Funny, the IRS never seems to lose track of us.
Almost as stunning as the defeat of House majority leader Eric Cantor are the lengths some people have gone to deny the obvious: Republican voters were rejecting the idea of “comprehensive immigration reform.” To be sure, it was not the only reason he lost. A sizable number of voters thought he had grown inattentive to the district. Dave Brat assailed him for being too tight with Wall Street and big business on a range of corporate-welfare issues. A lot of tea partiers are unhappy with a Republican hierarchy that they see as insufficiently willing to fight for conservative principles. Immigration, though, was indisputably the top policy issue in the race, and it was a symbol of everything else that motivated Brat’s candidacy. A lot of Republicans, disproportionately those in Washington, D.C., and Manhattan, harbor the fantasy that the party could make great gains among Hispanic voters if it would only offer legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, create large guest-worker programs, and refrain from insisting that enforcement of the existing laws be shown to work before taking these steps. Cantor, otherwise a reliable conservative, refused to shut the door on this approach, so primary voters shut the door on him.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign launch has been as graceful as the forklifts moving palettes of her new book. First she told Diane Sawyer that she and Bill came out of the White House “dead broke.” The rich often have temporarily bad balance sheets. Although the Clintons were carrying big legal bills in 2001, they knew they were entering the El Dorado of speaking fees and book advances. It is ill-mannered of multimillionaires to poor-mouth themselves. Then Mrs. Clinton bristled at Terry Gross for probing her views on same-sex marriage. She opposed it as late as 2008 — her last run for president. Since then she has, as she admits, evolved, yet it irks her even to discuss whether politics played a role in her evolution. Why? Politics is the grease of democratic change, for good or ill. The only political talent Hillary Clinton possesses is persistence. It served her well in her run for the Senate in 2000. Yet humor, agility, sincerity, and eloquence are all beyond her. She is also not a fresh face. The road to 2016 will be long.
Citing her “vast experience,” the content of which is a vast mystery, NBC hired Chelsea Clinton as a special correspondent in 2011 — and paid her $600,000 a year for what turned out to be insipid celebrity profiles and an interview with the GEICO gecko. Miss Clinton joins Jenna Bush, Meghan McCain, and Abby Huntsman in the sorority of presidential and would-be-presidential spawn laboring under the NBC aegis. Miss McCain, to be sure, is a bargain at any price, a once-in-a-generation comedy act of rare and refined genius. (It is an act, right?) But putting Chelsea on the payroll at the better part of a million bucks per annum looks suspiciously like sucking up to a family that expects to be back in the White House in a few years. NBC can spend its money however it likes, but we pray that lining the Clintons’ pockets turns out to be a bad investment.
Straining plausibility, the IRS claims that e-mails from figures at the center of its political-persecution scandal have been forever lost due to a computer crash. Congress is seeking e-mails from Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, and a half dozen of her colleagues, hoping to shed light on the agency’s illegal and unethical campaign of harassment and intimidation against tea-party organizations and other conservative groups. The IRS is required by law to keep copies of e-mails and other documents, and it claims — beggaring belief — that its practice is for senior managers such as Lerner to print out physical copies of the tens of thousands of e-mails they send, and to file them away. Those familiar with how e-mail systems work — the IRS uses Microsoft’s Outlook — say it is almost certain that the agency could provide the e-mails if it so desired. But it doesn’t. And thus an agency that is happy to seize your assets if you cannot provide triplicate receipts from a business lunch three years ago is pleading, in regard to its own felonious conduct, “The dog ate my e-mail.”
In a separate IRS scandal (yes, it’s hard to keep track of them all), we already know that Lois Lerner improperly shared confidential taxpayer information with officials at the Federal Election Commission. Now we’ve learned that the Department of Justice, too, got a windfall of sensitive information from Lerner. E-mails obtained by the House Oversight Committee show that, in preparation for a meeting just weeks before the 2010 midterm elections, Lerner and an adviser arranged to have 1.1 million pages of information on nonprofit organizations — including 33 tax returns containing confidential information — shipped off to the FBI. That is a potential violation of federal law. Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, FBI director James Comey said, “I can’t imagine that we would be part of some effort to intimidate someone without some lawful purpose.” He assured the panel that the FBI returned the database to the IRS and that analysts only “looked at the table of contents.” Forgive us if we refuse to take anyone’s word about any aspect of the IRS scandals.
