Thursday, April 05, 2018

'Chappaquiddick' Exposes Ted Kennedy at Last

April 4, 2018

Image result for chappaquiddick movie poster

Chappaquiddick must be counted one of the great untold stories in American political history: The average citizen may be vaguely aware of what happened but probably has little notion of just how contemptible was the behavior of Senator Ted Kennedy. Mainstream book publishers and Hollywood have mostly steered clear of the subject for 48 years.

Chappaquiddick the movie fills in an important gap, and if it had been released in 1970, it would have ended Kennedy’s political career. (It was only a few weeks ago that a sitting senator resigned over far less disturbing behavior than Kennedy’s.) Yet this potent and penetrating film is not merely an attack piece. It’s more than fair to Kennedy in its hesitance to depict him as drunk on the night in question, and it also pictures him repeatedly diving into the pond on Chappaquiddick Island, trying to rescue his brother Bobby’s former aide Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). He may or may not have made such rescue attempts. Moreover, as directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil), the film is suffused with lament that a man in Kennedy’s position could have been so much more than he was. Yet Ted, the last and least of four brothers, was shoved into a role for which he simply lacked the character. That the other three were dynamic leaders who died violently while he alone lived on to become the Senate’s Jabba the Hutt is perhaps the most dizzying chapter of the century-long Kennedy epic.
Jason Clarke, an Australian, is superb as Ted, who as of July 18, 1969, is mulling a run for president in 1972. To that end, he gives a solemn TV interview and then, when the cameras are off, turns to his family flunkies and insists that they round up the juicy “boiler-room girls” without whom, he says, there can be no Friday-night party at the beach cottage, on the island at the eastern edge of Martha’s Vineyard. Kennedy’s wife, Joan, being pregnant, is home on bed rest. Meanwhile, the space program that John F. Kennedy championed is two days away from culmination in the moon landing. The contrast between one’s brother’s far-reaching vision and his soft-bellied sibling’s grubby venality is so conspicuous that you could castigate the screenwriters for inventing it; except they didn’t.
Kennedy drove his car off the bridge, probably recklessly and probably — given that he was coming from a party after 11 p.m. and was a lifelong boozer — under the influence of alcohol. He slipped out of the car, but while Kopechne was trapped inside, he didn’t call the police. Instead he rested by the water for 15 minutes. Then he went back to the party to fetch his cousin Joe (Ed Helms) and their friend Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan), a former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, to seek their advice. They tried to rescue Kopechne but couldn’t either and told Kennedy to call the police. Instead, he went back to the inn where he was staying and went to sleep. By the time he sauntered into the town hall to tell the police the next morning, nine hours after his drive, they had already discovered the body.
Some speculation is unavoidable in the screenplay, but what is known is damning, indeed infuriating, and seeing these events play out on screen lends them the capacity to shock us all over again. The combination of arrogance, incompetence, and casual corruption on display is straight out of Veep, but this time it happens while the corpse of a 28-year-old woman is being zipped into a body bag.
Kennedy is having a casual breakfast when his friends arrive at the hotel in a panic. While they try to explain how dire things look for him, he lounges on a bed in his room. At the police department, the chief isn’t present, so he strolls in, sits in the chief’s chair, closes the blinds, and starts strategizing. The chief, when he returns, accepts the senator’s written statement and asks whether there’s anything else he can do for poor Ted. Days later Kennedy will wear a neck brace at Kopechne’s funeral, affecting an injury, which doesn’t stop him from craning around to see who else is present. He plants a story in the media that he has a concussion and is on sedatives, only to learn that no doctor would prescribe sedatives for concussion. Calling Kopechne’s mother to inform her of the news, Kennedy neglects to mention he was driving the car in which she died.
Only the patriarch himself, Joe Kennedy (Bruce Dern), who is undone by a stroke and has only four months to live, reacts with the proper fury, slapping Ted on behalf of the nation. Imagine having sons like Joe Jr., John, and Robert and being left with only this one, the one expelled from Harvard for cheating, the one who was cited for reckless driving while a law student. Ted himself recognizes the futility of trying to match his legendary brothers: After what they did, he asks, what sobriquet does that leave for me? The fat one? The dumb one? An early scene of Kennedy racing his sailboat nails his personality: sloppy, vain, entitled, a man you wouldn’t trust to change your tire.
Yet in the end, aided by a confluence of forces both extraterrestrial (Apollo 11, which dominated the news that week) and tribal (Ted Sorensen, the family expert in blowing smoke), Senator Kennedy managed to save his career. All that Massachusetts voters required was a sincere apology, and he could fake that.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

