Posted: December 18, 2014 Filed under: Diplomacy, Global, History, Mediasphere, Think Tank, White House | Tags: United States, Barack Obama, Africa, Cold War, Richard Nixon, National Review, Rich Lowry, Cuba, Fidel Castro, Henry Kissinger, Alan Phillip Gross, Angolan Civil War
Rich Lowry writes: …His surprise unilateral change in the U.S. posture toward the Castro dictatorship came without even the pretense of serious promises by the Cubans to reform their kleptocratic, totalitarian rule.
The trade of Alan Gross, the American aid worker jailed in Cuba for the offense of trying to help Jewish Cubans get on the Internet, for three Cuban spies is understandable (we also got back one of our spies, and Cuba released several dozen political prisoners as a sweetener).
“If tourism were the key to empowering and eventually liberating the Cuban people, the country would be a robust democracy by now. About a million Canadian tourists go to Cuba every year. In total, more than 2 million tourists visit annually, and yet the Castro regime is still standing.”
The rest of Obama’s sweeping revisions — diplomatic relations and the loosening of every economic sanction he can plausibly change on his own — are freely granted, no questions asked. It is quid with no pro quo. Even if you oppose the isolation of Cuba, this is not a good trade.
After waiting out 10 other U.S. presidents, the Castro regime finally hit the jackpot in Obama, whose beliefs about our Cuba policy probably don’t differ much from those of the average black-turtleneck-clad graduate student in Latin American studies.
“The Cuba embargo is condemned as a relic of the Cold War. But the root of the matter is the Cuban regime that is itself a relic, an inhuman jackboot left over from the era when people actually professed to believe in workers’ paradises.”
Every dictator around the world must be waiting anxiously for a call or a postcard from Obama. The leader of the free world comes bearing gifts and understanding. He is willing to overlook human-rights abuses. And his idea of burnishing his legacy is to clinch deals with his country’s enemies. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 17, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere, The Butcher's Notebook, Think Tank, White House | Tags: Bush family, Charles C. W. Cooke, Florida, G.W.Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, Jeb Bush, National Review, Political Dynasties, Presidential Campaign, Presidential Primaries
Jeb Bush: The Wrong Name at the Wrong Time
Posted: December 16, 2014 Filed under: Breaking News, Law & Justice, Mediasphere, Politics, Think Tank | Tags: Andrew C. McCarthy, Arthur J. Schwab, Barack Obama, Enforcement discretion, Executive (government), Judicial opinion, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Substantive rights, United States district court, United States federal judge
Andrew C. McCarthy writes:
“I wonder how the Republican establishment will take this: A federal court has the gumption to declare the obvious — namely, that Obama’s immigration policy is unconstitutional, just as Republican candidates argued while seeking votes during the recent midterm election campaign — only three days after 20 Republican senators astonishingly joined with the Democrats to endorse Obama’s policy as constitutionally valid.”
[Also see – Chris Christie Prediction: ‘In 2017, there won’t be an Obamacare‘]
From Jon Adler‘s analysis on Judge Schwab’s opinion at the Volokh Conspiracy…
Earlier Tuesday, a federal court in Pennsylvania declared aspects of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration policy unconstitutional.
According to the opinion by Judge Arthur Schwab, the president’s policy goes “beyond prosecutorial discretion” in that it provides a relatively rigid framework for considering applications for deferred action, thus obviating any meaningful case-by-case determination as prosecutorial discretion requires, and provides substantive rights to applicable individuals. As a consequence, Schwab concluded, the action exceeds the scope of executive authority.
This is the first judicial opinion to address Obama’s decision to expand deferred action for some individuals unlawfully present in the United States. [I’ve now posted the opinion here.]
The procedural background of the case is somewhat unusual. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 15, 2014 Filed under: Crime & Punishment, Guns and Gadgets, Mediasphere, Self Defense, Think Tank
Economist and columnist John Lott seems to have said it best in the title of his book, “More Guns, Less Crime.” Using state, county and city crime data, Mr. Lott argued that more guns and looser gun laws raise the cost of committing crime because a would-be criminal is more likely to encounter someone with the means to protect himself or herself, and thus the criminal is less likely to risk being injured or killed in the effort.
[See John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics) at Amazon]
Americans seem to be increasingly embracing this idea. According to a November Gallup poll, 63 percent of Americans believe having a gun in the house makes the home safer, a marked and steady increase from the 35 percent who said so in a 2000 Gallup poll. Just 30 percent feel it makes the home more dangerous, down from 51 percent in 2000.
