Special Report

Special Report

Obama Pushes ‘New Chapter’ in U.S.-Africa Relations

By 8.7.14

You know something is already on the wrong foot when the stated goal of an international conference is “to start a new chapter.” President Obama invited African leaders to Washington to talk about U.S.-Africa relations, but when some fifty of them showed up this week to, one guesses, get an advance copy of the new script, the best he could do was tell them U.S. companies were prepared to invest $14 billion on the Continent, of which investment a third will (reportedly) be coming from Coca-Cola.

That may be worrisome for some African soft drink bottlers, but it is otherwise without much consequence. The time frame and conditions for these investments were left vague, and anyway there is the question of where White House press aides get these figures? Do they ask companies to submit business plans and add them up?

Special Report

Pope Reinstates Communist Priest

By 8.7.14

Pope Francis’ restoration of former Nicaraguan Sandinista Foreign Minister Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann to his priestly powers after a 29-year suspension summons many memories from Liberation Theology’s Marxist heyday in the 1980s.

An iconic moment of that decade was Pope John Paul II’s publicly chastising the then priestly foreign minister during his 1983 papal trip to Nicaragua. D’Escoto was relieved of priestly duties in 1985 for defying canon law against clergy holding public office.

Now age 81, d’Escoto had asked for reinstatement “before dying.” But apparently he’s still robust and an advisor to the Sandinistas and their infamous president, Daniel Ortega, who’s back in power, although now defanged of 1980s-style Soviet ensnarement. And as recently as 2009, d’Escoto was president of the United Nations General Assembly. He’s seemingly expressed no regret about a career devoted to Marxist liberation nor about his defiance of his church. 

Special Report

Magna Carta Plays Boston

By 8.4.14

If you find yourself in Boston between now and September 1, I would urge you to make your way to the Museum of Fine Arts. Until then it will be the home of one of four surviving copies of Magna Carta, also known as the Great Charter. The exhibit is titled, “Magna Carta: Cornerstone of Liberty.”

Next year will mark the 800th anniversary of when a group of English Barons compelled King John to accept their demands on the shore of the River Thames at Runnymede. In a time when we overuse the word “historical,” the acceptance of Magna Carta is one of most significant historical moments in human history.

Special Report

Let’s Buy That Kurdish Oil

By 8.1.14

There’s a situation going on down in Texas right now that deserves everyone’s attention, even though it hasn’t received much notice in the press.

The Kurds are a gritty minority in the Middle East, surviving in a barren swathe of land across northern Iraq and eastern Turkey. They are Muslims but not too fanatical about their religion. They don’t practice much polygamy — the driving force in Muslim aggression — and only want to govern themselves. You won’t find any Kurdish terrorists hijacking planes or blowing themselves up on crowded subways around the world.

As a minority in both Iraq and Turkey, however, they have been subject to endless persecution. Saddam Hussein tried to exterminate them and the Turks have long harassed them for their desires for autonomy.

Special Report

From Boob Jokes to Ukraine: A Talk With Robert Evans of Cracked.Com

By 7.31.14

Gallows humor is one of the most traditional and least savory elements of esprit de corps. For cops, doctors, soldiers, social workers—anybody whose job site is the miserable human heart—gallows humor puts the “against the world” into us-against-the-world. In a Venn diagram of “jokes cops post in online forums” and “civil rights violations,” a lot of material would fall in the overlap area. Emergency-room abbreviations like CTD (Circling the Drain) or FDGB (Fall Down Go Boom) cauterize the emotions, triaging competence at the expense of empathy. When gallows humor enters journalism it’s often dehumanizing without the excuse of necessity: I’ll always love the tabloid style, but one day I realized that HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR describes the death of some mother’s child. 

In this hard-bitten landscape, the journalistic experiment in empathy Cracked.com has embarked on is an outlier. Cracked, which started out as MAD Magazine’s kid brother, now looks more like a punk version of the Washington Post.

Special Report

Weber’s ‘Euryanthe’ Gets a Rare U.S. Performance

By 7.31.14

Once again, the Bard Summer Music Festival has lived up to its reputation for giving classical music lovers a chance to hear lesser known or underperformed gems of the operatic repertory. This summer it has taken on one of German romantic opera’s most controversial masterpieces—Carl Maria von Weber’s Euryanthe (1823).

In introducing the work to opening night dinner guests, Conductor Leon Botstein characterized it as “the most talked about and studied opera that’s never performed” in the U.S. According to program notes, it hasn’t received a full professional staging in this country since the 1914-15 Metropolitan Opera season. Botstein declined to elaborate why, preferring to let the audience figure it out for themselves, which wasn’t difficult.

Special Report

This Woman’s Arrest Proves Gun Laws Make No Sense

By 7.30.14

Never figured I’d say this, but congratulations are due to ThinkProgress, the lefty news site that usually reads like a less drunk version of the stuff you find on Media Matters’s page, as well as to the Daily Kos, which is the more drunk version.

On Monday, those two sites broke the Left’s blackout on the story of Shaneen Allen, a mother of two boys and a licensed handgun owner with no criminal record who is facing three to ten years in a New Jersey prison for crossing state lines with her otherwise legal handgun.

Last October, Allen was pulled over in Atlantic County, New Jersey, by police for one of those violations indistinguishable from a pretext: the ol’ unsafe lane change. Allen told the officer that she had a concealed carry license from Pennsylvania, and that she had her handgun — a .380 Bersa Thunder — in the car.

Special Report

Instead of Immigration, Let’s Try Colonialism

By 7.25.14

Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi visits shelters housing the thousands of children streaming across the border from Central America and says, “We’re all North Americans” and she’d like to take them all home with her.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont thunders that 9-year-old girls are being raped on the streets of Guatemala and that we must take them in to save them.

And Democratic Congressman John Lewis of Georgia is even more generous. He says that there’s no sense in having borders anymore. America belongs to the whole world and we should open our doors to let everyone in.

Democrats are obviously the “Party of Compassion.” They want to extend the blessings of America to the whole world. They believe, it would seem, that we have created something close to the perfect society here — a society in which only half the population has to work, where 20 percent receive food stamps, where 10 million people are on disability and where, in the words of Pelosi herself, government healthcare enables people to “quit their job to stay home and write poetry.”

Special Report

Three Cheers for Tax Inversions

By 7.24.14

Former Chief of Staff for the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), Edward Kleinbard, writing in the Wall Street Journal, argues that “tax inversions must be stopped now.”

Kleinbard may understand taxes but like so many on the left has a weak grasp on economics and on the proper relationship between a government and its citizens (including those operating within corporations).

Tax inversions involve an American company buying a foreign firm in order to move its tax domicile to the lower-tax foreign location. Some of the most common recent inversions involve buying Irish companies.

Special Report

Appeals Court Slightly Wounds Obamacare

By 7.22.14

It’s too soon for champagne, but perhaps a beer is in order.

In a 2-1 decision in the case of Halbig v. Burwell, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the Internal Revenue Service cannot interpret the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as allowing subsidies for those Americans who purchase health insurance from the federal health insurance exchange known as Healthcare.gov. This is because the text of the law specifies that subsidies or tax credits are available for insurance purchased on state-created exchanges.

Later on Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled oppositely: that the subsidies are permissible for the federal exchange. More in this in a moment.