The mass drowning of eight or nine hundred—nobody knows precisely—illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean last Sunday triggered a lot of commentary about these boat people, most of it stupid. Here are some of the grosser stupidities. They’re just seeking a better life. Who isn’t? I guess there are some Lotus eaters among us who are... Read More
Soon after Barack Obama’s November 20th amnesty announcement, I was having an e-discussion about it with a friend, a legal scholar. The precise topic of the discussion was the Los Angeles Times op-ed on citizenship by Peter Schuck, a different legal scholar. Prof. Schuck mentions “birthright citizenship.” Should the U.S.-born children of illegal aliens be... Read More
A vote for Fortress America.
So how are you doing at keeping up with events in MENA (the Middle East and North Africa)? Can the new Iraqi government get some kind of military act together? Will the Kurds hold on to Kobani, that Syrian city under siege by ISIS? Will the big guys in the neighborhood—Iran, Israel, Turkey, the Saudis—get... Read More
Hong Kong, in long historical perspective.
History is full of strange folds, wrinkles, and repetitions. Consider for example the following true story. There was once a great empire of the despotic-bureaucratic sort. It had enjoyed centuries of glory; but at last came corruption, political paralysis, foreign incursions, and fragmentation. As the empire entered its long decline, a much smaller nation of... Read More
If there is hope for England, it lies with the separatists.
An opinion journalist is expected to take a stand on newsy issues, even ones he doesn’t much care about. This is especially so when the issue relates to the British Isles and the journalist podcasts with a British accent; to be precise in my particular case, a mid-20th-century educated-lower-lower-middle-class East Midlands accent. So, all right,... Read More
… to politics in a postindustrial society.
Wednesday this week marks the 25th anniversary of the Chinese army’s retaking Tiananmen Square from anti-regime protestors, an event known to Chinese by the date as “6/4.” The first thing to be said about this is that if, like me, you welcome summer by reading a good thick middlebrow novel, here’s just the thing. Not... Read More
Gerry Adams helps police with their inquiries.
One summer’s day 32 years ago, during a spell of employment at the U.K. offices of Marathon Oil Corp. in London’s Marylebone Road, I was taking lunch at a nondescript greasy spoon near those offices when from the near distance there came an almighty THUD. Startled, I looked across at the proprietor of the place,... Read More
You remember Caligula. John Hurt played him with creepy malignity in the old BBC production of I, Claudius. Caligula was the third emperor of Rome on a strict count (which doesn’t include Julius Caesar), the fourth of the Twelve Caesars written up by the historian Suetonius. At age 24 Caligula succeeded his great-uncle Tiberius, the... Read More
And can China get along fine without it?
So where are we with this democracy business? Last time I brought it up I left you with Robert A. Heinlein’s time traveler: It’s not clear that American democracy, as it has developed to the present, really is so wonderful. One of our big political parties somehow manages to market itself as the party of... Read More
I was slow on the uptake in understanding Chinese communism’s awfulness. I’d been a lefty in my student days without knowing anything much about China. Toward the end of those days, female Chinese author Han Suyin published A Crippled Tree, an account of her parents’ lives in early 20th-century China written from a standpoint of... Read More
It's a world-wide phenomenon.
The war between the sexes is fought on many fronts, some of them very far away. There’s a report from one of those fronts in the January 2013 issue of The China Journal. The writer is Katherine A. Mason, billed as “Lecturer in Health and Societies in the Department of History and Sociology of Science... Read More
Voting for the next generation.
OK, so I did vote after all, my lofty apathy indifference of three weeks ago notwithstanding. It was my son that sent me off to the polling booth. Danny Derbyshire has for years had his heart set on joining the Army. A high-school senior, he encountered a recruiter back in September, and the recruiter reeled... Read More
A detailed report in The New York Times tells about a hearing taking place in the Russian Parliament emphasizing alleged American human-rights violations. Among the featured abuses are the American practices of waterboarding suspected terrorists, historical abuse of minorities, and the mistreatment of Russian orphans or abandoned children adopted by American parents. It seems that... Read More
Who will own the 21st century?
