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Dear Weekend Jolter,

Looking ahead, and westward, Yours Truly encourages our Golden State friends, sun-kissed misses and all others, to whip out the calendar and pencil in some dates for the big shindigs National Review Institute is planning for the end of this month. Two of its most popular fellows — local boy Victor Davis Hanson and Bronx-bred Andrew McCarthy — will be featured in a trio of forums, in Newport Beach (June 24), Fresno (June 25, and actually, at the Harris Ranch in Coalinga), and San Francisco (June 26).

Andy will speak about the Mueller investigation — the topic of his forthcoming book Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency — which he has written about extensively over the past two years. Victor, whose 2019 book The Case for Trump has proven a big best-seller, will speak about the current administration from a classicist’s perspective, drawing on Western literary and historical traditions to understand our contemporary politics.

Each forum begins at 5:00 p.m. with a welcome reception and registration, followed by the moderated discussion between VDH and Andy, and then . . . another reception, winding down at 7:30 p.m. But then that is followed by an exclusive dinner with our fellows for NRI event sponsors. Be one! Join us!

Get complete information here. And remember: This may also be your big opportunity to tell me to my face everything you can’t stand about the Weekend Jolt.

Editorials

1. Tariffs come at a big price — to American consumers and importers. And, yes, exporters. We are critical of the Trump administration’s call for sharp tariffs on Mexico. From the editorial:

A 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods would notionally amount to about $17 billion on U.S. imports from Mexico, touching everything from industrial components to fruit and crude oil. In reality, it is difficult to say how much money would be raised, because buyers respond to tariffs in unpredictable ways. In any case, many of those costs will be borne by American consumers and — this cannot be emphasized enough — American businesses that rely in some part on imported inputs. More important, it would cause uncertainty around a North American supply chain that has evolved organically over many years as the result of enormous investment by American companies and their business partners.

President Trump envisions a tariff that will potentially ratchet up to 25 percent.

The president here is unnecessarily complicating his own life. He has just overseen the successful renegotiation of NAFTA, which will be reconstituted as the U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). But that agreement has not yet been ratified — not by the United States, and not by Mexico. Imposing punitive tariffs over a policy dispute unrelated to trade five minutes after negotiating a new trade pact makes the Trump administration — and the United States — look like an unreliable negotiating partner. Mexico is not wrong to resent it, and even Trump allies such as Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) are against him on this.

2. Joe Biden, as a senator, was a consistent vote against the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. In the last week, he has flipped on that. Then flopped, and then, reflipped. So much for personal conviction. We editorialize on the presidential wannabe’s repugnant politics. From our editorial:

Biden managed to enrage pro-abortion and left-wing activists just before dashing the hopes of moderates. He raised the visibility of the issue of Medicaid funding of abortion — a policy American voters oppose 58 percent to 36 percent, according to a 2016 poll conducted for Harvard — before deciding to take the unpopular side. For all the confusion Biden caused about his own position, his caving sent a very clear message that pro-life Democrats and those with moderate views on abortion will not be tolerated in the Democratic party.

As a matter of policy, Biden’s final decision to embrace extensive taxpayer funding for abortion is a moral disgrace. Before the passage of the Hyde amendment, Medicaid paid for an estimated 300,000 abortions annually. The Hyde amendment has saved the lives of more than 2 million human beings over the a last four decades, according to a recent study by the Charlotte Lozier Institute. An earlier study from the Guttmacher Institute found that where states use their tax dollars to fund abortion under Medicaid, women on Medicaid had an abortion rate four times that of women not on Medicaid. (In states that do not fund abortion, women on Medicaid were 1.6 times as likely as women not on Medicaid to have abortions.)

Twenty Rowdy, Relevant, and Rocking NRO Articles of Import and Intellect that Will Require Your Full Reading and Thereby Result in an Even Higher IQ!

1. YouTube gives conservative funnyman / wise guy Steven Crowder, targeted by Vox writer Carlos Maza, the Pontius Pilate treatment. Kevin Williamson explains the rage that has become part and parcel of American social media. From his essay:

The Crowder episode is not quite as dramatic as that, but it unfolded along the same lines. When Maza lodged his complaints about Crowder — whose actual offense, it should be noted, was occasionally vivisecting Maza’s purported acts of journalism — the powers that be at YouTube did their best impersonation of Pontius Pilate. They found no fault in the man — or not fault sufficient to show he had broken the terms of service. Crowder’s content “did not violate our Community Guidelines,” YouTube said.

And then, predictably, it changed its mind and caved to the mob, “demonetizing” Crowder’s programming. And YouTube amended its views: “Even if a creator’s content doesn’t violate our community guidelines, we will take a look at the broader context and impact, and if their behavior is egregious and harms the broader community, we may take action.” Which is to say: It doesn’t matter if Steven Crowder follows the rules if the mob hates Steven Crowder. Dennis Prager, a mild-mannered Jewish talk-radio host who does a weekly segment on happiness, has discovered the same thing: Because he takes a traditionalist view of family, religion, sex, and community life, his “PragerU” videos have been restricted on YouTube and removed by Facebook, while his advertisements have been prohibited by Twitter.

(These episodes of conservative-leaning writers and broadcasters making themselves highly dependent on the whims of California-based technology companies attest, I think, to the wisdom of National Review’s business model.)

2. More Crowder: David French sizes up the options conservatives have if the movement wishes to end Silicon Valley’s bias. From his piece:

But to say that there is no easy way to combat the challenge of social-media censorship is not to say there is no way at all. Persuasion, engagement, and market pressure are preferable to attempts to recruit the government to erode First Amendment protections that, in other contexts, stand as a firewall protecting conservative causes and conservative speakers from the emerging culture of coercion.

To rebuild a culture of liberty online, conservatives have to engage two audiences, first and most directly the small audience of men and women who hold the levers of corporate power. Do not presume bad faith. Do not presume that every key executive in every social-media company has closed his or her mind. In fact, we’ve seen persuasion work. We’ve seen accounts reinstated and apologies issued. It happens.

3. Want to get kidnapped? Try being a journalist in Venezuela. Annika Hernroth-Rothstein tells a terrible tale of what happened to her, just one of many stories of some brave souls trying to tell the world about the chaos created by Maduro and his regime of socialist thuggery. From her account:

It’s explained to me that I will be left under Jorges’s supervision and be allowed to spend three hours at my hotel, under constant surveillance by the armed men and their associates, in order to raise the $20,000 and wire it to an account that will be provided by the man with the braces. As a sign of good faith, $1,000 will be collected immediately upon arrival to the hotel and handed over at a drop-off point by José in one hour.

“Can I trust you? Is it wise of me to tie my fate to yours? I am doing this for you now but I need to know you understand the consequences.” Francisco Jorges stares at me and I nod, once again, because I have no real words for what is happening.

When I get out of the car, the man with braces grabs my hand to shake it. “When you’ve done this, when the money is paid in full, you won’t hear from us ever again — your problem is solved.”

4. The “Frenchism” fracas / debate has led Matthew Continetti to map the Right, with its shifting 2019 boundaries. From his analysis:

Ideas matter. But the relation of ideas to political action is difficult to measure and often haphazard. The line between shaping a politician’s rhetoric and decisions and merely reflecting them is awfully fuzzy. The conservative intellectual movement, in addition to generating excellent writing, has had seven real-world applications since its formation after the Second World War: originalism and supply side economics in the 1970s; welfare reform and crime policy in the 1980s and ’90s; educational choice and reform over the last two decades; James Burnham’s anti-Communist strategies that found expression in the Reagan Doctrine; and the counterinsurgency plan known as the “surge” that prevented the defeat of American forces in the second Iraq war. There have been other successes, for sure, but also plenty of setbacks. What’s important to remember is that liberals as well as Republicans, conservative activists, and conservative intellectuals contested every single one of these policies.

The story goes that, for many years, American conservatives adhered to a consensus known as “fusionism.” Economic and social conservatives put aside their differences. Freedom, they decided, was necessary for the exercise of virtue. The struggle against and ultimate defeat of the Soviet Union was more important than domestic politics or intramural disagreements. Conservative intellectuals eager to privilege either freedom or virtue like to attack this consensus, which they often describe as “zombie Reaganism.” The truth is that the strength of fusionism always has been exaggerated. The conservative intellectual movement has been and continues to be fractious, contentious, combustible, and less of a force than most assume.

5. Michael Brendan Dougherty takes on classical-liberalism purists. From the beginning of his reflection:

Are classical-liberal principles sufficient for conservatives and their political action? Or are they insufficient? Do conservatives need to employ or cultivate something beyond them in politics? And what might that be? This is the heart of a debate running fitfully through the American Right. It’s a debate that we’ve had before. But it’s worth having it now, trying to depersonalize it, and moving forward.

First we have to clarify what we mean by classical liberalism. In the little series of essays, volleys, and personal attacks about the future of the American Right, there is a kind of intellectual shortcut at work. It goes something like this: The best of America’s founding principles are modern Enlightenment principles, a body of thought that could be called “liberalism.” And people who declare themselves classical liberals today, whether they be centrists who defend a “liberal world order” or libertarians and conservatives, are the true bearers of this tradition. One often hears them say that because the American Constitution is a liberal one, the work of conservatism is the preservation of a liberalism, “classically understood.”

6. Frank Lavin looks dismally at the U.S.–China trade negotiations, and finds they offer nine lessons. Here are two:

Five. Communications and positioning drive behavior. When the U.S. publicly signals that progress had been made, we might see that as a sign of goodwill while the Chinese might infer that they could game the process. Their (inaccurate) conclusion: The U.S. was so wedded to an orderly finish that there was no chance Trump would respond as he did. Yet Trump had shown for over two years that he is not concerned about being a disrupter and he is comfortable with turmoil.

Six. Economic rationalism is subordinate to economic nationalism. Most or all of what the U.S. is seeking in these talks is in China’s interest. Lower tariffs, more competition, reduced government subsidies, lower inflation. China frequently praises the value of market economics, but when it is asked to move in that direction, nationalism combines with bureaucratic inertia and fear of the unknown to dominate.

7. Helen Raleigh reflects on the 30th anniversary of the PRC’s brutal Tiananmen Square crackdown. The Commies still continue to lie. From her piece:

On the fateful day of June 4, 1989, we woke up to the news that Tiananmen Square had been cleared out, without any official explanation of what had really taken place. In the following days, there were rumors about innocent people being killed in the square, but the government insisted that no one had died. People who participated in the protests were quietly being persecuted. Family and friends whispered that many university students who graduated in the summer of 1989 were sent to work in remote areas as a punishment for their participation in the protests. But the biggest question on the minds of everybody who wasn’t in Beijing on that fateful day was: What truly happened in Tiananmen Square?

Only later, when I came to the U.S., did I learn the answer: Armed troops had fired indiscriminately on crowds made up of unarmed students and civilians. I saw photos, including the famous image of the Tank Man, a lone figure standing in front of rows of tanks. I read eyewitness accounts and news reports, and learned the estimated death toll was in the thousands. Thousands more were persecuted afterward. I was shocked and felt sick to my stomach.

8. More China, plus some Russia: Jim Geraghty looks at a new book by ABC’s Jim Sciutto and finds a former Obama minion critical of his old boss’s foreign policy. From the beginning of the piece:

At the end of 2011, Jim Sciutto moved to Beijing to become chief of staff and senior policy adviser to U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, after spending a decade as ABC News senior foreign correspondent. After his two-year stint in China, Sciutto returned to the world of journalism and was named CNN’s chief national-security correspondent. This move from a position in the Obama administration to a major cable-news organization led to familiar complaints that Sciutto was biased, and that he would be unlikely to assess his former colleagues and bosses fairly.

But anyone who wanted Sciutto’s new book, The Shadow War: Inside Russia’s and China’s Secret Operations to Defeat America, to offer a flattering portrait of the Obama administration will be deeply disappointed. In fact, anecdote by anecdote, chapter by chapter, Sciutto assembles a stinging indictment. (He’s also not all that impressed with most of the Trump administration’s moves, although he credits it for “aggressively calling out Chinese theft of U.S. secrets.”)

It’s easy to forget just how stubbornly naïve the Obama administration could be in its dealings, particularly with Russia. It began with Hillary Clinton’s infamous “reset button” ceremony with Russian foreign minister Sergi Lavrov and continued with the president’s 2012 debate comment that “the 1980s are now calling to get their foreign policy back, because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” Obama declared at the G-7 summit in 2014 that Russia was a “regional power” and that its territorial ambitions “belonged in the 19th century.” But Obama’s 21st-century worldview had no effective response to those ambitions.

The Shadow War isn’t merely Sciutto’s personal assessment. Many of the most stinging passages quote Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2013 to 2016. Pyatt describes a meeting early in his time in that post with European Union official Stefan Rule during a conference in Yalta, Crimea: “It was the first time I had ever met him, and he came on very, very strongly and said basically, ‘Where the hell are the Americans? Don’t you realize that there is a great struggle that’s going on right now to define the future of the European periphery? We need an engaged America.’”

9. A guy makes a goofy video about Nancy Pelosi, and the MSM police at the Daily Beast hunt him down, expose him, and proudly pound their chests. Rich Lowry sees shabby journalism at its 2019 best. From his new column:

Widely criticized for its decision to name the man — or in online parlance, “dox” him — the Daily Beast defended its story as a way to show “that disinformation isn’t the purview of Russia alone.” But who ever believed this?

The Left is so obsessed with the idea that Russia, after its desultory social-media campaign in 2016, pulls the strings of our democracy that it assumes every noxious piece of content on the Internet might have been cooked up in a Russian troll farm.

Even if it’s relevant that someone in the Bronx rather than St. Petersburg produced the video, that didn’t require naming the man — let alone citing an Instagram post of his using an abusive term to refer to a woman who allegedly kicked him on the subway, detailing his employment history, talking to his ex-girlfriend, or delving into his guilty plea to a domestic violence charge and an outstanding warrant for his arrest on a probation violation. (The man denies many of the details of the story.)

All of this was completely gratuitous. The balance, which any responsible publication should have considered, between the public benefit of naming the man (none) and the personal harm that might be done by naming him (considerable) isn’t even close.

Of course, it matters that he is a Trump supporter. Outlets like the Daily Beast don’t make a routine practice of hunting down trolls who are producing the vast sea of anti-Trump material online, because they don’t consider spoofing or maligning Trump to be a threat to democracy or at all undesirable.

10. Cory Booker has a housing-subsidy proposal. And Robert VerBruggen exposes it for its stupidity. His analysis.

11. Joe Biden has a “Clean Energy Revolution” plan. Deroy Murdock looks at the price tag: It’s $1.7 trillion. From his column:

Former vice president Joe Biden’s Clean Energy Revolution exploded on the launch pad Tuesday. Large, now-attributed passages of his manifesto against so-called global warming initially were lifted from other publications. Biden’s plagiarism recalled his flat-out theft of a speech by far-left British parliamentarian Neil Kinnock in 1987.

But Biden’s plan is far worse than just partially stolen. It confirms that the “centrist” Biden is just another big-government leftist, hooked on high taxes and reckless spending.

Biden’s Revolution is a $1.7 trillion tax hike. It enshrines his pitch to voters in South Carolina and elsewhere: “First thing I’d do is repeal those Trump tax cuts.” Biden pledges to rescind the tax relief that has resuscitated U.S. industry, revived 3.2 percent GDP growth, and reduced unemployment to 3.6 percent and historical or near-record lows for blacks, Hispanics, and women.

After siphoning $1.7 trillion from America’s productive sector, Biden would follow the liberal playbook: Assign Washington-based experts to redistribute this bounty more wisely and justly than the bedraggled American people ever could.

12. Percolating through the courts is a case with massive destructive potential, writes Joel C. Peterson: It’s Love Terminal Partners v. United States, and when it comes to confiscating property, if you thought Kelo was bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. From the analysis:

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandates that private property cannot be taken for public use “without just compensation.” But this clause was eviscerated by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Love Terminal Partners v. United States, which held that any property not earning a current positive cash flow can be taken by the government without a dime of compensation. Unless this ruling is reversed on appeal, it will have a devastating impact on the value of millions of properties with excellent prospects for appreciation but no current tenants. And it will put all real-estate investments not earning money at risk of being stolen by the government.

The case has its roots in the Wright Amendment. This anti-competitive law was designed to protect Fort Worth’s interest in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport by sharply restricting flights out of Love Field Airport in Dallas. Sponsored by the late House speaker Jim Wright, this artificial restriction on competition created a business opportunity at Love Field, where a group of investors poured millions of dollars into building a state-of-the-art air terminal. For a while, the investment paid off: The new Lemmon Avenue Terminal earned revenues from an anchor tenant, Legend Airlines, and from Delta Airlines. But Legend went bankrupt in 2000, just before the whole industry was devastated by the events of 9/11. Industry leaders American, Delta, and United subsequently declared bankruptcy, and eight legacy carriers became four.

13. Kat Timpf researches the researchers’ research, and reports on the woke conclusion that Dodgeball is a form of oppression. From her article:

I know that these researchers would probably say that I just don’t get it, that they’re just smarter than I am, that I just haven’t thought about it enough or learned enough. The truth is, though, there’s a such thing as thinking about something so much that you lose track of how simple it really is in reality. Too much thinking can often make things more complicated than they really are, and this is definitely an example of that.

Yes, dodgeball encourages competitiveness. Yes, the stronger, more athletic kids are going to be more successful at it than the weaker ones, but what game doesn’t have winners and losers? I mean, seriously, this is so ridiculous. If we thought about all children’s games through this kind of social-justice lens, kids wouldn’t be allowed to play any of them. After all, couldn’t you say that a game like musical chairs just isn’t “inclusive” enough, that it actually promotes exclusion? Couldn’t you argue that games like tag and hide-and-seek encourage stalking behaviors? Or that Simon Says teaches women that they have to do what men say? Like, why isn’t it “Sara Says,” patriarchy?

14. Matt Continetti finds much to praise in President Trump’s D-Day speech. From his piece:

The address deserves a wide audience not only for its content but also because it fits into the larger themes of this presidency. Speaking from what he described as “Freedom’s Altar,” Donald Trump once again made the case for reviving America’s national spirit, sovereignty, and strength.

Trump told the story of D-Day and of some exemplary GIs before an audience that included more than 60 veterans of the landings themselves. Adding to the poignancy of the scene was the knowledge that the Greatest Generation is slowly fading into posterity. “When you were young, these men enlisted their lives in a Great Crusade — one of the greatest of all times,” the president said. “Their mission is the story of an epic battle and the ferocious, eternal struggle between good and evil.”

15. How I love ya, how I love ya, my dear old . . . Armond White sees the Tate Taylor-directed Ma as the kind of cliché black-mammy stereotype Hollywood would create, and that Tinseltown deserves. From his review:

Taylor, who directed the sickeningly sanctimonious The Help in 2011, doesn’t seem to get that Ma operates as a black-mammy stereotype. It is played by The Help’s hard-staring Octavia Spencer, first seen dressed in pink slacks and print scrubs, walking a three-legged dog from her job as a veterinarian’s assistant. This perverse matriarchal figure turns mammy stereotypes upside down: Not benevolent in the Hattie McDaniel, Louise Beavers, Butterfly McQueen tradition, she’s sneakily malevolent, a woman who takes service employment to mean subservient. And her resentment is lethal.

