The news that Amy Chua, the semi-notorious author of the dual memoir and parenting self-help book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” secured her daughter a Supreme Court clerkship under the tutelage of Justice Brett Kavanaugh is many things, but it is not surprising. America’s meritocratic rulers have grown increasingly brazen in recent years, and using your celebrity to ensure your overachieving offspring ultimately enjoys a lucrative gig in the private sector is less objectionable than, say, the president dragging his progeny along on state visits to pimp their chintzy resorts and bad fashion brands.
In the years leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia spent something on the order of $50 billion to turn the sleepy Black Sea vacation town of Sochi into a glittering destination resort full of high-end amenities, luxury housing, international cuisine, palm trees and promenades. A giant ski resort bloomed across the slopes of the nearby western Caucasus mountains. Western journalists who arrived weeks before the games delighted in posting examples of incompetent (and, by implication, corrupt) building and construction, although many of these—such as a notorious photo of a bathroom stall with two toilets and a single toilet-paper dispenser—were later debunked.
Last week, Ben Shapiro, the conservative commentator whom The New York Times once dubbed “the cool kid’s philosopher,” went on the BBC to promote his new book, “The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great.” There, he faced off against Andrew Neil, a ruddy, prehistoric Scottish Tory and former Rupert Murdoch protégé. The segment quickly went viral.
I cannot bring myself to hate Meghan McCain. What would be the point? She is the natural endpoint of a giddily vacuous celebrity culture, a sort-of famous person who plays a sort-of famous person on TV. She frequently says stupid and hateful things, but they always seem uncalculated, and she is endlessly surprised to find that people disagree with her. (One suspects that the household staff never did, and now that she’s wandered off the compound and into public life, she can’t quite seem to grasp that not everyone is a family retainer.) Like most privileged mediocrities, her sense of moral conviction is perfectly befuddled.
On a Sunday in early April, your favorite grumpy Jewish uncle and mine, Bernie Sanders, opened himself up to a renewed line of attack from those within the Democratic Party (and on the political left more broadly) who feel he is out of touch with issues of race and identity. At a public appearance in Oskaloosa, Ia., a member of the audience asked him about the logistics of so-called open borders, apparently under the mistaken belief that Sanders supported an open borders policy.
In September 2016, the Liberty Bridge in Pittsburgh caught on fire. Originally built in 1928 and last renovated in 1982, the bridge carries more than 50,000 vehicles a day and serves as a main commuter link between the city’s central business district and its populous southern suburbs. Long in a state of questionable repair, it had been an object of particular concern after the spectacular and deadly collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis in 2007. Pennsylvania had—and still has—one of the highest percentages of “structurally deficient” bridges in the nation, and the prospect of a failure of the Liberty Bridge, whose main span is nearly 45 feet above the Monongahela River, was terrifying to contemplate.
There’s something charming and retrograde about the shrieking chorus that erupts online every time a major newspaper or legacy magazine hires some new dumbass to write opinions a few times a week. We all get to pretend that any of this still matters, that it’s not all just whistling into the void in a universe where a functionally illiterate American president gets all his information from a garish morning program, and your 60-something moms and dads receive their news from chain-letter-quality Facebook memes. Even those of us who still peruse the opinion pages can’t remember the last thing we read there. Even those of us who write this stuff are pressed to pretend it’s anything other than more frothy ephemera bobbing on the surface of a vast, rising ocean of content.
The cultural rehabilitation of George W. Bush may be the stupidest thing in America today, including the collective utterances of our current president. The spoiled son of an apparatchik father, Bush was smuggled into the Texas governorship by a combination of his daddy’s friends’ money, the tail-end of the post-Civil Rights realignment of the conservative South as a solidly Republican region, and calling his opponent a lesbian. He became popular, serving up tax cuts, loosening gun restrictions and frequently invoking Jesus Christ as our lord and savior.
More than a decade ago, when he reviewed Harvard curmudgeon Harvey Mansfield’s book, Manliness, Walter Kirn asked: "In just which far-off galaxy has Mansfield set up his telescope to scrutinize the doings of us earthlings?”
Of all the derangements of contemporary American political culture—and there are many—the gormless liberal pursuit of a shapeless Russia conspiracy has got to be the dumbest. Anyone can see the actual outlines of contacts between the Trump family, business organization and campaign (as if there was any meaningful distinction separating the three): the perennially under-capitalized Trump long ago burned most of his bridges to the major organs of American finance and has, for most of the last couple of decades, depended on foreign cash from people and institutions even less concerned with due diligence than our own Wall Street casinos.