‐ Who knew the Democrats were that picky about which kind of socialist they prefer?
‐ Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees — $225,000 a pop — from Goldman Sachs and other big-deal Wall Street firms continue to be a campaign issue. At an MSNBC debate in Durham, N.H., she was asked whether she would release transcripts of her remarks. “I will certainly look into it,” she replied. But having looked, she decided no — unless everyone else released transcripts of every speech he had ever given. What could be in Hillary’s speeches? Promises of fealty to Wall Street? Of course not. But denunciations of big banks? Also no. She undoubtedly gave a dull tour d’horizon, for which Wall Street players gave her big bucks — and hoped to have later access. So, at the end of the day, Hillary would be shown to be greedy, plugged-in, and timid. No amount of money could seduce her to abandon those qualities.
‐ The Clinton campaign labors to make her candidacy an epoch in the advancement of womankind. Latest wrinkle: It is sexist to support Bernie Sanders. “When you’re young,” said Gloria Steinem, “you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’” In other words, young women for Sanders are self-hating sex-bots. Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright upped the ante: Sanders supporters are damned. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” she thundered. But worst was this thought from Hillary’s husband: “People who have gone online to defend Hillary . . . have been subject to vicious trolling and attacks that are literally too profane often — not to mention sexist — to repeat,” said Bill Clinton, who has seduced and reportedly attacked numerous women, not online but in the flesh. Sanders believes in the equality of the mudsill, with no distinctions of sex. The effort to make him a sexist is cheap, self-serving, and dishonest. That is, vintage Clinton.
‐ Running against Hillary Clinton, Sanders has been inveighing against a super PAC that supports her: filthy Wall Street money, you know. Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is annoyed. He is a Hillary man. And he accused his fellow Vermonter of hypocrisy: “Frankly, for Bernie to say he doesn’t have a super PAC — labor unions are super PACs. Now, they’re super PACs that Democrats like, so we don’t go after labor unions, but this is a double standard.” Governor Dean does have a candid streak.
‐ Will we ever know whether Clinton or Sanders won the Iowa caucuses? The raw vote totals aren’t being released, and Iowa officials say they aren’t available to be released. Four years ago, the Iowa Republican caucuses reported that Mitt Romney had won; 16 days later, it turned out that when missing precincts were accounted for, Rick Santorum had. And nobody knows to this day who won the Democratic caucuses of 1988. There are many arguments against the caucuses: They involve unnecessarily byzantine procedures, Iowans are too unrepresentative to have as much say as they do over the party nominations, the state uses the caucuses to extort promises of government subsidies from the candidates. But maybe the most decisive reason to end the caucuses’ favored position is that Iowa is no good at running them.
‐ On the night of the Iowa caucuses, CNN reporter Chris Moody broke the news on his Twitter account that Ben Carson, instead of going on to New Hampshire, was going to “head home to Florida for some R&R.” Moody noted that Carson was not dropping out of the race. Within minutes, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash noted on air that Carson wasn’t going on to New Hampshire. Tapper said this behavior was “very unusual,” and Bash said it was not consistent with seeking the presidency. The Carson campaign then issued its own tweet noting that Carson was still in the race. The Cruz campaign started calling its volunteers to tell them that Carson was “suspending campaigning.” CNN’s official Twitter account then said that Carson “plans to take a break from campaigning” after Iowa. Representative Steve King, a top Cruz backer in Iowa, said it looked to him as though Carson was out. Since that night, Carson, Donald Trump, and various Cruz enemies have alleged that Cruz won only because his volunteers convinced Carson backers that they should support the senator instead of wasting their vote. (Honestly, they were wasting their vote on Carson whether or not he had dropped out.) Cruz has repeatedly explained what happened, but CNN keeps insisting that his verifiably accurate claims are false and that its reporting was not at all misleading. Instead of a dirty trick, this looks to us like the fog of primary war coupled with media face-saving.
