The Weekend Jolt

National Review

Crispin, Crispinian, Crispiniest

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Thursday past was the Feast Day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, twins made famous not only through there martyrdom (in 286 under the reign of Diocletian), but through the quill of one W. Shakespeare, who marked their Feast Day in the stirring speech by King Henry V on the morning of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The speech is here.

Laurence Olivier’s majestic version in the 1944 film Henry V can be enjoyed here.

We are in the final days of NR’s 2018 Fall Webathon, seeking to raise at least $225,000 in generous support from kindly readers, the substance of their generosity going toward the costs associated with our efforts to mightily cover these critical upcoming elections. Our entreaties have been many, but the respondents few in perspective: of the six million who have come to NRO these past four weeks, just some 2,100 have seen fit to contribute. We might bemoan that, but instead we relish the company of these few, these happy few, this band of brothers and sisters. You’re in luck: Space in the fewness remains. Join us so that we, like the vastly outnumbered but well-armed British longbowmen, might beat the enemy far superior in force, far hellbent in purpose.

All righty, that said, and before we get to the cornucopia of wisdom that comprises this and every Weekend Jolt, there is one programming note: I gently remind you to subscribe to NRPLUS. Of course, if you want to know anything and everything about NRPLUS, then go here.


1. The Saudis have offered numerous denials and Keystone Bedouin explanations — “lies,” as we bluntly label them — for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at their consulate in Turkey. Where stops the buck? We say, with the Crown Prince. From the end of our editorial:

So what is the right approach? The U.S. should exact some meaningful price on Riyadh that expresses our displeasure with such a massive disregard for international norms. American reaction should remind the Saudis that we have the whip hand in the relationship. It should not, however, lead to a fundamental rupture of the alliance. Sanctioning the officials involved in the killing is an obvious move, and American lawmakers of both parties seem poised to suspend arms sales to the Saudi regime, at least for a while. Rolling back support to the Saudis’ ongoing campaign in Yemen should also be on the table.

The first step, though, should be for President Trump and the administration to acknowledge forthrightly that bin Salman deserves the blame for this killing, and not to publicly accept the bromide that he is an enlightened reformer poorly served by his murderously rogue operatives. The choice here isn’t between dissolving our Middle East strategy or pretending the Saudis did nothing wrong. The president should not provide public-relations cover for this murder.

2. The battle over the seat now held by retiring Arizona Republican Jeff Flake is a brutal slugfest. We weigh in on behalf of Martha McSally and urge all Arizona voters to do the same. From the editorial:

Representative Martha McSally began her career in public service not as a politician but as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan. In 2001 she fought a Department of Defense policy that required women in combat to wear body coverings while serving in Saudi Arabia, and she has remained an outspoken critic of the woeful state of women’s rights in that part of the world ever since. Since taking office in 2015, McSally has been an exponent of center-right positions on foreign policy, immigration, and social issues. Now Arizonans have the opportunity to elect her to fill Jeff Flake’s soon-to-be-empty Senate seat.

McSally is facing Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, and the contrast between their résumés is conspicuous. Sinema was a prominent anti-war activist in the 2000s, handing out material that criticized “U.S. terror” in the Middle East and appearing on radio shows with assorted crackpots. When one libertarian activist said that he ought to be permitted to join the Taliban if he so pleased, Sinema responded on air, “Fine. I don’t care if you want to do that, go ahead.” She passed out flyers that denounced President Bush as a “fascist” and an “imperialist” and once said the Bush administration was waging war for the purpose of expropriating oil.

3. Cory Booker, when not inventing imaginary friends, has concocted a plan to massively hike the estate tax. We find it terrible. From the editorial:

If you’re rich, the estate tax is a reason to invest in economically unproductive estate planning or to spend the money rather than hand it on. Booker’s 65 percent rate — a significantly higher rate, by the way, than any advanced country levies — would be a much stronger reason to do either than today’s 40 percent rate. (The effective rate would be even higher than 65 percent because of other changes Booker proposes.) Because that rate would apply only to the very largest estates — for married couples, it would kick in at $100 million — it would affect the behavior of a small slice of the population, it is true; but it is the slice that does a disproportionate amount of the country’s saving. A lower rate of national saving will in the long run mean a smaller economy, with lower wages, than we would otherwise have had.

Because a Dozen Ain’t Enough, Here are 14 Jim-Dandy NR Articles that Should (For a Short While) Satisfy Your Hunger for Exceptional Conservative Wisdom

1. Asks Lee Edwards in an important essay, What Is Conservatism? He has a four-part answer, and here is how it starts:

My answer draws upon four sources: (1) The Sharon Statement, drafted by M. Stanton Evans and adopted by Young Americans for Freedom at its founding meeting in September 1960. (2) Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, which says that the essence of conservatism lies in six canons. (3) Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative talks about the two sides of Man: the material and the spiritual. (4) Buckley’s own Up from Liberalism.

I begin with the main points of the Sharon Statement, recognized by The New York Times as a “seminal document” of the conservative movement and accepted by many conservatives as the best brief statement of conservative ideals. . . .

