Dear Weekend Jolter,
Well, the Big Day Cometh. Speaker Pelosi? Senators Scott, Hugin, McSally, Braun, Hawley, Cramer? Governors DeSantis, Walker, Stefanowski? The cake ain’t baked, so vote and maybe even think positive thoughts.
Let me inspire the latter: Today, 48 years ago, Jim Buckley was elected to the United States Senate! And today, 38 years ago, Ronald Reagan was elected President.
Now go out there and win one for The Gipper!
And then celebrate what is worth celebrating on the National Review 2018 Buckley Legacy Conservative Cruise (December 1 – 8 in the sunny Caribbean on Holland America Line’s luxurious Oosterdam). There are still cabins to be had! Affordable as all heck. Find out all the info you need to know at www.nrcruise.com.
1. The ghastly murders at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue by an anti-Semite was done in service to “a distinct, ancient evil.” From our editorial:
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who alerted the police to the attack on Saturday, is right that such evil “does not know religion, race, creed, [or] political party.” In the modern world, anti-Semitism is a fungible prejudice under which Jews have been branded capitalists or Communists, nationalists or globalists, pitiable and degraded or cunning and all-powerful. Its adherents are often convinced that they must extinguish Jews because Jews are trying to extinguish them. Bowers’s belief structure contains elements of white supremacy — he expressed concerns about mass migration and the eradication of the white race — but its core was the hatred of Jews, whom he believed were promoting white genocide through their supposed control of the government, the mass media, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
It should go without saying that such beliefs are appalling and not shared by anyone in the political mainstream. It wasn’t that long ago when an attack of this type was treated as an occasion for our political tribes to stop bickering and respond with a unified message. But the spectacle that unfolded over the weekend was sickening: As the blood was drying, there was a rush on the left to link the killing to Donald Trump, the Republican party, and conservatism more generally. The president inspired the killing, it was said, by drawing attention to the caravan of Central American migrants currently heading toward the U.S.–Mexico border and speculating on Twitter that George Soros was providing it with material support. Never mind that the murderer hated Trump and thought he was a “globalist” being manipulated by nefarious Jews, or that his apparent hatred of refugees and immigrants predated the caravan story.
RELATED: Ben Shapiro argues how to fight anti-Semitism.
2. Reaction to the whack-job pipe bomber, Cesar Sayoc, now under arrest, went from zero to political in a split second. We condemn the deed, and the ensuing rhetoric. From the editorial:
Of course, even before Sayoc was identified, the media and the Left were blaming President Trump for the bombs. We’ve said it many times before, but it has to be said again: Harsh, overheated rhetoric is endemic to our political system, and it should not be confused with incitement to violence. When James Hodgkinson, a registered Democrat who campaigned for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election, attempted to assassinate a group of Republican congressmen at a baseball practice last June, we did not blame Sanders or Hodgkinson’s party. Instead, we wrote, “The person singly responsible for Wednesday’s horrors is the man who pulled the trigger.” Here, too, the responsibility for Sayoc’s bombing campaign rests with him alone.
The double standard in these cases is flagrant. Even though Republican majority whip Steve Scalise was nearly killed in the Hodgkinson attack and more than a dozen of his colleagues could have been killed but for security neutralizing Hodgkinson, the event was quickly memory-holed and the media didn’t resound with calls for Bernie Sanders, or, say, Rachel Maddow, to tone it down.
RELATED: Andy McCarthy, who knows a thing or two about bombs and bombers, says obnoxious political rhetoric does not lead to mass-murder attack. Read his piece.
3. Democrat senator Bob Menendez is up for reelection. He is the poster boy for political corruption, and we encourage New Jersey voters to oust him next Tuesday. From the editorial:
Democrats often cite the supposedly corrupting influence of “money in politics” in their ongoing crusade to restrict the means of political expression by curbing independent political expenditures and other spending. Here, they’ve turned a blind eye to an old-fashioned, outright case of bribery simply because the bribed is one of their own. Menendez’s worsening numbers may have the party wishing it had drafted another candidate, but it didn’t, and it has continued to support him.
Obviously, its reasoning is simply instrumental. Nobody seriously disputes Menendez’s sleaze or venality, but the margin in the Senate is razor-thin, and Menendez is a reliable vote. His record in office, save for a few relatively muscular foreign-policy positions that increasingly put him at odds with his party’s mainstream, is that of a replacement-level liberal Democrat. Newspaper editorial boards that have attempted to defend his candidacy have succeeded only in making clear the transactional nature of their support.
With Election Day less than a week away, there is no meaningful pressure on Democrats to withdraw their support for Menendez, whose conduct in office is a stain on his party, the Senate, and the nation. Are any New Jersey Democrats interested in maintaining ethical standards? And why shouldn’t every Democrat running for reelection be asked about Menendez, the way every Republican was asked about Roy Moore? Menendez’s Democratic supporters have suspended their ethical judgment to back a man with no principles. We urge Garden Staters to reject him just as Alabamans rejected Moore.
4. It’s time to rebuild: Connecticut can climb out of the debris of the economic destruction caused by Democrat Governor Dannell Malloy. We urge voters to elect Republican Bob Stefanowski.
Republican businessman Bob Stefanowski is closing in on a historic victory in the Constitution State. While the contest remains neck-and-neck and within the proverbial margin of error, a new Hearst/Sacred Heart University poll shows his campaign is now leading that of his liberal Democrat foe, Ned Lamont, despite being outspent and getting uniformly negative media coverage. Stefanowski has cut into the gender gap while increasing support among unaffiliated voters. Whether the “Mo” is big or little, it’s Stefanowski who has it. We hope it carries him through Election Day.
For the last decade Connecticut has shown signs that it is more purple than blue, with voters — tormented by relentless tax hikes, massive debt, and de facto union-boss and special-interest control of the legislature — electing more Republicans over the past four cycles. Today, the GOP stands even, 18–18, in the state senate and within five seats of controlling the state house. It’s possible that Republicans will capture both chambers and, given the chance by voters, begin clearing out Connecticut’s stable.
On Election Day, we encourage Connecticut voters of all partisan stripes to do two things. One is to send a clear message that the liberal program and agenda have failed, miserably. The other is push to reimplement the conservative fiscal policies and approach towards businesses that once had Connecticut ranking atop the nation for jobs, opportunity, and prosperity.
“We Keep the Founders’ Flame Alive . . .”
That was a beautiful phrase, from my colleague Nick Frankovich’s All Saints Day contribution to NR’s Fall 2018 Webathon. It expires on Election Day, we hope after having raised our goal of $300,000 to defray some (far from all) of the cost to underwrite the terrific political writing you have enjoyed and replied upon all year long, and in particular during these last few weeks. Writes Nick:
Lincoln will not be on your ballot next week, but he’ll be a helpful presence if you let him. Undecided? Ask yourself: For whom would Honest Abe vote? And while you’re at it, cast your mind back a little further, to the days of Washington and Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison. Remember, they had us in mind when they laid the foundations of this republic, hoping we could keep it. We strive to reciprocate their mindfulness, Richard Brookhiser, of course, being our resident dean in that department. We keep the Founders’ flame alive, and so can you, by assisting us. Please contribute to the 2018 Fall Webathon as much as National Review contributes to your ability to see in contemporary America an adventure spanning the centuries in both directions, past and future.
We’re about $20,000 short of our goal. Help us get there please. You can do that here. If you have helped, many thanks.
Seventeen Tested and Verified Ways to Help You Keep Your Sanity and Your Knickers Untwisted
1. The new spate of horrible acts, real and attempted, show again that America has a loser problem, says Rich Lowry. From his column:
The phrase “deaths of despair” has entered the nation’s vocabulary the past few years to denote the rise of mortality among a subset of working-class whites from suicide, drugs, and alcohol. Its declining life expectancy is one of the most stunning trends in American life. The at-risk population tends to be unmarried, disconnected from civil society, marginally employed, and largely on their own.
One way to look at recent mass killings (or attempted killings) is as the handiwork of a very small, violent fringe of the socially disconnected. Their destructiveness is directed outward, in cowardly acts of mindless malice, rather than inward. They marinate in hate and proudly share their lunatic obsessions online, in a twisted simulacrum of community. They seek their identity in political extremism, Jew-hatred, or the hellish idolatry of school shootings.
Their crimes are, in their diseased view, feats of grandeur. They make up for the sting of failure and rejection. They give them a chance at perverse consequence and notoriety otherwise not available to them in their marginal lives and social isolation.
2. Our colleague from ancient days, Micheal Flaherty, returns to NR with a Halloween piece on the 80th Anniversary of “Fake News.” He’s referring to Orson Welles’ famous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, a masterful stunt that elicited a brutal response from a threatened (and complicit) newspaper industry. From the piece:
In creating the fantastical story of the War of the Worlds aftermath, newspapers were committed to a goal that mattered more to them than journalistic integrity: They were committed to self-preservation. Since its invention, radio had been encroaching on the newspapers’ business. As radios became more commonplace in American households, newspapers worried that they could become extinct. Radio possessed an enormous advantage in its ability to broadcast news and events live, as they happened, while newspapers were limited to one or two editions per day.
By the time Welles created his Mercury Theater on the Air, radio had shattered the newspapers’ monopoly on journalism and its monolithic power in shaping public opinion. But radio was stealing more than mindshare and influence from newspapers; it was also stealing valuable advertising revenue. Because radio posed such an existential threat to newspapers, its editors looked upon Welles’s Halloween stunt as an early Christmas present: an opportunity to discredit the entire medium of radio as amateurish, reckless, and dangerous. In contrast, newspapers positioned themselves as the only trustworthy purveyors of news.
3. Last week, Michael Higgins was reelected President of Ireland, a ceremonial position occupied by a man who hates America. Irish writer Ciaran Burke introduces us to this blowhard gnome. From his piece:
In the seven years since his inauguration, incumbent Michael D. Higgins has achieved near-heroic status in Irish daily life. Widely adored for his short stature and antiquated speech — as well as for other asinine reasons — the former Teachta Dála (i.e., member of parliament) has capitalized on the romantic image of a poetic, scholarly Ireland that transcends crude obsessions with material wealth.
Material wealth, in Higgins’s telling, almost always signifies America. His speeches, which typically rehash socialist boilerplate, also aim to convey to his international audience distance between Ireland and the United States. And although his rhetoric is routinely light on substance, Higgins has convinced a surprisingly large section of the Irish population that passion, prolixity, and idyllic dreaming are sufficient to qualify him as an intellectual giant.