‐ The most disappointing moment of the GOP’s New Hampshire debate came when Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio each embraced the idea that women should register with the Selective Service, making it possible for America to draft women into ground combat. It’s misguided enough to open ground-combat jobs to women, especially when mixed-gender units are demonstrably less effective than their all-male counterparts, but the idea of drafting mothers and daughters into combat is barbaric and would force women into lopsided deadly engagements. And make no mistake: There is no point to Selective Service registration other than facilitating a draft. A draft should be designed to rapidly augment the ranks of warfighters in a time of extreme national emergency; it is not an instrument of social justice. A responsible GOP president would reverse the decision to open ground-combat jobs to women, not reaffirm it with a universal draft registration.
‐ In Iowa, the third rail is the ethanol mandate and subsidy. Oppose this arrangement and you will die, or certainly not win the Iowa caucus. Cruz opposed the arrangement. He said that the government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. He said that crony capitalism was un-American, or ought to be. His opponents made hay out of this unorthodox, risky, and principled stance. Iowa’s governor, Terry Branstad, the longest-serving governor in American history, usually stays neutral in the caucus. But he told Iowans they should vote for anyone but Cruz. Trump told Iowans, “Your ethanol business, if Ted Cruz gets in, will be wiped out within six months to a year. It’s gonna be gone.” In the end, Iowans gave Cruz victory in their caucus. We congratulate the senator on his stance, and we congratulate Iowans on rising above a special interest. At least in 2016, in the Republican caucus, they de-electrified that rail.
‐ Rubio has come under fire for saying that he would ban abortion even in cases of rape if he could. (Ted Cruz holds the same view, but for some reason has not been criticized nearly as much.) Jeb Bush said that voters would hold that view against a nominee, and Chris Christie said that rape victims are blameless and should be able to procure abortion as a matter of self-defense. Christie’s argument is hard to square with any considered pro-life philosophy: Does he really think that the reason abortion should generally be prohibited is to punish pregnant women for having engaged in consensual sex? Bush’s is harder to answer. When this has come up before, we have advised Rubio to note that abortion in cases of rape will be legal until Americans reach a consensus for banning it, which is not on the horizon. We are having a theoretical debate over a tiny fraction of abortions. Meanwhile, Clinton favors direct taxpayer funding of abortion — which is already a reality in several states — and would appoint Supreme Court justices who would make partial-birth abortion a constitutional right. Rubio says he would rather lose an election than quit standing for life. But it would be better to stand for life and win.
‐ Trump, who advertises himself as a master dealmaker, has joined Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, et al. in the delusion that the federal government can drive down health-care costs by engaging in party-to-party negotiations with pharmaceutical companies over the costs of prescription drugs. This is a fantasy: The Congressional Budget Office studied the issue and concluded that there wasn’t much to it, while researchers for the National Bureau of Economic Research considered the case of Medicaid and concluded that a bigger federal footprint in the market actually drove prices higher. There are a great many prescription drugs in a great many different forms on the market, and the idea that the secretary of health and human services is going to sit down over coffee with the CEO of Pfizer and hash out a deal is, and always has been, absurd. Insurance companies traditionally have played the role of negotiator, but they operate under a mandate — to cover “all or substantially all” pharmaceuticals in six broadly defined protected classes — that puts them at a disadvantage: If you can’t walk away from a negotiation and the other side knows that, you aren’t going to get the best deal possible. That’s the result of the centralizing and standardizing impulse in Washington, and Trump’s proposals would aggravate that problem. No deal.
‐ Trump decided to skip the debate in Iowa, on the eve of that caucus. He held his own event, ostensibly to honor and raise money for veterans. He held the event at the same time as the debate. Two candidates joined him: candidates who had participated in the prior debate, the “undercard.” They were Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Famous social conservatives. They make strange bedfellows for Trump, who has a worse record on many issues they claim to care about than many people they have denounced. Huckabee and Santorum dropped out after the caucus. This may well be the end of their political careers. And they ended them by playing Pips to Trump’s Gladys Knight.
