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Collusion and Obstruction: Two Different Kinds of Crime

 

If the President had been found guilty of Russian collusion — that is, of participating in a criminal conspiracy with the Russians to undermine our election — then it would have indicated that he was a particular kind of villain. It takes a particular kind of villain to knowingly work with our enemies to subvert the democratic process. That represents a treasonous betrayal of our country.

On the other hand, being oafish and ignorant of the nuances of executive authority in the context of a legal investigation, while it may arguably appear to meet the legal definition for a charge of obstruction of justice, need not suggest that the President is a villain. Rather, it may simply indicate that he is an amateur on matters of law and politics, and that he is accustomed to speaking his mind without considering the unique legal implications of doing so while being the head of federal law enforcement.

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Trump2020: A Response to One Objection

 

One objection to re-electing President Trump in 2020 is that, because he exhibits so many of the personal traits which conservatives have traditionally condemned, his election by Republicans casts the latter as hypocrites and removes character as a dimension on which future Republicans can differentiate their candidates from those of the Democrats.

While I made this argument during the primaries leading up to the 2016 election, I think it is no longer relevant. Republicans have already elected Trump; failing to re-elect him will not in any way redeem Republicans. We live in a hostile, left-leaning media environment, and there is no voice on the left that will speak well of Republicans for rejecting President Trump in 2020. That would require a degree of charity the left is completely unwilling to extend.

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“The ‘Little Way of the Cross’ Is Not the Way of a Little Cross”

 

Those words, lovingly penned by Clare Booth Luce in her description of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, packed a quite a wallop, as did pretty much anything she ever said or wrote. I recalled Ms. Luce’s metaphorical description of St. Thérèse in the aftermath of the fire which consumed a significant portion of Notre Dame Cathedral:

Stooping a dozen times a day quietly, she picked up and carried the splinters of the Cross that strewed her path as they strew ours. And when she had gathered them all up, she had the material of a cross of no inconsiderable weight.

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Sharing the Sacred

 

I’m flying out very early tomorrow morning (my husband calls it the middle of the night!) to fly to the @iwe family for Passover. I want to wish all my Jewish friends a very special celebration for this time commemorating freedom, connection, and holiness. I also want to wish my Christian friends a very blessed Easter celebration.

Although our holidays are different, we all share a love of G-d, a spiritual connection and the joy of living in a country that allows us to worship as we choose. May we all appreciate that which we share together, as well as those things we honor that are uniquely part of our traditions. Blessings all!

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Red-Green Coalition vs. Church [Updated]

 

Stories arising from the fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, France, seem to avoid too much or impute too little. The usual suspects on the left, and the anti-Trump (because somehow this distorts everything) personalities at Fox News and Fox Business News, demanded that we immediately look away and ask no questions. Mind you, they have shown no such standard in any other stories. The usual suspects on the right were similarly rolling outlooks/swims/quacks like” stories. And … both have avoided and obscured the red-green coalition’s full expression.

We can all agree that Shepard Smith, a Trump-hater who launched his brand with his Hurricane Katrina hysterical on-camera performance, and Neil Cavuto, the leading anti-Trump Chamber of Commerce voice on Fox Business, were outrageous in their silencing of the factual reports about the long string of significant vandalism, desecration, and arson attacks on Roman Catholic churches in France. These attacks have been on top of the now routine assaults on Jewish persons and places in France. Smith and Cavuto cut off guests because they want their audiences to hear nothing of either set of facts, except when spun as indicators of “right-wing” violence that can be smeared onto President Trump.

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Why I Left Facebook

 

Four years ago a cartoon contest was held in Garland, Texas. Organizers encouraged contestants to draw political cartoons in response to a terrorist attack by Islamic supremacists on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a Parisian newspaper, in January of 2015, in which a dozen people, including the newspaper’s publishing director Stéphane Charbonnier, were murdered.

This is the winning cartoon, drawn by a fellow named Bosch Fawstin.

