The Weekend Jolt

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Churchill . . . With His Rotten Paintings. ROTTEN!

Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) painting beside Lake Geneva. Original Publication: People Disc – HW0367 (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Dear Jolter,

Can you believe this Scott Kelly? His mea culpa to the Lefty Twitter mob is a classic . . . of humiliation. This week, the astronaut levelled (at conservatives) a tweet that leveraged praise of Winston Churchill. But that boomeranged. The triggered mob — channeling Franz Liebkind — struck: Didja know Churchill was a racist?! Didja?!!! So you’re touting racists now, eh?!

And before you could say speed of light, Kelly groveled and promised re-education about the nasty Mr. Churchill.

I’ll leave it to two NR writers to react with wisdom and disdain. Douglas Murray titled his Corner post Scott Kelly: Lost in Space.

Then there’s Ben Shapiro’s column that demands people stop apologizing for our history. Here’s how his column runs down the home stretch:

The war on the history of the West isn’t merely a difference of opinion, to be glossed over with a few words about bipartisanship. America is divided right now between two groups: those who believe that America and the West are fundamentally good and worth fighting for, despite their myriad historic shortcomings; and those who believe that America and the West are fundamentally evil and racist, steeped in structural power imbalances. A house divided against itself cannot stand; those who care for their homes cannot declare unity with arsonists.

There can be no politically unifying moments with history-twisting harpies — harpies who would be speaking German without Churchill. Anyone who insists on wiping away the legacy of good in the West in favor of cynically blustering about the unique nastiness of the West cannot be included in a call for national harmony.

Now, before we move on to a slew of links to essential NR reading, allow me to share the screed against Mr. Churchill by the aforementioned Mr. Liebkind, the author, as you will remember, of Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Eva and Adolf in Berchtesgaden:

But nobody said a bad vord about Winston Churchill, did they? Oh no, “Vin Vit Vinnie!” Churchill, vit his cigars, vit his brandy and his rotten paintings, rotten! Hitler, there was a painter. He could paint an entire apartment in one afternoon — two coats! Churchill . . . he couldn’t even say Nazi. He would say Narzis, Narzis. Ve vere not “Narzies,” ve vere Nazis. But let me tell this, and you’re getting it straight from the horse, Hitler vas better looking than Churchill, he vas a better dresser than Churchill, had more hair, told funnier jokes, and could dance the pants off Churchill!

Hey, If You Fancied NRO’s Kavanaugh Efforts . . .

. . . then how about showing some wallet-based appreciation? We’ve got the Fall 2018 Webathon going on as we speak (although, this here right now is reading, not speaking; unless of course you read out loud, in which case it would be speaking). Kat Timpf is the latest NR writer to implore you to show some constructive support. Read her piece here. If you have given already, many thanks!

Four Speecy Spicey Articles from the New Issue of Your Favorite Conservative Magazine

So that we’re all on the same page, I’m pulling from the newbie, the October 29, 2018, issue of NR.

1. The cover story is one that should have a lot of reverb: Michael Brendan Dougherty’s essay, The Case against Pope Francis.” It is a thorough indictment. From it:

The Francis pontificate was to be an era of mercy for sinners at the peripheries and accountability for malefactors at the Vatican. Instead, almost the opposite has taken place.

While trying to please the progressives who elected him, Pope Francis has plunged the Church into acrimony and confusion. He has put forward a revision of the Church’s teaching on the sacraments that puts traditional concepts of Christian virtue out of reach for all but the most “heroic” Christians. It is a theological revolution that not only threatens the coherence of the Catholic faith but has the potential to affect all Christians.

As for reform? Forget it. Nearly half of the members of Pope Francis’s reformist team have been pulled into sexual-abuse scandals themselves. Cardinal George Pell has returned to his native Australia to face charges of fondling children. Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga has been accused of protecting churchmen who fostered a culture of sexual predation in the seminaries of Honduras. The German cardinal Reinhard Marx was revealed to have been negligent in investigating an abusive priest when he was bishop of Trier. American cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, who heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, has been exposed as having passed the buck when a priest tried to inform him of the serial sexual predation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick against seminarians.

2. Could a joker soon be taking up residence at 10 Downing Street? Madeleine Kearns looks at the possibility of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. From her piece:

In pursuit of Britain’s top political job, however, Johnson will need more than mere charm. At the Conservative-party conference earlier this month, one Tory speaker dismissed him as “offensive and irrelevant.” Other notable critics have called him “fake,” an “egomaniac,” “maniacally disorganized,” and totally unfit to be prime minister. Johnson’s own daughter called him a “selfish bastard” this summer while inadvertently breaking the news that he and his wife of 25 years were divorcing.

Politically, Johnson now faces an uphill struggle. In a Tory leadership contest, candidates are knocked out in rounds. To make it to the final, Johnson would need the backing of 106 members of Parliament. It is difficult, at this point, to see where such support would come from. Indeed, MPs who voted Remain in the Brexit referendum hate him for more than just his style. Johnson gave Brexit metropolitan respectability, rescuing it from the UKIP brand. This is his mess, they think, and he cannot be forgiven for it.

