A few NR cruise notes

We returned from our National Review cruise of the Norwegian fjords yesterday afternoon. I want to offer a few notes for interested readers. We loved the cruise for all the obvious reasons. The programming was great and our fellow NR cruisers were outstanding. We met people we liked every day. The cruise is expensive and many of the cruisers are retired or of retirement age, but its therapeutic value all by itself is considerable.

We met PL readers Carole W. and Jane W. at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on our arrival. They went out of their way to say hello. Carole and Jane became friends as commenters on Tom Maguire’s excellent Just One Minute site. Tom has a good thing going there.

On the first full day at sea I spoke with the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s brilliant Ed Whelan, NR’s Ramesh Ponnuru and John Fund, and popular columnist Cal Thomas on a panel moderated by Hillsdale College’s John Miller about the Supreme Court’s 2012-13 term. Ed and I talked about the Court’s two gay marriage cases. We did not award the Court high marks.

It was of course a friendly audience. One Catholic clergyman designated Monsignor as well as other NR cruisers went out of their way to express appreciation for what I had to say afterwards. The prominent attorney Cleta Mitchell, about whom more below, was on board to speak with my daughter Eliana on a panel about the IRS scandals. Cleta gave me a warm hug after the panel. She couldn’t have been nicer.

Eliana interviewed James O’Keefe in a late-night session that included a greatest hits series of his video exposés. He made an impression. After the program O’Keefe sold out of his memoir/manifesto.

We all went up to the Crow’s Nest bar for drinks following the program. We found NR’s Jim Geraghty to be even funnier in person than he is online. On a semi-comic historical note, Jim observed that Eliana and I constituted the first father-daughter tag team in NR cruise program history.

Of the panels on topical subjects, the IRS scandals panel with Cleta Mitchell, Eliana and Andrew Stiles might have been the best. I sought out Cleta to record four short videos with her on the subject, the first of which will be in an adjacent post. Please stay tuned.

The NR all stars featured in the programming on board constituted a killer lineup. The panel on the state of Great Britain featured Paul Johnson, Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple), John O’Sullivan, David Pryce-Jones and Daniel Hannan, with Jay Nordlinger moderating. Their intellect and knowledge are almost unbelievable. What a privilege to hear them out.

In retrospect, I wish the panel had been recorded on a DVD and offered as a premium for new or renewed NR subscriptions, as used to be done with Bill Buckley’s new books. I think a lot of readers would have jumped at that offer.

Jay also moderated a discussion of Margaret Thatcher with Paul Johnson and John O’Sullivan. Johnson said that when he met David Ben-Gurion in 1948, Ben-Gurion urged Johnson to read the Hebrew Bible straight through. Johnson said he passed the recommendation on to Thatcher and that she took it up.

Seeing Paul Johnson caused many of us to reflect what an impact Modern Times had on us when we read it back in the early 1980s. A conservative friend who thought Rob Long insufficiently conservative at the time persuaded Rob to read it and Rob says he found it astonishing. It had the intended effect on Rob and it had that effect on a lot of us.

Speaking of astonishment, we toured the fjords that the Eurodam visited. At Haugesund I visited what I uncharitably and probably unfairly thought might be the world’s worst World War II museum. Nevertheless, I learned some things there and resolved to learn more about the course of World War II in Scandinavia. I was turned off by our guide’s incredibly slow pace and enthusiasm for the Norwegian welfare state, in roughly that order.

At one of the fjord stops we were met by expatriate American Kevin M. of Cupp Computing. Kevin lives and works in southern Norway and had arranged to meet up with Jonah Goldberg, whom he declared his Justin Bieber. Kevin drove Jonah up to meet Rich Lowry, who was on a tour of the town with us. Rich in turn introduced Kevin to me.

Kevin professed himself a huge Power Line fan. Demonstrating his skills as a clinician, Rich diagnosed my reaction to Kevin’s effusions as “glowing” (photo below). Incidentally, Rich announced that each stop along our moderately interesting walking tour that morning was a UNESCO world heritage site. Norway has a lot of them.

I was interested in visiting Norway in part because Minnesota and the Dakotas have benefited so much from the migration of many talented and hard-working Norwegians to the United States. When I told John Hinderaker that I would be going on the cruise, he alluded to his Norwegian roots, declaring: “I should be going.” I wondered before we left if our brief visit to Norway might provide me any clues about the causes of Norwegian emigration to the United States. On that subject I remain in the dark.

I could go on — and if encouraged, I will — but I’m afraid that is more than enough for now.

An Amsterdam footnote: Amsterdam was the point of departure. We toured the city for three days before the cruise and greatly enjoyed it, as I hope I conveyed in my pre-cruise posts. We didn’t see much evidence of the Muslim immigration that is transforming the Netherlands, but in the Holland America Eurodam’s excellent library I happened onto The Secret Servant, Daniel Silva’s 2007 entry in his Gabriel Allon series of spy thrillers. I greatly enjoyed the book and recommend it to readers who appreciate the genre.

I picked the book up because it begins in Amsterdam and I was curious about Silva’s take on the city. He portrays Amsterdam as a hotbed of Islamic radicalism along with Copenhagen and Paris, but places the locus of Europe’s Islamic radicalism in London.

I’ve wondered where Silva stands on the political spectrum and was intrigued by the credits in his acknowledgements. Silva packs a lot of political incorrectness into one sentence: “While Europe Slept by Bruce Bawer and Menace in Europe by Claire Berlinski helped sharpen my thoughts on the dilemma facing Europe today, especially the Netherlands, while Londonistan by Melanie Phillips gave me a deeper understanding of the crisis now confronting Great Britain.” Silva didn’t have to mention these keen analysts of the threat posed to Europe by the evils of Islamism. That he does so says something good about him.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty covers one of the cruise highlights here.

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