The Weekend Jolt

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Spy Wednesday in Newport Beach

Dear Jolter,

Much of the WJ was written, and then, late last night — pffft! — it was gone. My computer showed no concern, no mercy. I’d have cried but then for some reason Hee Haw came to mind. So I’m scrambling here at 6 A.M. this Friday before Holy Week to put something together. And here it is, something. Who knows: Maybe less really is more.

Now before we round up the usual suspects, I want to tell you that next week is when the National Review Institute will be bringing its Remembering WFB program to the Golden State. On Tuesday (March 27) we’ll be in San Francisco — the “we” being Victor Davis Hanson, Rich Lowry, Andrew McCarthy, Kathryn Jean Lopez, John Yoo, and Charles Kesler — at the City Club of San Francisco. We’ve got a couple of seats left (four, to be precise), so how about you be there? Sign up here. It goes from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M., and the gang will discuss WFB, free speech, the state of the movement, and immigration (which will be the subject of VDH’s lunch talk).

The next day, on what the Old Timers used to dub Spy Wednesday (after the sneaky antics of Mr. Iscariot), we — minus Victor — will be at the Fashion Island Hotel in Newport Beach for an afternoon event (it culminates in a reception). There are six seats to be had there, so grab one of them. Get complete information here.

And now, to quote the great Gleason. . . and away we go.


1. So, “conservative” Republicans, this is why you were elected, to approve a $1.3 trillion “Omnibus,” eh? As our editorial puts it, this entire affair — the bill, the process, the fiscal consequence — is a disgrace. From the editorial:

The 2,232-page bill was written in secret by leaders of both parties, unveiled Wednesday night, and passed by the House this afternoon. If the Senate doesn’t pass the budget by Friday, the government will shut down. So much for the 72-hour rule Republicans sought back during Barack Obama’s first term. The procedural abuse means that many lawmakers are voting up-or-down on a bill they didn’t write and had no opportunity to debate. It adds up to a breakdown of the budgetary process, a particular embarrassment for Congress given that passing budgets is one of the few duties that it still discharges with regularity.

2. Is it asking too much of the president that he stand up to Putin? From our editorial:

Trump in his election campaign plainly wanted a U.S.-Russia deal with Putin even at the risk of fracturing the Western alliance. That wasn’t original to Trump; both Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama aimed at the same thing less candidly. But it’s a foolish policy, doomed to be disappointed. As it happens, Trump was frustrated in his original intentions, and his administration gradually moved toward a conventional conservative-Republican foreign policy. This is to the good, but it is an approach that lacks a presidential voice, because Trump still — with the belated exception of the latest poisonings — refuses to condemn Russia’s condemnable conduct.


1. On the new episode of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg — yet another “Rank Punditry” one — the man who starts your day, Morning Jolt -er Jim Geraghty, joins our host to discuss Cambridge Analytica, Stormy Daniels, the 2018 midterms, and of course, everyone’s favorite topic, “more.” Do listen, right here.

2. Rich did a special episode of The Editors with frequent NRO writer DJ Jaffe on the subject of how we can and must truly help the seriously mentally ill. This edition is really worth your attention — you can listen here. And consider getting DJ’s book, Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill.

3. Be one among the band of brothers and sisters who discovers the essence of Bill Shakespeare’s Henry V. Adam Carrington and John J. Miller discuss the play on the new episode of The Great Books. Lend them an ear, here.

4. Enjoy a little Rossini here, a little Cole Porter there, and ruminations about Russia, China, France, and baseball everywhere. All this courtesy of Mr. Nordlinger, on the new episode of Jaywalking. Amble over here and listen.

5. The Stormy Daniels saga and California’s abortion extremism, on display earlier this week at the Supreme Court, are what David and Alexandra discuss on the new episode of Ordered Liberty. Listen and learn here.