Other criticisms are lazier; they roll off the tongue. For instance, comparisons with Donald Trump, the epithets “populist” and “nationalist,” despite his being consistently liberal on immigration. The most pathetic accusation of all came earlier this summer when, after arguing in his column in the Telegraph that women should be able to wear burkas even though they look ridiculous (i.e., like “letterboxes”), Johnson was attacked as “Islamophobic” and “pandering to the far right.” To anyone who had bothered to read the thing, Johnson’s was a blatantly liberal argument. The real objection to his quip, of course, ought to have been its lack of originality. Stephen Fry made the same joke on the TV show Have I Got News for You in 1999.

3. Ramesh Ponnuru has the score card on the MSM’s all-in effort to stop Brett Kavanaugh from being confirmed. From his piece:

CNN’s lowest moment may have been when it ran a story discussing an anonymous man’s claim that Kavanaugh had raped a woman on a boat in Newport, R.I., in 1985. The man recanted his story an hour before the network published it. It continued to flag “five allegations” against Kavanaugh on its cable shows — counting the Ramirez, shoving-against-a-wall, and Rhode Island stories, and an even more outlandish one claiming that Kavanaugh was part of a group that regularly held gang-rape parties. The CNN website would later run another story describing the Rhode Island accusation as “false,” although as of October 8 it had not updated its original article to note the recantation.

Some in the press were willing to believe anything, no matter how implausible, about Kavanaugh’s defenders, too. At a public forum, Senator Lindsey Graham denied that President Trump had treated Blasey Ford badly. By way of contrast, Graham alluded to James Carville’s infamous putdown of Paula Jones, one of Bill Clinton’s accusers:”Here’s what’s personally degrading: ‘This is what you get when you go through a trailer park with a $100 bill.’” Yahoo News was among those who missed the allusion and misunderstood Graham to be making the comment about Blasey Ford.

In a tweet, Jake Tapper of CNN noted that Graham was “paraphrasing a loathsome comment by James Carville.” That wasn’t enough context for Washington Post columnist and MSNBC contributor Jennifer Rubin, who responded to Tapper that Graham was “calling an assault victim a prostitute” — which, incidentally, would not be true even if she were right about the context.

4. NR helps mark the Kirk Centenary with John J. Miller’s piece on the Great Man’s beloved widow, Annette, and how she is keeping his spirit alive at “Piety Hill” in Mecosta, Michigan. From his piece:

This fall, conservatives are celebrating Kirk’s legacy with everything from Russell Kirk Day in his birthplace of Plymouth, Mich., to symposia and conferences at think tanks in Washington, D.C., at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, and elsewhere. On November 13, National Review Institute will host its own “Kirk at 100” panel discussion in New York City, honoring a man who was a NATIONAL REVIEW columnist for the magazine’s first 25 years, after William F. Buckley Jr. personally recruited him for the job.

Yet Kirk is nowhere more alive than he is in Mecosta, where Annette has turned the Russell Kirk Center into a vibrant outpost of conservatism. “We’re all about the ‘permanent things’ here,” she says, referring to a term invented by T. S. Eliot and embraced by Russell to describe the rules and ideas that sustain civilization. She keeps on proving the truth of something Buckley said long ago: “There can’t ever have been a case in which a widow emerged more competent to carry on her husband’s work than Annette Kirk.”

The 78-year-old Annette Courtemanche Kirk has earned a reputation for fast-talking conversation and boundless energy — and on the day I visited her in August, she hosted me nonstop for eight hours and seemed ready for more, even as we bid farewell. If she never had met her husband, she probably would have become at least a footnote in conservative-movement history anyway: In 1960, she was one of the few women to attend a meeting of young conservatives at Buckley’s home in Sharon, Conn. They produced the Sharon Statement, a 400-word declaration of principles that animated activists as they started to rally around Barry Goldwater and his presidential aspirations. “I typed it up,” she says.

Editorials

1. So the vote happened, and for once, the bad (very bad) guys lost, and the Constitution won. So did Brett Kavanaugh. Justice truly prevailed. From our editorial:

Throughout this saga, the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee maintained that their job was to investigate charges of wrongdoing and to determine whether they could be verified. Shamefully, their counterparts exhibited no such interest. It was unclear whether Judge Kavanaugh’s record was being examined for rape or for rudeness, for drinking or for defensiveness, for truth or temperament. At times the lack of focus took on a Stalinist quality: “He did it,” Kavanaugh’s accusers insisted day in, day out, “but even if he didn’t, the vehemence with which he denied it is itself disqualifying.”

It is a testament to the fortitude of the Republican party that these conceits were rejected in the end. Donald Trump had the good sense to pick Kavanaugh, and then the determination to stick by him. Mitch McConnell was at his very best, canny and tough-minded. Lindsey Graham was a fierce advocate. And, of course, at the end, Susan Collins not only did the right thing but made a strong case on the charges and the process.

