The Weekend Jolt

National Review

Pay Heed, Good Little Boys and Girls. Or Else!

Dear WJers,

Between today and the next time we meet, the feast day (December 6) of one Nicholas of Bari (where my paisano is buried, and where his sacred remains weep) shall occur. Among his many legends, the Santa di tutti Santae got the rap for dishing out coal to deserving brats, which — Yours Truly being an admirer of negative persuasion — we shall dwell on but for a moment before your attention is directed, further down this missive, to the abundance of wisdom NR has produced these past seven nights.

To the point: December is the month of National Review Institute’s quite important Fund Appeal. NRI, to refresh your memory, is the not-for-profit journalism think tank which owns the never-makes-a-profit journal (and website) founded by Bill Buckley in 1955 (he founded NRI also, in 1992). Please make a tax-deductible contribution to NRI (and yes, even if you have given to NR, Inc.). If you don’t, I promise you, there will be coal in the stocking. And with gluten now seeming unpopular, maybe some of that in your loafers. By Saint Nicholas’ weepy bones I vow: You will be sore afraid.

Why give? NRI takes the great writers of NR (many of whom are Institute fellows), and the great wisdom they produce, and through a variety of excellent programs and events — such as the upcoming 2019 Ideas Summit — amplifies them to make Buckley Conservatism ever more impactful. Of the dozens of neato reasons our fans — especially subscribers who start reading the magazine from the back – should consider being generous now, one is that NRI (thanks to its supporters) underwrites the beloved “Books, Arts & Manners” sections that for years has given conservatism a truly meaningful platform of cultural influence.

So give to National Review Institute, please. Right here. Many thanks.

Editorials

1. The President lashes out at GM after the car manufacturer announces plant closures. We say that bluster doesn’t cut it. From the editorial:

This is a politically embarrassing development for President Trump, who has sold himself as the tribune of American manufacturing and industrial concerns, who boasts — and no doubt genuinely believes — that the success or failure of these businesses vis-á-vis foreign competitors is only a matter of negotiating deals and being “tough.” Much progress has been made in the past two years — more than Trump’s critics expected — which have seen critical reforms in the tax code and a measure of regulatory relief. But the underlying economic realities cannot be negotiated away. And while political leaders should encourage a thriving and dynamic labor market — and the job-creation and wage growth that goes with it — jobs are not a social program. Jobs are a means, not an end, and jobs dedicated to producing products that consumers do not want are jobs that are not going to last and never were.

GM’s business is putting dividends in the pockets of its shareholders. And while it is easy (and all too common) to overstate the president’s role in the economy at large, seeing to the continuing reforms that will help to drive economic growth, employment, and wages is President Trump’s job. GM isn’t asking for Trump’s advice, and he isn’t qualified to give it. Bluster isn’t going to see a single GM worker to his next job nor change the fact that Toyota builds cars that consumers want while GM doesn’t.

I’ll See Your Ten NRO Pieces and Raise You One.

1. Senator Tom Cotton doesn’t cotton to the FIRST STEP Act (neither did Andy McCarthy, as we noted in the prior WJ) seeking to reform federal criminal-justice law. From his critique:

The 103-page bill that was released the Friday before Thanksgiving has some good parts, and I don’t question the intentions of the bill’s proponents. But you may have noticed that they talk more about their intentions than about the consequences of the bill. As conservatives, we know that good intentions say little about actual consequences. And to paraphrase Thomas Sowell, intellectuals who generate ideas with good intentions rarely have to face the consequences of those ideas personally.

When proponents of the bill discuss the substance, they claim that “nothing in the FIRST STEP Act gives inmates early release.” Instead of early release, proponents say, it merely provides incentives for inmates to participate in programs. This is nothing but a euphemism. Let there be no doubt: If the bill is passed, thousands of federal offenders, including violent felons and sex offenders, will be released earlier than they would be under current law. Whatever word games the bill’s proponents use will make no difference to the future victims of these felons.

Proponents also claim that only “low-level, non-violent” offenders will benefit, and that there are adequate safeguards to protect the public. If I believed these assertions, I would support the FIRST STEP Act. But a careful reading of the bill’s text, as opposed to the talking points used to promote it, shows that violent felons are eligible for early release, and that many of the bill’s provisions go against core conservative principles.

2. His senatorial colleague Mike Lee disagrees and says FIRST STEP “deserves the support of all conservatives.” From his rejoinder:

Second, Senator Cotton contends that the bill will allow dangerous criminals to win early release. As explained above, the bill categorically excludes offenders convicted of certain crimes and provides that all other offenders are eligible to earn credits only if they are deemed a minimum or low recidivism risk. Cotton dislikes this system because it reflects too much “faith that government bureaucrats can judge the state of a felon’s soul” and is subject to manipulation by a future Democratic president.

But the legislation doesn’t ask “government bureaucrats” to “judge the state of a felon’s soul.” Rather, it directs experienced law-enforcement officers to determine whether an offender is a danger — a job they already do daily, in order to run the nation’s federal prisons. Similar risk assessments have already been implemented in Texas and Georgia, and these states are hardly the post-apocalyptic criminal hellscapes that Cotton predicts such a system would cause.

As to Cotton’s point about tomfoolery by a future administration, if a president wanted to empty the nation’s prisons, tinkering with the standards for earning recidivism-reduction credits would be an odd way to achieve that goal. As Cotton himself acknowledges, the president has broad authority to pardon or grant clemency.

3. Shane! Come back! Victor Davis Hanson sees the ostracized, community-saving gunslinger from George Steven’s acclaimed 1953 movie as a prototype for Donald Trump. From his essay:

Stevens’s movie gives us the familiar paradox of the ostracized outsider and savior in tragic literature and film (The Magnificent Seven, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider . . . ). Although they hesitate to say so, the farmers, if they are to survive, must rely on the very antithesis of their own idealistic commitment to law, order, the settled life, and the way of the future. Shane himself wants to reject gunslinging and stay civilized.

But to do so would mean that Shane’s newfound friends would be killed or driven off by the cattlemen, and their farms returned to the open range — they don’t have the skills to win a range war against cowboys and hired guns. Yet by picking up his gun and going outside the law to take down the evildoers, Shane himself —apparently a former Confederate, Yankee-hating hired gun — loses his recent claim on civilized life.

