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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Joe Who? Joe Momma!

Dear Joe-lter,

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

Anyway, there's more on such below.

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


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

Elizabeth ...

April 27 2019


Joe Who? Joe Momma!

Dear Joe-lter,

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

Anyway, there's more on such below.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless Kate Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump's approval ratings wouldn't rocket skyward like Bill Clinton's. But Democrats would suffer the opportunity cost of distracting attention from substantive issues people actually care about, and put their relatively moderate members in an awkward spot.

6. Wesley Smith takes us to the no-longer-fringes of the guano-crazy Left, now occupying some editorial offices at Teen Vogue and National Geographic, and advocating for "Nature Rights" because, after all, rivers are people too. Weeds are people too! From the end of his Corner post:

Rivers, mountains, and forests can't have duties! If the river floods, for example, can it be sued? Ridiculous.

And yes, of course, nary was heard a discouraging word in the entire story. Good grief, National Geographic is as mainstream as it gets.

People keep telling me to chill, that nature-rights advocacy is just so much radical bloviating that will never happen. But it is happening, as I have repeatedly demonstrated.

The encroachment of "nature rights" onto responsible environmentalism is accelerating. It's still not too late to stifle it. But that will require taking the threat seriously. We'd better hurry because I sense that time is growing short.

7. Jonathan Tobin high-fives President Trump for his Iran sanctions, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. From his analysis:

Why did Trump do it? He knows that the sanctions he re-imposed after pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have had a powerful impact on Iran. As the New York Times recently reported, the sanctions, contrary to the predictions of Trump's critics, have had a devastating impact. Among those most feeling the pinch from the austerity imposed by American restrictions on commerce with Iran are the terrorist groups that it funds.

The sanctions, reports the Times, have created an economic crisis for Tehran, causing it to cut down on the money it spends funding both terrorists and the barbarous Assad regime it helped prop up via military intervention in the Syrian civil war. Even Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently conceded that U.S. sanctions have hurt the ability of his Iranian masters to fund his group's misdeeds.

8. The Armenian Genocide also saw the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Greeks, Assyrians, and Syriacs. Marlo Safi urges Americans to learn about what happened and who did it, in service of preserving its bitter memory. From her piece:

My uncle was ten years old when she told him why she'd fled to Syria. She lived in a village in Turkey heavily populated by Armenians, and her life changed in October 1915, when the Ottoman military raided the village while she was in her garden with her two children, aged two and four. She managed to hide herself and the kids, but from hiding she witnessed her husband get struck over the head by the soldiers as they gathered all of the men ages 13 and over in the town square to be publicly beheaded. She fled Turkey, aimlessly running and eventually finding herself in Syria. Her relief was fleeting; the Ottomans captured her and her children in the Syrian desert, and ordered her to renounce Christ and convert to Islam. When she refused, they killed her two children and threw them into the Euphrates. Her only request before she died in 1971 was that the cloth diaper she had held onto as the Ottoman soldier ripped her child from her arms be buried with her.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and Syriacs shared a similar fate, forced to march through Raqqa and Deir Zor, many of them sold as slaves by Kurds and Bedouin Arabs or forced to seek safety with local strangers, both Muslim and Christian. The Euphrates River became a dumping site for the bodies of those who didn't make it through, and there were a lot of them: Between 1914 and 1923, the Ottomans killed 1.5 million Armenians and 1 million Greeks, Assyrians, and Syriacs in an ethnic-cleansing campaign motivated by their desire to de-Christianize and Turkify the empire.

9. Our dear friend, the late Michael Novak, was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize in 1994. His lecture at the award ceremony was brilliant. Now, 25 years later, with the encouragement of his family, NRO is delighted to republish his remarks, titled "In Preparation for the 21st Century, Four Lessons from the 20th." From the beginning of his essay:

As we draw near the close of the 20th century, we owe ourselves a reckoning. This century was history's bloodiest. At a time they didn't choose, and in a way they didn't foresee, more than a hundred million persons in Europe found their lives brutally taken from them. Beyond the war dead, 66 million prisoners perished in the Soviet labor camps. Add the scores of millions dead in Asia, Africa, and the other continents since 1900. Nor is there any guarantee that the 21st century will not be bloodier.