It is what psychologists call overcompensation, and what politicos call making a hash of it. Susan Rice’s saying that Bowe Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction” and the bizarre Rose Garden ceremony with bearded Dad were not enough: Defense secretary Chuck Hagel insisted that it was urgent to bring Bergdahl home because of his deteriorating health, as evidenced by a Taliban prisoner video. Then, ten days later, Hagel told Congress that the video was six months old. “We didn’t know what kind of health Bergdahl was in.” In short, the more the administration talked, the less convincing its case for the Bergdahl deal became.
George Will is being crucified for his observation about college campuses that “when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” Will’s column touched on everything from so-called microaggressions to “trigger warnings” and argued that the evidence suggests that claims about rape on college campuses are exaggerated. Never mind that he is correct; the inevitable headlines read: “George Will: Rape Victim Is ‘Coveted Status.’” That is something close to the opposite of what Will wrote, in that he suggested that false or exaggerated claims were a shortcut to the coveted status of victimhood without the need to suffer the trauma of the crime. The evidence here is suggestive: Over a short period of time, there was a rash of hate crimes reported at UNC–Chapel Hill, Vassar, Central Connecticut State University, the College of New Jersey, and several off-campus venues, all of which turned out to be fake. In the case of Vassar, the crimes were staged by members of the school’s “Bias Incident Response Team.” Which is to say, they were faked by students who coveted victim status. Likewise, there are false claims of sexual assault, as with any other crime, estimates running from about 8 percent (U.S. Justice Department) to significantly higher. Duke and Hofstra have both seen high-profile incidents of false sexual-assault allegations. Prosecutor Steve Cullen, in the course of lamenting the poor treatment of genuine victims, cited the “incredibly corrosive impact” of false claims as a factor. It is not George Will who is doing women a disservice in this matter, but his critics.
Transgender is the new gay: So said Time when it put Laverne Cox, star of Orange Is the New Black, on its cover. But does removing and replacing organs surgically change a man into a woman, or vice versa? Kevin Williamson said no, in a piece on NRO: “Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense. . . . Amputat[ing] healthy organs in the service of a delusional tendency is the moral equivalent of meeting a man who believes he is Jesus and inquiring as to whether his insurance plan covers crucifixion.” Williamson got push-back, and, controversialist that he is, welcomed it. Not the Chicago Sun-Times, which ran his piece as an op-ed and then apologized for doing so. “We try to present a range of views,” the paper explained, but Williamson ignored the “undeniable pain” of transgender people, “who suffer from notably higher rates of depression and suicide.” (Williamson did not ignore it: Cox’s story, he wrote, “demands our sympathy.”) Looks like the Sun-Times should stick to pro-ed pieces. The last word goes to Williamson: “Post-operative transsexuals are not the only men who have had their characteristic equipment removed.”
Under court order to — dear Lord, it is almost too damned silly to write — under court order to provide satisfactory cakes for a gay wedding or face fines and incarceration, Jack Phillips of Denver’s Masterpiece Cakeshop is getting out of the wedding-cake business. Phillips, for reasons of conscience, does not participate in gay weddings, though he is perfectly happy to sell anybody a birthday cake or another dessert regardless of sexual proclivity. But the law in its majesty insists that a nonconformist baker is the second coming of Bull Connor, and Judge Robert N. Spence found the baker in violation of civil-rights law. Wedding photographers and others are facing similar actions in other jurisdictions. It should not really need saying, but: Gay people aren’t very much like freed slaves or their descendants under Jim Crow, the Stonewall riot wasn’t Gettysburg, and being made to walk next door to the gay-friendly wedding planner rather than conscripting the Evangelical baker is not like being black in George Wallace’s 1960s Alabama. Opting out of a gay wedding is not invidious discrimination, but an exercise of conscience, something that should be obvious to anybody who is not a fanatic or a child. Keep the government out of our kitchens.
