Pundit Wire

The State of the Union is still very much alive

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 8.28.31 PM“Rumors of my death have been highly exaggerated,” Mark Twain is supposed to have said after one news story reporting it.

Actually, he didn’t. He wrote a brief, dull note telling someone they had confused him with a cousin. Someone else made it better.

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Churchill After Fifty Years

Sir_Winston_S_ChurchillWinston Churchill died fifty years ago on January 24, 1965. I was 17 at the time, and have vivid memories of watching his funeral on television.

To mark this anniversary of his passing, I’m reading The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by rising British political star Boris Johnson. Like Churchill himself, Mr. Johnson—currently mayor of London—is a journalist turned politician, which gives him added insight into his subject, as does his own reputation for flamboyance.

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The New, Improved Payday Loan?

payday loanWhat would you say if I offered a $500  loan that would require that you repay me with $920 less than six months hence?

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PULLING OUR PUNCHES IN PARIS AND BEYOND

images-6The circulation numbers for the first issue of Charlie Hebdo since the Paris massacre have reached 7 million, according to news reports — which means the next group of jihadists will have to buy a helluva lot more ski masks.

I wouldn’t put it past them, though. Jihadists hate leaving a job unfinished, as we learned in 2001. And now that 7 million people have a cartoon image of the prophet Mohammed resting on their coffee tables and toilet tanks, they have a lot more work to do.

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Bigger American Medicine May Be Better

Unknown-12For better and worse, American medicine is increasingly controlled by large corporate entities and Obamacare is accelerating the transition. Observers including me who see our medicine as highly inefficient view this trend as an opportunity to impose rationality, but there are also clearly pitfalls.

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DIPLOMACY: IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU

John Kerry - Lassana BathilyThe planet gawps at the spectacle of US Secretary of State John Kerry descending on hapless French President Hollande (who has enough to worry about these days without weird foreigners embarrassing him in public) and hug-kissing him in no little profusion.

As if this were not enough, John Kerry brought with him to Paris James Taylor to play “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. But this highest-profile gesture of American solidarité after the Paris terrorist attacks was bungled: the organisers made the rookie error of not checking and re-checking before the performance started that the practical sound arrangements were working. Watch the whole ghastly spectacle unfold here. Poor James Taylor is perched high on a stool but hunched awkwardly over a useless microphone so that you can’t see his face. John Kerry stands there in ill-suppressed tension. As diplomatic self-mutilations go, this is right up there.

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Speechwriting for Leaders

Final_Cover_vivzyl Why, do leaders or generally important people have speechwriters at all? And why might foreign leaders engage experts not from their own country? Self-indulgence, or a good investment?

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Woman in the Dunes

Imperial_sand_dunesTony Hervas, a colossus of a man, was chief U.S. interpreter (Spanish/English) during the lengthy negotiations reverting the Panama Canal “back” to Panama, under President Carter.

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