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Assimilation: Mission Accomplished!


I was riding the subway through Harlem this evening, and saw that the lovely young Hispanic woman sitting next to me was reading something quite intently. I have a lifelong mania for books, to such an extent that whenever I see someone reading, I am deathly curious about what it is. It’s usually easy enough to find out: The person is facing me, and the book’s cover has a clearly legible title. In this case, though, the young lady’s book was flat on her lap; the open pages had no titles at the top; and they were in Spanish, in which I have an extremely limited vocabulary. I tried, rolling my eyes as far left as possible and looking over her shoulder, to see if any words I recognized could tip me off to the book’s subject. After a few seconds, I saw a proper name: “Christian Grey.” A-ha!

I offer this little anecdote as a devastating refutation to all those immigration skeptics who worry that people who come to this country are no longer assimilating into the mainstream culture. Yes, it’s true that the young lady was reading the fastest selling paperback in history in Spanish, and not in the original Uhmurikan (or, in this case, British). But that’s hardly a cause for urgent concern: I’ve seen many times that someone who reads Dante in translation will want to learn Italian to enjoy the original; similarly, people who fall in love with Li Po and Tu Fu often seek to learn Chinese. Now, contrary to what the multiculturalists claim, ours is the best of all cultures — so someone blessed enough to be exposed to the products of our culture will have all the more incentive to learn its language.

(NB. I intend no disrespect to anyone who read Fifty Shades of Grey and enjoyed it. I’ve never read it and almost certainly never will, so I’m basing my mockery of it entirely on hearsay. Caveat non-emptor.)


Did Michael Irvin Blame RGIII’s Benching on Race?


Former star wide receiver Michael Irvin suggested that race played a factor in the benching of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, and at least one other ESPN analyst agrees with him. Earlier this week, Washington coach Mike Shanahan announced he would sit Griffin for the remaining three games of the season, raising questions about his motivations and Griffin’s future.

Discussing the situation during the NFL Network’s pregame show on Thursday, Irvin accused Shanahan of “tearing [Griffin] down” and said he “doubt[ed] that any man could come back” from the benching in the manner in which it was done. Irvin argued that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck, all white quarterbacks, wouldn’t have had their seasons cut short as Griffin, who is black, has. “Do you think they could do this to Andrew Luck?” Irvin asked at one point. Griffin has allegedly received special treatment from team management in a way that angered Shanahan, but that wouldn’t have been a source of controversy for Brady or Manning, Irvin contended.

“He’s the quarterback and the rest of us brothers have to understand that and treat him as such,” he said.

Irvin also hinted that race played a role in Shanahan’s tumultuous relationships with former Redskins players Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth, who are black. “Say what you will, say what you will,” he said.

Keep reading this post . . .

Web Briefing: July 10, 2014

Hitch, Paine, and Anglo-American Radicalism


It was two years ago today that Christopher Hitchens lost his battle with esophageal cancer. “Hitch,” as his friends referred to him, was many things: journalist, literary critic, outspoken atheist, and general man of letters. He wrote memorably and elegantly about a seemingly infinite number of writers, statesmen, and general historical figures over the course of his career.  Among this vast array of subjects, Anglo-American radical Thomas Paine was held in in particularly high esteem; Hitchens would author a book on Paine’s Rights of Man in 2007.

Comparing the two men’s biographies, one notices a remarkable amount in common. Both Hitchens and Paine came to fame through their fiery and powerful rhetoric, both held reputations as notorious drinkers, both had a fervent love for their adopted country, and both ended their careers as staunch critics of religion. While working on his new book about Edmund Burke’s debate with Paine over the French Revolution, author Yuval Levin had a series of conversations with Hitchens on the subject in what would be the final year of Hitchens’s life. In a recent interview, Levin spoke about Hitchens, Paine, and their shared political and moral vision.

“As I read [his Paine] book, it occurred to me that Christopher Hitchens is Tom Paine in so many ways,” Levin told me. “His absolutely intense passion for a very simple idea of justice that’s really just understood as protecting the weak from the strong; his ability as a result of that to overcome a lot of what we think of as leftism; and to see a kind of radical individualistic notion of justice at the core of society. Of course, this notion of justice translated itself into almost exactly the same things as it did for Paine, all the way down to at the end of his life being devoted to the struggle against traditional religion.”