[John] Waters is so outré that he stays ahead of the progressive curve. He would understand Ma to be a comedy of revenge (like his slatterns in Female Trouble), while Taylor lags behind in Hollywood’s race-and-gender sweepstakes and directs for pathos.

Spencer’s post-Obama Mammy indulges the underage teens in her small town — buying liquor for them and inviting them to use her basement as a place to party. She concocts a scheme to get back at their parents who had, a generation before, subjected her to unforgettable humiliation. (And it continues when the circle of cruel, fickle teenagers text “Everybody block Ma for good!”)

16. Kyle Smith praises Denis Do’s animation film about the madness of communist Cambodia, Funan. From his review:

Funan is a human drama, not a history lesson, and yet Do nails both the specific and the general horror of collectivization. The Communist Party, Angkar (literally, “the Organization”), is on a demented crusade to create “new people” out of the Cambodian citizens. The family’s Western-style clothes must be turned in and replaced by loose black unisex two-piece garments: the People’s pajamas. “We’re all the same now,” a revolutionary says, exultant. Women’s hair gets chopped off, and women and men work side by side in hard labor. Everyone lives off rice; to shake fruit out of a tree is to risk execution by the regime. The people don’t dare eat the People’s fruit.

The script doesn’t attempt to capture the big picture of what happened in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, but by exploring a single family’s plight as it gets sucked into the maelstrom, it makes for a profoundly insightful exposé of how collectivism actually works. Funan isn’t merely first-rate for an animated movie, it’s important by any cinematic standard, and implicitly it shames the world’s leading film hubs for almost completely ignoring this bloody chapter in history. The Khmer Rouge killed, via starvation and mass execution, nearly a quarter of the population of their country. What has Hollywood had to say about this in the last 44 years? Well, there was The Killing Fields, back in 1984. That was pretty much it.

17. More Kyle: He . . . glows . . . about the HBO miniseries Chernobyl. It’s a “brilliant” indictment of socialism. From the review:

I can scarcely praise Chernobyl enough. Creator Craig Mazin’s five-part miniseries, which just wrapped Monday night, is a masterful suspense tale directed with nerve-shredding gusto by Johan Renck: a whodunnit looking backward in time as the characters try to figure out the cause of the 1986 catastrophe but also a mystery moving forward, as the specialists try to figure out how to save millions from dying. It’s a terrifically stimulating lesson on the details of nuclear energy that artfully weaves in reams of expository and technical dialogue without ever disrupting the drama. Around the edges it courses with Kubrickian black comedy: The phrase “It’s only 3.6 roentgens” ought to enter the language as shorthand for any absurd effort to downplay bad news. Chernobyl is an exceptionally compelling human drama: The soot-faced leader of a company of miners is an archetype for all of the brave and suffering working men down through the ages who have had to put their backs into the job of correcting mistakes made by their educated betters. The way Mazin distills the complexity of the situation into potent dialogue is a marvel. Overarching all of the above is Chernobyl’s most vital quality: Its devastating exposure of gigantic political failure.

18. Even More Kyle: Ron Howard’s documentary, Pavarotti, is “unspeakably beautiful.” Mamma mia! From the review’s conclusion:

Pavarotti developed a mania for charity and dragged U2’s Bono with him. He demanded that the Irishman write a song for him and leverage it to benefit the children hurt by the war in Bosnia in the 1990s. Bono blanched at the prospect, plus he was busy recording in Dublin. Pavarotti kept calling. “Is God at home?” he would say. He chatted up the Italian housekeeper so she would hound Bono as well. “The technique is humility, which is of course a very mischievous trick,” Bono recalls. Then the great tenor showed up on Bono’s doorstep, with a camera crew, or rather, in Bono’s words, a “f***ing camera crew.” The resultant hostage-video style footage of Bono is priceless: He grudgingly commits to a charity performance with Pavarotti in the latter’s hometown of Modena later that year. On, er, what date? “September 12,” his captor dictates. “September 12,” says Bono. The song finally created, by Bono and his fellow son of a tenor, the Edge, was the gorgeous “Miss Sarajevo,” which uses Pavarotti’s voice like an appeal from heaven.

As Pavarotti devoured life, however, he left some around him emotionally famished, and to Howard’s credit he spends a considerable portion of the film weighing the damage of philandering. Adua Veroni, the tenor’s wife from 1961 to 2000, reflects on dealing with Pavarotti’s many affairs, and his children were aghast when he took up with Nicoletta Mantovani, a woman 34 years his junior. Yet towards the end there was reconciliation if not quite forgiveness. Terminally ill with pancreatic cancer, which claimed his life in 2007, Pavarotti explains his deepest regrets: He wishes he had been a good husband and father. A man who had millions in the bank and the adulation of the world neglected the most basic duties, and that’s a life lesson as well.

19. Mexico, which promotes a liberal “asylum” policy, is in reality a free rider, says Mark Krikorian. From his piece:

Of course, Mexico has little incentive to agree to take back third-country nationals once they’ve crossed into the U.S.; in the game of asylum hot potato, we’ve lost. Hence the tariff threat, to try to change the Mexicans’ incentives.

But as a matter of principle, the U.S. demand that Mexico sign a safe-third-country agreement is stronger than it looks. It’s not just that Mexican authorities often look the other way — or even provide assistance — as hundreds of thousands of foreigners pass through its territory on the way north. Rather, the possibility of asylum in the U.S. serves as way for Mexico to avoid the consequences of its own very expansive asylum laws.

Mexico is a signatory to the 1951 Convention (and the 1967 Protocol, which expanded the refugee treaty from just Europe to the whole world). Under that treaty, the definition of a refugee is anyone outside his country who is unwilling to return because of a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” This definition has been added to U.S. law.

20. A Dutch girl is brutally raped by two men. She becomes so depressed that she wants to die, and three years later, at the age of 17, with the complicity of her parents and doctors, she starves herself to death. This, write Maddy Kearns, is how the mentally struggling are treated in the Netherlands. From her commentary:

In her short life, Pothoven had endured horrific sexual abuse. In her award-winning autobiography, she explained that she was assaulted at the age of eleven and then raped by two men at the age of 14. After this, she developed depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia. She underwent psychiatric treatment and attempted to take her own life multiple times. Pothoven told De Gelderlander of the “humiliating” and “degrading” experience of involuntary procedures.

None of this should be taken lightly. But neither should the fact that she was a deeply traumatized teenager who might have changed her mind, as teenagers often do.

One of the biggest objections to euthanasia is that, once you okay it in certain circumstances, it is very difficult to keep the gates “narrow.” Those who seek to introduce assisted dying in Britain, for instance, argue that it ought to be for adults who are terminally ill. But in other countries this position was soon after extended to those who are chronically ill, or — as we have seen in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Holland — to children. Besides, what about the mentally ill? Or those who, after some tragedy or trauma like Pothoven, want to call it quits?

Critics often dismiss this “slippery slope” argument, suggesting that it is overwrought. It isn’t. But to be fair, it is — or at least it should be — a secondary point. The primary objection to euthanasia is philosophical, not pragmatic: Absolute autonomy is not sufficient as a justification for state-sponsored suicide, because every member of society is inexorably connected. And so, when a given member desires to kill herself, much is at stake for all of us in how we respond.

Won’t You Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise?

Inspired by Frankie Ford, I want to urge you to join us this August, from the 24th to the 31st, on the National Review 2019 Canada/New England Conservative Cruise, a Montreal-to-Boston beaut that is going to be an amazing week of great sites and discussions of current events. Get complete information at nrcruise.com/canada.

While we’ve got water on the brain . . . how about a potential European riverboat charter? One is in the works: NR is looking to charter AMA Waterways AmaMora for an April 2020 journey from Basel to Amsterdam. We will be making a final decision on the trip on Friday, June 15, so there is still time be part of it. Get complete information and reserve one of the AmaMora’s beautiful staterooms at nrcruise.com/rhine.

The Brand New June 24, 2019 Issue of NR Magazine Is a Treasury of Wisdom, and Here Are Four Precious Gemstones of Brilliance

The new issue sports a Roman Genn cover (it’s been a while!) and numerous exceptional essays. We’ll highlight these four:

1. Kevin Williamson’s cover essay scores the Trump tariffs’ blowback on American farmers. From his essay:

So, here’s the thing about soybeans. Americans produce beaucoup soybeans. Brazil and Argentina, being in the Southern Hemisphere, produce gigantic crops in the U.S. off-season. China has a powerful hunger for soybeans, albeit a mostly indirect one. Two kinds of creatures walking this earth really like eating soybeans: pigs and hippies. Chinese people do eat soybeans, too, but what the nouveau riche Chinese palate has a real taste for just now is pork and, to a lesser extent, chicken. That’s a pretty predictable thing following a pretty familiar pattern: When poor countries become less poor— though with a per capita GDP of less than $9,000 a year, down there with Cuba and Kazakhstan, China is by no means a rich country—the first thing the people usually spend their newly disposable income on is more and better food, which in much of the world means more and better animal protein.

The world is hungry for protein, and the American Heartland is the Saudi Arabia, the de Beers, and the Fire Creek gold mine of protein, including soy protein. Kevin Scott’s soy protein comes out of the ground, goes into the hopper and then down to the silo, rides the rails from South Dakota to the Pacific Northwest or the Gulf of Mexico, is loaded into shipping containers or massive PANAMAX bulk carriers, some of which are specially outfitted for carrying grains or soybeans with their hulls sloped at 45 degrees to make stevedoring easier, and then continues on to ports around the world, Chinese ports such as those at Dalian and Nantong prominent among them. At some point along the way, the beans get ground into meal, and that meal goes into animal feed—down the gullets of Chinese chickens or, more likely, into the monogastric digestive tract of a Chinese pig. And thence into the butcher’s case at whatever the Chinese answer to Piggly-Wiggly or Whole Foods or Albertson’s is. That’s what used to happen. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

And along came Trump.

2. Andy McCarthy gives chapter and verse about the bull doodie that is the main ingredient of Christopher Steele’s infamous (shoddy!) dossier. From his analysis:

Nevertheless it’s worth asking: Just how reliable was Christopher Steele?

Steele was a virulently anti-Trump partisan. The media Democrat encomia therefore hail him as a meticulous former British intelligence officer with a formidable record. So highly regarded was he that MI6 put him in charge of the investigation of the Putin regime’s brazen murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian-intelligence operative who had defected to Britain. Less often mentioned is that Steele had been Litvinenko’s handler when he was poisoned in 2006. Steele, we’re further told, was so well connected that he was chosen to run MI6’s all-important Russia desk. Well, yes . . . but he ran it from London. In the late Nineties, through no fault of his own, his cover in Moscow, along with that of scores of other spies, had been blown. When he was retained to pen the dossier reports, he hadn’t been to Russia in nearly 20 years. His recruiter and collaborator was the self-professed “journalist for rent” Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal investigative reporter. Simpson had co-founded a so-called intelligence firm, Fusion GPS, which had been contracted to do anti-Trump research for the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee by Perkins Coie, their law firm.

3. John J. Miller profiles the “Tea Party” governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, fresh from a tough GOP primary contest (he won) and heading into a reelection battle this November. From his piece:

Now Democrats are dreaming of a big upset in a deep-red state. If they can beat Bevin in November, they’ll create a sense of momentum on the eve of the 2020 election. Kentucky is one of three states to elect a governor in the odd-numbered year before a presidential contest (the others are Louisiana and Mississippi). This quirk of the political calendar means that Kentucky stands to receive an outsized share of attention this summer and fall as reporters and pundits watch Bevin’s race, pick apart what happens, and search for signs of what’s to come. In a profession prone to gasbaggery, they’ll gather a scarce resource: new data. On the night of November 5 and in the days that follow, they’ll use it to opine on what the fate of Bevin reveals about the reelection prospects of Trump.

The political class may be especially disposed to overinterpret Kentucky’s results in 2019, because four years ago it arguably underinterpreted them: Few saw Bevin’s come-from-behind performance in 2015 as foreshadowing the surprise of Trump in 2016. “It’s easy in hindsight to make these connections,” says the governor on the short flight to Somerset. He ticks off the similarities: Like Trump, he has a background in business. He was running for what would become his first political office. Much of his party’s establishment opposed him. Trump’s campaign, he says, “was a scaled-up version of what I had done in 2015.”

Whatever Bevin’s story teaches about Trump, however, it may say even more about the future of conservatism at a time when the word’s very meaning is up for grabs. His governorship has tested the viability of an agenda of labor-market and entitlement reforms, and his victory or defeat later this year will help answer the question of whether a tea-party upstart can shift from populist protester to accomplished government executive.

4. Viva Warren G. Harding! David Harsanyi uses the “Happy Warrior” column space to reflect on list-makers who love to rank presidents, and the qualifications they should use, but don’t. From his column:

Take C-SPAN’s Presidential Historians Survey, in which nearly 100 “historians and biographers” rated 43 presidents on ten qualities of leadership to tally their scores. The categories used in this pseudo-historical assessment—public persuasion, crisis leadership, moral authority, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision and setting an agenda, equal justice for all—are all useful, but mostly political considerations.

It rarely occurs to our list-makers, it seems, that presidents can be supremely talented politicians, wielding power with great skill and gravitas, and still do great damage to the office and the nation. Never do these historians evaluate presidents on their most difficult, and often most precarious, political decision: not to use their power.

The president’s charge isn’t to create intergenerational welfare programs, or to placate journalists with platitudinous sound bites, or to engage in friendly bipartisan relations with Congress, even if those acts seem to be most admired by historians. The oath of the presidency doesn’t even read “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and exhibit great moral authority.”

Though, speaking of moral authority, the two top-ranked presidents are almost always Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, and really, who are mere mortals to quibble? After that, however, we see an unhealthy adoration of power, which speaks to a misunderstanding of the presidency itself.

Also in the issue: A special section on The Law, with pieces by David, who opposes federal district court judges making nation-binding decisions; Charlie Cooke, who writes on the liberal culture’s growing antagonism towards free speech; Dan McLaughlin, who unpacks the Democrats’ terrible idea of court packing; and Jonathan Adler, who attacks the High Court’s horrendous Chevron precedent, which empowers the bureaucrat over the legislator.

The Six.

1. Father George Rutler, this side of the confessional, takes to Crisis to lambast the mendacity of public officials, focusing on presidential wannabe Kirsten Gillibrand, eager to rewrite Catechism. From his piece:

While experience cautions theologians against the quicksand of politics, politicians frequently rush into theological matters where angels fear to tread, as Senator Gillibrand did on May 29 in a broadcast on National Public Radio. She announced that the Church is wrong about abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and the male priesthood. This puts her at odds with all the saints and doctors of the Church, and Jesus Christ. The latter sent his Holy Spirit on Pentecost to lead the Church into all truth, and it is hard to believe that he reversed himself in the recent years of our Republic. Since it is “impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18), the Lord would be at a disadvantage were he to run for the Senate from New York. This would be a trifling matter were it not for the fact that Senator Gillibrand tells Catholics that she is a Catholic. Nevertheless, she seems certain that the Church’s teaching on essential dogmas are quixotic, as she put it: “And I don’t think they’re supported by the Gospel or the Bible in any way. I just—I don’t see it, and I go to two Bible studies a week. I take my faith really seriously.”

On various issues, Gillibrand has boasted about her “flexibility.” This was evident in her positions on gun ownership. Running for Congress in 2008 from a district populated by hunters, she wrote: “I appreciate the work that the NRA does to protect gun owners’ rights, and I look forward to working with you for many years.” After enjoying a 100 percent approval rating from the National Rifle Association as a Representative, she became a supple Senator and soon switched mental gears, earning an “F” from that same NRA which she then described as “the worst organization in the country.” Such flexibility reminds one of Ramsay MacDonald whom Churchill likened to the Boneless Wonder of Barnum’s circus: “A spectacle too demoralizing and revolting for my young eyes.”

This mendacity became bolder on June 2 in a televised Fox News “town hall” forum when she said that “infanticide doesn’t exist.” Thus she ignored the “late-term” abortion bill signed by Governor Cuomo on January 22, as he sat next to a smiling Sarah Weddington, counsel to the lying, and later repentant, plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade case. In his own Senate days, Mr. Obama led the way as a paladin of infanticide. The Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, who knows what he is talking about as a pediatric neurologist, admitted with insouciance: “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

2. At Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh exposes the Iranian–Palestinian plan to hamstring President Trump’s efforts at a Middle East peace conference. From his analysis:

As the US administration prepares to roll out its long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century,” Iran appears to be increasing its efforts to help its allies in the region try to thwart the plan.

Recently, Iran seems to have stepped up its political and military support for radical Palestinian groups that are staunchly opposed to any peace agreement with Israel. These groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, do not recognize Israel’s right to exist and are publicly committed to its destruction and replacement by an Iranian-backed Islamic state.

Iran, of course, has long shared the same ambition of destroying Israel and has never hesitated to make its position known to the world. In several statements during the past few decades, Iranian leaders have been frank about their wish that Israel be “a one-bomb country.”

3. At College Fix, Christian Schneider checks out the very active doings of the Speech Police at the University of Illinois. From his report:

But while many universities have bias response teams, what seems to set the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana apart is that its team has a sort of punitive arm to it, the lawsuit alleges. Many campus officials who run the bias response teams say they simply collect the data, but UICU appears to take it a step farther by either foisting educational conversations on students or barring them from talking about certain subjects or even contacting other students.

Among bias complaints fielded during the 2017-18 school year, Resident Assistants reported that they saw the word “retarded” and a drawing of a penis on a bulletin board while they did rounds. In response, there was a floor meeting and a floor email about this incident.

In another case, an RA in University Housing reported that when on rounds she noticed a white board that asked passersby to rank the “best language.” The list included several languages, both real and fake, in addition to some programming languages. One option was “Mexicanese.” The housing staff met directly with the affected parties and held an educational program for students, according to the university’s report.

Other complaints dealt with professors. In one instance, a student emailed a professor asking about taking a history class and the professor responded by giving the student information about African Studies when she didn’t ask about African Studies. In response, a “member of the team met with the student and followed up the Chair of the department, who followed up with the professor,” the report stated.

4. Marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the great Mackubin Owens takes to Law & Liberty to honor Operation Neptune, the naval operations that were central to the overall Operation Overlord. From his essay:

The landings at Normandy on that Tuesday morning in the spring of 1944, and the campaign to liberate Europe that followed, are among the great enterprises in human history. For Americans, Operation Neptune, and especially D-Day, ranks among the country’s most epic campaigns and battles, alongside Gettysburg, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Iwo Jima. It deserves to be studied—and remembered—by generations. When we look back on great events, there is a tendency to assume that success was somehow preordained. But as the example of D-Day shows, the actors in this great drama had to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

The invasion’s failure was a distinct possibility. What would have been the consequences? It would certainly have changed the course of history. To begin with, the war would have been lengthened and the strategic position of the United States and Great Britain in Europe weakened vis a vis the Soviet Union, which might well have ended up dominating not only Eastern and Central Europe at war’s end but also Western Europe. Even a stalemate between Germany and the Soviet Union would have meant a whole Continent condemned to live under totalitarianism. A lengthier war would have given Nazi Germany more time to carry out its policy of destroying European Jewry.

