Ethan Epstein Articles

The Hand of Providence

Ethan Epstein recalls a contender.
Feb 15, 2016

He always seemed happy—at least to my 9-year-old self. At my Little League games, he had his photo taken with each team. At the grand opening of a bakery owned by my friend's mom, he showed up at the last minute to personally cut the ribbon. He'd tuck into plates of pasta on Federal Hill, the historically Italian section of my hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. Vincent Cianci—you probably know him as "Buddy"—who died late last month, appeared to relish his job as mayor of "America's greatest city" (at least that's how Providence was described in his campaign literature).

From 1975 to 1984, and again from 1991 to 2002, Cianci held the title long enough to be crowned "The Prince of Providence" by the

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Seoul Survivor

South Korea considers going nuclear.
11:38 AM, Feb 04, 2016
It's a pretty big deal that South Korea's largest newspaper has called on the country to seriously consider acquiring nuclear weapons. Read more

Trump's Unconventionality Finally Fails Him

Great expectations...not met.
11:00 AM, Feb 02, 2016
Why does Donald Trump’s respectable finish in the Iowa caucuses look so much like a stinging defeat? After all, for a conventional candidate, Trump's performance could easily be spun as a victory. In profoundly hostile territory – Iowa's GOP voters are deeply religious, while Trump is … Trump – the New York property magnate came in second. Indeed, he won 15,000 more votes than Rick Santorum did when the former senator won 2012's caucus. But then Trump's candidacy has been anything but conventional. Read more

Is It Safe to Visit North Korea? Don't Ask the Associated Press.

10:22 AM, Jan 28, 2016
The Associated Press has delved into whether it's safe to visit North Korea. Unfortunately, the story doesn't go very far in answering the question. Read more

John Rocker Comes Around on 'New York Values'

Endorses Trump.
2:09 PM, Jan 26, 2016
Texas senator Ted Cruz has infamously attacked Donald Trump for supposedly embodying “New York values." Read more

Once Again: Don't Go There

Yet another American taken hostage in North Korea.
9:05 AM, Jan 22, 2016
And then there were three. The North Korean government announced on Friday that it has detained another American tourist, bringing the tally of western hostages festering in Pyongyang to two Americans and one Canadian. Read more

Unhinged — And Off-Topic

Oberlin protestors' list of demands includes a telling non sequitur.
1:50 PM, Jan 21, 2016
Late last year, a group of Oberlin students delivered a list of demands to the Ohio college’s president and trustees. The demands were ostensibly meant to redress wrongs suffered by the college's black students. (Oberlin's president has just offered a thoughtful response, which can be read here.) The goals of the group include an "increase in Black students of color . . . from the Americas . . . the Caribbean and Africa," "an increase in Black administrators and faculty," and "exclusive Black safe spaces on campus." The aggrieved students list some dubious methods to achieve these goals: they "DEMAND" (ALL CAPS decidedly theirs) the firing of various faculty and staff members, for example. But, at the very least, they are specifically pertinent to the lives of Oberlin's black students.

Except for one, that is.

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Trump to Palin: You're Fired? (Updated)

12:16 PM, Jan 20, 2016

After delivering an endorsement speech on behalf of Donald Trump on Tuesday evening, Sarah Palin failed to appear at a joint rally scheduled for the following morning. Perhaps Trump doesn’t like sharing the stage with somebody who has (almost) as much start power as him. Or, maybe more likely, the fact that Palin delivered what was widely reported to be a rambling, bizarre speech for Trump on Tuesday led the property magnate to "fire" the half-term Alaska governor and reality show star. Too bad that scene wasn't broadcast live across the cable news networks.

Update: Palin rehired.

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Why Is Trump Besting Buchanan?

More immigrants, more anti-immigrant voters.
10:50 AM, Jan 19, 2016
Is Donald Trump Pat Buchanan redux? Sure, Buchanan is outwardly pious, while Trump is . . . well, Trump. (Nobody ever doubted Buchanan's anti-abortion bona fides, for example.) And while Buchanan, whatever you make of his politics, is undeniably a serious intellectual, Trump . . . well, at the very least, he did go to an Ivy League schoolRead more

Does The Boss Love The Donald?

