‐ The Clintons have created a shell corporation that exists solely to advance their interests and shield them from accountability. It’s called the Democratic party.
‐ Fox News, which will host the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland August 6, announced that it will restrict the field to the top ten candidates according to an average of five national polls. RNC chairman Reince Priebus, relieved not to have a mob scene onstage, quickly agreed. We say, the hell with it. How would Abraham Lincoln have polled one year before the Republican Convention of 1860? Fox should split the field in half and hold two debates, with candidates assigned by lot. Except for Donald Trump, who is a boob, every announced candidate has stature (even Carly Fiorina — Wendell Willkie was a businessman; even George Pataki — three-time governor of New York). Let them fight, and let the viewers decide.
‐ The question for Rand Paul watchers is, is he his father all over again, or something different? Conspiracy-minded grass eater, or conservatarian? A recent appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe found him in the grass eaters’ enclosure. “ISIS exists and grew stronger,” Paul said, “because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately, and most of these arms were snatched up by ISIS.” We could fight ISIS ourselves — we were fighting its forerunners in the Iraq War, which Paul has criticized — or we could back local allies, who would have to be armed. If Paul falls back on paleo rants in intra-GOP fights, how will he manage policy against real enemies?
‐ Rick Santorum announced that he is running for president, this time with a greater focus on economic than on cultural issues, and in particular on the economic challenges facing what a sociologist might call the lower middle class. He says that low-skilled immigration is hurting Americans’ wages, and therefore advocates a crackdown on illegal immigration and a 25 percent reduction in legal immigration. That would probably help people at the bottom of the pay scale, disproportionately including immigrants who are already here. Less helpful is Santorum’s proposal to raise the minimum wage, which would make it harder for people to start working their way up the ladder. The former senator’s advocacy of the Export-Import Bank fits poorly with his self-portrait as a skeptic of big business. Also potentially at odds with his campaign theme is the flat tax he says he will unveil soon: Previous versions have hiked taxes on the very people Santorum says he wants to help. For Santorum, who defended “compassionate conservatism” against its critics in these pages, it has always been important to prove that conservatism’s heart is in the right place. He needs to show that his head is, too.
‐ The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation earned half a million dollars last year when Bill addressed a gala of the Happy Hearts Fund, the New York Times reported. Clinton received a lifetime-achievement award from the charity, founded by model Petra Nemcova after the 2004 tsunami. Clinton’s award money is earmarked for building schools in Haiti. So why didn’t Happy Hearts just spend it directly on Haiti (most of its work is done in Indonesia)? Did Happy Hearts and Nemcova want to get close to the Clintons? And if some of that money stays with the Clinton Foundation as traveling expenses, is that the cost of closeness? “I find it,” the Times quotes Doug White, director of the masters’ program in fundraising management at Columbia, “ — what would be the word? — distasteful.” Just think how many lifetime-achievement awards the former president will collect when he once again has the run of the White House.
‐ Sidney Blumenthal worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign as cup bearer. During her tenure as secretary of state, he had a new task: unofficial adviser on Libyan affairs. Blumenthal, who was one of a group of Americans interested in post-Qaddafi business opportunities, sent Mrs. Clinton at least two dozen memos in 2011 and 2012 outlining intrigues among Libyan politicians and suggesting various figures as possible allies. She circulated his brainstorms to her subordinates at State, even though, as the New York Times put it, they responded “not infrequently . . . with polite skepticism.” Many leaders — e.g., Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt — rely on freelancers and back channels. But Churchill and Roosevelt had more to show for it than Mrs. Clinton, and many of their oddball sources were more knowledgeable than Blumenthal of Arabia.
‐ George Stephanopoulos is an old Clintonista, a master of stonewalling in the 1992 presidential campaign. Since then, he has climbed the heights of the American media: An anchorman on Good Morning America and host of This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Recently, he was hectoring Peter Schweizer, the author of Clinton Cash, over anti-Clinton and pro-Republican bias. Stephanopoulos himself has donated to the Clinton Foundation, something he had not talked about. He has since apologized. And he has withdrawn from any prospective moderation of a Republican presidential-primary debate. The question has arisen, “Should a clear Democrat hold such a prominent position in the mainstream media?” Wrong question: If the mainstream media were rid of clear Democrats, there would be no mainstream media.