Hence D-Day can be understood on several levels. As noted, at the strategic and policy levels, success on 6 June required successes in other theaters: the Eastern Front, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific. Fortunately, despite the fact that the Allies were at odds ideologically—the Soviet Union on the one hand and the United States and Great Britain on the other—they operated in concert, albeit not perfectly. The Axis, although composed of countries with similar ideologies, failed to cooperate or coordinate their efforts. Thus the Allies were free to deal with the three Axis powers separately.

5. More from Law & Liberty, as Titus Techera revisits the great fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and says its rebuilding must also initiate a conversation amongst the French elite about reevaluating their embrace of secularism. From his piece:

The status of Notre Dame and the purpose of its rebuilding will reopen the theological-political problem people believe to have been settled by the laicization of 1905 and will thus renew a great political quarrel in France. How Catholic is France? Macron spoke in his usual empty words, saying the history of France and the destiny of France are more or less the same, and they require this rebuilding, and it shall be done—the people want it. We must hope he will now become more thoughtful about why Notre Dame matters to the French, beyond tourism or a vague sense of pride.

The theological-political problem I mentioned is itself part of the history of Notre Dame. Before it was laicized by the Third Republic along with all French churches built before 1905, it was desecrated with great energy during the First Republic soon after the French Revolution. Nevertheless the French celebrate both the Revolution and Notre Dame.

The question concerning rebuilding Notre Dame thus points to the massive political conflict in France in our own times. The Fifth Republic itself is in crisis. On the one hand, Macron is the favored son and champion of the France of the prospering cities and the upper classes. But his supporters are far fewer than his great victory in the second round of balloting might suggest—far fewer than polls themselves may suggest, which nevertheless reveal his unpopularity.

On the other hand, the opposition to Macron is united only in disliking him with various degrees of intensity. Much of the population, perhaps a majority, doesn’t really believe he has their best interests at heart. It would be very difficult to persuade them they are wrong.

6. At the James G. Martin Center, Daniel Kline looks at the firing of witch-hunted researcher Noah Carl by Cambridge University’s St. Edmunds College, and deciphers the lefty playbook when a witch-hunt is the play called for. From his analysis:

I was the external examiner on Dr. Carl’s DPhil from Nuffield, Oxford, so I am familiar with his work. It is a data-intensive investigation of cognitive ability (or intelligence) and its correlates, including ideological views, trust, and self-rated happiness. He wrote a report for the classical liberal Adam Smith Institute on why British academics lean left, and argued that intelligence does not work as explanation. He has published several analyses of the Brexit vote. He follows the scientific literature in recognizing that both “nature” and “nurture” affect the development of cognitive ability. He has not conducted research on race or ethnicity as factors in cognitive ability, but he has written a courageous and thoughtful essay about the ethics of preemptively shutting down such research.

Dr. Carl, then, is a serious and highly accomplished researcher who simply does not conform to leftist ways of interpreting the world and who is not cowed by leftist taboos. As such, he has been singled out as a miscreant. Disgraceful means have been used to take him down. The charges are defamatory.

I read about the rescinding in a May 1 article in Varsity. No less than three times does the article quote Dr. Carl’s former employer saying that he had “collaborated with a number of individuals who were known to hold extremist views,” without naming a single such individual. It notes that Dr. Carl attended a conference on intelligence research. Many enemies are quoted, calling him a racist, etc., but not a single friend or defender.

Baseballery

Intrigued as we all are by the question, I wonder how Lou Gehrig performed when the Yankees first called him up in 1923? Your Truly took to Baseball-Reference.com to find the info. And lo and behold, interesting things were stumbled upon.

Yes, about Lou, but not so much about him. The Iron Horse (who didn’t become a full-time Major Leaguer until 1925) dabbled in the minor leagues in 1923 and 1924, playing for the Eastern League’s Hartford Senators, and was called up on occasion by the big team in The Bronx. Gehrig’s first truly great game came late in 1923, in a September 28 contest at Fenway Park, in which the Yankees beat the begeebers out of the Red Sox, 24–4. Gehrig got four hits, three of them doubles, and drove in four runs. (Babe Ruth slapped five hits, including a home run, and catcher Wally Schang also got five hits and drove in as many runs.)

The truly amazing thing about the beatdown can be found in the Boston side of the box score. Howard Ehmke is best remembered as Connie Mack’s surprise starter in the first game of the 1929 World Series, in which the veteran, gangly “slowball” hurler pitched a 3–1 complete game victory over the Chicago Cubs — 13 of whom went down on strikes. Ehmke would also start Game 5, but lasted just three and two-thirds innings (the As would win the game and the series in dramatic fashion with three runs in the bottom of the 9th).

Back to that Fenway Park game in 1923: Ehmke, then playing for the Red Sox, and figuring as the staff’s ace, started that game. He went six innings. He gave up 21 hits and 17 runs — 16 of them earned. (Reliever Clarence Blethen gave up nine hits and seven runs in the game’s three remaining innings.) Ehmke’s performance — the opportunity for Gehrig’s first great performance — has to be one of the worst outings in MLB history.

A Dios

So many years later, oremus: For those who died on the beaches and amongst the hedgerows, for those who fell from the skies, let us pray for the peaceful repose of their souls, and ask the Creator for assurance that their wounds, real and spiritual, are eternally healed.

God’s Blessings and Graces on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

Who is the willing recipient of your gossip and grammatical nit-pickerry via missives sent to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Just Minutes to Spare

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

May is in the rear view mirror, Mr. Mueller has deposited something into the punchbowl as he left the building (plenty of that below), and — of a much more parochial matter — the NR 2019 Spring Webathon approaches its very end this weekend. Indeed, there may be just minutes left, hence the urge of HURRY! to those having a sincere desire to contribute.

Should you? Our original goal of $175,000 has been revised and extended — we are hoping now to reach maybe $200,000 in kind contributions by midnight on June 2. The goal is amended in good conscience, as the true needs of NR are double even that amount. Help us reach it.

Our siren song to get you to reach for the wallet has been NR’s energized efforts to combat the reemergence of socialism — our readers’ generosity helps us do much more to confront this true evil, this threat to the free markets which have saved billions from impoverishment. Our writers have help us with the appeals, and our final such entreaty comes from Michael Brendan Dougherty, who rats out Socialism as a power grab, not a means to freedom or equality. Here’s part of his pitch:

We see how this perverted instinct cares little about dismantling the power of Google and Facebook, and not at all about redistributing their wealth, because socialism never was about equality, but about power and subjection. Our modern socialists see these behemoths as tools that can be used to build socialism together. Digital technologies and publishing disruption have destroyed most of our local newspapers. These companies have essentially brought the public square under their own control. And this culture is bidding them to censor voices like ours, and yours.

NR stands athwart this malign spirit of censorship. And you must do so as well. We have to be strong. It is in the storm that a ship’s crew comes together, doing their various jobs and proving themselves. You have a role to play in these stormy times.

We know you want to give, so please — HURRY! — and do it. Here. With our deep gratitude.

Speaking of MBD

In Michael’s Webathon appeal, he embraces his broader writings, about how the tech gurus have been riding roughshod over social-media platforms, employing a double standard that allows Leftist judge-and-jury geeks to silence conservatives in ways that can be considered arbitrary. But they are indeed quite intentional. He’s just written an important NRO piece, “Silicon Valley, America’s De Facto Censor,” that amplifies his argument. From his commentary:

Let’s stipulate right from the start that Silicon Valley is making up the rules as it goes along. And it is terrible at the job of censorship and political management. It responds to one set of panicked demands in Germany, then another in America. It goes from one publicity crisis manufactured by the mainstream press to another. And we know which direction those cut. The left-winger who was arrested ahead of a plan to bomb Trump Tower bragged on Instagram about donating money to Hamas, an organization deemed terrorist by most Western governments. Facebook, the parent company, did nothing to restrain his behavior. But the weirdos of the online Right — even the fringes — get banned for doing acts of journalism.

Google banned advertising in the run-up to Ireland’s national referendum on abortion rights last year for fear of “meddling,” a claim that it did not substantiate. The campaign looking to introduce legal abortion welcomed the ban, because it plainly helped them. Facebook also censored an ad, by the conservative Iona Institute, that featured a computer-generated image of an intact fetus. It had to reverse that decision later.

The problem goes beyond the large social networks. Banks, credit-card companies, payment processors, fundraising sites, Internet-hosting sites, and registrars have all been pressured to apply some political tests against users. Looked at from a certain angle, left-wing activist groups have asked that tools and tactics developed by the military and private companies to combat the rise of ISIS and al-Qaeda be deployed against conservatives on the home front.

Vitamin Sea

Happy to announce that Mark Janus, the man whose diligence led to the Supreme Court’s powerful 2018 decision upholding the First Amendment rights of government workers — protecting them from engaging in and paying for speech-compelled government-union bosses — will be joining us as a guest speaker on NR’s 2019 Canada / New England Conservative Cruise, scheduled for August 24–31 on Holland America Line’s beautiful Zaandam. Do you want to come? Sure you do! Doctor’s orders: Gotta get you some “Vitamin Sea.” Get that beautiful stateroom at nrcruise.com, where you’ll find complete information about this wonderful trip.

One Big, Beautiful Score (Plus Three!) of Exemplary Wisdom from NRO’s Remarkable Writers

1. Andy McCarthy paints a picture of a media in panic over AG Barr executing the President’s order to declassify documents that might very well embarrass the Obama Administration. From the beginning of his analysis:

Last week, President Trump conferred on Attorney General Bill Barr the authority to declassify documents relevant to his inquiry into what we can collectively call “the Russia investigation.” This includes not only “Crossfire Hurricane,” the counterintelligence probe formally opened by the FBI in late July 2016, but all of the relevant investigative threads, including those pursued by other intelligence agencies — such as the CIA’s collaborations with foreign intelligence services, beginning in 2015.

In other words, the public is about to learn a lot more about decision-making during the Obama administration. As night follows day, the Democrat-media complex went apoplectic. Gone are the days when the press always wanted more information because it perceived its role, vouchsafed by the Constitution, to be the public’s eye on government.

Much of the mainstream media is now in an all but openly declared partnership with one of our two major political parties. Consequently, when a Republican administration is in power or being questioned, classified leaks are the order of the day. When a Democratic administration is under the microscope, we get lectures on the wages of compromising intelligence secrets, especially methods and sources.

2. Andy Encore: This time he reflects on the up-to-his eyeballs dossier dodgery of former CIA director John Brennan, the one-time Commie-voting ever-bureaucrat, equipped in all the latter’s dark arts. From his analysis:

As is typically the case when Brennan and the CIA have a problem, there’s a big New York Times story putting their spin on it. It has to be parsed exactingly. And there’s some glossary you’ll need, or else you’ll miss the sleight of hand. The two words at issue are informant and source. In common parlance, they are often used interchangeably. But they are saliently different, especially in a story about spycraft. An informant is a cooperator who intentionally provides information to government agents. A source is whom or what the information comes from — often a person, sometimes an operation (like a wiretap). A source can be witting or unwitting. A source can also be the informant (which is why the terms are often conflated), but very often a source’s information is communicated to an informant through one or more intermediaries. An important example: Christopher Steele, who is often referred to as a source, was actually an informant, whose sources were multiple layers of hearsay removed from him.

3. And Take Another Bow: Andy reviews Mueller’s exit speech. From his analysis:

Mueller, after all, did decide there was insufficient evidence on collusion, so he obviously did not understand the guidance to forbid him from rendering judgments on the sufficiency of the evidence. (By the way, that’s why I continue to believe it was a dereliction of duty for him to fail to decide whether there was a sufficient obstruction case.) Moreover, Mueller elaborated that if he could confidently have said there was insufficient obstruction evidence, he would have. That means he thought hard about the sufficiency of the evidence, not that he avoided the issue in his analysis. Plus, if his default position was that the OLC guidance prevented him from doing the prosecutor’s job — which is to decide sufficiency-of-the-evidence questions — he should not have accepted the appointment.

A much more straightforward interpretation is that Mueller believes there is enough evidence to indict, he decided he could not do so under the guidance, and he intentionally left the matter for Congress to resolve — with the advice that felonies may have been committed. That is significant because Congress does not need a prosecutable criminal offense in order to impeach. High crimes and misdemeanors can be felonies, but they need not be. If Congress believes an abuse of power is egregious enough, it may file articles of impeachment.

I would be surprised at this point if House Democrats press ahead with their attempt to call Mueller as a witness.

4. Charlie Cooke smacks the premise that “not exonerated” is somehow a legitimate legal standard in the USA or any allegedly “free” country. From his Corner post:

That’s not how it works in America. Investigators are supposed to look for evidence that a crime was committed, and, if they don’t find enough to contend that a crime was a committed, they are supposed to say “We didn’t find enough to contend that a crime was committed.” They are not supposed to look for evidence that a crime was not committed and then say, “We couldn’t find evidence of innocence.”

RELATED: Charlie’s position drew fire. He returned it.

5. Sahil Handa finds that scientific studies show there are strong benefits to psychedelic drugs, and conservatives need to rethink their position. From his piece:

If conservatives are concerned about the harms caused by hard drugs, psychedelics should be their friend, not their foe. The annual Global Drug Survey reported that mushrooms are the safest drug used recreationally — and crucially, they are better able to break addictions to nicotine, alcohol, and cocaine than all available forms of rehabilitation. They have even been shown to reduce rates of recidivism among criminals, making them a potential salve for our ailing criminal-justice system.

The implications become more interesting when applied to the level of culture. There has long been disagreement within conservatism regarding the proper role of the free market, the question of whether or not the excesses of our economic system commodify that which ought to provide us with meaning. Traditionalists often argue that capitalism requires a spiritual framework to moderate rampant consumerism, and evidence suggests that psychedelics could be of tremendous use in the formation of such a framework.

Mental activity under these substances is similar to that seen in long-term meditators, where the brain’s default mode network — the area responsible for the ego — becomes less active. Attempting to articulate the lived experience of these brain states is similar to articulating any transformational religious experience; mysticism goes beyond the reach of language. In the words of Michael Pollan, the author of a bestselling book on the topic, “‘God’ is sometimes the biggest word we have to describe big experiences.” People are often led to religious fulfilment through moments that seem to go beyond the point of materialist explanation —encounters with the unknown that convince them that reality defies conventional categorization.

6. The SAT folks are trying to cook the books, creating a new “Diversity Score” to pump up the numbers for minority test-takers. Declan Leary grades the effort — it gets an “F.” And that’s graded on a curve. From his analysis:

In a column for Business Insider, Leigh Patel argues that correlation between high SAT scores and high family incomes “undermines any claim that the SAT is objective.” Her complaint is patently absurd. The fact that standardized tests do not produce identical results for different people is evidence not that the tests are flawed but that different people are . . . different. It makes a fair amount of sense that a student from a stable family who has spent eleven years in a well-functioning school district might outperform a child of absentee parents who has been stuck for those same years in schools that barely manage to keep their doors open. This is not a failure of the test, and it can’t be fixed by a simple numerical adjustment for circumstances — it is a function of the circumstances themselves. A comprehensive 2011 study by Sean Reardon, an endowed professor of poverty and inequality at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, indicates wide achievement gaps correlate with family income across the academic board.

Even if accommodation for economic inequality did make sense, though, the College Board’s new metric doesn’t actually offer any, because it takes into account only broad factors such as the median income of the student’s geographic area. Thus it penalizes low-income students from high-income areas simply for living in decent neighborhoods. And it has the potential to encourage gentrification, as it incentivizes wealthy families to move into low-income neighborhoods to give their kids an advantage in the admission process. (The absurd bribery scandal that broke this spring is proof that this should-be-ridiculous hypothetical is more than plausible in 2019 America.) On income inequality, the program will almost certainly do more harm than good.

RELATED: Jason Richwine says the SAT scheme dumbs down the merit-based program. From his piece:

If advocates of affirmative action in college admissions couched their arguments entirely in that social-justice framework, I would find their position more respectable. But giving preferences to lower-achieving students is in no way compatible with a merit-based system. When college administrators favor lower-scoring applicants, with no evidence that their scores underestimate their future success on campus or in the broader world, they have prioritized redistribution over merit. Why not acknowledge that?

7. White, white, white . . . is the color of our carpet. It’s also the pigmentation of who mostly benefits from Washington State’s progressive policies. And yep, writes Nicholas Kerr, those policies also stick it to black Washingtonians. From the article:

Democrats also dropped a provision that would have ensured that charter schools would receive any increases in local school funding along with traditional public schools. Minorities are overrepresented in most Washington charter schools — the percentage of blacks in these schools is often two or three times the percentage of blacks in the communities in which they operate. Minority parents know all too well how traditional public schools have failed their children, and they are lining up to get their kids in: Almost all have waiting lists.

Further, ever-increasing property taxes in Washington have hit low-income minorities the hardest. My family used to live in Seattle’s Central District, where many of our neighbors were retired black homeowners on fixed incomes. As property-tax demands inexorably rose, these families were forced out of the neighborhood. Simultaneously, rising property values have shut out younger minorities from purchasing their own first homes in Seattle. As Gene Balk reported, in 1970 King County had a 49 percent black-homeownership rate, well above the national average, but now it has the fifth-lowest black-homeownership rate in the country among the 100 U.S. counties with the largest black populations.

8. The Assange case challenges standings on the First Amendment: Kevin Williamson rejects the notion of the press being a protected caste, which makes journalists vulnerable to pretty straightforward U.S. espionage laws. From his commentary:

The dissemination of classified documents is illegal in many circumstances. It is, under what seems to me the plain meaning of the law, precisely the felony of espionage in at least some cases. To decline to prosecute those crimes in the interest of enabling journalism is to create exactly the kind of professional caste privilege that Greenwald rightly warns against. We cannot simultaneously hold that the problem is “empowering prosecutors to decide who does or doesn’t deserve press protections” and then try to solve that problem by empowering prosecutors to decide who does or doesn’t deserve press protections.

I am not a lawyer and do not pretend to speak authoritatively about the Assange case, but the language of the federal criminal code appears — to my great surprise — clear enough about this matter.

And that is the fundamental issue: The government has too broad and sweeping power when it comes to classifying information, it uses that power too eagerly and too thoughtlessly — and too arrogantly, and too corruptly — for that power to be fully compatible with a free and open society. The solution to bad laws is to repeal or reform the law, not to construct a supplementary social theory to support its selective application.

9. Kamala Harris has a plan — maybe a . . . cunning plan? — to close the gender-pay gap. Ryan Bourne, being charitable, calls it “misguided.” From his article:

Take workers who stock shelves in supermarkets and their warehouses. Shelf-stackers in both locations ostensibly do “the same job.” If a supermarket chain gave them the same job title, and all other experience and performance were equal, this legislation would mandate that workers in both locations be paid the same. Yet it is plausible that working in a warehouse may simply be less pleasant than working in a supermarket, if the warehouse is colder or in a more isolated area or those who work there have less agreeable hours. If men have a greater willingness to accept these unpleasant conditions in return for the “compensating differential” of higher pay, this again would show up as a pay gap, with the company being liable for fines under Harris’s legislation. Yet paying both sets of workers the same could create severe shortages of warehouse workers, or surpluses of supermarket employees.

