Magazine | October 2, 2017, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

‐ The Boston Red Sox announced the hiring of Edward Snowden as bench coach.

‐ Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer wanted to extend the debt limit for three months, while their Republican counterparts preferred to extend it for six months. President Trump sided with the Democrats, for no obvious reason. Democrats cheered the break in Republican ranks while Republicans debated how damaging and whose fault it was. Some Republicans seem to believe that the longer-term extension of the debt limit could have been successfully coupled with conservative reforms and that such reforms will be much harder to get in three months. Maybe so, but it’s extremely speculative. Also speculative is the expectation that Trump is now going to make a habit of acquiescing to Democratic policies. What he is likely to do is what he has been doing, which is to improvise.

‐ The Trump administration announced the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on a delayed, rolling basis. The decision is the right one. DACA was a lawless amnesty implemented via executive fiat, and the delayed fuse gives Congress an opportunity to pass legislation dealing with this subset of the illegal population. In theory, there is a bargain to be had, a DREAM Act–style amnesty in exchange for tightening in the rest of the immigration system. But Democrats might well conclude that they don’t need to negotiate, instead insisting on a simple codification of DACA and daring the Trump administration to end the program. Trump’s statements about how fervently he hopes Congress will preserve DACA have, unfortunately, only given the Democrats more reason to believe they hold the whip hand.

‐ Steve Bannon, the recently dismissed Trump adviser, is promoting primary challenges against Republican senators whom he deems insufficiently supportive of either President Trump or Bannon’s brand of “populist nationalism.” At the top of his target list is Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has sharply criticized Trump while nonetheless voting in line with some of Trump’s top priorities, such as making major conservative changes to Obamacare. Another of Bannon’s targets, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, has not given Trump a moment of trouble. Perhaps some of these primary challenges will end up being worth supporting based on the specific circumstances. But it is hard to avoid the impression that behind this effort is the simple fact that Bannon is better at fighting Republicans than he was at helping Trump govern, and also likes it more.

‐ Hillary Clinton inaugurated her tour for her election memoir, What Happened. Early takes from the book show her blaming herself for using her “home brew” email server — “the most important of the mistakes I made was using personal email” — but also blaming James Comey, Bernie Sanders, the Russians, and misogyny for her loss. Yet surely the proximate cause of her loss was ignoring her own husband’s advice to pay attention to the white working class (something he did in his two successful runs for the White House). The deeper cause of her loss was her lack of direction. Clinton’s slogan was “I’m with Her.” Trump’s one good scripted line from his entire campaign, in his Cleveland acceptance speech, was “I’m with you.” Given that choice, why would voters rally to her? Clinton told CBS’s Sunday Morning that “I am done with being a candidate.” If she means it, it would show a recognition, finally, that she is not cut out for this line of work.

‐ In a letter to the FBI, two senior Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham, publicized evidence showing that former FBI director James Comey began drafting his exoneration of Hillary Clinton months before announcing his recommendation that she not be charged with any crimes arising out of the email scandal — indeed, before 17 significant witnesses, including Clinton herself, were even interviewed. In effect, the investigation was a sham, with exculpatory conclusions drawn before the purported basis for them even existed. This should surprise no one. Even before Comey began drafting his findings, Obama publicly announced that he did not believe Clinton should be charged because her conduct was not intended to harm the United States. Never mind that the crimes of mishandling of classified information and destruction of government files do not require proof of such intent. Obama’s theory was soon being leaked by his Justice Department to rationalize not charging his former secretary of state and chosen successor. Comey’s remarks merely regurgitated Obama’s. The point of the emails probe was to make it appear that the Democratic standard-bearer had been cleared after a thorough investigation. It was not actually to do a thorough investigation.

‐ Dianne Feinstein thinks that Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump nominee to a federal appeals court, is too religious: specifically, too Catholic. “The dogma lives loudly within you” was Feinstein’s unintended compliment to Barrett during her confirmation hearing. Barrett has written about how religious views should influence a judge’s reading of the law: They should not. In any case in which a judge cannot in good conscience apply the law, he should recuse himself. Feinstein’s office nonetheless defended her outburst by noting that Barrett had said such allegedly ominous things as that we play a role “in God’s ever-unfolding plan to redeem the world.” The presidents of Princeton University and Notre Dame University (where Barrett is a law professor) spoke out against Feinstein, as did liberal columnist Noah Feldman. Feinstein is certainly correct that an official’s religious bias can be so strong that it precludes fair and just decision-making. That’s why she should recuse herself from the vote on Barrett.