And yet the world has drawn four painful lessons from the ashes of our century. First, even under conditions of nihilism, better than cowardice is fidelity to truth. From fidelity to truth, inner liberty is wrested.

Second, the boast of Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler that dictatorship is more vigorous than "decadent democracy" was empty. It led to concentration camps.

Third, the claim that socialism is morally superior to capitalism, and better for the poor, was also empty. It paved the road to serfdom.

Fourth, vulgar relativism so undermines the culture of liberty that free institutions may not survive the 21st century.

10. As to Biden, Michael Brendan Dougherty asks the obvious question: Why? Given the fact that he must first win a Democratic primary, it's hard to find a plausible answer. From the piece:

Biden is now so aged in politics that he partially belongs to history. And of course, having been around long enough, he was frequently on the wrong side of it. At least by progressive sensibilities. He sponsored the 1994 crime bill, which is deplored as a sop to racist suburbanites and cops rather than a reaction to horrific crime rates. Earlier than that he opposed mandated school busing to create racially integrated schools. Some progressives are thrilled to see Mayor Pete Buttigieg fight the supposedly homophobic Vice President Mike Pence (Pence's great offense is that he previously called Buttigieg a "patriot"). But back in 1973, Biden was asked by gay-rights activists about security clearances for homosexuals. Biden responded that his "gut reaction" was that homosexuals were "security risks." All of these things could be excused in the way Obama's opposition to gay marriage was, as mere concessions to the regnant taboos and politics of the day. But Democrats want to vote for a leader who inspires them, not one who requires contextualization.

The Biden campaign's implicit promise is a return to normalcy. But that is a rebuke to the liberal imagination of history, in which Obama was a welcome rupture with the tradition of 42 white men as U.S. president. And in which the arc of history destines Democrats to make another startling break from the norm. There are qualified women in the Democratic race, aren't there? And women of color. And a gay man. Wouldn't electing one of them do more, symbolically, than electing another handsy old man on the premise that he is adept at coddling a politically fickle white working class? Biden's candidacy is an attempt by Democrats to bargain with Trump's America. Other candidates are promising to cleanse America from what Democrats see as the disgrace or even the sacrilege of Trump's presidency. Democrats don't want to bargain with the devil, they want an exorcist.

11. More on Joe: John McCormack investigates whether the former Senator's mixed voting record on abortion (he was a frequent supporter of bans on federal funding) will hurt him in primaries, considering that some polls show that a third of Democrat voters are "pro-life" and even more claim to be foes of partial-birth and late-term abortion. From his report:

Does that mean Biden is toast in the Democratic primary if he continues to support the Hyde amendment? Not necessarily.

"I think he would be smart to stick with it," Kristen Day of Democrats for Life told National Review in a phone interview after Biden announced his campaign on Thursday morning. "There's a third of the Democratic party that's pro-life. More than that oppose late-term abortions. The pro-abortion vote is going to be split 19 ways or 20 ways. He could differentiate himself with a more reasonable position on this."

Polling backs up Day's description of her party: A recent Marist survey found that 34 percent of Democrats identify as pro-life. And in 2014, Quinnipiac asked voters: "As you may know, in 2013 the House of Representatives approved legislation that would ban virtually all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape and incest that are reported to authorities. Would you support or oppose such legislation?" Among Democrats, 46 percent supported the bill, while 47 percent opposed it. As Biden contemplated a presidential bid in 2015, liberal columnist Michelle Goldberg worried that Biden might sign the bill banning abortions later than 20 weeks after conception, when premature infants are old enough to survive outside the womb. But only three Democratic senators voted for the bill in 2018 (Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana).