Back in March, the pro-life outfit Live Action sent an undercover investigator posing as a 15-year-old girl into Indianapolis’s Planned Parenthood Midtown Health Center. In the resulting video, the supposed minor is advised to experiment with BDSM and referred to a free porn site she won’t get any “viruses off of.” Planned Parenthood says that the video “does not reflect our education programs,” and that the employee has been fired. But BDSM is hardly new territory for Planned Parenthood: Last year, a New York clinic hosted a “Fifty Shades of Safe” workshop, and the Planned Parenthood site features a video titled “Getting Kinky — BDSM 101.” Planned Parenthood receives $500 million in taxpayer funds per year, and under the Affordable Care Act, it’s set to receive $75 million more to use for sex education. There may not be much innocence left in American youth, but Planned Parenthood and the federal government are evidently leaving nothing to chance.
In August 2012, Republicans canceled the first day of their convention owing to concerns about a hurricane. But they proceeded on the second day. When Mitt Romney and his wife Ann appeared on a screen, the Washington bureau chief of Yahoo! News said, into a “hot mic,” “They’re not concerned at all. They are happy to have a party with black people drowning.” Yahoo!, to its credit, fired that man, David Chalian. But that did not dent his career. He went on to Politico and has just been made “political director” of CNN. He is perfect for the job, really.
Senate Democrats’ first response to the scandals at the Veterans Health Administration was predictable: Just throw money at the problem. But Congress needs to fix a broken system, not reward it, by holding the VA accountable and offering vets choices. That is, more or less, what the two bills passed by the House in response to the scandal will do. The bill that made it out of the Senate is larded up with unnecessary new spending — to the point where it could cost as much as $50 billion a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Just three senators — Republicans Bob Corker (Tenn.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) — had the courage to stare down vets’ interest groups and vote against the Senate’s irresponsible bill. The two bodies will now go to conference on the legislation, and House Republicans should use their leverage to get a bill that fixes the VA rather than expands it.
State of the Nation-State
I’m writing this from the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty, in London. Daniel Hannan, a friend of National Review and an eloquently stubborn champion of British national sovereignty in the European parliament, has just finished a stirring denunciation of the European Union and defense of the Westphalian system of nation-states. The nation-state, Mr. Hannan argues, is the best and most reliable defender of liberty there is. “Just as the nation-state is a secure vessel for freedom, so it is the securest bulwark against not only the lobbying of the Greenpeaces and the big energy corporations, but also against extremism of every kind. Be very scared,” he warns, “of any ideology that claims to be bigger than the nation-state.”
In the context of the debate over the EU, Hannan, of course, is correct. The liberty-sucking bureaucratic sinkhole in Brussels is an enterprise established to secure the rights and privileges of elites to grind away the rights and privileges of free citizens.
But I can’t help wondering if Hannan is wrong in a larger sense. After all, the nation-state hardly has a spotless record in protecting against extremism. In the U.K. and the U.S., the nation-state has worked out pretty well, but only because we are nation-states with cultures, traditions, and institutions devoted to liberty. Even so, it’s hardly always been smooth sailing.
I can’t help but think of Murray Rothbard’s Fable of the Shoes. In his 1973 book For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, Rothbard railed against the “status quo bias” that takes it as a given that the government should do certain things because the government has always done them. “So identified has the State become in the public mind with the provision of these services,” Rothbard complained, “that an attack on State financing appears to many people as an attack on the service itself.”
Imagine, Rothbard asks the reader, that the government has always provided shoes to the public. And then someone proposes getting the government out of the footwear business. “How could you?” champions of the status quo would shout.
You are opposed to the public, and to poor people, wearing shoes! And who would supply shoes to the public if the government got out of the business? Tell us that! Be constructive! It’s easy to be negative and smart-alecky about government; but tell us who would supply the shoes? Which people?
The nation-state is a provider of services. In America and the West — but hardly everywhere — one of its chief products is, or at least has been, liberty. But does it have to be that way? To recognize that national government is better at protecting liberty than transnational or world government is not quite the same thing as saying it is ideal.