‐ President Trump’s pardon of his political ally, former sheriff Joe Arpaio, was unmerited, unnecessary, and impulsive. The 85-year-old Maricopa County, Ariz., lawman was convicted of criminal contempt by a federal judge for violating court orders, which themselves arose out of his unlawful detention of aliens, mostly Latinos, on suspicion of being in the United States illegally — which is not a crime (it is a civil-law offense). By pardoning Arpaio, Trump aborted the proceedings prematurely: Arpaio did not qualify for a pardon under Justice Department guidelines because he had not even been sentenced yet. The judge’s denial to him of a jury trial presented a colorable appellate issue; if Trump had stayed his hand, there might have been no occasion for a pardon. Plus, Arpaio was looking at a maximum six-month jail term, so Trump could simply have commuted any sentence imposed, leaving the conviction in place (which would also have let appeals go forward). By instead pardoning Arpaio, the president effectively endorses Arpaio’s contempt of the judiciary. Trump clearly sees “Sheriff Joe” as a populist hero, but no one serious about immigration restriction should want Arpaio as poster boy for the cause.

‐ As Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston, Texas, many on the left accused Texas senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of hypocrisy because they favored an immediate federal aid bill but had voted against an aid bill when Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the Northeast in 2012. The accusation ignores the grounds of their objection to the Sandy package. It contained all manner of unnecessary federal spending: highway improvements across the country, fisheries in Alaska and New England, and money for a community-development fund to aid the 47 states that had declared a disaster within the previous two years. These Texas politicians weren’t opposing federal disaster aid. They were opposing pork-barrel spending.

‐ President Trump has taken to insisting on the stump that the United States is the highest-taxed country in the world, and his amen corner on cable news and talk radio has taken to repeating the claim. This is blessedly not true. The United States is in fact on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to tax burdens among developed nations, with Americans paying in total about 25 cents on the dollar in federal taxes while the poor Danes pay about 50 cents. (There is something rapacious in the state of Denmark.) The average for the economically developed countries of the OECD is about 36 percent. The United States does have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, with effective tax rates varying wildly from firm to firm and industry to industry. Our taxes are relatively low — and they could be lower, if there were intelligent reform of the tax code and if there were intelligent reform of the big-ticket spending items in Washington. But there is no appetite for that at the moment: Donald Trump made it clear as a candidate that entitlement reform was not going to be on his agenda, and this position, at least, he has stuck with. Pro-growth tax reform would be desirable, but sooner or later, spending is going to have to be dealt with, too, and sooner will hurt less in the long run.

‐ Ivanka Trump endorsed an expansion of the tax credit for children, which she said should at least be doubled, to $2,000 per child, and applied against payroll as well as income taxes. That tax credit has intermittently been a Republican cause, fading only when the party has become fixated on cutting tax rates for high earners to the exclusion of other worthy changes to the tax code. Ivanka’s embrace of the child credit represents an evolution of her views: She had previously favored proposals to expand paid leave and commercial child care. A larger credit will benefit a larger group of parents while leaving to them the decision of how to use the money: to finance a leave from work, to purchase day care, or to set aside for future educational expenses. The traditional formula for a politically successful Republican tax reform combines structural changes to promote growth with middle-class tax relief. Ivanka Trump is helping to ensure that this second component gets included this time, and in a pro-family form.

‐ In a speech at George Mason University, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos indicated that the Department of Education would withdraw lawless Obama-era directives about how universities should adjudicate sexual-assault claims on campus. She would replace them with regulations intended to protect students from sex crimes while also protecting essential civil liberties. Acting in response to the Obama administration’s mandates, campuses have created kangaroo courts that are engineered not to find the truth but rather to streamline disciplinary actions against presumptively guilty male students. The result has been not a paradise of social justice but rather a miasma of unfairness and absurdity. Universities now face a wave of litigation brought by male students and are losing cases by the dozen. Something has to give. While congressional Democrats are in lockstep in their condemnation of DeVos, she’s gaining support from surprising quarters, including from progressive academics who have traditionally defended due process. If she follows through, it will be a win for fairness and the rule of law.

