The Weekend Jolt

National Review

The Battle for Free Speech Just Got Intense

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.

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