To avoid such fines or outcomes, businesses would likely revise job titles to ensure that people were labeled uniquely. That could lead to hierarchical disputes within companies and presumably to legal challenges, but it would be a solution. The alternative is to face the prospect of running complex regressions and aggregation calculations to determine whether, on net, men and women are equally paid. That would require the intrusive collection of data on employees’ work history or a more rigorous evaluation of employee performance, either of which itself might have undesirable consequences for workers.

10. You want a big, fat, smart, post-vote analysis of the EU elections? And you want it from the expert, John O’Sullivan? Sometimes wishes come true. From his article:

Where the center retreated, however, the populist Right did not always occupy the abandoned position. National populists (which is the approved non-hostile term for describing them) advanced moderately and consolidated their previous gains substantially in the elections. Victor Orban’s Fidesz won 52 percent of the votes in Hungary. Poland’s Law and Justice party held off a multi-party attack from an organized left-wing coalition and won a majority that suggests it will win the forthcoming national elections. France’s National Rally — the latest name for the populist Right party led by Marine Le Pen — narrowly defeated the populist-centrist party of President Macron in France. (Populist-centrism may be a novel concept, and it may prove to be an unsuccessful one, but it’s the best description yet coined of Macron’s ambiguous politics.) The political success of Italy’s populism we outlined above. And in the United Kingdom, the populist Euroskeptic party, titled with stunning simplicity the Brexit party, went from its foundation five weeks ago to become the largest U.K. party in the European Parliament, with 32 percent of the national vote and 29 MEPs. But it hopes to be leaving Parliament soon.

Populism suffered no major defeats anywhere — unless you count (and you shouldn’t) Denmark, where the People’s Party share of the vote was halved because the more respectable social democrats adopted their tough migration policy. On the other hand, populism didn’t win as many votes as the populists had hoped and as the Left and the media had feared. In particular, populists fell well short of taking control of the European Parliament or, as we shall see, even weakening the control of it exercised by the reigning centrist duopoly of Christian and Social Democrats.

11. Ian Murray believes the big winners were the Greens. And he wasn’t referring to romaine lettuce and brussels sprouts. From his analysis:

Yet, less appreciated has been the direction of the left. As I argued in my 2008 book, The Really Inconvenient Truths, environmentalism has replaced social-justice Christianity as the driving force of the Western left. And, with the emergence of globalism, an ideology based around tackling global problems such as climate change has accordingly risen to prominence. Rather than socialists coopting environmentalism, the reverse has started to happen. The Green Parties of Europe are in the process of overtaking the Social Democrats and hard-left parties alike.

Britain provides a great example. The Labour Party, currently hard-left under its leader Jeremy Corbyn, is being squeezed in both its heartlands from different directions. In the urban northeast of England, which has reliably voted Labour since the party’s founding, voters deserted en masse to the nationalist Brexit Party. In the south, with a more highly educated and cosmopolitan population, a substantial number of Labor voters went for the Greens this time, and many said they did so because of policies other than Brexit. While most say they will return to the Labour Party at the next general election, Labour will face continual pressure from the Greens going forward.

12. Douglas Murray exposes the spin of the aghast British press over the election results. From his piece:

By any honest analysis the night belonged to Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party, which won 31.6 percent of the overall vote, winning 29 seats. The next-largest party was the Liberal Democrats, just over 20 percent of the vote and 16 seats, which is quite a lead for Farage. The runners-up of Labour (ten seats), the Greens (seven seats), and the Conservatives (four seats) struggled to make their performance look like a success. But the most striking thing about the reaction to the results was the effort to claim them as evidence that Britain wants to remain in the EU.

For instance, the BBC was caught claiming that the night was a wild victory for Remain parties. In full-on Pravda mode, the BBC reported that the night had seen “Anti-Brexit” parties out-perform “Pro-Brexit” parties. Indeed, it claimed the Anti-Brexit had beaten Pro-Brexit 40.4 percent to 34.9 percent — a figure arrived at by, among other means, including the Conservative party as an “Anti-Brexit” party. The Conservative party has certainly had its problems of late. And there is very little reason to trust them with anything in terms of promises or delivery. But the party’s stated stance remains that it is committed to ensuring Britain leaves the EU. It is certainly not an explicitly “Anti-Brexit” party.

13. Jonathan Tobin reminds all that a forgotten reason for the increase in European anti-Semitism — often blamed on popular movements — is massive Muslim immigration. From his piece:

Earlier this month, a New York Times Magazine story titled “The New German Anti-Semitism” reported that “police statistics attribute 89 percent of all anti-Semitic crimes to right-wing extremists.” But the same article went on to question that statistic. According to the Times, when German authorities can’t directly attribute a motive for an attack on a Jewish target (and they often cannot), they ascribe it to the Right. But a European Union survey of German Jews conducted last year showed that a plurality of Jews who say they experienced anti-Semitic harassment said the perpetrators were Muslim extremists. Yet, as the Times noted, the German government has been insisting that country’s anti-Semitism problem has not been imported from the Middle East.

The German government, as Klein’s controversial statement on kippahs made clear, is far from indifferent to anti-Semitism, whatever its source. The Bundestag recently voted to condemn the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement against Israel. Yet the government seems far more focused on the threat from the right and the growth of what it describes as Islamophobia in response to the massive influx of Syrian refugees who arrived after Merkel opened up the borders to them.

14. Titus Techera finds Paul Cantor’s new book, Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American Dream: Con Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, and Zombies, an excellent look into the American soul. From his article:

Cantor sees tragedy and popularity combine in the American dream. Work hard, be honest, apply yourself to your work and you will, sooner rather than later, get what you want, which is a private middle class life: marriage, kids, and a couple of cars in the garage, plus the knowledge that you’re part of the greatest nation in the world, indeed, in world history. Being middle class means above all being respectably productive and honestly loving the country. It certainly means being law-abiding. That is not a bad bargain at all, which is why many people, including Cantor himself, want it and get it.

When it doesn’t work out, it’s not always a matter of some people being too weak for it—others might be too strong and, instead of simply missing out on the American dream, turn out to be villains. Americans find it easy and not unpleasant to look at stories about the downtrodden, the oppressed, the unlucky, and the victims of catastrophes. Suffering is a very attractive spectacle, as we know from TV, but it’s also an opportunity for us to act as moral creatures of a loving God. These are the undeservedly poor or wretched; we are the most charitable nation on the planet because we don’t want to share their fate.

But life is not all morality and piety. Normal people like you and me not infrequently become angry or contemptuous. Indeed, if the Internet is any evidence, there is a lot of hatred inside of us. Internet behavior signals a certain dissatisfaction with our American dream, a suspicion that it’s not as true as we want it to be. Maybe we need to work harder to get it right, which is why we have religious awakenings, political reforms, civil-rights struggles, and even a Civil War. We are capable of being less ordinary—even of becoming violent.

We are tempted now and then to look beyond our condition of social equality and think about what is possible for human beings other than the middle-class lifestyle. This is why, Cantor avers, we all loved Westerns once and now, deprived of them, are obsessed with medieval Romances that turn violent or with the doings of the English aristocracy. Here, we see people above our stations and below our morality. They are not decently productive people—but their passions have a shocking splendor to them, since in love and in cruelty they are far less restrained than we are.

15. Conrad Black pens an excellent R.I.P. of the late, great historian, John Lukacs. From his remembrance:

He once told me that when he appeared at the federal building in Valley Forge during the Korean War to hand in his income-tax return, the official who received it said that of all the scores of people who had appeared in the last couple of days for the same purpose, John Lukacs was the only one who was smiling, and asked the reason for that. John replied that he was a refugee from Hungary, that he knew what the United States had done for the defeat of Nazism and fascism and the deterrence of international Communism, and that he calculated that his modest income might yield enough tax revenue to buy one shell for the main armament of an Iowa-class battleship and he was proud to provide it.

John’s particular hero was Winston Churchill, an eminently worthy subject of such admiration, even if he tended to ascribe to Mr. Churchill more of John’s own views than the great British prime minister actually espoused. One of the last times I saw John Lukacs was when he was accompanying Sir Winston’s daughter, Mary Soames, to Budapest for the dedication of Churchill Square in that city. He believed Winston Churchill was the preeminent European statesman of the 20th century, and we had many lengthy and entirely cordial exchanges in which I suggested that Churchill tried to straddle between Europe, the Commonwealth, and the United States in a way that was beyond Britain’s strategic post-war competence, though I yielded nothing to him in my admiration of Sir Winston. As a Roosevelt biographer, I had, to some degree, a natural rivalry with him in the attribution of credit for the deliverance of the West in World War II; there was plenty of credit for both.

16. Netflix threatens to boycott Georgia, woke about the state’s pro-life “heartbeat,” but Kyle Smith is betting that the likely outcome is that money will talk, and Hollywood BS will walk. From his piece:

Hollywood has threatened boycotts in Georgia before. When the producers of Gone with the Wind wished to hold the premiere in Atlanta, Clark Gable was outraged that black cast members would not be able to attend the event with the white cast owing to the Jim Crow laws then in effect. Did Gable, or anyone else, actually boycott the event, though? Nah. When Hollywood’s moral values collide with dollar values, it’s usually no contest. Neither Gable nor anyone else important connected with Gone with the Wind was willing to go to bat against racism if they felt it might cost them.

Which was why it was so amusing when George Clooney, in accepting his 2006 Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Syriana, cited the treatment of Gone with the Wind costar Hattie McDaniel as an example of Hollywood’s courageous liberalism. He bragged that Hollywood was “a little bit out of touch” in that “We’re the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects, we are the ones — this Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.” Clooney either didn’t know or didn’t care that McDaniel was not allowed to sit in the main part of the room with the white Academy Award nominees. Even at the Oscar ceremony itself, then held in a hotel ballroom, blacks were effectively forced to sit in the back of the theater.

17. HBO documentary Running with Beto gets smithereened by Kyle Smith. Medic! From the review:

The speediest bong-rip-to-hangover moment comes when O’Rourke is captured answering a question about the NFL’s national-anthem protesters — posed by a voter who disagrees with them — by supporting them unequivocally and even saying, “I can think of nothing more American.” We watch the Facebook meter excitedly clocking up millions of hits. Beto is viral! Ellen DeGeneres wants to meet up! So does Stephen Colbert! The Washington Post says O’Rourke has conquered the Internet! The morning after arrives with campaign chief David Wysong: “So the Cruz campaign, they’ve got their negative hit. It’s what they wanted. . . . Beto’s favorabilities have gone downward.” Maybe there are some things more American than insulting the American flag.

Campaign field director Zack Malitz, rallying legions of campaign volunteers who have that eerie Children of the Damned glow, is shown announcing that “Tuesday, November 6, is the day the world ends.” (Rrrrrrrrip!) “There is no day after that.” (Exhale.) “Elections are a matter of life and death!” (Rrrrrrip!) “This is possibly the most important thing that most of us will do with our lives.” (Exhale.) How does everyone feel about this the day after? Two minutes earlier, we watched one of Beto’s forlorn sons lamenting that, while he is used to his dad being away, “my mom’s gone, like, three days a week now, and so for half the week there’s, like, no one there.” The kids are so desperate for contact that they’ve resorted to writing letters to Dad. I doubt the sequencing here is meant to remind us that raising children is possibly the most important thing most of us will do with our lives, but that’s the takeaway for everyone who isn’t such a political zombie that he lives only for the netherworld of knocking on strangers’ doors and telling them the fate of a single Senate race is going to make a big difference in their lives. As it turned out, even if O’Rourke had won, the Senate would have remained in Republican hands. His candidacy really didn’t matter very much at all.

18. Even More Kyle . . . which today means Even More Kyle Not Liking Something. Which in this case is Rocketman. Not much liftoff for this Elton John biopic. From the review:

Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, a dutiful biopic with music that was free of dancing, Rocketman is a musical that uses its tunes as fancies to illustrate John’s various triumphs and tribulations, complete with Broadway chorus boys whirling in the background. A problem with this approach is that the lyrics, which John did not write, don’t much fit his life story. So “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” gets shoehorned in as a description of what it’s like playing in quarrelsome pubs. This is the kind of contrivance that kept happening in Rock of Ages, the disastrous 2012 jukebox musical about 1980s rock.

Also unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman ditches the classic original recordings in favor of inferior recreations. Taron Egerton does a decent job as Elton John, but for a guy who shows up for work dressed as a glitter-jumpsuit batboy or a disco gladiator chicken, he’s awfully glum. He enters the movie dressed as Satan from the South Park movie, then sits down for some anger, confession, and healing with a twelve-step group whose sessions create a boo-hoo framing device around the movie. Egerton does set a record unlikely ever to be equalled by performing “I’m Still Standing” for a second time on the big screen; the last time he did it as a gorilla called Johnny in the animated Sing, and that scene was far better than anything in this movie.

19. The first words of Armond White’s review are “Ava DuVernay’s Netflix propaganda series When They See Us . . .” So you might have a clue about the tone of what follows. Great stuff, as ever. From the review:

You’d be mistaken to think that DuVernay’s title is a sequel to Jordan Peele’s Us, addressed to black viewers who are woke to the African-American phenomenon of distrust in “the white gaze,” or that she examines the perpetual anxiety of living in a suspicious, punitive culture. Fact is, DuVernay’s latest prank (after the insipid civil-rights epic Selma, her obtuse constitutional-amendment doc 13th, and her fantasy/box-office flop A Wrinkle in Time) is designed to appease her benefactors. She plays to the empowered white media elite, her film- and TV-industry sponsors, who enjoy the self-reproach that comes with being reminded of their own privilege. It’s clever career shtick: DuVernay specializes in white guilt and feeling helplessly culpable in the racism committed by others of their class.

Through hindsight awareness, DuVernay’s draining, four-part saga repeatedly touches on bureaucratic insensitivity — the indifference of district attorney Robert Morgenthau (Len Cariou); the vengeful, careerist obsession of prosecutor-turned-crime-novelist Linda Fairstein (Felicity Huffman); and the helpless dutiful peoples’ attorney (Vera Farmiga). Their apathy toward the five youths converges into the straw-man figure of Donald Trump, whose peripheral ruling-class commentary at that time (presented in TV-news flashbacks) is routinely condemned. It’s as if, even back in the day when citizen Trump was a hip-hop music idol regaled for audacity and bling, he was singularly responsible for New York racism. DuVernay’s political animus (“That devil wants to kill my ,son” scoffs a mawkish Harlem Five mom) makes for blinkered history.

20. What is squat? Kat Timpf says that’s what AOC knows about the First Amendment. From her piece:

See, when Ocasio-Cortez asks: “For those who believe in ‘free speech’: whose free speech do you believe in?” she completely misses the point of the First Amendment. She completely misses that you absolutely cannot “believe in . . . free speech” and also want to give that right to only a specific group of people. In that situation, it is bound to be the case that only the elite, only the people in power (whom she has made a career railing against) will have that right. The people who have power over you will also have the power to determine what you do and do not say about it.

Let me be clear: You either stand for free speech or you don’t. You either stand for the First Amendment or you don’t. You either believe that every citizen has the right to speak freely (with, as I mentioned, the exception of direct, credible threats), or you want the government to be able to have the power to decide which opinions are or are not acceptable. Which opinions are or are not imprisonable.

I myself choose freedom.

21. Matt Continetti wonders if Biden is the new Hillary. From his Corner post:

Biden is vulnerable on foreign policy. His credentials and standing in the bipartisan foreign-policy establishment may reassure Beltway insiders and voters looking for experience and an internationalist outlook. This same resume, however, makes him vulnerable to the charge that the policies he supported for a generation did little to create peace and prosperity. Trump made that argument both in the Republican primary and in the general election in 2016. It worked.

As I write, Biden has a large and stable lead over his Democratic opponents. He beats Trump in a head-to-head matchup by 8.1 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Remember, though, that Clinton’s advantage was even greater in the summer of 2015. After 16 months of Trump attacks, 77,000 voters in three states denied her the presidency. The same could happen again to a nominee easily caricatured as the epitome of Beltway cluelessness. What looks like Joe Biden’s greatest strength — electability born of experience — may also be a debilitating weakness.

22. Senator Josh Hawley tees off on judicial nominee Michael Bogren, who dabbled in what many find to be anti-Catholicism. From his article:

Michael Bogren is a nominee for a judicial seat in Michigan. He is currently defending the city of East Lansing, Mich., in a lawsuit brought by Steve and Bridget Tennes. The Tenneses are a faithful Catholic family who operate Country Mill Orchard and Cider Mill. After they stated publicly that they believe in the Bible’s teachings on marriage and adhere to those beliefs for their business, the city barred them from participating in the local farmers market. They were then forced to sue the city to defend their rights.

Mr. Bogren responded with a scorched-earth strategy in his litigation against the Tennes family. He wrote, “Plaintiffs attempt to dress their arguments up in a shimmering gown of First Amendment and religious righteousness and parade it down the runway of moral superiority. When stripped of its costume, however, what lurks beneath is simply this: discriminatory conduct.”

He compared their Christian beliefs about marriage to the racism of the Ku Klux Klan, arguing that following the teachings of their faith by not celebrating same-sex weddings on their farm was “no different than the ‘White Applicants Only’ sign.” He also attacked the sincerity and the consistency of their beliefs, arguing that they only “selectively” apply their faith to their lives.

23. Ramesh Ponnuru artfully schools Hawley’s conservative critics. From his piece:

Would conservative senators be obligated to look past a judicial nominee’s past work for Planned Parenthood — arguing, let’s say, for a constitutional right to subsidies for abortion — because everyone has a right to a lawyer? Would a conservative White House be so obligated? What if the nominee had spent much of his career providing such representation? Or — if the social-issue context is too much of a distraction — would conservatives be obligated to say it’s perfectly fine for a Republican administration’s nominee to have argued for Obamacare’s individual mandate while working for health insurers?

We want to foster and protect a culture in which clients’ views are not automatically imputed to lawyers and nobody is so unpopular or politically controversial that he cannot get legal representation. Hawley’s critics are right about that, and indeed Hawley claims to agree with that goal. Embracing an absolute principle to further that goal is a more dubious matter.

NR Institute Seeking Regional Fellows in Dallas, San Francisco, and CHICAGO!

Summer is coming and you’re thinking . . . beach. As you should. But think past that a smidge, because it will be October before you know it, and the question will be . . . will you be an NRI Regional Fellow?

Amigos and amigas, now — now! — is the time to consider, and apply for, this terrific program. Let’s get to the formal lingo: National Review Institute is seeking applicants for its Fall 2019 Regional Fellowship Programs in Dallas, San Francisco, and — brand-spanking-new this fall — Chicago.

Who should apply? The ideal applicant for the program — which helps participants develop a deeper understanding of the foundations of conservative thought — will be a mid-career professional (ages 35-50), with an interest, but not professional experience, in policy or journalism. Past Fellows have represented diverse industries and professions ranging from oil and gas, finance, real estate, medicine, sporting industries, law enforcement, education, nonprofits, and the arts.

The program takes place over eight moderated dinner discussions. The 2019 Class will run from September to November. Moderators include popular NR writers and leading academics at local universities. The rewards of participating are plentiful and will last a lifetime. The deadline to apply is July 15, but we encourage interested conservatives, libertarians, and the curious to apply as soon as possible.

Do that pronto. You’ll find more information about the program here. What if you don’t live in one of the three program cities, but know folks who do and who might be NRI Fellow material? Go ahead and please share with them this link. Now get the suntan lotion!

