Special Report

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.

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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?

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.”

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David Cameron’s Christian Britain

By 4.24.14

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron is enjoying some controversy for again hailing Britain as a Christian nation.

It came most recently after a Downing Street Easter reception for church leaders, similar to receptions Cameron’s held for Muslim and Hindu holidays, where Cameron said “we should be proud of the fact that we are a Christian country, and I am proud of the fact we’re a Christian country and we shouldn’t be ashamed to say so.” He recalled his own recent “small pilgrimage” to “where our Saviour was both crucified and born.”

Cameron cited global persecution of Christians and said “our religion is now the most persecuted religion around the world.” And he emphasized, “We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other religious groups wherever and whenever we can, and should be unashamed in doing so.”

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Flash Noise

By 4.23.14

Michael Lewis is one of America’s most successful story-tellers. But in his new book, Flash Boys, a superficial one-sided discussion of “High Frequency Trading” (“HFT”) — and his repeated pronouncements  that the stock market is “rigged” and a “fraud” — Mr. Lewis’s bombastic conclusions are as harmful as they are overstated.

High Frequency Trading is a term widely used — and misused — by people who know little of financial markets. It can mean so many things as to be nearly meaningless since almost anything a trader can do with a computer is much faster than what traders (like me) did in pits in years past. Compared to even recent trading history, nearly everything seems “high frequency” these days.

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Going Negative on Affirmative Action

By 4.23.14

The good news about yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling is that it affirmed the right of the people to ban racial preferences in university admissions. The bad news is that it didn't go further.

In 2003, the Court handed down two landmark decisions: Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger. Taken together, the cases struck down a racial quota system used in admissions at the University of Michigan, but allowed for more limited race-based preferences. As Kevin Mooney pointed out, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said in the Grutter decision that voters have the last say on affirmative action regimes.

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Earth Day 2014: Chinese Conundrum

By 4.19.14

Several years ago, in 2007, I wrote an account of my visit to Shanghai which focused, primarily, on the city’s and China’s astounding economic boom, then achieving 11 percent growth in GDP for the third straight quarter. This torrid pace has throttled back a bit to 7.4 percent.

I noted that, with the economic growth, “A lot of pollution comes with the territory, but we did a pretty good job of polluting during our boom years.” Take Chicago at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Upton Sinclair, in his muckraking novel, The Jungle (1906, Chapter 9), described the infamous “Bubbly Creek”:

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