The modern secular state emerged from a brutal struggle with religious and aristocratic institutions. The victory of the secular state was a huge advance for liberty, but it came with tangible costs. Not only did it lead to the demotion and privatization of traditional religion as a source of authority and legitimacy in social life, but it has filled that gap with various forms of secular religion. It has also produced a permanent class of bureaucrats and rent-seekers whose concern for individual liberty takes a distant second to their self-interest. And, of course, it asks for ever more of our money.
I am not an anarchist. I subscribe to Lincoln’s defense of conservatism as reliance on the old and tried against the new and untried. For now, the nation-state is the least-worst way to go, it seems to me. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be on the lookout for something better.
President Obama announced a plan in June to expand the federal government’s already generous subsidies for student loans: All holders of federal loans will now be required to pay just 10 percent of their income for 20 years, after which their balances will be forgiven. One of the problems with this generous transfer — besides the fact that the president doesn’t have authority to enact it and hasn’t said how he’d pay for it — is that most of its benefits go to borrowers with huge loan balances, who have usually borrowed for their graduate degrees. Graduates with $120,000 in law-school debt can easily end up paying the same amount as someone who borrowed $20,000 for college. The way to fix this is to end loan forgiveness, incentivizing students to consider how much they’re borrowing, as Representatives Thomas Petri (R., Wis.) and Jared Polis (D., Colo.) have proposed. That would be one step toward reining in the cost of higher education, something in which President Obama has shown disappointingly little interest.
The first obstacle to the attempt by Representative Tim Murphy (R., Pa.) to reform the federal government’s mental-health system was an alternative proposed by Democrats, which would have increased funding and done nothing to fix a broken, perverse system. Now a Republican, namely House Energy and Commerce chairman Fred Upton (Mich.), appears to be the problem: He has reportedly said he doesn’t plan to advance Murphy’s full bill and will instead work to pass the uncontroversial provisions. The good parts of the bill, unfortunately, are the controversial ones. Upton is loath to take on the mental-health community and the federal mental-health bureaucracy that supports it. But it has to be done: Today, federal rules and federal funding go to support unhelpful, even destructive programs and do little to help the seriously mentally ill. That’s what Murphy, a psychologist, proposes to fix. He has roughly 80 co-sponsors for his effort to do so. If forcing a federal bureaucracy to do its job is too controversial for House Republicans, we’ve got a problem.
Conservatives were tempted to celebrate the news that a California judge had struck down the state’s teacher-tenure and seniority laws as unconstitutional. These laws have made it a vanishingly rare occurrence for a bad teacher to be fired in California, and their effects on students do indeed “shock the conscience,” as Judge Rolf Treu wrote in his opinion. So it’s understandable that many in the school-reform movement counted the ruling in Vergara v. State of California as a victory (and relished seeing the teachers’ unions reel). But the case sets another noxious precedent for courts to dictate education policy under the guise of ensuring equal access to high-quality public education. And in finding that tenure rules placed a “disproportionate burden on poor and minority students” by trapping them in underperforming schools, Judge Treu opened the door to legal challenges to any school policy that results in unequal racial outcomes, regardless of whether discrimination is occurring. Education reformers are right to take up arms against the travesty that is the public-education status quo, but judicial activism shouldn’t be one of their weapons.
California engineered an artificial budget surplus by refusing to chip in enough to cover the rising costs of its already disastrously underfunded public pensions. Having cultivated that phony surplus, it is now looking to spend some of it, adding billions to the next budget to cover the usual fanciful array of counterproductive progressive priorities: a bullet train, more pre-kindergarten spending, implementing the Common Core educational program, and increasing welfare payments. The California General Assembly is imprudent in itself and the cause of imprudence in others: The state is pressing for limits on how much money local school districts can keep in their reserve funds. Governor Jerry Brown says they don’t need to save so much because the state has its own rainy-day fund; the local school authorities protest that this is only a ploy to make that money available for upcoming union negotiations. But then practically everything California does — from adding to pre-kindergarten spending to high-speed rail — is done in the interests of its government unions, which utterly dominate the state. In openly desperate straits just a few years ago, California is now passing the largest budget in its history, one that leaves unresolved the disastrous imbalance in its pension obligations and ensures another fiscal crisis in the future. This isn’t going to end well.
