Articles Archives


More of the Same

Even after San Bernardino, Obama fails to change course.
Dec 21, 2015

On December 6, Barack Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office for just the third time in his tenure. The president sought to reassure the American people that he has a strategy for defeating ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), just days after supporters of the self-declared "caliphate" massacred 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.

Given recent events, Obama could have announced a change of course. He could have said that the time has come to end, once and for all, ISIL's grip on its de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, and second city of Mosul, Iraq. Instead, the president simply offered a bullet point summary of what his administration has done to date.

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Will the Supremes Finally Rule?

Another housing discrimination case is ripe.
Oct 27, 2014

A few days before the opening of its new term, the Supreme Court accepted for review a case from Texas that could prove one of the Court’s most important this year—provided that the justices actually get to decide it.

The case is Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, and it concerns the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibits racial discrimination in housing, as well as discrimination on other grounds including ethnicity, sex, and religion.

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End of the West?

Syria, the Islamic State, and Europe.
Dec 21, 2015

Should the United States militarily defeat jihadist outfits in the Middle East? After 9/11 the answer seemed easy, but after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Barack Obama is not alone in arguing that large-scale offensive campaigns against radical Muslim movements aren't worth the cost. Even if the president's go-slow approach is actually more likely to provoke more terrorism, is it the sensible policy for America? And can Western governments actually defeat the Muslim radicals who live in the West and are a nightmare for domestic intelligence services to find, let alone stop? These questions are as much about Europe as the Middle East.

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The Disloyal Opposition

We need a better form of partisanship.
Dec 07, 2015

If you were to acquire political information only from former and current officials of the Obama administration, you would think the Republican party is borderline seditious. President Obama himself regularly castigates Republican motives as un-American. Last week, in a typical tweet aimed at Republican presidential candidates, he said, “Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are.”

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The Democrats’ Boutique Issues

There’s a reason they talk of nothing but climate change.
Dec 07, 2015

When Hillary Clinton announced her opposition to the Keystone pipeline from Canada, she said climate change was the reason. In the first Democratic presidential debate (CNN), Martin O’Malley listed the greatest national security threats to America as nuclear Iran, ISIS, and “climate change, of course.” And in the second Democratic debate (CBS)—it was the day after the Paris terrorist attacks—Bernie Sanders insisted climate change “is directly related to the growth of terrorism.”

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The Threat from ‘Minnesota Men’

Where ISIS goes for American recruits.
Dec 07, 2015

If you get your news from the headlines, you can be excused for thinking that “Minnesota men” pose a special risk of taking up the terrorist jihad at home and abroad. As the Wall Street Journal reported this past April, for example, “U.S. charges six Minnesota men with trying to join ISIS.” The “Minnesota men” featured in such headlines are almost invariably drawn from Minnesota’s swelling population of Somali Muslim immigrants.

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Under the Old Magnolia Tree

A better flag for Mississippi.
Dec 07, 2015

The lowering of the state flag from the campus of the University of Mississippi in October is another salvo in the war over that emblem’s future. Voting 41-1 in the faculty senate, university officers cited many of the arguments—the divisiveness of the symbol, a sea change in public opinion, and a move towards inclusivity—that have characterized the debate over the Confederate battle flag and its offspring since the mass shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17.

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The End-of-Life Bureaucracy

Medicare and advance directives.
Dec 07, 2015

The federal technocracy, like the old B-horror-movie monster The Blob, grows by sucking all surrounding life into its amoeba-like digestive system. There are never enough bureaucratic controls or government programs to “incentivize” us—in the jargon—to behave in ways the technocrats think best.

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Not on My Dime

Time to phase out subsidies for higher education?
Dec 07, 2015

At the University of Missouri, feminist professor Melissa Click cried out “I need some muscle over here!” to expel a reporter from the Concerned Student 1950 protest in a public quad. A more apt encapsulation of what conservatives feel ails academia—identity obsession, rights-curbing, self-righteous bullying—can scarcely be imagined. It’s exactly the kind of thing that might make them cry out for some muscle of their own: someone to force intellectual diversity.

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Everyone’s Least Favorite Aunt

A tale of tort law run amok.
Dec 07, 2015

At first she was the “Aunt From Hell,” with an #AuntFrom-Hell hashtag to match. Jennifer Connell, age 54, had sued her young nephew, Sean Tarala, for $127,000 over an incident at the boy’s eighth birthday party in 2011. Sean had impetuously jumped into Connell’s arms to greet her when she arrived at the party, causing her to fall and break her wrist.