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A Grim Reminder: Military Training Death, 17 April 2019 [Updated]

 

A West Virginia National Guard soldier fell to his death in a parachute accident during a military training exercise in Virginia.

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On ‘Saint’ Nipsey Hussle, an Alternative View

 

My most recent contribution over at PJ Media concerns what I believe to be the inordinate adulation shown to slain rapper Nipsey Hussle. Hussle, whose true name was Ermias Asghedom, was shot to death on March 31 outside the clothing store he owned in Los Angeles. Eric Holder (no, not that one) has been arrested and charged with murder in the case.

On April 11, Hussle’s funeral was held before an audience of 21,000 in LA’s Staples Center, making him the second person so honored. (The first was Michael Jackson; make of that what you will.) After the funeral, Hussle’s hearse led a chaotic procession on a 25-mile tour of South Los Angeles, a tour which, as I noted in the piece, scarcely passed a single block that hadn’t been the scene of at least one murder in the last 20 years. LAPD brass called the event a success when only four people were shot (one fatally) and only four police cars were vandalized.

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Is US Innovation Getting Stuck in a Thicket of Patents?

 

If technology is advancing crazy fast, why aren’t those advances showing up in the broader productivity and economic growth numbers? Or as economists Erik Brynjolfsson, Daniel Rock, and Chad Syverson describe this mystery in their 2017 paper “Artificial Intelligence and the Modern Productivity Paradox: A Clash of Expectations and Statistics:” “Systems using artificial intelligence match or surpass human-level performance in more and more domains, leveraging rapid advances in other technologies, and driving soaring stock prices. Yet measured productivity growth has declined by half over the past decade, and real income has stagnated since the late 1990s for a majority of Americans.”

But those researchers remain optimistic. “The breakthroughs of AI technologies already demonstrated are not yet affecting much of the economy, but they portend bigger effects as they diffuse.” And one possible role for policymakers is to remove barriers to the spread of productivity-enhancing technologies when possible. Which brings us to “What Happened to US Business Dynamism?” by Ufuk Akcigit and Sina Ates. From that paper:

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Taking Opioids to Court

 

The use of the term “crisis” in public debates is often just a crude effort to raise social awareness about an issue of limited social importance. Not so with opioids. The term “opioid” refers to a class of drugs that includes illegal substances such as heroin and FDA-approved drugs such as fentanyl, OxyContin, Vicodin, Codeine, and morphine. This broad class of drugs is today in the public eye because of the large number of deaths and injuries that result from their misuse. In 2017, over 47,000 people died from the use of these compounds, and deaths from synthetic opioids have increased 45% since 2016. In 2018, more Americans died from opioid overdoses than were killed in car crashes. Injuries short of fatality were also immense: Perhaps up to 2.4 million people have suffered from substance abuse problems related to all classes of legal and illegal opioids.

Opioid abuse follows multiple paths. In some instances, patients to whom the drugs have been properly prescribed ingest excessive quantities or continue to take them after the period of prescribed medical use has ended. In other cases, persons with no medical conditions take them for recreational purposes. In about 4 to 6 percent of cases, persons who start on legal opioids transition to heroin. Further deaths are attributable to the illicit manufacture of fentanyl, far removed from recognized distribution channels organized and overseen by either private pharmaceutical companies or the FDA.

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Did Bernie Sanders Steal His Wealth?

 

In 2016 and 2017, Bernie Sanders raked in over a million bucks. Last year, his gross income was down to $561, 293 — still not too shabby. The point is not to rib the senator about his membership in the top 1 percent, though that’s tempting. Nor is it to chide him for his relatively paltry charitable donations. His contributions to charity represented only 3.4 percent of his income, it’s true, but compared with some of his competitors in the Democratic field, that was generous. Beto O’Rourke reportedly contributed only one-third of one percent of his 2017 income ($370,412), and he may have underpaid his taxes by $4000 by taking medical deductions in excess of the permitted amount. Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand all gave less than 2 percent of their incomes away. Cory Booker and Pete Buttigieg have yet to release their tax returns, and of course, President Trump is hiding behind a spectral audit (still not complete, three years on?) that in any case would present no legal obstacle to disclosure. Why he is hiding his “beautiful” tax returns is up to the imagination.

