All posts filed under: Top Stories

Hypocrisy, Cynicism and Tara Reade

Four years after Tara Reade briefly worked as a staffer for then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden, I occupied a similar office in the same town. The summer of 1997 saw me tucked into one of a few polyester suits purchased off the clearance rack at Benetton, a pink “I-badge” hanging from my neck, heading for the Old Executive Office Building, where I worked as a White House intern. Through his Democratic Party connections, my father had arranged for me to spend the summer cooped up with Bill Clinton’s speechwriters. I learned a lot that summer, but very different things than I’d hoped. I learned that D.C. staffers, interns and even chiefs of staff worship the men and women they serve with a desperation I have not seen equaled since. And I learned that the men in high office—D.C.’s version of Hollywood stars—often come to believe they are as god-like as the underlings tell them they are. One morning, we interns were called together quite suddenly for an urgent talk, delivered by the woman who headed the …

Ronan Farrow’s Botched Journalism is Troubling. The Response to It Has Been Worse

On January 9th, during jury selection for the sex-assault trial of Harvey Weinstein, Ronan Farrow tweeted that a “source” with knowledge of the proceedings had told him that “close to 50 potential jurors have been sent home” because they’d read his book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators. In fact, the number of jurors sent home for that reason was two, as a New York Times reporter had already noted. Source involved in Weinstein trial tells me close to 50 potential jurors have been sent home because they said they’d read Catch and Kill. — Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) January 10, 2020 Twitter typically isn’t journalism, and Farrow wasn’t tweeting in his capacity as a reporter. But the fact that he believed the vastly inflated figure to be accurate, saw fit to boast to his followers about it, and even stood by the number when later challenged on it, is indicative of his robust sense of self-regard and the ease with which he is seduced by dramatic but dubious narratives. As …

Captain Cook and the Colonial Paradox

On April 29th, 1770, a longboat from the Royal Navy bark Endeavour grounded on Silver Beach at Botany Bay in what is now Sydney’s southern suburbs. Isaac Smith, a young midshipman, leapt out and became the first European to set foot on Australia’s east coast. Four men followed—Swedish scientist Daniel Solander, English Botanist Joseph Banks, Tahitian navigator Tupaia, and the commander of the expedition, Lieutenant James Cook. They had rowed towards an encampment of the Gweagal Aboriginal people in the hope of speaking to the inhabitants. However, all the people had fled, save for two men, who seemed determined to oppose Cook’s landing. Cook tried to speak to them, but to no avail—neither he nor Tupaia could understand the language they called back in. Cook tried throwing some nails and beads onto the shore as a peace offering, but they didn’t understand the gesture, and according to Cook, made as if they were going to attack. He fired a musket between them, and one responded by throwing a rock. He fired a second shot, wounding …

The Fight over Alternative Education

Articles in college alumni magazines, even in the Ivy League, are usually puff pieces about academic programs and professors. They are designed to make graduates feel so good about their alma mater and its intellectual achievements that they will write out yet another donation check. Seldom do the articles circulate much outside of the closed circle of alums. Not so with a 1,007-word piece in the May – June 2020 issue of the Harvard Magazine entitled “The Risks of Homeschooling” in which Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet recommended a “presumptive ban” against parents’ educating their children at home (as between three and four percent of US parents currently do). That is, unless these parents can prove to educational authorities “that their case is justified.” Bartholet had already expressed this view in an extensively footnoted 80-page scholarly article for the Arizona Law Review entitled “Homeschooling: Parent Right Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education & Protection” published earlier in 2020. There, she wrote: A very large proportion of homeschooling parents are ideologically committed to isolating their …

American Women of Different Racial Backgrounds Are Marrying Less—Why?

Even before the current crisis, many unmarried mothers struggled to support their families and provide a nurturing and stable environment for children. As the marriage rate continues to decline, this is a growing issue. If policy-makers are going to address this problem, we need to debunk some unhelpful myths and develop a better understanding of why women of all races are marrying less. What’s at stake is the future of the children who live in these families. There has been a steady decline in US marriage rates, from 65.9 percent of adult women in 1960 to 51.1 percent in 2018. Despite this overall trend, many commentators continue to focus on the low marriage rate among black women—32 percent compared to the white rate of 53.7 percent—because of the high share of black children born to unmarried women: 69.4 percent compared to the white rate of 28.9 percent. They point to the difficulties these children face. They preach the success sequence: education, employment, marriage, and then childbearing. They ignore, however, how low employment and educational attainment …