Which nation will own the 21st century? The leading candidates are the USA and China. Few people would admit any others into the competition, but I’d be a tad more careful. History takes some odd turns. Who in the year 612 AD would have prophesied that the 7th century would belong to the Arabs? To... Read More
In his recent syndicated column “A U.N. for the good guys,” Jonah Goldberg evokes the mindset of seventeenth-century puritanism. This is entirely understandable. Much of what the American left teaches, including its neoconservative element, resembles American Calvinism—albeit in a warmed-over form. In Puritan New England, Congregationalists—the only authorized communicants—were deeply troubled that unredeemed polluted their... Read More
Dial 1 for Russian? I don't think so.
The thing you notice, walking around central Moscow, is the Russians — I mean, the near-total absence of non-Russians. There is, of course, a tourist element. Appearance is not much to go by here; but I can recognize — not necessarily understand, but recognize — most of the world's major languages by ear, and Chinese... Read More
Macbeth knew what would be coming to him once his domestic enemies had the upper hand. He decided to go down fighting. The Roman dictator Sejanus was not given that opportunity. Sejanus had taken power in Rome when Tiberius, the official emperor, decided that playing with his tiddlers in Capri was more fun than ruling.... Read More
9/11: a date between 9/10 and 9/12
"What will you do to commemorate 9/11? The 'I Will' campaign has thrown out the question and people from around the country, including a few celebrities, have answered." That's from the news website The Inquisitr [sic]. I'm pretty sure I don't count as a celebrity to anyone but my dog. With the tenth anniversary of... Read More
Not so much a Wirtschaftswunder as a Staatskunstswunder.
You think the 2012 Republican field is lackluster? Check out these party animals. The "party" in that last sentence is of course the Chinese Communist Party. The gents in the picture are the Standing Committee (changwu weiyuanhui, lit. "everyday affairs committee") of the Central Politburo (zhongyang zhengzhiju, lit. "central political bureau") of the CCP. They... Read More
Do you know anything about Yemen? No, me neither. Hang on, let me do a little checking at the CIA World Factbook. Here we go. Size: a tad bigger than Spain. Mostly desert, only 2.9 percent arable land. Population: 24 million plus, squinched in between Taiwan and North Korea in the world rankings. Total fertility... Read More
Terrorism and self-determination.
Sometimes you write a column just so you can for ever after refer people to it. "Oh, that subject/point/complaint/theory/argument? I tackled/countered/responded to/exploded/demolished that back in July '11 — here's the link." Well, this is one of those. Back in — heaven help me! — 1999 I wrote a column for the Weekly Standard about Uighurs.... Read More
Mention of Libya always makes me think of Joe Orton, I'm sorry to say. Does anyone remember Joe Orton? Well, the people maintaining that website clearly do, though mainly it seems as a "gay icon," a thing Orton would have hated. He was actually a British playwright briefly famous in the mid-1960s. He died at... Read More
Last week was the 70th anniversary of the Café de Paris bombing. This was during the London Blitz of 1940-41. By March of the latter year most Londoners had learned to take shelter underground when the air-raid sirens went off. Among the capital's young moneyed swells and débutantes, however, there was an element who were... Read More
The world beyond our shores seems to be entering a zone of instability. Five years from now we may be looking back nostalgically at the decades 1980-2010 as an age of blessed tranquility when unsightly but skillful autocrats like Mubarak (Egypt), Gaddafi (Libya), Ben Ali (Tunisia), Saleh (Yemen), and the monarchs of the Gulf kept... Read More
The new Internet?
This week's state visit of Hu Jintao, China's "president" — I would prefer to say "head apparatchik," since "president" implies an elected position, which is not the case — has fired off another round of China-up? / China-down? speculation in the press. In the present climate of American national foreboding, the speculation comes paired with... Read More