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The Continuing Crisis

The Continuing Crisis

By From the June 2014 issue

April turns to May, and all of a sudden things have become very perilous for Vice President Joseph Biden. In the beginning of the month he was addressing the traditional Democratic groups—for instance the Women With Splitting Headaches International and the Stupid Students Society of Bull Snort, Georgia—and joshing it up in his incomparable way. Then inexplicably President Barack Obama sent him to UKRAINE! Not to North Korea, not to Somalia, not even to Chicago’s South Side on a Saturday night. Joe Six Pack was sent to Ukraine, there to threaten President Vladimir Putin and to eat Ukrainian cuisine whether he likes it or not. All the time he was there Joe seemed edgy. No jokes about Indians working at the local 7-Elevens, not a word about Mrs. Sarah Palin. He shied away from open second-story windows. He kept his Secret Service detail away from strong drink. And one had to wonder: Why did the president send gaffable Joe to Ukraine just as Russian troops were rumbling along the border and Russian goons were amok within its borders?
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About This Month

Coarse Correction

By From the June 2014 issue

Another month, another step in our public degeneration. In his listless performance before the White House Correspondents’ Association, our president casually uses the verb “piss off” without a moment’s hesitation. No one notices, not that anyone would object. As the evening’s comedian observed, he remains in the top fifty of our nation’s greatest presidents. 

Is his power waning? One sign it just might be is that his brother-in-law has been fired as head basketball coach at Oregon State University, a public institution reliant on federal funds. Though he had a losing record in a six-season run that coincided with this president’s tenure, the AP report made sure to note that at 94-105 he is the “fourth-winningest coach in school history.” The rest of his contract has been bought out for $4 million. Good news for the taxman, but can such buyouts also be applied to winning politicians with losing records?

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In Memoriam

A Great Tree Falls and an Era Passes

By 6.29.14

The death of the leader of a family clan marks the ending of an era. The big family clan –– held together by forceful personalities and connected across states and theologies and basketball rivalries and socioeconomic divides –– is rare anymore, but it is so important. One of the earliest condolences we received after the death of my husband’s older brother, J.B. Crouse, said, “A great tree has fallen.” I can think of no better description of how we feel as we mourn the loss of a great leader who is also –– first and foremost to us –– our dearly loved brother.

The shade of that big tree fell on all of us; that tree — a focal point in our whole extended family –– covered our lives and interactions with his personality, presence, and prayers.

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Special Report

Christians & Nukes

By 6.29.14

Several U.S. Catholic bishops in March visited Iran to parley with ayatollahs and other Islamic authorities of that theocracy. In June they issued a joint resulting statement extolling their abhorrence of weapons of mass destruction.

“Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction,” their interfaith declaration announced. “Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.”

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Culture Vultures

The Lazy Machines Kill Literacy

By 6.27.14

To put an end to the spirit of inquiry that has characterized the West it is not necessary to burn the books,” Robert Maynard Hutchins wrote in the introductory volume of The Great Books of the Western World. “All we have to do is to leave them unread for a few generations.”

An examined life has never been the aim of more than a fraction of any population, and intellectuals have always been rightly hated. But America certainly boasted a more literate citizenry fairly recently. More than sixty years ago, the Encyclopedia Britannica published the fifty-four-volume Great Books of the Western World. Whereas giving away the series today might be next to impossible, door-to-door salesmen—another relic (killed by enterprising door-to-door rapists) of a mostly forgotten age—sold more than a million sets at a starting price of $298, when $298 went a long way.   

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Enemy of the Week

Making a Mockery

By 6.27.14

Call John Koskinen a late bloomer. According to records on our hard drive before we crashed it, he is 74 years old, thirty-three days short of the magical 75. Before he caught Paul Ryan’s attention, we had never heard of him. Now he’s unanimous victor in the EOW sweepstakes. Such insolence, such arrogance, such contempt for all humanity we had not seen in a public official since the last time we paid attention to those who escaped from the losing side of World War II to some friendly dictatorship in the southern parts of South America and got caught. Is it any surprise that the Koskinen soccer stadium at Duke University is named after him? Wonder where he picked up his expertise in soccer?

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Politics

GOP Soul-Searching Over Thad Cochran

By 6.27.14

By now you've probably seen the reaction to Tuesday night’s Mississippi Republican Senate primary election, in which shaky incumbent Thad Cochran eked out a victory over Tea Party insurgent Chris McDaniel by making use of some rather unconventional electoral tactics.

Cochran dedicated most of his efforts to pursuing Democrats, and specifically the black community. He went so far as to threaten his new voting base by saying McDaniel would cut food stamps, and made conspicuous charges of racism against both McDaniel and the Tea Party. There were further allegations, substantiated in news reports, of “street money” paid to Democratic fixers to turn out the votes of, shall we say, “new” Republican voters crossing over to vote for Cochran on a one-time basis.

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To Be Absolutely Frank

Boehner’s Lawsuit Against Obama Is Just a Feint

By 6.27.14

So what’s with John Boehner’s newfound love of litigation? The speaker announced yesterday that he will ask the House to initiate a lawsuit against the president over his refusal to enforce the laws Congress has passed. That’s something the Wall Street Journal and George Will have both suggested, and it’s not a crazy idea.

First, the House likely has standing to bring an action. In 1990 a federal court held that a group of congressmen could not bring an action over George H.W. Bush’s failure to comply with the 1974 War Powers Resolution, but left open whether the House as a whole had standing. More recently, the House litigated the Defense of Marriage Act after the Obama administration declined to defend — and it would almost certainly have standing to litigate the president’s right to disregard litigation.

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Dictator Watch

Kim Jong-un Declares War on Hollywood

By 6.27.14

It’s hard being dictator of North Korea. You’re a god, but you aren’t allowed any time to yourself. Everything you do is scrutinized by your adoring and dependent public. The rest of the world privately admires you and publicly envies you.

But some of them even dare to mock you. In 2002, James Bond fought against the Korean people in Die Another Day, a movie that parodies all that is good and moral. Only those blinded by imperialism failed to recognize that the movie was “dirty and cursed,” as the government of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il explained.

Worse, two years later the great and wonderful Dear Leader was mercilessly lampooned by the movie Team America: World Police. Kim Jong-il remained focused on the noble goal of building nuclear weapons, bravely refusing foreign aid to feed his starving people. America resented his determination and strength of will. Seeking revenge, it turned loose the most fearsome of weapons against the movie-loving Kim: Hollywood.

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Another Perspective

Lt. Gen: ‘Putin Has Knocked the Pieces off the Board’

By 6.27.14

For a long time, we’ve been playing checkers while Putin has been playing chess, combining tactics with strategy and looking several moves ahead,” said the General. “In Ukraine, though, he’s done something wildly different, to which we have no real response. He has simply knocked the pieces off the board.”

The speaker, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, is the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which supports our combat operations everywhere. Commissioned as an Army intelligence officer in 1981, he served in that branch ever since, in many posts and deployments. A chest full of ribbons attests to his qualifications. He has sharply original points of view and he has not hesitated to shake up the organizations he commands. He is of medium height with short hair, has strong, lean features, and an intense expression. The modernistic DIA building where we met is on the Anacostia-Bolling air base, out beyond the Pentagon.

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