National Review

FB Aye Aye Aye

Dear WJer,

Well, the New York Times drops a bombshell about FBI-eaucrats launching a counterintelligence investigation of the President. Outcry ensues.

David French thinks this action is prudent and proper. Rich Lowry responds that this is crazy. Separately, in his column, Rich blasts the agency for “trampling norms.” From his piece:

As part of the executive branch, the FBI should brush up on the powers of the chief executive. The president gets to fire subordinate executive-branch officials. He gets to meet with and talk to foreign leaders. He gets to make policy toward foreign nations. Especially important to the current investigation, he gets to say foolish, ill-informed, and destructive things.

If the president wants to tilt toward Russia (not that Trump really has, except in his words), he can. If he wants to butter up China’s dictatorial president during high-stakes trade negotiations, he can. If he wants to announce a precipitous withdrawal from Syria and make it slightly less precipitous in a fog of confusion, he can.

And the FBI should have nothing to say about it.

Then on The Editors, Lowry and David go at it, with spectators Michael Brendan Dougherty and Charlie Cooke joining the fracas. Listen here. You gotta!

And then, Rich and Andy McCarthy shred the FBI investigation on the new episode of The McCarthy Report. Listen here. Yeah, again — you gotta!

Now let’s get to the WJ’s abundant serving of conservative meat and potatoes. But first . . . a commercial!

Houston, We Have a Pro-motion

If you live in the area, or will be in town on Wednesday, January 23, think about attending this terrific NR Institute event featuring NRI fellow Richard Brookhiser discussing his new book, John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court. Rick and his happy audience will be at the St. Regis Houston (1919 Briar Oaks Lane). The shebang kicks off with a reception starting at 5:30 p.m., followed by the program — in which Rick will trace John Marshall’s career through landmark decisions and explain how he transformed the Supreme Court into a central pillar of American life. Then there’s a book signing at 7 p.m.

The cost is $25. Of course, if you are an NRI 1955 Society Member, admission is complimentary (and there is a private dinner afterward). For more information contact Francisco Gonzalez at You can R.S.V.P. here. But do it now.

The Shopping Cart Is Overflowing with Delicious National Review Articles

1. You can’t hear enough that we are a union of different states. Of . . . differences. Kevin Williamson makes the case for federalism. From his piece:

The drive for coast-to-coast conformity and homogeneity in political matters — particularly in cultural matters — is one of the most important drivers of the polarization of our politics. A devout Mormon and an evangelical atheist living next door to each other can be perfectly contented neighbors and friends — unless it is decided that one of their creeds and mode of life must prevail over the other’s and become mandatory. Then, they are enemies.

The value of heterogeneity and authentic diversity is partly moral — freedom is good, and the domination of one man by another is no less evil for being a sometimes necessary evil — but it also touches on a practical argument for federalism that gets less attention than it deserves: risk mitigation.

2. Sit down! Sarah Schutte gets her curmudgeon on about the Standing O for anything and everything. From her piece:

Why do we feel it necessary to stand and clap at the end of every school play, middle-school band concert, and community-theater musical?

Please, parents, lower your pitchforks for a moment and hear me out. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of our children and their accomplishments. It takes time and energy to hone a performance and then courage to stand and present it to an audience of peers and parents. But there needs to be a difference between recognizing that effort and recognizing true excellence.

We should be discerning in our applause and praise, giving it when we see a good job well done. Appropriately selected praise signals appreciation for the time and talent of the performers, but it also encourages them to strive for even better and higher goals. A college friend of mine performed with our school’s talented orchestra for four years, and she remembers one music-theory teacher who attended every orchestra concert. Nearly every show, the audience would leap to its feet at the end, applauding enthusiastically. All except this professor — a very kind and dedicated teacher — who stood to applaud for only one of the ensemble’s performances. That one performance, the professor’s ovation assured them, had been truly excellent.

RELATED: Stubby Kaye tells guys and dolls to sit down. He sings it even.

3. Andy McCarthy considers presidential emergency declarations — at least for border fences — the stuff which one might find in a Constitutional twilight zone. From his analysis:

. . . we are in a constitutional twilight zone: In most situations, Congress should not delegate to the president the unilateral power to declare national emergencies; but Congress cannot unilaterally reclaim this power because the Supreme Court has voided the legislative veto; and the courts do not have express authority to review the president’s declaration of a national emergency because Congress did not give it to the judiciary — Congress kept that authority for itself, but got burned by Chadha.

I continue to hope President Trump is just using the threat of an emergency declaration as a bargaining chip to pressure Democrats into a compromise. The threat has been effective. As our editorial and my post argue, there is a crisis at the southern border. It is largely caused by congressional abdication, and — regardless of whether President Trump declares an emergency and tries to build a section of barrier — the crisis cannot be addressed adequately absent legislation. By merely threatening to declare an emergency, the president highlights the crisis, which keeps pressure on congressional Democrats. The moment the president declared an emergency, the script would flip: The media narrative would be lawlessness in the White House, not peril at the border.

4. A Boy Named Sue: Maddy Kearns looks at NYC’s new law to allow choosing a gender at birth. From the beginning of her piece:

Imagine that a man walks into a courtroom and swears to tell “my truth, the whole of my truth, and nothing but my truth, so help you all.” Imagine your incredulity as, for whatever reason, he gives an outlandishly false testimony. Imagine your dismay as the judge explains that all subsequent evidence and, especially, all cross examination, must support the man’s “truth,” and as he instructs the members of the jury that they, too, must affirm it.

“You be you. Live your truth. And know that New York City will have your back,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told a cheering crowd last year. He was referring to the introduction of a bill — since passed and signed into law — that allows New York City residents to change the sex on their birth certificate to M, F, or, if they like, the gender-neutral X, in order to conform their legal status to their “gender identity.”

Unlike sex, which is an objective and observable fact, “gender identity” — one’s sense of being male, female, or something else — is entirely subjective. It is a feeling. To say so is not to be dismissive or hurtful toward individuals who experience a disconnect between their birth sex and their sense of gender identity (i.e., “gender dysphoria”). It is merely to insist that the purpose of public records, such as birth certificates, is not to affirm or reflect our feelings — however strong or distressing they may be — but to document the truth, rather than your truth or my truth, for practical, legal purposes.

5. More Men Stuff: Even us normal okay guys suffer from “toxic masculinity,” so toxic that our anti-stubble providers feel compelled to blind us with some virtue signaling. Ben Shapiro looks at the new Gillette ad that takes a razor to its customers. From the column:

We’ve maligned masculinity as a society because men are likely to do the greatest harm to others. The vast majority of violent criminality comes from males; the vast majority of sexual misconduct comes from males. But we’ve made a mistake in blaming the presence of males for that issue. It’s a massive mistake to blame “toxic masculinity” rather than recognizing that toxic masculinity is often the result of a dearth of genuine masculinity — the kind of masculinity that leads men to stick around and father their children in the first place. The alternative to masculine presence is no masculine presence — and lack of masculine presence leads to toxic masculinity, deprived men acting out of hurt and anger.

6. Even More Men(tions): Michelle Malkin slaps P&G-owned Gillette’s “Toxic Sanctimony.” From her column:

Like many Silicon Valley giants (hello, Facebook and Twitter) and SJW-hijacked sports enterprises (hello, NFL and ESPN), Gillette is now openly discriminating against its consumers-turned-critics to curry political favor with the Me Too movement. Savvy social-media observers caught the company throttling negative comments and dislikes on its YouTube video. They can manipulate likes and deplatform dissenters. But they won’t be able to disguise the bloodletting effect of toxic sanctimony on their bottom line.

7. And then David French takes the controversy to unload on the persistent cultural attacks on real masculinity. Read his piece here.

8. Alexandra DeSanctis is in D.C., which is more than can be said for some pro-life Republican senators, who miss an important vote on banning federal funding of abortion. From her report:

Four out of the five Republican senators who missed the vote signed on to a letter to President Trump earlier this week, emphasizing the existence of a pro-life majority in the Senate. “Public support for pro-life policies will send a strong signal that attempts by Democrats to alter decades of established, bipartisan policies will be met with resistance and failure,” the letter read in part.

“With pro-life ‘champions’ like these, who needs Planned Parenthood?” a senior Republican aide told National Review.  “This is embarrassing. You can’t call yourself pro-life if you can’t even show up for the vote designed to show that we’ve got a pro-life majority.”

RELATED: As the March for Life starts a-marching, Alexandra explains its selflessness.

9. PETA’s new cause is to browbeat consumers to stop buying Canada Goose coats. Before the fur starts to fly, the group does recommend jacket brands, including those made of synthetics. Which, as Mary Spencer points out, are made from oil, which biodegrade ever-so slowwwwwly, which . . . finds PETA petard-hoisted. From her piece:

It is absurd of PETA to put the brunt of responsibility on consumers with limited options, but this is becoming an increasingly common position for the animal-rights group. PETA has endorsed practices that have much more toxic results than the production of animal-derived goods at a time when warnings about the environment are growing louder.

The process of creating and maintaining synthetic coats takes a toll, the garments themselves remain pollutants for hundreds of years after they are discarded, and when they are washed for everyday use, they shed additional plastic fibers. According to the Guardian, “researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that, on average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each wash.

And using the same coat from year to year will do little less damage. The amount of microfibers that synthetic coats and jackets release into water when washed only increases as the garment age. The same study found that “older jackets shed almost twice as many fibers as new jackets.”

10. Victor Davis Hanson runs down historic, new, and now, new new anti-Semitism, which has found a home in the House Democrat caucus. From his essay:

Soon it became common for self-described black leaders to explain, to amplify, to contextualize, or to be unapologetic about their anti-Semitism, in both highbrow and lowbrow modes: James Baldwin (“Negroes are anti-Semitic because they’re anti-white”), Louis Farrakhan (“When they talk about Farrakhan, call me a hater, you know what they do, call me an anti-Semite. Stop it. I am anti-termite. The Jews don’t like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that’s a great name. Hitler was a very great man”), Jesse Jackson (“Hymietown”), Al Sharpton (“If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house”), and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright (“The Jews ain’t gonna let him [Obama] talk to me”).

Note that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton both ran as Democratic candidates for president. Sharpton officially visited the Obama White House more than 100 times, and Wright was the Obamas’ longtime personal pastor who officiated at the couple’s wedding and the baptism of their daughters and inspired the title of Obama’s second book.

In the past ten years, however, we have seen an emerging new, new anti-Semitism. It is likely to become far more pernicious than both the old-right and new-left versions, because it is not just an insidiously progressive phenomenon. It has also become deeply embedded in popular culture and is now rebranded with acceptable cool among America’s historically ignorant youth. In particular, the new, new bigotry is “intersectional.” It serves as a unifying progressive bond among “marginalized” groups such as young Middle Easterners, Muslims, feminists, blacks, woke celebrities and entertainers, socialists, the “undocumented,” and student activists. Abroad, the new, new bigotry is fueled by British Labourites and anti-Israel EU grandees.

11. Kevin Williamson checks out David Webb’s white privilege. From the piece:

Somehow, we as a culture have managed to forget that ad hominem is a rhetorical fallacy. Which is to say: Relying on the ad hominem mode of argument means that you are stupid, if not generally and categorically stupid then limited-purpose stupid in the context of the debate at hand.

Dennis Prager, relating the story above, mentions that he was denounced — as he must be denounced! — before a college campus speech as a racist, sexist, homophobe, and . . . anti-Semite. Prager is Jewish. He has made opposing anti-Semitism a fundamental part of his public career. The reaction to that news was predictable: “Oops. Well, he’s still a racist, sexist, homophobe . . .”

I’ve heard Charles C. W. Cooke dismissed as a fundamentalist Christian (he’s an atheist) and Guy Benson denounced as a homophobe (he’s gay). I have even heard myself denounced as a sellout self-hating black man (I’m white). We have been the beneficiaries of Voltaire’s prayer: “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.”

12. Jim Geraghty compiles 20 things you might not know about Kamala Harris. Here’s the list, and here’s Number 16:

Starting in 1993, Harris began dating Willie Brown, then the speaker of the California Assembly and later a candidate for mayor of San Francisco — a relationship that brought her in contact with many of the city’s political and financial movers and shakers. Early in 1994, Brown named her as his appointee to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, a job that paid $97,088 a year. Six months later, he named her to the California Medical Assistance Commission, a post which paid $72,000 a year.

Into 1994, press accounts described Harris as Brown’s girlfriend. He was still married, and in his early 60s; she had just turned 30. The relationship had a surprising and tumultuous end, as James Richardson describes in Willie Brown: A Biography:

Columnist Herb Caen all but predicted two days after the election that Brown would wed Kamala Harris, his constant companion throughout the campaign. “Keep an eye on these two,” Caen wrote. No mention was made of what Brown would do about Blanche, to whom he was still married. But the day after Christmas, Brown stunned his friends by announcing that he was breaking up with Kamala. Brown invited Blanche to appear with him on stage for his swearing-in and to hold the Bible. A television reporter from KPIX caught up to Blanche, who had kept a low profile throughout the campaign, and asked her what it was like to live with the future mayor.

“Difficult,” was her one-word answer.

13. Big Jim is on a roll, finding another score of didjaknows about . . . Joe Biden. From that list, here are Numbers Five and Six:

FIVE: Biden cosponsored the 1984 Crime Control Act, which abolished federal parole, reestablished the death penalty, expanded civil asset forfeiture, and increased federal penalties for cultivation, possession, or transfer of marijuana.

In 1991, Biden bragged about the sweeping scope of civil asset forfeiture: “Under our forfeiture statutes, the government can take everything you own. Everything from your car, to your house, to your bank account, not merely what they confiscate in terms of the dollars of the transaction you’ve been caught engaging in. They can take everything!”

SIX: In June 1991, Biden bragged that his legislation would make more crimes eligible for the death penalty than would an alternative offered by the Bush administration and Senator Strom Thurmond: “The Biden crime bill before us calls for the death penalty for 51 offenses. . . . The president’s bill calls for the death penalty on 46 offenses.” He boasted, on final passage of compromise legislation, that it was “the single largest expansion of the federal death penalty in the history of the Congress.”

14. While Alger Hiss’s spindly, bird-watching carcass would be a-moldering in some wormy grave if it hadn’t been cremated, his Commie spirit, and all it meant and still means to so many, is marching on. Kevin Williamson explains why. From his piece:

Bill Scher writing in Politico in June: “Republicans are now having their own Alger Hiss moment. [Maria] Butina’s alleged efforts to ingratiate herself with conservative movement organizations and the Republican Party shows that Russia’s interest in Donald Trump is not an operation focused on one man.” Sebastian Gorka, writing in The Hill in October, compared Brett Kavanaugh’s ordeal to the Hiss-Chambers hearings: “The left has a philosophy: The end justifies the mean. [sic] In the late ‘40s, the end was to protect communist fellow-travelers ensconced inside Washington’s halls of power. Today, it is to prevent a constitutional originalist from becoming an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Not even past.

Hiss still has his apologists, in spite of the Soviet archival evidence of his activities. Hiss is not history because the New Deal is not history: It remains, in its way, the central dispute in American politics. (What does Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez call her fatuous daydream? A “Green New Deal.”) Hiss must be exonerated because the conception of the New Deal must be immaculate. Navasky writes: “The Republican right tried to use Whittaker Chambers’s allegations against Alger Hiss to discredit the entire New Deal.” But the question is larger than that. Navasky continues: “If Alger Hiss, who seemed the model of high-minded idealistic liberalism, was the secret agent of a foreign power, no one was above suspicion.”

15. Local Girl Makes Bad: So the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute withdrew an award to totalitarian hack and former Commie Party VP candidate Angela Davis after her BDS-apologist credentials were out, which in turn caused a pro-Davis backlash and a recognition from the pinheads on the Birmingham City Council. From Jonathan Tobin’s story:

Davis and her defenders have sought to depict her critics as racists. But the idea that a person with a record of support for totalitarianism and consistent anti-Semitism deserves to be honored as a human rights-advocate is an insult not so much to the Jewish community but to genuine civil-rights heroes who fought for justice — and not, like Davis, to defend injustice.

One needn’t re-litigate the history of Communism or her personal role in Black Panther violence to understand that neither Davis nor the liberals who fawned over those who committed violence did nothing to make the United States a better place or to destroy the edifice of institutionalized racism that once prevailed in this country. Similarly, her support for efforts to destroy the one Jewish state on the planet and her cheers for those who shed Jewish blood to advance that despicable cause is antithetical to advocacy for human rights.

16. Mitch Pearlstine makes the case for MBA ladies considering licensed plumbers for future husbands. From the kick-off of his article:

The U.S economy is aching for many more highly skilled, technically trained people. But what if men end up limiting their eventual marriage prospects if they pursue careers in the trades or other jobs that don’t require a four-year degree? Some proportion of women who have bachelor’s and post-baccalaureate degrees avoid romantic involvements with such guys, holding out for those with B.A.s, M.B.A.s, or J.D.s. Which is to say, they seek potential husbands who have degrees that are more generally esteemed than those earned in a year or two. Same with the kinds of training acquired via apprenticeships or in the armed forces.

This is a vital matter because young men who enjoy working with their hands might choose not to pursue careers in construction and manufacturing (among other fields), for fear that women will dismiss them out of hand as life partners.

American economic growth and prosperity are already constrained by our having too few skilled men and women in technical occupations. This problem threatens to grow worse as highly skilled Baby Boomers continue to retire at rapid rates — 10,000 a day, by one estimate — while they are not succeeded by enough younger people who are sufficiently trained.

Brexit, Come What (Theresa) May.

1. The Prime Minister’s Brexit implementation plan got squashed. It’s prompted ten thoughts in the big brain of John O’Sullivan. Here is Thought Number 4, from the article:

Another factor at play here is the confusion that May herself causes by constantly reiterating her absolute determination to achieve Brexit and fulfill the instruction given by the voters in the referendum. That doesn’t deceive the Westminster village, but it has persuaded others that she is a symbol of Brexit at any price. In reality, she is a symbol of subordinating Brexit to the wishes of a Remain establishment and cabinet without seeming to do so. She is thus a cause of confusion and an obstacle to any fruitful change of government and/or Tory policy in response to last night’s defeat. Her rhetoric will probably remain strong, but she will likely be as weak towards the Labour and Tory Remain Ultras like Dominic Grieve as she has been towards the EU negotiators and the establishment. Unless she undergoes a Damascene conversion, she will now open negotiations with Opposition parties and her own Remainer rebels on the next Plan B while ramping up her Brexit language to keep Brexiteers happy and Boris at bay. This kicking the can down the road works until you run out of road, which in this case will be the 29th of March — and that means on present form that she will try to get the EU to agree to a postponement of Brexit. That would keep open a Pandora’s Box of competing alternatives to Brexit that the fixed date was intend to close firmly.

2. Michael Brendan Dougherty looks at May’s loss and sees it as a product of the clash between Parliament’s legal supremacy and the will of the people expressed via the Brexit referendum. From his analysis:

I happen to think rejecting May’s very imperfect deal at this late stage was too risky. A second referendum would be more divisive and politically destructive than the first, and would likely yield the same result: a narrow majority for Leave and a surly Parliament reluctant to carry that out in policy. And failing to deliver on Brexit at all could do irreparable harm to the Tory party and to the government’s democratic legitimacy.

But May, to her credit, is not fooling herself by thinking she can save this deal. She is essentially putting herself in Parliament’s hands and trying to discover what kind of deal can actually command a majority. The going assumption, fed by reports from Germany, is that a delay of Article 50’s ejection of the U.K. from the EU can be had.

But even after such a delay, Parliament may discover that it has no working political majority willing to stand behind any Brexit. Northern Irish ministers don’t want Northern Ireland to be treated differently and may be willing to tolerate the U.K. remaining in the customs union. English Brexiteers despair of being in a customs union if the U.K. loses its ability to shape the rules, thinking it vassalage. The Labour party is led by a not-so-secret Red Brexiteer, Jeremy Corbyn. The overwhelming political lagoon forces Labour to reject every May-negotiated Brexit as ruinous, trying to please their Remain and Leave constituencies at the same time.

3. Maddy Kearns interviews Douglas Murray about Brexit and, on this side of the populist pond, The Donald. Read it here.

4. Kevin Williamson argues that unilateral free trade may be a way for the UK to implement a de facto Brexit. From his piece:

The United Kingdom has the power to write its own trade accord with the European Union — a trade accord consisting of two words: “Yes, please.”

The born-again mercantilists and daft neo-nationalists fundamentally misunderstand trade: The benefits of trade are the imports; the exports are the cost. Contemporary trade skeptics — and American nationalist-populists in the Donald Trump mode are not least among them — get it backward. They hear about “trade deficits” and, misunderstanding that term — it is an intentionally misleading one, after all — believe that our trading partners are somehow getting over on us. Difficult as it is to believe in the particular — that you’ve been victimized by your new Mercedes — it somehow feels plausible as an abstraction: They get $50 billion, and we get only $30 billion. Of course, they get only $30 billion worth of actual goods and services, while we get $50 billion worth.

Unilateral free trade may sound like a radical idea, but other countries have had pretty good luck with it, including one that may be of interest to the English: England. When the English rescinded the Corn Laws in the middle of the 19th century, they did not do so as part of a broad and reciprocal agreement with their grain-producing trade partners, some of whom — the French — they didn’t particularly like. They did it because the sensible English finally came to the sensibly English conclusion that English people would be better off as a whole if there were more food coming from more sources at better prices, even if that diminished the earnings of the relatively small cartel of big landowners who had benefited the most from anti-trade measures. Great Britain in fact grew vastly wealthy while maintaining trade arrangements that paid relatively little attention to reciprocity even in principle. British territories, notably Hong Kong, grew wealthy while following much the same model.

The Six

1. I don’t believe pictures come and then quickly head down a memory hole. They stay (TCM!). And can continue to impact (Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Passion of Joan of Arc), oui? So even though the six-storied The Ballad of Buster Scruggs got the reviewer treatment when it appeared several months back, it’s still game for analysis, and at Law & Liberty, Molly Brigid McGrath gives it her all.

The penultimate story, “The Gal Who Got Rattled,” portrays Alice Longabaugh (Zoe Kazan) as she travels west in a wagon train. When her brother, a failed businessman full of quick certainties and false hopes, dies of cholera, Alice accepts a proposal of marriage from Billy Knapp (Bill Heck). Definitely improvements on the protagonists who came before, Alice and Billy are not motivated by power, mere survival, or money. They share a gentle Christian faith, a sense of justice, and a desire to settle into a farming life, hoping for a meaningful old age with the comfort of family. They share also the conviction that nothing in this life merits certainty. As Billy puts it, echoing “Ozymandias,” “Down the ages, from our remote past, what certainties survive? And yet we hurry to fashion new ones, wanting their comfort.”

Politicians are mocked in this story by the yappy dog “President Pierce,” who has nothing to say yet won’t shut up. The dog’s namesake, the union’s 14th chief executive, is remembered mainly for being ineffectual in a time of need. The story underlines the tragedy that most politics is, despite the rare Lincoln, full of meaningless noise.

Alice, lacking her own certainties, too easily follows others’ leads, precipitating the incongruously ghastly ending of this longest and warmest of the movie’s vignettes. For mortals to live well, they have to try not to be easily rattled — which is to say, they need  some hopeful resolve. While Shelley’s “Ozymandias” despairingly reminds us that all things human pass, Alice’s mistake is despairing too quickly of this life — which foils the story’s promise of a meaningful communal existence. We must navigate between easy conviction and no conviction — between false hope and despair.

2. At the Wall Street Journal, Tanka Varadarajan interviews a bereft but determined Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was murdered last year in the Parkland school shooting, about broader culpability — namely, the school system’s politically correct policies for dealing with emerging threats, like gunman Nikolas Cruz, a.k.a. Prisoner 18-1958. From the piece:

Mr. Runcie and his supporters called their policy “discipline reform.” Violent students had to attend “healing circles,” among other sorts of in-house, nonjudicial remedies. The result, says Mr. Pollack — so agitated that he almost shouts — is that “mentally disturbed students, violent psychopaths like 18-1958, are right there in the classroom with normal students like my daughter, and with teachers who don’t know how to deal with them, since they can’t bring in the cops.” As Mr. Pollack writes in his forthcoming book: “His entire life, 18-1958 was practically screaming, ‘If you ignore me, I could become a mass murderer.’” Parkland, he says, “was the most avoidable mass shooting in American history. 18-1958 was never going to be a model citizen, but it truly took a village to raise him into a school shooter.”

Mr. Pollack describes the Broward County School District as “Ground Zero for a horrible approach to school safety that spread across America.” In January 2014, the Obama administration issued guidelines to the nation’s school boards, directing them to adopt Promise-like policies or risk a federal investigation and loss of funding. The report of the Trump school-safety commission, published Dec. 18, recommends abolishing such programs. “School boards won’t be hounded anymore to put these policies in place,” Mr. Pollack says. “But there’s nothing to stop a board from choosing to adopt Promise.” And Broward County has not abandoned it.

3. Paul Brian writes for The American Conservative about his trip to France, where the “Yellow Vests” are not going away, and even strengthening. From his piece, about observations in Rouen:

The owner of a chocolaterie near Joanne of Arc Church said she doesn’t like when protesters break windows or cause damage, which is hard to clean up and expensive, though she noted that her store has not been damaged. Another man looking at the march, who declined to give his name, said he did not support the yellow vests. “I work,” he said. “They break things.”

Nonetheless, current support for the yellow vests is around 60 percent, according to a poll from Elabe, and plenty of bystanders were more supportive. Ben Les of Rouen said he empathizes with the yellow vests position and does not see their protests ending anytime soon. “They have nothing to lose,” he told TAC.

Antoine Souali, 33, who owns a bar on Rue du Général LeClerc in downtown Rouen, also expressed some support for the yellow vests. “Most people work but at the end of the month they have nothing,” he said. “In France there’s a lot of taxes. We have good social security but the services are declining because the government puts the interest of the rich above the normal people and close hospitals and schools.” Souali added that while he sympathizes with the frustrations of the yellow vests, his bar has had its business negatively affected by the protests.

4. The preening progressive artistes who dictate cultural fashion and taste hate their audiences, says Joel Kotkin at City Journal. From his piece:

As movies and television shows in both the United States and Britain today increasingly adopt the feminist, gay, and racial obsessions of their makers, they have written off a large portion of the less politically “woke” audience. Many of these shows, such as Britain’s venerable Doctor Who, have hemorrhaged viewers since taking on a more preachy, PC aspect. “It’s supposed to be entertainment,” one disgruntled viewer complained. Late-night television, now dominated by stridently anti-Trump comedians, also has seen ratings drop in recent years; no show has close to the number of viewers, let alone the iconic status, enjoyed by the late — and largely apolitical — Johnny Carson.

This trend reflects the loss of contact between creative elites and much of the country. Gone forever is the widely shared culture between the upper-class arbiters of popular taste and an ascending middle class that flourished in the mid-twentieth century. In that era, the yeomanry read both classic and contemporary works, from Ruth Benedict to Saul Bellow, while watching televised Shakespeare plays — one of which, according to Fred Siegel in his Revolt Against the Masses, attracted a remarkable 50 million viewers.

5. At The Imaginative Conservative, Joseph Mussomeli shares life lessons, which include looking at the very individual, and not labels. From his piece:

This mistaking of weakness for goodness dangerously pervades our society. We never seem to discern the difference between those who refuse to do evil and those who simply lack the capacity to commit evil. This explains much of the absurd commentary on the Left which caricatures all immigrants as decent, hard-working, heroic figures. While this is an understandable reaction to the equally absurd notion that all immigrants are rapists, thieves, and murderers, we have a hard time realizing that being poor and vulnerable is not a moral litmus test for decency and integrity. We fall into this trap over and over again, all over the world. In my own experience, the so-called democratic opposition in Cambodia, as well as many would-be reformers in many other countries, are not much better than those in power — except that they lack the power to demonstrate just how bad they would be as rulers. My favorite example of this is the fall from Liberal grace of the Burmese Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. For years I endured listening to my diplomatic colleagues speak of her in soft, reverential tones as if she were another Immaculate Conception. The horror they now feel at the realization that their saintly icon can act in a pragmatically ruthless manner now that she has power should be a cautionary tale not to mistake weakness for goodness.

6. The College Fix’s title suffices: “Transgender activists gearing up to rewrite Harvard Medical School’s curriculum.” From Sarah George’s report:

The new program seeks a broad overhaul of the medical school’s curriculum in order to eliminate “assumptions or errors about sex and gender, such as conflating sexual orientation with gender identity, presuming gender is immutable or treating heterosexuality as a default.”

“The plan encompasses curriculum reform, faculty development, continuous quality assessment and global dissemination, as well as increased efforts to recruit and support students, faculty and staff with interests or experience in [sexual and gender minority] health,” the announcement on Harvard Medical’s website reads.

The College Fix reached out to numerous officials at the medical school for more information on the planned overhaul. Harvard Medical School Dean for Medical Education Edward Hundert did not respond to The Fix’s queries. Faculty members John Dalrymple, Jennifer Potter, Alex Keuroghlian, and Jessica Halem, who are leading the initiative, also failed to respond to queries on the matter. The Fix also asked officials at the school for a copy of the initiative and clarification on which elements of the curriculum are subject to change; the school did not respond.

BONUS: Tim Carney at The American Conservative has a big piece on how ex-Churchgoers (much more so than even the manufacturing abandoned) are a major part of the Trump bloc. From his essay:

And herein lies the best, deepest explanation of “how we got Trump.” Trump’s improbable likeness to a mega-church preacher allowed him to capture the love of a huge swath of the electorate that previously tuned out or voted for Democrats. The people who came to Trump, especially early in the primaries, weren’t really joining the GOP and they weren’t primarily seeking policies. They didn’t even necessarily believe Trump would bring back their jobs. Many of Trump’s earliest and most dedicated supporters were seeking a deeper fulfillment.

They came to Trump seeking what they had lost because they had lost church.

When Trump caught so many political commentators off guard, we looked for an explanation amid the closing factories, but we should have been looking for the closing churches.

And this is a story much bigger than Trump. Trump’s early appeal was his declaration that “the American Dream is dead,” as he put it in his campaign launch. Faith in the American Dream is the weakest where people lack strong religious institutions where they can seek deeper meaning.

Lights. Cameras. Critics.

1. Kyle Smith finds more upside than down in Support the Girls, now doings its thang on Hulu. From the review:

A feminist comedy about Hooters seems to promise the special kind of excruciation that one can normally expect to find only in an extra huffy Jezebel post. Yet Support the Girls, a film that briefly appeared in theaters last August and is now streaming on Hulu, manages to be endearing and sweet. It’s a film about sexual exploitation that understands how taking advantage goes both ways.

Support the Girls, which stars an impressive Regina Hall as the manager of a sports bar called Double Whammies, drolly considers the plight of women playing highly sexualized roles. Lisa, played by Hall, gets to work fully clothed, but her barmaids and waitresses wear half shirts, short shorts, and tall boots as they serve up suds and smiles to a crowd of sports-loving men.

2. Armond White watches The Wife, starring Glenn Close, and see a whiny, pseudo-sophisticated #MeToo melodrama. From his review:

Now, in The Wife, Close plays #MeToo, #TimesUp, and Hillary Clinton. She’s Joan Castleman, a stoic figure of female ambition — so alabaster white that she sometimes resembles a George Washington portrait — who is oppressed by her dishonest, needy husband, Joe (Jonathan Pryce), a novelist who just received the Nobel Prize in Literature. This hilarious, trendy role has put Close on the fast track of the current awards race — part of film-industry mania that is unconcerned with film art and more interested in rewarding topical subjects and politically correct attitudes.

It’s a good opportunity to see how this self-delusion works: From the start, director Björn Runge frequently cuts to Close making Susan Alexander’s “What about me!” grimace. Sure, enough, The Nation praises the characterization as “a woman of many layers and volumes,” showing Joan’s “voicelessness.” This makes The Wife a pseudo-sophisticated melodrama about sexism in the academic and publishing worlds, inspired by post–2016 election resentment. (Joan’s WASP defensiveness evokes Clinton’s comment to NPR about why women, in her view, are disinclined to support female candidates: “I’m talking principally about white women — they will be under tremendous pressure from fathers and husbands and boyfriends and male employers not to vote for ‘the girl.’”)

3. Kyle raves about Never Look Away, the new flick from Germany’s Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (of The Lives of Others fame). From the kick-off of his initial take:

I was about 15 minutes in when I thought, “This is probably a great film.” An hour and a half later I found myself checking my watch frequently, because though I knew the movie was going to run over three hours, I was dreading the ending. I spent the third hour of thinking about what makes a masterpiece and why this one, gloriously, qualifies. It’s about the biggest themes (art, war, love, death), it’s emotionally overwhelming, its dialogue is lapidary, its musical score transporting. It’s one of the best films of the decade.

More Kyle: He likes what he sees in M. Night Shayamalan’s Glass. From the review:

Glass takes place mostly in a mental hospital where the head shrink (Sarah Paulson) has rounded up the three leading figures from the previous two movies. She tells each — Kevin (James McAvoy), David (Bruce Willis), and Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) — that he is suffering from a delusion that he’s either a superhero (David) or a supervillain (the other two). David has become an online sensation known as the Overseer or the Green Guard after the color of his poncho; Kevin’s alter ego, the Beast, has seemingly superhuman strength and agility and joins with the other personalities to form the mighty force called “the Horde.”

The shrink, though, patiently explains that there are plausible explanations for everything each of them has done — Kevin, who was seen scuttling up walls and across ceilings in Split, is simply a practiced rock climber; David isn’t psychic but just really good at reading body language and facial cues — and that the road back to mental health means that they must acknowledge there is nothing supernatural about any of them. Elijah, a.k.a. the evil mastermind Mr. Glass, begs to differ: He thinks comic books are documents of some archetypal truths that lie buried within humanity. I suspect if we explored Mr. Glass’s library we’d find not just DC and Marvel (to both of which Shyamalan includes on-screen allusions) but also Nietzsche and Jung.

4. But Armond wants to shatter Glass (baa dumm dumm tshhh). Well, maybe not shatter. From his review:

Glass is no worse than Shyamalan’s other scams, particularly Split, which mimicked Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs but without comparable compassion or social alarm. Split was simply trite, but in Glass, Shyamalan ups the exploitative ante — adding social collapse to serial-killer-threat and girl-victim dread. Glass repackages Shyamalan’s harebrained gimmicks for the same reviewers and filmgoers who prefer Marvel’s F/X stunts to Zack Snyder’s visionary expression of mankind’s mythological needs. This film’s jail-clinic scenes where the three protagonists are lined up (under observation by psychiatrist Sarah Paulson’s imitation of Jodi Foster’s Clarice Starling) are so banal yet absurd that they seem to parody what kids think is profound about the Marvel franchise.


Here’s a terrific 17-minute film capturing much of Opening Day ceremonies, and clips of the game, at Yankee Stadium in 1934, the Bronx Bombers taking on the Philadelphia As. The home team prevailed, 1-0. The film’s quality is great, as is the sound, and Fiorello La Guardia throws out the first pitch (a couple of times!).

Now a totally unrelated but interesting fact I stumbled over: In his first career game, for the Mets in 1966, rookie Nolan Ryan tossed two measly innings against the Atlanta Braves, and faced three future Hall-of-Famers: Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, and Joe Torre (who tagged him for a homer).

Rest in Peace Mel Stottlemyre, the brought-low Bronx Bombers ace in the late 1960s and early 70s. A workhorse on the mound, but . . . about your bat: There will always be that great summer day in 1965 when you hit an inside-the-park home run at Yankee Stadium to beat the Red Sox.

A Dios

Today my old intern Sara T gets married, and — snow be damned, or darned — Mrs. Yours Truly and I will go, and celebrate. Sara’s a doctor — see what interning pour moi can one day mean for a youth? Mazel tov!

God’s blessings and warmth on you and yours,

Jack Fowler

P.S.: If I am not laying on the driveway clutching my chest with one hand, holding my snow shovel in the other, I will respond to any communication sent to

National Review

(Soylent) Green Energy Plan

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Things religious now behind us (some of us anyway) until Lent deprives us of M&Ms and ice cream, the WJ should start the year with some appropriate institutional bowing, which is accomplished by noting from the get-go El Jefe Rich Lowry’s column on the crazy-pants “Green New Energy” Plan being offered by the new Democrats (i.e., Socialists) in the House, led by toothy economist and bartendress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. From our Editor’s opining:

The Green Energy Plan would take one of the country’s unadulterated policy triumphs of the past 20 years, the revolution in oil and gas drilling, and trash it for no good reason. It would throw hundreds of thousands of employees in this industry out of work. But don’t worry — they could get a federally guaranteed job and perhaps grow fruits and vegetables in their backyards.

The case for the Green Energy Plan is based on the alleged climate crisis being so dire that it must overwhelm all cost-and-benefit analysis. Actually, we have already been making incremental progress in reducing emissions, thanks largely to natural gas, which the Green Energy Plan can’t abide. While global emissions have been increasing since 2005, U.S. emissions have been declining.

Even if we were to kneecap ourselves with the Green Energy Plan, the world’s biggest emitter wouldn’t follow suit. According to research by the green group CoalSwarm, China is now developing as much new coal capacity as currently exists in the U.S.

(RELATED: Jonah Goldberg’s new column calls the Green New Deal “a triumph of recycling” — and not cans.)

It got me thinking about harebrained schemes with an emerald shade, which got me thinking about Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston (his dinner scene with Edward G. Robinson is succulent!), which got me thinking about the famous old NR subscription commercial starring Chuck and Bill Buckley. It most definitely wasn’t Shakespeare, but I wrote Heston’s lines, and hung with him and Ed Capano at the studio, and talked about the LA riots as we rode back to NR’s old offices on 150 East 35th Street. And there he was greeted by a startled research assistant (we’ll call him Paul M) who declared: “Charlton Heston. I loved you in Planet of the Apes.”

OK readers, time to get out of this rabbit hole. Joltio, ergo sum!


1. We reported in the last WJ about how Democrat senators are applying de facto religious tests for Trump judicial nominees who are members of (shudder!) the Knights of Columbus. This week we level a formal editorial condemning the hounding. Here’s how it ends:

The plaques of America’s war memorials are filled with the names of Knights. The first American officer to die in World War I was a Knight. The last officer to die was a Knight (a chaplain). Of all nations’ combatants, the last man to be killed, seconds before the Armistice took effect, was a Knight. President Kennedy was a Knight, and several councils are named in his honor. Numerous other anecdotes can be added here.

But the volume of such tributes, the size of its membership, the number of its councils, the dollars donated, and the hours volunteered, while inspiring, are irrelevant to the religious liberties of Americans. What troubles us is the principle at stake, which strikes at the core of the republic. The senators who have engaged in this decidedly un-American conduct need to apologize to the nominees unjustly treated, to the Knights of Columbus as an institution, and to their constituents for representing them under false pretenses.

2. Yeah, there is indeed a crisis at the border. From the editorial:

More physical barriers are part of the solution. The goal of the migrants is simply to set foot into the United States and then perhaps stay for years or never leave as their asylum claims are adjudicated. It gives us more control if it is harder to cross illegally and they can be made to apply at ports of entry. We saw a real-time example of the usefulness of a barrier when the caravan that arrived late last year in Tijuana was prevented from simply walking into the country by border fencing. The experience in places such as Yuma, Arizona, is that fencing has significantly diminished illegal crossings.

The fence isn’t a panacea, though. Even if Trump gets all the fence he wants in the current showdown, it will take years to build and, at roughly an additional 200 miles, obviously not cover the entire border. It would be more important to fix the rules around asylum and our handling of Central American families and minors so we aren’t so hamstrung. In its little-noticed current offer to Democrats in Congress, the administration proposes measures to encourage Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries instead of showing up here after an incredibly dangerous journey.

3. We say no to the idea that the President can have Americans (wait! what happened to the Mexicans footing the bill?!) pay for the Wall by declaring an emergency. The wrap-up from the editorial:

An attempt to spend unilaterally on the fence would almost certainly get tied up in the courts immediately. In the most favorable scenario for the administration, it eventually prevails in a Supreme Court loath to second-guess even dubious military-related determinations by the commander-in-chief. In the meantime, the administration will have built nothing new on the border and created another precedent for unilateral government sure to be exploited the next time a Democrat occupies the White House.

4. Just stop already, Congressman. From the end of the editorial:

Steve King may be clumsy, dangerous, bigoted, or some mix of the three. Whatever he is, he doesn’t deserve the support of conservatives.

And Now I Plug A New Book – So You Pay Attention

My good pal Nick Adams, founder of Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness, as happy a warrior as you will ever meet, was a big hit on the recent NR cruise, and he let us know there about his new book coming out from Simon and Schuster, Class Dismissed: Why College Isn’t the Answer. I’m sure that will enthrall my professor friends, but as they say, noogies of toughness.

Nick is a passionate guy, an American accidentally born in Australia, who sees the US of A as that last great and only hope. Looking at college dropout rates, tuition costs, college loan debt, and the aching need in our economy for trade careers — which offer a life that’s both economically-sustainable and soul-pleasing — Nick sees what many other see: that for millions of young Americans, college is not the answer. What about the teenager for whom sitting in a classroom is unfulfilling and frustrating? What about the kid with a skillset that can’t be nurtured on campus.

My pal ain’t just whistling Waltzing Matilda. Since a lot of the college decision-making process is as much about mom and dad as it is about kiddo, he’s structured Class Dismissed: Why College Isn’t the Answer, as a resource to consider next steps. Toward what? Maybe to college. But maybe to a great trade and a fulfilling and contented life — employed, fat, happy, and with no debt.

Learn more about the book here. Order it here at Amazon. The publication date is January 29.

Hot, Gorgeous, Lovely: This Sampling Is a Perfect 10.

1. We are privileged to publish another Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn work: The first-time in-English translation of his 1974 speech, “The Orbital Journey,” upon receiving the Golden Matrix award from the Italian Catholic Press Union. From Daniel J. Mahoney’s preface:

The Golden Matrix address has certain advantages over the Harvard address: It is sparer, less polemical, and perhaps even more weighty and philosophical. It is also less immediately preoccupied with the issues of the day. It is high-minded in every sense of the term. Eschewing narrowly political and grossly ideological categories, Solzhenitsyn provides a measured account of the “orbital journey” of modern man and the modern project in both East and West. His address is a clarion call for civilized humanity to reject the theocratic temptations of the medieval world as well as the materialist hegemony of an unbounded modernity. He calls for the restoration of balance in the human soul and the human world: One must resist the tyranny of the spiritual — which forgets the centrality of human freedom to a life well lived — but also the debilitating opposing claim that Man is the highest measure of the universe. Solzhenitsyn calls on his contemporaries to have the wisdom “to discover once again that man is not the crown of the universe, but that there exists above him a Higher Spirit.” Attentive readers hear the voice of Solzhenitsyn, the conservative green, the eloquent critic of “cruel modern tyrannies” and of the accompanying illusion that socialism, coercive and devoid of higher spiritual content as it is, can restore balance to the human world.

The address also includes a luminous critique of “bloody physical revolutions” (as in France after 1789 and the Soviet Union after 1917). They “lead not to a brighter future, but to worse perdition, to worse violence.” Both here and in the Harvard address, Solzhenitsyn suggestively traces the possibility of a “moral revolution” that would move beyond the excesses of modernity, yet without returning to the spiritual despotisms of the past. He never advocates going back, only up, from modernity.

2. Victor Davis Hanson wonders if American higher education can be saved. From his essay:

On the one hand, higher education’s professional schools in medicine and business, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs in math, science, and engineering, are the world’s best. America dominates the lists of the top universities compiled in global surveys conducted from the United Kingdom to Japan.

On the other hand, the liberal arts and social sciences have long ago mostly lost their reputations. Go online to Amazon or to the local Barnes and Noble bookstore, and the books on literature, art, and history are often not the products of university professors and presses.

Few believe any more that current liberal-arts programs have prepared graduates to write persuasively and elegantly, to read critically and to think inductively while drawing on a wide body of literary, linguistic, historical, artistic, and philosophical knowledge. In fairness, that is no longer the aim of higher education. When students at tony colleges present petitions objecting to free speech or the right of guests to give lectures, they are usually full of grammatical errors and often incoherent.

3. Jim Geraghty finds 15 things you probably don’t know about presidential wannabe Elizabeth Warren. From the rundown, here’s Number 7:

Warren was, at one point, a passionate advocate for school-voucher programs. The Two-Income Trap, the 2003 book she co-authored with her daughter, had this to say on the subject:

Any policy that loosens the ironclad relationship between location-location-location and school-school-school would eliminate the need for parents to pay an inflated price for a home just because it happens to lie within the boundaries of a desirable school district.

 A well-designed voucher program would fit the bill neatly. A taxpayer-funded voucher that paid the entire cost of educating a child (not just a partial subsidy) would open a range of opportunities to all children. With fully funded vouchers, parents of all income levels could send their children — and the accompanying financial support — to the schools of their choice. Middle-class parents who used state funds to send their kids to school would be able to live in the neighborhood of their choice — or the neighborhood of their pocketbook. Fully funded vouchers would relieve parents from the terrible choice of leaving their kids in lousy schools or bankrupting themselves to escape those schools.

As she joined the Democratic party and became increasingly prominent in it, Warren’s position changed. By 2018, she was denouncing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for “using her vast fortune to bankroll radical K–12 ‘school choice’ policies and private voucher programs,” and she decried voucher programs as an effort to “further drain funds from public education and programs serving low-income and working Americans.”

4. Jonathan Tobin cautions that Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden might be petard-hoisted in 2020 thanks to the Democrats’ ever-radicalizing base. From his piece:

Biden had long since outrun any criticism defenders of Thomas’s accuser, Anita Hill, had thrown in his direction by the time he became Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the fall of 1991, when Thomas’s fated was being decided, he was blamed for the harsh questioning to which Hill was subjected by some senators. But he could also point out that Thomas blamed him for allowing last-minute attacks on his character to be launched in the first place. When Thomas claimed to be the victim of a “high-tech lynching” on national television, he was directing his anger at Biden rather than the other members of the committee’s Democratic majority.

A decade after Obama’s ascendance, however, the criticisms have returned, and Biden finds himself in the same position as Sanders.

Of course, neither Biden nor Sanders is a genuine #MeToo villain, even by the debased standards of guilt and innocence that have reigned over the past year. But the Times’s exposure of the Sanders campaign may make it even easier for Democrats to favor a female candidate or, at the very least, make it harder for them to nominate an old, white male with pre-October 2017 #MeToo baggage of any sort.

5. Kyle Smith watches the Golden Globes (so we didn’t have to). Amidst the mud he found a truffle. From his essay’s conclusion:

Yet one American did manage to balance emotion and good humor in a freewheeling speech that was heartfelt without being mawkish: Jeff Bridges, capturing the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, went full Dude in a strange but wonderful series of remarks in which he thanked by name his directors (the Coen brothers, Michael Cimino, Peter Bogdanovich — who “kicked the whole party off for me, man”). Cimino, whose first film was Bridges’ Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and who later won an Oscar for The Deer Hunter, reassured the actor when he wanted to bail on the film: “Jeff, you know the game tag? . . . You’re it. You are the guy. You couldn’t make a mistake if you wanted to.” That proved an amusing segue into the very Dude-ian remark, “You know, I’ve been tagged. I guess we all have been tagged, right? We’re all alive. Right here, right now! This is happening. We’re alive.” Far out, man! Bridges moved on to an unexpected disquisition about R. Buckminster Fuller (whom Bridges called “Bucky”), saying that the little rudder, or trim tab, on a ship’s rudder steers the big rudder, which steers the ship. “All of us are trim tabs. We might seem like we’re not up to the task, but we are, man. We’re alive! We can make a difference! We can turn this ship in the way we wanna go, man!” That’s the Hollywood we want: grateful, funny, whimsical wackjobs. Enjoy yourselves, you Dudes, instead of imploring us to take you seriously.

6. It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green (with apologies to Kermit): Robert Bryce lays into the idiocy of all-renewable energy, which happens to be very un-green. From his analysis

The Green New Deal has been endorsed by scads of liberal politicians including New York governor Andrew Cuomo, former California state senator Kevin de León, media darling and newly sworn-in Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and anti-hydrocarbon activist Josh Fox. The goals of the Green New Deal are nothing short of radical. As the website for the left-wing think tank Data for Progress explains, the Green New Deal aims to “transform the economy and the environment in ways that achieve sustainability, equity, justice, freedom, and happiness.” Achieving happiness has never been easy. Even harder will be the Green New Deal’s aim of completely eliminating the use of coal, oil, and natural gas by 2050.

How all this happiness and energy legerdemain will be achieved is anyone’s guess. Supporters are particularly vague about how they would find the hundreds of billions — or even trillions — of dollars needed to attempt such a plan. Nevertheless, there is one unassailable fact about the Green New Deal: It is not green. Indeed, the entire notion of an all-renewable-energy system is the antithesis of environmental protection and scenic conservation.

7. I’m almost loath to link to this because I have developed Ocasio-Cortez Fatigue Syndrome, but that said, Kyle Pomerleau finds her call for a 70 percent tax on moneybags to be unworkable. From his analysis:

Ocasio-Cortez has yet to release the specifics of her new plan. However, her comments imply that she wants to add an eighth tax bracket of 70 percent on incomes over $10 million. What this means is that if you are a very high earner, such as a successful actor, musician, or business owner, you would need to pay 70 cents for every dollar you report in taxable income over $10 million. It’s not clear yet whether it would apply only to earned income, or if it would apply to all income, including capital gains, dividends, and business income. However, given her stated goal, it is likely the latter.

For sure, there is a lot of money earned by the roughly 16,000 tax filers with incomes over $10 million. IRS data show that this group reported more than $482 billion in adjusted gross income in 2016. The Washington Post recently estimated that on a purely “static” basis (not accounting for any behavioral changes), the federal government could raise more than $700 billion in additional revenue over the next ten years if the federal government enacted a top tax rate of 70 percent.

Unfortunately for the congresswoman, estimates that show a significant increase in revenue from a 70 percent tax rate on incomes over $10 million are unrealistic. This is because individuals — and their accountants — would react to the new 70 percent rate by finding ways to report less income. They would save 70 cents for every dollar not reported above that threshold.

8. As much as you thrill to the Triple Lindy, you wince at the Double Doink, about which, among other sports stuff, Jay Nordlinger writes in The Corner.

9. Now that the American Psychological Association has labeled manliness and masculinity as harmful, Heather Wilhem wants to know: Who will kill the spiders in her house?

This week, the American Psychological Association delivered some sad news for fans of “traditional masculinity.” According to the organization’s new “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men,” the “harmful” ideology of masculinity — marked by “stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression” together with “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence” — has got to go.

Here I imagine a mournful, windswept cowboy — preferably Val Kilmer from Tombstone, or maybe Harrison Ford from Indiana Jones, but wearing a ten-gallon hatriding off into the sunset, slumped and grim, dragging a sad cache of uneaten rare steaks and unused power tools behind him. Farewell, traditional masculinity! You are too toxic! The APA told us so! Don’t let those swinging Old West barroom doors hit you on the way out, causing the old-timey piano music to abruptly stop and all the dust-strewn poker players who may or may not have tuberculosis to turn and stare at you in shock and dismay!

Reader, I don’t know how you feel about all this. I, for one, find it very upsetting, for one simple and selfish reason: Who is going to kill all the spiders that make their way into my house?

RELATED: The backlash to the APA had the outfit spinning, to which David French — who leveled an initial sharp attack on the shrinks’ idiocy — called BS on the spin, and said the APA cannot be given a pass.

10. Brian Allen tells a quite interesting story of the old, prestigious, and greatly troubled National Academy of Design (I didn’t even know it existed, but then there is a lot I don’t know) has fixed itself. Yeah, I think you should learn about this — here’s a chunk from the story:

Fourth, and best of all, the NAD is now living within its means. In politics, causes usually evolve into movements, then businesses, and finally rackets. In the arts world, ambitions might start as grand but often turn grandiose, then grotesque, and finally draining and debilitating. The NAD will eventually find a new home that includes a nice, small exhibition space to show selections from its superb permanent collection of art on a rotating basis, in a happy resolution to an internal debate that had long raged among members.

Since the 1820s, academicians have given their work to the NAD, so it owns important things. Over the last 15 years, the NAD has produced some fantastic shows of this work, shows that produced important art-history scholarship. These shows, it seems, became a controversy among the academicians as the institution’s situation got more and more dire. Many didn’t see the point of doing shows on the work of dead members. To them, it was an expensive distraction that refocused the NAD away from living artists and toward fundraising, marketing, outreach to schools, loans for shows, and all the other things that concern museum people but not artists.

The rotating-exhibition scheme has eliminated that problem, and, together with all the NAD’s other changes, gone a long way toward resolving the existential question of how museum-like the institution should be. A few years ago, back when that question was still open, it changed its name to the National Academy Museum. But it’s not really a museum. It’s an artist-run organization with a collection. As one telling new step, it’s changed its name back to what it was for a hundred years: the National Academy of Design.

Thus Spake Tucker.

The Fox host’s now-famous / viral monologue has launched a fleet of NRO responses and rebuttals. Here we go . . .

1. Jim Geraghty too wants to “put families first,” but defining what that means — and clarifying some facts (such as on America’s manufacturing base) — leads to some sharp criticisms of the Carlson spiel. From his Morning Jolt take:

NBA superstar LeBron James opened up a school for at-risk students in his old hometown of Akron that includes STEM summer courses as well as GED courses and job placement for parents. (Around this time, President Trump mocked LeBron James as stupid.) Carlson’s last book, Ship of Fools, depicted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos as some of the fools on the cover. Zuckerberg has pledged to give away 99 percent of his fortune during his lifetime, and his personal foundation has built a massive medical research facility. Jeff Bezos just committed $2 billion to a “split between the Day 1 Families Fund — helping homeless families — and the Day 1 Academies Fund — creating a “network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities.”

Aren’t these folks who have skin in the game and who are demonstrating a long-term obligation to their communities?

2. David French sizes up Carlson’s speech as victimhood populism and calls on conservatives to reject it. From his critique:

I’m not sure where he’s getting the idea that America’s wealthy citizens care more about the Congo than their own country. In 2017, Americans gave more than $410 billion in charity, and the idea that this charity flows principally overseas is ludicrous. Gifts to international charities represented only 6 percent of total giving, and foreign aid represents roughly 1.2 percent of the federal budget, an inconsequential sum compared with the immense sums we spend in the United States on economic development and social welfare. America is consistently one of the most charitable countries in the world, whether measured by volunteerism or money.

American public policies are flawed, yes. The American people are imperfect, yes. But any argument that American elites (a group that includes, by the way, enormous numbers of first-generation college grads and people who worked brutal hours to achieve economic success) represent an uncaring, indifferent, exploitive mass is fundamentally wrong. In fact, the better argument is that well-meaning Americans have spent their money poorly (on ineffective charitable programs and destructive welfare policies), not that they don’t care.

Carlson is advancing a form of victim-politics populism that takes a series of tectonic cultural changes — civil rights, women’s rights, a technological revolution as significant as the industrial revolution, the mass-scale loss of religious faith, the sexual revolution, etc. — and turns the negative or challenging aspects of those changes into an angry tale of what they are doing to you.

3. J.D. Vance finds Carlson has scored big on his point that the market is no panacea for maladies, and the worship of it is troubling. From his piece:

Surely our response can’t be: “Well, the market will take care of it.” The market is not a Platonic deity, floating in the sky and imposing goodness and prosperity from on high. It is the creation of our choices, our laws, and our democratic process. We know, for instance, that pornography has radically altered how young boys perceive their relationships with women and sex, and that the pornography industry has acquired a lot of wealth in the process of creating and distributing that content. Just last month, we learned that a Chinese entity created the first gene-edited baby, using a technology developed in the United States. Some company, here or there, will eventually create a lot of prosperity by using this gene-editing technology (called CRISPR) in an unethical way, quite literally playing God with the most sacred power in the universe — the creation of human life. In the past few years, it has become abundantly clear that Apple — despite self-righteously refusing to cooperate with American security officials — has willingly complied with the requirements of the Chinese surveillance state, even as China builds concentration camps for dissidents and religious minorities. And, as Carlson mentioned, there are marijuana companies pushing for legalization, though we know from the Colorado experience that legalization increases use, and from other studies that use is concentrated among the lower class, causing a host of social problems in the process.

All of these entities are doing what the market demands, and in some ways, it’s hard to blame them. But shouldn’t our laws and policy make life harder for them? Or should conservatives cry “small government” every time someone suggests an intervention and stick our collective head in the sand, pretending there’s no relationship between market actors and the civil society we say we believe in?

4. In The Corner, Yuval Levin says Carlson is on to something about the tensions between markets and social order. From his post:

The things we value are therefore sometimes in tension with each other. When that tension arises, we have to prioritize, and that prioritization has to be guided by an idea of human flourishing that lets us roughly figure out in individual instances when and how far the demands of market competition need to be met and when and how far those of family, faith, community, or country need to be met. There is no perfect formula for doing this, obviously. But there are better and worse ways to do it, and our society has not been doing it well enough in this century, which has left a lot of ruin in a lot of people’s lives.

One key to finding this balance is to recognize that the market is a means, not an end. We should be immensely grateful for the benefits it has brought us — the ways in which it has made us better able to pursue good ends. But we should not mistake it for those ends, and so should be willing to constrain its reach when it undermines them instead of advancing them, which happens. Conservatism has ceded its economic thinking too thoroughly to libertarianism since the 1990s in a way that has caused us to forget this. It is time for that to change, and so for some rebalancing of our priorities.