‐ Richard Posner retired as a federal judge. He was one of Reagan’s mistakes on the federal bench, so naturally he was lionized. “I pay very little attention to legal rules, statutes, constitutional provisions,” he said in a retirement interview. He deserves credit for candor, at least. When he ruled last year that discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation was illegal under federal law, he did not pretend that Congress had made it so: He said he was engaging in “judicial interpretive updating” of the anti-discrimination law Congress actually passed in 1964. He ruled in favor of partial-birth abortion, too, opining that it could make no difference to a fetus whether or not it was partially outside the birth canal — a rationale that would just as easily have justified infanticide. He attacked Justice Antonin Scalia bitterly in life and attacked other people for saying nice things about him when he died. In the same interview, Posner said he had “lost interest” in his cases and asked himself, “Why didn’t I quit ten years ago?” He lost interest in doing his actual job a lot longer ago than that.

‐ A baker in Colorado objected to making a cake for a same-sex wedding. The state said he was discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. He denied it, noting that he would have made any number of confections for the couple but objected to same-sex marriage. He sees his baking as a creative and expressive act, and he declines to express himself this way. Given the state of First Amendment law, he has a powerful case — as Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department has concluded, filing a brief before the Supreme Court in behalf of the baker. The case should not have gotten this far, either because Colorado courts had protected the baker’s rights or, better yet, because the couple had looked for a baker who did not have to be coerced into doing the honors.

‐ Black-clad self-described “antifas,” also sometimes described as the “black bloc,” stormed what had been a peaceful right-wing protest in Berkeley, tossing smoke bombs and attacking Trump supporters with metal pipes. Mayor Jesse Arreguin equivocated. “I obviously believe in freedom of speech, but there is a line between freedom of speech and then posing a risk to public safety,” he said. He then urged conservatives at the University of California to cancel their scheduled Free Speech Week, which included events featuring right-wing speakers. To Arreguin, the mere presence of those speakers would constitute “a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem,” so they ought not to come. It’s that bloc itself that poses a risk to public safety — and the craven public officials who cede to it the power to define what is acceptable speech.

‐ New York’s law against assisted suicide is constitutional, the state’s highest appellate court ruled unanimously in September. “We have consistently adopted the well-established distinction between refusing life-sustaining treatment and [requesting] assisted suicide,” the judges wrote in Myers v. Schneiderman. Pro-life advocates could hardly have articulated their own line between the permissible and impermissible more plainly. Here their cause dovetailed with the care that the court took not to legislate. In New York, expect the debate to heat up in the state assembly and senate, which are, as they should be, more responsive than the courts are to public opinion. Opponents of assisted suicide have, at least in Albany, won the argument that banning the practice is constitutional. Now they must hone the argument that banning it is right.

‐ The New York City taxi medallion is a financial instrument masquerading as an occupational license. The medallion, which gives drivers the right to operate taxis in the heavily regulated New York market, has long been treated as an investment on the assumption that the taxi cartel’s ability to restrict the number of medallions ensured that the price would always go up — which it did, for years, topping out at $1.3 million in 2014. But competition from new services such as Uber and Lyft, which have benefited mightily from the fact that taxi service in New York stinks, has sent the price of a medallion crashing. The New York Times recently published an extensive report about taxi operators, many of them immigrants, who had gone deep into debt to buy their medallions, which are now worth less than they paid for them. If that sounds a little bit like the subprime-mortgage boom — “Borrow all you like for a house, prices are going nowhere but up!” — that’s not an accident. Politics can warp the price of a product, license, or commodity for a long time, but markets eventually reassert themselves, and artificially high prices create alluring opportunities for entrepreneurs and contrarian investors. We feel for those poor New York taxi drivers, though we feel a bit less for them around 5 p.m. on a rainy Friday.

‐ The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum pulled from its website a study concluding that it would have been “very difficult” for the United States to have stopped Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad from waging further chemical-gas attacks on his rebellious subjects in 2013. Critics noted that former officials of the Obama administration, which made just such a judgment, sit on the museum’s Memorial Council. There are often prudential arguments for inaction, and sometimes they deserve to prevail (e.g., if action has little or no chance of success). But a museum dedicated to the memory of one of humanity’s landmark genocides is not in the business of war-gaming, or of polishing the résumés of temporarily retired strategists. Its mission is to rouse the conscience, and to call things by their right (and awful) names. The museum was right to take the study down.