Even the very farmers whom he will save are uncomfortable with the idea that Shane is willing to shoot someone to save them. Or as one self-righteous farmer puts it when Shane warns the sodbusters about the dangers of the cattlemen’s hired gun, Wilson, “I don’t want no part of gunslinging. Murder’s a better name.” Shane himself appears impatient with gradual change and seems to believe that he alone, not the distant law, can stop the murderous bullies.

The movie ends in classic tragic-hero fashion: Shane rides into cattlemen’s town alone, wins his gunfights, is wounded, and finally rides off alone into the stormy Grand Tetons — content that he rid the farmers’ valley of the hired guns. The means he used to save the sodbusters are precisely those that must have no place in an agrarian world that, thanks to him, is now peaceful. Only a small boy, Joey, will yell out, “Shane! Come back!”

4. But you already knew that: Rich Lowry explains how the media was quite wrong about the caravan. From his new column:

Trump relied too heavily on the caravan as an issue in the midterm election, but the last week has shown how his critics were wrong to sneer.

It was conventional wisdom in the press that the caravan was a concoction of Trump’s fevered imagination. It soon would dissipate and even if not, take months to reach the United States. This widely repeated factoid was based on calculations of its movement on foot (it apparently didn’t occur to anyone that the caravan also would travel by bus or truck).

In the immediate aftermath of the election, when Trump didn’t talk about the caravan as much and Fox News covered it less, liberal commentators were outraged. The diminished attention supposedly proved that the focus on the caravan had been entirely cynical electoral politics. But there was a genuine lull in the news. With the weekend’s border incident bringing new attention, liberal outlets are back again to complaining that Fox is covering the caravan too much.

The latest once again puts the Left’s radicalism on display. It’s not just that Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be abolished; border agents can’t defend themselves from an aggressive rabble.

5. Maybe they’ll stay in Canada? Bill and Hillary commence the Nanook Tour, and the act is as predictable as . . . well, not as cattle futures. Jonathon Van Maren was there in Toronto to see the Insufferable Duo kickoff their sojourn. From his piece:

Moderator Frank McKenna, the deputy chairman of the Toronto-Dominion Bank and a former Liberal politician, barely let the failed presidential candidate settle into her oversized leather chair before leveling the million-dollar question at her: “You’re on a 13-city tour, Mr. President, Madame Secretary. Is that just because you want to hang out together, or is it because you’re testing the waters for a run at being president of the United States?”

The crowd roared with both cheers and laughter, perhaps amused at the idea that the Clintons would be jetting around the continent on tour to spend time with each other. Hillary’s response was both unsatisfying and unfunny: “Actually, Frank, I’m considering standing for Parliament here in Canada.” Ha ha. And thus the Clintons’ tour began in Toronto with the predictable game of coy cat-and-mouse that will be sure to keep her demure deferrals in the headlines and the theoretical existence of a rematch with Donald Trump among the topics discussed by political analysts. Hillary Clinton is Schrodinger’s candidate.

In the meantime, McKenna moved on to the midterms, and the Clintons predictably affirmed that they were most pleased with the results — especially the “diversity” of the candidates who had been elected this time around. The moderate success of the Democrats in both Congress and in the statehouses, Bill informed us, gave America “the chance to be a democracy again.” He wasn’t going to come out and say it, he reassured us, but we all know that there are forces at work in America that want to keep voters from the polls in order to enable the, shall we say, worst angels of our nature.

6. Nicolas Loris takes the temperature of the new National Climate Assessment. “Alarmist Fearmongering” isn’t on the Celsius Scale, but should be. From the piece:

The National Climate Assessment insists that climate change is already taking a heavy toll, and things will only get worse. Global warming has worsened heat waves and wildfires, it claims. And we’ll be seeing more hurricanes and floods, too.

But last year’s National Climate Assessment on extreme weather tells a different story. As University of Colorado Boulder professor Roger Pielke Jr. pointed out in a Twitter thread in August 2017, there were no increases in drought, no increases in frequency or magnitude of floods, no trends in frequency or intensity of hurricanes, and “low confidence for a detectable human climate change contribution in the Western United States based on existing studies.”

It’s hard to imagine all of that could be flipped on its head in a matter of a year.

This year’s report stresses that it “was created to inform policy-makers and makes no specific recommendations on how to remedy the problem.” Yet the takeaway was clear: The cost of inaction is bound to dwarf the cost of any carbon-reduction proposal out there.

The reality, however, is that all of the currently favored proposals for combatting climate change carry significant costs and (here’s the even more important part) would do nothing to mitigate warming, even if there were a looming catastrophe like the National Climate Assessment imagines.

7. America’s military readiness is being woefully shortchanged by Congress. Jim Talent said that there’s not much road left for the can to be kicked down. From the end of his powerful assessment:

What seems to be happening is exactly what I warned against earlier this year. Our leaders don’t want to raise taxes or reduce the growth rate of entitlement programs, but they don’t like expanding the deficit either, so the Pentagon will cooperate by proposing a budget that makes America’s balance sheet look better in the near term but inevitably fails to meet the armed forces’ vital procurement and modernization needs.

So the recapitalization can will be kicked down the road once more, as it has been kicked down the road again and again since the end of the Cold War. Only there is precious little road left. Our adversaries, who have always resented American influence in their regions of the world and are less and less intimidated by the successes of our armed forces in the increasingly distant past, have become powerful. Our weakness is tempting them to believe that we won’t fight at all, and nothing could be more dangerous than that.

I am an incurable optimist where this great country is concerned. I believe, as Bismarck is reputed to have said, that “God protects fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” But I do wonder: How long will He continue to immunize us from the foreseeable consequences of not using the great reservoirs of strength He’s given us to defend ourselves?

8. Grey Poupon You and Yours: Kevin Williamson explains how the Democrats have become the party of snobs and snobbery. From his essay:

The Democratic party is the political home of snobbery, a word and a concept often misunderstood. Snobbery does not refer to the cultivated preferences of those refined persons who order the ’82 Bordeaux because it is their mothers’ milk or who have an iTunes library full of Liszt because the sound of Cardi B fills them with discomfort and anxiety. The genuinely refined — particularly those cocooned by wealth — usually are not much interested in the enthusiasms or tastes of others, whereas the snob is obsessed with his own discernment relative to the low and vulgar tastes of those around him. The snob is the kind of man who sees a pair of Wranglers and sneers at the life he imagines they represent: $42,000 a year, tract house, SUV, work boots, Garth Brooks, Donald Trump. The snob isn’t a man of exacting tastes, but a poseur: The word derives from an older English word for a shoemaker’s apprentice and is intended to convey contempt for vulgar social climbers who aped the manners and tastes of the upper classes.