2. Senator Heitkamp talks conservative but walks liberal. This may not be unknown to voters in North Dakota, who we encourage to send her packing in November. From our ‘Bye, Heidi’ editorial:

She most recently made national news for voting against the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Mere hours after announcing her vote, Heitkamp explained it in a TV advertisement designed to blunt its impact (North Dakotans supported confirmation by an overwhelming margin). “I don’t think he told the truth, and even if he did, he showed himself to be too biased to be impartial,” she said. She later clarified how she came to that decision by explaining that she watched Kavanaugh’s testimony with the sound off. His “body language and demeanor,” was, apparently, all the evidence she needed. She could have read some of Kavanaugh’s many judicial decisions to see evidence of an exemplary judicial temperament, but we suppose that would have taken more time.

Heitkamp returned to a long-running theme at the end of the ad: “I believe a senator has to put politics aside and do what’s right for our country.” Heitkamp knows she has to give the appearance of independence, but on too many issues, an appearance is all it is.

3. Leftist mobsters — or mobbers — and their stalking tactics get their comeuppance. From our editorial:

The Democrats in 2018 seem to have taken the wrong lesson from Hodgkinson and the rest: They have embraced stalking and terror as political tactics. The so-called antifa have firebombed college campuses and committed political violence in order to silence dissenting speakers and to bully students into political conformity; Democrats have taken up stalking with gusto, recently chasing Ted Cruz and his wife out of a restaurant, while Representative Dave Brat recently discovered stalkers photographing his cars and property; police cordons have been broken, and buildings have been entered illegally; Senator Susan Collins has been threatened with rape. Hillary Clinton told her gang: “You cannot be civil.”

An angry crowd at a town hall is protest, even when it is vulgar or unruly. Protest is part of democracy. But stalking and assault are not protest. Arson is not protest. The destruction of property is not protest.

This is terrorism — the attempt to instill in people the fear of physical harm or death in the service of a political agenda. This terrorism has been undertaken with the encouragement of Democratic elected officials and party grandees ranging from Senator Cory Booker to former attorney general Eric Holder. It has been justified and minimized by left-leaning media figures such as Don Lemon.

Here Are Links to Many NRO Pieces That Will Tickle Your Intellectual Fancy and Hum Your Philosophical Dinger

1. Lefties: Cut the you-know-what — and it ain’t bologna, or even baloney — and admit that you simply detest America as constituted. As for the rest of us, if you thought the Electoral College was bad, well, just wait till you get a load of this Senate thingy! Rich Lowry focuses on the latest screed. From his column:

For the Left, the U.S. Senate is now looming, together with the Electoral College and the Supreme Court, as an institution of villainy in American life. In the words of Vox, the Senate is “a grotesquely unrepresentative body.” ThinkProgress deems it “an immoral, anti-democratic institution.” One reason Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne calls the ascension of Kavanaugh to the high court “a coup” is that he was “confirmed by senators representing 44 percent of the population.”

Democrats have gone from bragging about their permanent majority a few years ago to complaining it’s impossible for them to win under the governing regime that we’ve had for more than 200 years, since it’s so tilted toward “minority rule.”

It’s certainly true that the Senate is not fully democratic and gives an outsize role to small states; this was the price such states exacted for signing on to the Constitution. This arrangement isn’t a conspiracy against the Left.

2. Feminists have long ballyhooed “choice,” but the Kavanaugh fight has shown that the only permissible choice is the Leftist line. Toe it or else. Alexandra DeSanctis says the political process of confirmation exposed the demand for conformation. From her piece:

This alliance between feminists and the Left has materialized politically in an especially potent way over the last decade. In 2012, Barack Obama ran for his second term on the promise of providing government-funded contraceptives. He made good on his vow by compelling employers to subsidize birth control regardless of their religious belief. In 2016, Hillary Clinton ran for the presidency on a Democratic platform that, for the first time in history, vowed to erase the Hyde Amendment and allow taxpayer dollars to directly facilitate abortion procedures.

With their social agenda thus wedded to the progressive movement, feminist thinkers have taken a nosedive into corrosive identity politics, asserting their influence based on the notion that all women necessarily share their viewpoint, that women as an identity group (and a voting bloc) are united in a fight against patriarchal oppression. Feminist claims to political power are therefore premised on the fiction that all women are shackled by men and that all women should be united around one liberating platform — the progressive one.

3. Feinstein-ism is running amok through the Democratic party, says Kevin Williamson in an analysis of America’s post-Kavanaugh political scene. From his piece:

The enforcement is ruthless: Voice actor Rachel Butera noted (and gently mocked) the fact that Christine Blasey Ford has an odd style of presentation — she is a 51-year-old woman who spoke before the Senate in the voice and style of an eleven-year-old girl — and was savagely hounded for it. There already have been demands that Disney fire her for the offense (she is the voice of Princess Leia in an animated Star Wars series) and it would be no surprise if she ended up losing her job over it.