‐ Readers may not be shocked that Hillary Clinton supports the reauthorization of a sleazy big-business favor factory run by the federal government. But still, the zeal with which she talked up the obscure Export-Import Bank on the campaign trail recently was a bit surprising. Many Republicans, to the consternation of groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, are determined to let the bank die when its authorization expires in a few weeks. It is just a tiny part of the federal government’s subsidy machine, but conservatives — rightly — see this as a winnable fight and a chance to take a principled stand against cronyism. Hillary apparently sees it as a chance to remind corporate America that her taste for the Big Business–Big Government cocktail has not diminished.
‐ When he is not meditating upon odd theories about women’s secret desire to be gang-raped — the subject of an old essay of his that came to light when he announced his challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination — Senator Bernie Sanders has some views about underarm deodorant he’d very much like to share. The proliferation of consumer choices is starving American children: “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country,” he proclaimed. Well . . . Sanders has fallen victim to a very old and very primitive economic superstition to which men of his socialist ilk are especially vulnerable: the view that free markets are irrational and that if they could only be put under discipline — the discipline of men such as Bernie Sanders — then resources could be reorganized in such a way that all those deodorant choices we don’t need could be reincarnated as healthy snacks for children. Of course the reality is that children are hungry most often where there are few if any consumer choices, e.g., Venezuela, North Korea, and the other socialist wonderlands produced by the policies Senator Sanders prefers. (He honeymooned in the Soviet Union, where varieties of deodorant were presumably pleasingly limited.)
‐ Former congressman (R., Ill.) and House speaker Dennis Hastert has been charged with lying to FBI investigators about a million dollars in cash he withdrew from banks over the years. He told them it was because he did not trust the banking system, but he stands accused of using the money “to cover up past misconduct.” Investigators have told the media that the misconduct was sexual and occurred during Hastert’s tenure as a high-school teacher and wrestling coach from 1965 to 1981. Pre-trying cases via leaks is regrettable, but common. Also regrettable and common is an ex-congressman’s having over a million bucks to spend in hush money; Hastert has been a lobbyist since he left office. Finally, though the media panopticon in which we all now live is not much like God, there is one resemblance: They both know everything. “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance” (Psalms 90:8). All public figures should mark that passage.
‐ Americans are turning more liberal on social issues nearly across the board, according to Gallup. Solid majorities now consider homosexual relations, nonmarital sex, divorce, and having a baby outside of marriage morally acceptable. Support for suicide, human cloning, and polygamy have also increased, though from a low level. The decline in the percentage of Americans affiliated with religious institutions is surely driving much of this trend. Support for abortion has not significantly increased: Perhaps people are making a distinction between acts based on whether they have victims. (Or are seen to have victims, at any rate: Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing do affect the welfare of third parties.) For a long time, social conservatives could rest their case on tradition and majoritarianism. Those days are over, and we will have to make our case with a winsomeness and confidence that are rooted somewhere else.
‐ First responders were still picking through the wreckage of May’s Amtrak derailment when former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, appearing on Morning Joe, blamed the deadly wreck on insufficient infrastructure spending. Republican stinginess became the go-to explanation of the left-wing blogosphere over the next several days — even when it was revealed that the train had been traveling twice the speed limit around the fatal curve when it derailed. Manhattan and Beltway liberals’ mania for passenger-train travel is part of a larger affection for all things European, and Amtrak’s fiscal insolvency — since it started operations in 1971 it has not turned a profit, and in 2002 its then-president told a Senate committee it never would — should be reason enough to doubt whether pleasing those rail-friendly sensibilities is the best use of taxpayers’ money. But even more notable, in this particular instance, was the inability of liberals to wait for the facts to come out — or even the bodies to be gathered — before using the tragedy to hawk their agenda.
