The Weekend Jolt

National Review

The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, Tra La . . .

Dear Jolter,

. . . Bring promise of merry sunshine. And, so goes the song, more promises of a summer of roses and wine. Let’s add hefeweizen too. There are lots of reasons for sunny happiness and celebrating this week, at least at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At 30 Rock, well, not so much. More on the Mueller report and the fallout — along with so many other worthwhile items — can be found below.

Before we get to them, to honor the fact that Opening Day has indeed happened, we’ll tip our baseball cap to a piece by Alexandra DeSanctis, in which she laments the forthcoming rule changes for the National Pastime. During the Seventh-Inning Stretch, read Major League Baseball’s Identity Crisis.

Editorials

1. A good day for race hoaxers is a bad day for America, dragged through a contrived and criminal scandal that thrilled the MSM. Jussie Smollett pays no price, and we share in the outrage. From the beginning of our editorial:

Rarely do we find ourselves nodding vigorously in agreement with Rahm Emanuel or David Axelrod, but both onetime Obama lieutenants expressed needful levels of disbelief and disgust at the surprise outcome of L’Affaire Jussie Smollett. “Hate crimes are loathsome. Faking them is insidious and shouldn’t be excused,” Axelrod wrote on Twitter after the Cook County State’s Attorney dropped all charges against Smollett for faking the supposed January 29 attack on him by a raging pair of Trump supporters. “Despite Smollett’s denials,” Axelrod added, “nothing the prosecutor said in dismissing the case supports that. If prosecutors have evidence that contradicts the indictment THEY brought, they should share it today.” Emanuel, in perhaps his finest public performance ever, called the disposition of the case “a whitewash” and asked “Is there no decency in this man? A grand jury saw the evidence (and) realized this was a hoax — a hoax on the city, a hoax on hate crimes, a hoax on people of good values who actually were empathetic at first. And he used that empathy for only one reason . . . himself.” Axelrod deftly summarized the moral hazard in another tweet: “You can contrive a hate crime, make it a national news, get caught and-if you are a well-connected celebrity-get off for $10K and have your record expunged and files sealed.” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said, “I think this city is still owed an apology” because “at the end of the day, it’s Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax.”

2. The prolonged and unnecessary Mueller investigation would have likelier found a unicorn. It’s over, but the hysteria isn’t. And the meas aren’t culping. There’s plenty to condemn. From our editorial:

It always seemed unlikely, if not outright preposterous, that the Russians would have entrusted a sensitive intelligence operation to the most shambolic general-election campaign in modern memory. There was no reason to collude with the Trump campaign, in any case — the Russians obviously hacked Democrats’ emails, on their own, and then released them via their WikiLeaks cutout, on their own. Nonetheless, even as Mueller indictments and plea deals piled up, with no suggestion of collusion in sight, Trump critics could never give up on the idea.

The media was obsessed, and always implied there was some devastating revelation just over the horizon. MSNBC and CNN took every minor scooplet from outlets such as the Washington Post and the Daily Beast and blew them up into major stories. The press, in its zeal to believe the worst, sometimes published too-good-to-check erroneous reports. Otherwise serious opinion writers accused Trump of being a traitor or perhaps a Russian asset since 1987. John Brennan assured everyone that there was no doubt that there was collusion. Democrats such as Adam Schiff said the same.

It’d be a nice contribution to the public discourse if any of these people admitted they were wrong, but instead they will all move on, looking for the next blockbuster to destroy Trump looming somewhere over the next hill.

3. Kamala Harris has a plan to spend your money — on a major Democrat voting bloc. We think it’s idiotic. From our editorial:

Senator Kamala Harris has proposed a $315 billion program to raise teachers’ salaries by $13,500. There is nothing quite as fine to the worst kind of politician as buying an election with someone else’s money. Given that teachers’ unions are the financial bedrock of Democratic campaigns — together the NEA and the AFT were the third-largest spender in politics, and they donate almost exclusively to Democrats, with most of that money derived from dues deducted from teacher salaries — this is the Democrats voting tax dollars into their own political coffers, world-class logrolling.

That aside, it’s also lousy policy.

Dozens of academic studies over the years have failed to establish any consistent link between changes to teachers’ pay and students’ educational outcomes. The most reasonable interpretation of those data is that teachers’ compensation already is well above whatever hypothetical point it would need to be raised to for educational purposes. But Senator Harris frames this instead as a question of social justice.

Get Ready for April and All the Showers of Multicultural Lunacy that Will Rain on Our Heads by Reading these Baker’s Dozen NRO Water-Resistant Pieces

1. Amen, Andy McCarthy: For what did we need a special prosecutor if in the end he was going to punt on his obligations? A terrific and dead-on analysis by NR’s expert on this entire Blank Show. From his piece:

The most telling revelation in Attorney General William Barr’s letter about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s much-anticipated final report is that Mueller has punted on the main question he pursued for nearly two years of investigation: Did President Trump commit an obstruction offense?

The Barr letter gingerly states that, after making a “thorough factual investigation” into alleged instances of obstruction, Mueller “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.” Since making a prosecutorial judgment was Mueller’s job, that means he defaulted. What did we need him for?

