed I cited outdated defense programs meant to share the wealth among vulnerable congressional districts, and I railed against the stupid waste of having all federal projects that use computers still needing to be certified as “Y2K compliant.”

And then a group of writers wrote a comprehensive response defending this waste and injustice by saying that “self-government has produced the best, most accountable governments in human history.” And that the results are just self-government in action, and if I don’t like it, I can throw in with the Marxists. These references to self-government would simply be a rhetorical trick for avoiding debate. Frankly, many of Carlson’s critics deploy “free markets” in just this way. And I find it as useful as I would defending Chinese economic arrangements with reference to “Xi Jinping thought.”

11. To which Kevin Williamson responds . . .

12. As does David Bahnsen.

There’s a New Issue of National Review Magazine Hot Off the Presses

As is our custom, we share selections from four pieces, for your enjoyment, and maybe even to induce you to subscribe.

1. In the cover essay, Douglas Murray looks at the U.S. victory for Trump, and the UK victory for Brexit, as they have passed their two-year marks, and considers what has — and hasn’t — happened since. From his essay:

. . . it is now clear that the Brexit vote and the Trump election are hugely important milestones in both democracies, not because of what has or has not been achieved but because both constitute the first democratic mandate in either country that an elite in each country has refused to accept. I say “an elite” rather than “the elite” because my experience is that there is never one single entity of people who can control affairs. Nonetheless, in America and Britain, exceptionally powerful figures in influential positions (in politics, the media, and much more) decided that they could not accept the verdict of the people and chose to utilize precisely the same playbook (“racism,” “hate crime,” “Russia,” “Cambridge Analytica”) to undo or at least undermine the judgment of the people.

The second observation is what an unbelievably unwise and wasted opportunity this already looks to have been. If you were an anti-Trump strategist or a pro-EU campaigner, you might have taken all sorts of things from the results of 2016. In the U.K. you could have tried to work out why the EU had been so unappealing to the British public for so many years that, even with the opt-outs and carve-outs that we had up until the vote (and despite the uncertainty that a win for Leave was always going to cause), most of the public wanted out of the whole damn thing. Why had the “experts” become so little trusted by the public? What could be done to rebuild that trust? What might the EU do to show that it was not an un-listening monolith but an adaptive and helpful partner? How might you in the decades to come persuade, rather than trick, the people into once again being inside the EU?

An interested party in the States might try to work out why, even though every allegation and claim in the book is thrown at Donald Trump, and despite his possession of character defects that are visible at a glance, the public still voted for him. Why had the GOP and Democrats lost their hold? What justifiable concerns and unaddressed problems did Middle America suffer? Were there any lessons to be learned from the last time a Republican had been in the White House? Or could we continue to pretend (as in Britain) that the grown-ups had done such a terrific job that the voters had no reason not to just hand over the keys once again to a leading member of one of the ruling families?

2. Christopher Caldwell pens an excellent review of the recently published (in English) Solzhenitsyn memoir, Between Two Millstones: Book One. From the review:

Dissidents are always a little crazy by definition. Everyone has an urge to truth-telling and an urge to self-preservation that, in most cases, outweighs it. A person ready to stand up to a system that has for decades inflicted maximum harm on its critics is, in this sense, an abnormal person. His urges are disordered. There is a cruel paradox of political oppression: The less humane, the more ruthless, the more violent a system, the easier it is to cast someone who opposes it as off his rocker. Whether he overestimates his personal persuasiveness or the public’s backbone, a dissident is wrong about something, and his more cowardly fellow citizens can cling to this wrongness as an excuse for ignoring him, mocking him, informing on him.

Vain, Solzhenitsyn was less vain than most dissidents. He had no political deference, but a metaphysical humility had been beaten into him by what he had undergone. Exile was not a “new beginning” for him. He undertook it with dread, and a somewhat unrealistic idea of how tight a link he could maintain to the culture of the old country. He dreamed of establishing a Russian university in Canada that might serve the children of emigrants, “encouraging them to break free from Western satiation and turn toward the rigor of their motherland.” He appreciated the archives at the Hoover Institution in California and the writing conditions in Cavendish, but none of that made America home. Solzhenitsyn surrounded his property with chain link, to protect his tranquility and discourage interlopers, including those from the KGB. When he appeared at a town meeting in Cavendish to apologize to hunters and snowmobilers for the inconvenience, he took the opportunity to explain that “Russian” did not mean Soviet and that to confuse the two was to mistake a patient for a disease: “My people, the Russians, have been suffering from it for 60 years already; they long to be healed. And the day will come when they are indeed healed of this Soviet disease. On that day I will thank you for being good friends and neighbors, and will go back to my homeland.”

3. Brought to You by “Wrong Way” Corrigan: The Air Force is a mess. As Jerry Hendrix reports, it has lost its way. From his essay:

The change began during the Vietnam War, in which fighters flying from land bases in South Vietnam were loaded up with bombs to hit land targets in North Vietnam and along supply routes in neighboring countries. The improved accuracy of smaller aircraft carrying lighter loads of bombs and providing combat air support to American ground forces in direct contact with the enemy began to subtly alter the internal culture of the Air Force. The bomber “tribe,” based in the politically powerful Strategic Air Command, had supplied six of the first ten Air Force chiefs of staff, but it began to lose influence within the service to the fighter “tribe.” In the 36 years since Chief of Staff Lew Allen Jr. retired, no bomber pilot has occupied that office, and the Air Force’s inventory of bombers has shrunk from over 10,000 aircraft during the 1950s to fewer than 200 today. Fighter pilots gained ascendency based upon the assumptions of access to bases within range of their enemies, the ability of their supporting tanker force to survive, and the greater importance of air supremacy than long-range-strike capability.

Air supremacy is a straightforward concept. It seeks a degree of superiority over an opposing air force such that the enemy is incapable of effective interference with friendly aircraft or ground and naval forces. This definition of air superiority held for regional wars such as those in Vietnam, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq (both times), and Afghanistan (where the enemy had no opposing air power to speak of). Air Force theorists also state that air superiority applies to theater campaigns (those that range across an entire region of the globe), enabling larger aircraft, cargo haulers, refueling tankers, and bombers to operate freely — except when they cannot, and that is where the modern United States Air Force lost its way.

4. Madeleine Kearns profiles the upper-crust Tory rebel MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg. From her report:

“I think the advantages of Brexit are absolutely enormous economically because we will no longer have the constraints that we have with the European Union, and we won’t be subject to the EU’s regulatory system that is anti-enterprise and anti–free market,” he says.

But his proposed Brexit — leaving the customs union, the single market, and the European Court of Justice, and calling the EU’s bluff on its insistence that Britain remain in the customs union to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland — has won him many political enemies. The chancellor of the Exchequer has called him an “extremist.” Anna Soubry, fellow Tory MP, said she’d leave the Conservative party if he became leader. Philip Collins wrote in the Times that the entire Rees-Mogg team ought to be “taken out and shot.”

Are You Increasingly Worried about Red China’s Global Aspirations and Antics?

You should be. Writing in Naval War College Review, occasional NRO writer Chris O’Dea explains in great detail the PRC’s global maritime strategy, which includes taking over strategically located ports in all continents, oceans, and major seaways. From “Asia Rising: Ships of State?”:

Chinese maritime and logistics firms, supported by state-subsidized capital deployed overseas, quickly are becoming a leading edge of China’s global influence. In recent years, Chinese state-owned companies have built a global network of shipping and port assets that suggests the country is using maritime commercial investments to advance its geostrategic priorities by establishing economic influence over countries in which Chinese-controlled port facilities are located.

These Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are creating one of the most extensive maritime networks in the world by acquiring strategically located port assets in the European Union (EU), Latin America, the Middle East, and the Indian Ocean. They provide the capital to build or up- grade commercial terminals; then they direct container traffic to those ports through shipping lines that are controlled directly by the port’s parent company or indirectly through companies associated with China’s strategic port owners through formal shipping alliances.

The Six.

1. At Gatestone Institute, Guy Millière writes that France is in a free fall, it’s leaders petrified to truly confront the terrorism threat. From his story:

Successive governments have done exactly nothing to remedy the situation. Instead, they delivered speeches and stationed soldiers about the streets. “Young French people must get used to living with the threat of attacks”, then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in 2015. Two years later, just before the first round of the presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron, still a candidate, used almost the same words. Terrorism, he said, is “imponderable” and will constitute a “threat that will be part of the daily life of the French for the years to come”.