12. Kevin Williamson looks at two popular series, Game of Thrones and the post-apocalyptic The Walking Dead. They are not liberal fantasies. From his essay:

The great works of art that appeal to the conservative sensibility rarely if ever are constructed as self-consciously conservative stories — propagandistic literature lends itself more readily to progressive causes, in any case. What Coriolanus tells us about populism and mass politics is not true because it is conservative but conservative because it is true. The relationship between the beautiful and the true helps to explain how it is that so many actual Communists in Hollywood's golden age produced works that were moving, true, often patriotic, often speaking to religious faith, and in many cases profoundly conservative. They weren't out to make something right-wing, but something great.

I doubt very much that either Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead is the product of an overwhelmingly conservative group of storytellers. (From what I can learn of the politics of the writers, that does not seem to be the case.) But both shows are obliged by the nature of their dramatic structures to consider the fundamental questions of politics, and both invite deeply conservative interpretations.

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. Armond White compares the new movie Fast Color to the cover of Beyoncé's new album, Homecoming. As usual, no punches are pulled. From the beginning of the r3eview:

Look at Beyoncé on the cover of her new album, Homecoming: Her manicured fingers with rings on the left hand are holding on to her Afrocentric kufi. To keep it from being blown away by the winds of fashion? Or does she simply have a headache? Beyoncé's latest career move helped me make sense of the movie Fast Color, in which a biracial woman from the Midwest, Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), works through her drug addiction and psychological ordeal and is drawn home to assess her complicated feelings and mysterious, natural gifts.

A government scientist searching to dissect Ruth claims that "this woman can affect the energy of the earth." Ruth's superhero characteristics belong to metaphysical sci-fi: She sees colors in the atmosphere and can "rearrange" the sky, turning clouds into aurora borealis–style rainbows. These metaphors for power are comparable to the cultural effect Beyoncé stirs just by releasing new music — and her command of our cultural institutions when she confoundingly gestures toward politics in a Super Bowl tribute to Black Panther militancy or in her Lemonade album's pandering to the idea of black female agency.

2. Kyle Smith has plenty to say about Mary Magdalene, and especially about Jóaquin Phoenix's performance as Jesus. From the beginning of his review:

Actors love to think they can play anything, but the job of any half-decent filmmaker is to tell them when they're not right for a part. If the Rock wants to play Kurt Cobain, try to talk him out of it. Adam Sandler as King Lear is not a great match. And then there's Joaquin Phoenix. He's playing Jesus Christ in the new film Mary Magdalene.

In certain situations, Phoenix is a capable actor. I believe he would excel as a meth head, or as a self-hating DMV clerk (possibly with a meth problem). He may make a superb Joker. But Joaquin Phoenix as the Prince of Peace? Here's a fact the makers of Mary Magdalene seem unaware of: Jesus Christ attracted people to himself. He caused them to love him, listen to him, want to follow wherever he led. One glance at Joaquin Phoenix being morose and anguished and weirdly sinister and the people of Judea would not have said, "Tell us more, teacher." They would have dialed IX–I–I.

Phoenix's method-actor version of Jesus — picture Ratso Rizzo in the desert — is a shame because he's playing opposite Rooney Mara, one of the finest actresses of her generation. She has a quiet, inwardly-lit self-possession that makes her riveting in nearly every role, and she hauntingly embodies Mary Magdalene as a woman who becomes one of Jesus's followers after undergoing a spiritual crisis that causes a break with her family. She is easily the best element of an otherwise drab film by Garth Davis that falls uneasily between the reverent but overly glossy films about Christ that occasionally appear in theaters before Easter and the revisionist work against which all others are judged, Martin Scorsese's incendiary but brilliant The Last Temptation of Christ.