‐ Far more predictable than extreme weather is the deluge of “science” that now seems inevitably to follow it. Such was the case over Memorial Day, when liberal media outlets rushed to blame the storm system that soaked Texas and Oklahoma over the holiday weekend on, of course, climate change: “A steadily escalating whipsaw between drought and flood is one of the most confident predictions of an atmosphere with enhanced evaporation rates — meaning, global warming,” wrote meteorologist Eric Holthaus at Slate. “Going from one extreme to another is a hallmark of climate change,” noted Samantha Page at ThinkProgress. Given that the storm system responsible for the flooding is linked to this year’s El Niño, which occurs every two to seven years and is caused by anomalous warming in the Pacific Ocean that scientists cannot explain, the insinuation that the disaster stemmed from global warming is not only ludicrous, it’s unscientific. But going from one extreme to another is a hallmark of climate-change campaigners.
‐ In a characteristic offense against basic property rights and simple common sense, the EPA expanded its jurisdiction on the nation’s bodies of water with a new administrative addendum to the Clean Water Act, known as “Waters of the United States.” Sixty percent of American water, including ponds, streams, and irrigation ditches found on taxed private property, can now be regulated by the federal government, thanks to a statute intended to clean up drinking water and large bodies of water. There is reason to rethink the Clean Water Act: The Supreme Court has had to weigh in three times on the limits of the law’s jurisdiction. But the EPA’s latest, 297-page manifesto manages to be as unclear as the cesspools the government imagines backyard ponds to be. The EPA will no doubt leverage this ambiguity to unfairly penalize farmers who want to plant trees, create drainage infrastructure, and otherwise go about the suspect business of making a livelihood. Let’s not remind President Obama that the human body is 70 percent water; he’ll want the EPA to regulate that too.
‐ Until recently, candidates for entry-level air-traffic-control positions were required to take an aptitude exam. It measured their cognitive ability and tested how they would react to scenarios that can occur on the job and involve split-second decisions entailing mathematical calculations. The trouble was that not enough black, Hispanic, and female candidates were passing the exam or completing training programs at colleges. So, a Fox Business investigation has revealed, the Federal Aviation Administration has scrapped those qualifications and replaced them with a “biographical questionnaire.” The new questionnaire asks respondents about such things as the number of sports in which they participated during high school, what their ideal job would be, and whether people describe them as humble or dominant. It is now the only necessary qualification for the job, along with a high-school degree, English proficiency, and citizenship. The new policy is in line with the FAA’s professed “historic commitment” to “a more diverse and inclusive workplace that reflects, understands, and relates to the diverse customers we serve.” Whether that workplace is filled with people who can keep planes from colliding is apparently a secondary consideration.
‐ A new study finds that inequality of incomes within firms has not increased over the last 35 years. Rising inequality is instead the result of the diverging fortunes of different firms. You may recall that just last year, the intellectual Left was fêting a tome explaining that inequality in the U.S. was the result of “top managers of large firms,” who had convinced “incestuous” compensation committees to fork over more and more of their companies’ wealth. Now Vox, the liberal “explainer” site, is distancing itself from what it condescendingly calls the “simple story” about top managers, without mentioning the book. The sound you should be hearing is Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
‐ Federal law requires a judge to recuse himself from a case when his “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” In the matter of same-sex marriage, the impartiality of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could not even be reasonably asserted, and she should absent herself from proceedings on the matter. Justice Ginsburg herself, while being questioned in her confirmation hearings, described the ethical standard at issue thus: “A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints, for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case, it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.” She has gone on to preside at same-sex weddings and to use those as occasions of activism (placing an unsubtle emphasis on the word “Constitution,” as the New York Times reports), and she has gone so far as to outline judicial opinion on the issue — assigning weight to federalism and equal-protection claims — in interviews and to argue that cultural shifts have prepared the way for a legal change: i.e., hints and forecasts. She should step aside, and let the Court treat the same-sex marriage case as an issue of law rather than a cause.
‐ The riot ended in Baltimore, but the violence didn’t. The city had its most murders in one month, a total of 43, since August 1972. Clearly, one cause of the spike in killing was a steep decline in arrests. Police might have been less active on the streets because their resources were overtaxed by the unrest after the death of Freddie Gray, or because continued harassment in tough neighborhoods deterred them from doing their job, or because they adopted an informal work slowdown in protest of the grandstanding of prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, or some mixture of all this. Regardless, the mayhem shows how important good, robust policing is to maintaining order in dangerous neighborhoods. The price of its absence is paid in lives, often those of young black men.