For Levin, Hitchens’s own particular radicalism gave him intuitive insights into Paine unavailable to most. “Having come to that understanding that he was so much like Paine, I think Hitchens understood where Paine was coming from in a way that can be difficult for us now given the history of the Left and Right since that time. He understood the kind of simple power of the appeal of that kind of Enlightenment radicalism for someone in search of justice. He knew Paine’s writings extremely well, we talked about him in great detail and I really learned a lot about Tom Paine from those conversations.”

For all his identification with Paine, Hitchens sympathized (to an extent) with Burke’s critique of the French Revolution. At the beginning of his essay on Burke, he chose to quote William Hazlitt’s remark that it is “a test of the sense and candour of any one belonging to the opposite party, whether he allowed Burke to be a great man.”

Perhaps one could say the same for those on the Right with regard to Hitch.

— Nat Brown is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation.


Peter O’Toole: He Loved Drink, Feared the Taxman


The great British actor Peter O’Toole has died at the age of 81.

Starting with the epic Lawrence of Arabia, he was nominated for eight Academy Awards but never won one. When he was given an honorary Oscar a decade ago, OToole almost refused the prize, insisting, “I am still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright.”

One reason he didn’t is perhaps his reputation for hard drinking, which sometimes meant he wasn’t available for some roles. He once famously arrived on the Late Show with David Letterman, disheveled but snappily dressed, on top of a camel. Dismounting, he slurred: “Excuse me, but my noble transport is a little thirsty,” and gave the animal a can of beer.

He finally slowed down after a 1975 hospitalization during which he almost died. “The time has come to stop roaming,” he said at the time. “The pirate ship has berthed. I can still make whoopie, but now I do it sober.” He largely lived up to that promise.

I once had the pleasure of interviewing O’Toole for my college newspaper when he came to my home town of Fair Oaks, Calif., to shoot scenes for his 1980 movie The Stunt Man. We had a beer at the local Stockman’s Bar and he proved a delightful raconteur. But when it came to politics, the son of a bookmaker made it clear he was loyal to his Labour-party roots. He had some biting words for his fellow actor Ronald Reagan, who was preparing to run for president.

But O’Toole could also laugh at himself. He recalled that after he struck it rich in the 1960s, he tried to bully everyone in his household into voting Labour. He thought he had succeeded with everyone, until his working-class driver told him he had taken the Rolls down to the polling station and voted Conservative because his own taxes were too high.

That, he said, got him to thinking. He admitted his fellow actors Michael Caine and Sean Connery had a point when they said Britain’s high tax rates did discourage work, and moved themselves overseas. The year we spoke, Margaret Thatcher began cutting Britain’s tax rates, negating the need for O’Toole to ponder joining them.

Peter O’Toole, R.I.P.


Peter O’Toole died in London yesterday. He was one of the few actors I was happy to watch in any role. He improved almost anything he was in, although I wish there had been more late-career stuff after his charming turn in My Favorite Year.

I have a very tenuous six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon connection to him, in that his ex-wife, Siân Phillips, and I share the same musical director/pianist, Kevin Amos. But, that aside, it’s because of Peter O’Toole that I never dismissed the Obama-birther stuff out of hand. O’Toole had two valid, government-issued birth certificates — one stating he was born in Connemara in Ireland in June 1932, the other stating he was born in Leeds in England in August 1932. He had no idea which one was correct, but, being in showbiz, chose to celebrate his birthday on the later date.

And these are two of the oldest, most reliable birth registries on the planet.

Two Childhood Friends Meet As Opponents for President


It’s doubtful there has ever been such an unusual face-off between two candidates for the presidency of any country. 

Chileans go to the polls today to choose between left-wing former president Michelle Bachelet and conservative candidate Evelyn Matthei. If Bachelet wins, as all the polls indicate, some of the free-market reforms that have turned Chile into the biggest economic success story in South America may be in jeopardy. 

But the policy implications of the race have often taken a back seat to the incredible human drama surrounding the two women, both in their early 60s. Both women grew up as childhood friends and lived across the road from each other on the grounds of the same remote air-force base where their fathers were officers. The Bachelet and Matthei families were closely linked and developed an enduring friendship that lasted for 15 years.

Later, the two families moved back to the capital of Santiago but kept in close contact. Alberto Bachelet became a man of the Left and a supporter of leftist president Salvador Allende, while Fernando Matthei rejected communism and supported the 1973 coup that overthrew Allende. “We had a very different political outlook,” Matthei has said. “[Alberto] liked the style of Cuba. I couldn’t agree with that – those Castros, sitting there for 60 years, running the country like their own private kingdom? Telling me I couldn’t buy this book, or speak to that person? It was a totally unacceptable concept to me.”