Not only that, but Mueller determined that it would be better for the attorney general to make the prosecutorial judgment. So, for the millionth time, what the hell did we need a special counsel for? If the Justice Department, in Mueller’s judgment, was perfectly well-suited to make the call, how could there possibly have been a conflict so profound that it was necessary to bring in a special counsel in the first place? A special counsel, mind you, who recruited his staff from the Justice Department, transferred the cases he brought to Justice Department components, and, now, has ultimately delegated his decision-making responsibility to the Justice Department.

The lack of a so-called collusion case is no surprise, as I contended in my weekend column. As far as President Trump and his campaign were concerned, there never was a case of the only kind of actionable collusion that would have been of interest to a federal prosecutor: knowing complicity in Russia’s cyber-espionage operation to influence the 2016 campaign.

2. More Mueller. Victor Davis Hanson repeats his excellent and obvious observation: “Had Hillary Clinton just won the 2016 election, there would have been neither a Mueller investigation nor much talk of Russian collusion.” But we had one, with a process that became in part its purpose. From his analysis:

Robert Mueller spent over $30 million and 674 days in vain ferreting out “collusion” not because it was necessarily difficult to prove such a charge either true or false. After all, the basis for the allegation, the veracity of the Steele dossier, could have been easily and quickly adjudicated.

Indeed, already by May 2017 and the beginning of Mueller’s investigation, the dossier was roundly denounced as fraudulent. FISA transcripts of surveilled conversations had already apprised officials that there was no direct evidence of collusion, which is why Peter Strzok, well before Mueller began, had privately warned his paramour and soon to be fellow Mueller team member, Lisa Page, that “there’s no big there there” to the collusion charge.

What explains the cost and length of the Mueller investigation? It’s not the (relatively easy) challenge of adjudicating collusion. It’s the politicized make-up of his team, which relentlessly and expansively drove on to tag any Trump aide with almost any crime imaginable.

Mueller could have saved the nation a great deal of national angst and division had he only insisted on a brief series of special requisites in his personnel selections: 1) None of his lawyers and investigators should have donated either to the Trump or Clinton campaign; 2) there should have been some numerical parity between Democratic and Republican members; 3) attorneys should not in the past have directly defended either the Trump or Clinton Foundation or any aides who had previously worked for Trump or Clinton; 4) they should not have transmitted on government devices any prior hyper-partisan praise or invective concerning either Trump or Clinton.

3. Fallout: The conspiracy-addicted media circles the drain ever more quickly. Kyle Smith hovers over the whirlpool. From his essay:

The media would be wise to express humility, sorrow, and remorse, because that might go some way toward defibrillating their own flatlining reputation. The vast majority of conservatives and a big majority of moderates simply think the media are no more to be trusted than a toddler with Oreo crumbs on his face who vows he has not strayed near the cookie jar.

In the last two years, half of Americans say their trust in the media has decreased, while only 8 percent report increasing trust. By a margin of 69 to 29, Americans agree that the media are more interested in advancing their point of view than reporting all the facts. Three-fifths agree that the media covers matters in order “to delegitimize the views held by President Trump and his supporters.” Sixty percent of independents and 93 percent of Republicans agreed with that last item. The media have become an amen chorus of liberals chanting liberal refrains to liberals. The signature phrase of our moment is Fake News. And the Hindenburg of Fake News just went up in flames.

RELATED: Rich Lowry asks “Why was Trump acting so guilty?” And then answers: “It turns out that he was acting innocent, only in a typically combative, over-the-top Trump fashion.” Read his new column.

4. More Kyle: No one has been more on to Jussie Smollett from the get-go of “the great Subway Sandwich ambush of 2019” than has our insightful culture critic, who lays into the hate-crime hoaxer’s charges being dropped. From his Corner post:

The toxic repercussions of this are quite obvious and have already begun. The prosecution’s action allows Smollett, for his part, to proclaim complete vindication and revert to his story that he was viciously attacked by two guys. The media is now rushing back to Smollett’s side, or to advise us that the whole thing is so mysterious and complex that we should just shut up about it. Ludicrous as Smollett’s account is, damning as the evidence against him is, the likes of CNN’s Brian Stelter are shrugging and saying, “Hey, I guess we’ll never know what happened!” You would have to be very thick to think this, given the changing nature of Smollett’s story and its many far-fetched details. But if Smollett is innocent of fabricating a hoax, why would he submit to even a minimal punishment of, in effect, paying a $10,000 fine? Isn’t he the aggrieved party here? You aren’t supposed to be fined for getting beaten up by two thugs. . . .

It ought to be blindingly obvious to Chicago prosecutors that if a hate-crime hoaxer is allowed to get away with it, this constitutes an engraved invitation to others who might be inclined to paint themselves as victims and bask in the inevitable national-cynosure status while precious police resources get tied up in one of the most dangerous cities in America on the investigation of nonexistent crimes.

5. Whether the parents are flying a helicopter or pushing a snowplow, Michael Brendan Dougherty thinks its time for them to let their kids be free range. From his article:

My childhood neighborhood had silent guardians, the old Italian-American ladies who watched the streets and intervened in the play of children when property or limbs were in danger of being broken. There were also the stay-at-home moms who felt a duty to “our kids,” the kids of the neighborhood, whether they really knew the parents or didn’t. And the kids themselves wanted to be outside, and called each other to come out. Sometimes shouting up to bedrooms, other times calling on the phone, or knocking on the door to ask if I was home and could come out to play. There was a social expectation that kids would be outside and the world had to accommodate them.