‐ Rand Paul left the Republican presidential race after finishing fifth in the Iowa caucus, with not quite 5 percent of the vote. Paul was encouraged to run by his father’s example — four years ago, Ron Paul finished third in Iowa, with over 20 percent of the vote. Perhaps an America still weary of the Iraq War and stirred by the Tea Party would rally to a kinder, gentler libertarian. But Rand was wrong: The rise of ISIS in Syria, Paris, and San Bernardino put a premium on strength and watchfulness, while Cruz and Rubio scooped up most of the tea-party vote. Meanwhile Rand lost the zing that comes from leading a cult. He will focus on winning reelection as senator from Kentucky. We wish him well. One Paul in a caucus makes a good condiment, even if he can’t be the main course.
‐ Forced to choose between Cruz and Trump in the Oval Office, “I think I would choose Trump,” Jimmy Carter told the United Kingdom’s House of Lords recently. The Democratic ex-president explained: “Trump has proven already that he’s completely malleable. I don’t think he has any fixed opinions that he would really go to the White House and fight for.” Cruz, meanwhile, “is not malleable. He has far right-wing policies, in my opinion, that would be pursued aggressively if and when he would become president.” The attack ad writes itself: “Donald Trump: Jimmy Carter’s favorite Republican!”
Don’t Stop Worrying about Oil
Two years ago, in January 2014, oil traded around $100 per barrel. Today, oil trades around $30 per barrel, a level unvisited in over a decade, and consumers have been tanking up with $1.50-per-gallon gasoline.
The collapse in oil prices has come after a surge in U.S. production. This has led many to theorize that the U.S. has finally dislodged the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) from its position of dominance. Historically, the OPEC cartel has managed production to keep prices high, even when, as is happening today, a weaker global economy exerts downward pressure on them. Its apparent failure to do so at this moment has led some to forecast low energy prices as far as the eye can see. According to this line of reasoning, U.S. production will undercut any attempt by OPEC to raise prices, as American oil will flood the market and drive the price down when OPEC attempts to raise it.
As the nearby chart illustrates, such optimism is poorly grounded. To contextualize this most recent development in the oil market, we gathered data on oil production between 1965 and 2014 from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. The data measure oil production in barrels produced per year. For each of the years, the chart shows the share of world oil produced by OPEC, the U.S., and the countries that were members of OPEC during the 1973 OPEC oil embargo (Algeria, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela).
While there is an uptick in the U.S. share near the end, the chart casts doubt on the notion that American oil now captures a share of the world oil market so large as to undermine OPEC’s ability to influence the price of oil. America produced 13.1 percent of the world’s oil in 2014. In 1973, when the first OPEC oil embargo sent the American economy into a tailspin, the U.S. produced 18.7 percent of the world’s oil. If OPEC could send oil prices through the roof when the U.S. controlled more of the world’s oil supply than the U.S. does at present, it seems difficult to believe that OPEC could not similarly send prices back up if it chose to do so. So what gives? Why is OPEC playing along with low prices now?
A little economic reasoning provides the answer. In the long run, the cartel will have significant pricing power if it controls a large share of the world oil supply. Middle Eastern producers have a cost advantage, with a barrel of their oil requiring about $20 to produce, whereas the new production in the U.S. costs about $50 a barrel. When prices are $100 per barrel, both Middle Eastern and U.S. producers can make money, and U.S. production can even expand, driving down OPEC’s share of the world supply. But when prices get below $50, U.S. producers who banked on high prices can be wiped out even as OPEC producers continue to make profits. Sure, profits go down in the short run even for OPEC. But the Saudis, for example, have more than $600 billion in reserves to help them ride out a few years of low prices.
And the long-run rewards for OPEC will be significant. Small and mid-sized U.S. energy firms issued at least $241 billion worth of bonds between 2007 and 2015. The average high-yield energy bond now trades at about 56 cents on the dollar. A wave of defaults and bankruptcies is already under way.