5. David Bahnsen, author of Crisis of Responsibility, in which he addresses the same maladies, says Tucker makes big and important points, but takes the wrong view as to what is behind the Crisis. From his piece:

Tucker is perhaps right that many affluent, established people in society are not as interested as they should be in “people below them getting and staying married,” though I suspect he and I mean this in very different ways. Tucker indicates that the winners of globalization should be helping to raise wages in Detroit or Dayton. I, however, wonder how much more good we could be doing by what Charles Murray refers to as these people “preaching what they practice.” The playbook for a prosperous and dignified life is well known, and where the social and moral decisions that facilitate such have been put into practice has created a real “coming apart” amongst whites in this country (a cultural as much as an economic separation). Those who have finished school, found a committed relationship, and waited to have kids until marriage; stayed married; avoided drug abuse, infidelity, and other destructive decisions: These people know what has worked for them, and yet time and time again seem willing to publicly tout for a certain moral relativism that is actually the exact opposite worldview of what created the prosperous life they enjoy. I am sure many corporate executives do not spend a lot of time thinking about the effects a free-trade deal might have on Dayton, Ohio, but I am equally sure that they do not adequately promote the benefits of making good and responsible decisions. I think Tucker is focusing on the wrong omission.

Andrew Breitbart famously said that politics is downstream from culture. The problem I have with Carlson’s screed is its willingness to accept that various policy decisions are driving the culture. Indeed, Tucker’s economic proposals are only the secondary problem, flowing from his inversion of cause and effect. The difficult task of cultural repair will bring about positive economic and political effects; Tucker is mistakenly focused on getting the politics and economics right to fix the culture.

6. Back to David, who says Tucker has made an important point about how rising female incomes have impacted marriage and the family. From his Corner post:

I didn’t read Tucker as condemning women’s educational and income achievements, I read him as stating a challenging fact. If women continue to achieve academic success and economic success (a good thing!), but they persist in desiring to marry higher-earning men (an understandable thing!), and male wages decline or remain stagnant (a bad thing!), then we will face an increasing threat to our nation’s marriage culture. Since we do not want women to fall back educationally or economically, we need two things to happen at once. First, we want male educational achievement to surge and male incomes to no longer remain stagnant — thus increasing every family’s financial stability. Second, we want our nation’s men and women to form lifelong healthy bonds regardless of income disparities. After all, income is important, but it’s not a stand-in for the virtues that truly bind families together.

7. Kevin Williamson reminds us that Bill Buckley was on to these maladies back in 1959, when he wrote Up from Liberalism.

8. But Kevin isn’t buying the Carlson spiel, and thinks penny-counting Americans shouldn’t either. From the end of the essay:

I will get into this at greater length in my book, but Tucker Carlson’s argument that the state’s job is to see to our happiness, rather than to see to public order, represents a return to a political primitivism associated with the medieval period, when everyone, peasant and lord alike, knew his place and could be sure of his role in this kingdom and in the Heavenly Kingdom, a clockwork universe in which the great majority of people may have been miserable in absolute material terms but in which they had confidence in the fixity of the social order, and hence in the security of their own status. The emergence of primitive capitalism disrupted that order, and the emergence of global capitalism has, in a similar way, disrupted the postwar American social order.

As Yuval Levin and others have argued, it is nostalgia for that order — or our mythologized misrecollection of it — that animates much of the politics of our time, especially the frustrated and fearful populism whose partisans do not seem to understand that they can have a 1957 standard of living any time they choose, and that it can be had on the cheap.

9. Kyle Smith says sorry TC — government ain’t the solution. From his comeback:

The insane clown posse in Washington may not care about your problems, but they aren’t the cause of them either. The rise in single-parent families, and the mismatches in the marriage market that (for instance) make it difficult for high-achieving women to find husbands, are indeed worrisome, but is Sheryl Sandberg really to blame for telling women to lean in? Sandberg’s book is aimed solely at the narrow layer of women at the very top of the socioeconomic cake who seek the biggest jobs in their fields. The wealthy children of these wealthy women will be fine. The children of married people will in general be fine. (Can we really be worried about helicopter parenting and, at the same time, latchkey kids abandoned by their CEO moms?) Sandberg is a red herring. Carlson worked her into his spiel in a clever way, to capitalize on anxieties about changing sexual roles, but if Mom is a billionaire Facebook exec, or thinking about becoming one, you really aren’t the kind of person America needs to fret about.

The salutary effects of marriage, especially when it comes to rearing children, are well established, and government could shore up families a bit via tax incentives, but that doesn’t seem to be what Carlson is talking about. He’s talking about something deeper: Who killed the American working man?

10. And then Michael Brendan Dougherty unloads on Carlson’s critics. Here’s a slice:

Shapiro writes that “the economic systems that allow families to thrive are the same economic systems that allow all human beings to thrive: free markets.” And that Carlson “blames both the welfare state and trade policy — as though tariffs aren’t merely an indirect form of wealth redistribution.”

Imagine I had written a long screed about government waste in spending. In that screed I cited outdated defense programs meant to share the wealth among vulnerable congressional districts, and I railed against the stupid waste of having all federal projects that use computers still needing to be certified as “Y2K compliant.”

And then a group of writers wrote a comprehensive response defending this waste and injustice by saying that “self-government has produced the best, most accountable governments in human history.” And that the results are just self-government in action, and if I don’t like it, I can throw in with the Marxists. These references to self-government would simply be a rhetorical trick for avoiding debate. Frankly, many of Carlson’s critics deploy “free markets” in just this way. And I find it as useful as I would defending Chinese economic arrangements with reference to “Xi Jinping thought.”

11. To which Kevin Williamson responds . . .

12. As does David Bahnsen.

There’s a New Issue of National Review Magazine Hot Off the Presses

As is our custom, we share selections from four pieces, for your enjoyment, and maybe even to induce you to subscribe.

1. In the cover essay, Douglas Murray looks at the U.S. victory for Trump, and the UK victory for Brexit, as they have passed their two-year marks, and considers what has — and hasn’t — happened since. From his essay:

. . . it is now clear that the Brexit vote and the Trump election are hugely important milestones in both democracies, not because of what has or has not been achieved but because both constitute the first democratic mandate in either country that an elite in each country has refused to accept. I say “an elite” rather than “the elite” because my experience is that there is never one single entity of people who can control affairs. Nonetheless, in America and Britain, exceptionally powerful figures in influential positions (in politics, the media, and much more) decided that they could not accept the verdict of the people and chose to utilize precisely the same playbook (“racism,” “hate crime,” “Russia,” “Cambridge Analytica”) to undo or at least undermine the judgment of the people.

The second observation is what an unbelievably unwise and wasted opportunity this already looks to have been. If you were an anti-Trump strategist or a pro-EU campaigner, you might have taken all sorts of things from the results of 2016. In the U.K. you could have tried to work out why the EU had been so unappealing to the British public for so many years that, even with the opt-outs and carve-outs that we had up until the vote (and despite the uncertainty that a win for Leave was always going to cause), most of the public wanted out of the whole damn thing. Why had the “experts” become so little trusted by the public? What could be done to rebuild that trust? What might the EU do to show that it was not an un-listening monolith but an adaptive and helpful partner? How might you in the decades to come persuade, rather than trick, the people into once again being inside the EU?

An interested party in the States might try to work out why, even though every allegation and claim in the book is thrown at Donald Trump, and despite his possession of character defects that are visible at a glance, the public still voted for him. Why had the GOP and Democrats lost their hold? What justifiable concerns and unaddressed problems did Middle America suffer? Were there any lessons to be learned from the last time a Republican had been in the White House? Or could we continue to pretend (as in Britain) that the grown-ups had done such a terrific job that the voters had no reason not to just hand over the keys once again to a leading member of one of the ruling families?

2. Christopher Caldwell pens an excellent review of the recently published (in English) Solzhenitsyn memoir, Between Two Millstones: Book One. From the review:

Dissidents are always a little crazy by definition. Everyone has an urge to truth-telling and an urge to self-preservation that, in most cases, outweighs it. A person ready to stand up to a system that has for decades inflicted maximum harm on its critics is, in this sense, an abnormal person. His urges are disordered. There is a cruel paradox of political oppression: The less humane, the more ruthless, the more violent a system, the easier it is to cast someone who opposes it as off his rocker. Whether he overestimates his personal persuasiveness or the public’s backbone, a dissident is wrong about something, and his more cowardly fellow citizens can cling to this wrongness as an excuse for ignoring him, mocking him, informing on him.

Vain, Solzhenitsyn was less vain than most dissidents. He had no political deference, but a metaphysical humility had been beaten into him by what he had undergone. Exile was not a “new beginning” for him. He undertook it with dread, and a somewhat unrealistic idea of how tight a link he could maintain to the culture of the old country. He dreamed of establishing a Russian university in Canada that might serve the children of emigrants, “encouraging them to break free from Western satiation and turn toward the rigor of their motherland.” He appreciated the archives at the Hoover Institution in California and the writing conditions in Cavendish, but none of that made America home. Solzhenitsyn surrounded his property with chain link, to protect his tranquility and discourage interlopers, including those from the KGB. When he appeared at a town meeting in Cavendish to apologize to hunters and snowmobilers for the inconvenience, he took the opportunity to explain that “Russian” did not mean Soviet and that to confuse the two was to mistake a patient for a disease: “My people, the Russians, have been suffering from it for 60 years already; they long to be healed. And the day will come when they are indeed healed of this Soviet disease. On that day I will thank you for being good friends and neighbors, and will go back to my homeland.”

3. Brought to You by “Wrong Way” Corrigan: The Air Force is a mess. As Jerry Hendrix reports, it has lost its way. From his essay:

The change began during the Vietnam War, in which fighters flying from land bases in South Vietnam were loaded up with bombs to hit land targets in North Vietnam and along supply routes in neighboring countries. The improved accuracy of smaller aircraft carrying lighter loads of bombs and providing combat air support to American ground forces in direct contact with the enemy began to subtly alter the internal culture of the Air Force. The bomber “tribe,” based in the politically powerful Strategic Air Command, had supplied six of the first ten Air Force chiefs of staff, but it began to lose influence within the service to the fighter “tribe.” In the 36 years since Chief of Staff Lew Allen Jr. retired, no bomber pilot has occupied that office, and the Air Force’s inventory of bombers has shrunk from over 10,000 aircraft during the 1950s to fewer than 200 today. Fighter pilots gained ascendency based upon the assumptions of access to bases within range of their enemies, the ability of their supporting tanker force to survive, and the greater importance of air supremacy than long-range-strike capability.

Air supremacy is a straightforward concept. It seeks a degree of superiority over an opposing air force such that the enemy is incapable of effective interference with friendly aircraft or ground and naval forces. This definition of air superiority held for regional wars such as those in Vietnam, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq (both times), and Afghanistan (where the enemy had no opposing air power to speak of). Air Force theorists also state that air superiority applies to theater campaigns (those that range across an entire region of the globe), enabling larger aircraft, cargo haulers, refueling tankers, and bombers to operate freely — except when they cannot, and that is where the modern United States Air Force lost its way.

4. Madeleine Kearns profiles the upper-crust Tory rebel MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg. From her report:

“I think the advantages of Brexit are absolutely enormous economically because we will no longer have the constraints that we have with the European Union, and we won’t be subject to the EU’s regulatory system that is anti-enterprise and anti–free market,” he says.

But his proposed Brexit — leaving the customs union, the single market, and the European Court of Justice, and calling the EU’s bluff on its insistence that Britain remain in the customs union to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland — has won him many political enemies. The chancellor of the Exchequer has called him an “extremist.” Anna Soubry, fellow Tory MP, said she’d leave the Conservative party if he became leader. Philip Collins wrote in the Times that the entire Rees-Mogg team ought to be “taken out and shot.”

Are You Increasingly Worried about Red China’s Global Aspirations and Antics?

You should be. Writing in Naval War College Review, occasional NRO writer Chris O’Dea explains in great detail the PRC’s global maritime strategy, which includes taking over strategically located ports in all continents, oceans, and major seaways. From “Asia Rising: Ships of State?”:

Chinese maritime and logistics firms, supported by state-subsidized capital deployed overseas, quickly are becoming a leading edge of China’s global influence. In recent years, Chinese state-owned companies have built a global network of shipping and port assets that suggests the country is using maritime commercial investments to advance its geostrategic priorities by establishing economic influence over countries in which Chinese-controlled port facilities are located.

These Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are creating one of the most extensive maritime networks in the world by acquiring strategically located port assets in the European Union (EU), Latin America, the Middle East, and the Indian Ocean. They provide the capital to build or up- grade commercial terminals; then they direct container traffic to those ports through shipping lines that are controlled directly by the port’s parent company or indirectly through companies associated with China’s strategic port owners through formal shipping alliances.

The Six.

1. At Gatestone Institute, Guy Millière writes that France is in a free fall, it’s leaders petrified to truly confront the terrorism threat. From his story:

Successive governments have done exactly nothing to remedy the situation. Instead, they delivered speeches and stationed soldiers about the streets. “Young French people must get used to living with the threat of attacks”, then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in 2015. Two years later, just before the first round of the presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron, still a candidate, used almost the same words. Terrorism, he said, is “imponderable” and will constitute a “threat that will be part of the daily life of the French for the years to come”.

French laws are extremely lax. Even serial killers and terrorists are not sentenced to long prison terms. Most prisons have become jihadist recruiting stations. Currently, more than 600 no-go zones are under the control of imams and Muslim gangs. Islamists, apparently “ready to act”, number in the thousands. The police simply do not have the personnel or material resources to monitor all of them.

The only political leaders who have proposed tougher laws against terrorism, or who have said that exceptional measures were needed — such as a wider use of electronic ankle-bracelets — to counter increasing threats, come from parties considered “right-wing”. The mainstream media immediately branded these leaders as “extremists” and their proposals were dismissed.

Macron and his government continue their unfortunate tradition of submitting to political correctness. It seems they prefer to appease extremists rather than confront them.

2. Will Collins teaches in Hungary, where he says, in The American Conservative, the War Against Christmas has been defeated. But as to whether this is a sign of some European rebirth of Christianity, well, ez egy másik történet. Or, that’s another story. From the start of his piece:

It takes a village to get a 50-foot Christmas tree into a Hungarian school’s common area. On a gray afternoon in early December, seemingly half of my school’s student body was deputized to help city workers drag an enormous fir into our entrance hall. Class was supposedly in session, but many students exempt from the corvée managed to find their way over to yell encouragement and snap photos of their classmates. Once the students had dragged in the tree, someone used a chainsaw to shape the base of the trunk for an oversized stand. Why this extremely noisy job was done in the school common area while class was in session, and not somewhere outside, is a Christmas mystery on par with the Virgin Birth. After much difficulty, and thanks to the creative use of several ropes, a ladder, and the school’s load-bearing columns, the students finally raised the massive tree. Christmas season in Hungary had officially begun.

The school where I teach is a public institution, but its enthusiastic observance of the Christmas season would put many American parochial academies to shame. From Christmas markets to school pageants, Hungarians celebrate the holiday with a verve that is both charming and somewhat disorienting to an American accustomed to our secular public square. In this corner of Eastern Europe, the War on Christmas is over, and Christmas has decisively won.

3. First Things publishes a remarkably beautiful piece by Patricia Snow, “Grace,” about being Slain in the Spirit.

4. At Law & Liberty, Veronique de Rugy looks at NAFTA, now 25 years old. She finds its promises oversold. From the piece:

The anti-NAFTA crowd back then argued, using a term coined by 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot, that the agreement would create a “giant sucking sound” of jobs going south — roughly 5.9 million, Perot estimated — thanks to unscrupulous U.S. manufacturers taking advantage of the cheap labor of Mexicans. This opposition was rooted in a populism that persists today and is expressed vividly by our current President. Among the desires of Perot’s populists then, and Trump’s now, is to stop the ongoing transformation of our country into a service economy. It is a movement whose champions are oblivious to the fact that this transformation is driven far more by technological innovation than by trade. Their consistent and quixotic belief is that this transformation can be stopped by erecting trade barriers against imports from low-wage countries.

During the initial NAFTA debate, populists insisted that preserving the small (4 percent) tariffs that the U.S. imposed on Mexican manufacturing imports — along with keeping somewhat higher tariffs on a few agricultural products and a handful of quantitative restrictions — would somehow stop the percentage decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs — a trend that had started not in the 1990s, but in the 1950s. They didn’t realize that if low wages in Mexico had held such great appeal for U.S. industry, that giant sucking sound would have been heard decades before NAFTA. With pre-NAFTA tariff rates already being quite low, U.S. firms would have already moved to Mexico.

5. In City Journal, Heather Mac Donald nails anti-cop flannel-mouth Shaun King, caught short by his race-activist role in the faux hate-crime murder of Jazmine Barnes. The selective outrage of white-on-black crime, dwarfed by black-on-black crime, mutes attention deserved by the far more pervasive problem. From the end of her piece:

As for interracial violence generally, blacks disproportionately commit it. Between 2012 and 2015, there were 631,830 violent interracial victimizations, excluding homicide, between blacks and whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Blacks, who make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, committed 85.5 percent of those victimizations, or 540,360 felonious assaults on whites, while whites, 61 percent of the population, committed 14.4 percent, or 91,470 felonious assaults on blacks. Regarding threats to blacks from the police, a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.

If Shaun King and other Black Lives Matter activists really want to save black children from the trauma of urban violence, they should put their efforts into rebuilding inner-city culture — above all, by revalorizing a married father as the best gift a mother can give her child. Fantasies about white violence against “black bodies” are a distraction from what is actually happening on American streets.

6. In The New Criterion, Conrad Black reviews Churchill: Walking with Destiny, Andrew Roberts’ new biography. From the review:

Churchill’s early life and fast-moving career are familiar to many, but nowhere better described than in Roberts’s book: the dashing soldier and war correspondent (often simultaneously) in India, South Africa, on the Nile, and in Cuba; the astounding self-acquired knowledge of British, American, and classical history, and English and classical literature; and the ability, which he retained well into his eighties, to recite verbatim vast swaths of stirring prose and poetry. His talent for publicity and his confident and aggressive personality landed him quickly in politics, and into the House of Commons in the waning days of Victoria. Churchill knew everyone who served as British monarch from Victoria (r. 1837–1901) to the present; every leader of his Conservative Party from the Marquess of Salisbury, in office 1880–1902, to Margaret Thatcher, who relinquished the leadership in 1990; and every president of the United States, though a few very casually, from Theodore Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, a period covering 1901 to 1974. He was a prominent figure and household name in Great Britain and much of the British Commonwealth, and ultimately the whole world, for sixty-five years. When he finally earned the long-sought office of prime minister, in the most dangerous circumstances in the country’s history, on May 10, 1940, it was after thirty-nine years in Parliament and nine different cabinet positions, including the Exchequer, Home Office, colonies, trade, war, munitions, air force, and the largest navy in the world in both world wars (though it was surpassed by the United States in 1942).

As Roberts reminds us, Churchill was unsuccessful in a number of those positions, but never incompetent. He acquired a vast administrative and legislative experience and by that time had been considered for decades one of Britain’s greatest orators. Roberts enumerates a long list of Churchill’s serious errors in public life, before and after his elevation in 1940. These include his opposing the vote for women; his handling of much of the Gallipoli operation and perhaps the entire concept (which led to 250,000 casualties in a failed effort to break open the Dardanelles in 1915); his treatment of Ireland and India; his keenness for reversion to the gold standard; his support of Edward VIII in the abdication crisis, his mismanagement of the Norway campaign; his assistance of Greece in 1941; his gross underestimation of the military strength of Japan; his faith in Italy as “the soft underbelly” of Hitler’s Europe; his advocacy of peripheral campaigns in the Dodecanese, Norway, Trieste, and Sumatra; and his deporting the alleged Soviet deserters back to Russia at the end of the war (another 1.2 million executions on Stalin’s gruesome ledger).

BONUS: Also from The New Criterion, Daniel J. Mahoney ruminates on the importance of the late Russell Kirk, whose centenary the conservative movement has just celebrated. From the review:

Kirk made two additional contributions to Burke studies, both of some significance. Kirk stressed that Burke was among the first to see the limits, all the limits, of social contract theorizing. Choice and consent play some legitimate role in politics (guided by humane and prudent judgment), but they should never obscure obligatory duties that are not a “matter of choice.” Parents, citizens, neighbors, and children all have “burdensome duties” (as Burke puts it in An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs) that they are obliged to carry out with grace and a sense of responsibility. Likewise, Kirk noted, Burke believed that every member of a political community was “obliged to obey the laws and sustain the state.” Choice plays an important role in politics (and marriage), but it cannot be the basis of every aspect of life. Duty is as fundamental as consent. Kirk stresses the multiple ways in which Burke’s conservative liberalism was decidedly un-Lockean: while defending the rights of property, Burke never believed that civil society arose from a pre-political “state of nature.” Men and women are not truly born “free and independent,” and the only true social contract is “between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” That is the great primeval contract that Burke so eloquently invokes in the Reflections on the Revolution in France. In the quarrel of the ancients and the moderns, he sides with the classics and the Christians against full-blown modern “individualism.”

Kirk is surely right that such a “conservative” basis of the social tie would unnerve classical Whigs from John Locke in the seventeenth century to Thomas Babington Macaulay in the nineteenth. Unlike Burke, they were blind, or at least inattentive, to what I have called, in a book of that name, “the conservative foundations of the liberal order.” This is especially true of John Locke. In his most “reactionary” moments (I do not mean this formulation as a criticism), Kirk hopes for the restoration of a “society guided by veneration and prescription.” That is too much to hope for societies profoundly transformed by the individualist premises at the heart of Lockean liberalism. There is seemingly no going back to the world of prejudice, prescription, and presumption, all understood in the elevated Burkean meaning of those terms. Burke and Kirk are right: the “spirit of religion” and the “spirit of the gentleman” were in large part responsible for the greatness of Western civilization. As Harvey Mansfield has compellingly argued, modern bureaucrats, technicians, and ideologues are no substitute for the noblesse oblige and the humane and prudent judgment of the gentleman at his very best. But the moral capital represented by religion and the gentleman is fast eroding and cannot become the explicit foundation of Western societies, at least in a world consumed by the “acids of modernity,” to borrow a phrase from Walter Lippmann. Yet Lockean premises remain woefully inadequate for understanding the sources of the Western spirit and the true grounds of moral and political obligation.

Lights. Cameras. Punditry.

1. 2018 brought America the most political films since World War 2, says Armond White as he delivers his 14th annual “Better-Than List,” an effort of “juxtaposing some of 2018’s few good films with ballyhooed atrocities.” From the piece, a sampling of Better-Thans:

Double Lover > Mary Poppins Returns: Francois Ozon’s doppelganger love story compares and contrasts Marine Vacth and Jeremie Regnier’s psychosexual histories against their perplexed adulthood. Disney and Rob Marshall pervert pubescent fantasy into stale nostalgia and Broadway-Hollywood liberal propaganda, featuring inadequate singers and dancers.

Chappaquiddick > Vice / On the Basis of Sex: Director John Curran (casting actor Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy) replaces cynical smartness with ethical sympathy — a political movie advance over trite partisanship as in Adam McKay’s irredeemably ugly attack on Dick Cheney and Mimi Leder’s simple-minded partisan cheerleading of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

2. Kyle Smith catches the new documentary, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, a “pointillist portrait of black life in Alabama in which a series of bright little moments together form a broad and gorgeous tableau.” Read the review here.

3. But Armond has a 180 on that: He says Hale County “exemplifies the liberal sentimentality that sustains the racial status quo in everyday life, but especially in art circles.” Read the review here. About the director, RaMell Ross, Armond declares the following:

Through class difference and intellectual distance, Ross treats the down-home folk like creatures. He intersperses Terrence Malick–style images of natural phenomena to extol the lower class with existential portent. This propagandistic use of cinematic apparatus is sanctioned by film culture’s elites: the curators, distributors, publicists, and mainstream-media arbiters who all know one another’s preferences and protect one another’s social status. They also keep the lower classes at bay.

A Dios

Last week’s WJ blew it. Well, its former-altar-boy author did: The Epiphany is the day after the Twelfth Day of Christmas. So Yours Truly, educated on this point by several emailers, had to sit in the penalty box. But while sitting there, Mrs. Truly, feeling pity, conversed about the WJ and its movie-related content, and reminded said author of a favorite Three Kings / cowboys-related flick, Star in the Night. Watch it, even though the Christmas Season is kaput. The two-reeler won the 1946 Oscar for short subject and starred the great J. Carrol Naish (who that year was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for A Medal for Benny).

Also on the audio-visual front: WJ’s love for the Eliot poem received some hoorahs, and WJ lover William W. sent along another suggestion, of Eliot reading his classic, The Waste Land. You can listen here.

That said, be charitable when the collection plate is passed. And for once, don’t leave toothpaste in the sink.

God bless,

Jack Fowler

If there is some glaring mistake in here, or some observation that crushes your sense of taste and decency — you can let me know about it at

National Review

Having an Epiphany

Dear Weekend Jolters,

Sunday being January 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Christians — at least those who still practice — will religiously mark it as the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the Son of God.

The Magi and their symbolism and meaning can still pack a theological and cultural punch, and for over a century have found a welcome home in Hollywood, where scriptwriters have traded turbans for 10-gallons and sandals for spurs and robes for chaps and camels for mustangs. And royalty for banditry. But still — goodness exudes.

In 1916, Harry Carey starred in The Three Godfathers, the story (based on Peter Kyne’s popular 1913 novel) of a trio of outlaws who come across a dying woman and her baby in the desert. Just three years later, with John Ford directing, and Carey again starring, the story was remade as Marked Men (it’s a lost film), and then Hollywood tried again, with a 1929 version (directed by William Wyler and titled Hell’s Heroes) and then a 1936 version (titled Three Godfathers, and starring Chester Morris of “Boston Blackie” fame — his fellow padrini were Lewis Stone, aka Judge Hardy, and the great Walter Brennan).

And then Ford tried again, in 1948, with the slightly altered title 3 Godfathers, starring John Wayne and Harry Carey Jr. (son of . . . and also there was the sombrero’d Pedro Armendáriz). It’s a terrific film, warts and melodrama and all. A tad of overacting, but so what. Too bad, Turner Classic Movies won’t be showing it tomorrow. It would be darned fitting if film aired. But whenever you get the chance to see it, do, and remember from whence it comes — from the East, and bearing gifts.

BONUS: Check out NRO’s Epiphany Day Celebrations slide show.  

An Onslaught of Brilliant NRO Pieces that Will Instigate a Slew of Intellectual Epiphanies

1. Wesley Smith calls out gene-splicing biotech researchers in Red China, where “ethics” seem to be non-existent. From his Corner post:

There is great peril here. The bioethicist William Hurlbut worries that we could be entering an era of “outsourcing ethics,” by which he means Western universities and companies circumventing our laws by conducting research in countries with loose standards. At least to a small degree, ethics outsourcing has already started.

Such research anarchy (if you will) is dangerous. CRISPR gene editing and other fast advancing biotechnologies — such as the creation of artificial life forms — are among humankind’s most portentous and powerful inventions. It is not overstatement to state that they rival the splitting of the atom in potential benefit and peril.

2. California, Here I Go. Victor Davis Hanson laments about the Golden State’s tarnish. From his piece:

To fathom California’s near medieval asymmetry, ask how a state with such high taxes can offer such poor services. The top California income-tax rate is 13.3 percent (the nation’s highest). The state’s average sales tax is (conservatively) about 8.5 percent (ninth in the nation). California’s bewildering combined array of gasoline taxes are about 55 cents per gallon and rising (second-highest in the nation).

In exchange, California public-school test scores rank between 44th and 46th in the nation. Its roads and infrastructure are rated in various surveys between 42nd and 45th. Driving from the state’s interior to the coast on roads mostly unchanged from 45 years ago takes about twice the time as in the past — if carefully planned at particular times and days of the week.

One no longer just drives on any two-hour or longer journey in California. Instead, he navigates, with the planning, apprehension, and wariness of a 16th-century galleon captain sailing to the New World.

What is going on?

3. In Part VII of their 10-part series on Constitutional restoration, John Yoo and James C. Phillips find there is a too-broad interpretation of the First Amendment. From their essay:

The First Amendment declares that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This text protects four distinct rights: speech, press, assembly, and petition. Yet the Court has allowed free-speech imperialism to expand so far as to swallow up these other First Amendment rights.

Take the assembly clause. There are few cases where the Supreme Court has protected a right to assembly. Instead, the Court has replaced it with a judicially invented “freedom of association” that it somehow discovered in the constitutional language of “freedom of speech.” This is not only wrong as a matter of interpretive principle, but John Inazu has persuasively shown that the right of assembly was both broader and more concrete than the Court’s creation of a free-speech right of “association.”

For example, the Court’s freedom of association limits constitutional protection through adjectives: “expressive” or “intimate.” But there are no qualifiers in front of the Constitution’s prohibition on “abridging . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” All types of assembly are protected, as long as they are peaceable. In fact, the Congress that passed the First Amendment rejected an attempt to add the limiting language “and consult for the common good” to the freedom of assembly.

4. My old Pal Tom Glessner believes Americans on either side of the abortion divide can and should come together via support of local pro-life pregnancy centers. From his article:

Can Americans come together and support the value of human life at all stages even while political battles continue to rage around abortion? I believe we can.

Such unity can be achieved through the support of all Americans for the inspirational work of pro-life pregnancy centers, regardless of political thoughts about the legality of abortion. These small, faith-based ministries of compassion exist in every community across the nation. They provide vital resources to mothers contemplating abortion and empower them to choose life. Medical services include ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy and testing for sexually transmitted infections; material assistance includes baby clothes, diapers, prenatal vitamins, adoption referrals, and maternal housing.

A recent report from the Charlotte Lozier Pregnancy Center provides compelling evidence that the work of pregnancy centers is critical. America’s pregnancy centers provided 2 million people with free services in 2017, saving taxpayers an estimated $161 million. Two-thirds of the centers are medical facilities staffed with licensed medical professionals providing free services, including ultrasounds worth $114 million.

If the right to choose means anything, multiple options must be available. By providing the support and resources that make choosing life possible for the abortion-vulnerable, America’s pregnancy centers provide a real choice — an alternative to abortion.

5. Big Jim Geraghty shares 20 things you may not have known about that Vermont Socialist, Bernie Sanders. Here’s number three from Jim’s rundown:

His first campaign for public office started because he simply showed up and volunteered. In 1971, Vermont Republican senator Winston Prouty died, setting up a special election. A young Bernie Sanders chose to attend the meeting of the newly formed Liberty Union party, which he described in his memoir as “a small peace-oriented third party.” (The party called for “nonviolent revolutionary socialism” and compared the draft to slavery.)

In Sanders’s account, he became the candidate for Senate because at the meeting the party needed a candidate; he raised his hand and volunteered. He won 2 percent statewide. In the subsequent decade, Sanders twice ran as the Liberty Union party’s candidate for Senate and twice for governor, never winning more than 6 percent of the vote. During this time, he declared on the campaign trail that the Central Intelligence Agency was “a dangerous institution that has got to go,” and that “right-wing lunatics use it to prop up fascist dictatorships.”

By the time Sanders was elected to Congress, the Liberty Union party saw him as a sellout, calling him “Bernie the Bomber,” charging “Bernie became an imperialist to get elected in 1990” and declaring, “Bernie’s selling out says clearly to working people and those unable to find work that even leftists become mainstream politicians, when and if they win office.” The group also observed that, at the time, Sanders had “no person of color on his staff.”

6. David French argues for why a U.S military presence in Afghanistan and Syria remains central to American security. From his analysis:

Let’s analyze our challenge as clearly and concisely as we can.

First, there exists a jihadist enemy of our nation and civilization that doesn’t just seek to harm our national interests, it actively seeks to kill as many Americans as possible, as publicly as possible — with the goal of so thoroughly destabilizing and demoralizing our nation that we make room for the emergence of a new jihadist power.

Second, this enemy exists not because of immediate and recent American actions (though it can certainly use some of those actions to recruit new followers) but because of an ancient, potent systematic theology. Never forget that one of the grievances Osama bin Laden listed as justifying his attack on America was the Christian Spanish reconquest of Muslim Spain. That event occurred almost 300 years before the American founding.

Third, while it is difficult to predict any given terrorist attack, this much we can say — when terrorists obtain safe havens, they become dramatically more dangerous. The creation of a safe haven escalates the threat and renders serious attacks a near-inevitability.

Fourth, for reasons too obvious to outline, terrorist safe havens are always in nations and locations that are either hostile to the United States or in a state of fractured chaos. Terrorist cells may operate in places like France, but a true safe haven cannot thrive in functioning, strong allied territory.

Finally — and this is critically important — the national obligation of self-defense is permanent. No functioning government that abdicates its duty to protect its citizens from hostile attack can remain legitimate. Preferably self-defense is maintained by deterrence. But when deterrence fails, a failure to engage the enemy doesn’t bring peace, it enables the enemy to kill your people.

7. How can it be that Malthusians retain a shred of credibility? Gale Pooley and Marian Tupy explain the new Cato Institute study which shows how population growth tracks with a growing abundance of resources. From their article:

Population growth and abundance seem to be connected. Adam Smith observed that division of labor, or separation of the work process into distinct tasks, leads to faster growth. Simon took Smith’s ideas a step further. He noted that in addition to more labor, a growing population produces more ideas. More ideas lead to more innovations, and more innovations improve productivity. Finally, higher productivity translates to better standards of living.

Considering that world population will likely peak at 9.8 billion people at around 2080 and fall to 9.5 billion by 2100 — in the medium fertility scenario calculated by demographer Wolfgang Lutz and his colleagues at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis — our descendants may yet find that the Earth is short on the most important resource: people.

8. Professor Eric Ort takes to The Atlantic to claim the Constitution’s clear-as-blazes requirement for two senators per state is . . . malleable. So Charlie Cooke takes to The Corner to claim Ort is a nincompoop. From his post:

We’ll get to the argument Orts makes in a moment. But, before we do, we might take note of his framing, which does not help his case either in the general or in the specific realms. “Our Constitution is more malleable than many imagine” is the sort of thing that people plop in to their overture when they’re teeing themselves up to argue that our Constitution should, in fact, be ignored. It is a euphemism, rather than a framework, and it should be recognized as such. Ort’s more specific example, meanwhile, is completely, embarrassingly backward. The argument made against the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality was not that the Constitution’s meaning is malleable, but that it is extremely rigid. One may disagree with that argument, as four members of the Supreme Court clearly did (John Roberts ultimately cast a vote to uphold the law, but joined a majority of five in declaring the mandate illegal on Commerce Clause grounds). And yet it is the height of disingenuousness to portray those who blew open the commerce clause as the guardians of tradition and those who wished to keep it narrow as audacious Jacobins. It is certainly true that America has played host to some commerce-clause revolutionaries over the last nine decades, but they did not sound like Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito. They sounded like Professor Orts.

9. Mitt Romney begins 2019 with a Washington Post op-ed that is a kick in the Trumpian shins, to which Ben Shapiro responds: That’s counterproductive, Senator-elect. From his new column:

The essay, in truth, reads like the opener of a presidential campaign. It’s a stock speech replete with broad recommendations on policy (more strength in foreign policy, a call to “repair our fiscal foundation”) and ersatz optimism (“I remain optimistic about our future . . . noble instincts live in the hearts of Americans”). Romney states that Americans “will eschew the politics of anger and fear if they are summoned to the responsibility by leaders in homes, in churches, in schools, in businesses, in government.” Presumably, Romney considers himself such a possible leader.

If not, the entire op-ed raises the question: What do you want us to do about it, senator? By declaring Trump unfit for his office, Romney immediately forces a choice: Should he back Trump in 2020, or challenge him? Should Republicans be pushed to choose between an incumbent president and a person of more character and consistent conservative conviction — and would a primary effort actually effectuate that choice?

10. More Mitt: Teddy Kupfer checks out the post-column chatter and wonders about the claims by some that the incoming Utah Senator is taking the baton from the departing Arizona solon, Mr. Flake. He’s not buying it. From his post:

This could generate an interesting dynamic where Romney works constructively with the administration on occasion while continuing to speak out against his character flaws and his scattershot approach to maintaining alliances. I’d bet that Romney will stick to his promise to criticize Trump when Trump says things that he deems “divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions,” which means we’ll hear from him with some regularity. But he isn’t Jeff Flake, which means he might wind up being relevant for more than just his criticism of the president. Like Flake, Romney doesn’t represent the future of the GOP. Unlike Flake, he could play a constructive role in shaping it.

11. Even More Mitt: VDH thinks Romney’s op-ed displayed “naïve incoherence.” From his Corner post:

But that said, I fear that much of Romney’s invective is utterly incoherent. The departures of many top-cabinet officials in some cases were regrettable, in some understandable, but most were likely because Trump ran on an agenda neither traditionally Republican nor Democratic. Trump was the first president without either political or military experience. So there always was also going to be difficulty (and paradoxes) in matching his outsider policies with experienced insider administrators. We should, however, remember that the tenures of Department of Defense secretaries (four in the respective Obama and Truman administrations) and White House chiefs of staff (four respectively for Reagan and Clinton, five for Obama) are historically not always particularly long.

Romney is, euphemistically, accurate in stating that he opposed Trump (“Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination”). And he explains, admirably so, that he hoped that “his [Trump’s] campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not.” And Romney was further disappointed that “on balance, his [Trump’s] conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

But, ironically, all such long-standing repulsion at Trump’s behavior (even if it did crest in December as Romney alleges) raises the question, again, why would Romney have accepted Trump’s endorsement for his senate run in 2018, especially given the fact that he probably did not need it to be elected in Utah?

12. The Louis C.K. controversy (see more below) has Kyle Smith hitting back at the asshat comic’s critics. From his piece:

But what C.K. said isn’t hacky. A hack does a bit on how the Starbucks menu is too confusing or how women gain weight after marriage. And anyway, a hacky routine isn’t worth mentioning, much less getting upset about. “Parts of a comedy routine performed in an obscure club two weeks ago bombed” is not news. To mock the Parkland kids in even so mild a way as to suggest they have no expertise on gun control is to venture into a high-voltage area. It’s the opposite of “hacky.” It is in fact “edgy.” The edge in question is the frontier where “things that can be said” meets “things that cannot be said.” It’s where “funny” meets “offensive.” It’s where the audience will laugh while thinking, “I can’t believe he said that.” It’s where most of the top comics have wanted to live ever since Lenny Bruce inspired outrage for “mocking Jackie Kennedy.” (Actually the bit in question suggested Mrs. Kennedy was guilty merely of being human, of trying to flee the limousine where her husband had been shot, rather than bravely seeking help. This was an edgy thing to say in 1964 but hit home because it was likely true.)

C.K.’s comments on youth weren’t hacky and trite either, because their premise wasn’t a kids-these-days cliché but something close to the opposite. He was pointing out that (first time in recorded history!) kids these days aren’t adventurous enough, aren’t frivolous enough, aren’t freewheeling enough. Somehow every kid these days wants to clamp down on others, aspires to be a cultural vice principal or a language Niedermeyer. That’s funny.

13. Michael Brendan Dougherty sees the EU doing a crash-and-burn. A spectacular one. From his piece:

In the face of the Yellow Vest protests, French president Emmanuel Macron abandoned his campaign pledge to stand firm behind his reform agenda. He rescinded tax increases and promised more spending outlays, expanding his budget deficit beyond the European Union’s threshold of 3 percent of GDP. The EU’s budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, said the EU would make an exception and accept the rule-breaking French budget.

No such exception is made for the new Italian government, which seeks approval for a budget that has a 2.4 percent deficit. The EU wants to clamp down on Italy’s debt, which at 130 percent of GDP is more than twice the EU’s limit of 60 percent. (France exceeds the limit as well, however, with a debt roughly equal to its GDP.) And in the eyes of the EU, Italy’s government is an enemy, made up of “populists” and occasional critics of the EU. No allowances are made for them, even though Italy has gone through political upheaval similar to or greater than France’s.

All this should be a reminder that there is nothing much to envy about European Union membership. If you’re a relatively wealthy Western European nation, it is a source of instability. Brexit is treated as a “shambles,” but to an outsider it looks orderly and civilized compared with what is happening in the European Union itself. The immediate political effect of the Leave vote was to strengthen the U.K.’s most long-lived mainstream parties: Tory and Labour. Meanwhile, on the Continent, the traditional political parties in European Union member states continue to shrivel and die. The Yellow Vest protests have moved on from French cities to Brussels. So-called populists parties continue to make gains.

14. Kat Timpf has become America’s expert at cataloguing political-correct lunacy. So you’ll want to read her rundown on 2018’s top 10 most ridiculous PC moments.

15. John O’Sullivan compares Brexit and the government shutdown. He sees comparisons between Donald Trump and Theresa May in their (poor) handling of respective struggles. From the end of his analysis:

May’s mistake was a simple one: She assumed her opponent had no real weapon when he turned out to be well-armed. She has probably lost as a result. Trump’s mistake is a lesser one: He picked a fight without first ensuring that his weapons were better than his opponent’s. He probably cannot win, but all is not lost. Trump can probably hold the Democrats to a draw this time, and thereafter learn from Margaret Thatcher, who when she found herself advised by ministers to fight a miners’ strike she was likely to lose in 1981, quietly surrendered and set about establishing the conditions in which she would fight again. That moment occurred four years later when the miners again challenged the government and conclusively lost a strike that lasted more than a year. That battle established her political dominance for a generation. Trump today is very far from doing that.

As Margaret Thatcher would never have put it: You don’t take knife to a gunfight, and you don’t take a knife to a knife fight either; you take a gun to a knife fight and even then you frisk everyone else on arrival.

16. Jonah lays into The Donald’s character. At American Greatness, Roger Kimball states why he has no problem with it (the President’s character) and therefore why Jonah is wrong. To which Jonah rebuts: There’s a lot of obscuring here. From his Corner post:

As I have said and written countless times, I believe the transactional defense of Donald Trump is intellectually defensible. I may have severe disagreements about the cost-benefit analyses some bring to it (the long-term damage to the GOP and/or to conservatism may be worth a couple of Supreme Court Justices, but let’s not pretend we’re not paying a price). I also think many of his accomplishments would have been achieved by other GOP presidents and that people exaggerate Trump’s role in many of the victories that have occurred over the last two years. But I can’t object to the logic of someone who says, “Yeah, I know Trump is crude and a boor, but I like what he’s getting done.”

But that is not what Roger is doing here. He is saying that a man who bedded a porn star while his (third) wife was home with their newborn child now fits the — or at least a — definition of good character because he delivers tax cuts. A man, who by his own admission, “whines until he wins” and boasts of how he screwed over business partners, a man who lies more egregiously and incessantly than Bill Clinton and used his family charity in Clintonian ways, has a good character because he’s “working to end Obamacare, and fighting to keep our borders secure.” Is that really what conservatives should be telling presidents? That so long as you fulfill your promises to the base of the party, not only will we abstain from meaningful criticism, but we will in fact redefine good character to fit the president? I have deep admiration for Roger, but if I knew what the original Greek for “bologna” is, I would use it here.

For starters: This argument simply isn’t true. Take Trump’s position on judges, one of the triumphs virtually everyone on the right concedes. When Trump was campaigning, he displayed no meaningful knowledge of the Constitution nor any meaningful desire to correct his ignorance. When asked about who he’d appoint to the Supreme Court, he talked about his sister. It was then explained to Trump that he couldn’t win without promising to appoint justices picked not by him, but by institutions Trump-skeptical conservatives trusted: the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. How does Trump’s agreement to do this make him a man of good character, as Roger suggests? I just can’t see it. And if one were to make similar arguments about Bill Clinton or any Democrat, I’m fairly certain Roger wouldn’t have any patience with the suggestion either.

17. At Bench Memos, Carrie Severino scores the attacks on the Knights of Columbus and judicial nominees who are affiliated with the K of C by Democratic senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono and a bunch more. Read it here.

JONAH BONUS: “Dogs are a safe harbor.” Mr. Goldberg explains his canine love. From his piece:

Dogs — and animals generally — are among the few things that bridge the partisan divide. Tragedies are a partisan affair. If someone dies in a hurricane or shooting, there’s a mad rush to score political points. Last week, a lovely young woman, Bre Payton, died from a sudden illness, and a bunch of ghouls mocked or celebrated her demise because she was a conservative.

Even babies can be controversial, since babies can touch various nerves, from abortion politics to the apparent scourge of “misgendering” newborns.

But dogs are largely immune to political ugliness. The angriest complaints I get about my dog tweets — from people on both the left and the right — are that I’m wasting apparently scarce resources on dogs when I could be expressing my anger about whatever outrage the complainers demand I be outraged about.

Lights. Cameras. Punditry.

1. Rich Lowry goes to see Peter Jackson’s limited release-documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, and says Jackson deserves a medal more so than an Oscar. From his column:

Yet what is most striking about They Shall Not Grow Old is how many grins there are. The vets, who were just kids at the time, say that they joked constantly. Really, what else were they going to do, except try to make the best of it? One vet compares the times of relative quiet to an outdoors trip among friends with just enough danger to make it interesting. That Jackson recovers this neglected part of their story is a key part of his contribution.

Not that there is any stinting on the horrors. The descriptions of battle are unadorned and hauntingly specific — the mind-numbing artillery barrages, the fearful waiting before going over the top, the walking (yes, walking) across no man’s land, the battle plans gone terribly awry, the shattered bodies all around, hand-to-hand combat with the Germans.

Still, amid the carnage, the humanity of the soldiers is undimmed. When they capture Germans, they tend to get along. German prisoners spontaneously take up stretcher duty, carrying the British wounded to make themselves useful. The underlying attitude is that they are all boys, thrown into this maelstrom by forces beyond their control.

2. Aquaman is all wet, says Armond White. From the beginning of his review:

A he-man who swims, slithering through the ocean deep, then comes ashore to demonstrate his amphibious strength and superhero powers, the new live-action Aquaman is perfectly embodied by Jason Momoa. Zack Snyder first introduced Momoa during a teasing digression of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice in a sequence that promised other D.C. Comics characters would share a heroic-erotic mode. They would answer the millennium’s politically depressed view of bravery, principle, and history with an atavistic ideal. (Sndyer must have heard Walter Hill’s commendation from Bullet to the Head that Momoa was “a man among men.”)

But now that the Aquaman movie is finally here — and is a record-breaking box-office hit — Snyder’s aesthetic drive has been castrated. The Aquaman movie proceeds like a Marvel movie — an expanded generational narrative, starting with Aquaman’s parents (Temereu Morrison as his Pacific Islander father and Nicole Kidman as Atlanna, his ocean-empress mother) and the birth of their demigod offspring named Arthur. (“Product of a love that never should have been.”) This intro is Marvel-mundane, despite featuring a sped-up fantasy fight scene. The digital effects — overkill excitation — immediately ruin Snyder’s almost tactile corporeal vision for emphasis on action and frantic stimulation that video-game and VR enthusiasts have come to prefer over cinema. Marvelized reviewers don’t even appreciate the difference.

3. On Aquaman, David French heartily disagrees with Armond, et al: “I’m no populist, but this time the people are right, and my colleagues are wrong, wrong, and wrong. From his article:

There was a moment when I was watching (and thoroughly enjoying) Aquaman that it hit me. This is the Con Air of superhero movies. Don’t go to the film expecting the darkness of previous DC films. Nolan’s Batman series and Snyder’s Man of Steel are in the rear-view mirror. There will be time for think pieces on what this means for the great contest between DC and Marvel, but for now let’s just glory in the insanity. The Con Air formula lives.

Does Aquaman have an amazing cast showcasing action stars and Serious Actors? In addition to Jason Mamoa and Amber Heard, the movie features Nicole Kidman, Willem Defoe, Dolph Lundgren, and Julie Andrews (as a Kraken-like monster, no less.)

Is there a ludicrous premise? Yep. Imagine that the world’s oceans are inhabited my multiple advanced civilizations and enormous sea creatures, and they’ve been entirely undetected by the surface. Then they go to war, and still nobody really knows what’s happening.

4. More from Armond, who finds The Mule to be “refreshing” and an “exceptional pleasure.” From the review:

Director Eastwood’s restraint feels like middle-of-the-road conservatism; when applied to the film’s contemporary ethnic expansion — and featuring reactions of the country’s white, formerly dominant social group — it achieves new rich classical Americana. Stone encounters dykes on bikes and a black family stranded on a highway and refurbishes a burnt-out VFW hall. In one other extraordinary incident, he witnesses a Mexican motorist encountering an officious highway patrolman.

This scene shows that Eastwood is perhaps the only Hollywood filmmaker willing to admit the self-conscious wariness on both sides of that typical American opposition. The confrontation is funny, rather than tragic, because Eastwood and screenwriter Sam Dolnick understand that before stereotypical American social tragedy occurs, there is always American knowingness — particularly in the comic drama of civilian–authority opposition. The Mexican driver is fully aware of the situation’s grave potential (“This is the most dangerous five minutes of my life — being pulled over by law enforcement”), as is the white cop who stops him.

It’s neither satire nor sour or cynical. Eastwood imparts the complications of modern American social experience. This moment surpasses Green Book, The Hate U Give, and all the other movies spawned from the last America-hating spasms of the Obama era that connected social authority with racism, depicting non-whites as fateful victims. Eastwood’s non-jaundiced complexity is refreshing.

5. Ross Douthat has Big Screen / Little Screen visions dancing in his head as he reviews Widows. Here’s how it kicks off:

Widows, the new not-just-a-heist movie from the camera of Steve McQueen (it’s his first film since 12 Years a Slave), began life as a miniseries more than 30 years ago. It was an English six-parter, to be precise, and I’m torn about whether it should have remained one. There is something intensely welcome about watching such a rich and sprawling narrative on the big screen, in an era when so much storytelling ambition is migrating to television. At the same time, the movie feels like a would-be Dickensian story from which some crucial parts were cut. It’s solid entertainment, but its ambitions can’t be met within its running time, when even an hour more might have made it great.

6. Just a spoonful of sugar helps the socialism go down . . . Armond White says Mary Poppin Returns is something no one really asked for, so why in the heck did she come back? From his review:

Also unmistakable is the nasty political undercurrent that prevents this reboot from being escapist fun. Take the new politically instructive songs in Mary Poppins Returns. Sure, they’re the usual Marc Shaiman pastiche — cliché Broadway compositions (from the composer of the lame musical Hairspray) that lack the memorable delight of Richard and Robert Sherman’s songs for the original Mary Poppins in 1964.

Incapable of a charming tongue twister, or relatable lyrics about medicine in sugary spoonfuls, Shaiman assimilates the #Resistance mood that has overtaken Broadway and Hollywood. Though pretending to be innocuous family entertainment, the knock-off tunes have a faintly repressive, pedantic note, especially in Shaiman’s balloon-song finale “Nowhere to Go but Up.” To careful listeners, it sounds like showbiz Stalinism: “The past is the past / It lives on as history / Let the past take a bow / Forever is now.” Why should a family-movie ditty recall the essence of Soviet erasure of history?

7. Kyle has found ten — conservative! — flicks from 2018 that he claims “hit home.” From the line-up, here are Numbers Three and Two, in that order:

THREE: Little Pink House (for rent via video-on-demand, also on Hoopla and Kanopy). If high-school students were required to see this film in classrooms, libertarianism would become as popular as Barack Obama. Catherine Keener creates a screen version of Susette Kelo, the New London, Conn., citizen who didn’t want to relinquish her lovingly painted house to the grasping hands of a government that had decided a property developer should get to bulldoze it. As Antonin Scalia memorably put it when Kelo’s case reached the Supreme Court, the government’s absurd position was that “you can take from A to give to B if B pays more taxes.” It would be hard to name a better cinematic illustration of the importance of property rights.

TWO: Halloween (for rent via video-on-demand). Judy Greer’s character expertly and hilariously trolls the Left when she says her mom, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), is wrong to arm herself and prepare for the worst because, “The world is not a dark and evil place. It’s full of love and understanding!” The importance of armed individual self-defense, the fallen nature of man, the incompetence of state authorities, the necessity of capital punishment for evildoers, and even the vapidity of liberal true-crime podcasters all get ingeniously dramatized as Michael Myers goes on yet another rampage.

8. Armond likes At Eternity’s Gate, the biopic about Vincent Van Gogh starring Willem Dafoe, but first takes a moment to smack the “sappy hagiography” about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, On the Basis of Sex. From the review:

Willem Dafoe, as Schnabel’s Van Gogh, does not simply give a performance, he is the film’s material. The close identification of an actor with a film’s topic is part of the way that Schnabel encourages us to relate to Van Gogh. The effect he achieves is the opposite of the political divisiveness motivating Hollywood’s RBG agitprop.

Coming from the art world, Schnabel has developed empathy based on personal experience. When Van Gogh is told “You’re surrounded by stupid, wicked, ignorant people,” it isn’t to martyr him. Schnabel’s sensitivity to Van Gogh’s trials and agonies is apparent in how he photographs Dafoe, who, significantly, also played Scorsese’s Jesus and here becomes another of Schnabel’s artist-surrogates (along with Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat, Javier Bardem as Reinaldo Arenas, and Mathieu Amalric as Jean-Dominique Bauby).

BTW: Turner Classic Movies will broadcast the acclaimed 1956 VVG biopic, Lust for Life, on January 17. It stars Kirk Douglas (nominated for an Oscar but lost to Yul Brynner) and Anthony Quinn (who won!). If you don’t catch it, you are denying yourself a special treat.

The Six

1. In a few weeks, Catholic bishops will be meeting in Rome to consider the Church’s sex-abuse scandals. At The American Conservative, Rod Dreher writes he expects the confab will produce a fat nothingburger, and also corrals some of the latest embarrassments to befall a hierarchy that is either tone deaf or complicit. From his piece:

On September 13, Cardinal Dolan said on CNN: “If I don’t have the trust of my people, I have nothing.”

True, so riddle me this: Why should anybody should believe a thing that Cardinal Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York has to say about clergy sex abuse, given that the Archdiocese has now been caught lying to another diocese about an abusive priest?

For that matter, why anybody should believe a thing Cardinal Cupich has to say about it? Why should anybody expect that the Roman Catholic hierarchy can now, at last, be trusted to fix this at a February meeting called by a pontiff whose idea of dealing with specific, damning accusations about Church corruption, particularly in the Cardinal McCarrick case, is to repeatedly insinuate that the retired papal diplomat making the accusations is a servant of the Devil?

You will recall that Archbishop Vigano, the retired diplomat, said that Cardinal Cupich’s rise in the Church is because he was a favorite of McCarrick’s, and McCarrick boosted him to Francis. You will also recall that in response to the Vigano bombshell, Cupich told the media that the pope will not be distracted by such silliness, because he has bigger things to worry about, like immigration and climate change.

2. In The American Interest, Rebecca Burgess looks at the nexus of veterans and elective politics, using Jeremy Teigen’s book, Why Veterans Run: Military Service in American Presidential Elections, 1789-2016, as a basis for consideration. From her piece:

The optics of a hardened martial experience and the emotional crutch of reassurance that this experience gives in a world constantly described as dangerous seem obviously to favor veteran presidential candidates. Surely that explains why the majority of fictitious cinematic presidents, from Independence Day to Madame Secretary, have military experience. And there’s evidence to believe that candidates’ pre-presidential experiences influence subsequent perceptions about their success as president, and that military experience in particular drives a president towards higher performance in public persuasion. Scholarship shows that substantial differences exist between political leaders with and without experience in the armed forces.

In the “Overinformation Age,” this all translates to a handy biographical shortcut for the time-pressed average voter. Veterans accordingly will continue to run for President, and for other elected positions. As Teigen and, more recently, General Stanley McChrystal in the Wall Street Journal remind us, a uniform is no guarantee of character or political competence.

This still sets aside the (very large) question of the institutional effects that increasingly politically active veterans might have on both the military and the political process, in an increasingly partisan world in which veterans are thought of as a “tribe apart.” But here, too, it’s arguable that the long shadow of the Vietnam War has skewed perceptions of the partisan identity of those who enter and exit the military. Since the Vietnam War, the Republican Party has generally owned defense and national security issues in the eyes of the electorate. A disproportionate number of veterans are older, white, and male—proxy factors that are typically associated with GOP support. This leads many to assume all veterans are Republicans too. But the increasing numbers of Democratic veterans running for office indicate that it may be time to reevaluate who politically our veterans really are.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray bemoans how his native Britain is thrilled to accept extremists while banning their critics. From his piece:

The British government’s idea of who is — and who is not — a legitimate asylum seeker becomes stranger by the month.

In November it was reported that the Pakistani Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, was unlikely to be offered asylum by the British government due to concerns about “community” relations in the UK. What this means is that the UK government was worried that Muslims of Pakistani origin in Britain may object to the presence in the UK of a Christian woman who has spent most of the last decade on death row in Pakistan, before being officially declared innocent of a trumped-up charge of “blasphemy”.

Yet, as Asia Bibi — surely one of the people in the world most needful of asylum in a safe country — continues to fear for her life in her country of origin, Britain’s idea of who should be allowed to travel to the country (and stay) looks ever more perverse.

One person, for instance, who has had no trouble being in London is Dr Ataollah Mohajerani, Iran’s former Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Mohajerani is best known for his book-length defence of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against the British novelist Salman Rushdie. After the Khomeini’s call on the world’s Muslims to kill Rushdie for writing a novel, Mohajerani wrote a 250-page book, A Critique of the Conspiracy of The Satanic Verses, which justified the death-sentence. For more than a decade, however, apparently fallen out with part of the regime in Iran, Mohajerani has been living in Harrow, where he intermittently keeps up his campaign against Rushdie.

4. The outrage over the new routine by scandal comic Louis C.K. — mocking Parkland High School SJWs and millennials in general — gets some analysis by former NR intern Tiana Lowe, now plying her talents at Washington Examiner. From her piece:

To be clear, the media and entertainment industry (which had to be dragged, tooth and nail, by the Pulitzer Prize winning #MeToo journalists at the New York Times to finally denounce C.K. after he spent years harassing and exposing himself in front of his female colleagues) has no problem excoriating C.K. for the most transparent ploy for attention in the form of a milquetoast, hackneyed, and intentionally crude comedy set. My question to them: Where were you for the past decade?

