‐ A bunch of obnoxious, freakish-looking people made a spectacle of themselves in downtown New York. You don’t say.
‐ “There is a tide in the affairs of men / Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.” If New Jersey governor Chris Christie knows his Shakespeare, those lines must have thundered in his head as seemingly everyone in the GOP, from audience members at his speeches to Nancy Reagan, urged him to join the presidential race. He decided not to — his commitment to his uncompleted term, his relative inexperience, and the lateness of the hour all arguing against; a week later he endorsed Mitt Romney. If Christie really knows his Shakespeare, he may also have reflected that the call of destiny is uttered to Cassius, conspirator and assassin; destiny always speaks to the impatient. Christie will have more time to build a record, and conservatives will have more time to assess it. Unless he has a personality transplant, he will surely be a factor in cycles to come.
‐ Sarah Palin also took herself out of the running. Her waiting game, delicious torment for fans and media stalkers alike, ran counter to polls suggesting that her prospects have steadily sunk. They sank because a pack of enemies, from home-state backstabbers to demented liberals, spent three years running her down; and because she herself found stardom more congenial than administrative nuts and bolts or self-education. Great comets sometimes blaze over the political landscape, without ever touching the White House. Palin is one of them.
‐ Businessman Herman Cain is the latest Republican presidential candidate to catch the eyes of voters squinting at Romney’s smoothness and wincing at Perry’s bumbles. Cain’s trademark feistiness shone in his response to Occupy Wall Street: If you’re really bothered by the lousy economy, he said, protest at the White House. Cain is infectiously likable and also appeals to tea partiers irked by accusations of racism. He has the lone new policy idea in the field — his 9-9-9 tax reform — that has made an impression. But as Richard Brookhiser has said, the presidency is not an entry-level position. Cain, a former Burger King and Godfather’s Pizza executive, regularly makes remarks that evince lack of thought as much as lack of experience (e.g., supporting a Palestinian right of return to Israel; speaking as if Jefferson’s “wall of separation” language were part of the First Amendment). He has yet to prove he’s ready for the White House.
‐ Look who is recording generic Republican campaign commercials: the president of the United States. Speaking to an NBC affiliate in Orlando, Obama said America “didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track.” “Couple of decades” takes us back to Reagan and his successor, Bush the elder. And “competitive edge” could be an applause line for job creator Rick Perry or ex-businessmen Mitt Romney and Herman Cain; for President Nine Percent (as in, unemployment), not so much. In the Orlando interview, Obama also indulged in a strange bout of what shrinks call projection. “This is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft . . .” What looks softer just now, the country, or hope-and-change?
‐ Introducing Governor Perry at a conference held by the Family Research Council, Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress said that voters should choose a “genuine follower of Jesus Christ” as president and that Perry qualified. In multiple interviews after the event, Jeffress — whose selection was approved by Perry’s campaign and whom Perry praised for his introduction — explained that Mitt Romney did not qualify, Mormonism being a non-Christian “cult.” The theological view that the Mormon church stands outside the historical Christian tradition is perfectly respectable. But the church is clearly not a cult in any ordinary usage of that word. Its distinctive doctrines have no conceivable relevance to how Romney would perform in office. The values it inculcates would be relevant: But these are sound and widely admired. Jeffress himself concedes that Romney would be preferable to Obama. The pastor is making a political judgment. But his judgment does not, on the whole, seem to be very good.
#page#‐ The Washington Post came up with a big and juicy scoop: At a West Texas hunting camp “associated” with Governor Perry, as the paper said, there is or was a rock that had the word “Niggerhead” written on it. Responding to the paper, Perry said that as soon as his family leased the property, they painted over the rock. He said that the “offensive name” had “no place in the modern world.” Some debating ensued: When exactly had the family painted over the rock, and could you still see the word under the paint? Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. introduced a resolution demanding that Perry apologize. It was blocked. America has an ugly past, as well as a glorious one, and the word on the rock was a symbol of ugliness. In Perry’s long public career, there has been no evidence that he harbors racial animosity toward anyone. You may not want Perry to be president, and you may want to bring him down, but, if so, there are better, more honest ways to do it than the offending rock.
