Mark G. Brennan

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Books in Brief
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Books in Brief

How Dead Languages Work, by Coulter H. George (Oxford University Press; 240 pp., $25.00). If, like University of Virginia classics professor Coulter George, you find dead languages an “endless source of intellectual delight,” then perhaps it’s time to explore

Singin’ the Publishing Blues
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Singin’ the Publishing Blues

I like a traveling circus. The American Historical Association’s annual conference periodically sets up its tent at the New York Hilton. Since I live nearby, I subject myself to its clown car of characters every half decade. But this year,

Simple Answers for Hateful Minds
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Simple Answers for Hateful Minds

When did Americans become the stormtroopers of irrational simplification? Not a moment passes when a tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram picture doesn’t rip through our amber waves of grain and drive a social justice warrior to attack the nearest deplorable.

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NY Cops Retreat From the Heat

The English actor Beatrice Lillie had no inkling of 2019’s sweltering summer heat in 1931 when she debuted Noël Coward’s ditty “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” in the Broadway musical The Third Little Show. The song’s mocking refrain, “Mad dogs

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Books in Brief

Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey From a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League, by Dan-el Padilla Peralta (New York: Penguin Books; 320 pp., $17.00). I read Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s memoir of his illegal residency in the United States last week

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College Admissions and Other Rites of Fragility

Think of the angst the recent college admissions scandal has caused in wealthy households from Greenwich to La Jolla, and nowhere in between, except maybe Winnetka. After speaking with friends navigating the modern-day rite of passage that applying to college

Borders and Other Silly Concerns
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Borders and Other Silly Concerns

My housekeeper personifies the American Dream.  Her journey from rags may not have ended in riches.  But she now enjoys a solid middle-class existence after decades of backbreaking labor.  Born and raised in the Mexican state of Puebla, Laura married

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Breeze Over the Border With Me

Let’s conduct a thought experiment.  Imagine that you have just landed at New York’s JFK International Airport after a 15-hour flight from Mumbai.  Although you splurged for a business-class ticket, the extra-large seat, constant parade of food, and infinite selection

An Infrastructure of Crumbs and Bananas
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An Infrastructure of Crumbs and Bananas

The current American cultural and economic transformation, which arguably started in the late 20th century, is now approaching its nadir.  Americans will more likely mourn this transition than celebrate it.  The United States has regressed in terms of the typical

Trump’s Razor
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Trump’s Razor

Blame everything on Trump.  Your car won’t start?  It’s Trump’s fault.  Your dog threw up in the living room?  It’s Trump’s fault.  The media have lost their collective mind.  That’s definitely Trump’s fault.  And the blame game seems to get

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Citizen Sunflower and America’s Future

Cancer imposes innumerable indignities on its victims.  In addition to possible death, the disease, its complications, and its treatment also force patients through the most inhumane gauntlet of our health-care system.  When you’re not giving a blood sample, you’re likely

What Leads to What
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What Leads to What

Last fall, when they stopped in New York on their way to vacation in Europe, Chronicles editor Chilton Williamson and his wife invited Taki and me to dinner.  Before the wine started flowing and Taki’s raconteurial skills became the primary

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Double-Blind in Academia

There are many ways to commit suicide in academia today.  Bret Weinstein, a biology professor at Evergreen State College, opted not to take part in the school’s annual “Day of Absence” celebration.  Participation in the racially motivated festivity required white

Selling Them the Rope
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Selling Them the Rope

The United States recently came under an attack by an activity so insidious that Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and his Wisconsin colleague Tammy Baldwin joined forces in an effort to demand it be “reined in.”  Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren, the Senate’s

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Uber Über Odor

Brennan_08-2018

My wife and I obey a simple rule regarding our leisure travel: She makes the plans; I follow them.  Since she enjoys researching hotels and locations, and my tastes overlap with hers, we find it easier for her to do

Syria and Our Deaths of Despair
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Syria and Our Deaths of Despair

Just two days after the alleged April 9 chemical attack in Douma, Syria, TV host Tucker Carlson asked Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, “What is the American national security interest that would be served by regime change in Syria?”

Wicker

Hogging the Guns
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Hogging the Guns

Facts ruin bad arguments. So let these facts sink in for a minute. According to the FBI, in 2016 murderers using handguns killed 7, 105 Americans. That same year, murderers using any kind of rifle—muzzle-loading, breech-loading, lever-action, bolt-action, or even

Venting Is Not Enough: Nassar and Injustice
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Venting Is Not Enough: Nassar and Injustice

Imagine a justice system that functioned as follows.  While awaiting sentencing after conviction, the vilest criminals would be put in the public dock, surrounded by angry spectators.  At the behest of the presiding judge, victims, along with their friends and

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An Unexpected Journey

Physicians of the Utmost Fame

Were called at once; but when they came

They answered, as they took their Fees,

“There is no Cure for this Disease.”