That is the Left’s way of doing business: Hold a judicial philosophy at odds with that of Senator Feinstein and you’ll be denounced as a rapist, go to work for the New York Times or the Washington Post or ESPN while holding heterodox political views and you’ll be denounced as a racist, sexist, bigot, etc. Point out that there are inconsistencies in an accusation — or that fabricated sexual-assault allegations are not-uncommonly used as political weapons — and you’ll be denounced as a rape apologist. The point of that isn’t only to interfere with the careers of the Brett Kavanaughs and Bret Stephenses of the world but also to make things as painful as possible for those who work with them and for those who come after — or might come after — them.

4. Michael Knox Beran hammers the establishment factory that is Yale Law School for devouring its own — among others, Brett Kavanaugh — as it adheres to legal realpolitik and ignores tradition. From his analysis:

Yet perhaps the greatest achievement of the WASP establishment was its ability to subordinate the desire for power to an ethic of service. Deeply enamored though they were of authority, the old magnificos accepted limits. Averell Harriman was aghast when Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, undermined Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. “If I had gotten in the way of the relationship between the President and the Secretary of State,” Harriman said of his own service in the Truman administration, “I would have been fired, and properly so.”

Today the code by which the patrician establishment at least tried to live — its ideas of duty and honor, of good manners and seemly three-martini lunches, of public service conceived as an almost religious undertaking performed in the sight of God — is an antediluvian curiosity.

Already in 1969, Robert F. Kennedy’s civil-rights maven, Burke Marshall (Yale Law ’51), flouted the code and degraded himself when he hurried to Ted Kennedy’s side in Hyannis to help cover up the killing of a young woman at Chappaquiddick. Two decades later, George H. W. Bush kicked what remained of tradition to the curb when he availed himself of the services of Lee Atwater.

5. Victor Davis Hanson declares that the mainstream Left, Never Trumpers, conventional wisdom, the #MeToo cabal, and of course the MSM are in tatters after the Kavanaugh Battle. From his essay:

The NBC interview with Julia Swetnick was an unmitigated disaster. When a marquee network warns its own audience that the comments of the interviewee either could not be confirmed or were contrary to her earlier testimonies, then the natural question arises: Would NBC ever have run such an interview with an unhinged conservative critic who, without evidence or testimony, had recently alleged that she had 36 years earlier seen a liberal justice commit gang rape in his teens?

The New York Times had to retract a false allegation that Mark Judge had more or less had changed his story and now had confirmed his presence at the alleged party: “An earlier version of this article misstated what Mark Judge told the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said that he does not remember the episode, not that he does.” “Fake News” is an overused phrase, but it proves a euphemism when describing the recent behavior of The New Yorker, the New York Times, and NBC.

When Donald J. Trump rants at his rallies about “fake news” and claims that the media is not just biased but lies, Americans wince — but now more so at the accuracy of his charges and no longer so much at the crassness with which he delivers them.

6. Andy McCarthy’s initial takeaway from the Kavanaugh Battle is simply stated: “The Left ruins everything.” More from his piece:

By contrast, when the Left criminalizes political opposition, no crime is required; just gossamer-thin, incoherent, uncorroborated, often unverifiable allegations: perhaps multiple-hearsay innuendo against a Republican presidential candidate, passed on by anonymous foreigners to a hyper-partisan, left-wing foreign spy working for the opposition Democratic political campaign. Or maybe a 36-year-old claim of sexual assault by an alleged victim who cannot remember basic details or keep straight the details she claims to remember; whose named witnesses do not back her account; who declines to address whether her accusation has been influenced by the controversial psychotherapeutic process of “recovered memory”; who refuses to disclose highly relevant therapy notes and polygraph information; and who is a Democrat advised by a prominent Democratic strategist and represented for free by Democratic activist lawyers, who were recommended to her by a senior Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat even as that Democratic senator concealed the sexual-assault claim from her Republican counterparts.

The Left requires no solid evidence of a crime, because solid evidence — the kind that truly justifies a criminal probe — narrows a good-faith investigator’s focus. To the contrary, the Left wants all the aggressiveness of a criminal investigation but none of the limits. The criminalization of politics leans on counterintelligence and background investigations; it wants no part of criminal courts, where due-process safeguards are enforced and allegations must be proved.

7. The mental-health crisis gripping America can benefit from a partial fix by reform of “Certificate-of-Need” laws, says Mark Flatten in this important analysis. From his piece:

The overwhelming likelihood is that those with severe mental-health issues will instead wind up in jail, chained to a hospital bed, or wandering the halls of emergency rooms for hours, days, and sometimes weeks without getting the help they need. It’s a fate faced by thousands of people in mental-health crises every day, because of America’s severe shortage of inpatient mental-health beds.

The dearth of mental-health-treatment options that exists in many places around the country is driven by the greed, or at least the economic selfishness, of established medical providers who are able to prevent competitors from moving in on their turf, regardless of how dire the shortage. To do so, they use what are called Certificate-of-Need (CON) laws, which generally require would-be providers of health-related services to get approval from a state regulatory board before building or expanding a facility or service.