That social expectation does not exist where I live. As Sammual Hammond, a researcher for the Niskanan Center, put it to me, there’s been an “enclosure of the parental commons” in our lifetime. For those who don’t remember their AP European History basics: The commons were lands that, well, commoners could use. They could find streams to fish in, or pastures to graze their cattle in, or to cut turf out of its bogs for fuel. The enclosure of the commons entailed kicking the commoners off the land and bringing it under greater commercial control by the owner or lord of the land, usually with massive gains of income for the lord, and the loss of a safety net for many commoners.

Something akin to this is happening to parenthood. The helicopter and snowplow parents with means have withdrawn their children from the street, and often their homes from the “parental commons,” the system of expectations and resources that were held in common by members of a neighborhood that allows it to support its own kids’ socialization without intense supervision and micromanagement.

6. What a phony Andrew Cuomo is on . . . well, pick a subject. But today’s focus is on “affordable housing,” which there is plenty of in New York City, if you are wealthy. As for why the supply-and-demand process has been kneecapped by the Big Windbag in Albany, who claims to be a champion of affordable housing, Kevin Williamson explains. From his analysis:

With that kind of résumé, you’d think that Cuomo would be doing something to make housing in New York more affordable. In fact, he’s doing the opposite.

Turns out that it’s hard to build new housing with no utility connections.

With new residential towers planned for several communities in New York City’s Westchester County suburbs, Con Ed has declared a moratorium on new gas connections. You can thank Andrew Cuomo for that: At the behest of moneyed environmental interests, Cuomo has stood athwart the building of practically any new conventional energy infrastructure, including pipelines for clean-burning natural gas. The Left is opposed to such new infrastructure full stop, part of an ideological crusade against natural gas and other plentiful sources of energy. Without additional pipeline capacity, Con Ed cannot deliver gas to its customers — and, unlike the Cuomo administration, the utility has decided against making promises that it cannot keep.

The Cuomo administration has criticized Con Ed for failing to propose “alternative solutions,” but natural gas is the alternative solution — to heating oil. Natural gas is cheaper and cleaner — if you can get it.

7. Are there Marquess / Marquessa of Kings/Queensbury Rules for Civility in the transgender debate? Language needs to be more Frank (or, Francine?), writes Maddy Kearns. From her piece:

“Presents as female” was the go-to phrase before journalists began describing the anatomy of a trans rapist with words such as “her penis.” When “transsexualism” became a surgical possibility, it was clear that a person who “changed” sex under the knife had undergone physical changes in order to resemble the opposite sex. They hadn’t literally become the opposite sex. Many people made noble efforts to accommodate transsexuals — including linguistic accommodations — for whom life was undoubtedly difficult.

When “transgenderism” first took off, many applied a similar logic. It seemed not only easier but kinder to acknowledge people who had discovered their “true gender” (whatever that meant) according to their preference. On an interpersonal level, it’s nice to be nice. But in the public square — in the realm of debate — assertiveness was and is still needed.

Put it another way. If a Christian and an atheist appeared on a public platform to debate the subject of religion, and they avoided blasphemous language (i.e., denying or disrespecting divine revelation) at all costs, how could the atheist make a convincing case? How could he be frank and forceful if offending his opponent was his primary concern?

Yet in the gender debate . . . the consensus on tact has obviously been exploited. A formerly “courteous” reference to a trans woman as “she” is now supposed to signify the speaker’s acceptance of “her” literal and absolute femaleness.

8. Managed trade, including a U.S.–China agreement that may total an on-paper trillion dollars in purchases, is a lousy idea, says Frank Lavin. Where tariffs rule, free markets are assigned to the clearance rack. From the get-go of his analysis:

If a U.S.–China trade agreement is reached, get ready for an announcement of a Chinese commitment to purchase U.S. goods. The sums could be tantalizing, with figures of up to a trillion dollars mooted. But before any celebration, let me wave a warning flag: I encountered similar proposals for purchase agreements as commerce undersecretary in the George W. Bush administration, and there were sound reasons why these purchase agreements were consistently avoided.

First, they represent not a policy success, but a failure. Since the end of World War II, the United States has fought for a rules-based trading system to allow us to prosper alongside other like-minded participants around the globe. We have supported free-market economics and accepted the outcome as long as the process is fair. Trump’s approach represents a break with this policy; instead of free and fair trade, his goal is managed trade. But managed trade treats the symptoms of global economic malaise rather than the causes. In place of the traditional strategy of working for open, rules-based economies, it reduces the U.S. to using tariff power to hustle other nations.

Second, there are practical objections. There is no universally accepted measurement for these agreements. Are we discussing the posted rate for an item, or the actual sales price — common practice in industries such as aircraft? Are we discussing new purchases, or are we also adding in existing plans and commitments, partially double-counting? Are we looking at sales this year or a longer time-frame? And with products such as automobiles, do the dollar amounts refer to the ex-factory prices, the dealer’s prices, or the retail prices?