‐ Speaking to an audience of donors, President Obama decided to have some fun at Perry’s expense. He said, “You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change.” Where to begin? First, no one denies that climate changes. Some are skeptical of the theory of catastrophic, man-made global warming. Second, the fires in Texas apparently started when dead trees or tree limbs collided with power lines. Drought and high winds have whipped the fires around the state. Environmental activists like to attribute both rain and drought to global warming. Third, the weather of the moment is not supposed to influence our views on this question — on global warming or “climate change.” When skeptics make jokes during cold snaps, activists get very annoyed. Fourth, the Texas fires are a human tragedy: More than 1,500 homes have been destroyed, and a mother and her 18-month-old were killed. Obama’s comment was graceless and dumb.
‐ In a quadrennial ritual, states are scrambling to move their primaries earlier, in order to maximize their influence in the process and the attention paid them. The effect is to force a premature choice, and, to the extent the earlier schedule puts the primaries in the middle of the holidays, an inattentive one. Shortening the intervals between votes, another effect of this scramble, adds to the rewards of candidates with initial fundraising advantages and name recognition. Perhaps the only solution is for the parties to create a system in which states’ order rotates, and enforce strict sanctions against queue-jumpers. But this is probably a project that only a far-sighted, and politically strong, incumbent president could undertake.
‐ Bev Perdue, North Carolina’s Democratic governor, had what she thought was a capital idea: “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. . . . You want people who don’t worry about the next election.” Ever since there was something like democracy, politicians and others have bemoaned the democratic process. After the governor came in for criticism, Team Perdue claimed that she had been joking. A tape of her comments contradicts this. People who say boneheaded things should not compound their errors with mendacity.
‐ Fox News celebrated 15 years on the air this month. The network discovered what its president, Roger Ailes, called “a secret niche in broadcasting”: the half of America that was being ill-served by the liberal cast of existing news shows. Conservatives have been railing about media bias since Spiro Agnew; Ailes and the rest of the Fox team did something about it. Sean Hannity’s 9 p.m. show, for instance, now gets 2.1 million viewers a night, and Fox News is a cash cow for its parent company, News Corp. “Our viewers are loyal to us, and we’re loyal to them,” explained a Fox News exec. Floreat.
#page#‐ The drip-drip on Solyndra, the bankrupt solar-energy firm in which the administration “invested” a half-billion dollars of taxpayers’ money, continues. The White House released documents showing that Obama fundraiser Steve Spinner, appointed by the president to a job in the Energy Department, was deeply involved in getting the loan approved, even though he had promised to recuse himself from the case because his wife’s law firm represents Solyndra. “How f*****g hard is this?” he wrote in one e-mail. “I have the OVP and the WH breathing down my neck on this. They are getting itchy to get involved.” (OVP is Office of the Vice President, WH is White House.) The “investment” in Solyndra, which is connected to several large Obama donors, was not properly vetted. When the deal started to go south, Energy Department officials offered to restructure the loan, again without proper approval, even though they were warned that doing so might be illegal. They were told that they should seek an opinion from the Justice Department, but did not. What has happened here surely was not wise. It may not even have been legal.
‐ After months of slow leaks, the dam is finally breaking on Operation Fast and Furious, the controversial project of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in which government agents deliberately allowed Mexican drug cartels to traffic American guns across the border. Evidence has surfaced on a few key issues: 1) Attorney General Eric Holder was sent memos about Fast and Furious last year, although it is unclear whether he was informed about the program’s most controversial aspects, and although he told Congress he hadn’t heard of the program until this year; 2) the man briefing Holder, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, almost certainly knew that agents were letting guns cross the border (an e-mail between two Justice Department officials explicitly mentions that guns have “walked” and suggests that Breuer should talk to the press when the results of the investigation are released to the public); 3) the extent of the damage is great — the Mexican government says it has tied Fast and Furious guns to 200 murders, and 40 more guns were found at the home of a Sinaloa-cartel leader. The Justice Department — from Holder down to the ATF officials who implemented Fast and Furious — needs to come clean.
‐ The Obama administration has the worst employment record in modern history, but it is pressing forward boldly to create a number of new jobs — for trial lawyers. To the existing menu of protected classes in job-discrimination cases — race, sex, physical handicap, etc. — President Obama proposes to add a new one protecting the unemployed. Which is to say, being unemployed would put one in the same position as being black or being a woman when it comes to making claims of discrimination in hiring practices. This is a bad decision for a raft of reasons, the main one being that there is a logical connection between one’s employment status and one’s desirability as an employee: Less productive workers are more likely to be unemployed. That is the nature of the labor market. To equate hesitancy about hiring a worker long out of active participation in his industry with the corrosive and pervasive discrimination against blacks that our laws were intended to remedy is to trivialize the enormity that necessitated them. That the president’s instinctive response to the unemployment crisis is to try to in effect pass a law against unemployment speaks volumes about his economic thinking, if it can be called that.