8. Acclaimed historian Walter Laqueur has passed away at 97. Moshe Wander pays tribute to the “indispensable pessimist.” From his remembrance:

Laqueur’s was starkly prescient, especially on the subject of terrorism. He began his research into terrorism during the Cold War, when great-power conflict seemed the norm. Even then he saw the danger that a small group of dedicated fanatics could do. In his histories of terrorism he focused on the character of terrorists and on how societies respond to terrorist attacks. Several decades before the 9/11 attacks, Laqueur noted that terrorists prefer to attack democratic societies rather than dictatorships because they perceive democracies as weaker. Terrorism was also the subject of Laqueur’s last book, written with cyber-security analyst Christopher Wall. There they analyzed the similarities between the alt-right and ISIS and warned starkly, as Laqueur had in the past, that terrorism would continue because often terrorism worked. It is a grim picture, but even Laqueur believed that terrorism could be contained and managed, depending on how societies reacted to terror groups.

9. Maddie Kearns follows up her investigations into Transgender Activism and its bogus science. This week she delves into the American Academy of Pediatrics and its new policy pronunciamento. From the beginning of her piece:

The American Academy of Pediatrics is a trusted medical authority made up of around 67,000 pediatricians. How many AAP members voiced their approval for the most recent policy statement, “Ensuring Comprehensive Care and Support for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children and Adolescents,” which asserts that transition-affirming therapy for “transgender youth” is the best medical practice?

National Review asked the AAP this question. The organization has not yet replied.

The committees listed at the end of the policy contain a total of 24 pediatricians. According to a current AAP member who prefers to remain anonymous, these contributors would have voted in addition to twelve members of the board of directors, meaning a maximum of 36 members directly approved the policy. This is around 0.05 percent of the AAP’s member population.

Of course, this is how elected representation works. However, such is the politicization of transgenderism that pediatricians who are uneasy with the AAP’s new policy are likely to keep a low profile.

For instance, one long-time AAP member tells National Review: “It’s hard not to think that we might be harming children. But if we say something publicly we could get in trouble.”

10. Michael Brendan Dougherty goes “Off the Shelf” to ponder about Francis Fukuyama’s new book, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, and where it goes wrong, and right, about nationalism and identity politics. From his review:

Fukuyama begins with an arresting thesis about identity politics. “Identity grows, in the first place, out of a distinction between one’s true inner self and an outer world of social rules and norms that does not adequately recognize that inner self’s worth or dignity,” he writes. “Individuals throughout human history have found themselves at odds with their societies. But only in modern times has the view taken hold that the authentic inner self is intrinsically valuable, and the outer society systematically wrong and unfair in its valuation of the former. It is not the inner self that has to be made to conform to society’s rules, but society itself that needs to change.”

This is the beginning of a somewhat simplified history of conceptions of the self that travels quickly through the Protestant Reformation to the philosophy of Rousseau. Fukuyama locates the motor for new populist and nationalist movements in human nature, in the desire for recognition and esteem, a desire that was hyper-charged and given almost imperial ambition by the therapeutic turn in education and politics of the late 20th century.

11. Michael Tanner explains what America can expect if the Democrats win the House this November. From his column:

A Democratic Congress may be able to slow President Trump’s deregulatory efforts but won’t be able to stop them. That’s because, following the lead of his predecessors, he is accomplishing many of his goals through executive actions. Democrats will continue to learn that if you live by the pen and the phone, you die by the pen and the phone.

The one thing that a Democratic Congress can absolutely do is . . . make Donald Trump’s life miserable. Impeachment is not going to happen, but a Democratic House would have investigatory and subpoena power. Elijah Cummings would likely become chairman of the Oversight Committee, Adam Schiff would take over at Intelligence, and Jerry Nadler at Judiciary. Consider it a full-employment opportunity for White House lawyers. From Russian collusion to emoluments to the myriad scandals of the Trump cabinet, administration officials can expect to spend so much time testifying before Congress that they might as well move cots into the halls of the Capitol.

12. Matthew Brodsky and Bassam Barabandi evaluate the Trump Administration’s new strategy in Syria. The verdict is . . . thumbs up. From their analysis:

“. . . even successful backroom diplomacy with Turkey wouldn’t necessarily be enough to persuade the pro-Assad axis to abandon its planned offensive. To bolster the diplomatic effort, the U.S. turned to a public messaging campaign that relied on multiple corners of the administration, including the president, National Security Adviser John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, and Ambassador James Jeffrey. They abandoned the narrow definition of America’s opposition to Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Idlib in favor of a stronger stance that considered any regime-sponsored military campaign to be a significant and reckless escalation.

These efforts were backed up by a third element that undergirds and adds credibility to the effectiveness of quiet diplomacy and uniform public messaging. It is a forward-leaning military posture and a willingness to kinetically engage one’s adversaries if needed. Critically, it wasn’t confined to the recent announcements that the U.S. intended to remain in Syria but could be witnessed by those who needed to see it the most, namely Assad’s Russian and Iranian backers.

These actions included fortifying U.S. positions in Syria’s northeast with both offensive and defensive military assets and conducting week-long live-fire exercises with America’s allies. Farther south, it involved the addition of the Marine aircraft carrier USS Essex, which recently arrived in the Arabian Sea with its deck full of F-35B stealth fighter jets — the first U.S. deployment in the region of its advanced stealth warplane. “Our primary mission is crisis response,” Colonel Chandler Nelms, commander of the military expeditionary unit aboard the Essex, explained. That means “being current and absolutely ready for anything the geographic combatant commander needs us to do while we are here.”