‐ After launching what appear to be intercontinental ballistic missiles, North Korea has now detonated what appears to be a hydrogen bomb: a device many times more powerful than the weapons that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and many times more powerful than North Korea had detonated before. This ominous development brings the North closer to its obvious goal of deploying a force of city-busting intercontinental missiles, a force that it might, in the event of conflict, use to try to deter America from coming to the aid of South Korea. While there are no good options, it’s incumbent on the United States to make the North Koreans pay a high economic price for their dangerous defiance. It’s almost certainly true that nothing short of war could persuade the North to give up its nuclear arsenal, but effective sanctions, together with diplomatic, military, and covert pressure, can keep it weak and perhaps advance the long-term goal of regime change. Unless America is willing to risk a catastrophic war, there is little else that the Trump administration can do.

‐ James Mattis, the secretary of defense, was speaking to American troops in Jordan. They are deployed to wage the War on Terror, broadly speaking. Mattis said, “We’re gonna keep on fightin’ until they’re sick of us and leave us alone.” A perfect sentence, distilling the whole affair.

‐ The headline in the London Times read, “Macron gives bosses new powers to hire and fire in a bid to jump-start French economy.” The opening sentence: “President Macron began a high-stakes gamble to liberalise the French economy yesterday, loosening labour laws to encourage employers to recruit and easing curbs on smaller businesses.” Millions of Frenchmen are screaming at Macron, in protest. The president said, “I will not yield in any way, not to slackers, nor to cynics, nor to the extremes.” That made them scream all the more. May Macron keep his nerve, allowing his popularity to plummet even as he strives for vital, and revitalizing, reforms.

‐ The Kurds are famous and fearless soldiers who have done everyone a favor by putting paid to the fanatics of the Islamist State, something no one else was willing to undertake. There are at least 30 million Kurds, possibly as many as 40 million, and they believe that they have earned an independent state of their own. The vote in the referendum they will be holding on September 25 is likely to come close to 100 percent. And that’s when the trouble starts anew. Minorities have a hard time in the Middle East, and the Kurds have had it harder than most. They have their own language and they are further separated by living under the rule of either the Arabs of Iraq and Syria or the Turks and Iranians. A city such as Kirkuk, for instance, is half Arab and half Kurd, vulnerable to ethnic cleansing. Kurdish independence means redrawing boundaries, something all the neighbors are certain to fight to prevent. Kurds have previously attempted to set up a state of their own, only to be betrayed by the great powers whose fear of instability is greater than their pursuit of justice. This looks like a case of history repeating itself.

‐ For the past 300 years, Catalonia has been an integral part of Spain. Now many and perhaps most Catalans want self-rule, that is to say secession from Spain. An unforeseen consequence of the European Union’s dismantling of the nation-state has been the emergence of hitherto submerged national identities, for instance the Scots, Corsicans, Lombards, and Catalans. Some local officials have agreed to hold a referendum on independence, but others, including Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, are holding back for fear that the whole project is unconstitutional and the courts will punish them accordingly. There won’t be a referendum, said Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister: “I will do whatever is needed, without relinquishing anything, to prevent it.”

‐ Yulia Latynina is a prominent Russian journalist and novelist. She is also a forthright critic of Vladimir Putin. She has now fled her country. Why? In July, she and her household were subject to a gas attack. In September, her car was set on fire. That was enough. Latynina left the country before she could wind up like so many of her colleagues, i.e., a corpse. Journalist is one of the most dangerous occupations in Russia. A deep, admiring bow to those who do it.

‐ The Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939. And that’s what a blogger in Russia, Vladimir Luzgin, wrote: that the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939. For this statement, he was fined 200,000 rubles, which amounts to about $3,500. It could have been much worse: He could have been sent to jail. The overuse of the word “Orwellian” makes people, including us, hesitant to use it — but sometimes it is exactly right.