Former Texas agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower famously said of George H. W. Bush that he was “born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.” I don’t know what George H. W. Bush thought about his lot in life, but I do know he signed up to be the youngest aviator in WWII. He wrote thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of personal notes to political allies, donors, world leaders, activists, and the like. When he was elected president — he was the first sitting vice president to be elected to the presidency in a century and a half — he asked his staff for a list of all White House reporters and their pictures, so he could memorize names and faces. The staff balked. There were over 2,000 people with White House press passes. He asked for it anyway and spent the weekend studying it at Camp David. Bush was a congressman, ambassador to China, CIA director, head of the RNC, and vice president before he became president. With a Democrat-controlled Congress, he got huge swaths of his legislative agenda accomplished, defused the savings-and-loan crisis, oversaw the unification of Germany, and won a war in a few months.
To be sure, not everything went swimmingly, and he was too liberal for my tastes. But you’ve got to admit, he understood the job. A lot of senators’ sons were born on the same base and didn’t work nearly as hard, get nearly as far, or get anywhere near as much done. And not just Bush. Our own William F. Buckley Jr. was a creature of privilege, but anyone who has read Overdrive knows that Bill worked as hard as any Horatio Alger hero. And let’s be bipartisan about this: Franklin Roosevelt — that famed traitor to his class — can hardly be faulted for a lack of stamina or commitment. (And don’t even get me started on Teddy Roosevelt’s superhuman work ethic.) I suppose if forced, I’d admit something similar of at least a few people with the last name Kennedy.
What’s the point? Well, I’ve been reading a lot about Barack Obama’s “aloofness” these days. Liberal writers don’t like the word “aloof” because of its vaguely haughty connotations, so they write around the word. (“Arrogant,” a pejorative used by critics of every president since the founding, has been rendered largely taboo because of the Left’s insistence that it means “uppity” — in the racist sense — when applied to the current president.) A recent essay in the Washington Post on Obama as a “loner president” never uses the word “aloof,” but its stench wafts up from the page nonetheless.
It strikes me that we don’t have a vocabulary to describe the aristocratic attitude of politicians not born to wealth and privilege. But if you think of Obama as a man vaulted to the White House because of who he is, rather than what he’s done, it actually helps to understand the unraveling of his presidency. Bushes, Roosevelts, Kennedys, et al. understand that privilege alone is no substitute for hard work and a dedication to the nitty-gritty of politics.
“Noblesse oblige” describes Obama’s approach to the job better than it does that of any other president in living memory. Obama’s favorite rhetorical tactic is to say that he has already said something before (“As I’ve said . . .”), as though that datum somehow strengthens his point. He doesn’t think he needs to cultivate relationships, woo opponents, nurture constituencies. It’s as though he thinks we elect presidents to give speeches. It’s all quite kingly. It shouldn’t be so surprising given his campaign’s emphasis on the claim that Obama’s election would make us better people, maybe even fix our “broken souls,” as his wife put it.
Obama wasn’t born on third base, but he does seem to think that he should get to run the bases after every strikeout.
#page#‐ The Durbin amendment is now in effect. This once-obscure section of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill limits the fees that banks charge to merchants for enabling them to accept debit-card payments. The fees were cut by some 80 percent, which makes it less profitable for banks to offer debit-card services. So the banks have done the natural thing and begun to transfer the fee from merchants to their customers, with Bank of America announcing a new $5-per-month fee for debit-card users. Other fees will be going up in response to Dodd-Frank, too, and the free checking account is now on the endangered-species list. The new fees are an example of the unintended consequences of regulation — unintended, but not unforeseen. Indeed, the higher fees were almost universally predicted at the time of the bill’s passage. But the Durbin amendment was never about protecting consumers: It was a special favor to retailers, which dislike the banks’ fee. Senator Durbin, the amendment’s namesake, inserted the provision after having been lobbied by one of the nation’s biggest retailers, Walgreens, which is based in his home state of Illinois. As usual, costs have been shifted from the politically connected onto the general public — and that was neither unforeseen nor unintended.
