The First Scold must be secretly pleased about the demise of Hostess: Wicked Witch, the Ding-Dong is dead.
As the fiscal cliff draws nearer, with its automatic tax increases and spending cuts, a number of Republicans have said that their party should be willing to accept higher taxes. Democrats have not been equally eager to announce their willingness to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare or otherwise scale back entitlement programs; indeed, they have been saying that Social Security should be off the table. We suspect that for the president, the best possible outcome would be that taxes rise on everyone, including the middle class, and he blames the Republicans. To prepare for that eventuality, House Republicans should pass an extension of all the tax cuts — repeatedly. At the same time, they should reiterate their willingness to work with the president on shielding all Americans from tax increases, and express the hope that Democrats do not block a deal with unreasonable demands for additional spending and taxes. Republicans should be strengthening their negotiating position, not negotiating with the television cameras.
Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, has for decades been promoting a “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” that commits its takers to oppose tax increases. Voters, especially in Republican primaries, have rewarded politicians for taking the pledge and punished them for breaking it. As a result, no Republican in Congress has voted for a broad-based tax increase in more than two decades. In the debate over the fiscal cliff, Norquist is, to his great credit, still trying to keep taxes as low as possible. He is, however, taking an untenable position on his pledge. Taxes are scheduled to go up across the board. If Republicans vote for a deal that includes a higher level of taxation than the one we have had for the last few years, he suggests they will be breaking the pledge — even if taxes would still be lower than they would be if they were allowed to rise as scheduled. On this interpretation of the pledge, maintaining anti-tax purity could come at the cost of higher taxes. That can’t be right.
Some conservatives are consoling themselves with the happy thought that Mitt Romney lost the election because he was insufficiently associated with the conservative cause. It is a happy thought since it means that Republicans would have won had they only nominated someone to Romney’s right, or had Romney run a more ideological campaign. Many of the conservatives making this case asserted that Romney had won even fewer votes than John McCain in 2008. This claim was based on a comparison of the early reports of Romney’s vote with the final reports of McCain’s. It turns out that Romney got more votes than McCain, even in an electorate smaller than that of 2008. The exit polls suggest that conservatives turned out, and voted Republican, in the usual numbers. Self-described conservatives made up 35 percent of the electorate and voted 82 percent for Romney. In the Republicans’ best presidential election of the last 20 years, that of 2004, they made up 34 percent of the electorate and voted 84 percent for George W. Bush. Romney also ran well ahead of many candidates who were to his right. It is true that a candidate who could make a more thorough and consistent critique of Obamacare might have done better than Romney, especially if he had coupled that critique with a compelling alternative. Moving right, or left for that matter, is no substitute for presenting an attractive agenda to the voters.
How should a losing presidential candidate behave? John and John Quincy Adams each refused to attend the inaugurations of the men who turned them out of the White House after single terms. Etiquette exists to override such self-defeating missteps. This is what losers say: congratulations to the victor, just a degree warmer than perfunctory; thanks to family and supporters; best hopes for the nation; never surrender. Such bromides offer the freeze-dried version of real virtues: magnanimity, gratitude, patriotism, steadfastness. Mitt Romney’s post-game musings in a conference call with donors about Obama’s “gifts” to interest groups broke these simple rules. He should have saved it for an interview sometime in 2014. Cc: Paul Ryan, who has many years and races ahead of him.
The remark about “gifts” was widely condemned, by conservatives and liberals alike. What Romney said was partly true and partly beside the point. It is indeed a bad thing when politicians offer to exceed the government’s constitutional powers, or prudent limits, to make segments of the electorate like them better, and when voters in those groups respond as desired. But when conservatives have succeeded in the past, it has not been by just shaking their heads at the injustice of it all. It has been by offering voters attractive policies grounded in a more sensible view of government. In the early ’80s, they promised lower inflation, lower taxes, and more prisons, all of which benefited most people, some more than others. There are good gifts and bad gifts, in other words, and the would-be conservative statesman must have the gift to see the difference.