There’s more to Higgins’s dislike of the United States than just misty-eyed waffling at the U.N., though. His past is riddled with unsavory anti-American antics, such as extending warm welcomes to Communist dictators, sympathizing with Islamists, and, more recently, mourning Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. Nor is this record reducible to a naïve or ineffective effort at diplomacy: Further examination reveals anti-Americanism at the very core of Higgins’s ideology.
4. Andy McCarthy sees that whatever people might think “free speech” is in Europe, it withers in the face of sharia. From his essay:
It is thus verboten to say things that might upset Muslims. Particularly offensive is mention of Islam’s many doctrinal tenets that make us cringe in the 21st century — approbation of child marriage, violent jihad, the treatment of women as chattel, the duty to kill apostates, and so on. That these tenets are accurately stated, supported by undeniable scriptural grounding, is beside the point. Or as the ECHR put it, reliance on scripture could be classified as “an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.”
What the vestiges of Western civilization are coming to: I say something that is true; it hurts your feelings, so — of course — you blow up a building; and it’s my fault.
Nearly four years ago, when Europe bowed to the mob and curbed its tongue following the jihadist massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, I tried to explain the stakes in a pamphlet called “Islam and Free Speech.” If a society is to be a functioning, flourishing, free society, it must safeguard the robust exchange of knowledge and ideas. Absent that, the rule of reason dies, and with it freedom of conscience, equality before the law, due process, property rights, and equality of opportunity.
Islamists and their transnational-progressive allies seek to redefine democracy as a guarantee of domestic tranquility, on the road to global tranquility in a post-Westphalian order. It is a sweet-sounding roadmap to tyranny, in which “tranquility” is enforced Soviet-style, with an official version of history and truth that is not open to question or debate. Your “freedom” to speak is strictly limited to those confines.
5. “Casey Democrats” are a fading thing. Kyle Sammin looks at the declining numbers in Pennsylvania. From his piece:
Another factor may be seen in the 2016 presidential election in Pennsylvania, where the traditional areas of Casey strength shifted dramatically toward Donald Trump. Trump’s version of the Republican party is one that is comfortable with social-welfare programs while remaining conservative on social issues — sound familiar? Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania and across the Midwest was won with the help of Casey Democrats and their equivalents in other states.
So where does that leave Bob Casey Jr. in 2018? His Republican opponent is Congressman Lou Barletta, a proto-Trump from Hazelton who rose to prominence when, as mayor, he signed a law denying business permits to employers who hired illegal immigrants. He defeated Representative Paul Kanjorski, a moderate Democrat who, like Casey, did well in a district that stretched across Pennsylvania’s coal country.
If Barletta can win where Trump won, the election would be over for a Democrat who cannot pull in those conservative Casey Democrats. Yet polls of the race indicate that Casey leads by double digits, hovering just over 50 percent. That looks like a slam dunk, but those figures also include a surprising number of undecided voters.
6. Is Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters a rent-a-lib? Kevin Williamson looks into the aging rocker’s deal for a cut of the take in the busted shakedown / scam of Chevron. From his analysis:
Roger Waters, the rock musician, has denounced Chevron for its “greed,” complaining that it is “disquietingly apparent that the rich and powerful are still much attached to the feathering of their own nests at any cost to others.” Well. Documents submitted to the court show “George R. Waters” taking two equity positions in the case, one for 0.076 percent and one for 0.025 percent, through “Fenwick,” presumably the firm of Mark Fenwick, Rogers’s manager and an heir to the Fenwick department-store chain in the United Kingdom. That would come to roughly $9.6 million of a $9.5 billion judgment. You could feather a lot of nests with that. (I was unable to contact Waters or Fenwick for comment. Rock stars are really hard to get on the phone.) If taking in a few million dollars via an investment in extortion and bribery is not greed, then what is?
As Eric Hoffer’s proverb goes: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” But this case began as a racket and then became a movement. There are many good-faith environmentalists in the world. These are not they. But that has not stopped progressive activists and their media allies from enabling this multi-billion-dollar extortion attempt — an attempt in which many of them had, and have, a financial interest of their own.
7. Beto, Ergo Sum: No! Jim Geraghty looks into the media’s love affair with the Texas Democrat. From his piece:
Correspondents seemed oddly fixated on his sweat. Politico swooned, “Sweat pours off his lean, 6-foot-4-inch frame.” In Vanity Fair, Peter Hamby described him “sweating through a button-down shirt at one of his jam-packed town halls.” The BBC wrote, “His toes are well over the edge of the boards” of the stage “and his suede shoes are soaking up dark splashes of sweat from his brow.”
It’s Texas. It’s summer. It’s hot. Everybody sweats at outdoor events.
Beyond their not-so-hidden partisan preference, many reporters want to discover the southern Democrat with national potential — Bill Clinton 2.0 — and write the first glossy profile piece of a future president. The piece will double as a book proposal, and the book will allow its author to spend the latter half of his or her career as a quasi-historian expert on a particular president.