3. In Avengers: Endgame, Kyle finds an endearing blockbuster. Gets the tissues! From the review:

That somber aura gives Avengers: Endgame its gravitas, but the movie is also funny, rousing, and, above all, endearing. Any blockbuster can stage a fight or a heist; this one makes us care about the people involved. Endgame is chaotic yet fond, something like a class reunion staged on D-Day. The love this 22-film series has nurtured for a cast of oddballs from Groot to Captains America and Marvel, together with their quality consistency, puts them on a higher plane than the Star Wars and James Bond sagas. The crowds in China may line up for the digital effects, but the thundering fights are the least interesting aspect of a Marvel movie, including this one.

Endgame brought tears to my eyes more than once, not out of sadness but out of appreciation for how well these heroes have been written, and how well they've been played. Even Rocket Raccoon and Peter Quill have grown on me, although it took Thor's brilliant mockery of them to do it. There is no post-credits sequence, but each of the principals gets to take a valedictory bow in the credits. It's an unusual and well-deserved honor. What a crew! This might be the most staggering quantity of acting talent and star charisma ever assembled for one movie. I counted 14 Oscar nominees, including six winners, but I may have missed some.

4. Armond volleys: He's not liking Avengers: Endgame. And has a criticism or two of its fans. Break out the asbestos. From his review:

Adults no longer outgrow comic books. Hollywood prefers that they hang on to the adolescent illusion of carefree, escapist pleasure by pretending that the form's juvenile cynicism is a sign of sophistication — replacing the traditional sources of imaginative thinking. The cultural monopoly represented by the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its latest release, Avengers: Endgame, depends on geeked-up viewers telling themselves that they are having a major cultural experience.

By now the various MCU franchises have expanded so unmanageably that this overcrowded, supposedly final convocation offers no storyline in which distinctive conflicts are resolved. Instead, we get just a laughably familiar (but lucrative) pretext: Endgame's several surviving Avenger superheroes huddle in a scrum and devise a time-travel do-over.

Last year's Infinity Wars had worked itself into a narrative corner: killing off most of the major characters for a cliffhanger. The morbidity suggested apocalypse — a comic-book parallel to the Rapture. But nothing so profoundly Christian happens in this anti-mythological jamboree. Infinity Wars triggered faux-tragic fascination. Less urgent than Han Solo's carbon freeze in The Empire Strikes Back, it was more like the "Who Killed J. R.?" narrative cheat on the TV series Dallas. However, been-there-done-that doesn't matter to the Star WarsLord of the Rings generation still caught up in toddler enthusiasm: "Do it again, Daddy!"

5. More Armond, the Happy Version: He's caught the Nuruyev biopic, The White Crow, and likes how the film pirouettes into the hot issue of immigration. From his review:

There is so much patronizing in contemporary immigration film — usually about Africans, as in Grianfranco Rosi's Fire at Sea, or about Central Americans, as in Cary Joji Fukunaga's Sin Nombre — that we have lost sight of the most important principles. The White Crow observes immigration experience through the idiosyncrasy of a famous artist rather than in "humanitarian crisis" platitudes, the meanings of which shift according to whoever is mouthing them.

Because Nureyev's citizen-of-the-world identity is not a political issue, The White Crow avoids the usual sanctimony associated with Western attitudes toward immigration. (Think of those maudlin Statue of Liberty tales that politicians exploit and movies rarely get right – only Jim Sheridan's In America and the first half of Paul Mazursky's Moscow on the Hudson came close to justifying "beautiful mosaic" corniness, and it eventually succumbed to piety.)

As The White Crow's title suggests, its perspective derives from the Russian folk metaphor of "the white crow," which describes an unusual person, an outsider. The film is clear-eyed about immigration because it focuses on a privileged artist's selfishness, the part of his humanity that is inseparable from his ambition and probably inherent to his talent.


1. On the brand-spanking-new episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, David, and MBD cover quite the range of topics, from impeachment to Elizabeth Warren's college loan erasure proposal to the recent condemnation of the famous singer Kate Smith. Listen before the moon comes over the mountain.

The Editors BONUS: In a special episode, Rich and MBD yack about his new book, My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son's Search for Home. You, buy it; and while you're driving to the bookstore, listen to the podcast.

