The New Republic, Marty Peretz, Lando Calrissian
December 16th, 2014

We’ve got two interesting pieces this week about the end of the New Republic, one from Ryan Lizza, the other from John Judis. If you want to read my long thoughts on the subject, they ran in last week’s newsletter, here. The short version is that what worries me is that this may be a generational problem, and not just a New Republic problem.

In other words: Millennials < Boomers?

Now there’s a frightening thought.

Moving on, what struck me most in these two post mortems is a little nugget from Judis in which he mentions that he and owner Marty Peretz were not on speaking terms, owing to their widely divergent views on Israel. Think about that for a moment.

In many of the pieces lamenting the demise of TNR people have gone out of their way to qualify their praise by noting what a terrible, awful human being Marty Peretz was/is. Max Fisher at Vox called him “monstrous.”

Yet Peretz was broad-minded enough that he employed, for years, someone to whom was diametrically opposed on what was, to him, the central political issue of his time. He was so opposed to Judis’ views on Israel that he wouldn’t talk to him, but he continued to pay his salary because he thought that Judis’ talents made him, on balance, an asset to the magazine.

That’s amazingly tolerant and is the kind of forbearance that we ought to celebrate in an owner. The fact that he has been, instead, condemned, tells you an awful lot about the rigidity of today’s liberalism.

One other note: Up until the Lizza and Judis pieces appeared, Richard Just had been TNR’s George Lazenby–the editor completely ignored in accounts of What Went Wrong. I don’t quite understand why that is. To my eyes, the TNR Just put out was a better magazine than any of the other versions in my time in Washington. Substantively better than Sullivan’s TNR; light years better than the Beinart TNR; and a little bit better than Foer’s. Add to that the fact that we now know that Just was the first person inside the New Republic to understand who and what Chris Hughes was–and that he tried to stop him.

In a way, Richard Just is a bit like the New Republic’s Lando Calrissian: He made an arrangement with the Dark Side under duress in order to preserve his city in the clouds. You can practically hear the exchange:

Just: You said they’d be left at the city under my supervision!
Hughes: I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.

I wonder why Just hasn’t been praised for his prescience and recognized as the first guy to get screwed by Hughes.

“Virtues” in the Washington Post
December 11th, 2014

Michael Dirda very kindly suggests The Seven Deadly Virtues as one of the books to give this Christmas:

The Seven Deadly Virtues (Templeton, $24.95), edited by Jonathan V. Last. While this is professedly a volume of comic essays by 18 conservative writers, even a hard-core lefty would enjoy Joe Queenan on thrift, Christopher Buckley on perseverance, Rita Koganzon on honesty, Mollie Hemingway on charity, James Lileks on hoarding and similar match-ups, starting with an introductory piece on the “The Seven Deadly Virtues and the New York Times” by P.J. O’Rourke.

Best Redskins Moment Ever?
December 8th, 2014

From Tom Boswell this morning:

After the game, outside his locker room, I asked Gruden if he was surprised by this cankerous atmosphere. After thinking a few seconds, he said, “It wasn’t like this in Cincinnati.”

I want that on a T-Shirt for Christmas.

Unbelievably awesome.

The New Republic
December 5th, 2014

I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about Chris Hughes and the New Republic. But for now, this list of TNR resignations is notable not for who is on it, but for who isn’t:

Who seems to be the only TNR writer staying on? Brian Beutler. Welcome to the new New Republic.

The Good Ferguson
December 4th, 2014

As I’ve mentioned before, the Michael Brown – Darren Wilson case in Ferguson is not particularly helpful to anyone’s cause. The anti-police contingent did no one any favors by resorting to riotous mob behavior. And Wilson seems to be a bad cop who managed a situation poorly and escalated it, rather than defusing it–even if the final act, the killing of Brown, seems to have been within the realm of justifiable use of deadly force. Surveyed from afar, it makes you wish we could have another case around which to base our discussion of race, crime, and police behavior.

