Dear Weekend Jolter,
This coming Monday marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge, a ferocious last gasp for Corporal Schicklgruber and German forces that included scoundrel SS units who massacred American prisoners. The battle was not a triumph of American military history: Spread-thin front-line Allied forces were caught terribly off-guard, and the poor intelligence of the German troop build-up resulted in massive casualties (19,000 Americans were killed) before the “bulge” was contained and the Nazis pushed back by the end of January, 1945.
But bravery was rampant nonetheless, particularly of the forces, mostly of 101st Airborne Division, besieged at Bastogne and led by General Anthony McAuliffe.
Consider watching the terrific film, Battleground (sometimes referred to as Bastogne), which looks to be on TCM some time in February. Yes, it’s a movie, but it is widely considered to give as good a take as Hollywood might provide (of course, there is a love angle added to water down all the Y Chromosomery) about this epic battle. And if you have the time right now, here is a clip from the film featuring the famous response of General McAuliffe to the German’s surrender-or-die ultimatum: “Nuts.”
You gotta love George Murphy’s talent in blowing smoke rings. Begging your further indulgence, Your Humble Correspondent is particular to this scene, where the great Leon Ames, in a small role as a Lutheran chaplain, holds a field service while shells are falling.
Anyway, this Bulge remembrance is in particular prompted by a reminder of the anniversary from NRI’s Chairman Peter Travers, and by a gag-inducing tweet written this ween by a “conservative blogger” who says the Democrat lawyers who contrived the — keeping with the theme, nutty — impeachment articles “will go down as heroic patriots.”
They will go down, alright, but like castor oil. But the Weekend Jolt . . . that my friends will go down like sweet sambuca! Fill ’er up and down the hatch — and pour me another!
1. As a replacement to NAFTA, the USMCA is better than a sharp stick in the eye. From the editorial:
On the campaign trail, Trump excoriated NAFTA as an economic disaster for the United States. But the USMCA mostly replicates NAFTA. And it’s a good thing, too, since Trump was never persuasive in his denunciations of an agreement that has had a positive effect on the economies of all three member countries.
The changes that USMCA would wreak fall mostly into two categories. There are updates to NAFTA, so that it now covers such topics as digital trade. On these issues, USMCA largely borrows from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which included more countries but which Trump junked for no very well-explained reason at the start of his presidency. And there are moves toward greater regulation and protectionism, especially for the auto industry. Even the International Trade Commission, which put out an optimistic projection of USMCA’s effects, expects these provisions to reduce American employment in auto assembly.
Senator Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) has concluded that on balance, the changes to NAFTA are negative and that the USMCA should therefore be rejected. He is right, especially, to reject the auto provisions as a model for future agreements. Members of Congress should also look askance at the rushed timetable for House passage, especially given that some provisions are still being finalized.
2. Boris stomps Labour / Socialism. And, viva Brexit. From the editorial:
There are a host of reasons that the election turned out this way. For many, last night represented a second referendum on Brexit — a chance to say, “we really meant it the first time.” For others, many of whom were not enthusiastic about Brexit in 2016, last night represented a chance to move on. One does not have to have been an ardent Leaver to have been appalled at the way in which the will of the people has been thwarted. Boris Johnson’s promise to ”get Brexit done” resonated.
Then there was Corbyn himself. It should have come as no surprise that Corbyn was most unpopular with Britons who remember the dark days of the 1970s. Britain has tried Corbyn’s ideas before, and they resulted in disastrous inflation, economic stagnation, high unemployment, routine power-cuts, industrial strife, a reduction in national prestige, and a penchant for nationalization that led to scarcity, abysmal customer service, and a virtual end to innovation. In his resignation speech, Jeremy Corbyn insisted that his policies had been popular. If they were, the British have a funny way of showing it.
Corbyn himself did not help matters. For all of his ideological lunacy, Michael Foot was an intelligent and thoughtful man with an admirable record of standing up to fascism. Jeremy Corbyn, by contrast, reminded voters of George Orwell’s sandal-and-pistachio-colored-shirt wearers, carrying with him “the smell of crankishness.” Notably, Corbyn failed to deal with the kooks, bigots, and anti-Semites that had flooded into his party, and he failed to apologize for his abdication. He equivocated on terrorism, had a history of sympathizing with dictators, and never met a radical he disliked. Put simply, he was not a man that a majority of the British people could imagine making their first minister. Boris Johnson, for all his flaws, was
Hot Delicious Conservative Chestnuts (17!) Roasting on an Open NRO Fire
1. The title of David Harsanyi’s article — “The Obama Administration’s FISA Abuse Is a Massive Scandal” — just about sums it all up. From the piece:
What the case has done is create an array of dangerous precedents. What, for instance, stops Republicans from cobbling together their own salacious “dossier,” sending it to friends in the executive branch and law enforcement, using it to obtain FISA warrants, leaking it to a compliant media, all while propelling an investigation that smears a bunch of their adversaries for political reasons?
Faith in the FBI?
Obama administration defenders such as Michael McFaul tell us that “Americans, not just Democrats, should be thankful that partisanship does not influence the FBI’s work.” Pardon my skepticism, but this was a case that featured FBI lawyers manufacturing evidence to spy on a political campaign. It featured FBI agents promising to “stop” the president. It featured top FBI leadership, the same people who have been lecturing us about patriotism and loyalty, lying to the American people.
Why didn’t CNN contributor Andrew McCabe — who “handpicked” the agents involved in crafting the FISA warrants before being fired from the FBI for misconduct — ever speak up about these abuses? In 2018, the former head of the FBI James Comey, said: “I have total confidence that the FISA process was followed and that the entire case was handled in a thoughtful, responsible way. . . . I think the notion that FISA was abused here is nonsense.” Was he lying?
Now if your argument is that FISA abuse such as this goes on all the time . . . well, that too is a huge scandal for the Obama administration and the FBI. Hopefully the Republicans will change their position on surveillance powers. Whether they do or do not, however, does not mitigate the harm of this scandal.