2. On the new episode of The McCarthy Report, Rich and Andy discuss the fights breaking out over the Mueller report, Don McGahn's continued role in the drama, and the upcoming Barr testimony. Listen here.

3. The Radio Free California boys, Will and David, discuss who's supporting school choice in the Golden State. You'd be correct if you are thinking black people, Latinos, and other working-class citizens. Catch the new episode here.

4. Thomas Sowell is the guest on The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg. Doesn't get much better than that now, does it? Hear ya go.

5. Check out the new episode of Ordered Liberty, as David and Alexandra discuss Alexandra's profile of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, detail how criticism isn't "incitement" and disagreement isn't "dehumanizing," and end with a discussion of all the ways the Washington Post is wrong about abortion. Listen here.

6. Kmele Foster joins Scotty and Jefferino to talk up the music of Marvin Gaye on the new episode of Political Beats. You can try to hear it through the grapevine, but I would instead try headphones. Do that here.

7. Big Bad John J. Miller and Hillsdale prof Richard Langworth team up on the new episode of The Great Books to discuss Winston Churchill's classic memoir, My Early Life. Lend an ear here.

8. Then Susan Page joins JJM on The Bookmonger to discuss her bio of Barbara Bush, The Matriarch. Mom says, listen here.

9. On the new Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Charlie and Kevin talk about Kamala Harris and vacations. I had one once, I think. Anyway, you can listen to all the merriment here.

The Six

1. In Standpoint, Michel Gurfinkel, who knows les rues francaises, says a disaster is unfolding thanks in part to the ineptitude of President Macron. His analysis is fascinating. From the beginning of his essay:

Something quite extraordinary — and revealing — occurred in Paris on February 9, in the middle of France's new normal, the Yellow Vests' weekly rampage. According to a pattern established in mid-November last year, and reenacted every Saturday ever since, thousands of demonstrators gathered in the capital and in many other cities throughout the country, chanting slogans against Emmanuel Macron's government, confronting the police, and attempting to storm public buildings. And as had been the case almost routinely for the three previous months, some Yellow Vests, or thugs (casseurs) acting in their shadow, engaged in much more serious depredations. What was, however, special about this Saturday, dubbed by the protesters as their "Act Thirteen", was that one casseur was filmed for about four hours, from 2pm to 6pm, by a hidden police camera team which followed him as he progressed, among the Yellow Vest crowd, from the Latin Quarter to the Eiffel Tower on the Left Bank to Avenue George V on the Right Bank (readers more familiar with London than with Paris should perhaps think of a ramble from Tottenham Court Road via Marble Arch to Sloane Square).

2. Was the Notre Dame fire an accident? Maybe, but a bear does you-know-what in the woods with the frequency of French officials lying. Guy Millierè's analysis for Gatestone Institute is quite troubling. From the report:

If the fire really was an accident, it is almost impossible to explain how it started. Benjamin Mouton, Notre Dame’s former chief architect, explained that the rules were exceptionally strict and that no electric cable or appliance, and no source of heat, could be placed in the attic. He added that an extremely sophisticated alarm system was in place. The company that installed the scaffolding did not use any welding and specialized in this type of work. The fire broke out more than an hour after the workers’ departure and none of them was present. It spread so quickly that the firefighters who rushed to the spot as soon as they could get there were shocked. Remi Fromont, the chief architect of the French Historical Monuments said: "The fire could not start from any element present where it started. A real calorific load is necessary to launch such a disaster."

A long, difficult and complex investigation will be conducted.

The possibility that the fire was the result of arson cannot be dismissed. Barely an hour after the flames began to rise above Notre Dame—at a time when no explanation could be provided by anyone—the French authorities rushed to say that the fire was an "accident" and that "arson has been ruled out." The remarks sounded like all the official statements made by the French government after attacks in France during the last decade.

In November 2015, on the night of the massacre at the Bataclan Theater in Paris, in which jihadists murdered 90 people, the French Department of the Interior said that the government did not know anything, except that a gunfight had occurred. The truth came out only after ISIS claimed responsibility for the slaughter.

