‐ Who do you think has a higher IQ — Trump, or someone who chose to work for Trump?
‐ President Trump picked a fight with Senator Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), chiding him for not seeking a third term because he “didn’t have the guts.” Corker blasted back in an incendiary interview, which ranged from wild (“Trump may be setting the U.S. on the path to World War III”) to deadly (the administration is “a reality show . . . like he’s doing The Apprentice or something”). Trump acolyte–emeritus Stephen Bannon jumped in with a call for Corker to resign. Corker is not our beau ideal; his tenure chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be best known for his undercutting the opposition to the Iran deal. But the best evidence for Corker’s picture of an uncontrolled president is Trump himself, tweeting impulsively and dishonestly (Trump said Corker decided against running again after begging for his endorsement and failing to get it; but it had already been reported that Trump had urged Corker to run). Trump thinks he’s being Ali, when too often he’s only Bundini Brown.
‐ The relationship between President Trump and Rex Tillerson has gone from strained to downright bizarre. Upon news reports that Tillerson had threatened to resign earlier this year and had called Trump a “moron,” the secretary of state held a press availability at which he pledged his undying loyalty to the president — and pointedly declined to deny he’d spoken the offending word. Asked in an interview about Tillerson’s alleged insult, Trump said he had a higher IQ than Tillerson. Clearly, after some decent interval there will be — and should be — a parting of the ways. Trump, who is impulsive and imagines his Twitter feed is an unmatched tool of U.S. diplomacy, is a nearly impossible boss; Tillerson, who hasn’t managed to make the transition from CEO to cabinet official, is a poor secretary of state. A bad combination, playing out badly.
‐ The Trump administration will expand the conscience exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance that provides no-cost contraception. The Supreme Court had already forced a broadening of that exemption, to comply with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and more legal challenges were under way. The new rule allows any employer that objects to providing some or all forms of contraception, on either religious or moral grounds, to refrain. Democrats want contraception to be an object of political patronage rather than an ordinary consumer product of the sort that American women manage to provide for themselves every day without too much trouble. Most employers will have no objection to including contraception in their health-insurance plans, but they were never the issue: The issue has always been the desire to bully those who do object into submission.
‐ President Trump released his immigration principles, a wish list of policies he wants from Congress in exchange for codifying DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The principles constitute nearly the entirety of the restrictionist agenda, from the border wall to E-Verify to an end to chain migration. If all, or even most, of this could be had in a DACA deal, it would count as the biggest victory for immigration restriction in memory. Realistically, we’d be happy to get E-Verify or an end to chain migration in a trade for lawful amnesty for a segment of so-called Dreamers. Given that Democrats think they have significant leverage because Trump has signaled that he doesn’t really want to start deporting Dreamers, it’s more likely that the president will climb down and accept an amnesty in exchange for more border funding, the least important of his principles.
‐ Tom Price resigned as secretary of health and human services. Price came under fire for taking several private and military flights on the taxpayer dime. His initial defense was that the flights were for business purposes and that many of them were his only available transportation options, but it turned out that Price was catching charter planes to places where he owned property and between transit hubs Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. His conduct was unseemly, even if the cost to taxpayers was a drop in the bucket. His stint in the cabinet was ineffective. It’s a disappointing end to a disappointing tenure.
‐ The multiple acts of apparent bullying and sexual predation committed by producer Harvey Weinstein had been piling up, like kindling, for years, so once the fire started, it blazed skyward quickly. An initial New York Times exposé of the lewd propositioning of actresses, always under the whip of having their careers made or ruined, was followed by ever more of the same, as well as graver accusations, including that of rape. Was Weinstein nuts? Or a cosseted predator? His career teaches us that small worlds (and Hollywood is a tiny world) protect their own. When wrongdoers wield media clout (by hiring journalists as consultants or optioning their stories) and political clout (by donating generously to campaigns and espousing socially acceptable ideology), their protection doubles and trebles. So wrong gets done for decades. These are not lessons only for Hollywood, as Fox, Washington, D.C., and scandal-ridden private schools and dioceses attest.