2. Kevin Williamson calls out the FBI’s corruption. From the piece:
The FBI’s actions in the Trump matter were outrageous, with agents going so far as to alter documents included as part of the FISA warrant process.
Focus in on that for a moment: The Federal Bureau of Investigation under the Obama administration sought to launch an investigation of the rival party’s presidential campaign in order to spy on it under powers reserved for national-security purposes. (FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.) In order to activate those powers, the FBI had to go to a federal court for permission, which it did — with falsified documents in hand. If the FBI attorney who altered that document avoids seeing the inside of a federal prison cell, it will be a grave disservice to justice.
What makes this even worse is not that there was no good reason to be suspicious of the relationships between Trump’s circle and the Russians but that there was. In that sense, Obama’s investigation of the Trump campaign is a mirror image of Trump’s efforts to strong-arm the Ukrainians into investigating Hunter Biden: The underlying issue was very much worth looking into, and that makes the fact that the process was distorted by petty, corrupt opportunism even more offensive. Trump & Co. may be as crooked as a barrel of snakes, but that does not mean that those who investigated them weren’t crooked, too. Nor does it absolve the FBI and the Obama administration from their wrongdoing.
In a free society, there is very little that is as dangerous as a corrupt cop. The FBI under the Obama administration falsified documents in order to get legal permission to spy on a Republican presidential campaign. But there was no “bias.”
3. The Horowitz IG report is anything but an exoneration of anyone. Indeed, says Conrad Black, it’s pretty damn damning. From the column’s get-go:
It is hard to believe that the run-up to the presidential-election year has plumbed such a depth of farcical degradation. It must be that Trump’s influence has contributed to unserious responses, but he can’t be blamed for the unutterable nonsense of his opponents and the straight men of the political class that has absorbed the shock of the Trump phenomenon. Monday, December 9, had been much anticipated. Congressman Jerry Nadler, who has not been able to utter a sentence in the last three years that did not contain the word “impeachment,” gaveled to order his asinine Judiciary Committee hearings to consider the partisan recommendation of Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee that the president had abused his powers by asking about what must concern the endangered minority that takes former vice president Joe Biden’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination seriously. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to find out whether Biden and his son were influence-peddling in Ukraine. Trump didn’t try to write the verdict of his inquiry; he asked a reasonable question. The Democrats, if any of them retain their sanity despite the simulation of a lunatic asylum their party is conducting, would be at least as curious as the Republicans to hear the answer. Last week Nadler had four constitutional experts before the committee, including three rabid Trump haters, one so overwrought that she couldn’t walk on the sidewalk in front of Washington’s Trump Hotel.
4. The impeachment articles could use a Charles Atlas course. Andy McCarthy looks at the very weak, and even inane, charges. From the analysis:
Just as frivolously, Democrats maintain that Trump’s “abuse of power” includes endangering American national security. Here is the theory: Our noble (if pervasively corrupt) ally Ukraine is in a border war with Russia, a hostile foreign power, so we supply defense aid to Kyiv so they can fight Moscow’s mercenaries over there, lest we have to fight the Russian army over here. Yes, Jerry Nadler would have us believe that Ukraine — its armed forces threaded with neo-Nazis and jihadists — is the only thing preventing Putin from laying waste to everything from the Upper West Side down to Greenwich Village.
This, from the same Democrats who yawned when Russia annexed Crimea, and when Obama denied Kyiv the lethal defense aid Trump has provided. This, from the same Democrats who swooned when Obama mocked Mitt Romney for observing that Russia remains our most worrisome geopolitical foe. This, from the same Democrats who cheered when Obama struck a deal, including cash ransom payments, to give Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of anti-American terrorism, an industrial-strength nuclear program that, in the absence of meaningful monitoring, could be converted to a nuclear-arms program in nothing flat.
It is perfectly reasonable to contend that arming Ukraine against Russian aggression is in American interests — especially after prior U.S. administrations of both parties encouraged Ukraine to disarm on the loopy theory that post-Soviet Russia posed no threat. But the claim that Trump’s dealings with Ukraine have put our national security at risk is fatuous.
5. More Impeachment: It’s historical hooey, says Rich Lowry. From the beginning of the column:
Never has history felt less consequential.
The impending impeachment of President Donald Trump is, as news accounts and blaring newspaper headlines tell us, historic. This is true by definition, since a president has been impeached only twice before in 230 years.
But everyone knows that this history isn’t going to matter much. In fact, the day after the Senate trial ends in inevitable acquittal, everything goes on exactly the same as before (except for vulnerable House Democrats from Trump districts, who will have to defend their votes until November).
Impeachment won’t occasion any significant new jurisprudence on executive privilege or the line between executive or legislative prerogatives.
It hasn’t produced any particularly memorable TV. The witnesses before Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee were damaging, but not nearly as compelling as any of the true insiders that it would have taken time and litigation to try to get, such as Mick Mulvaney or Rudy Giuliani. By the last round of witnesses before the Judiciary Committee, staff lawyers were testifying and questioning one another in a strange and pointless exercise.
6. Boris wins, and Brexit’s long pregnancy seems to be coming to end, sovereignty ready to be born. Michael Brendan Dougherty reviews the Tory triumph. From the piece:
The election is a massive national repudiation of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. It was often said that Jeremy Corbyn was a “throwback” Labour leader, that he reminded people of the days before Tony Blair took the party in a less socialist and more Clintonite direction. Blair’s transformation of the Labour party in the 1990s was an ideological development that weakened the importance the party’s attachment to the working class. But the truth is that Corbyn’s ideological cohort in the 1980s had done the same, but in a different direction and to different ends.
His was the hard edge of the party that defined itself by its support for Third-Worldist socialist movements, and every challenge to the imperialism of the United Kingdom. He was no Clement Attlee or Harold Wilson. In the end, Corbyn appealed neither to the upwardly mobile metropole voters of the Blair coalition nor to the actual working class in northern England and in Scotland. In this election, the most decisive factor was that Labour finally lost the Labour vote to the Tories in England, and to the Scottish Nationalists in Scotland.
