‐ Sources at MSNBC say they need a conservative president in office for their ratings to recover. We’re working on it as fast as we can, guys.
‐ Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress. The atmospherics threatened to smother the speech: Speaker John Boehner invited him, and Republicans applauded enthusiastically. But the administration snubbed him: President of the Senate Joe Biden was sent abroad, so as to be MIA; 50-some Democrats boycotted; minority leader Nancy Pelosi attended, but writhed theatrically. The message, though, was blunt: “The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons.” The deal President Obama is negotiating with the Iranians “is a bad deal, a very bad deal.” A timely warning, or a wasted effort? President Obama is determined to hear it as the latter. But Netanyahu also hinted that Israel would strike Iran alone if need be. “The days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies are over.” So the president’s diplomacy might provoke a covert nuclear power into striking a would-be nuclear power in the heart of the Middle East. Isn’t it good we saw the last of Cowboy Bush?
‐ Is it true, as Rudy Giuliani asserted at a political dinner last month, that Barack Obama does not love America? If most Americans agreed, and if they thought that failure to love America was politically disabling, they declined two opportunities to act on that judgment. Giuliani’s fourth-quarter comment wrong-footed fellow Republicans who were asked by Democratic politicians and journalists to condemn it. Biographers and historians should conclude that Obama wishes his country well, according to his lights; those are the lights of a late-century Ivy League grad, which hold that America has much to overcome. If Obama loves anything besides his family, it is his own life story; probably America’s greatest claim on his affection is that it elected him president.
‐ A lot of reporters seem to be out to get Scott Walker — who also seems to be giving them ammunition. Walker was faulted, first, for not disagreeing with Giuliani; then for not answering yes when asked whether Obama is a Christian; and then for saying that he was tough enough to take on 100,000 protesters and therefore tough enough to take on ISIS, which was supposedly drawing an equivalence between American leftists and terrorists. In the first two cases silence, or derision directed at the press, would have been defensible. But Walker and his aides nullified that defense by eventually saying that yes, Obama is a Christian who loves his country. In the third case, the point Walker was making was grossly distorted, but not especially persuasive: Toughness has to be embodied in a foreign-policy strategy. George Shultz thought that Reagan had rattled the Soviets by firing striking air-traffic controllers in 1981; they would have been less impressed if he had not spent the preceding years urging a renewal of the Cold War on every front. Walker’s early rise in the polls is a sign of his great promise, and conservatives should defend him from cheap, or merely mistaken, journalistic shots. He also needs to show that he is not going to be multiplying our occasions for defending him.
‐ The Freedom from Religion Foundation responded to Governor Walker’s insistence that he would consult with God before making a decision about his political future by cynically requesting that his office make public all official correspondence with “God, the Lord, Christ, Jesus or any other form of deity.” Naturally, this stunt was met with roars of approving laughter by a Washington press corps that is routinely dismissive of the religious, and ignorant on matters of basic theology. This was just a few days after Walker had made headlines by declining to weigh in on the question of whether President Obama is, in any meaningful way, a Christian. His demurral, it was widely suggested, was “disqualifying.” Thus might we sum up the media’s attitude: Those who believe in God and in intercessory prayer are hysterical rubes, who are clearly unfit for public office — but don’t you dare suggest that Barack Obama is not truly among them.
‐ For his proposed comprehensive immigration-reform bill that in 2013 infuriated conservatives, Marco Rubio was lambasted by the GOP base. He is not planning to make the same mistake again. At February’s Conservative Political Action Conference, he insisted that his debacle had taught him a lesson: “What I’ve learned is you can’t even have a conversation about [legalization] until people believe and know — not just believe, but it’s proven to them — that future illegal immigration will be controlled.” He is not the only candidate to undergo a conversion on the issue. Scott Walker has been criticized recently for a 2002 resolution he signed, as Milwaukee County executive, that called for “comprehensive immigration reform,” and for endorsing the much-maligned McCain-Kennedy immigration-reform package that failed in the Senate four years later. But on Fox News Sunday in early March, Walker emphasized: “First and foremost, you’ve got to secure that border, or none of these plans make sense.” It’s a change of position Walker says is “firm” and describes as the result of “the way this president has handled the issue” of legalization for illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. Political conversions always encourage suspicion, but in a Republican presidential field that has appeared almost uniformly soft on immigration, this migration rightward by two first-tier contenders is promising.
