Capitol Ideas

Capitol Ideas

My Day at the United Nations

By From the July/August 2014 issue

It was my first visit to the United Nations building, and no doubt my last. Many times I had seen the forty-story, Le Corbusier-designed flat slab, but never had reason to go there. As we drove by taxi through the East River tunnel to Manhattan, I was reminded that Cuban exiles once launched a bazooka at the building to protest the presence of Che Guevara. That was in 1964—the good old days, one might almost say. The missile fell short and exploded in the East River. Guevara, a left-wing hero, was giving a speech at the time. 

The New York Times reported:

A single shell from the bazooka, a portable rocket launcher used by the Army, arced across the river from Queens and fell harmlessly about 200 yards from the shore. The blast sent up a geyser of water and rattled windows in the U.N. headquarters just as Major Guevara, Havana’s Minister of Industry, was denouncing the United States.

Capitol Ideas

The Divided States of America

By From the April 2014 issue

Dan Balz of the Washington Post strikes me as one of the least biased reporters in the mainstream media. So his lengthy, page-one article at the end of 2013 attracted my attention. It addressed the growing division between the red, mostly conservative, GOP-controlled states, and their blue, mostly liberal, Democrat-controlled counterparts. We are beginning to see not so much a United States as what Balz called “competing Americas”:One is grounded in principles of lean and limited government and on traditional values; the other is built on a belief in the essential role of government and on tenets of cultural liberalism.He found that thirty-seven states today are under unified party control. Republicans hold the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the legislature in twenty-three states; Democrats have full control in fourteen states. In twelve states power is divided between Republicans and Democrats. That leaves Nebraska, with a unicameral legislature and a Republican governor.

Capitol Ideas

Liberalism Versus the Middle Class

By From the May 2014 issue

Ortega y Gasset’s Revolt of the Masses was published in 1930, but don’t be misled—its author was hostile to the masses. They had attained “complete social power,” and he resented that. The masses “neither should nor can direct their own personal existence.”

Fred Siegel’s Revolt Against the Masses (Encounter Books) takes issue with Ortega and can be seen as a belated corrective. A bracing, well-written reinterpretation of liberalism, Siegel’s new book identifies a political trend that has been in place for decades, yet is rarely noticed or mentioned.

It is subtitled “How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class.” Siegel calls them gentry liberals—our equivalent of old-fashioned Tories and every bit as class-conscious. In the 1960s they took up “the priestly task of de-democratizing America in the name of administering newly developed rights.”

Capitol Ideas


By From the December 2013 issue

In 1777, a correspondent told Adam Smith that the British loss at the Battle of Saratoga worried him. “If we go on at this rate, the nation must be ruined,” he said. But Smith was unconcerned. “Be assured, my young friend, that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” Supporting those distant colonies was not an economic proposition anyway. Smith published figures to that effect in The Wealth of Nations (1776). Getting out of what would become the United States was probably the best policy.He knew, in short, that it took more than battles lost or colonies abandoned to ruin a nation. President Obama and the Democrats know that too. But they have a more cynical take on Adam Smith’s adage.Over generations the U.S. has accumulated plenty of capital (and I don’t just mean our assets). Subconsciously, the president and his allies seem to have decided: “Let’s go ahead and spend that capital for our own political advantage.” The country will survive. “Social justice,” meaning equality, is what they say they want.

Capitol Ideas

My Travels in California

By 10.2.13

I spent a couple of nights in Berkeley. That may bring student radicals to mind, but they are long gone. Some of the professors still at the university no doubt filled the bill, but now they hold the whip hand and obedience is what they expect. And receive. A current professor tells me that Berkeley students believe what they’re told. They seem to be mostly female (54%) and/or Asian. I did see one or two blacks, but no more than that, and they looked more African than American. I walked past a couple of open-door classrooms where the students — how absurdly young they look! — sat with pencils poised, ready to take dictation.

My hotel, at the corner of Bancroft and College, close to Boalt Hall Law School, was well situated, and the absence of elevators gave my legs a much needed workout. At breakfast there were two other guests, plus skinny copies of the San Francisco Chronicle. It survives, but barely.

Searching for items which might seem strange to future generations, I came across this. The hotel has “all organic cotton bedding” and “drapery made from recycled soda bottles.” It was an “Alameda County Green Certified business.” So I felt better right away.

Capitol Ideas

The False Alert of Global Warming

By From the May 2005 issue

GLOBAL WARMING BECAME the environmentalists cause celebre in the late 1980s. They had turned on a dime, for only a few years earlier global cooling had been their mantra. They didn't know what had caused that earlier "cooling trend," but its effects were sure to be bad. "The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only in ten years," Newsweek reported in 1975. "The resulting famines could be catastrophic." 

Now warming is the specter, with its melting glaciers, inundated cities, and the Gulf Stream reversing course. But I doubt if the enviros can keep on fomenting the scare much longer. It has been based on little more than extrapolated temperatures and spurious charts. What are the facts? Surface temperature measurements show a global warming period from about 1910 to 1940, followed by a cooling period until 1975. Since then we have experienced a slight warming trend. These three periods add up to a surface-temperature increase of perhaps one-degree Fahrenheit for the entire 20th century.