6. In preparation for the big NRI westward-ho to celebrate WFB, I caught up on the last couple episodes of Radio Free California. On the new one, David and Will discuss the grisly death in police custody of a mentally ill San Luis Obispo man; one city’s attempt to shut down the illegal use of taxpayer dollars to support political campaigns; and a secret weapon in limiting the global reach of that very California company, Facebook. Check it out, right here.

7. Guest-free (at least they have each other), Scott and Jeff turn the new episode of Political Beats into a review of their favorite cover songs. Of all time. Not of some time — all time. So, you gotta listen to this Very Special Episode, which you can do here.

Not 10, Not 11, But 12 Smokin’ NRO Articles that Will Thrill Your Gray Matter

1. J.J. McCullough reflects on the election of Doug Ford — populist, china-shop bull, brother of notorious former Toronto mayor Rob — as head of Ontario’s Conservative party, and the continuing ascendency of political tough guys. From his piece:

None of this necessarily undermines Ford’s electability, or Ontario’s crucial need for a Conservative government. But his rise, his success, and the accompanying philosophical sacrifices do reveal the overwhelming hunger voters have for “bad boy” personalities — the only type presumed capable of providing the energy and aggression the political arena’s current battles require. As demand for this archetype grows, in both government and media, new expectations of character and conduct are being baked into political life.

In a polarized age, a preponderance of tough guys, combined with an increasingly hierarchical, deferential political culture, can quickly breed the politics of intimidation. When the alpha male triumphs, the rest of his tribe is cowed to fall in line, while partisans in the press and social media emulate their leader’s style, bullying and bossing in their imagined roles as loyalty enforcers. Whether the boss is right or wrong about this or that becomes a more distant concern.

2. This is an exquisite profile of a venerable academic: Jay Nordlinger interviews Harvard’s Dante Della Terza. From Jay’s beautiful piece:

Dante Della Terza is one of the great dantisti, one of the great Dante scholars, of our time. They share a name, as you can see. It happened “innocently,” says the professor, with a smile. “That is what my mother named me.” He has another connection to Dante through his last name. The poet’s rhyme scheme, remember, is terza rima.

Della Terza has an office high in Widener Library, here at Harvard. It is stuffed with books, journals, and mementos, of course. On his desk, within reach, are the three key volumes: the three cantiche of The Divine Comedy, namely Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Della Terza’s copies show many years of use.

He is a professor emeritus, having retired 25 years ago, in 1993. Today, at 94, he comes to this office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from 10 to 3. In general, he spends his days as he always has: reading and writing. When I arrive, he is reading something by his onetime student Luigi Fontanella.

3. Good night, Good Knight: Jonah Goldberg puts on the chain mail, grabs the lance, and charges at the Lord High Weenies of Political Correctness at my alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross, where the school symbol, the Crusader Knight, is now homeless. “Crusadesaphobia” hath run amok. From his piece:

Bernard Lewis, arguably the greatest living English-language historian of the Muslim world, writes: “The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad — a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war.”

Or, as historian Thomas Madden has written: “Now put this down in your notebook, because it will be on the test: The Crusades were in every way a defensive war. They were the West’s belated response to the Muslim conquest of fully two-thirds of the Christian world.”

(Strained-pun alert: Surely these knights would be more palatable to the weak-ni clerics at Holy Cross.)

4. The MSM’s Facebook/Cambridge Analytica freakout prompts Michael Brendan Dougherty to ponder. Here’s how his essay wraps up:

To the center-Left, it doesn’t matter how much Silicon Valley’s tools enable extremists in the Third World, or how much wealth they extract from the public treasuries through their tax-sheltering arrangements. All that matters is that the new tools continue to keep the center-Left in power, and make them look glamorous and smart. This is a deal that Silicon Valley will take.

5. Sticking with this: David Harsanyi sees the scandal “as a nothingburger.” And then he offers this reality pill:

Here’s a thought: If you’re uncomfortable with data mining and your information being shared, don’t take surveys. Because, guess what, you don’t have to be on Facebook. You don’t have to use Twitter. You don’t have a constitutional right to play FarmVille without answering a survey. You don’t get free stuff. The very existence of social media and tech companies is predicated on mining data so that they, or third parties, can sell you things. That has always been the deal.

