For Commentary Magazine, Max Boot writes: It tells you all you need to know about Hamas that its biggest victory to date against Israel–one that is no doubt being celebrated in the fortified bunkers that house its leadership–was the death of four young Palestinian boys on a Gaza City beach on Wednesday. The boys were apparently killed by an Israeli bomb or missile.
Needless to say, the Israel Defense Forces do not deliberately target children–any more than do the armed forces of the United States or other civilized powers. That is both morally abhorrent and strategically stupid: What possible purpose can be served in killing children? But while deeply harmful and counterproductive for Israel, this inadvertent strike was a big win for Hamas. It produced the most coveted of victories in modern warfare: a front-page picture, taken by the storiedNew York Times photographer Tyler Hicks, of one dead boy lying on the Gaza sand and another being carried in a man’s arms.
There is no surer or better way for Hamas to make its propaganda point, which is the only point of this entire exercise from its standpoint. Hamas, like other terrorist groups, knows it cannot win a military victory against a much more powerful enemy, but it can win a public-relations victory by fostering the illusion that Israel is the aggressor and the Palestinians its victims.
Such an image is as powerful as it is misleading. All informed observers know the facts. Read the rest of this entry »
The summer when America fell apart
When I read that opening sentence, I thought – finally, someone’s on the same page. When we began this ongoing theme – The Global Panic of July 2014 – it was meant as a joke, dark humor to survive the seemingly endless cascade of bad news. But it’s also an amplified recognition of reality; increasing disorder and dysfunction, nationally and internationally. Mixed with breathtaking technological advances, with the promise of more economic disruption to come. From 9/11 until now, we are witnessing a disintegration of the post-war world order. This summer marks even more global instability. Things are unravelling at a faster pace than even my most pessimistic colleagues have suggested. A historic turning point? If so, Victor Davis Hanson‘s an informed tour guide. Read the whole thing here.
Germany in 2008 enthusiastically hosted candidate Barack Obama for his so-called “Victory Column” speech. Now, Germans suddenly sound as if they are near-enemies of the U.S. Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly was furious that her cell phone was tapped by American intelligence agents.
“Asian powers apparently assume that Obama won’t guarantee the security of the Japanese as America had in the past.”
She just kicked the top CIA official out of Germany, further enraged that the U.S. had recruited at least one German official to provide intelligence on the German government. Polls show that Germans find Vladimir Putin’s Russian tyranny almost as popular as Barack Obama’s America. Read the rest of this entry »
For The Weekly Standard, Mark Hemingway writes: Someone I’m related to by marriage has written a superb column on the problem of media ignorance. The fact I’m not a disinterested observer shouldn’t stop me from noting that the column and the event that prompted it has attracted some attention. The piece is pegged to a much discussed interview talk radio star Hugh Hewitt conducted with Zach Carter, the Huffington Post’s “senior political economy reporter.”
[Also see - Mollie Hemingway on Media Illiteracy]
Hewitt asked Carter why he was spouting off various critical opinions related to Dick Cheney and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Certainly, Carter’s not alone here — the rise of ISIS has had liberal journalists queuing up to insist President Obama bears minimal responsibility for the disintegration of the situation in Iraq. Joe Biden bet his vice presidency Iraq would extend the Status of Forces Agreement, and had they not failed, it might well have prevented the current mess. But here we are.
“The problem is ultimately not Carter’s ignorance. The problem is that we live in an environment where you can become a “senior political economy reporter” for a major news organization at age 28.”
Still, perhaps there are reasons to criticize Cheney and the invasion of Iraq, but the trouble was that Carter couldn’t articulate any of them substantively, and what’s more, Hewitt asked a series of questions establishing that Carter doesn’t even have an acceptable baseline of knowledge to spout off on the topic. Some of the questions, such as whether Carter has read specific books, might seem pedantic. Others seemed to be a pretty basic litmus test about knowledge of al Qaeda and the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq. Read the rest of this entry »
Don’t hand the IRS investigation over to a special prosecutor.
