Not since the Nazi book burnings of the 1930s has free speech been as endangered as it is today. Firebombing publishers, murdering filmmakers, issuing death threats against writers and cartoonists, suing researchers, restricting freedom of expression through the U.N. — these are some of the ways militant Islamists, their enablers and apologists, are seeking to silence their critics.
Intimidation is another. It operates on campuses and within the Foreign Policy Establishment. A recent experience may be instructive.
We interrupt this global financial crisis for a news bulletin that is more important, at least to me: My daughter is getting married.
Longtime readers of my work — and let me just say that counseling is available — will recall me writing about Allison Henry over the years: How when she was born she opened one little eye and saw me for the first time, then closed it, thinking perhaps there had been some mistake.
The shifting tide of public anger may yet save the controversial $700 billion financial bailout passage.
When the House of Representative overwhemlingly rejected President Bush’s package Monday, some felt it was a Congressional caving to anger back home at the use of taxpayer dollars to save big financial firms.
But as the reality of Monday’s action sank in, public reaction shifted and reluctant Representives now appear ready to take action, any action, to calm the situation.
We may have witnessed the final implosion of the Bush administration with the rejection of the president’s $700 billion bailout package.
Repudiation doesn’t come much stronger than having 133 House Republicans ignore President Bush’s plea that "our entire economy is in danger" if the bailout didn’t pass. Brushing aside also the pleas of the administration’s two top economic spokesmen, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the Republicans provided the bulk of the 228 "no" votes.
The current financial crisis and proposed bailout remind me of Jubilee, the Jewish ritual year described in the 25th chapter of Leviticus.
Jubilee occurred every 50 years, and it represented a sort of return to a financial Square One for the Jews: debts were forgiven, property that had been sold was returned to its original owner, and any Jew who had fallen into indentured servitude because of debt was released of his obligations.
In short, everyone got a fresh start every 50 years. Needless to say, it’s been a long time since this ancient ceremonial year was observed.
Under normal circumstances corporate boards set the compensation of their chief executive officers and stockholders have an opportunity to voice their opinions about the fairness of their actions. But these are not normal times, at least for the nation’s financial institutions, and a whole new set of rules seems to apply.
Do you know what a credit default swap is? Neither does Wall Street apparently, even though the investment banks and brokerages sliced and diced them, traded them, loaded down their customers with them and — who knows? — perhaps converted them into nutritious, high fiber snacks and sold them to the public schools.