Under Corbyn’s watch, Labour became a party in which anti-Semitism started to have free rein. At first this seemed simply baffling. Surely, in a party committed to diversity, anti-Semitism would be an easily fixable programming error. But the problem has only persisted and grew under Corbyn’s leadership. Former London mayor and Corbynite Ken Livingstone seemed to blame the “Jewish vote” for Corbyn’s defeat last night, despite the fact that Jews are less than 1 percent of the population of the United Kingdom.
7. David Bahnsen whammies Elizabeth Warren’s free-college lunacy. From the Corner post:
In my new book on Elizabeth Warren’s policy portfolio, I dedicate an entire chapter to the idea of forgiving debt for college graduates. It is a highly regressive idea that, if put into effect, would reward those of statistically higher income-generation potential more than those whose life circumstances may prohibit college entirely. Offering “free” college in the form of a federal subsidy to states would invite a frightening statist intervention into higher education. This would be a true example of something that theoretically can’t get worse that actually gets worse. Warren’s ideas are unaffordable (why let that bother anyone now?), unfair, immoral, impractical, and counterproductive.
But if you can’t beat something with nothing, and Warren has something, then President Trump may not win on this issue by saying nothing. The fundamental reason for the explosive amount of student debt over the past ten years is — wait for it — the explosive costs of college education. And the explosive costs of college education are a direct by-product of — wait for it — the access to unlimited federal loans. In other words, the easiest way to deal with “explosive student debt” is — follow me here – to stop giving it out.
I will lose far too many of you if I end there, as the instinctive response of “well, that then cuts off the entire next generation from accessing college!” is fair enough. But of course, the determination that the federal government will no longer serve as enabler-in-chief to university administrators who have absolutely no decency or sense in controlling costs would not end people’s access to college. The president has the opportunity to present two ideas that would shock the nation in their obvious sensibility.
RELATED: David’s book is titled Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream — it is available in audio format and can be found at Amazon, Audible, or iTunes.
You couldn’t have planned Detroit’s success. But you could have avoided its catastrophic failure. Detroit was not done in by lack of clever industrial policy or by shortage of some other species of cleverness. It was done in by corrupt and ineffective government and a local political culture that went from bad to worse to much worse to Coleman Young. They tried to save Detroit with tariffs and failed. They could have saved it with safe streets and functional schools and the hundred thousand other tiny needful things that good governments do well.
Good government — including a steady, stable, predictable policy environment — multiplies the value of labor, just as training and capital do. That is why investment capital around the world for years has flowed largely to well-governed countries, most of them liberal democracies, with the largest recipients of foreign direct investment being the United States and the European Union. (China, the important exception to that rule, is not well-governed; it is governed brutally but predictably, an ugly but useful reminder that stability has economic value, too.) There are many places that businesses could go in search of low wages and a loose regulatory environment, but you aren’t driving a car made in Haiti or using a computer built in Burundi. Investors aren’t putting a lot of money into factories in Yemen or Afghanistan.
And that is what is so irritating about Senator Rubio’s new push for “industrial policy.” Is the U.S. government really performing its core duties so well, so ably, so competently that we need to add to them with additional duties that demand a kind of competence it does not have and cannot acquire?
9. But Fred Bauer says Rubio’s plan is well within the American tradition. From the beginning of the analysis:
One of the important subtexts of Marco Rubio’s industrial-policy speech earlier this week is the intersection of economic structures and geopolitical strategy. In current debates on the Right, proponents of neoliberal economics (especially on trade) have often joined forces with those who want to defend the “liberal international order” (or who wish, in any case, to maintain a proactive American foreign-policy). In some ways, this alliance makes sense. Many view President Trump as the central question in American politics, and he has trumpeted his criticism of the post-1989 consensus on both foreign and economic policy. Moreover, American policymakers pivoted to international “free trade” agreements as a key element of geopolitical strategy in the aftermath of the Second World War.
However, in some other ways, there might be some tensions in this alliance. In many respects, the economic trends of 2001 to 2016 undermined the ability of the United States to continue as a ballast of the post-1945 geopolitical order. The extended slowdown in economic growth since Y2K has shrunk the size of the American economy relative to the rest of the world, and the social turmoil accelerated by the disruptions of the neoliberal economy makes it harder for the United States to realize long-term geopolitical goals.
Increased trade with the People’s Republic of China, which is not a conventional market economy, is clearly a major part of this story. It has delivered a shock to the industrial core of the United States. It has made many sectors of the American economy more dependent upon the Communist Party of China. In the postwar era, the United States championed trade agreements with its market-economy allies. Post-2000, we’ve seen a reversal of this, with China absorbing a growing portion of the U.S.’s foreign commerce to eventually become its top trading partner. (The current administration’s efforts to renegotiate our trading arrangements with China — often called a “trade war” — have somewhat reversed this trend; China is now only America’s third-largest trading partner, behind Canada and Mexico.)
10. Oh those Kooky Bidens! Well, Big Jim Geraghty has their number. From the end of the piece:
Joe Biden is an old-school politician in a lot of ways — and there are few features in politics more old-school than friends of a powerful officeholder creating a lucrative minimal-responsibility job for the officeholder’s idiot son. No one ever has to outright request a favor down the road; there’s an unspoken understanding that hiring the offspring will ensure a powerful friend in Washington, the kind of friend who answers the phone quickly. For a long time, this kind of nepotism was widespread, bipartisan, and so common among Washington elites that it was considered rude to notice, much less publicly criticize. Getting lucrative gigs in large part because he was Joe Biden’s son is pretty much what Hunter Biden has done with his adult life after law school — at the biggest bank in Delaware, at a D.C. lobbying firm, at a New York hedge fund he purchased with his uncle, and so on. A bit of extra money going to the family, and not covered by the officeholder’s public financial-disclosure forms, helped grease the wheels.