9. President Trump has appointed frequent NR writer Stephen Moore to the Fed. If you thought the media had spent all of its hysteria energies, you’d be wrong. John Fund checks out the hair-burning and pearl-clutching. From his piece:

But to Beltway guild members, he is a member of the hated school of supply-side economics, which holds that economic incentives matter a great deal. Supply-siders assert that tax cuts and sound fiscal policy can help boost the U.S. economy out of the economic doldrums it fell into after the recession of 2008. The supply-side tax cuts of the Reagan administration fueled the booming economy of the 1980s. Trump’s tax cuts have helped ignite a surge in jobs and wages accompanied by a stable, strong dollar.

But to Washington’s policy guild, this record is all the more reason to oppose and belittle Moore. Because Moore has been an architect of President Trump’s policies and authored a book called “Trumponomics,” he can’t be expected to maintain the independence of the Fed, his critics say. He has backed Trump’s 2016 campaign call for the establishment of a monetary commission to look under the Fed’s hood. Yet another sin is that he has called for the Fed to follow a “price rule” that tracks oil and other commodities in setting interest rates. In many ways, it would resemble the rule that Fed chairman Paul Volcker used to tame inflation in the Reagan era. The Fed prefers its own measuring system, which has often led to its own mistakes — such as in the run-up to the 2008 recession. The Fed often makes jarring midcourse corrections: Last December, it planned on raising interest rates twice during 2019. On March 20, the Fed decided there would be no interest hikes at all.

Moore’s response: “Keep the rules stable over time, and you’ll have a stable price system.”

Perhaps worst of all in the eyes of Beltway guild members is that Moore would be an “independent” voice challenging the Fed bureaucracy. He has certainly not kowtowed to it in the past, as so many bankers have. “Donald Trump wanted to drain the swamp. The Fed is the swamp,” Moore has said.

10. Kyle Sammin believes there is a conservative case to be made for Puerto Rican statehood. From his argument:

To see how federalism would look if Puerto Rico were admitted as a state, we need only examine our neighbor to the north, Canada.

In most respects, Canadians are just like Americans: a majority-English-speaking, majority-Protestant people living in a collection of former British colonies. The exception to the rule is Quebec. When Canada began the gradual process of securing independence from the United Kingdom, federalism was seen as the only way to unite the English-speaking Protestant provinces with the French-speaking Catholic one. And while the differences between Catholic and Protestant are less important to most people nowadays, the differences between French- and English-speaking Canadians remain and have helped preserve the federal nature of Canada’s union when other centralizing, progressive trends in Canadian politics might have destroyed it.

Even when Canada’s government is to the left of ours, federalism is maintained, with foreign affairs and economic policy mostly handled in Ottawa and cultural and educational matters dealt with at the provincial level. We think of Canada and the U.K. as both having socialized health care, and that’s true. But the two systems are not managed the same way. Britain’s National Health Service is the sort of top-down model that conservatives in this country fear; Canada’s model is managed by the provinces, not unlike our Medicare system. Both systems would probably entail too much government intrusion for most Americans, but the Canadian version offers more local control, and works better, than Britain’s.

11. But to Sammin’s argument, John Hawkins says nada doing. From his rebuttal:

Setting aside how obviously bad it would be for the Republican party to add a new center-Left state that would mostly vote for Democrats in the House, Senate, and White House while occasionally sending a Susan Collins–style Republican to D.C., I think it’s worth asking a question that very seldom seems to be asked in Washington anymore: How would this benefit the American people?

Keep in mind that Puerto Rico is extremely poor. As of 2017, the per capita income there is only slightly than half that of Mississippi, which is the worst-performing state in the U.S. by that measure. Moreover, 50 percent of Puerto Ricans live in poverty. It’s also worth noting that the word “bankruptcy” never appears in Sammin’s column. Yet the territory has been incapable of paying its debt since 2017. Put simply, Puerto Rico is an economic sinkhole. The General Accounting Office has estimated that the added tax burden coming along with statehood would cause enormous job losses and damage the economy of Puerto Rico even further. What benefit would the American people get from adding to the union a bankrupt state with a tanking economy?

Puerto Rico has had difficulty getting back on its feet after Hurricane Maria. While I have no qualms about criticizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Trump administration, it’s hard to believe that the same government that led Puerto Rico into bankruptcy doesn’t bear a large share of the responsibility for the botched recovery. The media love to point the finger of blame at a Republican president in situations like these (see George W. Bush after Katrina), but it doesn’t matter how much aid a government agency provides to a nation if the local government can’t, whether owing to incompetence or for other reasons, help its own people.

12. More KDW: In a great piece explaining the benefits of America’s booming and beneficial natural-gas industry, he delves into a brilliant comparison of the political, godless Left and Christian Right. From his piece:

Here’s a little political inside baseball for you. In spite of all of the breathless nonsense from dress-over-the-head second-raters such as Chris Hedges, the Christian Right has never had the kind of influence inside the Republican party attributed to it by its critics. And, if you’ve ever worked inside conservative activism, you know exactly why: They’ll pray for you, but God Himself has a hard time getting any of His biggest fans to write a check. It’s a different story for the Pagan Left. (Too much, you think? Let’s see: apocalyptic narrative, punitive floods inflicted by an angry somebody, reformist social agenda, obsession with other people’s sinful lifestyles, indulgences for the likes of Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, zany fundamentalists who turn up their noses at science in defense of the scriptures — tell me environmentalism isn’t a quasi-religious movement.) The Pagan Left will write a check, a big honking one, a flood of them — consult Tom Steyer. As a consequence, it has a far bigger cultural and political footprint inside the Democratic party than the issues alone would merit.