13. Who wouldn’t want to read an article titled An Atheist, an Ivy League Student, and a Nun Walk into a Pro-Life Conference? Mairead McArdle reports from the “Vita et Veritas” pro-life conference at Yale.

14. Jibran Khan provides an excellent accounting of the details surrounding the Saudi’s assassination / murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Read his Corner post.

You Are Under Strict Instructions to SAVE THE DATE

This just in from my compadres at National Review Institute . . .

Please mark your calendar for National Review Institute’s 2019 Ideas Summit at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. on March 28th and 29th, with add-on programming for NRI’s 1955 Society Members and Regional Fellowship Alumni on March 30th.

This biennial Summit builds upon NRI’s rich tradition of in-person intellectual engagement, bringing together today’s most influential thinkers, and strengthening the conservative movement William F. Buckley Jr. helped establish.

As in years past, we will have a powerful and diverse lineup of speakers representing the very best that the conservative movement has to offer. In the spirit of Bill Buckley, participants will focus on American exceptionalism, as well as the country’s resilience and economic recovery. They will share their vision for a future guided by timeless conservative principles. We invite you to save the date for what promises to be a festive and forward-thinking summit.

For more information on the history of NRI Summits, and to view photos and videos from previous years, please click here.

Please note sponsorship information will become available soon. If you would like to discuss sponsorship opportunities, please contact Alexandra Rosenberg, NRI Member and Events Manager, by email (alexandra@nrinstitute.org) or by phone (212.849.2858).

Lights. Cameras. Punditry!

1. Kyle Smith looks at the Coen Brothers new flick, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. He has good things to say. And he has . . . bad (well, not sooo bad) things to say. From the review:

The Coens say they have assembled the script from stories they’ve been working on for some 25 years, which doesn’t raise my level of confidence that they click together all that well. “Let’s clean out the bottom drawer of our desk” isn’t such an inspiring genesis for a project. Originally the Coens planned to make a miniseries out of these six stories, but as it is some of them (one in particular) drag on far too long. My two favorite pieces, both comedies, are among the short ones. One of them, a delight (also) called “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” makes the most of Tim Blake Nelson as a singing cowboy with a surprisingly ready six-shooter; the other, “Near Algodones,” stars James Franco and Stephen Root as a bank robber and a teller whose interaction doesn’t go the way either of them expects. Nelson is so funny he deserves an Oscar nomination (the Academy owes him one after overlooking him for O Brother, Where Art Thou?) but I’ll not say more about his segment, which depends heavily on surprises. Franco’s story isn’t quite as nutty but works nicely.

2. And Kyle has some mostly very nice things to say about Roma. From the beginning of his review:

In the tradition of European filmmakers, Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón concludes his heart-wrenching memory film Roma with a dedication: “For Libo.” Libo is the recipient of one of the most affecting tributes to an ordinary person that has ever been put on film. Roma, showing at the New York Film Festival ahead of a December release on Netflix, appears certain to earn well-deserved Oscar nominations including both Best Picture and, as it is told mostly in Spanish, Best Foreign Language Film.

Cuarón, one of the greatest and most visually inventive directors working today, has reversed course from films such as Gravity and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to make a no-frills, documentary-style, black-and-white film about his childhood in Mexico City, circa 1970. Roma looks like an Italian neorealist work and even sounds like one, though Roma, as it happens, is the name of a neighborhood in Mexico City. Cuarón has said that 90 percent of the film comes straight from his memories, but it’s a curious kind of picture: A memoir in which the person doing the remembering is in the background. Four children feature in the film, but none of them really develops as a character. Instead, Cuarón has taken to wondering what life was like for a beloved household servant, Libo, who in the film is called Cleo.

3. But then there is what Kyle calls “the movie of the year.” We’re talking about First Man, which he compares quite favorably to The Right Stuff. From the review:

Where The Right Stuff is hero-drunk, stirring, upbeat, fun-loving, hell-raising, and nationalistic, with courage its central virtue, and is (consequently) a conservative picture, Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong and First Man in general are tightly restrained, quiet, stone-faced, a bit slumped and unimposing, with technical skill the central virtue and an internationalist outlook. It took more than one kind of man to get America to the Moon. The earlier movie was about the cowboys. This one is about the nerds. It’s The Slight Stuff.

First Man isn’t overtly a left-leaning or unpatriotic movie, but its reserved, interior quality (it actually ends with two people staring silently at each other) is consonant with the tastes of liberals, whose unease with flag-waving is richly rewarded by the film’s omission of the moment when Armstrong plants Old Glory on the Moon. Does that choice bother me? Not really. The movie’s focus is simply elsewhere, with overlooked aspects of the mission. Fresh, contrarian approaches to familiar material give First Man so much energy that despite its contemplative character, two hours and 20 minutes pass briskly. First Man is easily the best film I’ve seen so far in 2018, a standout in everything from the acting to the sound effects, and I foresee it earning something like eleven Oscar nominations next winter.