It’s easy to understand why powerful Democrats and powerful Republicans would agree to a truce to avoid calling attention to the other side’s idiot sons; in their eyes, this is all a grand system of benevolent nepotism, to ensure that those shouldering the responsibilities of government never have to worry too much about Junior, who barely made it through all those expensive prep schools and the finest higher education that a lot of money and a famous name can buy. (It is odd how many of our elected leaders who publicly boast of their spectacular IQs have offspring that seem . . . deficient in certain important traits.)
But the rest of us never signed on to any truce to avoid calling attention to anyone’s idiot sons. And we didn’t sign on to believe the implausible claim that no one warned Joe Biden about any of this, either.
11. John Hirschauer better put his soul in Witness Protection Program as he takes on Conservative Scold Pete Wehner. From the piece:
Needless to say, he doesn’t agree that Christian Trump supporters are making a tragic choice between an admittedly imperfect vessel and a party that means their faith harm. He believes they are linking fates with a “demagogue” in order to fight perceived threats “to their core beliefs” that “hardly qualify as existential.”
While Christian readers are to take ostensible solace in the fact that Peter Wehner of the New York Times does not deem any of the threats to their “core beliefs” to be “existential,” it’s an awfully tough claim to support in a country where participation in organized religion has seen precipitous declines, where the leading Democratic presidential candidate has indicated that his top legislative priority would be passing the conscience-rights boondoggle that is the “Equality Act,” and where every major candidate for the Democratic nomination has pledged to fund an international abortion regime with taxpayer dollars. At very least, the suggestion that Christians are misapprehending the threats posed by progressives seems like one for which Wehner would have to proffer evidence, and he offers little beyond insinuation.
Instead, after stating his thesis, Wehner loses the plot. He skewers a few Christian pundits who he feels have been hasty or hyperbolic in their support of Trump before shifting the ground again, insisting that religious voters ought to be grateful for improvements in various social indicators. “Just how bad are things, really?” he asks, which is the sort of question that assumes Christians are more concerned about the almost accidental decadence of the culture today than they are about the very intentional decadence the current crop of Democrats mean to install as part of their platform. Wehner points out that the number of abortions performed annually, while still well over 800,000, has gone down, which is true enough, though as he himself admits, losing 800,000 unborn children to abortion each year is hardly something upon which to hang one’s hat. He notes that rates of teen pregnancy and violent crime have fallen, too, and teenagers are using less alcohol than they did 40 years ago. What’s his point? Since these statistical declines have occurred under both Republican and Democratic administrations, he asserts, the argument that a Democratic president poses an extraordinary threat to Christianity — a threat so great as to justify supporting an “unethical, unscrupulous, and morally dissolute” figure such as Trump — is without basis in fact.
12. The Jacobin-channeling SOP of the Democratic Party, says Victor Davis Hanson, means today’s leaders will be in tomorrow’s guillotine. From the essay:
The weekly Jacobin rhetoric made the prior progressive talk seem counterrevolutionary — until we finally reached the crux of the matter with admissions by various Democrats such as Representatives Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Al Green, and Nancy Pelosi that impeachment was likely the only means to stop Trump in 2020.
The Democrats in their impeachment frenzy have now established that a president can be impeached for thinking about withholding foreign aid to a country that he suspects is mired in corruption, including foreign malfeasance that might have affected him personally in the past and may in the future.
But criminalization of such a hypothetical quid pro quo has all but condemned both Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the court of public opinion. By that logic the Republican House should have impeached Obama in 2012 right before his reelection bid, for dismantling missile-defense plans in Europe in exchange for Putin’s putting off his annexations of Crimea and eastern Ukraine until after Obama’s reelection — in effect bestowing upon candidate Obama a private quid pro quo benefit of assuring voters that Obama’s “Russian reset” was sound foreign policy.
Candidate Biden stands accused of no thought crime, but of actually leveraging foreign aid to force the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who, by his own admission, later claimed he was looking into Biden’s mysterious activities with regard to the board of a corrupt Ukrainian energy company.
Obama had refused to provide needed lethal aid to Ukraine. He sent Biden to Ukraine, who used the stick of threatening to cancel all nonlethal aid in return for the carrot of not embarrassing Biden, Obama, and the Democratic party with a messy investigation of Burisma — and by extension Biden’s son — with obvious importance to the 2016 campaign cycle.
If Trump can be impeached for delaying lethal aid to Ukraine for a few weeks, then surely Obama and Biden should have been impeached for doing something worse. In other words, once presidential prerogatives are criminalized and impeachment is used for short-term political gain, then the revolutionary process takes on a life of its own and will eventually devour its own creators. In such a downward spiral, impeachment has become no big deal, but a simple way of discrediting a president the opposition hates.
13. George Leef finds another example of academic lefties preferring to impugn rather than discuss. From the commentary:
Remember Duke historian Nancy MacLean’s odious book Democracy in Chains, a disreputable hatchet job on James Buchanan and public choice theory generally. Rather than trying to come to grips with Buchanan’s thinking and its implications — chiefly that if you believe government will solve problems, you’d better think again because government officials have their own self-interested agendas — MacLean manufactured a sleazy case that he was a racist who just wanted to create an excuse for opposing government action. That resonated with most leftists, who have been taught that exposing the supposed hidden motives of people who don’t want omnipotent government is all that’s necessary to win an argument.
Here’s another instance of that same style of writing. Professor Janek Wasserman of the University of Alabama has penned a book about the Austrian School of Economics. Professor Richard Ebeling finds that the book is a “twisted tale” in a lengthy review published by the American Institute for Economic Research. Wasserman can’t just give an explication of Austrian thinking and then offer arguments as to why he disagrees. He poisons his book with all sorts of motive impugning barbs.