This wave will have a chilling effect on future investment in U.S oil and gas, which is exactly OPEC’s goal. The next time OPEC lifts the price to $100 a barrel, investors will likely be wary of expending a lot of capital to increase U.S. production, aware that OPEC could just wipe them out again. Today’s low prices probably mean higher long-run profits for OPEC, higher prices at the pump, and a share of world production for OPEC that is for the most part steady. Sorry.
‐ Obama addressed the Islamic Society of Baltimore. His remarks were tinged with mythology (the Founders were cool with Muslims: with individuals, in theory yes; with the Barbary Pirates, not so much). But the bulk of his speech sought to weave Islam into American civil society, and to rebuke terrorists and persecutors abroad. He urged Muslims to speak out against the cleansing of Christians from the Middle East and of Jews from France, and he portrayed ISIS and its ilk as a schismatic fringe. Politicians are entitled to try to shape the debate on their terms, even if their terms are not in fact true (jihad is grounded in venerable Muslim theory and practice). May his advice to Muslims have a salutary effect. But the process of assimilation can be long and hard: Mormons were accepted by the rest of America only after actual strife and doctrinal change. Our advice to ourselves: Speak softly, and carry big principles.
‐ When David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, launched his now-famous investigation of potential organ trafficking at Planned Parenthood, he had to know that his work would place him within the Left’s crosshairs. It was thus no surprise when a Texas grand jury indicted him on dubious charges related to his undercover journalism. One can’t help but notice the double standard. David Gregory once waved an illegal high-capacity magazine at the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre during a contentious interview on Meet the Press. Gregory wasn’t prosecuted. Moreover, it would be easier to have confidence in the prosecution if Texas weren’t the American capital of politically motivated prosecutions. (Just ask Tom DeLay and Rick Perry.) But the true injustice is the notion that while Daleiden faces 20 years in jail, Planned Parenthood prospers — free to pursue its entirely legal core business, the mass-scale killing of innocents.
‐ Abortion advocates are always looking for a dramatic excuse to impose their beliefs on vulnerable women. The latest is the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne malady plaguing Central America and much of South America. As epidemic diseases go, it’s mild. However, a report of increases in microcephaly — abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital birth defect — among babies born in Zika-stricken areas has women concerned, and the governments of Colombia and El Salvador have even advised couples to delay becoming pregnant. Although there is no proven causal link between Zika virus and microcephaly, not all children born to Zika-infected mothers have microcephaly, and not all persons with microcephaly are physically or mentally debilitated, abortion proponents are using the outbreak to call for repealing the “oppressive” anti-abortion laws in countries such as El Salvador and Brazil. Those laws are in place because that’s what people in those countries want. The self-assured feminists of post–Roe v. Wade America, unable to accept that mature, thoughtful women could reject abortion as a panacea, treat their Latin American sisters as slaves to custom or to arcane religious beliefs. If abortion were not a pet cause of the Left, this would be termed — rightly — colonialism, and of the cruelest sort.
‐ The Obama administration’s executive-overreach strategy always has been cynical: The White House acts beyond its authority on some Democratic wish-list item — immigration, gun control, ordering a $10.10 minimum wage for federal contractors — secure in the belief that its rules constitute the new reality in the here and now, whereas overturning them in court may take years. On more than a dozen occasions, the Supreme Court has been obliged to step in and bring the president to heel, most notably on the matter of his making three entirely illegal appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. The Court once again has had to step in, this time in the matter of the administration’s ordering power-plant regulations far in excess of what the actual law enables. The president wanted to make a splash before signing the country up for the costly and destructive global-warming accord negotiated last year in Paris, and so he simply ordered — as though he were a prince rather than a president — emissions reductions that will cost U.S. electricity consumers hundreds of billions of dollars while producing results that his own EPA estimates would be too minuscule to measure. Some 29 states have sued to stop him, but that would not have prevented the administration from forcing the changes it demands now as the lawsuit proceeds. The Supreme Court has issued a temporary stay against enforcing the new rules — a recognition of Obama’s strategy, and its lawlessness.