A week after the election, Louisiana’s Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, had a prescription for his party: “We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything. We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys,” he told Jonathan Martin of Politico. Republicans, he added, should be “the party of ideas, details, and intelligent solutions.” They should never write off 47 percent of the electorate, as Romney’s comments about people who do not pay income tax did. “We need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream, which is to be in the middle class.” All of this strikes us as right, important — and all too distinctive, as other Republicans have had less intelligent things to say about the results. Tell us more, governor.
Looking ahead to 2016 (aren’t we all?), GQ asked Senator Marco Rubio, “How old do you think the Earth is?” The planted axiom here is that liberals are the reality-based community, while conservatives are, or pander to, scientific illiterates. There are a fair number of those in the ranks of Christian believers, even as there are many who say, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Science seeks knowledge, faith seeks understanding. In his answer, Rubio had the germ of a good riposte when he said the age of the Earth “has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States.” In other words, I see your trap, but let’s talk political reality. For the rest, he bumbled around, in a strange mix of postmodernism and piety: “I’m not a scientist, man. . . . I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created,” etc. etc. He will have many opportunities to sharpen his answer, because liberal journalists will be laying more traps for him and other conservatives. So it is. Whatever the age of the Earth, we don’t get to pick the age in which we live.
Long ago, Tom Bethell of The American Spectator instituted a new award: the Strange New Respect Award. It was bestowed on “once-reliable conservatives who won liberal praise by adopting liberal policies.” (We have quoted the magazine’s editorial director, Wlady Pleszczynski.) Which brings us to Esquire’s American of the Year awards — one of which has just been bestowed on Chief Justice John Roberts. The magazine said that he had committed a gross wrong in the Citizens United decision, which, according to the magazine, “legalized political corruption for the foreseeable future.” But he made up for it with the pathetic Obamacare decision. The magazine said that his ruling saved the Court’s “credibility” and preserved its “institutional integrity.” “When he passed Obamacare, he made the Supreme Court of the United States his.” Congratulations, Justice Roberts: You have won the admiration of people who think it is the Supreme Court’s job to pass laws.
Two weeks after Election Day, Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned his seat in Congress. He had been elected to a tenth term. Jackson is a Chicago Democrat. He has spent much of the last year being treated for a psychological disorder at the Mayo Clinic. He is under investigation by the FBI and the House Ethics Committee for financial improprieties. He probably could have been reelected unto eternity. The House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, said, “We are grateful to him and his family for their longstanding record of public service to our country.” That they have served themselves is plain; that they have served our country is less so.
During the election stretch run, President Obama directed his administration to develop rules for approving drone attacks. He seems to have concluded that unregulated assassin-in-chief powers were fine in his own righteous hands but a danger if Mitt Romney were to be elected president. The New York Times, which earlier this year described an Obama who is steeped in the just-war reflections of Augustine and Aquinas and personally combs intel files to compose a terrorist hit list, reports that the effort to write the rules has relaxed since the president’s reelection. Administration officials fret over international criticism about the killings, which they justify as part of a war they occasionally say is over, and assert their need for flexibility in unilaterally deciding who shall be killed even as troops are withdrawn and combat operations wind down.
Congress continues to pick its way through the confusion surrounding the Benghazi attack. David Petraeus finally testified (and no one, thank God, asked him about Paula Broadwell). He said the CIA’s first set of administration talking points flagged al-Qaeda’s Libyan affiliate and local jihadists as the attacking force, but that the attribution was later deleted so as not to alert the terrorists that we were pursuing them. (They fought an hours-long gun battle outside and inside our consulate, leaving many dead behind: They didn’t think we would identify them?) U.N. ambassador Susan Rice used the whitewashed talking points on her talk-show round robin. So either she is a hackish mouthpiece, or she actually doesn’t know much about a country in which we have intervened. Neither explanation recommends her to be secretary of state. The real issue, however, is neither her nor Petraeus, but the overall direction of the administration. Who whitewashed the talking points in the first place? Who blamed the attack on an anti-Muslim YouTube video? Cui bono? The Obama reelection campaign, which argued that al-Qaeda was on the run (“Osama bin Laden is dead,” as Joe Biden said). Who then made these obfuscating decisions — the president? Some campaign hack? Can Congress tell us?