Reading through all of these profiles as they emphasize the same points over and over again — He was in a punk-rock band! He skateboards! He’s handsome! He’s Kennedyesque! He speaks fluent Spanish! — one keeps waiting for the section that describes what makes O’Rourke actually unique among Democratic candidates. And that section never arrives. There is no hardscrabble climb out of poverty, no tale of military heroism, no running into a burning building to save orphans, not even an occasion of helping get an old lady’s cat out of a tree.
RELATED: Kevin Williamson argues that if the Democrats can run a somewhat competitive race in Red Texas, Republicans ought to figure how to do the same in, say Blue Rhode Island. Read his piece here.
8. Caravantics: Michael Brendan Dougherty sees Democrats demanding Republicans believe their commitment to border enforcement, but urging activists to ignore such rhetoric. From the piece:
But pro-immigration activists are increasingly withdrawing their patience with Democrats’ appeasing statements and gestures on immigration. Consequently, aspirants to the Democratic nomination in 2020 are falling over each other in a rush to promise to abolish Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Liberal opinion leaders have been popularizing academic theories that paint all immigration enforcement as an expression of white supremacy.
Conservative voters and immigration restrictionists know that they have been snookered in the past. The 1986 amnesty was given in exchange for a promise of strict enforcement. The amnesty ended up being much larger than expected, and the enforcement never came. Given this history, and the arrangement of political power, and the increased power of pro-immigration activists in the Democratic coalition, restrictionists naturally conclude that liberals in 2018 lack the moral will and the political incentive to follow through on promises of strict enforcement, especially in cases where there is media spectacle.
America’s Democrats are not alone in this. European heads of state and EU functionaries worked hard to create the Dublin Accords, which govern migration and asylum policies on the European Union’s borders. But the commitment to these rules evaporated under the migration crisis in 2014 and 2015.
9. Russell Moore ponders the real issues behind the abortion debate. From a very interesting piece:
Unfortunately, we will never create a true culture of welcoming children if we do not upend the priorities of our churches when it comes to power. Why is the church so constantly drawn to economic and political power? This is not only the case for the highest levels of the church — whether medieval popes or contemporary culture warriors — but also happens locally. We are drawn to the conversion testimonies of celebrity athletes or beauty contestants or reality television stars because they bring a sense of weight and influence, on their own terms — a weight and influence that they are, in our view, lending to the gospel. In how many congregations are decisions made on the basis of spoken or unspoken decisions about who gives the most money and who might, if he or she were rankled, withhold that money?
In such situations, we can see where our true religion is, and it is summed up in the dollar sign of Mammon, not in the cross beam of Jesus. When the church prioritizes power, influence, access, expertise, invulnerability, how on earth can we see ourselves as little children? If all of our illusions were put away, and if we were to see where we are on the scale of the trillions of years in front of us, we would see that we are, in fact, embryos and fetuses in the kingdom of God. We are able to be hurt, but hemmed in all around by the protective embrace of our God.
10. The PC mob wins. Apu, the famous and beloved character from The Simpsons, has been terminated. Pradheep Shanker laments the injustice (and the producers’ failure to fight). From his piece:
The end of Apu is in many ways as insulting as the entire controversy was to begin with. The producers of The Simpsons didn’t even have the courage to publicly come out and explain their decision. Instead, they took the path of least resistance, and a path that historically was very unlike The Simpsons; throughout their tenure, the show’s creators have had the courage to stand up for their comedic freedom. But they finally met their match, and they were unwilling or unable to stand up to the loudest critics when it mattered the most.
So Apu will silently disappear from a show where he was a critical supporting character for three decades, and will not even be given a send-off to say goodbye, the final insult in this sad ending.
As for the political-correctness police, they successfully claim another scalp in their long crusade for so-called fairness. In the process, they have probably made it less likely that an Indian-American character succeeds in modern Hollywood.
11. Chris Pope explains why the Democrats’ “Medicaid for All” scheme is a terrible idea, especially for seniors. From his analysis:
In truth, Medicare is a generous benefit for retired and disabled Americans largely paid for by those who are in work — a subsidy worth an average of $13,087 per beneficiary per year. “Medicare for All” would flip this arrangement — imposing enormous tax increases on all, including seniors, to pick up all medical costs currently borne by employers and those able to work.
Although Schumer suggested that seniors might welcome reforms that “would expand benefits, eliminate premiums, reduce cost sharing,” having taxpayers assume these expenses for all citizens would be enormously expensive. Indeed, Schumer revealingly didn’t dispute the estimated tax increase of $32.6 trillion over ten years (over $26,000 per household per year) cited in Trump’s op-ed, which would be required to fund “Medicare for All.”
Such a tax increase would vastly exceed the value of expanded benefits to retirees — even if its burden were distributed so that most seniors faced smaller-than-average tax hikes. Seniors are already able to cover all their out-of-pocket costs by purchasing Medigap’s Plan F at an average premium of $1,712 per year. The experience of the 1989 Medicare Catastrophic Act debacle suggests that seniors would likely react with outrage at being forced to provide additional coverage for Medicare beneficiaries who currently choose not to purchase it — to say nothing of how they might react to being forced to pick up a large portion of the medical costs of so many more Americans who are currently covered by employer-sponsored insurance.
RELATED: Deroy Murdock says the GOP is making health care great again.