‐ The House has passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would protect babies after the 20th week of pregnancy. The ghastly clinical title of the bill speaks to the ghastly question at its heart: What is it like for an unborn child to be surgically dismembered in the course of being put to death through abortion? There is a lively debate about the development of the human sensory apparatus and the unborn child’s capacity to experience pain. Pause for a moment and meditate on the fact that the progressive argument in this debate is: “Don’t worry too much about chopping up your unborn children — they might not feel a thing!” The act would leave the United States with a more permissive abortion regime than those that prevail even in such socially liberal countries as France and Sweden, and would contain the usual exemptions for cases of rape and incest and those in which the life of the mother is in medical peril. The Senate should take up the bill and put it on the president’s desk for signing as quickly as possible. We expect the Democrats to oppose it, given their insistence upon permitting any abortion, at any stage in the pregnancy, for any reason, preferably with public funding.
‐ Successful conservative tax reforms have combined supply-side reforms to foster growth with middle-class tax relief. The “framework” for reform announced by the White House and congressional Republican leaders is strong on the first element. Its changes to the taxation of business — especially its reduction of a corporate tax rate that is now the highest in the developed world — would make America a more attractive place to invest. The effect of the framework on middle-class tax bills is less clear: Some provisions raise them, others lower them. The key question is how much the final legislation will increase the tax credit for children. The framework calls for a “significant” expansion. Senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio argue, rightly, that it will have to be at least doubled from its current level ($1,000 per child). If they prevail, and the overall package is designed so as to avoid large increases in the deficit, Republicans will be in an excellent position to deliver a tax reform that is both pro-growth and pro-family.
‐ Scott Pruitt is implementing a radical agenda at the Environmental Protection Agency: He is trying to ensure that the EPA operates within its legal authority, an idea that is, unhappily, alien to the agency’s ambitious activists. Most recently, he announced plans to rescind the so-called Clean Power Plan, which is what the Obama administration called its scheme to destroy the American coal industry. The CPP combined severe limits on carbon dioxide emissions with subsidies for politically favored energy producers to deliver on Barack Obama’s promise to “bankrupt” coal-fired power plants. Pruitt argues that the CPP is an effort to pick winners and losers in the marketplace rather than to secure environmental interests per se, and that it exceeds the agency’s statutory authority. He is correct on both counts: The Clean Air Act, under which the CPP was promulgated, empowers the EPA to police air pollution. It does not empower the EPA to sign the United States up for a worldwide global-warming crusade. If Democrats want the United States to adopt a national climate-change program, then let them offer a detailed bill in Congress, campaign on it, debate it, and, if they can, pass it. Meanwhile, Scott Pruitt’s EPA is implementing the law that we have, not the law that environmental activists wish we had.
‐ Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, told a group of party donors that Republican congressmen who were fighting President Trump’s agenda should be “purged” and that donations to Republicans should be withheld absent legislative success. It is not clear that these remarks should be taken as a guide to a serious White House strategy. If there were a strategy at work, presumably the administration would go after Senator Rand Paul, who voted against the health-care bill when it counted, rather than Mitch McConnell or Jeff Flake, who voted for it. Yet Trump is famously chummy with Paul, cool at best toward McConnell, and hostile to Flake (who has harshly criticized the president). Most likely Ayers is just popping off, following the administration practice of reacting to failure by relying on threats and finger-pointing.
