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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.