“Let’s talk reality. As a matter of constitutional law, there is no such thing as an independent counsel. In our system, prosecution is a plenary executive power. All federal investigations and prosecutions proceed under the authority of the president; neither the Congress nor the courts have police powers. Any prosecutor, regardless of how “independent” we’d like him to be, would have to serve at the pleasure of the president, and would report to Eric Holder…”
Liberals are increasingly religious about their own liberalism, treating it like a comprehensive view of reality and the human good
Before we begin, a little housekeeping is in order. Acting on judgement that defies logic, Damon Linker elects to insert “Paul Krugman” as the seventh and eighth words in the following essay–and then, stranger still, leaves them there, thinking it’s a good way to open his article, having bypassed what I assume were multiple chances to change his mind in the editing process. Revealing that he thinks Krugman is relevant, for some reason. Almost killing any chance a non-New-York-Times-reading liberal reader will want to proceed any further.
Or if they do make it to the second paragraph, taking anything in the article seriously. If Linker had buried that digression in the middle of the essay, it might have been easer to charitably overlook.
Funny how that works. By trying to avoid “sounding like Paul Krugman”, Linker succeeds in planting a poisoned seed right at the beginning–and he succeeds in doing what he claimed he wanted to avoid–sounding like Paul Krugman. Is this a good thing? I think not!
On the other hand, it might work as a test of his material. It reminds me of a method comedian Louis C.K. described for making sure his material is good. If the audience is in a good mood, giving away laughter too early, too easy, he starts the show by insulting the audience, making them unhappy, right off the bat. Bam. Discomfort. Uncertainty. Then, he knows that if they laugh at his jokes after that, the material must be good. As Louis C.K. concludes, “Okay, now we can get to work”.
So, if you can make it past words seven and eight (or the multitude of times you had to read Krugman’s name in my own annoyingly-long prologue, then you’re medically inoculated!) because the title sounded promising, you’ll find it’s actually a very good article. And it was worth making it past that lapse in judgement, and my unseemly introduction. Read on!
At the risk of sounding like Paul Krugman — who returns to a handful of cherished topics over and over again in his New York Times column — I want to revisit one of my hobby horses, which I most recently raised in my discussion of Hobby Lobby.
My own cherished topic is this: Liberalism’s decline from a political philosophy of pluralism into a rigidly intolerant dogma.
The decline is especially pronounced on a range of issues wrapped up with religion and sex. For a time, electoral self-interest kept these intolerant tendencies in check, since the strongly liberal position on social issues was clearly a minority view. But the cultural shift during the Obama years that has led a majority of Americans to support gay marriage seems to have opened the floodgates to an ugly triumphalism on the left.
The result is a dogmatic form of liberalism that threatens to poison American civic life for the foreseeable future. Conservative Reihan Salam describes it, only somewhat hyperbolically, as a form of “weaponized secularism.”
The rise of dogmatic liberalism is the American left-wing expression of the broader trend that Mark Lilla identified in a recent blockbuster essay for The New Republic. The reigning dogma of our time, according to Lilla, is libertarianism — by which he means far more than the anti-tax, anti-regulation ideology that Americans identify with the post-Reagan Republican Party, and that the rest of the world calls “neoliberalism.”
At its deepest level, libertarianism is “a mentality, a mood, a presumption… a prejudice” in favor of the liberation of the autonomous individual from all constraints originating from received habits, traditions, authorities, or institutions. Libertarianism in this sense fuels the American right’s anti-government furies, but it also animates the left’s push for same-sex marriage — and has prepared the way for its stunningly rapid acceptance — in countries throughout the West. Read the rest of this entry »
A dramatic spike in the number of Americans with permits to carry concealed weapons coincides with an equally stark drop in violent crime, according to a new study, which Second Amendment advocates say makes the case that more guns can mean safer streets.
“When you allow people to carry concealed handguns, you see changes in the behavior of criminals.”