French laws are extremely lax. Even serial killers and terrorists are not sentenced to long prison terms. Most prisons have become jihadist recruiting stations. Currently, more than 600 no-go zones are under the control of imams and Muslim gangs. Islamists, apparently “ready to act”, number in the thousands. The police simply do not have the personnel or material resources to monitor all of them.

The only political leaders who have proposed tougher laws against terrorism, or who have said that exceptional measures were needed — such as a wider use of electronic ankle-bracelets — to counter increasing threats, come from parties considered “right-wing”. The mainstream media immediately branded these leaders as “extremists” and their proposals were dismissed.

Macron and his government continue their unfortunate tradition of submitting to political correctness. It seems they prefer to appease extremists rather than confront them.

2. Will Collins teaches in Hungary, where he says, in The American Conservative, the War Against Christmas has been defeated. But as to whether this is a sign of some European rebirth of Christianity, well, ez egy másik történet. Or, that’s another story. From the start of his piece:

It takes a village to get a 50-foot Christmas tree into a Hungarian school’s common area. On a gray afternoon in early December, seemingly half of my school’s student body was deputized to help city workers drag an enormous fir into our entrance hall. Class was supposedly in session, but many students exempt from the corvée managed to find their way over to yell encouragement and snap photos of their classmates. Once the students had dragged in the tree, someone used a chainsaw to shape the base of the trunk for an oversized stand. Why this extremely noisy job was done in the school common area while class was in session, and not somewhere outside, is a Christmas mystery on par with the Virgin Birth. After much difficulty, and thanks to the creative use of several ropes, a ladder, and the school’s load-bearing columns, the students finally raised the massive tree. Christmas season in Hungary had officially begun.

The school where I teach is a public institution, but its enthusiastic observance of the Christmas season would put many American parochial academies to shame. From Christmas markets to school pageants, Hungarians celebrate the holiday with a verve that is both charming and somewhat disorienting to an American accustomed to our secular public square. In this corner of Eastern Europe, the War on Christmas is over, and Christmas has decisively won.

3. First Things publishes a remarkably beautiful piece by Patricia Snow, “Grace,” about being Slain in the Spirit.

4. At Law & Liberty, Veronique de Rugy looks at NAFTA, now 25 years old. She finds its promises oversold. From the piece:

The anti-NAFTA crowd back then argued, using a term coined by 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot, that the agreement would create a “giant sucking sound” of jobs going south — roughly 5.9 million, Perot estimated — thanks to unscrupulous U.S. manufacturers taking advantage of the cheap labor of Mexicans. This opposition was rooted in a populism that persists today and is expressed vividly by our current President. Among the desires of Perot’s populists then, and Trump’s now, is to stop the ongoing transformation of our country into a service economy. It is a movement whose champions are oblivious to the fact that this transformation is driven far more by technological innovation than by trade. Their consistent and quixotic belief is that this transformation can be stopped by erecting trade barriers against imports from low-wage countries.

During the initial NAFTA debate, populists insisted that preserving the small (4 percent) tariffs that the U.S. imposed on Mexican manufacturing imports — along with keeping somewhat higher tariffs on a few agricultural products and a handful of quantitative restrictions — would somehow stop the percentage decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs — a trend that had started not in the 1990s, but in the 1950s. They didn’t realize that if low wages in Mexico had held such great appeal for U.S. industry, that giant sucking sound would have been heard decades before NAFTA. With pre-NAFTA tariff rates already being quite low, U.S. firms would have already moved to Mexico.

5. In City Journal, Heather Mac Donald nails anti-cop flannel-mouth Shaun King, caught short by his race-activist role in the faux hate-crime murder of Jazmine Barnes. The selective outrage of white-on-black crime, dwarfed by black-on-black crime, mutes attention deserved by the far more pervasive problem. From the end of her piece:

As for interracial violence generally, blacks disproportionately commit it. Between 2012 and 2015, there were 631,830 violent interracial victimizations, excluding homicide, between blacks and whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Blacks, who make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, committed 85.5 percent of those victimizations, or 540,360 felonious assaults on whites, while whites, 61 percent of the population, committed 14.4 percent, or 91,470 felonious assaults on blacks. Regarding threats to blacks from the police, a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.

If Shaun King and other Black Lives Matter activists really want to save black children from the trauma of urban violence, they should put their efforts into rebuilding inner-city culture — above all, by revalorizing a married father as the best gift a mother can give her child. Fantasies about white violence against “black bodies” are a distraction from what is actually happening on American streets.

6. In The New Criterion, Conrad Black reviews Churchill: Walking with Destiny, Andrew Roberts’ new biography. From the review:

Churchill’s early life and fast-moving career are familiar to many, but nowhere better described than in Roberts’s book: the dashing soldier and war correspondent (often simultaneously) in India, South Africa, on the Nile, and in Cuba; the astounding self-acquired knowledge of British, American, and classical history, and English and classical literature; and the ability, which he retained well into his eighties, to recite verbatim vast swaths of stirring prose and poetry. His talent for publicity and his confident and aggressive personality landed him quickly in politics, and into the House of Commons in the waning days of Victoria. Churchill knew everyone who served as British monarch from Victoria (r. 1837–1901) to the present; every leader of his Conservative Party from the Marquess of Salisbury, in office 1880–1902, to Margaret Thatcher, who relinquished the leadership in 1990; and every president of the United States, though a few very casually, from Theodore Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, a period covering 1901 to 1974. He was a prominent figure and household name in Great Britain and much of the British Commonwealth, and ultimately the whole world, for sixty-five years. When he finally earned the long-sought office of prime minister, in the most dangerous circumstances in the country’s history, on May 10, 1940, it was after thirty-nine years in Parliament and nine different cabinet positions, including the Exchequer, Home Office, colonies, trade, war, munitions, air force, and the largest navy in the world in both world wars (though it was surpassed by the United States in 1942).

As Roberts reminds us, Churchill was unsuccessful in a number of those positions, but never incompetent. He acquired a vast administrative and legislative experience and by that time had been considered for decades one of Britain’s greatest orators. Roberts enumerates a long list of Churchill’s serious errors in public life, before and after his elevation in 1940. These include his opposing the vote for women; his handling of much of the Gallipoli operation and perhaps the entire concept (which led to 250,000 casualties in a failed effort to break open the Dardanelles in 1915); his treatment of Ireland and India; his keenness for reversion to the gold standard; his support of Edward VIII in the abdication crisis, his mismanagement of the Norway campaign; his assistance of Greece in 1941; his gross underestimation of the military strength of Japan; his faith in Italy as “the soft underbelly” of Hitler’s Europe; his advocacy of peripheral campaigns in the Dodecanese, Norway, Trieste, and Sumatra; and his deporting the alleged Soviet deserters back to Russia at the end of the war (another 1.2 million executions on Stalin’s gruesome ledger).

BONUS: Also from The New Criterion, Daniel J. Mahoney ruminates on the importance of the late Russell Kirk, whose centenary the conservative movement has just celebrated. From the review:

Kirk made two additional contributions to Burke studies, both of some significance. Kirk stressed that Burke was among the first to see the limits, all the limits, of social contract theorizing. Choice and consent play some legitimate role in politics (guided by humane and prudent judgment), but they should never obscure obligatory duties that are not a “matter of choice.” Parents, citizens, neighbors, and children all have “burdensome duties” (as Burke puts it in An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs) that they are obliged to carry out with grace and a sense of responsibility. Likewise, Kirk noted, Burke believed that every member of a political community was “obliged to obey the laws and sustain the state.” Choice plays an important role in politics (and marriage), but it cannot be the basis of every aspect of life. Duty is as fundamental as consent. Kirk stresses the multiple ways in which Burke’s conservative liberalism was decidedly un-Lockean: while defending the rights of property, Burke never believed that civil society arose from a pre-political “state of nature.” Men and women are not truly born “free and independent,” and the only true social contract is “between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” That is the great primeval contract that Burke so eloquently invokes in the Reflections on the Revolution in France. In the quarrel of the ancients and the moderns, he sides with the classics and the Christians against full-blown modern “individualism.”