In Nice, after the truck-attack in July 2016, the French government insisted for several days that the terrorist who crushed 86 people to death was a "man with a nervous breakdown."

RELATED: In City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple frets about the government's plan to rebuild the great and ancient Cathedral. From his take:

President Macron's speech to the French nation about the fire that destroyed so much of Notre Dame contained a terrible threat: he said that the cathedral would be rebuilt, to be even more beautiful than before. This might seem an innocuous, even laudable aim, but the announcement of Prime Minister Édouard Philippe that a competition would be held to design "a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time" should send a chill down the spine of anyone familiar with the efforts of modern architects in Paris, the effects of which can be seen all around the city.

The monumental public buildings constructed using techniques to meet the challenges of our time include the Centre Pompidou, the Tour Montparnasse, the Opéra Bastille, the Musée du quai Branly, and the new Philharmonie, each one of which would gain at least an honorable mention in a competition for ugliest building in the world. The Bibliothèque nationale de France was largely rehoused using the techniques of our time, which included failure to notice that the damp caused by a low water table and sun shining directly through walls of glass were not very good for fifteenth-century books. As for the post-World War II vernacular, with its curtain walls and ribbon windows, it is universally depressing, a single one of its buildings being able to ruin the harmony of an entire street, and in fact often doing so. In central Paris, modern architecture is vandalism; in the suburbs, it is hell.

3. Scrambled eggs are yummy, but something gets broken. National Affairs publishes Oren Cass's essay in which he, while praising the (prioritized) benefits of trade and open-markets, demands America admit the negative consequences of a "dynamic" economy. From his piece:

Through all these channels, workers can become more productive while consumers can benefit from greater choice, lower prices, and more rapid innovation. Thanks to these effects, the elimination of trade barriers and increase in international trade in the second half of the 20th century produced gains throughout the world, above all in certain developing countries. In the 1960s, less than one-quarter of global economic output traveled across international borders. By 2003, that share had reached half; as of 2015, it stood at nearly 60%.

Yet trade is not without costs. The parties trading almost certainly gain — it is, after all, their choice to make an exchange. If one measured prosperity solely in terms of consumption, this might be the end of the story. Firms and people who once could buy things only on the domestic market now can also buy from the larger international market. What’s not to love? But as Irving Kristol once observed, "Where is it written that the welfare of consumers takes precedence over that of producers?"

From the perspective of worker productivity, the calculus is more complex. In isolation, opening the U.S. market to a global supply of labor could be cause for serious concern. Trade needs to be balanced for the anticipated dynamism to materialize and the net effect on the labor market to be positive. Only if the world buys more from the United States in tandem with the United States buying more from the world will workers not only face greater competition but also enjoy greater opportunity.

That balanced outcome is by no means guaranteed. If trillions of dollars of foreign goods are flowing into the United States, then Americans must send back something in return. But other countries might impose obstacles to American producers selling in their markets and instead acquire U.S. assets like stocks, bonds, and real estate. For instance, what if China sends $50 billion worth of electronics to the United States and we send $50 billion worth of U.S. Treasury bonds back to China? In colloquial terms, China has sent the goods on credit. American production is lower, and government debt is higher. Such an imbalanced exchange is far from the model of prosperity-enhancing free trade taught in economics classes. It is disruptive, yes, but in ways that can reduce opportunities for workers, lower the trajectory of their productivity, and diminish the nation’s real prosperity.

RELATED: Trump administration tariffs on washing machines result in 1,800 new jobs, but each on costs consumers over $800,000. Eric Boehm explains at Reason.