And it has declared war on energy infrastructure from gas pipelines to power plants to depots receiving coal for export. If your belief is that the production and consumption of energy is an activity that comes with inevitable environmental consequences that have to be mitigated, then natural gas looks like a win: In nine-tenths of political disputes, the most relevant question is: Compared with what? And natural gas looks pretty good compared with the current alternatives: fossil fuels that pollute more, alternative sources that are more expensive and that require backup from conventional sources, etc. Not to say that something better might not come along: There are some guys down in Houston right now operating a natural-gas facility that releases no emissions at all into the atmosphere.

But not everybody sees this as a question of tradeoffs. Some people have an ideological-bordering-on-metaphysical belief that more energy consumption is bad, full stop, and that what the human race really needs is less: less consumption, less production, less energy — and, preferably, fewer people, too. That isn’t really environmentalism, exactly. (Whose environment?) It’s a different kind of creed. If that’s your thing, it’s a free country, but spare me the lectures about how much you “f*****g love science.”

13. What did Obama know, and when did he know it? In The Corner, Peter Kirsanow wonders aloud about the MSM’s failure to look into why the Russia probe is covered with his fingerprints. From his post:

In the wake of the Mueller report’s completion, Barack Obama continues to stand aloof — a god king exempt from the trifling concerns of mortals.

The mainstream media remain invincibly incurious regarding the former president’s role in the Russia affair. Presumably, underlings in Obama’s national-security apparatus were running about obtaining FISA warrants, leaking, unmasking, and spying on a presidential campaign and transition without the former president’s involvement, let alone direction. He remained oblivious despite Lisa Page’s September 2, 2016 text to Peter Strzok that “potus wants to know everything we’re doing.” Everything? There was a heckuva lot going on.

You’d think that there might be one or two questions for the man who’d assembled one of the most incompetent national-security teams in history. Congressional Democrats maintain that there were Russians behind nearly every tree and shrub in Washington during the 2016 election cycle, yet those charged with protecting the U.S. and its election system against such foreign interference — DNI James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe — seem primarily to have been disturbed about such interference after Trump won. Interestingly, news reports indicate that when the National Security Council’s cybersecurity experts were poised to respond to Russian election meddling, Rice told them to “stand down.” Attorney General Lynch didn’t even give Trump a standard defensive briefing about Russian attempts to infiltrate his campaign. Their nonfeasance and malfeasance are of little concern to the press. Rather, the press seeks out their wise commentary.

Podcastapalooza

1. On the new episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, David, and MBD discuss the many angles of the newly arrived Mueller report, including the media’s reaction, political ramifications, and much more. Thrill your ears, here.

2. Then on The McCarthy Report, Rich and Andy dive deep into the Mueller Opus. You’ve got to pay attention, here.

3. On The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg, our globe-trotting host, fresh from international mystery, forgoes a guest and opts for rank punditry. You’ll find it ear-resistible.

4. More Mueller Timing, courtesy of Ordered Liberty and the analysis of David and Alexandra. Listen here.

5. On the new episode of Radio Free California, David and Will discuss Michael Avenatti’s 14 minutes of fame, state senator John Moorlach’s German-inspired alternative to high-speed rail, the widening education achievement ga,; Senator Kamala Harris’s call for a massive pay hike for public school teachers, and so much more. Catch all the action here.

6. Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments is the topic on the new episode of The Great Books, with host John J. Miller picking the brain of EconTalk’s Russ Roberts. Listen here.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits.

1. Flap your ears all you want pachyderm, but Kyle Smith thinks Dumbo is having trouble getting off the ground. From his review:

The challenge for director Tim Burton in his live-action remake of Dumbo is to go back as far as the original (1941) and re-create its wonders in a low-tech setting. Moreover, the atmosphere of the first movie is a bit low-key for today’s high-strung era of film. The first Dumbo, at only 64 minutes, is a cute fable from the dawn of animated features, when there was something automatically special about them because they offered more soul than cartoon shorts, which were defined by slapstick comedy.

Confronted with an already-thin story, Burton decided to stretch it out, creating a movie that’s neither grand nor a waste of time. His version, starring Danny DeVito and Colin Farrell, pokes gently along without much forward energy or conflict for 75 minutes, at which point it turns frenetic. For the most part Burton is content simply to revel in the heavily digitized, storybook production design, which is as rich and splendid as is usual for his films. For much of the movie, the only unresolved conflict is that Dumbo would quite like to see his mother again, though since he doesn’t speak, this translates on screen only in his sad eyes.

