National Review / Digital
The Week

(Roman Genn)


When Karen Royce signed up for a course in human sexuality at Western Nevada College, she knew the content would get a bit racy, but she never thought she would be ordered to masturbate. In fact, the professor assigned enrollees to double their normal masturbation frequency (when did they ever find time to study?), take notes, and then turn in a journal documenting it all. Royce, age 60, explained that this was not one of her hobbies, and begged off the assignment on the grounds that twice zero is zero — whereupon the instructor demanded that she give it the old college try and report to him on the results. Now she has filed a federal complaint, and while just dropping the class might have been a simpler option, the larger question remains: In what way does pursuing a voyeuristic obsession with students’ sex lives benefit the taxpayers and further the college’s stated mission to “cultivate creativity, intellectual growth and technological excellence”? Nevada’s leaders should work instead on reducing the nation’s highest unemployment rate; then the state’s residents would not have so many idle hours to fill.

Readers of this magazine will not have to be persuaded that the 1980s were a critical time for America and the world. And a critical player in the Reagan administration was Fred Iklé, an official in the Pentagon. He was both a thinker and a doer, a strategist and an implementer. Like many great Americans, he was an immigrant, coming to this country from Switzerland after the war. He was in his early twenties. He earned a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Chicago, and held a string of positions in academia and government. Like Reagan, he thought that we could do better than détente: that we could actually push back the Soviet Union and free large portions of the world. Like Reagan, he hated MAD, which is to say “mutual assured destruction.” He wrote that this concept “rests on a form of warfare universally condemned since the dark ages — the mass killing of hostages.” Therefore, he supported anti-missile defenses, derided by Ted Kennedy and the rest of the Left as “Star Wars.” Iklé did all he could to help Central Americans and others who were struggling against tyranny. This Cold Warrior, and warrior for liberty, died last month at 87. What a valuable life. R.I.P.

Tom Wicker was the archetypal white southern liberal, using the sins of his region and race as the fuel of his own righteous indignation. Born in a small town in North Carolina, he served in World War II, studied journalism in college, and worked for state newspapers, when the Sixties gave him two breaks: being hired by the New York Times in 1960, and being the only Times man in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. He made his name thereafter as an opinionator and a holder forth: writing an op-ed column, attempting to mediate the Attica prison riot, flaying Richard Nixon. As blacks represented holiness, so Nixon incarnated corruption; Watergate, wrote Wicker, was the “beginnings of a police state.” Tell that to the Syrians. A 1991 book offered a two-edged reassessment of his nemesis: Nixon was, as the title declared, One of Us — which also meant, we’re all like him. Dead at 85. R.I.P.

In an age like ours, when every part of life is thoroughly suffused with irony, the only thing that’s stronger is sincerity. No one proved this better than Bil Keane, who drew the Family Circus comic strip. His oval-headed scamps made Dennis the Menace seem edgy, yet the strip (actually just a panel), now drawn by Keane’s son Jeff, has hung on for more than half a century and is still going strong, having achieved the ultimate ironic accolade by becoming a favorite target for hipster parodies. He was a leader in the National Cartoonists Society and maintained warm personal friendships with such sardonic artists as Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead), and Scott Adams (Dilbert). William Aloysius Keane was also a devout Catholic who gave generously to religious schools, institutions, and causes and, according to one obituary, “illustrated the 1992 book ‘Holy Hilarity’ from the Fellowship of Merry Christians.” He often recalled how Sister Ann, in the sixth grade at St. William School in Philadelphia, launched him on his career path by starting a class newspaper, making him the cartoonist, and praying for his success. Dead at 89. R.I.P.

December 19, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 23

  • It’s Europe vs. the Europeans.
  • It requires blocking the world court’s overreach.
  • Now is no time for more force reductions in Afghanistan.
  • A well-intentioned New Jersey law does more harm than good.
  • China’s experience with high-speed rail provides a cautionary tale.
  • How the EPA is killing America’s energy industry.
  • The Nobel peace committee divides its 2011 prize wisely.
  • Beware Wall Street efforts to reoccupy the Republican party.
  • Why the former Massachusetts governor deserves the GOP nomination
  • A 34-year-old GOP star eyes an Ohio Senate seat
  • The U.S. must settle for nothing less than checkmate.
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Victor Davis Hanson reviews Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War, by Eliot A. Cohen.
  • John Derbyshire reviews The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker.
  • Kyle Smith reviews Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone: The Essential Writing of Hunter S. Thompson, edited by Jann S. Wenner.
  • Randy Boyagoda reviews The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides.
  • Ross Douthat reviews The Descendants.
  • Richard Brookhiser tours his stores.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .