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Ukraine Apart

By From the April 2014 issue

In the year of collapse, 1992, Russia was about as bad as it could get. But Ukraine was even worse than that. Here is a small illustration of the difference: When I lived in Moscow (which I did in that era) I always tried to take my vacations in the Soviet sphere. In the summer of 1992, we set out for a week in the Crimea by the Black Sea near Foros—the scene, a year before, of the kidnap of Mikhail Gorbachev. It is a startlingly lovely place, where the high hills slope down to the shore, and it has a kindly climate. It is also part of Ukraine, for tricky historical reasons, despite its population being mainly Russian.
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Giving Graham Grief

By From the May 2014 issue

It’s been a lousy couple years for the Establishment. A subtle (but seismic) shift has taken place. Many Republicans in leadership are now scrambling for grassroots credibility. Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, and others who have become desperate are shadowing  their libertarian junior colleagues. 

Then there’s Lindsey Graham. Of all the incumbents up for reelection this cycle, only he remains untroubled, unrepentant, and seemingly unassailable.

Just to review the record: The senior senator from South Carolina has declared that, “We need to raise taxes to get our nation out of debt.” According to Graham, TARP was “necessary because the whole economy was gonna collapse, and Bernanke, Paulson, and everybody that I know and quite frankly trust, after Lehman Brothers went down that if we had not involved ourselves, quickly, you’d have had a financial meltdown.” 

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The Once and Future King

By From the April 2014 issue

Gutzon Borglum knew what he was doing when he picked the site for the future Mount Rushmore. The area’s 1.6 billion-year-old granite is thought to erode only a single inch every ten millennia. Barring a detonation at the hands of our jihadist foes, the faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt will still look serenely down at future visitors of South Dakota’s Black Hills when the America of the twentieth century is as remote as we are from the pharaoh whom built the first pyramid.

If only our Constitution had been carved out of the same sturdy material. American liberty has not been eroding so much as crumbling away these last five years. Increasingly burdensome and intrusive legislation, persecution (and sometimes prosecution) of political enemies by the executive branch, a swelling national debt: It’s been a bad few years, to say the least. But the biggest threat to the bedrock of our freedom is the presidency itself, the crown government of the almighty chief executive, which is completely at odds with the republican principles of our Founders. 

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The Gospel According to Mark Steyn

By From the May 2014 issue

The debunking of formerly oracular Global Warmer and proto-Gorite Michael Mann should have been a routine matter, conspicuous only for the skill and originality of the polemicist involved—I mean Mark Steyn, of course. To review: Rand Simberg at the Competitive Enterprise Institute published a blog post in which he made the amusing suggestion that Mann

could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.

Steyn, a friend of mine for many years, cited Simberg’s piece in a post for National Review Online and added a shower of causticities of his own:

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Sam Alito: A Civil Man

By From the May 2014 issue

Samuel Alito is wearing a numberless Philadelphia Phillies uniform, standing next to Phillies legend Richie Ashburn, the hittingest batter of the ’50s and a childhood hero of his. He looks happy.

“Back when I was on the Court of Appeals, when I was forty-three, my wife signed me up for Phillies Phantasy Camp,” he tells me. “I never would have done it, but it was a Christmas present.” Phantasy Camp is the aging baseball junkie’s nirvana. For a week, campers train with athletic professionals, drill with former players, square off against one another, and, on the last day, play a game—with real MLB rules—against Philly old timers. Alito, a Little League veteran who has coached his son’s baseball team, says he loved it. Before I can think of a tactful way to broach the subject, Alito begins telling me what it’s like to live with a bunch of white-collar middle-aged guys pretending to be professional athletes. “By the end of the week everybody had pulled their hamstrings,” he says. “The locker room smelled overwhelmingly of Bengay. Nobody could run. Everybody was hobbling.” 

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Why Libs Love Dead Commies

By From the April 2014 issue

The quickest way for a commie asshole to gain weepy fans is to die. This is something I’m willing to accept, as long as it happens regularly.

But it’s no surprise that when someone truly awful dies, the cool break out in reverence. Which is what happened when Hugo Chávez croaked. On that day in March 2013, we saw a parade of misty-eyed celebrities and solemn left-wing hacks paying tribute to a dead guy. Out of the woodwork came a parade of Hugoslavians, tyrant-lovers who could overlook the heathen’s badness for the sake of coolness. See, someone can be truly evil. But if that person runs a country and you know that person well, it makes you kinda cool. It’s better to know Darth Vader than Doris Day. It’s pretty cool to brag that you just shared a burrito with a murderous despot, as opposed to a biscuit with Billy Graham.

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Don’t Eat the Rich!

By and From the April 2014 issue

In America today there is only one group that can be legally discriminated against: the rich and successful. Political rhetoric is increasingly hostile toward those who have climbed the mountain of success. The progressive tax system imposes higher tax rates on the wealthiest Americans and President Obama continues to advocate higher rates because this group “can afford it.” 

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Israel’s Bulldozer

By From the March 2014 issue

When he died at 85 on January 11, Ariel Sharon had already passed from the current concerns of pundits to the more detached reflections of historians. In January 2006, when he was stricken by a massive cerebral hemorrhage, Sharon wasn’t only the prime minister of the state of Israel. The former general was the living symbol of Israeli military power and a master politician who transformed the country’s politics in pursuit of a vision of peace. But at the moment of his death, although the symbol remained, his political achievements had already proved ephemeral.

Sharon’s death evoked two different types of reaction around the world, both of them fundamentally mistaken.

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Obama’s Shop of Horrors

By From the March 2014 issue

Oh lucky, lucky you! You thought when you subscribed to The American Spectator or picked it up defiantly on the newsstand that you were getting merely the omnium gatherum of all the intellectual vibrancy of Western civilization with a few amusing insights thrown in. You never thought you were getting something more, a compendium of High Art. Yet here on the cover of perhaps the last word in quality magazines you find that you have purchased the official White House portrait of our 44th president, Barack Hussein Obama, BA, LLD, and, of course, Nobel Prize laureate. Well congratulations! We send the failed president’s portrait on to you as an added manifestation of how much we admire you for your intellectual independence and for paying what are increasingly becoming inordinately high taxes. 
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Flying Camels, Butterflies, and Twizzles

By From the March 2014 issue

In early January, I attend my very first professional sports competition. The U.S. National Figure Skating Championships have already been going on for four days; the event sprawls over four disciplines and five age categories. I’m at Boston’s TD Garden to watch the senior men, including the two men we’ll be sending to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Sport, like art, uses the limited body to hint at a world without limits. The ball soaring over the stands, the runners churning in their furious personal rhythms, make audiences’ hearts pound because they suggest the transformation of flesh into purpose. Skating is ecstatic—the athletes jump like they’re trying to escape their skins, soar and stretch their limbs impossibly, contort into elbowy whirligigs, all with knives on their feet. The exaggeration of art plus the physical danger of sport.

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