'2001': Stanley Kubrick’s Exasperating Masterpiece

April 3, 2018

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Among the classic Hollywood films, none is an outlier in so many ways as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It has no spoken dialogue in its first 20 minutes, or its last 20. What words that do get spoken are rigorously banal; virtually every line is as meaningful as instructions in a technical manual. Not only does it have a nondescript hero, but there also isn’t a single interesting person in it. The only emotional moment is the death of a homicidal computer.
These are idiosyncrasies, not flaws, but the film has those as well. Notably, Kubrick’s longueurs make it so much longer than necessary that it can be trying to sit through. And the entire weight of the narrative hangs on its concluding moments, yet what they reveal is inscrutable.
I’ll warn that spoilers follow, but in the form of a rebuke: As the film marks the 50th anniversary of its release this week, if you haven’t seen it yet, you simply can’t count yourself among those interested in the possibilities of cinema. 2001 deserves such gestures of veneration as its current spot on the most recent (2012) Sight & Sound survey of the world’s greatest films: It stands at No. 6, and it’s the only film in the top ten that was released in the last 59 years.
Yet it’s completely understandable why the 1960s movie star Rock Hudson stormed out of its Los Angeles premiere, asking, “Will somebody tell me what the hell this movie is about?” With few exceptions, a film should conclude in such a way that a reasonable intelligent person will be able to at least discern what has happened. Kubrick’s story does have a defined endpoint (unlike one of those David Lynch visions that’s meant to mirror the frazzled logic of the nightmare), but he simply leaves the audience to puzzle out what it is.
As awe-inspiring as 2001 is in its own terms, it’s only when you measure it against its peers that you can appreciate how much Kubrick achieved. Space-travel TV series such as Lost in Space and Star Trek, and films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still and Planet of the Apes, occasionally dabbled in weighty themes (The Day the Earth Stood Still is a Christ allegory). But in form these shows were schlock, bedeviled by shoddy visual effects, corny sets, silly costumes, and stiff acting. All of this stamped the sci-fi genre as essentially juvenile and unserious. Kubrick’s determination to create a plausible documentary-tinged simulacrum of space exploration — the only Oscar he ever won was for the visual effects he helped create for the film — was the predicate for the film’s thematic depth. The word “breakthrough” feels insufficient. 2001 was more of a leap — as if from the stagecoach to the Tesla.
Its pace, however, is confounding, starting with the opening Dawn of Man sequence, set 4 million years ago among tribes of proto-humans who are enlightened by the appearance of a mysterious extraterrestrial monolith that teaches them to use bones as tools. At 15 minutes, the scene drags. It could make all its points effectively in a third of that time. Likewise, the scenes set in 1999 dawdle. For 20 minutes, we’re bogged down with a character of no importance, moon visitor Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester). Floyd engages in shop talk with Russian colleagues, has a Skype-style chat with his young daughter (an excuse for Kubrick to feature his own daughter, Vivian), and plays a part in a political cover-up that goes nowhere: Americans have found a second monolith on the moon, but don’t tell the Russians about it. We’re nearly an hour into the film when we finally meet the hero, astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea), and Kubrick spends far too much time luxuriating in the details of life on his ship to Jupiter’s moon. Bowman’s battle with the ship’s computer HAL 9000 occupies almost the entire second hour.
Even in the awe-inspiring last act, there is a digression: that bizarre six minutes in which Bowman exits his space ship and wordlessly lives out his natural life in an eerie bedroom. Why doesn’t the third monolith simply deliver Bowman to his ultimate fate after the thrilling Stargate sequence that so evocatively depicts the transition to another plane of being? Why make him, and us, wait around? The bedroom scene is a narrative speed bump.
Kubrick’s most frustrating choice, though, is in the conclusion. I read Arthur C. Clarke’s novel version of 2001, which was written concurrently with Clarke and Kubrick’s screenplay, before I ever saw the story on screen. But from the film alone, it is unclear what has happened — we see only that Bowman, having passed to a land “beyond the infinite,” at the moment of death reaches toward the fourth monolith, which turns him into a fetus the size of Earth, over which he hovers, protectively or destructively. The novel’s resolution is clear: Bowman has become “Star Child” — an all-powerful being, essentially the new God. His journey becomes the story of man’s rise and ultimate destination, an alternate mythos directed at a post-Christian audience in an era when the ideal of a hero was dying. Bowman is nobody special. He is simply an ordinary man who happened to be the one to survive the attack from HAL 9000 and submit to the last two monoliths, which some superior power arranged for the purpose of elevating man.
The novel’s ending is breathtaking to contemplate; the film’s ending is breathtaking to experience. But unless you’ve read the book, it’s likely to be baffling, hence unsatisfying. The questions raised by the novel’s ending are far more engrossing than the question raised by the movie’s ending, which is “What just happened?” Kubrick’s ambiguity may have been intentional, but that doesn’t mean it was the best choice. As magnificent as 2001: A Space Odyssey is, it could have been even better.