2. Armond White believes S. Craig Zahler’s Dragged Across Concrete is a conservative action movie with spiritual depth. Don’t believe me? What, are you one of my kids?! From the review:

At last, we have an American filmmaker who has experienced Tarantino and got past it. Zahler’s surprisingly felt art is not predicated on movie violence, even though genre violence is his métier. Despite Zahler’s heightened form of crime fantasy, Dragged Across Concrete presents a strangely naturalistic worldview. Instead of imagining how heartless — or “cool” — mankind can be, Zahler looks for hidden virtues in each situation, no matter how bizarre. Ridgeman, Lurasetti, and Slim shift between being foes and allies. Dare I say, Zahler dramatizes what, in classic Westerns and crime films, used to be considered their Americanness.

Most Hollywood movies — post-Tarantino — distract us from viewing American life as a unique experience. Zahler gravitates toward the violent and the outré as comic aspects of American greed and lust. But he doesn’t stop there, as Tarantino does. Zahler’s characters are full of yearning (uncorrupted desire and love). That explains the plot digression about an anxious new mother (Jennifer Carpenter) reentering the workforce. Her fate triggers the heroic rescue action that will determine each man’s familial resolve.

3. Meanwhile, Armond has seen Dumbo too. Was it filmed using an elephant gun? From his review:

Now Disney’s remakes function as attacks on our cultural legacy. Social-justice ideas and politically correct sentiments replace the morals of fantasy tales that we once held in common. Dumbo’s story of a baby pachyderm born with oversize ears to circus elephant Mrs. Jumbo makes for the quintessential Hollywood expression of mother-love, a far more powerful theme than the now-popular notion that tiny yet enormously cuddly Dumbo represents the eternal adolescent outsider. (This snowflake theme is shamelessly repeated in The Greatest Showman, about P. T. Barnum, and just about every “personal” indie film.)

Starved of maternal affection, Dumbo is subjected to ridicule (the circus’s snooty, nattering claque of imperious female elephants are as hostile and mutually intimidating as an Internet mob). The “Baby Mine” song sequence, of the mother elephant embracing and cradling her child, is psychologically astute, but it iconically depicts undulating, biomorphic limbs to symbolize sensual primal emotions — a high point in the art of animation. From there, Dumbo’s story arc leads to the child-protagonist’s self-acceptance rather than society’s evolution. (Disney’s animators tested scenes of Dumbo achieving celebrityhood, including endorsement deals for assorted products, but scrapped them for brevity: The original movie runs an astonishingly satisfying 64 minutes.)

The artistic experience perpetuated by classic Disney films helped filmgoers hold on to fundamental social and spiritual principles. Disney’s omnivorous gnawing and spewing of its timeless inventory desiccates the emotional essence of those films. (Think of The Lion King and Aladdin and Mary Poppins all morphed into Broadway tourist attractions and then live-action reboots.)

The Six

1. Niall Ferguson believes that the history-ended Cold War that supposedly melted a few decades ago has got its Arctic groove on. Alarm bells sound. Or gong. From his essay:

I had been reading too much Henry Kissinger. I should have listened more to Graham Allison, another Harvard-trained veteran of US national security policy. When he told me he was writing a book on the US-China relationship with the title Destined for War, I was incredulous. Chapeau, Graham. You were right.

“When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power,” Allison wrote, “alarm bells should sound: danger ahead. China and the United States are currently on a collision course . . . War between the US and China in the decades ahead is not just possible, but much more likely than currently recognised. Indeed, on the historical record, war is more likely than not.”

Since the publication of Destined for War two years ago, the world has gone his way. It’s as if Allison’s “Thucydides trap” — derived from the ancient Greek historian’s observation that war between Athens and Sparta was inevitable — has a magnetic force, drawing the US and China towards it.

“What made war inevitable,” wrote Thucydides, “was the growth of Athenian power and the fear this caused in Sparta.” In the space of barely a year, Americans have suddenly grown fearful of the growth of Chinese power. What was once the position of a few alarmists is the new orthodoxy in Washington, shared by Republicans and many Democrats, foreign policy wonks and technology nerds. We may not be destined for a hot war, but we certainly are on track for a cold one.

2. In The Daily Signal, old NR colleague and amiga Ericka Andersen finds that spiritual communities — “church plants” — are reaching the unchurched and helping heal some of America’s still-reeling Rust Belt communities. From her piece:

America’s epidemic of despair includes another telltale symptom: a decline in church attendance, civic engagement, and the closing of churches at record rates across the country. Today, at least 100 churches close per week nationwide, and more people across the board identify religiously as “none” more than ever before, according to the Pew Research Center.

Older churches attempting to remain relevant have trouble retaining members and adapting to the needs of their communities. Additionally, 61 percent of pastors report a decline in attendance and 68 percent admit they had no involvement in church planting, which is one of the best ways to reach unchurched Americans who are desperate for outreach.

Here, we’ve reached a bedrock tool for changing the trajectory of the nation: church planting.

It sounds simple, and even boring if you’re unfamiliar, but the proof of concept attached to this growing trend is important. It’s not an experiment, requiring results from a body of research to prove it’s working. The proof is already available: Local church plants are springing up like weeds and meeting people where they are today.

In Indianapolis, Indiana, where I live, a contingent of church leaders intends to plant small churches in each corner of suburbia and down every dirt road bordering a cornfield.

