Rooms of Our Own

by Jay Nordlinger

Today’s Impromptus begins with a tale of two sculptures: Charging Bull, the Wall Street icon, which was placed there after the Crash of 1987, as a symbol of American resilience and dynamism; and Fearless Girl, which was placed in front of the bull this year in order to make a statement about gender equality in the financial sector.

The bull used to be something good, you see (good if you appreciate American capitalism). Now it has been rendered something bad, something menacing, to be stood up to. Neat trick, right? And a dirty trick, in my opinion.

Anyway, that’s what I lead with. And, after myriad peregrinations, I finish with an item on Robert McCloskey, a political scientist at Harvard who died in the 1960s (and was the father of Deirdre McCloskey, who is well-known today). Robert McCloskey was a favorite professor of a friend of mine. I wish I had studied under him myself.

One of my in-between items is about rooms. Huh? Room 34 of Britain’s National Gallery contains British paintings from 1750 to 1850. On Twitter, Daniel Hannan declared this “arguably the finest room in the world.”

That got me to thinking: What is the finest room in the world? And what are our criteria? I always thought that the Main Reading Room in the Library of Congress — Jefferson Building — was kinda fine. Mighty fine. Then there are rooms in Italy. So many …

(I should put in a plug for the Grosser Saal of the Mozarteum, Salzburg.)

If you’d like to play, please write me at Tell me what you think is the finest room in the world.

Our own room, ought that to be the finest? Why, sure. Charity begins at home. And, more specifically, in the sanctity of our very own room, which should provide comfort and order — and, as a bonus, reflect a little beauty. A blessed asylum.

P.S. We remember, of course, Room 222, of television past.

P.P.S. The Topkapi Palace, in Istanbul, contains a dozen rooms that might vie for “finest.” (I’ll stop now.)

California’s Radical Pro-Abortion Regime

by Wesley J. Smith

Response To...

Democracy Dies in Darkness

I am continually stunned at the energy and sheer ruthlessness of Planned Parenthood defenders—including the desire to ruin the lives of those who draw blood from the abortionists by pulling back the curtain to reveal the organization’s true character.

But indicting David Daleiden on 15 felony counts crosses the border of legitimate law enforcement to using the law as a weapon of tyranny.

This isn’t the first time Daleiden was indicted. A Texas DA tried the same gambit after the Attorney General instructed that he investigate Planned Parenthood. Those charges were thrown out of court.

California is as radical as radical gets, so I am worried Daleiden will have a much more difficult time obtaining justice there.

Oakland jailed Walter Hoye, an African American pastor–unconstitutionally, it turned out–for holding a sign that read, “Jesus loves you, Baby, let us help.” inside an abortion anti-protest bubble zone. 

The state permits non-doctors to perform abortions, because there never can be enough.  It also requires crisis pregnancy centers to list information where abortions can be obtained.

And as Daleiden receiving a fair trial from a California jury pool: Ai, yi, yi!

If Daleiden had only gone after a pig farm or stockyard with undercover videos, he would have a much easier time!

Paralyzed Man Moves Arm With Brain Implants

by Wesley J. Smith

Futuristic medicine is here. 

A paralyzed man was able to move his own arm using electrodes implanted in his brain and arm. From the Sky News story:

Bill Kochevar, 56, was paralysed below his shoulders in a cycling accident eight years ago but can now grasp and lift objects after having two pill-sized electrodes implanted in his brain.

The electrodes record the activity of brain neurons to generate signals that tell another device to stimulate muscles in the paralysed limb.

During trials held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr Kochevar raised a mug of water to his lips and drank from a straw… Mr Kochevar, from Cleveland, said…”For somebody who’s been injured eight years and couldn’t move, being able to move just that little bit is awesome to me.”


This wonderful success story required researchers engaging in what I call the “grim good” of animal research, including conducting experiments on monkeys over many years to test safety and methodology. 

So to those animal rights activists who continually lie by claiming we receive no material benefit from research on monkeys and other animals, and to the more radical among them who harass and threaten researchers and their families for conducting experiments using monkeys, mice, rats, and other animals in order to help suffering mankind: Pfffft!

Democracy Dies in Darkness

by Kevin D. Williamson

David Robert Daleiden, who produced those embarrassing undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood executives engaged in grotesquely cavalier behavior that at times looks an awful lot like fetal organ trafficking – remember the Lamborghini lady? — is being charged as a criminal in California, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Irrespective of how one feels about his videos, this is outrageous. He and his colleague, Sandra Merrit, are charged with 15 felonies, among them “conspiracy to invade privacy,” which is a pretty good working definition of investigative journalism. This is pure political retaliation and an abuse of power by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who would be removed from office in a self-respecting state. 

Democracy dies in darkness, right?

Krauthammer’s Take: In the Fall, ‘Obamacare’s Problems Are Going to Really Come to the Surface Again’

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer suggested that the demise of the American Health Care Act is not the end of Republican attempts to undo Obamacare:

I don’t think there’s a reason why it had to be pronounced dead. The president had an ultimatum. He decided he would stick to it. He decided that, as a result, he would not be involved. That’s fine. It’s still an open question whether they Republicans in the House and in the Senate can negotiate among themselves. They were not that far apart. I have been advocating this other alternative where you abandon the restrictions that are imposed by the reconciliation process, meaning you stuff the bill with all the kind of stuff you were going to add later, stuff that would appeal to the Freedom Caucus. You put that in the bill and toss it over to the Senate, and if Senate Democrats want to filibuster, fine. So, I think there are several options. I don’t think they are that far apart. I think it’s perfectly reasonable they could negotiate a deal among themselves. And I do think that in the fall, when Obamacare’s problems are going to really come to the surface again — spiking premiums and deductibles, and it gets worse every year — there will be less nostalgia for Obamacare then you have found in the current debate.