During his trip to Burma, President Obama repeatedly mispronounced the name of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s democracy leader and heroine. That could happen to lots of people. Worse was Obama’s decision to refer to the country as “Myanmar” rather than “Burma.” “Myanmar” is the preferred name of the country’s longtime dictatorship; democrats call the country “Burma.” The U.S. government had always used the name “Burma.” Early in his presidency, Obama recorded a brief speech extending his friendship to “the Islamic Republic of Iran.” That is how the Iranian dictatorship likes to think of the country. The U.S. government had never used this terminology. President George W. Bush, for example, routinely called Iran’s government a “regime.” That Obama said “Islamic Republic of Iran” was a blow to many Iranian democrats. What’s in a name? In the world of diplomacy, at the highest levels, a lot.
In the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas, Iron Dome stopped almost 90 percent of the incoming missiles. Iron Dome is the Israelis’ missile-defense system. The success of this system has the Left in our country worried. “Don’t you dare think of further development here!” they say. Time magazine complained that Iron Dome was “being used as justification for more ambitious missile defenses.” Tellingly, the magazine referred to our program as “the U.S. fledgling national missile defense system.” This is a system begun in 1983. If it is still fledgling, it’s because the Left wants it to be that way.
In November, the state of Illinois moved to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, and in Chicago, Rahm Emanuel jumped on the bandwagon: “I strongly support state legislation that will allow every Chicagoan, regardless of legal status, to enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with a driver’s license,” he said. The rights part is obvious, but the responsibilities? Advocates claim that the measure increases the number of insured drivers. Alas, this is historically untrue. In 2000, alarmed that 26.3 percent of drivers were uninsured, New Mexico started granting licenses to illegal immigrants. By 2008, that number had jumped to 29.5 percent — the highest rate in the union. Looking on the bright side, perhaps we can at least stop calling illegal immigrants “undocumented”?
In mid-November, a surprising 8–7 decision by the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated Michigan’s affirmative-action ban. The law, Proposition 2, was a state referendum that barred state universities and all other state- and local-government authorities from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to individuals based on race or sex. The court somehow determined that it is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause to have a law that guarantees citizens equal protection and treatment from their government. The Supreme Court may, and should, reverse, thereby setting down the principle that a constitutional amendment cannot mean the exact opposite of what it says.
If a business has more than 50 full-time employees but does not offer health coverage, Obamacare makes it pay a $2,000 fine per worker (with the first 30 exempted). So employers are cutting back on hours, workers, or both. Some Applebee’s, Denny’s, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden franchises have announced a hiring preference for part-timers over full-timers. Other chains, such as Papa John’s, will also hike prices. Liberals are protesting these businesses’ decisions, without reflecting on how they have been made rational by their cherished law.
“Our Walmart,” the union-financed anti-Walmart group, planned walkouts and boycotts for Black Friday. Our Walmart claims to speak for Walmart employees — “We envision a future in which our company treats us, the Associates of Walmart, with respect and dignity” — but most Walmart employees wouldn’t agree. Out of a work force of 1.4 million, only 50 or so Walmart employees joined the protest. Blame for Our Walmart’s failure lies with economic fundamentals. Many Walmart employees would be worse off if Our Walmart’s recommendations went into effect: Wages would increase, but many employees would lose their jobs. Customers would be worse off too: The bottom 20 percent of income earners spend 26 percent of their income on groceries, so Walmart’s prices — between 8 and 39 percent lower than competitors’ — offer significant savings to poorer Americans. Understanding of how to help the poor appears to be lacking in the company’s critics.