First off, with regards to the actual content of the jokes, C.K. has a minor point. Teens these days aren’t working, having sex, or even dating. Despite growing up with social media glued to their hands, they’re the least socialized generation alive and do need a solid kick in the pants. As Parkland survivor Cameron Kasky eloquently stated, “Comedy is supposed to be offensive. My feelings have no place in it. Yes, Louis is an ass for the jokes he’s making which sucks cause he used to be really funny and not just a professional jerk.”

But more importantly, Hollywood and the media’s outright ire over one tasteless set contrasted with their years of complicity and performative pearl-clutching over C.K.’s sustained and systemic harassment of women just goes to show how little they care for victims of sexual misconduct as opposed to outright thought-policing.

5. A college prep school in Louisiana (T.M. Landry) has duped numerous elite colleges into accepting its graduates, thanks to falsified transcripts. The College Fix’s Ryan Everson reached out to the elites to inquire about their application-vetting processes. The sound of silence was the response. From the piece:

Princeton University declined to answer questions about its application process, though the school did offer comments concerning Landry. Spokesman Mike Hotchkiss said: “We are very troubled by the report and the allegations of fraud. First and foremost, we are concerned for the affected students and their families. We remain committed to attracting and supporting talented students, including students from groups that have been underrepresented in higher education and denied the opportunities they need to flourish. Every one of our students is a valued member of our community.”

Hotchkiss told The Fix that this was “the only comment we are making on Landry at the moment.”

Brown, Stanford, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Wesleyan all failed to respond to The Fix’s queries.

According to The New York Times, Landry recorded grades higher than those actually earned and gave its students credit for rigorous classes they did not take. The school also provided inaccurate letters of recommendation which listed falsified extracurricular accomplishments.

6. At Law and Liberty, John O. McGinnis worries that classical liberalism is facing a gathering storm. And yet at the end of 2018, I fear for the future of classical liberalism. From his essay:

To be sure, much of the reason for my concern has little to do with Trump. Many of our universities, mine very much included, are places of ever greater political correctness and ideological orthodoxy that nurture a coming generation of social justice warriors. The Democratic Party has lurched to the left and radical leftists, like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are given glowing mainstream media treatment. And the disruption of technology quickens, making many people feel insecure and more open to the “protections” of the state, even if the benefits of this technology, like internet search and social media, are often free and are more broadly shared than almost any innovations in human history.

And Trump adds to this disquiet because he has singularly failed to burnish the reputation of classical liberal ideas in this turbulent time. His mercurial persona, divisive tweets, and ill-informed and more than occasionally false comments discredit some good policies that should be popular. Rhetoric counts as much as policy in a democracy, because many if not most voters are rationally ignorant of complex policy arguments and even results. But many of the uninformed follow what Trump says, do not like it, and transfer that dislike to his policies. That is one of the explanations of midterm elections, the results of which portend ill for classical liberalism. Trump uses the bully pulpit but to undermine his policies and political standing. In this, he is the reverse of the greatest President and political expositor of classical liberalism in my lifetime, Ronald Reagan.

Moreover, his continual focus on himself is the opposite of a classically liberal tenor of governance, because it gives the public impression that that government and politicians should be the center of our social life. To the contrary, classical liberalism wants to minimize that presence. Presidential rhetoric should reflect that modesty.

BONUS: Making the email rounds is this Christian Smith barnburner from last January in The Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “Higher Education Is Drowning in BS.” From his doozie of an essay:

BS is universities hijacked by the relentless pursuit of money and prestige, including chasing rankings that they know are deeply flawed, at the expense of genuine educational excellence (to be distinguished from the vacuous “excellence” peddled by recruitment and “advancement” offices in every run-of-the-mill university).

BS is the ideologically infused jargon deployed by various fields to stake out in-group self-importance and insulate them from accountability to those not fluent in such solipsistic language games.

BS is a tenure system that provides guaranteed lifetime employment to faculty who are lousy teachers and inactive scholars, not because they espouse unpopular viewpoints that need the protection of “academic freedom,” but only because years ago they somehow were granted tenure.

BS is the shifting of the “burden” of teaching undergraduate courses from traditional tenure-track faculty to miscellaneous, often-underpaid adjunct faculty and graduate students.


You’re never too old! The 1965 season was coming to its conclusion, and it was an otherwise meaningless game between the American League’s two worst teams. But starting that night for the Kansas City A’s was a 58-year-old man, who had last pitched in a Major League game in 1953, by the name of Satchel Paige, who threw three scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox, giving up a lonely double to Carl Yastrzemski. It was a great moment in baseball history, and inspiring.

EXTRA: From 1970, Paige sits with Dick Cavett for a fun interview about Methuselah and the Negro Leagues and much more.

Rest in Peace

Gene Okerlund has heard the three count. Go, we pray to a happy place. We’re figuring there are no turnbuckles there. And take with you our good feelings, because Mean Gene, you helped us all laugh.

A Dios

Would you join me in fighting back against America having become a nation of slobs? How to be my ally? By not dressing in a heavy-metal T-shirt if you grace church this weekend. Men in warmer climes, also try: Pants. And not the sweat variety. Ask yourself: Didja eva see Jesus’s kneesusses? No (except up on that cross)! And while He wore sandals, I still don’t want to see your hairy toes and ankles in the next pew. Rant over.

Now what else? Oh yes: back, full circle, to tomorrow and the Epiphany. Allen R., old pal from Long Island and the culture wars, shared via email T.S. Eliot reading his poem, Journey of the Magi. Quite beautiful, and short (less than three minutes), so give a listen, here. An alternative, which I find to be an even more wondrous reading, is by Alec Guinness: It can be heard here.

God’s Glorious Blessings on You, No Matter How Your Legs Are Pantsed,

Jack Fowler

Ready and willing to receive your barbs, denunciations, and remonstrances at

National Review

Talk About Saturday Night Fever

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The year nearly passed without our noting the 500th Anniversary of the Dancing Plague of 1518, depicted above on WoodCutagram, in which many residents of Strasbourg danced (some for weeks!) to their death. The physicians and quacks of the time determined the cause was “hot blood,” and suggested even more dancing as the cure. Half a millennium later, doctors think the cause was likely a grain fungus doing a pretty good imitation of LSD.

(Speaking of dancing, my 2019 objective is to learn to dance like Jimmy Cagney. Which means a full-body cast may be in the offing.)

If only the noteworthy problems of our times were limited to odd dancing frenzies. That said, 2018 comes to its exhausting conclusion, with our 401k accounts all the more diminished, Democrats about to take over the House, and who knows what insanities the multiculturalists will demand of us. Still, all that and much more is offset by the great privilege, still very real, of being a citizen of these United States of America. Thrill to that.

By the way, Bill Buckley always said that despair is a sin. So: Do not. And outranking him was the angel (from Luke 2:9), who counseled the frightened shepherds: Do not be afraid. Sound advice that, for the shepherds who read WJ and to all others. Let us be of good cheer.

And now comes a diminished WJ, if only because Phil the Editor is travelling and I cannot torture him with the usual Copy Bomb while he is dealing with airport scrums and dragging suitcases filled with dirty laundry.

But First, I Really Need You to Help NRI

Yes, there is an NR, and yes, there is a distinct entity that is National Review Institute, the latter of which is trying to raise funds to do the things Bill Buckley intended it to do when he created NRI — now America’s premier conservative journalism think tank — in 1991: Namely, to advance (through programs from which NR Inc and the magazine and website are entirely distinct) and defend and fight for conservative principles.

NRI is engaged in its End-of-Year Fund Appeal, seeking to raise $200,000 from intelligent Americans (you!) and maybe even a handful of wise Canadians (you?) by 11:59 p.m. on Monday night (when, yeah, the year ends). It’s a goal proving elusive. We’ve raised well over half the goal, but there is still a well under that we are fighting to minimize. It feels like hand-to-hand combat this time. But I am confident that we will get there with your help, which we ask not for the sake of making some contrived dollar amount, but because every dollar given underwrites those causes and principles that are central to your beliefs.

Even if you have donated to NR in 2018, there is a sound case to be made for also donating to NRI (which, unlike NR, is a non-profit, so all contributions to it are tax-deductible).

My last spiel — which makes a case for why the goal elusiveness may have something to do with my breath — can be read here. I pray it is persuasive (and not eye-watering). God bless to all who have given to NRI, or are about to, which can be done sweetly, and securely, here.


1. It’s a shutdown to nowhere, we said, and counseled against it. From the editorial:

The first rule for winning a government-shutdown battle is not to take responsibility for the shutdown, which Trump did in his Oval Office confrontation with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer a week or so ago. Having gone on the record about how proud he’d be to shut down the government over border security, his subsequent attempts to blame the Democrats have gotten no traction (even if the Democrats are, indeed, wholly recalcitrant on the wall).

Party unity is necessary to weathering a shutdown fight and the congressional GOP leadership is unenthused, at best, over Trump’s tactics over the last few days.

Finally, Democrats know that with every day that passes, they get a little closer to having more power when Nancy Pelosi takes the speaker’s gavel on January 3, so they would have no incentive to budge even if they were feeling political pressure. (It also, by the way, makes no sense to end the Senate filibuster just when unwelcome legislation will begin coming over from the House.)

This is why the shutdown is likely a box canyon for the White House. We sympathize with the desire for more structure on the border — wall, fencing, whatever — but it has taken on an outsized symbolic significance for both sides.

An Octet of Excellence from Your Favorite Website

1. Andy McCarthy disagrees with critics of Trump’s Syria pullout. From his piece:

These latest chapters are already being folded into the Syria Hawk Fantasy Narrative. To recap, we are to believe that President Obama, by extracting forces from Iraq (inconveniently, pursuant to an agreement struck by President Bush) created a “vacuum,” in which ISIS spontaneously generated. It is supposed to be irrelevant to this story that the American people never supported Washington’s farcical sharia-democracy project, and that the Iraqis claimed to want our troops out even more than we did. What matters is that Obama’s decision “created ISIS,” dashing the dreams for a secular, pluralist democracy harbored by the moderate Muslims who predominate Iraq (at least on days when they’re not executing homosexuals and apostates), and making an unspeakable bloodbath of the heroic struggle by the same moderate Muslims to overthrow Syria’s Tehran-backed monster, Bashar al-Assad.

Of course, Obama did not create the Islamic State. Sharia supremacism did. What no one in Washington pontificating on Syria and neighboring Iraq cares to acknowledge is that this region is a tinderbox of fundamentalist Islam in which, if there were no intervention by outside forces, Sunnis and Shiites would be slaughtering each other until some strongman imposed order — something that is to be expected in a culture of voluntarism (God as pure will) where submission to authority is the norm. (Voluntarism is brilliantly explained by Robert R. Reilly in The Closing of the Muslim Mind.)

It has been 17 years since 9/11 and 25 years since radical Islam declared war against the United States by bombing the World Trade Center. Yet, head firmly in the sand, we continue to discuss such catastrophes as Syria as if the most critical fact on the ground, the power and prevalence of sharia supremacism, did not exist. Consequently, we subscribe to delusional history (Obama created ISIS) and make policy around the resulting storylines.

2. More Syria: Michael Brendan Dougherty is all for vamoosing. From his take:

What would a post-war Syria that is acceptable to America look like, and how can America bring it about at a cost Americans are willing to accept? We are not told. What are the conditions we hope to achieve before the mission can end? This question is also met with silence.

It is as if the downsides of leaving are cited only because staying keeps American soldiers and matériel near the ongoing disaster in Syria, a disaster that may yet yield an international outrage that will motivate Americans to expand the mission to include regime change. Every few months, as Assad’s government reclaims more territory, media outlets dutifully relay the messages of rebels ahead of their latest evacuations. So far public opinion has refused to satisfy the foreign-policy hawks.

As for Russian prestige, is it so enhanced? As in eastern Ukraine, so in Syria: The United States placed a gamble on a people-powered movement that would have the effect of depriving Russia of an ally that hosts vital Russian naval assets, and Russia eventually scrambled to avoid this major loss. It is not so much a gift as the successful and costly prevention of a theft.

RELATED: More MBD on Syria Mission-Creep.

3. Arthur Herman warns the USA must get on the ball in Africa, where Russia and China are exerting influence. From his column:

At stake are Africa’s rich natural resources, rapidly growing markets, and political and military influence over the planet’s Southern Hemisphere — and a major portion of the world’s population. This scramble will do much to shape the 21st century, just as the earlier scramble shaped the 19th. It will also become a major epicenter for the ongoing competition between the U.S. and China for economic and strategic leadership.

Fortunately, the Trump administration understands the stakes involved. Last week National Security Adviser John Bolton gave a speech unveiling the administration’s new Africa strategy. Unfortunately for the U.S., China has a big lead in this competition, and making up the difference won’t be easy, even though it will have to be a critical part of America’s 21st-century agenda.

But America has one clear advantage going forward. Unlike the last scramble for Africa, in the 19th century, when all the participants wound up being imperialist bad actors, this scramble has two very bad actors, Russia and China, and one clearly good guy ready to ride to the rescue — namely, the U.S. While China’s efforts in Africa have been brutal and neo-colonialist in the extreme, we can, as Bolton indicated in his speech, show sub-Saharan Africa’s 49 countries how to preserve their independence and autonomy and become part of the modern economic order in ways that benefit their people and increase their prosperity and security — as well as the prosperity and security of the United States.

4. Victor Davis Hanson penned a Christmas Eve remembrance of the special day as it occurred in a homier, simpler, pre-multicultural America. (Reading it, I was reminded of the beautiful movie, Remember the Night, with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck.) Read it here.

5. Elliott Abrams throws a brushback at Major League Baseball for its salary-stealing agreement with the Commies in Cuba (the non-Cincinnati Reds). From his piece:

A Trump-administration official also told the Post that “we do not condone the actions of any person or entity that contribute to the violation of human rights of Cuban citizens and the Cuban regime’s schemes to profit from the labor of its people abroad while keeping them in thrall to an oppressive political system.”

Let’s hope so. The White House should direct Treasury to strike down this deal as a violation of the law and a contribution to the regime.

And let’s dispense with sympathy for the billionaire owners of MLB, who cast themselves here as motivated by humanitarian concern for the Cuban players. They’ve certainly never shown such concern before.

6. Matthew Continetti has pretty high praise for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: He calls him “Japan’s Reagan.” From his essay:

Abe’s political longevity, nationalism, and evident belief in peace through strength are characteristics he shares with America’s 40th president. And they are not the only ones. Abe is a champion of free trade. His successor to the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership, ratified last March, goes into effect at the end of this year. He has pushed several privatization initiatives — a law allowing private firms to operate water supplies was passed the other week. He wants to increase options for day care to allow more women to enter the workforce.

Abe is arguably the most pro-immigration prime minister in Japanese history. An immigration bill passed two weeks ago will drastically increase the number of “temporary” foreign workers allowed into Japan. What one official described as the “economic realities” of an “aging society” with a significant “labor shortage” has overwhelmed cultural proscriptions against immigration. There already are more than a million foreign workers in Japan. Soon there will be more. Japanese note that most convenience-store clerks are from abroad. What was novel in America a generation ago, when Apu Nahasapeemapetilon debuted behind the counter on The Simpsons, is now the reality here.

Kunihiko Miyake of the Canon Institute for Global Studies says Abe has been able to control the “dark side” of nation-state populism that has been roiling international politics for the last several years. Abe’s skill at political maneuvering has made him not only a successful Japanese politician but also one of the most successful democratic statesmen in recent memory. Nor is 2021 necessarily the end of his career. There is a chance the LDP will change its rules so Abe can continue as leader and serve an unprecedented fourth term as prime minister. Another option would be to have Abe’s top lieutenant serve a term before Abe returns to office. The prime minister may have picked up a few things during those meetings with Putin.

7. We interrupt the Twelve Days for this Religious War Update: The Yoo / Phillips / Ponnuru / Muñoz debate on the Constitution and religious liberty continues, with Professor Muñoz’s rebuttal of the latest Yoo / Philllips critique. Read it here.

8. David French takes on the New York Times for urging credit card giants Visa and MasterCard to engage in corporate gun-control efforts. From his piece:

And that brings me to Andrew Ross Sorkin’s most recent reported article in the Times, a long look at how “banks unwittingly finance mass shootings.” The thesis is simple — some mass shooters have bought expensive firearms, ammunition, and military-style gear before launching their shooting sprees. In eight of the 13 mass shootings that killed ten or more people this decade, the killers “financed their attacks using credit cards.”

Yes, some of the killers’ expenditures were extreme and unusual. Sorkin singles out the Vegas shooter, the Orlando killer, and the Colorado theater murderer (I no longer use names of mass shooters in my writing) for particular scrutiny. And there is a surface appeal to the notion that modern tech can ping the police when there’s a clear warning flag for the worst forms of criminal behavior — but increasing corporate surveillance of lawful activity is not the way to stop the rarest (and most premeditated) of attacks. It is, however, yet another way to shame and stigmatize entirely normal Americans who seek to protect their homes and families.

Here’s what I mean: Unless you are abnormally wealthy, virtually every gun sale is going to be an “unusual” and expensive purchase. Sometimes (depending on the weapon), the spike on your credit card will be truly noticeable. For example, if I purchase a nice AR-style rifle, optics for the rifle, a decent amount of ammunition, and a quality rifle case, then I’m spending a considerable amount of money.

Given that I’ve likely saved up for the rifle, you might see a long gap between any gun-related purchases before I suddenly drop, say, $4,000 all at once at a gun shop. And it’s not just the hated AR-15 that’s expensive. Have you bought a good handgun lately? I spent more than $1,000 on a pistol, holster, and ammunition the last time I bought a weapon. And that was my first gun purchase in several years.

What’s the level of expense to trigger the proposed system and cause the bank to either decline the transaction or notify law enforcement? And note that this system could impact law-abiding Americans by the millions when the Times found eight mass killers in a decade financed their weapons and other gear on credit. That’s less than one per year, and many of these individuals were radiating warning signs indicating mental instability or malign purpose separate and apart from any lawful gun purchases.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits.

1. Kyle Smith gets all listy, as the season and its air of retrospect demand, and lays out his Top Ten blow-me-away flicks of 2018. A sample, starting from the end:

TEN. The Mule. Directing himself in a film for the 23rd and perhaps final time, 88-year-old Clint Eastwood creates a typically thorny and abrasive character in Earl Stone, a rotten father and husband who blithely accepts an offer running drugs from Texas to the Midwest for a nasty Mexican cartel. Very much in the vein of Gran Torino, whose screenwriter Nick Schenck also wrote this film, and carrying the air of a confessional, The Mule doesn’t ask us to love Earl, but as his life nears completion, we’re rooting for him to at least own up to his many mistakes.

NINE. Free Solo. I had never heard of the rock climber Alex Honnold going in, nor did I know what free-soloing was. And I had no idea how this documentary about his adventures was going to turn out, which made the suspense otherworldly. Honnold is an oddly detached guy in his thirties who climbs hundreds of feet up sheer, vertical cliffs, with no equipment whatsoever, not even gloves. Jamming his fingers and toes into tiny crevices, he just keeps going until he either makes it to the top or he falls. There is nothing to catch him — no ropes, no nets. And thanks to unbelievably resourceful camera work by the directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, we’re right there with him as he painstakingly works his way up one face after another, building up to his quest to scale El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, a particularly unforgiving rock with only the shallowest cracks and indentations, barely big enough to press a thumb into. Meanwhile, Honnold, a lifelong loner who never saw anyone hug anyone in his chilly family, acquires a girlfriend who complicates matters: She would prefer he not fall off any mountains. As both a character portrait and one of the most nerve-jangling films I’ve ever seen, Free Solo is stellar.

2. More list-making from Kyle, this time with 2018’s ten “Most Appalling” films. Let’s jump into the middle of the debris field:

FIVE. The Oath. Comic Ike Barinholtz tries to deal with his Trump Derangement Syndrome by writing and directing a movie about fanatical liberals who spend all day on the phone excitedly clocking every twist in the Trump saga so they can keep their outrage flowing. This tends to interfere with institutions such as, say, a Thanksgiving gathering and leads the Barinholtz character to kidnap and torture government agents who stand for everything that’s supposedly gone awry in America. The film is, however, a useful blueprint to the mindset of paranoid progressives, who every time a Republican occupies the White House convince themselves that America is becoming a police state.

FOUR. A Wrinkle in Time. A would-be sci-fi blockbuster filtered through the twinkly New Age sensibility of Oprah Winfrey, Disney’s epic debacle showed that a story about two kids traveling through the universe in search of their dad can be as exciting as sitting through a filmstrip on personal hygiene. Trying to rescue their father from a supernatural force, Meg Murry and her little brother Charles plod through one dull, convoluted expository scene after another while director Ava DuVernay abandons the novel’s Christianity in favor of a gooey kumbaya porridge of self-help nonsense. Winfrey’s glam-giant look, though, is hilarious.

3. And let’s not forget this: Kyle has a field day with the Steve Carell cinematic bomb, Welcome to Marwen. Here’s how the beatdown begins:

Ordinarily I can be persuaded to issue some light mockery of a bad movie, but Welcome to Marwen is such a smushed-puppy of a film that I don’t want to make fun of it; I want to know where I can send flowers.

This theater-emptier must be one of the most bizarrely misconceived attempts at blockbuster entertainment ever released by a major studio. It’s directed by Robert Zemeckis, who, on the strength of the Back to the Future movies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Cast Away, and Forrest Gump, has made more money than I’ll see in 40 lifetimes. Yet I feel sorry for him. I feel like sending a mental-health counselor around to see if he’s all right.

Those who complain that studio movies have gotten stale and formulaic, here’s your punishment: The movie begins with a cross-dressing World War II Ken doll who looks like Steve Carell getting accosted by Nazis but rescued by a squadron of gun-toting Resistance Barbies.

National Review v. Mann Update

Our appeal, filed this week.

The Six

1. Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty carries Caroline Roberts’ charming feature, “Searching for Walker Percy.” From the piece:

“Lost in the Cosmos” may be one of Percy’s strangest works and that’s saying something. In it, Percy does not shy away from criticizing Christians and unbelievers as well as people all across the political spectrum. In his parody of a self-help book, Percy cuts through the everyday-ness of life and sends readers along a frenzied path of exploration, presenting them with questions and “thought experiments” designed to shake up the reader’s assumptions and realize a purposeful life. “Lost in the Cosmos,” along with most of Percy’s library of work, is an example of the use of deeply philosophical narration to reach readers.

Percy said in an interview captured in Walker Percy: A Documentary Film: “I’m a catholic novelist in the sense that the Catholic faith, which is the Judeo-Christian background, informs me as a writer, and it has to do not so much with an explicit faith or transmitting an explicit faith in my writings, as it has to do with the view of man, the theory of man . . . man as man the wayfarer, man the pilgrim, man in transit, on a journey.” Percy didn’t set out to write specifically Catholic novels, but his worldview informs his writing. Instead of directly handing his readers the answers to life’s big questions, Percy subtly weaved them into compelling, unforgettable stories. The identification of man as a wayfarer is what festival attendees told me caused them to fall in love with Percy’s writings, what they felt they could connect with and what helped them along their search for purpose.

2. Raymond Ibrahim takes to Gatestone Institute to catalogue Christian persecution in the month of October. Read his report here.

3. Government’s love of mandated asphalt is explored in The American Conservative, whose Jonathan Coppage discusses your everyday mall on Black Friday: What’s discovered is lots of empty spaces on shopping’s “peak” day. From his essay:

In many cases, the Strong Towns monitors found lots half-empty — or worse. Any failures at peak demand only serve to emphasize how woefully disconnected our zoning and town planning often is from the real demands of good policy, however. For even if every lot were ideally full on peak days, that would leave acres of empty, nearly unusable space for the other 362 (or so) days of the year.

If the federal government was requiring bureaucratic agencies to build acres of offices that would never or almost never be used, conservatives would rightly point to that policy as being emblematic of out-of-touch government, disconnected from the discipline of the market and the needs of the people. Ted Cruz would quip about it on talk radio, and John Boehner would drone in perfunctory tones about a needless example of government waste. Because this particular government mandate is carried out by private actors acting in compliance with received zoning ordinances, however, conservatives often mistake commercial conformity for a product of free markets. And we have lived under the minimum-parking regime for so many years that we have come to be comfortable with oceans of empty lots as the seemingly natural pattern of retail life.

This comfort comes at a steep cost, however, as asphalt does not pay taxes, does not host events, does not bring communities together, save for the occasional pop-up car wash church fundraiser. Instead of more shops, spaced close enough to walk from one to the other, there are patterns of gradually degrading lines drawn on the pavement. All that empty asphalt can be seen as an imposed desert, whereby the government is intentionally yet needlessly forgoing revenues that will have to be extracted from its citizens by other means.

4. Philip Hamburger’s recent book, Liberal Suppression: Section 501(C)(3) and the Taxation of Speech, is reviewed by Bruce Frohen for The University Bookman. From the review:

Liberal Suppression: Section 501(c)(3) and the Taxation of Speech announces in its title Hamburger’s method and conclusion. In this book Hamburger shows how a once-obscure tax provision played an important role in transforming American public discourse and legal, political, and social practice. In formal terms, 501(c)(3) has roots in a 1919 provision exempting “non-profit” corporations from certain federal taxes. The provision was built on and strengthened in its restrictive power through severe limits on lobbying in 1934 and a ban on campaign activity imposed by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson in 1954. In broader terms, 501(c)(3) is the product and tool of liberal theology and liberal politics, both of which have a widely ignored and increasingly powerful dark, authoritarian side.

Central to Hamburger’s argument is the fact that 501(c)(3) is unconstitutional. From before the Founding into the twentieth century, common law recognized that churches and other voluntary associations are not commercial, profit-making enterprises. Fraud existed and was to be punished, but non-profits’ essential character as associations meant that their incomes, like their property and activities in general, are not appropriate objects for taxation. Yet today non-profits must refrain from engaging in expressive activities central to their purposes or suffer crushing financial penalties, especially income taxes and the loss of donors’ ability to receive tax deductions for their donations. In effect, 501(c)(3) forces associations to give up their rights to speech, petition, and religious liberty in exchange for being left alone. On these terms, 501(c)(3) is a government protection racket aimed at suppressing expressive activities challenging liberal orthodoxy.

5. At City Journal, Christopher Rufo reports on the homeless boom that is turning Seattle into a tent city, and the massive amounts of taxpayer dollars being used, with little effect, to address the problem. From his report:

At the same time, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, the Seattle metro area spends more than $1 billion fighting homelessness every year. That’s nearly $100,000 for every homeless man, woman, and child in King County, yet the crisis seems only to have deepened, with more addiction, more crime, and more tent encampments in residential neighborhoods. By any measure, the city’s efforts are not working.

Over the past year, I’ve spent time at city council meetings, political rallies, homeless encampments, and rehabilitation facilities, trying to understand how the government can spend so much money with so little effect. While most of the debate has focused on tactical policy questions (Build more shelters? Open supervised injection sites?), the real battle isn’t being waged in the tents, under the bridges, or in the corridors of City Hall but in the realm of ideas, where, for now, four ideological power centers frame Seattle’s homelessness debate. I’ll identify them as the socialists, the compassion brigades, the homeless-industrial complex, and the addiction evangelists. Together, they have dominated the local policy discussion, diverted hundreds of millions of dollars toward favored projects, and converted many well-intentioned voters to the politics of unlimited compassion. If we want to break through the failed status quo on homelessness in places like Seattle — and in Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, too — we must first map the ideological battlefield, identify the flaws in our current policies, and rethink our assumptions.

6. A few decades back, Silicon Valley went after then-giant Microsoft by turning to Washington, D.C., lawyers and regulators. In a new Cato Policy Report, Drew Clark explains how that strategy has now backfired. From the report:

The companies that drove the engine of America’s information technology machine essentially argued as follows: We provide the good stuff that you — the American consumer — want. You go to Google to get your searches answered. You want Facebook to keep up on posts from friends, families, and trusted content providers. Access to the content in the Apple iTunes store or to Amazon Prime streaming video subscriptions doesn’t need to be regulated because we tech giants compete vigorously among ourselves. But Washington does need to step in and regulate the telecom market because of a lack of competition among ISPs. And the FCC agreed in 2015 with what was officially dubbed the Open Internet Order.

The argument for net neutrality might have served tech giants well under Obama, but it wasn’t as well received by the Trump administration. And for incumbent telecom providers, the new administration has been a time for political payback. On December 14, 2017, the Obama-era approach to net neutrality was starkly reversed by the Federal Communications Commission under Chair Ajit Pai.

For years, many of the industry’s leading lights pressed the hardest for Washington to rescue them from the always-unpopular ISPs. Now some of the same companies, like Apple, are themselves the target of a trust-busting zeal among resurgent progressives in the Democratic Party and Steve Bannon–style nationalist populists.

Major content companies like Google, Facebook, and Netflix feared that ISPs would seek to throttle their services as a way of extracting payment for prioritization. Particularly for data-intensive video- streaming services like Netflix and Google’s YouTube, this concern had a certain economic logic, even as it remained hypothetical. Having long courted Silicon Valley as a key constituency and facing a highly visible public demand with enthusiastic grassroots support on the left, Obama complied.

A Dios

In the last WJ, Yours Truly expressed his fondness for the Johnny Cash version of I’ve Been Everywhere. Fair enough, says William B. from Midland, but really — oughtn’t I give credit to Hank Snow, who made it a hit in these here parts? Here it is. Y’all judge for y’allselves. But wait: Tony T from Down Under reminds us that the tune was written by Aussie country singer Geoff Mack, and then sends me his favorite version. Waddaya think, mate?

And then there is Mitt Romney’s Utah version.

Moving on . . . we can dwell on where we have been, which is a natural thing to do when Auld Lang Syne fills the airs, but say your prayers and beg for the Ancient of Days’ mercy because you also have to worry about where you are eventually going. That said, a Happy and Healthy New Year to you and all those whom you love.

God bless,

Jack Fowler

See you next year, but until then, you can always email me at

National Review

Are You Going to Winnemucca, Mac?

Dear WJer,

We round the turn of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year and, somehow, we are able to keep the horse galloping with just one hand on the reins. What’s the other hand doing? Why, holding the tin cup!

Okay friends, we’ll get to the juicy parts of this Almost Christmas Eve edition of WJ in a moment, but first comes the imploring of you — since you are already in a seasonal mood of generosity — to make a tax-deductible (magic words!) contribution to National Review Institute’s End-of-Year Fund Appeal. NRI owns NR (the magazine, the website) but it is not NR. Distinct? Yep. NRI employs, as fellows, over a dozen of your favorite conservative writers (that’s why NRI dubs itself a “journalism think tank”) and brings them hither and yon through its numerous consequential programs.

That hither-and-yonning struck me last week — it’s so vital to our movement that the propagators of the conservative faith meet with supporters and friends, in their hoods, for a variety of reasons (reinvigorating, listening, refining, discussing, building . . .). For more than a half century, Bill Buckley relentlessly careened across the fruited plains to build a movement. It was a gargantuan effort. And it succeeded.

NRI has taken WFB’s mega-example and made it a central practice of its operations. All of this reminded me of Johnny Cash’s great hit about the dude who has been everywhere, man — whether on the dusty road to Winnemucca or across the deserts bare. Because, like WFB, NRI has and NRI fellows have indeed been everywhere in 2018 and expect to do the same in 2019. That intimacy and healthy extraction from the bubble is darned critical to this movement of ours, and to the core principles its espouses and protects.

Almost done here: Even if you gave to National Review this year, I am asking you to consider a separate (and healthy!) donation to NRI. Yes, the names are similar. Yes, there is cooperation in advocating the Buckley Legacy. Yes, NRI “helps” NR — for example, it sponsors the magazine’s “Books, Arts & Manners” section. But NRI does so much more to complement the magazine’s mission via its consequential programs that it (and only it) operates. So . . . please be generous and contribute to NRI’s End-of-Year Fund Appeal.

If you don’t, I’m gonna Cry, Cry, Cry.


1. We take issue with President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Here’s how our editorial concludes:

America’s military presence in Syria did suffer from one quite serious flaw: It had not been approved by Congress. The invasion and occupation of the territory of a hostile foreign state is an act of war, and constitutionally only Congress is empowered to declare war. The proper course of action for the president would have been to stay the course and seek congressional approval. Instead, he is now remedying the constitutional defect in the worst possible way — by abandoning the field without even granting Congress the opportunity to authorize a sound strategy.

One would think that a GOP administration would have learned the lessons of Obama’s reckless withdrawal from Iraq. American retreats often create power vacuums that are often filled by American enemies. Now, after all the blood spilled and tears shed since the rise of ISIS, Donald Trump is set to make his own version of Obama’s deadly mistake.

2. Federal judge Reed O’Connor has struck down Obamacare . . . let the applause begin. But not so fast, we say. Here’s how our editorial concludes:

The Supreme Court has preserved Obamacare, as it has been implemented, even against meritorious legal challenges. It seems highly likely to preserve it against a much weaker one. Republican politicians have repeatedly counted on the courts to deliver them from Obamacare without their having to take any heat for abolishing its popular elements, to come up with workable alternatives, or to accommodate the interests of people who rely on the law while pleasing those who oppose it. O’Connor’s decision is giving them a new dodge: As it winds its way through the courts, they can continue telling the opponents of the law that victory is at hand, continue telling those who benefit from the law that they will protect them whatever happens, and — continue not working on health care.

But the courts will almost certainly not, as they should not, deliver Republicans from their duties.

3. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has once again ruled against National Review, and, we say, the First Amendment, in the case brought against us by climatologist Michael Mann. We remain determined to fight for freedom of speech. From the editorial:

This is extraordinary, especially given that at stake here is the integrity of the First Amendment. It is extraordinary foremost because National Review’s case is both straightforward and strong: that it is not, and it has never been, the role of the courts to settle literary or scientific disputes. But it is also extraordinary because National Review’s case is being heard under rules laid out by Washington, D.C.’s robust “anti-SLAPP” law, the explicit purpose of which is to make it more difficult to harass people and organizations with frivolous libel threats and thereby to protect a sturdy culture of free speech. How, we ask, can this be reconciled with a case such as ours, in which, among other inexplicable delays, the court has taken two years to add a single footnote to the records (and modify another)? That a slam-dunk case that is being examined under an expedited process should have yielded so many years of expensive radio static is a genuine national disgrace, and should be widely regarded as such.

After Two Years:

It took that long because the D.C. Court had to change a footnote and add another to the previous (appealed) decision. Thank the Lord they didn’t have to add a comma — that would have added another three months. Anyway, Yours Truly has provided an update about the ruling in The Corner.

Drummers Will Drop Their Drumsticks and Pipers Their Pipes So as to Read These 14 Dandy NR Pieces

1. Mai Khoi is “a symbol of democratic opposition to the Communist dictatorship in her country.” The former Vietnamese pop star is now a harassed dissident, and the subject of Jay Nordlinger’s expanded magazine profile. From his piece:

Mai Khoi is becoming known around the world, which is rare for a Vietnamese artist, of any type. Earlier this year, she won the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent, given by the Human Rights Foundation, which is based in New York. She is a voice for people who cannot speak for themselves.

Yet she is controversial, and not just with Communists. She is on the outs with many Vietnamese Americans as well. She caused a “big scandal,” she tells me, when she showed up for a concert in Virginia. They had the old flag of South Vietnam on the stage. She demanded that it be removed, before she sang. She did not want to sing under the yellow flag (the flag of South Vietnam); she did not want to sing under the red flag (the flag of Communist Vietnam). She has her reasons for not swearing allegiance to either of those flags.

What does she have against the yellow flag? Well, in brief, they lost the country, consigning Vietnamese in the South, and everywhere else, to decades of Communist tyranny.

“I lost a lot of support because of this,” she says — meaning her stance on the flags — “but the valuable thing is that I created a big debate about freedom of expression. People are still talking about this and fighting over it.”

Last February, she released an album called, straightforwardly enough, “Dissent.” (It was released abroad, of course, not at home.) For a while, Mai Khoi’s band had the word “Dissidents” as part of its name. But this caused problems, such as threats to the bandmates’ families. So, with understanding and without hard feelings, Mai Khoi removed the word.

2. Andy McCarthy has lots of praise for (future AG?) William Barr’s memo on concluding the Mueller investigation. From his analysis:

Barr, whom President Trump has nominated to be the next attorney general, was not prejudging the facts. He was addressing the law and Justice Department policy. With great persuasive force, the 19-page memo posits two contentions. First, based on what is publicly known, the special counsel’s theory of obstruction is legally flawed. Second, if a Justice Department investigation is going to be used to take down a democratically elected president, the social cohesion of our body politic demands that it be over a clear, very serious crime, not a novel and aggressive theory of prosecution.

Readers of these columns will not be surprised to learn that I agree emphatically with the first point. As for the second point, I can’t fathom a meritorious disagreement with it.

But that is beside the point. What matters is that it was entirely proper for Barr to weigh in on these questions in the thoughtful manner he chose. As a former attorney general, he directed his views to Rod Rosenstein and Steve Engel, respectively the deputy attorney general and the head of the OLC, the lawyers’ lawyers at the Justice Department. Barr was not only attorney general in the Bush 41 administration; he also served in the weighty positions that Rosenstein and Engel now occupy. He is intimately familiar with the difficult decisions they have to make and the Justice Department guidelines and processes that are in place to guide decision-making.

3. We’ve touched on the major schism in the Orthodox Church, and this week George Weigel weighs in again with analysis of the serious geopolitical ramifications of the split between Moscow, the Ukraine, and the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople. From his piece:

Religion is rarely thought a factor in contemporary world politics. But Putin’s attempts to resurrect the Russkiy mir depended in part on the cultural magnetic field created by the claim of Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow to ecclesiastical sovereignty over the Orthodox churches in Ukraine and Belarus. That claim has now been falsified by the creation of the OCU. So the work of reconstructing a true (and, in the best sense of the term, “usable”) history of Christianity among the Eastern Slavs can now proceed, absent the burden of Muscovite claims to hegemony over all other Orthodox Churches in the Russian near abroad. And that effort, as President Poroshenko indicated last Saturday, will further deconstruct Putin’s geopolitical project of reconstituting something resembling the old USSR, which was premised on a re-creation of the near-abroad Russkiy mir. Those who imagine that religious conviction and passion have little to do with world affairs beyond the bloody borders of jihadist Islam might think again.

The creation of an autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine was not without its difficulties, however, and as the new, unified church looks forward to the grant of the tomos on January 6, those challenges should be noted.

While one understands that Petro Poroshenko, as a faithful son of Orthodoxy, feels considerable satisfaction at the birth of a unified and independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the large role he played in engineering the drive for the creation of the OCU suggests some future cautions. As an evangelical enterprise, Orthodoxy has been hobbled for centuries by its not infrequent dependence on state power. In the independent Ukraine of the mid and late 21st century, a “national Church” may enjoy some social status as an expression of patriotic sentiment. But it will have no more claim on the religious loyalty of Ukrainians than Catholicism has on the people of rabidly secular Ireland today. Christianity in the 21st century must be proposed and offered; contemporary Christianity does not thrive where the Church depends on old ethnic-national transmission belts, and it never thrives under the heavy hand of state power.

4. There’s nothing like a good conspiracy theory involving those sellouts at National Review. One Emerald Robinson claims this fortnightly is somehow in the pocket of Google. Jonah Goldberg goes after the blatant, stupid lies being peddled. From his counterattack:

Let me put a few things on the record so I can go back to ignoring this ridiculous person and her hoodwinked fans: No one has ever told me what to write or not to write, re: Google or any other corporation throughout my entire time at NR (though I did once mock an oil company that advertised with us and got an earful since I could have used any other company. Oh, and I wrote a cover story calling for the bombing of Canada in the very issue that a US-Canada friendship group advertised with us. That caused some hullabaloo). I learned that Google gave some money to NRI for the Buckley Prize dinner only because I asked about it this week (something Robinson could have learned were she an actual reporter of some kind, rather than a MAGA infomercial hostess). But that just proves my point: No one is telling anyone what to write or not write. This is a joke.

Last, let me say I am open to the idea of breaking up Google and/or Facebook. But it’s worth noting that doing so would be a very radical move, which is why not even Robinson’s beloved Trump administration is considering it. It would also be an insanely stupid thing to do for the sake of stopping the suppression of conservative views, not least because it wouldn’t solve the problem and because it would do great harm to all sorts of economic and constitutional principles.

5. The Left’s protection of anti-Semites is called out by Ben Shapiro. From the end of his new column:

It’s a mark of the Left’s intersectional priorities that anti-Semitism from minority groups has been so widely ignored. It is a simple fact that anti-Semitism in the United States does not break down evenly by race. An Anti-Defamation League survey in 2016 found that 23 percent of black Americans had “anti-Semitic propensities,” as measured by an eleven-factor survey, compared with 10 percent of white Americans. That disproportion has been the norm since the ADL began the survey in 2007. Similar disproportionate anti-Semitism exists in the Hispanic community as well. But none of that draws any media coverage. As the New York Times admitted in its survey of anti-Semitic violence in New York City, “bias stemming from longstanding ethnic tensions in the city presents complexities that many liberals have chosen simply to ignore.”

Ignoring anti-Semitism depending on the perpetrator’s ethnicity or background is simply lending cover to anti-Semitism. Alice Walker should be just as toxic for her anti-Semitism as David Duke is for his. After all, they push the same message when it comes to Jews. Failing to acknowledge as much lends credence to the anti-Semitic idea that Jews have somehow earned their hatred from certain groups.

6. As the controversial Interior secretary Ryan Zinke heads for the exit, Shawn Reagan lists the conservative accomplishments from his two years of reform. From the piece:

“The rough riders have arrived in Interior,” Zinke later told me. “There’s a lot of anger and resentment out West that our voice isn’t being heard.” He sought to grant more decision-making authority to the “troops in the field” so they could “make decisions that are more collaborative and locally driven, rather than having to go to D.C. for a decision of whether to clean a toilet or not.”

Zinke made some meaningful progress in this area. He led a bipartisan effort to address the $12 billion national-park maintenance backlog and grant park managers more authority to address critical needs on their own. He spearheaded an initiative to work with states and private landowners to protect wildlife corridors. He put forth regulatory reforms to the Endangered Species Act that will better align incentives for states and landowners to recover imperiled species. And he embarked on an ambitious reorganization of the Interior Department — which comprises 70,000 employees spread across eight bureaus and 46 regions — to reduce bureaucracy and shift more decision-making power out of Washington, D.C., and closer to the front lines.

Yet the popular narrative of Zinke portrayed by environmentalists and the press often overlooked these efforts, focusing instead on his regulatory reforms. The media’s characterization of these changes gives the impression that the secretary carried out a radical and seismic shift in public-land policy and conservation protections during his tenure — or, as one outlet put it, a “full-scale assault” on public lands.

7. Steve Moore reviews the economic boom and finds it is impacting those demographic notes that are most in need of the boost. From the analysis:

The poor and unskilled that Mr. Obama was supposed to lift out of poverty saw their incomes fall by 7.4 percent for those with less than a high school diploma and 8.2 percent for those with only a high school diploma. In dollar terms, between the time the Obama recovery began in June 2009 and until June 2014, median black household income fell by nearly $3,000, Hispanic households lost nearly $2,500, and female-headed households lost roughly $1,500. In 2015 and 2016, income gains were thankfully reversed for these demographic groups, but many still lost ground over eight years. The income gains under Mr. Obama were mostly concentrated in those Americans in the top 20 percent of income. This is why the income gap between rich and poor rose nearly every year under Obama.

Meanwhile, the gains to those at the bottom under Trump didn’t happen by accident but by design. Those of us who advised Donald Trump on his economic policies (including Larry Kudlow and Arthur Laffer) always believed that creating a tight labor market with more jobs than workers to fill them (right now that number has soared to seven million surplus jobs) would have to lead to higher wage gains as workers would have more bargaining power to command higher pay and benefits from their employers. That is what is happening now. Higher wages are now luring workers who sat out of the labor market in the Obama years, to reenter the workforce, as evidenced by the rise in labor-force participation.

8. D.J. Jaffe sees some positive changes — and potential for much more — in the approach to mental-health care for the seriously mentally ill thanks to new laws and Trump administration enforcement. Here’s how the piece begins:

This week, over 900 people died of opioid overdoses, and 400,000 mentally ill spent the night behind bars. But next year could be different if Congress continues its support of changes being made at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and its Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS).

Historically, SAMHSA and CMHS have been part of the problem, not the solution. They spent mental-health resources on improving mental wellness among the masses, rather than on lowering rates of homelessness, arrest, incarceration, and needless hospitalization of the seriously mentally ill. In 2016, to focus SAMHSA and CMHS on the most seriously mentally ill and better address the opioid crisis, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act — and in 2017 it confirmed addiction expert McCance Katz as the first assistant secretary of mental-health and substance-use disorders (working under Alex Azar in the Department of Health and Human Services). Those two actions are starting to have an impact.

SAMHSA has now funded 18 Assisted Outpatient Treatment programs. Assisted Outpatient Treatment is perhaps the most successful program for the most seriously mentally ill who fail to comply with treatment. By keeping them in one year of mandated and monitored treatment while they continue to live at home, it reduces homelessness, arrest, and incarceration of the seriously mentally ill by about 70 percent and saves taxpayers 50 percent of the cost of care. Before the 21st Century Cures Act and McCance-Katz’s arrival, the program was ignored and CMHS funds were actually funding opposition to it.

In fact, prior to the 2016 and 2017 congressional actions, SAMHSA and CMHS ignored all the institutionalized mentally ill by failing to even count them. They counted and focused their efforts on those well enough to live in the community. That is changing. SAMHSA recently convened a panel of experts to ensure that the mentally ill in hospitals, jails, prisons, group homes, adult homes, and other institutional venues are counted so SAMHSA and CMHS can take steps to reduce their numbers. She included members of the criminal-justice community, who had historically been shut out of SAMHSA, because they are in a position to help. Secretary Azar took steps supported by McCance-Katz to improve care for the institutionalized mentally ill when he recently announced a process that would allow states to receive Medicaid funds for them, a process previously prohibited.

9. Is Parliament sleep-walking to a “No-Deal” Brexit? Michael Brendan Dougherty thinks so. From his analysis:

At the same time, there is a decreasing chance that Tories and members of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party will come together to support May’s negotiated deal. May’s popularity rises when the rest of Parliament seems to be engaged in pointless grandstanding. And even though May has essentially promised to resign as prime minister before the next election, the passage of her deal amid all the sturm und drang will look like an amazing, improbable act of political will and survival, a political victory amid dire and difficult circumstances. In other words, it may remake her popularity. If May is to be well and truly finished off by the result of her negotiations, then Tories have to see that her deal is not passed. There has rarely been a crisis in the United Kingdom’s life that seemed more urgent to Tory parliamentarians than their own party’s internal drama. Brexit is proving no different.

A no-deal Brexit would be revelatory. Britain’s economy has some long-term problems, but keeping control of its own currency should allow it to maneuver through some amount of economic disruption. The European Union would have egg on its face. Populist challenge is spreading well into Western Europe at this point. Nothing about being in the EU will become more attractive. The tough stance of Europe will come back in dramatically reduced orders for German manufactures. Likely it could kick off an economic slowdown.

It would also be revelatory in Ireland. The governments in Dublin and London have promised that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, they will not erect a physical border across the island of Ireland to impose customs checks. This is a fantasy. Without customs checks, Continental European countries would have to begin treating goods from Ireland as having the same status as those from the United Kingdom. To retain the favor of Brussels that it has so assiduously cultivated, Ireland would have to begin constructing a customs border across the political border that itself has been a source of political instability since it was drawn in 1922 — a border that has always been somewhat permeable and fudged with schemes, such as the common travel arrangement and the unique way the United Kingdom treats Irish claims of residency within her borders.

10. Back in high school in the mid ‘70s, there was always that kid who had a cucumber-sized click-your-Bic pen with an eyelet thingy on the top that sported a dozen colors. I’m reminded of that when I see Dan McLaughlin’s delightful and multi-colored graphs attending his analyses of elections and polls. Check out his latest on the Blue Wave’s waviness: How the Polls Broke at the End.

11. As the Left runs away from its once-upon-a-time love of civil liberties, the right, led by those icky Brothers Koch, have stepped up to support them. Teddy Kupfer profiles the shifting grounds and alliances under and behind political causes. From his piece:

But the Koch brothers’ support for civil-libertarian causes is of course not inconsistent with their longstanding skepticism of an overweening state, and their support for criminal-justice reform has not abated. Meanwhile, the Charles Koch Foundation (and its education-focused twin, the Charles Koch Institute) has redoubled its support not only for criminal-justice reform but also for other issues long held dear by civil libertarians, at a time when civil-liberties stalwarts are changing priorities — or compromising their principles to satisfy political objectives. As civil-liberties groups such as the ACLU change their tack, the Kochs are repositioning themselves as modern-day individual-rights activists.

Take mens rea reform, coming in the form of legislation floated toward the end of the Obama administration to strengthen the mens rea requirement of most federal crimes. The ACLU had once been a reliable critic of lax mens rea standards, under which people could violate arcane statutes without being aware of it, but this bill was opposed by a broad liberal coalition, with the ACLU at its forefront. Why? ACLU executive director Anthony Romero argued that the provision would “do little to help the vast majority of the 2.2 million people behind bars in America and those soon to be incarcerated,” a clear statement of the group’s class priorities. Mens rea reform helped the wrong group.

12. Jonathan Tobin does not worship at the Church of Environmental Alarmism. From his piece:

The majority of Americans have no problem accepting the idea that temperatures might be inching up and that there are problems that will be associated with this trend. Yet instead of approach the issue as a dilemma that requires solutions that won’t do more harm than good, environmentalists frame the issue as an apocalyptic choice. They consistently exaggerate the dangers and regularly shift the dates of total catastrophe so as to keep feeding the fears of the public even if these assertions have little to do with the actual scientific findings that we are supposed to venerate as revealed truth.

They treat any skepticism about theories rooted in computer models rather than objective observation as flat earth-style denial. They also refuse to consider the possibility that along with the problems there might be some benefits, as was the case every other time the climate warmed over the course of recorded history. And rather than propose reasonable ideas about combating warming, they demand — as was the case with the latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued in October — measures that would cripple Western economies and that would cause great hardship and suffering that would do little to halt warming.

So long as the debate about warming hinges on doomsday predictions and radical appeals to cripple the economy, many Americans will ignore them as so much hyperbole.

13. Rich Lowry finds James Comey insufferable. From his new column:

In an interview at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Comey delighted his Upper East Side audience with his tale of how he exploited the Trump White House’s disarray in its initial days to send two FBI agents to talk to then-national security adviser Michael Flynn without honoring the usual processes (e.g., working through the White House counsel’s office).

Comey said that in a different administration, it was “something I probably wouldn’t have done or maybe gotten away with.” He apparently didn’t consider how that might sound to anyone not already inclined to enjoy the wit and wisdom of James Comey, or old enough to remember when an FBI director pushing to “get away” with things wasn’t so amusing.

A lot of people have been diminished by the Trump years, Comey among them. He’s a bigger political figure than ever before but has revealed himself to be exactly what critics always said — a politically savvy operator who matches his bureaucratic skills with an impregnable sense of self-righteousness.

14. At NRO, Tevy Troy gives his fifth annual last-gasp-of-the-year roundup of 2018 books that made an impression on him. It’s a fun read.

From the Brand-Spanking-New Issue of National Review, the Fortnightly Marvel Printed on Dead Trees, Come These Four Beauts

The last issue of 2018 is hot off the presses. If you have a digital subscription to NR, which is part of an NRPLUS membership (sign up here) you can read it now. Otherwise, wait for the mailman. IN the meanwhile, let me recommend four articles from the issue. And away we go . . .

1. Ramesh Ponnuru assesses the Trump Presidency as it nears its halfway point. From his article:

During the campaign, many conservatives had doubts about whether Trump, who had a longer history as a liberal than as a conservative, would govern from the right. In office, though, he has largely deferred to a party that has grown increasingly conservative over time. Allaying earlier doubts has earned him his present degree of support from conservatives.

Trade policy has been the great exception to this deference. Many conservatives, especially economically minded ones, disagreed with Trump on that issue and hoped that he would not follow through on his views — as he has not followed through on his occasional endorsements over the last three years of gun regulations, a higher minimum wage, and so forth. His views on trade are, however, both strong and longstanding, and he has acted on them: placing tariffs on solar panels, on steel and aluminum, and on imports from China.

The results of these policies have yet to be determined. They seem to have contributed to the decline of stocks during 2018. Some companies are benefiting from the tariffs, but many more companies are paying higher prices for inputs because of them, and still other companies now face retaliatory tariffs when trying to export. Trump has gotten Canada to agree to allow more American dairy exports; in what some people will consider an accomplishment, he has gotten Mexico to agree to impose higher minimum wages on its auto industry. Negotiations with China have been listless, in part because Trump’s officials have not put forward specific demands.

2. With impeachment chatter thickening in the MSM air, Andy McCarthy explains how the Constitutional process to boot presidents and judges really works. From his essay:

Trump’s potential impeachment is a front-burner issue. What can the Clinton proceedings tell us about how to navigate it?

The first lesson is that the Constitution’s process makes paramount the building of a political case for impeachment. Again, impeachment is political in nature. “High crimes and misdemeanors” is a legal standard, but the question whether to impeach is a political calculation, not a legal mandate triggered by impeachable conduct. In 1970, just a few years before the Nixon-impeachment episode ironically landed him in the Oval Office, Gerald Ford — then the House minority leader enmeshed in a failed attempt to impeach the irascible Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas — declared that “an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” Cynical? Perhaps . . . but, as a practical matter, it is true.

The question is when the House ought to exercise its broad, judicially unreviewable discretion. The answer, contrary to the received wisdom of the post-Clinton era GOP, is not “Never.” Yet any consideration of impeachment must be informed by the Constitution’s structure, which is designed to make the expulsion of a president very difficult.

3. Immigration and assimilation may rhyme, but in Sweden, they don’t interact. Andy Ngo tells the story of a “Scandinavian Parallel” society. From his article:

University West sociologist Göran Adamson blames, in addition to poor urban planning, Sweden’s state-sponsored multiculturalism for financing separatism through various ethno-religious institutions. “The shrewd thing about multiculturalism is that it has somehow fused with the state,” the associate professor tells me.

Sweden’s institutionalization of multiculturalism began in 1975, when a parliament led by Social Democrat Olof Palme rejected assimilation in favor of policies that encouraged minorities to keep their separate identities. “Of course, if you say these things [critically] in Sweden, you’ll be ferociously attacked by social workers and the dominating left-wing academia for being inhumane,” Adamson says.

Most then choose to remain silent. But some of the loudest dissident voices are coming from immigrants themselves, who experience firsthand the failures and contradictions of Swedish multiculturalism.

4. Kevin Williamson pens the cover story, visiting Portland to report first-hand on the ruling of the city’s streets by hooded leftists. From his essay:

Antifa has hijacked the name of an earlier German organization, Antifaschistische Aktion, a front for the Communist Party of Germany, itself a creature of Moscow and no stranger to authoritarianism, political repression, and political violence. (The Communist Party of Germany was banned in 1956 by the same constitutional court that prohibits neo-Nazi organizations.) Germany of course had some genuine fascists to fight, but, as in the Soviet Union itself, “anti-fascist” came to cover action against everything displeasing to the Kremlin. It probably is worth noting that these black-bloc hooligans do not always call themselves “Antifa.” The Portland march was organized by Abolish ICE PDX. Sometimes they call themselves “Smash Racism” or something else. But they are the same people, and their goal is the same: They are fascists, albeit fascists whose idol is the proletariat rather than the nation. The helpful people at Merriam-Webster remind us that fascists seek “severe economic and social regimentation and forcible suppression of opposition.” Senator Warren pursues the former, and the blackshirts pursue the latter. Their efforts are perfectly complementary.

It is tempting to think of the street brawls between Antifa and the Proud Boys and their ilk as a kind of midget Battle of Stalingrad during which all good republicans should stand to one side and cheer for casualties.

But it is more serious than that. Once political violence is out of the box, it is hard to put it back in. Left-wing militias such as Antifa beget right-wing militias that cite the existence of left-wing militias as justification for their own, and on and on it goes. We have seen this before in many contexts, and it rarely ends well. The original German Antifa served an enterprise whose worldwide affiliates would murder some 100 million people in the 20th century alone. But those were sober times.

The Six

1. At The Imaginative Conservative, Thomas Ascik reviews Roger Scruton’s recent book, Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition, which Scruton calls an attempt to convince “well-meaning liberals.” From the review:

Prof. Scruton says that human beings “live naturally in communities, bound together by mutual trust. We have a need for a shared home.” Echoing Aristotle, who in his Politics and Ethics was the first, of course, to systematically consider and then establish the fundamental truth that we are “political” animals — that is, we live together not in isolation — Prof. Scruton sets out the natural basis for conservatism based on five “features of the human condition.” First is social membership, of which worldwide there continue to be three kinds: tribal, religious, and political. In modern times, especially in the West, political membership is governed not only by law but by law made through elected representatives. Second is individual attachments, based on motherhood, the family, and the household, as well as the household’s setting in “places, networks, and institutions.” Social memberships and individual attachments join together to create the needed setting for human “cooperation.” But, third, as Prof. Scruton says, people not only cooperate, “they also compete.” Competition both creates and solves problems, and a main purpose of society is to “ensure that competition is peaceful.” Fourth, referring to Aristotle again, Prof. Scruton argues that though conservatives agree that humans are rational beings, they maintain that human rationality thrives in the political sphere only because of “customs and institutions that are founded in something other than reason.” This, which he calls “the principal contribution that conservatism has made to the self-understanding of the human species,” is Prof. Scruton’s principal thesis. In politics, reason is not autonomous.