Kirk is surely right that such a “conservative” basis of the social tie would unnerve classical Whigs from John Locke in the seventeenth century to Thomas Babington Macaulay in the nineteenth. Unlike Burke, they were blind, or at least inattentive, to what I have called, in a book of that name, “the conservative foundations of the liberal order.” This is especially true of John Locke. In his most “reactionary” moments (I do not mean this formulation as a criticism), Kirk hopes for the restoration of a “society guided by veneration and prescription.” That is too much to hope for societies profoundly transformed by the individualist premises at the heart of Lockean liberalism. There is seemingly no going back to the world of prejudice, prescription, and presumption, all understood in the elevated Burkean meaning of those terms. Burke and Kirk are right: the “spirit of religion” and the “spirit of the gentleman” were in large part responsible for the greatness of Western civilization. As Harvey Mansfield has compellingly argued, modern bureaucrats, technicians, and ideologues are no substitute for the noblesse oblige and the humane and prudent judgment of the gentleman at his very best. But the moral capital represented by religion and the gentleman is fast eroding and cannot become the explicit foundation of Western societies, at least in a world consumed by the “acids of modernity,” to borrow a phrase from Walter Lippmann. Yet Lockean premises remain woefully inadequate for understanding the sources of the Western spirit and the true grounds of moral and political obligation.

Lights. Cameras. Punditry.

1. 2018 brought America the most political films since World War 2, says Armond White as he delivers his 14th annual “Better-Than List,” an effort of “juxtaposing some of 2018’s few good films with ballyhooed atrocities.” From the piece, a sampling of Better-Thans:

Double Lover > Mary Poppins Returns: Francois Ozon’s doppelganger love story compares and contrasts Marine Vacth and Jeremie Regnier’s psychosexual histories against their perplexed adulthood. Disney and Rob Marshall pervert pubescent fantasy into stale nostalgia and Broadway-Hollywood liberal propaganda, featuring inadequate singers and dancers.

Chappaquiddick > Vice / On the Basis of Sex: Director John Curran (casting actor Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy) replaces cynical smartness with ethical sympathy — a political movie advance over trite partisanship as in Adam McKay’s irredeemably ugly attack on Dick Cheney and Mimi Leder’s simple-minded partisan cheerleading of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

2. Kyle Smith catches the new documentary, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, a “pointillist portrait of black life in Alabama in which a series of bright little moments together form a broad and gorgeous tableau.” Read the review here.

3. But Armond has a 180 on that: He says Hale County “exemplifies the liberal sentimentality that sustains the racial status quo in everyday life, but especially in art circles.” Read the review here. About the director, RaMell Ross, Armond declares the following:

Through class difference and intellectual distance, Ross treats the down-home folk like creatures. He intersperses Terrence Malick–style images of natural phenomena to extol the lower class with existential portent. This propagandistic use of cinematic apparatus is sanctioned by film culture’s elites: the curators, distributors, publicists, and mainstream-media arbiters who all know one another’s preferences and protect one another’s social status. They also keep the lower classes at bay.

A Dios

Last week’s WJ blew it. Well, its former-altar-boy author did: The Epiphany is the day after the Twelfth Day of Christmas. So Yours Truly, educated on this point by several emailers, had to sit in the penalty box. But while sitting there, Mrs. Truly, feeling pity, conversed about the WJ and its movie-related content, and reminded said author of a favorite Three Kings / cowboys-related flick, Star in the Night. Watch it, even though the Christmas Season is kaput. The two-reeler won the 1946 Oscar for short subject and starred the great J. Carrol Naish (who that year was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for A Medal for Benny).

Also on the audio-visual front: WJ’s love for the Eliot poem received some hoorahs, and WJ lover William W. sent along another suggestion, of Eliot reading his classic, The Waste Land. You can listen here.

That said, be charitable when the collection plate is passed. And for once, don’t leave toothpaste in the sink.

God bless,

Jack Fowler

If there is some glaring mistake in here, or some observation that crushes your sense of taste and decency — you can let me know about it at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Having an Epiphany

Dear Weekend Jolters,

Sunday being January 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Christians — at least those who still practice — will religiously mark it as the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the Son of God.

The Magi and their symbolism and meaning can still pack a theological and cultural punch, and for over a century have found a welcome home in Hollywood, where scriptwriters have traded turbans for 10-gallons and sandals for spurs and robes for chaps and camels for mustangs. And royalty for banditry. But still — goodness exudes.

In 1916, Harry Carey starred in The Three Godfathers, the story (based on Peter Kyne’s popular 1913 novel) of a trio of outlaws who come across a dying woman and her baby in the desert. Just three years later, with John Ford directing, and Carey again starring, the story was remade as Marked Men (it’s a lost film), and then Hollywood tried again, with a 1929 version (directed by William Wyler and titled Hell’s Heroes) and then a 1936 version (titled Three Godfathers, and starring Chester Morris of “Boston Blackie” fame — his fellow padrini were Lewis Stone, aka Judge Hardy, and the great Walter Brennan).

And then Ford tried again, in 1948, with the slightly altered title 3 Godfathers, starring John Wayne and Harry Carey Jr. (son of . . . and also there was the sombrero’d Pedro Armendáriz). It’s a terrific film, warts and melodrama and all. A tad of overacting, but so what. Too bad, Turner Classic Movies won’t be showing it tomorrow. It would be darned fitting if film aired. But whenever you get the chance to see it, do, and remember from whence it comes — from the East, and bearing gifts.

BONUS: Check out NRO’s Epiphany Day Celebrations slide show.  

An Onslaught of Brilliant NRO Pieces that Will Instigate a Slew of Intellectual Epiphanies

1. Wesley Smith calls out gene-splicing biotech researchers in Red China, where “ethics” seem to be non-existent. From his Corner post:

There is great peril here. The bioethicist William Hurlbut worries that we could be entering an era of “outsourcing ethics,” by which he means Western universities and companies circumventing our laws by conducting research in countries with loose standards. At least to a small degree, ethics outsourcing has already started.

Such research anarchy (if you will) is dangerous. CRISPR gene editing and other fast advancing biotechnologies — such as the creation of artificial life forms — are among humankind’s most portentous and powerful inventions. It is not overstatement to state that they rival the splitting of the atom in potential benefit and peril.

2. California, Here I Go. Victor Davis Hanson laments about the Golden State’s tarnish. From his piece:

To fathom California’s near medieval asymmetry, ask how a state with such high taxes can offer such poor services. The top California income-tax rate is 13.3 percent (the nation’s highest). The state’s average sales tax is (conservatively) about 8.5 percent (ninth in the nation). California’s bewildering combined array of gasoline taxes are about 55 cents per gallon and rising (second-highest in the nation).

In exchange, California public-school test scores rank between 44th and 46th in the nation. Its roads and infrastructure are rated in various surveys between 42nd and 45th. Driving from the state’s interior to the coast on roads mostly unchanged from 45 years ago takes about twice the time as in the past — if carefully planned at particular times and days of the week.

One no longer just drives on any two-hour or longer journey in California. Instead, he navigates, with the planning, apprehension, and wariness of a 16th-century galleon captain sailing to the New World.

What is going on?

3. In Part VII of their 10-part series on Constitutional restoration, John Yoo and James C. Phillips find there is a too-broad interpretation of the First Amendment. From their essay:

The First Amendment declares that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This text protects four distinct rights: speech, press, assembly, and petition. Yet the Court has allowed free-speech imperialism to expand so far as to swallow up these other First Amendment rights.

Take the assembly clause. There are few cases where the Supreme Court has protected a right to assembly. Instead, the Court has replaced it with a judicially invented “freedom of association” that it somehow discovered in the constitutional language of “freedom of speech.” This is not only wrong as a matter of interpretive principle, but John Inazu has persuasively shown that the right of assembly was both broader and more concrete than the Court’s creation of a free-speech right of “association.”

For example, the Court’s freedom of association limits constitutional protection through adjectives: “expressive” or “intimate.” But there are no qualifiers in front of the Constitution’s prohibition on “abridging . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” All types of assembly are protected, as long as they are peaceable. In fact, the Congress that passed the First Amendment rejected an attempt to add the limiting language “and consult for the common good” to the freedom of assembly.

4. My old Pal Tom Glessner believes Americans on either side of the abortion divide can and should come together via support of local pro-life pregnancy centers. From his article:

Can Americans come together and support the value of human life at all stages even while political battles continue to rage around abortion? I believe we can.

Such unity can be achieved through the support of all Americans for the inspirational work of pro-life pregnancy centers, regardless of political thoughts about the legality of abortion. These small, faith-based ministries of compassion exist in every community across the nation. They provide vital resources to mothers contemplating abortion and empower them to choose life. Medical services include ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy and testing for sexually transmitted infections; material assistance includes baby clothes, diapers, prenatal vitamins, adoption referrals, and maternal housing.

A recent report from the Charlotte Lozier Pregnancy Center provides compelling evidence that the work of pregnancy centers is critical. America’s pregnancy centers provided 2 million people with free services in 2017, saving taxpayers an estimated $161 million. Two-thirds of the centers are medical facilities staffed with licensed medical professionals providing free services, including ultrasounds worth $114 million.