The Grisly History of Chappaquiddick

By Ben Shapiro
April 4, 2018

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Mary Jo Kopechne and Ted Kennedy

On April 6, a bombshell will hit America's theaters.

That bombshell comes in the form of an understated, well-made, well-acted film called "Chappaquiddick." (Full disclosure: They advertise with my podcast.) The film tells the story of Ted Kennedy's 1969 killing of political aide Mary Jo Kopechne; the Massachusetts Democratic senator drove his car off a bridge and into the Poucha Pond, somehow escaped the overturned vehicle and left Kopechne to drown. She didn't drown, though. Instead, she reportedly suffocated while waiting for help inside an air bubble while Kennedy waited 10 hours to call for help. The Kennedy family and its associated political allies then worked to cover up the incident. In the end, Teddy was sentenced to a two-month suspended jail sentence for leaving the scene of an accident. The incident prevented Kennedy from running for president in 1972 and 1976, though he attempted a run in 1980 against then-President Jimmy Carter, failing.

So, why is the film important?

It's important because it doesn't traffic in rumors and innuendo -- there is no attempt to claim that Kopechne was having an affair with Kennedy, or that she was pregnant with his child. It's important because it doesn't paint Kennedy as a monster but as a deeply flawed and somewhat pathetic scion of a dark and manipulative family. But most of all, it's important for two reasons: It's the first movie to actually tackle a serious Democratic scandal in the history of modern film, and it reminds us that Americans have long been willing to overlook scandal for the sake of political convenience.

First, there's the historic nature of the film. Here is an incomplete list of the films made about George W. Bush's administration since his election in 2000, nearly all of them accusatory in tone: "W," "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Recount," "Fair Game" and "Truth." There has still not been a movie made about former President Bill Clinton's impeachment (though one is apparently in the works). There's been no movie about former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's internment of the Japanese, former President Lyndon Johnson's dramatic mishandling of the Vietnam War (though we have had two hagiographies of LBJ, one directed by Rob Reiner, the other starring Bryan Cranston) or former President Woodrow Wilson's racism and near fascism. 

And it only took nearly 50 years to make a film about a Democratic icon leaving a woman to die in a river. It's amazing it was made in the first place.