‐ Senate Democrats scheduled a vote on a bill, sponsored by Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), to slap tariffs on China until it speeds up the appreciation of the yuan. The theory is that the bill will lead to the dollar’s weakening against the yuan, which will lower our trade deficit with China, which will in turn create jobs. Every link in the chain has weaknesses. The yuan’s appreciation will, for example, make imported inputs cheaper for China, and this effect will help its exporters. (Imported inputs account for half of the value of its surplus.) This legislation would risk a trade war in return for a very uncertain reward, and Speaker John Boehner is right to hint that the House will not take up the bill.
‐ Alabama’s new state law aimed at illegal immigrants — those parts of it not placed under injunction by federal judge Sharon Blackburn — went into effect October 1. Schools may now verify students’ immigration status and police may inquire about the citizenship of those they stop, detain, or arrest. Over 2,000 Hispanic students were absent from class the following Monday (though absentee numbers declined somewhat through the week). The exodus occasioned much weeping and wailing, most of it from the usual suspects, but Alabama state representative Mo Brooks is fine with it. “Those are the intended consequences” of the legislation, Brooks told Politico.com. “We don’t have the money in America to keep paying for the education of everybody else’s children from around the world.” Meanwhile, Alabama recorded the first arrest under the new law. Mohamed Ali Muflahi, a Yemeni national, was apprehended during a drug raid. He later produced a valid visa and was released, but his arrest at least put a dent in charges that the law is directed against Hispanics.
‐ While most Americans struggle to balance their checkbooks, lawmakers of both parties continue to apply postmodern accounting tricks to mask their out-of-control spending habits. The president’s latest deficit plan, for example, claims to “save” $1.1 trillion by drawing down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s money that would never have been spent in the first place, but the Congressional Budget Office is required to score it as legitimate savings. In 2008, Congress failed to appropriate enough money to pay for the 2010 census, so they simply wrote off the $210 million excess as “emergency” spending. Since 2005, such gimmicks have enabled Congress to finance more than $350 billion in additional deficit spending. By cracking down on these deceptive practices, a new bill called the Honest Budget Act would go a long way toward restoring fiscal sanity in Washington. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) and Olympia Snowe (R., Maine), would strengthen congressional rules, or create new ones, to make it more difficult for lawmakers to claim imaginary savings. Before we can apply “simple math” to the budget, as President Obama urges, we need to try simple honesty.
#page#‐ Radical cleric and al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki found himself on the business end of a drone-launched U.S. missile in Yemen. Does this very welcome news soil our robe of justice? That is the contention of critics who believe al-Awlaki, as a U.S. citizen, should not have been targeted. But he was a member of a hostile force at war with the United States, and thus deserved no more consideration than any other member of al-Qaeda. The 1942 case of the Nazi saboteurs who snuck into the United States, including one U.S. citizen, Herbert Hans Haupt, is exactly on point. They were arrested by the FBI. But FDR detained all of them, including Haupt, as enemy combatants, tried them before a military commission, and executed them. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the president’s right to treat Haupt like his comrades. The conduct of warfare, including targeting decisions, is inherently an executive function. We don’t ask the courts to evaluate every strike we make against Taliban or al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan or Iraq, nor do we inquire about their citizenship. A terrorist on the lam in an ungoverned part of Yemen, Al-Awlaki got all the process due him.
‐ Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani — a convert to Christianity and the leader of a tiny evangelical church in Iran — is being held under threat of execution for apostasy. Arrested in 2009 and condemned in 2010 to death by hanging, Nadarkhani has steadfastly refused the court’s repeated demands that he recant his faith. The case has now been referred to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei for his “opinion” after media attention and condemnation by the U.S. and several Western countries proved embarrassing for the mullahs. A provincial official has denied that Nadarkhani is being persecuted for his religion, and insists instead that “he was a Zionist, a traitor, and had committed security crimes.” Whether he will die on account of these trumped-up charges, languish in prison, or be released in response to international pressure remains uncertain. What seems all too certain is that Christians across the Middle East will continue to suffer.
‐ The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This lesson remains as true today as it was when the great Israeli diplomat Abba Eban imparted it years ago. This time, the PLO made a risible bid for statehood at the United Nations in lieu of actually building the institutions of a functioning state. That is their right, of course. But perhaps they should engage in such base P.R. stunts without American subsidy. The U.S. Congress reached this very conclusion and voted to suspend a $200 million aid package to the Palestinian Authority, which reacted with pretended shock. This entire spectacle makes depressingly clear that the Palestinian leadership is not concerned primarily with a two-state territorial accommodation with its Jewish neighbor, but rather with self-righteous moral display, to the detriment of all sides — not least the luckless inhabitants of Judea and Samaria.