If the right to choose means anything, multiple options must be available. By providing the support and resources that make choosing life possible for the abortion-vulnerable, America’s pregnancy centers provide a real choice — an alternative to abortion.

5. Big Jim Geraghty shares 20 things you may not have known about that Vermont Socialist, Bernie Sanders. Here’s number three from Jim’s rundown:

His first campaign for public office started because he simply showed up and volunteered. In 1971, Vermont Republican senator Winston Prouty died, setting up a special election. A young Bernie Sanders chose to attend the meeting of the newly formed Liberty Union party, which he described in his memoir as “a small peace-oriented third party.” (The party called for “nonviolent revolutionary socialism” and compared the draft to slavery.)

In Sanders’s account, he became the candidate for Senate because at the meeting the party needed a candidate; he raised his hand and volunteered. He won 2 percent statewide. In the subsequent decade, Sanders twice ran as the Liberty Union party’s candidate for Senate and twice for governor, never winning more than 6 percent of the vote. During this time, he declared on the campaign trail that the Central Intelligence Agency was “a dangerous institution that has got to go,” and that “right-wing lunatics use it to prop up fascist dictatorships.”

By the time Sanders was elected to Congress, the Liberty Union party saw him as a sellout, calling him “Bernie the Bomber,” charging “Bernie became an imperialist to get elected in 1990” and declaring, “Bernie’s selling out says clearly to working people and those unable to find work that even leftists become mainstream politicians, when and if they win office.” The group also observed that, at the time, Sanders had “no person of color on his staff.”

6. David French argues for why a U.S military presence in Afghanistan and Syria remains central to American security. From his analysis:

Let’s analyze our challenge as clearly and concisely as we can.

First, there exists a jihadist enemy of our nation and civilization that doesn’t just seek to harm our national interests, it actively seeks to kill as many Americans as possible, as publicly as possible — with the goal of so thoroughly destabilizing and demoralizing our nation that we make room for the emergence of a new jihadist power.

Second, this enemy exists not because of immediate and recent American actions (though it can certainly use some of those actions to recruit new followers) but because of an ancient, potent systematic theology. Never forget that one of the grievances Osama bin Laden listed as justifying his attack on America was the Christian Spanish reconquest of Muslim Spain. That event occurred almost 300 years before the American founding.

Third, while it is difficult to predict any given terrorist attack, this much we can say — when terrorists obtain safe havens, they become dramatically more dangerous. The creation of a safe haven escalates the threat and renders serious attacks a near-inevitability.

Fourth, for reasons too obvious to outline, terrorist safe havens are always in nations and locations that are either hostile to the United States or in a state of fractured chaos. Terrorist cells may operate in places like France, but a true safe haven cannot thrive in functioning, strong allied territory.

Finally — and this is critically important — the national obligation of self-defense is permanent. No functioning government that abdicates its duty to protect its citizens from hostile attack can remain legitimate. Preferably self-defense is maintained by deterrence. But when deterrence fails, a failure to engage the enemy doesn’t bring peace, it enables the enemy to kill your people.

7. How can it be that Malthusians retain a shred of credibility? Gale Pooley and Marian Tupy explain the new Cato Institute study which shows how population growth tracks with a growing abundance of resources. From their article:

Population growth and abundance seem to be connected. Adam Smith observed that division of labor, or separation of the work process into distinct tasks, leads to faster growth. Simon took Smith’s ideas a step further. He noted that in addition to more labor, a growing population produces more ideas. More ideas lead to more innovations, and more innovations improve productivity. Finally, higher productivity translates to better standards of living.

Considering that world population will likely peak at 9.8 billion people at around 2080 and fall to 9.5 billion by 2100 — in the medium fertility scenario calculated by demographer Wolfgang Lutz and his colleagues at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis — our descendants may yet find that the Earth is short on the most important resource: people.

8. Professor Eric Ort takes to The Atlantic to claim the Constitution’s clear-as-blazes requirement for two senators per state is . . . malleable. So Charlie Cooke takes to The Corner to claim Ort is a nincompoop. From his post:

We’ll get to the argument Orts makes in a moment. But, before we do, we might take note of his framing, which does not help his case either in the general or in the specific realms. “Our Constitution is more malleable than many imagine” is the sort of thing that people plop in to their overture when they’re teeing themselves up to argue that our Constitution should, in fact, be ignored. It is a euphemism, rather than a framework, and it should be recognized as such. Ort’s more specific example, meanwhile, is completely, embarrassingly backward. The argument made against the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality was not that the Constitution’s meaning is malleable, but that it is extremely rigid. One may disagree with that argument, as four members of the Supreme Court clearly did (John Roberts ultimately cast a vote to uphold the law, but joined a majority of five in declaring the mandate illegal on Commerce Clause grounds). And yet it is the height of disingenuousness to portray those who blew open the commerce clause as the guardians of tradition and those who wished to keep it narrow as audacious Jacobins. It is certainly true that America has played host to some commerce-clause revolutionaries over the last nine decades, but they did not sound like Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito. They sounded like Professor Orts.

9. Mitt Romney begins 2019 with a Washington Post op-ed that is a kick in the Trumpian shins, to which Ben Shapiro responds: That’s counterproductive, Senator-elect. From his new column:

The essay, in truth, reads like the opener of a presidential campaign. It’s a stock speech replete with broad recommendations on policy (more strength in foreign policy, a call to “repair our fiscal foundation”) and ersatz optimism (“I remain optimistic about our future . . . noble instincts live in the hearts of Americans”). Romney states that Americans “will eschew the politics of anger and fear if they are summoned to the responsibility by leaders in homes, in churches, in schools, in businesses, in government.” Presumably, Romney considers himself such a possible leader.

If not, the entire op-ed raises the question: What do you want us to do about it, senator? By declaring Trump unfit for his office, Romney immediately forces a choice: Should he back Trump in 2020, or challenge him? Should Republicans be pushed to choose between an incumbent president and a person of more character and consistent conservative conviction — and would a primary effort actually effectuate that choice?

10. More Mitt: Teddy Kupfer checks out the post-column chatter and wonders about the claims by some that the incoming Utah Senator is taking the baton from the departing Arizona solon, Mr. Flake. He’s not buying it. From his post:

This could generate an interesting dynamic where Romney works constructively with the administration on occasion while continuing to speak out against his character flaws and his scattershot approach to maintaining alliances. I’d bet that Romney will stick to his promise to criticize Trump when Trump says things that he deems “divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions,” which means we’ll hear from him with some regularity. But he isn’t Jeff Flake, which means he might wind up being relevant for more than just his criticism of the president. Like Flake, Romney doesn’t represent the future of the GOP. Unlike Flake, he could play a constructive role in shaping it.

11. Even More Mitt: VDH thinks Romney’s op-ed displayed “naïve incoherence.” From his Corner post:

But that said, I fear that much of Romney’s invective is utterly incoherent. The departures of many top-cabinet officials in some cases were regrettable, in some understandable, but most were likely because Trump ran on an agenda neither traditionally Republican nor Democratic. Trump was the first president without either political or military experience. So there always was also going to be difficulty (and paradoxes) in matching his outsider policies with experienced insider administrators. We should, however, remember that the tenures of Department of Defense secretaries (four in the respective Obama and Truman administrations) and White House chiefs of staff (four respectively for Reagan and Clinton, five for Obama) are historically not always particularly long.

Romney is, euphemistically, accurate in stating that he opposed Trump (“Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination”). And he explains, admirably so, that he hoped that “his [Trump’s] campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not.” And Romney was further disappointed that “on balance, his [Trump’s] conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

But, ironically, all such long-standing repulsion at Trump’s behavior (even if it did crest in December as Romney alleges) raises the question, again, why would Romney have accepted Trump’s endorsement for his senate run in 2018, especially given the fact that he probably did not need it to be elected in Utah?