Most importantly, though, "Chappaquiddick" reminds us that confirmation bias and wishful thinking aren't unique to one side of the aisle. In the era of President Trump, media members have had fun telling Republicans that they have abandoned all of their moral principles in order to back a man whose agenda they support. But Democrats beat Republicans there by decades: They not only overlooked a man who likely committed manslaughter but also made him into a hero, the "Lion of the Senate." We can't understand how morals and politics have been split in two without reckoning with this history.

"Chappaquiddick" is a must-see. It's just a shame it took half a century for it to see the light.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Jalen Brunson even set tone for how Villanova would celebrate

By Mike Jensen
April 3, 2018

Coach Jay Wright tends to an emotional Jalen Brunson late in the NCAA championship game. (Yong Kim)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — There was celebration mayhem all around. Jay Wright got in a group hug with his family and moved over to the side of the raised court, pointing at people as he focused on them in the closer stands, yelling out first names. Wright saw a guy in the front row. Billy! (Billy plays golf with Villanova’s coach sometimes.)

In the front row, Donte DiVincenzo’s mom, wearing one of the Villanova cowboy hats bought for all the moms by Jalen Brunson’s mom, was trying to keep it together while watching her son get interviewed by Jim Nantz up on the stage, his voice blasting around the Alamodome. Nantz announced “One Shining Moment” was coming up. “Oh God, don’t play that song!’’ DiVincenzo’s mom said, making it clear she’d lose it completely.

At the precise emotional center of it all was Villanova’s point guard. Jalen Brunson always has been. Except the core of this group all along was a portrait of steadiness, almost a stubbornness, a declaration that this group would not be rattled.

On this night, however, Brunson came out at the end and was full-out bawling before he reached his head coach. When the scoreboards read Villanova 79, Michigan 62, Josh Hart, a hero of the 2016 NCAA champions, got in on the 2018 celebration and hugged the point guard. Kris Jenkins, author of the game-winning shot two years ago, moved in right behind and picked Brunson up off the ground. Kerry Kittles, star from two decades back, pointed to the stage, time for Brunson to get up there.

On that stage, the tears kept flowing even as Brunson held up two fingers to the crowd, making it clear this wasn’t just a “V” — it was two fingers for two titles.

“I blame Jalen,’’ DiVincenzo, 31-point star of this night, said later of why he had immediately lost it, too.

“He actually showed emotion on the court,’’ freshman Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree said. “I felt like that just opened up everybody. Everybody kind of, like, lost it.”

This was the guy about whom Xavier’s coach had said, you peel his face off, he’d probably have wires coming out of it?

“I just knew that it was bound to come out eventually,’’ Brunson said long after he had regained his composure, back in the locker room. “Just to be with these guys, obviously they mean the world to me. You cannot trade this for anything ever — anything else I want.”

He’d swept the national player-of-the-year trophies and talked about how “this trumps it all. You get to lead a team, that makes it so special.”

Go back to the beginning of the game. Brunson had set a little tone right then. If everyone thought three-pointers were all Villanova was about, Brunson showed another way, driving into the lane for a pull-up jumper on Villanova’s first possession, hitting one of his turnaround specialties on the next one.

All season, you saw the nuances of his game. Fall for one of his tricks, and he’ll make sure the officials see there was a collision. Brunson also never hesitated to point out to the striped guys what he saw was going on.

Some of the emotion maybe came from the knowledge that this was it, that Brunson will be moving on. The fact that he left as a starter on two national-title teams — a feat no other Villanova player can claim — can’t change the realization that it’s over.

There was some reminiscing afterward in that locker room, especially since reporters were suddenly intensely interested in the whole Donte DiVincenzo story. Brunson was asked about first meeting DiVincenzo, while traveling to an AAU tournament. DiVincenzo already had committed to Villanova.

“Donte just came up and said, ‘What’s up, what’s up? Come to ‘Nova!’’ Brunson said. “I looked up at him and said, ‘Oh yeah — hell no!’ ‘’

He knew DiVincenzo was a big-time guard. Take two of them in the same class? Midway through high school, he didn’t think like that. You know they’ve laughed about it since.