If you think there are too many churches where you live already, you’re wrong. Many old school, traditional churches have long lost appeal to a generation that is drown in despair or that long ago lost interest in “organized religion.”

3. In 2016 in City Journal, our friend Scott Johnson, founder of Power Line, wrote a bracing piece about then-emerging Minnesota political star Ilhan Omar. He reported on her tricky marriage history. From that piece:

As many candidates do, Omar has made her personal background an integral part of her campaign. But neither the candidate nor the reporters who covered her have shown much interest in exploring one aspect of her personal story that recently came to public attention: the fact that she is not legally married to the man she advertises as the husband and the father of her three children. In fact, she is legally married to another man—who may be her brother. A posting on the SomaliSpot discussion board alleged that Omar had married the man touted as her husband in 2002 before marrying her brother for fraudulent purposes in 2009. The post, which seems to have been written by someone from Minneapolis’s Somali community, was quickly deleted. By the time it came to my attention, the post was only available via a Google cache (now also deleted). If the story is true, however, it suggests that Omar had engaged in some kind of dishonest activity in connection with her marriage to her brother (which by itself would be illegal).

I originally checked out the SomaliSpot story online through the Minnesota Official Marriage System. Inputting Omar’s name, I found that the two marriages cited in the discussion board post checked out as indicated. The site reflected Omar’s 2002 marriage to her advertised husband, Ahmed Aden (later Ahmed Hirsi), and her 2009 marriage to Ahmed Nur Said Elmi (identified in the SomaliSpot post as Omar’s brother). A few days after the primary, I submitted written questions to representatives of the Omar campaign, citing the SomaliSpot post, and asking whether Omar’s second marriage had been entered into with her brother for dishonest purposes. That same afternoon, I received a message from Omar’s press contact indicating that the campaign would get back to me later that day. I didn’t hear back from campaign officials directly, but I did receive a response from Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Jean Brandl. It provided no answer to my question, and implied that the question itself evidenced bigotry against Omar and her candidacy for public office.

As they say, Oh Brother! Anyway, as Omar’s prominence continues to prominate, Johnson’s reporting has come under attack in a way that shows just how oily it can be to deal with members of the MSM and their flying monkeys. Check out this Power Line account by Scott on his dealings with a reporter from The New Yorker. And then the high-and-mighty Snopes shows its colors.

4. There was a Privilege-Amockathon at Viterbo University, and Christian Schneider was there for The College Fix to capture the vilification screed. From his piece:

During the panel, called “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” the six participants traded stories about how they have personally experienced white privilege in their lives. (The “Invisible Knapsack” refers to a term coined by feminist Wellesley Professor Peggy McIntosh to describe the tools of “unconscious oppression” whites carry with them at all times.)

Yet while the panel was primarily focused on white privilege, Gostonczik quickly moved on to other types of privilege enjoyed by more fortunate citizens.

She argued “socioeconomic privilege” allows wealthy people access to health care, education, and the ability to take an unpaid internship to better one’s job prospects. If one has socioeconomic privilege, Gostonczik said, their parents likely went to college, meaning they are also expected to do so.

Gostonczik also mentioned those with “Christian privilege,” meaning holidays you celebrate are always recognized, you get days off from work and school, the decorations around campus and town fit your holidays, and you get to hear Christmas music playing in stores and on the radio. Christian privilege means politicians likely share your faith and your views – “anti-abortion laws, for example.”

When discussing “male privilege,” Gostonczik said she had recently heard a story on NPR about how NASA had to cancel an all-female spacewalk because there weren’t enough space suits to fit female astronauts.

“Not a single one of the male-identified astronauts would have a problem walking in space, whereas for female-identified astronauts, one-third of them are not able to walk in space because there’s not a space suit that fits them,” she said.

5. At The University Bookman, Carl Rollyson reviews Zachary Leader’s The Life of Saul Bellow. From his review:

All of Bellow’s later works get their due, with Leader showing how expertly Bellow crafted fiction out of his biography. A case in point is Leader’s treatment of Ravelstein (2002), inspired by Allan Bloom, famous as author of The Closing of the American Mind (1987), a jeremiad against the college curriculum that no longer took the classics seriously and made possible a culture of relativism and permissiveness. The book became a huge best seller with a great send-off by Bellow himself, who associated many of the ideas in the book with his own lamentations about the chaos of contemporary culture in novels like Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1970). Bellow and Bloom taught together at the University of Chicago and evidently became so close that Bloom encouraged Bellow to write about him. Bellow had to decide whether to write a memoir or a novel. That he chose the latter is not surprising, since fiction gave him the freedom to write a book animated by his friend but not slavishly bound to facts in the manner of biography, a genre Bellow distrusted because it distorted truth by hewing too closely to fact. Only fiction provided a broad enough context to capture a figure as protean as Bloom.