There is a peculiar paradox at the heart of modern progressivism: Progressives, especially Democratic candidates for office, claim to speak for the poor, the low-income, the marginalized, those born and raised without the benefits and (inevitable word) privilege of a Bush or a Romney or a McCain. But, at the same time, there is nothing they hate worse than somebody who comes from such a background entering public life: You’ll recall the sneering at Sarah Palin’s education — six years spread out over four colleges, none of them very good ones. There are many good criticisms to be made of Sarah Palin and the shtick into which she eventually sank, but she is a self-made woman who entered public service in one of the least glamorous and least lucrative ways, as mayor of a small city — as thankless a job as there is in elected office. She was ridiculed as a “snowbilly” and worse.

9. What isn’t racist? Not The Lord of the Rings! Kat Timpf sheds light on the latest multicultural accusation. Dorks for Orcs! From her piece:

I may not know J. R. R. Tolkien personally (he never returns my calls, because he’s dead), but I can confidently say that he didn’t make the orcs completely evil creatures to advance the notion that some race of humans is completely evil. No, I’d guess that the much more likely scenario is he was trying to make his fantasy story as scary as possible, and he realized that the nature of fantasy gave him the freedom to do exactly that. After all, what’s more frightening than a large swarm of completely evil, irredeemable creatures? If the orcs were just misunderstood, if they had redeeming qualities and maybe volunteered at their local animal shelter in their spare time, then the story just wouldn’t be as frightening or captivating as it is when they’re completely evil. As a fiction writer, he should be allowed to have this freedom. In fact, I’d argue that the beauty of that kind of art depends on it — and we should be careful to make sure that it’s never destroyed for the sake of something so dumb.

RELATED: Kat covers the insane claim that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is, yep, racist. Here’s her piece.

10. John Yoo and James C. Phillips continue their important NRO series on constitutional restoration. Part Five covers religious freedom. From the essay:

The new Roberts Court can begin to bring order to its protection of religion by flatly overturning two decisions: Lemon v. Kurtzman on the establishment clause and Employment Division v. Smith on the free-exercise clause. Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation may now give conservatives enough of a Court majority to restore the First Amendment’s original meaning. It could do so with the support of Congress, which in 1993 sought to overrule Smith with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed the House or Representatives by unanimous voice vote, the Senate by 97–3, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

It could also bring intellectual harmony to two clauses that the courts have often interpreted as being in conflict. For instance, the establishment clause has been read to prohibit government from doing anything that advances religion. Yet the free-exercise clause actually advances religion by accommodating religious practices that may be in conflict with otherwise acceptable law. Likewise, some have interpreted the establishment clause to prohibit any government funding flowing to a religious organization. But discriminating against religious entities just because of their faith, and giving them second-class status compared with secular entities, has been found to violate the free-exercise clause. In short, to the extent the establishment clause is viewed as hostile to religion and the free-exercise clause as solicitous of religion, the First Amendment is at war with itself. And that makes little sense historically or logically.

RELATED: In The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru responds, pointing out that Yoo / Phillips may be at odds with Justice Scalia, and that their premise and proposal “ought to encounter considerable skepticism, especially from conservatives.” This too is well worth your read.

ALSO RELATED: Yoo and Phillips respond to Ramesh. Get the popcorn . . . this is getting exciting.

11. The University of Iowa is claiming that student religious groups — such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA campus ministry — discriminate when they limit organizational leadership to co-religionists. As Howard Slugh notes, this is a “threat to religious liberty.” Or, in other words, nuts. Which, granted, is not a technical term. From his piece, a warning to Jewish students:

The constitutionally protected right of religious minorities to select their own leaders is a buffer that protects them from meddling by their neighbors and the government. Their neighbors cannot join a religious organization en masse and vote for leaders who do not share its religious purpose. The government cannot force it to select leaders more in line with the zeitgeist. Weakening that barrier would leave the fate of religious minorities to the whim of people who do not share their views. Jews and members of other minority religions have an interest in speaking out against the university’s policy.

In addition to creating the potential for abuse, the university’s policy is counterproductive. For a religious group to restrict leadership positions to individuals who share its faith is not a human-rights abuse. It evinces a practical desire to choose leaders best suited to advance the group’s religious mission. When a religious Jewish organization appoints observant Jewish leaders, it is not committing a hate crime.

Examining why observant Jews are best suited to lead religious Jewish organizations can help us better understand why the university’s policy is a mistake. To appreciate Judaism fully, one must experience it firsthand. One could read a book about Sabbath observance, repenting on the holiday of Yom Kippur, or reenacting the Jewish national origin story on Passover, but that would pale in comparison with personal participation in those practices. Living them out helps a person internalize them, as a member of the community with a shared sense of history, obligation, and belonging.

Fill in the Blank: “It’s _________ Mahoney Time”

If you said “Winchell” you are wrong. It’s Daniel Mahoney time, as in Daniel Mahoney, the Assumption College professor and a dear compadre (and occasional NR contributor), who is the author of a forthcoming (next week! December 4!) new book, The Idol of Our Age: How the Religion of Humanity Subverts Christianity. It’s published by Encounter, and you can order a copy from Amazon at that link. Here’s a dead-on take of the book by Tony Daniels:

In this short book, Daniel Mahoney brilliantly lays bare the shallow and facile but dictatorial modern religion of optimistic humanitarianism: shallow and facile because it does not acknowledge the depth and persistence of human evil, and dictatorial because it will brook no rival.

A glimpse: Chapter 9 is a lucid, powerful, and persuasive (respectful too!) criticism of Pope Francis, who Dan calls “a pontiff at the intersection of authentic Christianity and a misplaced contemporary humanitarianism.” From that chapter:

I want to say something about the place of the poor in Pope Francis’s reflections. He loves the poor and reminds us of our special duty to be concerned with their fate. At his best, he is a poet and theologian of charity. He can only be admired in that regard. Still, the biblical conception of the poor is not reducible to material poverty. One only has to think about the tension between the “poor” and the “poor in spirit” in the Synoptic Gospels’ accounts of the Sermon on the Mount. The poor are not always victims (Aristotle argues that they can be as rapacious and despotic as the rich), and terrible crimes were committed in the name of the poor or the “proletariat” in the twentieth century. In the summer of 2015, The Economist called Pope Francis a “Peronist,” correcting those who see in his social reflection a softness toward Marxism, although this is sometimes apparent in his utterances, too.