‐ What could possibly go wrong? Organizers of a meeting held at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco — the chain is an even more embarrassing knockoff of Hooters — invited members of a self-proclaimed outlaw motorcycle club, the Bandidos, who were at the time engaged in hostilities with members of other motorcycle gangs in the area. Nine dead, 170 arrested, one Twin Peaks franchise agreement nullified. What began as a parking-lot brawl ended in a gunfight, and in the course of making arrests police recovered some 118 handguns and a rifle. Bikers have subsequently tried to Ferguson-ize the events, calling them an example of police overreaction. These efforts are comically stupid: Even in the critics’ own accounts, the police came in force when a fistfight escalated into a gunfight. Protests are planned, and a civil-rights lawsuit has been filed. Some outlaws.
‐ The unions that dominate California politics have two demands: One, that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour. Two, that they be exempted from the minimum wage. The California state senate has just passed a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $13 an hour, but Los Angeles is way ahead of Sacramento, having voted to raise its local minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five years. Other cities, notably San Francisco and Seattle, have taken similar steps, with predictable results: San Francisco’s newspapers are full of stories about locals who are inexplicably shocked that their favorite independent bookstores are closing their doors, while Seattle has seen companies such as Cascade Designs shift jobs to places such as Reno. The economics are fairly straightforward — they are in fact so easy to understand that the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, which campaigned for the minimum-wage hike, is demanding that its members be protected from higher wages, i.e., that businesses with union contracts be exempted from the $15/hour minimum. Why? Because if “a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both,” as union boss Rusty Hicks put it, then it’s nobody else’s business. Which is, you’ll notice, an argument against the minimum wage per se, and against the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, too.
‐ New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, along with Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren and economist Joseph Stiglitz (of New York City), introduced a policy agenda the three called a liberal “Contract with America.” The plan is presumably intended to push a potentially moderate Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, to the left. It’s light on the new and serious and heavy on the old and glib: Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, provide universal pre-K, “invest in schools, not jails,” etc. Senator Warren already has some leverage over the Democratic party; this looks like de Blasio’s attempt to build some of his own. As David Marcus pointed out on National Review’s website, there is a precedent for an ambitious New York City mayor’s attempt to drag his party to the left nationally: John Lindsay tried the same thing about 40 years ago, neglecting management of the city in the process. Wherever de Blasio’s effort takes him, he does have a head start on the neglect and mismanagement.
‐ De Blasio presents himself as a champion of the city’s technology industry. Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, and others disagree, having signed a letter protesting the mayor’s attempt to impose new regulations on taxi-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, among other things demanding $1,000 every time they upgrade their software. This is fairly typical stuff. New York City’s transit industry is dominated by two forms of economic organization: on the one hand, socialism, in which the government owns the means of production (the city’s dysfunctional and rat-infested subways), and, on the other hand, a cartel, in which the taxi regulator colludes with the taxi-medallion owners to prevent new competitors from entering the market. New York’s taxi situation is comically hostile. Shift changes are scheduled to coincide with the rush hour, ensuring that it is impossible to get a taxi in midtown Manhattan between the hours of 5 and 6 p.m. — and that beleaguered New Yorkers embraced Uber and Lyft. But the taxi cartel was a major financial player in de Blasio’s mayoral campaign, and while we would never argue that the mayor of New York can be bought, he apparently can be rented, and without an app.
‐ Dominique Sharpton, daughter of the Reverend Al, has sued the city of New York for $5 million because she sprained her ankle on uneven pavement in Lower Manhattan last year. Given her father’s long history as a wheeler-dealer activist and her own fling with a shady nonprofit whose purpose and payroll are shrouded in deep mystery, she might be forgiven for assuming that she can get away with anything. “It’s all a scam,” a source close to the Sharpton family said of Education for a Better America (EBA), the organization run by Ms. Sharpton and her boyfriend. “It’s a cover for money, basically, to subsidize” their high-roller lifestyle. National Review’s Jillian Kay Melchior, who has been relentless in her mission to shed light on dubious Sharpton-family enterprises, recently captured those and corroborating observations in the course of laying out the details — or rather the murkiness of the details — that EBA has provided in tax filings and other public records. It shares board members, phone numbers, and apparently office space with National Action Network — the longer-standing shady nonprofit run by Sharpton père.
ridden Iraq to his successor and congratulate himself on his statesmanship.
