Putin: Ideological, not Irrational

Last Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”—the breakfast salon of the bien pensant—Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Rick Stengel took on Vladimir Putin. Stengel attempted to explain how Putin’s conduct in Ukraine damages Putin’s own interests. Putin, Stengel told his interlocutor Steven Rattner with an air of frustration, “is making fundamental errors” that would get him in trouble with the Russian people. “He’s moving further away from the West,” Stengel said, at a time when “people want to be closer to the West.” Rattner agreed that Putin is being “irrational.” Isn’t it obvious? Continue Reading »

What Happened to Switzerland

In 2008, bioethicist Yuval Levin in his book Imagining the Future: Science and American Democracy identified a subtle but momentous shift in the philosophical driver of the West:

The worldview of modern science . . . sees health not only as a foundation but also a principal goal, not only as a beginning but also an end. Relief and preservation—from disease and pain, from misery and necessity—become the defining ends of human action, and therefore of human societies.
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Legislative Bullying

Who—in sensitive, civilized America in 2014—could possibly be in favor of bullying? Every decent adult wants students to treat each other with courtesy and respect. So who could oppose attempts to strengthen anti-bullying laws to shield children from the hurtful schoolyard taunts so many . . . . Continue Reading »

The Great War Revisited

In 1936, the British writer Rebecca West stood on the balcony of Sarajevo’s town hall and said to her husband, “I shall never be able to understand how it happened.” It was World War I: the civilizational cataclysm that began, according to conventional chronology, when Archduke Franz . . . . Continue Reading »

Gods and Gopniks

Journalism is the art of translating abysmal ignorance into execrable prose. At least, that is its purest and most minimal essence. There are, of course, practitioners of the trade who possess talents of a higher order—the rare ability, say, to produce complex sentences and coherent . . . . Continue Reading »

So You Believe in “Marriage Equality”? Why Not For throuples?

The story of a female throuple in Massachusetts (with a baby on the way) provides further confirmation, as if any were needed, of the proposition that “ideas have consequences.” Once one has abandoned belief in marriage as a conjugal bond (with its central structuring norm of sexual complementarity) in favor of a concept of “marriage” as a form of sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership (“love makes a family”), then what possible principle could be identified for a norm “restricting” marriage to two-person partnerships, as opposed to polyamorous sexual ensembles of three or more persons? Continue Reading »

Prisoners Are Calling. Who’s Answering?

Prisons, at the very minimum are intended as quarantine; keeping cities and towns safer by removing criminals from their midst. But, in the opinion of one prisoner in Brazil, he’s more at liberty behind bars than out on the streets. Marcos Willians Herbas Camacho told one reporter, “It is you who are afraid of dying, not me. As a matter of fact, here in jail you cannot come in and kill me . . . but I can order to kill you out there.” Continue Reading »

The Conservative Road to Serfdom?

George Will argues that American politics is divided between conservatives, “who take their bearings from the individual’s right to a capacious, indeed indefinite, realm of freedom” and progressives “whose fundamental value is the right of the majority to have its way in making rules about which specified liberties shall be respected.” For Will, real conservatives favor an activist judiciary that will aggressively defend our “capacious, indeed indefinite realm of freedom” from the majority. Continue Reading »