12. Kyle Smith ruminates on the Iran-Iraq War relationship the US media and Donald Trump have with each other. From his piece:
Somehow what the media and Trump think about one another has become just about the biggest story in America. Neither side can resist because each side loves, more than all else, to be talked about. Say, what’s happening out there in America? How’s the economy doing? Are workers more secure? Are wages rising? How are we doing on opioids? What about health care? It’s anyone’s guess based on what is running on CNN at any given moment. Picture turning into CBS on a football Sunday afternoon and all Jim Nantz can talk about is the mean things Mike Tomlin said about him.
Let’s look at just one outlet’s behavior in just the past few days. A CNN talking head (Julia Ioffe) claimed that “this president has radicalized so many more people than ISIS ever did.” When Trump-aligned panelist David Urban pushed back, moderator Jake Tapper responded, “Okay, you disagree with it,” as though Ioffe’s ludicrous assertion were simply a statement of opinion. “I think I exaggerated,” she said later, in a lame apology. Ya think? ISIS had tens of thousands of armed soldiers fighting for its cause. The reason CNN has people like Ioffe on the air is that they can be counted on to say outrageous things about Trump. It was Ioffe whose reaction to news that Ivanka Trump was taking a White House office traditionally used by first ladies was “Either Trump is f***ing his daughter or he’s shirking nepotism laws.”
13. Robert VerBruggen thinks our policies on birthright citizenship are nutty, but here to stay. That said, this is an important and detailed analysis of the matter.
President Donald Trump has hinted that he plans to eliminate birthright citizenship — under which virtually all those born on U.S. soil are automatically granted U.S. citizenship, even if their parents are illegal immigrants — via executive order. This raises serious questions for conservatives.
Many of us think that in today’s world, birthright citizenship is an insane policy that undermines our sovereignty. Why reward people who come here illegally with citizenship for their kids? But conservatives also insist that the government stay within its constitutionally designated boundaries, so we have to ask whether the Constitution mandates birthright citizenship. If it does, we are stuck with it until we can pass an amendment.
In this rather long piece — you’ve been warned — I’m going to round up the historical evidence bearing on this issue. (If you want thoughts on the separate question of whether an executive order or legislation would be needed to change the law, assuming the Constitution allows it, read Andy McCarthy.) I personally believe that birthright citizenship is required, and I won’t hesitate to evaluate evidence instead of just reporting it. But I have done my best to include the key pieces of support for both views — drawing on extensive writings by (among others) Lino A. Graglia, John C. Eastman, Peter H. Schuck and Rogers M. Smith, Garrett Epps, Gerard N. Magliocca, and James Ho.
I’ll begin with the evidence most directly connected to the amendment: the text itself and the congressional debates over it. Then I’ll proceed to cover somewhat less on-point sources, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (which had much the same purpose as the 14th Amendment but used different language) and subsequent Supreme Court decisions (during a time when the Court notoriously butchered other aspects of the 14th Amendment).
14. Church in Turmoil One: David French considers the two temptations facing young Evangelicals (are they even that?). From his piece:
In reality, “young Evangelicals” may not ultimately be Evangelicals at all. They might more accurately be defined as young people from an Evangelical background who are growing in their own faith. And as they grow, they often face the twin temptations their parents faced: the temptation of faith and the temptation of tribe.
Each generation of young Christians has to face the reality that biblical teaching conflicts decisively with contemporary secular morality. That conflict is often especially acute in the area of sexual morality. Moreover, the price of social acceptance is often theological compromise. Yes, people in good faith reach contrary positions on the authority and meaning of individual scriptures, but one would have to be willfully blind to deny the persistent pressure toward “inclusivity” and the irrebuttable presumption of moral superiority inherent to secular progressive ethics.
That is the temptation of faith. The temptation of tribe is different. It’s the temptation to find a “place” in contemporary American culture outside of the church. You’ll see Christians acknowledge that, yes, they’re members of the church, before asking with anguish, “But where else do I belong?” They have a religious home, but they want a political home, too, and as American society becomes increasingly politicized, the latter feels more important every day.
15. Church in Turmoil Two: Robert Royal attended the Catholic bishop’s synod on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” in Rome, and has plowed through its final report. From his analysis:
I wonder how we will look back at the past four weeks. The bishops at the Youth Synod mention subjects such as the sexual revolution, abortion, divorce and the breakup of the family, the digital pseudo-world, and the flattening of the human horizon by widespread materialist and scientistic attitudes in modern societies.
But the almost ritualistic repetition of “listening,” “accompanying,” “discerning” reminds me of nothing so much as the old Christian–Marxist dialogue. The Church during the Cold War was dealing with a deadly serpent and treated it as if it were merely another dialogue partner. Indeed, lots of Christians went over to the Marxist/socialist side. The reverse was far more rare.
Where is the clear talk about discerning a religious vocation? About marrying? About having children, marriage and children being one of the ways young people often find their way to full adulthood and faith in the modern world? If you want to dabble in sociology, as the synod organizers clearly did: Social science itself has shown beyond all reasonable question that marriage, family, and children constitute the documented pathways to a better life, happiness, health, prosperity, and religious commitment.
Was it too judgmental or controversial to say this outright? And to encourage young people to marry and have children if they don’t have a religious vocation? Instead, the text spends much time fretting over social pathologies; social and spiritual remedies are given very ginger treatment in very general terms.