The two men’s paths tragically diverged after the coup. Alberto Bachelet died six months after the disruption, his heart weakened by the frequent detentions and abuse he was subjected to by his fellow military officers. Fernando Matthei helped run the military academy in whose basement Alberto was tortured, although there is no evidence he was involved in it. Later, Matthei joined the four-member junta that controlled Chile under the leadership of General Augusto Pinochet until it was disbanded in 1988 with the restoration of Chilean democracy.

Since then, the daughters of the two men have kept in sporadic contact.

Michelle Bachelet became a pediatrician and was elected president in 2006 (stepping down becuse of a one-term limit), while Evelyn Matthei became a banker and served as labor minister in the current conservative government of Sebastián Piñera. Matthei didn’t plan on running against her old childhood friend; she was thrust forward as the conservative candidate after the original nominee withdrew because of health reasons in July. They have been friendly in the two debates they’ve held, referring to each other by first name and the informal Spanish form of “you.”

But their policy differences are clear. Bachelet wants to raise business taxes, make university education free, and legalize abortion. Matthei says higher taxes will curb economic growth, says the taxes of lower-income people should not subsidize the “children of the rich” going to university, and opposes abortion.

It appears Bachelet will regain the presidency with a mandate to tilt left. She claims her victory will show “it’s time for a new social and political cycle that is built collectively,” but many business analysts say she will be circumscribed by the need to retain the huge foreign investment that has made the country prosperous.

“Any leader of Chile will recognize that the only way to get the revenue to pay for social programs is to maintain most of the policies that lead to economic growth,” says economist Daniel Gressel. “The betting is that Bachelet will be more pragmatic than her rhetoric, just as she was during her first time in office.”

Durbin: Not Yet Enough Senate Votes for Budget Deal


Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) told CBS’s Bob Schieffer this morning that the Ryan–Murray budget deal that passed the House earlier this week still doesn’t have enough votes to pass the Senate.

“The struggle is still on in the United States Senate,” Durbin said. “We need bipartisan support to pass it.”

He said the Senate needs only a “handful” of Republicans to pass the bill, but that Republicans are wary of signing the deal because they either are planning to run for president and don’t want such a “yes” vote on their record or are being threatened by the Tea Party and the Heritage Foundation if they vote against it.

McCain: We Should Put New Sanctions on Iran in Six Months if Deal Fails


Senator John McCain told CBS’s Bob Schieffer that he thinks the U.S. should impose more sanctions on Iran if a deal is not reached within six months.

“Six months is the operative,” McCain said, citing the fact that Iran still has centrifuges, is continuing heavy-water operations at Arak, and thinks that the current deal implicitly acknowledges their “right” to enrich — all of which, according to McCain, are unsatisfactory.

Iranian Foreign Minister: We Don’t Know Where Robert Levinson Is


Iran’s foreign minister told CBS’s Elizabeth Palmer that Iran does not know the whereabouts of missing U.S. citizen Robert Levinson.

“We know that he is not incarcerated in Iran,” Mohammed Javad Zarif said. “We have no trace of him in Iran.”

The Iranian government says that it has investigated the matter and doesn’t know how Levinson went missing or where he is.

Ryan: GOP Will Decide After Holidays What to ‘Accomplish Out of This Debt-Limit Fight’


House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan said this morning that Republicans would try to get concessions from Democrats during this winter’s debt-limit fight.

“We as a caucus — along with our Senate counterparts — are going to meet and discuss what it is we’re going to want out of the debt limit,” Ryan told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.

“We don’t want nothing out of this debt limit,” Ryan added. “We’re going to decide what it is we’re going to accomplish out of this debt-limit fight.”

Republicans would meet after the holidays, he said, to discuss the matter.

Ryan: Tea Party ‘Indispensable’ but Budget Deal ‘Step in Right Direction’


House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan defended today the plan he reached with Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray, although he was careful to speak well of the outside conservative groups who had criticized his budget deal.

Calling the groups “family,” Ryan characterized them as “valuable.” The Tea Party, he continued, is “indispensable.”

However, he insisted that his deal was “a step in the right direction” and admitted he was “frustrated” that some conservatives had announced their opposition to the budget deal before it was announced.