Dumbing Fascism Down, Then And Now

Some historical movements fade into oblivion. (Meet any physiocrats lately?) But not fascism. Despite the fiery demise of the Nazi regime 75 years ago this month, the idea of fascism has retained its power to arouse fear and contempt—even in countries where it poses no realistic threat to the prevailing liberal democratic order. In the realm of US politics, the term has become common currency among detractors of Donald Trump—while on the other side of the spectrum, conservatives use it as a casual slur to attack COVID-19 lockdown policies they deem misguided. When protestors used the f-word to describe New Jersey’s pandemic response (on Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day, no less), state governor Phil Murphy properly replied that the malapropism created “a disgusting false equivalence.” Books warning of “the new fascism” have become a cottage industry among academics. But at least one author, Dr. Paul E. Gottfried, professor emeritus of humanities at Elizabethtown College and editor of Chronicles magazine, takes a more historically informed view. He’s currently writing a book about the anti-fascist …

Death of an Old-Fashioned Clown

When I recently discovered that Fred Willard had appeared as the ghost of Trump’s father in a skit on Jimmy Kimmel’s TV show, I must admit my heart sank. Not that there’s anything wrong with political satire, of course—traditionally, the comic has played the vital role of a jester whose job it is to send up pomposity and hypocrisy wherever they occur. But in the era of Donald Trump, a distressing number have preferred to simply become mouthpieces for progressive talking points and platitudes. Would Willard fall into this trap? I braced myself for disappointment, but I needn’t have worried. The laugh lines were predictable and the material was as charmlessly partisan as I’d expected, but Willard’s characterisation of Trump senior as a cheerful-but-damned sort of American soul in a Frank Capra three-piece suit effortlessly drained the sketch of whatever spite had animated its conception. But the Kimmel skits notwithstanding—he also appeared as Trump’s party planner and nickname-maker—Willard rarely concerned himself with fashionable politics. Few things are more dispiriting than much-loved entertainers contorting themselves to …

As Common Sense Returns to the Gender Debate, Radicals Set Upon Their Own Allies

In 2014, Ottawa-based writer Amanda Jetté Knox reported that her child Alexis had “come out to the family as a transgender girl.” This event changed Knox’s life, as “Alexis’ journey taught [her] a great deal about courage, compassion and authenticity.” A few months after that, Knox’s spouse came out as transgender as well. Knox reported to her readers that this realization, too, was “beautiful,” and that she could not be more delighted to now be “gay married.” In blog posts, Knox described the whole family as “the happiest we’ve ever been,” and wrote that “our world is so full of love and support that it leaves absolutely no room for hatred or ignorance to reside within it.” Indeed, Knox made gender transition her professional focus, “studying research, interviewing experts, giving talks, writing articles” about trans issues. She authored a bestselling 2019 book about her experiences. In newspapers and magazines, she wrote articles under headlines like “The only way to respond to my transgender child’s desperate plea was with love,” “My daughter came out as trans, …

Drop Anchor: How COVID-19 Will Kill the Cruise Industry

Last week, Air Canada announced it was cutting its workforce by at least half, effective next month. This is not surprising, since flight attendants can’t do their jobs when there are no flights. Air Canada is now flying at one-twentieth its pre-pandemic capacity. The airline hopes to ramp up operations in coming months, but even optimistic estimates put late-2020 airline travel volume at about one-quarter of baseline levels. Similar patterns are playing out everywhere. COVID-19 has decimated the travel industry. It will return, of course, but will it be the same as we remember it? My pre-boomer peers are almost all retirees, many securely well-heeled, and mad for travel. In their salad days, they planned trips hither and yon by themselves or with friends. The food tour through Italy, or the wine tour through France. Bicycles and hiking often were involved, along with local guides who would provide a deep dive into regional culture and history. No wasting away at Del Boca Vista for this set. Even the least ambitious will sign on to group …

Capitalism or the Climate?

Can environmentalism and capitalism sustainably coexist? An influential movement of climate activists view capitalism and environmentalism as antithetical. According to the title of an article in the Guardian, “Ending Climate Change Requires the End of Capitalism.” An article in Foreign Policy, meanwhile, is subtitled, “New data proves you can support capitalism or the environment—but it’s hard to do both.” And in her bestselling book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein writes, “By posing climate change as a battle between capitalism and the planet, I am not saying anything that we don’t already know.” These are just a few of countless prominent examples. This view dwells not just in newsrooms, but in the halls of government as well. US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, author of the 2019 Green New Deal resolution and surrogate to Bernie Sanders in the 2020 democratic primary, told a 2019 SXSW audience, “Capitalism, to me, is an ideology of capital. The most important thing is the concentration of capital, and it means that we seek and prioritize profit and the …