2. The recent Claremont Review of Books publishes Christopher Caldwell’s essay titled “What Is Populism?” It is well worth your time. From the essay:

In Italy, interior minister Matteo Salvini has become one of the most popular politicians in Europe by turning his party, the League, from a regional separatist group into a nationwide anti-immigration force. For years now, foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been chartering boats to mount extensive rescue operations of African migrants adrift in the Mediterranean. Salvini derided these efforts as taxi services to deliver migrants from the North African coast. Extraordinary maps published by the New York Times in June 2017, which showed rescue operations moving steadily closer to the port of Tripoli as humanitarian operations increased, provide considerable justification for Salvini’s view. But he went further. Salvini accused humanitarians of acting as go-betweens for two mafias: one that trafficked humans in Africa, and another that scammed Italy’s social-welfare system in Europe. He then closed Italy’s ports to such rescue vessels — first foreign-registered ones, then Italian ones. The result is that Salvini, called an “extremist” in many newspapers in the run-up to elections last March, now commands the support of 60% of Italians.

European leaders have assailed Salvini in the name of their values, none more volubly than French President Emmanuel Macron. In early June, when Salvini refused landing rights to 629 migrants aboard the German rescue ship Aquarius, Macron denounced him as irresponsible, cynical, and extremist. Salvini replied that, if Macron cared so much about European values, perhaps he could take some of the migrants himself. Macron did not. Indeed, when the same ship, the Aquarius, made for the French port of Marseille in late September with only 58 migrants aboard, Macron’s government denied it authorization to dock. In mid-October, newspapers across Europe reported that French authorities had apprehended African illegal migrants in the Hautes-Alpes region, driven them across the Italian border in a police van, and dropped them off in the woods.

The debate between Salvini and Macron revealed something formulaic and flawed in the latter’s way of thinking. Macron and his globalist allies sometimes acted as if the problems of human conflict had been solved by the Western “values,” and as if history were done presenting contingencies and surprises. That made it easy to “build a legacy” or win an honorable “place in history.” All one had to do was consult these values and order correctly from a menu of historical roles. With the rise of Salvini, the European Union’s economic commissioner Pierre Moscovici warned of “little Mussolinis” in the continent’s politics, and Luxembourg’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn accused Salvini of using “fascist methods and tones” — which presumably made Moscovici and Asselborn the Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt of our times.

3. The Obama Administration’s ban on school discipline that shows a “disparate impact” on minorities is being deep-sixed by a Trump Administration commission which concludes, thanks to common sense, that “because teachers, in partnership with principals and other school leaders, know their schools, students, and classrooms best, they should be able to make decisions about school discipline without unnecessary worry about undue federal repercussions.” Heather MacDonald tells the story at City Journal. From her piece:

Beneath those homicide numbers is a larger juvenile crime wave. “The reason so many kids commit murder in Jacksonville is not because they are murderers, but because they are everything else: drug dealers, robbers, thieves, rapists and a bunch of other types of criminals whose crimes of choice has a great likelihood of leading to a murder,” a teen murder convict, Aaron Wright, told the Florida Times-Union. Fifty-nine percent of juvenile murder convicts from Duval County who responded to the paper’s inmate survey reported that they were committing another crime such as robbery or burglary when they or their co-defendant killed their victim. Wright himself was robbing a woman when his fellow robber shot and killed her, making Wright guilty of felony murder.

The same family dysfunction and lack of socialization that create this juvenile crime wave inevitably affects classroom behavior. Duval County Public Schools also have the highest number of violent campus incidents of any Florida school district. Nationwide, schools with the highest minority populations report the highest number of disciplinary infractions. Schools that are 50 percent minority or more experience weekly gang activity at nearly ten times the rate of schools where minorities constituted 5 percent to 20 percent of the population, according to the 2018 “Indicators of School Crime and Safety” report produced by the U.S. Justice and Education Departments. Gang violence in schools with less than 5 percent minority populations was too low to be usable statistically. Widespread weekly disorder in classrooms was reported in schools with at least 50 percent minority populations at more than five times the rate as in schools with 5 percent to 20 percent minorities. More than four times as many high-minority schools reported weekly verbal abuse of teachers compared with schools with a minority student body less than 20 percent. Widespread disorder and teacher abuse at schools with less than 5 percent minority populations was again too low to be statistically reliable.

4. Due process remains in deep trouble on America’s college campuses. The College Fix reports on a new annual survey by The Foundation for Rights in Education which shows that three out of four universities don’t presume innocence for serious misconduct claims, while nine of ten “don’t allow ‘meaningful’ cross-examination in sexual-misconduct cases.” Read the story here.

5. Rod Dreher, at his blog at The American Conservative, tells this most disturbing story of Desmond Napoles, an 11-year-old media-loved autistic drag queen (!) from Brooklyn and a victim of some version of a Munchausen-by-proxying stage-parenting mom. Here’s how Rod’s post begins:

Earlier this week, I wrote about Desmond Napoles, an 11-year-old Brooklyn boy who, as a drag queen, goes by the name “Desmond Is Amazing.” In my blog post, I criticized his parents for allowing him to perform at a gay bar in Brooklyn, at which men threw cash at him, as if he were a stripper. This 11-year-old child has been widely celebrated in the media, including guest spots on Good Morning America and Today. The mainstream media have been entirely complicit in helping this child’s parents exploit him.

Now, I’ve found more. This story is even more disturbing.

Here is video of Desmond performing the same act (imitating Gwen Stefani) he did in Brooklyn at a gay bar in San Francisco this past October. Watch the clip; hooting and cheering men give him money as he prances around the stage.

How many other times has this happened? Does that stage mom, Wendy (sometimes Wendylou) Napoles, take her 11-year-old son to gay bars to perform for men all the time now? Where is Child Protective Services?

6. Gatestone Institute’s Uzay Bulut reports on how Turkey bossman Erdogan has a strategic plan to make his country the main player in a confederacy of Muslim nations governed by sharia law. From his story:

Turkey appears to be accelerating its endeavor to establish an Ottoman-style Islamic government encompassing several Muslim nations. One such effort was apparent in early November at the second “International Islamic Union Congress,” in Istanbul. The conference is sponsored mainly by the Strategic Research Center for Defenders of Justice (ASSAM), headed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief military advisor, Adnan Tanrıverdi, a retired Islamist lieutenant general.

Other organizers of the congress — the next one of which is to be held in December 2019 — include the Association of Justice Defenders (ASDER), Istanbul’s Üsküdar University (ÜÜ), the Union of NGOs of the Islamic World (UNIW), the International Muslim Scholars Association (UMAD) and the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS).

The self-described aim of the congress is “to make determinations on an academic and political ground with regard to current problems in world politics, particularly in Islamic world geography, and to offer solutions to decision-makers.”

BONUS: Lee Edwards was a huge hit on NR’s recent Buckley Legacy cruise. He participated and listened, and, from his experience, shares on The Daily Signal what he believes WFB would have to say to today’s conservatives. From his piece:

Buckley would welcome modern populists into the conservative coalition, knowing that populism and conservatism have a long history starting with the “Draft Goldwater” movement in 1964; continuing with Ronald Reagan, who won a 1980 landslide with the help of the Moral Majority; and extending to the tea party that rocketed into existence in 2009 and provided the winning margin for Trump in 2016.

(Side note: In 1965, Buckley won the votes of working-class Irish Democrats — early-day populists — when he ran for mayor of New York City.)

I stressed that Buckley delineated the critical difference between the conservative movement and the Republican Party, which are two separate institutions. The latter is a political party interested in winning races and gaining power. Conservatism is an intellectual movement dedicated to ideas that often have political application. The fortunes of the conservative moment are not automatically tied to the inevitable ups and downs of the GOP.

I concluded by pointing out that in his leadership of the conservative movement, Buckley sided with T.S. Eliot, who wrote that there are no lost causes because there are no gained causes. Indeed, Buckley welcomed the never-ending struggle to preserve and protect the priceless idea of ordered liberty.

That cause wasn’t lost in Buckley’s day, and it still isn’t lost today.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits.

1. Like Post Sugar Crisp, I can’t get enough of Armond White. As usual, he leaves the varnish at home as he reviews Roma (boo!) and Museo (hooray!). Here’s the kick-off:

Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma — about the downtrodden Mexican maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), who toils in the spacious, two-floor urban residence of a middle-class doctor — has been dubbed the film of the year for the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and all the mini-Manhattans across wealthy white America whose denizens prefer dark-skinned help to aid their leisure-class economy. Cuaron’s on record saying the film pays tribute to the nanny of his own bourgeois childhood. I can’t recall another art movie so openly patronizing toward its subject, yet so self-flattering of its maker’s largesse. (The best movie on this topic would be Todd Solondz’s harrowing 2004 Storytelling, in which bourgeois indifference meets hilarious Third World consciousness.)

Cleo (played by Yalitza Aparicio) is the perfect dumb peasant. Short and stubby, she’s naturally childlike and obedient, even with the film’s angry muchacho, the member of a militant martial-arts cult who impregnates, threatens, and abandons her. In a parallel subplot, Cleo’s neurotic mistress warns her, “No matter what they tell you, we women are always alone!” Roma, titled after a district in Mexico City, plays the SJW trifecta: race, class, feminism.

For a cineaste like Cuaron, that impudent title rips off Fellini’s visionary docu-phantasia Fellini Roma (1972). The Mexican auteur uses his routine camera moves and visual ostentation to apotheosize his Millennial’s stunt. Critics ignorant of the enormous humanist intervention made by the Italian neorealist masters Visconti (La Terra Trema), Rossellini (Roma: Citte Aperta), and DeSica (Bicycle Thieves) fool themselves that Cuaron’s contemporary political sentimentality works on the same level — “dreaming of a better yesterday,” as Herman Cain termed it. But Cuaron’s self-serving approach lacks comparable spiritual, political, and artistic complexity.

2. Not sure The House that Jack Built will be on my to-view list, but Armond finds that, as civilization crumbles, the film has its merits, and makes a point. From the review:

Jack’s transgressions blatantly summarize pop culture’s immoral shift. His recurring memory-image of farmers threshing a wheat field harvests an infernal legacy: films like Vengeance Is Mine, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Silence of the Lambs, Pulp Fiction, American Psycho, Hannibal, The Human Centipede, the Saw franchise, the bulk of David Fincher (Seven, Zodiac, Fight Club, Panic Room, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl) as well as Tarantino’s entire pseudo savvy-sadistic oeuvre. This shows wild, scary impudence. With movies like Dogville, Antichrist, and Melancholia (respectively teasing America, religion, and the apocalypse) already in his quiver, Von Trier’s audacity takes precise aim at Millennial madness.

We view Jack’s debauchery from a 360-degree moral compass that first teases, rationalizes, and then, gradually, judges. In the final sequence, when Jack encounters his hidden conscience (portrayed by German actor Bruno Ganz, of the Internet’s hilarious Hitler-conniption-fit memes), he dons a monk-like hooded robe while venturing into a version of Dante’s Hell. It deliberately evokes Alexander Sokurov’s peculiarly fairy-tale-like envisioning of Goethe’s Faust (2011). Jack’s descent into the underworld, based on self-realization, is entirely personal, an eschatological vision as was Von Trier’s Medea which combined Carl Dreyer’s The Trial of Joan of Arc with Greek myth — it’s a spiritual confrontation with barbarism.

3. Kyle Smith watches the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic, On the Basis of Sex, and likes what he sees. From the review:

There is an implicit question of the worth of divisiveness for its own sake. Some feminists, then and now, wanted maximum antagonism and hence (then and now) expended a lot of furious energy on denouncing the patriarchy. An older lawyer who inspired Ginsburg, Dorothy Kenyon (Kathy Bates), is already exhausted by what she sees as failure: “We started asking, ‘Please,’ as though civil rights were sweets to be handed out by judges.” Replies Ginsburg, “Changing the culture means nothing if the law doesn’t change.” Kenyon grumbles that people like Ginsburg just aren’t tough enough: “Ton of knowledge and no smarts.” You will be unsurprised to learn that a movie by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nephew argues that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in the right. But she actually was right. Her strategy is how the feminist war was won.

And yes, that war was won. A peculiar characteristic of the movement is that it gets angrier as the problems become smaller, or even imaginary. Today the feminists denounce “mansplaining” and whip themselves into hysterics fantasizing about how we’re living in The Handmaid’s Tale. Here’s how Ginsburg put it in a recent MSNBC interview:

Our goal in the ’70s was to end the closed-door era. There were so many things that were off limits to women — policing, firefighting, mining, piloting planes. All those barriers are gone. And the stereotypical view of people of a world divided between home and child-caring women and men as breadwinners, men representing the family outside the home, those stereotypes are gone. So we speak of parent rather than mother, and wage-earner rather than male breadwinner.

Far from being Notorious RBG, Ginsburg is a living example of the wisdom of pursuing incremental change. Her life is about the usefulness of diligence over rage, painstaking attention to detail rather than Year One utopianism. She may be a liberal icon, but the means she deployed are conservative ones.

4. As for Vice, the Dick Cheney flick starring Christian Bale, Kyle sees technicolor . . . yawning. From the review:

You’d think a $60 million budget for this one would buy some cinematic sizzle, or at least a few funny jokes, but despite a trailer promising a movie about a badass hip-hop antihero — “Vice, Vice, Babythe film is a spastic mess, an angry upchuck, with a script that’s all, “And then I found THIS on Daily Kos!” It fails on all grounds except one: Christian Bale really is something as Dick Cheney. He’s a bit too tall for the role, and he overdid the pie-eating to build himself a Winnie the Pooh tummy, but the way he rounds his shoulders and manages to talk while keeping his teeth pressed together is spot-on. Sam Rockwell, as George W. Bush, and Steve Carell, as Donald Rumsfeld, are major talents, but in this case each of them makes the mistake of doing broad sketch-comedy parody rather than disappearing into the part as Bale does. Then again, Bale has lots of practice playing this role. As I wrote upon the release of The Dark Knight, “Batman is Dick Cheney with hair.”

I wrote earlier about how Vice, which informs us that it’s a “true story” at the start and that it’s all about “facts” at the end, has a tenuous grasp on reality. This doesn’t have to be fatal: JFK, while it had little to do with the truth, was an entertaining frolic in the nutty brambles of Oliver Stone’s derangement. Vice, though, is equally lame whether it’s giggling at Cheney or denouncing him. Some bits come from McKay’s SNL brain (the Cheneys, in bed, use Shakespearean dialogue to get each other in a randy mood; the movie fake-ends, even rolling the credits, as we’re told that in the 1990s Cheney retired to private life and never played any part in the nation’s affairs again; there’s a goofy reference to Cheney as “Galactus, destroyer of planets”). Other scenes suggest McKay stays up too late taking the political blogs like heroin. He badgers, nay bludgeons, us with his hysteria about the “unitary executive theory”; this is a standard concept in constitutional law, but he frames it as a Cheney-made license for a president to do anything he wants and the source of the world’s ills. Vice also obsesses over conversations Cheney had with his lawyer and alleged abuses of various executive-branch paperwork requirements (“FACA,” etc.). I won’t bore you with the details, although McKay certainly does. There’s a late montage, as febrile and loony as a Michael Moore segment, blaming Cheney for everything from wildfires to Fox News Channel and (naturally) Donald Trump. When someone compares a dicey political situation to a stack of teacups, McKay cuts to . . . a tottering stack of teacups. Groan.

5. Peter Tonguette reflects on the career and work of Ingmar Bergman (no, not the ventriloquist), the “image magician.” Read it here.

6. Seeing the commercials for the idiot-looking Welcome to Marwen, I was rooting for it to be panned. Armond does not disappoint. From the end of his review:

It is the ultimate liberal delusion to seek remedy through art — which is the essence of propaganda. Welcome to Marwen treats a tragedy in simplistic, “heartwarming” terms that encourage audiences to see human difference only in terms of social good. It is ironic to see a multi-million-dollar Hollywood production argue that therapy is art. Welcome to Marwen turns real hurt into cheap sentiment.

7. Kyle declares Netflix’s Bird Box “fit for holiday viewing.” Here’s a snippet:

Is Bird Box good? Not particularly, but it holds the interest. Sandra Bullock stars as a San Francisco painter and reluctant mother-to-be; after her ultrasound, she gazes longingly at a pamphlet about adoption. Along with her sister (Sarah Paulson), Bullock’s Malorie gets caught up in a viral epidemic of sudden-onset-insanity. (Don’t laugh; I recall such a thing actually happening in the United States as recently as Nov. 9, 2016.) People get a glassy look in their eyes, some unseen force grips them, and they step in front of a speeding truck or dutifully climb into a burning car. This sequence is a bit gory.

Somehow a hardy handful of survivors manage to rush into a house and bolt the door while they figure out what’s happened: Anyone outdoors with eyes open gets transfixed by some force (unseen by us viewers) that compels suicide. Only by using a blindfold while outdoors can one hope to survive. Inside, you’re okay as long as you keep the windows blacked out. And there’s an additional wrinkle involving people who were already lunatics to begin with, who are affected by the visions in a different way.

Follow, follow, follow . . .

Deep in December, it’s nice to remember, and follow. It would be Fantastik if you did. The Twitter suggestions of the day: Madeleine Kearns, Robert VerBruggen, Armond White, Jonathan S. Tobin, Kyle Smith, Roger Scruton, John O’Sullivan, Douglas Murray, Jazzy Jazzy Jeff Nelson, Erika Bachiochi, Andy “Thatsamyboy” Fowler.

A Dios

Like the shepherds, I yearn to be more afraid, but for the right reasons. In the next edition of this epistle, I will tell you just how many lumps of coal Nick left in my hosiery. May you receive three things on Christmas (hey, three gifts were good enough for the Jesus baby!) and on top of that accept my tidings of comfort and joy, which one hopes are not tided in vain.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good Weekend,

Jack Falalalala (the seasonal name, which does not kybosh the fact that you can email me your own tidings of comfort, or even umbrage, at

National Review

A Giant, Also a Hero

Dear Intelligent WJer,

On December 11 of this week past, NR and many other outfits marked the centennial of the birth of the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Of his many fans, few were keener on the century’s greatest foe of totalitarianism than our founder, who on many occasions over the years dedicated huge swaths of NR pages to the Russian author’s speeches and writings. By the looks of it, in 1983 NR published the most complete accounting of Solzhenitsyn’s famous speech, “Men Have Forgotten God,” and on his birthday this week we republished it in full. More on that and on other Solzhenitsyn tributes below.

A recommendation: If you’re looking to familiarize yourself with the broad writings and talents of the man who won the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature, I suggest this 2009 collection, The Solzhenitsyn Reader.


1. On the day of what was supposed to have been Parliament’s vote on PM Theresa May’s controversial — lousy by NR’s analysis — EU withdrawal plan, we urged a “no” vote. From the editorial:

Mrs. May deferred a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, however, not because she recognized its dangers but because she knew that it would be defeated by such a large majority in the House of Commons that her position as prime minister would likely be lost. Her present tactic is to postpone a vote, perhaps until as far away as the 21st of January, in the hope that she can persuade Brussels to qualify the provision requiring EU consent for Britain to rescind this Withdrawal Agreement. We shouldn’t dismiss that possibility outright. The tactic of concentrating Parliament’s attention on a single ground for opposition which, when overturned, becomes a reason for forgetting all the other grounds is an old one. It has worked before. Also in its favor is that May is something of a specialist in obtaining meaningless “declarations” and “politically binding” (i.e., not legally binding) deals that soften and obscure real commitments. And briefings since her parliamentary statement suggest she is now seeking such a toothless protection from Brussels that is unlikely to be enough.

Her chances of getting the Withdrawal Agreement through may also have been further weakened by an intervention of the European Court of Justice, delivered on the day before the expected vote, that was probably expected to assist her. This was a ruling that the U.K. can unilaterally withdraw its Article 50 notice that it is leaving the EU and reverse Brexit before it happens. It can, that is, decide to stay in the EU even after giving notice that it is leaving. The ruling itself is a radical rewriting of a treaty provision explicitly composed to make leaving the EU irreversible (and thus too dangerous to contemplate). It’s also a prime example of a political ruling designed to meet the court’s other unwritten duty of always interpreting laws to advance European integration. It should warn the Brits that even legally binding agreements with the EU are not to be relied upon. In the present British context, however, it is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it greatly encourages Remainer MPs to continue plotting what might be called a “Hard Remain.” On the other, because it makes their maximum objective easier, it discourages them from supporting May’s Withdrawal Agreement, which would mean the U.K. ceases to have full legal status as an EU member.

2. America ships a lot — take a bow, Amazon. This has had a major (and inefficient) impact on trucking. We argue that federal regulations which ban large hitched trailers on Uncle Sam’s roads need a serious revision. From the editorial:

The poles of the freight-trucking business are parcel carriers such as UPS and FedEx at the smaller end (moving packages that usually are 150 pounds or less) and full-truckload carriers at the heavier end (moving pallets of freight adding up to tens of thousands of pounds), and in between them is the growing LTL — “less than truckload” — business.

Amazon and other online sellers have disrupted more than the retail business: The volume and configuration of their shipments has had profound effects on shipping, especially on LTL carriers. LTL trucking allows shippers with smaller amounts of freight to have their goods delivered without having to hire an entire truck and a driver for their exclusive use. This allows for the most efficient use of transportation resources, saving businesses and consumers enormous sums of money in shipping costs — by putting one full truck on the road instead of two or three partly empty ones.

The “intermodal” shipping business is an incomprehensibly complex ballet involving cargo ships, trains, and trucks in various configurations. One of those configurations, the “Twin 33” — meaning two 33-foot trailers hitched together — is at the moment prohibited on the interstate system under federal law, though 20 states including Florida and Colorado permit it and long have done so without incident. Indeed, even larger configurations (Twin 53s and Triple 28s) are legal in some jurisdictions, and their experience suggests that these pose no special traffic or safety problems.

Congress should revise the current federal regulation that prohibits tandem trailers of more than 28 feet in length. The second part of the regulation, which caps the total weight of the trailers at 80,000 pounds, need not be changed to permit this.

3. With serious revisions attached — such as Ted Cruz’s language to ban violent offenders — we believe the FIRST STEP Act (much debated on NRO) to reform federal criminal justice deserves adoption. Here’s how our editorial wraps up:

We are far more skeptical of “justice reform” than are many on the left, and even many on the right. Our sympathies lie first and foremost with the victims of crime, not with those who commit it. But FIRST STEP, with Cruz’s amendment as he has described it, focuses specifically on the aspects of the federal system that that are overly punitive, sometimes horrifyingly so. Congress should comb through the final text looking for any outstanding issues, fix them as needed, and pass it.

A Dozen that Will Keep You from Dozin’

1. You will not find Jim Comey’s picture next to “credibility” in Webster’s Dictionary. Victor Davis Hanson scores the former FBI director whose memory gets fuzzy when he is under oath. From his column:

Oddly, Comey has long posed as a modern-day Jeremiah. He thunders almost daily about the moral lapses of his perceived antagonists — mostly Donald Trump, the Trump administration, and the Republican party that Comey left.

Comey has tweeted under the pseudonym “Reinhold Niebuhr” — the celebrated 20th-century German-American theologian and ethicist. He apparently wishes to remind us of their similar moral insight.

Comey’s memoir is grandly entitled “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.” He writes to remind readers of his sterling character, which has always guided his career. Most recently, the self-righteous Comey said that the interim attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, is not very bright.

What is odd about the professed ethics of the sanctimonious Comey is that his assertions are belied by his own often-unethical conduct.

2. The Russia probe is now an investigation into payoffs to a porn actress, and who knows what tomorrow’s morphing will bring. El Jefe Rich Lowry’s new column checks out the Democrats’ “revenge fantasy.” From his piece:

The advantage of the story of the hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal is that they actually happened, and always passed the plausibility test. To credit the payoffs, it didn’t require believing in a well-coordinated scheme between a foreign intelligence service and the most shambolic presidential campaign of the modern era. All it took was imagining Donald Trump, Michael Cohen and a checkbook.

Everyone should agree that the payments were sleazy. But that’s not the live issue. Because Democrats want to see Trump impeached or even jailed, the question is whether he can be successfully prosecuted for the payments after leaving office.

The law, and common sense, suggest the answer is “no.”

The idea that Trump is going to lose reelection in November 2020 and then, having suffered the humiliation of getting booted by the voters, get indicted and stand trial on a dubious campaign-finance violation dating from 2016 is fantastical. This would be a banana-republic move, and is more a Democratic revenge fantasy — or should be — than a realistic scenario.

3. If you are rightly spooked by The Creepy Line (see Kyle Smith’s recent review / essay) then do read Michael Brendan Dougherty’s new essay makes the case for considering oversight of Big Data Brother. Here’s how his piece begins:

There is a new custom among humans, the custom of clicking a box that says, “OK” when you haven’t read the tens of thousands of words of microprint on the software use agreement you are entering. Out of this understandable absence of mind, an enormous industry arises. This industry trades in our personal data, the passively-generated facts about where, and with whom, we spend our time, what stories we visit, who we talk to, and what we say.

This enormous trade in data is not, as it currently exists, reconcilable with our society’s inherited notions of privacy. Often enough, this new data industry creates conflict with the Fourth Amendment’s constitutional protections afforded to our “papers, and effects.”

We can tame or modify this personal data industry with our laws, or we can decide to surrender our traditional notions of privacy as a common inheritance. Not just the privacy, but all that goes with it: intimacy, a sense of shelter, the ability to coordinate without the world checking in on you. Privacy could become like good schools, clean neighborhoods, access to great amenities: a privilege for those with means to find them.

Conservatives need to begin thinking about it.

4. Jonathan Tobin looks into the Trump Administration’s decision to wet-blanket the Angela Merkel-contrived UN “compact” on migration. From the piece:

The compact recognizes that there is a difference between these refugees and economic migrants. But it is clearly an attempt to begin erasing this distinction — to begin recognizing migrant rights in the same manner as refugee rights were recognized via the 1951 Refugee Convention. The conflict along America’s southern border, where many seeking asylum as refugees are clearly migrants seeking economic opportunity, illustrates the problem with this approach: It undermines the rights of refugees who are legitimately seeking new homes out of necessity as well as those who seek to immigrate legally.

Further, the compact’s denunciation of intolerance toward immigrants fails to make any distinction between hate and reasoned arguments about issues such as the rule of law, defense of borders, and how much legal immigration is wise for any particular country — let alone opposition to illegal immigration. Its spirit is rooted in intolerance for advocates of sovereignty or critics of illegal immigration and open borders policies, and there is no recognition that mass immigration can bring with it a host of costly unforeseen problems. That’s something Germany found out when it was faced with the nearly impossible task of absorbing a million migrants from the Middle East without taking into account how doing so would affect their own citizens or the way it would fuel anti-Semitism.

5. John O’Sullivan scores the no-confidence vote on PM Theresa May as a win for Brexiteers. From his terrific analysis:

Brexit too prompted a major rebellion that took May, the cabinet, and the whips by surprise. Julian Smith, the chief whip, had been telling May and the cabinet that he would deliver the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday without difficulty right up to the day before. Irony piled upon irony, he had invited television-documentary cameras into the inner sanctum of the Whips’ Office to record a success that turned into a disaster. It didn’t end with that. He seems to have downplayed expectations (or simply gotten things wrong) on the scale of the rebellion last night. High-end forecasts were that the Brexiteers might go as high as 80 votes. In the event, they added 37 votes to that figures for a total of 117. The whips had lost control.

That’s a humiliation for Smith, who surely is not long for this world, but also a sign of much wider dissent than previously guessed. If 117 Tories rebelled, you can be sure that many more wanted to do so — that’s the way of the world — and that the whips won’t get control back anytime soon, and certainly not on the basis of the May policy. In particular, the whips’ calculation that the majority of the Tory benches are firm Remainers is looking decidedly shaky. Last night, that realization was what evoked intakes of breath and shocked surprise from the political correspondents and media pundits in the Committee Room. There’s a Remainer bias in the media, as is generally acknowledged, but the degree of contempt and dislike of Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson, David Davis, and Jacob Rees-Mogg goes much deeper than most media traits. It’s a blend of social resentment and (unjustified) intellectual snobbery, and it is provoked by the fact that its targets are in fact unusually talented and effective politicians. Hence the desire to make them small. But the media celebrated their downfall last night too soon, and as the figures sank in, the media realized that the Brexiteers had not lost the plot but moved up the field — which means that this is not the Remainer Parliament that most commentary describes but something much more unstable and uncertain.

6. Vanessa Brown Calder argues that federal paid parental leave, now championed by Rick Santorum, is both bad politics and bad policy. From the piece:

Research on the policy and politics of paid leave casts doubt on Santorum’s dual claim. Like most government economic policies, government-supported paid leave holds benefits for some workers but also involves costs and a variety of trade-offs. There truly is no free lunch.

To begin with, government-supported paid leave is costly. Paid-leave proposals such as the FAMILY Act would result in new payroll taxes on all current workers, whether or not they intend to use benefits. Indeed, the FAMILY Act’s authors outline new payroll taxes in the text of their bill. If their estimates of the future cost of the program are accurate, the new taxes would result in costs of around $200 per year for the average worker.

But these estimates rely on unrealistic assumptions about the utilization of benefits and the long-term trajectory of the program. Using more realistic assumptions based on the national use of the federal unpaid FMLA program, other estimates suggest the FAMILY Act would result in costs of around $450 per year in taxes for the average worker.

7. Work requirements . . . work. Then how come they’re not part of the farm bill? Warren Davidson make the case for reforming America’s lax food-stamp policy. From his essay:

According to the Congressional Budget Office, total farm-bill spending from 2018 to 2028 is estimated to be $867 billion. Approximately 80 percent of that will be spent on food stamps, with only 20 percent directed to the farm economy. The farm bill should really be renamed the food-stamp bill. According to data from the Department of Agriculture, at a time when the economy is thriving and unemployment is at its lowest level in decades, more than 40 million people in the U.S. are using food stamps — more than the entire population of Canada.

America is a generous country. Americans want to help their neighbors in need. But welfare is a two-way street. Healthy adults without children at home should have to work to receive welfare benefits. The reason is simple: Work requirements work. Individuals who hold full-time employment are ten times less likely to be poor than people who are out of work during at least part of the year.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton implemented welfare reforms that were bipartisan. The success of these reforms has since been repeated in Maine, Kansas, Alabama, and Indiana, where the total number of able-bodied adults on welfare rolls decreased by as much as 60 to 80 percent. What’s more, those who left welfare have seen major increases in their income. In Maine, for example, those who left welfare for the workforce more than doubled their family income.

8. More ee-ii-ee-ii-oo: Alison Acosta Winters and Caroline Kitchens tag-team to declare: Tear up the farm bill. Plow it under and start anew. From their piece:

Farm bills are often touted as a way to nurture small businesses, protect “the little guy,” and save family farms, but the reality is quite different. A 2017 Congressional Research Service report found that “farms with market revenue equal to or greater than $250,000 accounted for 12 percent of farm households, but received 60 percent of federal farm program payments.” Other research by Vincent Smith at the American Enterprise Institute found that the smallest 80 percent of farms received just 10 percent of all subsidies.

This year’s bill, like its predecessors, is a huge jumble of subsidies and other programs, such as quotas and price setting, that dole out welfare to corporate agricultural interests. It creates barriers for new farmers, wastes resources, and creates risk for farmers and taxpayers alike.

The bill leaves intact numerous harmful policies, including programs designed to shield the U.S. sugar industry from competition, which help keep U.S. sugar prices double those of the rest of the world. This hurts consumers and sugar-using businesses alike.

And when it comes to reining in cronyism and abuse, the final bill actually worsens the status quo. It would expand two expensive new programs from the 2014 farm bill: Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage. ARC covers farmers for revenue losses, while PLC covers them for low prices. Under the 2014 bill, farmers had to choose one or the other. But this bill would let them go back and forth each year to maximize their subsidies.

9. Of all the aboos to be particularly bugged about, Thomas Sowell has picked the minimum wage. He finds himself in good company with Kevin Williamson, who looks into the persistent liberal demand for $15-an-hour salaries as the foolishness it is. From his piece:

People value labor in the same way they value goods and services. Wages are what we call the price of labor. We could pay people in avocados or automobiles, but it’s easier to pay them in money. But the use of money does not change how we value that labor vis-à-vis all the world’s products. There isn’t anything dishonorable or low about working in a fast-food restaurant or as a laborer on a construction site. All honest work is dignified. But that doesn’t mean we value it the same way. We don’t value the skills of the brain surgeon more than the skills of the 7-Eleven clerk because we think he’s a better person, or even because he spent so much time and effort pursuing the education and training that made him a brain surgeon. We value the work of the brain surgeon because when you need a brain surgeon, you really need a brain surgeon, and you can’t just pull some guy off the street and give him a couple of hours of training and expect him to be competent.

You can do that with a 7-Eleven clerk. I know. I was one. I remember the training.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a way to try to force consumers of labor to value certain low-skill labor more highly than they do. But here’s the thing: They don’t. There isn’t any law that is going to make somebody voluntarily swap his Rolls-Royce for a stick of chewing gum, and there isn’t any law that is going to make any employer actually value a Burger King fry-guy (I’ve been one of those, too) in a way that is equal to how they value a newspaper copy-editor (yep) or a guy who hauls away debris from a construction site (ditto; pays better than I expected). Economic preferences are real, and you cannot legislate away reality.

10. This may be the most sensible column National Review has ever published: Heather Wilhelm’s call to parents to see organized youth sports for the insanity-inducing drug that it has become. Here’s how her column begins:

Brace yourself, parents of America, for I’m about to drop an uncomfortable truth bomb: If you’re stressed out, overscheduled, and fun-starved — and if none of these three problems relate to your job, your finances, your health, or the fact that you’re constantly forced to move between various mysterious small towns because you’re hiding in the federal witness-protection program — the odds are that organized children’s sports might be ruining your life.

It’s a dramatic statement, but it is also true. The havoc wreaked by children’s sports upon the lives and happiness of people who should simply be hanging out and doing nothing on Saturdays is impossible to measure, but it is surely close to the sum of all the heartless and bloody rampages portrayed in every Godzilla movie ever made.

Most Americans intuitively know, for example, that soccer can ruin lives. No offense to four-year-olds, who are frequently delightful people, but who wants to spend their Friday night watching four-year-olds play soccer? Actually, to be fair, no four-year-old is actually playing soccer. Instead, the children are simply running around in spirals or half-heartedly staring into middle distance or cheerfully poking giant, dangerous-looking ant piles with their cleats. They don’t want to be there either! They could be poking dangerous-looking ant piles at home.

11. Planned Parenthood’s new abortion-deflecting PR campaign slogan is “This Is Health Care.” Except, as Alexandra DeSanctis points out, health care does not kill babies. From her piece:

But even in our Orwellian age of reupholstering language for the sake of preserving the privilege of tossing away the unwanted unborn, we all know that health care doesn’t kill. Sometimes technology fails us, and very often the sick die, in spite of the best efforts of doctors and progress. As any doctor will tell you, true medicine never aims to end a life.

This is health care, they say. But health care for whom? . . .

It’s a canny strategy, and so far, it seems to be working. The trouble for Planned Parenthood is that reality isn’t on their side, and science can be kept at bay for only so long. Human beings have long debated the morality of early abortions and litigated the difference between late-term abortion and infanticide. Reasonable people can disagree over the ethics at stake in the competing rights of maternal bodily autonomy and the filial right to life. Only a person with a deadened conscience can truly believe that the abortion debate is a matter of health care.

12. More from Alexandra: She calls out the Women’s March for being a hotbed of “intersectional” Jew Hate bigotry. From her piece:

But even as it appears to bind multiple factions into a cohesive interest group and voting bloc, the logic of intersectionality — the idea that various inequalities and injustices stem from and reinforce interwoven, identity-based oppressions — is quietly undermining their burgeoning movement. No uprising based on group coherence can hold together when its fundamental philosophy glorifies victimhood, pitting allies against one another in a quest to be crowned the biggest victim of them all.

Look no further than the progressive Women’s March, which skyrocketed to prominence in late 2016 and now appears to be slowly unraveling. A lengthy piece published on Monday by Tablet magazine revealed that, even as the group’s grassroots motivated women to vote against Republicans in last month’s midterms, a handful of the organization’s spokeswomen have allowed the leadership to sink into bigotry, anti-Semitism, and financial corruption.

According to the report, several of the women who now formally lead the Women’s March met for the first time in November 2016 in New York City. At that meeting, two of them, Carmen Perez and Tamika Mallory, “allegedly first asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people — and even, according to a close secondhand source, claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade.”

BONUS: The Yoo / Phillips / Ponnuru / Muñoz debate on Justice Scalia, the Constitution, and religious freedom adds another chapter.


1. From the Templeton Prize acceptance speech:

In this persecution-filled age, it is appropriate that my own very first memory should be of Chekists in pointed caps entering St. Panteleimon’s Church in Kislovodsk, interrupting the service, and crashing their way into the sanctuary in order to loot. And later, when I started going to school in Rostov-on-Don — passing on my way a kilometer-long compound of the Cheka-GPU and a glittering sign of the League of Militant Atheists — schoolchildren egged on by Komsomol members taunted me for accompanying my mother to the last remaining church in town and tore the cross from around my neck.

Orthodox churches were stripped of their valuables in 1922 at the instigation of Lenin and Trotsky. In subsequent years, including both the Stalin and the Khrushchev periods, tens of thousands of churches were torn down or desecrated, leaving behind a disfigured wasteland that bore no resemblance to Russia such as it had stood for centuries. Entire districts and cities of half a million inhabitants were left without a single church. Our people were condemned to live in this dark and mute wilderness for decades, groping their way to God and keeping to this course by trial and error. The grip of oppression that we have lived under, and continue to live under, has been so great that religion, instead of leading to a free blossoming of the spirit, has been manifested in asserting the faith on the brink of destruction, or else on the seductive frontiers of Marxist rhetoric, where so many souls have come to grief.

The statement of the Templeton Foundation shows an understanding of how the Orthodox spiritual tradition has maintained its vitality in our land despite the forcible promotion of atheism. If even a fraction of those words should find their way to my motherland past the jamming devices, this will bolster the spirits of our believers, assuring them that they have not been forgotten, and that their steadfastness inspires courage even here.

2. City Journal published Daniel Mahoney’s “Solzhenitsyn: A Centennial Tribute.” From his piece:

He had two great “missions,” as he called them: to witness to those who suffered and perished in the Soviet prison-camp system (and accompanying manifestations of Communist repression); and to trace the roots of the Soviet tragedy in the great unfolding “red wheel,” especially in the February Revolution of 1917 that preceded the October Revolution later that year and made it all but inevitable. He is the author of two great “literary cathedrals,” as the Solzhenitsyn scholar Georges Nivat put it: The Gulag Archipelago and The Red Wheel, two “experiments in literary investigation” that will require decades to come to terms with in any adequate way. Many silly and even pernicious things have been written about Solzhenitsyn by those who confuse love of truth with dogmatism, and the “active struggle with evil,” as Solzhenitsyn once described it, with moral fanaticism. And among these tendentious critics are those who mock patriotism, repentance, self-limitation, and liberty under God — that is, all of Solzhenitsyn’s enduring themes and commitments.

Solzhenitsyn’s was a long but ultimately rewarding journey. Since early boyhood, he wished to become a writer. One of the key chapters of August 1914(the first volume of The Red Wheel), depicting the Battle of Tannenberg and the suicide of General Samsonov, was already written in the fall of 1936, before Solzhenitsyn was 18. He dreaded what kind of writer he might have become without the experience of the Gulag. It was in the prison camp in 1945 and 1946, as he describes it in various interviews and in “The Ascent” — his account in the central section of The Gulag Archipelago of how the scales of ideology fell from his eyes — that he was “completely cleansed of any Marxist belief.” His cellmates helped him see the light of truth and the unparalleled mendacity of the ideological lie, the destructive illusion that evil is not inherent in the human soul, that human beings and societies can be transformed at a revolutionary stroke, and that free will is subordinate to historical necessity. Solzhenitsyn’s life is marked by this great paradox: in the camps, cold and hungry, and subject to limitless repression by camp guards and camp authorities, he recovered an appreciation of the purpose of things.

3. Last month at Notre Dame University, Mahoney and Ignat Solzhenitsyn had an excellent conversation about the latter’s dad’s new recent memoirs, Between Two Millstones. It’s well worth watching.

4. Biographer Michael Scammel lauded his subject in a New York Times column. From the piece:

After his death Solzhenitsyn was given a sumptuous funeral and buried at the Donskoy Monastery in Moscow. In 2010 “The Gulag Archipelago” was made required reading in Russian high schools. Moscow’s Great Communist Street has been renamed Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Street, his centennial is being celebrated with great pomp this week in Russia, and a statue of him in Moscow is planned for the near future.

All this would give the writer great satisfaction. But though feted and exploited by questionable allies, Solzhenitsyn should be remembered for his role as a truth-teller. He risked his all to drive a stake through the heart of Soviet communism and did more than any other single human being to undermine its credibility and bring the Soviet state to its knees.

5. At The Imaginative Conservative, Joseph Pearce expounds on the man who was a rarity — a giant and a hero. From his essay:

For those who don’t know this twentieth century giant, whom twenty-first century historians seem intent on ignoring, a few of the principal facts of his life should be given. He was born a century ago, in December 1918, a little over a year after the Bolshevik Revolution had unleashed its terror on his motherland. Suffering the brainwashing mechanism of Soviet education, he became an avowed atheist and a believer in the secular fundamentalism of the communist regime. Then, while serving in the Red Army during World War Two he made the fatal mistake of writing critical comments about Soviet leader, Josef Stalin, in private letters to a friend. Since there was no such thing as private correspondence in the Soviet Union, his letters were read by the authorities and he was subsequently sentenced to eight years hard labour for expressing his private opinions.

Solzhenitsyn considered the experience of being arrested and then imprisoned as an unmitigated blessing because it allowed him to see through the lies of the Soviet system and to perceive the evil which he had been deluded by propaganda to believe was good. In Solzhenitsyn’s eyes the knowledge of truth outweighed any suffering that was necessary for its attainment.

In March 1953, having served his sentence, Solzhenitsyn suffered the further torment of being diagnosed with what was believed to be terminal cancer. Faced with such suffering and the imminent prospect of death, he made a final embrace of Christianity, becoming a convert to Russian Orthodoxy, a decision which marked the most important pivotal point in his life. If he had died, he would have become one of those unrecognized millions of heroes of whom later generations would know nothing, another forgotten victim of twentieth century tyranny. As it was, he made a remarkable, some might say miraculous, recovery.

6. At The Catholic Thing, Douglas Kries says there is still much to learn from Solzhenitsyn. From his article:

Marxism not only misunderstood the origin of evil, but likewise misunderstood what is to be done with its effects — with suffering. Solzhenitsyn came to realize that while there was no correlation between what he and the other political prisoners in the camps were charged with and what they were made to suffer, the Christians within the archipelago — at least the best of them — learned how to make suffering redemptive. That is, they knew how to turn their suffering into a continuous penance stemming from a continuous confession.

From there, they could turn to spiritual ascent through what Solzhenitsyn often called “self-limitation.” In his later years, he warned the West — in his lecture at Harvard and Nobel Prize speech — that the “free world” was embracing a materialist slavery of its own. That process is far more fully developed now than during Solzhenitsyn’s lifetime.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits.

1. The New York Film Festival is showing Amazing Grace, the Sydney Pollack documentary of the late Aretha Franklin’s 1972 spiritual album recording (of the same name). Armond White checks out what he considers a flawed flick. From the review:

Here’s Franklin at age 30, in awesomely strong, ingeniously imaginative voice, looking trim and pretty in a white tunic and sequined bodice (later in a gray chinchilla coat), demonstrating her emotional roots in black Baptist faith and black popular communication. She starts the two-night recording with Marvin Gaye’s “Wholly Holy” and moves through such church classics as “How I Got Over” and a pop-gospel medley of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” In the latter, the vigorous chorus (under the direction of choirmaster Alexander Hamilton) repeats “everythingeverythingeverything-oh-everything!” — giving modern, youthful, rhythmic intensity to the Protestant standard.

This artistic and personal transformation, which is part of what defines Franklin’s greatness, must always fight against the insulting insistence that black artists are naturally gifted, non-intellectual, and therefore best understood the way their exploiters see them — through a racial-justice lens, not as individuals working out their soul salvation. . . .

Pollack’s doc has two major flaws: The spectacle isn’t specific enough (as when the Reverend C. L. Franklin makes his mack-daddy entrance), and the camera frequently searches to catch Mick Jagger in the crowd (as if white rock royalty is needed to confer significance). No wonder Film Forum’s marquee boasts an embarrassing New York Times blurb: “Like a trip to the Moon.” It suggests that black experience is still alien.

2. Lord, there is a stench: Kyle Smith sees Aquaman, and smells it too. From his pan-fried review:

Picture the worst Pirates of the Caribbean mashed up with the demented psychedelia of Green Lantern and you’ll have some idea of the feel of Aquaman, which even throws in some Sahara scenes straight out of a regrettable Mummy picture. Whether it’s Nicole Kidman’s kickboxing, Willem Dafoe’s man-bun, or the cheesy Bill-and-Ted-style guitar riff that introduces Aquaman on the soundtrack, every choice is crazy-bad.

Aquaman’s back story is like a discarded draft of Splash: Atlanna, the Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman, with 30 years digitally erased from her face) washes ashore in Maine, where a kindly lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) nurses her back to health. Their son, Arthur (Jason Momoa), combines both of his parents’ qualities and is described as a bridge between the land and the sea, which is not actually how bridges work, unless they’ve got major design flaws.

3. Kyle pops the corn and watches Vice, the Dick Cheney–based flick. Which he compares to . . . a garbage dump. Here’s how the review kicks off:

The initial warning is given before Vice even starts, in an onscreen note: It’s a “true story,” we’re told. But it’s hard to be strictly factually accurate, the note adds, because Dick Cheney is such a secretive bastard. So it’s really Cheney’s fault if anything in the movie happens to be wrong.

Yet at the end a character will break the fourth wall to assert that the whole thing is factual and say, sarcastically, “Because I have the ability to understand facts, that makes me a liberal?” That sounds like an invitation to consider the facts and logic of Vice. I accept.

Near the start, writer-director Adam McKay, who somehow segued from Will Ferrell movies to this InfoWars-style garbage dump, implies that Cheney’s father-in-law murdered his mother-in-law by drowning her in a lake. Huh? What does this have to do with Cheney? Is there more evidence for this than is presented in the movie, which is none? The movie’s Lynne Cheney, played by Amy Adams, also seems to think her dad murdered her mom. Does Lynne Cheney actually think this?

4. Kyle check out Clint Eastwood’s curtain call, The Mule, and finds it oddly endearing. From the review:

Eastwood’s Earl Stone, the kind of old cuss who refers to a Latino’s car as a “taco wagon,” is a stand-in for every absentee dad in the land. A career traveling salesman, he’s spent his life on the road, but nowadays prefers to grow lilies in solitude. His ex-wife (Dianne Wiest) and daughter (Eastwood’s real-life daughter Alison) want nothing to do with him. He’s boozing it up with some fellow horticulturists when he remembers it’s his daughter’s wedding day. A flash of recognition comes over his face, but then he just . . . keeps on drinking.

That’s bad enough. But then, with hardly a second thought, Earl (whose house is in foreclosure and whose truck looks like he bought it from the Joad family) drifts into becoming a major drug trafficker. At first, he seems oblivious to what’s happening when some fine gentlemen wielding military-grade rifles tell him to run a package across state lines. But gradually it sets in that Earl, who is based on a real drug runner of similar age profiled in a magazine article, just doesn’t care that he’s an employee of some of the worst people in the hemisphere. And the script, by Gran Torino writer Nick Schenk, plays his escapades for laughs: Who would suspect a dotty old man of having hundreds of pounds of cocaine in the bed of his pickup? The ultimate head of the cartel, the drug lord played by Andy Garcia, advises his operatives to give the old coot plenty of leeway to do things the way he wants; he’s become an essential part of the operation. (Any movie that includes this particular actor in this particular role is really missing an opportunity if it isn’t called “Bring Me the Head of Andy Garcia,” but I’ll let that go.)

The Six

1. At The Spectator, venerable but now SJW–vilified Roger Scruton says go ahead and hate me. From his piece:

If there is hatred in our society, it does not come from ordinary prejudices, such as those that lead rival groups of citizens to treat each other with suspicion; it stems from those who do not see prejudice for what it is, the natural response to difference, and the desire to live in a comfort zone of one’s own. ‘-Haters of hate’ include the militant ‘Antifa’ activists, the radical antiracists, the intolerant feminists who will not permit any utterance that they regard as ‘offensive’ to the fair sex (such as this one). They are people who discern hatred all around them, in order to get on with the agreeable business of hating it: people who feel for whatever reason excluded from some aspect of our largely peaceful and compromising way of life, and are giving vent to their resentments.

2. At The American Conservative, Casey Chalk suggests that Christians living in a secular world should look for inspiration from the Prophet Daniel, he of the lions’ den. From the piece:

The Book of Daniel tells of the story of the Jewish people during their exile in what is now modern-day Iraq. Forced from their native home in Judea by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, Daniel is one of a small cadre of elite Jews brought into the royal court. We are told that Daniel and his companions were “youths without blemish, handsome and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to serve in the king’s palace.” Yet trouble quickly finds Daniel and his friends, particularly as it relates to their religious beliefs. How Daniel saves his skin is saliently pedagogical for those in a post-Christian society.

The Jewish courtiers refused to eat the defiled food of the Babylonians, which presumably was either not kosher or had been consecrated to pagan deities. Daniel’s remedy for this problem, which very well could have resulted in his death, wasn’t to aggressively pick a fight regarding his inalienable right to worship as he pleases — he was shrewdly aware of the limits foisted upon him. Rather, the text tells us, Daniel gained “favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” of Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Daniel then used this good will to offer this senior official a proposition behind closed doors: test him and his buddies with just vegetables and water, and see how they fare. The deal was struck, and after 10 days, the Jews were “better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s rich food.”

3. You want to talk nuts, read Denis MacEoin at Gatestone Institute, who writes about the European Court of Human Rights’s blasphemy laws. From his piece:

The ECHR ruling also, unfortunately, will have an even wider impact across Europe and the world. The present writer, unlike Sabaditsch-Wolff, has a doctorate in Islamic studies and languages. If I were to refer to the original Arabic texts of the sacred traditions (ahadith) in which the story of Muhammad’s marriage and sexual relations with A’isha — texts officially held to be factually correct by all Sunni Muslims — might I too now be put on trial for the same offence? Or if I were to write an article giving details of the approximately 40 individuals who were assassinated for having insulted the prophet on Muhammad’s direct orders or whose assassinations were approved by him? What if, in the article, I also added comments on what this might indicate, backed up by chapter and verse of the Muslim histories and sacred traditions that record them, should I then be brought before a court, sentenced, fined or sent to prison?

Will no academic or well-informed individual in future be able to say anything about Muhammad, or will that now be legally prohibited? Moreover, as some Muslims are often offended by even small matters regarding their faith, such as a toy teddy bear named Mohammad or a prisoner on death row declared innocent — so that mobs take to the streets to condemn, or even kill, those individuals — what now will not be censored in the West?

It may well be suggested that Muhammad’s sexual preferences are matters of purely historical interest, but in many Muslim countries, the proper age for marriage is determined, not according to the standards of the ECHR or other international bodies, but on the strength of the firmly established sacred traditions that help form the basis, alongside the Qur’an and the ahadith, of Shari’a law. In many countries, child brides are still commonplace, often in marriages that are forced — as, for instance here, here, here and here.

4. At City Journal, Jerry Weinberger looks at “deep ecology” and sees a pervasion of an ideology.

Conservative skepticism notwithstanding, though, climate-change ideologues have more or less shaped public debate on the issue — successfully branding their opposition as “climate deniers.” And by now, nearly 50 years after the first Earth Day, a broad-ranging and increasingly draconian ecological consciousness has become pervasive in American life, extending far beyond climate issues. Go to the supermarket, for example, or look inside your pantry. You’ll find that hundreds of items in bags and cans have certifications of “Non-GMO.” That means that they contain no genetically modified organisms. In recent years, more than 27,000 products have been so certified (by the Non-GMO Project), with the purpose of putting our minds at ease that what we’re about to eat is not genetically modified and will not sicken or kill us or make us sprout a third arm. Non-GMO fanatics and millions of consumers call these forbidden fruits “Frankenfood.” Never mind that nobody has been proved to have been harmed or killed by GMOs. (That can’t be said for organic spinach or bean sprouts.) And never mind that for 25 years, almost all corn, cotton, and soybeans grown in the United States have been genetically modified, with nobody sickened or dead or sporting an extra limb. So why the intransigence of the activists and the gullibility of so many consumers?

The issue here is not the inevitable one of managing risk and rewards in modern life. It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder whether plants genetically modified to withstand the herbicide Roundup, say, might cause more of the poison to be used and thus entail some cost or harm. The giveaway term is the reference to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The real issue, that is, is not primarily technical or scientific; it’s moral and spiritual. With genetic engineering, in this view, we’re trying to play God and invariably upsetting the natural order of things. Put differently, and in the terms of the radical ecologist David Graber, we’re the fallen human parasite going after holy Mother Nature.

5. Submit! The transgender movement is not interested in compromise. John Daniel Davidson reports at The Federalist. From his piece:

The trend of aggressive trans activism is of course most pronounced in academia, where social justice mobs are becoming more frequent, while reason and objectivity are in precipitous decline. Recently, the notion that biological sex, like gender, is merely a social construct has gained traction on the editorial boards of magazines like Scientific American and prestigious academic journals like Nature, which published an editorial in October arguing against classifying sex “on the basis of anatomy or genetics,” and asserting that, “The idea that science can make definitive conclusions about a person’s sex or gender is fundamentally flawed.”

Thankfully, there are still some academics willing to point out that sex does not exist on a spectrum, that it is in fact so binary in humans as to be among the most statistically verifiable phenomena in nature.

For believing this, and daring to say so in public, academics are increasingly facing harassment and threats of violence. In Britain, a scholar on human rights law at the University of Reading who had the temerity to assert that sex is fixed at birth said she recently received an anonymous 3:30 a.m. phone call from someone who told her she “should be raped and killed.” The professor also reported that after a recent debate about changes to gender law, her office door was covered in urine and she was targeted online.

6. Tariffs are taxes. At Reason, Eric Boehm looks at a recent union-backed study touting aluminum tariffs — which have cost Americans over $690 million since June. From his analysis:

The bigger flaw in the EPI study is that it fails to account for the costs of the tariffs. Those 300 new jobs didn’t just spring up out of nowhere because the president said some magic words — they are the result of businesses shifting resources and strategies in an economic environment where imported aluminum has suddenly been subjected to a 10 percent tax increase. In other words, the trade-offs (in this case, the higher taxes) matter.

And the trade-offs are huge. Since the aluminum tariffs were imposed on June 1, American companies have paid about $690 million in tariffs to the federal government, according to data from The Trade Partnership, a pro-trade nonprofit, and Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, which is lobbying for Congress and the administration to remove those tariffs.

Do the math. That means those 300 jobs have cost about $2.3 million each. That’s insane. Even if you give EPI the benefit of the doubt and assume that those 2,000 additional manufacturing jobs eventually come online, we’re still talking about a price tag of about $300,000 per job.

BONUS: A remarkable First Things reflection by Helen Andrews on the Spanish Conquest. If you want to experience beautiful writing, read it here.

Explaining Macron

From my dear pal — quite real but who we shall call here Mr. A. Nonymous, who knows his French stuff très très bien — comes this unsolicited j’accuse of the French President. I have lightly de-incendiaried the email text, which I share below because I find it explique beaucoup.

1. He is a gauche caviar fraud.

2. He is a dyed-in-the-wool tax-and-spend socialist, a former finance minister for the other lightweight, Hollande, where he over saw absolute reckless carnage of the remaining economic muscle of the cadre of France.

3. He is a failed banker from Rothschild. I would always avoid his involvement because he is weak intellectually – an errant, cheap snob with his only achievement to have been in financial world – and a leftist, hence capable of kinship with Mitterrand-jerk Hollande, whom he ultimately betrayed (as is typical of his breed).

4. He was elected as a default candidate in fear of the Vichy-Nazi le Pen. He nor his weak team has any tradition typical of French leadership – of nationwide placement in the prefectures and cities and ville where they govern through the maries. Hence he is totally detached from the pulse of nation.

5. His economic policies boarder on silly and reflect his incompetence. The nation runs out of money sometime in July, and the full tax bill for the regular Frenchman, direct and indirect, runs currently into August. The contracte sociale and its tyrannical brother, the EU, has led to the break-point on the ground. He never saw it coming because his technocratic gauche / caviar world does not allow for it.

This is about bread, about gasoline, about basic amenities which have been vaporised by the so-called elite. You will hear the canard that this is not his fault but others before him. This is true but: “before him” included him, and his line of thinking, and his so-called “reforms” are merely paper mache. No thinking man would dare consider this tinkering as reforms.

All of the above doesn’t take into account the other major whammy: that he is essentially a tribalist who has rejected God and takes haven in the drum beat of Kumbayah of secularism and “respect “ for all tribes, which is best characterised by his denial of the Judeo-Christian origins of the nation, his moral relativism, his embrace of Islam and his refusal to acknowledge that the nation is besieged by Islam and is in active bifurcation in every corner.

The reason for the reduction in attacks in France is not police action or hard line policies but rather his acceptance of soft jihad. Even Mitterrand, as terrible as he was, never let Islam encroach in this manner. From mosques to acceptance of sharia to allowing local laws rewritten to accept the imposition of the Prophet’s tenants, he has essentially surrendered to the enemy. Wait till the Islamic population reaches 10 percent (currently at 8.5, and birth rates for Muslims is 3.3 to 1 while the rest of France is about 1.3 ). It is pure math and visible on streets. Watch the accelerated breakdown of law and order. The country is on the verge of total civil disorder.

