NYT smear logic: If you mention the name of a fascist, just once, you must support fascism.
The Washington political establishment has ways of dealing with invading rebel armies like the one led by Donald Trump. For the last month, there has been a collective glee in pointing out the chaotic rollout of the White House’s executive order on travel, its contradictory messaging, and the unpredictability of Trump’s Twitter activity. All of... Read More
Have three decades of Supreme Court support for affirmative action been based on fraud?
For almost 35 years, college-admissions decisions in America have been governed by the continuing legacy of University of California v. Bakke, in which a fragmented U.S. Supreme Court struck down the use of racial quotas but affirmed the legitimacy of considering race as one factor among several. The justices are now revisiting these crucial national... Read More
Sweeping up after the election.
It is traditionally said that after the Lord Mayor’s Parade come the guys with brooms and shovels to clear the pavement of whatever the parade horses may have bestowed upon it. Well, the election’s over, and here I come with broom and shovel to see if there’s anything instructive to be found in the droppings.... Read More
Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe, by George Dyson
This year marks the centenary of British mathematician Alan Turing, whose researches in the unlikely and very abstruse field of mathematical logic did much to create the world in which we now live. In 1936 Turing published a paper titled "On Computable Numbers" in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. The paper received almost... Read More
Review of the fiscal situation
"In Berlin the situation is serious but not desperate; in Vienna, the situation is desperate but not serious." This quip was heard around Central Europe in the closing days of both world wars, but certainly predates 1918. Political Scientist Paul Gottfried, my go-to guy on matters Mitteleuropäisch, thinks it originated with one of the late-Hapsburg... Read More
Remembering a brave soldier
Here is a story from World War Two. The place is the island of Crete; the date, May of 1941. The Wehrmacht was busily occupying Greece. The British expeditionary force in that country, overwhelmed, was being evacuated. Some of the Allied troops were moved to Crete, to fortify the rudimentary defenses of the place. They... Read More
Bidibidobidiboo and other art objects.
The first thing I saw on entering the atrium of the Guggenheim was a horse suspended in a sling ten feet above the ground. The sling went under the belly of the beast (as it were), leaving its head, legs, and tail drooping down dolefully. A great many other things were also suspended from the... Read More
Russia, imagined and real.
I have just spent a week in Moscow with Mrs. Straggler at the invitation of a Russian foundation. Neither of us had been in Russia before. It was a working trip, with very little time for sightseeing, and that only in central Moscow. It was, though, in a perfunctory way, an opportunity to compare the... Read More
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker
In this, his most ambitious book to date, Steven Pinker describes, and attempts to explain, a curious historical phenomenon: the decline in all kinds of violence among human beings, from pre-civilized times to the present. The first thing one wants to ask is: Has there actually been such a decline? Given the tremendous wars and... Read More
I am ill-read.
"Should I read Thomas Mann?" Miss Straggler wanted to know. She has enrolled in some sort of freshman Western Lit. course at college, and keeps coming up with these questions. What to say? I have never, to my knowledge, read a single word Thomas Mann ever wrote, though I did sit through that sappy Dirk... Read More
Thus the founder of this magazine, writing in these pages, issue dated November 19, 1955. Bill Buckley was famously a man of many, many words. He had, I mean, more words at his disposal — there in his head, ready to use — than most of us have. That "supererogation" is characteristic. Bill used the... Read More
While I still can
We do ever more of our shopping online, I am told. The printed book is facing extinction, I am also told. The U.S. Postal Service is in dire straits, I am further told. Taken together, these facts imply, along of course with much else, that the big, printed, mail-delivered store catalog may soon be at... Read More
The lost souls of consumer culture.
Also shoes, skirts, dresses, blouses, lingerie, jeans, and sportswear. Jewelry, too; fine leather and luggage; housewares and home furnishings. Kipling's soldier didn't know the 'alf — sorry, half — of it. We had been visiting with friends in upstate New York. Now we were driving home. The first hundred miles was delightful: lovely scenery, clear... Read More
Will your breakfast newspaper meet the News of the World in oblivion?
The newspaper, in the sense of news actually printed on actual paper, is clearly in its last days. The content of a newspaper can be delivered online at far lower cost than is required by investment in printing plants and equipment, fleets of delivery vans, labor, paper, and ink. With fewer people buying the paper... Read More
There has never been a good time to be an honest writer in Communist China, but the present is an exceptionally bad time. Spooked by the "Arab Spring" and jostling for position in next year's scheduled leadership changes, the Party bosses have been coming down hard on every kind of independent thinking. The cases of... Read More
Confessions of a book amasser.
Miss Straggler, just graduated from high school and with time on her hands, came home the other day with two boxes of second-hand books on the back seat of the car. "Found them outside Book Revue," she explained, naming the local independent bookstore. "There was a sign saying to please take them." The books were... Read More
I visit Turkey.
It is always fun to gather first impressions of a foreign country. Turkey is, John O'Sullivan had explained to me, "upper-tier Third World." That seems about right. The Third World-itude exhibits itself at once in the streets. The Turks' own quip about their driving skills is: "In other countries people die by accident; here in... Read More
The fragility of civilization.
Winter conducted a fighting retreat this year, one last storm bringing down our cable service. That left us without TV, Internet, or house phones. When we signed up for this threefold package a couple of years ago, Mrs. Straggler observed that we should soon be getting our food and water from the cable-service provider. With... Read More
The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance, by Jim...
I used to attend regularly at an office of the New York City government to transact some business with a very pleasant young female African American city employee. On the wall of her office was a poster listing, in quite small print, all the scores of inventions and discoveries that, according to the poster, African... Read More
I become a client of the welfare state.
There is a school of psychology called Situationism that pooh-poohs the notion of individual character. This line of thought began with some experiments by Stanley Milgram of Yale University in the early 1960s. By manipulating his test subjects' conformism and respect for authority, Milgram was able to get ordinary pleasant people to give near-lethal 450-volt... Read More
The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, by David Brooks
If the proper study of mankind is man, it has taken a remarkably long time to get that study on a truly scientific footing. From the founding of the Royal Society to the present has been more than 350 years, yet only in the last 50 of those years have quantified, replicable results about human... Read More
Brace for the big commemoration
It starts! January 20th, the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's inauguration, passed with little comment, so far as I could judge. Then the public-sector unions of Wisconsin began demonstrating against Governor Walker's bill to cut back their collective-bargaining powers. Propagandists for the unions were keen to remind us that it was John F. Kennedy... Read More
Learning to talk Turkey.
Until very recently the only thing I knew how to say in Turkish was the proverb Nerede çokluk, orada bokluk, which means (I shall bowdlerize slightly) "Where there are people, there is dung." I had learned this by the most random kind of chance. Many years ago I was living in a rooming house in... Read More
Amy Chua, who is a law professor at Yale University, has a new book out: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The book describes the parenting methods Professor Chua employed when raising her two daughters, now aged 18 and 14. An extract published in the January 8 Wall Street Journal caused a small sensation. Within... Read More
I fill a hole.
One of our township's very few claims to fame, perhaps the only one, arises from its cesspools. The Wikipedia article headed "cesspool" devotes an entire paragraph to Huntington. In numbers of people sucked down into collapsing old cesspools, we lead the nation. There were three deaths just this past decade. The Straggler family avoided this... Read More