‐ Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services are proposing regulations that would prevent doctors from acting on the assumption that a patient is either male or female. Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act refers back to civil-rights legislation that prohibits discrimination based on established categories including race, age, disability, and sex. As interpreted by HHS’s Office for Civil Rights, discrimination based on sex includes “sex stereotyping,” or “expectations that gender can only be constructed within two distinct opposite and disconnected forms (masculinity and femininity), and that gender cannot be constructed outside of this gender construct.” What that little treatise on gender theory would do to doctors is expose them to legal liability for, among other things, declining to participate in sex-change surgery even when in their medical judgment it would harm the patient. Lawyers and bureaucrats would stand ready to offer an authoritative second opinion.
‐ Oil prices have been remarkably low for several months, to the joy of consumers and the consternation of producers. (Markets are funny like that.) When oil prices go up, it is greeted by Democrats as evidence of a price-fixing conspiracy; when oil prices go down, it presents Democrats with an opportunity to raise taxes, which is what President Barack Obama proposes to do by slapping a $10-a-barrel tax on the stuff from which the gasoline we consume is made. At current prices, that would represent a tax of about 30 percent, in addition to all the existing taxes that get collected between oil well and gas station. The president, seeming to parody his own economic naivety, insists that this is a tax on big oil companies, not a tax on consumers, as though those costs would not be passed along. (Markets are funny like that, too.) Here’s a safe bet: If the president’s 30 percent oil tax is in fact enacted, it will be somebody else’s fault when gasoline prices go up.
‐ The Obama administration continues to propagate the myth of the “wage gap” between similarly situated men and women, and to propose new and onerous regulations to close it. Of late the administration is hoping to shame employers into “equal pay” with a proposed regulation that would require businesses with 100 or more employees to provide additional information to the federal government about their employees’ demographics and pay. The regulation is as likely to hurt women as to help them. Many women happily negotiate lower salaries in exchange for flexible schedules or fewer hours, but since those benefits will not show up in reports to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — which will be eager to interpret lower salaries as evidence of discrimination — employers might stop offering such arrangements, opting for a one-size-fits-all approach that makes compliance with bureaucratic mandates easier. In other words, for this administration, “progress” is a victory for “women’s rights” and a defeat for many actual women.
‐ As if Baltimore had not suffered enough, DeRay McKesson is running for mayor. McKesson, the Twitter id of the Black Lives Matter movement, is the 13th and final candidate in the city’s Democratic primary (which effectively decides the mayor’s race) in April; the winner will replace retiring mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who presided over last year’s riots, during which she famously insisted that Baltimore’s mobs be given “space to destroy.” Rawlings-Blake was only the latest in a string of leaders responsible for the city’s transformation into a race-obsessed Slough of Despond, and, naturally, McKesson is advertising his distance from municipal politics as a virtue. Of course, it’s his simon-pure progressivism that is exactly what has been in place for more than 40 years in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, etc., and that is to blame for those cities’ present misery. But McKesson’s mayoral bid may not be a total waste: If his education in the rough-and-tumble of politics turns out to be as deliciously brutal and pitiless as expected, then it also presents an opportunity to educate, to some extent, a generation of misguided young activists.
‐ The British are to hold a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union or leave. The initiative comes from Prime Minister David Cameron. At the outset, he maintained that he would be taking major steps to repatriate powers that over time the EU has appropriated in matters great and small. An oligarchy of bureaucrats has evolved into a government superior to the Westminster Parliament, with the privilege moreover of selecting themselves in closed sessions without any responsibility to voters in general elections. Given the resounding promise to negotiate, the nation was led to expect the recovery of sovereignty. After thousands of air miles and innumerable photo ops, Cameron returned with minute technical alterations to the small print, for instance concerning payment of benefits to EU workers. The British discovered that men they have never heard of, such as Jean-Claude Juncker from Luxembourg and Donald Tusk from Poland, hold British sovereignty in their hands and do not intend to let go. After a burst of national laughter at Cameron’s performance, the opinion polls showed that those who want to leave the EU had at least temporarily moved into the lead.