‐ President Obama was talking to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, who asked him about his nuclear deal with Iran, in light of the insane anti-Semitism of that dictatorship. “Well,” said Obama, “the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival.” True, as far as it goes. Obama went on to say that “there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country,” i.e., America. Deep strains? By the historical and global standards of anti-Semitism, those strains were mercifully shallow. You had to build your own country club, instead of getting into the established one, and they had a quota on you at Yale. The Iranian mullahs could tell you about varsity anti-Semitism, as opposed to the JV kind.
‐ Jason Rezaian is a reporter for the Washington Post. He holds dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship. For ten months, he has been imprisoned in one of the worst places on earth: Tehran’s Evin Prison. The regime has charged him with espionage and the spread of propaganda. Rezaian and the Post respond that he merely carried out his duties as a journalist, within the law. He is now being tried in a “revolutionary court,” secretly. The judge is known as “the judge of death” — a moniker he has earned. We realize that President Obama is very eager to cut a nuclear deal with Iran. But the United States should let it be known that if this prisoner is not released soon, there will be hell to pay. It’s one thing for Washington to be unable to help Iranian political prisoners; it’s another to be unable to help American prisoners.
‐ China-watchers have been warning for years that the country has serious, dangerous ambitions to dominate the East and South China Seas — waters to which it has weak historical and legal claims but in which it has great economic and strategic interests. Those predictions elicited little response from President Obama, who has been committed to avoiding the perception that the U.S. might be blocking “China’s rise,” even as China remains a one-party dictatorship and its rise involves wholesale violation of international customs. Now, Chinese ambitions are taking concrete form — literally: The regime is constructing artificial islands on small rocks and reefs in the South China Sea. The Obama administration recently promised, in response, to begin patrols of the region by U.S. planes and ships. It’s a good idea, but it could mean confrontation between the U.S. military and the sundry Chinese forces that dominate the islands. Protecting our allies and international norms will not be without risk; it’s a shame President Obama doesn’t have much experience in it.
‐ On their way to Mass every Sunday, the Ladies in White, campaigners for human rights in Cuba, are regularly detained and beaten, until their bones are broken. Yet they try again as soon as they can. At the Vatican, Pope Francis met Raúl Castro. The pope is credited with brokering the new relations between the Cuban dictatorship and the Obama administration. Defending itself on Cuba, the administration likes to cite the pope’s “moral leadership.” The Vatican described the mood between Pope Francis and Raúl Castro as “very friendly.” The pontiff is scheduled to visit Cuba in September. May his attitude toward the dictatorship’s victims — who are, really, the Cuban people at large — be equally friendly.
‐ For years, soccer has been sold to the American public not only for its inherent qualities — speed, continuous action — but because it is the international game, the new world order at play. Nemesis vindicated the second claim when the Justice Department charged nine current or former executives of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, plus five cronies, with wire fraud, money laundering, and racketeering in a decades-long scheme to assign international tournaments via bribery. So struggling Third World countries (Brazil) or despotisms (Qatar) got stuck with Ozymandian sports complexes while soccer bigwigs pocketed big bucks for making the deals. FIFA is the rotten face of internationalism: unaccountable insiders working with corrupt local allies in the name of high-sounding slogans (in this case, sportsmanship). Congrats to Attorney General Loretta Lynch for making the case. No word yet on how the FIFA execs will defend themselves, though they are likely to claim that they were kicked in their shins.
‐ Ireland last month became the first country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. It wasn’t even close: The yeas won, 62 to 38 percent. “The most Catholic country in the world,” Giovanni Battista Montini, later Pope Paul VI, once called the isle of saints and scholars. Less than a century later, social conservatives are scolding its hierarchy for being shy in the pulpit while, outside church walls, not just Catholic doctrine but the most fundamental institution of Western civilization was being steadily deconstructed by media voices and popular culture. Over the past decade, millions of dollars from U.S. and other overseas sources were channeled into an effort to sway public opinion by legislating “incrementally, waiting to advocate for civil marriage until the population was acculturated to the ordinariness of same-sex unions,” according to one major funding source. Unlike California in 2000 (Proposition 22) and 2008 (Prop 8), Ireland voted the wrong way, in our view. Unlike the California votes, however, the Irish vote will stand, thanks to what remains of popular sovereignty and judicial restraint in the younger republic (est. 1922). Let the U.S. Supreme Court take note.