The question for Bernie Sanders is: How can you sleep at night knowing that you became rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor?

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Am I the Only One Who Hates Small Talk?

 

Words are both precious and powerful. They can create; they can destroy. We can use them to deepen relationships or damage them. We can use them to comfort or wound. When we engage in small talk, we have the opportunity to do a great deal, or very little. We take for granted our gift to use words.

Let me start by saying I’m an introvert. Talking only interests me when I am with people I appreciate, find interesting or know personally. I can get on a roll if you ask me about a topic I’m especially interested in (and you seem genuinely interested in hearing from me), but otherwise I’d just as soon sit in solitary silence.

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The Absolute Right to Choose Your Own Pronouns

 

I believe both in the right of individuals to express their personal pronoun preferences and in the right of other individuals to ignore them. It’s the same right in each case: the right of freedom of expression and it’s a right I hold dear.

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Make Them Own It: Part 3

 

In the midst of domestic news, the latest turn in the New Zealand mass murder slipped by my radar. It turns out that one of those intersectionality virtuous Muslim clerics, *publicly* blamed the Jews. This was not a fringe figure; he is a prominent leader.

The socialist prime minister was not asked for comment, nor did she find a camera to get in front of and forcefully intone that this was not New Zealander values and a person who expresses such views is not a real New Zealander. After all, the red-green coalition is working according to plan, consolidating state power through the forms of the democracy they are hollowing out.

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ACF Critic Series #28: Never Look Away

 

There is a new Donnersmarck movie, Never Look Away, a brilliant successor to the famous The Lives Of Others, so we are getting the team back together. @FlaggTaylor and Carl Eric Scott join me on the podcast for a long, wide-ranging discussion about art and tyranny, about the relationship between beauty and politics, and what great movies can offer by way of meditation on our search for freedom. Flagg and Carl co-edited the book on Donnersmarck’s marvelous, Oscar-winning debut, The Lives of Others.

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Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

 

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” These are the words of Lord John Dalberg-Acton, an English historian of the 19th century and namesake of the Acton Institute.

Co-founded by Rev. Robert A. Sirico and Kris A. Mauren in 1990 in Grand Rapids, MI, the Acton Institute has a unique mission among free-market think tanks. An ecumenical organization, Acton is dedicated to promoting a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.

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Men and Women: Together in Perfect Harmony?

 

I first heard “Suzanne” on Judy Collins’ 1972 compilation album, Colors of the Day. In my youth, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was especially captured by the beauty of the voices of some songstresses. I remember getting to Judy Collins’ Fifth Album by way of Bob Dylan, whose songs and, shall we say vocal stylings, I appreciated.

[Fair warning, we have a few great recordings to work through here, any one of which may lead you down a rabbit hole. No, hopefully not that one! So, if you are too busy midweek, bookmark this post for your end-of-week wind-down.]

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Twitter Ain’t America

 

An appropriately Twitteresque meme circulated recently on that platform: Write a sad story in just three words. This was an homage to Ernest Hemingway, who, challenged to write a sad story in only six words, grabbed the nearest blank paper and scrawled, “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” Or so the story goes. It’s too good to check. Responses to the three-word challenge ran the gamut from “People trust CNN,” to “Trump elected again.” I suggested, “Twitter represents America.”

It would be a sad story if it were true, but there are many reasons to doubt that Twitter represents anything other than a cacophony of curmudgeons.

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Donald and Melania Trump Are Human, Too

 

With all the turmoil and conflict surrounding the Trump presidency and the Trump family, I have to wonder how Donald and Melania Trump are finding their way through it all. I have no idea what their marriage was like before the Presidency, but the stress must be enormous, especially with the constant attacks launched by the media.