Dangers and Promises: A Tour with Eliot Cohen

by Jay Nordlinger

Almost 15 years ago, Eliot Cohen published Supreme Command, a book that made a big splash. He’s still splashing. His new book is The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power & the Necessity of Military Force. And he is my guest on Q&A (here).

Cohen is one of the leading national-security scholars in our country. He is an adviser to presidents, would-be presidents, secretaries of state, would-be secretaries of state, and others. In this podcast, I ask him to take a tour with me, and we do.

We start nearby — Mexico. And go to Europe. And Russia. And Japan. And North Korea. And China. And Iran. And elsewhere. We also discuss the terror war and the arena of “cyber” — cyberwarfare, cyberintelligence, and so on.

Toward the end of our podcast, we talk about the Trump administration, which features many of Cohen’s longtime friends and comrades. How will it all turn out? Well, who’s to say?

After I finish a conversation with Eliot Cohen, I feel my sense of the world is heightened. I’m talking about its dangers, sure — for that is Cohen’s specialty: dangers — but the world’s promises as well. It ain’t all bad.

And this podcast is all good, thanks to Cohen. Again, here.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley: ‘The Days of Israel-Bashing Are Over’

by Paul Crookston

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stated that she is aiming to change the culture at the U.N., and she has started by defending the international community’s favorite punching bag — Israel. At an event with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) yesterday, Haley described the U.N.’s animus toward Israel as “ridiculous” and confirmed that “the days of Israel-bashing are over,” drawing loud applause:

If you challenge us, be prepared for what you’re challenging us for, because we will respond. The next thing we did was we said, “The days of Israel-bashing are over.” We have a lot of things to talk about. There are a lot of threats to peace and security. But you’re not going to take our No. 1 democratic friend in the Middle East and beat up on them. And I think what you’re seeing is they’re all backing up a little bit. The Israel-bashing is not as loud. They didn’t know exactly what I meant outside of giving the speech, so we showed them.

She went on to explain how she got the U.N. to refrain from placing a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority into a top-level position: “What it means is, until the Palestinian Authority comes to the table, until the U.N. responds the way they’re supposed to, there are no freebies for the Palestinian Authority anymore.”

She also demanded that the U.N. withdraw a report from the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia that labeled Israel an apartheid state — and withdraw it they did:

So then they tested us again. And a ridiculous report, the Falk Report, came out. I don’t know who the guy is or what he’s about, but he’s got serious problems. Goes and compares Israel to an apartheid state. So the first thing we do is we call the secretary general and say, “This is absolutely ridiculous. You have to pull it.” The secretary general immediately pulled the report. And then the director has now resigned.

Last thing. So for anyone that says you can’t get anything done at the U.N., they need to know there’s a new sheriff in town.

She also expressed a commitment to reverse the Obama-era trend of playing softball with Iran and Russia in the Middle East:

The reason it’s concerning is because when the Iran deal took place, all it did was empower Iran, and it empowered Russia. And it emboldened Iran to feel like they could get away with more. You can put sanctions on a country. To take sanctions away, it’s very hard to go back and put sanctions back on.

So what we have said is we’re going to watch them like a hawk. We’re going to make sure that every single thing they do is watched, processed, and dealt with.

While she cannot reverse it now, Haley did criticize the Obama administration’s abstention allowing Resolution 2334 to pass. The resolution condemned Israeli settlements, even in Jerusalem, and she declared that its adoption “showed the United States at its weakest point ever” in the U.N. She described a renewed American leadership that does not shy away from taking a stand: “Leading is saying and doing things when it’s not comfortable.”

It’s no wonder that David Horovitz of the Times of Israel declared her the “undisputed star” of the conference. This reassertion of U.S. leadership in the U.N. is a welcome change from the Obama administration.


by Nicholas Frankovich

Lionel Trilling wrote of F. Scott Fitzgerald that “he really had but little impulse to blame, which is the more remarkable because our culture peculiarly honors the act of blaming, which it takes as the sign of virtue and intellect. ‘Forbearance, good word,’ is one of the jottings in his notebook.”

Jack and Jay both salute Linda Bridges for her graciousness and restraint. I think of it as verbal non-violence. She could have been a sharp-tongued polemicist, given her gifts, but she chose to use them as she did, conscientiously, like a Seventh-day Adventist serving the war effort as a medic. Words have the power to kill as well as to give life (Prov. 18:21). In that sense (as in others), Linda was pro-life. She spoke and wrote accordingly.

American Stoicism

by Peter Augustine Lawler

So I gave a talk last weekend at the Ciceronian Society at Louisiana State University last weekend. It was on American Stoicism.

