The Nation’s Pulse

The Nation's Pulse

Bob Newhart: Still Making Us Laugh

By 6.2.14

For all of Bob Newhart’s work in television, it is astonishing to know that he had never won an Emmy Award until being bestowed with one last September for a series of guest spots on The Big Bang Theory. This would earn him a well-deserved standing ovation. Ever modest, Newhart quipped to Big Bang star Jim Parsons, “I don’t know if that’s a compliment or you’re just trying to rub it in.”

Yet perhaps the funniest thing Bob Newhart said did not appear on television or on one of his comedy albums. When ratings for The Bob Newhart Show began to decline in the late 1970s, the show’s producers approached him with some changes. The most significant of which was that Emily Hartley (played by the late Suzanne Pleshette) would become pregnant, making Newhart the newest in the long line of TV Dads.

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Saving Sportswriting

By From the June 2014 issue

Bob Costas is tired, exasperated even. You can see it in his eyes—that is, if they aren’t serving as a cautionary tale about the dangers of Botox. He shrugs, he sighs, he shakes his head. The NBC sportscaster is tired of the “extreme” sports fans who take umbrage with his monologues praising Vladimir Putin, condemning guns, and demanding that the NFL eliminate aggressive tackling and inappropriate team names. He made that much clear in April when late night neophyte Seth Myers asked him how he deals with criticism for “talking about politics when you should be talking sports.”

“I think we live in a culture where people who are angry are more apt to weigh in, or people who have an extreme view are more apt to weigh in,” Costas replied. “And they have more ways than ever to do it, and people who approve of it or like it say, ‘Hey, that was good,’ when they see you on the street.”

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Meet Me in Subsidized St. Louis

By 5.23.14

If one trend draws near-universal contempt from America’s urban commentariat, it is that declining cities still subsidize fancy developments to spur “revitalization.” For decades, publicly financed malls, stadiums, and convention centers have been built in cities from Stockton to Baltimore. These projects’ general failure to profit, much less boost their surroundings, raises the question of when they will finally be dismissed as growth strategies. Apparently, it won’t be in St. Louis.

After years of delay, the $100 million Ballpark Village has opened downtown. The large indoor entertainment complex, developed by Cordish Co., is a stereotypical booze haven featuring a retractable-roof concert space, and numerous upscale bars and restaurants. Future phases will include residential and office space, as part of a $650 million master-planned project.

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Dr. Barnes’s Amazing Collection

By 5.22.14

“I would rather be in Philadelphia” was the epitaph W.C. Fields wanted on his headstone. When it comes to the Western Hemisphere’s greatest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, it is an entirely appropriate sentiment. The Barnes Foundation’s collection, now located on the Ben Franklin Parkway, is the best thing this side of Paris.

Considering that both the Wall Street Journal critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, now deceased, and Martin Filler of the New York Review of Books raved about the collection’s new $150 million campus and building as well as the art contained therein, you have a pretty solid consensus across the cultural, artistic, and political spectrum.

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George Strait — An Appreciation

By 5.20.14

George Strait is 62. Damn! Can this possibly be true?

Yes it is. True since Sunday, when I also learned that Strait is near the end of a 47-date farewell tour, called “The Cowboy Rides Away,” that will conclude June 7 in Dallas. (He’s in Baton Rouge on Friday, Foxborough, Mass. on Saturday.) I would have learned about the tour sooner had I not long ago stopped listening to country stations. Too many rock riffs, mindless commercials, and manic DJs. (Gooood Morning, all you crazed country fans!! — this is Wild Man Booger Bob, jumping at you from WKRAP, right here in downtown Pagosa Springs…”) I take my Strait straight, and on CDs. Sorry, Booger Bob.

Fortunately, while Strait will abandon the tour bus this year, he has not closed off the possibility of more recording — and perhaps the odd, one-off live performance — in his long career that has led to more number-one singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart than any other artist. That’s right, more number one country songs than George Jones, more than Hank Sr., more than Elvis, more than anyone. It’s a comfort that he’ll still be around, because this is not a voice country fans want to lose.

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The Loneliness of American Society

By 5.18.14

The National Science Foundation (NSF) reported in its General Social Survey (GSS) that unprecedented numbers of Americans are lonely. Published in the American Sociological Review (ASR) and authored by Miller McPhearson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and Matthew Brashears, sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona, the study featured 1,500 face-to-face interviews where more than a quarter of the respondents — one in four — said that they have no one with whom they can talk about their personal troubles or triumphs. If family members are not counted, the number doubles to more than half of Americans who have no one outside their immediate family with whom they can share confidences. Sadly, the researchers noted increases in “social isolation” and “a very significant decrease in social connection to close friends and family.”

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Democracy in America

By 5.12.14

Just a few weeks ago, on April 22, the United States Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s State Constitution, which requires that students applying to our outstanding colleges and universities receive equal treatment. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Schuette v. By Any Means Necessary is a victory for the Michigan constitution and the citizens of the Great Lakes State.

In 2006, nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters voiced approval of a basic concept: that it is wrong, fundamentally wrong, to treat people differently based on the color of your skin, race, gender, or ethnicity. In Michigan, we have emblazoned in our constitution this bedrock American premise. With their 6-2 decision, our nation’s highest court issued a stamp of approval for other states across America to follow the Michigan model, mandating equality and prohibiting preferential treatment in higher education. The high court ruling is a victory for states across America.

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Socialism, Seattle Style

By 5.7.14

The extended recession of the Obama administration and the sluggish economic recovery have spawned something of a faddish parlor game among the liberal intelligentsia; whether American capitalism has run its course and it’s time to usher in a socialist model of government. After all, with stubbornly high unemployment, workforce participation at historic lows and myriad compounding factors contributing to our economic woes, it must certainly mean that capitalism is dead. Or so we are told.

One of the latest manifestations of this is the recent election of Kshama Sawant to the city council of Seattle, Washington. The 41-year-old native of India who came of age as a product of that nation’s caste system is a self-described socialist and a former local organizer for the Occupy movement who rode to victory in the 2013 election touting a $15 per hour minimum wage.

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America’s Appalling Ignorance of Christianity

By 5.2.14

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote about the lack of religious knowledge in America today and argued that a person cannot understand the world without knowing something about the world’s religions, including Pentecostals and Evangelicals. Kristof admitted that when he was covering the presidential campaign of George W. Bush, he was surprised at how the candidate connected with Americans because of his evangelical faith; more surprisingly, Kristof admitted that he had “only the vaguest idea at the time what an evangelical was.” Kristof’s column includes a four-paragraph litany of Biblical “facts” and asks readers to find the mistakes — 20 of them — that “reflect the general muddling in our society about religious knowledge.” Kristof notes that it’s not just secular Americans, but a large swath of those Americans who profess a belief in God are “largely ignorant about religion.”

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Hurricane Carter’s Comeback

By From the February 1986 issue

No fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any courtroom of the United States, than according to the rules of common law.
—The Bill of Rights, Amendment VII

On June 17, 1966, at two in the morning, someone burst into the Lafayette Grill, in Paterson, New Jersey, and shot four people, killing two men, mortally wounding a woman, and critically wounding another man.

A woman named Pat Valentine, living directly upstairs, heard the shots and ran to the window. She saw two black men climb into a distinctive late-model white car with "butterfly" taillights and New York license plates. Another witness down the street saw the same thing and called police.

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