The Six.

1. Hell Hath No Fury Like a Union Hack Scorned: At Yankee institute for Public Policy, the great conservative think tank of Connecticut, run by the as-great Carol Platt Liebau, writer Marc Fitch reports the tale of Hartford parents who find the authorities knocking on the door after they publicly criticize teachers who don’t teach. From his report:

An April 16 Hartford Board of Education meeting attended by state representative and Hartford teachers’ union vice-president Joshua Hall, D-Hartford, turned rowdy when Hartford parent, Jessie Pierce Jr., confronted the board saying teachers were failing to educate Hartford’s students.

Two days later, the Department of Children and Families opened an investigation into Pierce regarding his 8-year old son, a student in Hartford’s Parkville Community School.

Pierce claims a second investigation was initiated regarding his 97-year old father who lives with him.

Pierce says the DCF worker informed him the investigations were launched by an anonymous complaint originating from the school.

Reached by phone, the DCF investigator assigned to Pierce’s son confirmed the anonymous complaint originated out of the school and was lodged on April 18.

“I feel like it was retaliation for me saying the teachers are not doing a good job,” Pierce said in an interview.

2. At City Journal, Troy Senik returns to his old native stomping grounds in Southern California. Something happened in the eleventh minute. From his piece:

Visiting a familiar place after a long absence is a bit like seeing a friend’s child for the first time in years: you can perceive changes invisible to those who experience them incrementally. My sense of Southern California, a place known throughout the world for its dynamism? That it was in the early stages of succumbing to entropy.

Not all the signs were novel—for as long as I can remember, Los Angeles has been a city where people buy ridiculously fast cars only to drive them 8 mph on clogged freeways—but some were strikingly new. Years of drought-driven water-rationing left the landscape receding to its natural brown. A failure to build new housing yielded outrageous rents for buildings well into their senescence. Stopping into a Target in a middle-class part of Long Beach, I saw no fewer than four homeless men camped out inside the store, the clerks studiously avoiding eye contact with them. It was that little behavioral tell—the passive acceptance of decline—that unnerved me. I had seen it before, a decade earlier, in San Francisco’s notoriously disordered Tenderloin neighborhood. At least there, it came with a patina of bohemian chic. This was surrender in the suburbs.

3. More Golden State: At California Policy Center, Ed Ring expounds on the state’s Homeless Industrial Complex. From his essay:

Here’s how the process works: Developers accept public money to build these projects to house the homeless – either “bridge housing,” or “permanent supportive housing.” Cities and counties collect building fees and hire bureaucrats for oversight. The projects are then handed off to nonprofits with long term contracts to run them.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right? The problem is the price tag. Developers don’t just build housing projects, they build ridiculously overpriced, overbuilt housing projects. Cities and counties don’t just collect building fees, they collect outrageously expensive building fees, at the same time as they create a massive bureaucracy. The nonprofits don’t just run these projects – the actual people staffing these shelters aren’t overpaid – they operate huge bureaucratic empires with overhead and executive salaries that do nothing for the homeless.

An example of wasteful spending can be found in the homeless shelter being built in Venice Beach, where a permanent population of over 1,000 homeless have taken over virtually every public venue, including the beach. Because their tents are now protected by law as private space, they not only serve as housing, but as pop-up drug retailers and brothels. To get these folks off the streets and off the beach, a 154 bed shelter has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council. It will be a “wet” shelter, meaning druggies and drunkards will be able to come and go as they please. The estimated cost for this shelter so far is $8 million, which equates to over $50,000 per bed. Why doesn’t anyone ask why?

4. At The Imaginative Conservative, Mark Malvasi considers the Progressives’ ideological lust for The Great War. From his essay:

Reluctant to intervene in Europe, Wilson had delayed as long as possible before committing American troops. “It is a fearful thing,” he told Congress, “to lead this great peaceful people into war, in the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to hang in the balance.” He described his obligations as commander-in-chief as “distressing” and “oppressive.” Wilson also feared the consequences that entry into war would have for the future of his domestic program. “Every reform we have won will be lost if we go into this war,” he told the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels. Other Progressives shared his apprehension. Jane Addams proclaimed that military preparation and involvement would distract from reform efforts at home and “will set back progress for a generation.” Entry into the war, it seemed, threatened disaster for the Progressive movement.

Other Progressives were more optimistic. For them, the war presented unique opportunities to remake American society. Mobilization would require extensive government intervention into the economy. Among the casualties of war, the Progressives were eager to count their old nemesis: individualism. “War necessitates organization, system, routine, and discipline,” intoned the journalist Frederick Lewis Allen. “We shall have to give up much of our economic freedom. . . . We shall have to lay by our good-natured individualism and march in step.” The philosopher John Dewey saw in war inestimable “social possibilities” sure to constrain “the individualistic tradition,” to afford “an immense object lesson as to the absence of democracy in most important phases of our national life,” and to instruct Americans in “the supremacy of public need over private possessions.” In time, even many Progressives who had initially doubted the wisdom of American entry into the war came to ignore the grim realities of a conflict that had been raging in Europe for three years and chose instead to focus on the social, political, and economic benefits that they convinced themselves the war would bring. To the dismay of Randolph Bourne, there had emerged “a peculiar congeniality” between the Progressives and the war. “It is as if the war and they had been waiting for each other. One wonders what scope they would have had for their intelligence without it.” What scope, indeed? For there was nothing at all “peculiar” about the Progressives’ embrace of war.

5. At Quillette, Eoin Lenihan exposes Antifa’s cheering section: journalists. From the piece:

Christopher Mathias, a senior reporter for the Huffington Post, applies the same cynical approach. Like Wilson, Mathias’ byline seems to pop up whenever Antifa stages violent protests—and he always can be counted on to deliver a play-by-play that favors Antifa. But he goes even further than his Guardian counterpart. Unlike Wilson, Mathias actually doxes individuals whom he suspects of being right-wing extremists. His doxing sources for an article about suspected extremists in the U.S. military included Unicorn Riot, an anarchic Antifa journalist collective, and other shady sites that exist as a sort of in-house 4chan for the Antifa movement. (Mathias cited similar sources when he published identifying details of a Texas schoolteacher, and of a Virginia police officer.)

Mathias’ apparent modus operandi is to gather doxes of individuals whom Antifa or Antifa-friendly groups suspect of being right-wing extremists. He (or a colleague) at Huffington Post then reach out to the target’s employer asking for comment, leveraging the media outlet’s name to ensure the individual is called out. Then Mathias posts the doxes in his column while investigations are ongoing. As with Emily Gorcenski’s First Vigil site, Mathias broadcasts detailed personal information whose release seems designed to destroy the reputation of the accused, no matter the results of any subsequent investigation. It’s unclear how this behavior differs from ordinary, everyday Antifa-style online activism.

6. Smear by Association: At Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray looks into an egregious and contrived double standard. From his piece:

One of the favourite tactics of the far-left in the West today is to carry out hit-jobs by utilising the tool of ‘adjacency.’ This is the new only slightly fancy term for what has usually been known as ‘guilt by association’. Where there was once an agreement that people should be held responsible for their own views, now they can apparently be held responsible for the views of anyone beside whom they once stood.

So for instance, last month Jordan Peterson was denied a visiting fellowship at Cambridge University because he had once been photographed (at a post-speaking event meet-and-greet) with somebody wearing a T-shirt saying ‘I’m a proud Islamophobe’. Activists who wish to take decent people out of the parameters of legitimate discussion no longer merely smear them by trying to claim that their opponent is an extremist. Instead, they hint that even if their opponent might not be an extremist, here – for instance – is a photograph of him standing beside someone better able to be described as an extremist. Thus has the smear machine found a happy pastime and a fairly useful tool in its game of political warfare.

This tactic is rarely used by the right against many on the left. Or if it is, its legitimacy is denied. For instance when the British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, for instance, is endlessly pictured with Islamist extremists or a whole range of anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, it is agreed that he is not ‘adjacent’ to these people, but merely to be pursuing his often strangely uncredited role as the international community’s informal peace-keeper-in-chief. His proximity to the worst people is never evidence of ‘adjacency’: merely of saintliness at best, and bad luck at worst.

Baseballery

If only there were a playoff for last place! The National League in 1916 could have used one. As the season entered its last month, one team, the Cincinnati Reds, was solidly in the deepest part of the basement, trailing the Cardinals and Cubs by nine games, and the Pirates by 10 ½. And then Saint Louis (whose line-up star was rookie Rogers Hornsby) lost 25 of its last 30 games. The Reds, meanwhile, went on what was for them a tear: taking 14 of its final 30 contests.

On the season’s penultimate day, Cincinnati was still in sole possession of last place, a game separating them in the standings from the Cards. It disappeared: On October 1 at Redland Field, the home team’s ace, Fred Toney, blanked the Pirates 4–0 while St. Louis lost its 13th consecutive game, a 6–3 stinker to the Cubs.

And that’s how 1916 ended: No team in 8th place, but two tied for 7th, with equal 60-93 records.

Of related interest: The great Christy Mathewson, traded late in the season from the Giants to Cincinnati as player/manager, pitched in just one game for the Reds. It came on September 4 at Weeghman Parks, as Wrigley Field was originally known, a complete-game victory over the Cubs. It was the last game of the future Hall of Famer’s career.

And: The Reds’ lineup was a classic of names. On the roster were Greasy Neale (who became a great football coach and is in the NFL Hall of Fame), Ivey Wingo, Heinie Groh, Baldy Louden, Limb McKenry, and “cup of coffee” Twink Twining.

A Dios

Yours Truly is road-warrioring this week past and trying these final words of drivel with a head about to slam into the keyboard. How about we stick a fork in this week’s missive? But not before urging prayer for those who have gone before us, old souls — the lady down the block who was so nice to you when you were a tyke, the old grouch who wasn’t, a spinster cousin long dead — you know, the kind of folks now forgotten, but who may be needing your prayers to push them over that finish line. That’s me getting all Roman Catholic on you. Don’t go and start a Reformation though. Find another way to petition the Creator for a sprinkling of his graces and goodness on a person or situation that so sorely needs such.

God Bless You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, who will accept your dad jokes, grammar policing, full-throated bellyaches, and IOUs at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

The Battle for Free Speech Just Got Intense

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Dear WJ Reader,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editorials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RELATED: John Fund provides election analysis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was problematic on a number of levels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commercial Time! But It’s Worthwhile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conservatives are neither to speak nor to be heard.

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

Game of Thrones Finale Geekout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eye Candy

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

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

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

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

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

The Six.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this bell get unrung?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baseballery

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

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

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

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

A Dios

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

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

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

God’s Blessings on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

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

National Review

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

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Dear Joltarians,

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

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

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

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

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

Editorials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blanchard: That’s for sure.

Kearns: Why do you think that is?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baseballery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vitamin Sea

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

A Dios

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

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

Jack Fowler

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

National Review

You Better Remember Mama (and NR Too)

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

Mom said!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Graces on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

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

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

Ab’t 2 lbs lamb, not too small pieces

Ab’t 3 lbs dandelions or chickory

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

 

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

Cook dandelions save water

Place meat in roasting pan

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

Bake in 375 over until egg is settled

National Review

Can You Help a Fellow American . . .

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Dear Generous Jolters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editorials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RELATED: Free definition of “quango” here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Videos

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

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

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

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

The Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcastapalooza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baseballery

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

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

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

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

Correspondence

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

Dear Jack,

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

You wrote:

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

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

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

Bill W

CA

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

A Dios

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

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

Jack Fowler

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

P.S.: Next week, Gran’s recipe.

National Review

Joe Who? Joe Momma!

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Dear Joe-lter,

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

Anyway, there’s more on such below.

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

Editorials

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless Kate Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcastapalooza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Six

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

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

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

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

A long, difficult and complex investigation will be conducted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baseballery

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

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

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

Correspondence

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

Mr. JF,

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

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

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

Karen R

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

A Dios

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

God’s blessings and Graces on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

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

National Review

Save Us from the Fires of Hell

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Dear Holy Weekend Jolter,

Indulge me before we get to the usual fare.

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

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

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

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

More Links than a Sausage Factory Await.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lights. Cameras. Critics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Six.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

Baseballery

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

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

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

A Dios

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

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

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

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

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

National Review

So You Thought You Were Going to Get Away with It

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Dear Joltarian,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey, You Forgot Something!

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

Editorials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Six

1. I missed this a couple of months back. My pal Darcy Olsen, who is a champion of foster-care and child-protection reform, and plenty else, wrote for Arizona Central about the quick step from social services to sex slavery. It is profoundly disturbing what can happen to children when in the hands and responsibility of “officials.” From her piece:

This year, an estimated 18,000 American children will disappear, but their families will not be looking for them. Neighbors will not canvas the streets. Our Facebook feeds will not show their pictures. And after six months, the records of their existence may close entirely.

This is the fate awaiting children who vanish while in the care and custody of America’s child-protection system. Some run to escape abuse. Some follow false promises of love and security. Still others are kidnapped outright.

No matter the reason for falling off the grid, many of these boys and girls will resurface on the black market as child sex slaves. According to the FBI, more than half of trafficked children in America were in the care of social services when they disappeared. That is a damning statistic for a system whose sole purpose is to keep children safe.

2. Connecticut is considering implementing tolls in order to feed the government beast. Hired to do an objective study on the do-we-need-tolls question is . . . an international toll-advocacy group. Marc Fitch does a bang-up job for Yankee Institute to expose the fix-is-in way government works, and to report on the general lunacy of this push for tolls. From his piece:

Scholarly reviews of tolling projections show there exists an “optimism bias” in many of the studies conducted by consultant organizations.

A 2011 report by the Transportation Research Board found administrative, operating and collection costs for toll facilities were 33.5 percent. CDM Smith pegged the administrative and operating costs at “just under 10 percent of gross annual toll revenue,” or about $100 million per year.

A 2009 review of tolling studies and papers published in the Transportation Research Record found “These studies found that tolled projects tend to suffer from substantial optimism bias in forecasts, with predicted traffic volumes exceeding actual volumes by 30% or more about half the time.”

Similarly, a report by the Denver Post in 2006, noted that “86 percent of new toll roads in eight states failed to meet expectations in their first full year.”

The Denver Post wrote that “cases where the consultants doing the revenue and traffic forecast either had an interest in seeing the road get built or were later awarded additional work on that road” or “where the road’s revenue projections were used as a negotiating tool to secure favorable financing terms rather than as an impartial scientific study,” were especially troubling to investors.

But Connecticut is not discussing construction of a new road or bridge or adding additional lanes which would be tolled.

Rather, Lamont and some state lawmakers are looking to toll every lane of existing highway extensively – something that has never been done before and is considered “new territory,” for the Federal Highway Administration.

3. At The College Fix, Christian Schneider reports on the new batch of allegedly non-partisan federal “Truman Scholar” awards — not a single recipient is an identifiable conservative or Republican, but plenty are liberals and Democrats. From the beginning of his story:

None of the nearly 60 recipients of a prestigious $30,000 federal scholarship granted in 2018 reported that they had ever worked for a Republican political candidate or conservative organization, according to an analysis by The College Fix.

The lucrative Truman Scholar awards are given to college juniors, who receive $30,000 to attend graduate school and pledge to serve three of their first seven years after graduation in public service.

The federal scholarship is supposed to be nonpartisan and given simply to “persons who demonstrate outstanding potential for and who plan to pursue a career in public service.”

But the slate of 2018 recipients lean heavily left in both their political work history and the issues which they pledge to address.

4. Richard Samuelson — academic, former NRnik — isn’t as bowled over by the Varsity Blues scandal as others seems to be. Writing at Law & Liberty, he explains why. From the beginning of his commentary:

You might have heard the adage, “There will be prayer in schools as long as there are tests in schools.” The same goes for cheating on tests.

There will be bribery, deception, extortion, and other crimes as long as old Adam walks the earth. That, at least, was my initial reaction to the college-admissions scandal. Are we, to borrow Stanley Fish’s phrase, surprised by sin?

Clearly, however, my reaction was unusual. Many Americans are fixated on the story. Talk radio, I gather, could not get enough of it. What did I miss? America has an elites problem. Again, that is not news. Reconciling our creed of egalitarianism with the reality of elite leadership has been a tricky business since the Founding. Consider the great debate between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on that topic. In our generation, the problem is focused on our schools, the selective ones in particular. Admission to an elite school seems to be the entrée to the upper echelons of American society.

Were we well-governed, and were it apparent that people who are doing well financially seemed to be decent people who treated their fellow Americans with respect, the problem would be much less acute. If the election of Donald Trump signifies anything, it is that many Americans are unhappy. As several commentators have noted, for many, electing Trump was a way of extending a giant, metaphorical middle finger in the direction of our elites.

5. NYC mayor Bill de Blasio flexed his demagogue muscle with a $773 million-dollar plan for the “renewal” of failing schools. In the April issue of Commentary, our dear pal Naomi Schaefer Riley gives the program the hairy eyeball and sees . . . an unmitigated disaster. From her article:

Five years later, de Blasio has now all but admitted failure. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he said, “I’m at peace that with the information we had and the structure we had at the time, it was a sensible approach.” But he added, “I would not do it again that way.” At one point, he suggested that the problem was expecting results too fast: “We put ourselves on this very aggressive three-year timeline. In retrospect, that was probably an unrealistic timeline in some cases.” But even after adding a fourth year to the program, the results were not there.

The overall cost: a staggering $773 million. All of it down the tubes. What’s even more staggering is that the three quarters of a billion dollars flushed down the toilet is merely a drop in the bucket for a system with an annual budget of $24 billion—not even 1 percent over five years. But the fact that such a sum has produced next to no results and has done tangible harm to kids who could have gone to a different school rather than being trapped inside an unsalvageable institution is worthy of public outcry. Philanthropists like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Walter Annenberg discovered to their sorrow that they could pour hundreds of millions of dollars into urban public-school systems without even creating a ripple. But that was private money, theirs to play with. Every dollar spent by de Blasio came from taxpayers.

Of the 50 schools that remained in the Renewal program—some closed because they didn’t improve and others dropped out—enrollment dropped considerably, as much as 17 percent between 2014 and 2018. Despite claims at public hearings, most parents know a failing school when they see it. If they can get their kid out, they will.

6. At Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti asks the Sixty-Four-Thousand Rial Question: When will the Iranian regime collapse? From his piece:

The Islamic Republic of Iran today, through its terror proxies and puppet regimes, has been extending its hegemony to many capitals of the Middle East: Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sanaa. Iran continues to threaten the Middle East, the Mediterranean basin and potentially Europe. Forty years after its theocratic revolution in 1979, the mullahs speak (wishfully, one assumes) of a “declining” America.

“America cannot manage its own affairs now”, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of the powerful Guardian Council, said on state television. “Millions of people are hungry there and America’s power is in decline”. Such declarations may be intended to hide Iran’s own terrible decline, fleeing reality and crumbling from within.

Iran was the first country, in 1979, to bring down a secular, pro-Western government and replace it with an Islamic theocracy. The experiment, however, seems to have failed. Instead of bringing prosperity and freedom, it brought poverty and repression. Even without considering the terrible persecution of women, journalists, academics dissidents and sexual minorities, the Iranian regime is crumbling.