“Looking at it now, it was pretty stupid of me to say,’’ Brunson said. “From that point on, I met a best friend.”

Someone asked Brunson, who had scored 19 points, about whether he’d hold up the national player-of-the-year trophies if DiVincenzo threw the Final Four outstanding-player thing at him.

“I’ll just say, I played in two national-title games instead of one,’’ Brunson said.

This was the loose Brunson you knew was part of the package but kept hidden from public view.

“We try to be the nastiest on the court, but off the court, we try to be genuine people as much as we can,’’ Brunson said.

A text came in from a former coach who had known Brunson for a long time through his father, Rick, the former Temple and NBA player and now an NBA assistant.

“The term ‘great kid’ is overused,’’ the former coach said. “He deserves a much better adjective. Exceptional kid. If he wasn’t practicing, he was reading. There isn’t a person there who gave more of his childhood with purposeful practice. Simply not possible. He’s been working for this since age three.”

When Brunson said he knew those emotions were bound to spill out eventually, we should understand how far all this goes back, and it simply came out to meet the occasion, setting the tone for Villanova, even after it was all over.

It’s Villanova’s world, and college basketball should be glad to be living in it

Villanova players celebrate with the trophy after beating Michigan 79-62 in the championship game of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 2, 2018, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
 In Villanova’s world, which now should be the most desired locale in college basketball, the best player on the court can be a redshirt sophomore sixth man nicknamed the Big Ragu. Donte DiVincenzo, who is Italian and redheaded and a good sport for accepting Fox broadcaster Gus Johnson’s sobriquet, can enter the NCAA men’s national championship game and shred every piece of an effective Michigan game plan with a steely performance.
In Villanova’s world, it is simply his turn to lead a balanced team. Jalen Brunson, the national player of the year, can suppress his game, watch his playing time shrink and still marvel. The rest of the team can flow with DiVincenzo as if it’s the most natural thing, as if his 31 points and driving dunks and wink-inducing three-pointers are exactly what the Wildcats expected.
In Villanova’s world, which is fascinating and enviable and potentially dynastic, the players are on stage after a 79-62 victory over Michigan, holding their second championship trophy in three seasons and turning the moment into a bromance, with expressions of love for each other and awe over what their unselfish spirit has created.