I then offer my digest of Kirk’s six conservative canons: (1) A divine intent, as well as personal conscience, rules society. (2) Traditional life is filled with variety and mystery, while most radical systems are characterized by a narrowing conformity. (3) Civilized society requires order and hierarchy. (4) Property and freedom are inseparably connected. (5) Man must control his will and his appetite, knowing that he is governed more by emotion than reason. (6) Society must change but slowly.

RELATED: You can find the Sharon Statement here.

2. “Conservatism is a philosophy, not an ideology,” Edwards wrote elsewhere in his essay. Jonah Goldberg, sorta, disagrees. From his (very respectful) rebuttal:

I understand what Lee is saying here. There is a very old and perfectly respectable argument that “ideology” is bad, a kind of a false mental construct that people rely on to make sense of the world. I was on a panel with Charles Kesler recently, and he took a similar swipe at ideology. Philosophy in general and conservatism in particular are supposed to be grounded in reality and facts, not false political abstractions. That’s why Russell Kirk used to quote H. Stuart Hughs on how “conservatism is the negation of ideology.”

I think this is wrong. Or it’s right, but only if you define ideology in this way. And I don’t think that’s necessary or correct. An adherence to the old and tried against the new and untried is every bit as ideological as its opposite orientation.

I think ideology is simply a worldview. We all have a worldviews: i.e., checklists of principles and generalizations that we think are both true and valuable.

3. We followed up Michael Brendan Dougherty’s important NR mag essay on The Case against Pope Francis with a symposium on the Church in crisis. One of the participants was my ace bud, Professor Daniel Mahoney, who in part had this to say:

One must add that Pope Francis himself is increasingly autocratic and bereft of sympathy for those who remain faithful to traditional Church teachings: They are, in his view, “rigid,” doctrinaire, and heartless and must be driven from a transformed Church. His inner circle shamelessly castigates a truth-teller such as Archbishop Viganò. Francis acts more like an oriental potentate, an agent of revolutionary change, than a guardian of Christ’s teaching. He will leave behind a Church that is hopelessly politicized, morally lax, and at odds with any traditionally Christian understanding of sin and repentance — a Church that has no place for the grace and mercy that lie at the heart of God’s demanding love. At least the Borgia and Medici popes, however personally corrupt they may have been, deferred to Catholic doctrine. Francis’s “humanitarian” substitute for a recognizably Catholic dispensation will speed up the decline of the Church and the dechristianization of the West.

4. More Catholic: Half a century after his death, Marlo Safi looks at papist and author Jack Kerouac (an NR subscriber!). From her piece:

As Kerouac aged, he reclaimed the Catholic identity he had inherited from his devout parents, although to the reader, the influence was often muffled under the Benzedrine and booze-fueled bacchanalia of his youth, especially when in the company of characters such as cowboy-Casanova Neal Cassady, a close friend of his. Toward the end of his short life, he rediscovered the Marian prayers from his childhood, when he’d been an altar boy. He even became incensed when anyone suggested that his writing didn’t reflect his devotion. He once retorted, “All I write about is Jesus” during a 1968 interview with The Paris Review’s Ted Barrigan, who had asked why he never wrote about Jesus despite his observance of Christianity. He also said that On the Road, his magnum opus and a staple of modern American literature, “was really a story about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God.”

Kerouac’s conservative sentiments evolved with the hippie generation, and even though many on the left considered him a hero, he came to refer to them as the “Castro-jacketed New Left,” and he loathed the counterculture his writing inspired in the ’60s. He was fiercely anti-Communist and anti-liberal and was often described as both a nationalist and a patriot. He accused the “New Left” of not believing in “Western-style capitalism, private property, simple privacy even of individuals or families, for instance, or in Jesus or any cluster of reasons for honesty.”

RELATED: Kerouac’s somewhat infamous and boozy Firing Line performance (discussing hippies) can be seen here.

5. Jay Nordlinger expands on a recent magazine article about Farida Nabourema, who is attempting to end the 51-year father-son dictatorial rule of Togo by the late Gnassingbé Eyadéma and his son Faure. From Jay’s piece:

Repeatedly, Togo has been ranked the unhappiest country in all the world, by the U.N. body that does such rankings. Yet Faure rules on, doing what is necessary to remain in power. That includes jailing one of his half-brothers, who had been his minister of defense. Kpatcha Gnassingbé was accused of plotting the overthrow of Faure, and was arrested while seeking refuge in the U.S. embassy, perhaps on the same spot where his dad and the others killed Sylvanus Olympio. Kpatcha was sentenced to 20 years.

Farida Nabourema is a co-founder and leader of the Faure Must Go movement. She has been a guest of the Oslo Freedom Forum, which hosts an array of human-rights activists. She is a lovely woman, an obvious combination of steel and sparkle.

She was born in 1990 and turned to dissidence when she was just 13: This was when she saw her father arrested, as he had been many times before, starting in 1977. (It was in 1985 that he was tortured so severely.) Her dad was trained in philosophy and law, but he could not hold a job, owing to his dissidence — so he decided to buy land and become a farmer.

