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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.

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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.

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The Current Crisis

Why Exposés of the Clintons Fail

By 7.31.14

In dipping into Daniel Halper’s interesting new book about the Clintons’ return from the grave that they had dug for themselves during their White House years (from an approval rating of 66 percent after his impeachment he plummeted to 39 percent upon leaving the White House to a chorus of pardon-induced Bronx cheers), a thought occurs: We have been reading these exposés about the malfeasance of the most corrupt presidential family in American history for over two decades! For some reason the scandals that these books reveal never sinks into the American mind. Today, despite Bill Clinton’s public record of shoddy financial deals, brutal politics, and endless abuse of women, he is the most beloved of recent presidents.

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A Further Perspective

Obama’s Part-Time Nation

By 7.31.14

Vice President Joe Biden recently declared that America's jobs picture is outstanding — historically exceptional, on the plus side.

“Businesses are hiring at historic rates,” Biden stated, “with 52 consecutive months of net private sector job growth."

President Obama reiterated the same point in a recent speech in Delaware. “Our businesses have now added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months,” he declared.

“By almost every economic measure,” Obama continued, “we’re doing a whole lot better now than we were when I came into office.”

These upbeat assessments about jobs and the performance of the U.S. economy, regrettably, aren’t backed up by the facts or shared by the American public.

A recent Gallup survey, for instance, shows 56 percent of Americans saying the economy is getting worse while 39 percent said the economy is improving.

In his July 13 article, “Full-Time Scandal of Part-Time America,” U.S. News & World Report editor in chief Mortimer Zuckerman provided a more realistic portrayal than Biden and Obama of the actual state of the U.S. economy.

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Ben Stein's Diary

More Than We Bargained For

By From the July/August 2014 issue

MondayHere I am in New York City. The weather is perfect. Last night I had a fine flight up on a tiny little U.S. Air regional jet. Its air conditioning was broken and it was an oven, but I slept most of the time anyway.I checked into my usual room at the Marriott Essex House on Central Park South. For decades it was a Marriott, and then an Arab hotel firm bought it, spruced it up, and ran it for about ten years. Now it’s a Marriott again and it’s just great. The doormen, bellhops, and desk people are all kind and remember me from stays over many years. It feels like home.I met up with the college-age daughter of a close friend from Los Angeles. She’s a student at the Jewish Theological Seminary at Columbia University and also takes many courses at the School of General Studies at Columbia. She was right on time and we went out for a walk in the balmy evening of New York in spring. The girl and I discussed President Obama’s concerns about rape on campus. She was extremely concerned about the situation, too.
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Ben Stein's Diary

We’re Going in the Wrong Direction

By 7.30.14

Tuesday–July 29, 2014
It is all happening again. Wild anti-Jewish mobs shouting, “Death to the Jews” in Berlin, threats against Jews wearing yarmulkes all across Europe, homes of prominent Jews attacked. “Celebrities” in Spain denouncing Israeli “fascism” for Israel defending itself.

Europe. And now that Europe is fast becoming a Muslim and Arab continent, there will be no turning back. The illness of Islamist hatred and fundamentalism is loosed upon once mighty Europe from within and the organism has no defense mechanism. Europe as a home of liberal ideas about the dignity of the individual will be only a memory by the time my 26-year-old son is middle aged. It is a catastrophe of historic, world-ending dimensions.

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Lit Crit

‘Arts & Entertainments’ Is Accomplished, Frustrating

By 7.30.14

Arts & Entertainments
By Christopher Beha
(Ecco, 288 pages, $14.99)

Eddie Hartley is a failure. His acting career barely extends beyond a handful of bit parts in Law & Order. He’s a high school drama teacher, but the best he can muster toward his students is apathy. He and his wife Susan have been trying (unsuccessfully) to have children, and expensive fertility treatments have left them deep in debt. Meanwhile, Eddie’s talented and beautiful ex-girlfriend Martha, who dumped him when her own acting career took off, has enjoyed nothing but success. She’s got everything and he’s got nothing.

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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.

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Another Perspective

Whom Would Jesus Shoot?

By 7.30.14

This question is posed by a liberal Baptist Huffington Post columnist, and the answer has potential public policy ramifications for all.

It’s both a strength and weakness that Protestantism and Evangelicalism traditionally emphasize personal relationship with Jesus. The strength is that faith becomes intimate and warm. One potential negative is that it tends to focus on Jesus the man during His earthly walk while often unconsciously minimizing that Jesus, according to Christian theology, is the eternally existent Second Person of the Trinity.

The Christ of Christian faith was present at creation and present through all the drama of the patriarchs and prophets of the Hebrew narrative. God in Christ ordained kings, summoned nations, ordered generals into battle and presided over great and often violent events.

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A Further Perspective

The Quirks of the Nanny State

By 7.30.14

Under the nanny state, what qualifies as a risk is often perplexing. Its champions usually see risks everywhere, from climate change to oversized sugary drinks to cupcake parties in public school classrooms. They press for more and more safety and healthy regulations in every area of life, demanding that society err on the side of caution. But when topics such as over-the-counter abortifacients and drug legalization come up, proponents of the nanny state suddenly change their tune. Risks are downplayed and freedom is extolled.

The New York Times, which normally favors hyperactive legislation and regulations for imaginary risks, has adopted a dismissive attitude about the real risks of marijuana use. Its editorial board has pronounced marijuana a “substance far less dangerous than alcohol” and declared that pot “addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco.” It continued, “Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the ‘Reefer Madness’ images of murder, rape and suicide.”

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