And as our courageous American Archbishop Charles Chaput has pointed out, the deadly evil of sex abuse received shamefully inadequate treatment, in just three flat paragraphs, while the text flirts with the sensitivities of young people about homosexual activity and same-sex attraction.
You have to read almost one-third of the way into the text before you come upon some real religious approaches to problems youth face — for example, the hope that the sacrament of confirmation can become the beginning and not the end (as it more commonly is for most Catholics) of an adult commitment to the faith.
And despite all the handwringing in the text about the need to understand how young people today are driven by images, feelings, and peers and how they often seek a religion of well-being, the bishops are, at one point, forced to acknowledge: “In Christian communities, sometimes we risk proposing, without intending it, an ethical and therapeutic theism that responds to the human need for security and comfort instead of the living encounter with God in light of the Gospel and in the force of the Spirit.”
16. Pakistan is a hotbed of religious persecution. Doug Bandow reports on a community of “Pak-Christians” languishing in Thailand, seeking asylum.
17. U.S. energy independence has serious ramifications for our foreign policy, in particular with Iran, writes Fred Zeidman. From his analysis:
The global market’s pending loss of oil from Iran is an opportunity for American producers to become a supplier to the world. The United States can use the energy it produces domestically to ensure that its national-security concerns are met without harming American consumers. American energy independence will remind the world that it will no longer have to deal with wild price fluctuations spurred by unrest in the Middle East. The United States is capable of providing enough oil to help stabilize the global market, no matter what happens in countries such as Iran.
The deal arranged by the previous administration removed sanctions against Iran without offering any long-lasting solutions to the problems caused by this rogue nation. Making matters worse, that deal also funded Iran, allowing the regime to finance global terrorism, including the wars in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Even so, Iran violated the terms of that agreement, so the sanctions imposed by the current administration are justified on those grounds as well.
The geopolitics of the Middle East are changing. Historic alliances are shifting, as nations move to protect themselves against the looming existential threat posed by Iran. The only constant is that Israel remains America’s closest friend in the region. Israel and America stay linked through their shared democratic values and common interests.
Salam Book Getting Attention and Raising a Rumpus
Reihan’s new tome, Melting Pot or Civil War? A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders, received a strong, positive New York Times review from Kay Hymowitz. From her take:
Salam suggests a number of policies that could head off the bleak picture he paints. First is a points system like that used in Canada, which would rate applicants on education, language skills, work experience and family ties. In the United States, two-thirds of green cards issued every year go to family members of citizens and residents; a large number of them are aging parents who add to the worrisome graying of our population. Salam’s Bangladeshi ancestry makes him acutely conscious that merit-based policies like Canada’s would deny a better future to countless hard-working poor just as worthy as those already here, and he devotes a chapter to ideas for improving opportunity in impoverished areas of the globe. And recognizing the impossibility of deporting the country’s estimated 11 million unauthorized residents, he recommends amnesty — though only in exchange for “resolute enforcement” of immigration laws, backed up by mandatory “E-verify,” a web system giving employers a way to confirm employees’ legal status.
No doubt, “Melting Pot or Civil War?” will leave many immigration restrictionists unconvinced that enforcement would ever be adequately “resolute.” Some progressives will accuse Salam of underplaying the racial animus driving poverty among immigrants. Others will note that low-skilled immigration is already on the wane. Still, this bracing book could be a conversation-changer — if only the outraged on both sides would let it.
1. If you want more of Robert Royal’s coverage of the Bishops Synod, he has written a ton for The Catholic Thing, and you might want to take a gander at this, or this, or how about this, or try a bit of this alongside a dollop of that. Really, he has complete and smart coverage.
2. I’m going to give it away, but at The Imaginative Conservative, Professor Richard Bishirjian considers Allan Bloom’s “Six Ways Universities Corrupt the Young.” From his essay:
Irving Babbitt and John Erskine were loudly critical of these “reforms” of higher education that removed “Core Curricula” of required courses. Erskine introduced a core honors curriculum at Columbia University in the masterpieces of Western philosophy. That core curriculum remains today at Columbia University, as does another at the University of Chicago, founded by Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins. Liberal Arts colleges with core Great Books curricula are the only remnants of what was once a vibrant tradition of classical education. That is unfortunate because the Great Books compel scholars to remember the past and to retrieve important lessons learned by the most important minds of Western civilization.
Following Allan Bloom, here are the six reasons American higher education corrupts the youth:
I. Replacing core curricula with gender, African-American or “Global” studies ignores where we came from, who we are, and how we should act as citizens of the West.
II. When that basis is removed from higher education, the virus of moral relativism cannot be confronted by scholarship leading to discovery of truth because only “opinion” has value.
III. If there is no “Truth” that can be discovered, what is left for us to search for but self-interest?
VI. If there is no “Common Good,” then to what can we appeal in the face of the demands of the powerful?
V. If the appetites of the young are aroused by Rock, Rap, and other musical trends, how can we instruct them about virtue?
IV. If a democratic regime values equality of condition, what will become of the equal protection of the law or any of the limits placed on the power of the state by a philosophy of limited government enshrined in the Constitution of the United States?