Springsteen has not objected to Trump's use of 'Born in the U.S.A.'
1:39 PM, Jan 13, 2016
Canada-born Texas senator Ted Cruz may be annoyed that Donald Trump has begun playing Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." at his rallies. But one person evidently isn't: Mr. Springsteen himself. Read more

Trump Now Plays 'Born in the U.S.A.' At His Rallies

He couldn't be drawing attention to a certain Texas senator, could he?
2:41 PM, Jan 11, 2016
When political candidates play Bruce Springsteen’s "Born in the U.S.A." at their campaign rallies, you can usually assume they've never listened to the lyrics. But Donald Trump's apparent decision to add the 1984 tune his warm-up music bespeaks a certain political savvy. Read more

Charlie Hebdo's Mighty Heart

And Russell Banks's too.
2:12 PM, Jan 07, 2016
Several months after eleven Parisian journalists were savagely murdered for the “crime" of committing acts of free expression, PEN America, an organization devoted to promoting free speech, planned to give the surviving Charlie journalists a free expression award. That Charlie staffers, who literally put their lives on the line to put out a satirical magazine, would eminently qualify for a free expression award seemed self-evident. Not to more than 200 PEN members, though, who objected to Charlie's being awarded. But at least one of the members objected for reasons you might not be aware of. Read more

Kim Jong-un's Domestic Policy: Nukes and Circuses

2:01 PM, Jan 06, 2016
So was it a hydrogen bomb or not? The answer may be largely irrelevant. Read more

Japan's Comfort Women Apology: Trust, But Verify

11:12 AM, Dec 29, 2015
Japan apologizes, but will it stick? Read more

No, Ted Cruz Did Not Invent the Term 'Undocumented Democrat' (Updated)

cc: New York Times, NPR
1:59 PM, Dec 21, 2015

Conservative critics like to carp about the New York Times and National Public Radio being woefully out of touch with, oh, about half the country. Events over the weekend demonstrate why those criticisms, while often tedious, continue to have merit.

Consider: In his current quest to out-Trump Trump, Ted Cruz has begun referring to illegal immigrants as "undocumented Democrats." This is hardly an original epithet; the phrase has been a staple of the Rush Limbaugh program for at least five years. (The joke migrated to a Jay Leno monologue in 2013 as well.) If there's any story here, it's that Cruz is making a strategic decision to appeal to dittoheads by lifting Rush's language.

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Trump's Primary Lead Is Bigger Than Hillary's

And larger than Reagan's in 1980, and Bush's in 1988.
1:53 PM, Dec 15, 2015

So dominant is Hillary Clinton's polling in the presidential primaries, notes the press critic Howard Kurtz, that the media have essentially stopped paying attention to the Democratic race at all. The logic, for a media organization, is simple: Why lavish limited resources on a fait accompli? The Democrats, after all, have spoken. They are fully ready for (or perhaps fully resigned to) Hillary.

That's certainly not the case on the Republican side, where, we are told (ad nauseam), that the race is still "wide open." With "no clear frontrunner" on the GOP side, the contrast between the Republican and Democratic contests could not be clearer.

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Trump Would be 'The Healthiest Individual Ever Elected to the Presidency'

2:05 PM, Dec 14, 2015

Take that, Gerald Ford. Donald Trump, if he becomes president, would be the "healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." His blood pressure and lab test results are "astonishingly excellent." His most recent medical exam showed only "positive results."

And that's not (just) the opinion of Trump himself. The Donald's doctor, one Harold N. Bornstein, made the diagnosis himself in a public letter released Monday. Either that or Trump is now penning his own medical write-ups.

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In the Wake of Another Atrocity, Scapegoating the Mentally Ill Once Again

1:55 PM, Dec 03, 2015

In a television interview Thursday, during which he responded to the killings in San Bernardino, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan asserted, "What we have seen—and a common theme among many of these mass shootings—is a theme of mental illness." In the context of the slaughter in southern California, Ryan's remark was an utter non-sequitur. (It was a bit like those Democrats who call for gun control measures after mass shootings that would do nothing to prevent the attacks they are ostensibly designed to respond to.) While it's too early yet to determine the motive for Wednesday's shooting, it simply beggars belief that the husband and wife who perpetrated the attack were both mentally ill.

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The Play Within the Play's the Thing

Theater Review: Kiss Me, Kate, in Washington, D.C.
11:47 AM, Dec 02, 2015

It turns out that Hamlet isn't the only work whose central plot device is a play within a play. Cole Porter's musical Kiss Me, Kate, which is playing at Washington, D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre until January 3, employs the same conceit, and to brilliant effect.

