Uncompromising, provocative, brilliant. There are many things to say about Alexander Cockburn, who died Friday, and his critics and friends will have their day. He could be infuriating in his lust for truth and social justice as well as for the unparalleled sharpness of his polemics. But no serious student of our time can deny Cockburn's importance as one of the most principled and insightful political journalists of the past half-century.
Having been on the receiving end of more than a few of his darts, I can attest to the pointed power of his pen but also the accuracy of his criticism. He could get it wrong, but never intentionally so, he worked the issues as hard and thoughtfully as any I have known, and few modern journalists have so thoroughly discredited their critics by later being proved right.
Cockburn always had the courage of his convictions and a well-honed contempt, informed by an elite Oxford education, for the arrogance of the powerful, as well as a deep-rooted compassion for their many victims. Reprinting his final column for The Nation magazine is the finest tribute I can offer. We'll miss you, Alex, and spare me the wry smile acknowledging that I am winging this on deadline.
Alex Cockburn's last column for The Nation, published July 11:
Barclays and the Limits of Financial Reform
Hardly had the boyish visage of JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon quit CNN screens than it was succeeded by that of Bob Diamond, former chief executive of Barclays, accused of masterminding the greatest financial scandal in the history of Britain. Columnists shook with rage at the "reeking cesspool" being disclosed -- disclosed, mind you, four long years after the Wall Street Journal broke the story that the Libor was being fixed. Libor, which stands for "London interbank offered rate," is supposed to be based on the average rate of interest banks charge to borrow from one another. The rate is set every morning by a panel of banks. Each bank "submits" the rates at which it believes it can borrow from the collective money pool, from overnight to twelve months.
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