4. Neal Freeman, writing at The American Conservative, makes the case for the movement locating another Frank Meyer, maker of coalitions (and, sadly, not something grown on trees). From his article:

In political terms, Donald Trump is a tidy fellow. When he exits the stage, he will leave behind him no movement and will take with him only the famously skeletal "Trump organization." He will be remembered more for an aura than a legacy: his appeal has never been ideological but attitudinal and is thus non-transferable. (Who knew that there were tens of millions of voters in 2016 so riled that they could be moved to give them the digital salute? You know, them. The power-tipsy bureaucrats, the globalist toffs, the faith shamers, the financial deck-shufflers, the culture arsonists, the lifestyling aborters. Them.) At the end of the Trump run, there will be left standing only a single Trump Republican outside the immediate family. And if he can grin and bear it for another six years, Mike Pence could be that man. The guesstimate here is that, off at the end, he won't be. The working assumption is that the handoff would work only if Trump could say credibly to Pence, as Reagan said to Bush 41, "I never could have done it without you." Trump won't be able to say that. He thinks he could have done it with Steve Doocy.

Ten years ago, I was convinced that what conservatives needed most was another Ronald Reagan—a political leader with the charismatic power to revive and inspirit our movement. Three years ago, after Trump had busted up the old paradigms, I became convinced that what we needed was another William F. Buckley Jr.—a man who could re-weave the tangled strands of our coalitional fabric into a more-or-less coherent political platform. I am now convinced that what we need is another Frank Meyer: a man who can do the hard doctrinal work to fashion a new governing coalition for a new political circumstance.

Meyer, a man seized frequently by libertarian impulse, was able to club two of his more unclubbable colleagues—the majoritarian Willmoore Kendall and the traditionalist Brent Bozell—into joining the fusionist enterprise. It was an historically successful collaboration and produced, ultimately, a governing conservative majority.

5. At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley J. Birzer head-scratches over the claims by some historians to see political parties conceived and acknowledged by The Founders. From his piece:

Second, as much as historians like to simplify the past by giving men and things easy labels, I couldn't help but notice—even as early as high school history—that men such as Washington did not—at least during his presidency—refer to himself as a Federalist. Certainly, during the 1787-1788 debates on the ratification of the Constitution, he did, but "Federalist" even in 1787 was not a political party, but an organized movement struggling to get the American people to accept the Constitution. The "Anti-Federalists" have almost nothing in common with one another except for their fear of an oppressive U.S. Constitution. Their radically varied reasons for opposing the Constitution doomed them from the beginning. As president, Washington not only failed to label his position as a political one, but also actively discouraged the creation of political parties. It must be noted, when he did discourage the creation of parties, he did not discourage the breakup of current political parties. Because none existed. His worries were for the future, not the present. Jump forward several decades, and James Monroe and John Quincy Adams still argue against the creation of political parties—not the breakup of those that exist, but to prevent those that might come into existence.

In 1827, we have the first attempt to create a national political party, the Democratic Party, as witnessed by the letters of its architects, Thomas Hart Benton, Martin Van Buren, and John C. Calhoun. The three men—representing the American West, (Proto-) Wall Street, and southern plantation owners—hoped to use Andrew Jackson as their rallying point and figurehead. Never any man's puppet, Jackson never once referred to himself as a Democrat or a democrat. From his earliest letters to his last, he referred to himself as a [r]epublican. Even during his time in Congress in the late 1790s, he admitted that he liked neither George Washington's nor Thomas Jefferson's politics, though he leaned toward Jefferson's. The very first president to declare himself by his party affiliation was Martin Van Buren in 1837, exactly a half-century after the writing of the U.S. Constitution. From 1837 to the present, I have no doubt that political parties came into existence and continue to exist, but I see very little evidence of anything that we would recognize as political parties before then.

6. At Claremont Review of Books, Jesse Russell reads the re-released Blue: The History of a Color (by French historian Michel Pastoureau), which reveals its symbolic importance over the centuries. Hue are gonna like this! From the review:

Blue was once little-known in the Western palette. Homer's sea was "wine dark"; blue would not be used as water's color until the seventeenth century. It has evolved from its original association with warmth, heat, barbarism, and the creatures of the underworld, to its current association with calm, peace, and reverie. Like the unruly green, the Romans associated blue with the savage Celtae and Germani, who used the woad herb's rich leaves for their blue pigments. These northern barbarians also painted themselves blue before war and religious rituals. The ancient Germans, according to Ovid, even dyed their whitening hair blue.