Ebeling writes, for instance:
But rather than deal with Mises’s arguments in these terms, Professor Wasserman insists that, ‘Men like Wieser, [Joseph] Schumpeter and Mises had much to lose during the heady days of 1918 and 1919, and they engaged in public affairs with urgency. Self-identifying with German culture, hailing from prosperous, well-connected families, and holding coveted jobs within the academic and bureaucratic establishments, these men were deeply invested in the status quo. They spoke out to defend their state and values . . .’
14. Rather than reform NYC’s infamous Rikers Island prison, Mayor Bill de Blasio, under the sway of “No New Jails” activists, is going to close the facility writes William Nardi. From the article:
In capping the number of suspects the city can detain, de Blasio has bought into an argument that trades inmate safety for public safety. This is a false choice: There’s no reason we can’t have both. Rikers should be reformed, not closed. Neither City Hall nor No New Jails, NYC’s resident anti-prison group, has a good explanation for rejecting such a compromise.
When de Blasio first proposed closing Rikers, he met fierce backlash — not because advocates didn’t want Rikers closed, but because they opposed his plan to spend $11 billion to build a new jail in the Bronx while renovating four existing jails in the city. This would have reduced the maximum capacity of the city’s jails from 20,000 to 5,000, in accord with projections that the daily jail population would reduce from 7,000 to 5,000 by 2026. But when Bronx congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met publicly with No New Jails and condemned de Blasio’s plan, his office changed tack, reducing the expected daily jail population to 3,300.
De Blasio, then, seems to be taking cues from a group that advances an idea of justice that privileges the interests of the incarcerated at the expense of the rest of society. Its manifesto downplays criminals’ responsibility to pay restitution and denies the endless news reports of suspected criminals breaking bail: “It is easy to pretend that jails exist because the people held there are too dangerous to be released. That idea is a myth.”
No New Jails may think incarcerating violent criminals is somehow unjust — whether or not they regret their crimes, and whether or not they’ve paid appropriate restitution. By refusing to draw such distinctions, though, No New Jails ignores the hard reality that some detainees genuinely do pose a threat to society.
15. Armond White finds Richard Jewell to be much more than a portrayal of an injustice. From the review:
Jewell’s story continues Eastwood’s winning streak that began with American Sniper, Sully, The 15:17 to Paris, and The Mule.
These fact-based chronicles are out of step with the wish fulfillment of Hollywood’s current social-justice trend. Movies such as Spotlight, Moonlight, The Shape of Water, and Green Book sentimentalize victim groups; they’re a perversion of the social-consciousness genre, turning it into an exercise of self-righteous showing-off that prevents our understanding of political polarization. Eastwood shrewdly chooses average, unlikely individuals and then narrates the unique, harrowing experiences that set them apart. He uncovers aspects of our national life that might otherwise go misunderstood or unappreciated. Avoiding George Clooney, Matt Damon, Sean Penn, Edward Norton crusader-rabbit pomposity, Eastwood’s movies are not so much political as they are morally conscious.
By going to the past, Eastwood finds, with succinct brilliance, what is troubling and confounding in our contemporary government and media: the story of a wronged man told against the story of how terrible people can be as they deliberately do him harm.
Eastwood never gets partisan, yet he doesn’t make things easy; Jewell is shown as annoying, even aggravating. Hauser, a little-known character actor (he was memorably aggravating in I, Tonya), gives an amazingly disciplined, not-obvious performance. Hauser’s overweight Jewell looks like a human balloon — he stands and sways on drumstick legs with a swollen belly and a puffy, red-cheeked face with Santa Claus eyes. People feel superior to him, with his low-caste and seeming lack of self-control. They misunderstand his intelligence because he is just irritatingly transparent. Guilelessness makes him look suspicious to a society that prizes arrogant aggression.
16. Kyle Smith thinks highly of A Hidden Life. From the review:
It’s a slow, stately film but a marvelous one, steeped in faith and emotionally replete. Catholics and other Christians sometimes complain that there is little offered to them at the movies; what is offered tends to be second-rate. A Hidden Life, though, is a deeply considered and in the end staggering argument for a life lived according to Christ’s teaching by one of cinema’s great American artists, writer-director Terrence Malick. Church groups and other members of Christ’s flock, especially Catholics, should make it a point to see this adaptation of the life of Franz Jägerstätter, a Catholic Austrian farmer who refused to serve the cause of Adolf Hitler during World War II. Jägerstätter was beatified in 2007.
Malick begins his beautiful, impassioned, three-hour film in the Austrian Alps, where Franz, played with a stringent minimalism by August Diehl, tends to a farm with his wife Franziska (Valerie Pachner) and three daughters. After a brief stint in the Wehrmacht, he returns home in 1940 and begins to think seriously about what it means to be complicit in evil. Villagers warn him that his opposition to the regime is foolhardy and dangerous. A racist mayor berates him. Even a local priest tells him, “Your sacrifice will benefit no one.” A bishop goes even further: “You have a duty to the Fatherland. The church tells you so.” Franz wonders whether the clergymen mean what they say or whether they’re covering for themselves in case he is a spy.
Malick has found an unusually oblique angle from which to approach Nazism, and there is no war footage in the film. Hitler (seen in newsreels) has polluted every corner of life, rendered privacy impossible. Yet such is the logic of power that who in Austria or Germany would even bother to oppose him? Even the strongest men might understandably bow when the question is life or death. Evil refreshes itself on cowardice, but is it even cowardice to value one’s life over principle? A horrible reckoning must take place, and finally does in 1943, when Franz is conscripted back into the military. At a training camp near home, he refuses to swear an oath and is jailed. At first he is treated humanely, but things grow worse after he is transferred to a larger prison, hundreds of miles from home in Berlin.
17. More Kyle: He finds the grim and grime of Uncut Gems a piece of watchable scuzzy New York. From the review:
If you’re from some normal place, such as Sarasota, Fla., or Sacramento, Calif., or Dallas, I probably can’t explain the perverse pride we New Yorkers take in tales of filthy people doing horrible things in our wicked little metropolis. “I love this dirty town!” exclaims the sinister gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker, pausing to enjoy a brawl on West 52nd Street in Sweet Smell of Success. New York must be the only city on earth where it’s common to hear people gripe that things are too sanitized, too safe. “Ah, remember when 42nd Street was a string of sleaze emporia and human-trafficking markets,” people say, nostalgia glimmering in their eyes. “Now there’s a—” (shudder) “Disney theater there.” (Expression of deep sorrow.)