The International Energy Agency released a study concluding that the United States will become the world’s largest natural-gas producer by 2015 and the world’s largest oil producer by 2017, displacing Saudi Arabia. This is a development to be welcomed. But political barriers remain in the way of a North American energy renaissance. Oil markets are highly integrated, and for producers and refiners to maximize output, they have to be able to connect. That means Canadian oil-sands producers need easy access to U.S. markets, but the Obama administration has hobbled them with its hostility to the Keystone pipeline. Federal rules restricting domestic-oil exports stand in the way of innovations such as blending heavy Canadian oil with the light oil produced in North Dakota to create a more versatile product. And of course the administration could bow to anti-fracking hysteria and simply shut the whole thing down through an EPA crackdown on gas production. We possess great quantities of oil and gas — and face great risk that Washington will prevent us from using them.
In late November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate and total number of abortions fell by 5 percent from 2008 to 2009. After steadily declining from its peak in 1990, the abortion rate in the U.S. had leveled off in recent years, and the decrease represents the largest annual drop in a decade. The media were quick to attribute it, with little evidence, to more effective contraceptive use and increased access to the morning-after pill. Though the sharp single-year decrease is undoubtedly good news, the CDC survey included a number of depressing data, such as that the rate of abortions is very high for black women — four times higher than among whites — and that the abortion rate for women over 40 increased. The AP report included this comforting finding from the CDC: “The majority of abortions are performed by the eighth week of pregnancy, when the fetus is about the size of a lima bean.” So that’s all right, then.
Hostess Brands, maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, is no more, having failed to resolve its financial problems during a years-long bankruptcy process. Like General Motors, Hostess was done in by a combination of feckless management and union rapacity, and a recent strike by the bakers’ union dealt the firm its death blow. The union, it should be noted, has earned the remarkable distinction of being even more intransigent than the Teamsters, who were begging their oven-overseeing brethren to return to work. Hostess was burdened with fantastically deranged work rules (Twinkies and Wonder Bread could not be shipped on the same truck — each required its own driver) and the management somehow managed to add debt during bankruptcy rather than shed it. Some 18,500 employees will be turned out, equity investors will lose everything, and 33 bakeries and hundreds of distribution centers will be closed. That is a very high price to pay for maintaining the extortionate powers of the union bosses, who fund and man practically every significant Democratic campaign. From the decimation of the U.S. steel industry to the sad last days of the Twinkie, this seems to be a lesson we are determined not to learn.
Alabama’s state government is considering a law that would force business owners to allow concealed weapons on their property. The intentions are good — law-abiding citizens should be allowed to carry guns to defend themselves, and some business owners have an irrational fear of firearms — but this is a bad idea. There is a world of difference between expanding gun owners’ freedoms, as basic concealed-carry laws do, and trampling upon the property rights of business owners, as some Alabama lawmakers would like to do. This battle is much better fought by teaching business owners about the benefits of armed self-defense.
One especially pernicious doctrine of progressive legal thought transforms the Constitution’s ban on establishment of religion into hostility toward the merest mention of it. This misunderstanding is especially harmful when applied to public schools, where it has led to such absurdities as the avoidance of instrumental music with religious titles and the renaming of Christmas as “December 25.” Now an Arkansas elementary school is under attack by an atheist group for inviting students to attend a staged performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas at a local church. The group complains that the show has religious elements, which is true, but no more than can be found in the drama-club staple Guys and Dolls, or for that matter in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, or just about anything by Martin Luther King Jr. In discussing stories like this, it is customary to invoke Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, but the Grinch did figure out Christmas in the end, whereas anti-religion fundamentalists have yet to realize that the Constitution was never meant to exclude every trace of religion from public life, but only to ensure impartiality among different beliefs.