The characterization is apt. But as one observer has noted, Peronist populism created a “rancid political culture in Argentina,” one that emphasized class struggle and redistribution above lawful wealth creation. Argentina went from being the 14th richest country in the world in 1900 to the 63rd today. Sadly, one sees some evidence that Pope Francis is rather indulgent toward despotic regimes that speak in the name of the poor—his recent silence about the persecution of mainly Catholic dissidents in Cuba was deafening (the Cuban-born Catholic scholar Carlos Eire of Yale even wrote on the First Things website about a “preferential option for the oppressors”), and he was remarkably affable both with Cuba’s late tyrant emeritus, Fidel Castro, and with the ever more dictatorial Evo Morales in Bolivia. During the welcoming ceremony at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana on September 19, 2015, Pope Francis spoke of his “sentiments of particular respect” for Fidel Castro, a totalitarian tyrant who subjugated the people of Cuba for 50 years and viciously persecuted the Church. Perhaps the Holy Father needs to read Armando Valladares’s 1982 book Against All Hope, a searing account of life in Castro’s gulags and political prisons. All of this is disappointing, to say the least. The poor need political liberty, too, and the opportunities that come with private property and lawfully regulated markets. Even more disturbing is the claim by an acolyte of the pope, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez of the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences, that “China is the best implementer of Catholic social doctrine” today (Catholic Herald, February 6, 2018). This blindness toward totalitarianism and indulgence toward regimes that actively persecute faithful Catholics are hallmarks of Francis’s papacy. It is striking that Pope Francis rarely reiterates the Church’s defense of private property, a central concern of Catholic social teaching going back to Pope Leo XIII (read the very forceful defense of private property—and trade unions—in Rerum Novarum [Of New Things], as well as that encyclical’s absolute condemnation of socialism). I will put the matter bluntly: A faithful Catholic is not obliged to be a Peronist. We are obliged to live the Gospel and to exercise prudential judgment, rooted in reality and reflecting the best secular and Christian wisdom.

A New Issue of NR Is Here. The Presses, Hot, It Is Off!

And as is our custom, here are four pieces from the magazine (here, the December 17, 2018, issue) we believe should tickle your fancy (not that all of the magazine’s pieces wouldn’t tickle something).

1. The problem with white liberals (well, one of the problems), writes Teddy Kupfer, is that they believe themselves to be racists. From the piece:

But the most salient feature of the white-liberal turn may be its effect on the Democratic party, that vehicle that was supposed to redeem the U.S. from the sins of its lily-white past. Confident liberals once believed that when the Democratic party inevitably took power with support from racial minorities in a country undergoing demographic change, it would mark the end of white domination in American politics. But with woke whites so visible in contemporary liberalism, we may be on the cusp of new political conflicts. Could white liberalism threaten the stability of the Democratic coalition?

The Democratic party is less homogeneous in both the appearance of its elites and the composition of its electorate than the GOP. Yet support for President Trump among black and Hispanic men has ticked up since 2016: In January, Ronald Brownstein found that 23 percent of African-American men supported the president, as did 40 percent of Hispanic men over 50. This midterm cycle, most of the progressive candidates who generated fawning enthusiasm among out-of-state cosmopolitan whites were unable to translate such enthusiasm into electoral success. One wonders whether white liberalism will mesh well with nonwhite voters who might not share its ideological obsessions. Will militant progressivism really resonate with Hispanic Catholics or black Baptists? How will second-generation Chinese Americans react to a policy of dismantling the meritocracy to overcome the sins of the past? If white liberalism begins to dominate the Democratic party, it could wind up isolating a growing number of black, Hispanic, and Asian moderates.

That wouldn’t be a shock.

2. In the cover essay, Michael Brendan Dougherty proposes six ideas for “the populism Trump needs.” Here is Idea Number Four from the piece:

Take the conflict with China to Silicon Valley. Trump’s fixation on the media and instinctive rebellion against “rip-offs” have led him to focus his rhetorical fire on Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, the founder of Amazon, and the owner of the Washington Post. Trump could make a case that Amazon’s avoidance of taxes and its reliance on the United States Postal Service are ways of privatizing the value of America’s public goods. But he would do better to shift his fire altogether. Polling shows that while Americans do not trust major media institutions such as the Post, they do trust Amazon.

The big Silicon Valley target should be Google, whose social utility is running out. Peter Thiel has pointed out that, by sitting on tens of billions of dollars in cash reserves, the company has signaled it has no real ideas for expanding or anxiety about competition. And it is no longer developing its search technology, where it makes its real money. It is a giant firm that is betting against improvements in its core field.

And now its political effect is threatening to become toxic. First, Google’s dominance across the Internet has effectively made it the world’s most powerful spy agency. That’s already a vulnerability that American rivals could exploit. But Google is planning on making things worse, as it actively explores a partnership with the Chinese government. Already Google has done work creating a censored version of the Internet for China. It has been caught compiling user data to help the Chinese government fill out its blacklists. This partnership is likely to be great in the short term for Google, but it may give a geopolitical rival access to technologies and data that are vital to U.S. national security.

Google must be reminded, swiftly, that it exists thanks to the laws, technology, culture, and protection offered by the United States. We did not let U.S. arms manufacturers and IBM strengthen the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and Google should not be allowed to strengthen the Chinese Communist Party or make the Chinese model of authoritarian state capitalism more attractive.

3. I kid you not, it’s the annual NR lifestyle Issue. One of the big pieces is by Jonah Goldberg, about his love affair (or two) with the stogie. Puff on this:

A quarter century ago, the legendary publisher of NATIONAL REVIEW, William Rusher, argued in these pages that “a good cigar is one of the most superbly sensual pleasures known to man.” He even quoted a priest who declared it a “sacrament.”

Rusher went on to argue that the cigar was a symbol not just of exquisite taste but of ideological defiance. “In the context of contemporary American culture, a good cigar is almost as eloquent as those little American flags that so many of us wore on our lapels in the early 1970s,” he wrote. “It proclaims, first of all, that one is an individualist, not easily lured into the deadening conformity of cigarettes—or, worse yet, into the smug self-righteousness of the health fascists of the anti-smoking brigade. It asserts, second, that the cigar-smoker believes in pleasure, is ready to seek it and spend money on it, and takes time to smell, if not the flowers, then at least the seductive aromas of the humidor.”

Finally, we are creeping up on the point. Back in the early Nineties, I disliked cigars. Or to be more accurate, I disliked cigars the morning after I smoked them. But more relevant, I disliked the cigar craze taking over Washington, particularly among younger conservatives who believed that Newt Gingrich’s takeover of Congress signaled a new era of conservative “cool.” In 1996, I wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal criticizing my fellow young’uns for trying so hard to be hip. “Washington is filling with twentysomethings who think they’re P. J. O’Rourke because they drink what he drinks and smoke what he smokes,” I wrote.

4. Matthew Continetti finds that the idea of freedom is an “unused weapon,” and its language is one to which President Trump should avail himself. From his article:

Trump recognizes the magnitude of the China threat. Beginning with his defense bill and continuing through his National Security Strategy released at the end of 2017, the president has made great-power competition with China a national-security priority. Vice President Mike Pence articulated the new approach in a speech to the Hudson Institute in October. “As we speak,” Pence said, “Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach, using political, economic, and military tools, as well as propaganda, to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the United States.” And America, Pence warned, would be idle no more. “Our message to China’s rulers is this: This president will not back down—and the American people will not be swayed.”

The president has used military, economic, and diplomatic power to arrest the decline of U.S. influence in East Asia. His policy is a necessary corrective after years of strategic inertia and geopolitical cluelessness. But it also downplays an essential part of any conflict with autocratic regimes: the defense of human freedom and democracy. At Hudson, Pence spoke of the “dream of freedom” that sadly “remains distant for the Chinese people” and warned that China increasingly encroaches on freedoms inside the West. You won’t hear such rhetoric from Trump. He sees the U.S.–China relationship, among others, as a contest of brute strength and an amoral calculation of dollars and cents.

That’s his loss and ours. As the United States enters a “Second Cold War” with China, it ought to remember the way Ronald Reagan won the first Cold War. That victory came not only through strength of arms and economic output, but also through a considered and sustained assault on the ideological foundations of the Soviet Union. Reagan put it this way in his 1982 address to the British Parliament: “We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings.” Seven years later, the Berlin Wall fell. The collapse of the Soviet Empire began.

And Now, a Brief Word about Brexit

1. On NRO, John O’Sullivan lays into PM Theresa May’s agreement with the EU, which he predicts will go down to defeat in the House of Commons on December 11, with plenty of Tories voting “nay.” From his analysis:

The May cabal hints that if the prime minister holds the rebels’ majority to fewer than 100 votes, she will try again in a month or two. That’s a sign of a weaker political position, of course, and a dangerous strategy into the bargain. If there seems to be no real penalty to voting no the first time, the numbers against her plan may well rise to a level that would make it impossible to seek a second vote. Indeed, that is probably now the case. Tories as loyal and as prudent as the former defense secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, say frankly that the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) agreed between May and the EU is “doomed.”

May herself has now embarked on a nationwide tour to “sell” the WA to the voters on the assumption that they will then press the MPs in her own divided party to rally round the government line. It’s a quixotic enterprise reliant mainly on the fact that the public seems to have some sympathy for May’s dogged persistence in pursuing her Chequers plan. But the obstacles to its success are more substantial than their admiration for her.

May’s actual plan is extremely unpopular with the voters who don’t think it achieves what they voted for as Brexit. The more they know about it, the less popular it becomes. In most polls, it is the least popular among several Brexit outcomes (including Remain). And its unpopularity is stronger among the Tory activists — who give it about 20 percent support — than among the voters generally. Yet it is the activists who would presumably be exerting pressure on her MPs.

2. Meanwhile one of the true champions of Brexit, MEP Dan Hannan, writes for Conservative Homes that he cannot support May’s plan because it includes the terrible aspects of being an EU member state while junking the good bits. From his analysis:

But here’s the thing. When I suggested accepting a half-in-half-out settlement, I assumed we’d aim to keep the good half and junk the bad half. The Eurosceptic demand, down the years, had always been “common market, not common government”. That was the position of Teddy Taylor and Dick Body and, before them, of Neil Marten and Enoch Powell, of Hugh Gaitskell and Clement Attlee. It seemed a safe bet that the government would respond to the 2016 vote by seeking something along those lines. I wanted Swiss-style EFTA membership, but I was prepared for pretty much any reasonable compromise.

Yet, incredibly, Theresa May has come back with a deal that keeps the worst aspects of membership and junks the potential advantages. Instead of staying in the common market but leaving the EU’s more federal policies, we are doing the reverse. We propose to leave the common market but keep, as much as any non-member can, the obligations imposed on us by the European Arrest Warrant, the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the rest.

Instead of doing a Switzerland — leaving the Customs Union but retaining chunks of the Single Market — we shall end up staying in the Customs Union but leaving most of the Single Market. In other words, we shall prejudice our trade with the EU 27 while simultaneously making impossible trade deals with anyone else.

If you had asked three years ago whether leaving the EU while keeping the Customs Union was desirable, you’d have been laughed at by all sides. It had always clobbered Britain uniquely as the member state that did the most trade outside the EU. The idea that we might stay in it while giving up any say over it, obliging ourselves to follow all EU concessions to third countries without any incentive for those third countries to reciprocate to us, would have been too absurd to contemplate.

3. But wait! In The Corner, Michael Brendan Dougherty argues “take the deal.” From his post:

Brexit has shown that the U.K. has a serious constitutional crisis threatening to swallow the legitimacy of its government. It is supposed to have a sovereign Parliament, and yet it now makes decisions by national referenda. Voters imposed Brexit on a Parliament that was and remains disinclined to execute it. That is the source of some of the troubles. But failing to execute on it, turning back to the voters to sort out the endless and internal Tory party drama, or putting the question back to voters in an additional referendum — with the obvious hope of ducking out of responsibility to execute on the first one;  all of these options seriously worsen the Constitutional crisis, and threaten to break faith in Britain’s democracy.

4. But Keep Waiting! In The Corner, Maddy Kearns (from Scotland, she has a wee doggie in this fight) says she dinnae agree with MBD. From her rebuttal:

National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty has recommended that Parliament pass Theresa May’s Brexit deal, effectively proposing that Britain marry her sunk costs and move on to greener pastures.

Ah, yes; greener pastures.

Greener pastures surrounded by a ten-foot, bureaucratic fence as the EU continues to treat the U.K. as a “Member State for the purpose of E.U. law” and the European Court of Justice maintains jurisdiction. Greener pastures with the EU as gatekeeper since, if ratified, May’s plan cannot be exited without the EU’s say-so. Greener pastures with a U.K.-wide “backstop”, keeping the entire nation in the customs union, and tying Northern Ireland ever closer to the EU. Greener pastures where free trade with non-EU countries is compromised. Those greener pastures.

Lights. Cameras. Reviews!

1. Armond White checks out The Favourite and gives it a royal walloping. Here’s how the review begins:

Fish-eye lenses are a hack filmmaker’s favorite gimmick, and Yorgos Lanthimos can’t seem to use enough of them in The Favourite, his satire of 18th-century British royals. He, along with cinematographer Robbie Ryan, offers funhouse-mirror portraits of the decadent ruling class: gout-stricken Queen Anne (Olivia Colman); her scheming confidante Lady Sarah Marlborough (Rachel Weisz); and Sarah’s counter-conniving cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone), who, after insolvency, is anxious to scheme her way back into power. These proto-feminists, each skilled in anachronistic modern profanity, practice ruthless political amorality — and cunnilingus. Lanthimos titillates, by way of indulging contemporary fascination with celebrity, here represented by upper-class perversions, the legacy of depraved Western history.

Lanthimos always goes for distortion. His reputation (based on the unwatchable amoral tales Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer) is based on fake avant-garde narrative experimentation. But any smart-aleck high-school film nerd can tell you that Lanthimos is copying Kubrick, the fish-eye lenses maestro, who couldn’t resist preening technology to underscore his misanthropic tales. Lanthimos outlived Kubrick and so gives us the fish-eye cliché to reassure Millennial viewers that it’s okay to laugh at people who are targets of their envy and disdain.

2. Kyle Smith reviews the best-film decisions of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, and declares — the Oscar race is well underway.

3. Armond finds If Beale Street Could Talk to be more of a harangue. From his must-read review:

Call it Baldwinetics. The current trend of quoting James Baldwin to validate contemporary racial concepts and political fantasy explains If Beale Street Could Talk, an adaptation of Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name that director Barry (Moonlight) Jenkins has made into a new movie hodgepodge.

Beale Street’s love story between a pair of Harlem youths, Fonny and Tish (Stephan James and KiKi Layne) is overfreighted with modern racial anxieties. The film’s Baldwinetics might confound naïve moviegoers who are sold the idea of seeing a powerful personal story with political resonance, but they get a helter-skelter lecture instead. Baldwinetics reduce the learned author’s moral and political exertions into marketable fodder.

Jenkins’s graceless storytelling misreads Baldwin’s hard thinking and anguished writing — Millennial fans admire his anguish — resulting in a mush-minded protest movie. Like Spike Lee, Jenkins builds a collage of cultural references and topical complaints. Cutaways to black-and-white photo montages interrupt the love story with police harassment, a strategy that includes a white racist Meth-head cop — an apparition likely borrowed from Lee’s Clockers or 25th Hour.  Such incidents make this movie more about Ferguson, Mo., than about Harlem’s losing its classic history to the millennium’s white gentrification. Fonny and Tish frequently escape Harlem to enjoy New York’s bohemian West Village enclaves, even encountering an ethnically sympathetic landlord. This sop to the white liberal audience presents Fonny and Tish as lambs to America’s racist slaughter. Such sentimentality might fool naïve viewers with no sense of racial history or urban housing patterns, but it won’t lure black audiences who don’t want or need to see more suffering at the movies (as the box-office failure of Moonlight proved).

A Wonderful Remembrance of Roger Beckett

Our good friend, the dynamic head of the Ashbrook Center, dearly departed, was toasted a few weeks back by another good friend, Robert Alt — himself a dynamic head, he of Ohio’s Buckeye Institute — at Claremont Institute’s Salvatori Dinner. From Robert’s tribute to a great conservative:

He had his likes: bourbon, music (preferably jazz), and cigars. I take some credit for that last one. I introduced both Roger and Peter Schramm to smoking cigars, but anyone who knew either Roger or Peter or both, knows that when they adopted something, they did so bigly, and made it their own.

And he also had his loves.

He loved America. His was not a hollow patriotism, but a love of the idea made into a country. His love of America pervaded even into small things. He drank bourbon specifically because it was American whiskey, and regularly chided those of us whose choice of whisky was not.

He loved the Ashbrook Center. He bled Ashbrook. He was a persistent and powerful ambassador of everything for which Ashbrook stands. This advocacy was not undertaken because he had worked with Ashbrook for more than 20 years, but rather because he understood that a country based upon ideas can only be perpetuated by an educated citizenry, and — thus — it was through Ashbrook’s unique role — teaching the teachers — that he relentlessly sought to save, preserve, and protect the America that he so dearly loved.

The Six

1. Anti-Semitism? What anti-Semitism? Jewish liberals, says Karol Markowicz in the New York Post, have developed a major blind spot. From her piece:

Then there’s Linda Sarsour. Last week the Women’s March leader called out “folks who masquerade as progressives but always choose their allegiance to Israel over their commitment to democracy.” This was another old Jew-hating trope: namely, that Jews secretly harbor dual loyalty to Israel. And this is just the latest in a long litany of anti-Semitic comments she’s made.

What’s even more odious is that the Sarsours of the country are called on to help heal the hatred they sow. Last year, Sarsour sat on a panel at the New School about fighting anti-Semitism. And just last week Al Sharpton, who has a history of saying heinous things about Jews in the 1990s, was on MSNBC to discuss — you guessed it — fighting anti-Semitism.

It’s like a bad joke. The guy who has referred to Jews as “interlopers” and “diamond merchants” is now the one claiming to fight Jew-hatred. Has he ever apologized? Jews forgive public figures like Ellison, Omar, Sarsour and Sharpton. But they would never encourage other targeted groups to do the same.

2. It’s not really about cakes, because . . . it never was: The Christian Post reports on how the Arizona Supreme Court will hear the case of two Christian artists fighting a Phoenix law that is behind the order that they create wedding invitations for same-sex ceremonies, which they morally oppose. From the piece:

In July, Brush & Nib Studio sent an appeal to the state Supreme Court. They are being represented by the Scottsdale, Arizona-based law firm Alliance Defending Freedom.

Jonathan Scruggs, senior counsel with the ADF, said in a statement released earlier this year that he believed the “government must allow artists to make their own decisions about which messages they will promote.”

“Artists shouldn’t be forced to create artwork contrary to their core convictions, and certainly not under threat of criminal fines and jail time,” stated Scruggs.

“Breanna and Joanna are happy to design custom art for all people; they simply object to being forced to pour their heart, soul, imagination, and talent into creating messages that violate their conscience.”

3. At American Greatness, Ed Ring tells the deadly tale about how liberal / Left / Democrat policies have turned California into a fire pit. From his piece:

California’s 2018 wildfires have been unusually severe, but they were not historic firsts. This year’s unprecedented level of destruction and deaths are the result of home building in fire prone areas, and not because of wildfires of unprecedented scope. And while the four-year drought that ended in 2016 left a legacy of dead trees and brush, it was forest mismanagement that left those forests overly vulnerable to droughts in the first place.

Based on these facts, smart policy responses would be first to reform forest management regulations to expedite public and privately funded projects to reduce the severity of future wildfires, and second, to streamline the permit process to allow the quick reconstruction of new, fire-hardened homes.

But neither outcome is likely, and the reason should come as no surprise — we are asked to believe that it’s not observable failures in policy and leadership that caused all this destruction and death, it’s “man-made climate change.”

Governor Jerry Brown is a convenient boogeyman for climate realists, since his climate alarmism is as unrelenting as it is hyperbolic. But Brown is just one of the stars in an out-of-control environmental movement that is institutionalized in California’s legislature, courts, mass media, schools, and corporations.

RELATED: At Flash Report, Katy Grimes catalogues just some of the many ways Jerry Brown and the Golden State’s enviro-extremists have turned California into tinder.

4. OK, I can’t help myself: Here’s even more on the nexus between conflagration and Green wackadoos. At The American Conservative, James Pinkerton takes us back to TR and FDR and the cousins’ efforts to harness nature (didja know that as late as 1964 the Dems were still touting the TVA in the party platform?). From his piece:

This cessation of ambitious new public works — stopped by legislation in the ’70s and by litigation ever since— is regarded as a triumph of green thinking. Red ink-minded budget cutters, too, are probably pleased.

Yet here’s the thing: even if virtually all water development projects have been stopped — as detailed here by Fresno resident Victor Davis Hanson, who’s seen the desiccation first hand — population growth has not stopped. In 1970, Americans numbered 205 million; they number more than 326 million today.

So what do we do with all these people? Where should they live? That’s a question that nobody seems to want to answer. And so, in the absence of policies that permit the continued dispersion of the population to reclaimed land, the default has been to pack folks into increasingly crowded conurbations.

For instance, a look at a population map of California shows that its people are jammed into just a few clusters. The result of this dense packing has been runaway housing costs: the median home price in Los Angeles County — a place of 10.1 million — is $615,000. One might ask: how do ordinary people afford that? Answer: they don’t.

Yet whenever Californians seek to venture outside of the built-up cores, the lack of protective infrastructure haunts them — and burns them. That’s the unmistakable signal of the recent fires, which most grievously impacted small towns such as Paradise, California, in faraway Butte County. The town’s former residents — all 27,000 of them — will have to think hard before they return to the charred remains of their homes, knowing that they face the prospect of another inferno in a few years.

5. More from The American Conservative, this time from Robert Merry, who dwells on how the new American elite despises . . . America. This is a humdinger of an essay. From it:

Today we look back on that old elite, if we look back on it at all, as a relic of the distant past. But this development — the old elite’s slow loss of self-confidence after World War II and then its obliteration as a cultural force — represents a profound transformation in America’s social history. What emerged was a new country with a new elite.

In place of the old-school folkways and legends and values of the Anglo-Saxons, we have what is known as a meritocratic system dominated by a class of strivers who have managed to scope out the new system and rise to the top. It was captured in a recent Atlantic article by Matthew Stewart, an avowed member of the new elite but a critic of it. “The meritocratic class,” he writes, “has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children. We are not innocent bystanders to the growing concentration of wealth in our time. We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy.”

Further, as far back as 1995, social commentator Christopher Lasch, in a book entitled The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (published posthumously), excoriated what he called America’s “new aristocracy of brains.” He wrote: “There has always been a privileged class, even in America, but it has never been so dangerously isolated from its surroundings.” He foresaw an emerging chasm between the country’s new upper class and its great mass of citizens. “The new elites,” he wrote, “are in revolt against ‘Middle America,’ as they imagine it: a nation technologically backward, politically reactionary, repressive in its sexual morality, middlebrow in its tastes, smug and complacent, dull and dowdy.”

Lasch’s characterization of the elite’s low regard for the masses calls to mind Hillary Clinton’s put-down of Donald Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential race. Her famous “deplorables” insult reflected the cultural chasm foretold by Lasch. This mutual animus between the elites and the people they purport to govern is an ominous development in America and thus merits an exploration. Our starting point will be that old WASP establishment that dominated America for nearly three centuries before expiring with hardly a cri de coeur. It should be noted that this article represents no call for any kind of restoration. History moves forward with a crushing force and doesn’t pause for nostalgia. But to understand where we are, we must understand where we came from. And the old WASP establishment represents a large part of where we came from.

6. Re. the battle between “class” (as in upper) and “elites,” First Things has published a very interesting essay by Robert C. Koons on T.S. Eliot’s views on populism. This is meaty stuff. From the essay:

To grasp Eliot’s point, we must first understand precisely what he means by “culture.” Professional anthropologists typically define culture in such a way that every group of human beings has a culture, in the sense of a pattern of interrelated activities. Eliot defined culture more narrowly: A culture is a deeper way of life, the incarnation of a shared religion, coming in more or less conscious forms. The culture of a people is always a particular incarnation, in a particular place and time, of a universal (or nearly universal) religion. It is quite possible for two regions at particular points in time to incarnate the same religion equally well but in different ways: Compare the culture of English recusants with Irish peasants or Italian Benedictines, or Eliot’s own poetry with that of Dante or Alexander Pope. Even the diversions and entertainment of a community can be expressions of its religious life, from explicitly religious festivals to betting on horses or reading newspapers in coffeehouses.

Eliot’s definition of culture as incarnate religion creates the possibility of anti-culture. A purely secular, nonreligious society would lack a culture in Eliot’s sense. So, too, would a society that had successfully privatized religion, so that its religion, insofar as it could be incarnate at all, was incarnate only at the level of individual lives. Finally, a society whose dominant religion is gnostic would also be anti-cultural. By “gnostic religion” I mean a religion or quasi-religion that rejects the very possibility of its being incarnate in this world and in this age. A philosophy such as Marxism or modern liberalism, which rejects existing social institutions and advocates their total replacement, is likewise anti-cultural, in Eliot’s sense (at least, until the eschaton is successfully immanentized).