Statistics published by the World Bank note that Iran has had an appalling economic meltdown over the past 40 years since the Islamic clerics came to power. Its drop in economic rankings relative to other countries has been “one of the steepest declines in modern history.”

BONUS: With European Parliament elections scheduled for May 23, former UKIP boss Nigel Farage explains in The Telegraph why he is launching the new Brexit Party.

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. Armond White finds the new HBO flick Native Son to be an art crime that disavows social changes that have improved and complicated black American identity and self-sufficiency since the civil-rights era. From the beginning of his review:

HBO’s new update of Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas novel Native Son cleverly drops the name of 1990s rapper Biggie Smalls (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) so as to avoid dealing with changes in black American culture since Wright published his novel in 1940.

Director Rashid Johnson and screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks want to make sure we know that the ideas in Wright’s legendary book have been subsumed in their politically correct, avant-garde (i.e. “post-black”) consciousness. The advent of hip-hop, in which black American youth proclaimed their social awareness, preceded Johnson and Park’s conceit by rapping rebellious self-assertion that wasn’t always politically expedient (Biggie’s breakthrough was the Junior Mafia song “Get Money”).

Hip-hop’s new independence — and Biggie’s autonomy — contradicts every example of persecution that Bigger Thomas stood for, but Wright ‘s protagonist remains the classic figure of oppressed black youth: condemned to poverty, crime, murder, and extermination by the state. James Baldwin hated the archetype’s standing in American literature (“Everybody’s Protest Novel” he called it) and especially in the political imagination.

Still, Bigger Thomas’s infamy outstrips any Baldwin creation; his fate has reasserted itself this millennium through sentimentalized discussions about “the black body,” police brutality, and mass incarceration. The fact that we cannot escape Bigger Thomas’s ghost is partly due to Johnson and Park’s fashionable decision to subvert Wright’s cautionary book — as well as Biggie’s most audaciously funny rapscallion recordings — and turn out one more urban-tragedy scenario, now carrying the imprimatur of HBO slickness. (The film was originated at A24, the company responsible for Moonlight.)

2. Take The Office-style mockumentary, add a trio of burbs-living vampires, and you have the new FX sitcom series, What We Do in the Shadows. If the full sunlight, Kyle Smith admits he likes it. From his review:

There’s a sad-sack, Dunder Mifflin aspect to What We Do in the Shadows even before we meet an office Dracula. He’s the most common type, apparently. The “energy vampire” doesn’t literally suck your blood, he just sucks all the energy out of your room, house, or cubicle. This small, bald man in a cardigan named Colin (Mark Proksch) is the one who most terrifies all of the others. Unfortunately for them, his superior knowledge of the intricacies of the New World makes him indispensable. Even more unfortunate for the other vampires, his natural attraction to the dull and the bureaucratic tends to sabotage their romantic aspirations. Colin’s idea for launching a total-domination scheme involves catching a city bus to a zoning-board meeting. Colin licks his lips with ecstasy: “It’s a smorgasbord of banality and despair!” The vampires do have some ordinances they’d like to propose — no noise during daylight hours, a ban on turtlenecks — but like many other citizens, they learn you not only can’t fight City Hall, you can’t even figure out where to file the paperwork to announce your proposal to fight it in the first place.

3. Armond finds Peterloo to be . . . almost great. From the get-go of his review:

‘We can all deliver a speech” brags a 19th-century argumentifier, one of many crowding Mike Leigh’s impressive but imperfect political history Peterloo.

As in his other period films, Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake, and Mr. Turner, Leigh draws a bead on English history in order to vivify modern concerns — in this case, the 1819 massacre by British troops storming a political rally in Manchester’s St. Peter’s Field. It’s Leigh’s response to the millennium’s revolution rhetoric, that leftist call for change and transformation, plus its fatalistic move toward disaster.

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet “England in 1819” immortalized the homegrown tragedy known as “Peterloo,” balancing nationalist pity and monarchist rage — a testament to the British gift for rhetoric, and Leigh is after a similar poetic effect. Instead of documenting history, Peterloo details personal characteristics of that moment through Leigh’s special, behavior-based, actorly focus on British social psychology. The film’s panorama suggests social-media cacophony in 19th-century dress — even briefly touching on the snarky competition among egotistical journalists.

The massacre and the tension leading up to it are conveyed through the speech and manners of Manchester’s impoverished workers, its selfish politicians, single-minded militants, and reformers. They mirror the Brexit present, making visible the class differences of a country that, even in its regional dialects, still is united by language, still struggling through its own sense of history. Leigh showcases the impassioned speeches, domestic debates, interjections, and protestations by Shelley’s countrymen.

4. But Kyle thinks Leigh and his Peterloo thing is a Marx-loving (Karl, not Groucho) stinkeroo. From his revioo:

Leigh is rightly praised for the naturalism and authenticity with which he invests his films, famously assembled with much creative input from his actors, and for taking enough distance from his characters that the audience is free to draw its own conclusions rather than having a message shoved in its face or being urged to feel a given emotion. He can’t fairly be accused of being sentimental or didactic or on-the-nose, or of choosing a movie-movie ending instead of sticking closer to the frustrations and ambiguities of life. He tends to the detached and circumspect, which makes him as proper a choice as any to carry the British flag into world cinema.

Which is why this bristling, pugnacious, wearyingly didactic film is so inexplicable. To watch Mike Leigh make a mistake like this is like watching Yo-Yo Ma try to play the cello with a fireplace poker. Leigh’s magistrates fulminate in tones that make Emperor Palpatine look measured, then we switch over to the workers’ speeches, which are equally bombastic in the other direction. Leigh can’t even settle on a route into the story; he begins with a battle-dazed lone soldier returning from Waterloo in order to connect the two instances of bloodshed, but soon after the young man gets home and pathetically searches for work, Leigh forgets about him. We come across him again toward the end, but since we know him so little, his fate isn’t affecting. The rest of the cast mostly consists of mouthpieces for good or evil. The only characters who get more than superficial treatment are Hunt (played with a kind of strangled dedication by Rory Kinnear), who has some fine qualities but is also insensitive to the people for whom he is supposedly fighting, and a working-class woman who argues that protests will do more harm than good for their lot.

5. More Armond, this time finding a lot in the craft of certain character actors in Best of Enemies. No, not the WFB v. Vidal documentary, but Robin Bissel’s new flick on early-70s school-desegregation in the South. From the review:

Elitist Hollywood is unqualified to promote brotherhood, but The Best of Enemies comes close by reminding us of Hollywood’s egalitarian character-actor tradition. In The Best of Enemies, Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell portray the real-life black activist Ann Atwater and white former Ku Klux Klansman C. P. Ellis, who both, in 1971, got past dissension and strife to help desegregate their local North Carolina public schools.

Atwater and Ellis came together from the extremes of their divided community, while Henson and Rockwell — not bloviating celebrities but character actors specializing in outsiders and oddballs — honor their subjects’ individual eccentricities.

The always-game Rockwell starts with Ellis’s working-class idiosyncrasy: “The most emotional moment of my life was being inducted into the Klan.” Ellis’s Klan presidency (he’s given the fanatical moniker “Exalted Cyclops”) reveals the desperation behind the culture of racism. Rockwell does not betray his character’s honest, slow self-realization, and writer-director Robin Bissell keeps Ellis’s turning-point speech free of platitudes. This isn’t a fantasy bigot like Rockwell’s Oscar-winning role in Three Billboards but is based on clear insight into envy and competition, not the fear and resentment favored by most histories of racism. Ellis’s complexity is palpable in Rockwell’s very canny Brandoesque Southern accent.

Henson scores similar complexity. After her Oscar-nominated neo-Mammy turn in Benjamin Button and the ratchet excess of TV’s Empire, Henson reclaims her craft. Outfitted in sloping, cantilever breasts, her face twisted into a fist as wound-up as her kinky wig, Henson impersonates the intractable side of “Rough-house Annie.” It’s too bad that Henson only gets the anger right — as when calling out Ellis’s cowardice. But could any Black Lives Matter–era character actress resist commercialized fashionable rage? Understanding Atwater’s religious-based perseverance — when she thrusts her Bible against Ellis’s rifle — requires an actress to show even greater daring.

6. Armond encore: He sees the new French flick Sauvage/Wild as “revisiting the conflict between gay liberation’s sexual outlawry and queer rights’ absolutism” and challenging a liberal/conventional/PC take on homosexuality. Maybe not your cup of tea as entertainment, but the review is a powerful piece of writing and commentary, as usual. From the review:

What would Democratic-party presidential aspirant Peter Buttigieg make of Sauvage/Wild, the new French film about a gay sex hustler who refuses all the societal norms? Leo (played by Félix Maritaud) isn’t running for public office; he’s one of the young men who pick up customers in the Bois de Boulogne. It’s not to make money but to live freely. Without a job, a spouse, or political affiliation — he is “without roof or law,” to repeat the title of Agnès Varda’s 1985 film Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond), which chronicled the habits of a modern homeless wanderer.

Buttigieg’s personal sexual declaration is not our concern, but his progressive political stance meets a provocative challenge through director-writer Camille Vidal-Naquet’s raw, unflinching narrative in Sauvage/Wild.

The Leo characterization is so politically incorrect in his disregard of money, property, hygiene, and the shameless company he keeps that he defies the glib virtues ascribed to a candidate such as Buttigieg and by which the mainstream media always give the edge to such a figure. During a free clinic’s medical check-up, a matriarchal doctor advises Leo to give up crack cocaine; he looks at her perplexed, not understanding the connection between health and pleasure. In interviews, Vidal-Naquet reveals his own politics by describing Leo as a “sex worker,” but Varda (who made the pioneering prostitution film Cleo from 5 to 7) knew better, preferring to avoid any convenient liberal label for her social outlaw.

7. And let’s hear one last time from . . . Kyle. He’s seen Shazam and – Shazam! – it makes him want to cringe. From his review:

My cringe muscles got a major workout in Shazam!, the way they do when in the presence of a floundering standup comic. I wanted to laugh, just to save the movie some embarrassment, but nothing funny was happening. I think I reached maximum cringe when the movie acknowledged it was ripping off Big by throwing in a step-activated keyboard scene but then couldn’t figure out anything to do with the idea. Boy-turned-adult superhero Billy Batson (Zachary Levi) runs across the keyboard, so does a pursuer and that’s it. No comedy twist, just “Remember this much better movie on the same subject?”

Casting is a crucially underrated component to blockbuster movies, and Levi’s effort to be the new Tom Hanks is a total failure, even worse than the same character’s bland portrayal by Asher Angel, a featureless boy-band type, when he’s in his 14-year-old body. The young Billy has been cast out of a succession of foster homes while trying to find the mother from whom he was separated as a little kid, and has developed some toughness and cynicism as scabs over his psychic wounds. None of this is particularly well conveyed by the teen actor, but what’s bizarre is that, after a visit with a wizard from another dimension gives Billy superpowers and an adult body, this smart teen inexplicably turns into a wide-eyed bozo. As played by Levi, the adult Billy Batson never stops mugging and shrieking and pratfalling, more Pee Wee Herman than the cool Marty McFly–style teen he is in his real body. Billy’s new foster brother, Freddy (played by Jack Dylan Grazer, nephew of the producer Brian Grazer), is almost as irritating to watch as Levi, rushing through his lines with no comic timing whatsoever. Freddy has a mild disability, and the other kids in the foster home are a multicultural gang of winsome sweethearts, and all of these details are the equivalent of neon sign reading, “You will adore us.” In other words, lazy screenwriting. You don’t get to issue orders to your audience.

Baseballery

Consider the long history of the National Pastime’s original teams and — using World Series participation as the barometer — how can’t you deny that some franchises have been jinxed? That there are some areas where baseball and the law of averages are sworn enemies. Yankees, Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers . . . all that repeated glory. The Phillies, Indians, Cubs, White Sox . . . when do the fates compensate them for decades of rote despair?

Yours Truly feels — not pity, but sorrow . . .  ok, pity — especially for the fans of the White Sox. The club went 40 years between its 1919 “Black Sox” World Series loss and its 1959 appearance (also a loss, to the Dodgers), and then waited another 46 years till its next (and last) Fall Classic entry (the Sox swept the Astros in 2005). Add to the droughts this: In all the in-between years, there were few where the club was in a true pennant race. But let us celebrate that true exciting one, in 1964, when, under Al Lopez, the Sox finished in second place, one measly game behind the Yankees. Down the stretch both teams played ferociously and battled the Orioles, who as late as September 15 were in first, tied with Chicago. (Sad Sidebar: Over in the Senior Circuit, the Phillies, ahead on this date by six games, were set to embark on baseball’s epic September meltdown.)

The Sox won their last nine games, but the Yankees launched an 11-game winning streak on the 15th and took sole possession of first on the 19th. It was never relinquished.

What could the Sox have done? Not even the Magic 8 Ball knows. Among the what-ifs, though, are two painful and providential losses: On September 19, at home, they dropped a 10-inning pitching duel to the lowly Washington Senators — complete games for loser Joe Horlen and winning pitcher Bennie Daniels. The score: 1–0. Which replayed four nights later in Los Angeles. In their last loss of the season, the Sox dropped another 1–0 contest to the Angels, a nascent rally snuffed out in the second when Ken Berry — on first courtesy of a walk — was gunned down at 3rd by right fielder Lou Clinton trying to advance on a single by J.C. Martin. Had either of those contests gone the other way . . . if only . . .

A Dios

For this particular weekend, which will kick off Holy Week for some of us, let’s end WJ with The Palms. Caruso belts it out in the French original, and then there is Nelson Eddy, en anglais.

I’ve always loved Palm Sunday. My little Italian grandmother would make this wonderful dish — she called it spitsad (typed here in phonetics, and probably distorted by poor recollecting) — that was a combination of lamb chunks (many still attached to cleaved bones), egg, and either escarole (I think) or possibly broccoli rabe. Baked in this big pan. We crammed into her kitchen and demolished it. So delicious! Gran is dead now 15 years — she left for better parts a few weeks shy of her 103rd birthday. What a life: She saw Vesuvius erupt, endured the entire Atlantic sailing/Ellis Island experience, saw Halley’s Comet twice, worked in the children’s department at Saks (sold Mrs. Kennedy shorts and undies for the future president), watched Benny Hill with her grandson late at night. Wistful but wonderful memories.

Anyway, if you take enough freebies tomorrow, here’s how you can weave a cross made of palms.

God’s blessings on you, your family, and those who have gone before us,

Jack Fowler

Who tries to hide but cannot because too many people know his email is jfowler@nationalreview.com, where complaints and insults and correct spellings of “spitsad” can be directed.

National Review

Lost in (Personal) Space

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

Our Kyle Smith begins a recent piece by stating “Joe Biden is a creepy old goat.” Geez, what does Kyle have against goats?

The former Veep and prexy wannabe — who maybe caught “Too Many Kisses” too many times at the Scranton Bijou when he was growing up — has come under barrage for his history of hair-sniffing / hand-slipping / lip-kissing / thigh-touching / space-invading ways. But before you could say Pepé le Pew, Joe tried to get woke: He’s promised to rein in the touchy / feely / smoochy ways, which he blamed on the tune Bushel and a Peck being stuck in his noggin (OK, I made that up). He’s swearing off the Bela Lugosi act and has got himself back to thinking presidential thoughts. It’s all in the rear-view mirror. Or is it?

Maybe form your opinion on that after you listen to the new episode of The Editors, in which Rich Lowry, Charlie Cooke, and Michael Brendan Dougherty discuss His Goatiness’ flap and its persistence, plus Joe’s response, and what it all likely means for November 2020. Listen here.

More on Joe below. More on a lot below. We have an Ideas Summit on which to report, a new issue of NR with which to tempt you, and the usual all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of fattening, delicious goodies on display.

Editorials

1. We commend President Trump’s challenge to GOP lawmakers to come up with an alternative to Obamacare. From the editorial:

Republican senators are not notably eager to take up this assignment; their leader Mitch McConnell has suggested that the Senate will wait for the White House and the Democrats to reach a deal before it tackles health care. Republican strategists say the senators are right: Why put forward a plan and open Republicans to attack over it, when the party can concentrate instead on making the case against Democratic proposals to kick Americans off their health insurance and move toward a government monopoly? Why should Republicans reprise the experience of 2017–18, when they bled public support while trying to pass a health-care bill, spent the next election on the defensive on the issue, and then lost dozens of House seats?

A flaw in this cynical calculation is that Republicans cannot prevent Democrats from attacking them over health care by abandoning the issue; if that strategy worked, the 2018 elections would have gone very differently. Most of the Republicans who will be running for office in 2020 have already gone on record wanting to replace Obamacare. The Republican administration is urging its abolition in court. Democrats already have enough warrant to accuse Republicans of seeking to eliminate a health law on which many millions of Americans rely. Republicans can choose whether to respond to that attack by pointing to their own plan, or by letting Democrats devise a caricatured conservative plan to tie to them.

From the New April 22, 2019, Issue of National Review: Feast Your Eyes and Brain on These Four Pieces.

1. Andy McCarthy lays into “Mueller’s Folly.” From his article:

Comey, despite repeatedly telling Trump he was not a suspect under investigation, stunningly announced in March 2017 congressional testimony that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign for possible “coordination” in Russia’s cyber espionage. Increasingly frustrated by Comey’s refusal to state publicly the assurances he’d given Trump privately, the president fired the FBI director on May 9. In announcing the dismissal, Trump relied on a memorandum by Rosenstein, which cited bipartisan condemnation of the director’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton emails caper during the 2016 campaign.

Why did a personnel decision that Rosenstein himself had endorsed be come, just eight days later, Rosenstein’s pretext for a sprawling special-counsel investigation? The hapless deputy AG — a Republican careerist who had carefully cultivated good relations with Democrats — miscalculated that he would be lauded for his memo. Democrats, he failed to grasp, had moved on from rage over Comey’s role in Hillary Clinton’s defeat (particularly his public reopening of the criminal investigation against her a few days before the election). By the time Comey was canned, the FBI director had become useful as a thorn in Trump’s side, especially after he announced the Trump/Russia probe (in contravention of Justice Department rules against public commentary about investigations).

When Trump ousted Comey, Demo crats posed as apoplectic. Trump clumsily tied Comey’s firing to his conduct of the Russia investigation in statements in an NBC News interview and (appallingly) during a White House visit by Russian diplomats. The president clearly meant that Comey had been falsely depicting him as complicit in Russia’s perfidy, but Democrats pounced, spinning Trump’s statements as admissions that Comey had been removed to impede the Russia investigation—notwithstanding that Trump never shut the probe down and even told NBC he wanted it done properly. The heat intensified when, based on a leak from Comey, the New York Times reported that Trump had leaned on the FBI to drop an investigation of former national-security adviser Michael Flynn.

2. In the cover essay, Matthew Continetti explains why the late Charles Krauthammer still matters. From his piece:

Perhaps the most important distinction is between negative liberty and positive liberty. Paraphrasing Isaiah Berlin, Krauthammer wrote in a 1997 column, “What the monists —  the believers in the one true truth, Marx and Rousseau and (by implication) such Third World deities as Mao and Ho and Castro — are proclaiming is not freedom. What they offer may be glorious and uplifting and just. But freedom is something very different. Freedom is being left alone. Freedom is a sphere of autonomy, an inviolable political space that no authority may invade.”