‐ It is a sign (as if we needed one) of the continuing rot of the American academy that publishing a eulogy of “bourgeois culture” — marriage, education, hard work, that sort of thing — amounted to an act of considerable bravery by its authors, Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania and Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego. Earning them particular scorn from the left was their remark that “all cultures are not equal,” which had liberals sputtering as they explained that societies practicing theocracy, slavery, male dominance, and genital mutilation aren’t really that bad if you grade on a curve, and besides, what about Charlottesville? Critics called Wax and Alexander’s lament “racist” and “hate speech,” though most of the problems they cite (such as drug abuse, out-of-wedlock births, dwindling labor-force participation, and a loss of community spirit) cut across ethnic lines. The op-ed was bracing and disarmingly honest. Recent months have provided too many examples of what actual racist rhetoric sounds like, and praising family, responsibility, and hard work isn’t it.

‐ The New York Daily News, founded in 1919, had a peak daily circulation of 2.4 million; its former headquarters, complete with a giant globe sunk in the lobby floor, inspired the Daily Planet of Superman fame. Its long decline, to 200,000 daily readers, tracked the decline of urban populism. For 40 years, the News’s politics could be described as centrist dead weight, animated by left-wing twitches: When Ted Cruz decried “New York values,” the News ran a cartoon Statue of Liberty giving him the finger. Classy! Its mortal rival, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, better captured the city’s mood, despite its conservative editorial line, with sensation and sex; the ascendancy of Page Six regular Donald Trump was the apotheosis of the tao of the Post. Mortimer Zuckerman, the News’s most recent owner, just sold it to Tronc, owner of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and other papers, for one dollar.

‐ After 25 years, Graydon Carter will be stepping down as editor of Vanity Fair. Condé Nast tapped Carter to run the title — a flapper-era general-interest magazine revived in the Eighties — after the exit of celebrity editor Tina Brown. All he needed to do to keep it going was roll out breathless articles on Hollywood and the Kennedys, with a slather of sexual politics (was ever a magazine more aptly named?). But Carter added just enough to the formula to make it interesting: Christopher Hitchens, James Wolcott, Sam Tanenhaus. Hitchens’s tenure was particularly noteworthy, since his post-9/11 worldview was so at odds with Carter’s own. Vanity Fair under Carter was consistently more intelligent and more various than it had to be — no mean feat in the tunnel of the winds that is New York publishing. May he enjoy good luck, and show similar savvy, in his next act.

‐ Taylor Swift, the pop star, is under fire — for not talking about politics. Her relative silence on matters political has led some to assume she’s for Trump. There was once a congregation who suspected that their rabbi was a Republican. The reason: He did not talk about politics. He talked about God, Moses, the Bible, and all that. The world is lousy with political commentary. If Taylor Swift simply wants to sing and dance, more power to her.

‐ If the hometown team wins 15 consecutive games before October, we’ll pay for that home-improvement project you order in July: So Universal Windows Direct of Bedford, Ohio, promised its customers in a promotion to mark its 15th anniversary. The Cleveland Indians clobbered the Red Sox on August 24 and then reeled off another 14 straight wins, setting a franchise record on September 7 with a blowout against the White Sox in Chicago. The odds were astronomical. The Indians beat those too. The window company promptly paid out $1.7 million in rebates. It had taken out a $75,000 insurance policy to cover that eventuality, so the owners could enjoy the run like the rest of Cleveland. If you’re a fan, take heart from the knowledge that they have not offered to pay for your new windows, doors, siding, or roofing if the Tribe wins its first World Series in 69 years; the odds that it will are too high. October baseball is just around the corner. The forecast calls for another Indian summer.

‐ “I believe in outdoor games,” Teddy Roosevelt told an audience in 1903, “and I do not mind in the least that they are rough games, or that those who take part in them are occasionally injured.” Indeed, but the president also worked to reform a burgeoning and yet too dangerous American game. Between 1900 and October 1905, according to the Washington Post, at least 45 young men were killed playing football, “many from internal injuries, broken necks, concussions or broken backs,” so Roosevelt summoned Yale, Harvard, and Princeton’s coaches to a White House summit aimed at restricting the violence, “especially by reducing the element of brutality in play.” In went the forward pass, a neutral zone at the line of scrimmage, and, eventually, the helmet; out went some types of mass formations. A hundred years on, football again requires innovations to prevent a great American game from gradually being abandoned over safety concerns. Rugby-style tackling — wherein players are trained to use their shoulders and to never lead with the head — should be taught at the high-school level and made mandatory, along with an absolute ban on high tackles. Replacing linemen’s three-point stance with a two-point stance would allow for blocking with players’ heads in a higher, less dangerous position. Risk of injury can never be fully eliminated, but these and other prudent reforms should be undertaken. Roosevelt would agree.

Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s television show last seen in 1991, concluded its revival season. The show put a surreal spin on the evils lurking beneath suburbia, and was first a cultural phenomenon when it aired on ABC. This year’s revival on Showtime drew far fewer viewers, trading mass appeal for critical ogling. But for all of Lynch’s abstruse surrealism, the Peaks revival also featured a humane exploration of the psyche and life of down-home, down-but-not-out Americans. That there is pain and hardship aplenty to be found out there in flyover country is something Lynch, a native of Montana, apparently never forgot. The quintessentially American director delivered a fitting and timely tribute to American life, which after all has its surreal aspects.

‐ Get ready: The Juggalos are marching on Washington. The, well, rather weird fans of Insane Clown Posse, a Detroit-area hip-hop duo, known for attending shows in clown makeup, chanting “Family! Family!” and wildly spraying one another with Faygo, a cheap soda, are protesting their 2011 FBI designation as a street gang with a march on the National Mall. Meanwhile, ICP and four Juggalos, represented by the Michigan ACLU, are suing in federal court to have the designation overturned. Fans have been turned away from enlistment in the armed services, targeted by law enforcement for having Juggalo tattoos, and sentenced to stricter probation terms. While a few individual Juggalos have indeed been caught up in crime, neither ICP nor their fans at large endorse or organize such activity. If a Justin Bieber fan commits a crime, should all “Beliebers” be held to account? If a Parrothead gets into trouble, is Jimmy Buffett responsible? Juggalos are often derided as poor, unhip, and obnoxious — but that shouldn’t relieve them of their First Amendment right to speak or peaceably assemble.

‐ Michael Cromartie experienced his first conversion as a teenager during the Vietnam War, when he declared himself a Christian as well as a progressive pacifist. Later, under the guidance of Chuck Colson, he underwent a second conversion and soon became, in the words of a Christianity Today profile, “a consigliere for conservative Christians in the nation’s capital.” Based for more than three decades at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Cromartie devoted himself to defending the role of faith in public life. His most prominent missionary work involved the secular media. Through books, programs, and his own exceptional ability to make friends, Cromartie shattered stereotypes, showing that most Evangelicals are neither fire-and-brimstone preachers nor knuckle-dragging creationists but rather thoughtful and charitable people. For all of its ongoing faults and irreligiosity, American journalism became better because of him. President George W. Bush appointed Cromartie to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and he served as its chairman twice, but Cromartie’s most famous job — or at least one that everyone wanted to hear about — was to have briefly worked as the costumed mascot of the Philadelphia 76ers. Dead at 67. R.I.P.

‐ Kate Millett’s breakout book was Sexual Politics (1970), written as a doctoral dissertation at Columbia, which famously arraigned D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and Norman Mailer as testosterone-fueled patriarchs. Camille Paglia fought a long war with Millett for subjecting writers to crude ideological tests — Puritanism 2.0. That Millett did. But it was worthwhile to have noted that Miller and Mailer (Lawrence was more complicated) were intermittently talented horn-dogs. The liberation of literature from censorship, pioneered by Lawrence, Joyce, and their partisans, yielded, in the first instance, the liberation of male gratification. What Millett wanted instead was the liberation of everyone from morality and common sense — which has ensued. Dead, on the eve of her 83rd birthday. R.I.P.

‐ Jerry Pournelle lived a science-fiction life: By some accounts, he was the first person to publish work that was written on a personal computer with a word processor. Before that, he served in the Army and at NASA, where he contributed to the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Later, he promoted President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. He made the case for SDI in Mutual Assured Survival, his 1984 book (with Dean Ing) on missile defense. Yet Pournelle was best known as a commercially successful science-fiction author, especially for the books he co-wrote with Larry Niven: The Mote in God’s Eye (1974), Lucifer’s Hammer (1977), and Oath of Fealty (1981). In his books as well as his journalism, he expressed conservative views and an appreciation for martial virtues, making him a successor to Robert A. Heinlein, who once called The Mote in God’s Eye “possibly the best science-fiction novel I have ever read.” Everybody who knew him liked him, even liberals who bristled at his books: Pournelle was committed to his genre and famous for encouraging young writers. Dead at 84. R.I.P.

