Dispatches > The Buzz
- Ending the siege mentality? The stretch of Pennsylvania Ave. that fronts the White House was closed to traffic after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995-but The Washington Times quotes security experts saying that move may not do much to squash terrorism. Vice President Dick Cheney told the paper that risks must be reassessed before the famous street is reopened: "I like driving in front of the White House, too, but I do think you need to sit down and look seriously."
- Star chamber: Will free speech survive European Union? Articles in both London's The Daily Telegraph and The Times report on the case of a former EU official fired for writing a book critical of Eurocratic monetary policy. The European Court of Justice ruled that the firing of Bernard Connolly, an EU economist, was justified and that government suppression of employees' free-speech rights is "legitimate." The court found his book The Rotten Heart of Europe not to be protected speech and ordered the author to pay court costs. Since free political speech has been considered a basic human right in the free West for generations, the court's ruling that those who criticize their rulers must be punished is a serious step backward. The Times quoted a "sorry but not surprised" Mr. Connolly: "The court is acting as the sinister organ of a tyranny in the making."
- No Byrd hunting: Sen. Robert Byrd's vulgar racial reference during a television interview gave columnist Michelle Malkin a chance to note a mass media double standard: The West Virginia Democrat is forgiven his Ku Kluxer past, while nobody to his right could ever see such an indiscretion written off. The senator was a Klan recruiter in the 1940s and fought the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If Mr. Byrd weren't a liberal power-player, he'd be dead meat. The "party of understanding" gets carte blanche, Ms. Malkin notes. Democrat colleagues "downplay his white-sheet-wearing days as a 'brief mistake'-as if joining the Klan were like knocking over a glass of water. Oopsy."
- Death of culture: The so-called "Culture of Death" has a new star, groans Borked columnist Linda Chavez: Gunther von Hagens, a German artist who displays embalmed, mutilated human bodies as entertainment. For example, a pregnant woman's skin is peeled back to show the fetus inside her and a man is seated at a chess board with his brain exposed. "Von Hagens's purpose is simple," Ms. Chavez notes. "He wants to reduce the human body to a mere object. How better to do it than to take real bodies and defile, manipulate, and pervert them from flesh and blood into plastic for the purpose of amusing those with a particularly ghoulish appetite?" The "Bodyworks" exhibit may wind up on tour in the United States soon, she reported.
- Vindicated by history: Ronald Reagan's making a comeback, comments John O'Sullivan in a Chicago Sun-Times piece analyzing the Navy's naming an aircraft carrier for the 40th president. He notes that America's elite paints the Great Communicator as a bystander to history, not a commanding figure who helped engineer economic revival and Cold War victory. "Reagan never had been respected by academics or the media," Mr. O'Sullivan wrote. "And it was intolerable to them that he should be vindicated so completely by history."
- Must this show go on? CNN's ratings are in the tank, the pink slips are flying, and antsy staffers are questioning why the network brass think Jesse Jackson is worth a quarter of a million a year to host a forgettable talk show. The Chicago Tribune's Ellen Warren and Terry Armour report that Mr. Jackson's $5,000 a week is "vastly more than almost all other on-air talent at CNN." His "Both Sides with Jesse Jackson" is "on hiatus" because of the activist's personal problems, but the Tribune quotes a CNN spokesman saying "his show is waiting for him" should he return.
- Tax destruction: Tax cuts have little effect on rich people, but they matter a lot to those who use the federal tax code to buy votes. David Horowitz, in his token-opposition space in the liberal Salon.com, complains that overtaxing fuels a bogus charity effort-welfare reform notwithstanding-that still wastes trillions destroying the very people who use and support its efforts. "Opponents of the Bush tax plan point to the fact that 40 percent of African-American children live in poverty. What they don't point out is that 85 percent of those children have no fathers-thanks in large part to the anti-family incentives of the welfare system itself."