The Nation’s Pulse

The Nation's Pulse

The Few, The Loud, The Marines

By 11.7.14

The colonists who founded the United States Marine Corps in Tun Tavern 239 years ago Monday certainly understood their demographic. The launch of the USMC in a Philadelphia bar makes sense in a way that the founding of NAMBLA in an old church does not.

Uncommon valor is indeed a common virtue in taprooms, particularly in those moments before last call. Captain Samuel Nicholas didn’t possess a computer algorithm of the like Amazon employs to tell customers who bought The Audacity of Hope that they might also enjoy Mein Kampf. But he intuitively grasped that people who liked fighting also liked drinking.

Appropriately, Marines gather around the world in barrooms, or at least banquet halls with bars in them, to celebrate owing their existence, like so many of us do, to a meeting in a barroom. I have the good fortune to attend one such event this weekend.

The Nation's Pulse

The Growing Halloween Depravity of Grownups

By 10.31.14

Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers kill kids rushing to become adults. Is it too much to ask of the ghoulish trio to apply their talents toward adults rushing to become kids?

The grownups who have decimated the ranks of trick-or-treaters by aborting 10 million of them in the last decade offer penance for their sins against Halloween by dressing up in place of the missing children. The National Retail Federation estimates that adults will spend $1.4 billion on their own Halloween costumes this year. That’s $1.4 billion that they could have spent on man-cave clubhouses, a huge birthday party, a collection of Care Bears, or some other pastime recently favored by adults.

One way thirtysomething Halloween enthusiasts recoup the money spent on costumes involves not dispensing candy. One can’t help but notice the same couples, dressed in the late night as a sexy Ebola nurse and her doting patient, hiding in their kitchens with the lights out earlier in the evening when the doorbells ring.

The Nation's Pulse

Religious Sanctimony in Ferguson

By 10.24.14

Testimony emerging from the grand jury investigating the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri seems to confirm the police officer’s claims of self-defense. The official coroner’s report reputedly points to a struggle over the police officer’s gun. But more facts need to be known over the controversial encounter that inflamed protests in the majority black town against the majority white police force.

Lack of hard facts did not deter Religious Left activists Jim Wallis and Cornel West from demonstrating and seeking their own arrests in Ferguson last week as part of a “weekend of resistance” ending with a carefully choreographed “Moral Monday” protest. They even confronted police officers to demand their “repentance” for Brown’s “murder” while kindly offering to take their confessions.

The Nation's Pulse

What a Waste It Is to Prevent Waste

By 10.17.14

Ballot questions empower voters to speak the most glorious word in the English language: No.

It’s efficient. Using just two letters it nevertheless possesses more power than any four-letter word. It’s easy to remember with its components falling sequentially in the alphabet. It’s direct. There’s no “on the other hand” or “maybe” ambiguity in “no.”

“No means no,” public-service announcements thankfully remind fraternity brothers and roofie-wielding last-call vultures. The catchphrase merits repeating on political adverts.

Denizens of Massachusetts, displeased with the state legislature repeatedly balking at expanding the bottle bill to apply to flimsy water containers, have taken their campaign directly to the people. Question 2 seeks to compel consumers to pay an extra tax when purchasing a Gatorade, Snapple, or other non-carbonated beverage not currently requiring a deposit charge. The state now charges a nickel. The initiative directs increases automatically tied to inflation.

The Nation's Pulse

Marijuana Madness in My Earpiece

By 10.8.14

On the evening of September 21, I was sitting in the green room of KTVA, Anchorage, Alaska’s local CBS affiliate, awaiting my turn to discuss the Alaska gubernatorial race live with news anchor Alexis Fernandez on the Ten O’Clock newscast. It was then that my earpiece picked up the shocking conclusion to the report on the Alaska Cannabis Club by the now-infamous Charlo Green. She revealed that she was the owner of the pro-marijuana legalization club that she was covering, and followed that revelation by speedily resolving the obvious conflict of interest: “F--- it, I quit,” she helpfully announced on live air, and then walked off the set.