Moses’ mother abandoned him when he was a baby, for compelling reasons. Pharaoh’s daughter found him and took pity. He turned out all right. The deposit of babies, usually newborns, in places where they’re likely to be discovered and rescued is an ancient practice that continues to this day. In Europe it elicits two opposing responses. One has been to establish “baby boxes,” incubators accessible from outdoors in which a desperate parent can leave a baby anonymously, usually on hospital grounds. Baby boxes are opposed by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is fighting them in the European Parliament. “They are a bad message for society,” says one committee member. They distract from the work of “addressing some of the social problems and poverty behind these situations.” This side of kingdom come, however, “these situations” have proven hard to eradicate, as have abortion and infanticide, the most probable outcomes where giving a child away isn’t an option. Expect Pharaoh’s daughter to sneak around and find a way if those who shake their bureaucratic finger at her succeed in making her compassion illegal.
The United Nations seems to have an unwritten rule that the more barbaric the nation, the better its chance of being appointed to monitor barbarity. In November, Sudan, whose president, Omar al-Bashir, has been charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court, was awarded a seat on the Economic and Social Council. ECOSOC is responsible for upwards of 70 percent of the human and financial resources at the U.N., and is charged, inter alia, with electing members of the Commission on the Status of Women (a current member is Iran), overseeing accreditation of NGOs, and choosing the executive board of the U.N. Children’s Fund. In response to Sudan’s selection, the advocacy group U.N. Watch complained that Sudan was “genocidal, misogynistic and repressive.” So it’s no wonder they fit right in.
The BBC recently announced that it has commissioned Way to Go, a “black comedy” of six 30-minute episodes. The title refers to assisted suicide, the show’s theme, which does not lend itself to comedy of any color. A precedent for this was established in the 1960s by Hogan’s Heroes, an American sitcom set in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp. The humor there was directed primarily against Nazis, but that was beside the point for those who objected to the show’s concept. We value laughter, but what was at stake in World War II we value more. In our time, the softening of respect for human life originates in different quarters, one of which is the campaign to abet those seeking to commit suicide. When we abstain from the temptation to mine such material for entertainment, we make a statement about our priorities, which differ from the BBC’s.
Heretofore, radical filmmaker Oliver Stone has limited his conspiracy theorizing and historical revisionism to individual events. In November, he widened his net considerably, debuting a ten-part documentary series, Untold History of the United States, that rewrites America’s story from World War II to the election of Barack Obama. Stone’s series suffers from being neither “untold” nor a “history”; instead, it is the latest spasm in a long and ignoble tradition of leftist revisionism exemplified by Howard Zinn. The basic message? That Americans know very little of their history — which is shameful — and that the bogeymen of history were either misunderstood or forced into their crimes by American policy. Stalin is whitewashed, Truman is condemned. Stone feels the need to contribute to the canon not because his radical counter-history remains untold, but because it remains largely scorned. Long may the scorn endure.
Good news, comrades: Stalin didn’t actually kill anyone! The countless millions we’ve heard he consigned to the gulag? Baloney. At least, that’s the word chosen by Professor Grover Furr of Montclair State University, who says he has spent “many years” researching all those supposed Communist mass murders and has happily concluded that they didn’t happen. He’s written a book titled (take a deep breath) “Khrushchev Lied: The Evidence That Every ‘Revelation’ of Stalin’s (and Beria’s) Crimes in Nikita Khrushchev’s Infamous ‘Secret Speech’ to the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on February 25, 1956, Is Provably False.” One would hope he’s also helpfully corrected Stalin’s most famous line to something like, “One death is a tragedy but a million deaths is totally irrelevant, because I didn’t kill anyone.”
Since the presidential election, Republicans have offered numerous explanations for their defeat. These range from President Obama’s superior get-out-the-vote organization to demographic changes, and almost everyone seems to agree that Republicans must make changes in their party if they are to win the presidency again.
But was the election really so surprising? Ever since the pioneering work of Ray Fair at Yale found a clear link between economic conditions and election outcomes, economists have known something: Models that predict elections using only economic variables have an almost perfect track record. When the economy is improving, incumbents tend to win. When it is worsening, they tend to lose.
The fact is, though the recovery from the recent recession has been long and tepid, conditions have slowly but steadily improved over the last year. This has been especially true in some swing states, such as Ohio, where the unemployment rate currently sits at 6.9 percent, down from 8.3 percent last October.