6. Does anyone in D.C. care about the national debt? You know what the answer is. So does Michael Tanner.

7. John Oliver is an Insufferable Horse’s Patoot One: Kyle Smith has a typically smart analysis of the lefty comedian’s Limburger-cheesy trolling of Veep Mike Pence. From the end of his piece:

Oliver must be confusing Pence with someone else if he thinks the veep is easily irritated by celebrity putdowns. Previous attempts to troll Pence by the cast of Hamilton, Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel, and people hoisting a gay-pride flag behind him at a St. Patrick’s Day parade elicited no sign of irritation whatsoever. Oliver’s action raises an enduring point of philosophy: If you leave a flaming bag of dog poop on the Naval Observatory’s doorstep, but no one comes out to stomp on it, can you really call yourself a prankster?

8. John Oliver is an Insufferable Horse’s Patoot Two: Jonathan Tobin sees the cause-and-effect of leftist idiocy on the once-civic virtue of having manners. Here’s how this very worthwhile commentary begins:

Vice President Mike Pence is a gentleman. In spite of unceasing abuse from political opponents, including the effrontery of a gratuitous lecture from the cast of Hamilton, the veep’s commitment to good manners has never wavered. The same can be said of his 24-year-old daughter Charlotte, even after the administration’s political opponents stooped to using a children’s book — one she had written (which was illustrated by Pence’s wife, Karen) to benefit charities — as an excuse to troll her family and subject them to the scorn of liberal audiences.

9. The Chamber of Commerce has released a fascinating new study, Food Truck Nation. Jibran Kahn looks at the regulatory impact on this on-wheels entrepreneurship. It wraps up thusly:

There’s something quintessentially American about the way food trucks rose up and presented a challenge to local restaurants by providing what is often a better product at a lower price. They follow in the footsteps of the Chili Queens of turn-of-the-century Texas — small-business owners who sold food from mini-restaurants in town plazas . . . and who were subsequently pushed out by regulations. Food trucks are by no means the only area of the economy affected by occupational licensing, zoning, and barriers to entry, but there is something universal about food that makes it that much more relatable. Rather than attempt to constrain those who are pushing the boundaries, we ought to celebrate and encourage their dynamism.

10. Sometimes-brutal in-your-face criticism or praise of talent (or no talent) is what rocketed American Idol to big-hit status when it first appeared back in 2002. In its new incarnation, AI has gone soft.

11. Victor Davis Hanson looks at I’m-a-Cherokee senator Elizabeth Warren and the Left’s fascination and adoption of the Confederate “one-drop” race modeling. From his tremendous piece:

Progressives, in fact, seem to like the protocols of the old Confederacy in lots of ways. Southern antebellum chauvinists once claimed that the culture south of the Mason-Dixon line was innately superior to the grubby, industrial wasteland of the north. A two-class system of masters and slaves allowed an elite the leisure and capital to pursue culture without the rat-race competition of a striving middle class. So blinkered was southern arrogance that its pre-war youth insisted that southern manhood, with its innate moral superiority, could defeat a much larger, richer, and more industrial North — a myth dispelled early on at Shiloh.

Now the new cultural divide is not North vs. South, but the blue-state coasts versus the red-state interior. The map has changed, but the new mindset of the chauvinist, mutatis mutandis, is eerily the same. In blue-state doctrine, a sinking middle class in the interior deserves to fail. But an upscale hip and cool professional elite is properly thriving on the East and West Coasts as never before — itself often supported by legions of poorly paid and mostly minority gardeners, housekeepers, and nannies who free up their supposed betters to pursue higher things without tending to the drudgery of diapers, cooking, and mowing.