3. I had the great fortune this week to be at a dinner for National Review Institute’s Regional Fellows Program in San Francisco, where John Yoo was asking fellows about who they thought was the greatest Founder. And then I saw today that The Imaginative Conservative, had republished a 1995 Intercollegiate Review essay by the great historian Forrest McDonald, titled “George Washington: Indispensable Man.” Here’s how it begins:
The men who established the American republic were acutely aware that they lived in a pivotal era in human history, and they eagerly rose to the occasion. They were all impelled by a love of liberty, but a large number were, in addition, driven by a desire for immortal Fame — the grateful remembrance of a distant posterity. To put it simply, they wanted to remain alive and be cherished in your memory and mine.
It may be that the Founders were as unlucky in their choice of posterity as they were lucky in their choice of time in which to live, for the American people are notoriously lacking in a knowledge of the past. But until Goals 2000 ensures that our children will learn nothing of our past, we still can assume that there is one American of the Founding generation whose name everybody knows: George Washington. And yet, knowledge of just what he did is far from widespread. Beyond the cherry tree episode (which never happened) and the fact that he was the first President, most Americans do not know why they should remember and cherish him. What I propose to do is to describe what he was like and thereby help us cherish his memory.
Let us begin with an overview. No historian doubts that Washington was the Indispensable Man of the epoch. By sheer force of character he created the Continental Army and held it together, under extremely adverse circumstances, for the eight years it took to win independence. His awesome prestige created the atmosphere in which the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 could draft a constitution that the states would ratify; and it is certain that the office of president was created only because he was available to fill it. Moreover, he never abused or sought to aggrandize his power, and he voluntarily surrendered power when a job was done, though he might easily have held it for life. On the opposite hand, no scholar who has studied Washington would maintain — as schoolchildren used to be taught — that the man was flawless. As a soldier he was capable of rashness and poor judgment. He was addicted to gambling, indulged in a good deal of wenching, and was said to be a “most horrid swearer.” He was vain, a bit pretentious, and hot tempered; and though he was a perfect gentleman in public, he was sometimes not in private.
4. At Gatestone Institute, à la Andy above, Guy Millière’s criticism of the European Court of Human Rights’s roll-over on sharia is sharp. From his report:
This week, the unelected judges of the European Court of Human Rights submitted to the demands of Sharia blasphemy laws and decided not to allow criticism of Muhammad, lest Muslim feelings be hurt. The court actually chose hurt feelings over freedom of expression and truth as a defense. It is probably time to unelect these unelected judges.
Islamist organizations are present and growing. Often, they join forces to advance intimidation campaigns that push governments, the mainstream media and universities to ban all criticism of Islam and to enforce a growing Islamization of everyday life. Examples include efforts to change academic programs to present Muslim civilization in a more attractive light; efforts to have hospitals accept that Muslim women may be examined only by female doctors, and that social service agencies must respect polygamy. Many organizations rely for support on “fellow travelers” — mainly Westerners who hate Western civilization and may see the rise of Islam as a means of destabilizing it. They want, and get, results.
Western European politicians, left and right, increasingly rely on the Muslim vote to get elected: they see that the birthrates (now well below replacement levels) and migratory flows create a population change; they calculate that being too hostile to Islam could lead to their political defeat.
5. A mob marauds through Seton Hall University’s campus. A teacher inadvertently touches the shoulder of a protesting student. Chaos ensues. Administrators cave. The College Fix has the sad story.
6. A lot of Amazon Prime’s expensive original-content programs, well . . . stink. At The Federalist, Ellie Bufkin looks at the Netflix wannabe’s ten-thumbed approach to making, essentially, tv shows. From her piece:
At this same time, Amazon creative director Roy Price, who brought “The Romanoffs” and Amazon together, was dismissed amid his own allegations of inappropriate conduct. The Amazon creative department was steeped in turmoil, yet production of the incredibly ambitious “Romanoffs” went into fast-forward. The result is a disjointed effort whose moments of cinema-level greatness are largely overshadowed by its lack of story flow and tediously long episodes.
Grand ambition and internal conflict seem to have blinded Amazon’s creative team from the simple reality of what TV shows need to be in order to draw massive viewership. Streaming television has certainly changed a lot of things about the way people watch, but viewers always want basic elements from TV shows, regardless of how they watch them.
Episodic shows should always have a connection to previous and future episodes. That is the main thing that separates movies from series. Great cinematography is wonderful, but on the small, home screen people tune in for a captivating, intriguing story.
November 6 Is Not Just Election Day
It is also the publication date of Rick Brookhiser’s new book, John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court. There’s been a lot of praise already. For example, historian Annette Gordon-Reed says
Brookhiser’s John Marshall is an erudite and elegant tour through not only the great chief justice’s life, but the beginnings of the United States and the nation’s Supreme Court. With colorful portraits of members of the founding generation, and clear and insightful descriptions of the legal cases that that shaped the American legal system, this book is a welcome contribution to the scholarship on the Early American Republic.”
Kirkus Reviews calls it “A concise, informative, and at times entertaining biography of our nation’s fourth chief justice.” I call it . . . a book you need to get.
Lights. Camera. Punditry.
