Special Report

Special Report

The Migrant Conquest of Europe

By 9.8.15

We are watching astonishing events unfold in Europe day by day.

A sober New York Times front-page headline reads “Migrant Chaos Mounts While Divided Europe Stumbles for Response.” Television news — less demure and more sensational — treats what’s going on like a sports match, doing nothing to hide which side it is rooting for. The weary asylum seekers are jubilant victors and heroes. Their defiant triumph over heartless Hungarian and Austrian authorities deserves our admiration and applause.

Hundred of thousands of migrants are pouring into Europe this summer. Millions of West Africans and Middle Easterners are eager to join them, and there is no sign the flow will subside. Turkey harbors an estimated 1.8 million displaced people.

Meanwhile, wrenching photographs surface of a drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy, breaking hearts and intensifying public demands for unlimited humanitarian aid. News cameras focus on the sad-eyed women and children, looking for all the world like Madonnas clutching Baby Jesuses, and this is not accidental in the battle for hearts and minds.

Special Report

Justice, Not Social Justice

By 9.4.15

Tom Brady’s a winner. You can glean that from that last-minute look on the face of cornerback Richard Sherman or by reading the scorching rebuke of the NFL by Judge Richard Berman.

But you mainly understand this merely by watching—and not necessarily on fall Sundays—Tom Brady. But the jaundiced perspective of 2015 America senses that people marry supermodel brides, live in mansions, and bedizen their fingers with Super Bowl rings by cheating. When “congratulations” yields to “no fair” one begins to understand just how much losing is winning. 

Tom Brady, as he did on the field in his four Super Bowl victories, won fair and square in federal court on Thursday when Judge Richard Berman vacated the four-game suspension meted out by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell judged fair and square on appeal.

Special Report

From Barbary to the Gulf: Corsairs Then and Now

By 9.3.15

In 2007, two years before he became Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren penned a magisterial history of America’s long involvement in the Middle East, which goes back to within a decade of America’s founding. In Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present, Oren shows that not only was America involved in what then was called the Orient; he shows the extent of entanglement, and consequent great influence exerted by, America’s long tribulations with the Barbary pirates. The tale he so deftly spins holds lessons for America today—lessons sadly ignored by the current administration.

Special Report

Pope Francis and ‘Justicespeak’

By 9.2.15

Of all the watchwords in today’s political discourse, “justice” is perhaps the most popular. We hear it in arguments favoring a “just wage” and in such expressions as “social justice,” “climate justice,” and “economic justice.” “Justicespeak” drives debates, channeling conversations and ensuring that those who wield the word have an automatic advantage against their political opponents. 

After all, anyone who frames an argument in terms of justice has gone on the offensive, positioning any opponent as a defender of “injustice.” This may be a clever move, but it is unconvincing as an argumentative tool. And it is silly. 

Does any reasonable person really support injustice? The proof would seem to be in the pudding. It is in the recognition that one’s justice claims are partial and contested that constructive policy can be crafted, among equals who debate based upon substance rather than through superficialities and insulting barbs. 

Indeed, one of the fallacies of justicespeak is that it so often masks the real tradeoffs that have to be made in public policy decision-making.

Special Report

Cartoonish Colleges

By 9.2.15

As political correctness swept through universities, professors and administrators encouraged students to take offense at the “classics.” Students who refused to read the works of “dead white males” like Shakespeare were applauded. But now that political correctness defines the curriculum at most major American schools, students are expected to be a little more docile. They aren’t to challenge the received wisdom but to be “challenged” by it.

A few incoming freshmen at Duke University recently learned this lesson after complaining about a lesbian graphic novel that appeared on their summer reading list. They found the school’s choice of the cartoon book, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, perplexing on both moral and academic grounds. One student, referring to its visual depictions of lesbian sexuality, was quoted as saying: “I am a Christian, and the nature of Fun Home means that content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic nature.”