In London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, and Berlin, taxi drivers went on strike in June, parking their cars in city centers and snarling traffic to protest Uber, the car-sharing app that is undermining the position of the taxi cartels. Not the smartest people in the world, these taximen: In London, Uber sign-ups were up eightfold during the strike, because nobody could get a cab. And that is the problem in miniature: Taxi licensure is designed to serve the interests not of consumers but of the taxi companies, by, among other things, keeping new competitors out of the market and preventing price competition. Here at home, the State of Virginia has ordered Uber, Lyft, and other similar companies to cease operations, but it is not even clear that the taxi regulators have the authority to do any such thing: The companies are not taxi services. Uber, insisting that its service is legal, is rolling past attempts to ban it. As the firm’s founder explains: “There’s been so much corruption and so much cronyism in the taxi industry, and so much regulatory capture, that if you ask permission upfront for something that’s already legal, you’ll never get it.” The regulators would do better to accommodate themselves to the new technology rather than fight it — and to remember whose interests they allege to serve.
“Just because we have the best hammer does not mean every problem is a nail,” President Obama confided in his commencement speech to the graduating cadets at West Point. Meanwhile, in Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was commemorating the 25th anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. These were turbulent years indeed, during which the American hammer had recurrent reasons for hitting the Islamic Republic’s nail on the head. Now, the ayatollah told the audience at this event, “military attack is not a priority for Americans.” Banners behind the podium on which he was speaking carried a gleeful taunt that translated as “America Cannot Do a Damn Thing.” They’ve perceived the unspoken bottom line of Obama’s metaphor, that a hammer serves no purpose without a hand to wield it.
Palestinian politics is a game of poker in which secular nationalists on the West Bank and the Islamist Hamas in Gaza outbid one another. For the past seven years the game has been very rough, with murder and every breach of human rights on the part of either player. Holding the West Bank cards, Mahmoud Abbas participated in John Kerry’s special round of peace processing, but for ideological ends Hamas leaders refused that game. When the peace process went bust, Abbas and Hamas united in a government. The whys and wherefores are unclear. If Abbas was intending to neutralize Hamas, he may have met his match. Three Israeli teenagers have been kidnapped on the West Bank. In conditions of rising tension, Israeli security forces are searching for them and have detained large numbers of Hamas members. Abbas deplored the kidnapping but Hamas claims it is “a heroic operation.” Prime Minister Netanyahu bluntly holds Hamas responsible. If this proves the case, and especially if the teenagers are held as hostages to be bargained for, or in any way harmed, then obviously Hamas was gambling on taking power, and unity was window-dressing, a show doomed to collapse. In which case, the Palestinian cards will have to be reshuffled once more.
More than a decade ago, Donald Rumsfeld made waves when discussing the Palestinian–Israeli conflict. The defense secretary referred to the “so-called occupied territories.” Now the Australian government, led by conservative Tony Abbott, has decided to drop the phrase “occupied territories” and refer to those lands as “disputed territories.” In explanation, Abbott said, “The truth is they’re disputed territories.” Which they are. Arab nations did not applaud. They threatened trade sanctions against Australia (Australia being an exporter of food to those nations). One Middle Eastern leader did applaud: Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any peace agreement would have to be based on truth. “It is impossible to build peace on historic lies.” Along with the Stephen Harper–led Canadian government, the Abbott-led government is the gutsiest in all the West.
Professor Mohammed Dajani is an unusual man, and an unusually brave one. A Palestinian, formerly with Al Quds University, he led students on a trip to Auschwitz. The trip was part of a program run in conjunction with Israeli and German universities and designed to promote tolerance, sympathy, and understanding. Many Palestinians understood: They threatened Professor Dajani with death until he resigned. He said he hoped that the university would not accept his resignation and instead stand up for his academic freedom. But they accepted, no doubt with relief. The fight for peace and sanity is uphill, but no one can say that Mohammed Dajani failed to do his part.