Despite media portrayals of high-profile school shootings and occasional tragic gun accidents as evidence of an epidemic of gun violence, the truth is that gun violence has been declining dramatically for a long time, both in the home and outside of it. National Safety Council data reveal that accidental gun deaths in the home have dropped 60 percent over the past 20 years, and now make up just 0.6 percent of such unintentional fatalities. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 12, 2014 Filed under: History, Science & Technology, Space & Aviation, Think Tank | Tags: Apollo 11, Apollo program, Apollo project, Buzz Aldrin, Computer science, Earth, Margaret Hamilton, Mathematics, Moon landing, NASA, Software Engineer
Margaret Hamilton is a computer scientist and mathematician. She was the lead software engineer for Project Apollo. Her work prevented an abort of the Apollo 11 moon landing. She’s also credited for coining the term “software engineer.”
Those stacks are the code she wrote for Apollo 11. Incredible.
nowonlyghosts – mudwerksmudwerks – drtuesdaygjohnson
Posted: December 11, 2014 Filed under: Law & Justice, Politics, Think Tank, War Room, White House | Tags: Barack Obama, Central Intelligence Agency, Democratic Party (United States), Dianne Feinstein, Espionage, John Kerry, John O. Brennan, Mark Udall, Presidency of George W. Bush, United States Senate, United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Louis J. Freeh writes: Seventy-three years ago this week, on a peaceful, sunny morning in Hawaii, a Japanese armada carried out a spectacular attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, killing 2,403, wounding 1,178 and damaging or destroying at least 20 ships. Washington immediately declared war and mobilized a peaceful nation.
“The RDI program was not some rogue operation unilaterally launched by a Langley cabal—which is the impression that the Senate Intelligence Committee report tries to convey. Rather, the program was an initiative approved by the president, the national security adviser and the U.S. attorney general…”
In another unfortunate Washington tendency, the government launched an investigation about who to blame for letting the devastating surprise attack happen. A hastily convened political tribunal found two senior military officers guilty of dereliction of duty, publicly humiliating them, as some political leaders sought to hold anyone but themselves accountable for the catastrophe.
“The Senate committee’s new report does not present any evidence that would support the notion that the CIA program was carried out for years without the concurrence of the House or Senate intelligence committees, or that any of the members were shocked to learn of the program after the fact.”
With the Democratic members of the SenateIntelligence Committee this week releasing a report on their investigation holding the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency accountable for the alleged “torture” of suspected terrorists after 9/11, some lessons from the Pearl Harbor history should be kept in mind.
First, let’s remember the context of the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when President George W. Bush and Congress put America on a war footing. While some critics in and out of government blamed the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for failing to prevent the terrorist attack, the 9/11 Commission later concluded that part of the real reason the terrorists succeeded was Washington’s failure to put America on a war footing long before the attack. Sept. 11, 2001, was the final escalation of al Qaeda’s war-making after attacking the USS Cole in 2000 and U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998.
“CIA leaders and briefers who regularly updated this program to the Senate Intelligence Committee leadership took what investigators call ‘copious, contemporaneous notes.’ Without a doubt, the Senate Intelligence Committee and congressional staffers at these multiple briefings also took a lot of their own notes…”
The Intelligence Committee’s majority report fails to acknowledge the Pearl Harbor-esque state of emergency that followed the 9/11 attack. One week after the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, President Bush signed into law a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which granted the president authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.”
“…Will the committee now declassify and release all such notes so that Americans will know exactly what the senators were told and the practices they approved?”
This joint congressional resolution, which has never been amended, was not a broad declaration of a “war on terror,” but rather a specific, targeted authorization to use force against the 9/11 terrorists and to prevent their future attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 7, 2014 Filed under: Politics, Think Tank | Tags: 2016: Obama's America, Bill de Blasio, Democratic Party (United States), Google, Joel Kotkin, Michael Bloomberg, New York, New York City, United States
George Will writes: Intellectually undemanding progressives, excited by the likes of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) — advocate of the downtrodden and the Export-Import Bank — have at last noticed something obvious: Big government, which has become gargantuan in response to progressives’ promptings, serves the strong. It is responsive to factions sufficiently sophisticated and moneyed to understand and manipulate its complexity.
[Check out Joel Kotkin’s book “The New Class Conflict“ at Amazon]
Hence Democrats, the principal creators of this complexity, receive more than 70 percent of lawyers’ political contributions. Yet progressives, refusing to see this defect — big government captured by big interests — as systemic, want to make government an ever-more-muscular engine of regulation and redistribution. Were progressives serious about what used to preoccupy America’s Left — entrenched elites, crony capitalism, and other impediments to upward mobility — they would study “The New Class Conflict“, by Joel Kotkin, a lifelong Democrat.
[Also see – ‘The New Class Conflict’: Glenn Reynolds reviews Joel Kotkin’s Book]
The American majority that believes life will be worse for the next few decades — more than double the number who believe things will be better — senses that 95 percent of income gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the wealthiest 1 percent.
“The fortunes of those Kotkin calls ‘the new Oligarchs’ are based ‘primarily on the sale of essentially ephemeral goods: media, advertising and entertainment.'”