When he was arrested that time in 2003, he was detained for three days. When he got home, his daughter had questions — burning questions. He answered them. He told Farida about life in Togo under dictatorship. In fact, he dug up books and journals — literally dug them up. He had buried them in the backyard, as they were banned, and if you were caught with them, you could pay a serious price.

6. Last week marked the centenary of Russell Kirk. In a wonderful piece, Matthew Continetti seeks to do justice to the legacy of a true founder of the conservative movement. From his piece:

Kirk offered his readers neither ten-point policy agendas nor well-wrought plans for reform of Social Security and the defense acquisitions process. He provided general principles or canons of conservatism: belief in the existence of a transcendental moral order; a fondness for customs, prescriptions, and prejudices (rightly understood); a reliance on prudence; love of variety of social roles and orders and classes; support for private property; fear of concentrations of power in government, business, and labor; an understanding that order precedes both justice and freedom.

In a 1990 missive collected in James Person’s essential Imaginative Conservatism: The Letters of Russell Kirk, Kirk told Adam Meyerson, then-editor of the journal Policy Review, “For conservatives, the first necessity lies beyond politics. It is the regaining of a spiritual and moral object in life, the lack of which is the cause of most of the troubles that afflict mankind nowadays. Without a recognized end in existence, we are flung into what Burke called the ‘antagonist world of madness, discord, vice, confusion, and unavailing sorrow.’”

The danger to this approach, Irving Kristol pointed out, was that it might reduce conservatism to nothing more than nostalgia for a romanticized past. What was necessary, Kristol wrote, was nothing less than an ideological conservatism — a conservatism that “thought politically.” To think politically, Kristol said, was to be interested in “shaping the future.”

7. Doesn’t the public deserve an accounting of the progress of the Afghanistan War? Jim Banks says yes. From his analysis:

The administration’s semi-annual report to Congress shows little progress over time. Each assessment over the past five years has recorded essentially the same threat level. The opening line of the threat assessment in November 2013’s report stated, “The convergence of insurgent, terrorist, and criminal networks is pervasive and constitutes a threat to Afghanistan’s stability.” Almost five years later, the June 2018 report’s threat assessment said that Afghanistan still “faces a continuing threat from an externally supported insurgency and the highest regional concentration of terrorist groups in the world. These pervasive insurgent, terrorist, and criminal networks constitute a threat to Afghanistan’s stability.”

The most recent United Nations update on civilian casualties shows the consequences of these threats. More civilian deaths in the Afghanistan war were reported from January to June 2018 than at any other period in the last nine years. The situation is only held in balance by international donations into the accounts of an Afghan government riddled with corruption.

According to the administration’s latest assessment, the Afghan military requires $6 billion annually, yet the Afghan government provides less than 10 percent of that total. Two key components of the military, the special security forces and the air force, together require more funding than the Afghan government collects in revenue annually. I fear we are building an unsustainable military in Afghanistan.

8. In the New York Times, Eric Posner attacked advocates of conservative jurisprudence, calling them a threat to New Deal bureaucrat-intensive protections against Big Business. David French slaps back, declaring that the administrative state is a threat to America’s Constitutional order. From his rebuttal:

Posner notes that a number of Supreme Court justices have expressed skepticism about the constitutionality of a number of aspects of the administrative state. Yet rather than deal seriously with their objections — or seriously with the reasons for the Founders’ decisions — Posner locates conservative objections in a wistful longing for the past:

The modern conservative jurisprudence is an exercise in nostalgia, a yearning for pre-New Deal America when, supposedly, government was less oppressive and people were freer than they are today. You can see this nostalgia in the homilies to olden times in Justices Gorsuch’s and Kavanaugh’s lectures — and their insistence that answers to today’s challenges can be found in a theory of government invented in the 18th century by men wearing breeches and powdered wigs.

You can almost feel the condescension. This is the legal academic’s equivalent of the Monty Python sneer that “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.” Those Founders looked funny. They wore old clothes.

Perhaps — just perhaps — there are enduring reasons for the separation of powers. Perhaps concentrating legislative power in Congress — the branch of government closest to the people — helps protect liberty and ensure democratic accountability.

9. Off many a radar, but not Michael Tanner’s, are the scores of ballot initiatives that Americans will consider this November. From his column:

Not every ballot measure is a step in the right direction, however. Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, and Utah will vote on whether to expand their Medicaid programs. Those measures are liable to prove costly — Medicaid is already the fastest-growing part of most state budgets — without significantly improving health outcomes for low-income residents.

Two states, Arkansas and Missouri, are also likely to approve an increase in the minimum wage. Such measures almost always prove popular with voters but often end up hurting the poorest and most vulnerable, whose jobs may be eliminated, outsourced, or automated as employment costs escalate.

But the prize for perhaps the worst ballot idea goes — naturally — to California, which will vote on whether to allow local communities to impose rent control. Approval can be guaranteed to benefit the wealthy and middle class while reducing the availability of rental housing for the poor. It’s almost as if the measure’s supporters had never glimpsed an economics textbook.

