Month: December 2015

Yes, America should come first in its foreign policy

If Twitter is useful for one thing, it’s keeping your finger on the dying pulse of American intellectual debate. There was a point in the most recent Republican debate — was it the 42nd or 43rd such event? — when Ted Cruz mentioned that he wanted an “America-first foreign policy.” I’m late commenting about this, but it’s amazing what’s controversial these days: Cruz’s critics seized on the remark as evidence of some alleged “isolationism.” Their trick was to link Cruz to the America First Committee of the early 1940s, designed to keep the United States out of the Second World War and backed by genuine isolationists like Charles Lindbergh.

Of course, anyone who pays attention to what his opponents actually say, as opposed to what he wants them to have said so he can wage reputational warfare on them, knows that this is not what Cruz or his like-minded contemporaries believe. (more…)

The Magic of Christmas in New York


I have a piece in the December 25 issue of The Catholic Herald about Christmas in New York — specifically how movies have shaped our perceptions of the city as a romantic backdrop for the holiday. Alas, the article is not available online (at least not yet), but here is a snippet from the print edition:

Whenever I speak to foreign friends, acquaintances and even strangers near Christmastime, they often openly fantasise about spending the holiday in New York City. They also tend to cite the film Home Alone 2 as the source of this fantasy.

Films have that effect: they alter our perceptions of a time and place into impossible standards by which we judge our real lives. I won’t pretend I didn’t develop my own fantasy of spending Christmas in London when I first saw Love Actually.

Everyone wants to fall in love, actually, and wants it to happen in certain places: on the Pont Alexandre III bridge in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower rising in the background, just as Jack Nicholson did in one of the 57 movies he made with Diane Keaton (or was it Helen Hunt?) — or, if Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron have any say in it, in Yuletide Manhattan.


Voter Anger Can Be Useful, But Not When The Target Of The Anger Is Broken Beyond Repair

At Quadrant, I think about Donald Trump and voter anger in the United States and how the profoundly broken American political system makes this anger different from that of the past:

The American public senses that the country’s political system no longer has any working parts left. I’m sure you could have found citizens during the John Adams administration who thought that Washington, D.C. was ‘broken’. But the U.S. federal government has never been as large and intrusive, and thus as capable of wrecking our lives, as it is now. Consider its priorities. The government regulates our lightbulbs, but allows entire cities to ignore federal immigration law. It can efficiently target partially hydrogenated oils, but not terrorist enclaves. Never before has there been so wide a gap between what families complain about to one another and what the permanent bureaucracy in the capital chooses to exercise its power over. These topsy-turvy conditions, in which the government is ruthlessly effective at all the wrong things and utterly hopeless at all the important ones, mean the citizenry has no healthy political means of discharging its anger.

My Brother Has Brain Cancer. Please Consider Donating To Him and His Family.

In November 2014, my older brother, Matt, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the great white shark of cancers. It is a form of brain cancer that most people don’t survive. I will spare you more details, which I find difficult to write knowing that they apply to my own flesh and blood.

Nevertheless, I’m amazed at how well my brother’s doing. After two brain surgeries and other treatments, he is quite strong, and you would never know anything was wrong by looking at him. Still, my brother has three small children, and under the circumstances every bit of financial help is a windfall.

Please consider donating to him and his family. You can do so either by clicking here or by pasting this link into your web browser:

Even if you are not able to donate, it would be just as helpful if you could spread the word about this page by telling your own family and friends, sharing it on Facebook, or tweeting it.

Thank you all. Merry Christmas!

UPDATE, 25 April 2016: For about a month, the links above were dead as the donation website was restructured. I have updated the links and everything should work.

UPDATE, 16 August 2016: Sadly, my brother succumbed to his disease on August 12, dying as he lay surrounded by family and friends. I urge you to donate nevertheless, as he leaves behind three small children.