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Who Was Dalton Trumbo, Screenwriter and Stalinist?

By 1.6.15

Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical
By Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo.
(University of Kentucky Press, 640 pages, $36)

One of the dangers for a biographer, particularly when his subject shares the same ideology, is to display his love for him. This temptation is never more true for the Cold War Left and New Left than with regard to Dalton Trumbo — the author of the anti-war classic, Johnny Got His Gun, and the screenwriter who singlehandedly broke the blacklist.

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Main Street U.S.A.

There’s More to Life Than Politics

By 1.6.15

Politicians do politics because they can’t help it. It’s what they do: their whole reason for existence. A public man — or woman — can no more help legislating and campaigning and back-scratching and log-rolling and fundraising than — than what? Than a writer on politics can stop bloviating and prophesying. I state the comparison with a degree of shame. We’re all in this together — politicos and pundits. We love the game, and that’s too bad, for everybody.

These reflections come to mind on account of the Great Political Repositioning now underway in Washington due to Republican takeover of the Senate and the opportunity to stick it, after all these years, to the president. You can tell from the purity tests going around how deep is the exasperation — left and right — with what the last six years have produced.

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Play Ball

My Ten Picks for Cooperstown’s Class of 2015

By 1.6.15

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) will soon announce the results of their members’ vote on who will be welcomed into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this July. For a player to be inducted, he must earn 75 percent of the vote. Last year, Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio fell two votes shy of joining Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas in the induction ceremony in Cooperstown.

BBWAA members can vote for up to 10 players. It used to be that players could remain on the ballot for up to 15 years as long as they garnered at least 5 percent of the vote. However, last summer, the Hall of Fame announced that the eligibility period has been reduced to 10 years. The old rule was grandfathered for Alan Trammell, Lee Smith, and Don Mattingly, who have already been on the ballot for more than 10 years. Mattingly is in his final year of eligibility.

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Political Hay

The Scalise Mess and the GOP Insider Culture

By 1.6.15

(Editor's note: This article has been corrected.)

Shocker. The GOP establishment has dropped the ball. Again. Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, has attracted to himself and his party the charge of racism. The charge is bogus. Yet the fact is that Mr. Scalise brought this on himself for hanging in the presence of Kenneth Knight, a top aide to the one-time Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Knight also contributing $1,000 to Scalise’s campaign.

Now making the news is a poll, featured over there at Heritage’s Daily Signal, that reveals a stunning lack of confidence by the GOP base in Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. That poll — and Scalise’s problem — are merely different sides of the same mess. Each man has illustrated vividly that he is, at the core, about wielding power and influence in Washington.

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The Public Policy

The ‘Equality’ Racket

By 1.6.15

Some time ago, burglars in England scrawled a message on the wall of a home they had looted: “RICH BASTARDS.”

Those two words captured the spirit of the politicized vision of equality — that it was a grievance when someone was better off than themselves.

That, of course, is not the only meaning of equality, but it is the predominant political meaning in practice, where economic “disparities” and “gaps” are automatically treated as “inequities.” If one racial or ethnic group has a lower income than another, that is automatically called “discrimination” by many people in politics, the media, and academia.

It doesn’t matter how much evidence there is that some groups work harder in school, perform better, and spend more postgraduate years studying to acquire valuable skills in medicine, science, or engineering. If the economic end results are unequal, that is treated as a grievance against those with better outcomes, and a sign of an “unfair” society.

The rhetoric of clever people often confuses the undeniable fact that life is unfair with the claim that a given institution or society is unfair.

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The Environmental Spectator

Naughty and Nice

By 1.5.15

Inserting a bit of progressive politics into the holidays, the New Yorker magazine ended 2014 with an issue that included “Climate-Change Christmas Carols.”

Here’s an example (more depressing, I thought, than inspired, pointing toward mass starvation): “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, the heat wave brutal and spiteful. Our crops have no water to grow – let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

Another, even more gloomy, sounds more like North Korea than the United States in terms of resource scarcity: “Frosty the snowman, may he rest in peace, poor soul. With his melted nose and his melted mouth, and two eyes made out of coal. Frosty the snowman, did you say his eyes were coal? Can you pass that coal? We could use some coal. Let us rob his grave for coal.”

Jesus gets a small mention in this next one, a plea for precipitation to help with the calamity of rising and falling temperatures and deficiencies in rainfall: “Looks like the heat wave ain’t stoppin’, our dust-storm coughs are a-whoppin’. All fish went extinct long ago — for the love of sweet Christ, let it snow.”

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The Right Prescription

Obamacare: The Real Pain Starts This Year

By 1.5.15

Obamacare was designed such that its most harmful provisions would not be implemented until after the President had been returned to office for a second term and his Democrat accomplices had been reelected to their congressional seats. Fortunately for the nation, the latter part of that strategy was a spectacular failure. Nonetheless, it did provide the public with a temporary reprieve from the health care law’s most painful exactions. That brief respite is now at an end. This year, you will begin to experience the realities of “reform” first hand and you are not going to like how it feels.

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The C.S. Lewis Spectator

‘The Great Divorce’ Between Heaven and Hell

By 1.5.15

A few years ago good friends of ours introduced us to the New York-based Fellowship for Performing Arts (FPA), which performedC. S.  Lewis’s classic The Screwtape Letters here in Washington.  It was a great production, imaginatively staged, but now eclipsed by its recent, outstanding rendition of Lewis’s The Great Divorce

“Our challenge was to turn a complex theological fantasy into an accessible stage adaptation that entertains and provokes lively discussion,” said FPA founder and Artistic Director Max McLean.

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Special Report

Faust’s Networks: Why the Sony Kill Is Not the Last

By 1.5.15

Modern societies run on a set of networks whose hardware and software represent a modern technology Faustian bargain: achieve unparalleled efficiencies of economic cost and social interconnection at the price of equally unparalleled exposure to several forms of catastrophic “cascade” failure.

Specifically, the hardware and software infrastructures that enable prosperous modern life in advanced societies are relatively simple—and hence increasingly tempting—high-value targets for our enemies. Portents of what we face now have been largely ignored for decades.

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Ben Stein's Diary

My Magical Aunt Pearl

By 1.5.15

When I was a child, my Aunt Pearl, Pearl Weiss, was a glamorous figure. She was my father’s younger sister, about four years younger than Pop. She had shared his hard times during the Great Depression and before and had folded newspapers for his delivery route. But when I knew her, in the last 1940s and 1950s, she was rich. Her husband, Davey Weiss, co-owned a meat packing company in Schenectady. He made real money, sixty thousand a year or more in the 1940s, when that was a fortune.

She lived in a colonial style house on a simply beautiful street called Central Parkway in Schenectady. Pearl always was dressed dashingly, had live in help, and had a cool car. I remember in particular that she had what I recall as a sky blue Buick Skylark the first year they came out in the mid 1950s. It had leather upholstery and power window and seats… a far cry from our modest Chevrolet with its crank windows and cloth seats.

Once, and once only, in 1950, our family drove down to Miami Beach for a winter vacation. We stayed in a modest hotel called “The Billows.”

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