4. Michelle Malkin makes the case for watching Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, out this weekend.

5. To the Moon, Alice! . . . But you know who didn’t like First Man? Yeah, Armond White. From his review:

First Man will not matter past the moment of its release, but this moment (although the film has been deceptively promoted as the celebration of a triumph) actually mixes current political confusion with distaste for American aspiration. An immature film geek like Chazelle thinks his zeitgeist ambition is the same as cultural perception. Presenting the U.S. space program as not so much a military endeavor as a hotbed of sexual chauvinism, racism, and arrogance encourages a facile historical conclusion. It’s not a film about victory — Pyrrhic or any other kind. This non-celebratory “history” is as disaffected as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and similarly misuses the towering IMAX screen to be unimpressive. When Chazelle finally reveals the lunar surface, the landscape is not eerily still, but banal: The screen’s breadth portrays anonymity or claustrophobia inside the space capsule. (This counterintuitive “logic” is like the widescreen close-ups in The Master and The Hateful Eight.)

The Six

1. How to describe Life in California? At California Policy Center, Ed Rings takes and makes a shot at answering, discussing how the Golden State is an increasingly unaffordable place — of “oligarchical socialism” — where the rich get richer, the middle class is encouraged to drop dead, and the welfare class votes. From the first part of his analysis:

Nowhere are the consequences of California’s oligarchical socialism more evident than in the cost of housing. State legislation has made it nearly impossible for developers to construct new housing outside the so-called “urban growth boundary.” Instead, development is redirected into the footprint of existing urban areas.

While there is a natural tendency as population increases to see higher density redevelopment in urban cores, by restricting outward expansion of urban areas, the value of the limited remaining eligible land becomes artificially inflated. But established landowners and large development firms benefit from these restrictions. They are able to withstand years, if not decades, of expensive permitting delays and endless litigation. They are able to afford millions in permit fees because these costs are offset by their ability to sell residence units — from high-rise condos to detached single family dwellings — at prices far beyond what they would cost in a normal market.

These billionaire business interests get richer, while ordinary Californians who want to own or develop land cannot afford to go through the permit process. Meanwhile, the median cost of a home in California is $539,400 — nearly 2.5 times the national average of $216,700. And that’s not even in the tougher markets.

With all land development, environmentalist laws such as California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) create additional barriers. California’s legislature has now made it necessary for new home construction to be 100 percent “energy neutral” by 2020. Not only does this require installation of photovoltaic roof panels, but also more expensive insulation, as well as more expensive appliances that use less energy (and also happen to be less durable and don’t work as well). These mandates make homes less livable, for example, requiring smaller windows in order to make the homes easier to heat and cool.

2. In the second part of his California analysis, Ring plots: how to defeat the oligarchs. From his analysis:

The communications kingpins of California have no allegiance to ordinary Californians — or ordinary Americans, for that matter. To them, ordinary people are Pavlovian proles, expendable parasites that pollute the environment. To the extent these kingpins have compassion, it is to profitably create for the expendable multitudes a benign zoo; smart cities of high rises, contained in areas as geographically minute as possible, so that only wild nature, corporate farms, and private estates of the super-rich exist outside the urban containment boundaries.

In these algorithmically managed metropolises, human values, including their voting behavior, will literally be programmed, using the most sophisticated and individualized techniques of manipulation ever devised. Borgcubes, aesthetically optimized by AI psychometricians, with soothing soft edges of gingerbread. Metaphorically speaking, Matrix-like cocoons. A Brave New World, complete with Sexophones and Soma. Get ready. Another innovation from California.

3. WJ is not letting Columbus Day pass unnoticed: The Imaginative Conservative republishes this 1992 Russell Kirk essay, “Columbus the Exemplar.” From his reflections on the 500th Anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage:

But why prolong this defense of the real Columbus? The true Columbus matters little enough to the present opponents of the Quincentenary. What they attack is an effigy of their own creation: a wooden figure, or perhaps a plastic one, to whom they attribute all manner of evil. To them, this effigy-Columbus represents much that they detest: religion, true aristocracy (that is, the leadership of the best), dignity, European civilization, disciplined skills, manly courage, high imagination, the distant past of humankind, the power to dream the high dream.

With such people, the assault on the name Columbus, and on the Quincentenary that celebrates five centuries of civilization in the Americas, is merely a pretext for denouncing the imperfections of the United States in the year 1992. And surely we Americans confront grave difficulties today; some voices ten us that we have fallen into decadence. What we call decadence, according to the late English philosopher C. E. M. Joad, is “the loss of an object” — that is, our loss of an end, an aim, in existence. However that may be, our social and personal tribulations are tremendous, here near the end of the twentieth century of the Christian era.