‐ A federal district court in Texas invalidated President Obama’s unilateral decree of amnesty for nearly 5 million illegal aliens. The decision buoyed opponents of Obama’s usurpation of legislative authority, but the celebration could be fleeting. Judge Andrew Hanen concluded that the executive action was a regulation announcing new rules; thus, because the public was not given notice and an opportunity to comment, the action violated the Administrative Procedures Act. The administration, which is appealing, counters that Obama’s action is merely an executive exercise of prosecutorial discretion, and therefore unreviewable. That seems an untenable claim given that the administration’s own lawyers say discretion requires a truly case-by-case review of illegal immigrants’ standing. Yet Obama could get a sympathetic appellate hearing, since the amnesty was not promulgated as a regulation, but rather as an intra-agency directive at the Department of Homeland Security. There remains, moreover, a significant question about whether the states have the right to sue, although Hanen’s decision amply demonstrates that they will suffer significant economic harm. It comes down to whether a court can force the president to execute Congress’s immigration laws faithfully — a task that would seem to belong first and foremost to Congress.
‐ It is a task that Congress is, however, failing to perform. Congressional Republicans tried to attach a provision to the bill funding the Department of Homeland Security stipulating that no funds could be spent to implement the president’s unconstitutional amnesty. But when Democrats blocked the bill, Republicans, especially Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, grew worried they would be cast as endangering national security. Republican leaders then folded, funding the department with no restrictions, over the “No” votes of most House Republicans. They would have been better off following a different course. They could have funded the department except for the immigration service — taking counter-terrorist efforts off the table — and then pursued a separate bill funding the immigration service with a no-amnesty provision. That immigration bill might have died: The bureaucracy gets enough money from fees to run itself, unfortunately, and to carry out the amnesty. But Republicans would have avoided complicity in funding the amnesty. Instead they finish this confrontation divided and demoralized, as has become their sad pattern.
‐ Republicans have also been divided over education. Republican leaders in the House advanced a “Student Success Act,” while many conservatives wanted an “A-Plus Act.” The differences between the bills have been exaggerated on both sides. Both bills contain worthy conservative reforms — notably, the Student Success Act blocks the Department of Education from being able to reward states that adopt the Common Core standards by relaxing regulations on them — though the A-Plus Act arguably goes further. Neither of them is likely to get enough Democratic support to become law. Yet the House leaders refused to allow a vote on the more conservative bill, and conservatives withheld their votes from the leaders’ bill. Result: no action on any education bill, and another set of news stories about the House Republicans’ fractiousness. If only they could all be sent before the principal, preferably the stern, old-fashioned kind.
‐ President Obama vetoed a bill that would have permitted the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, connecting Canadian oil producers with American refineries. Inasmuch as Keystone is precisely the sort of job-creating infrastructure project that normally pumps up Democrats, that veto is inexplicable — except in the broader context of the Left’s war on American energy infrastructure. Having failed repeatedly with broad policy initiatives (Kyoto, carbon tax, etc.), the Left is adopting a piecemeal campaign of demonization against every effort to develop the means to produce, transport, and refine oil, gas, and coal in the United States. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has banned modern techniques of gas extraction, and environmentalists are pressing for restrictions or outright bans on the trains that are used to transport oil (there being insufficient pipeline) and on tanker traffic at the Port of Albany. West Coast coal-export facilities, which would help U.S. producers connect with Asian markets, are under similar assault. In each of these cases, it is clear that disputes about local impact were largely manufactured — in Washington State, a coal-export terminal to be located next to an oil refinery was opposed on the grounds that there were Lummi burial sites in the area, but the Lummi refused to say where — as cover for more global concerns, i.e., making it more difficult and expensive for China to feed its power plants, and less profitable for Americans exporters to supply them. This is a very old habit among the anti-capitalists, with an appropriately old appellation: sabotage.