—from “Henry King,” by Hilaire Belloc

I’ve spent the last few months hobbling

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A Patriotic Tax Plan

Aside from its sheer incomprehensibility, the U.S. federal tax code is immoral, by design.  Its 75,000 pages exceed its 1917 length 187-fold.  Paradoxically, even though the tax code contains more than four million words, the United States effectively has no

Afghanistan’s Depraved Opportunism
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Afghanistan’s Depraved Opportunism

In “Staying the Course in Afghanistan: How to Fight the Longest War,” published in the November/December 2017 Foreign Affairs, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal and one Kosh Sadat, both employed by the eponymous McChrystal Group, argue for the United

Weinstein: Who Cares—and Why
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Weinstein: Who Cares—and Why

Just as America started to recover from Harvey earlier this fall, fate hit the replay button.  Harvey the First destroyed property and took lives across Texas and parts of the Southeast.  Harvey the Second, the alleged rapist and confessed serial

America Mispriced
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America Mispriced

Warren Buffett once joked that only when the tide goes out do we realize who’s been swimming naked.  Hurricane Harvey’s gale force winds and 50-plus inches of rain will give Houstonians a similarly embarrassing realization.  Cable news channels fire-hosed viewers

Core Values and the Kingdom
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Core Values and the Kingdom

Saudi Arabia’s national oil and natural-gas company, Saudi Aramco, recently announced plans to go public in 2018.  Dating back to the fuel shortages of World War I, Saudi Aramco came into existence largely as a result of Standard Oil’s frustrating

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Outdated

Albert and David Maysles’s classic documentary Grey Gardens provided a disturbing snapshot of 1970’s American upper-class life, replete with mentally ill dowagers, feral cats, and a crumbling estate.  In early 1971, the Maysles brothers started filming the daily activities of

A Free Ride to Clown College
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A Free Ride to Clown College

Not content to suffer quietly under a $352 billion state debt, a crumbling post-World War II infrastructure, and a $65 billion unfunded pension liability in its largest city, the state of New York hastened its impending financial devastation this spring

Blowing Bubbles
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Blowing Bubbles

Between 2000 and 2005 I found myself spending an increasing amount of time scratching my head.  I had been researching and investing in financial-services stocks since 1992, but what I saw during that five-year span confounded me.  Banks offered “ninja”

The College Bubble
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The College Bubble

The university graduation season this past spring dumped another seven million job seekers onto the sputtering economy.  A June headline in the New York Times painted a dismal picture of their likelihood of finding employment: “Degrees but No Guarantees: Faltering

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Cuba: Distorted History, Different Rules

This past May in Newark, the FBI added former Black Liberation Army mercenary Joanne Chesimard to its Most Wanted Terrorists list at a ceremony held on the 40th anniversary of New Jersey’s most infamous cop killing.  Now known as Assata

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Keeping Taxes Highest

A Stalinist show trial was held on May 21 by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.  Their aim was to investigate “how individual and corporate taxpayers are shifting billions of dollars

Take the Money and Run: Entitlement Politics
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Take the Money and Run: Entitlement Politics

As New York City’s mayoral campaign kicked into overdrive earlier this spring, the New York Times saw fit to question the viability of Republican candidate Joe Lhota, former chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.  With all the populist fervor it

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Anarcho-Tyranny Versus…Walmart?

Everyone hates Walmart nowadays.  Environmental groups protest the company’s “greenwashing,” numerous violations of the Clean Water Act, and contribution to suburban sprawl.  Traditionalists detest Walmart’s displacement of small, family-owned businesses with big-box stores that serve as little more than cash

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Burning Fries in Hell

Ronald McDonald had better look into renting Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout.  Several national newspapers recently published a letter, signed by over 1,000 health professionals and two-dozen institutions such as the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition and the Inpatient Diabetes Program

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Airport Frisking

How many terrorists share a surname with a 19th-century American plutocrat famed for starting one of the country’s first investment banks and founding a technical university in the City of Brotherly Love?  How many terrorists hail from the Bluegrass State? 

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Too Big To Bail

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner boasted on December 16 that 2008’s $700 billion bailout of an assortment of private enterprises would ultimately cost taxpayers less than congressional analysts had predicted.  The green eyeshades had calculated that the enormous wealth transfer would

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It Takes a Crisis

While Europe’s monetary crisis spreads, Americans watch in astonishment as the German government bails out its feckless co-unionists.  Greece’s financial predicaments boiled over last summer with baton-wielding riot police pummeling Greek civil servants who objected to their government’s modest proposal

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Hitting the Wall

On October 8, Americans awoke to government reports that the domestic economy had shed another 95,000 jobs in September.  Despite the billions of dollars mailed to select citizens in the form of stimulus checks and the politicized bailouts of protected

The Borrower’s Crisis
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The Borrower’s Crisis

Like the mindless day traders of the 1990’s who piled into the same hot internet stocks, today’s commentators on the causes of 2008’s residential-real-estate implosion have exhibited a similar obtuseness regarding the workings of financial markets.  One will search in

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Unhappy Anniversary

The one-year anniversary of the 2008 global financial-market implosion passed with little fanfare.  With the U.S. stock market soaring throughout the spring and summer, the Pollyannas of the American media preferred to focus their attention on the return of good

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Family Matters

Cesar Rodriguez, a 27-year-old unemployed security guard, had it in for 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown, the daughter of Nixzaliz Santiago, his common-law wife.  After losing his job a few days before Christmas, Rodriguez increased the frequency of his daily beatings of

The Dissenting Eagle
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The Dissenting Eagle

Few decisions require more prudence and judiciousness than when a country’s leaders determine whether to go to war.  They must weigh the cost in lives, national treasure, and security against the price of inaction.  Morality may enter their calculations through