Krauthammer’s career testifies to the power of argument. “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race,” Mill wrote; “posterity as well as the existing generation, those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” It’s as if the public sphere were a giant atom smasher, flinging arguments against one another and seeing what emerges.

3. Transgender ideologues, reports Madeleine Kearns, are imposing life-long harm on children, using standards that are, to say the least, unreasonable. From her essay:

Transgenderism is the theory that each person has an innate gender identity that is distinct from that person’s sex. Theories about gender identity were pioneered by sexologists and academics in the mid 20th century, and they remain widely contested and poorly understood. Despite this, they are being applied in a radical and experimental way to children worldwide. Parents and professionals agonize over the fear that young people will suffer physical and psychological harm from the application of transgender theory, but all too often they are cowed into submission.

Some American girls have had double mastectomies as young as 13. Planned Parenthood operates on an “informed consent” basis — meaning that young people are briefed on “both the risks and the benefits” of cross-sex hormones and do not require a letter of referral from a therapist. The organization’s website states: “If you are eligible, Planned Parenthood staff may be able to start hormone therapy as early as the first visit.” Meanwhile, in 2015 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a $5.7 million taxpayer-funded grant for a five-year study on “the impact of early medical treatment in transgender youth.” According to a progress report, the minimum age for the cross-sex-hormones cohort was decreased from 13 to eight.

The claims of prominent clinicians justifying such interventions are baffling. Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental psychologist and founding member of the Child and Adolescent Gender Center clinic in San Francisco, claimed that toddlers can send a pre-verbal “gender message” by tearing barrettes out of their hair and saying things such as “I. Boy.”

4. John Miller reflects on those fellow Michiganders, the “Polar Bears,” who a century ago were fighting the Commies in the brutal far north of the USSR. From his article:

At sunrise, following a sleepless night of trudging through the cold swamps of northern Russia, a couple of men from Detroit made breakfast. Corporal Morris Foley and Private Bill Henkelman brewed tea and opened a can of corned beef. As Foley prepared to finish the last of the beef, Henkelman spoke up: “Let’s save enough for after while.” Foley refused. “There might not be no after while.”

It turned out there wasn’t, at least not for Foley. Later that morning—on September 20, 1918, by the village of Seltso on the Dvina River—his company formed a skirmish line and charged a nest of Russian machine gunners. Bullets ripped through Foley’s face and neck. “Foley had his jaw shot off,” reported a sergeant. Somehow, the young man survived his brutal injury long enough to join a retreat. He died near his original position and was buried close to where he had scarfed down his beef.

Today, Foley’s recovered remains rest in Troy, Mich., in the 200-acre White Chapel Memorial Park Cemetery, alongside the graves of 55 other American soldiers who died fighting Communists in the frozen wilds of northern Russia in 1918 and 1919. They’re marked by one of the most striking sculptures to be seen anywhere, let alone at a cemetery: a snarling polar bear, carved in white marble by the artist Leon Hermant. It’s a tribute to what some U.S. soldiers took to calling themselves a century ago: the “Polar Bears.” They were the first and only Americans to fight a shooting war against Russian Communists.

Scenes from the NR Institute Ideas Summit: Nationalism Conversed (Not Debated)

At National Review Institute’s terrific 2019 Ideas Summit, a highlight was the Whomp in the Swamp to-do between Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg over the meaning of “Nationalism.” Jim Geraghty moderated. C-Span covered. Some colleagues reacted. Watch the Whomp here.

1. Kevin Williamson considers the term and sees an image: The parade. And he is not a fan of them. From his essay:

To the extent that 2016 vintage nationalism has produced a policy agenda at all distinguishable from the old Republican stuff, it is anti-capitalist and anti-liberal: in favor of trade restrictions and suspicious of big business, especially banks, anti-immigration, anti-elitist, longstanding tendencies to which American populists from William Jennings Bryan to George Wallace and Ross Perot have been stubbornly attached. That these represent an orientation toward the actual national interest is not obvious: Tariffs function mainly as a sales tax on American consumers and as a crutch for certain U.S.-based firms that wish to be protected from foreign competition. There is more to a nation than its economy, but markets are national institutions, too, and far from the least important of them. Hostility toward these does not serve the nation, even if it serves the interests of some of the nation’s people.

With apologies to the often misunderstood Charles Erwin Wilson, the interest of General Motors is not synonymous with the national interest. There is no substantive nationalist argument for privileging the business interests of U.S.-based firms that produce steel over those of U.S.-based firms that consume steel. Occasionally one will hear arguments that the existence of a thriving steel industry is in sum important to the country in a way that exceeds the value and interests of the firms that compose that industry, but this is ultimately a very limited line of reasoning, one that could be deployed on behalf of any industry, from frisbees to wine. (The national-security case for traditional heavy-industry protectionism is in practice a limitless warrant; Senator Rubio, who also was kind enough to speak at the NRI event, has defended sugar subsidies as a matter of national security, a deficiency that is more irksome in so admirable a senator). It is difficult to say with a straight face that we must act to preserve the frisbee factories as a matter of national interest — because they are our frisbee factories — and not many nationalists, even the perfervid ones, in practice begrudge the French their oenological excellence or the Germans their automotive genius or the Canadians whatever it is they are good at. They do produce cabernet sauvignon in Ohio, after all.

If our nationalists do not think very much of the parts of America that are actually thriving — many of them the envy of the world — and do not think very much of U.S.-led developments, such as international trade, that have enriched the country immeasurably, then what is it they are thinking of?

2. Rich made an argument that Israel is a nation, and has been for millennia, even in the wilderness. David French has a different take on the Biblical dot-connecting. From his rebuttal:

God was preserving a people, not a form of government applicable to other peoples. Abraham isn’t a model for Bismarck. To have enduring value, nationalism always has to be trumped by something else — a higher value beyond the self-interest of its people. For the nation of Israel, that something else was God’s specific purpose and calling for the Jewish people. For the United States of America, it’s the ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence.

Indeed, the great meaning of the Civil War wasn’t that it was a nationalist triumph over secessionists (a competing nationalism movement), but rather that the triumph represented a “new birth of freedom.” The nation could have survived merely by defeating Confederate armies and suppressing the rebellion. But the greater virtue was the transformed polity.

Yes, there are moments when nationalism is vital. Wars for national survival come to mind. But the enduring unity of a people must be based on something greater, and the value of the nation is measured by factors well beyond its mere existence. Israel stands as a symbol of the power of the virtuous purpose and divine providence, not of divine preference for national governments.

3. And Rich rebuts. From his Corner post:

In sum, I don’t think God ordained nationalism, but I do think nationalism created our system of independent, sovereign nation-states that has proven quite favorable to self-government, democracy, and peace — things that anti-nationalists support, so long as they don’t have to acknowledge nationalism’s contribution to them.

4. And then Jonah volleys on the question of just what “self-government” means. From his Corner post:

According to Merriam-Webster, self-government means “government under the control and direction of the inhabitants of a political unit rather than by an outside authority.” Note how this definition doesn’t include the word democracy. I presume Rich agrees that self-government and democratic self-rule are different things because he lists democracy separately from self-government. As I think I mentioned in our discussion, Woodrow Wilson’s conception of “self-determination” — essentially the term for self-government at the time — wasn’t as democratic as the propaganda of the time, or the text books of today, suggest. Wilson believed that nations should be free to “choose” their own systems, even if the system they chose wasn’t democratic and wasn’t chosen democratically. This is a common view among many progressives and quite a few paleo-conservatives as well. It usually manifests itself in phrases like “Who are we to judge how other countries live?” or “Who are we to impose our values on other countries.” After all, Cuba and North Korea have “self-determination” but they don’t have democracy or the rule of law.

The relevance here is that self-government/self-determination is the goal of many anti-colonial movements of “national-liberation.” But not all national-liberation movements yield . . . liberty. Many of the nations that threw off the yoke of colonialism or alleged “Western hegemony” were very nationalistic, but they were also often very ugly dictatorships. For every India that moved in fits and starts toward democracy — thanks in part to the legacy of British colonialism — there were probably two or three that moved toward dictatorship. In other words, the line between nationalism and “self-government” to democracy is hardly a straight one.

Over at the NRI website there are pictures galore, and C-Span video (it covered the Summit live on the last day), for your enjoyment. A lot of people are particularly interested in the conversation on populism between Tucker Carlson and Michael Brendan Dougherty. Watch it on C-Span here.

Finally: The great Lee Edwards, who participated in the Summit on a panel discussing the legacy of Bill Buckley, follows up with a terrific NRO article assuring that WFB’s spirit was very evident at the affair. From his piece:

Bill Buckley too was a fighter who challenged the liberal zeitgeist, with National Review as his primary weapon. He took the struggle into the streets in 1965 when he ran for mayor of New York City. Ever the fusionist, he reached out to conservative Republicans and blue-collar Democrats on his way to receiving 13.5 percent of the vote. In The Emerging Republican Majority, the political analyst Kevin Phillips wrote that the Buckley campaign uncovered populist Democrats who helped Richard Nixon and Reagan gain their landslide victories.

If he had been a speaker at the NRI Ideas Summit, Bill Buckley would probably have reminded the attendees of a tried and true political axiom that some conservatives seem to have forgotten: Politics is about addition, not subtraction; multiplication, not division. Fusionism was Buckley’s guiding principle as he built the conservative movement that remains a major political force to this day.

A final comment about a question frequently asked at the Ideas Summit: “Should conservatives welcome populists or not?” Here is what Bill Buckley once said: “I would rather be governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than by the Harvard University faculty.”

If You Were Searching for 13 Links to Amazing NRO Pieces, You Have Come to the Right Place

1. There is a talented young writer, Alec Dent, a senior at the University of North Carolina, who wrote this wonderful commentary about the new movie Hotel Mumbai and how it addresses the now often-mocked power of prayer. From the beginning of his piece:

It’s a sad, sad thing that Hotel Mumbai reflects our time so well. The film, which received its wide release last week, is based on the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, focusing on the massacre and the hours-long hostage situation that took place in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Hotel Mumbai is masterfully done, and if another movie has been as successful at placing the viewer in the middle of a mass shooting or, indeed, even attempted to do so, it doesn’t immediately come to mind. Director Anthony Maras has created an atmosphere of almost nonstop panic and intense dread that would give any horror movie a run for its money; it’s a terrifying film that is all the more frightening because you know that the story you’re watching unfold is an account of real events. And Hotel Mumbai hits all the closer to home in the wake of the events in Christchurch just last month. The film is unique and also timely in its message about “thoughts and prayers.”

It’s common for the religious among us to pray for victims after a mass shooting occurs. And it is just as common for such prayers to be mocked and derided. Some critics fear that thoughts and prayers replace legislative action, but many seem to disapprove of the act of prayer itself, casting it as a useless act. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez provided a tone-deaf example of this following the Christchurch shooting, as she tweeted out: “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?” Neil deGrasse Tyson offered a similar message after the Parkland shooting last year, tweeting, “Evidence collected over many years, obtained from many locations, indicates that the power of Prayer is insufficient to stop bullets from killing school children.” Such condescending remarks display a profound ignorance of the role of prayer in the life of religious practitioners, and they are strongly, and unexpectedly, rebuked in Hotel Mumbai.

2. The legacies of our founder are many. Matthew Continetti considers WFB’s wide-ranging influences. From his essay:

Buckley’s skill at repartee not only stopped the opposition in its tracks. It won him converts. His comedic timing and drollery suggested that no matter how important political debate was — and Buckley thought it hugely important — one can never forget that there are aspects of life that should remain outside of politics.

As Buckley wrote: “I like, roughly, in the order described: 1) God, 2) my family, 3) my country, 4) J. S. Bach, 5) peanut butter, and 6) good English prose. Should these biases be identified when I write about, say, Satan, divorce, Czechoslovakia, Chopin, marmalade, and New York Times editorials?”

That expansive list of Buckley’s loves tells us something about the capaciousness of his heart and mind. The size of his personality and impact is why there is not a single Buckley legacy but several.

3. Big Jim Geraghty sized up Joe Biden’s being caught short in this smoochy / rub-y “scandal” — as Veep, he benefitted from a MSM that served as a “reputational bodyguard.” Come 2019, they ain’t there no more — or, as Joe might say depending on the crowd he was addressing, no mo’. Anyway, he got away with something for a long time. From the story:

A lot of us have been making fun of Joe Biden for decades. He’s got a goofy charm, but half of what comes out of his mouth makes no sense. In the 2008 debate with Sarah Palin, he declared, “Along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon,” and everyone just acted like he hadn’t hallucinated a major foreign-policy event. His gaffes are particularly tone-deaf, he’s a blustery blowhard, he’s been wrong about a heck of a lot in his long history, and he’s often an egomaniacal BS artist.

For eight years, Biden got away with a lot because the media chose to perceive him as that “wacky, lovable Uncle Joe” and if the media paid too much attention to his flaws outside of comic relief from the usually serious Obama, it would call into question Obama’s judgment in picking him.

Biden didn’t just start touching women in public this way recently. In BuzzFeed, Katherine Miller writes, “Everybody already knows what they think about Joe Biden putting his hands on people, because we’ve all seen this happen in public. We’ve seen Biden kiss people at public events! We’ve all had years to think about it!” And not many people were upset about it while Biden was vice president — at least not many people on the Left; our John Fund mentioned this in 2015, as did Victor Davis Hanson. I wrote that year that “Biden’s style is a bit ‘hands-on.’”

4. More from Jim on Joe, and the media’s decades-long delayed reaction to the creepy antics of its favorite hacks. From his piece:

When I first heard about Lucy Flores’s account of her encounter with Joe Biden, I reacted with great cynicism. Here we have a Bernie Sanders supporter who is making an issue out of Joe Biden’s characteristically buffoonish behavior, five years after the fact, in a fairly transparent effort to scare him out of the 2020 presidential race. As Kyle Smith observed, after eight years of the media painting Biden as America’s wacky, lovable uncle and perfectly qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, it is now socially acceptable to declare, “Joe Biden is a creepy old goat. Everyone knows this.”

But if you read Flores’s essay, you’ll notice that she’s diagnosing the same phenomenon about the national media and Democratic party that many of us on the Right have been complaining about for a long time: The degree to which allegations of inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct are taken seriously — particularly whether they rise to the level of columns declaring “It’s time for a national conversation” — is heavily shaped by how important the accused is to the cause of progressivism at that given moment. In 1998, almost the entire Democratic party rushed to save Bill Clinton; now it’s okay to declare his behavior appalling and worthy of a forced resignation. We could only see Chappaquiddick portrayed on the silver screen after Ted Kennedy’s death.

5. Oh, to be a lefty Virtue Signaler! As Victor Davis Hanson notes, there is hardly ever a price to pay when caught in a hoax, scam, or scandal. From his essay:

The result is that progressive actors and institutions understand that even their bad behavior will be contextualized rather than audited. Such medieval-style exemption gives them a natural blank check to overreach and to act unethically, crudely, and even unlawfully — as they might not have if they had expected ramifications.

After all, Johnny Depp, Peter Fonda, Robert de Niro, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and other exhibitionists factored into their obscene presidential vituperation that the powers that matter to them — movie moguls, film critics, media hosts, neighbors in their tony zip codes, universities — would award their hate or at least nod at it. Far less vitriol aimed at President Obama would have earned social and career ostracism, whether one was an erstwhile birther like Donald Trump or a Missouri State Fair clown wearing an Obama mask. Had Mike Pence hugged, kissed, squeezed, and blown the hair of women and girls in the serial fashion of good old liberal Joe Biden, he would have likely been asked to step down from his vice presidency.

The career of liar, conspiracist, racist, and anti-Semite Al Sharpton took off after his Tawana Brawley hoax — soaring onto cable TV and into the hugs of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The likes of a Bill Maher, Alec Baldwin, Barbra Streisand, Joe Biden, and Harry Reid know they can say almost anything they wish, on the premise that their occasional racist, sexist, and hate-filled slurs were long ago indemnified by cheap progressive virtue-signaling.

6. Jonah Goldberg responds to the latest nagger from David Neiwert — longtime barnacle and blogger for the unrivaled shake-down operation, the Southern Poverty Law Center — who lives to disassociate down-and-dirty fascism from its lefty-loving economics. From the Corner post:

If all Neiwert wanted to do was argue that Fascism in Europe was about blood and soil, violence, nationalism, and racial purity, I would still argue he’s being too simplistic. But simplistic isn’t necessarily synonymous with untrue or indefensible. But part of my argument was that the ideas that led to Italian Fascism and, to a lesser extent Nazi Fascism, were in the air across the west. American progressives and many British socialists cared far, far, far more about biological and racial purity than the pre-1938 Italian fascists ever did. Notions of the glory of military struggle can be found in the rhetoric of the war-minded Teddy Roosevelt and the pacifist author of the Moral Equivalent of War William James (whom Mussolini claimed as a major influence). The nationalization and militarization of politics and society was a dream of countless progressives and found its apotheosis in the goon squads of the American Protective League and, later, in the industrial armies of Hugh Johnson’s Blue Eagle.

Neiwert cannot countenance, never mind rebut, any of these facts – including the widespread admiration of Mussolini by American and British intellectuals in the 1920s and early 1930s (the title of my book comes from a speech by H.G. Wells calling for Western “liberals” to become Liberal fascists or “Enlightened Nazis”). This is because his definition of Fascism must indict American conservatives — and only American conservatives. (Note: I am not a fan of Dinesh D’Souza’s effort to take my argument and twist it into the kind of indictment of liberals Neiwert levels at conservatives or that I was accused of doing.)

As for “economics” always being an “afterthought” in Fascism, this would have been a shock to the fascists and to their admirers around the world. Read the Nazi Party platform of 1920; about half of the planks are about economics. Without the economic turmoil in Weimar, the Nazi party — with its incessant calls to destroy capitalism — would not have found any purchase.

7. To hell with “ze” and “zir” — Graham Hillard says conservatives need to say ixnay to the demands of transgender ideologues. He and she rule! From his essay:

The United States is now half a decade into the “transgender moment” declared by The Atlantic and other media outlets in the months before and after Obergefell v. Hodges settled the anterior matter of same-sex marriage. Yet unlike the gay-rights movement, which pursued judicial victories and cultural legitimacy with equal fervor, the struggle for transgender equality has thus far been fought largely in the court of public opinion, the occasional executive or jurisprudential expansion of existing anti-discrimination provisions notwithstanding. To the extent that the average American engages with transgender issues at all, he or she is more likely to do so emotionally or intellectually than legally, facing pressure from social norms and the informal demands of etiquette rather than the written requirements of the state.

Certainly this could change. The New York City Commission on Human Rights’ various guidelines regarding gender expression and employment provide an example of how it might, as do the handful of school-bathroom cases making their way through the courts. Yet so pronounced has been the transgender movement’s influence on the American mind that further alteration of the nation’s laws hardly seems necessary. On the subjects of identity and the nature of gender, the sexual avant-garde is steadily gaining the field. On the question of language, their battle may already be won.

8. A big judicial upset happened in Wisconsin, where the wildly outspent, vilified conservative Christian (bigot!!) Republican Brian Hagedorn beat liberal icon Lisa Neubauer in the open-seat race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The victory solidifies the conservative majority. John McCormack has the skinny.