Strasbourg – for those who haven’t been there recently – is almost completely turned into an Islamist state; fitting for the head of EU governing legislature.

France is a travesty.

Finally when Trump turned down his trip to Belleau wood during the armistice ceremony, I like others found that incorrect . . . until I found out real story. For months the US government was seeking clarity on intention and agenda for ceremony, and only received it two days before. Essentially Macron intended to present – and did, along with that other leftist fraud Merkel – the moral relativism that Germans / French / Americans / English were all at fault, and the war was another display of failure of the faux gods of sovereignty and imperialism. Hence, a collective apology to the world for our Western sins.

Rather than create a cause celebre Trump decided to invent security concerns as an alternative to being embarrassed, and two days later – in 8-degree weather and a relentless downpour – he attended the American-controlled cemetery in St. Cloud, and was able to have a patriotic theme of a victor over tyranny. Only French military attended – there were no members of the French government. I was there.

This, boys and girls, is the end of the Fifth Republic.

A Dios

I guess France is worth a prayer. The Fifth Republic seems to be running out of gas, courtesy of self-loathing leftism. Western civilization deserves saving . . . even in the land of snail-eaters. Even in places whose elites disdain sovereignty. And here too, where multiculturalism spreads . . . like some mustard gas, wafting from the insanity of the campuses to fog up the town. Take a knee — take two . . . and put your heart into it. Consider “ . . . deliver us from evil . . .”

God bless You and Yours,

Jack Fowler

Always available at

National Review

Bye, George

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The late former president and the founder of this journal were close, courtesy of Yale ties and numerous other reasons. In 1991, Mr. Bush awarded WFB the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an honor of which Bill was rightly proud and held to be quite singular. Among other suggested readings that follow, I encourage you listen to these reflections on George H.W. Bush by my friends John H. Sununu, who served in the White House as his chief of staff, and by Christopher Buckley, who said of Mr. Bush:

He was a Christian gentleman. And he was the paradigm of the Christian gentleman. He didn’t have — he had no mean bone in his body. I’d never heard — you would hear him perhaps talk a little bit askance about someone. But he — but I never heard an ad hominem attack or caustic comment come out of him. He had a beautiful soul. And it was always radiant and on display.

Rest in Peace.


1. Richard Brookhiser has penned NR’s formal remembrance of the late president. From the editorial:

Two fruits of that devotion marked his presidency. He saw the Cold War through to its conclusion, as first the Berlin Wall then the Soviet Union itself crumbled; and when Saddam Hussein one day simply ingested Kuwait, he assembled the necessary forces and drove the tyrant back. His rhetorical peak was a relatively minor moment. One of Saddam’s distractions, as the avenging army assembled, was to lob missiles at Israel. Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the White House press corps, asked Bush a slyly anti-Semitic question whose premise was that the Israelis would react excessively. Bush responded with incredulity and indignation: They were being attacked. Bull’s-eye.

It soon became fashionable to disdain the Gulf War, either because it left Saddam in power until the Iraq War toppled him, or because we should never have become embroiled in the Arab world in the first place. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, and its remedies. Should we despise the Revolution because we still fought the War of 1812?

Bush’s métier was politics, where the path of duty is often obscure, and chances to do the right thing must be made by one’s self. Bush was a competitor, keen to win, and he eventually won the biggest prize of all, but his upward path was wobbly. He left his northeastern roots to make his way in Texas, first as a Goldwaterite, then as a moderate Houstonian; next (running against Ronald Reagan) as a relatively fresh face, then as Reagan’s loyal veep. His conscientious performance of the last role enabled him to win the 1988 GOP nomination and the election, but wobbling resumed.

RELATED: Jim Geraghty finds GHWB to have been “egregiously misjudged.” From the piece:

The irony is that once Bush lost his presidential race, he became . . . well, kind of cool, in a crazy-grandpa kind of way. When Dana Carvey returned to Saturday Night Live to guest host, former president Bush did a cameo “interrupting” Carvey and insisting he had never said “nah gah dah,” an exaggerated version of “not gonna do it.” Bush kept freaking out his Secret Service protection by insisting upon jumping out of airplanes every few years. He wore his crazy socks and when one of the sons of his Secret Service detail members was fighting leukemia, Bush shaved his head in solidarity. Whenever there was a disaster or good cause that needed fundraising, Bush would not be far away.

Our nasty, cynical, partisan media has misjudged and been too critical of a lot of famous figures over the years. But perhaps Bush — our big-hearted, kind, even-tempered, principled, and sometimes delightfully-goofy president had it worst out of anyone.

MORE RELATED: A wondrous Brookhiser reflection on a saluting Bob Dole.

EVEN MORE RELATED: NR goes into the archives and republishes Congressman “B-1 Bob” Dornan’s 1987 cover piece on why he, as a leading conservative, was endorsing Vice President Bush for the GOP nomination in 1988. You can find the article here.

Another Word from Brother Rick . . .

He has written concerning the National Review Institute’s 2018 End-of-Year “Fund Appeal.” He provides an eloquent explanation as to why — given NRI’s sponsorship of NR’s historic “Books, Arts & Manners” section, you in turn should want to support NRI. You can read Rick’s appeal here. And you can donate to NRI here.

Lords Leap Higher and Maids Milk . . . Gallonier . . . When Motivated by Reading These Dozen NRO Pieces

1. Andy McCarthy says Robert Mueller seems to be building a report instead of a case. From the analysis:

For a prosecutor, like any trial lawyer, what the jury thinks is at least as important as what the law says. If the most memorable thing the jury takes into the deliberation room is that no one should believe a word your witnesses say, you are not going to convict the lowliest grifter, much less the president of the United States of America.

As a prosecutor, you build a case by having your cooperating accomplice witnesses plead guilty to the big scheme you are trying to pin on the main culprit. After all, what makes these witnesses accomplices, literally, is that they were participants in the main culprit’s crime. That’s the scheme you’re trying to prove. So, on guilty-plea day, the cooperator comes into court and admits guilt to the same conspiracy on which you are trying to nail the lead defendant.

2. Kevin Williamson finds something . . . magical . . . about Twitter’s ban on “dead-naming.” From his essay:

Twitter, in its recent decision to prohibit “deadnaming” — referring to trans people by their former names, e.g., calling Bradley Manning “Bradley Manning” — is participating in a long magical tradition, whether Jack Dorsey and his merry men (the asterisk here is understood) are conscious of that fact or not.

Technology changes, sometimes at a bewildering pace. Old Adam stays the same — like Ted Hughes’s roosting hawk, he likes things just the way they are: “Nothing has changed since I began. My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this.” Today, we laugh at the notion that droughts are the cereal gods’ retribution against impious kings, and also believe very strongly that if the American economy doesn’t do well then it must be because the president is a bad man. We have only gone from hocus pocus to hocus focus group. It won’t do to underestimate the power of unbridled fanaticism: Small, committed bands of true believers can and often do move peoples and nations and even empires, as that cross-surmounting Caligula’s obelisk in St. Peter’s Square attests. Social and political ideologies, at sufficient scale, behave in much the same way as religions. Even Communism had its holy texts and saints, all those dirty little campus crusaders waving their Little Red Books in people’s faces, their evangelical fervor unmistakable. Political beliefs are in many cases less about politics and more about belief.

3. John Yoo and James C. Phillips continue their ten-part series in constitutional restoration. The new addition, Part Six, concerns racial preferences — will they be put to rest? From the essay:

More than 150 years after the end of slavery, 60 years after the end of public-school segregation, and two years after America’s first black president left the Oval Office, accusations of racism fill our airwaves and screens. Democrats fresh off a solid midterm victory in Congress still claim that the suppression of minority voting cost them governorships and Senate seats, despite voter turnout that reached heights not seen since 1914. On the other hand, those same Democrats argue that governments should use racial data to draw voter districts and hand out government contracts, and argue that state and local police harbor such racial animus against minorities as to shoot them at high rates.

Meanwhile, Asian students have uncovered evidence that Harvard University has used ridiculous stereotypes to engineer the right racial balances in its admissions process. As a recent lawsuit against the Ivy League school has revealed, Asian Americans consistently make up just 19 percent of the student body, despite an increasing percentage of Asian-American college students nationwide. Asians score higher than any other group on academic criteria and extracurricular activities. If academic merit alone determined admissions, the university admitted that Asians would make up 43 percent of the student body, about the same level reached at the University of California at Berkeley after California ended affirmative action by popular initiative.

So where are Asians getting dinged? Personality. To avoid having too many Asians, Harvard has recycled a practice that Ivy League schools applied to Jews in the first half of the 20th century. According to Harvard admissions, Asians trail far behind their peers in areas such as humor, sensitivity, creativity, grit, and leadership. (Harvard’s judgment may come as news to our military, which plans strategy against 1 billion Chinese who currently present the greatest long-term challenge to American hegemony, or to our business leaders, who see the Chinese and 1 billion Indians rising into economic powerhouses — both the products of civilizations that existed when Europeans thought rocks made ideal weapons.) Apparently only those working in college admissions offices can discern this race-wide personality deficit.

BONUS: As reported in last week’s WJ, Yoo / Phillips engaged in some debate with Ramesh Ponnuru about Part Five, concerning religious freedom. Now Ramesh more formally poses his concerns. You’re going to need to put on your intellectual big-boy pants for this one. From the article:

But even a friendly disagreement can contain mutual misunderstandings. Phillips and Yoo say that I have mistaken their position: They are not unqualified supporters of the view that the Supreme Court took between 1963 and 1990 of the right to free exercise of religion, and don’t think that view fully captures the original understanding of the First Amendment. As far as I can tell, though, their disagreement with the Court’s jurisprudence during that period does not touch our main dispute. They think that the constitutional guarantee of free exercise requires judges to exempt religious believers from laws that burden their faith. That’s the key point on which they agree with the 1963–90 Court and disagree with Scalia’s 1990 opinion in Employment Division v. Smith. In that case, Justice Scalia denied that free exercise required an exemption to the drug laws for the ritual use of peyote.

The main (and nearly only) point of my previous comment was that we should be skeptical of the idea that the Constitution as originally understood required judges to make exemptions to laws for religious believers, given that courts did not make such exemptions until the Warren Court. Phillips and Yoo advance several arguments to overcome that skepticism but, in my view, they do not succeed.

They note that Michael McConnell has argued that the original understanding was more consistent with judge-made exemptions than with Scalia’s view, but also note that other scholars, such as Philip Hamburger, dispute McConnell. I’d add Gerard Bradley and Vincent Phillip Muñoz to Hamburger’s side of the argument. I’d conclude that there is no scholarly consensus and that, again, the fact that the Supreme Court didn’t hint at the judicial-exemptions interpretation of the First Amendment before 1963 is a reason to side with Scalia, Hamburger, et al.

AND YET ANOTHER BONUS: Vincent Phillip Muñoz analyzes the debate, finds merit on both sides, but comes down more so with Ponnuru.

4. Razib Khan looks at a new book making the case for DNA as the thing which defines the individual. From the essay:

Robert Plomin’s Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are is a triumphal tour of a discipline that’s having its moment in the sun. While some fields of psychology are going through the “replication crisis,” with old results being proven false, behavior genetics is marching from strength to strength. Plomin looks back across his long career, with its successes and failures, and gazes hopefully into the future to come. A doyen of the field, he is in a position to make such assessments. But as an active participant he also has a definite viewpoint.

Blueprint is not a dispassionate textbook, and readers should be aware this is not a “view from nowhere.” As a scholar of some note, Plomin has staked his own positions in contentious debates, and he has strong opinions about which other researchers should or shouldn’t be cited – and here, writing for a general audience, Plomin shapes the narrative to his own advantage. The treatment of behavior genetics is Blueprint is defensible, but not necessarily indisputable.

The scientific meat of the book is neatly divided into two halves: pre-DNA and post-DNA. Behavior genetics in its conception goes back to the 19th century, specifically to Francis Galton — Charles Darwin’s cousin and, troublingly, the founder also of the field of eugenics. Galton and his intellectual successors in the 20th century were fascinated by patterns of inheritance of intellectual talent and mental debility. Methods of studying these patterns were developed long before Francis Crick and James Watson discovered that DNA was the molecule that encoded genetic information.

5. Once upon a time, thanks to federal law, essentially only the wealthy could be venture capitalists. A recent law changed that and has unleashed the capitalist tool of crowdfunding. Jibran Kahn tells this important story of little-guy venture. From the articles outset:

In 2000, Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annison had the prescient idea for MobiTV, a service that would stream live TV to phones. Thinking their business proposal had a real chance, the two pitched it to their friends and family, who agreed and wanted to show their financial support. By selling shares in the company to a number of small contributors, they managed to secure seed money.

But when they tried to move forward, they ended up having to return that money. Their investors were not “accredited,” and therefore could not legally invest in securities that were not registered with the authorities. According to SEC regulations, “accredited investors” needed to be millionaires, which naturally ruled out a lot of people who might be interested in investing in a young business. Annison and Scanlan did eventually raise over $100 million for MobiTV, but the way an arbitrary regulatory barrier set back their start stuck with them.

Starting in 2016, the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act removed a number of barriers to these kinds of investments — now called “equity crowdfunding.” As it turns out, the law also facilitated a number of films starring A-list actors, thanks to Scanlan, Annison, and a new company called Legion M.

6. Marlo Safi looks at the America’s relations with Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war. From her piece:

The war has since assumed the moniker “The Forgotten War” by Yemenis because public knowledge in the West has been low and media coverage has been scant, despite the magnitude of the calamity. The discussion of the war following Khashoggi’s death has seemingly unearthed the bombardment led by the Saudi coalition — made possible by American-supplied weapons and refueling. The war has spiraled into a famine that worsens with each passing day, thanks to the airstrikes and naval and air blockades of critical Yemeni ports. With the transition from Obama to Trump, the alliance between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the U.S. has shifted from one that was cast as a necessary diplomatic evil to serve geopolitical and economic interests to one that, increasingly, appears amicable.

Since the Obama era, the U.S. has provided the KSA with arms: F-15 fighter jets, armored vehicles, missile-defense systems, bombs, and missiles. Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia would soon reach the top of the list of the largest customers of American weapons. The defense contractors selling weapons include Lockheed Martin, one of the U.S.’s largest arms contractors, which manufactured the bomb found at the scene of an airstrike that destroyed a school bus in August, killing 40 children. In October 2016, an American-made bomb hit a funeral hall and killed 155 people. In March 2016, a U.S.-supplied precision-guided MK-84 bomb killed 97 people. American officials have grown concerned that the U.S. could be implicated in war crimes led by the Saudi regime. A State Department official, asked if there’s any explanation for the indiscriminate nature of Saudi airstrikes, told Amnesty International in 2016 that the KSA was inexperienced with “dropping munitions and firing missiles.”

7. Kathryn Jean Lopez shares an adoption story of hope and inspiration. From her article:

The Grodens’ children came to them last year, but only after a lot of struggle, heartache, and financial expense, and amid a total cloud of unknowing. Malka and Mendel are members of the Chabad Lubavitch community in Crown Heights. They married young and expected to have a big family quickly, as many in their community do, but they encountered the anguish of infertility. After exhausting costly failures in infertility treatments, they started looking into international adoption. They reached out to a rabbi and his wife in Montana who had experienced similar struggles and had built their family through adoption; this family became “a source of support and inspiration” for them. “Practically speaking, though I didn’t really know what to do or what steps to take,” she recently shared at a National Review Institute forum on adoption and foster care at the Tikvah Fund in New York City. “Everyone had an opinion and advice on what I should do, and I just spent hours studying the State Department site on intercountry adoption trying to understand it, which was not easy.” Soon they decided to focus on domestic adoption options instead.

“Entering the world of domestic adoption exposed me to an alternate reality that I’d never known,” she added. The word “incarceration,” for one thing, is commonplace. So are poverty, prostitution, drug addiction. In these environments, the risks of violence and sexual abuse for the children are high. “That’s the world many birth mothers come from,” Malka shared. “You start to learn about adoption and automatically begin to think there’s no way I can be open to a child who was exposed to heroin before birth or who might go through withdrawal or whose birth father is a sexual predator.” It was “shocking” for her to learn and stretched her heart in unexpected ways.

8. Graham Hillard makes the case for “temperamental conservatism.” From a very interesting piece:

If the economic realities of the ’80s and ’90s could be transplanted onto post-Trump America, such a job would be relatively easy. Let the Democrats make the case for their special blend of punitive taxation, intersectionality, and thought-policing. Our party could simply promise to treat the nation like the stock market: Cut a few regulations, maintain a predictable order, and watch it soar.

Alas, we live in a more complicated age, in which the interconnectedness of nations has given rise to a seemingly intractable set of problems. Like the previous two, the next several elections will be fought over trade and immigration — the extent to which the unregulated movement of goods and people puts at risk the standard of living to which Americans have become accustomed. Where free trade is concerned, ideological and temperamental conservatives have largely parted ways — a fact that helps explain the Republican party’s near-total lack of coherence on the subject. The ideological conservative knows that free trade has led to a broadly shared increase in consumers’ purchasing power and that to support it is to maintain one’s fidelity to noble and proven ideas about governmental non-intervention. The temperamental conservative knows (or believes he knows) that lots of people had a good thing going until General Motors screwed them last week. Is he wrong to think as much (or, more accurately, to sense it)? Perhaps. But he still gets to vote.

9. Red China is running a massive commie-spy operation through American campuses, but say as much and comes the “you’re racist” backlash, reports Rachelle Peterson. From the piece:

Or consider FBI director Christopher Wray, who in February testified before the Senate Intelligence subcommittee that China represents a “whole-of-society threat” to American interests. Wray might have chosen his words more carefully — Vice President Pence chose “whole-of-government approach” to describe China’s actions — but the substance of Wray’s concerns met mockery and chagrin. Senator Marco Rubio had questioned Wray about China’s efforts to gain a foothold on college campuses, especially through Chinese-government-funded Confucius Institutes. In response, Wray noted that “in almost every field office” the FBI sees China’s “use of nontraditional collectors [of information], especially in the academic setting, whether it’s professors, scientists, students.”

Wray defended his claims on NBC, stating that “to be clear, we do not open investigations based on race, or ethnicity, or national origin. But when we open investigations into economic espionage, time and time again, they keep leading back to China.” But this failed to satisfy his critics. Fourteen organizations sent Wray a letter, calling for a meeting to discuss “troubling issues of potential bias [and] racial profiling,” and even going so far as to raise the specter of the Japanese internment, suggesting that without “ongoing dialogue,” Chinese Americans could face similar treatment.

10. In The Corner, Jonah Goldberg fries and slices PETA’s “Meat Interrupts Your Sex Life” campaign. Read it here.

11. Victor Davis Hanson looks at the Mueller investigation and the machinations that launched it and sees criminals and partisans yelling about criminality and partisanship. From his essay’s outset:

Robert Mueller’s legal team may write a damning report on Trump’s ethics, based mostly on flipping minor former business associates of Trump’s and transient campaign officials by threatening them with long prison sentences.

So far, we know that the U.S. government decided to intervene in a political campaign to help one candidate and to smear the other — under the pretext of Russian “collusion.” And so it hired or made use of spies and informants including Hank Greenberg, Stefan Halper, Felix Sater, and others to contact Trump campaign officials to catch them in supposed collusion traps. It enlisted the help of foreign intelligence agencies, specifically the British and Australians. It misled FISA courts into granting warrants to spy on Americans and, post factum, threatened long prisons sentences with those surveilled and interviewed. And as a result, it has so far found no collusion but may well find some misleading statements in hundreds of hours of testimonies from the likes of Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and perhaps Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone.

Mueller cannot fulfill the hype of the past 18 months, which forecast that the “all-stars,” the “dream-team,” and the Mueller “army” would make short work of the supposedly buffoonish Trump by proving that he colluded with Russia to swing an election. Collusion, remember, was hyped as doing what the Logan Act, the emoluments clause, the 25th Amendment, impeachment, media frenzy, and assassination-chic rhetoric had not.

By indicting a number of minor characters on charges that so far have nothing to do with collusion — for purported crimes mostly committed after the special-counsel appointment — Mueller has emphasized the quantity rather than the quality of indictments.

12. Henry Payne believes President Trump should embrace, not trash, GM. From his piece:

Automakers see massive growth potential in autonomous car-subscriber services. These services are likely to be structured the way the cellphone industry is today, with the big money made from the subscription rather than the hardware.

This monumental shift in the automotive industry is likely to happen with or without Trump’s blessing. Instead of railing against GM’s effort, he should offer his support, which would make the transition easier for this iconic American industry and its workforce.

The businessman-turned-politician should recognize GM’s bold, high-risk move in the face of daunting odds: reimagining a century-old automaker as a tech titan. CEO Barra is on Capitol Hill this week smoothing lawmaker feathers and explaining the fast-changing auto-industry landscape.

But after repeated promises to revitalize Midwest manufacturing, Trump is threatening to tie GM’s hands rather than free them. He’s insisting that the General keep producing unprofitable makes (the Chevy Volt and Cruze sedans) and move efficient Mexican plants back to the U.S.

That rhetoric echoes old-line Rust Belt Democrats such as Debbie Dingell, who said Monday that “I’m not giving my support to a company that keeps sending jobs to Mexico and not here. We have had enough of that.”

Detroit needs Trump’s carrots, not his sticks – in particular, more tax reform like the 40 percent corporate cut, which has freed up $150 million in cash for GM to invest. More deregulation would also help — reforms that have the American auto market on track for an unprecedented fourth straight year of over 17 million cars sold domestically.

The Battle of Cass-Winship

The Corner houses a debate on Oren Cass’s new book, The Once and Future Worker. Scott Winship launches the first critical salvo:

As far as I can tell, Oren sees 45 years of economic decline for Americans without a college education, characterized by declining real wages, falling labor-force participation, and declining economic mobility. These changes stem from a labor market that is broken, thanks to too much policy emphasis on overall economic growth and consumption at the expense of more balanced growth and more empowerment of less-skilled workers to be productive. The economic crisis, in turn, has driven various social and public-health crises, including the breakdown of the family, generally declining social capital, rising “deaths of despair,” and the election of Donald Trump.

My beef is that this analysis overstates the extent to which the labor market is broken and attributes too much causal force to changes in the economy. While there are few economic stats on non-college Americans to inspire celebration, the most important indicators have either not worsened or have explanations that point to labor-supply problems rather than problems of labor demand. Generally, “no change” can’t explain change. Why are we experiencing various crises now rather than in, say, 1973?

Cass responds. From the rebuttal:

Of course, culture is important too. But while Scott highlights the imperfect correlation between economic shifts and social consequences, the cultural explanation’s flaw is much deeper: It doesn’t hold for the “winners.” We all swim in the same cultural pond, generally speaking, but we swim in very different labor markets. All those college graduates with their libertine parties and their sinful music and their pornographic HBO shows still manage to find jobs, get married, raise kids in stable environments, and so forth. It would be a strange coincidence if exactly the segments of society whose economic fortunes have declined, and who our policy intentionally and explicitly ignored, just happen to be the ones suffering.

A final thought, before handing the mic back to Scott: The point of my argument is not to offer “go back to 1975” as the solution. Rather, I see acknowledgment of the serious economic problems that our nation faces and the ways in which our preexisting policy agenda has failed as the starting point for discussion of opportunities to do better. In my experience, conservatives sometimes reject the existence of problems for fear that a breach in this first line of defense leaves nothing stands between the big-government hordes and the capital. But this is backward. If we throw all of our resources into that one line of defense, and the ground under it proves weak, then the rout really will be on. Much better to confront our problems forthrightly and make our stand where the battle should be decided and where we can win, on questions of how best to address the challenges that we have.

Winship volleys. From his rejoinder:

Furthermore, among the able-bodied, we cannot assume that all of these inactive men would have below-median — and especially below-20th-percentile — wages if they worked. About one-third of inactive men report either being in school, a homemaker, a caregiver, or retired. It is far from obvious that these men have lower wages than the typical working prime-age man. Combine these men with the disabled, and just 10 percent of inactive men remain. And some of these men live in higher-wage areas of the country and might be above the median or 20th percentile if they worked. (Geographic cost-of-living adjustment, not mentioned by Oren, is probably the single issue with the potential to change my mind about wage trends, but we don’t really know how to implement that yet.)

Finally, at least some of the impact of rising inactivity on male wage trends is reflected in the data. Men who start a spell of inactivity in, say, May (perhaps a long or permanent spell) still report their wages in April. To the extent their absence from the data in May makes wage trends too rosy, their presence in the April data makes up for it. About one-third of the long-term rise in prime-age male inactivity comes from men who only temporarily leave the workforce, and about half of that rise can be explained by the fact that the partners of married men have become richer.

Yes, you guessed it. Cass returns the volley:

Scott’s last post focused in the weeds (his words!) on the nuances in calculating wage trends. I had raised a number of factors that his own calculations disregard — commute times, income volatility, marginal value of health expenditures, payroll taxes, low-income labor force dropout — and as far as I can tell, he by and large acknowledges that those things have gotten worse, but sees them as less important than his own adjustments. Our main disconnect, and likely a result of confusing wording on my part, is with regard to health benefits. I don’t worry that we are miscalculating health-cost inflation, I worry that high-cost health insurance has much less value to low-income households than the cash it is replacing. The Oregon Medicaid study, for instance, found that Medicaid recipients got 20 to 40 cents of value per dollar spent on their coverage. I don’t think a 2016 family with $30,000 of wages and a $20,000 insurance policy is as well off as a 1975 family with $40,000 of wages and a $10,000 policy.

My point in raising such factors was not to suggest that I had found the One Adjustment to Rule Them All but rather the opposite, that all of the possible adjustments in both directions don’t change the overall picture of stagnation. If there’s some magical line where 0 percent wage growth is okay but a 3 percent decline disastrous, then we’d need to keep haggling. But if relative standing is what matters then 10 percent up or 0 percent up or 10 percent down over 40 years still gets us back to the same mess — one confirmed by the other available lines of evidence.

As we go to press, Winship lobs a mortar:

I think we’re getting somewhere. In his most recent reply, Oren appears to have ceded my point that the right way to characterize what has happened over the years to less-educated workers is “stagnation” rather than “decline.” (I’ll add again, though, stagnation only for those with Y chromosomes.) He now argues that what actually explains the problems besetting Americans without a college degree (and their frustration with policymakers) is relative decline in comparison to college graduates. While he doesn’t use the “i” word, in essence, Oren has shifted the blame to rising inequality.

We have arrived at an answer to my original question: How can no change explain change? Oren’s response is that what has changed is that inequality has risen. Okay, but this raises a fundamental point that I hope readers take away from our exchange: If it is rising inequality that matters, then those who attribute the problems of downscale Americans to economics should explicitly make an argument about inequality and stop trying to make a case for absolute decline that is too weak to have explanatory value.

Join us Saturday at this very theater for the next exciting episodes of Flash Gordon and the Moon Men and The Battle of Cass-Winship.


1. Burn baby burn: On the latest Radio Free California, David and Will discuss what really causes wildfires, Republican losses in California, and border clashes with immigrant caravans. And, did war end the Great Depression? Listen here.

2. The intrepid host of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg is joined by Green Bay Packers’ congressman Mike Gallagher to ask and answer: Can Congress be fixed? Is Breaking Bad the greatest TV show of all time? Can we fix this nation’s problems by installing pull-up bars in every airport? And so much more. Put on your Cheese-head-phones and listen here.

3. The new episode of The Great Books finds John J. Miller discussing Ivanhoe with Christopher Scalia, all of it eliciting visions of Robert Taylor and George Sanders jousting. Thou Shalt Listeneth Hereth.

4. JJM takes off plumed helmet, puts on his Bookmonger tee shirt, and discusses The Diversity Delusion with author Heather Mac Donald. Hear here.

5. And in a double Bookmonger treat, JJM interviews my dear pal Daniel J. Mahoney about his new book, The Idol of Our Age. You can listen here.

6. Jeff “Captain Ahab” Blehar and Scot “Queequeg” Bertram invite Time political correspondent Molly Ball to discuss the Moby Dick of bands, Radiohead. I have no idea what that means but you had better listen to the new episode of Political Beats regardless. Fowler beckons, here.

7. But then Jeff and Scot, failing to ask the world’s true Queen expert, my wife, to be interviewed about the band, have law professor Adam White on the truly new episode of Political Beats. We who are champions should listen here.

8. The night before the NR Cruise left Ft. Lauderdale, David and Alexandra anchored a special live episode of Ordered Liberty before a packed room of fellow travelers. Discussed: the Marc Lamont Hill firing, intersectionality as religion, and double standards for speech on the left and the right. Catch it here.

9. In a particularly special edition of Mad Dogs and Englishmen — saddled with the additional title of and Noises in the Background — Charlie and Kevin ease their way into a discussion of people who think laws are value statements. Listen to all the racket here.

10. Want to know about speedy trials? Then listen to the new episode of Constitutionally Speaking, where Luke and Jay get you up to speedy on the Sixth Amendment. Listen here.

Lights. Cameras. Pundits.

1. Beautiful Boy ain’t so pretty, says Armond White. Unless you think narcissism is hot. From his review.

Because millennial filmmaking is primarily based on escapism — or is generally unresponsive to broad social concerns — Beautiful Boy is distracted from the very problem it hopes to expose. Film actors Steve Carell as the father, Timothée Chalamet as the son, Amy Ryan as the divorced mother, and the director Felix van Groeningen are all self-medicating. They insist on depicting the contemporary crisis as a sun-dappled disturbance of otherwise swanky American complaisance.

The movie is based on the real-life memoirs of David Sheff, a New York Times and Rolling Stone writer, and his son, Nic Sheff. From the moment Carell is introduced as Sheff, using his privilege to consult a drug expert, the film reveals its position of casual, taken-for-granted favor. Sheff asks, “My two big questions are: What is it doing to him? What can I do to help him?” This entreaty doesn’t make Sheff into Everyparent. First, because Carell’s arch comic persona is limiting, but mostly because the 18-year-old son, Nic Sheff, is impersonated by Chalamet, who is currently cinema’s foremost figure of insufferable privilege.

The pampered child is already a patented Chalamet type. He comes ready-made with obnoxiousness and spoiled-rotten audacity. Chalamet, of all young actors, should never have made a movie titled “Beautiful Boy” because his curly-haired adorableness and moony-eyed demeanor too obviously fit Hollywood’s white middle-class, self-flattering ideal (Vogue magazine worships him).

2. Armond finds a lot to like about Vox Lux. Here’s how his review begins:

That treacherous slogan “When they go low, we go high” epitomizes the deliberately cynical dishonesty of our era, but filmmaker Brady Corbet is ambitious in a forthright way — unmatched by any other American moviemaker. His new movie, Vox Lux: A Twenty-First Century Portrait, resists cynicism with grand artistic and philosophical conceits.

3. Armond checks out the American Film Institute’s annual “Top 10” list. He finds it terrible. And worse. From the piece:

The AFI began 51 years ago, after a Johnson-administration call for an organization committed to preserving America’s film heritage. It was originally funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Ford Foundation, so its list sounds official. But the movie awards game is part of the commercialization of pop culture.

Even the debatable idea that the government should finance artists (through any means) is belied by the endorsement of commercialism rather than artistic expression. Be assured, there’s a political component to this: The films that won the AFI’s approval are all politically motivated and represent social-justice precepts rather than moral virtues or aesthetic standards. In other words, they’re propaganda.

Listed alphabetically, the AFI films assume the same values that are promoted in politically biased mainstream media; the list resembles an index for Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

The Six

1. At The Catholic Thing, Robert Royal seeks to renew interest in C. S. Lewis’s classic work, The Four Loves. From his piece:

At present, if you say the word “love” to someone, he will assume you’re talking about romantic love and sex, or in some quarters, LGBT and the whole psychological farrago behind it. Fr. James Martin, S.J. has argued, for example, that to call same-sex attraction “objectively disordered” is “needlessly hurtful. Saying that one of the deepest parts of a person — the part that gives and receives love — is ‘disordered’ is in itself needlessly cruel.”

But is our sexual nature the only place we give and receive love, and is sex the only or deepest kind of love? And does it trump all other loves because — well, because?

C.S. Lewis needs no introduction to serious Christians. He’s simply the best lay apologist of the last century. But many who know his great books such as Mere Christianity or The Abolition of Man or The Screwtape Letters, are unfamiliar with what may be an even more important book these days, The Four Loves.

Lewis’ four loves are not LGBT, it almost goes without saying, because in the older views of the human person erotic or sexual love — even in its deviant forms — is only one of several kinds of love. And while sex is part of God’s human creation (“male and female he created them”), we were not created solely or primarily for sex.

No mere summary of The Four Loves can do it full justice: You have to read Lewis and absorb his detailed and sensitive attention to the various kinds and manifestations of love that we humans experience to see just how rich and complex the whole subject is.

2. Europe’s self-appointed proletariat vanguard cannot wish away what won’t go away, says Theodore Dalrymple in Law and Liberty — and that what is nationalism. The Brexit battle exposes its persistence. From the piece:

There are increasing calls in Britain for a second referendum, for what its proponents call A People’s Referendum — as if the previous referendum had somehow excluded the people. By the word people, they mean, of course, the people who agree with them: the others are not truly of the people, they are instead enemies of the people.

Unfortunately, it is not clear what the question to be asked in the second referendum would be. It might be, “Do you prefer Mrs. May’s agreement to no agreement at all?” But the question the proponents would really like to ask is, “Do you now want to remain within the European Union”?

3. In City Journal, Tevi Troy, our pal and a presidential historian of deserved great repute, remembers George H.W. Bush. From the beginning of his tribute:

George H. W. Bush was always being underestimated. Though he was successful at almost everything he did — Yale student, baseball team captain, fighter pilot, oil executive, politician, and father — people always seemed to think that he was missing something. Peter Flanigan, the Nixon aide who dangled in front of Bush a senior job in the Nixon White House, seemed to typify this uncharitable and inaccurate view when he told him, “Well, you know, George, you’d have to work hard if you took this job.” Bush, ever gracious, held his tongue at the insult, prompting his impressed wife Barbara to marvel, “How George kept his temper, I’ll never know.” Bush went on to serve in a multitude of high-level positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations, including head of the Republican National Committee, UN ambassador, liaison to China, and CIA director. This array of positions served as a launching pad to the vice presidency and then the presidency. Flanigan tried and failed to become ambassador to Spain. Fooled by his quiet resolve, those who underestimated Bush — from Flanigan to Bob Dole to Michael Dukakis to Saddam Hussein — found themselves astounded when Bush bested them. They shouldn’t have been. Beneath his gracious, even goofy, WASP exterior was a real warrior.

4. The American Conservative’s Zaid Jilani reports on a new study showing that Hillary’s flying monkeys are into authoritarianism. From his piece:

University of Mississippi political scientist Julie Wronski, one of the researchers who conducted the study, explained in an email to TAC how they defined authoritarianism. “We define authoritarianism as an individual’s psychological preferences for social conformity over individual autonomy,” she wrote. “Here we see its features as two-fold: 1) preferences for traditionalism and maintaining the conventional, established norms; and 2) preferences for maintaining group cohesion and sameness. As my co-authors and I note in the article: ‘authoritarianism is grounded in the desire to be part of a group, not in the identification with a particular social or political group.’”

In order to gauge the level of authoritarianism among voters, Wronski and her fellow researchers looked at the “child-rearing” measure, a common metric used by political scientists to quantify how much a person embraces authoritarianism based on whether they value independent or obedient traits in children.

What the researchers found is that authoritarianism consistently predicted differences in primary votes, specifically Clinton votes over Sanders votes. This remained the case as controls for a wide range of factors were included, such as party identification strength, ideology, church attendance, gender, race, education, and income.

As a voter in the “CCES sample moves from the minimum value on the authoritarianism scale to the maximum value, the probability of voting for Clinton increases from 0.33 to 0.76 while holding other influential factors constant,” the researchers noted. Results were similar in the YouGov sample and the student sample, the latter of which was even more dramatic — “the probability of voting Clinton increases dramatically from 0.18 to 0.867 as young Democrats shift from the lower end of authoritarianism to its maximum value.”

5. The new National Climate Assessment gets slapped around by Heritage Foundation economist Nicolas Loris, who finds four major flaws. From his analysis:

It assumes the most extreme (and least likely) climate scenario.

The scary projections in the National Climate Assessment rely on a theoretical climate trajectory that is known as Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. In estimating impacts on climate change, climatologists use four representative such trajectories to project different greenhouse gas concentrations.

To put it plainly, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 assumes a combination of bad factors that are not likely to all coincide. It assumes “the fastest population growth (a doubling of Earth’s population to 12 billion), the lowest rate of technology development, slow GDP growth, a massive increase in world poverty, plus high energy use and emissions.”

Despite what the National Climate Assessment says, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 is not a likely scenario. It estimates nearly impossible levels of coal consumption, fails to take into account the massive increase in natural gas production from the shale revolution, and ignores technological innovations that continue to occur in nuclear and renewable technologies.

When taking a more realistic view of the future of conventional fuel use and increased greenhouse gas emissions, the doomsday scenarios vanish. Climatologist Judith Curry recently wrote, “Many ‘catastrophic’ impacts of climate change don’t really kick at the lower CO2 concentrations, and [Representative Concentration Pathway] then becomes useful as a ‘scare’ tactic.”

6. The December issue of Reason features an in-depth interview of Thomas Sowell by Thomas Winslow Hazlett (38 years after their first tête-à-tête). From their Q & A:

Did the 1964 Civil Rights Act turn out to do what people hoped?

In some respects, yes. In a deeper respect, no.

That act and the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision were welcomed, as they should have been, but they set off expectations that were wholly unrealistic. I was going to school and the professor came in in a state of agitation, and he said, “The most amazing thing has happened today. I think we should talk about that rather than what I planned to cover,” and everyone was elated that the end of segregation was going to bring all these wonderful things. When I was asked my opinion, I said, “It’s been more than half a century since Plessy v. Ferguson and we still don’t have separate but equal. What makes you think this is going to go faster?” 

We had separate but not equal.

Yes. It did not endear me to anyone, but I thought early on that they had misdiagnosed the problem. Today, the charter school movement has convinced me more. The successful charter schools, like the KIPP schools and Success Academy, have done marvelous things educationally, none of which was done by Brown v. Board or busing or the [other] wonderful-sounding ideas that the reformers tried.

When I asked about the Civil Rights Act, you immediately thought in terms of education and Brown.

If you don’t get a good education, whatever else you get is not going to make a major difference, economically or socially. That’s why I’m so much in favor of the successful charter schools. This happens too often in the history of ideas. Segregation was made the reason the black kids weren’t doing well, so people attack that factor. But now you have black kids doing well in predominantly black schools, and people are against them because they haven’t been integrated. Integration was a means to an end, and when you achieve the end, you don’t condemn the end because you didn’t get there by the means you thought you were going to get there by.


A great-nicknames list from our National Pastime has to include Eddie “Mongoose” Lukon, who played a few seasons for the Cincinnati Reds in the early to mid-1940s. But that moniker is nothing compared to the one owned by Joe “Ubbo Ubbo” Hornung, who was a leftfielder for the Boston Beaneaters in the 1880s.

A Dios

From the Poop Deck of the Oosterdam, a.k.a. The Good Ship Lollipop, home of the NR Buckley Legacy Cruise, which ends today, we send to our Brothers and Sisters in Abraham wishes for a Happy Hanukkah. The happiest of them!

God’s Blessings on You and All Ubbo Ubbos,

Jack Fowler

All comments and criticisms, all haikus and announcements of bequests, all summonses and letters testamentary are best sent to

National Review

Pay Heed, Good Little Boys and Girls. Or Else!

Dear WJers,

Between today and the next time we meet, the feast day (December 6) of one Nicholas of Bari (where my paisano is buried, and where his sacred remains weep) shall occur. Among his many legends, the Santa di tutti Santae got the rap for dishing out coal to deserving brats, which — Yours Truly being an admirer of negative persuasion — we shall dwell on but for a moment before your attention is directed, further down this missive, to the abundance of wisdom NR has produced these past seven nights.

To the point: December is the month of National Review Institute’s quite important Fund Appeal. NRI, to refresh your memory, is the not-for-profit journalism think tank which owns the never-makes-a-profit journal (and website) founded by Bill Buckley in 1955 (he founded NRI also, in 1992). Please make a tax-deductible contribution to NRI (and yes, even if you have given to NR, Inc.). If you don’t, I promise you, there will be coal in the stocking. And with gluten now seeming unpopular, maybe some of that in your loafers. By Saint Nicholas’ weepy bones I vow: You will be sore afraid.

Why give? NRI takes the great writers of NR (many of whom are Institute fellows), and the great wisdom they produce, and through a variety of excellent programs and events — such as the upcoming 2019 Ideas Summit — amplifies them to make Buckley Conservatism ever more impactful. Of the dozens of neato reasons our fans — especially subscribers who start reading the magazine from the back – should consider being generous now, one is that NRI (thanks to its supporters) underwrites the beloved “Books, Arts & Manners” sections that for years has given conservatism a truly meaningful platform of cultural influence.

So give to National Review Institute, please. Right here. Many thanks.


1. The President lashes out at GM after the car manufacturer announces plant closures. We say that bluster doesn’t cut it. From the editorial:

This is a politically embarrassing development for President Trump, who has sold himself as the tribune of American manufacturing and industrial concerns, who boasts — and no doubt genuinely believes — that the success or failure of these businesses vis-á-vis foreign competitors is only a matter of negotiating deals and being “tough.” Much progress has been made in the past two years — more than Trump’s critics expected — which have seen critical reforms in the tax code and a measure of regulatory relief. But the underlying economic realities cannot be negotiated away. And while political leaders should encourage a thriving and dynamic labor market — and the job-creation and wage growth that goes with it — jobs are not a social program. Jobs are a means, not an end, and jobs dedicated to producing products that consumers do not want are jobs that are not going to last and never were.

GM’s business is putting dividends in the pockets of its shareholders. And while it is easy (and all too common) to overstate the president’s role in the economy at large, seeing to the continuing reforms that will help to drive economic growth, employment, and wages is President Trump’s job. GM isn’t asking for Trump’s advice, and he isn’t qualified to give it. Bluster isn’t going to see a single GM worker to his next job nor change the fact that Toyota builds cars that consumers want while GM doesn’t.

I’ll See Your Ten NRO Pieces and Raise You One.

1. Senator Tom Cotton doesn’t cotton to the FIRST STEP Act (neither did Andy McCarthy, as we noted in the prior WJ) seeking to reform federal criminal-justice law. From his critique:

The 103-page bill that was released the Friday before Thanksgiving has some good parts, and I don’t question the intentions of the bill’s proponents. But you may have noticed that they talk more about their intentions than about the consequences of the bill. As conservatives, we know that good intentions say little about actual consequences. And to paraphrase Thomas Sowell, intellectuals who generate ideas with good intentions rarely have to face the consequences of those ideas personally.

When proponents of the bill discuss the substance, they claim that “nothing in the FIRST STEP Act gives inmates early release.” Instead of early release, proponents say, it merely provides incentives for inmates to participate in programs. This is nothing but a euphemism. Let there be no doubt: If the bill is passed, thousands of federal offenders, including violent felons and sex offenders, will be released earlier than they would be under current law. Whatever word games the bill’s proponents use will make no difference to the future victims of these felons.

Proponents also claim that only “low-level, non-violent” offenders will benefit, and that there are adequate safeguards to protect the public. If I believed these assertions, I would support the FIRST STEP Act. But a careful reading of the bill’s text, as opposed to the talking points used to promote it, shows that violent felons are eligible for early release, and that many of the bill’s provisions go against core conservative principles.

2. His senatorial colleague Mike Lee disagrees and says FIRST STEP “deserves the support of all conservatives.” From his rejoinder:

Second, Senator Cotton contends that the bill will allow dangerous criminals to win early release. As explained above, the bill categorically excludes offenders convicted of certain crimes and provides that all other offenders are eligible to earn credits only if they are deemed a minimum or low recidivism risk. Cotton dislikes this system because it reflects too much “faith that government bureaucrats can judge the state of a felon’s soul” and is subject to manipulation by a future Democratic president.

But the legislation doesn’t ask “government bureaucrats” to “judge the state of a felon’s soul.” Rather, it directs experienced law-enforcement officers to determine whether an offender is a danger — a job they already do daily, in order to run the nation’s federal prisons. Similar risk assessments have already been implemented in Texas and Georgia, and these states are hardly the post-apocalyptic criminal hellscapes that Cotton predicts such a system would cause.

As to Cotton’s point about tomfoolery by a future administration, if a president wanted to empty the nation’s prisons, tinkering with the standards for earning recidivism-reduction credits would be an odd way to achieve that goal. As Cotton himself acknowledges, the president has broad authority to pardon or grant clemency.

3. Shane! Come back! Victor Davis Hanson sees the ostracized, community-saving gunslinger from George Steven’s acclaimed 1953 movie as a prototype for Donald Trump. From his essay:

Stevens’s movie gives us the familiar paradox of the ostracized outsider and savior in tragic literature and film (The Magnificent Seven, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider . . . ). Although they hesitate to say so, the farmers, if they are to survive, must rely on the very antithesis of their own idealistic commitment to law, order, the settled life, and the way of the future. Shane himself wants to reject gunslinging and stay civilized.

But to do so would mean that Shane’s newfound friends would be killed or driven off by the cattlemen, and their farms returned to the open range — they don’t have the skills to win a range war against cowboys and hired guns. Yet by picking up his gun and going outside the law to take down the evildoers, Shane himself —apparently a former Confederate, Yankee-hating hired gun — loses his recent claim on civilized life.

Even the very farmers whom he will save are uncomfortable with the idea that Shane is willing to shoot someone to save them. Or as one self-righteous farmer puts it when Shane warns the sodbusters about the dangers of the cattlemen’s hired gun, Wilson, “I don’t want no part of gunslinging. Murder’s a better name.” Shane himself appears impatient with gradual change and seems to believe that he alone, not the distant law, can stop the murderous bullies.

The movie ends in classic tragic-hero fashion: Shane rides into cattlemen’s town alone, wins his gunfights, is wounded, and finally rides off alone into the stormy Grand Tetons — content that he rid the farmers’ valley of the hired guns. The means he used to save the sodbusters are precisely those that must have no place in an agrarian world that, thanks to him, is now peaceful. Only a small boy, Joey, will yell out, “Shane! Come back!”

4. But you already knew that: Rich Lowry explains how the media was quite wrong about the caravan. From his new column:

Trump relied too heavily on the caravan as an issue in the midterm election, but the last week has shown how his critics were wrong to sneer.

It was conventional wisdom in the press that the caravan was a concoction of Trump’s fevered imagination. It soon would dissipate and even if not, take months to reach the United States. This widely repeated factoid was based on calculations of its movement on foot (it apparently didn’t occur to anyone that the caravan also would travel by bus or truck).

In the immediate aftermath of the election, when Trump didn’t talk about the caravan as much and Fox News covered it less, liberal commentators were outraged. The diminished attention supposedly proved that the focus on the caravan had been entirely cynical electoral politics. But there was a genuine lull in the news. With the weekend’s border incident bringing new attention, liberal outlets are back again to complaining that Fox is covering the caravan too much.

The latest once again puts the Left’s radicalism on display. It’s not just that Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be abolished; border agents can’t defend themselves from an aggressive rabble.

5. Maybe they’ll stay in Canada? Bill and Hillary commence the Nanook Tour, and the act is as predictable as . . . well, not as cattle futures. Jonathon Van Maren was there in Toronto to see the Insufferable Duo kickoff their sojourn. From his piece:

Moderator Frank McKenna, the deputy chairman of the Toronto-Dominion Bank and a former Liberal politician, barely let the failed presidential candidate settle into her oversized leather chair before leveling the million-dollar question at her: “You’re on a 13-city tour, Mr. President, Madame Secretary. Is that just because you want to hang out together, or is it because you’re testing the waters for a run at being president of the United States?”

The crowd roared with both cheers and laughter, perhaps amused at the idea that the Clintons would be jetting around the continent on tour to spend time with each other. Hillary’s response was both unsatisfying and unfunny: “Actually, Frank, I’m considering standing for Parliament here in Canada.” Ha ha. And thus the Clintons’ tour began in Toronto with the predictable game of coy cat-and-mouse that will be sure to keep her demure deferrals in the headlines and the theoretical existence of a rematch with Donald Trump among the topics discussed by political analysts. Hillary Clinton is Schrodinger’s candidate.

In the meantime, McKenna moved on to the midterms, and the Clintons predictably affirmed that they were most pleased with the results — especially the “diversity” of the candidates who had been elected this time around. The moderate success of the Democrats in both Congress and in the statehouses, Bill informed us, gave America “the chance to be a democracy again.” He wasn’t going to come out and say it, he reassured us, but we all know that there are forces at work in America that want to keep voters from the polls in order to enable the, shall we say, worst angels of our nature.

6. Nicolas Loris takes the temperature of the new National Climate Assessment. “Alarmist Fearmongering” isn’t on the Celsius Scale, but should be. From the piece:

The National Climate Assessment insists that climate change is already taking a heavy toll, and things will only get worse. Global warming has worsened heat waves and wildfires, it claims. And we’ll be seeing more hurricanes and floods, too.

But last year’s National Climate Assessment on extreme weather tells a different story. As University of Colorado Boulder professor Roger Pielke Jr. pointed out in a Twitter thread in August 2017, there were no increases in drought, no increases in frequency or magnitude of floods, no trends in frequency or intensity of hurricanes, and “low confidence for a detectable human climate change contribution in the Western United States based on existing studies.”

It’s hard to imagine all of that could be flipped on its head in a matter of a year.

This year’s report stresses that it “was created to inform policy-makers and makes no specific recommendations on how to remedy the problem.” Yet the takeaway was clear: The cost of inaction is bound to dwarf the cost of any carbon-reduction proposal out there.

The reality, however, is that all of the currently favored proposals for combatting climate change carry significant costs and (here’s the even more important part) would do nothing to mitigate warming, even if there were a looming catastrophe like the National Climate Assessment imagines.

7. America’s military readiness is being woefully shortchanged by Congress. Jim Talent said that there’s not much road left for the can to be kicked down. From the end of his powerful assessment:

What seems to be happening is exactly what I warned against earlier this year. Our leaders don’t want to raise taxes or reduce the growth rate of entitlement programs, but they don’t like expanding the deficit either, so the Pentagon will cooperate by proposing a budget that makes America’s balance sheet look better in the near term but inevitably fails to meet the armed forces’ vital procurement and modernization needs.

So the recapitalization can will be kicked down the road once more, as it has been kicked down the road again and again since the end of the Cold War. Only there is precious little road left. Our adversaries, who have always resented American influence in their regions of the world and are less and less intimidated by the successes of our armed forces in the increasingly distant past, have become powerful. Our weakness is tempting them to believe that we won’t fight at all, and nothing could be more dangerous than that.

I am an incurable optimist where this great country is concerned. I believe, as Bismarck is reputed to have said, that “God protects fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” But I do wonder: How long will He continue to immunize us from the foreseeable consequences of not using the great reservoirs of strength He’s given us to defend ourselves?

8. Grey Poupon You and Yours: Kevin Williamson explains how the Democrats have become the party of snobs and snobbery. From his essay:

The Democratic party is the political home of snobbery, a word and a concept often misunderstood. Snobbery does not refer to the cultivated preferences of those refined persons who order the ’82 Bordeaux because it is their mothers’ milk or who have an iTunes library full of Liszt because the sound of Cardi B fills them with discomfort and anxiety. The genuinely refined — particularly those cocooned by wealth — usually are not much interested in the enthusiasms or tastes of others, whereas the snob is obsessed with his own discernment relative to the low and vulgar tastes of those around him. The snob is the kind of man who sees a pair of Wranglers and sneers at the life he imagines they represent: $42,000 a year, tract house, SUV, work boots, Garth Brooks, Donald Trump. The snob isn’t a man of exacting tastes, but a poseur: The word derives from an older English word for a shoemaker’s apprentice and is intended to convey contempt for vulgar social climbers who aped the manners and tastes of the upper classes.

There is a peculiar paradox at the heart of modern progressivism: Progressives, especially Democratic candidates for office, claim to speak for the poor, the low-income, the marginalized, those born and raised without the benefits and (inevitable word) privilege of a Bush or a Romney or a McCain. But, at the same time, there is nothing they hate worse than somebody who comes from such a background entering public life: You’ll recall the sneering at Sarah Palin’s education — six years spread out over four colleges, none of them very good ones. There are many good criticisms to be made of Sarah Palin and the shtick into which she eventually sank, but she is a self-made woman who entered public service in one of the least glamorous and least lucrative ways, as mayor of a small city — as thankless a job as there is in elected office. She was ridiculed as a “snowbilly” and worse.

9. What isn’t racist? Not The Lord of the Rings! Kat Timpf sheds light on the latest multicultural accusation. Dorks for Orcs! From her piece:

I may not know J. R. R. Tolkien personally (he never returns my calls, because he’s dead), but I can confidently say that he didn’t make the orcs completely evil creatures to advance the notion that some race of humans is completely evil. No, I’d guess that the much more likely scenario is he was trying to make his fantasy story as scary as possible, and he realized that the nature of fantasy gave him the freedom to do exactly that. After all, what’s more frightening than a large swarm of completely evil, irredeemable creatures? If the orcs were just misunderstood, if they had redeeming qualities and maybe volunteered at their local animal shelter in their spare time, then the story just wouldn’t be as frightening or captivating as it is when they’re completely evil. As a fiction writer, he should be allowed to have this freedom. In fact, I’d argue that the beauty of that kind of art depends on it — and we should be careful to make sure that it’s never destroyed for the sake of something so dumb.

RELATED: Kat covers the insane claim that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is, yep, racist. Here’s her piece.

10. John Yoo and James C. Phillips continue their important NRO series on constitutional restoration. Part Five covers religious freedom. From the essay:

The new Roberts Court can begin to bring order to its protection of religion by flatly overturning two decisions: Lemon v. Kurtzman on the establishment clause and Employment Division v. Smith on the free-exercise clause. Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation may now give conservatives enough of a Court majority to restore the First Amendment’s original meaning. It could do so with the support of Congress, which in 1993 sought to overrule Smith with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed the House or Representatives by unanimous voice vote, the Senate by 97–3, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

It could also bring intellectual harmony to two clauses that the courts have often interpreted as being in conflict. For instance, the establishment clause has been read to prohibit government from doing anything that advances religion. Yet the free-exercise clause actually advances religion by accommodating religious practices that may be in conflict with otherwise acceptable law. Likewise, some have interpreted the establishment clause to prohibit any government funding flowing to a religious organization. But discriminating against religious entities just because of their faith, and giving them second-class status compared with secular entities, has been found to violate the free-exercise clause. In short, to the extent the establishment clause is viewed as hostile to religion and the free-exercise clause as solicitous of religion, the First Amendment is at war with itself. And that makes little sense historically or logically.

RELATED: In The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru responds, pointing out that Yoo / Phillips may be at odds with Justice Scalia, and that their premise and proposal “ought to encounter considerable skepticism, especially from conservatives.” This too is well worth your read.

ALSO RELATED: Yoo and Phillips respond to Ramesh. Get the popcorn . . . this is getting exciting.

11. The University of Iowa is claiming that student religious groups — such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA campus ministry — discriminate when they limit organizational leadership to co-religionists. As Howard Slugh notes, this is a “threat to religious liberty.” Or, in other words, nuts. Which, granted, is not a technical term. From his piece, a warning to Jewish students:

The constitutionally protected right of religious minorities to select their own leaders is a buffer that protects them from meddling by their neighbors and the government. Their neighbors cannot join a religious organization en masse and vote for leaders who do not share its religious purpose. The government cannot force it to select leaders more in line with the zeitgeist. Weakening that barrier would leave the fate of religious minorities to the whim of people who do not share their views. Jews and members of other minority religions have an interest in speaking out against the university’s policy.

In addition to creating the potential for abuse, the university’s policy is counterproductive. For a religious group to restrict leadership positions to individuals who share its faith is not a human-rights abuse. It evinces a practical desire to choose leaders best suited to advance the group’s religious mission. When a religious Jewish organization appoints observant Jewish leaders, it is not committing a hate crime.

Examining why observant Jews are best suited to lead religious Jewish organizations can help us better understand why the university’s policy is a mistake. To appreciate Judaism fully, one must experience it firsthand. One could read a book about Sabbath observance, repenting on the holiday of Yom Kippur, or reenacting the Jewish national origin story on Passover, but that would pale in comparison with personal participation in those practices. Living them out helps a person internalize them, as a member of the community with a shared sense of history, obligation, and belonging.

Fill in the Blank: “It’s _________ Mahoney Time”

If you said “Winchell” you are wrong. It’s Daniel Mahoney time, as in Daniel Mahoney, the Assumption College professor and a dear compadre (and occasional NR contributor), who is the author of a forthcoming (next week! December 4!) new book, The Idol of Our Age: How the Religion of Humanity Subverts Christianity. It’s published by Encounter, and you can order a copy from Amazon at that link. Here’s a dead-on take of the book by Tony Daniels:

In this short book, Daniel Mahoney brilliantly lays bare the shallow and facile but dictatorial modern religion of optimistic humanitarianism: shallow and facile because it does not acknowledge the depth and persistence of human evil, and dictatorial because it will brook no rival.

A glimpse: Chapter 9 is a lucid, powerful, and persuasive (respectful too!) criticism of Pope Francis, who Dan calls “a pontiff at the intersection of authentic Christianity and a misplaced contemporary humanitarianism.” From that chapter:

I want to say something about the place of the poor in Pope Francis’s reflections. He loves the poor and reminds us of our special duty to be concerned with their fate. At his best, he is a poet and theologian of charity. He can only be admired in that regard. Still, the biblical conception of the poor is not reducible to material poverty. One only has to think about the tension between the “poor” and the “poor in spirit” in the Synoptic Gospels’ accounts of the Sermon on the Mount. The poor are not always victims (Aristotle argues that they can be as rapacious and despotic as the rich), and terrible crimes were committed in the name of the poor or the “proletariat” in the twentieth century. In the summer of 2015, The Economist called Pope Francis a “Peronist,” correcting those who see in his social reflection a softness toward Marxism, although this is sometimes apparent in his utterances, too.