We find ourselves in a country increasingly ravaged by hideous venereal diseases; afflicted with rapacious politicians; its cities decayed and dangerous; a considerable part of its population addicted to narcotics; its educational system for the most part ineffectual and boring; its economy in very precarious condition; its taxation oppressive, producing “disincentives” to production; its federal government using up, through taxation and borrowing, one half the gross national product; its private and its public morals shaken; its family structure dissolving; its private enterprises giving way to impersonal corporations; its citizenry dividing into hostile ethnic and political camps; its literature, its arts, and its architecture too often perverse and shoddy. But why prolong this litany of our American woes? Shine, perishing Republic!

Who is responsible for all these afflictions? Why, Christopher Columbus, of course. Anyway, he is not around to deny it.

4. The creeps at Antifa are appropriating the goofy mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers, “Gritty,” as their hellbent movement’s symbol. My old and wonderful colleague, Jillian Melchior, tells the ugly story for the Wall Street Journal. From her report.

Philadelphians have embraced Gritty. Several residents already have tattoos of his likeness. Bakeries and restaurants sell Gritty cupcakes and sandwiches. Gritty even made an appearance at a community event for children 5 to 7. None of them cried, Flyer spokesman Joe Heller boasted.

But this is 2018, and Gritty has inevitably become politicized. Two days after the mascot’s debut, the socialist magazine Jacobin tweeted that “Gritty is a worker.” The same leftists who want statues of Thomas Jefferson removed are now petitioning for Gritty to replace Mayor Frank Rizzo on a downtown mural.

And when President Trump visited Philadelphia last Tuesday, antifa and other far-left groups showed up to protest. Many carried Gritty posters and chanted “Gritty hates Trump.” Radical Philly writer George Ciccariello-Maher tweeted a picture of Gritty along with the slogan “when our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror.” He explained the tweet to me: “It’s a tongue-in-cheek quote from Marx, one of the many semihumorous appropriations of Gritty.”

5. At The American Conservative, Bradley Birzer wonders: Is “Christian Humanism” Gone Forever? From the beginning of his essay:

Though the term is rarely employed in our time, “Christian humanism” is one of the noblest movements of the last century. It’s a concept much older than the 20th century, of course, dating back to St. Paul’s visit to Mars Hill in Athens. There, Paul had challenged the Greek Stoics to discover and embrace their “unknown god.” A few decades later, St. John the Beloved sanctified the 600-year-old Heraclitean concept, logos (meaning fire, imagination, word), at the beginning of his Christian gospel.

Following this ancient tradition, many of the greatest of Western thinkers — from St.Augustine to Petrarch to Sir Thomas More to Edmund Burke — had inherited and breathed new life into Christian humanism during their own respective ages. In the 20th century, two men — T.E. Hulme in the United Kingdom and Irving Babbitt in the United States — reclaimed the 1,900-year-old concept, believing it the only possible serious challenge to modernity, the exaggeration of the particular, and the rise of ideologies and other inhumane terrors. From the grand efforts of Hulme and Babbitt a whole cast of fascinating characters arose, embracing Christian humanism to one degree or another: T.S. Eliot, Paul Elmer More, Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward, Willa Cather, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, J.R.R. Tolkien, Nicholas Berdyaev, Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Theodor Haecker, Aurel Kolnai, Bernard Wall, Sigrid Undset, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, and Russell Kirk.

6. So New York City taxpayers are funding CAIR and two other controversial Muslim groups. Gatestone Institute’s Oren Litwin has the story. Here’s how it begins:

On August 21, the New York City Council announced $250,000 in grants made to 14 Muslim community organizations, in collaboration with the New York Immigration Coalition. Alarmingly, three of the grant recipients are linked to Islamic extremism — the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).

Worse, it seems that ICNA, in particular, plans to use the money not for civic improvement but for religious proselytizing.

The grant announcement was made at ICNA’s headquarters in Jamaica, Queens, after the jumu’ah prayer service. Present were the young speaker of the city council, Corey Johnson, and Councilman Daneek Miller, the sole Muslim member of the council.

Baseballery

As luck would have it this special week, which included the federal holiday named after that great Italian navigator, there was indeed a Major League ballplayer born in the home town — Genoa — of one Cristoforo Colombo. He was Julio Giacomo Bonetti, born overa derra in 1911, before his family made its way to San Francisco in the land of Vespucci. He played three years in the Big Leagues, pitching for the lowly St. Louis Browns in their ghastly 1937 and 1938 campaigns, and then with the Cubs in 1940 for one awful appearance (he faced 11 batters, giving up three hits, four walks, and three runs) that proved to be his last in the Majors. Julio’s career record was 6-14, but the Baseball Gods did allow him one game for which he could be rightly proud. It was on May 10, 1937, when he hurled the lone complete-game win, besting the Senators 6-3 on a five-hitter at Shibe Park in St. Louis (Bonetti struck out future Hall-of-Famer Al Simmons twice).

A Dios

The daughter of our former colleague and my dear friend and predecessor as publisher, Ed Capano, passed away last Saturday. Kathleen Capano Bekkers was 52, too young, after a battle with cancer that was too relentless. She leaves three children and husband, and her dad and loving brothers and sister. Please pray for the peaceful repose of her soul, and for God’s comfort for her family.

Peace,

Jack Fowler

jfowler@nationalreview.com

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