‐ From the first moments of the siege on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, then–secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her top aides were alerted that the compound was under a terrorist attack. Indeed, they were quickly informed that Ansar al-Sharia, the local al-Qaeda affiliate, had claimed responsibility. These revelations were uncovered in a trove of e-mails pried from the State Department by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The disclosures are consistent with congressional testimony by Gregory Hicks, the No. 2 State Department official in Libya during the attack. Hicks briefed Clinton and her staff, explaining from the start that a terrorist operation was under way. Yet, beginning late that evening, Clinton began promoting the narrative that the attack, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed, was a spontaneous protest ignited by an anti-Muslim video — a video Hicks described as a “non-event” in Benghazi. The State Department has since stonewalled document requests from congressional investigators, while it has now emerged that Clinton used a private e-mail account throughout her tenure, in violation of recordkeeping laws. The Benghazi select committee, led by Representative Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), has a lot of work to do.
‐ It’s ’90s nostalgia: A Clinton is running for president, and the air stinks of money. The Clinton Foundation performs charitable good works; it also provides an opportunity to get in good with the Clintons, an opportunity of which corporations and countries have availed themselves. On the eve of Hillary’s becoming secretary of state, the Foundation signed an agreement with the Obama administration allowing it to accept donations from countries that had given in the past — i.e., countries could continue to butter up Secretary Clinton as long as they were old cronies. Even these lax terms were violated in 2010 when the foundation took $500,000 from a new donor, Algeria (for earthquake relief in Haiti). The news about Hillary’s foreign friends, detailed in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, is causing tremors, if not yet an earthquake. Robert Gibbs, former Obama spokesman, called the matter “awkward at best.” Republicans were less restrained: Ted Cruz told CPAC “we could have had Hillary here, but we couldn’t find a foreign nation to foot the bill.” A possible Clinton bumper sticker: experience pays off.
‐ Conservatives with reservations about Jeb Bush should be pleased by one of his early hires. April Ponnuru, who will be one of his policy aides, is a full-spectrum conservative with extensive Hill experience: Concerned Women for America once named her “House staffer of the year” for her pro-life work. She has also been a vice president at National Review (her husband, Ramesh Ponnuru, is one of our senior editors), and has done fellowships with the Claremont Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Most recently, at the YG Network, where she will continue to have a post, she has been working to devise a new conservative policy agenda that takes on issues where the Right has lagged, such as busting the federally subsidized higher-education cartel. In that capacity, she has been working to take the kind of ideas that appear in our pages to politicians and then to the country. We hope Bush, and others, are listening.
‐ Since its halcyon days in 2006 and 2010, progressivism’s favorite television station has been gradually on the decline. MSNBC has gone from attracting a million viewers a night in the dying days of the Bush administration to propping up the charts from the bottom. Evidently, the channel’s bigwigs have noticed, and they are looking to ring the changes. Today, the Daily Beast records, the leadership is hoping to “move away from left-wing TV” and to accept that “the glory days during George W. Bush’s administration” are unlikely to return. Out have gone insipid opinion hosts Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid. Both Al Sharpton and Chris Hayes are rumored to be for the chopping block, and even Rachel Maddow — the network’s star — is to be moved out of her 9 p.m. Eastern slot. If the station is to avoid the fate of failed progressive-radio project Air America, these adjustments will be just the beginning.
‐ PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, is very useful as a barometer of Democratic conventional wisdom. The problem is that it does not advertise itself as a barometer of Democratic conventional wisdom, but as a fact-checking operation. It recently took to task National Review’s Jonah Goldberg and Kevin D. Williamson for telling purported half-truths about the Affordable Care Act, specifically that it lends legitimacy to various kinds of quackery, from acupuncture to homeopathic medicine. It does, as PolitiFact acknowledges: The nondiscrimination language inserted by former senator Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) “stipulates that as long as an alternative-medicine practitioner is fully licensed by a state, insurance companies must reimburse them just as they do medical doctors.” Goldberg says that this gives “elevated legitimacy” to quackery; nonsense, says PolitiFact, it only gives it a “leg up”; an exasperated Goldberg notes that “elevate” and “give a leg up” are synonyms. PolitiFact, in fact, did not identify a single fact in Goldberg’s or Williamson’s work that was untrue. Its argument was, instead, that these facts were unimportant. In the process we learned again that PolitiFact is to journalism as homeopathy is to medicine.