RELATED: More context on the race, and the leftist onslaught against Hagedorn, comes from David French. From his piece:

The headlines were brutal. On February 14, one in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Hagedorn had founded a Christian school that “allows bans on teachers, students, and parents in gay relationships.” In other words, his school — like thousands of other Christian schools — banned sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Its statement of faith included the entirely orthodox declaration that “Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes the only normative pattern of sexual relations for men and women, such that marriage ultimately serves as a type of the union between Christ and his church.”

On February 20, another Journal Sentinal headline contended that Hagedorn had been paid $3,000 for “speeches to legal organization dubbed hate group.” The “hate group” was my former employer, the Alliance Defending Freedom. And who “dubbed” it hateful? The discredited and scandal-ridden Southern Poverty Law Center.

9. If you’re not Orthodox, the Putin Regime ain’t loving you, especially in the Eastern Ukraine. Doug Bandow reports on how religious freedom is under attack in Russia, aided and abetted by Orthodox Church leaders in Moscow. From his article:

However, persecution merged with politics even more brutally in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow backed local separatists. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom rated Russia a tier-1 persecutor, warranting treatment as a “country of particular concern.” Reported the USCIRF: “Russia represents a unique case,” being “the sole state to have not only continually intensified its repression of religious freedom since the USCIRF commenced monitoring it, but also to have expanded its repressive policies to the territory of a neighboring state, by means of military invasion and occupation. Those policies, ranging from administrative harassment to arbitrary imprisonment to extrajudicial killing, are implemented in a fashion that is systematic, ongoing, and egregious.”

Many have suffered, in Russia generally, in Chechnya and Dagestan, and in Crimea. The USCIRF explained that “the Russian government views independent religious activity as a major threat to social and political stability, an approach inherited from the Soviet period.” Groups must register; the government can regulate their activities; at the instigation of the Orthodox Church, the state treats blasphemy as a crime; evangelism and worship by disfavored groups are treated as extremism and terrorism; and “religious groups not affiliated with state-controlled organizations are treated with suspicion.” The government, now nationalist rather than Communist, treats the Orthodox Church as a de facto state church.

10. The birthday of Cesar Chavez is de facto Mexican-American Day in the US, and also noted as Border Control Day because — didja know? — that CC was, per Mark Krikorian, “a fierce defender of America’s borders as a means of helping struggling American workers better themselves.” From his commentary:

A useful window into Chavez’s views on border control comes from a speech he delivered almost exactly 40 years ago at the National Press Club in Washington. The speech came in the midst of a strike against lettuce farmers by Chavez’s United Farm Workers union, and the core of Chavez’s complaint was that the federal government was refusing to enforce immigration laws, thus siding with the farmers against the workers.

Many labor unions perfectly embody Eric Hoffer’s observation that “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” But in this case, as in others, there’s a reason the movement got started in the first place. Farmworkers are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation given the nature of their workplace, and they’re not covered by many of the legal protections enjoyed by other workers.

In the specific case Chavez was addressing, he claimed that over an eight-and-a-half-year period, post-inflation hourly pay for lettuce-pickers had increased a total of less than 8 percent, while those working piece-rate were actually getting paid less in 1979 than they had been in 1970. All this while, Chavez claimed, the lettuce farmers’ earnings had increased far more than inflation. As Chavez told the National Press Club, “we couldn’t live with what we were getting paid.”

11. As Jon Riches reports, there’s an important case before the Supreme Court — Kisor v. Wilkie — that could upend the current precedent that empowers bureaucrats to be the judge and jury when it comes to interpreting regulations. From his piece:

One of the most offensive of these doctrines is known as Seminole Rock or Auer deference, after the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that memorialized them. These cases stand for the proposition that when an administrative agency interprets its own regulation, reviewing courts must give “controlling weight” to the agency’s interpretation, unless it is plainly erroneous.

The issue before the Court in the Kisor case is whether courts should dispense with these doctrines at the federal level — and with the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch, there is a strong likelihood the Court will do precisely that. This is wonderful news for those who believe in the rule of law and due process, as well as for those who have fallen under the extraordinary power of regulatory enforcement action.

Not so encouraging, however, is that 36 states have adopted some form of deference doctrine when interpreting legal questions involving state administrative agencies. So even if the Supreme Court gets it right in Kisor, state courts may still defer to regulators. Some state supreme courts, including Wisconsin’s and Mississippi’s, have reversed these doctrines in recent years. But state legislatures can also work to restore due process. Because most states model their administrative procedures acts on the federal version, a simple amendment to these laws can eliminate deference in the states.

12. Once upon a time, people took pen in hand and wrote long letters (on paper!) to others. Sarah Schutte is the apostle for the ancient custom, calling (beautifully) for its rebirth. From her gorgeous piece:

After finding the appropriate pen, you realize that pens imply the act of handwriting — a touchy subject for many. Before you complain about your illegible scribble, though, remember: Letters take time, concentration, and forethought for a reason. The less you care about your handwriting, the less legible it will be. Handwriting gives you time to form your prose, strengthening it and refining it as you move from one sentence to the next, varying the pace, playing with tone, and doodling. Yes, doodling is an undeniable part of handwriting, and it helps with the next reason for why letter writing is deeply important.

To write a letter is to tell a story, to share some of our life with someone dear to us. It is the story of those important and mundane events that shape our everyday lives. Letters take forethought and concentration because they are a process, a kind of reflection. Because of the travel time and response time, weeks can pass between letters, and these weeks are full. Claim to lead an uninteresting life? Think again. Stories surround you, and it all depends on the perspective you take. Too much to write about? Choose the most important events and, in reflecting on those, you may discover some smaller and more important ones hiding in plain sight. And those doodles? Well, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

13. About time a little WJ attention was directed to Brian Allen — who pens a weekly art column for NRO. Mea maxima culpa. This week past he talked up the Toledo (Ohio, not Spain) Museum of Art show on Frans Hal, the 17th-century painter whose show-focused works are about families. Get the paper towels and sponges: Everything here seems . . . juicy. From the review:

I love Hals for his brio. He takes what were likely dour, hard-working Dutch businessmen and their dowdy wives and invests them with joy, warmth, even a touch of abandon. They’re mobile, breathing, and agile. They’re sometimes forbidding, but usually they’re huggers and kissers, and looking at them makes me think of good food and music. I’m always drawn to what I call “zafdig,” or juicy painting, in part because I learned about art at a museum with plenty of Renoirs and Sargents.

Hals is a zafdig painter and distinguished himself from many other Dutch artists in his style and in his preference for portraits. When the Nazis started bombing London in 1939, George VI wanted his bomb shelter decorated with paintings of cows at pasture by Aelbert Cuyp, also Dutch and Hals’s contemporary. If I were George VI, Cuyp, like plenty of Dutch art, would have bored me into stupefaction, if not outright submission to the Germans. Hals makes for joy. His work is a metaphor for life and promise.

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. There is a new documentary out, The Brink, about sloven-meister Steve Bannon (who has lied about Your Humble Correspondent!), and Kyle Smith has seen it and finds the subject indeed on the brink . . . of irrelevance. From the beginning of the review:

Steve Bannon is talking about Birkenau. Auschwitz, you see, was a bit jury-rigged but, ah, Birkenau. Real pros did that one. “Oh my God, it’s precision engineering to the nth degree,” he says, “by Mercedes and Krupp and Hugo Boss. It is an institutionalized industrial compound for mass murder.” It’s the look in his eye that’s striking as he says these words. He doesn’t look sorrowful. There’s a glint of wonder there. He talks about all the boring bureaucracy, all the meetings and coffee cups, all the otherwise rational people involved in building Satan’s playground, how they all distanced themselves from “the moral horror of it.”

I don’t know in what context Bannon started musing along these lines, and I’m not sure I want to know. His Holocaust remarks come at the outset of The Brink, director Alison Klayman’s cinema-vérité look at Bannon’s rough ride since he was first ousted from President Trump’s White House and then separated from the Breitbart site and his major financial backers, the Mercer family. Later in the movie Bannon is inviting reporters over to his townhouse to watch what he calls a “propaganda” movie about Trumpism, and he lightheartedly asks, “What would Leni Riefenstahl do?” Bannon seems to think he offers some kind of roguish, politically incorrect charm, but he’s the only one who sees it. If you don’t want to be called far-right or to be accused of playing footsie with fascists, a handy rule of thumb is: Don’t compare yourself to the director of Triumph of the Will.

2. Armond White sees Us and what he’s watching is a freak-show characterization of black American identity. And then there is his take about writer / director Jordan Peele as a charlatan. From the outset of the review:

The title of Toni Morrison’s new essay collection, The Source of Self-Regard, indicates what should be the point of the horror-comedy Us, if Us had a point. Morrison figures out the roots of identity, personal awareness, and artistic ambition. Through 43 compositions mostly about race, reprinted without original dates and bound in a subtly defiant pink jacket, the Nobel prize winner reintroduces herself to the woke generation. Morrison’s examples of belles lettres contradict Jordan Peele’s low-brow Hollywood-backed hucksterism, yet she addresses the generation that Hollywood has learned to control, especially in this moment, when “inclusion” and “diversity” are little more than marketing strategies. How better to sell Black Lives Matter tickets than by calling a movie “Us”? 

The actors who portray the besieged black family in Us were obviously cast for their dark skin tone. Writer-director Peele apparently likes the political horror-comedy frisson of colorism, using Lupita Nyong’o (Patsey in 12 Years a Slave) and Winston Duke (M’Baku in Black Panther) the same way he cast Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out — as ultra-blacks. This nontraditional Hollywood casting is more than counterintuitive; it’s a specious form of authenticity. Peele emphasizes racial difference — taunting it — but without Morrison’s in-depth exploration.

3. Unplanned is proving to be a very powerful film. Kathryn Jean Lopez knows it well and shares its message. From her new column:

I think that’s the power of the new movie Unplanned. It’s the story of a woman and her desire to help women, to have a purpose, to do something good with her life. She believed she was doing that as a volunteer in college and then when she worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. It also hurt the hearts of some of those dearest around her — her parents, her boyfriend who became her husband — who believed that the abortions done at her clinic were the ending of human lives. But they loved her through that intimate, emotional difference of opinion. Love can do that. Love is sacrificial and hopeful and accepts people as they are.

I watched Unplanned thinking of so many of the caricatures we sometimes make people into. With certain words or associations, we jump to conclusions about people, ascribing all kinds of ideas and values and motivations that might not be fair. One opinion voiced, one article tweeted, and we may write off people, un-friend them, dismiss them as nothing short of everything we perceive wrong with the world.

4. More Unplanned: Abby Johnson — whose personal story is the movie’s basis — and Lila Rose explain how it tells the truth about abortion. From the outset of their piece:

Abortion may be one of the most hotly debated topics in America, but it’s a word that not many people can readily — and accurately — define. The abortion industry uses vague terms like “choice,” “autonomy,” “reproductive rights” or “reproductive health,” “essentially a miscarriage,” and “gently emptying the uterus” to cloud the conversation. In a discussion of abortion, we are told to consider only the mother and her choice. The other party is only a “product of conception” or an “undifferentiated mass of uterine matter.”

Equally vague is our language about the way abortions are performed, which we hardly ever hear described in medical terms. That is why the recently released film Unplanned is so important. Seeing the truth about abortion will change people’s minds on the procedure and society’s view of this heinous human-rights abuse. It did for us.

5. Madeleine Kearns watches The Aftermath. Seems like she finds it to be a little better than meh. From her review:

Director James Kent’s new film, The Aftermath — starring Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke, and Alexander Skarsgard — takes one such marriage as its subject. Set in 1946 Germany, it follows the failing union of a British couple, Lewis (Clarke) and Rachel (Knightley) Morgan, and the latter’s adulterous affair with a handsome German widower, Stefan (Skarsgard).

The movie begins with Rachel traveling to Hamburg, where Lewis, a British colonel, is stationed. The two are happy to be reunited, but there is clearly a great deal of unspoken tension between them. Rachel is uneasy in her new home — a stately country manor requisitioned by the British military — and is made all the more so when Lewis allows Stefan and his troubled teenage daughter Freda, who had owned the home before Germany’s defeat, to stay with them. . . .

To be fair, the story it isn’t altogether boring. Generally, the dialogue and characterization are compelling. Knightley skillfully combines vulnerability and passion. When she bursts into tears, we believe her. But the scenes that explore the nature of war — which is perhaps the more interesting theme here — are lagging. It is never made clear, for instance, what it is that Lewis is doing in Hamburg. He may have PTSD from the war, but instead of having it brought to life in flashbacks or otherwise explained, we’re forced to make do with the occasional sidelong reference to his combat experiences. The threat of Freda’s Nazi boyfriend is similarly ill-developed and proves little more than a catalyst for a narrative resolution that otherwise might not have arrived.

6. Kyle is diggin’ Bonnie and Clyde, the new Netflix movie about the repugnant, cowardly thieves who are finally exposed for what they were. From the review:

Retelling Bonnie and Clyde from the point of view of the actual heroes of the story is a superb idea that took far too long to come to screen. Hired by the governor of Texas, “Ma” Ferguson (Kathy Bates), aging ex-Rangers Frank Hamer (Costner) and Maney Gault (Harrelson) are given a special mandate to end a reign of terror that left 13 people dead, yet was celebrated as a romantic tale of sexy desperadoes who were folk heroes to the newspapers of the Great Depression and later easily adapted into symbols of Sixties liberation.

Channeling Hamer’s rage and disgust, The Highwaymen attacks the myth of Bonnie and Clyde, who are seen only in glimpses. Far from robbing banks on behalf of hapless victims of the Depression, the Barrow gang mostly stuck to soft targets such as gas stations and grocery stores. Yet ordinary Americans were enthralled by the rebel legends and are seen concealing information to cover for the killers — though they were cheap, vicious cowards who would do anything for a buck. Governor Ferguson (Kathy Bates) replies to reporters pushing the Robin Hood narrative, “Did Robin Hood ever shoot a gas station attendant in the head for four dollars and a tank of gas?”

John Fusco’s shrewd and meditative script has fun trolling Bonnie and Clyde: The scene in the earlier film in which Bonnie dramatically reads aloud her poem about her life and anticipated death inspires a scene in which Hamer and Gault consider the same poem and note that it’s moronic. “Used to be, you had to have talent to get published. Now you just have to shoot people,” notes Gault. In another scene Gault just about has Clyde in his sights when the bandit’s car is suddenly mobbed by adoring fans.

The Six

1. When it comes to hoaxes, you’ll find the file drawer under “Hate Crimes” to be burgeoning. In Commentary, Wilfred Reilly has the stats and the facts. From his essay:

Our nation is not racked with hate crimes. When people in positions of power or visibility say that it is, they should be rebuked for it. I have done a great deal of research on hate crimes in America, and the tragically underreported fact is that an enormous number of such incidents reported over the past decades turn out to have been hoaxes. While Jussie Smollett’s case transfixed the nation, it is merely the most recent of a long line of politically motivated fake bias crimes. It’s difficult to think of a more compelling task for American scholars than to point out the dangerous lies behind this invented crisis.

My research and analysis of hate-crime hoaxes began informally. When I was a graduate student several years ago, I became interested in two widely reported incidents near my hometown of Chicago. The first was the burning to the ground of a popular gay-owned lounge in inner-suburban Oak Park. The second incident involved students at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where I once applied for an academic job, reporting death threats by apparent hate-group members who put up hangman’s nooses. Strong stuff.

2. At Gatestone Institute, Raymond Ibrahim reports that the UK’s “venomous” Home Office is saying “no” to persecuted Christians and “yes” to Christian persecutors. From his report:

Concerning the asylum process, she said that whenever she responded to her Home Office interviewer, “he was either chuckling or maybe just kind of mocking when he was talking to me. . . . [H]e asked me why Jesus didn’t help you from the Iranian regime or Iranian authorities.”

These two recently exposed cases appear to be symptomatic not only of a breathtaking lack of logic that flies in the face of history ― God obviously did not always save those who believed in Him ― but also what increasing appears to be a venomous Home Office bias against Christians. For instance, when Sister Ban Madleen, a Christian nun in Iraq who had fled the Islamic State, applied to the Home Office to visit her sick sister in Britain, she was denied a visa ― twice. Another report cites a number of other Christian orderlies who were denied visas, including another nun with a PhD in Biblical Theology from Oxford; a nun denied for not having a personal bank account, and a Catholic priest denied for not being married.

3. At The American Conservative, Bill Wirtz, recently canned because he tipped over a sacred cow, considers how deeply biased European media outlets are against conservatives. From his piece:

A bit more than a year ago, I was fired from a public radio broadcaster after I submitted a column criticizing the overblown and overpaid public sector in my home country. Echoing my more recent episode, an editor claimed my statement that the public sector is inefficient was “not factual.” Here as well, I was initially brought in to diversify the range of opinions. On the same taxpayer-funded broadcaster, you can listen to a wide range of left-wing pseudo-intellectuals day in and day out, lambasting global predatory capitalism and recommending the creation of new welfare programs.

Sometimes they do get caught.

German public broadcaster ADR was recently found to have commissioned a framing document by a linguistic expert, in order to find ways to demonize opponents of Germany’s media royalty, which taxes all citizens to fund public broadcasting. The linguist recommended that those who do not want to pay the fee shouldn’t be labeled simply as opponents, but as “questioning the authority of democratic decisions.” She also recommended that ARD portray those opponents as acting “contrary to democracy,” “untrustworthy,” and “disloyal.” Rejecting the media fee should be portrayed as “asking for less democracy.” She even suggested new slogans for ARD: “Others want profits, we want cultural profits,” “TV without censorship for profits,” “excellence instead of profits.” The idea was to demonize both opponents of the licensing fee and private media companies that could replace the functions of public broadcasting.

4. Playing off of Russell Kirk’s The Roots of American Order, Jeff Pollett — in a new essay for Modern Age — compares the five great cities (Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and Philadelphia) that Kirk described as the bases for the success of the American civic project, with five modern cities that are agents of chaos and the engines for uprooting order. From the essay:

Which brings us to our fifth anti-city, and the most inhuman and anti-human of them all, the one that possesses all the vices of the others with none of their virtues: Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley has dedicated itself to the quick buck, to novelty, to constant stimulation and growth, and to the destruction of the relationship between past and future. Its fundamental modes of operation—innovation and piracy—have no aim other than a constant burrowing deeper into people’s lives and minds. Its aim, if it has one, is to turn us into cyborgs, appendages to the gadgets it creates.

Could anyone in Silicon Valley write sensibly about love, about death, about the need for face-to-face communication, or about the rhythms of nature? The answer is decidedly no, and the evidence is in part displayed in an utter hostility to the parameters of existence. In their quest to bypass death, the Siliconians have denied all limits to human being and knowing. All wisdom begins in knowing the limits of our humanness. But the Siliconian revolt is a pressing beyond all limits, and thus a pressing beyond wisdom and beyond that which makes us most human. The transhumanist movement, which believes that consciousness is but a series of algorithms that can be downloaded, is an anti-humanist movement precisely because it seeks to negate the fact that we are embodied creatures, part of the physical world, to which we have obligations and from which we draw our sustenance.

5. The Panam Post publishes an op-ed from lawyer and novelist Emmanuel Rincón, who provides a harsh assessment of Venezuela, then and now. (Hat tip to our friend Alberto de la C