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The Rules Matter

The decline of the GOP establishment and the rise of Trump.
Dec 14, 2015

The Trump phenomenon continues apace, immune to the boorishness and ignorance of its avatar. It does not seem to matter what Donald Trump says or does—he continues to lead the Republican field by a wide margin.

Often overlooked when scrutinizing Trump's dominance are the rules of the Republican nomination process. These are not a sufficient condition for Trump's ascent, but they are certainly a necessary factor. The GOP's rules used to work well for the party because its voters and leaders trusted and respected one another. But this mutual geniality has been replaced with condescension and suspicion, which has created a massive power vacuum for a demagogue like Trump to fill.

The rules of a political institution

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No Longer the Envy of Them All

Can the U.K. military decline be reversed?
Dec 14, 2015

When Britain's Tory-led coalition government issued the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the signal sent to Washington and the rest of the world was that London was in full-scale strategic retreat. The government's priorities were domestic. Getting the country's finances under control was first and foremost, with the result that sweeping cuts were made to defense programs, platforms, and personnel. Dealing with the aftermath of a global recession, difficult missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a vast "black hole" of unfunded defense acquisition programs from the Labour years, it's perhaps no surprise that the 2010 SDSR took on the character that it did.

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The 'Consummate Happy Warrior'

Arizona's freshman governor goes from success to success.
Dec 14, 2015

Phoenix

Doug Ducey's path to the governor's office in Arizona was unforeseen and unlikely. When he was 18 and fresh out of high school, he left his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, and drove to Arizona. He had never been to Arizona and didn't know a single person there. But he had little reason to stay in Ohio. His parents were divorced, and his mother had remarried and moved to Nevada.

Ducey loved Arizona. "It has a West Coast vibe and Midwestern values and work ethic," he says. Ducey worked his way through Arizona State University as the college representative for the local Anheuser-Busch beer distributor. "That was a great company with a great brand and a great culture," he says. Ducey touted Budweiser as "a beverage of

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A Tax that Mainly Adds Complexity

The pitfalls of a VAT.
Dec 14, 2015

There are lots of good reasons for conservatives to cheer when various Republican candidates propose a consumption tax, or a tax on spending as some call it, or, in one of its most used forms, a value-added tax (VAT).

Such a tax would, or potentially could, replace some of the taxes now borne by work and risk-taking. Exports could be exempt, providing them with the same subsidy European and other nations provide their exports. Some consumption taxes are cost-effective for society, such as those that reduce health care costs by inhibiting smoking or reduce costly regulations by taxing pollutants. And it can produce real money for the Treasury (not a virtue say some, who would reduce in tandem taxes now levied on incomes).

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The Reform Next Time

How to fix Social Security and live to tell about it.
Dec 14, 2015

The fact that no one's spending much time discussing Social Security reform in the current presidential election is not necessarily a bad thing; campaigns can be terrible places to have serious discussions. Nevertheless, a few candidates and their advisers have put out vague plans: Senator Bernie Sanders has embraced raising taxes to fund the system's shortfall, either by removing the cap on payroll taxes or by imposing a higher payroll tax rate. The Republican ideas put forth thus far are either politically unworkable or don't come close to actually coping with the extent of the shortfall.

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The Mumbai Parallels

Not the first such attack; probably not the last.
Nov 30, 2015

For those of us who were in Mumbai during the 2008 terrorist attacks there, the bulletins from Paris on Friday night evoked queasy déjà vu. With each shocking addition to the story—drive-by shootings at one crowded restaurant and then another, explosions reported at the other end of town, casualty estimates rising sharply, and then the first social media hints at hostages being calmly slaughtered—the feeling intensified. 

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Paris Letter

An immense spirit of solidarity.
Nov 30, 2015

In the confusion and horror of Paris in shock, the details stay with you. In the bleary early Saturday morning, behind the police barriers, a lone tour bus was still parked on Boulevard Voltaire in front of the Bataclan concert hall, where the Eagles of Death Metal gig had been bloodily interrupted by Daesh terrorists the night before.

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Defending a Civilization

Does France have the strategic reserves?
Nov 30, 2015

After the astonishing German break through the French lines in May 1940, Winston Churchill flew to Paris to meet his French counterpart, Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, and army chief Maurice Gamelin. Reynaud had called Churchill in near-hysterics, but even Churchill wasn’t prepared for the utter despondency he would find amongst the French command. “Où est la masse de manoeuvre?” Churchill asked in his charmingly awful French.

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Killing the Golden Goose

How Walmart’s left-wing critics destroy jobs.
Nov 30, 2015

Under three different CEOs, Walmart has done all kinds of somersaults to appease left-wing critics. In 2005, Lee Scott set goals of “zero waste” and “100 percent” conversion to renewable energy. In 2009, Mike Duke, the next CEO, took on Obamacare—as an outspoken supporter of the unpopular health care bill. This was “a stunning metamorphosis,” the Wall Street Journal declared in a company profile.