‐ The Charlie Hebdo massacres were carried out by self-identified members of al-Qaeda in Yemen. ISIS, emulating them, has called for the death of Yasir Qadhi, a professor of religious studies at Rhodes College in Memphis. That is not Memphis, the ancient capital of Lower Egypt, but Memphis, Tennessee. Qadhi’s offense: He has condemned both the Charlie Hebdo murders and ISIS: “ISIS does not represent my faith, their actions are in contradiction to my faith, and I’m appalled at what they are doing in the name of my faith.” Qadhi says he is unconcerned by the call for his murder, since those “who are threatening me are thousands of miles away.” But so was Sana’a from Paris. The FBI, showing proper concern, has advised the professor to take precautions.
‐ Wisconsin’s state senate in late February passed a bill that would prevent unions from imposing dues on workers who chose not to join them. As we go to press, the bill is being debated in the full assembly and is expected to pass. A spokeswoman for Governor Scott Walker has said he will sign it if it arrives on his desk. Protesters rallied outside the state capitol in Madison, though in smaller numbers than in 2011, when in the midst of a budget crisis the newly elected Walker proposed curtailments of collective bargaining for public employees; the theatrics staged by union organizers failed, and Walker and his reform agenda emerged victorious. The new right-to-work legislation is popular with Wisconsin voters, who support it by a nearly 2–1 margin, according to a survey by a political scientist at the University of Chicago. Republicans picked up legislative seats in Indiana and Michigan after right-to-work laws were passed in those states in 2012. Wisconsin is poised to become the 25th state to enact such a law, which should help foster the formation of new businesses and attract jobs, shaking yet more rust off the Rust Belt.
‐ For years, conservatives have said that environmentalism is a substitute religion for the more extreme greens. A lot of people resent this observation. So a statement by Rajendra Pachauri is of particular interest. Since 2002, he has been chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. body. The IPCC shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007. Pachauri accepted the IPCC’s share of the award on the organization’s behalf. He has now been forced out as chairman owing to sexual-harassment charges. In his resignation letter, he said, “For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission. It is my religion and my dharma.” We’re guessing this isn’t one of those religions that are strict about sexual harassment.
‐ It is not as though we do not sympathize with the difficulties of having flowers arranged for a gay wedding, the wedding-planning and floral-arts industries being as notoriously packed with bitter homophobes as the New York City Ballet and the masthead of GQ. Still, we are not convinced that Barronelle Stutzman, a grandmotherly florist in Washington State, deserves to be hauled off in irons or fined thousands of dollars for declining the matrimonial custom of two gentlemen desiring to get hitched. Stutzman cited religious objections to participating in a same-sex wedding, but Democratic prosecutor Bob Ferguson and the ACLU were having none of it. Forty years ago, the gay-rights agenda was about toleration. It is now about something less attractive.
‐ In February, the State of New Jersey flirted seriously with the idea of imprisoning a 72-year-old retired teacher for possession of a 250-year-old flintlock pistol. After he was pulled over in Cumberland County on his way back from an antiques dealer, curiosities collector Gordon Van Gilder was arrested, chained to a bench by his hands and feet, and charged with unlawfully carrying a firearm. The “firearm” in question was built in England in 1760; lacked the powder, flint, and ball necessary to render it a functional weapon; and, under federal law at least, is not even considered a gun. In New Jersey, however, it is treated as a deadly weapon, and the cost of its illegal possession is precisely the same as for a .44 Magnum: a mandatory minimum sentence of three and a half years. Upon his arrest, Van Gilder said, he felt “embarrassed and ashamed.” Coming from a man who has never been in trouble with the law, this sentiment was understandable. But it was entirely misplaced. It is New Jersey, which dropped the charges only after a considerable public outcry, that should be feeling abashed.