In Cuba, it is illegal to express support for the U.S. sanctions on the Castro dictatorship. Such an expression is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Nonetheless, more than 800 Cuban democrats have signed a petition urging the United States not to lift the sanctions. The leader of this effort is Jorge Luis García Pérez, known by his nickname “Antúnez.” He has been in and out of prison for many years, and has endured extreme brutality. After the petition was circulated, he was arrested and strangled until he lost consciousness. He was also injected with unknown substances. (This is a common practice against Cuban dissidents.) Before they released him, state-security agents warned Antúnez that he was at greater risk than ever. A few days later, he was again arrested, and so was his wife and partner, Yris Pérez Aguilera. These are two of the bravest people in one of the bravest communities in the world: the Cuban democrats. May they live to see their work succeed.
When Cambodia was ruled by the Khmer Rouge, the wearing of eyeglasses got you killed: The glasses suggested that you could read and had airs. Forty years later, Rolls-Royce is opening a showroom in Phnom Penh. The minister of industry and handicrafts said, “Nobody would believe that such a luxury car could come to Cambodia.” There are Khmer Rouge families still in politics, and, through corruption, quite rich. Maybe they will buy a Rolls or two.
Miss USA contestant Valerie Gatto came into the world in difficult circumstances: Her mother was impregnated when raped at knifepoint in Pittsburgh. Originally intending to give the baby up for adoption, she decided at the last moment to keep her at the urging of her own grandmother. Miss Gatto, whose mother never concealed the circumstances of her conception from her, has been telling her story in public for years, and made it an integral part of her Miss USA campaign: “Your circumstances do not define your life,” she says. Though she declines to directly address the question of abortion, she says that her mother never seriously considered that option: “My mother made a choice, and she chose life. I’m glad that I’m here.” She has spent time on college campuses speaking to young women about sexual assault and personal security, recommending what should be unobjectionable prudence — but nothing on a college campus is unobjectionable anymore. Feminists have criticized Miss Gatto for suggesting that some of the burden for preventing crimes should fall on potential victims, though they have saved their most intense rage for Miss Gatto’s colleague and the winner of this year’s pageant: Miss Nevada, Nia Sanchez, a martial-arts practitioner who suggested that women learn to defend themselves in a more direct fashion, presumably by beating the stuffing out of assailants. (Miss Texas dashed our hopes that somebody would suggest concealed carry.) That’s a lot of content for a beauty pageant, but the deep beauty here is in the extraordinary courage of Miss Gatto’s mother, whose act of transcendent generosity deserves a halo more than a tiara.
Except for the accent, it could have been a recent Clint Eastwood movie: A crusty old British pensioner pins on his medals from D-Day, sneaks out of his nursing home, hops on a ferry, and finishes the day on Sword Beach in Normandy, paying tribute to his fallen Royal Navy comrades. The old salt’s name was Bernard Jordan and, contrary to initial reports, he was never barred from leaving the nursing home; he was merely told that there was no room for him in a tour group, whereupon he improvised his own travel arrangements. When the staff found out, they naturally worried about whether he would make it across the Channel safely, though they needn’t have bothered; he’s endured a lot worse. It’s inspiring to see that the survivors of Overlord remain as intrepid as ever, and that Lieutenant Jordan didn’t help crush the Jerries so that he could stay confined to quarters 70 years later.
At press time, the United States soccer team was polishing off its 2–1 victory over Ghana in the 20th World Cup in Brazil, at last stopping a Western African colossus that had laid Team U.S.A. low in Germany in 2006 and again in South Africa in 2010. In the patriotic surge that followed the win, which was achieved through excellent ball-kicking, American pride flickered as it rarely does for the quadrennial global soccer competition. The last time the United States got a top-three finish was at the original World Cup in 1930, and our nation’s inability to commit to soccer, like our rejection of the metric system, has long been a sore spot. Americans can take solace in the abundance that allows us not only to be lukewarm toward soccer but also to choose among various contenders for the title of “national pastime.” American football offers a more martially sophisticated version of soccer’s field strategy; basketball offers an even more intense blend of physicality and tactical shrewdness; baseball offers the hazy glow of a leisurely, low-scoring summer game. And unlike soccer, those sports virtually never in a tie. Sports fandom is prone to chaos in every land, and we suspect the relatively high rates of violence and hooliganism around soccer may just be a function of the sport’s popularity and worldwide distribution. But maybe American sports fans (usually) behave better because our homegrown but diverse sports buffet is just more satisfying.