Another speaker (much more popular) was Rod Dreher, talking about his Benedict Option. One of the many charming things about his presentation is that he talked about actual Benedictines. He reminded is that the actual Rule of Saint Benedict is really boring, because it lays out in meticulous and loving detail a coherent, stable, and only moderately disciplined way of life. The Benedictines, as orders go, have typically had moderate and highly civilized views, and they have always been countercultural, but never in an alarmist way.

Now my view of American Stoicism, which is moderately critical, pretty much comes from the philosopher-phyisician-novelist Walker Percy.

It was inevitable that I was asked what I thought of Rod’s fine (and hugely successful) new book on the BO. Well, for one thing, our country can always use more BO, which means more people living like the Benedictines and more people living in highly civilized, highly relational, countercultural ways in general.

Now, a dumb thing I said is that Walker Percy liked and I like TV too much to be whole-hog on the BO front. But, you know, it turns out that Percy was an oblate (or sort of fellow traveler) of the Benedictines of St. Joseph’s Abbey in his chosen home of Covington, La. And he’s buried on the grounds of that abbey. Nobody thought more highly of the Benedictines than he did, although he wasn’t actually called to be one.

So a more serious answer is that I thought that the BO often needs a dose of American Stoicism — or the virtues of magnanimity and generosity (and some honor in general) to supplement Christian love. That means, among other things, that people living the Benedictine Option aren’t absolved of their relational duties to the wider community and to their country. To some extent, the actual Benedictines can be given a pass, but their monasteries are single-sex and don’t include children.

Now, Rod has said more than once, to be fair, that he actually agrees with that criticism, which is why he’s moved from his hometown of St. Francisville, La., to the fairly big city of Baton Rouge to send his kids to a classical school.

What comes next is a dense, four-paragraph summary of the genealogy of magnanimous American Stoicism, which has, as you can see, largely divested itself of its racist, classist, and even sexist baggage. Today, the option it presents is virtuous alternatives to the intrusive expert scripting of ordinary lives by Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, the demagogic populism that deforms Trumpism, and the oligarchic individualism of too much of establishment conservatism. For a primer on democratized Southern Stoicism, I suggest you review the fabulous TV series Friday Night Lights.

I apologize that this summary is written so densely, but I will unpack it later.

Southern Stoicism and Magnanimity in America
Alexis de Tocqueville explained that the two indigenous countercultures in America were New England Puritanical Christianity and the Southern aristocracy. The Puritans, in a way, made a contribution to American magnanimity by defending Sunday as a day of restful leisure, reminding the busy Americans that they were born for more than a merely material existence as beings with a high, singular, and more than merely biological destiny. Tocqueville also said that the Southerners, despite the monstrous injustice of race-based slavery, had the virtues and vices of any aristocracy. He didn’t speculate about the American future in light of that fact, assuming that the inevitable disappearance of the slave-based society would lead to the assimilation of the South into the universalism of middle-class thought and morality.

Tocqueville was wrong about that assumption. Well, far from completely wrong, but wrong enough. As the philosopher-physician-novelist Walker Percy explained in his remarkable “Stoicism in the South,” the Southern aristocracy had a coherent philosophy that reflected a real form of human excellence rooted in the virtues of magnanimity and generosity. The leading Southerners often took at their guide the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius, thinking of themselves as gifted with natural and social privileges that generated corresponding responsibilities and as living as rational fortresses that allowed them to display the virtue required to handle any contingency. Stoicism was not a theme in the antebellum literary output of the South; all of the literary energy was consumed defending slavery. But it was a more prominent part of the Southern literature that flourished after the war, which reflected the consciousness of dispossessed aristocrats.

My talk addressed the most coherent form of Stoicism presented by William Alexander Percy. Walker Percy’s critical reception of the Stoicism of the man who raised him helped him to develop a kind indigenous American Thomism through reconciling what’s true about classical magnanimity with Christian love. I also talked about how Southern Stoicism became American Stoicism through Harper Lee’s portrayal of the magnanimity of Atticus Finch in defending the egalitarian rule of law from racist populism.

I concluded with the significance of the most democratized form of Southern Stoicism in places such as the novels of Charles Portis (particularly True Grit) and Tom Wolfe (particularly A Man in Full) and on the screen in movies such as Mud, Loving, and American Sniper and the TV series Friday Night Lights.

Yes, ‘Assault Rifles’ Are Good for Home Defense

by David French

One of the consistent arguments advanced in favor of banning so-called “assault rifles” from the civilian market is the assertion that they’re somehow inappropriate for home defense. Tell that to this guy:

Gunfire rang out Monday afternoon in a home in Broken Arrow, an Oklahoma city 15 miles southeast of Tulsa. Three intruders were killed after the son of the homeowner fired a semiautomatic rifle in what local law enforcement officers later described as an act of self-defense, though their investigation remains open.

The intruders — a 16-year-old, a 17-year-old and a man thought to be 18 or 19 — had smashed open the back door of the house, the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement posted to Facebook. Their plan was burglary, authorities said.

They wore gloves, masks and all-black clothes, Wagoner County Deputy Nick Mahoney told Tulsa World. Two of the teenagers were armed, one with a knife and the other with brass knuckles.

The semiautomatic rifle was reportedly an AR-15, exactly the type of gun that numerous liberals tell conservatives that they don’t “need” for self-defense. As I wrote last year:

[W]hen your life is on the line, what do you want? More accuracy or less? More firepower or less? More recoil or less? More reliability or less? It’s always interesting to take a relatively inexperienced shooter to a range, let them first shoot a handgun (where the bullets generally scatter all over the target), and then hand them an AR. Even rookies will shoot far more accurately with far less recoil. It’s just easier to use.