RELATED: I heartily recommend you visit Ballotpedia to find out more about referenda across the fruited plains.

10. Did you pay your student loans? What a maroon! Jason Delisle and Cody Christensen want you to know that the Democrat-hatched “Aim Higher Act” would forgive billions of such debt, to be transferred to John Q. Taxpayer. From their analysis:

The act would also increase the generosity of another loan-forgiveness program: the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which gives better repayment terms to borrowers in non-profit or government jobs. These borrowers have their debts canceled after just ten years of payments. Combining that benefit with the lower monthly payments under the Democrats’ plan results in the borrower in the above example paying just $9,000 toward the $30,000 loan — with the government forgiving the rest.

Such generous repayment terms transform federal loans almost into grants, signaling that borrowing more is better than borrowing less. For graduate and professional students who, unlike undergraduates, can access unlimited federal loans for tuition and living expenses, the Aim Higher Act would turn the loan program into a veritable ATM that dispenses taxpayer dollars, at least for those who ended up earning middle-class incomes.

11. Democrats, Put Back the Surfboard: Conrad Black sees no Blue Wave. From his new column:

Whatever the polls or the anti-Trump media say, the country knows that unless the local candidate is a person of outstanding merit, and there are many in the Democratic party, a vote for the Democrats is an affirmation of sociopathic conduct, unlimited illegal immigration, failed public policy, the resumption of a flat-lined economy, and a diffident and ineffectual pacifism in the world, where allies lapse and vacuums are filled by terrorists; and China steps confidently toward the headship of the world’s nations. The animus against Trump is strong and tenacious, and not entirely difficult to understand; his style is that of the traditional Ugly American, the braggart and the rich bombast; but it is not the style of a yob or even an Archie Bunker. He is evidently an educated man and without a trace of racial or religious or gender bias. And, as I have astonished many by pointing out, he achieved more before he was inaugurated president than any previous holders of his great office except Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Grant, and Eisenhower. Each of these except Madison was a world historic figure before being nominated, and Madison is, with Moses, Hammurabi, Justinian, and Napoleon, among the world’s greatest law-givers.

Those repelled by Trump will not soften until he has retired as president, as with those who hated Franklin D. Roosevelt for spurious ideological or mythic reasons (such as that he gave Eastern Europe to Stalin); or those who disparaged Reagan as “an amiable dunce,” in the words of Clark Clifford, the ageless and elegant Washington fixer and an unsuccessful defense secretary. It would be at least premature, and perhaps wildly optimistic, to compare Trump to FDR and Reagan, the two greatest presidents since Lincoln, but as the voters proceed to the polls in two weeks, they will have to reflect on the indisputable fact of President Trump’s successes. He took a sluggish economy where GDP growth per capita had declined from 4.5 percent under President Reagan to 1 percent under President Obama, under whom federal debt increased by 233 percent in eight years. He has focused attention on the unutterable scandal of the steady influx of millions of illiterate peasants, including many violent criminals, across the southern border, and is the enemy of the permissiveness of “sanctuary” and the prohibition of constitutionally mandated census-takers to ask respondents’ citizenship. Trump has made himself the sole possible agent of enforcement of nuclear nonproliferation by his actions to prevent North Korea and Iran from becoming nuclear military powers, a status that his predecessors effectively conceded to them.

RELATED: John Fund sees a blue splash.

12. Maddy Kearns remains on the trans beat, and in her latest piece profiles a doctor caught on the wrong side of the new orthodoxy. From the beginning of her story:

The global debate on transgenderism has become toxic for all sides. In the U.S., the Trump administration sparked outrage after its apparent intention to restrict the legal definition of “gender” to one’s sex at birth was leaked to the New York Times. In the U.K., a government-led consultation on whether a person can change his or her legal gender by self-identification alone provoked feminist outcry, while a ComRess poll found that 63 percent of Conservative-party MPs are reluctant to express their views lest they be called “transphobic.” And in Canada, this month, a world-leading psychologist in the field of gender dysphoria has been exonerated at long last after being caught in the crossfire.

Following three years of legal fees and media silence at the request of his ex-boss and the advice of his lawyers, Dr. Kenneth J. Zucker has reached a public settlement with Toronto’s Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for unfair dismissal and libel. The Centre’s $586,000 payout was accompanied by its public apology for, among other things, publishing the false allegation on their website that Dr. Zucker had called a transgender patient “a hairy little vermin.”

13. John Yoo and James Phillips believe the new Kavanaugh-strengthened SCOTUS will put some pepper in the shorts of the administrative state. From their analysis:

If we read these auguries correctly, Kavanaugh might join the other four conservatives on the Court in resurrecting three methods for restoring control over the administrative state.

First, Article II of the Constitution vests all executive power in the president, except for any explicit enumerated exceptions. The Constitution vests in the president alone the responsibility to see that “the Laws be faithfully executed,” and it implies that all federal officials engaged in law enforcement must fall under his control. As Hamilton explained in Federalist 70, this structure maximizes accountability — the president is ultimately to blame — while vesting the executive with the “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch” and “energy” needed to wield its unique type of power, particularly in a crisis.

