Special Report

Special Report

Prudential Judgments

By 5.14.14

Late in the morning of Sunday, April 27, a movie theater in Morrisville, NC rebroadcast the Canonization Mass for pope saints John XXIII and John Paul II. Anyone who missed the live telecast from the Vatican had a chance to watch a free screening of the event at a more convenient time. When afterward I waxed enthusiastic to an old friend about the experience (Four popes in the news on the same day! Standing room only between St. Peter’s Basilica and the Tiber River!), it sparked a conversation about the church that I suspect is more common than reporters on the religion beat usually admit.

Conventional wisdom says that popes who died 42 years apart were canonized simultaneously because Pope Francis hoped to appease both liberal and conservative wings of the church. As at least one irreverent wit suggested, it seemed as though Pope Francis had hosted a “buy one, get one” sale, with “good pope John” playing a genial second banana to the Polish prelate who revitalized the modern papacy.

Special Report

Marco Tells the Truth

By 5.13.14

Florida Senator Marco Rubio took the unprecedented step over the weekend of directly confronting a popular fraud when he said that all the President’s executive orders and all the Congress’s laws cannot control our planet’s temperature. There is no planetary thermostat that politicians can adjust through laws and regulations.

“Well, yeah, I don't agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what's happening in our climate,” Rubio said on ABC’s This Week.

Special Report

Barbarians at the Power Plant Gate

By 5.12.14

Although it hasn’t attracted much attention outside the business pages, Energy Future Holdings, the largest utility in Texas, is going through the biggest bankruptcy proceeding since the collapse of Chrysler five years ago.

The story does not bode well for the future of American utilities. Instead it sheds light President Obama’s bizarre notion that the nation can shut down coal plants and replace them with “energy from sun, wind and soil” without suffering the kind of brutal economic consequences now being experienced in Japan and German.

Let’s set the stage here. In 2007, TXU Energy, Texas’s largest electric utility, announced long-range plans to construct 12 new coal plants to keep the lights on in the Lone Star State. All this, of course, was bemoaned by environmentalists, who are always telling us we are at the end of the era of fossil fuels.

Special Report

Dwelling in the Fire: Boko Haram’s War Against the West

By 5.9.14

A common vial sits perched on a police laboratory shelf in the arid northern Nigerian city of Kano, its cap smeared with rubber cement and fastened with an official seal. The contents of this bottle are unmistakable, with ashen powder, charred molars, and bone residue bearing all the hallmarks of a hasty cremation. Affixed is a label: The remains of the Late Malam Muhammadu Marwa alias Allah Ta-Tsine or Maitatsine. Such is the final resting place of the notorious millenarian prophet and anti-western insurgent who in 1980 set off a wave of violence as arbitrary as the contents of a fever dream, and whose legacy still manifests itself in the form of the riotous civil paroxysms that occur with malarial regularity in Nigeria’s roiling Islamic north. Today, with unprecedented attention being focused on the Nigerian Islamist militant organization Boko Haram, owing in no small part to its recent kidnapping and detention of almost three hundred schoolgirls in the so-called “evil forest” of the Sambisa, it is more necessary than ever to grapple with Marwa’s legacy and its implications for the future of a continent.

Special Report

The Sixties’ Road to Rutgers and Beyond

By 5.9.14

Condi Rice withdrew on Saturday from speaking at the Rutgers University graduation after the usual round of sit-ins and destruction of property. In tortuous and inhumane logic, New Brunswick’s loud contingent of silencers said that allowing Rice to speak meant “encouraging and perpetuating a world that justifies torture and debases humanity.” In allowing the triumph of the hecklers’ veto, the school sends a disturbing, though not untrue, commencement message: graduates enter a society so contemptuous of free discourse that it exacts a heavy price for its exercise.

The former Secretary of State’s canceled commencement address joins an ignominious list that demonstrates that our infantilized culture rewards temper tantrums thrown by adults: the firing of a gaming company employee for tweeting disapproval of the surreptitious recording of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s private phone conversations, the forced resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich for a six-year-old donation supporting a pro-traditional marriage ballot initiative, and the derailment of an HGTV real-estate reality show because of the outspoken Christianity of its twin-brother stars.

Special Report

Brass Balls and Climate Change

By 5.8.14

If there’s one thing that you have to give the Obama administration credit for, it’s large brass cojones. There’s absolutely nothing they won’t say with a straight face, or do without fear of real punishment — because, after all, with a supine media and an over-cautious House Republican leadership, who is left to punish a president who will never run for elected office again and doesn’t care whether his fellow Democrats keep their jobs?

Special Report

Boehner Smartens Up on Benghazi

By 5.6.14

Friday, when the news hit that at long last House Speaker John Boehner would name a Select Committee to investigate, once and for all, the events leading up to and following the local al Qaeda affiliate’s attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, it might have been the smartest political move of either party in years.

And for Boehner to be the man making it was doubly notable. The Speaker has for some time had a major problem conducting actions to placate his party’s base voters or even showing that he’s in tune with the interest of the public outside of the Beltway. Boehner, after all, was most recently in the news for having been on video with a mocking “It’s just so HAAAAAAAARD!” whine as he chided the GOP caucus’s unwillingness to pass an immigration/amnesty bill. Following that mini-scandal, Washington rumors of a wide-open race commencing to succeed Boehner as Speaker began to surface; conventional wisdom began percolating that Boehner was through and his caucus had written him off.

Special Report

Twenty-Five Years of The Cure’s Best

By 5.2.14

Twenty-five years ago today, The Cure released the greatest album of the last quarter century.

Surely, South Park’s Kyle Broflovski, who told hiding-in-the-shadows frontman Robert Smith that “Disintegration is the best album ever” in an episode where the gothed-out hero defeats a Godzilla-like Barbra Streisand (is there any other?) would find this an understatement.

Haunting, dark, ethereal, Disintegration paradoxically plays the opposite to all that in spots over its unforgettable 72 minutes. The opening notes of first track “Plainsong,” for instance, hopefully suggest some sonic brave new world. Disintegration’s success, along with REM’s Green and Out of Time, surely ushered in a brave new sound for a staid FM band. 

Special Report

Hurricane Carter Exonerated Again… and Again

By 4.30.14

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter died at the age of 76 two weeks ago and immediately the encomiums began again — “wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t commit,” “could have been champion,” “victim of racial injustice,” etc., etc.

I wasn’t even going to bother with this — what else do you expect of the New York Times? — but then Sports Illustrated arrived:

Before he spend 19 years in prison on a wrongful murder conviction, before he was the subject of a Bob Dylan hit and a Denzel Washington biopic, before he was a symbol of the ways racial injustice can corrupt the legal system…

… and so on and so on.

Special Report

9/11 on the Cutting Room Floor

By 4.25.14

An interfaith advisory panel urges the National September 11 Memorial Museum to bowdlerize a six-plus-minute film of unflattering references to Islam for fear of sparking an international incident. If only Osama bin Laden had employed such a nonsectarian “coexist” council of elders prior to sparking international incident. 

“We want and expect a little bit more,” the Rev. Chloe Breyer told Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly. “It needs context.” Like the ’93 WTC bombing, the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer? That’s not what she means. The Supreme Court justice’s clergyman daughter says the documentary should show Islam as a “peace loving religion” and demonstrate that Muslims understand “jihad” as “the ability to wage the struggle to do good.”