Symphony orchestras are always looking to attract audience members, especially first-timers. In Seattle, the orchestra brought in Sir Mix-a-Lot, the rapper. (For more on this, see page 35.) He performed his 1992 hit — we are tempted to say “classic” — “Baby Got Back.” (“Back” refers to a woman’s derrière.) The rap was orchestrated, if that’s really the word, by Gabriel Prokofiev, grandson of you-know-who. Women got up on the stage and danced, bawdily. The orchestra scored something of a PR success: A video of the event has attracted 2.5 million hits and counting. Will this gimmick help the cause of classical music? No, they never do. Classical-music organizations should resign themselves to the fact that their art form will always be a minority taste. There’s a reason pop music is called “pop music”: It’s popular. But the world makes room for minority tastes. And the death of classical music is a death much talked about and never occurring. Charles Rosen, the late pianist and scholar, famously remarked, “The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition.”
As reported by Reason.com, “Popular sex columnist Dan Savage finally gave a response to critics who had attacked him for using the word tranny in the context of a discussion about whether tranny was a hateful word.” We still think “popular sex columnist” means Dear Abby, but we’ll try to explain. “Tranny” is short for “transsexual,” which used to be the term for someone who had switched genders but is now passé, since there are so many possible variations: bi-gender, F2M, androphilic, genderqueer, and trans*, to list just a few. Some trannies object that “tranny” is belittling and entrenches cisgender privilege (“cisgender” means that you actually are the gender you say you are), while others claim it as a badge of pride. So: Slur or praise? Really, the whole debate is so 2012. Instead of this simplistic binary, liberals need to adopt a spectrum of terms: “trans-slur,” for a term that was once positive but is now disparaging (“Negro”); “trans-praise,” for the reverse (“queer”); and “cis-slur” for something that has always been an insult (“Republican”).
“This Is Are Story” was the prom theme chosen by seniors at Paul Robeson High School on Chicago’s South Side. An image of the printed ticket was uploaded to Facebook by Local ABC 7 News investigative reporter Chuck Goudie, with the comment “nyce.” Robeson is part of the Chicago Public Schools system, a district that, as the Illinois Policy Institute pointed out, graduates only 60 percent of its students, and 91 percent of those who make it to college require remedial courses in basic math and writing. These results have earned Chicago public-school teachers among the highest average salaries in the nation. Nyce job, Rahm.
George H. W. Bush executed a tandem parachute jump on his 90th birthday in Kennebunkport — even though he no longer has the use of his legs. Bush jumped when he turned 80 and 85, and said, when he was 88, that he thought he had one more jump in him. His most famous jump came when Lieutenant Bush was 20 and had to bail out of his TBM Avenger after it was shot by the Japanese over the Bonin Islands. His parachute 60 years later was red, white, and blue. This magazine quarreled with a number of things George H. W. Bush did as a politician. But — what a splendid man. Happy birthday.
Originally, there were 29 Navajo code talkers. These were the young men selected by the Marine Corps to develop an unbreakable code in World War II. The last of them, Chester Nez, has died at 93. He saw combat at Guadalcanal and elsewhere in the Pacific. In a memoir, he wrote, “When bombs dropped, generally we code talkers couldn’t just curl up in a shelter. We were almost always needed to transmit information, to ask for supplies and ammunition, and to communicate strategies. And after each transmission, to avoid Japanese fire, we had to move.” When he was a schoolboy, teachers punished him for speaking Navajo. But the language turned out to be of great service to America, and even to world freedom. If we could express our thanks to Chester Nez and the others in the code, we would. R.I.P.