But when Congress began creating independent agencies under the belief that bureaucrats should exercise technical expertise, it sought to insulate these agencies from politics. So Congress made the agencies “independent” by making it difficult for the president to remove agency staff, as well as sometimes making their funding independent of Congress. Although the agencies violate the Constitution’s vesting of executive authority solely in the president, the Supreme Court upheld their independence during the New Deal under the political pressure of FDR’s court-packing plan (in the case of Humphrey’s Executor). In Morrison v. Olson (1988), the justices reaffirmed agency independence by upholding the independent-prosecutor law, which triggered Justice Antonin Scalia’s finest dissent.

14. Stephen Moore has penned a really interesting piece on his sit-down with Brandon Straka, the young political activist who has launched the #walkaway campaign, which urges Democrats to leave their party. From the interview:

It’s fairly obvious that this movement is a frontal assault against the groupthink narrative of the Left and its false claim of the moral high ground in our national culture wars. Straka says the Left has surrendered any pretension of moral superiority through its win-at-all-costs, heavy-handed tactics, a conclusion validated by the revolting behavior of Democrats during the Kavanaugh hearings. He tells me that for too long he “stood by and watched formerly sensible people become social-justice warriors who misconstrue facts, evidence and events to confirm their own biases that everyone who doesn’t comply with their prejudiced conclusions or follow their orders is a Nazi, racist, bigot, white supremacist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, alt-right extremist.” I ask him if he feels comfortable as a gay man in conservative circles. He says he has been warmly accepted by most.

He tells me that as a former addict, he learned the subversive repercussions of the Left’s “victimhood” obsession. The cure for addiction is to take control of your own fate, and to stop blaming others for your own faults and failures. “Victimhood,” he says “is antithetical to self-improvement” and taking a handle on your own life. “The Dems’ most insidious lie is that no amount of hard work will allow you to overcome your victimhood or the privilege of those around you.” When I ask him to lay out the unifying principles of the #walkaway campaign, he unhesitatingly replies: “unity, equal opportunity, free speech, personal empowerment, and love.”

Four Magazine Pieces from the New Issue of National Review (Lots of Education Articles, and Plenty on Other Matters Too)

1. Jay Nordlinger visits the Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, “the unlikeliest villain you ever met.” From his piece:

I ask DeVos — how did you get religion?” What I mean is, How did you come to embrace the cause of education reform, especially school choice? She answers, “My oldest son is 36 years old, and when he was entering kindergarten, my husband and I decided we would begin supporting a small faith-based school in the downtown of Grand Rapids, which was serving the neighborhoods in the area, mostly minority and low-income families.”

In addition to giving, she volunteered at the school. That is, she gave her time. It became clear that, for every child at the school, there were ten, twenty others whose families wished them there but could not find a way. Well-off parents — including the DeVoses — could send their own kids to any schools, but it was a different story for poor parents. “It became a matter of fairness to me,” says DeVos. “It’s not fair.”

She and her husband threw themselves into the education cause, and they soon entered politics. Betsy, for example, was the chairman of the Republican party in Michigan, and Dick was its gubernatorial nominee in 2006, losing to the Democratic incumbent, Jennifer Granholm.

2. What happens when the Left tries its hand at education reform? You get re-education, says Frederick Hess and Grant Addison. Here’s how their essay begins:

This July, in sunny San Diego, Calif., a thousand educators from 27 states gathered for an immersive five-day meeting. The Standards Institute, hosted twice annually by New York–based UnboundEd, provides “standards-aligned” training in English-language arts, mathematics, and leadership. What differentiates UnboundEd is how it slathers its Common Core workshops with race-based rancor and junk science — and the snapshot it provides into the ongoing transformation of “school reform.”

UnboundEd CEO Kate Gerson opened the institute, telling the assembled: “If you are under the impression that there are good white people and bad white people, you’re wrong.” Gerson informed her charges that racial biases are pervasive, universal, and something “you cannot be cured from.”

For this reason, UnboundEd’s training in reading and math instruction is “grounded in conversations about theroles that race, bias and prejudice play in our schools and classrooms.” Its Standards Institute prepares educators to be “Equity Change-Agents.” To become one, participants are told, they must first acknowledge that “we are part of a systematically racist system of education” and recognize that “we have participated in this paradigm through instruction and pedagogy.” As its “Bias Toolkit” explains, UnboundEd sees its mission as “disrupting patterns of implicit bias, privilege, and racism in ourselves, our organization, and in the education field.”

3. Remember when the University of Missouri went bonkers in 2015 in response to SJW antics? What a contrived “outrage.” But then came the boomerang. David French revisits the controversies and their aftermath. From his report:

Two things happened at nonce. On the one hand, the Missouri protests galvanized a national movement. On campuses across the United States, student protesters were energized. They issued demands, collected scalps, and introduced the new lingo of “woke” protests to a country that was just beginning to understand the depth of leftist commitment to intersectionality and identity politics.