12. The Louis C.K. controversy (see more below) has Kyle Smith hitting back at the asshat comic’s critics. From his piece:

But what C.K. said isn’t hacky. A hack does a bit on how the Starbucks menu is too confusing or how women gain weight after marriage. And anyway, a hacky routine isn’t worth mentioning, much less getting upset about. “Parts of a comedy routine performed in an obscure club two weeks ago bombed” is not news. To mock the Parkland kids in even so mild a way as to suggest they have no expertise on gun control is to venture into a high-voltage area. It’s the opposite of “hacky.” It is in fact “edgy.” The edge in question is the frontier where “things that can be said” meets “things that cannot be said.” It’s where “funny” meets “offensive.” It’s where the audience will laugh while thinking, “I can’t believe he said that.” It’s where most of the top comics have wanted to live ever since Lenny Bruce inspired outrage for “mocking Jackie Kennedy.” (Actually the bit in question suggested Mrs. Kennedy was guilty merely of being human, of trying to flee the limousine where her husband had been shot, rather than bravely seeking help. This was an edgy thing to say in 1964 but hit home because it was likely true.)

C.K.’s comments on youth weren’t hacky and trite either, because their premise wasn’t a kids-these-days cliché but something close to the opposite. He was pointing out that (first time in recorded history!) kids these days aren’t adventurous enough, aren’t frivolous enough, aren’t freewheeling enough. Somehow every kid these days wants to clamp down on others, aspires to be a cultural vice principal or a language Niedermeyer. That’s funny.

13. Michael Brendan Dougherty sees the EU doing a crash-and-burn. A spectacular one. From his piece:

In the face of the Yellow Vest protests, French president Emmanuel Macron abandoned his campaign pledge to stand firm behind his reform agenda. He rescinded tax increases and promised more spending outlays, expanding his budget deficit beyond the European Union’s threshold of 3 percent of GDP. The EU’s budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, said the EU would make an exception and accept the rule-breaking French budget.

No such exception is made for the new Italian government, which seeks approval for a budget that has a 2.4 percent deficit. The EU wants to clamp down on Italy’s debt, which at 130 percent of GDP is more than twice the EU’s limit of 60 percent. (France exceeds the limit as well, however, with a debt roughly equal to its GDP.) And in the eyes of the EU, Italy’s government is an enemy, made up of “populists” and occasional critics of the EU. No allowances are made for them, even though Italy has gone through political upheaval similar to or greater than France’s.

All this should be a reminder that there is nothing much to envy about European Union membership. If you’re a relatively wealthy Western European nation, it is a source of instability. Brexit is treated as a “shambles,” but to an outsider it looks orderly and civilized compared with what is happening in the European Union itself. The immediate political effect of the Leave vote was to strengthen the U.K.’s most long-lived mainstream parties: Tory and Labour. Meanwhile, on the Continent, the traditional political parties in European Union member states continue to shrivel and die. The Yellow Vest protests have moved on from French cities to Brussels. So-called populists parties continue to make gains.

14. Kat Timpf has become America’s expert at cataloguing political-correct lunacy. So you’ll want to read her rundown on 2018’s top 10 most ridiculous PC moments.

15. John O’Sullivan compares Brexit and the government shutdown. He sees comparisons between Donald Trump and Theresa May in their (poor) handling of respective struggles. From the end of his analysis:

May’s mistake was a simple one: She assumed her opponent had no real weapon when he turned out to be well-armed. She has probably lost as a result. Trump’s mistake is a lesser one: He picked a fight without first ensuring that his weapons were better than his opponent’s. He probably cannot win, but all is not lost. Trump can probably hold the Democrats to a draw this time, and thereafter learn from Margaret Thatcher, who when she found herself advised by ministers to fight a miners’ strike she was likely to lose in 1981, quietly surrendered and set about establishing the conditions in which she would fight again. That moment occurred four years later when the miners again challenged the government and conclusively lost a strike that lasted more than a year. That battle established her political dominance for a generation. Trump today is very far from doing that.

As Margaret Thatcher would never have put it: You don’t take knife to a gunfight, and you don’t take a knife to a knife fight either; you take a gun to a knife fight and even then you frisk everyone else on arrival.

16. Jonah lays into The Donald’s character. At American Greatness, Roger Kimball states why he has no problem with it (the President’s character) and therefore why Jonah is wrong. To which Jonah rebuts: There’s a lot of obscuring here. From his Corner post:

As I have said and written countless times, I believe the transactional defense of Donald Trump is intellectually defensible. I may have severe disagreements about the cost-benefit analyses some bring to it (the long-term damage to the GOP and/or to conservatism may be worth a couple of Supreme Court Justices, but let’s not pretend we’re not paying a price). I also think many of his accomplishments would have been achieved by other GOP presidents and that people exaggerate Trump’s role in many of the victories that have occurred over the last two years. But I can’t object to the logic of someone who says, “Yeah, I know Trump is crude and a boor, but I like what he’s getting done.”

But that is not what Roger is doing here. He is saying that a man who bedded a porn star while his (third) wife was home with their newborn child now fits the — or at least a — definition of good character because he delivers tax cuts. A man, who by his own admission, “whines until he wins” and boasts of how he screwed over business partners, a man who lies more egregiously and incessantly than Bill Clinton and used his family charity in Clintonian ways, has a good character because he’s “working to end Obamacare, and fighting to keep our borders secure.” Is that really what conservatives should be telling presidents? That so long as you fulfill your promises to the base of the party, not only will we abstain from meaningful criticism, but we will in fact redefine good character to fit the president? I have deep admiration for Roger, but if I knew what the original Greek for “bologna” is, I would use it here.

For starters: This argument simply isn’t true. Take Trump’s position on judges, one of the triumphs virtually everyone on the right concedes. When Trump was campaigning, he displayed no meaningful knowledge of the Constitution nor any meaningful desire to correct his ignorance. When asked about who he’d appoint to the Supreme Court, he talked about his sister. It was then explained to Trump that he couldn’t win without promising to appoint justices picked not by him, but by institutions Trump-skeptical conservatives trusted: the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. How does Trump’s agreement to do this make him a man of good character, as Roger suggests? I just can’t see it. And if one were to make similar arguments about Bill Clinton or any Democrat, I’m fairly certain Roger wouldn’t have any patience with the suggestion either.

17. At Bench Memos, Carrie Severino scores the attacks on the Knights of Columbus and judicial nominees who are affiliated with the K of C by Democratic senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono and a bunch more. Read it here.

JONAH BONUS: “Dogs are a safe harbor.” Mr. Goldberg explains his canine love. From his piece:

Dogs — and animals generally — are among the few things that bridge the partisan divide. Tragedies are a partisan affair. If someone dies in a hurricane or shooting, there’s a mad rush to score political points. Last week, a lovely young woman, Bre Payton, died from a sudden illness, and a bunch of ghouls mocked or celebrated her demise because she was a conservative.

Even babies can be controversial, since babies can touch various nerves, from abortion politics to the apparent scourge of “misgendering” newborns.

But dogs are largely immune to political ugliness. The angriest complaints I get about my dog tweets — from people on both the left and the right — are that I’m wasting apparently scarce resources on dogs when I could be expressing my anger about whatever outrage the complainers demand I be outraged about.

Lights. Cameras. Punditry.

1. Rich Lowry goes to see Peter Jackson’s limited release-documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, and says Jackson deserves a medal more so than an Oscar. From his column:

Yet what is most striking about They Shall Not Grow Old is how many grins there are. The vets, who were just kids at the time, say that they joked constantly. Really, what else were they going to do, except try to make the best of it? One vet compares the times of relative quiet to an outdoors trip among friends with just enough danger to make it interesting. That Jackson recovers this neglected part of their story is a key part of his contribution.

Not that there is any stinting on the horrors. The descriptions of battle are unadorned and hauntingly specific — the mind-numbing artillery barrages, the fearful waiting before going over the top, the walking (yes, walking) across no man’s land, the battle plans gone terribly awry, the shattered bodies all around, hand-to-hand combat with the Germans.

Still, amid the carnage, the humanity of the soldiers is undimmed. When they capture Germans, they tend to get along. German prisoners spontaneously take up stretcher duty, carrying the British wounded to make themselves useful. The underlying attitude is that they are all boys, thrown into this maelstrom by forces beyond their control.

2. Aquaman is all wet, says Armond White. From the beginning of his review:

A he-man who swims, slithering through the ocean deep, then comes ashore to demonstrate his amphibious strength and superhero powers, the new live-action Aquaman is perfectly embodied by Jason Momoa. Zack Snyder first introduced Momoa during a teasing digression of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice in a sequence that promised other D.C. Comics characters would share a heroic-erotic mode. They would answer the millennium’s politically depressed view of bravery, principle, and history with an atavistic ideal. (Sndyer must have heard Walter Hill’s commendation from Bullet to the Head that Momoa was “a man among men.”)