Sadly, but helpfully, we do now that a New York grand jury has chosen not to indict the cop who choked Eric Garner to death. See John Podhoretz and Sean Davis, both of whom have smart pieces on the case. Because the Garner case is clear enough that we could expand the discussion from not just race and the police, but to the entire criminal justice system. Here’s Davis on the problem with grand juries:

So an officer used a banned practice that is known to lead to the deaths of people who are subjected to it? That certainly seems to satisfy the second condition of a second-degree manslaughter charge. And again, I have to stress that the entire incident was caught on tape. The evidence is unequivocal. And yet, no indictment.

Why, it’s almost as if the grand jury system is just a convenient means for prosecutors to get the outcome they want wrapped in a veneer of due process. Want to indict a ham sandwich? Consider it indicted. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted for vetoing a spending bill, but a New York prosecutor can’t indict an officer who killed another man in an incident that was completely captured on video? Come on.

John Edwards was right: there are Two Americas. There’s an America where people who kill for no legitimate reason are held to account, and there’s an America where homicide isn’t really a big deal as long as you play for the right team.

Unfortunately Eric Garner was a victim in the second America, where some homicides are apparently less equal than others.

If you’d like additional evidence of my contention that a prosecutor can generally get a grand jury to return whichever outcome the prosecutor wants, check this out:

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Despite his contention of a frame-up, Ramsey Orta’s testimony didn’t sway a grand jury, which indicted him on weapon charges, stemming from an Aug. 2 arrest, it was revealed in court Friday.

Orta, 22, who filmed an NYPD officer’s fatal chokehold of Eric Garner last month, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in state Supreme Court, St. George.

That’s right. Less than a month after Garner was killed, the same DA’s office tasked with handling his homicide case just happened to get a grand jury indictment against the man who filmed Garner’s homicide.

It would be helpful if the country could let go of Ferguson and focus our attention on Garner.

Update: I should add that this Connor Friedersdorf article on the rate at which police unions get the terminations of bad cops overturned is as troubling as anything else you’ll see: Even the few bad cops who managed to get fired seem to have a better-than-even chance of being reinstated–with back-pay.

It strikes me that if you’re looking to reform the system, you almost have to start with fixing this arbitration process, because if police administrators know that firings are likely to be overturned, they’ll fire fewer problematic cops. And if the cops of marginal quality know that they’re less likely to be fired, they’ll be less careful.

Start by fixing this backstop and then, as you work your way through the system, the corruption gets easier to weed out and it becomes easier to support the good officers, get rid of the bad, and instill a culture where the police themselves are more invested in making those distinctions.

Cassandra Complex
December 4th, 2014

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. economy, already struggling with stagnant wages and lackluster spending, faces another obstacle to growth: missing babies.

The nation’s fertility rate edged down last year to a record low, the latest notch in a long decline made worse by the recent recession. For every 1,000 women of childbearing age, there were just 62.5 births, down from 63 births in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lower fertility means less growth in the U.S. population, barring an increase in immigration, which is only slowly picking up. That means fewer workers to propel the economy and a smaller tax base to finance benefits for the elderly. The trend also promises to weigh on consumer spending, which fuels two-thirds of economic activity; if fewer women have children, there’s less buying of diapers, school supplies and homes to accommodate growing families.

You don’t say? That sounds interesting. Someone should write a book about it.

Weigel on 7DeadlyV
December 3rd, 2014

George Weigel had some very kind words about The Seven Deadly Virtues over at First Things:

Jonathan Last, editor, The Seven Deadly Virtues (Templeton Press). The title comes from a naughty song in “Camelot,” but in the hands of Last and his colleagues (all prominent conservative writers), the content is not a celebration of vice but a witty introduction to the virtuous life, crafted especially for denizens of a culture deeply confused about right and wrong—and about the reasons why doing the right thing makes for happiness. Give it to a regular reader of the National Catholic Reporter, The Nation or some other publication convinced that conservatives are dour, cranky meanies—but get one for your favorite college student, too. The culture wars were never so much fun.


JVL Elsewhere
December 2nd, 2014

I did a long interview with Gayle Trotter, which is published over at Townhall. It’s nominally about The Seven Deadly Virtues, but focuses more on the writing life, book publishing, and the world of journalism.