‐ Unanimously, the European Parliament has passed a resolution affirming that ISIS “is committing genocide against Christians and Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities . . . and that this therefore entails action under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” Strong words. Defining the persecution as genocide gives it moral, legal, and political weight that would justify using force to stop it. Lack of will, not of permission from the European Union, is largely what has hindered the Western response to the genocide perpetrated by ISIS. Give credit anyway to Lars Adaktusson of Sweden, who led the resolution effort, for doing what he could. “Now our goal is the U.N. Security Council,” says Nuri Kino, a journalist and advocate for persecuted Middle Eastern minorities. Unfortunately for them, the political process moves more slowly than ISIS. Those who work to accelerate that process deserve recognition and encouragement.
‐ Pope Francis and Kirill, patriarch of Moscow, would meet in Cuba on February 12, the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church announced a mere week beforehand, catching the world by surprise. Leaders of the two churches had never met. Rome in recent years has made overtures, but Russian Orthodox leaders have remained wary of what they regard as longstanding Catholic efforts to compete for adherents in former Soviet lands, particularly Ukraine, where Catholicism was driven underground during the last 45 years of the Soviet era. A thaw in the ancient ecclesiastical cold war between Rome and Moscow would be welcome but is not the immediate aim of the meeting between pope and patriarch at Havana’s José Martí Airport. The persecution of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere “requires immediate action and an even closer cooperation between Christian churches,” a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church explained. Some skeptics see Kirill as Putin’s proxy and hope that Francis doesn’t rush into agreements with him, but that the leaders of the two churches are speaking at all for the first time in a thousand years sends the correct message, which is that the issue that brings them together is that urgent.
‐ Second in importance in Syria only to Damascus, Aleppo is fought over by forces loyal to Bashar Assad, the titular but disempowered president, and rebels, notably the Syrian Free Army, with the jihadis of Islamic State and the Kurds in the background seeing what they can pick up. In the midst of death and the destruction of this historic setting, the unfortunate Aleppines had tended to stay put. The current Russian contribution to peace and stability is carpet-bombing, and this has generated collective panic. Numbers are estimates, but as many as 70,000 are said to have fled Aleppo and made for Turkey a score of miles away, only to find that the border is closed. There are already a million and a half Syrian refugees in Turkey, and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan anticipates another 600,000 potentially. His foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, limits himself to saying that Aleppo is not on the verge of falling, but “is under extreme pressure” — a euphemism, surely, for a crisis with no good end in sight.
‐ It is right to be polite to guests, and accommodating of them. It is also right to be polite to hosts, and accommodating of them. There’s an old saying: “When in Rome . . .” Iran’s President Rouhani was in Rome in order to ink business deals. They have become possible thanks to the West’s lifting of sanctions. Prime Minister Renzi met him in the Capitoline Museums. To accommodate his guest, he covered up the nude statues, including a Venus. In France, President Hollande had a different idea. He was to dine with Rouhani, but the Iranian insisted that no wine be served. Hollande said, Nothing doing. This is France. If you don’t want any wine, you don’t have to have any. Rouhani canceled the meal. Vive la France. Last, we have a question: When a Westerner visits Iran, will the dictatorship cease to stone rape victims to death, on the grounds that this offends a Western — indeed, a human — sensibility?
‐ In the long-drawn struggle that Algeria waged to win independence from France, a number of women participated so courageously that they became national figureheads. Algerian Islam is highly traditional, however, and the imams were at great pains afterward to ensure that women were not, and could never be, on any footing of equality with men. This disparaging of women’s contribution to the cause of independence was a social issue that ceaselessly troubled the whole country. The ruling clique, for the most part secular military men, was determined to change the customary behavior that was generating retrograde inequality. In 2015, for instance, 7,500 cases of violence against women were reported, and this was only about a fifth of the real number. A new law sets penalties for acts of domestic violence, from two years in prison to 20 years, depending on the gravity of the case. Outraged imams interpret this as the imposition of Western-style reform — and so it is.