But now that the Aquaman movie is finally here — and is a record-breaking box-office hit — Snyder’s aesthetic drive has been castrated. The Aquaman movie proceeds like a Marvel movie — an expanded generational narrative, starting with Aquaman’s parents (Temereu Morrison as his Pacific Islander father and Nicole Kidman as Atlanna, his ocean-empress mother) and the birth of their demigod offspring named Arthur. (“Product of a love that never should have been.”) This intro is Marvel-mundane, despite featuring a sped-up fantasy fight scene. The digital effects — overkill excitation — immediately ruin Snyder’s almost tactile corporeal vision for emphasis on action and frantic stimulation that video-game and VR enthusiasts have come to prefer over cinema. Marvelized reviewers don’t even appreciate the difference.

3. On Aquaman, David French heartily disagrees with Armond, et al: “I’m no populist, but this time the people are right, and my colleagues are wrong, wrong, and wrong. From his article:

There was a moment when I was watching (and thoroughly enjoying) Aquaman that it hit me. This is the Con Air of superhero movies. Don’t go to the film expecting the darkness of previous DC films. Nolan’s Batman series and Snyder’s Man of Steel are in the rear-view mirror. There will be time for think pieces on what this means for the great contest between DC and Marvel, but for now let’s just glory in the insanity. The Con Air formula lives.

Does Aquaman have an amazing cast showcasing action stars and Serious Actors? In addition to Jason Mamoa and Amber Heard, the movie features Nicole Kidman, Willem Defoe, Dolph Lundgren, and Julie Andrews (as a Kraken-like monster, no less.)

Is there a ludicrous premise? Yep. Imagine that the world’s oceans are inhabited my multiple advanced civilizations and enormous sea creatures, and they’ve been entirely undetected by the surface. Then they go to war, and still nobody really knows what’s happening.

4. More from Armond, who finds The Mule to be “refreshing” and an “exceptional pleasure.” From the review:

Director Eastwood’s restraint feels like middle-of-the-road conservatism; when applied to the film’s contemporary ethnic expansion — and featuring reactions of the country’s white, formerly dominant social group — it achieves new rich classical Americana. Stone encounters dykes on bikes and a black family stranded on a highway and refurbishes a burnt-out VFW hall. In one other extraordinary incident, he witnesses a Mexican motorist encountering an officious highway patrolman.

This scene shows that Eastwood is perhaps the only Hollywood filmmaker willing to admit the self-conscious wariness on both sides of that typical American opposition. The confrontation is funny, rather than tragic, because Eastwood and screenwriter Sam Dolnick understand that before stereotypical American social tragedy occurs, there is always American knowingness — particularly in the comic drama of civilian–authority opposition. The Mexican driver is fully aware of the situation’s grave potential (“This is the most dangerous five minutes of my life — being pulled over by law enforcement”), as is the white cop who stops him.

It’s neither satire nor sour or cynical. Eastwood imparts the complications of modern American social experience. This moment surpasses Green Book, The Hate U Give, and all the other movies spawned from the last America-hating spasms of the Obama era that connected social authority with racism, depicting non-whites as fateful victims. Eastwood’s non-jaundiced complexity is refreshing.

5. Ross Douthat has Big Screen / Little Screen visions dancing in his head as he reviews Widows. Here’s how it kicks off:

Widows, the new not-just-a-heist movie from the camera of Steve McQueen (it’s his first film since 12 Years a Slave), began life as a miniseries more than 30 years ago. It was an English six-parter, to be precise, and I’m torn about whether it should have remained one. There is something intensely welcome about watching such a rich and sprawling narrative on the big screen, in an era when so much storytelling ambition is migrating to television. At the same time, the movie feels like a would-be Dickensian story from which some crucial parts were cut. It’s solid entertainment, but its ambitions can’t be met within its running time, when even an hour more might have made it great.

6. Just a spoonful of sugar helps the socialism go down . . . Armond White says Mary Poppin Returns is something no one really asked for, so why in the heck did she come back? From his review:

Also unmistakable is the nasty political undercurrent that prevents this reboot from being escapist fun. Take the new politically instructive songs in Mary Poppins Returns. Sure, they’re the usual Marc Shaiman pastiche — cliché Broadway compositions (from the composer of the lame musical Hairspray) that lack the memorable delight of Richard and Robert Sherman’s songs for the original Mary Poppins in 1964.

Incapable of a charming tongue twister, or relatable lyrics about medicine in sugary spoonfuls, Shaiman assimilates the #Resistance mood that has overtaken Broadway and Hollywood. Though pretending to be innocuous family entertainment, the knock-off tunes have a faintly repressive, pedantic note, especially in Shaiman’s balloon-song finale “Nowhere to Go but Up.” To careful listeners, it sounds like showbiz Stalinism: “The past is the past / It lives on as history / Let the past take a bow / Forever is now.” Why should a family-movie ditty recall the essence of Soviet erasure of history?

7. Kyle has found ten — conservative! — flicks from 2018 that he claims “hit home.” From the line-up, here are Numbers Three and Two, in that order:

THREE: Little Pink House (for rent via video-on-demand, also on Hoopla and Kanopy). If high-school students were required to see this film in classrooms, libertarianism would become as popular as Barack Obama. Catherine Keener creates a screen version of Susette Kelo, the New London, Conn., citizen who didn’t want to relinquish her lovingly painted house to the grasping hands of a government that had decided a property developer should get to bulldoze it. As Antonin Scalia memorably put it when Kelo’s case reached the Supreme Court, the government’s absurd position was that “you can take from A to give to B if B pays more taxes.” It would be hard to name a better cinematic illustration of the importance of property rights.

TWO: Halloween (for rent via video-on-demand). Judy Greer’s character expertly and hilariously trolls the Left when she says her mom, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), is wrong to arm herself and prepare for the worst because, “The world is not a dark and evil place. It’s full of love and understanding!” The importance of armed individual self-defense, the fallen nature of man, the incompetence of state authorities, the necessity of capital punishment for evildoers, and even the vapidity of liberal true-crime podcasters all get ingeniously dramatized as Michael Myers goes on yet another rampage.

8. Armond likes At Eternity’s Gate, the biopic about Vincent Van Gogh starring Willem Dafoe, but first takes a moment to smack the “sappy hagiography” about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, On the Basis of Sex. From the review:

Willem Dafoe, as Schnabel’s Van Gogh, does not simply give a performance, he is the film’s material. The close identification of an actor with a film’s topic is part of the way that Schnabel encourages us to relate to Van Gogh. The effect he achieves is the opposite of the political divisiveness motivating Hollywood’s RBG agitprop.

Coming from the art world, Schnabel has developed empathy based on personal experience. When Van Gogh is told “You’re surrounded by stupid, wicked, ignorant people,” it isn’t to martyr him. Schnabel’s sensitivity to Van Gogh’s trials and agonies is apparent in how he photographs Dafoe, who, significantly, also played Scorsese’s Jesus and here becomes another of Schnabel’s artist-surrogates (along with Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat, Javier Bardem as Reinaldo Arenas, and Mathieu Amalric as Jean-Dominique Bauby).

BTW: Turner Classic Movies will broadcast the acclaimed 1956 VVG biopic, Lust for Life, on January 17. It stars Kirk Douglas (nominated for an Oscar but lost to Yul Brynner) and Anthony Quinn (who won!). If you don’t catch it, you are denying yourself a special treat.

The Six

1. In a few weeks, Catholic bishops will be meeting in Rome to consider the Church’s sex-abuse scandals. At The American Conservative, Rod Dreher writes he expects the confab will produce a fat nothingburger, and also corrals some of the latest embarrassments to befall a hierarchy that is either tone deaf or complicit. From his piece:

On September 13, Cardinal Dolan said on CNN: “If I don’t have the trust of my people, I have nothing.”

True, so riddle me this: Why should anybody should believe a thing that Cardinal Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York has to say about clergy sex abuse, given that the Archdiocese has now been caught lying to another diocese about an abusive priest?

For that matter, why anybody should believe a thing Cardinal Cupich has to say about it? Why should anybody expect that the Roman Catholic hierarchy can now, at last, be trusted to fix this at a February meeting called by a pontiff whose idea of dealing with specific, damning accusations about Church corruption, particularly in the Cardinal McCarrick case, is to repeatedly insinuate that the retired papal diplomat making the accusations is a servant of the Devil?

You will recall that Archbishop Vigano, the retired diplomat, said that Cardinal Cupich’s rise in the Church is because he was a favorite of McCarrick’s, and McCarrick boosted him to Francis. You will also recall that in response to the Vigano bombshell, Cupich told the media that the pope will not be distracted by such silliness, because he has bigger things to worry about, like immigration and climate change.