The Romans, in contrast, preferred the color red—the Latin word, "coloratus" was synonymous with that for red, ruber. The Romans and Greeks did import lapis lazuli, the exquisite blue rock, from exotic locals such as China, Iran, and Afghanistan. But neither used the barbaric blue for important figures or images, saving it for the backgrounds for white and red figures. Even the Greek words for blue, like the names of colors in the Bible, largely were meant to evoke certain states or feelings as opposed to exact visual colors. Blue, like green, was the color of death and barbarism. The nobler colors—white, red, and black—were preferred.

The barbaric tribes that ushered in the Dark Ages after Rome's fall brought their love of woad-extracted blue into the newly formed Germanic kingdoms. But their ascendant Christian kings adopted Roman trappings: blue gave way to red, at least among the upper class, who delegated blue (along with vegetable consumption) to the peasantry. In its first thousand years, the Catholic Church also largely ignored blue, adopting white, a symbol of purity, holiness, and Christ's resurrection, as the color for liturgical worship and dress.


It would be harder to be a worse team than the 1935 Boston Braves. There was one: That distinction belongs to the 1916 Philadelphia As, which a mere two seasons prior were the AL Champs, who lost the 1914 World Series (some claim the As threw it to protest their tight manager/owner Connie Mack) to the "Miracle" Braves.

It was the only World Championship won by the franchise in its Boston years. On the squad was a 22-year-old shortstop, Rabbit Maranville, one of the game's great fielders and a future Hall-of-Famer. More than two decades later, with stints for the Pirates, Cubs, Cardinals, and Robins in between, the Rabbit was ending his career with the same Braves, this time playing second base for a squad that came in so deadly last, sporting a 38–115 record (at different points of the season they had 1–19 and 1–21 runs). Also a teammate: the Bambino. Babe Ruth, age 40 but chubby and busted up, was ending his career with a final fling back in Beantown, where it had all begun for him in 1914. They played in the same game only three times (twice Maranville was a pinch hitter), and on the field together but once: on May 9th at home, in a 5–1 loss to the Cubs. Three weeks later, Ruth called it quits. The Rabbit lasted till the season's final day and then, at 43, he hung up the gloves and spikes for good.

A small highlight in the Braves' epically bad season: outfielder Wally Berger led the NL in home runs (34) and RBIs (130). The Babe had the team's second-most homers: six.


This week the inbox contained no attacks for poor grammar, wrong facts, illiterate logic. But several folks did send sweet communications based on a previous WJ reminiscence about Palm Sunday meals and a sainted grandmother. Karen R emailed the following on Easter. It was received with deep appreciation and a misted eye.

Mr. JF,

Have been enjoying your Weekend Jolt and just caught up on last week’s. Wish I had time to read all the articles. I read yours on Seattle—well-written but what a shame to read of its demise. Haven’t been there in about 10 years, so must have really gone to pot—literally?

Most of all, I loved your reminiscing on your Grandmom. She had to be as wonderful as my Hungarian Nagymom (pronounce nudgemom), who arrived here at 21 by boat and did the whole Ellis Island thing, too. I (too) have such precious memories of wonderful food and wonderful conversations and all the love. How blessed we are to have had such precious souls in our young lives. I miss her so and all those sharing joy with Jesus today in heaven.

Wishing you and yours a most blessed and very happy and relaxing Easter Sunday.

Karen R

Thanks Karen, that was so kind of you to share. Speaking of which: Unless my cousins and siblings convince me I am committing some great crime, I will share one or two of my Grandmother's recipes next week.

A Dios

Please pray for the repose of the souls murdered on Easter in Sri Lanka.

God's blessings and Graces on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

Who is a fat and inviting dart board awaiting your projectiles at jfowler@nationalreview.com.


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