But don’t take it from me. A number of self-defense experts also choose AR-style rifles to defend their own homes, and as the rifle continues to grow in popularity I would expect more stories like the report out of Oklahoma. An AR-15 isn’t the right self-defense solution for everyone, but for those who know how to use the weapon and can safely store it while still maintaining quick access, it can save innocent lives. 

The Tax-Revenue Raiders and the NFL’s Ominous Future

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

The Tax-Revenue Raiders and the NFL’s Ominous Future

The National Football League is testing the patience of fans once again.

For the third time in fifteen months, an NFL franchise is moving to a new city. Last year the St. Louis Rams became the Los Angeles Rams; the San Diego Chargers moved up the coast to become the Los Angeles Chargers and will play next season in a converted soccer stadium. Monday, the league’s owners voted to approve the Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas.

The taxpayers of Nevada – or more specifically, hotel guests – are ponying up a large sum of cash to make the move happen:

The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved $750 million of public money to build a football stadium in Vegas, presumably for the Raiders, who have been lobbying for a move to Las Vegas.

The public money would be raised through hotel taxes.

“We are excited and thanks to the committee,” Raiders owner Mark Davis told USA TODAY after the committee vote Thursday.

How’s this for chutzpah? Davis asked Raider fans to come out and cheer until the team officially moves in 2019 or 2020 (depending on how fast they can complete the new stadium).

“The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA. We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry, but we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff. We plan to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018, and hope to stay there as the Oakland Raiders until the new stadium opens. We would love nothing more than to bring a championship back to the Bay Area.”

“And then, we will leave.” As ESPN’s Mike Greenberg observed, this is like your spouse announcing they’re divorcing you in two to three years because they’ve found someone better, but they expect you to love them until they leave. His colleague Dan Graziano offered a twisted thought: If the Raiders, who made the playoffs last year, won the Super Bowl this year or next, would the city of Oakland throw them the traditional parade?

I am sure I disagree with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff on almost everything, but she’s completely in the right here when she says, “I am proud that we stood firm in refusing to use public money to subsidize stadium construction and that we did not capitulate to their unreasonable and unnecessary demand that we choose between our football and baseball franchises.” This came down to one city/state putting a ton of taxpayer money on the table, and another city/state refusing to do so.

Each time a franchise succeeds in getting a shiny, state-of-the-art, luxury-box-laden stadium heavily financed by the taxpayers, it increases the incentive for other owners to pressure cities for the same deal. Marcus Thompson II, writing in the East Bay Times (which used to be the Oakland Tribune) wonders which city will get a raw deal next:

One: will the other 32 owners just let the San Francisco 49ers expand its kingdom and have a top-five market to itself? All the while, the Raiders dip into the Los Angeles fan base.

Two: how long before another team in a small market — which just saw a major market open up with an abandoned fan base and a potential boon in revenue — tries to make a move on Oakland?

The Jacksonville Jaguars owner has plenty of money. Can the Titans survive long term in a college town in Nashville? How committed are the Bengals to Cincinnati?

Don’t give me the they-would-never speech. It’s been proven that emotional, fan-centered view is just a marketing ploy. The NFL owners will go where the money is.

Wait, there’s one more ominous angle, from a Deadspin commentator: Let’s take an NFL team, a roster of 53 athletic young men, some as young as 21 or so. Some of them are making enormous amounts of money; the league minimum is roughly $465,000. They are active from mid-to-late July to January, or February if they’re in the playoffs. Sometimes, when injured, they have significant amounts of time away from the regimented routine of the season… now let’s put all of those young men in Sin City, surrounded by casinos, clubs, strippers, and every other temptation under the sun. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

How many years until a player gets caught in gambling scandal?

There’s genuine reason to wonder if the future of the NFL is as bright as the owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell have come to expect.

The NFL went through a bout of sudden franchise moves in the mid-90s. The Raiders moved from L.A. back to Oakland, the Rams moved to Saint Louis, the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and renamed themselves the Ravens and the Houston Oilers moved to Memphis and eventually renamed themselves the Tennessee Titans.

The NFL’s popularity wasn’t hurt by that franchise roulette, but the situation is different now. Back in the 1990s, the economy was running good-to-hot and the public was a less wary of giant taxpayer expenditures on stadiums to host eight to twelve home games a year. (And that’s counting the preseason.)

In 2016, the NFL’s television ratings were down 9 percent from the previous year in the regular season and down 6 percent in the playoffs. Undoubtedly some of that represents exasperation with the likes of Colin Kaepernick. But there are a lot of complaints of fans that won’t go away if Kaepernick keeps his word and stands for the upcoming season: sloppy play, long commercial breaks, long instant-replay delays, too many games being played between the Thursday Night Game, Sunday’s games, the Sunday Night Game, and the Monday Night Game, overseas games in London starting at 9 a.m. Eastern…

One other major factor for the future of the sport: I occasionally see voices on the Right scoffing at parents who won’t let their sons play football, contending this is an example of over-protectiveness or “snowflake culture.” Well, 12 former NFL players are telling their sons and grandsons the same thing, players like Harry Carson, Mike Ditka, and Troy Aikman. At age 44, Brett Favre said he doesn’t remember his daughter’s soccer season. Most of us will go through life and never suffer a concussion, or only experience one or two. Former Jets receiver Al Toon was diagnosed with nine during an eight-year career. (Toon says he has lingering conditions but “nothing significant.”) How many concussions can a young man suffer before serious long-term damage occurs? When it’s your child, how many hits to the head seem like “too many”?