2. In The American Interest, Rebecca Burgess looks at the nexus of veterans and elective politics, using Jeremy Teigen’s book, Why Veterans Run: Military Service in American Presidential Elections, 1789-2016, as a basis for consideration. From her piece:

The optics of a hardened martial experience and the emotional crutch of reassurance that this experience gives in a world constantly described as dangerous seem obviously to favor veteran presidential candidates. Surely that explains why the majority of fictitious cinematic presidents, from Independence Day to Madame Secretary, have military experience. And there’s evidence to believe that candidates’ pre-presidential experiences influence subsequent perceptions about their success as president, and that military experience in particular drives a president towards higher performance in public persuasion. Scholarship shows that substantial differences exist between political leaders with and without experience in the armed forces.

In the “Overinformation Age,” this all translates to a handy biographical shortcut for the time-pressed average voter. Veterans accordingly will continue to run for President, and for other elected positions. As Teigen and, more recently, General Stanley McChrystal in the Wall Street Journal remind us, a uniform is no guarantee of character or political competence.

This still sets aside the (very large) question of the institutional effects that increasingly politically active veterans might have on both the military and the political process, in an increasingly partisan world in which veterans are thought of as a “tribe apart.” But here, too, it’s arguable that the long shadow of the Vietnam War has skewed perceptions of the partisan identity of those who enter and exit the military. Since the Vietnam War, the Republican Party has generally owned defense and national security issues in the eyes of the electorate. A disproportionate number of veterans are older, white, and male—proxy factors that are typically associated with GOP support. This leads many to assume all veterans are Republicans too. But the increasing numbers of Democratic veterans running for office indicate that it may be time to reevaluate who politically our veterans really are.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray bemoans how his native Britain is thrilled to accept extremists while banning their critics. From his piece:

The British government’s idea of who is — and who is not — a legitimate asylum seeker becomes stranger by the month.

In November it was reported that the Pakistani Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, was unlikely to be offered asylum by the British government due to concerns about “community” relations in the UK. What this means is that the UK government was worried that Muslims of Pakistani origin in Britain may object to the presence in the UK of a Christian woman who has spent most of the last decade on death row in Pakistan, before being officially declared innocent of a trumped-up charge of “blasphemy”.

Yet, as Asia Bibi — surely one of the people in the world most needful of asylum in a safe country — continues to fear for her life in her country of origin, Britain’s idea of who should be allowed to travel to the country (and stay) looks ever more perverse.

One person, for instance, who has had no trouble being in London is Dr Ataollah Mohajerani, Iran’s former Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Mohajerani is best known for his book-length defence of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against the British novelist Salman Rushdie. After the Khomeini’s call on the world’s Muslims to kill Rushdie for writing a novel, Mohajerani wrote a 250-page book, A Critique of the Conspiracy of The Satanic Verses, which justified the death-sentence. For more than a decade, however, apparently fallen out with part of the regime in Iran, Mohajerani has been living in Harrow, where he intermittently keeps up his campaign against Rushdie.

4. The outrage over the new routine by scandal comic Louis C.K. — mocking Parkland High School SJWs and millennials in general — gets some analysis by former NR intern Tiana Lowe, now plying her talents at Washington Examiner. From her piece:

To be clear, the media and entertainment industry (which had to be dragged, tooth and nail, by the Pulitzer Prize winning #MeToo journalists at the New York Times to finally denounce C.K. after he spent years harassing and exposing himself in front of his female colleagues) has no problem excoriating C.K. for the most transparent ploy for attention in the form of a milquetoast, hackneyed, and intentionally crude comedy set. My question to them: Where were you for the past decade?

First off, with regards to the actual content of the jokes, C.K. has a minor point. Teens these days aren’t working, having sex, or even dating. Despite growing up with social media glued to their hands, they’re the least socialized generation alive and do need a solid kick in the pants. As Parkland survivor Cameron Kasky eloquently stated, “Comedy is supposed to be offensive. My feelings have no place in it. Yes, Louis is an ass for the jokes he’s making which sucks cause he used to be really funny and not just a professional jerk.”

But more importantly, Hollywood and the media’s outright ire over one tasteless set contrasted with their years of complicity and performative pearl-clutching over C.K.’s sustained and systemic harassment of women just goes to show how little they care for victims of sexual misconduct as opposed to outright thought-policing.

5. A college prep school in Louisiana (T.M. Landry) has duped numerous elite colleges into accepting its graduates, thanks to falsified transcripts. The College Fix’s Ryan Everson reached out to the elites to inquire about their application-vetting processes. The sound of silence was the response. From the piece:

Princeton University declined to answer questions about its application process, though the school did offer comments concerning Landry. Spokesman Mike Hotchkiss said: “We are very troubled by the report and the allegations of fraud. First and foremost, we are concerned for the affected students and their families. We remain committed to attracting and supporting talented students, including students from groups that have been underrepresented in higher education and denied the opportunities they need to flourish. Every one of our students is a valued member of our community.”

Hotchkiss told The Fix that this was “the only comment we are making on Landry at the moment.”

Brown, Stanford, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Wesleyan all failed to respond to The Fix’s queries.

According to The New York Times, Landry recorded grades higher than those actually earned and gave its students credit for rigorous classes they did not take. The school also provided inaccurate letters of recommendation which listed falsified extracurricular accomplishments.

6. At Law and Liberty, John O. McGinnis worries that classical liberalism is facing a gathering storm. And yet at the end of 2018, I fear for the future of classical liberalism. From his essay:

To be sure, much of the reason for my concern has little to do with Trump. Many of our universities, mine very much included, are places of ever greater political correctness and ideological orthodoxy that nurture a coming generation of social justice warriors. The Democratic Party has lurched to the left and radical leftists, like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are given glowing mainstream media treatment. And the disruption of technology quickens, making many people feel insecure and more open to the “protections” of the state, even if the benefits of this technology, like internet search and social media, are often free and are more broadly shared than almost any innovations in human history.

And Trump adds to this disquiet because he has singularly failed to burnish the reputation of classical liberal ideas in this turbulent time. His mercurial persona, divisive tweets, and ill-informed and more than occasionally false comments discredit some good policies that should be popular. Rhetoric counts as much as policy in a democracy, because many if not most voters are rationally ignorant of complex policy arguments and even results. But many of the uninformed follow what Trump says, do not like it, and transfer that dislike to his policies. That is one of the explanations of midterm elections, the results of which portend ill for classical liberalism. Trump uses the bully pulpit but to undermine his policies and political standing. In this, he is the reverse of the greatest President and political expositor of classical liberalism in my lifetime, Ronald Reagan.

Moreover, his continual focus on himself is the opposite of a classically liberal tenor of governance, because it gives the public impression that that government and politicians should be the center of our social life. To the contrary, classical liberalism wants to minimize that presence. Presidential rhetoric should reflect that modesty.

BONUS: Making the email rounds is this Christian Smith barnburner from last January in The Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “Higher Education Is Drowning in BS.” From his doozie of an essay:

BS is universities hijacked by the relentless pursuit of money and prestige, including chasing rankings that they know are deeply flawed, at the expense of genuine educational excellence (to be distinguished from the vacuous “excellence” peddled by recruitment and “advancement” offices in every run-of-the-mill university).

BS is the ideologically infused jargon deployed by various fields to stake out in-group self-importance and insulate them from accountability to those not fluent in such solipsistic language games.

BS is a tenure system that provides guaranteed lifetime employment to faculty who are lousy teachers and inactive scholars, not because they espouse unpopular viewpoints that need the protection of “academic freedom,” but only because years ago they somehow were granted tenure.

BS is the shifting of the “burden” of teaching undergraduate courses from traditional tenure-track faculty to miscellaneous, often-underpaid adjunct faculty and graduate students.

Baseballery

You’re never too old! The 1965 season was coming to its conclusion, and it was an otherwise meaningless game between the American League’s two worst teams. But starting that night for the Kansas City A’s was a 58-year-old man, who had last pitched in a Major League game in 1953, by the name of Satchel Paige, who threw three scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox, giving up a lonely double to Carl Yastrzemski. It was a great moment in baseball history, and inspiring.

EXTRA: From 1970, Paige sits with Dick Cavett for a fun interview about Methuselah and the Negro Leagues and much more.

Rest in Peace

Gene Okerlund has heard the three count. Go, we pray to a happy place. We’re figuring there are no turnbuckles there. And take with you our good feelings, because Mean Gene, you helped us all laugh.