“I really can’t put my mind around it,” Coach Jay Wright said. “I never dreamt of this.”
Two titles in three seasons? At Villanova? For so long, it seemed the Wildcats should be satisfied with being a spunky overachiever, not a perennial contender but the underdog program that Rollie Massimino led to a miracle win over Georgetown in 1985. Maybe Villanova could do that once every 30 years or so. But own college basketball? Provide a blueprint for how a sport in trouble should be played by everyone? It was unimaginable, and now it’s something that must happen.
Be like Villanova? Yes, slimy college basketball peers, be like the Wildcats. Or at least try to be. Their run amounts to the most inspiring multiyear example of an unselfish championship culture and exquisite roster construction the sport has seen since Florida won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. Villanova is just the eighth school to win at least two NCAA men’s basketball championships in a three-season span.
The Wildcats did it with a style that defies the one-and-done, go-for-your-money, quick-fix, build-an-instant-contender mentality that now haunts college basketball. The game needed the example of Loyola Chicago to restore the charm of amateurism during this tournament, but it was desperate for a team with the characteristics of Villanova to win the whole thing.
At the Alamodome on Monday night, you saw a final that inspired pride after a long season of scandal. To conclude a tournament filled with reminders of college basketball’s dignity — from Maryland Baltimore County’s historic upset to Loyola Chicago’s riveting Final Four run — Villanova and Michigan served as finalists that augmented a reassuring message.
As he celebrated the win, Wright made sure to say of Michigan, “We’re proud to have played them in this game.”
It’s a challenge to dislike how Villanova and Michigan are built. Long before the FBI exposed widespread corruption in the sport, they were models for sustainable winning, but their successes have been amplified in the current climate. It should be apparent now that it’s dangerous to declare any major program immune to impropriety, but you can say safely that Jay Wright and John Beilein are coaches that aspire to do everything the right way. Beilein, in fact, was voted the sport’s cleanest coach in a CBS poll of 100 coaches last year. The manner in which they run their programs decreases the likelihood of scandal because of one important tenant: They prioritize recruiting players who want the full collegiate experience.
They aren’t infatuated with chasing the best talent. They want the right talent. And they excel in developing players.
That’s why Michigan forward Moritz Wagner, a frail German kid when he entered the program three years ago, dominated the opening minutes Monday and finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. That’s why DiVincenzo, who was a redshirt working on the scout team in practice when Villanova won the title in 2016, became the Final Four’s most outstanding player. And Mikal Bridges, another former redshirt, scored 19 points.
“I think both of us are looking for guys that want to be in college,” Wright said. “And we both love having guys that are pros, too, but we want guys that want to be part of a program.”
Wright and Beilein aren’t self-righteous about their methods, however. They don’t coach at Duke, Kansas or Kentucky. There are recruiting limitations at Villanova and Michigan, even though they have developed into consistent elite-level programs. Duke and Kentucky are really the only programs that have been able to keep winning despite the yearly roster upheaval caused by signing one-and-done stars. Wright admits he’d like a few more five-star players in his program, but not at the risk of ruining what he has established. Beilein craves certainty and continuity.
“We’re trying to get a program that can just sustain itself,” said Beilein, who has now been the national runner-up twice in his last six seasons at Michigan. “And it’s very hard to sustain when you have the kids go pro who should have gone pro, but you didn’t plan on that when they were freshmen because nobody else thought they were going to go pro, and all of a sudden, they’re good enough to go pro.”
Said Wright: “Well, the reason we stick to it is we can’t get the one-and-done guys. We’re trying. We really are . . . . We recruit guys that just want to be in college. We want them to enjoy the college experience and then we hope that after one year of enjoying the college experience they have a really difficult decision to make that the NBA wants you but you really enjoy college. Rather than come to college saying I want to get out as soon as I can.”
Two years ago, Villanova rode its approach and its delightful perimeter-dominant style of play and won the 2016 title over North Carolina on Kris Jenkins’s stunning buzzer-beater. But this time, it wasn’t close. Villanova won all six of its tournament games by double figures. In the Final Four, the Wildcats blew out Kansas and Michigan. There’s no doubt that, for the time being, this is the best program in college basketball.
“How close we are just carries us when we’re on the court,” DiVincenzo said.
Near the end of the game, DiVincenzo spotted former Villanova star Josh Hart in the crowd and pointed to his old teammate. Hart grinned and pointed.
“Another one!” DiVincenzo yelled, spreading his arms out wide.
With Villanova running things, maybe this lost sport has a chance.
For more by Jerry Brewer, visit

Retired Justice Stevens Puts Democrats on a Pin with Call to Repeal Second Amendment

By John Kass
April 2, 2018

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Retired Justice Stevens argues for repeal of Second Amendment

Democrats are panicking over retired Supreme Court Justice John Stevens' comments on repealing the Second Amendment.

You know they're panicking when they insist they're not panicking.

It is one thing for the left to slowly, carefully, methodically gut the Bill of Rights by using the media and their children's crusade as proxies.

But it's quite another thing to honestly declare your intentions about repealing the Second Amendment, which is what Stevens -- a Republican appointee but a liberal -- is advocating.

At least Stevens is honest about it, which is what you'd expect of a 97-year-old Cubs fan who saw Babe Ruth's called shot at Wrigley. But he's driven Democrats crazy.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, yes, but what if you don't want to admit to the American public -- before the 2018 elections -- that shredding the Second Amendment is what's on the menu?

You panic and say, "That is not what I meant, that is not what I meant at all," as you're fixed upon a pin as in the T.S. Eliot poem, which is exactly what Stevens' op-ed in The New York Times did to the left.