‐ If you’re a critic of the Chinese government and manage to leave the country, you’re not home-free: The Party can snatch you and return you. This is happening with regularity, and it happened in January to Li Xin, a journalist who was in Thailand. He is now in the PRC, enduring what state security metes out. Presumably, governments cannot stop every PRC abduction — but they should not be mute or supine in the face of these crimes. And what does it say about the Chinese Communist Party that it must act the part of international kidnapper?
‐ In our January 25 issue, Jay Nordlinger wrote about efforts to remove statues of the British colonial swashbuckler Cecil Rhodes, first from the University of Cape Town and then from Oxford. The Cape Town statue was toppled, amid student jubilation; at Oxford, Oriel College, where Rhodes studied and later endowed a building, announced a six-month period for review that was generally expected to be a prelude to capitulation. Now, however, Oriel has announced that the statue will remain in place, though with a plaque explaining that Rhodes was a racist and did some bad things. Members of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, predictably, were not mollified. Some shouted slogans while others taped their mouths to indicate that students had been silenced; and the group issued a list of demands that included a “commitment to recontextualize iconography” (i.e., destroy more statues and paintings). One protester complained that Oriel’s governance was “not a free, open, and democratic [process].” Fair enough, and it’s not meant to be. Oriel has been in business since the 1320s, and it didn’t last this long by caving in to the passions of each new moment.
‐ On February 1, the Sacramento Kings basketball team celebrated the approaching lunar new year by placing a commemorative T-shirt on each seat in the arena. The shirts were decorated with the words Happy Lunar New Year / Year of the Monkey, along with a drawing of a monkey and some mild chinoiserie. But February is also Black History Month, for which the team was planning a separate observance that night; and when the Kings’ best player, DeMarcus Cousins, saw the monkey T-shirts, he expressed dismay at the juxtaposition, whereupon management dispatched ushers to collect them all and sent them to be destroyed. Understandable, perhaps, for a business so dependent on goodwill; but in his statement of apology, the team president did not say “We regret the misunderstanding” or “From now on we’ll stick to one ethnic group per home date,” but instead a cringing “We all need a lesson in sensitivity.” In fact, “sensitivity” has two meanings, “understanding” and “touchiness”; and if everyone could exhibit more of the former and less of the latter, the political arena and the sports arena would collide much less often.
‐ Beyond the violence it does to human beings, abortion also does a great deal of violence to language: “choice,” “products of conception,” and all that. NARAL, the abortionists’ lobby, complained that a Doritos commercial that aired during the Super Bowl — in which an unborn child seeks his father’s Doritos during an ultrasound examination — was an example of the “tactic of humanizing fetuses.” One could spend a ghastly hour untangling the thinking behind that sentence, but consider the broad strokes: It takes an insanely conspiratorial mindset to believe that the assumption that a little human is a little human is a “tactic” of any sort; the idea that one must go about sneakily “humanizing fetuses” is halfway to bonkers. What do they think is in there, anyway? Rutabagas? Abortion advocates sometimes dismiss members of the fetal-American community as “lumps of cells,” but: Lumps of what kind of cells? The answer is living human cells, genetically distinct from the mother, in the form of a living human organism. That truth is so elementary and so powerful that the abortionists’ lobby must fight it everywhere it is encountered — even in Doritos commercials.