The characterization is apt. But as one observer has noted, Peronist populism created a “rancid political culture in Argentina,” one that emphasized class struggle and redistribution above lawful wealth creation. Argentina went from being the 14th richest country in the world in 1900 to the 63rd today. Sadly, one sees some evidence that Pope Francis is rather indulgent toward despotic regimes that speak in the name of the poor—his recent silence about the persecution of mainly Catholic dissidents in Cuba was deafening (the Cuban-born Catholic scholar Carlos Eire of Yale even wrote on the First Things website about a “preferential option for the oppressors”), and he was remarkably affable both with Cuba’s late tyrant emeritus, Fidel Castro, and with the ever more dictatorial Evo Morales in Bolivia. During the welcoming ceremony at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana on September 19, 2015, Pope Francis spoke of his “sentiments of particular respect” for Fidel Castro, a totalitarian tyrant who subjugated the people of Cuba for 50 years and viciously persecuted the Church. Perhaps the Holy Father needs to read Armando Valladares’s 1982 book Against All Hope, a searing account of life in Castro’s gulags and political prisons. All of this is disappointing, to say the least. The poor need political liberty, too, and the opportunities that come with private property and lawfully regulated markets. Even more disturbing is the claim by an acolyte of the pope, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez of the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences, that “China is the best implementer of Catholic social doctrine” today (Catholic Herald, February 6, 2018). This blindness toward totalitarianism and indulgence toward regimes that actively persecute faithful Catholics are hallmarks of Francis’s papacy. It is striking that Pope Francis rarely reiterates the Church’s defense of private property, a central concern of Catholic social teaching going back to Pope Leo XIII (read the very forceful defense of private property—and trade unions—in Rerum Novarum [Of New Things], as well as that encyclical’s absolute condemnation of socialism). I will put the matter bluntly: A faithful Catholic is not obliged to be a Peronist. We are obliged to live the Gospel and to exercise prudential judgment, rooted in reality and reflecting the best secular and Christian wisdom.

A New Issue of NR Is Here. The Presses, Hot, It Is Off!

And as is our custom, here are four pieces from the magazine (here, the December 17, 2018, issue) we believe should tickle your fancy (not that all of the magazine’s pieces wouldn’t tickle something).

1. The problem with white liberals (well, one of the problems), writes Teddy Kupfer, is that they believe themselves to be racists. From the piece:

But the most salient feature of the white-liberal turn may be its effect on the Democratic party, that vehicle that was supposed to redeem the U.S. from the sins of its lily-white past. Confident liberals once believed that when the Democratic party inevitably took power with support from racial minorities in a country undergoing demographic change, it would mark the end of white domination in American politics. But with woke whites so visible in contemporary liberalism, we may be on the cusp of new political conflicts. Could white liberalism threaten the stability of the Democratic coalition?

The Democratic party is less homogeneous in both the appearance of its elites and the composition of its electorate than the GOP. Yet support for President Trump among black and Hispanic men has ticked up since 2016: In January, Ronald Brownstein found that 23 percent of African-American men supported the president, as did 40 percent of Hispanic men over 50. This midterm cycle, most of the progressive candidates who generated fawning enthusiasm among out-of-state cosmopolitan whites were unable to translate such enthusiasm into electoral success. One wonders whether white liberalism will mesh well with nonwhite voters who might not share its ideological obsessions. Will militant progressivism really resonate with Hispanic Catholics or black Baptists? How will second-generation Chinese Americans react to a policy of dismantling the meritocracy to overcome the sins of the past? If white liberalism begins to dominate the Democratic party, it could wind up isolating a growing number of black, Hispanic, and Asian moderates.

That wouldn’t be a shock.

2. In the cover essay, Michael Brendan Dougherty proposes six ideas for “the populism Trump needs.” Here is Idea Number Four from the piece:

Take the conflict with China to Silicon Valley. Trump’s fixation on the media and instinctive rebellion against “rip-offs” have led him to focus his rhetorical fire on Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, the founder of Amazon, and the owner of the Washington Post. Trump could make a case that Amazon’s avoidance of taxes and its reliance on the United States Postal Service are ways of privatizing the value of America’s public goods. But he would do better to shift his fire altogether. Polling shows that while Americans do not trust major media institutions such as the Post, they do trust Amazon.

The big Silicon Valley target should be Google, whose social utility is running out. Peter Thiel has pointed out that, by sitting on tens of billions of dollars in cash reserves, the company has signaled it has no real ideas for expanding or anxiety about competition. And it is no longer developing its search technology, where it makes its real money. It is a giant firm that is betting against improvements in its core field.

And now its political effect is threatening to become toxic. First, Google’s dominance across the Internet has effectively made it the world’s most powerful spy agency. That’s already a vulnerability that American rivals could exploit. But Google is planning on making things worse, as it actively explores a partnership with the Chinese government. Already Google has done work creating a censored version of the Internet for China. It has been caught compiling user data to help the Chinese government fill out its blacklists. This partnership is likely to be great in the short term for Google, but it may give a geopolitical rival access to technologies and data that are vital to U.S. national security.

Google must be reminded, swiftly, that it exists thanks to the laws, technology, culture, and protection offered by the United States. We did not let U.S. arms manufacturers and IBM strengthen the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and Google should not be allowed to strengthen the Chinese Communist Party or make the Chinese model of authoritarian state capitalism more attractive.

3. I kid you not, it’s the annual NR lifestyle Issue. One of the big pieces is by Jonah Goldberg, about his love affair (or two) with the stogie. Puff on this:

A quarter century ago, the legendary publisher of NATIONAL REVIEW, William Rusher, argued in these pages that “a good cigar is one of the most superbly sensual pleasures known to man.” He even quoted a priest who declared it a “sacrament.”

Rusher went on to argue that the cigar was a symbol not just of exquisite taste but of ideological defiance. “In the context of contemporary American culture, a good cigar is almost as eloquent as those little American flags that so many of us wore on our lapels in the early 1970s,” he wrote. “It proclaims, first of all, that one is an individualist, not easily lured into the deadening conformity of cigarettes—or, worse yet, into the smug self-righteousness of the health fascists of the anti-smoking brigade. It asserts, second, that the cigar-smoker believes in pleasure, is ready to seek it and spend money on it, and takes time to smell, if not the flowers, then at least the seductive aromas of the humidor.”

Finally, we are creeping up on the point. Back in the early Nineties, I disliked cigars. Or to be more accurate, I disliked cigars the morning after I smoked them. But more relevant, I disliked the cigar craze taking over Washington, particularly among younger conservatives who believed that Newt Gingrich’s takeover of Congress signaled a new era of conservative “cool.” In 1996, I wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal criticizing my fellow young’uns for trying so hard to be hip. “Washington is filling with twentysomethings who think they’re P. J. O’Rourke because they drink what he drinks and smoke what he smokes,” I wrote.

4. Matthew Continetti finds that the idea of freedom is an “unused weapon,” and its language is one to which President Trump should avail himself. From his article:

Trump recognizes the magnitude of the China threat. Beginning with his defense bill and continuing through his National Security Strategy released at the end of 2017, the president has made great-power competition with China a national-security priority. Vice President Mike Pence articulated the new approach in a speech to the Hudson Institute in October. “As we speak,” Pence said, “Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach, using political, economic, and military tools, as well as propaganda, to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the United States.” And America, Pence warned, would be idle no more. “Our message to China’s rulers is this: This president will not back down—and the American people will not be swayed.”

The president has used military, economic, and diplomatic power to arrest the decline of U.S. influence in East Asia. His policy is a necessary corrective after years of strategic inertia and geopolitical cluelessness. But it also downplays an essential part of any conflict with autocratic regimes: the defense of human freedom and democracy. At Hudson, Pence spoke of the “dream of freedom” that sadly “remains distant for the Chinese people” and warned that China increasingly encroaches on freedoms inside the West. You won’t hear such rhetoric from Trump. He sees the U.S.–China relationship, among others, as a contest of brute strength and an amoral calculation of dollars and cents.

That’s his loss and ours. As the United States enters a “Second Cold War” with China, it ought to remember the way Ronald Reagan won the first Cold War. That victory came not only through strength of arms and economic output, but also through a considered and sustained assault on the ideological foundations of the Soviet Union. Reagan put it this way in his 1982 address to the British Parliament: “We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings.” Seven years later, the Berlin Wall fell. The collapse of the Soviet Empire began.

And Now, a Brief Word about Brexit

1. On NRO, John O’Sullivan lays into PM Theresa May’s agreement with the EU, which he predicts will go down to defeat in the House of Commons on December 11, with plenty of Tories voting “nay.” From his analysis:

The May cabal hints that if the prime minister holds the rebels’ majority to fewer than 100 votes, she will try again in a month or two. That’s a sign of a weaker political position, of course, and a dangerous strategy into the bargain. If there seems to be no real penalty to voting no the first time, the numbers against her plan may well rise to a level that would make it impossible to seek a second vote. Indeed, that is probably now the case. Tories as loyal and as prudent as the former defense secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, say frankly that the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) agreed between May and the EU is “doomed.”

May herself has now embarked on a nationwide tour to “sell” the WA to the voters on the assumption that they will then press the MPs in her own divided party to rally round the government line. It’s a quixotic enterprise reliant mainly on the fact that the public seems to have some sympathy for May’s dogged persistence in pursuing her Chequers plan. But the obstacles to its success are more substantial than their admiration for her.

May’s actual plan is extremely unpopular with the voters who don’t think it achieves what they voted for as Brexit. The more they know about it, the less popular it becomes. In most polls, it is the least popular among several Brexit outcomes (including Remain). And its unpopularity is stronger among the Tory activists — who give it about 20 percent support — than among the voters generally. Yet it is the activists who would presumably be exerting pressure on her MPs.

2. Meanwhile one of the true champions of Brexit, MEP Dan Hannan, writes for Conservative Homes that he cannot support May’s plan because it includes the terrible aspects of being an EU member state while junking the good bits. From his analysis:

But here’s the thing. When I suggested accepting a half-in-half-out settlement, I assumed we’d aim to keep the good half and junk the bad half. The Eurosceptic demand, down the years, had always been “common market, not common government”. That was the position of Teddy Taylor and Dick Body and, before them, of Neil Marten and Enoch Powell, of Hugh Gaitskell and Clement Attlee. It seemed a safe bet that the government would respond to the 2016 vote by seeking something along those lines. I wanted Swiss-style EFTA membership, but I was prepared for pretty much any reasonable compromise.

Yet, incredibly, Theresa May has come back with a deal that keeps the worst aspects of membership and junks the potential advantages. Instead of staying in the common market but leaving the EU’s more federal policies, we are doing the reverse. We propose to leave the common market but keep, as much as any non-member can, the obligations imposed on us by the European Arrest Warrant, the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the rest.

Instead of doing a Switzerland — leaving the Customs Union but retaining chunks of the Single Market — we shall end up staying in the Customs Union but leaving most of the Single Market. In other words, we shall prejudice our trade with the EU 27 while simultaneously making impossible trade deals with anyone else.

If you had asked three years ago whether leaving the EU while keeping the Customs Union was desirable, you’d have been laughed at by all sides. It had always clobbered Britain uniquely as the member state that did the most trade outside the EU. The idea that we might stay in it while giving up any say over it, obliging ourselves to follow all EU concessions to third countries without any incentive for those third countries to reciprocate to us, would have been too absurd to contemplate.

3. But wait! In The Corner, Michael Brendan Dougherty argues “take the deal.” From his post:

Brexit has shown that the U.K. has a serious constitutional crisis threatening to swallow the legitimacy of its government. It is supposed to have a sovereign Parliament, and yet it now makes decisions by national referenda. Voters imposed Brexit on a Parliament that was and remains disinclined to execute it. That is the source of some of the troubles. But failing to execute on it, turning back to the voters to sort out the endless and internal Tory party drama, or putting the question back to voters in an additional referendum — with the obvious hope of ducking out of responsibility to execute on the first one;  all of these options seriously worsen the Constitutional crisis, and threaten to break faith in Britain’s democracy.

4. But Keep Waiting! In The Corner, Maddy Kearns (from Scotland, she has a wee doggie in this fight) says she dinnae agree with MBD. From her rebuttal:

National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty has recommended that Parliament pass Theresa May’s Brexit deal, effectively proposing that Britain marry her sunk costs and move on to greener pastures.

Ah, yes; greener pastures.

Greener pastures surrounded by a ten-foot, bureaucratic fence as the EU continues to treat the U.K. as a “Member State for the purpose of E.U. law” and the European Court of Justice maintains jurisdiction. Greener pastures with the EU as gatekeeper since, if ratified, May’s plan cannot be exited without the EU’s say-so. Greener pastures with a U.K.-wide “backstop”, keeping the entire nation in the customs union, and tying Northern Ireland ever closer to the EU. Greener pastures where free trade with non-EU countries is compromised. Those greener pastures.

Lights. Cameras. Reviews!

1. Armond White checks out The Favourite and gives it a royal walloping. Here’s how the review begins:

Fish-eye lenses are a hack filmmaker’s favorite gimmick, and Yorgos Lanthimos can’t seem to use enough of them in The Favourite, his satire of 18th-century British royals. He, along with cinematographer Robbie Ryan, offers funhouse-mirror portraits of the decadent ruling class: gout-stricken Queen Anne (Olivia Colman); her scheming confidante Lady Sarah Marlborough (Rachel Weisz); and Sarah’s counter-conniving cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone), who, after insolvency, is anxious to scheme her way back into power. These proto-feminists, each skilled in anachronistic modern profanity, practice ruthless political amorality — and cunnilingus. Lanthimos titillates, by way of indulging contemporary fascination with celebrity, here represented by upper-class perversions, the legacy of depraved Western history.

Lanthimos always goes for distortion. His reputation (based on the unwatchable amoral tales Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer) is based on fake avant-garde narrative experimentation. But any smart-aleck high-school film nerd can tell you that Lanthimos is copying Kubrick, the fish-eye lenses maestro, who couldn’t resist preening technology to underscore his misanthropic tales. Lanthimos outlived Kubrick and so gives us the fish-eye cliché to reassure Millennial viewers that it’s okay to laugh at people who are targets of their envy and disdain.

2. Kyle Smith reviews the best-film decisions of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, and declares — the Oscar race is well underway.

3. Armond finds If Beale Street Could Talk to be more of a harangue. From his must-read review:

Call it Baldwinetics. The current trend of quoting James Baldwin to validate contemporary racial concepts and political fantasy explains If Beale Street Could Talk, an adaptation of Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name that director Barry (Moonlight) Jenkins has made into a new movie hodgepodge.

Beale Street’s love story between a pair of Harlem youths, Fonny and Tish (Stephan James and KiKi Layne) is overfreighted with modern racial anxieties. The film’s Baldwinetics might confound naïve moviegoers who are sold the idea of seeing a powerful personal story with political resonance, but they get a helter-skelter lecture instead. Baldwinetics reduce the learned author’s moral and political exertions into marketable fodder.

Jenkins’s graceless storytelling misreads Baldwin’s hard thinking and anguished writing — Millennial fans admire his anguish — resulting in a mush-minded protest movie. Like Spike Lee, Jenkins builds a collage of cultural references and topical complaints. Cutaways to black-and-white photo montages interrupt the love story with police harassment, a strategy that includes a white racist Meth-head cop — an apparition likely borrowed from Lee’s Clockers or 25th Hour.  Such incidents make this movie more about Ferguson, Mo., than about Harlem’s losing its classic history to the millennium’s white gentrification. Fonny and Tish frequently escape Harlem to enjoy New York’s bohemian West Village enclaves, even encountering an ethnically sympathetic landlord. This sop to the white liberal audience presents Fonny and Tish as lambs to America’s racist slaughter. Such sentimentality might fool naïve viewers with no sense of racial history or urban housing patterns, but it won’t lure black audiences who don’t want or need to see more suffering at the movies (as the box-office failure of Moonlight proved).

A Wonderful Remembrance of Roger Beckett

Our good friend, the dynamic head of the Ashbrook Center, dearly departed, was toasted a few weeks back by another good friend, Robert Alt — himself a dynamic head, he of Ohio’s Buckeye Institute — at Claremont Institute’s Salvatori Dinner. From Robert’s tribute to a great conservative:

He had his likes: bourbon, music (preferably jazz), and cigars. I take some credit for that last one. I introduced both Roger and Peter Schramm to smoking cigars, but anyone who knew either Roger or Peter or both, knows that when they adopted something, they did so bigly, and made it their own.

And he also had his loves.

He loved America. His was not a hollow patriotism, but a love of the idea made into a country. His love of America pervaded even into small things. He drank bourbon specifically because it was American whiskey, and regularly chided those of us whose choice of whisky was not.

He loved the Ashbrook Center. He bled Ashbrook. He was a persistent and powerful ambassador of everything for which Ashbrook stands. This advocacy was not undertaken because he had worked with Ashbrook for more than 20 years, but rather because he understood that a country based upon ideas can only be perpetuated by an educated citizenry, and — thus — it was through Ashbrook’s unique role — teaching the teachers — that he relentlessly sought to save, preserve, and protect the America that he so dearly loved.

The Six

1. Anti-Semitism? What anti-Semitism? Jewish liberals, says Karol Markowicz in the New York Post, have developed a major blind spot. From her piece:

Then there’s Linda Sarsour. Last week the Women’s March leader called out “folks who masquerade as progressives but always choose their allegiance to Israel over their commitment to democracy.” This was another old Jew-hating trope: namely, that Jews secretly harbor dual loyalty to Israel. And this is just the latest in a long litany of anti-Semitic comments she’s made.

What’s even more odious is that the Sarsours of the country are called on to help heal the hatred they sow. Last year, Sarsour sat on a panel at the New School about fighting anti-Semitism. And just last week Al Sharpton, who has a history of saying heinous things about Jews in the 1990s, was on MSNBC to discuss — you guessed it — fighting anti-Semitism.

It’s like a bad joke. The guy who has referred to Jews as “interlopers” and “diamond merchants” is now the one claiming to fight Jew-hatred. Has he ever apologized? Jews forgive public figures like Ellison, Omar, Sarsour and Sharpton. But they would never encourage other targeted groups to do the same.

2. It’s not really about cakes, because . . . it never was: The Christian Post reports on how the Arizona Supreme Court will hear the case of two Christian artists fighting a Phoenix law that is behind the order that they create wedding invitations for same-sex ceremonies, which they morally oppose. From the piece:

In July, Brush & Nib Studio sent an appeal to the state Supreme Court. They are being represented by the Scottsdale, Arizona-based law firm Alliance Defending Freedom.

Jonathan Scruggs, senior counsel with the ADF, said in a statement released earlier this year that he believed the “government must allow artists to make their own decisions about which messages they will promote.”

“Artists shouldn’t be forced to create artwork contrary to their core convictions, and certainly not under threat of criminal fines and jail time,” stated Scruggs.

“Breanna and Joanna are happy to design custom art for all people; they simply object to being forced to pour their heart, soul, imagination, and talent into creating messages that violate their conscience.”

3. At American Greatness, Ed Ring tells the deadly tale about how liberal / Left / Democrat policies have turned California into a fire pit. From his piece:

California’s 2018 wildfires have been unusually severe, but they were not historic firsts. This year’s unprecedented level of destruction and deaths are the result of home building in fire prone areas, and not because of wildfires of unprecedented scope. And while the four-year drought that ended in 2016 left a legacy of dead trees and brush, it was forest mismanagement that left those forests overly vulnerable to droughts in the first place.

Based on these facts, smart policy responses would be first to reform forest management regulations to expedite public and privately funded projects to reduce the severity of future wildfires, and second, to streamline the permit process to allow the quick reconstruction of new, fire-hardened homes.

But neither outcome is likely, and the reason should come as no surprise — we are asked to believe that it’s not observable failures in policy and leadership that caused all this destruction and death, it’s “man-made climate change.”

Governor Jerry Brown is a convenient boogeyman for climate realists, since his climate alarmism is as unrelenting as it is hyperbolic. But Brown is just one of the stars in an out-of-control environmental movement that is institutionalized in California’s legislature, courts, mass media, schools, and corporations.

RELATED: At Flash Report, Katy Grimes catalogues just some of the many ways Jerry Brown and the Golden State’s enviro-extremists have turned California into tinder.

4. OK, I can’t help myself: Here’s even more on the nexus between conflagration and Green wackadoos. At The American Conservative, James Pinkerton takes us back to TR and FDR and the cousins’ efforts to harness nature (didja know that as late as 1964 the Dems were still touting the TVA in the party platform?). From his piece:

This cessation of ambitious new public works — stopped by legislation in the ’70s and by litigation ever since— is regarded as a triumph of green thinking. Red ink-minded budget cutters, too, are probably pleased.

Yet here’s the thing: even if virtually all water development projects have been stopped — as detailed here by Fresno resident Victor Davis Hanson, who’s seen the desiccation first hand — population growth has not stopped. In 1970, Americans numbered 205 million; they number more than 326 million today.

So what do we do with all these people? Where should they live? That’s a question that nobody seems to want to answer. And so, in the absence of policies that permit the continued dispersion of the population to reclaimed land, the default has been to pack folks into increasingly crowded conurbations.

For instance, a look at a population map of California shows that its people are jammed into just a few clusters. The result of this dense packing has been runaway housing costs: the median home price in Los Angeles County — a place of 10.1 million — is $615,000. One might ask: how do ordinary people afford that? Answer: they don’t.

Yet whenever Californians seek to venture outside of the built-up cores, the lack of protective infrastructure haunts them — and burns them. That’s the unmistakable signal of the recent fires, which most grievously impacted small towns such as Paradise, California, in faraway Butte County. The town’s former residents — all 27,000 of them — will have to think hard before they return to the charred remains of their homes, knowing that they face the prospect of another inferno in a few years.

5. More from The American Conservative, this time from Robert Merry, who dwells on how the new American elite despises . . . America. This is a humdinger of an essay. From it:

Today we look back on that old elite, if we look back on it at all, as a relic of the distant past. But this development — the old elite’s slow loss of self-confidence after World War II and then its obliteration as a cultural force — represents a profound transformation in America’s social history. What emerged was a new country with a new elite.

In place of the old-school folkways and legends and values of the Anglo-Saxons, we have what is known as a meritocratic system dominated by a class of strivers who have managed to scope out the new system and rise to the top. It was captured in a recent Atlantic article by Matthew Stewart, an avowed member of the new elite but a critic of it. “The meritocratic class,” he writes, “has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children. We are not innocent bystanders to the growing concentration of wealth in our time. We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy.”

Further, as far back as 1995, social commentator Christopher Lasch, in a book entitled The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (published posthumously), excoriated what he called America’s “new aristocracy of brains.” He wrote: “There has always been a privileged class, even in America, but it has never been so dangerously isolated from its surroundings.” He foresaw an emerging chasm between the country’s new upper class and its great mass of citizens. “The new elites,” he wrote, “are in revolt against ‘Middle America,’ as they imagine it: a nation technologically backward, politically reactionary, repressive in its sexual morality, middlebrow in its tastes, smug and complacent, dull and dowdy.”

Lasch’s characterization of the elite’s low regard for the masses calls to mind Hillary Clinton’s put-down of Donald Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential race. Her famous “deplorables” insult reflected the cultural chasm foretold by Lasch. This mutual animus between the elites and the people they purport to govern is an ominous development in America and thus merits an exploration. Our starting point will be that old WASP establishment that dominated America for nearly three centuries before expiring with hardly a cri de coeur. It should be noted that this article represents no call for any kind of restoration. History moves forward with a crushing force and doesn’t pause for nostalgia. But to understand where we are, we must understand where we came from. And the old WASP establishment represents a large part of where we came from.

6. Re. the battle between “class” (as in upper) and “elites,” First Things has published a very interesting essay by Robert C. Koons on T.S. Eliot’s views on populism. This is meaty stuff. From the essay:

To grasp Eliot’s point, we must first understand precisely what he means by “culture.” Professional anthropologists typically define culture in such a way that every group of human beings has a culture, in the sense of a pattern of interrelated activities. Eliot defined culture more narrowly: A culture is a deeper way of life, the incarnation of a shared religion, coming in more or less conscious forms. The culture of a people is always a particular incarnation, in a particular place and time, of a universal (or nearly universal) religion. It is quite possible for two regions at particular points in time to incarnate the same religion equally well but in different ways: Compare the culture of English recusants with Irish peasants or Italian Benedictines, or Eliot’s own poetry with that of Dante or Alexander Pope. Even the diversions and entertainment of a community can be expressions of its religious life, from explicitly religious festivals to betting on horses or reading newspapers in coffeehouses.

Eliot’s definition of culture as incarnate religion creates the possibility of anti-culture. A purely secular, nonreligious society would lack a culture in Eliot’s sense. So, too, would a society that had successfully privatized religion, so that its religion, insofar as it could be incarnate at all, was incarnate only at the level of individual lives. Finally, a society whose dominant religion is gnostic would also be anti-cultural. By “gnostic religion” I mean a religion or quasi-religion that rejects the very possibility of its being incarnate in this world and in this age. A philosophy such as Marxism or modern liberalism, which rejects existing social institutions and advocates their total replacement, is likewise anti-cultural, in Eliot’s sense (at least, until the eschaton is successfully immanentized).

True culture at the highest level is the product of an artistic and critical elite, but an elite that is grounded in, nurtured by, and responsible to the upper class. Great artists don’t get ahead through their own talent and ethic alone. They are trained in and sponsored by upper-class institutions.

A society with a healthy culture, supported by a class hierarchy, realizes that culture at two levels, one relatively unconscious (folk culture) and the other relatively conscious and reflective (high culture). A leveling, elite-dominated society produces something quite different: the relatively unconscious level of pop culture, and the more conscious level of elite anti-culture.

BONUS: In New Oxford Review, Anne Barbeau Gardiner reviews a new (alas, in French) book by Fr. Édouard-Marie Gallez, La Malentendu Islamo-Chrétien, which makes the very troubling charge that for years Catholic theologians have been B.S.-ing us and each other about Islam’s truths, especially about its Nazarian roots. It’s a very powerful read.

Viva Gatestone Institute!

I’m on the board. I love Gatestone, which serves up commentary that is bold and daring in a PC-dominated world. Claiming personal privilege, I share three recent pieces that you should read (and please do subscribe to the daily email).

1. Indeed, Palestinians are being abused . . . by Arab regimes. Bassam Tawil lays into a double standard of an Israel-obsessed media. From his report:

Perhaps this disparity helps to explain why the international community does not read about human rights violations in Arab and Islamic countries. There is, however, another reason, not related to the journalists’ safety.

The international community are not interested in what the Arabs and Muslims are doing to the Palestinians because the Western journalists are hell-bent on covering only stories that reflect negatively on Israel.

Palestinian rioters killed by the Israel Defense Forces on the Israel-Gaza border attract the attention of scores of Western journalists and media outlets. By contrast, Palestinians tortured to death and otherwise killed in Syria receive zero coverage in Western media organizations.

The 3,903 Palestinians killed in Syria in the past seven years are of no interest to the Western correspondents or their editors. As far as these journalists are concerned, the reports of the human rights organization monitoring the condition of Palestinians in Syria are rubbish fit for the wastebasket.

2. France continues to come off the rails. Giulio Meotti watches and warns. From his report:

Robert Ménard, the mayor of the southern town of Béziers, declared that “teaching Arabic will create more ghettos”. French authorities seem to ignore that the vast majority of terrorists from France have been French citizens, who spoke a perfect French and, unlike their parents, were born in France. They were perfectly “integrated”. They rejected it.

The confirmation of the Islamist wave came last September in a shocking report from Institut Montaigne entitled, “The Islamist Factory.” It details the extreme level of radicalization of the French Muslim society. According to its director, Hakim El Kharoui, extremist Muslims in France are “creating an alternative society, parallel, separate. With a key concept: halal.” Macron has done almost nothing to stop this expansion.

“Two or three Salafist mosques were closed in 18 months, [but] foreign funding of mosques was not banned,” said National Front party leader Marine Le Pen recently. The goal of foreign funding has been detailed by the former chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, Jean-Frédéric Poisson, in his new book, “Islam, Conquering the West“. “The expansion of Islam in the West is part of a strategic plan developed by the 57 states that make up [the Organisation of] Islamic Cooperation — a sort of Muslim United Nations — which theorized the spread of Sharia law in Europe”, Poisson said in an interview this month. “They openly declared the ambition to install a ‘substitution civilization’ in the West.”

RELATED: The Institut Montaigne’s very detailed report on Islamism. It’s quite unnerving.

3. Turkey has occupied northern Cyprus since 1974. And since then has wiped out its Christian culture. Uzay Bulut reports.


In this Era of Pitch-Count Obsession, we Nostalgiarians can’t help but remember those contented days when men were made of iron — or, in the case of Wilbur, wood. Men like Cy Young winner Mike Marshall, whose was one of the most durable relief pitchers in MLB history. His 106 appearances (all in relief) in 1974 with the Dodgers broke the previous Major League record of 92, which Marshall himself had set the previous year with the Expos (even though Marshall had finished second in the 1973 Cy Young vote, his prickly ways got him traded). Marshall, who holds a slew of records, led the NL three times and the AL once (in 1979 with the Twins) in total appearances, and three times in saves (31 with the Expos in 1973, 21 for the Dodgers the next year, and 32 for the Twins on 1979). In Marshall’s 14-year career (admittedly, with an underwater record of 97-112 and a 3.14 ERA), he appeared in 724 games.

That’s a heap of games. But only 24 came as a starter, and most of those came in 1969, when the 26-year-old right-hander was tossing for the expansion Seattle Pilots. It wasn’t a pretty season, for the team (64-98) or Marshall, who went 3-10, with an obese 5.13 ERA. Sometimes though, the Baseball Gods do smile, and they did on Marshall one evening in Seattle, allowing him a singular, exceptional performance, when he tossed his sole career shutout: On May 9th at the tiny and . . . sickly . . . Sick’s Stadium (which no doubt would have elicited this comment from Betty Davis), Marshall blanked Frank Howard and the visiting Washington Senators on a two-hitter.

If you want to know more about the legend, the curmudgeon, the Doctor of Kinesiology, read this.

BONUS: Let’s dabble in this and forthcoming WJs with a favorite of baseball fans, the nickname. Today we’ll make note of Jesus Manuel Rivera, alias Bombo, who played for the Expos, Twins, and Royals between 1975-82. Truth be told, in my next lifetime I want to be called “Bombo” Fowler. That should offset my having been called Boob in a previous one.

A Dios

Yep. Today is the day: I’m off on the NR Cruise, which vamooses from Ft. Lauderdale. We’ll start promoting the next one (August 2019, Canada / New England) next week, because, well, there is always another NR cruise to promote. In the meanwhile, Advent begins on Sunday for many of us, so what say we get in the right frame of mind, doling out comfort-and-joy tidings, wishing peace on earth, avoiding nothing-dismay gossip, and all such seasonal jazz, ok? Good. And if I might: Please, in your prayers, say one for NR, which, like fools, drunks, and the United States of America, depends on the Almighty’s mercies and protection.

Your Truly,

Jack Fowler

Or, if you prefer, Falalalala, who also can be contacted at for the tendering of compliments and bellyaches.

National Review

Pardon the Fowl Mood

Dear Weekend Jolters,

This turkey — the one you are reading — was cooked on Monday (affording WJ editorial galley slave Phil the freedom of actual time off). We put it in the fridge right away so you wouldn’t catch any salmonella, and now it awaits you and your fierce appetite. The food baby of Thursday having passed, you find yourself beyond peckish, so . . . why not warm up the gravy and have yourself a hearty hot-turkey sandwich today while you read selections from the NRO Holiday Cornucopia — Vintage Edition — assembled below.

Vintage? Yeah, we are serving you tasty leftovers from NR’s abundant archives. You’re going to need a bigger plate.

(As for the turkey in the image, no question he was begging for the ax rather than let that brat with a clearly bogus American flag ride him for another second.)


1. There’s something of Marvin K. Mooney that lends itself to Theresa May (looney!) and her awful Brexit negotiating with the EU. We urge the British PM: Will you please go now?! From the end of our big, meaty editorial:

Crises of this kind follow no known rules. Governments usually get their way, but when party loyalties are stretched to breaking point and constitutional conventions strain under pressure, governments sometimes lose and are sometimes broken altogether. At present, it looks as if May is likely to lose the parliamentary vote on the deal but likely to survive a leadership challenge. If she loses the leadership, she’s out altogether — there’s no coming back from that. If she holds on as leader but loses the vote on the deal because of Tory dissent, she’s almost certainly out then also. A leader who spends two full years not getting Brexit done will find her support evaporating. Her allies let it be known that in the event of such a parliamentary defeat, she would call an election on a manifesto that included her deal with Europe.

That is surely a fantasy. It would run up against at least two formidable obstacles. The first is that the Conservative party below the cabinet level is a Leaver party — as opinion polls and election statistics both show clearly. She would be leading a bitterly divided party into an election on an issue on which her natural voters are against her. That would be the culmination of her original error on Brexit — which has been to allow herself to be maneuvered by a faction of Remainer ministers, civil servants, and establishment worthies into a Brexit strategy at odds with the great majority of her own party. It would almost certainly lead to electoral. The second obstacle is her claim that the EU–U.K. deal she has embraced achieves the Brexit referendum result. It’s a completely absurd claim, as everyone can see, and she would lack the rhetorical ability to put across a much better case. As in the last election, she would be reduced to helpless silence.

There is no good end to this crisis under May’s leadership or on the basis of this dangerous and undemocratic deal. The Tories should find the courage and commonsense to choose a new leader who would then have the authority to forge a new policy to achieve a real Brexit. At present they are sleepwalking into vassalage.

Ancient of Days

For your enjoyment, an eclectic collection of seven pieces written by some big freaking deals. Men of Old, there are reruns, and then there are reruns worth rerunning. (Of course, there is ReRun, but we’re not talking about people.)

1. From 1962, Frank Meyer’s famous NR essay, “The Twisted Tree of Liberty,” a smackdown of the “‘pure libertarian’ sector of right-wing opinion.” From the essay:

Before the challenge of modern collectivism, hostile alike to transcendent truth and to individual freedom, traditionalist and libertarian have found common cause and tend more and more to work together on the practical political level. But further, the common source in the ethos of Western civilization from which flow both the traditionalist and the libertarian currents, has made possible a continuing discussion which is creating the fusion that is contemporary American conservatism. That fused position recognizes at one and the same time the transcendent goal of human existence and the primacy of the freedom of the person in the political order. Indeed, it maintains that the only possible ultimate vindication of the freedom of the individual person rests upon a belief in his overriding value as a person, a value based upon transcendent considerations. And it maintains that the duty of men is to seek virtue; but it insists that men cannot in actuality do so unless they are free from the constraint of the physical coercion of an unlimited state. For the simulacrum of virtuous acts brought about by the coercion of superior power, is not virtue, the meaning of which resides in the free choice of good over evil.

Therefore, the conservative — who understands also that power in this world will always exist and cannot be wished out of existence — stands for division of power, in order that those who hold it may balance each other and the concentration of overweening power be foreclosed. He stands for the limitation of the power of the state, division of power within the state, a free economy, and prescriptive protection of the rights of individual persons and groups of individual persons against the state. But he does not see the state as an absolute evil; he regards it as a necessary institution, so long as it is restricted to its natural functions: the preservation of domestic peace and order, the administration of justice, and defense against foreign enemies.

In the political sphere the conservative consensus presently emerging in the United States regards freedom as an end; but, although it is an end at the political level, it is a means — as is the whole political structure — to the higher ends of the human person. Without reference to those ends, it is meaningless. While that conservative consensus regards the untrammeled state as the greatest of political evils, it does not regard the state itself as evil so long as it is limited to its proper functions, so long as the force it wields is effectively limited by a constitutional understanding of the bounds beyond which that force may not intrude upon the sacred sphere of the individual person, and so long as that understanding is enforced by division and balance of powers.

2. Several months later, in “Freedom or Virtue?” the great L. Brent Bozell responded to that essay, and the overall Meyer effort to advance “fusionism.” From the beginning of LBB’s rejoinder:

Frank Meyer has labored earnestly in recent years to promote and justify modern American conservatism as a “fusion” of the libertarian and traditionalist points of view. His “Twisted Tree,” though it read out of the movement that curious breed of anti-anti-Communist recently spawned by nihilistic libertarianism was essentially a restatement of the thesis that a symbiosis of the two schools, if the contribution of each is properly understood, is not only possible but necessary. Meyer has been by no means alone in trying to keep order in conservatism’s divided house. While he was perhaps the first to identify the contenders generically, and to name the terms for peaceful coexistence, he has been ably seconded by others, notably Stanton Evans, who has made Professor Morton Auerbach’s allegations of right-wing schizophrenia (“Do-It-Yourself Conservatism?” NR. Jan. 30) his special concern. Still others, less persuaded than Meyer and Evans of the theoretical cogency of fusionist apologetics, have helped, too — by bearing their misgivings in silence for the sake of conservative unity.

Now I venture no prediction about the political fate of the Meyer-Evans effort — either as to its ability to hold the conservative movement together, or, more to the point, as to whether it will succeed in midwifing the movement to power. After all, the Liberal collapse is creating a power vacuum into which almost anything might move. I do question, however, whether the libertarian-traditionalist amalgam, as the fusionists defame it is worth bringing to power. For I doubt whether a movement dominated by libertarianism can be responsive to the root causes of Western disintegration. And we should not make any mistake about this. A movement that can accommodate libertarianism’s axiom is dominated by it: if freedom is the “first principle” in politics, virtue is, at best, the second one; and the programmatic aspects of the movement that affirms that hierarchy will be determined accordingly.

3. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote a withering 1982 essay for NR about “The Soft Voice of America.” The entire shebang is a worthwhile read, but there are particularly prescient passages in this remarkable essay, such as this:

The fatal historical mistake of liberalism is to see no enemy on the left, to consider that the enemy is always on the right. It is the same mistake which destroyed Russian liberalism in 1917, when the liberals overlooked the real danger, which was from Lenin. The same error — the mistake of Russian liberalism — is being repeated on a worldwide scale today.

And worst of all is China. China in the Eighties is like the Soviet Union in the Thirties; it is in need of everything. It seeks aid from America. If the U.S. provides it with technology and then with weapons, China may, for a while, serve as a safeguard against the Soviet Union, although even that is problematical. But if the U.S. arms China, China may take over the second half of the earth — that second half which includes America.

Never forget that Mao’s government murdered millions — even more, probably, in proportion to the population than Stalin did. China is even more closed to foreigners than the Soviet Union. The West knows even less about it. When, thirty years from now, you read the Chinese Gulag Archipelago, you will be amazed: “Oh, what a pity, and we didn’t know!” But you must know! You must know in time, and not when it is too late.

No matter what the Chinese rulers may say when they are looking for favors from the U.S., no Communist government ever cares about the rights, the development of its people. Communist governments are like cancerous tumors: they grow wildly and have two aims only: first, to strengthen their power, and second, to expand their boundaries. Those are the aims of the Chinese government, as they are those of the Soviet government.

4. Michael Novak has written many brilliant pieces for NR over the years. As “Christmas” began to come under attack from the Left, he responded (in 2004) to the outrages with this powerful defense of the power of the Nativity. From his essay:

In any case, knowing that this really is a wonderful life, in which implausible dreams can come true, I have been dreaming that one Christmas soon some atheist will start a movement of “Atheists for Christmas.” The purpose would not be to declare that such atheists are Christians. Rather, they or others similarly placed are in a position to state, without partisanship, the positive contributions that Christmas dramatizes for the understanding of freedom and virtue in our time.

It is not just that without Christmas the year would be much drearier. It is rather that Christmas is in fact centered upon the mystery of liberty. During one Christmas or another, each of us is going to have to make a decision: “Who is this baby in the manger?” The consequences for our own lives that follow upon that question are tremendous. Yet the child appears before our eyes, not in the glory of his terrible swift sword, but in helplessness and need–not as overpowering, but as altogether unthreatening. The decision thus depends upon the free conscience of the observer, upon his inalienable liberty.

For that reason, too, Christmas also instructs us to recognize all around ourselves many persons of good will. Even when their answers to that question differ from ours, we owe their inalienable dignity our respect and honor. Freedom, then, and also charity, forbearance, and tolerance — and not merely tolerance, as George Washington confided to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, but mutual respect — are all implicit in the scene at the crib.

5. In 1965, President Johnson was pressing US corporations to show “voluntary restraint” in making investments overseas. The implication was . . . greed. Milton Friedman found LBJ’s idea preposterous. Subversive to the cause of freedom, even. From his essay:

Perhaps by now we can see why systems of voluntary restraint are seldom successful unless there lurks somewhere in the background, the coercive power of the state, either explicitly as when there are laws and penalties, or implicitly as when Washington brandishes the tax stick and the threat of anti-trust prosecution (steel, 1962) or when Washington offers the tax carrot (railroads, 1964). People are being asked to act against their self-interest. Even if we assume that most of them accept the “social responsibility,” the case is not won. A few, less “responsible” or more sophisticated, will reap fine profits from the opportunities made available to those who wish to flout, or who know how to refute, the doctrine of “social responsibility.” Their fine profits will rankle in the hearts of the “socially responsible” who are expected to continue to sacrifice their own interest for a social purpose that is obviously not being met.

For the sake of the argument, however, let us assume that everyone, without exception, wishes to act in accordance with his “social responsibility.” We still must face the problem: How can he know what behavior is “socially responsible”?

Consider the seemingly simple case of the foreign loan. Is it socially desirable to cut out all foreign loans completely? That cure would be worse than the disease. Then some foreign loans should and some should not be granted. How is our banker to know which is which? He knows tolerably well which loan will be best for the bank, but how is he to know which will be best for the balance of payments?

The president, or a presidential committee, can fix a target. It might be a 20 percent cut in foreign loans. Twenty percent of what? If it’s 20 percent of loans requested, then requests for loans will go up, and the payments problem, remains untouched. If it’s 20 percent of some earlier amount of loans, then the formula is the typical backward-looking device that crops up, sooner or later, in every governmental program that is said to be progressive.

Even then we are not out of the woods. Which 20 percent? Shall each bank decide for itself? If so, each bank cuts off the least profitable borrowers. Borrowers then compete with each other for the privilege of getting a loan, and the interest rate on foreign loans (assuming perfect voluntary compliance) goes up. The voluntary exercise of “social responsibility” has become a governmentally approved cartel to raise the price to foreign borrowers — which helps to explain why leading New York bankers were among those who developed the program and why so many banks heavily involved in foreign lending have been so favorably disposed towards it.

6. Bill Buckley visited Lourdes in 1993, not looking for miracles, but as a pilgrim who found his God omnipresent, his faith divinely nourished. From his essay:

Pilgrims who travel to Lourdes make up their own schedules, in cooperation with the Administrative Office there. The routine of our group began one afternoon with Mass at the upper Basilica, one of the many churches. An odd sense of tranquility settled on us. I can’t offhand remember when last, other than at sea, I felt so little concern for timetables. On Friday there was a “Morning of Recollection” and the anointing of the sick at another chapel (St. Joseph’s). There are three hospitals — more properly, hospices — all of them administered by volunteers. Few of us were sick, but we were reminded that from the day of birth, we are on our deathbeds. In the afternoon. Mass at the Salle Notre Dame, and in the evening a candlelight procession in front of the Rosary Basilica. It is not easy to imagine 20,000 candles shaping a cross. The ensuing four days included a daily Mass in different churches; easy access to confessions, heard in six languages, throughout the day; the Stations of the Cross, twice life-sized bronze statuary, rising up a steep hillside, invoking the travail of Calvary. The schedule left several hours every day during which one could do as one chose (there are historical sites, including the birthplace of Bernadette, and the great, massive fort built during the Middle Ages), and one tends to choose to walk about, and to take keen pleasure in casual encounters.

The sense of the visit is rapidly communicated. There are thousands of gurneys (voitures, they are referred to) for the malades, the all-inclusive French word for the sick — again, propelled exclusively by volunteers. Perhaps every malade harbors the hope that he (or she) will be cured, but it is not reasonably expected; yet somehow it seems irrelevant as larger perspectives take hold. It is a part of the common faith that prayer can effect anything (“Remember, most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided”), but incantatory hyperbole is simply a ritualized form of docility. The sick who travel to Lourdes are there, yes, because of the undeniability of recorded miracles, but that isn’t what brings as many as fifty thousand people a day to Lourdes, the great majority of them healthy. The reason so many people come, many of them on their second or tenth visit, is that what is effected is a sense of reconciliation, if not well-being. Hardly miraculous, unless one chooses to use the word as most appropriate for that buoyancy experienced on viewing the great processions, sharing with almost 30,000 people an underground Mass, being lowered for three bracing seconds into one of the baths; suddenly noting the ambient serenity. These are Christians feeling impulses of their faith, and intimations of the lady in white.

They are in Lourdes because of this palpability of the emanations that gave birth to the shrine. The spiritual tonic is felt. If it were otherwise, the pilgrims would diminish in number, would, by now, have disappeared, as at Delphos, which one visits as a museum, not a shrine. What it is that fetches them is I think quite simply stated, namely a reinforced conviction that the Lord God loves His creatures, healthy or infirm; that they — we — must understand the nature of love, which is salvific in its powers; and that although we are free to attempt to divine God’s purpose, we will never succeed in doing so. The reason is that we cannot know (the manifest contradictions are too disturbing) what is the purpose behind particular phenomena and therefore must make do with only the grandest plan of God, which treats with eternal salvation. To keep the faith: To do this (the grammar of assent) requires the discipline of submission, some assurance that those who are stricken can, even so, be happy; and that the greatest tonic of all is divine love, which is nourished by human love, even as human love is nourished by divine love.

7. From NR in 1961: Evelyn Waugh reviews Gary Wills’ Chesterton: Man and Mask. From the review:

These criticisms made, one can turn to Mr. Wills’s virtues. He is a young man without the dandyism proper to his years, but he is also free of adolescent prurience. The title Man and Mask raised apprehensions of an attempt at exposure. It has become commonly accepted nowadays that any man’s idiosyncrasies of appearance or manner are a disguise deliberately adopted to conceal some fear or vice. Persona is one of the cant terms of modem criticism, and modern critics regard it as their function, to strip their subject of its protective mask. They should take notice of Max Beerbohm’s Happy Hypocrite. The mask, the style, is the man.

Mr. Wills to his great credit shows no inclination to expose Chesterton. There are questions which do titillate curiosity: What, if any, were his homosexual adventures at the Slade? To what extent, if at all, was he ever in danger of becoming a serious drunkard? The obesity which he bore like a panache must have been morbid. The physical health of an artist, like his financial means, is something which a critic may reasonably consider an influence on his work. How much was Chesterton, how much Belloc, really driven by financial need to the over-production which oppressed them both? How much was it the product of a nervous restlessness and sloth? For profusion can be slothful. It requires more effort to do a small thing really well than do many things carelessly. Mr. Wills, with commendable restraint, denies himself the investigation of these problems. He concerns himself very little with the events and circumstances of Chesterton’s life. He has contented himself with a study of his written work and has been assiduous in pursuing it in all its huge ephemeral bulk.

Are There Worthwhile Early-Week NRO Pieces to Read? Magic 8-Ball Says “It Is Decidedly So.”

1. Andy McCarthy is very critical of the Trump Administration’s new criminal-justice effort, “FIRST STEP,” and its implication of political libel. From the end of his piece:

Again, it is all well and good to argue that the 100:1 disparity in treatment of the different forms of cocaine was bad policy, and that later legislation, which reduced it to about 18:1, is more sensible. President Trump would have garnered the bipartisan applause he craves by arguing that the original disparity was overkill, and that FIRST STEP would improve on the subsequent downward adjustment by applying it retroactively (giving more incarcerated defendants the benefit of it). But it is libel against the people who enacted and enforced the laws to suggest that they intentionally harmed the African-American community.

If anything, the motivation behind those laws was to protect African-American communities from determined criminals. It remains to be seen whether those communities will be as safe once, thanks to the FIRST STEP bill, many of those criminals are more rapidly set free.

BONUS: From Groundhog Day, Ned Ryerson warns about that first step.

2. Kathryn Lopez has assembled a powerful symposium on “Adopting Life.” Read it here. And here is one contribution, from Branden Polk:

Our nation has a duty to care for our children — it comes with being an American. It comes with being a human. Not one of us has been released from our moral duty to love, emotionally and in practice, those that are beaten, abandoned, and abused, even though many of us feel that we should be “called” to foster or adopt a child. We often treat this as a special assignment or mission for the most generous and kind among us. But in reality, we all have a role to play in either supporting, fostering, or adopting children in care. Together, Americans can ensure that our nation’s future is grafted into families, that the most vulnerable among us feel worthy of connection, no matter their age or background.

The current foster-care and adoption circumstances are dire. I do not believe that a socially and morally conscientious society can afford to ignore this problem, and yet so many children remain in care. If I could immediately do one thing to help compel more engagement, I would make sure that all families on the fence about fostering or adopting were guaranteed robust social and spiritual supports, which would surely increase their retention and increase the recruitment of other families. Additionally, I would elevate the voices of youth in foster care more frequently through film, music, and media. Those most impacted by this crisis can provided valuable clarity on how to deliver effective supports.

For children in care, the days drag on, and perhaps their hopes wain. The system is overloaded. Maybe it’s not hard for them to imagine aging out of foster care without a forever family. My hope for adoption policy is that decision makers will see this as a true crisis and an issue of conscience, putting aside all political differences in order to create nonpartisan solutions that free all of our hands to be altruistic helpers. Even so, if the politicians continue to have a hard time regulating, my hope is that our faith-based and community-based organizations will take up arms, setting aside our differences, on behalf of children and older youth who need and deserve amazing families.

3. Kyle Smith went to the local cinema, watched Creed II, and found that Mr. Stallone has created another satisfying boxing flick. From the review:

The sequel to 2015’s Creed, a spinoff from the six Rocky Balboa films, finds the late Apollo Creed’s son Adonis “Donny” Creed (a superb Michael B. Jordan) on the verge of capturing the heavyweight championship while he tries to work up the nerve to propose to his girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Meanwhile, in Ukraine, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) angrily trains for a chance to fight Creed for the title. In the 1985 Cold War proxy Rocky IV, Viktor’s father Ivan (Dolph Lundgren) killed Adonis’s father Apollo before being defeated by Rocky.

Yes, Sylvester Stallone is back and gives another warm, finely tuned performance. Stallone has played the character in at least one Rocky film each decade going back to the Ford administration, and this 42-year, eight-film run is without parallel in movie history. How he has made the Philly fighter endure is a subject for another day, but Stallone deserves more respect than he has gotten as both a writer and an actor. (He co-wrote this entry with Juel Taylor, from a story by himself, Sascha Penn, and Cheo Hodari Coker.)

4. Duck Season / Wabbit Season: Hunters are urging hunters to ixnay with the ophytray pictures and bragging, because, well, the cool kids don’t like them. Hunters Need Not Apply. Kevin Williamson explains. From his piece:

We live in an antiseptic world, and there is no cure for that quite like gutting a Texas feral hog or roasting a pheasant you shot yourself. And there probably is no single activity that measures the width of the cultural chasm between coastal, urban, progressive America and interior, rural, traditional America. Hunting means guns and blood and non-ironically worn camouflage pants — often worn by the church-going, heterosexual white men who give the willies to the likes of Joan Walsh, author of What’s the Matter with White People?

(About that: Walsh hails from Wisconsin, one of the whitest states in the Union, where she attended school in an almost exclusively white suburb just north of Milwaukee, America’s most segregated city — none of which seems to have tamped down her squishy progressive sanctimony. Joan Walsh is what’s the matter with white people.)

Rural white guys are out of fashion just now. It’s hard to blame hunters for being concerned about the optics — not the kind made by Leupold, but the kind the politicians are always going on about. It’s easy to caricature hunters as bloody-minded Elmer Fudds, and there are those who want to drive them underground. Perhaps one day they’ll be forced to obliquely refer to one another as “Friends of Elmer” the way members of Alcoholics Anonymous call themselves “Friends of Bill” and gay men used to call themselves “Friends of Dorothy.” That lawsuit was after all successful and, for the moment, brown-bear hunting remains restricted to Alaska, with its abundant population of Ursus arctos.

BONUS: Elmer, Buggs, and Daffy do their thing.

5. Part 4 of the John Yoo / James Phillips series on setting a course for constitutional restoration. Here, the pair looks at gun rights. From the essay:

But just as we argued earlier with privacy, the true constitutional source for a right to bear arms comes through the 14th Amendment’s privileges and immunities clause. The radical Republicans believed that one of slavery’s great sins was its deprivation of the basic natural rights of blacks: to think and speak for themselves, to keep the fruits of their labors, to participate in political life as full citizens, and to defend their lives and property, just as any other human being could. In drafting the privileges and immunities clause, Reconstruction congressmen argued that it would override the South’s laws that had prohibited blacks from bearing arms and defending themselves. Rather than give in to the liberal enterprise of inventing rights from whole cloth, the new Roberts Court could more faithfully ground the right to bear arms by honoring the understandings of the Republicans who freed the slaves and fought to enshrine their equal rights in the Constitution.

Once it has reestablished its Second Amendment jurisprudence, the Roberts Court can then look forward to the task of elevating the right to bear arms to the same level as the others in the Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, like unsupervised students when the teacher has left the classroom, the lower courts have largely done as they please. Normally, the Court will instruct lower courts as to a test to apply to determine whether a constitutional right has been infringed. A frequent test is one with tiers of scrutiny, with more or less scrutiny depending on the degree of infringement and the counterbalancing government interest.

But the Court has failed to announce any such test with the Second Amendment. The lower courts have struggled to come up with their own, which they have borrowed from “intermediate scrutiny” cases in other areas. Government action, here the regulation of gun ownership or use, is upheld if it furthers an important government interest and does so via means substantially related to that interest. Lower courts, for example, have upheld ten-day waiting periods before a firearm purchase, bans on semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines, bans on openly carrying a firearm in public, and bans on carrying a concealed gun in public. Compared with cases on free speech, religion, and privacy, these courts have lowered the hurdle that the government must clear. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has merely looked the other way.

6. Son of Masterpiece: A new “wedding cake” case has percolated in Oregon, where Aaron and Melissa Klein are under attack from the state for their refusal to customize a cake for a same-sex wedding. Jeremy Dis and Mike Berry of First Liberty Institute tell the tale. From their piece:

Today, in their zeal to press a popular political agenda, aggressive though well-meaning government officials can do great damage to the Bill of Rights. Popular opinion may not be on the side of people like our clients, Aaron and Melissa Klein, but the Constitution protects their right to differ.

Aaron and Melissa Klein sold only custom wedding cakes. When they declined to customize a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony — a simple yet highly symbolic act — the State of Oregon punished their speech, or rather, their polite refusal to speak. In imposing a $135,000 penalty, the state sought to compel them to speak a message the government approved or go out of business.

The Kleins’ situation bears a similarity to Jack Phillips’s in Masterpiece Cakeshop. Although in that decision the Court made clear that state officials may not be hostile to the religious beliefs of its citizens, it left unanswered the more critical question: whether the government can compel citizens to create a message, popular or not, contrary to their religious beliefs.

7. Jibran Khan is shedding super tears for the late Stan Lee, creator of “the most memorable characters since Shakespeare.” You will . . . marvel . . . at this analysis. From Jibran’s piece:

Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, the Hulk, the X-Men, and so many other characters continued to keep their fans’ attention as these readers grew from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. This was no accident. From the formative period, these characters, who shared a universe, evolved and had life-changing experiences. Lee often spoke of the letters he would receive from readers, addressed to the characters. (Iron Man in particular got a lot of letters from girls worried that he wasn’t taking care of himself.)

Stan was Marvel’s editor in chief, and he was responsible for scripting pretty much all of its major titles. (A bracing thought!) He spearheaded the “Marvel Method,” which both kept things efficient for him as editor and allowed the creativity of all parties to make itself known. He would give the artist a plot (some, like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, would sometimes come up with the plots themselves), the artist would then draw and lay out the whole comic, and then Stan would write the dialogue and exposition in his signature style. The method was showcased in bonus material in the comics themselves, complete with self-deprecating dialogue from Stan.

Today, many people are prone to downplaying Stan’s role, but frankly the sheer volume and consistency of his characters make it clear that there was a common factor. The artists absolutely share credit for coming up with the characters and stories; the likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, Bill Everett, John Romita Sr., and many others from the “Marvel Age” brought something new, and they would continue to produce amazing work even apart from Stan Lee or Marvel. But Stan worked with all of them, and he was the one who established the norm of crediting comic artists front-and-center.

By Grabthar’s Hammer . . .

. . . What a savings. I have been reliably informed by the man with the gun at my head instructing me to type verbatim his every utterance that there is a Black Friday / Black Saturday / Black Weekend 60 Per Cent Off SALE on your membership in NRPLUS. No, it’s not a massive 40 per cent savings. No, it’s not a breathtaking 54 per cent savings. Yes indeed (all caps and make the link bold FAT BOY!) it is a galactic 60 PER CENT savings. (And use an exclamation point next time.) If you don’t already have an NRPLUS membership, then there isn’t a better or more affordable time to start up than right now. You can subscribe to NRPLUS here and enjoy those big savings with the code TURKEY60. Now Mr. Pin Head, tell us where you hid the Twinkies?