‐ A Buzzfeed report casts a harsh light on Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart writer. Yiannopoulos, it seems, did more than just court the approval of the white-supremacist movement: He was part of it. Yiannopoulos asked white supremacists for line edits to his writing: “Alt r feature, figure you’d have some thoughts,” he emailed Devin Saucier, an editor of American Renaissance. He went to karaoke nights with such luminaries as Richard Spencer, singing “America the Beautiful” while Spencer gave the Roman salute. Yiannopoulos even kept his Internet passwords on-brand, one of them beginning with “LongKnives1290”: references to Hitler’s purge of his enemies in the SA and the year King Edward I expelled the Jews from England. If this was an ironic exercise in role-playing, it was an elaborate one. But it’s hard to give Yiannopoulos — who, years ago, uploaded photos of himself wearing the Iron Cross — the benefit of the doubt.
‐ Hurricane Maria flattened Puerto Rico. The federal government responded quickly to the disaster, dispatching Navy ships even before Maria hit, but the dispersal of supplies throughout the island has been hampered by the damage wrought on a previously shabby infrastructure. Politics has filled the foreground as San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and President Trump have squabbled publicly. Cruz is a showboat (“We filtered out the mayor a long time ago,” said FEMA administrator Brock Long; “we don’t have time for the political noise”). But the president was unseemly for swinging back during the island’s ordeal. Puerto Rican voters consistently prefer their commonwealth (i.e., territorial) status, with statehood coming a close second and independence a distant third. But either of the two rejected options, properly prepared, would make more sense ultimately than the hobbled arrangement Puerto Rico now has. The U.S. has not failed Puerto Rico in disaster management, only in long-term thinking.
‐ Liberal journalists who cover the Supreme Court are arguing that Neil Gorsuch is rubbing his colleagues, including Chief Justice John Roberts, the wrong way. Gorsuch is allegedly acting bumptiously by, for example, suggesting at oral argument that the constitutional text needs to be front and center. The journalists provide scant evidence that Gorsuch has annoyed anyone other than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Press coverage of the justices follows a certain, shall we say, pattern: Clarence Thomas shows he is dumb by not speaking at oral arguments, while Gorsuch shows he is a jerk by speaking too much; Gorsuch is breaking precedent for a new justice, while Sonia Sotomayor was blazing a new trail for one. May the justice annoy liberal journos for many years to come.
‐ Remember the IRS scandal? Liberals would prefer you didn’t recall the revelation during the Obama administration that the agency had been subjecting conservative groups to special scrutiny. So they have seized on a new report from the Treasury Department’s inspector general that suggests that liberal organizations were also improperly targeted. That’s the way the Washington Post spun the story: Yes, the IRS went after 248 conservative groups, but it may also have gone after 146 liberal ones. But the Post had to run a confusingly worded correction. Readers who untangled it came to understand that the numbers referred to right-leaning groups targeted over a two-year span and left-leaning ones targeted over a ten-year span. In other words, the IRS went after a lot more conservative organizations over two years than it did liberal ones over a decade. The IRS scandal was real, and continues to be a press scandal, too.
‐ If we needed proof that comics shouldn’t make gun policy, Jimmy Kimmel helpfully provided it. Following the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, Kimmel assumed his newly formed identity as the “moral authority” of progressive America and proceeded to fill one of his monologues with an incoherent anti-gun tirade. All the old arguments were there — including absurd assumptions that the Second Amendment wasn’t intended to cover modern weapons (does the First Amendment apply to television broadcasts or tweets?), false statements about the mythical “gun-show loophole,” and easily debunked claims that the NRA financially controls the GOP. The implication was clear. If you really care about the victims of mass shootings, then you’ll agree with Kimmel. Yet missing from the monologue was any acknowledgment that his favorite gun-control proposals wouldn’t have actually stopped any recent mass shooting. Maybe policy is beside the point, the real goal being to shame guns out of existence, to place gun owners on the wrong side of history. Kimmel and his allies won’t succeed, and the price of their failure will be still more polarization of a polarized culture.