Good news, friends. There’s a new offering in this critical micro-genre, the Scumbags of New York flick. Adam Sandler plays a lying degenerate gambler in Uncut Gems, which in its sordid candor turns out to be one of the grabbiest films of the year. The New York writer-directors Josh and Benny Safdie — following their labyrinthine bank-robbery-gone-wrong odyssey Good Time two years ago, which was a better film — have crafted another crazed, flavorful, cinematic slug of hooch. At the end of the movie, I felt a slight hangover rather than satisfaction — a dazed sense of, “Wow, what was the point of all that?” Still, I enjoyed the binge.
If Good Time, which you can view on Amazon Prime, had something of the feel of Dog Day Afternoon, Uncut Gems made me think of Bad Lieutenant, the pugnacious 1992 Abel Ferrara film about a not-nice police officer, memorably played by Harvey Keitel, and his attempts to survive his gambling addiction during a New York Mets playoff run. In Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler is the antihero, one of the many Jewish retailers on West 47th Street in midtown Manhattan (a three-iron from National Review’s offices) buying and selling precious stones in tightly secured offices. Sandler’s Howard Ratner is cheating on his wife (an amusing Idina Menzel) with his shopgirl (Julia Fox, who is even better than Menzel) while fending off loan sharks and taking delivery of a hunk of precious stones from Africa that he hopes to auction off for a huge payday. Also, Passover is coming up, and there’s a kids’ play he can’t get out of; Howard is like a Jewish Henry Hill during the climax of Goodfellas.
Making the Case for Higher Ed
My NR paisan John Hillen has an excellent podcast discussion on expansive influence of the liberal arts tradition with Ryan Pemberton from historic Hampden-Sydney College — it’s well worth the listen, which you and your ears can do right here.
1. At The American Spectator, Anne Hendershott wonders aloud if the realities of Commie SOP make it into the thick noggin of the Pope. From the piece:
Suggesting that “China is developing well,” Sorondo dismissed any concerns about China — claiming that “you cannot think that the China of today is the China of the time of John Paul II, or Cold War Russia.” Sorondo concluded that China now has “many points of agreement” with the Vatican.
At least one Vatican official, concerned about what he called Sorondo’s “adulation” of Chinese culture, published an editorial with the headline “Sánchez Sorondo in Wonderland.” Claiming that Sorondo’s praise of the totalitarian dictatorship in China “makes a laughingstock of the Church,” Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, head of the Asia News Agency, called the archbishop naïve.
But, Sorondo is not alone in his naïveté. Pope Francis himself has gone out of his way to accommodate China’s demands to regularize the communist state-sponsored Catholic Church (the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association) that is beholden to the state and not to Rome. For decades, there was a schism in China between the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the underground Church that was in full communion with Rome. Pope Francis developed a way to unify the two ecclesiastic communities, although the details of the “unification” remain unclear.
Refusing to acknowledge concerns about the continued marginalization and imprisonment of underground Catholics — including priests and bishops — Pope Francis claimed that the Sino-Vatican agreement he signed in September 2018 with representatives of the communist government “united” Catholics. In the agreement, Pope Francis regularized the status of seven of China’s “Patriotic Association” bishops who had been ordained by the communist government, marking the first time since the 1950s that all Catholic bishops in China were in “full communion” with the pope.
2. More from TAS: Rabbi Dov Fischer feels the pain of traditional Papists who called BS on Speaker Nancy Pelosi “as a Catholic” grandstanding. From the piece:
I feel bad for truly devout Catholics who go to mass on Sundays, worship throughout the week, adhere to the doctrines of their faith, know and honor their catechism, look to the Vatican for the traditional theological guidance that came from Rome during the papacies of the likes of popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. Even under the current pope, the much more liberal Pope Francis, an abortion even of a sick fetus is inhuman eugenics, akin to hiring a “hitman” to perpetrate a murder. Even he is unalterably opposed to gay marriage. On homosexuality, he has said, “In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life.”
What it must feel like to be a devout Catholic in America, yet to be subjected 24/7/365 on the mainstream media to a long line of leading American liberal Democrat opinion makers who cloak their support for government-imposed contraceptive coverage, transgenderism, gay marriage, abortion, and so much else of that nature in their Catholicism. One after another: Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, John Kerry, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Tim Kaine, Robert O’Rourke, the Castro Brothers, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Sen. Dick Durbin, the Kennedy family of Massachusetts, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Ed Markey, Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Bob Menendez, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, dozens of pro-abortion House members like Ted Lieu of California, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and just so many others among American leftist celebrities, entertainers, and media personalities. In terms of overall numbers, Catholics tend to vote for Democrats over Republicans regularly. Many of these Catholics furthermore even are deeply allied politically with outright anti-Catholic and bigoted non-Catholics in the Senate — like Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, a Buddhist and anti-Catholic bigot; Kamala Harris, a Baptist; and Dianne Feinstein, supposedly a Jew but actually the child of a Russian Orthodox Church maternal line and a graduate of Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco — all of whom viciously have attacked federal judicial nominees for following Catholic teachings in their personal lives, with some attacking even having such Catholic social affiliations as being members of the Catholic fraternal order, Knights of Columbus.
And, yet, reasonable and fair-minded non-Catholics do not stereotype all Catholics in the way that, in a dark American era, the Ku Klux Klan did. We see through the “as a Catholic” gambit and charade because there are the others who not only follow the dogma and teachings of Catholicism but who actually do live it as it is theologically constructed, and they promote their faith prominently and proudly. Our own views are impacted not only by Catholics on the left but also by those on the right, such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito, Rick Santorum, Jon Voight, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Sen. James Risch, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. John Hoeven, Sen. Pat Toomey, Rep. Peter King, Rep. Devin Nunes, Rep. Steve Scalise, Newt Gingrich, and so many others.