Stevens fixed them on a pin, like insects on a board. An honest pin, to be sure, but a pin nevertheless.

So until Democrats can figure out an escape without demeaning the retired justice, those bent on trashing the long-held American right to bear arms just might want to remember happier times.

Like those halcyon days when they hadn't yet driven all the moderate Democrats out of their party, when John Kerry was running for president.

Kerry, the impossibly rich liberal, a beneficiary of the Heinz ketchup fortune thanks to his wife, was a worldly fellow, comfortable on a yacht. But he was plagued by his patrician, upper-crust demeanor.

Some political brain decided Kerry should go a duck huntin' and demonstrate his love for the Second Amendment. And he got all dressed up like Elmer Fudd.

All that was missing was the Fudd hat with the ear flaps. But that would have ruined Kerry's hair.

Somebody shot some ducks -- or perhaps an aide had them quietly strangled -- but either way Kerry proudly carried those dead ducks around for news photographers, to demonstrate his reverence for the Second Amendment and the American right to kill some ducks.

The Bill of Rights doesn't exactly mention duck hunting, but liberals have a way of conflating hunting with the right to bear arms.

Kerry didn't care. He even dropped his patrician airs for the afternoon and walked around like an animatronic Orvis catalog. And, he got some nice Ohio mud on his boots.

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The photo op might have worked, if Kerry hadn't been wearing obviously stiff new gear, which made him look exactly what he was: a liberal politician in store-bought huntin' clothes pandering for regular folks' votes in Ohio by carrying a shotgun and a bunch of dead ducks.

Will we ever see Democrats touch a gun again in a photo op?

Perhaps, but they'll need a safe emotional distance between any fake Second Amendment reverence and that other recent Democratic event:

That children's crusade of the left called March for Our Lives, which was treated as some kind of spontaneous happening rather than carefully orchestrated theater.

In it, the young protesters held signs and spent George Clooney's money while demanding the government take away Americans' guns, because, in the words of student leader and apprentice demagogue David Hogg, stupid parents just can't be trusted with democracy.

"When your old-ass parent is like, 'I don't know how to send an iMessage,' and you're just like, 'Give me the (expletive deleted) phone and let me handle it,'" said Hogg in an earlier interview. "Sadly, that's what we have to do with our government; our parents don't know how to use a (expletive deleted) democracy, so we have to."

Of course you do. So just do it.

That's exactly what Stevens advocated in his New York Times op-ed piece.

Stevens wrote that he was moved by the demonstrations in Washington and other major cities, adding that they reveal broad public support for legislation to minimize the risks of mass killings by those with guns.

"But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform," wrote Stevens. "They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment."

It would be a more honest debate if Democrats would just drop the pretense and the mealy-mouthing and the business of carrying dead ducks around and follow Stevens's lead by declaring they want to repeal the Second Amendment. And have their candidates make that position clear in the upcoming midterms.

But Democrats are wriggling on that pin, saying they really don't want to mess with the Second Amendment.

"Not if they'd like to keep their jobs," said one of CNN's many leftists-in-residence, Symone Sanders, a former press secretary for socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

This is what happens when Democrats allow folks on the right and the Republican Party to define and frame the conversation," she explained, though Justice Stevens isn't exactly of the right.

And some of those young people in March for Our Lives demanded America get rid of its guns, but Sanders said she wouldn't go that far.

"Children are very different than elected Democratic representation."

In other words, use the children's crusade until you can't. And insist you really don't want to gut the Bill of Rights, until it's done.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Iraq's Christians: Eighty Percent Have "Disappeared"
April 1, 2018

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Ahmed Malik/Reuters

Persecution of Christians is worse today "than at any time in history", a recent report by the organization Aid to the Church in Need revealed. Iraq happens to be "ground zero" for the "elimination" of Christians from the pages of history.