The central narrative of Kiss Me, Kate involves a group of actors putting on a musical version of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. The actors playing Shrew's two leads have previously been romantically involved; they reconcile briefly as the Kate opens, only to suffer a gross misunderstanding shortly thereafter. But the show must go on, of course. Thus, the drama of the two leads' disintegrating relationship plays out as they gamely perform their version of Shrew.

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Hillary: We Need a Wall

3:49 PM, Nov 24, 2015

While campaigning in New Hampshire recently, Hillary Clinton sounded a Donald Trumpian note on immigration.

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Read Her Lips

Clinton sounds a Norquist-like note on taxes.
2:41 PM, Nov 19, 2015

How lucky is Hillary Clinton that her sole (credible) competitor for the Democratic nomination for president is a dyspeptic, self-described socialist who doesn’t appear to actually wish to be president? So lucky that nearly a year out from the 2016 election, she’s already running her general election campaign. 

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Donald Trump and Radical Mosques, a Bizarre Controversy

11:19 AM, Nov 17, 2015

Give a man a reputation as an early riser, as the old saw goes, and he can sleep until noon everyday. The same phenomenon evidently applies to bad reputations as well. Brand Donald Trump a bigot, and suddenly every policy he endorses, no matter how innocuous or mainstream, becomes repugnant.

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Marco Rubio, Bad Guidance Counselor

No, welders do not make more money than philosophers.
7:32 AM, Nov 11, 2015

Maybe he is the Republican Obama after all. Like the outgoing president, Florida senator Marco Rubio is charismatic, self-assured, and intelligent, as his performance in Tuesday night’s debate displayed. Alas, also like the president, Senator Rubio harbors an anti-intellectual streak, one that is both wrong in its premises, as well as on the facts.

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Economics, Not Obama, Killed Keystone

12:03 PM, Nov 06, 2015

President Obama announced today to much fanfare (and to much angst on the right) that he is killing the proposed KeystoneXL pipeline, which would transport Canadian tar sands oil through the United States. But as much as he would like to claim the mantle of environmentalism (this is the man who promised to slow the rise of the oceans, after all) the president is giving himself a little too much credit here. For President Obama is not killing Keystone; the economics of oil are.

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Un-Sexist At Any Speed

Did Ralph Nader really make a sexist comment about Janet Yellen?
3:24 PM, Nov 02, 2015

Ralph Nader, man-splainer?

That’s certainly what many across the Internet seem to believe today. It all began when Ben Casselman, a blogger at the New York Times, excerpted a recent Huffington Post piece by Nader thusly:

Nader: Fed Chairwoman Yellen should "sit down with her husband" so he can explain why she should raise rates.

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'Concerto in G Major: A Story'

3:04 PM, Nov 02, 2015

Mosaic has published a moving memoir, written by Czech Holocaust survivors, that's well worth reading.

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Boris in the Flesh

Ethan Epstein’s celebrity crush
Nov 02, 2015

I’m a sophisticated guy. A deep thinker, even. Shallowness’s scourge, you might say. 

At least that was my line 10 or so years ago, as my family embarked on a trip to Southern California. My younger sister, then around 14, proclaimed before our departure that she hoped we would see a celebrity on our trip.

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The Democrats' Diversity Dilemma

6:20 AM, Oct 30, 2015

The Republican candidates for president were remarkably unified in the (few) policy preferences they espoused at their debates on Wednesday night. All support cutting taxes and reducing regulation, and all oppose crony capitalism. The candidates may be remarkably diverse in terms of ethnicity and race: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are Hispanic (and, apparently, so is Jeb Bush); Ben Carson is black; Bobby Jindal is Indian, etc.

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Lincoln Chafee and the Strange Demise of the Anti-War Democrats

10:08 AM, Oct 28, 2015

Lincoln Chafee’s abortive presidential candidacy was treated by many as a joke, but the focus of the former governor and senator’s campaign was deadly serious: His was the stridently anti-war candidacy.

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Bernie's Bad Logic

10:07 AM, Oct 16, 2015

Even if it were true that the “American people are sick and tired of hearing about [Hillary Clinton’s] emails,” as Vermont senator Bernie Sanders asserted on Tuesday (there is not a scintilla of evidence that that is the case, by the way), that’s an utterly irrelevant standard to apply when judging whether or not something is important.

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