3. Gatestone Institute’s Alain Destexhe reports on Europe’s growing hostility towards Israel. From the piece:
The European Union, in fact, seems proud to be “the biggest donor of external assistance to the Palestinians”. Since February 2008, more than €2.5 billion ($2.8 billion) have been disbursed. The EU provides core financial support to the Palestinian Authority (PA), even though part of the PA budget is earmarked for terrorists and terrorists’ families, thereby actually incentivizing terrorism.
The EU is also a major contributor to helping the PA pay the salaries of civil servants, which could not be accomplished without its support, thereby not only making the PA the world biggest welfare state, but also disincentivizing the PA from becoming more self-sufficient. With the EU’s funds, the PA pays the families of imprisoned terrorists in Israel as well as families of terrorists who have been killed, including kamikazes. When the PA had to make cuts in its budget, it stressed that reductions would not apply to salaries “paid to pensioners and families of martyrs, wounded or prisoners.” Many Palestinians view these prisoners and those killed while carrying out terror attacks as heroes in their conflict with Israel and venerate them as martyrs. According to the Israeli press, the PA’s stipends to imprisoned terrorists each year come to some $138 million.
The Dutch parliament passed a motion on November 19, objecting to providing funding to the Palestinian Authority when some of its budget is earmarked for Palestinian terrorists imprisoned by Israel. By doing so, it not only saved some of Europe’s honor, it also sets an example for other European countries.
4. Did Western liberalism start with Martin Luther? At Law & Liberty, James R. Rogers argues, no. From the essay:
Although Luther provides a convenient dividing point in telling the story of liberalism in Western history, the temptation exists to mistake a convenient focal point for causation—the old post hoc (ergo propter hoc) fallacy.
If anything, Luther was a catalyst rather than a cause. Both fans and detractors treat Luther as introducing something truly de novo. Truth is, Luther was very much a man of his times. His theology was, if anything, a reaction to long existing and deepening individualistic (and, hence, liberalizing) currents in the religion and society of his day. It was because of the individualistic turn in Medieval piety prior to Luther that his theology struck the nerve that it did while earlier proto-protestant movements did not. Even the groundwork for the unintended political consequences had been set prior to Luther in the Schism and “papal revolution” (Harold Berman’s phrase in Law and Revolution for Pope Gregory VII’s reforms) of the 12th century.
My point is not to deny that Luther is an important figure in the history of the West. The question is whether he is—for better or for worse—the causal figure of so much liberal historiography. Luther may be better understood as a man more reflecting his time than creating it. Or, perhaps, a figure who served as a catalyst rather than as a causal agent.
Several significant, already long-existing currents made Luther possible. These currents were both religious and social.
First and foremost there was a signal change in Christian piety and self-understanding in the centuries prior to Luther. Modern Christians and modern non-Christians largely miss the signal aspect of this change. We miss it because we think as modern Christians that this was always true of Christianity.
A signal turn in the history of Western Christianity occurred when the central question of the tradition became, “Will I go to heaven or hell when I die?”
5. If you thought icons had transcendent beauty, you’d be agreeing with The Imaginative Conservative’s Michael De Sapio, who has a wonderful profile of artist Christina Kokosari. From the commentary:
We live in an era in which words are routinely diluted of their meaning. One feels the need, especially around Christmas, to go back to the root senses of things, to their primitive origins. Consider the words “icon” and “iconic.” They have been so trivialized and commercialized that one can easily forget their original, concrete meaning in the Christian church—a meaning that becomes clear the minute you walk in a church of the Eastern tradition, where the glow of sacred images dispels the vulgar world outside.
For a long time I have admired icons—their objectivity, simplicity, calm, and timelessness. I wish they were more frequently seen in our churches. While much Western art immerses us in the richness of this world with its spacial and emotional realism, icons function as “windows into heaven,” with stylized forms that convey a Platonic ideal of beauty and truth.
To gain deeper insight into the aesthetics of icons, I spoke with Christina Kokosari, a young artist in New York City who makes some fine examples. Born in Albania and trained in Greece, Christina now runs a home art studio in Astoria, Queens. While some of her work is secular (including some lovely impressionist landscapes), a good portion is devoted to sacred icons on wood panel or canvas. These grow directly out of her intense Eastern Orthodox faith, which she learned as a child during the waning days of Communism.
6. At The American Conservative, Rod Dreher spotlights the widening fault lines in Evangelical churches. From the commentary:
I don’t want to re-argue these events of 2016, but I do want to say that this was the first time I realized how powerfully racial identity politics were manifesting themselves among middle-class white Evangelicals of the Millennial and Zoomer generations. My previous work criticizing LGBT rights and Obergefell — I had been unambiguously clear about this for years — did not make me unwelcome among those white Evangelicals, but criticizing Black Lives Matter did. Most of the students there when I was present will have graduated by now, and I would not be surprised to learn that my orthodox Christian beliefs on homosexuality are now problematic there.
But it was race that did it. With that group of young white conservative (conservative-ish?) Evangelicals, Black Lives Matter was not an issue that Christians could agree to disagree on; it was absolute. (“Next comes judgment, usually quick and severe, using a single measure: relative power among the various ethnic, racial, gender, or ideological groups.”)
As we know, it became impossible for Mainline Protestant churches to agree to disagree over homosexuality. And I understand why not: if you believe that there is nothing morally wrong about homosexuality, Christians who adhere to traditional Biblical teaching are upholding unjust discrimination. On the other hand, if you hold to tradition, then there can be no compromise. It’s either right, or it’s wrong, and though it makes the vast middle uncomfortable, activists on both sides of the gay rights in churches argument saw things more clearly than the others: there really is no middle ground. Eventually, the orthodox were driven out of most Mainline churches, and now it looks like the Methodists are going to schism over it.