This, Kotkin believes, reflects the “growing alliance between the ultra-wealthy and the instruments of state power.” In 2012, Barack Obama carried eight of America’s ten wealthiest counties.
“In 2013…Houston had more housing starts than all of California.”
In the 1880s, Kotkin says, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroad revenues were larger than the federal government’s revenues. That was the old economy. This is the new: In 2013, the combined ad revenues of all American newspapers were smaller than Google’s; so were magazines’ revenues. In 2013, Google’s market capitalization was six times GM’s, but Google had one-fifth as many employees. The fortunes of those Kotkin calls “the new Oligarchs” are based “primarily on the sale of essentially ephemeral goods: media, advertising and entertainment.”
AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
“Since 1945, government employment has grown more than twice as fast as America’s population. The Founders worried about government being captured by factions; they did not foresee government becoming society’s most rapacious and overbearing faction.”
He calls another ascendant group the Clerisy, which is based in academia (where there are now many more administrators and staffers than full-time instructors), media, the nonprofit sector, and, especially, government: Since 1945, government employment has grown more than twice as fast as America’s population. The Founders worried about government being captured by factions; they did not foresee government becoming society’s most rapacious and overbearing faction. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 5, 2014 Filed under: Breaking News, Mediasphere, Politics, Think Tank | Tags: Charles C. W. Cooke, Chris Hughes, Contributing editor, Franklin Foer, Guy Vidra, Jonathan Chait, Julia Ioffe, Leon Wieseltier, New York City, Ryan Lizza, The New Republic
Charles C. W. Cooke reports:
This morning, pretty much the entire editorial staff of the New Republic resigned, in protest at the direction in which the magazine was being taken. Courtesy of Ryan Lizza, here the list of those who have left:
It would have been easier to say who is still there.
In the immediate term, the exodus was sparked by the firing of editor, Franklin Foer, which, per the Daily Beast, was not done kindly:
According to informed sources, Hughes and Vidra didn’t bother to inform Foer that he was out of a job. Instead, the editor was placed in the humiliating position of having to phone Hughes to get confirmation after Gawker.com posted an item at 2:35 p.m. reporting the rumor that Bloomberg Media editor Gabriel Snyder, himself a onetime Gawker editor, had been hired as Foer’s replacement. Yes, it’s true, Hughes sheepishly admitted, notwithstanding that he and Vidra had given Foer repeated assurances that his job was safe. (Hughes and Vidra didn’t respond to voicemail messages seeking comment.)
Still, as has been made clear by a number of media-watchers, the rot is much, much deeper than that. Contrary the reports of some outlets, this does not seem to have been a battle between modernizers and traditionalists, but rather a fight to the death between those who wished to work for a storied magazine and those who wished to be led by a myopic bunch of clowns who are incapable of speaking in anything other than moronic platitudes….(read more)
National Review Online
Posted: December 4, 2014 Filed under: History, Mediasphere, Politics, Reading Room, Think Tank | Tags: 1968 Democratic National Convention, Atlas Shrugged, Central Intelligence Agency, Democratic Party (United States), Firing Line, National Review, Reason (magazine), Republican Party (United States), Saul Alinsky, TheBlaze, William F. Buckley
I came across this delightful interview with William F. Buckley Jr. the other night when searching and browsing Firing Line video archives (see the 1990 Christopher Hitchens Firing Line episode, from earlier today, here) started reading it, and ended up reading it multiple times. What a pleasure to discover this. It’s captured from the pre-digital era, so it’s stored as a PDF of a photocopy directly from the print magazine, you can access the whole thing here. Below is just one image file, which links to Reason. The March 1983 interview reveals Buckley’s characteristic thoughtfulness, charm, rich vocabulary, humor, and well-mannered social persona, his Roman Catholicism, the founding of the National Review, decades of work on Firing Line, his friction with figures like Ayn Rand, his literary and scholarly alliances, and opponents, his spy novels, his views on libertarianism, contemporary conservatism, and much, much more. The Reason interviewer’s questions are good, too, informed, and engaging.
I was particularly interested in Buckley’s use of the word “schematic”, to describe what he doesn’t have an appetite for, favoring instead an eclectic and evolving world view. This interview barely scratches the surface. To get a sense of the fresh appeal (and timelessness) of Buckley’s thinking, refer to National Review’s “Our Mission Statement“, which Buckley wrote in 1955. As one NR reader notes, “the edits on this for 2014 would be minimal.” Though 1980s references appear in the discussion, I’d say the same could be said about this interview.