#page#‐ Latin American caudillos, from Allende to Zelaya, have a long history of intimidating opposition journalists, and are not about to stop now. In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega is up to the same old tricks: Last month a reporter for El Nuevo Diario, a national newspaper, had to flee to the United States because of government persecution. Silvia Gonzalez became a target of the government by reporting on the mysterious death of a former contra commander who had begun to foment opposition to Ortega’s ruling Sandinistas. Demonstrating the precarious position of Nicaragua’s free press, the incident recalls the brutal treatment in the 1980s of La Prensa, a newspaper that offered the only honest portrayal of the Sandinistas’ thuggishness, leading National Review to call it “recommended reading for the radical chic.” Human-rights groups have widely condemned the treatment that led to last week’s incident — American liberals have finally acknowledged the plight of the Nicaraguan opposition and its journalists, but they’re no safer than before.
‐ In a pretty little instance of life imitating art — in this case the art of our own Rob Long — we learn that 16-year-old Kim Han-sol of North Korea, grandson of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, has a Facebook page. The profile picture shows this teenage twig on the Kim family tree with bleached blonde hair, ear jewelry, and a pendant that looks very much like a crucifix. Fave movie? The 2003 British rom-com Love Actually. Political preference? Democracy. Another Facebook picture shows young Kim sharply dressed and with a pretty young woman on his arm. Caption: “I’m going to miss you so much,” to which the lady replied, using a Korean term of intimate endearment: “I love you too, yeobo.” Alas, none of this is from North Korea. Young Kim lives in China with his dad, Kim Jong-nam, estranged eldest son of Kim Jong-il. The cause of the estrangement is believed to have been dad’s opinions in favor of liberalization, leading to his being passed over for the succession in favor of his younger half-brother (cue Rob Long). Father and son are carefully protected by the Chinese, who seem to have something in mind for them.
‐ South Sudan has chosen English as its official language. This newest African nation, which is mainly black and Christian, attained independence from the Arab-Islamist government in Khartoum only in July. Poor beyond our imagining, lacking any sophisticated institutions, riddled with tribal conflicts and guerrilla remnants, South Sudan is badly in need of unifying influences. Its choice of national language marks a decisive turn toward the West and away from the Islamosphere. Actually getting their citizens up to speed with English will be a challenge: The education system is rudimentary, and 85 percent of the people are illiterate. Still, a clear declaration that English is to be the national language seems like a good start. Poor she may be, but in at least one respect South Sudan is now ahead of the U.S.A.
‐ In 2009 Andrew Bolt, a columnist for Australia’s Herald Sun, published a pair of articles about people who look white but claim Aboriginal ancestry to qualify for the numerous prizes, set-asides, and educational or occupational quotas that are restricted to that group. Bolt’s columns were critical of racial-classification policies but respectful toward the individuals involved. Yet Aboriginal activists sued him anyway under Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act. Now an Aussie court has ruled for the plaintiffs, finding it “reasonably likely that fair-skinned Aboriginal people (or some of them) were offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated” by Bolt’s words. While the articles were quite mild in tone, in a truly free society, even an openly racist rant would not be subject to censorship; if “identity” is so important, then so too must be unfettered discussion of it. Yet wherever spoils are ladled out by race instead of merit, and subjective feelings are the basis for legal penalties, absurdities of this sort will be inevitable, as grievance mongers do everything they can to keep alive the animosity on which they thrive.
‐ In other news Down Under, a group of Sydney mechanics attached a 1.4-liter, 106-hp Suzuki GSX motorcycle engine to a leather two-seat sofa (some guys will do anything to avoid getting up for another beer) and revved it up to 101 mph, breaking the old record of 92 mph for motorized home furnishings — and without spilling the cup of coffee or bowl of fruit resting on the attached table. This technology has many potential benefits: It’s more comfortable than a car for backseat canoodling, and by tearing noisily down the highway on an analyst’s couch, the busy modern professional can combine Freudian therapy with subliminal phallic substitution while rushing to his next appointment. Best of all, if you’re short a couple of bucks for gas, you can just pull some change from between the cushions. Perhaps it’s time to start up a new NASCAR: the National Association for Sofa and Couch Auto Racing.