‐ If Representative Raul M. Grijalva should ever lose his seat in the House, the former MEChA radical might consider going to work for the IRS. Just as the IRS launched a campaign of harassment and intimidation against conservative groups, making outrageous demands for documentation of everything down to the content of their prayers, Grijalva launched a witch hunt targeting, among others, Professor Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado at Boulder, author of The Climate Fix, demanding every draft of every piece of communication with public entities and potential funding sources as part of a plan to discredit critics of climate-change orthodoxy by charging that they are backed by filthy oil money. Pielke, as it happens, isn’t backed by oil — as he has already demonstrated in disclosures made as part of testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, where Grijalva is the ranking Democrat. He holds conventional views about global warming — that it is anthropogenic, that emissions should be regulated, that a carbon tax would be appropriate — but is an annoyance to those who claim, without evidence, that contemporary natural disasters (Pielke’s field of study) are being made more intense and expensive by global warming. Warming alarmists have so harassed Pielke that he has given up climate-change research in his academic work. Grijalva has backed off a half step, admitting to “overreach,” but intends to continue his inquisition into every iota of real or perceived heresy on global warming. Academics who thought this was going to end with the Koch brothers, take note.
‐ In early February, San Francisco archbishop Salvatore Cordileone released a statement, to be included in the faculty handbook of the Bay Area’s four archdiocesan high schools come the new school year, that requires teachers to “affirm that we are educational institutions of the Catholic Church, and as such strive to present Catholic doctrine in its fullness, and that we hold, believe and practice all that the Holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be true.” That Cordileone thinks Catholic schools should be Catholic has, naturally, scandalized area residents. The San Francisco Chronicle declared that “Cordileone could not be more out of touch with the community he has been assigned to serve”; an online petition has been set up to oppose the archbishop’s effort to create a “culture of fear”; and eight state lawmakers from the Bay Area wrote Cordileone a letter contending that his call “sends an alarming message of intolerance to youth.” Politicians’ telling church leaders how to run their organizations does not send a great message about how tolerant and free societies work.
‐ The murder of Boris Nemtsov in Moscow is another crime that cries to heaven. A natural politician, he was exceptionally courageous and charismatic. In appointing him deputy prime minister, Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Communist Russia, had picked the right man at the right time in the right place. But Yeltsin also promoted Vladimir Putin as his successor. Putin has been Nemtsov’s nemesis. In Putin’s Russia you take your life in your hands by discussing either the endemic corruption of officialdom or the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Running both these risks, Nemtsov became today’s equivalent of a dissident, a leading figure in opposition to Putin. In the month before his death, he was saying, “I’m afraid Putin will kill me,” adding, “I couldn’t dislike him more.” Putin’s adventure in Ukraine, he thought, is “mad aggression.” The night before leading a demonstration to protest the invasion of Ukraine, Nemtsov had dinner with his girlfriend in a Moscow restaurant. As they walked home past the Kremlin, a white car drew up, and someone fired four shots into Nemtsov’s back. At least a dozen of Putin’s critics had already been assassinated, and not a single culprit has been brought to justice. Putin is the only person who stands to gain from this murder. Taking personal control of the investigation, he at once offered the theory that the murder was what Russians like to call a provocation, that is to say, committed by people who want him to look bad. So he does, he really does.
‐ Iraq is an archaeological treasure house of ancient civilizations — Assyrian, Akkadian, Hittite, Parthian, Persian, Jewish, Chaldean, among others. Saddam Hussein, no aesthete or historian, went to some trouble to do upkeep on sites and artifacts. Not so the Islamic State, or ISIS, currently the occupiers of Mosul, an Iraqi city with a great past. The museum there had 173 original pieces, according to the director general of Iraqi museums, Qais Hussain Rashid. An ISIS video begins with a spokesman condemning the people who once lived here as polytheists whose statues and idols have to be destroyed on the orders of Allah. Militants are seen with hammers and drills smashing works of art into fragments. One casualty is an Assyrian winged bull from the seventh century b.c., a loss as irreparable for the world as that of the giant statues of Buddha dynamited by the Afghan Taliban, their Islamist brothers. Qais Hussain Rashid thinks some pieces may have been smuggled abroad and sold to fund ISIS. Hypocrisy, then, is an ISIS property, along with ignorance and vandalism.
‐ The war against the Islamic State is on in earnest, and the Iranians are waging it. Iranian forces and Shia militia are at the center of the Iraqi government’s attempt to retake the Sunni city of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s old hometown; Iranian spymaster Major General Qassem Suleimani is taking a prominent leadership role. The sectarian coloration of the Iraqi force can only increase Sunni disaffection from the government and thus fuel support for IS and other extremists. But as long as the U.S. is leading from behind, the Iranians are happy to lead from the front, and make Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi, like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, their client in a sectarian war.
‐ “Jihadi John,” the brutal ISIS murderer who has become infamous for his calm manner and his jarringly out-of-place British accent, now has a real name and a confirmed backstory. He is Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born, middle-class college graduate who was raised in London, England. He also has an excuse for his barbarism. According to the self-professed civil-liberties group CAGE, Emwazi claims that he was radicalized by a combination of ongoing Western foreign policy and the British government’s anti-terrorist policies. Having been “detained, interrogated and recruited by Mi5 on what was meant to be a safari holiday to Tanzania,” CAGE suggested, Emwazi was finally broken. So he decided to turn to a life of unimaginable violence. We suspected that it would turn out to be the West’s fault all along.
‐ Since President Obama announced his new normalization with Cuba, there have been several congressional delegations hopping down to the island. One of them had the nerve to meet with dissidents, not just officials of the dictatorship. The dictatorship announced that this would not happen again: Either visiting congressmen would snub dissidents or no congressman would be allowed to set foot on the island. So, the subsequent delegations from Capitol Hill obeyed. One day, the dictatorship arrested more than 100 Cubans, for such crimes as trying to attend Mass. The congressmen on the island that day said nothing. Neither did the administration back in Washington. The next week, the dictatorship arrested more than 200 Cubans. Still, silence. A French expression goes, “Appetite comes with eating.” The dictatorship knows it can act with impunity. All that Obama wants to do is make nice. Whatever one thinks of normalization, should we be morally neutered?
‐ When agents of the Venezuelan state come, they don’t come quietly. Hugo Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, sent more than 150 agents to arrest Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of the capital city, Caracas. They broke through the glass doors of his office with a sledgehammer. They arrested him violently. Ledezma is an opposition politician who staged a hunger strike during Chávez’s time, in protest of authoritarianism. Now Maduro has accused him of plotting to overthrow the government. As Ledezma’s lawyer said, the government has “virtually kidnapped” him, in violation of all law. Maduro is following the lead of his mentors in Cuba, the Castro brothers. The more desperate his country’s situation, the more ruthless is the government toward the opposition. Venezuela is in economic crisis, and the regime is in political crisis. In New York’s Times Square, the mayor’s daughter, Antonieta, age 23, led a protest. A few dozen people attended. Venezuelans will need more help. President Obama once gave Chávez a soul-brother handshake and called him “mi amigo,” my friend. As in Cuba, the United States should make clear that we are friends of the democratic and the jailed.
‐ No one can say that the murder was not promised. In Bangladesh, an Islamist said on Facebook, “Avijit Roy lives in America, so it’s not possible to kill him right now. But he will be killed when he comes back.” There were other such promises as well. Roy was a Bangladeshi-American writer who lived in Atlanta. He wrote such books as The Virus of Faith. He was a relentless and fearless critic of the kind of people who threatened him. In February, he traveled to Bangladesh to speak at a book fair. After the event, he and his wife were returning to their quarters by rickshaw. Islamists set upon them, dragging them from the rickshaw and attacking them with machetes, knives, and meat cleavers. Roy was hacked to death; his wife was maimed. This sentence in a news report is of interest: “Witnesses said no one came to the couple’s aid as they were hacked down.” When it comes to Islamist violence, the world, sooner or later, will have to shuck passivity.
‐ Jennifer Lopez has a new movie out called The Boy Next Door, and, as often happens with her films, the biggest laughs are unintentional. J-Lo, wearing glasses to show that she’s serious, plays a high-school English teacher who files for divorce. The neighbors’ amorous teenage son drops by and offers her a copy of the Iliad, which she identifies as “a first edition.” That’s what happens when you major in comp lit at Empire Beauty School. Then she puts it on the shelf next to her original program from the 540 b.c. Olympics, autographed by Milon of Croton, and . . . oh, wait, that’s a different movie. Sharp-eyed filmgoers have identified the book used in the film as an 1880s reissue of Alexander Pope’s translation; in any case, the boy ends up taking as many liberties with J-Lo as Pope did with the Iliad, and eventually hits a Homer, but then she has misgivings, and the whole thing ends with some Iliad-style carnage.