Special Report

Welcome to the United States of Alice

By 9.1.15

At a restaurant in Manhattan some years ago, I asked the waitress, apparently on her first lunch shift in that profession, about the soupe du jour. She went to ask the chef and three minutes later returned to say, “The soupe du jour is soup of the day.” Her answer wasn’t helpful but not deliberately inaccurate as what’s on many of today’s mainstream cultural, intellectual, and political menus.

America is sliding down the rabbit hole and stepping through the mirror. In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, Alice meets Humpty Dumpty who declares, “When I use a word…it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

Whether or not one supports the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is anything but “affordable.” Most premiums are increasing steeply, government subsidies are growing, and the number of health providers is shrinking. This has to produce less health care as health coverage increases.

Special Report

Scurrying Rabbi(t)s

By 8.28.15

Three hundred and forty — count ’em — Reform and Conservative rabbis have signed an open letter to the United States Congress, asking the members to vote to confirm the deal negotiated between John Kerry and the government of Iran. They are taking whatever moral, ethical, spiritual, and religious chips they have and trying to cash them in for political capital.

Interestingly, the number of three hundred and forty, when converted into Hebrew letters (the sh sound has a value of three hundred and the m sound equals forty) can spell either ‘sham’ or ‘shame.’ Both of these fit nicely here, as we have sham rabbis whose behavior brings shame upon them and upon the religion they presume to espouse.

Although this is terribly disappointing, it is hardly surprising. These so-called clerics have long since abandoned any moral link to Judaism as a guide to proper behavior and character.

Special Report

Things Louisiana People Will Tell You About Katrina, Part Two

By 8.28.15

Earlier this week, the first installment of our 10-year Hurricane Katrina retrospective focused on the fact that Louisianans weren’t quite so much enamored of the “Bush’s fault” narrative the national media established to describe the poor response to the devastating storm and held the responsibility a bit closer to home.

But there is a good deal more to what you might have heard about Katrina that the people who lived through it and have spent the past 10 years trying to get beyond its effects simply don’t agree with.

First, as we discussed in the first installment, George W. Bush is not seen by the majority of Louisianans as the villain of the storm. That is not meant to say that the federal government is highly regarded for its performance where New Orleans is concerned.

For example, remember the meme about how global warming caused Katrina? That one doesn’t impress too many people in Louisiana.

Special Report

Happy Anniversary #GamerGate, Love Adam Baldwin

By 8.27.15

Today marks the one year anniversary of #GamerGate, an online phenomenon that has permanently altered the world of online journalism and the landscape of media ethics. It has had an impact, as well, on politics and public policy. For an introduction to #GamerGate, please see Mytheos Holt’s primer on #GamerGate from yesterday. Today we post a tribute from a Hollywood veteran of this freedom fight.

One year ago, I coined the hashtag #GamerGate on Twitter. I couldn’t have imagined then the controversy that would follow. Ever since, I’ve been near the center of an online conversation that's transforming an industry I’ve long admired, and worked within.

In helping to catalyze that conversation, my hopes turned to opening the eyes of young consumers: the people who help support the video game industry, as well as many careers in Hollywood. They’ve long been incredibly passionate, devoted friends and lovers of the art that we create — playgrounds where people can live out their dreams and aspirations after long days on the job. 

Special Report

Things Louisiana People Will Tell You About Katrina, Part One

By 8.26.15

At my site, which covers Louisiana politics, we’re not doing a 10-year anniversary thing about Hurricane Katrina, which blew through Southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi gulf coast at the end of August 2005. Our readers are not asking for one.

But on Monday Wlady Pleszczynski asked me to offer a perspective on Katrina as we mark that ugly historical event, and I notice this week that the major media is taking a great deal of ghoulish pleasure in revisiting all the horrors Mother Nature inflicted on New Orleans and the surrounding area in that horrible time, with the long and painful recovery that still isn’t complete.

So while this is a command performance rather than a labor of love, I offer a handful of items with a perspective you probably won’t hear elsewhere amid the media hurricane, in two parts.

In this installment, we’ll attack the question of who actually gets the blame here in Louisiana for the poor Katrina response.