#page#‐ The French have always embraced the best of American culture — slang le jazz hot, Jerry Lewis — but drawn the line at our food. The latest example came in a government decision to sharply limit the use of ketchup (along with mayonnaise) in school lunches. French school children, like their fellow pupils around the globe, like to drown their cafeteria fare in the red stuff to mask its institutional taste, and as one official explained: “We have to ensure that children become familiar with French recipes so that they can hand them down to the following generation.” The idea seems to be that the little gourmands will take a liking to escargots and tripes a la mode de Caen if only they can be persuaded to put down the Heinz bottle. (The guidelines also encourage the use of broccoli and spinach; bonne chance with that.) In a rare Gallic accommodation to reality, ketchup will be permitted with fries, though they can be served only once a week. Soon we can expect bootleg packets of McDonald’s ketchup to be as valuable as Levi’s once were behind the Iron Curtain. Trust the French to be dirigiste even.
‐ For many years, there has been a rule about U.S. postage stamps: Only the deceased could appear on them. Now the Postal Service has tossed out this rule, inviting the users of Facebook and Twitter to suggest living individuals for the honor. A postal official said, “Having really nice, relevant, interesting, fun stamps might make a difference in people’s decisions to mail a letter. This is such a sea change.” The word “relevant” is particularly alarming: Are Jefferson, Ike, Salk, et al. irrelevant to American life? Are only the living relevant? Another postal official said, “This change will enable us to pay tribute to individuals for their achievements while they are still alive to enjoy the honor.” The point, however, should not be an honoree’s personal satisfaction. These are not ego trips. Stamps have to do with the nation as a whole. We doubt that the postal “sea change” is for the better. It opens the door to the merely popular, the ephemeral, the passions of the moment. A hot choice for a stamp among social-media suggesters was Lady Gaga. Come to think of it, she might be a fitting choice, as the venerable United States Post Office ends in farce.
‐ Jane Austen wrote that one half of humanity cannot understand the pleasures of the other. The sport of dwarf tossing illustrates her point. Indeed, we suspect that the charms of this odd pastime are lost on much more than half of humanity. Dwarf tossing, an import from Australia, flourished briefly in the barrooms of Florida before being outlawed in 1989. Now a state lawmaker has filed a bill to repeal the ban. Rep. Ritch Workman (R) is motivated in part by libertarian impulses, in part by the desire to expand job opportunities in his state. All the existing law does, he argues, is “prevent some dwarfs from getting jobs they would be happy to get.” Again, the happiness to be found in being thrown around a barroom by drunken patrons is lost on us; but à chacun son goût if all participants are willing. At this point in history, cumbered as the Republic is with great choking overgrowths of pettifogging legislation, it would be encouraging to see almost any law repealed.
‐ Out of urban America, always something new. Here’s the latest from Baltimore: a bleach fight. Theresa Jefferson, age 33, followed a love rival into the household department of a Walmart and commenced to pelt her with bleach. The party of the second part defended herself by hurling disinfectant. Chemical reactions ensued. The resulting fumes were so noxious a hazmat team had to be summoned. The store was evacuated, and 19 customers and staff were hospitalized with breathing difficulties. Miss Jefferson’s grievance was apparently that her target’s current boyfriend is the father of her own child. Just another advertisement for the social benefits of monogamy, we would say . . . while offering up thanks that at least matters didn’t come to a head in the sporting-goods department.
‐ The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs may have been the representative man of his age: the unforgiving perfectionist behind his company’s cute aesthetic, an unflinchingly competitive billionaire capitalist whose wedding was presided over by a Zen monk. At Apple’s nadir, its share price tanking and its losses mounting, it was rumored that it would become a division of Sony — a small one. Jobs first brought Apple back to profitability and then diversified its product lines into the now familiar catalogue of iMacs, iPods, iPhones, iPads, etc. The results were spectacular: Apple became the largest publicly traded company in the world by market capitalization, having surpassed Exxon Mobil and Petro China. So profitable is the company that at the time of Mr. Jobs’s death, Apple’s assets included some $76 billion in cash. Jobs’s method was emblematic of early-21st-century capitalism: designed in California, made in China, sold everywhere. He never embarked on a Bill Gates–style change-the-world quest or made showy forays into public policy à la Warren Buffett. He was instead devoted to working, almost until the very end, to ensure that Apple’s offerings remained, in his trademark phrase, “insanely great.” Such philanthropy as he and his wife engaged in was carried out without fanfare, and his real philanthropy was his work, which not only produced wonderful gadgets but also vast wealth and opportunity for beneficiaries ranging from American investors to Asian factory workers to retail salesmen around the world. Dead of cancer at 56. R.I.P.