You can go through life with a sore knee. You need a functioning mind for the rest of your life, long after your playing days are over. Parents and grandparents being extremely wary about concussions on their sons’  developing brains doesn’t strike me as being overprotective. It strikes me as being extremely careful about the risks and rewards.

On “Moving On” From Health Care

by Yuval Levin

There is much to be said, in due course, about the sorry fate of the AHCA. But one particularly striking feature of many conversations with Republicans on and off Capitol Hill about it today had to do with a peculiar facet of the way the debate about the bill came to an end. Again and again, people expressed surprise at how the language of “moving on” from health care appeared to have been taken by some observers.

For some, that surprise took the form of bemusement at various things written by analysts on the left about how Republicans were done trying to repeal Obamacare and now it was here to stay. But as the day went on, I think people on the right came to the view that this idea was being taken too seriously—not only by liberals and (therefore) by many journalists, but by some on the right, and perhaps even by the president. 

When Trump said late last week that he had lost his patience with the health-care debate and would move on to something else if the bill didn’t pass, most of the people he was talking to took him to be trying a hard sell. After all, he had only really been engaged in the debate for a couple of weeks, a number of policy challenges seem likely to force some kind of action on Obamacare this year, and in any case there wasn’t really anything else ready to move to. 

It’s still not entirely clear what Trump had in mind, but it does seem that he genuinely did lose his patience after a couple of weeks. Perhaps he really does think he will now move on from health care, or that he actually has the option to just sit back and let the law “explode,” as he put it. 

But other Republicans don’t seem to want to move on. So I would expect that in the course of the next few days we will see statements from various Republican quarters backing down from claims about moving on and making it clear that they’re still engaged in health care conversations, which they expect to continue for some time. 

That doesn’t mean things would simply pick up from the rejected bill. The various factions of the House Republicans certainly made some progress toward each other over the past few weeks despite the bill’s considerable failings, and they (and Senate counterparts) will likely try to build on that, but the process they will pursue seems likely to be a good bit slower, less intense, and less leadership-driven. It may have trouble aligning with reconciliation schedules, at least as they now stand, and its relation to any efforts toward tax reform will need to be thought about as things proceed. 

This is also not to diminish or understate the damage done by last week’s epic failure. It has surely left Republicans in Washington with less confidence in one another and complicated the entire Republican agenda for the year. The failures of policy development, salesmanship, and brinksmanship by the self-proclaimed masters of each in the party will not soon be forgotten. And the bizarrely hurried schedule—originally adopted with a very different (dual-reconciliation) strategy in mind and then retained largely by sheer inertia—did a lot of needless damage to the ultimate prospects for replacing Obamacare. 

Failure in that effort is certainly possible in time. But it has by no means come already, and it is surely avoidable. Back in January, when that first dual-reconciliation strategy was still the aim, I argued that it seemed likely to fail, and that it might not be the only failure along the way, but that a year of intense action on health care was only beginning. That still seems likely, on the whole. 

Krauthammer’s Take on Putin-Linked Death: ‘Installing Hot Tubs Is Not a Known Cause of Defenestration’

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer pointed out recent crimes likely committed by the Putin’s regime in Russia, and he argued that the trend of mildness toward Putin in the West harms our values and our interests:

This is a malign regime. And the statement by the White house was a fairly mild one. But think about what just happened in the last couple of days: Last Thursday a Kremlin opponent who took refuge in Ukraine — he’s against the Ukraine operation — was shot dead in the street in broad daylight. Two days earlier, a week ago on Tuesday, another critic of the regime who represents the Magnitsky family, the one of another guy who died on orders of the Kremlin, he falls out of a four-story window, according to the regime, while installing a hot tub in the fourth-floor apartment. Now I don’t know about Russia, but in the United States, installing hot tubs is not a known cause of defenestration, so this is a little bit suspicious.

And we have a president who talks about his guy, who is a killer — we are talking about Putin here. He kills his opponents, there are at least a dozen who are well known, and speaks about it flippantly. It doesn’t mean you start a world war with this guy, it doesn’t mean that you have to oppose everything he does, but this is a regime of which the Trump administration has spoken very mildly, and I think it is an affront to our values. It’s also against our interests. There are Europeans like the leading candidate for president in France who was just in Moscow; she smoked a peace pipe with Putin, she spoke glowingly of him. This is Russia extending its influence in a way that will be very much detrimental to us and to the West.

All Hail Fowler the Great!

by Rich Lowry

The NRI ideas summit provided an occasion to toast Jack Fowler, our esteemed and beloved vice president and publisher emeritus. NRI board member Peter Travers was the toaster:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  I am Peter Travers.  On behalf of the Trustees of the National Review Institute, I join Lindsay in welcoming you, and thank you for your support of National Review

More particularly, however, I would like to seize a brief moment to draw your attention to the immense contributions over many years to National Review and to the conservative movement of our Publisher-Emeritus and newly-minted Vice President — the estimable and sometimes ineffable, Jack Fowler.