As weak as the recovery has been, the econometrics suggested that it was strong enough to reelect an incumbent. The most sophisticated extension of Fair’s model has been tracked for almost a decade by Moody’s Analytics. The Moody’s model uses state-level economic data to predict the outcome of the presidential election in each state, and then aggregates the information to make a prediction for the Electoral College. In February, Moody’s published the nearby electoral map. Comparing its analysis with the actual outcome, one sees that the model called every state correctly except Florida.
Poll numbers fluctuated throughout the campaign, but Moody’s projections after the February article showed a steady improvement for Obama as the economy inched forward. The only change in its prediction over this period was Florida’s flipping back and forth between the candidates. The analysis narrowly favored Obama in Ohio, something Moody’s confirmed with a county-level model that predicted that the counties having the strongest economies would go almost uniformly for President Obama.
While it may be tempting to treat the results of this election as a referendum on the Republican party, this model suggests that the fundamentals of the economy were a decisive boost to the president. It may be that no strategy, and no candidate, could have overcome them.
There are 800,000 stories in the naked city, and most of them are pretty gross-looking. That’s the conclusion to be drawn from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ 6–5 vote to ban nudity in public places, with exceptions for children under five and festivals like the city’s seemingly superfluous Gay Pride Week. Now, San Francisco’s public nudity is concentrated in what one article calls “the city’s historically gay Castro District” (“histrionically” might be more descriptive); in fact, the ban was sponsored by the Castro’s supervisor, Scott Wiener, and instead of making a joke here, we’ll pause for a moment while you think of your own . . . One might have expected public nudity to be welcomed in the Castro, but as one resident explains: “When it’s in my neighborhood and I can’t enjoy lunch because a guy is spread-eagle near me, it’s a problem.” Figures that the opposition would be mainly aesthetic.
“Fireman Ed” — Edwin Anzalone, the former New York City firefighter and iconic New York Jets fan who led the crowd in constant “J-E-T-S” chants while wearing his white fireman’s helmet — announced this week that he has “Q-U-I-T!” It was not the team’s ineptitude that drove him to abandon his seat in Section 124, but the increasing number of confrontations between him and other New York Jets fans. In a guest editorial in a local newspaper, Fireman Ed proclaimed that “this is an indication of how society has lost and is continuing to lose respect for one another.” When even Jets fans, who are not known for their tea-party etiquette, are announcing the end of our polite culture, then things must be truly terrible — possibly almost as bad as the Jets themselves.
In Gilbert, Ariz., a pregnant woman ran over her husband with the family’s SUV after a heated argument in a parking lot. Just a typical Saturday evening, it might seem, were it not that the source of the dispute was the husband’s failure to vote in the recent election. His wife, according to a news account, “believed her family would suffer under a second term of Pres. Barack Obama”; her pregnancy was six months along, and, no doubt remembering “The Life of Julia,” she likely found the thought of Obama’s reading her sonogram and changing diapers too much to bear. Somewhat surprisingly, “officers said they didn’t believe [the woman] was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time.” That’s good in view of her condition, and she seems lively enough without them. We can only think wistfully of what might have been if all of Romney’s get-out-the-vote volunteers had been this dedicated.
Two men in Whitehouse, Texas, both reportedly avid deer hunters, left the home of one of them and were immediately set upon by a buck, evidently intent on settling some scores. He attacked the pair, who took refuge in the bed of their pickup truck, whereupon Bad-Ass Bambi added insult to injury by nonchalantly stealing a pack of cigarettes from the cab and starting to eat them. When the owner of the cigarettes unwisely tried to get back his smokes, says a news article, “the deer got more aggressive.” In the end the men had to call the police, who, after considerable struggle, subdued the obstreperous stag with a Taser — less frontierish than a Sharps rifle, but safer in suburban areas. This is what happens when citizens don’t cling bitterly enough to their guns.