‐ Claire Cain Miller reports in the New York Times that policies designed to help women combine work and family in other countries — policies that are always held up in contrast to America’s alleged backwardness — have backfired, lowering women’s wages and reducing job opportunities. (“In Spain, a policy to give parents of young children the right to work part-time has led to a decline in full-time, stable jobs available to all women — even those who are not mothers.”) Not to worry, though: According to “people who study the issue,” governments can make these policies effective by getting men to assume more of the responsibilities of child care. To find out how well that works, consult editions of the newspaper 20 years from now.
‐ Muscovites in their thousands are objecting to the erection of a statue of Saint Vladimir the Great, due to rise in their city to the height of a six-storey building. This enormity must disfigure wherever it is finally placed, especially if the site is on what little high ground there is along the Moscow River. The Orthodox Church and an official but shadowy Military-Historical Society are in favor. But many well understand that the statue is intended to serve the neo-Soviet political purposes of the much lesser Vladimir Putin. A thousand and more years ago, Saint Vladimir was the founder of the Russian state with its capital then in Kiev, and he converted to Christianity in the Crimea. Putin is excavating this past in order to justify today’s aggression. In the tactful phrase of a friendly propagandist, the monument will be “a sort of spiritual talisman.” Naturally, in Ukraine they see things differently.
‐ “Skeptical environmentalist” Bjørn Lomborg wants an Australian home for a Consensus Center, a research institute like the one he already runs by the same name in Copenhagen. The Australian government has pledged to contribute $4 million to the center, and the University of Western Australia had planned to host it — that is, until climate activists convinced the university to pull the plug. The university’s vice chancellor explained that they didn’t predict the “strong and passionate emotional reaction” to the idea. These days, isn’t fanatical opposition to free and open inquiry what one should expect? Mr. Lomborg thinks the planet is warming due to human activity, but rejects the standard regulatory solutions. In the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Lomborg had this to say: “What is the lesson for young academics? Avoid producing research that could produce politically difficult answers.” Which is precisely the lesson his opponents meant to teach.
‐ A feminist professor was recently subjected to an investigation under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act for what amounted to a thought crime. Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education decrying the bureaucratization of rules governing sex on campus and the creeping “climate of sanctimony about student vulnerability.” She warned that it was becoming impossible to openly express opinions about such matters without being “labeled antifeminist, or worse, a sex criminal.” As if to prove her point, a couple of graduate students lodged a complaint against her alleging that her essay had violated federal laws against gender discrimination. One student contended that Kipnis’s essay had created a “chilling effect” that would discourage women from reporting sex crimes. The other accused Kipnis of “retaliation” for mentioning in passing publicly known allegations of sexual misconduct that the (unnamed) student had made against a male professor. Rather than dismiss the complaints out of hand, Northwestern hired a team of lawyers to conduct a lengthy investigation of Kipnis. After she recounted her Kafkaesque ordeal in another published essay, Northwestern cleared her of most of the charges. Her accusers can nonetheless comfort themselves with the knowledge that in such cases the process is the punishment.
‐ You’d think President Obama’s ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, who became famous for her writing on genocide and other human-rights atrocities, would have a good sense of perspective and a disdain for false equivalence. But you’d be wrong, to go by a recent tweet of hers: She expressed her support for Emma Sulkowicz — the Columbia student who carried a mattress around campus to protest the university’s handling of her sexual-assault complaint — and suggested that Sulkowicz’s struggle is something like that of women in Afghanistan. (She repeated her admiration for Sulkowicz in a commencement speech at Barnard College.) The problem: The university’s exceedingly accuser-friendly system cleared the accused male student in 2013. He has always maintained that the pair engaged in consensual sex and is now suing Columbia (under Title IX, no less) for harassment and intimidation. Columbia will nonetheless now require all students to attend training workshops or complete an art project on sexual respect. Although Sulkowicz carried her mattress for the last time at Columbia during graduation, “Mattress Girl” may live on: She said the mattress is up for sale to any museum willing to exhibit the piece. If no museum steps forward, no doubt her supporters will chalk it up as another depraved act of the patriarchy.