12. I inadvertently dissed NRO movie critic Armond White, so I owe him, but heck, this promo of his article is deserved on the merits: His review of the hipster-angst artsy-fartsy films Isolationist Dreams in Isle of Dogs and Ismael’s Ghosts is a great read. Enjoy some of its thundering:

This overloaded storytelling is a timely cultural problem: It shows a loss of narrative certainty — and political instability — for Desplechin and Anderson’s generation of filmmakers. While news media fight for control of the social narrative, these filmmakers can’t decide which story deserves focused attention. Instead of widening the public’s imagination, they constrict it. Both auteurs shrivel into their spoiled-child selves. The self-dramatization in Ismael’s film actually evades personal responsibility just like Anderson’s self-referential dog-puppet toyland. Both illustrate Millennial methods of refusing self-examination and avoiding conscientiousness.

Ah Well, a Mere Two Pieces from Friends and Others Who Have Something Worthwhile to Say and Share

1. Justin Trudeau went to India, and returned to Canada a laughingstock. At Bloomberg, John Wingrove and Iain Marlow give a full account of the Liberal PM’s international jackassery.

2. My paisan Gerald Russello takes to The Catholic World Report to review Ross Douthat’s new book, To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism. You’ll want to read the entire review, but here’s an excerpt:

The book argues that Francis instead quickly became a controversial figure, in part because he clearly sided with the very liberal, largely European wing of the episcopate in a way that seemed designed not only to push that agenda but to criticize and even to shame the more orthodox segments of the faithful. His laudable condemnations of the “throwaway culture” of consumerism included an unsophisticated understanding of modern economics, and his focus on “encounter” with nonbelievers and “mercy” to those within the fold presaged doctrinal vagueness. And he moved deliberately to quell dissent, and indeed to punish those he saw as opponents — his treatment of Cardinal Burke being the most well-known example of several that Douthat recounts. More recently, Francis’ rapprochement with the Chinese Communist State, and the doctoring of a letter from Benedict to make it seem as if the pope emeritus was strongly endorsing Francis’ theology, further make it appear as if the Pope and his advisors are not so much serving as a mediators as acting as revolutionaries.

Francis, however, seemed determined to revisit and even undermine some of the Church’s teachings on sexuality, morality, marriage, and the family. The chapters on the early stages of the Francis papacy, including the chaotic and confused Synod on the Family, are a masterful retelling of this sad episode. Although not an edifying spectacle, it is worth being reminded of the conduct of some of the bishops at the synod, including the not-so-subtle racism of the German bishops toward their more traditional African brethren, the latter facing not just economic modernization and globalization but also a very real threat from Islamic incursions.

Palm Sunday with WFB

The wonderful NRI forum in New York City last month, held on the tenth anniversary of Bill Buckley’s death — but truly a celebration of his life and legacy — was captured by the good folks at C-Span, who report that two panels of the forum will be broadcast this Sunday on C-Span 3. Here’s the schedule:

Remembering William F. Buckley Jr. will be aired at 12:55 p.m. (Eastern). The panelists are Jay Nordlinger (moderator supreme), Kathryn Jean Lopez, Roger Kimball. It will also air on Monday, March 26 at 6:00 a.m. (Eastern).

On its heels both times will be the panel William F. Buckley’s Conservative Movement, which airs 1:49 p.m. (Eastern, Sunday) and 6:53 a.m. (Eastern, Monday). It features John O’Sullivan (more esteemed moderating!), Richard Brookhiser, Dr. Edward Feulner, and L. Brent Bozell.

You can catch a preview of the latter panel right now.

A Dios

Holy Week is upon us. Some of us anyway. As there will be no WJ next weekend (Yours Truly will be doing way too much traveling) I hope that those of you who find Easter to be the spiritual pinnacle of your year to enjoy it and derive from it all the possible graces the Good Lord makes available. To those who do not believe such, well, I nevertheless hope the same graces rain on you and yours. Along with the Peeps, jelly beans, and chocolate rabbits.

God bless,

Jack Fowler

P.S.: Yes, of course you are going to book a cabin on the National Review 2018 Buckley Legacy Cruise this week. Do that here.


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