‐ Football isn’t a contact sport — it’s a collision sport that prizes size, strength, and speed. These qualities make the game fun to watch but also potentially hazardous for the athletes, especially when they suffer blows to the head. In January, the NFL reported that players endured 182 concussions during the just-completed regular season, up 58 percent from a year earlier. The jump may be due in part to improved awareness and better identification. Whatever the cause, the NFL should consider reforms to make the sport safer not just for professionals but also for the millions of kids who look up to them as they participate in youth leagues and on high-school teams. Five years ago, the NFL moved kickoffs to the 35-yard line, in a bid to force more touchbacks and thereby reduce the high-speed violence of special-teams play. Several current proposals call for banning the three-point stance and redesigning helmets. One paradoxical idea even suggests that the elimination of helmets and padding may in fact prevent head injuries: Although rugby has much in common with football, its unarmored players seem to suffer fewer concussions. Football never will be a risk-free activity, but its continued success will depend on its becoming a safer one.
‐ Like many odd beliefs, the theory of “cultural appropriation” is based on a tiny kernel of truth: If you wear a sombrero, say, to make fun of Mexicans, you’re being at least a little mean-spirited. But this commonsense stricture has been expanded into the idea that all cultural attributes are the property of the group that originated them and may not be adopted by non-members without permission. The logician looks at this belief and sees a thousand blatant absurdities; the activist sees a thousand opportunities to protest. Hence the recent article in a feminist online magazine that proclaimed toe rings and bangle bracelets, among other accessories, to be South Asian cultural property, to be used by outsiders only in rare, specific circumstances (“If you are in attendance of a Hindu friend’s matrimonial functions and the dress code is Indian ethnic — but be sure to check with your host first”). So: An entirely innocent and harmless action is declared to be gravely insulting, and the offense can be expiated, and future ones avoided, only through instruction by a properly credentialed expert. That’s 21st-century liberalism for you.
‐ William Tucker picked two tough issues to be expert in. Rent control is immortal in every city that has ever imposed it because protected tenants defend their stakes to the death, while nuclear power has been a hopeless cause in this country since Three Mile Island. Tucker seemed almost to relish the challenge of butting heads with the immovable, mastering the underlying economic and scientific arguments, assembling an arsenal of examples and details, and making the case for free markets and cheap, clean power over and over. One of his recurring specialties — it looked at first glance like a stunt, but it made an important point — was to showcase privileged folk — old-money rentiers, housing-court judges — who benefited from New York’s arcane rent laws. The regulators were more like the Sheriff of Nottingham than Robin Hood. Over the years he graced the pages of NR, Harper’s, The American Spectator, and City Journal. Dead at 73. R.I.P.
A Bad Night for Conservatives in New Hampshire
Donald Trump won a convincing victory in New Hampshire. We congratulate him, and hope that we will not have to do it many more times.
Republicans have had only two contests in the presidential race so far. In Iowa, Ted Cruz took on Trump — pointing out that he has always been willing to use government power to help himself at the little guy’s expense — and won. In New Hampshire, the other candidates were busier fighting one another than challenging Trump, and he won big. The New Hampshire results do not make us think that Trump is the inevitable nominee. They do make us think that he will be the nominee if he remains effectively unopposed.
But Republicans who would like a conservative to win the nomination are having a hard time deciding on a candidate. John Kasich, the candidate who, after Trump, is the least committed to limited constitutional government, took second place in New Hampshire, but he lacks a national organization, discipline, and much appeal to conservatives.
Ted Cruz won an admirable victory over both Trump and the ethanol lobby in Iowa and has shown grace in handling baseless charges of vote-stealing there. His strong support among “very conservative” voters and Evangelical Christians will help him in many states, but he needs a broader base of support to win the nomination.
Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio each have their merits, but neither of them has cracked the top two yet. Both have something to prove now. After a performance at the last debate that even he now admits was disappointing, Rubio has to show that he can come back from adversity: that he is a man of real substance, not just a pretty face. Bush, meanwhile, has to show that his campaign is about more than fundraising and endorsements, even with policy papers in the background. His diffidence, his ambivalence about leading today’s Republicans, his tendency to gaffes: All of them have to be buried. And both Rubio and Bush should embrace a more realistic view of immigration. They ought to make it absolutely clear that the law will be effectively enforced, and the illegal population measurably declining, before any consideration of an amnesty.
As for the rest of us, who vote and watch: We should settle in for a protracted struggle.