‐ Patricia Arquette took the opportunity of being named Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars to declare that American women had “fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” and that now “it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” The audience, and Democratic politicians on Twitter, applauded, but Arquette was surprised to encounter outrage to her left. Her sin was a failure to display an awareness of her own privilege vis-à-vis non-white women, non-straight women, and non-white non-straight women — a hierarchy of disadvantage known in the academic jargon as “intersectionality.” She had erred, two professors explained in the Washington Post, in “implicitly presenting equal pay as an issue for straight, white women.” Who are, as everyone knows, very nearly the worst group in America.
‐ Baseball is a game with a rhythm set to lazy summer afternoons. But a summer afternoon doesn’t have lefty relief specialists, long commercial timeouts, pitchers holding the ball forever, batters constantly fiddling with their batting gloves, etc. Recent changes in the game have made it so slow that “I don’t care if I never get back” is less an enthusiastic exaggeration and more a serious commitment. Major League Baseball is instituting a couple of changes to speed up the game, including requiring batters to keep a foot in the batter’s box between pitches. They are small steps toward making root, root, rooting for the home team less interminable.
‐ In 2004, when National Review Online initiated its “Kerry Spot” blog, the writer was Jim Geraghty, a young reporter from the mean streets of Metuchen, N.J. In that blog — whose logo was a picture of the then-senator, his torso replaced with a waffle — readers learned to expect a daily mix of scoops, mockery, insight, and analysis, all reported with scrupulous accuracy and Jim’s ever-present good cheer. “The Kerry Spot” became “TKS” and then “The Hillary Spot” before settling in as “The Campaign Spot,” and through it all, Jim has produced prodigious amounts of unskippable copy, not just in the blog but in NRO articles, a daily newsletter, and podcasts, not to mention his entertaining Washington novel, The Weed Agency. For all these efforts, Jim was named Journalist of the Year at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference. For once, a ballot result took Jim by surprise, and in true Buckleyesque fashion, his first impulse was to demand a recount; but not even the 2000 Florida supreme court could make this one add up any different. We congratulate Jim and look forward to many more years of his incisive commentary on elections, national security, economics, foreign policy, NFL football, Twin Peaks . . .
‐ One can learn a great deal about a government by examining which laws its dissenters feel compelled to pass. That the state of Nevada is considering a bill that would protect children who chew their Pop-Tarts into the shape of guns cannot possibly tell us anything salutary. If passed into statute, the extraordinary measure would seek to prohibit teachers and other school authorities from punishing students who play with toy guns, use their fingers to make gun shapes, or fashion their food to resemble a firearm. Regrettably, Nevada would not be the only state to deem such rules necessary. Florida and Texas already boast such legislation, and Maryland looks likely to follow suit soon. There was a time when provisions of this sort were held not in common law, but in common sense. That time, alas, has passed.
‐ The Sharon Statement took its name from the home of William F. Buckley Jr. in Sharon, Conn. — but the words in this 1960 statement of conservative principle flowed from the pen of M. Stanton Evans, then 26. He devoted his life to its ideals, working mainly in the precincts of journalism, as editor of the Indianapolis News as well as a contributor to National Review and Human Events. In countless columns and ten books, he wrote with insight about everything from Communism to religious freedom. Evans enjoyed few things more than delivering a provocative quip: “I didn’t much care for Joseph McCarthy’s ends, but I always admired his methods,” or, “I didn’t like Nixon until Watergate.” In 1977, he founded the National Journalism Center, with the goal of producing a new generation of conservative writers, and many good ones came to regard him as a mentor. Dead at 80. R.I.P.
‐ When John C. Willke, a Cincinnati obstetrician, began to advise anti-abortion activists in the 1960s, the fledgling movement to protect unborn children was earnest but ragged. He volunteered his time and expertise, creating slides that showed fetal development before sonograms were common; his images of aborted babies shocked and angered many, but motivated many to join the cause. His short book Handbook on Abortion (1971) helped early pro-life advocates articulate their arguments. As president of the National Right to Life Committee from 1980 to 1991, he raised the visibility and respectability of that organization; Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver lent it their support. Willke worked to organize the Rally for Life 1990, one of the largest marches ever held on the National Mall. He co-founded the Life Issues Institute, dedicated to the protection of human life from conception through natural death. His definition of justice was broad and generous and controversial, like the man himself. Forty years ago, sophisticated observers dismissed the pro-life movement as an anachronism. History has proved them wrong, thanks in large measure to Dr. Jack Willke. Dead at 89. Rest in peace.
