Special Report

Special Report

Paul Ryan’s Way Forward

By 9.3.14

One thing I’ve always appreciated about Paul Ryan is that he looks you straight in the eye when talking about matters of policy and politics — though clearly he enjoys the former more than the latter. Whether you agree or disagree with Ryan, it is impossible, once you’ve met him, to doubt his sincerity, his good intentions, and the fact that his opinions are grounded in knowledge and introspection that are uncommon in most Americans, much less most members of Congress.

If it sounds like I’m something of a Paul Ryan fan, I plead guilty; I have been ever since meeting him in 1999 during his first campaign to represent Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district, including his hometown of Janesville, in Congress. He is the same person today that he was 15 years ago, just with a higher profile, particularly since being selected as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, and a lot more responsibility as chairman of the House Budget Committee — and likely future chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for setting American tax policy.

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Special Report

Criminalizing Conservatism

By 8.29.14

Wisconsin has created a new type of political supervillain by combining the most reprehensible attributes of this nation’s two most infamous ogres of the last century — Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon.

Start with McCarthy’s reckless and unsubstantiated allegations against random names on a list, his endless investigations that produced nothing but press coverage and ruined lives. Then take Nixon’s vindictiveness, his desire to use the mechanisms of state to crush his political enemies, and remove the legal impediments that kept him from doing much about it. Give him laws like Wisconsin’s.

There never would have been any Cubans breaking into the Watergate to take a look at the files of the Democratic National Committee or plant bugs. G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt could have just written subpoenas for whatever they wanted without restriction. When there’s nobody to stop them, it turns out that what they want to look at is everything.

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Special Report

The Streets of San Francisco

By 8.29.14

San Francisco

If you want to film a zombie movie on the cheap, San Francisco offers a ready-made location overflowing with extras.

The mentally ill, addicted, and homeless find a home in the City by the Bay as they do nowhere else in North America. In this walkable Western metropolis, one walks a gauntlet of down-and-outers betraying that unmistakable drug gait and displaying lights out upstairs through their windows’ 100-watt stares. Instead of groaning for “more brains,” San Francisco’s zombies mumble “spare change.”

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The Luckiest of Friends

By 8.28.14

For the past 25 years, the Bard Summer Music Festival has offered classical music lovers a unique way to spend summer vacations: two weekends in August packed with concerts and lectures focused on the life and work of one composer. This year, to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Bard staged a Schubert Olympiad, featuring 17 concerts and lectures covering the astonishing array of works created by Viennese composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Those who thought the “Ave Maria,” “Unfinished Symphony” and “Trout Quintet” were Schubert’s greatest hits were in for a shock.

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Special Report

Warren Buffett to Uncle Sam: Drop Dead

By 8.27.14

Warren Buffett must pen another letter to his favorite uncle. The last one was a little too cloying. It was a personal missive, which somehow wound up on the top of the op-ed page of the New York Times on November 16, 2010. Here are a few of the key passages:

DEAR Uncle Sam,

My mother told me to send thank-you notes promptly. I’ve been remiss.

Let me remind you why I’m writing. Just over two years ago, in September 2008, our country faced an economic meltdown.… Several of our largest commercial banks were teetering. One of Wall Street’s giant investment banks had gone bankrupt, and the remaining three were poised to follow. A.I.G., the world’s most famous insurer, was at death’s door.

Many of our largest industrial companies… were weeks away from exhausting their cash resources. Indeed, all of corporate America’s dominoes were lined up, ready to topple…

Only one counterforce was available, and that was you, Uncle Sam…

Well, Uncle Sam, you delivered. People will second-guess your specific decisions… [but], overall, your actions were remarkably effective.…

Your grateful nephew,

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Special Report

Counter-Insurgency Intensifies — Again

By 8.25.14

The attack against the top commanders of Hamas’ military wing, reported in the Jerusalem Post over the weekend, underscores one of the key elements of a counter-revolutionary war: kill the insurgents; and in particular, kill their chiefs.

There will always be variations based on time and place, but in essence we know what must be done to suppress the savage wars of the post-colonial era that we are still living in more than half a century after the sun set on the British Empire.

You must eliminate the commanders of the terror bands that seek to replace the post-colonial regimes. These, as often as not are composed of incompetent thieves with no respect for their own countrymen. This gives the insurgents an initial claim to the moral high ground, which they quickly squander by showing they are little more than political mafias, using the populations they claim to represent as hostages and expendable props for propaganda purposes.

Second, you must flush the foot-soldiers out of their hiding places — get the fish, if one may refer to an old maestro of the genre, out of the water.

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Neither Just Nor Peaceful

By 8.20.14

“No justice, no peace,” scream protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. Implicit in this menacing chant is that the rioting on display there for over a week has been justified. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, among other hucksters, disclaim the violence, even as they stoke it with reckless rhetoric. They aren’t interested in peace but power. Were they truly opposed to the violence, they wouldn’t coin chants that condone it.

“We’re not looters. We’re liberators,” says Sharpton. Liberating society from what? The rule of law? His view of justice is that the law be permanently suspended for the racially aggrieved. A police department can only satisfy his measure of racial progress by going soft on politically favored criminals. Sharpton is a “liberator” who enables looters.

It is clear that from his view of justice no peace will ever follow. It is a formula for new injustices and perpetually divided communities. It is “justice” without truth, giving rise to a culture in which facts, evidence, and universal standards don’t matter.

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SketchFactor and Its Skittish Critics

By 8.19.14

There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” Jesse Jackson

The inventors of a new iPhone (and soon on Android) app called SketchFactor think that similar, albeit not necessarily race-based, concerns — such as caring for one’s personal safety — represent a market to be tapped.

Ongoing events in Ferguson, Missouri, make the debate about SketchFactor particularly timely since — although with hugely different levels of importance and emotion — both are causing debates over race relations and racism in the United States.

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When Bogie and Bacall Were Duped by Hollywood Communists

By 8.15.14

Lauren Bacall died this week at age 89. Her obituaries are paying tribute to a glamorous actress, a famed star from Hollywood’s Golden Age, the wife of Humphrey Bogart, and a lifetime liberal. She’s also being celebrated by liberals as a fighter for freedom in the arts, one who bravely confronted the closed-minded anti-communists in Washington—a stoic battler against Joe McCarthy and his “witch hunts.”

Sorry, but reality is more complicated.

The facts are that Lauren Bacall herself learned the truth about communism in Hollywood. She admitted to being badly duped by bad guys. She learned her lesson, even as her fellow Hollywood liberals to this day have not, opting instead for a false narrative that feeds a handy caricature. Here’s what really happened:

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Ferguson on Fire

By 8.14.14

As the suicide of Robin Williams — one of the few self-inflicted deaths of a public figure which truly saddened me; the man made me laugh since my teenage years — grabs the headlines, Ferguson, Missouri is literally and figuratively on fire.

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