#page#‐ Emanuel Litvinoff had a long and distinguished career as a poet and memoirist of life in London’s heavily Jewish pre-WWII East End. He is best remembered, though, for one courageous reading he gave in 1951. Litvinoff had always found T. S. Eliot’s parlor anti-Semitism offensive, and when it became clear after World War II that the Holocaust had not made Eliot abandon his antipathy towards Jews, Litvinoff was outraged. To express his anger, he wrote a poem called “To T. S. Eliot,” planning to spring it upon the audience at a 1951 group reading in London. At the last minute, Eliot himself unexpectedly showed up, but a shaken Litvinoff decided to read the poem anyway. (Sample: “Yet walking with Cohen when the sun exploded / and darkness choked our nostrils, / and the smoke drifting over Treblinka / reeked of the smouldering ashes of children, / I thought what an angry poem / you would have made of it, given the pity.”) As soon as he had finished, many of the assembled poets and litterateurs shouted out denunciations — until Eliot silenced the crowd by saying, “It’s a good poem. It’s a very good poem.” Dead at 96, R.I.P.
‐ For more than half a century, Leon J. Weil was a jaunty and reassuring presence on the American conservative scene. After serving in the U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps in World War II and graduating from Princeton, he came home to New York City and went to work on Wall Street, becoming a highly regarded investment adviser. But he always made time for the conservative movement: helping William A. Rusher haul the New York Young Republican Club rightward; buying advertisements for his investment firm in the young and struggling National Review; fundraising for James L. Buckley’s successful 1970 Senate campaign; sitting on the Media Research Council board; or just sitting in the audience, listening attentively, at one of the many Manhattan Institute events organized by his splendid wife, Mabel (who preceded him in death last March). That is, he was a presence among us except when he was absent (with leave): to serve as U.S. ambassador to Nepal, appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1984; to act as an election observer in countries all around the globe; to apply his financial expertise to help develop free markets in countries ranging from Nigeria to Hungary to Ukraine to Indonesia; or to demonstrate a proper conservative enjoyment of life by skiing, hiking, and running his way through the world around us. To his children and grandchildren, our deepest condolences. Dead at 84. R.I.P.
‐ The Hertog/Simon Fund for Policy Analysis provided funding for the Peter Thiel and other articles on innovation in our October 3 issue. We are grateful for the support.
It is easy to mock the kids — of all ages — taking part in Occupy Wall Street and related antics in other locales. And the temptation should not be resisted. Their signs and spokesmen all suggest a laziness of thought coupled with a highly developed sense of entitlement. The vast majority of them seem to be college-educated, and even in today’s economy, involuntary unemployment in that cohort is rare. They seem to have no concern at all for the shopkeepers and other hard-working people whose livelihoods they are disrupting.
Such specific policy demands as have issued from the protesters are, to put a fine point on it, insane: for instance, the total forgiveness of all debt, which amounts to a wish that the country’s credit market be destroyed. It is true that many kids finish school with a heavy debt load they find it hard to pay. But that is an argument for rethinking the way we encourage young people to borrow to get overpriced degrees — not for funneling even more taxpayer resources to a relatively privileged group of Americans.
We trust that the liberals and Democrats who are attempting to ingratiate themselves with or burnish the reputations of the protesters — Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson declared, “I love every little thing” about the protests, with no explicit exclusion of the defecation on a police car they have entailed — will at least blush the next time they denounce the alleged radicalism of the tea parties.
But mockery, and the use of the protests to discredit liberalism, should not be our only responses to this spectacle. We do not believe that the public burns with a desire to punish Wall Street (or to protect it from punishment); but it does have a justified concern that the Wall Street–Washington axis does not work to its advantage. And while many of the layabouts on the streets would have sub-Marxist thoughtlets in their heads under any circumstances, it is also true that hard times can radicalize young people — even people who are not directly affected by the hard times, and especially people who have been miseducated. There is reason for worry as well as scorn.