Last month’s basketball game between Grinnell and Faith Baptist Bible College would not normally have attracted much attention, even with its swim-meet-like score (Grinnell 179, Faith 104; together, the teams got into the 270s even faster than Obama), which was high but not unprecedented. What made the game a national story was the performance of Grinnell’s Jack Taylor, who chucked up 108 shots and sank 52 of them — a tally that, along with a few free throws, was good for 138 points, a collegiate record. Despite the presence of all those Baptists, there were only a few dunks; Taylor shot mostly three-pointers, which he sank at an unremarkable 38 percent clip. Sports-page moralists have been shedding tears for tiny Faith, an 0–5 team from the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association, over the supposed humiliation, but its Eagles exceeded the century mark, a rare occurrence, and sophomore David Larson set a school record with 70 points. Would a 73–42 loss have been any better?
Many fliers perished bravely during World War II, and the remains of one of them were recently uncovered in Surrey, England. The flier was a carrier pigeon, one of thousands who brought coded messages hundreds of miles from France to England on the first day of the D-Day invasion, as a radio blackout was observed for security reasons. The fallen hero was discovered by a man who, renovating his house, spotted in its chimney a bird’s skeleton with telltale red canister attached. Its contents, still legible, are proving tough to crack; the messages were often encoded with disposable cipher pads used a single time by sender and receiver. The few surviving WWII code clerks and the world’s best cryptological talent are being brought to bear, and if the message is received, the nameless pigeon will have completed its mission.
Larry Hagman practiced the billboard style of acting — 20 feet tall, visible a mile away — and from 1978 to 1991 devoted his gifts to a cartoonish prime-time soap, Dallas. Hagman played J. R. Ewing, a Texas oilman with no morals and a Stetson the size of a flying saucer. An estimated 350 million people worldwide tuned in to see who had shot him at the end of season two (of course he survived to villainize anew). There were probably liberals who saw the show as a satire on Reagan-era “greed.” Three hundred forty-nine million nine hundred ninety-nine thousand other viewers took it as a harmless riff on living large. In Communist countries, J. R. and Dallas were exemplars of forbidden freedoms. Jaak Kilmi, an Estonian film director, remembered watching it, fascinated, in Tallinn on Finnish TV. In person, Hagman was a liberal goof, a reformed drunk and pothead, and married to his wife of 58 years. Dead at 81. R.I.P.
THE MIDDLE EAST
Cease-fire in Gaza, Coup in Egypt
Dark clouds are once again closing over the Middle East. Islamism, terror, and dictatorship have already dissipated the hopes aroused by the Arab Spring. Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, once again has brought destruction down on its people in the belief that this is how to destroy Israel. Defending itself against this desperate mindset, Israel has had no choice but to raise the level of violence even though its response prepared the way for the next round.
This time, Hamas counted on the support of President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, himself a lifelong member of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the past year’s turmoil has shattered the Egyptian economy, leaving the country at the mercy of American goodwill and subsidies. There is no upside for, in any case, getting dragged into a Hamas-Israeli war. Morsi decided that the national interest took priority over Muslim Brotherhood solidarity.
The sigh of relief in the White House was audible. Morsi helped broker a cease-fire. It was unusual, to put it kindly, to hear the chorus of praise resonating in Washington for a Morsi credited with showing responsibility and leadership in an Egypt that stabilized the region. In the face of this fancy, Hamas leaders assured the world that their intention to destroy Israel was as steady as ever, and they were rearming. As for the region’s stability, Syrian rebels were fighting in Damascus, and Muslim Brothers were marching in the streets and calling for the overthrow of King Abdullah in Jordan.
Morsi had every reason to believe that he had done a favor for Washington and could expect one in return. He staged a coup as though he had tacit permission. Having placed himself above the law, he and he alone is executive, legislature, and judiciary. He shows himself to be a more extreme dictator than any of his predecessors—a new pharaoh, according to his critics. Putting in place the Islamist state idealized by the Muslim Brotherhood, he divides the country. Crowds are back demonstrating in central Cairo and setting fire to Muslim Brotherhood offices.
It is hard to see how either side can back down without bloodshed. The Arab Spring has come to this.