Posted: December 4, 2014 Filed under: Law & Justice, Think Tank | Tags: Cigarette, CNN, Criminal justice, Grand jury, Kentucky, Law, MSNBC, New York, New York City, New York City Police Department, Police, Police officer, Politician, Rand Paul, Staten Island, War on Drugs
David Harsanyi writes: After news of the baffling decision by the New York grand jury not to indict a police officer in the killing of Eric Garner, I sent out a (slightly) hyperbolic tweet that wondered why Americans would want to entrust their free speech and health care to an institution that will kill you over failure to pay a cigarette tax.
Since then, I’ve seen numerous tweets discounting this argument as preposterous. It’s something akin to blaming jaywalking for the death of Michael Brown, we’re told. Rand Paul touched on the issue in an interview on msnbc yesterday and was, predictably, ridiculed for it by liberals – because mentioning the circumstances of a violent act is preposterous, apparently.
Though it certainly isn’t close to being the most important lesson of this inexplicable case, it’s not something that should be dismissed so flippantly.
Garner wasn’t targeted for death because he was avoiding taxes, but nonetheless, prohibitive cigarette taxes unnecessarily create situations that make events like this possible.
We frame violent acts and unintended consequences in this way all the time. When we discuss how illegal immigrant women can be the helpless victims of domestic violence, we also blame unreasonable laws for creating the situation. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 4, 2014 Filed under: History, Mediasphere, Think Tank | Tags: America, Books, Christopher Hitchens, England, Firing Line, Michael Kinsley, National Review, PBS, William F. Buckley Jr
Subject: ‘Is England Still Influencing America’
Firing Line 1990
Posted: December 4, 2014 Filed under: Art & Culture, History, Mediasphere, Reading Room, Think Tank | Tags: American Enterprise Institute, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Ayn Rand Institute, Collectivism, John Galt, Objectivism (Ayn Rand), Random House, The Fountainhead
Jennifer Maloney writes: Ayn Rand fans, here’s something to whet your appetites: New American Libraryhas released the cover image for “Ideal,” the first Ayn Rand novel to be published in more than 50 years.
“I’ve heard wishful comments over many years from readers wondering if there were other novels in Ayn Rand’s papers.”
– Richard Ralston, publishing manager at the Ayn Rand Institute
Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” invented the philosophy of Objectivism. More than 25 million copies of her novels have been sold around the world.
[Order Ayn Rand’s book “Ideal“ from Amazon]
“Ideal” tells the story of a screen actress who is accused of murder and visits six of her most devoted fans to ask for help. In 1934, when she was in her late 20s, Rand first wrote “Ideal” as a work of fiction.
But Rand was dissatisfied with it and set it aside. The same year, she rewrote it as a play. The play didn’t have its New York premiere until 2010 – 66 years after she wrote it. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 4, 2014 Filed under: Crime & Punishment, Law & Justice, Think Tank | Tags: Chokehold, Ferguson, Grand jury, Indictment, New York City, New York City Police Department, Police officer, Probable Cause, Staten Island
Andrew C. McCarthy writes: Several news organizations have reported that a New York grand jury in Staten Island has voted against indicting Daniel Pantaleo, a New York City police officer, in the choking death of Eric Garner. The decision is to be announced officially on Thursday. Clearly, this No True Bill is more difficult to justify than the St. Louis grand jury’s vote against filing homicide charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Officer Pantaleo, who is white, is being investigated for killing Mr. Garner, a 43-year-old black man who was physically imposing but unarmed, and who was resisting arrest (for a nonviolent crime, the illegal sale of untaxed cigarettes) but not overtly threatening the safety of the police. As National Review Online reported on Wednesday, the confrontation between Garner and the police was captured on videotape.
[Order Andrew C. McCarthy’s book “Faithless Execution“ from Amazon.com]
NYPD guidelines ban a form of chokehold. Contrary to some reporting, however, even that technique is not illegal per se. In fact, it used to be part of police training before concerns about accidental death convinced the NYPD to prohibit its use. Much of the coverage I have heard assumes that the chokehold Pantaleo applied is one that the guidelines ban (and, so the narrative goes, is illegal). This is hotly disputed by some police advocates, who claim that what Pantaleo did was more in the nature of a headlock or a wrestler’s swift takedown. Obviously, we do not yet know what, if any, testimony the grand jury heard on this point.
In any event, others counter that Garner could be heard repeatedly telling the police he could not breathe. While this actually undercuts the claim that a banned chokehold was used (since, if it had been, Garner would have had great difficulty speaking so audibly), Garner’s pleas suggest that the police used excessive force — a problem that makes the chokehold debate nearly irrelevant. In the absence of any apparent threat to the police, critics forcefully ask, shouldn’t Pantaleo have stopped whatever hold was being applied?
There is no doubt that Pantaleo aggressively handled Garner around the neck and then pressed his head to the ground. Soon after, Garner died. On top of that, the state medical examiner (ME) concluded that a homicide occurred. Sounds cut and dried, especially given that grand juries need merely find probable cause in order to return an indictment. Read the rest of this entry »