Recent news reports indicate that President Donald Trump and his administration are investigating the Special Counsel and planning attacks on him and the lawyers in his office. If these stories are true, it would be easy to consider them examples of the excesses of Donald Trump, who has chosen not to live by the ordinary rules that govern Washington politicians. If Trump has criticized so many others, then why not the Special Counsel as well? But that understanding of these attacks is likely to be mistaken. Sure President Trump would be more prone to such attacks than other Presidents. But there…
Archives for July 2017
A market that rewards victims generates demand for offenses, so it is scarcely surprising that Nancy MacLean, author of an intellectual biography of James M. Buchanan, feels offended. This is the essence of her answer to charges that she distorted evidence, made scurrilous yet unsupported accusations (as I pointed out in my review for Law and Liberty), and generally wove a conspiracy theory under the banner of scholarship.
Some of the most amazing things about Dunkirk, the lauded new movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan, are the things that are not in the film. Dunkirk dramatizes what was considered at the time a massive failure — the 1940 evacuation of 300,000 British troops from France at the beginning of World War II. In Dunkirk the film there’s no cute, sarcastic hero like in American action films (Christopher Nolan is British). There are no lingering torture scenes, a specialty of American sadist Quentin Tarantino. Indeed, the faces of the villains in Dunkirk — the German forces — are never seen. There are no ridiculous stunts that defy physics and common sense. There’s very little Computer Graphics Images, the gleaming special effects technology that makes so many modern films look like plastic. There’s no happy ending, but there is an astonishing, tear-inducing climax that is one of the best defenses of the West and freedom ever committed to film. These omissions, along with rich cinematography, the brilliant use of music, terrific actors and a general tone of understatement combine to make Dunkirk—a story of survival and stirring patriotism in the face of evil—a truly great film.
Chris Eisgruber, the President of Princeton University, recently expressed concern that universities are perceived “right or wrongly, as blue dots” in a politically divided America and thus said that universities must be concerned with political diversity. Some other university leaders have also cautiously suggested that the academy may put out the welcome mat for the right. Nevertheless, there is reason for doubting that political diversity will be increased or discrimination against conservatives and libertarians ended in the elite university setting. The causes of political imbalance and of discrimination are entrenched and are unlikely to change soon.
Father Arne Panula breathed his last this past Wednesday, at the all-too-young age of 71. May the Good Lord protect him. Father Arne directed the Catholic Information Center in Washington. He was my spiritual advisor, and lots of much better people sought and benefitted from his counsel. (One day I showed up for my monthly consultation... and who should waltz out of Father Arne’s office, but one of my priests from St. Mary’s in Alexandria.) With no visible effort, he turned the CIC into a spiritual, intellectual, and social haven for a ton of folks, many of us in politics and…
The idea of the “marketplace of ideas” in which truth wins out through competition with error has a strong tradition in the U.S. Suggested in nascent form by Milton and Mill, US Supreme Court decisions appeal to it in free speech decisions, and it frequently appears in commentary and everyday conversations. It continues to hold axiomatic status in the U.S., at least outside of a set of college campuses.
Simone Veil, the French politician most responsible for the passage of the law to legalise medical termination of pregnancy in France, died recently at the age of 87 in what I would be tempted to call, if France were not so militantly secular a country, the odour of sanctity. She was incontestably a redoubtable woman, a survivor of the German camps to which she was deported at the age of 16; but the effects of the law that she so assiduously promoted soon escaped her control and went far beyond its original intentions, as so many reformist laws are inclined to do. Very few reformers, however, ever take this tendency into account, perhaps because, for many of them, reform is the whole purpose and meaning of their lives.
By the time the refugee crisis of 2015 came to dominate the European press, the unfolding catastrophe and its historical echoes could not be dissociated from two interrelated concerns felt across the Continent, to speak of which had long been tendentious: immigration and Islam. What might ordinarily have been an opportunity for Europe to reaffirm its liberal values and humanitarian instincts proved instead a stark indication that the facts had changed—and many minds had changed, too.
One argument often made against taking significant actions against terrorism is that the number of people killed or injured by terrorism is, by comparison with other causes, extremely small. So even 9/11, which resulted in the death of nearly 3000 people, was a mere fraction of the approximately 35,000 people who die every year from car accidents. The idea seems to be that we should be spending much less money on preventing terrorism, perhaps no more per life saved than we do for each life saved from car accidents. That we do not do this suggests a severe innumeracy of…