The Nation's Pulse

Welcome Back, John Sebastian

By 9.22.14

Every once in a while I am willing to go the extra mile to see a performer in concert.

In the case of John Sebastian, I went about 40 miles north. That is the approximate distance between Boston and Gloucester, Massachusetts where the former Lovin’ Spoonful lead singer performed earlier this month at the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church, the oldest church in Gloucester. The Unitarian Universalists are more socialist than Christian, but they sure know how to book a musical act.

Although I have been to Gloucester twice before, I somehow departed the train at West Gloucester rather than Gloucester. Fortunately, I flagged down a letter carrier from the U.S. Postal Service who was kind enough to supply me with a phone number for a cab. Say what you will about USPS. In this case, they delivered.

The Nation's Pulse

Songs of Innocence Lost

By 9.12.14

U2 released its thirteenth studio album, Songs of Innocence, earlier this week for free via iTunes.

The if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em approach appears as a belated acknowledgment that fans will take that not given. In late August, weekly album sales dropped below 4 million — a first and a worst since SoundScan began tracking numbers in 1991.

Just as radio once served as a for-free mechanism to promote the money-making LP, actual albums now represent a promotional vehicle for monetized ventures such as concert tours, advertisements, and back-catalogue sales. Seventy-five-years ago, records displayed “Not Licensed for Radio Broadcast” labels, the FCC granted airwave rights on the condition that stations initially avoid playing recorded music, and ASCAP boycotted radio once the feds relaxed restrictions. Music has been here before.

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Andrew Tahmooressi’s Imprisonment Is Something We Should Be Ashamed Of

By 9.8.14

What to make of the peculiar situation unfolding just across the border in Tijuana, where U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi languishes in solitary confinement for the crime of mistakenly crossing the border with his personal weapons in his truck on March 31?

Nothing to inspire confidence, for certain. In fact, Tahmooressi’s ordeal might just confirm many of our worst fears about the Obama administration.

The Tahmooressi story sounds more like a schlocky Hollywood script than a real-life tale. Its protagonist is a decorated Marine veteran of two tours of duty in Afghanistan, honorably discharged in 2012 and diagnosed with a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); he was moving to the San Diego area specifically for treatment of his PTSD. And Tahmooressi’s ordeal is mind-bogglingly unjust; he mistakenly crossed the border from San Ysidro, California, into Mexico because he missed an interstate exit that would have taken him to dinner with friends. Instead, the twenty-five-year old war hero wound up at a Mexican border station driving a pickup truck full of his possessions, which included two rifles and a pistol, plus ammunition.

The Nation's Pulse

I, Robot

By 9.5.14

Google pursues a chip that promises to make machines more like humans. It’s about time they atoned for making humans more like machines.

Google’s most annoying legacy is the search-engine expert, the know-nothing know-it-all, often encountered in online message boards and article comments sections, who types and clicks his way to facts but never wisdom. In an earlier incarnations, the Google Expert boasted a library of dog-eared Cliffs Notes sharing shelf space aside books with uncut pages. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations acted as his speechwriter. Now Wikipedia Brown offers decontextualized bits of information, just like Google does.  

The Nation's Pulse

Jesse Jackson and the Renewed Fight to Racialize America

By 8.26.14

What if James Foley, the journalist kidnapped and murdered by ISIS — had been black? Would he have still been killed?

If Juan Williams, a black man, were on a Fox News Sunday panel with the white Bob Woodward, Laura Ingraham and Karl Rove, all discussing the events in Ferguson, would the panel still be a “white panel”?

Was 9/11, which killed hundreds of blacks and Latinos, a racist attack?

We’ll never know the answer to the first question — although we know for a fact that the Rev. Jesse Jackson got headlines and television coverage aplenty years back by securing (along with the then-unknown Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan) the 1984 release of a captured Navy pilot in Syria who was black.