Will things go this way in Evangelicalism over race? It seems to me that the moral lines from a doctrinal Christian point of view are not remotely as clear as they were in the homosexuality debate. Every Christian believes, or should believe, that racism is wrong. As I see it, the conflict is over what constitutes racism, and what to do about it?
Is it racist not to support Black Lives Matter? Is resisting the standard progressive model of race and inequality a sign of racism? If so, well, then you cannot argue with a racist, because his bigotry is irrational. You can only separate yourself from him.
It’s a minefield. If I were Evangelical, I would hope my church was sensitive to the painful, even shameful, history of the church’s complicity with racial oppression. (Michelle Higgins speaks truthfully and winsomely of some of them here; believe me, here in south Louisiana, there are also shameful historical examples of white supremacist bigotry within Catholicism. White Christians of my generation and younger are in many cases simply ignorant of this history — and that is wrong. These things happened, and they were terrible, and they need to be acknowledged and repented of.) And I would expect us to be doing something concrete to overcome that legacy. If my pastor, or the leadership of the church, in any way preached or defended racism, I would be gone.
RELATED: A reader responds to Rod to educate him on how postmodernism wokeness broke his “conservative” church. Read it here.
BONUS: Give me time to think up an excuse for missing this gem from two weeks back, but it’s still worth investing your eyeballs: The College Fix heads to Macalester College in Minnesota to ask students if Thanksgiving merits a celebration. As you might imagine, there were plenty of snowflakes who proved un-copacetic with the holiday. Watch the video here.
Our friends at Law & Liberty share a host of holiday book recommendations, and the great Dan Mahoney is among the contributors, of whose wisdom we serve a slice:
Frank Dikötter is the author of a monumental trilogy on Maoist tyranny and terror, addressing The Tragedy of Liberation, Mao’s Great Famine, and The Cultural Revolution, respectively. Works of exquisite scholarship and archival research, they explode any claims made on behalf of the moral legitimacy (or historical “necessity”) of Mao’s brutal tyranny. Dikötter has followed up this remarkable achievement with How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century (Bloomsbury, 2019). One might quarrel with the author’s account of the relative weight of ideology and ‘the cult of personality’ in many 20th century tyrannies. That said, the book consists of eight lucid, succinct, and revealing sketches, addressing Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Duvalier, Ceaușescu, and Mengistu (of Ethiopia). Dikötter allows us to see demonic ambition, ideological fanaticism, and personal cruelty at their feverish worst. The chapter on Kim Il-Sung is worth the price of admission. It is must reading for everyone who wants to understand the phantasmagoric Hermit Kingdom. These monstrous regimes and tyrants were too often praised by “distinguished intellectuals and eminent politicians” who should have known better. In societies that “destroyed common sense, enforced obedience, and crushed” human dignity, they saw socialist liberation or national grandeur at work. Required reading for anyone who wants to come to terms with the totalitarian temptation that haunted modern man in the 20th century, and may continue to do so for the indefinite future.
Who better sketched the connection between moral character and political destiny than the moral biographer par excellence, Plutarch, a Greek thinker and writer prominent in a Roman world? The Circe Institute, admirably dedicated to promoting and preserving classical and classical Christian education, has published a superbly translated, annotated, and illustrated edition of the lives of Numa Pompilius and Lycurgus, the semi-mythological founders of Rome and Sparta. These deftly drawn and suggestive portraits allow us to better understand political founding, and the moral foundations of civic order, as perceived by the best wisdom of antiquity. The book, called The Lawgivers, is ably translated by C. Scott Hicks, and David V. Hicks, and is available on Amazon and from the Circe Institute. It is highly recommended.
Mort Cooper, the booze-guzzling sore-elbowed righthander who led the NL in wins in 1942 (when he also won the MVP award) and 1943, and who helped pitch the Cardinals to two World Championships, had the distinction of being part of one of baseball’s historic fraternal batteries — his brother Walker was one of the game’s great backstops (and an eight-time All Star). Together, they anchored the Birds’ acclaimed early-40s teams.
Walker was one of baseball’s great journeymen, playing over 18 seasons, wearing the uniforms of the Cubs, Giants, Braves, Reds, and Pirates before ending his career in 1957, once again playing alongside his old teammate, Stan Musial, for his beloved Cardinals. Mort’s career ended much sooner — a last-gasp disastrous one-game performance for the Cubs in 1949. He needed the gig — he was broke. But so was his arm.
It hadn’t been all that much better two years earlier, when Mort had what was really his last round in the big time, pitching for the New York Giants, for whom he racked up a rocky 1–5 record, with a 7.12 ERA.
That one win came on June 28, 1947 at the Polo Grounds, a complete-game 14–6 beating of the Phillies. Mort’s catcher that day was none other than his brother Walker, who went 2-for-4, including a home run, with two RBIs, which was matched by Mort, who went 3-for-4 with a double and two ribbies. It was a rare distinction: two brothers, one a pitcher, one a catcher, performing fraternal battery duties for two different Major League teams. Their last team-up came in early August at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, with Mort starting but hurling only three frames in a non-decision loss for the Giants.
By the way: Only once did the brothers face each other as opponents. That came September 2, 1946 in Boston, Mort pitching then for the Braves, and registering a 6-2 complete game win over the Giants. Brother Walker went 1-for-4, his sole hit a double that knocked in both of the Giants’ runs.
Thank the Lord for sanity prevailing in Great Britain. The election results will, pray, make our two nations even closer and enhance global prosperity, which in turn will further eliminate far-flung poverty. Hey, that’s how this stuff works!
God’s blessings and graces on you and those you cherish,
Jack Fowler, who can be the power to your spoken truth if communicated via firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S.: Nuts as seen in Best in Show: Watch it here.
P.P.S.: Hey we have 5 cabins left on the NR 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise and no kidding, it is the best present you can give that deserving spouse this Christmas. Find out more at nrcruise.com.