The Nation’s Pulse

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. 

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Jeff Buckley: The Eternal Life of Grace

By 8.25.14

On August 23, 1994, Columbia Records would release Gracethe debut album of Jeff Buckley.

It would prove to be his only fully completed album.

On May 29, 1997, while in the midst of recording his follow up album in Memphis, Buckley disappeared after taking a spontaneous swim fully clothed in the Wolf River. His body was found nearly a week later. An autopsy revealed no drugs and only a nominal amount of alcohol in his system. Buckley was 30 years old.

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Quick Fixes and Lasting Grief

By 8.21.14

By the dawn’s early light, as they say, there’s the too frequent news in the morning about those who didn’t make it through the perilous night.

Drug overdose deaths, for example, in Allegheny County (a county containing Pittsburgh and surrounding suburbs and rural areas in southwestern Pennsylvania) are approaching 300 a year. Pretty soon, 1-a-day, like the vitamins.

In addition, the morning news about the previous night’s murders, the pointless killings in the predictable parts of the city and disproportionately linked to drugs, brings few surprises.

In “True Crime: Ferguson vs. Pittsburgh,” former Pittsburgh Tribune columnist Bill Steigerwald writes that Ferguson, Missouri, “roughly 65 percent black” and in the daily news with unremitting protests and looting following the shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer, has a lower murder rate, rape rate, and robbery rate than Pittsburgh, “about 25 percent black.”

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Drugs Are Bad, Mkay?

By 8.15.14

“Drugs are bad, mkay?” explains South Park’s Mr. Mackey. Like Nancy Reagan, Joe Friday, and other tellers of this simple truth, Mr. Mackey plays the punchline. But a teller of simple truths isn’t a simpleton but rather someone blessed with the ability to cut through sophistry.

When I was very young, a man in a dress asked me if I rejected the glamour of evil. I remained circumspectly silent. Two adult relatives, assuming my virtue from my visage, answered “yes” for me.

Drugs strike as the epitome of this peculiar phrase uttered by that peculiarly draped man. The chemicals prove so seductive that they make the hideous attractive. Snorting lines probably seemed glamourous to Robin Williams in his twenties. But what’s less glamourous than a sixtysomething-year-old man hanging from his own belt?

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Can Millennials Have a Happy Marriage?

By 8.12.14

When my husband and I were first married, one of my sisters remarked — to my great surprise given how “sickeningly” in love Gil and I were as newlyweds — that she didn’t think our marriage would last because we “argued too much.” As it turns out, given our 50-plus years of happy marriage, her love barometer was just a little off. These days, people frequently express surprise that a marriage can last that long today (let alone continue to be happy) and ask what we did to have a happy marriage. Ironically, a new Redbook article, “8 Things Happily Married Couples Do,” lays out some surprising things that contribute to a happy marriage. One of the 8 keys to successful marriage is, “They bicker.” The author explains that, according to the American Psychologist journal, little arguments are beneficial because acknowledging differences helps a marriage in the long-term.

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The Sharknado Deniers

By 8.1.14

Halfway through Sharknado 2: The Second One, I glimpsed a tiger shark—indigenous to tropical waters quite unlike those encroaching upon New York City—attacking pedestrians in Manhattan. This bit of artistic license almost completely ruined it for me. Had the filmmakers done their homework they would have discovered that tiger sharks rarely navigate the Atlantic north of the 30th parallel—let alone north of the 40th parallel. Such inattention to detail unfortunately sullies science fiction’s reputation as more fiction than science.

The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno mated. Their baby, Sharknado 2, was born Wednesday night on SyFy. It was worse than the first, which is another way of saying way better.

When Ian Ziering longitudinally chainsaws a great white shark in two, an onscreen onlooker mouths, “You’re brilliant.” Simultaneously, those words emanated from my couch. As Fin, played marvelously by Beverley Hills 90210’s Steve Sanders, dramatically announces in the sequel, “The people need to know the truth before it happens again.”

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Do Know Why About Norah Jones

By 7.28.14

One of the last places I expected to be was at a concert featuring Norah Jones. And yet there I was standing no more than 20 feet away from her near stage right late last week at The Sinclair in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge. 

Jones, the daughter of the late sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, was performing with her band Puss n Boots, which released their debut album No Fools, No Fun earlier this month. Puss n Boots is an all female supergroup featuring the triumvirate of Jones, Catherine Popper (former bass player for both Ryan Adams and Grace Potter and The Nocturnals) and jazz singer Sasha Dobson. The three have been playing together for more than five years in front of friends and at the occasional gig around New York City before deciding earlier this year they were ready to release an album and go on tour.

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Olbermann Wannabes at Play

By 7.24.14

Once again Tony Dungy demonstrates why many consider him the classiest and most thoroughly decent man in professional sport. And the national sports press demonstrates again that it is mostly a pack of mindless, left-ideology-besotted jackals with no more principles, restraint, or sense of proportion than their news-side brethren (and sistren). Perhaps less.

The latest obsession of the sport media, though by no means an obsession of American sports fans, is St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam, who is the first openly gay player in the NFL, and therefore a cultural hero to the mainstream media and other poobahs of the cultural cognoscenti. A large scrum of reporters is trailing Sam and reporting his every action, thought, and move. They’re also acting as a kind of Inquisition, outing and punishing those who do not celebrate Sam’s arrival with unalloyed joy and in exactly the language that the homosexual political movement and the Left’s cultural police demand of us all. 

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Pulp Fiction for a Digital Age

By 7.18.14

Conservatives’ discovery of Liberty Island comes at a good time. The online publisher of “right brain” fiction embraces conservatism in the best sense; not a series of policy prescriptions but a preservation of that worth keeping.

The idiocracy has unfortunately rooted out good popular fiction—enjoyable stories without any highbrow pretentions—from many of its former hideouts.

“Pulp fiction” now conjures up images of a Quentin Tarantino movie more than a shelf at the newsstand. Television anthology series—Twilight Zone, Ray Bradbury Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Tales from the Darkside—have vanished in a whodunit fit for a plot in the genre. Fiction on the radio, once the staple of the airwaves, has been almost entirely missing in action since CBS Radio Mystery Theater’s 1982 cancellation.

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Defending Washington

By 7.14.14

Washington, D.C. has always been under attack, rhetorically. But twice it was militarily attacked, with presidents at the scene of combat, and the anniversaries of each are this summer.

This past weekend was the 150th anniversary of Confederate General Jubal Early’s July 11-12, 1864 attack on Fort Stevens on what is now Georgia Avenue in Northwest D.C. He had virtually snuck up on the nation’s capital with a nearly 15,000 man army, when Washington’s defenses had been stripped bare by General Grant’s siege at Petersburg.

General Early first arrived at the city’s northern boundary ahead of his troops and spied “feebly manned” defending forts and claiming to see the Capitol dome. Much of his army behind him was bedraggled and exhausted from the extreme heat and dust as they meandered down what is now Rockville Pike through suburban Maryland.