‐ It is difficult to know what the rules are these days. After the fight over Indiana’s ill-fated Religious Freedom Restoration Act, America’s devout business owners were issued a set of instructions. “Sure,” they were informed, “you may believe what you wish; just don’t expect to be able to run your businesses in line with your consciences. Open for one means open for all.” How quickly this standard slipped out of fashion. In May, a religious Canadian jeweler made the news after the lesbian couple for whom he had agreed to fashion wedding rings turned on him and sought to exit their contract. There had been no bigotry involved, nor a denial of service or a reneging on promises made; the couple had merely discovered that the jeweler opposes same-sex marriage, and they were worried that associating with him might “taint” their nuptials. “One of the reasons my family chose to come to Canada,” he noted in exasperation, “was the freedom of rights.” How touchingly naïve. That was last week.
‐ B. B. King was born a couple of months before William F. Buckley Jr. and had an oddly similar career: He made his name in the 1950s within a vibrant but insular subculture, brought it to widespread notice in the 1960s, and thereafter achieved worldwide fame as his work became mainstreamed into the larger culture. Both men were strongly influenced by their Christian faith, and King’s music, like Buckley’s thought, evolved and gained subtlety through the years but was always bracingly honest and true to its essential core. In 1977 King even matched Buckley’s Yale degree when the university awarded him an honorary doctorate in music. Dead at 89. R.I.P.
D.C. Gambles with America’s Safety
On June 1, three sections of the Patriot Act expired, only one of which is controversial and frequently used: the National Security Agency’s Section 215 metadata program. There are three people primarily responsible for the NSA’s being stripped of this useful counterterrorism program: Edward Snowden, Rand Paul, and Barack Obama. On June 2, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act, which replaces the metadata program with a much weaker one. The result is not a catastrophe for our national security, but it does reflect the outcome of a bruising few years for national-security priorities and our intelligence community.
Two years ago, Snowden broke the law to expose the metadata program, feeding details of it (and many other intelligence operations) to the Guardian and the New York Times rather than pursuing the proper official channels. The media, zealous privacy advocates such as the ACLU, and libertarians including Senator Paul used the unlawful disclosures to construct a frightening, and frighteningly misleading, narrative: that the NSA was constantly monitoring what you did with your phone, if not outright listening in on your calls.
This wasn’t true, as many national-security hawks pointed out repeatedly, and President Obama did once or twice. First, metadata is just the numbers called and duration of calls — not the content of the calls, and not even the names of the phone subscribers involved. The program allowed the NSA to store huge amounts of data, but it could be accessed and analyzed only by a tiny number of agents, subject to congressional and judicial oversight. The president bowed to the media firestorm nonetheless, convening a task force to examine intelligence procedures, which produced a number of recommendations that made it into the USA Freedom Act. He backed the bill, even though he had defended the usefulness of the Patriot Act as it existed. The underlying issue was the same, but the politics had changed — and our commander-in-chief went along with the crowd.
The Freedom Act reforms did not go far enough for Senator Paul, who blocked its advancement, repeatedly and single-handedly ensuring that the NSA’s abilities went dark for some time. The practical significance of that blackout is probably not great, but Senator Paul’s crusade against the NSA and politically feasible reforms to it has done much more for his notoriety than it has for anyone’s civil liberties.
Mitch McConnell had the right idea all along — reauthorize the metadata program as is — although the statute should have been clarified to unmistakably authorize the continuation of the program as it exists. (A federal appeals court recently ruled that the law did not authorize collection as broad as that which the NSA has carried out.)
Unfortunately, too many members of his own party still insisted — albeit on more reasonable grounds than Senator Paul
– that metadata collection was too intrusive and needed to be restricted. They certainly got some restrictions: Under the USA Freedom Act, metadata will reside with companies and be accessed only when the NSA comes to them with a request tied to a specific investigation. The new law curtails what data can be considered relevant to that request, and, while it will allow 90 days of live data collection, will mean the only past records available are those the companies decide to keep.
Considering the fever pitch that the Snowden controversy reached, we could have ended up with something much worse. In fact, there are a few useful fixes to the original Patriot Act included in the new law. But a president and a Republican party willing to make a more forceful case for the useful powers in the Patriot Act might have secured us something much better.