Kerry: We Haven’t Abandoned Robert Levinson


Secretary of State John Kerry rejected claims that the U.S. has abandoned Robert Levinson, a U.S. citizen who has been missing in Iran for seven years.

On ABC’s This Week, Kerry said that he has personally brought up Levinson’s case with Iranian officials at the highest levels and has also discussed the issue via intermediaries.

Robert Levinson, whose family says he was working as a contractor for the CIA, claims that the U.S. has given up on the case.

“To suggest that we’ve abandoned him or that anyone has abandoned him is just incorrect,” Kerry said.

If You Like Your Checking Account, You Can Keep Your Checking Account


Looks like the government may have found a way to pay down all that debt:

Shannon Bruner of Indianola logged on to her checking account Monday morning, and found she was almost 800 dollars in the negative.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘I got screwed,’” she said.

The Bruners enrolled for insurance on the Washington Healthplanfinder website, last October. They say they selected the bill pay date to be December 24th. Instead the Washington Healthplanfinder drafted the 835 dollar premium Monday.

But don’t worry, the government is in full compliance with its requirement to give them advance notice of the early seizure:

Washington Healthplanfinder emailed the Bruners a few days ago telling them to log in to view their invoice, something they couldn’t do because the website has been down. The Bruners haven’t been able to get through on the helpline either. They finally contacted Healthplanfinder administrators by posting a message on their Facebook page.

Renting a blimp to fly over the Healthplanfinder parking lot may also work.

By the way, just to make certain your Obamacare application will be fully processed by January 1st, the government is thoughtfully garnishing your first month’s premium twice:

One viewer emailed KING 5 saying, “They drafted my account this morning for a second time.”

When Obama has your PIN, it’s Christmas all year round. For him.

Is the Pope Marxist?


From an interview with Pope Francis:

“Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.” But, he points out, “there is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church.”

And he discusses the point of everything he is and does: The Incarnation! “Christmas is hope and tenderness,” he tells La Stampa

“Christmas is God’s meeting with his people. It is also a consolation, a mystery of consolation,” Francis explains. “After the midnight mass I have often spent an hour or so alone in the chapel before celebrating the dawn mass. I felt a profound feeling of consolation and peace.” “On Christmas eve, my thoughts are above all with the Christians who live there, with those who are in difficulty, with the many people who have had to leave that land because of various problems,” the Pope adds, referring to the Holy Land. 

Elsewhere, my friend Austen Ivereigh of Catholic Voices writes about Time’s “imperfect canonization.”

Utah’s Polygamy Law Wasn’t ‘Weakened’


I read the federal case out of Utah that supposedly “weakens” the state law against polygamy per (wishful thinking) in the New York Times. I don’t think it does. 

Here is the wording of the statute, with the part stricken:

A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.

The parties in question never sought legal recognition of their polyamorous relationship from the state. They did not have marriage licenses, for example, with the exception of the husband and his first (and still only legal) wife. The parties did not seek to take advantage of laws that apply only to married couples.

The issue is whether the state could criminally punish married people simply for cohabiting. The court said no, as a matter of constitutional law. The section of the statute criminalizing multiple marriages remains intact.

I think that is right. Unrelated consenting adults should be able to engage in “domesticity” in whatever combinations they please without fear of criminal penalty. The community might not like it. Most might, as I do, think it is highly immoral. Shunning would be appropriate for those of a censorious mind. But jail? No.

I strongly believe the state should never give official recognition to these relationships. Whether that center can hold remains to be seen. But this case isn’t about that.

Thought for the Day


It’s come to this:

So I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that the most economically free state in North America isn’t a state. It’s a Canadian province.

More Testimony from Sandy Hook


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The Reality of It


This New York Times story about how “New York’s professional and cultural elite” are being hurt by Obamacare must have made for rough reading at the White House. Forcing their most devoted supporters to confront the reality of their policies can’t be a good idea for the Democrats. It can lead to paragraphs like this one in the Times:

It is not lost on many of the professionals that they are exactly the sort of people — liberal, concerned with social justice — who supported the Obama health plan in the first place. Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.

That very paragraph, though, in its careless equation of liberalism with concern for social justice, points the way out of the crisis of confidence — just ignore reality. The very end of the story puts it best:

It is an uncomfortable position for many members of the creative classes to be in.

“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.

“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”

Answer first, question second. This would be funny if it weren’t so sad and serious.  


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