Many years ago, our founder William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote an effervescent little book about his season as an American delegate to the circus at Turtle Bay.  United Nations Journal: A Delegate’s Odyssey was Bill’s delectable evisceration of the insufferable pomposities and unearned moral pretensions of the United Nations.  I read the book four decades ago, but Bill’s description therein of the sainted junior senator from New York was, as he would say, lapidary: his brother Jim, Bill wrote, was “a benign presence before whose phlegmatic charm razors are blunt and arrows detumesce.”  Well, it may be that Jack has not always achieved the Full Phlegmatic, but his disarming affability and avuncular manner have put so many of us at ease, and so often blunted the sharpness of the exigencies confronting the great enterprise National Review.

I first encountered Jack in 1989 when, having fallen into a bit of financial good fortune, I thought to pass some of it along to my favorite magazine (an impulse, come to think of it, I heartily encourage all of you to indulge.) I had begun reading National Review in 1965, and it had been instrumental in my education, and influential in my understanding of the American Project.  Jack was so nice and made such a fuss over my trifling gift that I was taken with a bit of concern that perhaps National Review was in greater need of funds than I had thought.  But, in fact, Jack understood profoundly that there was a community of us out in the country who were an essential part of this patriotic and idealistic venture, and who deserved as much attention as he could muster.  And, he has been doing that for 36 years.  Simply put, my first encounter with Jack so many years ago confirmed my belief that any organization with such an outstanding fellow as this must be just as excellent as I had imagined.

Through the years, I have had many more occasions to observe, chat, work and interact with Jack.  Each has deepened my appreciation for his rumpled tenacity and organic good-guyness: one might even say, yes, his phlegmatic charm. There is no way to sugarcoat it: Jack has been a stalwart for National Review, keeping the lights on, the cruisers cruising, the presses rolling, the coffee brewing, through thick and thin. All the way through, as many of you know well, Jack has been a blessing to his friends, colleagues and family.

Recently, I was reading through the most recent National Review related book, and Fowler project, A Torch Kept Lit, in which James Rosen has gathered many of Bill’s obituaries for friends and luminaries.  In one entry, there was a typically discerning Bill comment that, again, made me think it might have been written about Jack Fowler: “It is awesome to extrapolate,” Bill wrote, “from one’s own experience of his goodness the sum of what he did for others.”

So, my big idea to contribute this evening is to pronounce that these proceedings will henceforth be recorded as the “Jack Fowler National Review Institute 2017 Ideas Summit.”  And, in the spirit of our founder, I offer to Jack on behalf of the National Review Nation this “exiguous token” of our great esteem.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to raise your glasses and offer with me a toast to my friend, the redoubtable Jack Fowler.  

Here is Jack accepting said exiguous token:

And here is the token itself, wherein Jack gets the Roman Genn treatment:

If You Can’t Fire Government Workers, You Can’t Run Government Like a Business

by David French

The latest effort to run government like a business — or, more precisely, to import business principles into government management — is set to launch:

President Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises — such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction — by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions.

The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements.

There are innumerable challenges to treating government like a business. One of the most consequential is the fact that you can’t treat government employees like private sector employees. Aside from the tiny slice of presidential appointees, government workers enjoy extraordinary job security, and many of them take full advantage of their freedom to fail. As USA Today discovered a few years back, in some agencies the workers are more likely to die than get laid off or fired. This means that workers can weather virtually any reform effort by merely keeping their heads down and waiting for the latest fad or fashion to pass.

There is no substitute for meaningful incentives, and right now success or failure is more abstract for public employees than it is for private-sector workers. If Google or Facebook should one day falter, they can’t appropriate money from taxpayers to stay in operation. There’s no act of Congress that mandates and protects their existence. So we’re left with a world where employees largely don’t lose their job for individual incompetence, and Congress itself protects agencies from the effects of collective incompetence. I wish Kushner well as he tries to make government great again, but I fear he’s been given a task that he doesn’t have the tools to complete. 

Wake Forest Faculty Throw a Tantrum

by George Leef

It’s a depressingly common story by now — supposedly “liberal” college faculty getting all hot and bothered over a non-leftist campus center funded by the Koch Foundation. The latest outburst is at Wake Forest, where the faculty senate has recommended extraordinary measures to curtail the work of Professor James Otteson and his Eudaimonia Institute. In today’s Martin Center article, Jenna Robinson looks at this nasty little fight.

Professor Otteson is a famous classical-liberal scholar. Among his books is The End of Socialism. While college professors can get away with espousing classical-liberal ideas (although they might get sneered at by “progressives”), when they do so with any money from the Koch Foundation, the Left erupts in fury. Last September, a $4 million Koch grant to the Institute was announced, but the Wake Forest faculty is demanding that the grant be rejected on the grounds that Koch money somehow undermines academic freedom and the university’s reputation.

Robinson explains:

Specifically, the Faculty Senate recommended freezing current hiring, canceling internal and external presentations, and even restricting the publication of any material to do with the Institute. Going forward, the Faculty Senate wants all of the Eudaimonia Institute’s academic decisions to be reviewed by an external committee — presumably so the committee can apply some sort of progressive litmus test to the Institute’s work.

There are leftist-funded centers at Wake Forest, but of course they elicit no complaints from these university “guardians.”