On the other hand, students began to vote with their feet, and they stampeded away from the University of Missouri. The 2015 freshman class at Mizzou was immense: Almost 6,200 first-year students flocked to the campus. In 2016 that number dropped to 4,770, and in 2017 it dropped again, to 4,134.

And that wasn’t the only consequence. Donations plummeted. The university cut more than 400 jobs and closed seven dorms. Black and white enrollment dropped, with black enrollment declining by a staggering 42 percent and white enrollment dropping by 21 percent. It turns out that when you describe your university as a racist hellhole, fewer black students want to enroll.

Missouri’s activists may have won their battle, but they lost the war. They flexed their campus muscles, but in so doing they demonstrated to the wider world that they were unreasonable and totalitarian. University activism depends on a degree of public indifference. So long as campus protests remain confined to the campus environment, the protesters have an immense amount of leverage. Progressive administrators or professors are terrified of being labeled insensitive or — God forbid — racist. They will capitulate time and again.

4. On the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One’s battlefield hostilities, Allen Guelzo looks at its amazing wreckage. From his essay:

But the most profound transition wrought in America by the Great War was in the nature of government itself. Woodrow Wilson came to the presidency in 1913 as the prince of the Progressives, and he at once began to assemble the scaffolding of a new administrative state through the Federal Reserve Act. His efforts were aided by constitutional amendments to secure the levy of a national income tax, to institute the popular election of U.S. senators, and to impose a national prohibition on alcohol. Entrance into the Great War widened the scope of administrative control, justifying the creation of a Fuel Administration, a Food Administration, a War Labor Policies Board, a War Industries Board, and a Shipping Board, which created an Emergency Fleet Corporation to build dry docks and piers, commandeer privately owned vessels, and even seize enemy ships. That control reached even into the schools: In Philadelphia, the School Mobilization Committee organized 1,300 public and parochial schoolboys as farm workers. The war, complained Randolph Bourne, licensed the Progressive state to become “what in peacetime it has vainly struggled to become — the inexorable arbiter and determinant of men’s businesses and attitudes and opinions.”

The Six

1. Our pals at The New Criterion have read Father George Rutler’s new book, Calm in Chaos: Catholic Wisdom for Anxious Times, and like what they see. Good! I love the padre (who was the principle celebrant at our founder’s Memorial Mass in 2008, and who has written many a time for NR). From the review:

The Rev. George William Rutler is our Cardinal Newman, our Dean Inge, our G. K. Chesterton, our Ronald Knox. His combination of wit and erudition in the service of the cure of souls has by its nature always been a rare thing. In this post-literate, ephemera-addicted age, it is an absolute rarity. His new book, Calm in Chaos: Catholic Wisdom in Anxious Times, draws from a timeless well of wisdom to address exigent, timely matters. All is not well in the historical Church, and Fr. Rutler dwells on some of those discontents and deformations in these thirty-six brief but pointed essays. Others deal with contemporary political matters — his essay on President Trump’s magnificent speech in Warsaw is particularly powerful — others still on the smorgasbord of cultural interventions that interpose themselves between a lively, inquiring mind and reposeful contemplation.

2. At Gatestone Institute, Dennis MacEoin provides two reports (here is Part One and here is Part Two) updating all on Britain’s vile and notorious “grooming gangs,” consisting of “Asian men” who thrive on raping white women, and exposing shocking fault lines in British politics. Here’s how MacEoin’s first report begins:

On July 24, 2018, Britain’s Home Secretary, conservative MP Sajid Javid, issued orders for research into the ethnic origins of the country’s many sexual grooming gangs that had involved large numbers of loosely-termed “Asian men”, who, over many years, had taken vulnerable young white British girls to use or pass on for sexual purposes. Most of the men have, Javid has stated been of Pakistani extraction, which makes the Home Secretary’s intervention significant. Javid’s father came, as did many other Pakistani immigrants, from Punjab, and with only £1 to his name. He became a bus driver, then a clothing store owner. Yet his five sons have all become fully integrated Britons, with successful careers in business, politics and the public sector. They are all models of second-generation immigrant achievement, miles away from the men in the gangs. Reporting on the Javid family, The Times wrote:

“Javid’s appointment as the first non-white person — and the first with a Muslim background — to hold one of Britain’s great offices of state is the culmination of a six-decade family journey.”

Given the great potential for controversy over identifying ethnicity as a factor in serious crimes, Javid showed courage in taking this move only months after his appointment in April to lead the Home Office. Criticism came quickly from the Labour Party. “Jeremy Corbyn denied there was any ‘problem’ with Pakistani men and abuse, saying: ‘The problem is the crime that’s committed against women from any community.” His combined political and ethnic experience will have shown Javid, based on previous Home Office bans and academic reports, that any such investigation might be used by the far right to attack Pakistanis and Muslims.

Crossing party lines, Javid made his commitment to investigate the ethnic origins in a letter to Sarah Champion, the Labour Member of Parliament for Rotherham, the first city to experience grooming gangs on a large scale, and the site of the UK’s largest ever child sexual abuse scandal. Just under a year before, Champion had come under fire for daring to draw public attention to the problem of the preponderance of Pakistanis in the gangs.

