Category: Feature

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Wednesday’s Child:At the Circus

I’ve spent the whole of last week at the circus.  No, I don’t mean Westminster or Capitol Hill, I mean literally, with a bunch of clowns. Generally speaking, they don’t make clowns these days like they used to.  A few of them have actually gone into politics.  In Italy, what is now the largest political party was founded by one, and I note that another one, in Ukraine, is slated to be the next president. They call themselves comics to lend themselves respectability, but what they really are is tragic clowns.  They play on the popular perception, famously a dramatic...

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College: The Great American Fee-Factory, Part One

Foreword. Back in the 1980s, having had the fascinating experience of sitting on a financial-aid committee, I learned—to my surprise—that colleges no longer awarded endowed scholarships to exceptionally clever applicants; that instead they were offering something called “financial aid packages” to everyone, thus making it obvious to an inquiring mind that intellectual ability had little to do with college admissions. I also discovered that colleges operated in packs or cartels to fix their prices and restrict competition. The piece that follows was the result of my appalled fascination, and since I seem to have anticipated both the dereliction of academic standards...

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 Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass”

Unless you are a seasoned choral singer, lover of choral music or frequent concert goer, you may not know about what H.C. Robbins Landon (a major biographer of the composer) says is “arguably Haydn’s single greatest composition.”

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Two Oinks for Democracy, Conclusion: Dealing with Muslims

Any honest evaluation of US foreign policy over the past 50 years would lead to one conclusion: Any effort to build a stable regime friendly to US interests will have to construct its programs on a population that has some understanding of the West and some institutions—religious or cultural—compatible with our own.  On this basis, we can appreciate at least one of the reasons why we have chosen Israel, for all the troubles this special relationship has cost us, to be the focus of our influence in the Middle East: Israel is a European colony in the Arab and Muslim...

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Generations of Impotence, Conclusion: The Cruelty of Nerds

Like so many modern American males, the Marquis de Sade was incapable of taking pleasure in the ordinary things of life.  Morally and intellectually feeble, he wallowed in fantasies of sexual violence.  The history of civilization might be written as a series of social inventions for the proper application of violence: boxing matches, duels, warfare.  When civilizations die, men cannot fall back on the killer instincts of barbarians who control their violence.  They are like the jackdaws studied by Konrad Lorenz:  Not genetically programmed to fight and kill, they do not have the ritual off-switch to stop violence, once it...

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The Problem With Movies

Not too long ago I would have seen two or three of the five movies up for best picture at the Academy Awards, and heard something about the others. This year, as in most recent years, I haven’t seen any of the nominees, now inflated to eight, although I do recognize a couple from ads or the minor controversies they started in our PC-obsessed so-called culture. I also used to go to one or two movies a month. But I stopped doing that maybe 15 years ago. It isn’t that I watch them on TV now; I don’t even have...

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Ideology: Unreason, Antifaith, Part Two

When people vote their pocketbooks, as they often do, they are giving some color to Marx’s more down-to-earth definition of ideology as a set of ideas concocted to advance the interests of a social class.  The creed of classical liberalism—low taxes, free trade, individual liberty–is the ideology of the well-to-do bourgeoisie, while socialism is the ideology of those who expect to be dependent upon government largesse: schoolteachers, promiscuous young women, and the politicians and public servants, who have so nobly given up brilliant careers in the private sector because they wished to serve the people.  No one claims the ideal...

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Ideology: Unreason and Anti-Faith, Part One

What the GOP needs, “Conservatives” tell us, is a sharper ideological focus that will give greater prominence to the vast reservoir of “Conservative”  “ideas.”  If only the “Conservatives” were simply joking, if only they were entirely cynical about the war of words between the two parties, one might have some hope for a restoration of political sanity in this poor country.

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Abortion Issue Would Win Minorities for Republicans

Several conservative commentators have noted how the Mainstream Media have given more attention to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam appearing in blackface in college yearbook three decades ago than to his proposal to allow infanticide. It also was creepy how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo led cheering legislators as they passed a radical abortion law, which reminded me of Pandemonium in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”: A Dungeon horrible, on all sides round As one great Furnace flam’d, yet from those flames No light, but rather darkness visible Serv’d onely to discover sights of woe, Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And...