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Hillary Clinton, Jarhead?

A rare instance of media skepticism.
Nov 23, 2015

Last week in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton resurrected one of her favorite tales—the story of her unsuccessful effort to join the Marine Corps in the mid-1970s. The account has drawn skepticism over the years, and for good reason. She has offered little to back it up. But it’s the perfect anecdote to illustrate what she’d like people to see as the challenges to her candidacy—sexism and ageism—and so it’s proven irresistible.

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Hollywood Mythmaking

Of whitewashing and blacklisting.
Nov 23, 2015

Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo died in 1976, but Hollywood still hasn’t gotten over its high regard for him. He is the subject of a new movie, Trumbo, that lionizes him as a passionate supporter of the First Amendment and free speech, a true patriot. But that defines Trumbo only in terms congenial to the political culture of the Hollywood left.

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A Man After His Time

René Girard, 1923-2015.
Nov 23, 2015

There was a kind of grandeur about René Girard—a creator of grand theories, a thinker of grand thoughts. Born in France, he spent most of his career in the United States, before slipping away this month, age 91, at his home in California. But to read him, even to meet him, was to feel as though you’d been taken out of time, catapulted back into the presence of one of the capacious minds of the past.

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The Dayton Accords at 20

But there’s little to celebrate.
Nov 23, 2015

The Dayton accords, formally signed in December 1995, have reached their twentieth anniversary. Dayton is commonly portrayed as a “peace agreement” for war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina and an outstanding achievement of Bill Clinton’s administration. The accords were an achievement; the war ended. Yet close scrutiny reveals a shabby aftermath. 

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America and Britain, BFF?

We need to rekindle this relationship.
Nov 23, 2015

At the end of World War II, a gifted young British expert on Russia named Thomas Brimelow—later ambassador to Poland, but at the time reporting from Moscow—ventured that what the Soviet Union respected most about Great Britain was “our ability to collect friends.” Indeed, having allies in this world matters if you want to advance your agenda. Of the many things a new American president will need to do in 2017, one is to begin repairing America’s relations with our key allies. Start with the United Kingdom.

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An Iraqi Abroad

Ahmad Chalabi, 1944-2015.
Nov 16, 2015

Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, my friend Ahmad Chalabi would often carry fat tomes about America’s occupations of Germany and Japan. An Iraqi exile after 1958 who lived mainly in London and Georgetown and maintained an off-and-on, love-hate relationship with Western intelligence agencies, he was blessed with a voracious, curious, and sensitive mind. He had a prodigious memory, too, and was well-schooled beyond mathematics, in which he held a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. But knowledge ultimately failed Chalabi.

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Tough Questions

CNBC’s missed opportunity.
Nov 16, 2015

CNBC defends its performance at the last Republican debate by saying that candidates should be able to answer tough questions. Indeed they should. So, using the format of the CNBC questions to Republicans, here are some tough questions to ask Democrats at the next debate:

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Handicapping Iowa

Don’t look now, the caucuses are less than three months away.
Nov 16, 2015

Sioux City, Iowa
Ben Carson has a simple theory of why he’s risen to the top of the polls in Iowa. “I’ve probably been there more times than anywhere else,” said the retired neurosurgeon just before the October 28 debate in Boulder, Colorado.

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Medicare and Medical Futility

Who decides to discontinue treatment?
Nov 16, 2015

The media are cooing over the news that Medicare will reimburse doctors $86 for half-hour consultations about the kind of treatment patients would—or would not—want should they become incapacitated. Such coverage was slated to be part of Obamacare, but was dropped after it became controversial when Sarah Palin warned against “death panels.” 

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Bayou Voodoo

Zombie helps Louisiana Democrats find new life.
Nov 16, 2015

A year ago, the Louisiana Democratic party seemed as dead as its allegedly habitual voters from New Orleans cemeteries. Yet with a governor’s race quickening to its November 21 conclusion, Republican senator David Vitter is proving the Democrats’ greatest necromancer.

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Our Heroes, Ourselves

A revealing evolution in our highest military honor.
Nov 16, 2015

At a White House ceremony on November 12, President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to retired Army captain Florent Groberg. When the president fastens the medal’s light-blue ribbon behind Groberg’s neck, Obama will be doing more than honoring a single American hero. He will be reaffirming what has become a national commitment to honor a distinctive kind of heroism. Groberg, like other recent recipients of the nation’s highest military honor, risked his life to save the lives of others.

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