‐ From his perch at the nation’s iconic Catholic university, Notre Dame, which he served as president for most of the second half of the 20th century, Theodore M. Hesburgh changed the face and the character of Catholic higher education in America. He was 35 when he took over in South Bend in 1952. When he retired, in 1987, Notre Dame’s endowment had increased fortyfold. Enrollment had nearly doubled, and the number of faculty had more than doubled. No university president of his generation was more celebrated. Appointed by President Eisenhower to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Hesburgh was its chairman for more than a decade. In 1967 he led American Catholic educators in a movement that issued in the Land O’Lakes statement, a declaration of “academic freedom” from Rome and, in effect, a pledge of allegiance to the country’s academic fashion centers in Berkeley, Madison, and Cambridge. In subsequent decades, Catholic colleges and universities took heed, muting their Catholic identity while pushing their way up the rankings in U.S. News & World Report. What profits it a school to gain the world but lose its soul? Quite a bit, Father Hesburgh apparently thought. Dead at 97. R.I.P.
‐ Leonard Nimoy acted on the big and small screens and onstage, and had a serious interest in photography. He will be known, however, as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, half-Vulcan, half-human, and (almost) entirely logical. George Orwell wrote of literary couples that represented “the ancient dualism of body and soul in fiction form,” the classic example being Sancho Panza (body) and Don Quixote (soul). He ticked off other pairings — Holmes/Watson, Jeeves/Wooster, Bloom/Dedalus. Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk were the partners for the late 20th century. Nimoy embodied rationality, but it was always practical: How do we analyze this situation, or parse these alternatives? William Shatner as Kirk provided passion, decisiveness, and the occasional burst of New Frontier rhetoric. Their skill as character actors helped turn a failed TV series into a cult classic, then a mother lode of movies, spinoffs, and reboots. Does an actor aspire to greatness as Romeo, or Lear? No doubt. But melding with the popular mind is no mean feat. Dead at 83. R.I.P.
On the matter of so-called net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission has spoken. Congress should tell the FCC to put a sock in it. As FCC commissioner Ajit Pai wrote, “The order imposes intrusive government regulations that won’t work to solve a problem that doesn’t exist using legal authority the FCC doesn’t have.”
It takes a certain kind of genius to decide to regulate 21st-century broadband Internet by invoking a law from 1934, but that is what the FCC has done, declaring that Internet service providers (ISPs) are “telecommunications services” as understood in Title II of the New Deal–era Communications Act, and thus subject to regulation that is comprehensive in scope and proctological in intrusiveness. Democrats believe this is necessary to prevent such potentially catastrophic outcomes as a cable company’s prioritizing a streaming movie over an e-mail in the operation of its own network, rather than treating every bit of data in precisely the same way. This is nothing more — and nothing less — than a power grab by the federal government, one that is certain to end in abuse and the stifling of innovation and expression.
Net-neutrality advocates argue that these rules are necessary to prevent corporations — which are, in their worldview, evil — from blocking access to some plucky progressive blogger or from slowing down traffic to certain sites on behalf of their business partners. As Pai notes, this is a non-problem; if it were a problem, then the likeliest solutions would be more robust competition or, if warranted, Federal Trade Commission intervention to break up collusion.
In reality, those interested in free and open communication have much more to fear from the federal government than they do from their ISP. The Democrats have, within recent memory, made a serious drive to use the FCC to destroy conservative talk radio; they have used the IRS to suppress conservative political groups; under the leadership of Harry Reid, they tried to amend the First Amendment, in a way that would seriously weaken its core protections, in order to enable more invasive federal regulation of political speech; with Robert Kennedy Jr., they have called for literally imprisoning those who disagree with them on certain issues; in Texas, they have essentially criminalized political disagreement, with former governor Rick Perry under felony indictment for vetoing a funding bill; congressional Democrats are trying to bully into silence a Colorado academic and blogger who corrects errors in the climate-change debate. These are not the people you want in control of the Internet.
Congress should act immediately to restore the status quo ante and to permanently limit the FCC’s ability to interfere in these matters. The Internet works, and Washington doesn’t.