3. At California Policy Center, Ed Ring analyzes the various referenda on the state and local ballots in the Golden State and sees the potential for another massive plundering of cash. From his piece:

To summarize, in 2016, voters approved new taxes and payments on bonds (not including the $4.0 to $9.0 billion per year in “millionaire” taxes that were not new, but were continued by the passage of Prop. 56) totaling $6.5 billion per year. In the 2018 June primary, California’s voters approved another nearly $700 billion in new taxes and payments on bonds. And this November, voters have the opportunity to approve (or reject), $3.6 billion per year in new taxes and bond payments.

For the children. For education. For safety. For safe drinking water. The list goes on, and the stories are compelling. But here’s the problem: Even if all of the 2018 tax and bond payments are approved, and those payments are added to the payments on new taxes and bonds already approved in Nov. 2016 and June 2018, the total is “only” $10.0 billion. Why “only”? Because the estimated payments on public employee pensions in California are estimated to increase from $31 billion in 2018 to $59 billion in 2024, and that is the “normal” scenario, not one reflecting the impact of a major correction in the value of stocks, bonds, and real estate.

4. Candy-arsery is alive and well at American University: The College Fix reports that the D.C.-based college’s student government has created a “safe space” at the offices of the Women’s Initiative for those students who need “to seek refuge from a campus event on due process.”

5. More Fix: Meanwhile, here is what tax dollars are underwriting at San Diego State University. Drew Van Voorhis has the story:

At a “Free Vibrator Day” event hosted at San Diego State University on Tuesday hundreds of the battery-powered sex toys were distributed to students who had lined up for the complimentary devices.

The event was held in the Pride Suite of SDSU’s Aztec Student Union, with a line of students — mostly females — flanking the side of the building and a student organizer calling out “destigmatize masturbation” to passersby.

Jill McDevitt, also known as “Dr. Jill,” is a San Diego-based sexuality educator with a PhD in human sexuality who coordinated the event with the help of an adult novelty retailer called CalExotics, which supplied the approximately 500 vibrators given away to students. McDevitt also partnered with a student feminist club at SDSU called the Womyn’s Outreach Association to put on the giveaway.

A flier advertising the event states its intent is to free women from the stigma of masturbation.

6. Wow. These people really are hell-bent. Writing in The Federalist, Margot Cleveland reports on how the Obama Administration resettled underage illegal immigrants to states with no parental-consent laws. From her piece:

Last week, I reported that buried in a federal court opinion was a startling revelation: the Obama administration Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) transported minor illegal aliens to New Mexico for abortions to avoid state parental notification laws. Further digging in documents filed in the case, but not mentioned in the court opinion, reveal an even more extreme abortion-on-demand mindset of those charged with caring for the girls.

First, several email threads confirm last week’s reporting that under the Obama administration, girls were transported or transferred to other states to avoid parental notification laws. For instance, one email referenced the “need” to drive a minor to San Antonio from another Texas-based shelter. In this email, the ORR representative added, “we had driven minors from El Paso to Albuquerque NM which is bigger distance from your program to San Antonio [in] order to get this procedure done.”

Lights. Cameras. Punditry.

1. Film or, really, a hoax? Armond White thinks the latter of Suspira. From his review:

Suspiria, the new film hoax by Luca Guadagnino (the fraud who perpetrated last year’s Call Me by Your Name), is a new kind of political epic. It uses the same plot as Dario Argento’s 1977 horror film Suspiria, but Guadagnino’s 152-minute length outdistances it. The story of American dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), who in 1977 Berlin joins a dance troupe that fronts for a witches’ coven, now parallels the real-life terrorist exploits of the Red Army Faction in 1977. Guadagnino updates the plot with horror-movie clichés and modern political conceits. Horror movies are generally felt to express suppressed desires, but Guadagnino’s Suspiria is an epic that shows the feminist fear and loathing rampant in today’s politics.

Guadagnino is nothing if not trendy — but he’s artsy-trendy. Some conservative filmgoers will probably prefer to ignore his lockstep with liberal tenets and see Suspiria as just another collection of generic horror-film devices. But consider this: The film’s production began in late 2016 and early 2017, which dates to the American presidential election that roiled feminist politics. Guadagnino’s timely homage stays consistent with Argento’s original intention to show a triumvirate of witches who “manipulate world events on a global scale.”

2. Kurt Vonnegut’s 1971 play, Happy Birthday, Wanda Jane, is being shown in New York City. Kyle Smith has seen it. And what he sees is a wanna-satire klunker that just isn’t funny. From his review:

Masculinity gone haywire could be the basis for a pointed satire but the thing about a successful satire is . . . it’s funny. Wanda June mostly isn’t. Mostly it feels as if it’s playing to the cheap seats. It might have had more salience in 1970, when cowboys and soldiers were all over TV and average dads actually did teach their young sons how to handle a hunting rifle. Now that culture of manliness is a subculture and the dominant view is snarky disdain for whatever Hemingway wannabees may be left among us. Referring to a rifle as an “iron penis” or suggesting there’s something sexual about men killing each other might have been cutting-edge stuff in 1970. Today that kind of material feels as hoary as the mother-in-law jokes the Vegas comics were doing in the same era. Satire that amounts to telling the audience what it already believes, in terms it already uses, isn’t cutting. It’s just flattery.