‐ “I’m back,” Representative Steve Scalise (R., La.), the majority whip, tweeted beneath a photo of himself standing at the Capitol on September 28. Later that day, he spoke before the House for the first time since being shot in June by a gunman at a practice session of the congressional Republicans’ baseball team. In the hospital, Scalise came out of critical condition and slowly, with the help of doctors, fought his way back to “work in the people’s house.” In his remarks, he praised the Capitol Police officers who rushed to the scene of the mayhem and saved his life. “Thank God our prayers were answered,” Nancy Pelosi said to him after his remarks, before returning to the humdrum business of talking up proposed gun restrictions. Scalise opposes them — but squabbling over policy differences would have to wait. “A living example that miracles really do happen,” Scalise called himself. The miracle was medical, not political, although the suspension of partisan rancor for the occasion came close. “It’s really crystallized what shows up as the goodness in people,” Scalise said of the support he has received from all sides during his ordeal. “I see that goodness in people.”
‐ The American Civil Liberties Union has a revolt on its hands. Up to 200 employees have signed a statement condemning the ACLU’s alleged “rigid stance” on the First Amendment. This is amusing. The ACLU is hardly rigid these days. Indeed, it’s even joined the ranks of those seeking to compel speech in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before the Supreme Court. When nondiscrimination laws collide with free speech, the ACLU routinely chooses to narrow and restrict the First Amendment. But now its employees say that’s not enough. Now its employees want the ACLU to completely abandon its principles and start placing — for all intents and purposes — ideological litmus tests on the exercise of America’s first liberties. A robust culture of free speech needs defenders of free speech, and the ACLU (for all its many flaws) has historically defended freedom of expression quite capably. But for how much longer? Has there been a liberal institution yet that has successfully resisted its most “woke” members?
‐ Federal marshals have been contracted to guard Betsy DeVos, the education secretary. This is unusual. It has raised some eyebrows. Usually, marshals are assigned to protect federal judges, drug-policy directors, and the like — not education secretaries. Yet DeVos is an unusual kind of education secretary. She attracts hostility and she attracts threats. If she is to do this job, she is entitled to do it in safety. May she have all the protection she needs.
‐ In our previous issue, we editorialized about Dana Rohrabacher, the GOP congressman from California who is, among other unfortunate things, a “Charlottesville truther”: someone who thinks that the recent far-right rally in Charlottesville was staged by the Left in order to make conservatives look bad and to “put our president on the spot.” We now know that there is another such truther in Congress: Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican. He suggested that George Soros was funding it all, adding, “Who is he? I think he’s from Hungary. I think he was Jewish. And I think he turned in his own people to the Nazis.” Soros was born in 1930; he was 14 when the war ended. We might also record that, in addition to living in Europe, Soros was but one when the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped.
‐ Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, a business-oriented Republican who campaigned on having “no social agenda,” has signed into law a radical abortion bill that will, among other things, conscript his state’s taxpayers into paying for abortions up until the minute before birth. It is ghastly. There are two things Rauner could have done differently here: He could (and should) have vetoed the bill; leaving in place the status quo is consistent with having “no agenda” on the question of abortion. Or he could (and should) have told the truth about his abortion agenda before deceiving pro-life Republicans into accepting him as a candidate. Rauner’s wife is a longtime abortion-rights advocate, and now Rauner himself has become the most important abortion-rights activist in Illinois. Securing a cherished goal of the abortion lobby, public funding, is not consistent with having “no agenda.” Republicans rightly favor a “big tent” approach to politics, but conservatives have learned the hard way that people who aren’t with us on abortion — on the critical moral question of our time — aren’t actually with us on much. Governor Rauner’s performance has been deceitful, and it has been shameful.
‐ For seven terms, Tim Murphy (R., Pa.) has been a solid conservative congressman. He did excellent work in reorienting federal mental-health policy toward the most severe cases. He has also voted the pro-life line. Then came news about an extramarital affair and this text from his lover: “You have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week.” (She turned out not to be pregnant.) There was further news that, over the years, Murphy had treated his Hill staff abusively. His colleagues have now forced him to resign. A political story, a human story, and a sad one.