1. This is a Queen devotee household, thanks to Mrs. Yours Truly. So Kyle Smith’s take on the new movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, about Freddie Mercury and his posse, matters. And here’s how he finds it: “largely joyous.” The home front is thrilled. From the review:
A movie that consisted of nothing but making-of stories about the dozen or so best Queen songs, and playing them over a theater sound system, would best nearly everything actually offered at the multiplex this year. Indeed, I’d be thrilled to watch an entire movie about the making of the title song, which struck me as by far the weirdest and most gripping pop track I’d ever encountered when I first heard it on a transistor radio next to my bed when I was falling asleep, aged nine. You would call such a movie, I suppose, “Bohemian Rhapsody Rhapsody.” That 1975 opus stands beside Brian Wilson’s pocket masterpiece “Good Vibrations” in the category of rock singles with the density of neutron stars. I wish I could hear either of them for the first time again.
Recording that demented pileup of weepy piano ballad, bombastic metal, and fake opera is a highlight of the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, featuring a spritely but screen-filling Rami Malek (the Mr. Robot star) as the camptastic Zanzibar-born British singer from a conservative Zoroastrian family. We see him as a youth in his sternly middle-class home. On the wall — this is a witty moment — is a portrait of the Queen.
2. And then we have the take of Armond White. And he is not a fan of Bohemian Rhapsody. Strap yourself in, here’s how it commences:
The most disgraceful moment in Bohemian Rhapsody comes when a record producer states his skepticism about the title song, a 1975 hit single that gives this film its only marketability. The music executive is played by comic Mike Myers, whose 1992 film Wayne’s World revived “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a theme honoring nerd arrogance — the wrong-taste rebellion that defined unhip working-class fantasy and pleasure. (Myers’s gambit successfully boosted the song onto fin de siècle sales charts.)
Disgrace comes from the refusal of Bohemian Rhapsody’s filmmakers to recognize the class distinction of Myers’s coup. In the middle of a serious-tragic bio-pic about Freddie Mercury, front man for the rock group Queen who recorded the title song, the movie turns insultingly campy. As if the Millennial audience even remembers Wayne’s World, that ersatz ode to public-access TV subculture, the film replaces historical recollection with sarcasm. Myers’s cameo performance is a jest that contributes to the amnesia and ignorance typical of today’s diminished pop culture.
By encouraging Millennial filmgoers to think that they are different — smarter — than earlier crass businessmen, Bohemian Rhapsody falsifies pop-music history. The objection of the Myers character to the song (“Kids will never bang their heads to this”) points out its length and its musical and lyrical oddity but ignores that mid-’70s pop radio was replete with lengthy, guitar-heavy anthems (from “Hey Jude” to “American Pie”). It also leads the audience to misunderstand “Bohemian Rhapsody” as an extravagant novelty tune, part of that period’s British art-rock boom, which eventually laid the foundation for retreat by America’s post-Reagan teens who were settling into the complacency and self-satisfaction of the Clinton era.
3. Armond finds Boy Erased deserving a smackdown. He delivers it. From the beginning of his review:
The new domestic melodrama Boy Erased pretends to be about an Arkansas teenager, Jared (Lucas Hedges), struggling to realize his sexual identity. The plot centers on this son of a Baptist preacher, rebelling against the gay conversion program insisted on by his parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman). Already ideologically loaded, the film’s premise is also deceptive. But you can spot its real agenda in the constant, unconvincing effort to score points against religious thought, the institutional church, and traditional family structure — all followed by Jared’s eventual salvation when his published memoir is anointed by the New York Times.
Jared’s sexuality is just a come-on; it’s part of the pandering that has replaced story and drama ever since the indie film movement turned from mass entertainment to social-justice partisanship. Young Jared never exhibits normal sexual impulses; he broods before feeling natural stimulation or curiosity. Details about alertness, personality, and experience are the stuff of art (providing the beauty, humor, and sensitivity that distinguish André Téchiné’s Being 17 and Terence Davies’s The Long Day Closes). But those observations are beyond director/co-screenwriter Joel Edgerton’s applaud-my-agenda filmmaking. It’s awards season, folks!
4. Then Armond tackles rapper Eminen’s new hip-hop kumbaya flick, Bodied. The analysis is deep and nuanced, the writing brilliant. From the review:
Bodied is sharp on Millennial culture’s various means of ownership, whether it’s class, race, or sex relations; political hegemony; or the cultural provenance of the hip-hop industry. The tumultuous terrain of black machismo invaded by a white boy who thinks only in terms of “gun metaphors” rather than street survival is an audacious, febrile vision. As a beneficiary of the U.S. social and entertainment-world safety net, Eminem can easily afford the risk.
Kahn directs with his usual hectic info-overload. It’s like one of the Fast and the Furious movies but using words instead of cars, and chasing down antagonisms instead of brotherhood. Music-video-whiz Kahn comes from the world of advertising, where ideological bait-and-switch happens faster than most people — especially poorly educated, device-addicted youths — can comprehend. (Recall the naïve marveling on the Internet about “pay attention to the background” of Childish Gambino’s This Is America video.) Kahn and Larsen parade insider hip-hop references, pop homages (including Scott Pilgrim–style FX), plus satires of media, academic, and street postures — anthropological pretenses — that make the upcoming Coen brothers movie look like a Whitman’s sampler.
Simply, good-bye Willie McCovery.
Pray. Four out of five clerics surveyed recommend prayer for their parishioners who pray. It works!
P.S.: Sweet or sour, all emails are acceptable at firstname.lastname@example.org.