It’s as clear as anything can be that the academic Left just doesn’t like any expressions of sympathy for the free market and limited government, even if they might advance human flourishing, which is what the Greeks meant by “eudaimonia.” Any excuse to silence scholars who aren’t part of the “progressive” movement is good enough.

Stay tuned. We will keep on top of this.

Diversity Myths

by Roger Clegg

The Washington Post has a “Five Myths about . . . ” weekly series, and over the weekend Valerie Strauss focused on college admissions. Here’s her fifth “myth”: “Schools don’t need affirmative action to make diverse classes.”

Ms. Strauss begins by noting that [1] some schools have rejected racial preferences — a.k.a. affirmative action — and still improved racial diversity, and that some critics have pointed out that racial preferences “are [2] unfairly discriminatory and [3] don’t help minority students” and that [4] if “diversity” were really the goal of racial preferences, “’then preferences would be given on the basis of unusual characteristics, not on the basis of race.’”

So, how does Ms. Strauss refute 1, 2, 3, and 4? Well, as a matter of fact she doesn’t. She doesn’t even try. She just ignores them.

Instead, she simply asserts that racial preferences “do appear” to increase diversity, and she defines diversity to be simply the percentages of black and Hispanic students at some schools and how close they come to their percentages “in the general population.” In other words, she says that if you give an admissions preference to people of a particular race, you will admit more of them. Wow, that’s amazing.

She concludes with a paragraph that bemoans, “Today, affirmative action has lost much judicial support” and that public support is “mixed” (actually public support is much less than judicial support, but never mind). She’s unhappy that schools are stuck under Supreme Court precedent with having to use the “diversity” justification for racial preferences; she’d apparently prefer a compensatory rationale — a dubious one under any circumstances (since, for example, the overwhelming majority of blacks admitted to more selective schools are not from poor backgrounds), and especially now that Latinos outnumber African Americans among groups getting preferential treatment and that those losing out now are more and more likely to be Asian Americans.

And here’s Ms. Strauss’s last sentence: “Meanwhile, most minority groups remain underrepresented on college and university campuses, even though most students enrolled at the country’s K-12 public schools are minorities.” The “most minority groups” phrasing is to acknowledge that Asian Americans and Arab Americans, for example, are not underrepresented, which is why they are now discriminated against. And the reason that some groups are “underrepresented” on college campuses is not because of slavery, but because of the sad state of our public schools (the solutions for which are more likely to be conservative than liberal), the belief that studying hard is “acting white” (or, worse, acting Asian), and especially the fact that some groups have many more children growing up in single-parent families (which is, unsurprisingly, correlated with not doing well in school).

I should stress that Ms. Strauss’s aim of “making diverse classes” is a misguided one in any event. Forget bean-counting and admit the best qualified students, regardless of race or ethnicity. The notion that there are compelling “educational benefits” from racial and ethnic diversity is unpersuasive, as I discuss, here.

What Those Blaming the Freedom Caucus Are Forgetting

by Veronique de Rugy

This weekend’s coverage of the health-care debacle was interesting. The newspapers have been full of articles about who is to blame for the failure of the Republican bill in the House: President Trump, Speaker Ryan, the Freedom Caucus (or the son-in-law, Gary Cohn, or Reince Priebus). Ignoring that its members voted for an Obamacare repeal bill many times in the past, the Freedom Caucus is getting the brunt of the blame. As Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein writes:

They are being blamed for making the naive mistake of assuming that Republicans wanted to do what they were promising to do for seven years.

In this case, the hardliners were playing a productive role by pointing out the real policy consequences of the piecemeal approach being pursued by the House leadership. Though we’ll never know for sure how the numbers might have looked if a vote had taken place, it’s clear that many centrist members of the Republican caucus were also prepared to vote this bill down. House conservatives, if they could be blamed for anything, it’s for having the audacity to urge leadership to actually honor seven years of pledges to voters to repeal Obamacare. If anybody was moving the goal posts, it wasn’t Freedom Caucusers, it was those who were trying to sell a bill that kept much of Obamacare’s regulatory architecture in place as a free market repeal and replace plan.

That being said, the debate largely ignores two key points.

First, by focusing on the politics of who is to blame, the policy dimension of the bill’s failure is mostly ignored. Maybe that’s not all that surprising since Speaker Ryan, who has a reputation of being a policy guy, delivered a bill that was driven by politics and got a lot of the policy wrong. But let’s face it, as Klein mentioned in his article, the bill just wasn’t a good bill. It wasn’t a conservative or a free-market bill, either. Sure it had some merits — which isn’t saying much considering that Republicans had been supposedly working on this for seven years — but overall it had serious and lethal problems. As such, the blame should fall on those who put out a bad bill not on those who prevented it from going through the House. Again, I like how Klein puts it:

Sure, I know, Republicans had a narrow majority, and they could only pass something through the Senate by reconciliation, which imposes limitations. But the thing is, Republicans don’t hide behind the vagaries of Senate procedure during campaign season. Trump did not win the Republican nomination telling rallies of thousands of people, “We’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare — as long as it satisfies the Byrd rule in the judgment of the Senate parliamentarian!”

What’s so utterly disgraceful, is not just that Republicans failed so miserably, but that they barely tried, raising questions about whether they ever actually wanted to repeal Obamacare in the first place.