A Dios

Let’s not forget in our haze of pie and stuffing and cranberry sauce that there are those who hunger and thirst, those homeless by fortune or fire, those forgotten, those alone with their despairs and sorrows. Give thanks by comforting where you can, feeding where you can, visiting where you can. It never fails: You’ll feel better about yourself.

God’s profound blessings and graces on you and yours,

Jack Fowler

He can run but he cannot hide from missives sent to

National Review

Who Picked This Nose?

Dear Weekend Jolters,

You had no idea of my side gig as a model for Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade balloons?

It’s not considered a Thanksgiving movie, but the tremendous Ernie Pyle-tribute flick, The Story of G.I. Joe (you can watch the entire thing at that link) — starring Burgess Meredith and Robert Mitchum (“Bobber” to my daughter Mary) in his only Oscar-nominated performance — makes much ado about the soldiers, slogging in the mud beneath Monte Cassino, being denied a turkey dinner with the trimmings. And then getting it. OK, there is Christmas music in the background, so maybe it’s not Thanksgiving-specific. So just take this as an excuse and opportunity to catch a classic film.

Now, more on the Big Hairy Ape below, but growing up in NYC, Thanksgiving Day meant the broadcast (on WOR and WPIX) of the original King Kong, and Laurel and Hardy’s March of the Wooden Soldiers. How these movies have come to symbolize the Great Day would confound the hell out of Captain Myles Standish had he lived another three centuries.

And confound George Washington, who as President had this to say in our country’s first proclamation for “a day of public thanks-giving and prayer”:

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Now it has come to the time when you will, as GW says, encrease your wisdom by learning more about what National Review Online has published this week past. On with the Jolt!


1. When the consent of the governed’s fate is controlled by the politically motivated and incompetent, democracy has got itself a big problem. Hence our call for Brenda Snipes, Broward County’s law-disregarding, outcome-torturing elections supervisor, to get the boot. From our editorial:

It should be clear by now that Broward County has a systemic problem with its management of elections. (Guess which county was at the heart of the 2000 Florida recount?) 2018 is the 18th year in a row in which its elections commission has been headed up by an arrogant bungler (in the best case), and yet voters in the county keep reelecting those bunglers every two years. On present evidence, if Brenda Snipes is to be removed from her role, it will once again be because the governor cries “Enough.” When Ron DeSantis takes office in January, he should fire Snipes. And when he has done that, he should insist that Broward County take a good, hard look in the mirror, the better to ask how long it wishes to remain a den of blustery incompetence, or worse.

Stuff These Ten Smart NRO Pieces in Your Intellectual Gobbler

1. Hey Ladieeeees! If you vote Republican you are brainwashed. Unsisterly. Traitors. Racist. Y’all should be ashamed. Didja know that? Carrie Lukas smacks back at the Lefties-Before-Sisters crowd. From her piece:

Waiting for back-to-school night to begin, while exchanging names and pleasantries with parents of my daughters’ new classmates, I would never have brought up politics, and I carefully neutered descriptions of my employment to avoid revealing any ideological leanings. Yet the woman next to me felt no similar limitations and quickly offered a profanity-laced opinion of the president. A few laughed agreeably, offering their own digs not just about Trump, but about conservatives more broadly. I simply disengaged.

I suspect many right-of-center women have had similar experiences. This is a problem, not just because it silences people, but because increasingly women on the left seem to have no actual contact with women outside of their own ideological bubbles. They can’t fathom why, other than racism and sexism, some women reach different conclusions about politics and policy issues.

2. Did mommy tell you a good-night story about how social media was going to be all about equality and free speech and . . . but mommy’s story turned out to be a nightmare. Fred Bauer tells how the world of Twitter, Facebook, and all else is now the province of elites and mobs and demagogues. No puppy-dog tales! From his scary article:

In recent months, that pretension to universality has become less and less plausible. In part in response to the ongoing populist disruption, social-media companies have taken a much more aggressive approach in de-platforming users. That such community standards are not equally enforced across the ideological spectrum only increases the quasi-editorial power of these platforms. The power of these community standards can be seen in the fact that a fair amount of political energy is expended on battles over who can even have a voice on the platforms in the first place. The flamewars that used to happen on discussion boards and blogs across the Internet have now been funneled to a few places, which gives the moderators of such locations increasing power. Now the purported digital public square increasingly resembles a first-grade classroom, echoing with shrill volleys of “I’m telling!” (That some media corporations have led various efforts to de-platform rogue media outlets is another sign of how the currently entrenched power elite can use the digital landscape to protect its own power.)

Of course, social-media scalp-hunting does not confine itself to de-platforming; it often involves targeting people IRL. Because much of the media class spends an inordinate amount of time on Twitter and because this class is particularly attuned to peer-group signaling, it has become a major battleground for those who control (or seek to control) the commanding heights of culture. To follow media Twitter is to see a real-time negotiation of the bounds of public debate, which will be later reinforced by news coverage, cultural criticism, editorials, and so forth.

3. Ben Shapiro isn’t doing somersaults over the recent elections. He finds the results troubling for Republicans and conservatives and sees the policy prescriptions of some conservatives (Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, Oren Cass) to be lacking and worthy of criticism. If you want intra-movement debate, look no further. From his piece:

These thinkers argue in favor of a certain political pragmatism: Cut regulations here, increase regulations there; push wage subsidies here, remove minimum-wage laws there. All of this does raise one fundamental question, however: Is government intervention truly likely to lead to the revitalization of family and community? Do families and communities rebuild themselves on the basis of economic policy, or must the preconditions for economic thriving be in place first? When those preconditions are undermined, does prosperity naturally fade away?

These questions go to the heart of our politics and raise another serious question: Can political conservatism survive the growth of government-led intervention designed to shore up fundamental institutions? When it comes to government intervention, what’s the limiting principle? If we believe government can rebuild the labor market according to Cass’s prescriptions, or rebuild families according to Douthat’s and Salam’s, where is the line drawn? Tucker Carlson recently suggested on my show that he’d ban automatic driving because of the danger of job loss among blue-collar workers, for example. Would that be a bridge too far? If so, why?

4. God and Man at Where? Graham Hillard makes the case for Christian colleges. From his piece:

With respect to my torch-bearing colleagues, however, I’d like to propose a different path. Like a sick child, like a treasured possession left too long to rust, the American university system is too dear to abandon. If anything, we should be sending more students to college — opening up further avenues of funding, both public and private, even as we pursue policies that might lower tuition or challenge the progressive domination of our campuses. Colleges will have to change, to be sure, but in the meantime conservatives would be wise not only to celebrate but to actively advance the interests of those institutions that are educating students properly right now.

Would it be self-interested of me to suggest that Christian universities have moved to the head of that class?

That I can ask such a question straight-facedly might surprise readers for whom the phrase “Christian college” evokes images of color-coded sidewalks (lest the sexes mingle) or steely Puritans dangling sinners over the mouth of hell. While it is true that students at Christian schools are likely to hear the gospel (a religious institution that didn’t at least try to proselytize would be highly suspect), it’s just as accurate to point out that many Christian universities have assembled what conservatives say they want: an intellectually diverse faculty with whom students may freely debate the ideas that have informed modern human existence.

5. It’s National Adoption Month. Kathryn Jean Lopez has an excellent interview with Malka Groden about the experience of a Jewish family trying to adopt a child. From the Q & A:

Lopez: Is there a specifically Jewish vision or approach do these things? Or should there be more of one?

Groden: There really hasn’t been much of an approach or vision in the Jewish community. Orthodox Jewish families have many biological children and simply don’t have the bandwidth to adopt or foster, so it hasn’t been part of our culture unless it’s emergency services within our own communities. There is an incredible social services organization called OHEL in New York. Among its many services, it provides foster care options for Jewish children in New York and New Jersey, ensuring that Jewish children are placed in Jewish homes.

That’s been one of my challenges when I speak about adoption in the Jewish community. I am constantly asked about Jewish children, because we have an ethic of taking care of our own first. That just isn’t the landscape of adoption today. There aren’t many Jewish children waiting for homes.

I want everyone to adopt, but I have altered my strategy within our community. I’ve started speaking more about my own journey to adoption. We put together a small women’s event in Crown Heights, showing a film by the Archibald Project, and I shared my story from infertility to adoption. My talk was a mix of my personal story, general adoption awareness, and answering questions. In December, we’ll be hosting a similar event in Los Angeles. I plan to hold an info session with my adoption agency in my home in the spring of next year.

RELATED: Groden’s powerful NRO piece from January is inspired reading.

MORE RELATED: KLO, Groden, and Naomi Schaefer Riley will headline a discussion on the urgent need for foster-care reform on Tuesday, November 20, in NYC at the offices of the Tikvah Fund. The time will be 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.). For more information, and to sign up, visit here.

6. George Nash, the authority on Herbert Hoover, finds one silver lining to World War One: global humanitarian aid. From his piece:

But there is another legacy of the Great War that we must also mention, for out of it something positive came. At its center was an American who in 1928 was elected president of the United States: Herbert Hoover. In the summer of 1914, Hoover had been a highly successful American mining engineer living in London when the war broke out. In the first weeks of the fighting on the Continent, an invading German army overran the small, neutral nation of Belgium, in a dash for France. Dependent on imported food for most of its consumption, yet trapped between a hostile occupier and a British naval blockage of its German enemy, the civilian population of Belgium faced mass starvation unless food supplies could somehow be obtained from the outside world.

With the approval of the American ambassador to Great Britain and the acquiescence of the warring British and German governments, Hoover — a private citizen of a neutral country at that point — established in October 1914 a benevolent organization called the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) to purchase, transport, and deliver food through the blockade to the beleaguered Belgian populace. Initially, no one anticipated that this humanitarian mission would last more than a few months. But as the clash of giant armies degenerated into a gruesome stalemate on the Western Front, Hoover’s emergency relief undertaking for Belgium turned into an elaborate enterprise without precedent in human history: an organized rescue of an entire nation from the threat of starvation amid enemy occupation in the middle of a war.

For the rest of the war, Hoover and his fellow volunteers in the CRB (mostly Americans) succeeded — despite tremendous obstacles — in supplying the food that kept more than 7 million Belgian civilians alive, as well as more than 2 million French civilians subsisting in German-occupied French territory just behind the front lines. It is an amazing story, told with great verve by Jeffrey B. Miller in his new book WWI Crusaders. In the course of these exertions, Hoover, working without pay, became an international hero, the embodiment of a new force in global politics: American benevolence in the form of humanitarian aid programs.

When the United States entered the world war in 1917, Hoover returned from Europe to America to head a new wartime agency, the U. S. Food Administration. But he continued to lead the Belgian-relief effort from afar. And when the Great War ended in November 1918, President Wilson quickly dispatched him back to Europe to take charge of food distribution to a continent exhausted by war and threatened by hunger and disease. While Wilson and Allied leaders labored to draft a peace treaty in Paris, Hoover, as director-general for relief and head of the American Relief Administration, orchestrated the distribution of food to millions of desperate people in more than 20 nations. In Poland alone, the ARA, at its peak of operations, supplied food for the daily feeding of 1.3 million children.

7. The Sunshine State’s Monkeyshine Stakes: So here is how Kevin Williamson’s piece on Brenda Snipes’ vote-counting / creating hijinx begins:

Conspiracy theories are bad for civic life.

So are conspiracies.

I wonder if there is one mentally normal adult walking these fruited plains — even the most craven, abject, brain-dead partisan Democrat — who believes that what has been going on in Broward County, Fla., is anything other than a brazen attempt to reverse the Republican victories in the state’s Senate, gubernatorial, and (not to be overlooked) agriculture commissioner’s races. I cannot imagine that there is, but it is really quite something to see partisan Democrats — the same people who pretend to believe that the 2016 presidential election was invalid because Boris and Natasha posted something on Facebook — watch not only utterly contented but with joy in their hearts as the rolling crime wave that is Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes and her coconspirators try to actually steal an election or three.

Boxes of ballots magically showing up in the trunks of rental cars in the Fort Lauderdale airport — cars last rented by Democratic operatives? What is this, a Coen Brothers movie? At least Saddam Hussein had the good taste to be amusing when he was stuffing the ballot boxes.

8. Donald Trump is not . . . populist enough. Rich Lowry argues for more substance and less POTUS style. From his new column:

He showed an instinctual sense that he needed a genuine middle-class agenda. He talked of a fantastical, imminent middle-class tax cut. And he insisted that Republicans would do a better job dealing with the problem of pre-existing conditions than Democrats, without offering any supporting policy.

In the absence of any populist substance, Trump was thrown back on the caravan, and more caravan, and his usual mediagenic provocations. This pushed both his supporters and opponents to the polls, and — with the exception of some key red-state Senate races — more of the latter than the former.

Going into 2020, he needs a populism that is less stylistic and more substantive, and one that has crossover appeal to Trump’s working-class voters and suburbanites.

It’s easy to see a rough outline. One focus should be work. Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute has written a new book, The Once and Future Worker, that is a guide to new conservative thinking on how to support a healthy labor market. The Trump team should crib from it freely.

9. Speaking of Cass, we run an excerpt of his book, making the case for wage subsidies. From the excerpt:

Subsidizing wages is a particularly well-tailored response to the challenges that globalization presents for American workers. First, the wage subsidy is the appropriate mechanism for redistributing gains from the economy’s “winners” to its “losers.” It comes closest to doing this directly, by taking tax revenue drawn from higher earners and inserting it directly into the paychecks of lower earners. As a result, it demands the least of government and introduces the fewest opportunities for inefficiency and distortion. Perhaps most important, it ties the redistribution to productive employment rather than to its absence.

Second, the wage subsidy offsets subsidies given to foreign producers and moves the cost to employers for domestic workers closer to parity with what firms pay foreign workers living in sharply different social and economic contexts. The benefit is largest for industries where the work is most labor-intensive and relies on the lowest-cost labor — in other words, the industries under greatest pressure from globalization. But it does this through a neutral structure, not through politicians choosing when to intervene.

Third, the wage subsidy helps to sustain communities that lose their tradeable sector. A community lacking the ability to export (even to the rest of the nation) must rely on government transfer payments to fund the resources it requires from the outside world — the community is literally exporting need. The existing American safety net conditions those transfers on very low incomes — often, no work at all — and channels them primarily toward consumption of health-care services. With a wage subsidy, work, rather than unemployment, draws government support, and that support can flow to a fuller range of productive activities in the community. In this model, a services economy can still thrive disconnected from a tradeable sector — not an ideal arrangement but one far better than today’s.

10. In Pakistan, blasphemy laws are means of oppressing Christians. The recent case (gaining much international attention) of Asia Bibi — a Catholic who was declared innocent of the charge, but who has received no offers of asylum from any Western country — is tackled by Nina Shea. From her piece:

Islamabad has given assurances that Bibi has been taken to a secret, secure location inside Pakistan, pending a permanent place of refuge. But her escape seems stalled. The West’s response so far of passive hand-wringing while Bibi faces mortal danger indicates more than poor planning; it shows a failure to fully comprehend the deeply radicalizing effects of the blasphemy taboo within the world’s second-largest Muslim nation — and the inroads it has made in the West.

Western leaders have consistently expressed concern for Bibi during her nearly decade-long ordeal. Human-rights advocates, such as the indefatigable Lord David Alton, who just last month met personally in Pakistan with the chief justice, have vigorously championed Bibi in the British parliament. Yet when the moment of truth arrived, London quickly decided it would not give her asylum owing to security concerns. The U.K. has its own radical Islamist leaders within its million-strong Pakistani community to worry about, including Anjem Choudary, paroled last month following a terror-law conviction. Lord Alton called the British decision “craven.”

In Paris, the city hall had an enlarged photo of Bibi by its front entrance when I last visited several years ago, and France has long been discussed as a place of asylum for her. But deadly Islamist attacks against Charlie Hebdo’s editors for blasphemy, and most recently against French Jews, make asylum there unthinkable. Last week Italy and Canada revealed their engagement in “sensitive” multilateral talks on Bibi’s case, but so far neither has offered an actual legal grant of asylum. Also last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for Canada’s turning away the MS St. Louis and its 907 desperate Jewish passengers seeking refuge from German Nazis 79 years ago. Hopefully, he will apply the St. Louis lesson to throw a lifeline to Bibi.

BONUS: Jonah Goldberg’s tribute to the late Stan Lee.

BONUS BONUS: Jay Nordlinger shares various reflections on the last supper, non-divine.

Become an NRI Fellow, Whydoncha?

If you’re interested in this remarkably enjoyable National Review Institute program, then you’re in luck: NRI is seeking applicants for its Spring 2019 Regional Fellowship Programs in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

Who/what/when/where/why, you ask? Fair enough: The ideal applicant will be a mid-career professional (aged roughly 30–50), with an interest, but not professional experience, in policy or journalism. Past Fellows have represented diverse industries and professions ranging from oil and gas, finance, real estate, medicine, sporting industries, law enforcement, education, nonprofits, and the arts. The program takes place over eight moderated dinner discussions (always at a classy joint). The 2019 class will run from January through May. Each session is moderated, and there is a curriculum. Moderators include popular writers at National Review and leading academics at local universities. The rewards of participating are plentiful and last a lifetime. The deadline to apply is December 15. To do that, and to find more information about the Regional Fellows Program, click here. And if you don’t live in one of the three program cities, but know folks who do (maybe there is a kid in Philly, a grandkid in Brooklyn, a niece or nephew in Georgetown) and who might be NRI fellow material, please share this with them.

The New Issue of Your Favorite Magazine Is Off the Presses, Hot and Piping. Here’s a Sampler that Would Make Whitman Envious.

1. The cover essay by Kevin Williamson profiles the West Texas “energy miracle,” and some of the challenges it faces before it can become completely miraculous. From the piece:

There is a great deal of highly specialized short-term work in the oil business, with crews traveling from place to place as needed. One of the results of this is that Midland has a kind of upside-down hotel market, in which weeknight rentals are about 2.5 times the weekend rate. Investors and bankers with a lot of history in the cyclical (sometimes viciously cyclical) oil business are hesitant to put a lot of money into construction of apartment buildings and lower-cost developments, so houses out here tend to be built one at a time. There are vacant and underused buildings downtown that are ripe for residential conversion, but the high up-front costs (asbestos abatement is a factor in many old buildings) have discouraged the sort of developers who might have jumped feet first into another booming market. The geologists and engineers and pipeline builders are confident that they can find the oil, but they sometimes have a hard time finding the workers.

“One of our issues is work-force growth,” Robertson says. He is a lawyer by profession, but he has spent many years in and around the oil business and takes a clear-eyed view of its ups and downs. “We have a product and a price that responds to supply and demand, and that’s the reality. Things can change.” One of the problems the industry faces during booms is that people act like they will never end. “How do you take a kid who is in high school, who maybe comes from a one-parent family where that parent is making $90,000 a year driving a truck, and convince him that that’s not what he should do after high school — or even during high school? How do you convince him to stay on and continue with his education? We need engineers, we need geologists, we need these highly technical jobs. You might make $70,000 . . . this year. But you’ll make so much more if you pursue your education.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean a four-year degree. The oil business has a little bit of a gap in the middle of the education curve: They know where to get low-skilled labor, and they know where to get engineers and guys with Ph.D.s. But there’s a bluecollar sweet spot in between for skilled tradesmen, from welders to pipefitters. Among other initiatives, the local school system has set up something called the “Petroleum Academy,” which supports the educational development of both college-bound students and those interested in oil-field jobs that require some further education but something short of a bachelor’s degree in engineering. And once those workers are in oil-field jobs, there is real value to continuing education oriented toward professional development rather than toward an academic degree. The invisible hand of the local labor market is pretty e

2. For the past few years, Jay Nordlinger has been on the Venezuela’s-Going-to-He!! Beat. In this issue he profiles the exiled mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma. From the piece:

He served in the legislature of Venezuela and, in 1999, founded a party: the Fearless People’s Alliance. (The name comes from Venezuela’s national anthem, “Gloria al bravo pueblo,” which sings of the fearlessness of the people.)

It was in 2008 that he was elected mayor of Caracas. That was almost a decade into Hugo Chávez’s regime. Chávez had come to power under the “camouflage” of democracy, says Ledezma. He was elected democratically and then set about dismantling the country’s democracy. He was not without talent, needless to say: great and dark talent.

He had “the magic of seduction,” says Ledezma. “He played the role of a poor man exploited by the gringos, by the Americans, giving speeches that were full of self-pity and promising that the state would be more paternalistic than ever.” We are a rich country, Chávez would say, so why should anyone ever want for anything? (Soon, they would be wanting for everything.)

Mayor Ledezma was one of the most prominent opponents of Chávez and chavismo in the country. In a headline last year, Britain’s Guardian described him as a “hardline” opposition leader. What does “hardline” mean, exactly? Ledezma is certainly opposed, firmly, to the tyranny that has stalked and battered Venezuela.

3. Madeleine Kearns keeps us posted on the “TRANS” dogmatists and how their insanities have caused a backlash amongst feminists. From her piece:

While in America trans rights are the latest battle in the left–right culture war, in Britain they have sparked a bitter left-on-left conflict, and the most valiant opponents of trans militants have been not conservatives but a cohort of liberal women — or, as their detractors call them, “TERFs”: trans-exclusionary radical feminists.

Between July and October of this year, Britain’s Conservative party considered whether to reform the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) so that any person could change his legal gender simply by filling out a form. The existing provisions of the GRA require that a person provide medical proof of gender dysphoria and live for at least two years as a member of his preferred gender. (The law does not require surgical transitions, as laws in some U.S. states do.) Trans activists maintain that the requirements are too demanding.

But if any man can become a woman without so much as shaving his beard, where does that leave natal females? Earlier this year, a sex offender named Karen White was incarcerated in a British women’s prison, where “she” raped fellow inmates. And how did this “woman” rape other women? The prosecution explained: “Her penis was erect and sticking out of the top of her trousers.”

4. Andrew Stuttaford looks at Angela Merkel and sees . . . Leonid Brezhnev. Yikes! From his essay:

No, no, Merkel is not a Communist. Nor does she order the invasion of other countries; she merely bullies them. She may have participated in the overthrow of Italy’s unruly and unacceptably euroskeptic Silvio Berlusconi, but no tanks were deployed, just “suggestions” made menacing by Italian fears of what the bond-market vigilantes might do.

Look deeper, however, and unsettling similarities come into view. That Brezhnev was no democrat is hardly a surprise. That Merkel, the bien-pensant “leader of the free world,” has repeatedly demonstrated her disdain for democratic propriety is, by contrast, disappointing. Perhaps it is a legacy of her East German upbringing, but, whatever the cause, it has poisoned both the politics of the country she leads and those of the EU, the misbegotten union that Germany dominates with a mixture of passive aggression, money, and size.

In the early 2000s, Brussels, compelled as always by the imperative of “ever closer union,” midwifed an ambitious draft constitution only to see it felled by French and Dutch referendums. When voters get a direct say on deeper European integration, they have a way of saying no.

That should have been the end of the matter, but Merkel used Germany’s tenure of the EU’s rotating presidency (it’s complicated) to cobble together the Lisbon Treaty, a sly pact that reproduced the spurned constitution in every material respect but was structured in such a way that pesky referendums could be dodged everywhere other than reliably awkward Ireland. No matter: The Irish rejected the treaty in one referendum but, engulfed by the financial crisis, were cajoled into changing their minds.

The Six

1. Robert Royal, writing in The Catholic Thing, analyzes the Vatican’s strong-arming of America’s bishops, calling on them to delay taking any action in response to the abuse crisis until March 2019. Something stinks, and it ain’t incense. From the piece:

If you talk with people in and around the Vatican, they tend to think America an aberration (conveniently forgetting similar trouble in Chile, Honduras, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Italy itself, the Vatican itself, and other countries). They say that our bishops have let this thing get blown out of proportion by mishandling it.

At one point Cardinal Maradiaga, the pope’s right-hand man in the Council of Cardinals (himself mixed up in sexual and financial scandals in Honduras) attributed the 2002 revelations in America to Jewish and Masonic influences in the American press that, he claimed, are seeking to destroy the Church. He apologized later – but that’s clearly what he, and no doubt others at the very highest levels of the Vatican, really think.

You can talk yourself blue in the face trying to explain to them the widespread, justified anger among the laity, and large numbers of priests and bishops as well. So far, the way Rome has been dealing with that news — as it has dealt with Archbishop Viganò’s claims — is not to deal with it at all. That leads people — even many faithful Catholics — to suspect — rightly or not — that there’s something fishy here that some very powerful people are trying to keep from coming to light.

You can try to blame this all on the slowness of Vatican bureaucracy, resentments among members the hierarchy, dislike of the pope, the influence of Satan himself. But the simple fact is that people don’t want more talk, meetings, commissions. They want action. And truth.

Instead, what they see is that, even when our American bishops want to take some tentative first steps to deal with a difficult and urgent problem involving not only the protection of innocents but the moral credibility of the Church, Rome says: No, wait.

2. In The American Conservative, Casey Chalk writes about history’s greatest Khan man. Genghis. Chalk believes the Mongol general has much to teach us about American politics. From the article:

There are other gems of wisdom to be had from Genghis Khan. He accepted a high degree of provincialism within his empire, reflecting an ancient form of subsidiarity. Weatherford notes: “He allowed groups to follow traditional law in their area, so long as it did not conflict with the Great Law, which functioned as a supreme law or a common law over everyone.” This reflects another important task for national leaders, who must seek to honor, and even encourage, local governments and economies, rather than applying one-size-fits-all solutions.

He was an environmentalist, codifying “existing ideals by forbidding the hunting of animals between March and October during the breeding time.” This ensured the preservation and sustainability of the Mongol’s native lands and way of life. He recognized the importance of religion in the public square, offering tax exemptions to religious leaders and their property and excusing them from all types of public service. He eventually extended this to other essential professions like public servants, undertakers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and scholars. Of course, in our current moment, some of these professions are already well compensated for their work, but others, like teachers, could benefit from such a tax exemption.

There’s no doubt that Genghis Khan was a brutal man with a bloody legacy. Yet joined to that violence was a shrewd political understanding that enabled him to create one of the greatest empires the world has ever known. He eschewed the traditional tribal respect for the elites in favor of the common man, he pursued policies that brought disparate peoples under a common banner, and he often avoided a scorched earth policy in favor of mercy to his enemies. Indeed, as long as enemy cities immediately surrendered to the Mongols, the inhabitants saw little change in their way of life.

3. On his Twitter feed, Japanese historian Nick Kapur presents a series of illustrations by Utagawa Yoshitora from an 1861 book (authored by Kanagaki Robun) that attempts to be a history of the United States (George Washington punching a tiger!). This is too fun to pass up.

4. In Claremont Review of Books, David Goldman takes on Woodrow Wilson, the “Great Resenter,” via a review of Patricia O’Toole’s biography, The Moralist. From the review:

The constitution in Wilson’s reading had become a relic of a bygone era. He proposed to jettison this putatively archaic document in favor of a government less burdened by checks and balances. His first major publication in political theory, an 1879 essay titled “Cabinet Government in the United States,” preferred what he called the British Cabinet system to America’s separation of powers. What he advocated, of course, had nothing to do with the actual British Constitution, in which the monarchy restricts the capacity of a passing parliamentary majority to undertake drastic and permanent change. Wilson had proposed a sort of quasi-parliamentary dictatorship, with no appeal to natural or unchanging rights. Later he revised his views, resting his hopes on a strong executive Leader to direct the government and people into the future. Unfortunately, O’Toole barely mentions Wilson’s copious writing about political theory. Instead she writes that cabinet government appealed to him because he loved debating and oratory. In place of substance, the reader has a surfeit of personal detail about a rather vain, priggish, self-absorbed man whose favorite diversion was playing solitaire.

The same utilitarian criteria that Wilson applied to the Constitution guided his judgment about capitalism and socialism. He abandoned the personal God of his clerical antecedents in favor of the Social Gospel, to which he was introduced at Princeton by Richard T. Ely, a close friend and ally of movement founder Walter Rauschenbusch. As economists Clifford Thies and Gary Pecquet have observed, “Wilson believed that the difference between socialism and democracy was a matter of means rather than ends.”

5. Texas A&M prof James Rogers, at Law & Liberty, shares interesting observations about what Americans miss when reading the Declaration of Independence. From his article:

Modern readers of the Declaration often jump too quickly to unalienable rights as rights that cannot be taken away by governments. That is true, of course, but moving to the conclusion too rapidly means readers often give short shrift to two precedent claims in the Declaration’s argument. First, the Declaration’s inalienable rights as pre-political rights. As such they not only limit government, they also justify government. As the line reads, “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” Government exists first to protect these inalienable rights. Rights to life, liberty and happiness’s pursuit can be imperiled by too little government as by too much government. Indeed, a central claim in the Declaration’s list of indictments asserted Great Britain provided too little government to the American colonies.

A second precedent claim regards the inalienability of rights. This, to be sure, means government can’t take away these rights. But the bite of “inalienability” is not that it prohibits others from taking these rights away from us, it bites in that it prohibits us from giving away those rights.

6. Michaela Todd, a member (vice president even) of the student government at Emporia State University, used the phrase “illegal alien” on Facebook, which prompted triggered snowflakes to demand her impeachment, according to The College Fix, which now also reports that said weenies have called off the impeachment, citing, as weenies do, “safety and well-being” fears, but the big factor for the backdown is they would be hit with a First Amendment lawsuit. One yearns for the days when one could exclaim in response to this madness – these people deserve to be horsewhipped!

Light. Cameras. Punditry.

1. Seems Armond White can’t resist an anniversary . . . so he considers what were 1968’s best films and sees how well they hold up, a half-century later. From his piece:

The movies of 1968 revived the medium’s past advances in genre, narrative structure, and social relevance. It was the beginning of a cinematic ferment that would explode during the 1970s, but 1968 movies complemented the political upheaval of the Vietnam years, women’s liberation, urban unrest, and the draft — subjects that would come back to haunt the millennium. Today, 1968’s memorable films accuse us, asking, “What have we learned?”

2001: A Space Odyssey. It wasn’t the best film that year, but its legend has overwhelmed its competition. Nothing less than an epic comedy on mankind’s folly from the Stone Age to the stoned age, it used the decade’s space exploration to laugh at American hubris. Now, First Man frowns at American exceptionalism, turning executive producer (and Kubrick devotee) Steven Spielberg’s former optimistic amazement into grim, anti-American, anti-optimistic cynicism. Aspiration is zapped. No wonder it flopped.

Weekend. Jean-Luc Godard’s adversarial prophecy of revolution and “the end of cinema” proved all too prescient, but it remains a thrill to watch. This cavalcade of human folly uncovers still-recognizable social compulsions from sex to materialism, climaxing in an extended single-shot traffic jam that summarizes the modern condition. Still, it’s the best film of 1968.

2. Ye Olde Oscar Buzz is buzzing about Green Book, which Kyle Smith finds to be a lousy retread of Driving Miss Daisy. From the review:

Widely regarded as one of the more embarrassing Best Picture choices in Academy Awards history, Driving Miss Daisy has been reconfigured for 2018 tastes: Green Book is a leading contender to win Best Picture next winter despite being even more trite, didactic, corny, and obvious than its 1989 isotope. Co-written and directed in oleaginous style by Peter Farrelly (yes, the Dumb and Dumber auteur), the movie combines Hallmark Channel-style humor with a homily about racial tolerance carefully designed to appeal to awards-show voters, to whom no message movie can be too blunt as long as it is sending one of the five or so messages of which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences never tires (boo racism, yay showbiz).

3. Meanwhile Kyle heads to the Great White Way to see the play about the Big Monkey. He does not go ape for King Kong. The musical! From his review:

Actually, he’s 2,000 pounds, and 20 feet tall, and he’s the only reason to see the show: He — it — is an arthritic puppet manipulated by clearly visible and undisguised heavy wires that allow him to lumber around a bit, change expressions marginally, and occasionally rise straight up, out of sight, to await the next laughably non-scary appearance. The monster bellows like Alec Baldwin when someone steals his parking spot and moves with the kind of alacrity associated with Abraham Lincoln in Disney’s Hall of Presidents.

When a giant anaconda comes to menace Kong on Skull Island, the two machine-marionettes move so slowly that it’s like watching a septuagenarian donnybrook, possibly over lox in Boca Raton. If one had clobbered the other over the head with a copy of AARP Magazine, it would have been scarier than what actually happens onstage. The anaconda has a chance to swallow, or at least squeeze to death, the struggling Depression-era actress Ann Darrow (Pitts) — who has been tricked into coming here from New York to film the world’s first nonfiction monster movie — but all the serpent does is lasciviously lick her backside. This scary monster is more like a super creep.

4. Back to Green Book: Armond too sees race self-congratulations in this sorta Son of Driving Miss Daisy. From the beginning of his review:

Green Book isn’t a comedy, but it should have been. This road movie about the temperamental tug-of-war between an Italian nightclub bouncer and a black jazz pianist merely repeats Neil Simon’s Odd Couple formula. But because it is also a post-Obama buddy movie, the men’s racial difference looms large — in fact, it haunts their on-the-road adventures in which the white man chauffeurs the black man through the horrors of America’s Deep South during the early 1960s. Green Book is so heavy with seriousness that any humor about the essential qualities the men share — or that complement their unlikely friendship — is lost. This misjudgment fails to reverse the lachrymose gimmick of Driving Miss Daisy. It’s as if we’ve gone backwards since the American mainstream hid national tensions behind that film’s namby-pamby panacea.


A few weeks back my dear old pal from high school, Mark Nelson, fan of our journal and its founder, was in the Big Apple and visited NR HQ (he got to sit in the Buckley chair, which you too can do if you pay a call!), and the conversation turned quickly to baseball and this section at the depths of the WJ. It prompted him to write me (in part):

As we were leaving, I mentioned Dave Frishberg’s Van Lingle Mungo. I stumbled on the work of Mr. Frishberg when I was driving around Poughkeepsie a few days after returning from my first trip overseas in 1985. . . Frishberg has an immense thirst for all things baseball, especially baseball history. He wrote a musical about the 1919 White Sox Scandal. I heard him perform selections from it in the most appropriate of places: Cooperstown, NY. He had been invited to perform at a local high school. To induce him to make the trip from his home in Oregon, he was offered a private tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame. One of my favorites from that concert was his performance of Sports Page. He also wrote Dodger Blue in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Dodgers’ move west. Many New Yorkers would not consider that something worthy of celebration.

About the colorful Mungo, one of the best NL right-handers pitching in the early 1930s, what might his career numbers have been but for the booze?

A Dios

Remember that gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. So pace yourself. And give thanks to God for all the blessings which have been bestowed upon you.

God bless you and yours,

Jack Fowler

This side of a turkey coma, responsive to missives sent him at

PS.: Mackerels of holiness, yes, you can still get a cabin on the National Review 2018 Buckley Legacy Conservative Cruise. Visit and book that sucker!

National Review

That War That Didn’t End All Wars

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Who can blame you for focusing on Willie in his moment of greatness? But do shift your eyes to the left of the picture — you’ll spot a monument in deep center. It’s dedicated to “Harvard Eddie” Grant, the Giants’ former third baseman, who was killed in action in France in 1918 as his battalion searched for the famous Lost Battalion. More on Eddie below.

Tomorrow (November 11) marks the 100th anniversary of the end of fighting in The Great War — or, as many see it, the beginning of the two-decade hiatus before it essentially resumed.

The last man killed in that war, from any of the belligerents, was an American: Henry Gunther, a bank clerk from East Baltimore. For whatever twisted, poetic reason, at 10:59 a.m., moments before the Armistice went into effect (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month . . .), Gunther, who seems to have been conflicted about his own bravery (he had recently been demoted from sergeant to private), disobeyed a direct order and charged a German roadblock in the tiny village of Chaumont-devant-Damvillers. The Huns tried to wave him off. But Gunther, bayonet fixed, kept charging and firing — and was shot dead as he neared the German machine gun.

The Armistice was signed at 5:10 a.m. in a train car at Compiègne (Hitler would do his jig at that same spot 22 years later) but did not take effect until 11:00 a.m. . . . and so the armies fought on till the clock struck eleven. Some 10,000 casualties occurred that morning before the last bullet was fired.

As the British doctor succinctly explained in Bridge on the River Kwai, “Madness. Madness.

Thousands of Americans who died in The Great War are buried overseas in cemeteries in France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. It may do your soul some good to look at these hallowed places, which can be done at the website of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

RELATED: Victor Davis Hanson’s new column discusses the Armistice, “a disaster, at once too harsh and too soft.”

Join NR Institute in Michigan Next Week to Celebrate the Legacy of Russell Kirk

Many are rightly thrilled that Russell Kirk’s centenary is bringing renewed attention to one of the principle founders of the conservative movement. The author of The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot and “From the Academy” columnist for NR’s first 25 years, among so many other things, Kirk is the subject next week of what looks like a terrific panel, The Challenge of Contemporary Conservatism: Russell Kirk and the Populist Moment, at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, on Thursday, November 15.

NRI will be co-hosting this, as well as another Kirk event in NYC, and its fellows Kathryn Jean Lopez and John O’Sullivan will participate as panelists. So will Acton Institute founder Father Robert Sirico and Hope political science Professor Jeffrey Polet. The forum begins at 7 p.m. at the Jack H. Miller Center for the Musical Arts on Hope’s campus. It’s free, but if you wish to attend please register here. (And whether you can or can’t attend, do read up on the Kirk Legacy with John J. Miller’s recent National Review article, “Russell and Annette.”)


1. Did you hear — there were elections this past week? NR’s verdict: a split decision. From the editorial:

The results seem to show that one political bet paid off and another did not. President Trump was widely criticized for raising the issue of immigration again in the closing days of the campaign. And while — as is often the case — the way he did it may not have been ideal, he had solid underlying points: The nation has to enforce its immigration laws, and Democrats have too many hang-ups on the issue to be counted on to do it. At the very least, his tactic does not seem to have backfired in the elections and may have helped bring some of his 2016 voters who were undecided off the fence.

The Democratic campaign against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, on the other hand, appears to have hurt them badly in Senate races in conservative states. Several Democrats who voted against his confirmation lost in states that usually vote for Republican presidential candidates; the one Democrat who voted for his confirmation, Joe Manchin, held on in another such state.

Republicans and conservatives will and should take cheer from these results. But they should not ignore the bad news. The loss of the House forecloses the possibility of enacting conservative legislation over the next two years, and maybe longer; and even in an age of administrative power, there are real limits to what the executive branch can do by itself to deregulate or to reform federal programs. We suspect as well that the House Democrats’ new subpoena powers will not be used solely to enlighten the public.

2. So, the President has canned Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We have a variety of thoughts about the implications of who replaces him, including the temporary (?) choice of Matthew Whitaker. From our editorial:

On spurious grounds, they are calling on Whitaker to recuse himself from supervising Mueller’s probe. Before his appointment to DOJ, Whitaker ran a legal watchdog group and opined about the scope of the Russia investigation, which he felt needed clarification, and the nature of presidential power, which he thinks is wide-ranging. On CNN, he discussed steps the administration could hypothetically take to curtail the probe. But he never advocated limiting the resources of the investigation, and his views on presidential authority are well within the legal mainstream. More to the point, his résumé does not show a conflict of interest of the sort that would necessitate recusal.

Less clear is the issue of whether Whitaker’s appointment passes muster under the Constitution’s appointments clause, which requires that the Senate confirm “principal officers” appointed by the president. In a 2003 memo, the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel laid out its position that temporary positions do not require confirmation, presumably the standard the White House is following. But Justice Clarence Thomas suggested otherwise in a 2016 concurring opinion, and some textualists have weighed in to that effect. The question remains unresolved.

In any case, it’s best that the White House nominate someone else for the permanent post. The notion that Whitaker is simply a Trump lackey is misbegotten, but attorney general is a serious post that requires someone with more stature and experience, especially at such a fraught time.

3. Racism is the handy card Democrats play in a variety of situations — such as the loss of Leftist Andrew Gillum in the Florida gubernatorial contest. From our editorial:

We have no doubt that there are racists who vote for Republicans. We have no doubt that there are racists who vote for Democrats, and we are even more confident that there are some fairly vicious anti-Semites who support the Democratic party, some of whom we see on television from time to time. It’s a big country, and if 2 percent of the population is bananas, then there are 6.5 million or so embarrassing cases to choose from. There are hateful, god-awful elements broadly affiliated with the Right, and hateful, god-awful elements broadly affiliated with the Left. Picking out the worst of them and presenting those specimens as representative is the most sophomoric and cheap kind of politics there is.

Impromptus Prompt

The price of bullet-point shares is up dramatically because the new Impromptus has cornered the market. It’s a big ’un! Jay has a lot to say about voting, politics, music, people, people who need people, democracy’s sweetness, and much more. The pie is hot and here is a slice:

Do you want candidates to win? Or (other) candidates to lose? I can’t help thinking of my old friend Herb. He wanted the Pistons to win, yes. But even more, he wanted the Celtics to lose. (All Detroit-area people can understand.)

On Election Day, you win some, you lose some. Me, I was glad that Mike DeWine won. He has been in politics forever — since the early ’80s — and he is now governor of Ohio. My friend and colleague Mike Potemra worked for him and admired him a lot. So do I. DeWine is a champion of family values — not in the cheap sense but in a real one.

This is no common thing in politics, trust me.

In Wisconsin, the voters fired Scott Walker. He was a sterling and brave governor. A nearly historic reformer. Nationally, Republican voters were not interested in him for president. He barely got out of the gates.

In New Jersey, the voters reelected Robert Menendez. Voters elsewhere reelected Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins. There’s no accounting for taste. (One positive side of the Menendez ledger: He is realistic and tough-minded on foreign policy, an anomaly in his party, which is the Democratic party.)

Hit the Floor and Give Me 15 NRO Pieces Right Now, Fat Boy!

1. The electoral sun shined in the Sunshine State, says Charlie Cooke. From his next-day analysis:

I suspect that few in the national press have yet grasped the scale of what happened in Florida last night. This midterm was a disaster for the Florida Democratic party on every conceivable level — a disaster with which Democrats here will be contending for years. In addition to sending Rick Scott to the Senate and Ron DeSantis to the governor’s mansion, to electing the Republican in every other statewide race, and to ensuring that Republicans continue to control both chambers of the legislature, Floridians voted “Yes” on Amendment 5, which inserts into the state constitution a requirement that any increase in taxes or fees must be (a) presented in a standalone bill, and (b) approved by two-thirds of the legislature. Given that the state has no income tax — and, indeed, that it has the lowest overall tax burden of any of the heavily populated states — the combination of these results all but ensures that Florida will remain a low-tax, low-spending place for the foreseeable future.

2. Kevin Williamson has some thoughts about the midterms’ meanings. Here is the piece from which we sample Meaning #3:

Which brings me to my third observation: The Democrats have gone well and truly ’round the bend. I spent a fair part of last night with Democrats in Portland, Ore. — admittedly, a pretty special bunch of Democrats, Portland being Portland and all. The professional political operators are what they always are — by turns cynical and sanctimonious — but the rank and file seem to actually believe the horsepucky they’ve been fed, i.e., that these United States are about two tweets away from cattle cars and concentration camps. The level of paranoia among the people I spoke to was remarkable.

3. Alexandra DeSanctis has the story about white women getting slapped by Beto-fems for being insufficiently woke and causing the Democrats to lose some elections. From her piece:

Exit-poll data from Florida, meanwhile, reveal even further inaccuracies in the left-wing vendetta against white women. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis bested Andrew Gillum among white women by just a four-point margin and also managed to win 40 percent of Hispanic women. Governor Rick Scott, challenging Democratic senator Bill Nelson, won white women by six points and likewise nabbed 40 percent of Hispanic women in the state. Democrats have conveniently ignored the latter part of these statistics; it’s safe to erase minority women, after all, when their voting habits don’t serve the narrative.

This immediate pivot to scolding white women, based on the outcome of a mere two races, exemplifies the progressive tendency to justify every setback with a narrative about unavoidable racial bias and the blinding effect of white privilege. Our political divisions are complicated by race and sex, of course, but these factors don’t themselves explain, for example, why some women, white or otherwise, are conservative. The answer to that riddle — Hint: Women aren’t required by their chromosomes to form a monolithic progressive voting bloc — is one that Democrats appear uninterested in discovering, if they believe an answer other than “self-interested racism” exists at all.

4. David French concludes the results boil down to this: Democratic fears have come to pass. From his analysis:

And when Senate Democrats launched their frontal assault on Brett Kavanaugh, it was hard to think of a strategy better calculated to rouse Republicans in red states to oust their Democratic senators. No amount of professed moderation could compensate for a “No” vote on Kavanaugh. No amount of professed moderation could compensate for the fact that a Democratic Senate would be under progressive Democratic control.

Here is what smart Democrats now know. While the 2018 midterms did swing the House (and did demonstrate that Donald Trump is in real danger in 2020), they also secured a continuing judicial revolution and — critically —raised the specter that the Democrats could win the White House in 2020 and still be stymied legislatively and judicially by a Republican Senate. Republicans elected for the purpose of securing the judicial branch will not be eager to consent to confirming a string of progressive judges nominated by a progressive president. They will not pass single-payer health care. They will not pass gun control.

5. How do you solve a problem like Beto? Kyle Smith explains why the Democrats can’t. From his piece:

That’s the Democrats’ problem: They get so giddy about the next JFK that they don’t see the reality. Why should they? They live in enclaves where everyone is liberal. They get their information from media outlets in which illegal aliens are simply “migrants.” Within the bubble, everyone thought O’Rourke was a great candidate. The magazine profiles! The money pouring in from starstruck admirers! The shredding on a skateboard! The shredding on a guitar! By mid-October O’Rourke had raised an insane $70 million–plus and was outspending Cruz by two to one. Yet as a Politico pre-postmortem put it last weekend, “Democratic minds will want to know, what did he do with that $70 million? Why wasn’t he barraging persuadable Republicans with mail and phone calls and door knocks? . . . Did he consciously avoid playing on their issues, determining it was more profitable for his political future to lose as a liberal than compete as a moderate?”

6. Who had a good night? Who had a bad one? Dan McLaughlin lumps them into cogent categories. From his analysis:

Midwestern Republicans: The political theory of Trumpism as a majority electoral coalition is that Republicans ability to gain strength in the Midwest allows them to write off nearly all of New England (even New Hampshire) and the West Coast and also lose the demographic battle to salvage Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada. Outside of Florida and one of Maine’s two House districts, the states that Trump flipped in 2016 were all Midwestern: Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa. Republicans collectively had won nine of ten governor’s races and five of ten Senate races in those states between 2009 and 2016, and they elected a governor and senator in Illinois, dominating Indiana and narrowing the Democrats’ margins in Minnesota.

While Florida stayed red and Maine went all blue in 2018, the Midwest (once Obama’s “blue wall”) turned almost uniformly blue again. Republicans lost the governorships in Wisconsin, Illinois (behind incumbent Bruce Rauner), and Michigan, and also lost the Senate races in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota (which held two of them), Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, several by large margins. There were also significant House-seat losses across the region. Only the Ohio and Iowa governor’s races and one House pickup in Minnesota’s Iron Range remained bright spots. That said, unlike the progressive flops, the Republican side had few exciting recruits who lost, but one (John James in the Michigan Senate race) has a better argument than O’Rourke or Gillum that he should get a second shot down the road, given the generally bad environment for Republicans in his region.

7. Michael Brendan Dougherty says no one should ignore this election takeaway: “All the big races that excited passion in the national press and from progressive fundraisers ended in the L column.” From his piece:

Governor’s races were also bad for the Left. In the Florida governor’s race, Democrat Andrew Gillum linked his opponent, Ron DeSantis, to racists and white supremacists. Progressives gleefully shared these “dunks” on Twitter. Gillum lost narrowly, as conservative voters passed constitutional amendments making it harder for legislators to raise taxes. Former president Obama poured time and energy into Georgia for Stacey Abrams. She lost, hoping for a runoff, while progressives charged her Republican opponent Brian Kemp with vote suppression. Ben Jealous lost in Maryland, and so did David Garcia in Arizona.

The House was worse. Yes, Dems elected kid-socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But that victory had been assured once the Ds’ primary was over. She ran practically unopposed in a safe district. But lots of the young progressive stars couldn’t pull it off: Kara Eastman in Nebraska, Katie Porter in California, Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania, and Dana Balter in New York all went down.

8. China has big and ambitious plans for dominating global maritime commerce. Chris O’Dea describes the situation in deep and troubling detail. From his piece:

China has benefited more than any other country from the liberal economic order that the U.S. created after World War II. Open sea lanes, guaranteed by the U.S. Navy, were essential to the success of the export-oriented industries that made China the world’s second-largest economy. But having gained admission to the World Trade Organization, China has opted to rebuke the system that made its success possible. It has ignored an International Court of Justice ruling against its claims to geographic features in the South China Sea. Earlier this year, Djibouti — where China has established its first overseas military base — ignored a London court’s jurisdiction after it ejected the Emirati company operating its main port and replaced it with companies backed by Chinese capital and Chinese state-owned shipping and logistics firms.

Back in May, I described the security challenge posed by China’s aggressive development of its maritime commercial network. While Beijing’s maritime expansion often involves large loans funded by state-owned financing agencies, it is not merely aimed at creating “debt bombs” that will allow China to take possession of assets when financially weak countries are unable to repay loans. It is, rather, a new threat: a deliberate, strategic campaign to gain control of critical economic and industrial systems that provide China with sustainable political leverage over both developed and emerging-market countries where it invests, and undermine American power by indirect means while building its military in preparation for a direct conflict with the U.S., the incumbent global maritime power against which it can’t yet hope to prevail in such a conflict.

China is wasting no time in leveraging the potential of its commercial-port network to gain economic influence over U.S. allies and project military power. Earlier this year, EU ambassadors filed a protest with the Chinese government in Beijing, raising concerns that China’s development strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was a program to gain influence and commercial advantages for Chinese companies. But those concerns have not kept EU member nations from cutting deals that will advance the BRI in Western Europe, and help China’s Silk Road Fund find new investments.

9. John Yoo and James C. Phillips serve up the third installment (the first is here and the second here) in their series of articles on Constitutional restoration. Th new essay argues that the newest Justice, Mr. Kavanaugh, may help the High Court return to the rails, of which it careened in its 1965 Griswold decision. From the essay:

But with Justice Kennedy’s retirement, the era of constitutional mysticism has come to a close. Narrowing and ultimately overruling Roe will provide the common ground for the five conservative justices to finally define the Roberts Court. In 1992, Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from Casey v. Planned Parenthood when Kennedy joined Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter (all three appointed by Republican presidents) and voted to defend Roe. Thomas, moreover, has long made clear that he pays no heed to incorrect precedent. Justice Samuel Alito has become a reliable, even stalwart defender of traditional values and conservative jurisprudence. Justice Neil Gorsuch’s writings on natural law, assisted suicide, and euthanasia suggest that he would defend the state’s interest in preserving the life of the fetus. As a young lawyer in the Bush Justice Department, John Roberts drafted briefs asking the justices to overturn Roe. As chief justice, he has voted to uphold most state restrictions on abortion. If Roberts were to vote his beliefs rather than worry about the political standing of the Supreme Court (a big “if” after his vote to uphold Obamacare in 2012), Kavanaugh’s appointment should establish a 5–4 majority to end the regime of Roe.

Kavanaugh does not simply create a majority to overturn Roe. His arrival could trigger a wholesale reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s misguided adventure into the world of unwritten, atextual, judicially created rights. For the last half century, the Left has turned to the Supreme Court to win what it could not in the normal political process. The Court has embedded the sexual revolution into the Constitution and “found” new progressive rights for privacy and dignity, as well as protections against animus, in a document that mentions none of the above. Conservatives should not seek to overturn Roe because they are obsessed with abortion; they should demand its reversal because it represents a politicization of the Supreme Court and an abuse of the Constitution to short-circuit democracy in the service of the latest left-wing ideals of the day.

10. Christopher Summers sings the praises of reelected Republican Governor Larry Hogan, scoring big political wins in deep-blue Maryland. From his piece:

Hogan, a former-real estate CEO, overcame much in his first four years in Annapolis: an aggressively liberal legislature, anti-Trump fervor among base Democrats, and historic riots in Baltimore — not to mention his own successful battle with late-stage cancer six months into the start of his first term.

How did he do it?

First, he spent his political capital on fights he could win. Democrats enjoyed veto-proof majorities in the state legislature, and myriad traps awaited him in the legislative process. He bypassed prolonged legislative battles and instead attacked the administrative state where it most grated on taxpayers. He lowered tolls at Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge and cut fees on commuters’ E-Z Pass devices, saving long-suffering commuters more than $1 billion.

He challenged Democrats in the General Assembly when he knew he could win. His first and arguably most popular legislative victory was repeal of the so-called rain tax, the inexplicable measure championed by former governor Martin O’Malley. The state taxed real-estate owners for pollution in stormwater drainage, to meet EPA standards.

11. As Scrooge said in the end, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” If you hear cheering, that may be from Marlo Safi, NR’s in-house jingle-beller who writes in defense of “premature Christmasing.” From her piece:

As much as I consider eggnog an affront to food — the only time booze and raw eggs should ever be combined is in tiramisu — it’s a staple of Christmas dining, and one that Americans remember to resurrect every year. We can also expect the revival of swing and jazz on the radio, even among people who aren’t my Boomer-aged father, who winces at the sound of music popular among Millenials but who can, for a few weeks of the year, listen to Perry Como or Frank Sinatra with young adults and children. It’s the opportunity to tell children why we celebrate Christmas, and the wonderful Biblical story of the birth of Jesus and of the three kings who visited Him.

12. Philadelphia is desperate for more foster-care homes but denied the local Catholic Social Services from placing children any longer because of CSS’s religious stand on marriage. It’s become a major case being fought by the Becket Fund, and in her latest column, Kathryn Jean Lopez writes about Cecilia Paul, a plaintiff and heroic foster parent. From the column:

When it comes to foster-care, we have too many orphans to be considering places like Catholic Social Services — an arm of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia — anything less than a needed solution to the problem, a gateway to love for children, to homes for children, a connection to people like the late Cecilia Paul. As became clear earlier this year when Walter Olson hosted an event on adoption, we need more rather than fewer people involved in foster care and adoption.

Growing up, Thomas Paul and his brother Drew saw many foster-care children go in and out of his home. As foster parents know, such kids often have a lot of trauma from abuse — including addiction — or abandonment. That, of course, was hard. “I have seen so much in my life that is sad,” Thomas says. But “joy overcomes all of the pain in my life.”

And Catholic Social Services was a conscious part of his home life growing up. They would send presents at Christmas, for example, which made him feel special. Without glossing over the real struggles that foster and adoptive families experience, we can recognize that the difference between being an orphan stuck in a system and knowing you’re loved is everything. It makes all the difference in life. In his testimony for the amicus brief, Thomas explained that the added CSS love helped him keep his mind off “any of the hard times” and that their visits and assessments would work to “get kids out of their darkness.”

RELATED: KLO heads NR Institute’s Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society, which is making foster-care reform a main priority.

13. There are limits to certainty, so shouldn’t our uncertainty maybe make us . . . humbler? An excellent piece from Graham Hilliard awaits. From his essay:

Like many of my fellow binge-watchers, I’ve been busy in recent days with the second season of Making a Murderer, Netflix’s appalling, addictive chronicle of the trials and convictions of Wisconsin’s Steven Avery. That Avery is either a vicious and unrepentant criminal or a beleaguered innocent whose persecution at the hands of the state ranks among the gravest injustices in American legal history is, of course, the source of much of the show’s drama. But it could also be, if we still thought in such terms, an opportunity for humility. Watching the series, it is impossible to shake the notion that Avery may well be guilty of the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach, the young woman whose burned remains were discovered only feet from his door. But it isn’t easy, either, to dismiss the possibility that Manitowoc County police officers planted evidence, or that Ken Kratz, the prosecutor in charge of the case, behaved abominably. (Kratz’s statement to the jury that “reasonable doubt is for innocent people” may be the most despicable thing ever uttered on television.)

Perhaps each of these propositions is true. Perhaps none of them are. It isn’t possible to know. Yet following the 2015 release of the program’s first season, a petition calling for the pardoning of both Avery and Brendan Dassey, his alleged accomplice, garnered more than 125,000 signatures, and many of the men involved in Avery’s prosecution have reported receiving death threats. What did those who signed (or who threatened, wickedly) really believe? More importantly, what did it cost them to believe it?

14. Armond Whites breaks out the turn table and listens to Barbara Streisand’s new “protest” album, Walls. Can you hear tone-deaf? Because Armond does. From the review:

Before Barbra Streisand got “woke” and fancied herself a political pundit-activist seeking redress for Hillary Clinton’s electoral defeat, she recorded a song called “Don’t Believe What You Read,” on her 1977 Streisand Superman album. Since then, the singer has shown tone-deaf, robotic obedience to what she reads in the mainstream #Resistance press. Her new, politically assertive single release, “Don’t Lie to Me,” is addressed to President Trump, but its reproachful tone reveals the cry of a Fake News junkie.

It’s become boringly predictable to hear pop-music performers reveal their left-leaning politics. The New York Times, however, has praised Streisand’s new album Walls as “the rare instance of her political views entering her music.” This misstatement disregards the many times on past recordings when she sang out her social consciousness, rooted in a kind of theatrical humanism, expressing Love, Brotherhood, and Peace. She has milked such standards as “Somewhere,” “Children Will Listen,” and “One Hand, One Heart” for moralizing effect.

But this flagship single, for her full-length album Walls, primarily exhibits the Trump Derangement Syndrome that afflicts know-it-all showbiz types from Katy Perry to Bruce Springsteen to Pharrell, making them behave moronically. Walls finds Streisand in a privileged position, preaching from the high tower of self-involved, high-minded people who have had their worldview shaken by democracy itself — the will of an electorate that dares to differ from Streisand’s own high-flown preferences.