‐ Steve Krieg, a Democrat running to unseat U.S. congresswoman Elise Stefanik, referred to the New York Republican as “a child” during an early-October candidate forum. Over the summer, Krieg was accused of sexism after he called Stefanik a “little girl” in a Facebook comment. “Don’t worry, sweetie, you’re a little girl. You can always run home to Mommy and Daddy,” he wrote at the time. During the recent forum, the Democrat attempted to defend his earlier remarks but instead ended up doubling down: “I think most of us . . . have some of a sexist in us. . . . But Elise, I recognize her — I’m not going to say a ‘little girl’ — as a child.” Prominent Democrats have so far remained mum, declining to defend Stefanik or denounce Krieg’s repeated insults. Perhaps sexist comments are worth decrying only when they’re made by Republicans.
‐ California governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill downgrading the act of intentionally exposing a non-carrier to HIV without that person’s knowledge from a felony to a misdemeanor. The new law does not just cover sexual transmission; an HIV-positive blood donor could intentionally fail to disclose his condition before giving blood without facing felony charges. Scott Wiener, a Democrat who represents San Francisco, said in a statement that the law reverses a discriminatory legislative practice that was “treating people living with HIV as criminals.” But the law doesn’t criminalize HIV-positive members of the population, only those who intentionally transmit their disease to non-carriers. In fact, there’s a whole class of similar laws covering other communicable diseases, such as hepatitis. There’s nothing wrong with criminalizing such reckless behavior.
‐ So it is now against the law to “misgender” residents of nursing homes in the state of California. In one of the stranger moves in the culture war, California progressives decided to protect the state’s elderly from the alleged harm of a wayward pronoun. There can’t be many nursing-home residents suffering from misgendering. This exercise in legislative virtue-signaling mostly signals that California is getting more Californian by the day.
‐ In the wake of the battle over Confederate statues, New York mayor Bill de Blasio hinted that the city’s public sculptures needed a look, including a towering 125-year-old monument to Christopher Columbus at, yes, Columbus Circle. The explorer’s defenders, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, make honoring him a matter of Italian-American heritage, which misses the point. In the 15th century, no one anywhere questioned the right of conquest (the Tainos and Caribs, the indigenous people Columbus encountered, were busy fighting each other). It was Columbus’s merit, as a navigator and a visionary, to push Europe’s wave of discovery westward — he hoped to China, though by his death he had begun to suspect that he had found someplace else. Columbus sailed for Spain and for Christendom; the language of his employers, and his own faith, are the inheritance of hundreds of millions in the world he thought new. May we have our sins forgiven, and achieve even a fraction as much.
‐ Second Lieutenant Spenser Rapone made an Internet splash flashing a Che T-shirt under his West Point cadet’s uniform, and the slogan Communism Will Win on the lining of his cap. Copying The Nation, if it needs a military-affairs correspondent.
‐ October 7 is Vladimir Putin’s birthday, and a day that means a lot to the Kremlin. It also means a lot to the Russian opposition. Anti-Putin rallies were planned for October 7 all over the country. In advance, the Kremlin made sure to lock up the most popular opposition leader, Alexei Navalny. They also arrested and brutalized members of Open Russia, the leading democracy group. Obviously, Putin’s government is scared. They know their own illegitimacy. In the city of Neftekamsk, a 17-year-old student named Almaz Imamov got into trouble for joining a pro-Navalny group online. He asked, in his innocence, “What about the constitution?” (This document guarantees Russian citizens all sorts of rights.) He bad-mouthed the ruling party — and was duly dressed down by a school administrator, whom he recorded. “They used to shoot people for that!” said the administrator. “Stood them right up and shot them, you understand? Nothing changes, except now they don’t shoot you.” Not always, that is.