Iraqi Christian clergymen recently wore a black sign as a symbol of national mourning for the last victims of the anti-Christian violence: a young worker and a whole family of three. "This means that there is no place for Christians," said Father Biyos Qasha of the Church of Maryos in Baghdad. "We are seen as a lamb to be killed at any time".

A few days earlier, Shiite militiamen discovered a mass grave with the bodies of 40 Christians near Mosul, the former stronghold of the Islamic State and the capital of Iraqi Christianity. The bodies, including those of women and children, seemed to belong to Christians kidnapped and killed by ISIS. Many had crosses with them in the mass grave. Not a single article in the Western mainstream media wrote about this ethnic cleansing.

French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia made an urgent plea to Europe and the West to defend non-Muslims in the Middle East, whom he likened to Holocaust victims. "As our parents wore the yellow star, Christians are made to wear the scarlet letter of nun" Korsia said. The Hebrew letter "nun" is the same sound as the beginning of Nazareen, an Arabic term signifying people from Nazareth, or Christians, and used by the Islamic State to mark the Christian houses in Mosul.

Now a new report by the Iraqi Human Rights Society also just revealed that Iraqi minorities, such as Christians, Yazidis and Shabaks, are now victims of a "slow genocide", which is shattering those ancient communities to the point of their disappearance. The numbers are significant.

According to the report, 81% of Iraq's Christians have disappeared from Iraq. The remaining number of Sabeans, an ancient community devoted to St. John the Baptist, is even smaller: 94% have disappeared from Iraq. Even 18% of Yazidis have left the country or been killed. Another human rights organization,Hammurabi, said that Baghdad had 600,000 Christians in the recent past; today there are only 150,000.

These numbers may be the reason Charles de Meyer, president of SOS Chr├ętiens d'Orient, has just spoken of the "extinction of Christians". Father Salar Kajo of the Churches' Nineveh Reconstruction Committee just spoke of the real possibility that "Christianity will disappear from Iraq".

Many ancient Christian churches and sites have been destroyed by Islamic extremists, such as Saint George Church in Mosul; the Virgin Mary Chaldean Church, attacked by car bomb, and the burned Armenian Church in Mosul. Hundreds of Christian homes have been razed in Mosul, where jihadists also toppled bell towers and crosses. The Iraqi clergy recently warned, "The churches are in danger".

Tragically, Christians living in lands formerly under the control of the "Caliphate" have been betrayed by many actors in the West. Governments ignored their tragic fate. Bishops were often too aloof to denounce their persecution. The media acted as if they considered these Christians to be agents of colonialism who deserved to be purged from the Middle East. And the so-called "human rights" organizations abandoned them.

European public opinion, supposedly always ready to rally against the discrimination of minorities, did not say a word about what Ayaan Hirsi Ali called "a war against Christians".

Some communities, such as the small Christian enclaves of Mosul, are now lost forever. Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II said there is a "real danger" Christianity could just become a "museum" in the Middle East. He noted that Iraq has lost 80-90% of its Christian population.

A few Christian villages have begun a slow and painful process of reconstruction with funds donated mainly by international relief organizations such as the US Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need. US Vice President Mike Pence recently promised to help these Christians. Action now must follow words. Christians who escaped and survived ISIS cannot depend today only on aid from churches and private groups.

Among European governments, only Hungary took a principled position and openly committed itself to save Iraqi Christianity from genocide. Recently, the Hungarian government opened a school for displaced Christians in Erbil; Hungary's Minister of Human Resources, Zoltan Balog, attended the event.

Imagine if all the other European countries, such as France and Germany, had done the same. The suffering of Christians in Iraq would today be much less and their numbers much higher.

The West was not willing to give sanctuary to these Christians when ISIS murdered 1,131 of them and destroyed or damaged 125 of their churches. We must now stand by their side before it is too late. After the mass displacements and the mass graves, we must help Christians rebuild in the lands where their people were martyred. Otherwise, even the smallest hope of hearing the sound of Christian church bells in the ancient lands of the Bible will be forever lost.

Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.