3. Armond’s take on Mid90s is, well, less than positive. From his take:

Actor-turned-writer-director Jonah Hill (age 34, the rotund guy from Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street but more credible in less ostentatious films such as The Baby Sitter) seems to have learned nothing from the pop music of his youth, except how to exploit it — using his CD collection for street cred. This practice is a weak extension of how Martin Scorsese has used beloved pop songs, a practice that shifted into the bizarre desecration of pop music in Quentin Tarantino films. Both of Hill’s mentors use music as semaphore — shortcuts to the complicated social and personal experience that pop music expresses with greater eloquence than most movies do. Hill comes somewhere in between Scorsese’s and Tarantino’s pop-smarts; so it is his lack of understanding — the smug, self-satisfied simplification of the songs that underscore Stevie’s life — that is offensive.

The essence of Hill’s cop-out lies in the non-threatening fecklessness of his gang of skateboarding layabouts. Hill’s group portrait of teenage American “diversity” resembles what used to be called Central Casting. It lacks the authenticity of Catherine Hardwicke’s Los Angeles-set Lords of Dogtown (2005), whose story about hopeless boys was, unexpectedly, even more convincingly empathetic than her female-puberty debut Thirteen had been. Hill’s juvenile view of adolescent experience as rife with suicide, violent siblings, dysfunctional homes, and distracted parental role models merely repeats media clichés — ADD drugs and malt-liquor 40s — eventually loses track of the politics and social developments behind how ’90s youth declined.

4. Kyle Smith believes Julian Schnabel somewhat succeeds in his new Van Gogh flick, At Eternity’s Gate, starring Willem Dafoe. From the review:

Yet if Schnabel, the director of one of the few truly sublime films released this century, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, is a shaky writer he brings the appropriate visual allure to the story. Using colors and landscapes familiar from the canvases, he creates moments of serene beauty out of watching Van Gogh work, reveling in how the land, or a model, or even a still life looks through the painter’s appreciative gaze. A Van Gogh movie is not the place to exercise restraint: “I want to be out of control, I want to be in a fever state,” the painter says, and who could doubt it, from looking at the The Starry Night? “The faster I paint,” he adds, “the better I feel.” At one point Van Gogh produces 75 paintings in 80 days. Rebuke and shame hit me as I realized I couldn’t produce 75 movie reviews in 80 days. In Arles, Van Gogh was an eruption of life force.

And its awful opposite number. Schnabel parts company with most biographers in that he advances a theory, from Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s book Van Gogh: The Life, that the end of the painter’s life was not suicide but involved an accidental shooting. Still, darkness was a constant companion. Out of mercy, or respect, Schnabel does not depict the deranged moment in which Van Gogh sawed off his left ear because he was despondent about feeling rejected by Gauguin, instead limiting himself to Van Gogh’s dazed recollection of the event. That is Dafoe’s big moment of the film, yet it doesn’t quite break the heart.


1. Writing in The Abbeville Press, author and journalist Norman Black looks at Charles Lehrsen’s 2015 biography Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, and sees a heroic attempt to salvage the reputation of a dramatically distorted (and vilified) public figure. From the review

During his career, Cobb was the idol of millions of fans and received bushels of letters asking advice about how children could get into the game and other baseball-related questions. He answered most letters and sometimes sent a pamphlet with pointers in it or a picture. When someone asked for his autograph, he invariably said how flattered he felt.

Cobb died in 1961, and the story of his life was quickly re-written to cast him as a belligerent, southern, racist monster. Leerhsen, in a talk at Hillsdale College in 2016, said that he also thought this was true, that is until he began to research sources that previous Cobb biographers had ignored. That research revealed a totally different Cobb than portrayed in books and a Hollywood movie after his death.

2. My boy Andy (Fowler!) is a writer for the Knights of Columbus, and as we enter the glorious time of The World Series, he thought it a good time to assemble an All-Star line-up comprised of Knights, including Babe Ruth in right, Mike Sweeney behind the plate, Ron Guidry on the mound, and Sahen Victorino in center. Read it. Did I tell you the author of the piece was my son?!!

3. My colleague Nick Frankovich waxes briefly on the subject of unhittable pitching.

4. And my colleague Teddy Kupfer cannot but help respond to Nick’s thoughts.

A Dios

The aforementioned son was down in hurricane-devastated Florida (a few weeks back, he covered the destruction leveled by an angry Mother Nature in North Carolina). Friends, we must thank God if such stuff does not touch us, give to good causes which help those affected, and pray to that they receive strength to deal with the long aftermath.

The Creator’s Blessings on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, at which you can lob grenades or rotten cabbages.

P.S.: Today I sponsor my dear friend Jake, son of Bald Scot and Sweet Cathy, at his Confirmation. It is a particular and undeserving honor to stand up for this young man. God is good.

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