15. If you’ve been to San Francisco or Seattle, if you don’t want to see America’s vagrancy outrage in full bloom, then shut your eyes tight. It’s a compelling subject for a Rich Lowry column. Here’s how it ends:

But the beginning wisdom is to consider the status quo intolerable, and resist the advocates who want to normalize panhandling and camping, and the associated drug abuse, petty crime, and disorder. Houston has had success with a tough-love policy of more services, coupled with a crackdown on encampments and other public nuisances.

One of the advantages of modern society is that people don’t have to live in public, or in squalor. That it is widely accepted in some of our greatest cities is an outrage of our age. It is deeply harmful to our civic life, and does no favors for the men and women living in parks and highway underpasses.

. . . And Two Hard-Boiled Eggs. (Honk!) Make that Three Hard-Boiled Eggs.

Yes, there are still cabins to be had on the National Review 2018 Buckley Legacy Conservative Cruise. Book yours at


1. The post-election edition of The Editors has Rich, Charlie, MBD, and Luke breaking down the outcomes for the House and the Senate, discussing future presidential candidates, considering Trump’s role in the election results and his firing of AG Jeff Sessions, and much more. Hear here.

BONUS: Mentioned by Rich and a treat for your ears, Glenn Miller’s St. Louis Blues March.

2. What are the legal implications of the mid-terms? Rich asks and Andy answers on The McCarthy Report. Avail yourself of the new episode, here.

3. On the new episode of The Great Books, John J. Miller and Northern Kentucky University prof Jonathan Cullick discuss Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Get your Kingfish on and listen here.

BONUS: Catch the previous episode of TGB, where Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the subject for JJM’s discussion with Daniel Ross Goodman. Right here is where your earbuds need to go.

4. On the new episode of Jaywalking, Mr. Nordlinger puts on his dancing shoes, and then talks about our censorious culture, personal responsibility, peculiarities of language, and more. Waltz over here to listen.

5. There’s a Brown-out in the Golden State, and on the new episode of Radio Free California, David and Will discuss the coming of Governor Gavin Newsom. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. Well, no, you won’t laugh. Listen here.

6. On recent episodes of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg: hanging with Ben Sasse to discuss his new book. Listen here. And the new episode with Morning Jolt auteur Jim Geraghty to dissect the elections. Catch it here.

7. Back to JJM, now in his Bookmonger role: On the new episode, he’s joined by David Harsanyi to discuss his book, First Freedom. You need to listen, and can do that here.

8. Buh-buh-buh-Benny and the Jets! Scot “Laurel” Bertram and Jeff “Hardy” Blehar talk Elton John with Jamie Kirchick on the new episode of Political Beats. Tiny Dancers, Rocket Men, and all others should listen here.

9. “Everything you wanted to know about the Jury Amendments but were afraid to ask.” It sounds like a sorta naughty Woody Allen movie but is really the hot topic discussed by Luke Thompson and Jay Cost on the new episode of Constitutionally Speaking. We have reached a verdict: Listen here.

10. On the new episode of Reality Check with Jeanne Allen, our illustrious host interviews Washington Post education correspondent Laura Meckler about her personal experiences covering politics, politicians, and education policy, and the ease of finding material to write about, online learning, and other issues. Very interesting stuff, which you can hear here.

Lights. Cameras. Punditry.

1. Orson Welles’ “unfinished” movie, The Other Side of the Wind, is out on Netflix, and long-awaiting film buffs, or at least Kyle Smith, are underwhelmed. From the review:

In the mythical land of FilmNerdistan, it is written that a vanished prince would one day return to rule in beneficence and wisdom. This weekend the prince returned, still bearing traces of his regal looks but aged and frail in a shabby cloak, and after some dutiful bowing by some of the high priests, FilmNerdistan turned its back on him with faint embarrassment.

The vanished prince is Orson Welles’s late passion project The Other Side of the Wind, which has just appeared on Netflix. Among all of the unfinished films of legend it was perhaps the most fabled in the minds of cineastes, who convinced themselves that the unseen work was a lost masterpiece. It isn’t. . . .

Wind, like everything Welles did, contains enough inspiration and beauty to provide fodder for a film-school paper, but like (almost) everything he did it’s undisciplined to the point of exasperation, beset by so-so sound quality, amateurish lighting, ragged editing, and wooden acting, all in the service of a script as flabby as its auteur. The film stock, color, and aspect ratio are variable. Far from being a successor to 8 ½, Wind is mostly hot air, with all the rambling self-pity of a student film. Welles, who was very much in “experimental” mode, may well have wanted the finished version to be as choppy and freewheeling as it is, but just because Orson Welles, Genius (™), wanted it that way doesn’t mean the film works.

2. More meh from Kyle, who catches The Front Runner, the new Hugh Jackman film about Gary Hart’s upended 1984 presidential effort. Here’s how the review begins:

I was transfixed by the Gary Hart movie The Front Runner: It has a lot of levels, and it’s a failure on every one of them. Mistake gets piled atop error atop cliché atop banality. It’s a skyscraper of wrong, an hour-and-53-minute lesson in how not to make a movie.

Vigorously borrowing from The Candidate, Nashville, and The West Wing, The Front Runner covers the three weeks of Colorado Senator Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign, which ended in humiliation shortly after reporters staking out his D.C. apartment discovered a mistress, who turned out to be Donna Rice. Watching the co-writer and director Jason Reitman repeatedly frame reporters as intrusive, presumptuous, and cynical as they take down an arrogant, philandering politician by uncovering true information about him, I marveled at the maladroitness of Reitman’s timing This movie wishes it had been made in 1999. It would have raked in the accolades if it had served as an oblique commentary on the investigation into Bill Clinton’s White House affair. Alas, today is a different era.

3. Armond White catches the same flick and sees plenty of self-pity on the Silver Screen. From his review:

Director Jason Reitman (who, at age 30, directed Juno, the teenage pro-life tease that some conservatives believed represented their values) now confounds partisan expectations with this paean to Hart as an early victim of the wolfpack press. Reitman looks back to the feeding frenzy that exposed Hart as it spread from the Miami Herald to the Washington Post; his dour imagery thereby casts a skeptical light on contemporary media’s seeming partisanship. The media’s hypocrisy matched Hart’s. While making the film, Reitman could not have anticipated the media-facilitated character assassination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but by emphasizing the rapacious, holier-than-thou attitude shown by political journalists, he spotlights an ongoing immoral cultural tendency.

Less intelligent than last spring’s Chappaquiddick, The Front Runner conflates its moral lesson with party sanctimony. It takes the same pandering, political stance as Juno and is similarly sexually jejune, especially about the protagonist’s self-destructive priapic compulsion. The film’s tone of ambiguous, wounded heroism emulates All the President’s Men, congratulating us for being politically sophisticated in order to seduce us with its shameless manipulation.

4. Kyle opts one night for Off Broadway, catches Steven Levenson’s Days of Rage, and digs the Left-petard-hoisting up on the stage. From his review:

It’s sport to watch the Left be hoist with its own petard in Days of Rage, an acutely observed Off Broadway play by Steven Levenson (at the Second Stage Theater’s Tony Kiser Theater in midtown Manhattan through November 25) that amounts to a satiric napalming of the hard Left. The play’s voice of reason, a mild-mannered black 22-year-old named Hal who works at Sears (denounced by the others for selling appliances from the nefarious General Electric), actually has a brother fighting in Vietnam but fails to see how blowing up banks is going to bring him home. Nor does he understand how it’s a great idea for Jenny (Lauren Patten), one of the three radicals in the collective whom he meets when she tries to shove pamphlets in his hand outside his workplace, to continue sleeping with her SDS roommate Spence (Mike Faist) while he’s also sleeping with the third member of their collective, Quinn (Odessa Young). Monogamy is square, we learn, because it’s all tied up with capitalist oppression, or something. Yet each of the three is simmering with sexual jealousy about the others’ hookups, even more so when a third girl, a brainless runaway named Peggy (Tavi Gevinson), moves in and also beds down with Spence. Ordinarily this particular collective is closed to outsiders, but Peggy has $2,000 of unexplained provenance in her suitcase and nobody else has figured out a way to make social agitation pay the rent.

5. Armond checks out Steve McQueen’s cynical action flick, Widows, and sees a movie that’s very much into validating segregation. From his review:

I want to stay inside the proper perimeters of criticism, but Widows adds to the perplexity of much recent race-based pop culture. Films such as Get Out, This Is America, and now Widows all suggest the impossibility of interracial relations — an irony that the filmmakers never personally address. Widows validates the new segregation that has become the fetish of the diversity movement, driving people back into parochial enclaves and tribal distrust. “I couldn’t save him,” philandering Harry tells Veronica of their son sacrificed to Chicago’s mean streets. Her pent-up rage — and subconscious sexual, racial suspicion — is violently released. When McQueen returns to that race-baiting opening tableau, his cynicism is revealed in Veronica’s bitter adieu: “F***ing me won’t make it better.” Widows is not a populist entertainment but something insidious designed to draw audiences together in their enmity.

BONUS: Neither movie nor play, but it’s taped, so it will have to qualify under this section: Professor Daniel Mahoney hosts an enlightening interview of Ignat Solzhenitysn about the American publication of his father’s memoirs, Between Two Millstones, Book 1: Sketches of Exile, 1974–1978. You can watch the interview here. You can order the book here.

The Six

1. Kelsey Harkness at The Federalist smacks mom/whiner Lisa Milbrand for Marie Claire article that she regrets adopting two girls and taking them from Big Brother Commie China to the oppressive United States of Trump. From her piece:

China is run by Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, whose regime has centralized authority, ousted internal political enemies, and backed authoritarian policies to tighten control of its citizens. The country’s economy, according to the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, is “mostly unfree.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council recently chastised the country’s government for arbitrarily detaining as many as 1 million Muslims in internment camps, forcing them to undergo political indoctrination. The country’s one-child policy (now a two-child policy) has resulted in 200 million missing girls and women.

Milbrand’s daughters aren’t just lucky to live in one of the freest countries in the world, where the worst type of discrimination they might face is liberal elites rejecting them from Harvard University. Having been conceived in China, these girls are lucky to have made it out of the womb.

2. At City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple pshyrink-wraps American psychiatrists who argue “that it is not only permissible for psychiatrists to diagnose President Trump, but also obligatory for them to do so, and that furthermore they should agitate for his removal from office on psychiatric or psychological grounds.” Lay down on the couch and read it here.

3. I love historian George Nash, and encourage any and all to check out The Imaginative Conservative, which republishes his Modern Age essay on Ronald Reagan’s path from liberal to conservative. Here’s how it begins:

In the autumn of 1948, as Harry Truman campaigned to remain president, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union produced a pro-Truman radio advertisement that aired on stations across the country. The fifteen-minute program had two principal speakers: a liberal Minnesota politician named Hubert Humphrey, on his way to being elected that year to the U.S. Senate, and an equally liberal motion picture actor named Ronald Reagan.

Speaking from Hollywood, Reagan lambasted the bête noire of liberals everywhere in 1948: the “do nothing,” Republican-controlled Eightieth Congress, which he held responsible for the nation’s current economic misery. It was “Republican inflation,” Reagan charged, that was eroding workers’ paychecks while the profits of giant corporations were soaring. In fact, said Reagan, the recent surge in consumer prices had been caused by these “bigger and bigger profits.” “Labor has been handcuffed by the [recently enacted] vicious Taft-Hartley law,” Reagan continued. Social Security benefits had been “snatched away from almost a million workers” by a recent bill in the Republican Congress. Meanwhile the Republicans had enacted tax cuts that benefited “the higher income brackets alone.” “In the false name of economy,” he concluded, “millions of children have been deprived of milk once provided through the federal school lunch program.”

This is not the Ronald Reagan whom most Americans remember today. Far more familiar to us is the movie star who took to the airwaves sixteen years later, in 1964, in support of another presidential candidate: Barry Goldwater. Reagan entitled his nationally televised address “A Time for Choosing,” but the choice he recommended was very different from what he had favored in 1948. The enemy he identified now was not big business or “Republican inflation”; it was Communism abroad and an out-of-control leviathan state at home. In 1948 Reagan had applauded Harry Truman’s attempts to expand the welfare state, including Social Security. In 1964 Reagan peppered his remarks with examples of governmental waste and failure, called for Social Security to have “voluntary features,” and asserted that “outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.” “If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to,” Reagan warned his television viewers. Freedom “has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.”

4. A conservative wonk’s dream would surely be an essay titled “Voegelin and Kendall, Harbingers of Postmodernism,” right? Well guess what: Herman Belz has penned that essay for Law and Liberty. From the piece:

Kendall states that Voegelin gives us no rules to tell us where to begin or what precisely to look for as we seek to understand a political society in terms of its representative symbols. Kendall infers two rules: 1) begin at the beginning, and 2) never lose sight of our people’s action. “Unless we can see a correspondence between the symbols we have at hand and the people’s action in history,” the symbols we have in hand do not in fact represent that people, and we must look a second time for the symbols that do in fact represent them.

The Mayflower Compact marks the beginning of America. It is the first political document ever composed in this hemisphere. Kendall says the Compact forms “a Christian society, which calls God in Witness to its act of founding, to . . .  the glorification of God and the advancement, that is, one supposes, the development and propagation, of the Christian faith.”

Mayflower Compact symbolization initiates American political development. Kendall enthuses, “The possibilities . . . are numerous, and the symbolization is compact in the sense that it nails none of them down.” Left to the future are “all the decisions as to what, concretely, the symbols mean, what, concretely, they involve in the way of specific commitments.”

5. College obsession is killing the spirit of entrepreneurship in America’s kids. Let ’em be kids, writes Julian Adorney in The American Conservative. From her piece:

Besides robbing young people of free play, our societal fixation on college leaves them in fear of failure. The competitiveness of the college admissions process encourages students to do what psychologists call “catastrophize”: that is, to make something out to be far worse than it actually is. A “B” in middle school can seem like a disaster that it really isn’t, because it might mean the student can’t take Advanced Placement Calculus as a freshman and won’t get into Stanford. And when parents panic, children do too.

But catastrophizing is dangerous for future entrepreneurs. People who turn every failure into Armageddon are ill-equipped to deal with the bumpy road of starting a company. Indeed, many successful entrepreneurs have failed before. Henry Ford’s first business, the Detroit Automobile Company, went belly-up within a year and a half. Any new venture carries risk, be it an innovative social media platform or a never-before-seen technology. Do we really want the next generation to be terrified of failure?

It might be too late for iGen, whose members are already less entrepreneurial than previous generations. A survey of half a million high school seniors found that only 31 percent of students in 2015 said that they would like to be self-employed—compared to 46 percent of students in 1985.

6. In Plough Quarterly, Roger Scruton writes beautifully about beauty. And belonging. From his essay:

Consider Venice. It is full of grand palaces, and contains the greatest interior of any building anywhere, the golden tent of Saint Mark’s Basilica, encrusted with mosaics and shining with a light that is not of this world. But that is not, I think, what most inspires the visitor. More astonishing than Saint Mark’s, more endearing than the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, more touching than the lace-like finish of the Ducal Palace, are the ordinary doorways on the backwater canals, the marble-lipped bridges across them, the shrines and niches that punctuate the walls, the sense all about you of a meticulous but effortless aesthetic order, in which all the residents have willingly collaborated over centuries, so as to make their city, planted against the odds in the swamps of the Adriatic, the greatest shared space that has ever been made. There is not a wall, a doorway, a window frame, a roof, or a crenellation that has not been furnished in a spirit of love, adjusted not so as to express the power or grandeur of the would-be resident, but so as to embellish the space in which it stands. Things built in Venice have been built for others: the indefinitely many others who have been, are, and will be resident on these islands and conveyed through these canals.

This does not mean that the ordinary buildings of Venice are great works of art. Students of Venetian history will know that this tiny city, scarcely bigger than Greenwich Village, has throughout its history sustained every imaginable form of voluntary association, from the dignified scuole of the guilds and tradesmen to the masked balls of the aristocrats and the tournaments and commedie of the street. The city has existed in a continuous state of peaceful revelry and lawful self-government for a thousand years, and this great fact is written in the architectural palimpsest that shines on the water in every small canal. We should be in no doubt that the strength of Venice, its determination to defend itself right down to that final moment when Napoleon subdued the city to his grim project of a Europe united under French protection, was inseparable from its beauty. It is not brute force or wealth but beauty that inspired the citizens both to stand side by side against external aggression and to live harmoniously together by sharing what they had.


Eddie Grant played for 10 years, from 1905 to 1915, suiting up for the Indians, Phillies, Reds, and Giants. Besides having a reputation for laying down bunts and slapping singles (he led the NL in that category in 1909 and 1910), he was your average infielder. The Harvard-educated bookworm ended his career as a bench coach under the Giants’ John McGraw, retiring after 1915. Come 1917: Grant, now a practicing attorney, enlisted in the Army immediately upon America’s Declaration of War in April. He is considered the first major leaguer to have done so. Eventually he arrived in France, and on October 5, 1918, while advancing with the 77th Division (“New York’s Own”) in the Argonne Forest during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Captain Grant — having just assumed command of his battalion — was struck by a direct hit from a German shell. He died instantly.

A monument to Grant was erected in deep center field at the Polo Grounds, not too far from the spot where Willie Mays would make his famous catch (“The Catch”) off the bat of the Indians’ Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series. Like Wertz’s shoulda-triple, the monument was stolen: Following the Giants last home game there in 1957 (a 9-1 loss to the Pirates on September 29th), stadium-looting souvenir hunters swiped it. Once outside the Polo Grounds, however, it was taken from the vandals by police. And then . . . it vanished (allegedly taken by a member of the NYPD, who hid the plaque in the attic of his home, where it remained untouched for decades). In 2006 the Giants erected a replica of the Grant plaque at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

A Dios

As a young punk (practicing to be an old punk) I partially offset my many sins by serving as the altar boy at the VA Hospital on Kingsbridge Road in The Bronx. I’d go there every Sunday (Mr. Zemra, a volunteer, drove), prep the altar, do my altar boy thing at Mass (ring those bells!), and then after the congregation dispersed, grab this unique winch device and rotate the altar — it was situated on a large circular podium, divided into three parts, serving Catholics, Protestants, and Jews — for the next service. Afterwards I would wander up to the hospital cafeteria for some buttered toast and milk.

The hospital was a de facto home — every Sunday I would see and sometimes talk to men who had been there for decades. Some, like Mr. Davitt, had served in World War One. It was an honor to know them, and on this Sunday, on the 100th anniversary of the cessation of gunfire, for them and all who served and fought and died in that satanic horror show, I’ll offer prayers and hymns at Mass — where now I am the cantor (the altar boy robes don’t fit!) — and suggest you in your way, prayerful or not, remember them.

God bless,

Jack Fowler

Email for you-know-whats and giggles.

National Review

Win One for the Gipper!

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Well, the Big Day Cometh. Speaker Pelosi? Senators Scott, Hugin, McSally, Braun, Hawley, Cramer? Governors DeSantis, Walker, Stefanowski? The cake ain’t baked, so vote and maybe even think positive thoughts.

Let me inspire the latter: Today, 48 years ago, Jim Buckley was elected to the United States Senate! And today, 38 years ago, Ronald Reagan was elected President.

Now go out there and win one for The Gipper!

And then celebrate what is worth celebrating on the National Review 2018 Buckley Legacy Conservative Cruise (December 1 – 8 in the sunny Caribbean on Holland America Line’s luxurious Oosterdam). There are still cabins to be had! Affordable as all heck. Find out all the info you need to know at


1. The ghastly murders at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue by an anti-Semite was done in service to “a distinct, ancient evil.” From our editorial:

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who alerted the police to the attack on Saturday, is right that such evil “does not know religion, race, creed, [or] political party.” In the modern world, anti-Semitism is a fungible prejudice under which Jews have been branded capitalists or Communists, nationalists or globalists, pitiable and degraded or cunning and all-powerful. Its adherents are often convinced that they must extinguish Jews because Jews are trying to extinguish them. Bowers’s belief structure contains elements of white supremacy — he expressed concerns about mass migration and the eradication of the white race — but its core was the hatred of Jews, whom he believed were promoting white genocide through their supposed control of the government, the mass media, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

It should go without saying that such beliefs are appalling and not shared by anyone in the political mainstream. It wasn’t that long ago when an attack of this type was treated as an occasion for our political tribes to stop bickering and respond with a unified message. But the spectacle that unfolded over the weekend was sickening: As the blood was drying, there was a rush on the left to link the killing to Donald Trump, the Republican party, and conservatism more generally. The president inspired the killing, it was said, by drawing attention to the caravan of Central American migrants currently heading toward the U.S.–Mexico border and speculating on Twitter that George Soros was providing it with material support. Never mind that the murderer hated Trump and thought he was a “globalist” being manipulated by nefarious Jews, or that his apparent hatred of refugees and immigrants predated the caravan story.

RELATED: Ben Shapiro argues how to fight anti-Semitism.

2. Reaction to the whack-job pipe bomber, Cesar Sayoc, now under arrest, went from zero to political in a split second. We condemn the deed, and the ensuing rhetoric. From the editorial:

Of course, even before Sayoc was identified, the media and the Left were blaming President Trump for the bombs. We’ve said it many times before, but it has to be said again: Harsh, overheated rhetoric is endemic to our political system, and it should not be confused with incitement to violence. When James Hodgkinson, a registered Democrat who campaigned for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election, attempted to assassinate a group of Republican congressmen at a baseball practice last June, we did not blame Sanders or Hodgkinson’s party. Instead, we wrote, “The person singly responsible for Wednesday’s horrors is the man who pulled the trigger.” Here, too, the responsibility for Sayoc’s bombing campaign rests with him alone.

The double standard in these cases is flagrant. Even though Republican majority whip Steve Scalise was nearly killed in the Hodgkinson attack and more than a dozen of his colleagues could have been killed but for security neutralizing Hodgkinson, the event was quickly memory-holed and the media didn’t resound with calls for Bernie Sanders, or, say, Rachel Maddow, to tone it down.

RELATED: Andy McCarthy, who knows a thing or two about bombs and bombers, says obnoxious political rhetoric does not lead to mass-murder attack. Read his piece.

3. Democrat senator Bob Menendez is up for reelection. He is the poster boy for political corruption, and we encourage New Jersey voters to oust him next Tuesday. From the editorial:

Democrats often cite the supposedly corrupting influence of “money in politics” in their ongoing crusade to restrict the means of political expression by curbing independent political expenditures and other spending. Here, they’ve turned a blind eye to an old-fashioned, outright case of bribery simply because the bribed is one of their own. Menendez’s worsening numbers may have the party wishing it had drafted another candidate, but it didn’t, and it has continued to support him.

Obviously, its reasoning is simply instrumental. Nobody seriously disputes Menendez’s sleaze or venality, but the margin in the Senate is razor-thin, and Menendez is a reliable vote. His record in office, save for a few relatively muscular foreign-policy positions that increasingly put him at odds with his party’s mainstream, is that of a replacement-level liberal Democrat. Newspaper editorial boards that have attempted to defend his candidacy have succeeded only in making clear the transactional nature of their support.

With Election Day less than a week away, there is no meaningful pressure on Democrats to withdraw their support for Menendez, whose conduct in office is a stain on his party, the Senate, and the nation. Are any New Jersey Democrats interested in maintaining ethical standards? And why shouldn’t every Democrat running for reelection be asked about Menendez, the way every Republican was asked about Roy Moore? Menendez’s Democratic supporters have suspended their ethical judgment to back a man with no principles. We urge Garden Staters to reject him just as Alabamans rejected Moore.

4. It’s time to rebuild: Connecticut can climb out of the debris of the economic destruction caused by Democrat Governor Dannell Malloy. We urge voters to elect Republican Bob Stefanowski.

Republican businessman Bob Stefanowski is closing in on a historic victory in the Constitution State. While the contest remains neck-and-neck and within the proverbial margin of error, a new Hearst/Sacred Heart University poll shows his campaign is now leading that of his liberal Democrat foe, Ned Lamont, despite being outspent and getting uniformly negative media coverage. Stefanowski has cut into the gender gap while increasing support among unaffiliated voters. Whether the “Mo” is big or little, it’s Stefanowski who has it. We hope it carries him through Election Day.

For the last decade Connecticut has shown signs that it is more purple than blue, with voters — tormented by relentless tax hikes, massive debt, and de facto union-boss and special-interest control of the legislature — electing more Republicans over the past four cycles. Today, the GOP stands even, 18–18, in the state senate and within five seats of controlling the state house. It’s possible that Republicans will capture both chambers and, given the chance by voters, begin clearing out Connecticut’s stable.

On Election Day, we encourage Connecticut voters of all partisan stripes to do two things. One is to send a clear message that the liberal program and agenda have failed, miserably. The other is push to reimplement the conservative fiscal policies and approach towards businesses that once had Connecticut ranking atop the nation for jobs, opportunity, and prosperity.

“We Keep the Founders’ Flame Alive . . .”

That was a beautiful phrase, from my colleague Nick Frankovich’s All Saints Day contribution to NR’s Fall 2018 Webathon. It expires on Election Day, we hope after having raised our goal of $300,000 to defray some (far from all) of the cost to underwrite the terrific political writing you have enjoyed and replied upon all year long, and in particular during these last few weeks. Writes Nick:

Lincoln will not be on your ballot next week, but he’ll be a helpful presence if you let him. Undecided? Ask yourself: For whom would Honest Abe vote? And while you’re at it, cast your mind back a little further, to the days of Washington and Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison. Remember, they had us in mind when they laid the foundations of this republic, hoping we could keep it. We strive to reciprocate their mindfulness, Richard Brookhiser, of course, being our resident dean in that department. We keep the Founders’ flame alive, and so can you, by assisting us. Please contribute to the 2018 Fall Webathon as much as National Review contributes to your ability to see in contemporary America an adventure spanning the centuries in both directions, past and future.

We’re about $20,000 short of our goal. Help us get there please. You can do that here. If you have helped, many thanks.

Seventeen Tested and Verified Ways to Help You Keep Your Sanity and Your Knickers Untwisted

1. The new spate of horrible acts, real and attempted, show again that America has a loser problem, says Rich Lowry. From his column:

The phrase “deaths of despair” has entered the nation’s vocabulary the past few years to denote the rise of mortality among a subset of working-class whites from suicide, drugs, and alcohol. Its declining life expectancy is one of the most stunning trends in American life. The at-risk population tends to be unmarried, disconnected from civil society, marginally employed, and largely on their own.

One way to look at recent mass killings (or attempted killings) is as the handiwork of a very small, violent fringe of the socially disconnected. Their destructiveness is directed outward, in cowardly acts of mindless malice, rather than inward. They marinate in hate and proudly share their lunatic obsessions online, in a twisted simulacrum of community. They seek their identity in political extremism, Jew-hatred, or the hellish idolatry of school shootings.

Their crimes are, in their diseased view, feats of grandeur. They make up for the sting of failure and rejection. They give them a chance at perverse consequence and notoriety otherwise not available to them in their marginal lives and social isolation.

2. Our colleague from ancient days, Micheal Flaherty, returns to NR with a Halloween piece on the 80th Anniversary of “Fake News.” He’s referring to Orson Welles’ famous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, a masterful stunt that elicited a brutal response from a threatened (and complicit) newspaper industry. From the piece:

In creating the fantastical story of the War of the Worlds aftermath, newspapers were committed to a goal that mattered more to them than journalistic integrity: They were committed to self-preservation. Since its invention, radio had been encroaching on the newspapers’ business. As radios became more commonplace in American households, newspapers worried that they could become extinct. Radio possessed an enormous advantage in its ability to broadcast news and events live, as they happened, while newspapers were limited to one or two editions per day.

By the time Welles created his Mercury Theater on the Air, radio had shattered the newspapers’ monopoly on journalism and its monolithic power in shaping public opinion. But radio was stealing more than mindshare and influence from newspapers; it was also stealing valuable advertising revenue. Because radio posed such an existential threat to newspapers, its editors looked upon Welles’s Halloween stunt as an early Christmas present: an opportunity to discredit the entire medium of radio as amateurish, reckless, and dangerous. In contrast, newspapers positioned themselves as the only trustworthy purveyors of news.

3. Last week, Michael Higgins was reelected President of Ireland, a ceremonial position occupied by a man who hates America. Irish writer Ciaran Burke introduces us to this blowhard gnome. From his piece:

In the seven years since his inauguration, incumbent Michael D. Higgins has achieved near-heroic status in Irish daily life. Widely adored for his short stature and antiquated speech — as well as for other asinine reasons — the former Teachta Dála (i.e., member of parliament) has capitalized on the romantic image of a poetic, scholarly Ireland that transcends crude obsessions with material wealth.

Material wealth, in Higgins’s telling, almost always signifies America. His speeches, which typically rehash socialist boilerplate, also aim to convey to his international audience distance between Ireland and the United States. And although his rhetoric is routinely light on substance, Higgins has convinced a surprisingly large section of the Irish population that passion, prolixity, and idyllic dreaming are sufficient to qualify him as an intellectual giant.

There’s more to Higgins’s dislike of the United States than just misty-eyed waffling at the U.N., though. His past is riddled with unsavory anti-American antics, such as extending warm welcomes to Communist dictators, sympathizing with Islamists, and, more recently, mourning Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. Nor is this record reducible to a naïve or ineffective effort at diplomacy: Further examination reveals anti-Americanism at the very core of Higgins’s ideology.

4. Andy McCarthy sees that whatever people might think “free speech” is in Europe, it withers in the face of sharia. From his essay:

It is thus verboten to say things that might upset Muslims. Particularly offensive is mention of Islam’s many doctrinal tenets that make us cringe in the 21st century — approbation of child marriage, violent jihad, the treatment of women as chattel, the duty to kill apostates, and so on. That these tenets are accurately stated, supported by undeniable scriptural grounding, is beside the point. Or as the ECHR put it, reliance on scripture could be classified as “an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.”

What the vestiges of Western civilization are coming to: I say something that is true; it hurts your feelings, so — of course — you blow up a building; and it’s my fault.

Nearly four years ago, when Europe bowed to the mob and curbed its tongue following the jihadist massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, I tried to explain the stakes in a pamphlet called “Islam and Free Speech.” If a society is to be a functioning, flourishing, free society, it must safeguard the robust exchange of knowledge and ideas. Absent that, the rule of reason dies, and with it freedom of conscience, equality before the law, due process, property rights, and equality of opportunity.

Islamists and their transnational-progressive allies seek to redefine democracy as a guarantee of domestic tranquility, on the road to global tranquility in a post-Westphalian order. It is a sweet-sounding roadmap to tyranny, in which “tranquility” is enforced Soviet-style, with an official version of history and truth that is not open to question or debate. Your “freedom” to speak is strictly limited to those confines.

5. “Casey Democrats” are a fading thing. Kyle Sammin looks at the declining numbers in Pennsylvania. From his piece:

Another factor may be seen in the 2016 presidential election in Pennsylvania, where the traditional areas of Casey strength shifted dramatically toward Donald Trump. Trump’s version of the Republican party is one that is comfortable with social-welfare programs while remaining conservative on social issues — sound familiar? Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania and across the Midwest was won with the help of Casey Democrats and their equivalents in other states.

So where does that leave Bob Casey Jr. in 2018? His Republican opponent is Congressman Lou Barletta, a proto-Trump from Hazelton who rose to prominence when, as mayor, he signed a law denying business permits to employers who hired illegal immigrants. He defeated Representative Paul Kanjorski, a moderate Democrat who, like Casey, did well in a district that stretched across Pennsylvania’s coal country.

If Barletta can win where Trump won, the election would be over for a Democrat who cannot pull in those conservative Casey Democrats. Yet polls of the race indicate that Casey leads by double digits, hovering just over 50 percent. That looks like a slam dunk, but those figures also include a surprising number of undecided voters.

6. Is Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters a rent-a-lib? Kevin Williamson looks into the aging rocker’s deal for a cut of the take in the busted shakedown / scam of Chevron. From his analysis:

Roger Waters, the rock musician, has denounced Chevron for its “greed,” complaining that it is “disquietingly apparent that the rich and powerful are still much attached to the feathering of their own nests at any cost to others.” Well. Documents submitted to the court show “George R. Waters” taking two equity positions in the case, one for 0.076 percent and one for 0.025 percent, through “Fenwick,” presumably the firm of Mark Fenwick, Rogers’s manager and an heir to the Fenwick department-store chain in the United Kingdom. That would come to roughly $9.6 million of a $9.5 billion judgment. You could feather a lot of nests with that. (I was unable to contact Waters or Fenwick for comment. Rock stars are really hard to get on the phone.) If taking in a few million dollars via an investment in extortion and bribery is not greed, then what is?

As Eric Hoffer’s proverb goes: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” But this case began as a racket and then became a movement. There are many good-faith environmentalists in the world. These are not they. But that has not stopped progressive activists and their media allies from enabling this multi-billion-dollar extortion attempt — an attempt in which many of them had, and have, a financial interest of their own.

7. Beto, Ergo Sum: No! Jim Geraghty looks into the media’s love affair with the Texas Democrat. From his piece:

Correspondents seemed oddly fixated on his sweat. Politico swooned, “Sweat pours off his lean, 6-foot-4-inch frame.” In Vanity Fair, Peter Hamby described him “sweating through a button-down shirt at one of his jam-packed town halls.” The BBC wrote, “His toes are well over the edge of the boards” of the stage “and his suede shoes are soaking up dark splashes of sweat from his brow.”

It’s Texas. It’s summer. It’s hot. Everybody sweats at outdoor events.

Beyond their not-so-hidden partisan preference, many reporters want to discover the southern Democrat with national potential — Bill Clinton 2.0 — and write the first glossy profile piece of a future president. The piece will double as a book proposal, and the book will allow its author to spend the latter half of his or her career as a quasi-historian expert on a particular president.

Reading through all of these profiles as they emphasize the same points over and over again — He was in a punk-rock band! He skateboards! He’s handsome! He’s Kennedyesque! He speaks fluent Spanish! — one keeps waiting for the section that describes what makes O’Rourke actually unique among Democratic candidates. And that section never arrives. There is no hardscrabble climb out of poverty, no tale of military heroism, no running into a burning building to save orphans, not even an occasion of helping get an old lady’s cat out of a tree.

RELATED: Kevin Williamson argues that if the Democrats can run a somewhat competitive race in Red Texas, Republicans ought to figure how to do the same in, say Blue Rhode Island. Read his piece here.

8. Caravantics: Michael Brendan Dougherty sees Democrats demanding Republicans believe their commitment to border enforcement, but urging activists to ignore such rhetoric. From the piece:

But pro-immigration activists are increasingly withdrawing their patience with Democrats’ appeasing statements and gestures on immigration. Consequently, aspirants to the Democratic nomination in 2020 are falling over each other in a rush to promise to abolish Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Liberal opinion leaders have been popularizing academic theories that paint all immigration enforcement as an expression of white supremacy.

Conservative voters and immigration restrictionists know that they have been snookered in the past. The 1986 amnesty was given in exchange for a promise of strict enforcement. The amnesty ended up being much larger than expected, and the enforcement never came. Given this history, and the arrangement of political power, and the increased power of pro-immigration activists in the Democratic coalition, restrictionists naturally conclude that liberals in 2018 lack the moral will and the political incentive to follow through on promises of strict enforcement, especially in cases where there is media spectacle.

America’s Democrats are not alone in this. European heads of state and EU functionaries worked hard to create the Dublin Accords, which govern migration and asylum policies on the European Union’s borders. But the commitment to these rules evaporated under the migration crisis in 2014 and 2015.

9. Russell Moore ponders the real issues behind the abortion debate. From a very interesting piece:

Unfortunately, we will never create a true culture of welcoming children if we do not upend the priorities of our churches when it comes to power. Why is the church so constantly drawn to economic and political power? This is not only the case for the highest levels of the church — whether medieval popes or contemporary culture warriors — but also happens locally. We are drawn to the conversion testimonies of celebrity athletes or beauty contestants or reality television stars because they bring a sense of weight and influence, on their own terms — a weight and influence that they are, in our view, lending to the gospel. In how many congregations are decisions made on the basis of spoken or unspoken decisions about who gives the most money and who might, if he or she were rankled, withhold that money?

In such situations, we can see where our true religion is, and it is summed up in the dollar sign of Mammon, not in the cross beam of Jesus. When the church prioritizes power, influence, access, expertise, invulnerability, how on earth can we see ourselves as little children? If all of our illusions were put away, and if we were to see where we are on the scale of the trillions of years in front of us, we would see that we are, in fact, embryos and fetuses in the kingdom of God. We are able to be hurt, but hemmed in all around by the protective embrace of our God.

10. The PC mob wins. Apu, the famous and beloved character from The Simpsons, has been terminated. Pradheep Shanker laments the injustice (and the producers’ failure to fight). From his piece:

The end of Apu is in many ways as insulting as the entire controversy was to begin with. The producers of The Simpsons didn’t even have the courage to publicly come out and explain their decision. Instead, they took the path of least resistance, and a path that historically was very unlike The Simpsons; throughout their tenure, the show’s creators have had the courage to stand up for their comedic freedom. But they finally met their match, and they were unwilling or unable to stand up to the loudest critics when it mattered the most.

So Apu will silently disappear from a show where he was a critical supporting character for three decades, and will not even be given a send-off to say goodbye, the final insult in this sad ending.

As for the political-correctness police, they successfully claim another scalp in their long crusade for so-called fairness. In the process, they have probably made it less likely that an Indian-American character succeeds in modern Hollywood.

11. Chris Pope explains why the Democrats’ “Medicaid for All” scheme is a terrible idea, especially for seniors. From his analysis:

In truth, Medicare is a generous benefit for retired and disabled Americans largely paid for by those who are in work — a subsidy worth an average of $13,087 per beneficiary per year. “Medicare for All” would flip this arrangement — imposing enormous tax increases on all, including seniors, to pick up all medical costs currently borne by employers and those able to work.

Although Schumer suggested that seniors might welcome reforms that “would expand benefits, eliminate premiums, reduce cost sharing,” having taxpayers assume these expenses for all citizens would be enormously expensive. Indeed, Schumer revealingly didn’t dispute the estimated tax increase of $32.6 trillion over ten years (over $26,000 per household per year) cited in Trump’s op-ed, which would be required to fund “Medicare for All.”

Such a tax increase would vastly exceed the value of expanded benefits to retirees — even if its burden were distributed so that most seniors faced smaller-than-average tax hikes. Seniors are already able to cover all their out-of-pocket costs by purchasing Medigap’s Plan F at an average premium of $1,712 per year. The experience of the 1989 Medicare Catastrophic Act debacle suggests that seniors would likely react with outrage at being forced to provide additional coverage for Medicare beneficiaries who currently choose not to purchase it — to say nothing of how they might react to being forced to pick up a large portion of the medical costs of so many more Americans who are currently covered by employer-sponsored insurance.

RELATED: Deroy Murdock says the GOP is making health care great again.

12. Kyle Smith ruminates on the Iran-Iraq War relationship the US media and Donald Trump have with each other. From his piece:

Somehow what the media and Trump think about one another has become just about the biggest story in America. Neither side can resist because each side loves, more than all else, to be talked about. Say, what’s happening out there in America? How’s the economy doing? Are workers more secure? Are wages rising? How are we doing on opioids? What about health care? It’s anyone’s guess based on what is running on CNN at any given moment. Picture turning into CBS on a football Sunday afternoon and all Jim Nantz can talk about is the mean things Mike Tomlin said about him.

Let’s look at just one outlet’s behavior in just the past few days. A CNN talking head (Julia Ioffe) claimed that “this president has radicalized so many more people than ISIS ever did.” When Trump-aligned panelist David Urban pushed back, moderator Jake Tapper responded, “Okay, you disagree with it,” as though Ioffe’s ludicrous assertion were simply a statement of opinion. “I think I exaggerated,” she said later, in a lame apology. Ya think? ISIS had tens of thousands of armed soldiers fighting for its cause. The reason CNN has people like Ioffe on the air is that they can be counted on to say outrageous things about Trump. It was Ioffe whose reaction to news that Ivanka Trump was taking a White House office traditionally used by first ladies was “Either Trump is f***ing his daughter or he’s shirking nepotism laws.”

13. Robert VerBruggen thinks our policies on birthright citizenship are nutty, but here to stay. That said, this is an important and detailed analysis of the matter.

President Donald Trump has hinted that he plans to eliminate birthright citizenship — under which virtually all those born on U.S. soil are automatically granted U.S. citizenship, even if their parents are illegal immigrants — via executive order. This raises serious questions for conservatives.

Many of us think that in today’s world, birthright citizenship is an insane policy that undermines our sovereignty. Why reward people who come here illegally with citizenship for their kids? But conservatives also insist that the government stay within its constitutionally designated boundaries, so we have to ask whether the Constitution mandates birthright citizenship. If it does, we are stuck with it until we can pass an amendment.

In this rather long piece — you’ve been warned — I’m going to round up the historical evidence bearing on this issue. (If you want thoughts on the separate question of whether an executive order or legislation would be needed to change the law, assuming the Constitution allows it, read Andy McCarthy.) I personally believe that birthright citizenship is required, and I won’t hesitate to evaluate evidence instead of just reporting it. But I have done my best to include the key pieces of support for both views — drawing on extensive writings by (among others) Lino A. Graglia, John C. Eastman, Peter H. Schuck and Rogers M. Smith, Garrett Epps, Gerard N. Magliocca, and James Ho.

I’ll begin with the evidence most directly connected to the amendment: the text itself and the congressional debates over it. Then I’ll proceed to cover somewhat less on-point sources, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (which had much the same purpose as the 14th Amendment but used different language) and subsequent Supreme Court decisions (during a time when the Court notoriously butchered other aspects of the 14th Amendment).

14. Church in Turmoil One: David French considers the two temptations facing young Evangelicals (are they even that?). From his piece:

In reality, “young Evangelicals” may not ultimately be Evangelicals at all. They might more accurately be defined as young people from an Evangelical background who are growing in their own faith. And as they grow, they often face the twin temptations their parents faced: the temptation of faith and the temptation of tribe.

Each generation of young Christians has to face the reality that biblical teaching conflicts decisively with contemporary secular morality. That conflict is often especially acute in the area of sexual morality. Moreover, the price of social acceptance is often theological compromise. Yes, people in good faith reach contrary positions on the authority and meaning of individual scriptures, but one would have to be willfully blind to deny the persistent pressure toward “inclusivity” and the irrebuttable presumption of moral superiority inherent to secular progressive ethics.

That is the temptation of faith. The temptation of tribe is different. It’s the temptation to find a “place” in contemporary American culture outside of the church. You’ll see Christians acknowledge that, yes, they’re members of the church, before asking with anguish, “But where else do I belong?” They have a religious home, but they want a political home, too, and as American society becomes increasingly politicized, the latter feels more important every day.

15. Church in Turmoil Two: Robert Royal attended the Catholic bishop’s synod on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” in Rome, and has plowed through its final report. From his analysis:

I wonder how we will look back at the past four weeks. The bishops at the Youth Synod mention subjects such as the sexual revolution, abortion, divorce and the breakup of the family, the digital pseudo-world, and the flattening of the human horizon by widespread materialist and scientistic attitudes in modern societies.

But the almost ritualistic repetition of “listening,” “accompanying,” “discerning” reminds me of nothing so much as the old Christian–Marxist dialogue. The Church during the Cold War was dealing with a deadly serpent and treated it as if it were merely another dialogue partner. Indeed, lots of Christians went over to the Marxist/socialist side. The reverse was far more rare.

Where is the clear talk about discerning a religious vocation? About marrying? About having children, marriage and children being one of the ways young people often find their way to full adulthood and faith in the modern world? If you want to dabble in sociology, as the synod organizers clearly did: Social science itself has shown beyond all reasonable question that marriage, family, and children constitute the documented pathways to a better life, happiness, health, prosperity, and religious commitment.

Was it too judgmental or controversial to say this outright? And to encourage young people to marry and have children if they don’t have a religious vocation? Instead, the text spends much time fretting over social pathologies; social and spiritual remedies are given very ginger treatment in very general terms.

And as our courageous American Archbishop Charles Chaput has pointed out, the deadly evil of sex abuse received shamefully inadequate treatment, in just three flat paragraphs, while the text flirts with the sensitivities of young people about homosexual activity and same-sex attraction.

You have to read almost one-third of the way into the text before you come upon some real religious approaches to problems youth face — for example, the hope that the sacrament of confirmation can become the beginning and not the end (as it more commonly is for most Catholics) of an adult commitment to the faith.

And despite all the handwringing in the text about the need to understand how young people today are driven by images, feelings, and peers and how they often seek a religion of well-being, the bishops are, at one point, forced to acknowledge: “In Christian communities, sometimes we risk proposing, without intending it, an ethical and therapeutic theism that responds to the human need for security and comfort instead of the living encounter with God in light of the Gospel and in the force of the Spirit.”

16. Pakistan is a hotbed of religious persecution. Doug Bandow reports on a community of “Pak-Christians” languishing in Thailand, seeking asylum.

17. U.S. energy independence has serious ramifications for our foreign policy, in particular with Iran, writes Fred Zeidman. From his analysis:

The global market’s pending loss of oil from Iran is an opportunity for American producers to become a supplier to the world. The United States can use the energy it produces domestically to ensure that its national-security concerns are met without harming American consumers. American energy independence will remind the world that it will no longer have to deal with wild price fluctuations spurred by unrest in the Middle East. The United States is capable of providing enough oil to help stabilize the global market, no matter what happens in countries such as Iran.

The deal arranged by the previous administration removed sanctions against Iran without offering any long-lasting solutions to the problems caused by this rogue nation. Making matters worse, that deal also funded Iran, allowing the regime to finance global terrorism, including the wars in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Even so, Iran violated the terms of that agreement, so the sanctions imposed by the current administration are justified on those grounds as well.

The geopolitics of the Middle East are changing. Historic alliances are shifting, as nations move to protect themselves against the looming existential threat posed by Iran. The only constant is that Israel remains America’s closest friend in the region. Israel and America stay linked through their shared democratic values and common interests.

Salam Book Getting Attention and Raising a Rumpus

Reihan’s new tome, Melting Pot or Civil War? A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders, received a strong, positive New York Times review from Kay Hymowitz. From her take:

Salam suggests a number of policies that could head off the bleak picture he paints. First is a points system like that used in Canada, which would rate applicants on education, language skills, work experience and family ties. In the United States, two-thirds of green cards issued every year go to family members of citizens and residents; a large number of them are aging parents who add to the worrisome graying of our population. Salam’s Bangladeshi ancestry makes him acutely conscious that merit-based policies like Canada’s would deny a better future to countless hard-working poor just as worthy as those already here, and he devotes a chapter to ideas for improving opportunity in impoverished areas of the globe. And recognizing the impossibility of deporting the country’s estimated 11 million unauthorized residents, he recommends amnesty — though only in exchange for “resolute enforcement” of immigration laws, backed up by mandatory “E-verify,” a web system giving employers a way to confirm employees’ legal status.

No doubt, “Melting Pot or Civil War?” will leave many immigration restrictionists unconvinced that enforcement would ever be adequately “resolute.” Some progressives will accuse Salam of underplaying the racial animus driving poverty among immigrants. Others will note that low-skilled immigration is already on the wane. Still, this bracing book could be a conversation-changer — if only the outraged on both sides would let it.

By the way, courtesy of National Review Institute, Reihan is going all over the US of A discussing his book. Maybe he’s coming to that proverbial neighborhood near you?! Find out more here.

The Six

1. If you want more of Robert Royal’s coverage of the Bishops Synod, he has written a ton for The Catholic Thing, and you might want to take a gander at this, or this, or how about this, or try a bit of this alongside a dollop of that. Really, he has complete and smart coverage.

2. I’m going to give it away, but at The Imaginative Conservative, Professor Richard Bishirjian considers Allan Bloom’s “Six Ways Universities Corrupt the Young.” From his essay:

Irving Babbitt and John Erskine were loudly critical of these “reforms” of higher education that removed “Core Curricula” of required courses. Erskine introduced a core honors curriculum at Columbia University in the masterpieces of Western philosophy. That core curriculum remains today at Columbia University, as does another at the University of Chicago, founded by Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins. Liberal Arts colleges with core Great Books curricula are the only remnants of what was once a vibrant tradition of classical education. That is unfortunate because the Great Books compel scholars to remember the past and to retrieve important lessons learned by the most important minds of Western civilization.

Following Allan Bloom, here are the six reasons American higher education corrupts the youth:

I. Replacing core curricula with gender, African-American or “Global” studies ignores where we came from, who we are, and how we should act as citizens of the West.

II. When that basis is removed from higher education, the virus of moral relativism cannot be confronted by scholarship leading to discovery of truth because only “opinion” has value.

III. If there is no “Truth” that can be discovered, what is left for us to search for but self-interest?

VI. If there is no “Common Good,” then to what can we appeal in the face of the demands of the powerful?

V. If the appetites of the young are aroused by Rock, Rap, and other musical trends, how can we instruct them about virtue?

IV. If a democratic regime values equality of condition, what will become of the equal protection of the law or any of the limits placed on the power of the state by a philosophy of limited government enshrined in the Constitution of the United States?

3. I had the great fortune this week to be at a dinner for National Review Institute’s Regional Fellows Program in San Francisco, where John Yoo was asking fellows about who they thought was the greatest Founder. And then I saw today that The Imaginative Conservative, had republished a 1995 Intercollegiate Review essay by the great historian Forrest McDonald, titled “George Washington: Indispensable Man.” Here’s how it begins:

The men who established the American republic were acutely aware that they lived in a pivotal era in human history, and they eagerly rose to the occasion. They were all impelled by a love of liberty, but a large number were, in addition, driven by a desire for immortal Fame — the grateful remembrance of a distant posterity. To put it simply, they wanted to remain alive and be cherished in your memory and mine.

It may be that the Founders were as unlucky in their choice of posterity as they were lucky in their choice of time in which to live, for the American people are notoriously lacking in a knowledge of the past. But until Goals 2000 ensures that our children will learn nothing of our past, we still can assume that there is one American of the Founding generation whose name everybody knows: George Washington. And yet, knowledge of just what he did is far from widespread. Beyond the cherry tree episode (which never happened) and the fact that he was the first President, most Americans do not know why they should remember and cherish him. What I propose to do is to describe what he was like and thereby help us cherish his memory.

Let us begin with an overview. No historian doubts that Washington was the Indispensable Man of the epoch. By sheer force of character he created the Continental Army and held it together, under extremely adverse circumstances, for the eight years it took to win independence. His awesome prestige created the atmosphere in which the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 could draft a constitution that the states would ratify; and it is certain that the office of president was created only because he was available to fill it. Moreover, he never abused or sought to aggrandize his power, and he voluntarily surrendered power when a job was done, though he might easily have held it for life. On the opposite hand, no scholar who has studied Washington would maintain — as schoolchildren used to be taught — that the man was flawless. As a soldier he was capable of rashness and poor judgment. He was addicted to gambling, indulged in a good deal of wenching, and was said to be a “most horrid swearer.” He was vain, a bit pretentious, and hot tempered; and though he was a perfect gentleman in public, he was sometimes not in private.

4. At Gatestone Institute, à la Andy above, Guy Millière’s criticism of the European Court of Human Rights’s roll-over on sharia is sharp. From his report:

This week, the unelected judges of the European Court of Human Rights submitted to the demands of Sharia blasphemy laws and decided not to allow criticism of Muhammad, lest Muslim feelings be hurt. The court actually chose hurt feelings over freedom of expression and truth as a defense. It is probably time to unelect these unelected judges.

Islamist organizations are present and growing. Often, they join forces to advance intimidation campaigns that push governments, the mainstream media and universities to ban all criticism of Islam and to enforce a growing Islamization of everyday life. Examples include efforts to change academic programs to present Muslim civilization in a more attractive light; efforts to have hospitals accept that Muslim women may be examined only by female doctors, and that social service agencies must respect polygamy. Many organizations rely for support on “fellow travelers” — mainly Westerners who hate Western civilization and may see the rise of Islam as a means of destabilizing it. They want, and get, results.

Western European politicians, left and right, increasingly rely on the Muslim vote to get elected: they see that the birthrates (now well below replacement levels) and migratory flows create a population change; they calculate that being too hostile to Islam could lead to their political defeat.

5. A mob marauds through Seton Hall University’s campus. A teacher inadvertently touches the shoulder of a protesting student. Chaos ensues. Administrators cave. The College Fix has the sad story.

6. A lot of Amazon Prime’s expensive original-content programs, well . . . stink. At The Federalist, Ellie Bufkin looks at the Netflix wannabe’s ten-thumbed approach to making, essentially, tv shows. From her piece:

At this same time, Amazon creative director Roy Price, who brought “The Romanoffs” and Amazon together, was dismissed amid his own allegations of inappropriate conduct. The Amazon creative department was steeped in turmoil, yet production of the incredibly ambitious “Romanoffs” went into fast-forward. The result is a disjointed effort whose moments of cinema-level greatness are largely overshadowed by its lack of story flow and tediously long episodes.

Grand ambition and internal conflict seem to have blinded Amazon’s creative team from the simple reality of what TV shows need to be in order to draw massive viewership. Streaming television has certainly changed a lot of things about the way people watch, but viewers always want basic elements from TV shows, regardless of how they watch them.

Episodic shows should always have a connection to previous and future episodes. That is the main thing that separates movies from series. Great cinematography is wonderful, but on the small, home screen people tune in for a captivating, intriguing story.

November 6 Is Not Just Election Day

It is also the publication date of Rick Brookhiser’s new book, John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court. There’s been a lot of praise already. For example, historian Annette Gordon-Reed says

 Brookhiser’s John Marshall is an erudite and elegant tour through not only the great chief justice’s life, but the beginnings of the United States and the nation’s Supreme Court. With colorful portraits of members of the founding generation, and clear and insightful descriptions of the legal cases that that shaped the American legal system, this book is a welcome contribution to the scholarship on the Early American Republic.”

Kirkus Reviews calls it “A concise, informative, and at times entertaining biography of our nation’s fourth chief justice.” I call it . . . a book you need to get.

Lights. Camera. Punditry.

1. This is a Queen devotee household, thanks to Mrs. Yours Truly. So Kyle Smith’s take on the new movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, about Freddie Mercury and his posse, matters. And here’s how he finds it: “largely joyous.” The home front is thrilled. From the review:

A movie that consisted of nothing but making-of stories about the dozen or so best Queen songs, and playing them over a theater sound system, would best nearly everything actually offered at the multiplex this year. Indeed, I’d be thrilled to watch an entire movie about the making of the title song, which struck me as by far the weirdest and most gripping pop track I’d ever encountered when I first heard it on a transistor radio next to my bed when I was falling asleep, aged nine. You would call such a movie, I suppose, “Bohemian Rhapsody Rhapsody.” That 1975 opus stands beside Brian Wilson’s pocket masterpiece “Good Vibrations” in the category of rock singles with the density of neutron stars. I wish I could hear either of them for the first time again.

Recording that demented pileup of weepy piano ballad, bombastic metal, and fake opera is a highlight of the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, featuring a spritely but screen-filling Rami Malek (the Mr. Robot star) as the camptastic Zanzibar-born British singer from a conservative Zoroastrian family. We see him as a youth in his sternly middle-class home. On the wall — this is a witty moment — is a portrait of the Queen.

2. And then we have the take of Armond White. And he is not a fan of Bohemian Rhapsody. Strap yourself in, here’s how it commences:

The most disgraceful moment in Bohemian Rhapsody comes when a record producer states his skepticism about the title song, a 1975 hit single that gives this film its only marketability. The music executive is played by comic Mike Myers, whose 1992 film Wayne’s World revived “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a theme honoring nerd arrogance — the wrong-taste rebellion that defined unhip working-class fantasy and pleasure. (Myers’s gambit successfully boosted the song onto fin de siècle sales charts.)

Disgrace comes from the refusal of Bohemian Rhapsody’s filmmakers to recognize the class distinction of Myers’s coup. In the middle of a serious-tragic bio-pic about Freddie Mercury, front man for the rock group Queen who recorded the title song, the movie turns insultingly campy. As if the Millennial audience even remembers Wayne’s World, that ersatz ode to public-access TV subculture, the film replaces historical recollection with sarcasm. Myers’s cameo performance is a jest that contributes to the amnesia and ignorance typical of today’s diminished pop culture.

By encouraging Millennial filmgoers to think that they are different — smarter — than earlier crass businessmen, Bohemian Rhapsody falsifies pop-music history. The objection of the Myers character to the song (“Kids will never bang their heads to this”) points out its length and its musical and lyrical oddity but ignores that mid-’70s pop radio was replete with lengthy, guitar-heavy anthems (from “Hey Jude” to “American Pie”). It also leads the audience to misunderstand “Bohemian Rhapsody” as an extravagant novelty tune, part of that period’s British art-rock boom, which eventually laid the foundation for retreat by America’s post-Reagan teens who were settling into the complacency and self-satisfaction of the Clinton era.

3. Armond finds Boy Erased deserving a smackdown. He delivers it. From the beginning of his review:

The new domestic melodrama Boy Erased pretends to be about an Arkansas teenager, Jared (Lucas Hedges), struggling to realize his sexual identity. The plot centers on this son of a Baptist preacher, rebelling against the gay conversion program insisted on by his parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman). Already ideologically loaded, the film’s premise is also deceptive. But you can spot its real agenda in the constant, unconvincing effort to score points against religious thought, the institutional church, and traditional family structure — all followed by Jared’s eventual salvation when his published memoir is anointed by the New York Times.

Jared’s sexuality is just a come-on; it’s part of the pandering that has replaced story and drama ever since the indie film movement turned from mass entertainment to social-justice partisanship. Young Jared never exhibits normal sexual impulses; he broods before feeling natural stimulation or curiosity. Details about alertness, personality, and experience are the stuff of art (providing the beauty, humor, and sensitivity that distinguish André Téchiné’s Being 17 and Terence Davies’s The Long Day Closes). But those observations are beyond director/co-screenwriter Joel Edgerton’s applaud-m