A Dios

Would you join me in fighting back against America having become a nation of slobs? How to be my ally? By not dressing in a heavy-metal T-shirt if you grace church this weekend. Men in warmer climes, also try: Pants. And not the sweat variety. Ask yourself: Didja eva see Jesus’s kneesusses? No (except up on that cross)! And while He wore sandals, I still don’t want to see your hairy toes and ankles in the next pew. Rant over.

Now what else? Oh yes: back, full circle, to tomorrow and the Epiphany. Allen R., old pal from Long Island and the culture wars, shared via email T.S. Eliot reading his poem, Journey of the Magi. Quite beautiful, and short (less than three minutes), so give a listen, here. An alternative, which I find to be an even more wondrous reading, is by Alec Guinness: It can be heard here.

God’s Glorious Blessings on You, No Matter How Your Legs Are Pantsed,

Jack Fowler

Ready and willing to receive your barbs, denunciations, and remonstrances at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Talk About Saturday Night Fever

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The year nearly passed without our noting the 500th Anniversary of the Dancing Plague of 1518, depicted above on WoodCutagram, in which many residents of Strasbourg danced (some for weeks!) to their death. The physicians and quacks of the time determined the cause was “hot blood,” and suggested even more dancing as the cure. Half a millennium later, doctors think the cause was likely a grain fungus doing a pretty good imitation of LSD.

(Speaking of dancing, my 2019 objective is to learn to dance like Jimmy Cagney. Which means a full-body cast may be in the offing.)

If only the noteworthy problems of our times were limited to odd dancing frenzies. That said, 2018 comes to its exhausting conclusion, with our 401k accounts all the more diminished, Democrats about to take over the House, and who knows what insanities the multiculturalists will demand of us. Still, all that and much more is offset by the great privilege, still very real, of being a citizen of these United States of America. Thrill to that.

By the way, Bill Buckley always said that despair is a sin. So: Do not. And outranking him was the angel (from Luke 2:9), who counseled the frightened shepherds: Do not be afraid. Sound advice that, for the shepherds who read WJ and to all others. Let us be of good cheer.

And now comes a diminished WJ, if only because Phil the Editor is travelling and I cannot torture him with the usual Copy Bomb while he is dealing with airport scrums and dragging suitcases filled with dirty laundry.

But First, I Really Need You to Help NRI

Yes, there is an NR, and yes, there is a distinct entity that is National Review Institute, the latter of which is trying to raise funds to do the things Bill Buckley intended it to do when he created NRI — now America’s premier conservative journalism think tank — in 1991: Namely, to advance (through programs from which NR Inc and the magazine and website are entirely distinct) and defend and fight for conservative principles.

NRI is engaged in its End-of-Year Fund Appeal, seeking to raise $200,000 from intelligent Americans (you!) and maybe even a handful of wise Canadians (you?) by 11:59 p.m. on Monday night (when, yeah, the year ends). It’s a goal proving elusive. We’ve raised well over half the goal, but there is still a well under that we are fighting to minimize. It feels like hand-to-hand combat this time. But I am confident that we will get there with your help, which we ask not for the sake of making some contrived dollar amount, but because every dollar given underwrites those causes and principles that are central to your beliefs.

Even if you have donated to NR in 2018, there is a sound case to be made for also donating to NRI (which, unlike NR, is a non-profit, so all contributions to it are tax-deductible).

My last spiel — which makes a case for why the goal elusiveness may have something to do with my breath — can be read here. I pray it is persuasive (and not eye-watering). God bless to all who have given to NRI, or are about to, which can be done sweetly, and securely, here.

Editorials

1. It’s a shutdown to nowhere, we said, and counseled against it. From the editorial:

The first rule for winning a government-shutdown battle is not to take responsibility for the shutdown, which Trump did in his Oval Office confrontation with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer a week or so ago. Having gone on the record about how proud he’d be to shut down the government over border security, his subsequent attempts to blame the Democrats have gotten no traction (even if the Democrats are, indeed, wholly recalcitrant on the wall).

Party unity is necessary to weathering a shutdown fight and the congressional GOP leadership is unenthused, at best, over Trump’s tactics over the last few days.

Finally, Democrats know that with every day that passes, they get a little closer to having more power when Nancy Pelosi takes the speaker’s gavel on January 3, so they would have no incentive to budge even if they were feeling political pressure. (It also, by the way, makes no sense to end the Senate filibuster just when unwelcome legislation will begin coming over from the House.)

This is why the shutdown is likely a box canyon for the White House. We sympathize with the desire for more structure on the border — wall, fencing, whatever — but it has taken on an outsized symbolic significance for both sides.

An Octet of Excellence from Your Favorite Website

1. Andy McCarthy disagrees with critics of Trump’s Syria pullout. From his piece:

These latest chapters are already being folded into the Syria Hawk Fantasy Narrative. To recap, we are to believe that President Obama, by extracting forces from Iraq (inconveniently, pursuant to an agreement struck by President Bush) created a “vacuum,” in which ISIS spontaneously generated. It is supposed to be irrelevant to this story that the American people never supported Washington’s farcical sharia-democracy project, and that the Iraqis claimed to want our troops out even more than we did. What matters is that Obama’s decision “created ISIS,” dashing the dreams for a secular, pluralist democracy harbored by the moderate Muslims who predominate Iraq (at least on days when they’re not executing homosexuals and apostates), and making an unspeakable bloodbath of the heroic struggle by the same moderate Muslims to overthrow Syria’s Tehran-backed monster, Bashar al-Assad.

Of course, Obama did not create the Islamic State. Sharia supremacism did. What no one in Washington pontificating on Syria and neighboring Iraq cares to acknowledge is that this region is a tinderbox of fundamentalist Islam in which, if there were no intervention by outside forces, Sunnis and Shiites would be slaughtering each other until some strongman imposed order — something that is to be expected in a culture of voluntarism (God as pure will) where submission to authority is the norm. (Voluntarism is brilliantly explained by Robert R. Reilly in The Closing of the Muslim Mind.)

It has been 17 years since 9/11 and 25 years since radical Islam declared war against the United States by bombing the World Trade Center. Yet, head firmly in the sand, we continue to discuss such catastrophes as Syria as if the most critical fact on the ground, the power and prevalence of sharia supremacism, did not exist. Consequently, we subscribe to delusional history (Obama created ISIS) and make policy around the resulting storylines.

2. More Syria: Michael Brendan Dougherty is all for vamoosing. From his take:

What would a post-war Syria that is acceptable to America look like, and how can America bring it about at a cost Americans are willing to accept? We are not told. What are the conditions we hope to achieve before the mission can end? This question is also met with silence.

It is as if the downsides of leaving are cited only because staying keeps American soldiers and matériel near the ongoing disaster in Syria, a disaster that may yet yield an international outrage that will motivate Americans to expand the mission to include regime change. Every few months, as Assad’s government reclaims more territory, media outlets dutifully relay the messages of rebels ahead of their latest evacuations. So far public opinion has refused to satisfy the foreign-policy hawks.

As for Russian prestige, is it so enhanced? As in eastern Ukraine, so in Syria: The United States placed a gamble on a people-powered movement that would have the effect of depriving Russia of an ally that hosts vital Russian naval assets, and Russia eventually scrambled to avoid this major loss. It is not so much a gift as the successful and costly prevention of a theft.

RELATED: More MBD on Syria Mission-Creep.

3. Arthur Herman warns the USA must get on the ball in Africa, where Russia and China are exerting influence. From his column:

At stake are Africa’s rich natural resources, rapidly growing markets, and political and military influence over the planet’s Southern Hemisphere — and a major portion of the world’s population. This scramble will do much to shape the 21st century, just as the earlier scramble shaped the 19th. It will also become a major epicenter for the ongoing competition between the U.S. and China for economic and strategic leadership.

Fortunately, the Trump administration understands the stakes involved. Last week National Security Adviser John Bolton gave a speech unveiling the administration’s new Africa strategy. Unfortunately for the U.S., China has a big lead in this competition, and making up the difference won’t be easy, even though it will have to be a critical part of America’s 21st-century agenda.

But America has one clear advantage going forward. Unlike the last scramble for Africa, in the 19th century, when all the participants wound up being imperialist bad actors, this scramble has two very bad actors, Russia and China, and one clearly good guy ready to ride to the rescue — namely, the U.S. While China’s efforts in Africa have been brutal and neo-colonialist in the extreme, we can, as Bolton indicated in his speech, show sub-Saharan Africa’s 49 countries how to preserve their independence and autonomy and become part of the modern economic order in ways that benefit their people and inc