The Current Crisis

The Current Crisis

Personal Liberty and Measles

By 2.4.15

Two potential Republican presidential candidates caused mild palpitations amongst the press corps this week in expressing their misgivings about state-mandated children’s vaccinations. The press’s concern could be a precursor of what Republican candidates might experience in the coming primaries. Ostensibly a mild outbreak in measles is the cause of the journalists’ alarm.

Governor Chris Christie, speaking in the United Kingdom, and Senator Rand Paul, speaking on radio and TV talk shows, expressed their reservations about this public health policy. Christie called for “some balance of choice” between health officials and parents. Paul said most vaccines should be voluntary.

The Current Crisis

Conservatism Is Now Everywhere

By 1.29.15

There is a problem with the Internet. Its commentary is too often dominated by pinheads. H.L. Mencken used to complain that only idiots write letters to the editor. That might have been true of his day—the 1920s and 1930s—but in our time writers of letters to the editor of newspapers and even of websites are occasionally quite well-informed and even lucid. But others, I am afraid, are indeed pinheads, sitting in their underwear back home, foaming at the mouth, believing that the whole world is profoundly interested in their every word, until the authorities arrive at their homes to take them away.

The Current Crisis

Duke University’s Call to Prayer

By 1.21.15

A few weeks back many Americans were understandably perplexed by Duke University’s decision to allow Muslim students to sound the call for Friday prayer (the adan) from the belfry of its famed Chapel tower. After all the Chapel has its roots in Methodism, Duke having been historically linked to the United Methodist Church. Moreover, you would think that the left-wing professoriate that dominates the Duke campus would raise concerns about an old bugaboo, the separation of church and state. Imagine if Catholic students called on Duke to allow Gregorian Chant to be sung from the belfry or Baptist students called upon Duke to allow a weekly sermon of fire and brimstone.

The Current Crisis

Why Are There No Lefties on Talk Radio?

By 1.14.15

This column over the years has been interested in liberalism in a special way, as a coroner is interested in a corpse in a special way. Specifically I have been interested in the pathologies that laid the patient low. What precisely has been the cause of death?

The coroner asks what made a robust fellow a corpse. Was it a remorseless cancer or a tragic accident? Was it Huntington’s disease or something else, possibly, simple alcoholism? In the case of the liberal, the cause of death was almost certainly a massive overindulgence. Simply stated, the liberals attempted too much. They even attempted to solve problems that were not conventionally understood as problems. After all, there were no plausible solutions, for instance, for the elimination of poverty, which in America amounts to relative deprivation, not destitution. How can we solve a citizen’s relative deprivation?

The Current Crisis

The Democratic Party Runs on Empty

By 1.7.15

As the Republicans settle into the House of Representatives and the Senate, with in the House’s case their largest margin in 86 years and in the Senate’s case about as healthy a margin as they could have gained in 2014, the talk in major media is of the Republicans’ many problems. As the Washington Post put it in a front-page headline, “Rancor in GOP flares….” The Democrats should suffer from such “rancor.”

I wonder how the local press is handling the Republicans’ takeover across the nation. Out there in the states the Republicans have gained control of 24 state governments, from the governors’ mansions to the state legislatures. The Democrats have only managed to hang on to similar dominance in seven states, down from 13 in 2014. Any way you look at it, these are palmy times for the Republicans, unless you are looking through the bloodshot eyes of a Democrat or a camouflaged Democrat, say, a member of the press corps.

The Current Crisis

A Night Out With the Clintons and Their Brain Trust

By 12.31.14

It is the end of the year 2014 and the beginning of 2015. Perhaps it is an appropriate time to think about what we are to be confronted with in the presidential year 2016. Ever since the autumn electoral rout of the Democrats we have been confronted by news stories of the looming presidential prospects of Hillary Rodham Clinton and hints about the rise of the presidential prospects of Elizabeth Warren. Only rarely is there a news story about the presidential prospects of the Republicans, though I count more than 25 possible Republican candidates. On the Democrats side we only hear of two, Clinton and Warren.

The Current Crisis

Two Ominous Stories for the New Year From New York City

By 12.24.14

Two news stories, both from New York City, suggest that 2015 may be a grim year, but the grimness might be tinged with whimsy—at least in the second case.

First the grimness, and I write as an American with two proud police officers prominent in my family tree, my great-grandfather and my great-great-grandfather. The first was Frank Tyrrell, for many years the sole survivor of Chicago’s Haymarket Riot. As a youngster wearing short pants and a neatly pressed suit coat I went along with the burly members of the Chicago Police Department to place a wreath on the Haymarket memorial. Incidentally, the Chicago police had to move the memorial indoors after the radical SDS in the early 1970s bombed it a second time. Did our President’s accomplice, Bill Ayers, have a hand in the bombing? We shall wait for the full Obama memoir.

Then, of course, there is my second heroic ancestor, P.D. Tyrrell, an immigrant from Ireland who as a Secret Service officer broke the plot to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body in 1876 and sent the lousy would-be body snatchers to the calaboose. The Tyrrells arrived late in this great country, but growing up we all knew where we stood on the Civil War.

The Current Crisis

Humbug Narratives

By 12.17.14

Will Rogers, the late American humorist and corn-pone philosopher, once said, “All I know is what I read in the papers.” That statement earned him a place in Bartletts’s Familiar Quotations. Were he alive today it would most likely be inviting widespread derision. Today’s newspapers abound with bogus stories. Most of us only know of the stories that are soon exposed. Doubtless there are many more. For instance, news stories of GDP growth or inflation rates usually have to be revised but they are taken at face value when they first appear.

The Current Crisis

The Future of the ‘New Republic’ and Us

By 12.11.14

I should like to pose a question to the overnight press baron, Chris Hughes, who owns the moribund New Republic that he has rendered moribund with astounding speed and no class at all.

My question is an old-fashioned one that might have circulated within the humanities faculty at universities two generations ago. “What,” I would ask, “makes a book more authoritative and satisfying than a news report?” Most of the profs in their tweed jackets and some pulling on their briar pipes would answer that the author of a book has more time to write it than the author of a news story, and the author of a book has more sources to consult and more interviews to conduct. He or she works from more evidence and writes with greater care—at least one would hope. To which today’s slightly crazed neoteric shouts some gibberish about “a vertically integrated digital media company” and leaves the room, preferably with the slam of a door.

The Current Crisis

The Shock of Christmas

By 12.4.14

Alas it is over. I am speaking of the Thanksgiving Day celebration—one of my favorite holidays. It is a serious celebration as we give thanks for our many blessings. Yet it is also a jolly day, full of good food, drink, and sport, perhaps touch football, more likely a televised game. The whole family comes together and, often in the company of friends, has a festive time. Moreover, there is a venerable sense of tradition to the feast that renders the whole holiday somehow reassuring.

However, now comes a time troubled by a deep sense of apprehension, especially for people of faith. I am speaking of the Christmas season. The apprehension begins with how we greet people? Last week it was customary to say “Have a Happy Thanksgiving” or just “Happy Thanksgiving.” I must have intoned that line a hundred times, never with a premonition of giving offense or of introducing an evangelizing spirit into a brief social encounter. “Happy Thanksgiving” might be prefatory to devastating a plump bird, but only the very morbid are offended and they can always munch on a nutrition bar.

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