True culture at the highest level is the product of an artistic and critical elite, but an elite that is grounded in, nurtured by, and responsible to the upper class. Great artists don’t get ahead through their own talent and ethic alone. They are trained in and sponsored by upper-class institutions.

A society with a healthy culture, supported by a class hierarchy, realizes that culture at two levels, one relatively unconscious (folk culture) and the other relatively conscious and reflective (high culture). A leveling, elite-dominated society produces something quite different: the relatively unconscious level of pop culture, and the more conscious level of elite anti-culture.

BONUS: In New Oxford Review, Anne Barbeau Gardiner reviews a new (alas, in French) book by Fr. Édouard-Marie Gallez, La Malentendu Islamo-Chrétien, which makes the very troubling charge that for years Catholic theologians have been B.S.-ing us and each other about Islam’s truths, especially about its Nazarian roots. It’s a very powerful read.

Viva Gatestone Institute!

I’m on the board. I love Gatestone, which serves up commentary that is bold and daring in a PC-dominated world. Claiming personal privilege, I share three recent pieces that you should read (and please do subscribe to the daily email).

1. Indeed, Palestinians are being abused . . . by Arab regimes. Bassam Tawil lays into a double standard of an Israel-obsessed media. From his report:

Perhaps this disparity helps to explain why the international community does not read about human rights violations in Arab and Islamic countries. There is, however, another reason, not related to the journalists’ safety.

The international community are not interested in what the Arabs and Muslims are doing to the Palestinians because the Western journalists are hell-bent on covering only stories that reflect negatively on Israel.

Palestinian rioters killed by the Israel Defense Forces on the Israel-Gaza border attract the attention of scores of Western journalists and media outlets. By contrast, Palestinians tortured to death and otherwise killed in Syria receive zero coverage in Western media organizations.

The 3,903 Palestinians killed in Syria in the past seven years are of no interest to the Western correspondents or their editors. As far as these journalists are concerned, the reports of the human rights organization monitoring the condition of Palestinians in Syria are rubbish fit for the wastebasket.

2. France continues to come off the rails. Giulio Meotti watches and warns. From his report:

Robert Ménard, the mayor of the southern town of Béziers, declared that “teaching Arabic will create more ghettos”. French authorities seem to ignore that the vast majority of terrorists from France have been French citizens, who spoke a perfect French and, unlike their parents, were born in France. They were perfectly “integrated”. They rejected it.

The confirmation of the Islamist wave came last September in a shocking report from Institut Montaigne entitled, “The Islamist Factory.” It details the extreme level of radicalization of the French Muslim society. According to its director, Hakim El Kharoui, extremist Muslims in France are “creating an alternative society, parallel, separate. With a key concept: halal.” Macron has done almost nothing to stop this expansion.

“Two or three Salafist mosques were closed in 18 months, [but] foreign funding of mosques was not banned,” said National Front party leader Marine Le Pen recently. The goal of foreign funding has been detailed by the former chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, Jean-Frédéric Poisson, in his new book, “Islam, Conquering the West“. “The expansion of Islam in the West is part of a strategic plan developed by the 57 states that make up [the Organisation of] Islamic Cooperation — a sort of Muslim United Nations — which theorized the spread of Sharia law in Europe”, Poisson said in an interview this month. “They openly declared the ambition to install a ‘substitution civilization’ in the West.”

RELATED: The Institut Montaigne’s very detailed report on Islamism. It’s quite unnerving.

3. Turkey has occupied northern Cyprus since 1974. And since then has wiped out its Christian culture. Uzay Bulut reports.

Baseballery

In this Era of Pitch-Count Obsession, we Nostalgiarians can’t help but remember those contented days when men were made of iron — or, in the case of Wilbur, wood. Men like Cy Young winner Mike Marshall, whose was one of the most durable relief pitchers in MLB history. His 106 appearances (all in relief) in 1974 with the Dodgers broke the previous Major League record of 92, which Marshall himself had set the previous year with the Expos (even though Marshall had finished second in the 1973 Cy Young vote, his prickly ways got him traded). Marshall, who holds a slew of records, led the NL three times and the AL once (in 1979 with the Twins) in total appearances, and three times in saves (31 with the Expos in 1973, 21 for the Dodgers the next year, and 32 for the Twins on 1979). In Marshall’s 14-year career (admittedly, with an underwater record of 97-112 and a 3.14 ERA), he appeared in 724 games.

That’s a heap of games. But only 24 came as a starter, and most of those came in 1969, when the 26-year-old right-hander was tossing for the expansion Seattle Pilots. It wasn’t a pretty season, for the team (64-98) or Marshall, who went 3-10, with an obese 5.13 ERA. Sometimes though, the Baseball Gods do smile, and they did on Marshall one evening in Seattle, allowing him a singular, exceptional performance, when he tossed his sole career shutout: On May 9th at the tiny and . . . sickly . . . Sick’s Stadium (which no doubt would have elicited this comment from Betty Davis), Marshall blanked Frank Howard and the visiting Washington Senators on a two-hitter.

If you want to know more about the legend, the curmudgeon, the Doctor of Kinesiology, read this.

BONUS: Let’s dabble in this and forthcoming WJs with a favorite of baseball fans, the nickname. Today we’ll make note of Jesus Manuel Rivera, alias Bombo, who played for the Expos, Twins, and Royals between 1975-82. Truth be told, in my next lifetime I want to be called “Bombo” Fowler. That should offset my having been called Boob in a previous one.

A Dios

Yep. Today is the day: I’m off on the NR Cruise, which vamooses from Ft. Lauderdale. We’ll start promoting the next one (August 2019, Canada / New England) next week, because, well, there is always another NR cruise to promote. In the meanwhile, Advent begins on Sunday for many of us, so what say we get in the right frame of mind, doling out comfort-and-joy tidings, wishing peace on earth, avoiding nothing-dismay gossip, and all such seasonal jazz, ok? Good. And if I might: Please, in your prayers, say one for NR, which, like fools, drunks, and the United States of America, depends on the Almighty’s mercies and protection.

Your Truly,

Jack Fowler

Or, if you prefer, Falalalala, who also can be contacted at jfowler@nationalreview.com for the tendering of compliments and bellyaches.

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