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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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,
Can you resist Andy Williams singing Danny Boy? No!