DISASTERS

The Stuff of a Great Nation

Two monster hurricanes have landed on American shores, with Harvey parking itself over Houston and dumping more than four feet of rain on the low-slung city and Irma tearing through the Virgin Islands before parading up Brickell Avenue in downtown Miami and on to parts north. Early estimates of the property damage have run to more than $100 billion.

Things are bad in the storm-smacked areas, and both the Texas Gulf Coast and Florida are going to need help — as will the U.S. territories in the Caribbean, which have suffered horrendous damage. We should not make light of the property damage, and the fact that loss of life has been minimal is of no comfort to those who have lost loved ones. Still, Texas and Florida have in fact weathered these storms admirably. There was a little sporadic looting in Florida and the usual post-disaster scourge of door-to-door scam artists, but there was much to take pride in, too: Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and Governor Rick Scott of Florida both showed themselves able administrators in the face of crisis, and the coordination between federal, state, and local authorities, as well as charities, utilities, volunteer organizations, and far-flung public servants — yes, that was the Los Angeles Fire Department coming down the Florida Turnpike — made an enormous difference, a reminder of the fact that in a hurricane what happens during the storm might not always matter as much as what happens after. The “Cajun navy,” an armada of volunteers in flat-bottomed boats, was on the scene after both hurricanes, rescuing stranded residents and the occasional pet from rooftops and swamped automobiles.

With all due sympathy to our friends in Louisiana: This is how you do a hurricane.

In the aftermath, the petty political jockeying was kept at a manageable level, but it will get worse as things dry out: There is an effort under way to blame Houston’s relatively liberal zoning regime for the dire effects of the flooding, as though stricter green-space rules would have mitigated a thousand-year flood in a city surrounded by water. Certain progressive pundits complained that Texas and Florida should be punished through the federal emergency-relief process for their relatively low tax rates, as though people in those states did not pay the same federal taxes as everybody else. (Slightly higher ones, in fact: Those sky-high state income taxes in California and New Jersey are deductible, after all.) And the global-warming alarmists insisted that Irma was all about the popularity of SUVs and the failed Paris climate agreement, even though the scientists at NOAA (you know: the people we’re all supposed to be deferring to on this question) have said that such claims are premature. The political exploitation of such events is distasteful, true, but it also can lead us to pursue counterproductive policies, which in the long run is even worse than the ghoulishness of the political opportunists.

What’s most encouraging in this episode — from the Cajun navy to the long lines of volunteers in Houston to the generous response of Americans whose own homes are safe and dry — is that there is no culture of helplessness in evidence. In times of crisis, Americans can and will do what’s needed, still. And that will matter long after we’re done mopping up behind these storms.

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

Shared Culture, Shared Beliefs Michael Lind is to be commended for trying to reunite America under “cultural nationalism” (“The Case for Cultural Nationalism,” September 11). He defines this as “an American ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ The Boston Red Sox announced the hiring of Edward Snowden as bench coach. ‐ Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer wanted to extend the debt limit for three months, while their ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

LOOKING EAST A Yes or No answer, black or white, is Not found staring at the ocean, much as The sea magnetizes our attention. It holds us more completely than we feel It does, the ...

Most Popular

Culture

‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’

It was just one more segment to fill out the hour, and thereby fill the long 24 hours of Saturday’s cable news on November 2. Or so it seemed. Navy SEAL Mike Ritland was on the Fox News program Watters World to talk to Jesse Watters about trained German shepherds like the one used in the raid that found ... Read More
U.S.

A Defining Statement of Modern Conservatism

The greatest documents in American history never lose their ability to astonish. They deserve, and repay, careful study, and inevitably have contemporary resonances no matter how long ago they were written or uttered. There’s no doubt that Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” belongs in the top ranks ... Read More
White House

The Russian Conspiracy That Won’t Die

The Mueller report accomplished nothing. Whether you thought that the two-year, $32 million investigation was warranted or not, the report promised to establish a factual record that both sides could accept, especially on the explosive charge that Donald Trump had conspired with the Russians to win the ... Read More
Elections

What Do Republican Voters Want?

The latest entry in the post-Trump conservatism sweepstakes was Marco Rubio’s speech at the Catholic University of America in early November. The Florida senator made the case for a “common-good capitalism” that looks on markets in the light of Catholic social thought. “We must remember that our nation ... Read More