The energy of Ravelstein when Bellow was well into his seventies is impressive, but that is not what many critics wanted to discuss. Bloom, a homosexual, had been discreet about his private life and Bellow had outed him, suggesting, as well, that Bloom had died of AIDS. To considerable uproar from Bloom’s friends and other critics, Bellow confessed some regret about exposing his friend. Leader does not take sides, and in this instance, I wish he had done so. However many resemblances are to be found between Ravelstein and Bloom, they are not one and the same, and Bellow—usually not shy about brushing off his detractors—should have said nothing or struck back. Even a biography of Bloom would not have been Bloom. It would have been a book. That people persist in faulting novelists or biographers for offering skewed accounts of their subjects seems ridiculous to me. What life is not askew? The answer to one biography is another biography, as we have it now with Atlas and Leader and the other Bellow biographers that Leader never forgets in his honorable narrative.

6. Francis Sempa, writing in Claremont Review of Books, credits America’s Cold War (the original!) victory to the great James Burnham, one of NR’s founding editors and a great influence on Bill Buckley. From his essay:

Burnham repeated this geopolitical analysis in his Cold War trilogy: The Struggle for the World (1947), The Coming Defeat of Communism (1949), and Containment or Liberation? (1952). In those books and his National Review columns, Burnham outlined the strategy of “liberation” or “rollback” that Ronald Reagan implemented during the 1980s.

Burnham acknowledged that containment was a necessary first step in winning the Cold War, but it was too defensive to achieve victory. U.S. policy, he wrote, should seek to “penetrate the communist fortress” and “reverse the direction of the thrust from the Heartland.” Our policy should “undermine communist power in East Europe, northern Iran, Afghanistan, Manchuria, northern Korea and China.” The Western powers, Burnham argued, should launch a subversive political, economic, cultural, and propaganda offensive against the Soviet Union. Such a strategy would result in putting the Soviets “on the political defensive. . . . The walls of their strategic Eurasian fortress . . . would begin to crumble. The internal Soviet difficulties, economic and social, would be fed a rich medium in which to multiply.”

Moreover, the West had allies within the Soviet Empire. “[T]he smashing of communism,” Burnham wrote, “should be accomplished from within, rather than by a war from the outside.” When the peoples and nations of the Soviet Empire “have rid themselves of their communist masters,” Burnham predicted, “we will find it easy enough to solve the now unanswerable riddle of ‘how to get along with Russia.’”

Two years later (in The Coming Defeat of Communism) Burnham called for a broad and sustained propaganda offensive that would declare that the United States and the West stood against communist totalitarianism, and for individual liberty and institutional restraints on power.

U.S. policy, Burnham argued, should attempt to cultivate allies within the Soviet bloc—the Catholic Church, Muslim populations, political dissidents, and nationalist forces that yearned to break free of the Soviet yoke. He suggested that in “Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, the Roman Catholic community constitutes a powerful Resistance element” that could be used to undermine Soviet rule. This would include covertly supplying weapons and other assistance to any armed resistance forces within the Soviet Empire. Burnham also urged Western policymakers to exploit divisions within the communist movement, supporting, at least temporarily, communist leaders who acted independent of Moscow.

Baseballery

You’d think someone who would have led the league (or, leagues) in batting average more than once, proving they were not pan flashes, would have a lifetime batting average north of the magical threshold of .300. Well, maybe you wouldn’t think that, but Yours Truly does, and has since eons ago, after that day when he came across the record of Ferris Fain, the A’s first baseman who led the AL in batting in 1951 and 1952 (but possessing of such a temper that he was traded the next season). He played his last games for the Indians, having earned a career batting average of .290. Wow, Yours Truly thought.

Who else had Fain’s distinction? A couple of guys. Over his 20-season career, Mickey Vernon led the AL in batting in 1946 and 1953 (both times for the Senators, although he played for the Indians in 1949 and 1950), and hit .286 for his career. His old teammate, Pete Runnels, eventually playing for the Red Sox, led the AL in batting in 1960 and 1962 (he finished second in 1958 and third in 1959). Over his 14 years, his batting average was .291. Runnels’s teammate, Hall-of-Famer Carl Yastrzemski, followed his 1962 feat by leading the AL in batting in 1963, which he repeated in 1967 (when he won the Triple Crown) and 1968 (his .301 that season was the lowest-ever for the Junior Circuit’s primo batsman). But even though he led the league in hitting three times, Yaz (who played for 23 seasons!) chalked up a .286 average.

In the NL, there were four multi-year B.A. leaders who had career averages lower than .300: the Giants’ Barry Bond (in 2002 and 2004), the Dodgers’ Tommy Davis (in 1962 and 1963) — he played for 11 teams over 18 seasons — the Pirates’ Dave Parker (in 1977 and 1978), and the Cardinals’ Willie McGee (in 1985 and 1990). McGee, who began and ended his career in St. Louis, was traded in late August, 1990, to the AL-contending Oakland A’s (who would lose the World Series to the Reds) — but had enough ABs to win the NL batting title. He’s the only person to be recognized as one league’s best hitter while having been traded to the other league.

A Dios

Last week I headlined this missive using the plural of Cracker Jack. It’s singular. Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize. But singular. Mea culpa. Culpas even. That said, don’t be too mean with your April Fools’ pranking. And as ever, pray for your enemies.

God’s Blessings and Graces on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler,

Who receives criticism and corrections of his use of grammar, poor spelling, and the dangling of his participles at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

Hey! You need to come on the National Review 2019 Canada / New England Cruise! Visit www.nrcruise.com for complete information.

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