So you can imagine my surprise at seeing a short CNN report while I was working out at my fitness club about the romantic dinners the Trumps have at Mar-a-Lago. I watched the entire piece, waiting for some kind of snark. There wasn’t any.

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Men and Women—Champions All

 

President Trump should promptly and publicly invite the Virginia Cavalier men and the Baylor Lady Bears together to celebrate their NCAA basketball championships. In doing so, he would set the women on the same level as the men. The Baylor Lady Bears are hardly likely to run the “resistance” game, but there will be real pressure on players in Virginia, now dominated by the Swamp, to delegitimize the president. Making it about men treating women as peers in college would confound the left’s messaging.

Two True Champions:

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The Official Buttigieg 2020 Path to the White House: #NeverPence

 

It took me some time to figure out what it is that Pete Buttigieg is doing. The South Bend, IN mayor is having a wonderful presidential run; he’s going to make his official announcement sometime next week. The media and social media are fawning all over him: He’s cool, he’s calm, he’s collected. Obama-esque, you could say. And, he’s got a unique strategy — # NeverPence.

He’s taking the fight directly to Vice President Mike Pence, even though the Vice President didn’t ask for it, didn’t want it and didn’t start it. Well, Buttigieg is a Hoosier and Pence is a Hoosier, so maybe it gets him a lot more play in the state of Indiana. Do you need this play in the state of Indiana? No, that can’t be it (although you never want to take your home state for granted), but what else could explain this conversation that he likes to have now about faith? This line of attack that he, Pete Buttigieg, is a man of faith, and he can’t understand how the Vice President supports a President who is most well-known for paying hush money to an adult film actress.

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Jexodus: Are Jews Leaving the Democrat Party?

 

Finally. The news is coming out that efforts, although small ones, are being made by Jews to break away from the Democrat party. Most of those activities are happening within the Orthodox Jewish community, but they are vocal and excited, wearing MAGA hats and celebrating Donald Trump.

One of those organizations is the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) . The organization has existed since the early 20th century:

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MSNBC’s Chris Hayes: Ilhan Omar ‘One of the Most Consistent Voices For Human Rights In the Middle East’

 

There’s cognitive dissonance, and then there’s… well just one of the craziest takes of the year.

Christopher Loffredo Hayes is the bespectacled MSNBC host whose doppelganger has her own show across the hall. His ratings are so low he’s probably losing to the ShamWow guy’s commercials during deep cable reruns of Alf! His vacant face is the physical definition of the word “inanimate,” his network is in free-fall due to the sobered realization by most viewers they had been lied to for three years. So you can expect MSNBC to react like the dude from Scanners while asserting even more bogus “news” to a dwindling core audience who gobble it up in between PSA’s by David Miscavige telling kids to not become brainwashed unless by the Priests of Xenu. Here’s Hayes recent attempt at going “All In”:

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America Needs More Immigrants – of All Kinds

 

Openness to immigration has helped make America great. And it’s hard to see how less immigration helps keep America great or confront major national challenges. For instance, Baby Boomer aging and retirement mean the US economy is “entering an era in which it will need far more workers than the US-born population can provide” to both “replace them and care for them,” according to AEI scholars Pia Orrenius and Madeline Zavodny in a recent analysis. There is a strong case that we are going to need more low-skilled workers as the economy creates millions more low-skilled jobs. Yet as the chart shows, there’s a long-term and ongoing decline in the number of native workers of the sort that might fill those jobs:

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ACF Critic Series #27: Classical Music and Evil

 

Today, I am joined by Theodore Gioia for a conversation on how classical music became the favored soundtrack for evil, villainous masterminds. What happened to classical music in Hollywood! How did we get from classical music ennobling movies and deepening characterization — to Hannibal Lecter murdering people to Bach’s Goldberg variations! We start from his fine essay over at The American Scholar. You can also find more of his essays over at his site!

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