That’s correct. It also seems that the bullying tactics used to try to force the bill through were counter-productive. And leaving aside the fact that Republicans had seven years to be ready, one can also ask why this shouldn’t be viewed as a great opportunity to go back to the drawing board and get it right. There is no doubt that Obamacare needs to go, and doing nothing seems like the worst possible option.

Second, absent from the conversation is the fact that it was less than likely that this bill would have survived in the Senate. As such, talk about how it is a disaster that the bill was pulled in the House ignores its potential failure in the upper chamber and overstates the opportunity cost of its failure in the House.

I hope Republicans will learn a lesson or two from this experience: If your end goal is to improve health-care policy, start with health-care policies that will actually improve health care. If you promised to repeal Obamacare for seven years, repeal Obamacare.

ISIS Bears the Moral and Legal Responsibility for Increased Civilian Casualties

by David French

This weekend, the New York Times reported that American air strikes in Mosul may have killed up to 200 Iraqi civilians. The strikes – coming just as Iraqi forces are assaulting deeper into the last major ISIS-held city in Iraq – raised questions about a potential change in the rules of engagement governing U.S. forces. Here’s how the Times put it:

Taken together, the surge of reported civilian deaths raised questions about whether once-strict rules of engagement meant to minimize civilian casualties were being relaxed under the Trump administration, which has vowed to fight the Islamic State more aggressively.

American military officials insisted on Friday that the rules of engagement had not changed. They acknowledged, however, that American airstrikes in Syria and Iraq had been heavier in an effort to press the Islamic State on multiple fronts.

I have two responses to this news. First, the rules of engagement need to be relaxed. As is, they go well beyond the laws of war and provide the enemy with too much freedom of movement in civilian zones and effectively encourage the use of human shields. While commanders would of course still be free to refrain from striking based on military, diplomatic, and humanitarian concerns, they should also be free to attack in accordance with the standard laws of armed conflict.

Second, it’s worth remembering that unless American forces are refusing to discriminate between military and civilian targets – or use force disproportionate to the threat – that these casualties are ISIS’s moral and legal responsibility. The laws of war impose on both parties a duty of “distinction.” It is the combatants’ responsibility to not only distinguish between military and civilian targets but to facilitate that distinction with uniforms and clear markings. The party that fails to distinguish their forces (by looking like civilians, hiding in civilian buildings, using civilian vehicles) is at fault when their failure causes civilian casualties.

Indeed, the effort to impose heightened requirements on American forces when the enemy violates the laws of war defeats the very purpose of the laws of war. If it is better for a combatant to violate the law, they will, and our own rules – while arguably humane – make it much better for ISIS to keep defying international law.

I say our rules are “arguably” humane in part because it’s far from settled whether, in the long run, more civilians die when warfare drags on, and the enemy is permitted to burrow ever-deeper into the civilian population. With each new restriction, we enable more misconduct. It’s time for the international community to read headlines about civilian deaths and realize who’s really to blame.

On Trump Appealing to Democrats

by Jonah Goldberg

Response To...

The Bi-Partisan Option

I agree with all of Rich’s points below about the hard time Trump will have peeling off Democrats for some new bipartisan coalition. I will admit, one of my greatest fears of the Trump presidency is that he would come out of blocks trying to do exactly that. He hasn’t — and that’s a good thing, from a conservative perspective. Instead, he made the same mistake that Obama made at the outset of his administration.

I’ve long argued that the fons et origo of Obama’s problems was his refusal to co-opt a chunk of the Republican caucus with the stimulus. People forget that, at the time, Obama’s popularity was through the roof, and there was a legitimate sense of urgency in the country about the financial crisis. I remember political consultants and Hill people telling me how worried they were that Obama would offer something many Republicans would have to vote for. If a third of Republicans supported the Obama stimulus, then the lousy economy that followed would be a bipartisan failure (or maybe a success if it had worked better). But the Obama White House opted to eschew GOP buy-in, and the Republicans learned an important lesson: They could oppose Obama and not pay a political price.

If Trump had reached out to Dems the way Rich suggests and led with a massive FDR–style infrastructure program of the sort Steve Bannon says he wants, most Republicans and a good chunk of the Democrats probably would have gone for it. That would have split both parties and created a Trump coalition.

As it stands, that looks much more difficult. It is in the political interests of the Democrats to oppose Trump on everything, for the reasons Rich suggests.

But there’s another factor that is not Trump’s fault, but Obama’s. Where are these supposed moderate Democrats ripe for the plucking that people keep talking about? Let’s get their pictures on milk cartons ASAP.

The truth is that Obama hollowed out the Democratic party of any significant bloc of moderates. Support for Obamacare killed off a slew of more centrist Democrats, particularly in the Senate. What’s left is a far more ideologically committed urban and blue-state party. That means doing anything that attracts a Democrat will likely repulse at least an equal number of Republicans. As Ramesh said to me this morning, it’s not like it never occurred to John Boehner to find 30 Democrats to make up for losses among the conservative diehards, it’s just that such Democrats weren’t to be found (at least not without costing more Republican defections). The days of the Reagan Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats (and Gypsie Moth Republicans) are largely behind us.

That means if Trump is really determined to get Democratic support, he will have to move much further left to do so. And that will create a real crisis for a lot of Republicans, not just the House Freedom Caucus.