‐ Kim Philby dead is still useful to his Russian masters. Government-sponsored and Putin-friendly, the Russian Historical Society has an exhibition in Moscow in his honor. After some 30 years in which he’d risen to the top of British intelligence, he was — more by luck than by detection — revealed as a KGB agent. Defecting, he lived in Moscow from 1963 to his death in 1988, officially a high-ranking KGB pensioner but in fact mistrusted for fear he might be a triple agent, loyal after all to Britain. The exhibition shows some of the more than 900 documents and diplomatic cables he passed on, duly stamped “Top Secret. Not to be taken out of the office.” In an address to the KGB he had written, “May we all live to see the red flag flying on Buckingham Palace and the White House.” Not a hope, which may be the reason for this display of Soviet lore from the past.
‐ In Saudi Arabia, the practice of religious law, that is to say sharia, underpins rights that men have but women do not. For instance, women must obey a dress code and under the terms of “guardianship” may not be in the company of a man unless he is a relation. A handful of determined Saudi women have long campaigned for their rights and consequently been assaulted in the street by special religious police or detained. Refusal to let women drive a car meant that mothers had to make expensive and difficult arrangements for the school run. The elderly king appointed his 32-year-old son, crown prince Muhammad bin Salman, to govern, and he has decreed that from July next year women may at last drive. Those in the know have long thought that the choice facing the country is reform or revolution, and the crown prince might be the man with a workable solution.
‐ In Egypt, the government is cracking down on homosexuals, or suspected homosexuals. These men are being subjected to torture in the form of “anal examination,” among other things. This sort of thing has been going on from time immemorial, particularly in the Middle East: The goons get their kicks while administering “moral” “justice.”
‐ For a change, there is some encouraging news from higher education. Evergreen State College, in Washington State, was last heard from this spring, when activists declared a “day of absence” on which white people were warned to stay away from campus. When a white professor announced his intention to come to his office anyway, mobs of demonstrators repeatedly harassed and intimidated him, by email and in person; other agitators disrupted faculty meetings, occupied buildings, and issued the usual manifestos and lists of grievances. Evergreen State has a long history of radicalism, with which the college’s administration is normally sympathetic, but in this case it came down on the side of freedom and order, imposing sanctions ranging from warnings to probation to community service to suspension on some 80 students. A mandatory remedial course on free speech would also seem to be in order.
‐ Earlier this year, State Street Corporation, a financial-services firm, caused a sensation. It did so by placing a statue called “Fearless Girl” across from the iconic charging bull on Wall Street. The girl became a symbol of feminism worldwide. It transpires that State Street has agreed to pay out $5 million — to settle allegations that it underpaid female and black employees. Bad news for the company: Fearless Girl grew up to be a lawyer.
‐ “Public servant” is an abused term, often only a euphemism for “politician,” so what do we call a man who made it his career to serve the public? As a Seattle councilman, John Ripin Miller founded a community-garden program and helped preserve Pike Place Market. After stints in state government in Washington, he ran for Congress as a Republican in 1984, won, and served through 1992. There he stood up for human rights in South Africa, China, and the Soviet Union and its satellites. He helped free Catholic priests and nuns from prison camps in Lithuania before it finally freed itself of Soviet domination in 1990–91. In 2002–06, as director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, he worked, and fought, with foreign governments to relieve the plight of “sex workers” in Europe as well as in the developing world. He did some good but was said to be frustrated by the scale of the abomination. In retirement he wrote a novel about George Washington, whom he allows to be a man of character and integrity, qualities that he knew firsthand. Dead at 79. R.I.P.