Iraq’s fall into chaos has been nasty, brutish, and swift. The al-Qaeda offshoot ISIS took Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, then rolled toward Baghdad, scooping up equipment abandoned by fleeing Iraqi soldiers, and fleeing soldiers themselves, the latter consigned to mass executions. In 2010, Joe Biden boasted that the wind-down of the Iraq War “could be one of the great achievements of this administration.” Now it is looking like one of the great achievements of al-Qaeda’s post-Osama administration.
The whirlwind had been building for some time. During the long struggle to unseat Bashir Assad, ISIS took control of much of eastern Syria, the launch pad of its present effort. In both Syria and Iraq, however, they moved into vacuums created by American inattention. Timely American action might have catalyzed a Syrian revolutionary faction that was not a terrorist jihad. A continued American presence in Iraq could have retrained Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarianism and kept the fragile peace achieved by the surge. But Obama passed on the first option in Syria, and abandoned the second in Iraq, to burnish his self-image as a peacemaker.
Yet peace is never unilateral. ISIS will not be content with domestic mayhem. Their long-range enemy is, as it was on 9/11, the United States. A transnational terror caliphate will be a magnet for the violent, and a training ground for turning them into underground warriors.
Prime Minister Maliki is foolish and self-destructive; if there is anything we can reasonably do to save his bacon, the price must be more inclusive government. The Kurds, as always, look after themselves; we should help them do so. There must be no humiliating evacuation of the American embassy; one Saigon-style debacle per John Kerry’s lifetime is enough. There is talk, finally, from both the administration and Senator Lindsey Graham (who is usually sensible in such matters), that we should work with Iran to save Iraq. That would be grotesque. Iran killed Americans in Iraq for years; its ambitions are the same as al-Qaeda’s.
For all his supposed experience — his childhood abroad, his international relatives — Barack Obama lives within the three-mile limit. Perhaps that is because his bathroom mirror is there. America, and the world, is paying for his self-centeredness.
Secure Our Borders
The Obama administration and its allies on immigration — both Democrats and Republicans — have justified their call for a “path to citizenship” for illegal aliens by boasting of new, tight control of the border. The message has been that new illegal immigration has effectively come to an end, so it’s time to tie up the loose ends of past mistakes and move forward.
Would that were so.
Instead, the United States is experiencing a surge in illegal immigration, especially in South Texas. A large share of new arrivals are families with children, teenagers traveling alone, and younger children brought here by professional smugglers. In the first five months of this year, 47,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended, double the number for the same period the year before. A Border Patrol memo estimates that up to 90,000 could be apprehended this fiscal year and 140,000 next year.
The administration claims that this surge is driven entirely by outside factors — i.e., poverty and violence in the sending countries, particularly Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Because they imagine it to be a refugee flow beyond their control, officials are responding as they would to a humanitarian crisis. The president has directed FEMA to lead the response, with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) housing the unaccompanied minors until family members in the U.S. — legal or illegal — can be found to take the youngsters in.
But this crisis is not simply a response to conditions in Central America, deplorable as they might be. Senator Jeff Sessions correctly asserted that “the rising crisis at the border is the direct and predictable result of actions taken by President Obama.” The administration has essentially halted immigration enforcement in the interior of the country for anyone not a murderer or drug dealer. In the words of John Sandweg, until recently the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero.” Add to this the unilateral amnesty for illegal immigrants claiming to have come before their 16th birthday, and you have a powerful magnet for illegal immigration.
The administration response is actually feeding the frenzy. The Justice Department is hiring lawyers to represent the youngsters in immigration court, to maximize the number who will receive formal permission to stay. A federal judge late last year berated the administration for abetting human trafficking by delivering illegal-immigrant children to their illegal-immigrant parents.
Word of Obama’s permissive approach to illegal immigration has filtered south. The New York Times quoted one teenager in Honduras whose mother had sent for him: “If you make it, they take you to a shelter and take care of you and let you have permission to stay.”
The only way to stanch the flow is to change such expectations. All illegal aliens caught at the border must be detained, and the adults prosecuted. Illegal-immigrant parents should be reunited with their illegal-immigrant children and returned as a family unit to their own countries. Border officials must be permitted to exercise the statutory power of “expedited removal” to keep new arrivals out of the immigration-court system and ensure their quick return.
And any talk of amnesty should end until order is restored.