‐ Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers formed in Gainesville, Fla., in the 1970s, moved to Los Angeles, and became one of the most successful musical acts of their time. As the band’s shaggy-haired frontman and primary composer, Petty wrote a series of catchy and colloquial songs that became mainstays in the rock-’n’-roll songbook: “American Girl,” “Refugee,” “The Waiting,” and more. His most ambitious effort, the 1985 album Southern Accents, turned Winslow Homer’s painting The Veteran in a New Field into cover art and tried to use homespun lyrics to make a grand statement about the rural South — a plucky endeavor that produced a few fine tracks but ultimately fell short of its massive aspirations. Petty was much better at simple stand-alone rockers, such as “I Won’t Back Down,” a 1989 song that became a post-9/11 anthem. On September 25 at the Hollywood Bowl, Petty and the Heartbreakers played the final concert on a country-spanning 40th-anniversary tour. As usual, they performed “Free Fallin’,” a sing-along standard. Toward its end, Petty drawled a familiar line: “I wanna free fall, out into nothin’ / Gonna leave this world for a while.” A week later, he left it for good. Dead at 66. R.I.P.
The Las Vegas Atrocity
Ensconced in a room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Stephen Paddock, armed to the teeth, fired on a crowd of country-music concertgoers on the Strip, killing 58 and injuring over 500 before shooting himself.
During the rain of death, there were numerous acts of fellow feeling and outright heroism. Veterans stanched wounds with their fingers and tourniquets made from T-shirts. People in flight helped each other over low walls or into a restroom trailer for cover. Husbands and boyfriends died shielding their loved ones. On the wild side, one defiant man was photographed flipping the bird in the direction of the shots; may they have missed him.
The killer’s arsenal — he had stashed some two dozen guns in his room — included semiautomatic rifles fitted with bump stocks, devices that channel the recoil force in order to approximate automatic fire. Federal laws passed in 1934 and tightened in 1986 have made machine guns, which release a continuous stream of bullets with one pull of the trigger, nearly impossible to own. The Supreme Court’s Heller decision, upholding the personal right to bear arms, left these restrictions in place. Bump stocks, which create quasi–machine guns, should be added to the blacklist: by Congress, not by freewheeling regulators. While doing that, Congress should also lift the restrictions on suppressors, misnamed “silencers,” which do not make weapons anywhere near spy-movie silent but do limit damage to the shooter’s ears.
So far there are no clues to the killer’s motives. He was 64 years old, a multimillionaire thanks to shrewd real-estate deals, and a methodical, obsessive video-poker gambler. He was twice divorced (amicably); had a girlfriend (of no interest in the case); was distant from his brothers. His father had been an FBI-most-wanted bank robber.
In an age of toxic politics, we look for ideological motives; jihad is the great supplier, with racism a distant though vigorous second. But so many killers kill because they kill. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”
Hugh Hefner, R.I.P.
Hugh Hefner ended as a caricature drawn by his enemies: the septua/octo/nonagenarian squiring mistresses young enough to be his granddaughters, enacting Viagra-fueled orgies in a mansion that, hard-up for cash (though nothing else), he had to sell, then rent. A 2000s reality show about his ménage portrayed it as camp, but enough disaffected escapees wrote in detail about their time at his side to preserve its sordid texture.
In a controversial sentence in Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke wrote of the court at Versailles that “vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.” Hefner senex had no shortage of grossness.
But it was in the prime of his life, presenting his most attractive face to the world, that he made his impact. Playboy magazine scored a coup by printing a nude calendar shot of Marilyn Monroe in its first issue. But the engine of its success was the girl next door: pornographic photo-essays of normal young women. They were not anonymous denizens of some sleazy underworld; they would strip, pose suggestively, and give their names. The message was: All women are like this. And you, the reader, can and should think of them like this. And (the other half of the package) doing so will admit you to the lifestyle portrayed here, and the cultured big names printed here. (WFB was one of the magazine’s many interview subjects. His appearance, he said, was like putting a Gideon’s Bible in a brothel. True — but this brothel boasted about the Bibles it housed.)
Hefner, in his mansions, first in Chicago, then Los Angeles, ran a virtual brothel for hangers-on (e.g., Bill Cosby), offering shoals of girls not next door but in his house. But he made his mark as the pimp next door. Dead at 91. R.I.P.