- John R. Lott, Crime Prevention Research Center
The study by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that 11.1 million Americans now have permits to carry concealed weapons, up from 4.5 million in 2007. The 146 percent increase has come even as both murder and violent crime rates have dropped by 22 percent.
Six states don’t require a permit for legal gun owners to conceal their weapons, and Lott notes those states have some of the lowest violent crime rates in the nation.
“When you allow people to carry concealed handguns, you see changes in the behavior of criminals,” said the center’s president, John R. Lott, a Fox News contributor. “Some criminals stop committing crimes, others move on to crimes in which they don’t come into contact with victims and others actually move to areas where they have less fear of being confronted by armed victims.”
Increasing gun ownership, litigation and new state laws have all contributed to the rise in concealed carry permits. In March, Illinois became the 50th state to begin issuing concealed weapons permits. But the cost and other requirements for obtaining the permits varies greatly, from South Dakota, where a permit requires $10, a background check and no training, to Illinois, where the cost of obtaining a permit comes to more than $600 when the fee and cost of training programs are taken into account. Read the rest of this entry »
“There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”
– P. J. O’Rourke
Life is hard. It’s harder still when an entire class of people with their hands out stands between you and success.
Unfortunately, that’s increasingly the problem, all around the world. A recent New York Times piece tells the story of a Greek woman’s efforts to survive that country’s financial collapse. After losing her job, she tried to start a pastry business, only to find the regulatory environment impossible. Among other things, they wanted her to pay the business’s first two years of taxes up front, before it had taken in a cent. When the business failed, her lesson was this: “I, like thousands of others trying to start businesses, learned that I would be at the mercy of public employees who interpreted the laws so they could profit themselves.”
[Reynolds' book The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself is available at Amazon]
This phenomenon isn’t limited to Greece, or even to capitalistic societies. Dissident Soviet-era thinker Milovan Djilas coined the term “the New Class” to describe the people who actually ran the Soviet Union: Not workers or capitalists or proletarians, but managers, bureaucrats, technocrats, and assorted hangers-on. This group, Djilas wrote, had assumed the power that mattered in the “workers’ paradise,” and transformed itself into a new kind of aristocracy, even while pretending, ever less convincingly, to do so in the name of the workers. Read the rest of this entry »
“Presidentialism is significantly and strongly correlated with less political freedom.”
The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America by F.H. Buckley, Encounter Books, 2014, 319 pages, $27.99.
For Reason, Gene Healy writes: Try making sense out of what Americans tell pollsters. According to the Pew Research Center, fewer than one in five of us trusts the federal government. Gallup says that nearly three quarters of us consider it “the biggest threat to the country in the future.”
Yet by equally overwhelming margins, Gallup shows Americans agreeing that “the United States has a unique character because of its history and Constitution that sets it apart from other nations as the greatest in the world.”
Apparently, we’re disgusted and frightened by our government as it actually operates. And yet we’re convinced that we’ve got the best system ever devised by the mind of man.
On both counts, no one’s more convinced than American conservatives. Few goquite as far toward constitutional idolatry as former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who earlier this year proclaimed that God “wrote the Constitution.” But the superiority of our national charter, with its separation of powers and independently elected national executive, is an article of faith for conservatives.
It’s about time for some constitutional impiety on the right, and F.H. Buckley answers the call in his bracing and important new book, The Once and Future King. Buckley, a professor of law at George Mason University and a senior editor at The American Spectator, is unmistakably conservative. But that doesn’t stop him from pointing out that America’s not so all-fired exceptional—or from arguing that our Constitution has made key contributions to our national decline. Read the rest of this entry »
For The Diplomat, Michał Romanowski writes: Central Asia is rapidly emerging as the key playing field in the contest to access energy resources and the leverage they offer. The new Great Game is played out once again in the region, only this time it is not over political or territorial influence, but over the vast raw material deposits that are in the possession of the former Soviet Union republics, especially those situated by the Caspian Sea. The Caspian’s share of oil and gas global exports is set to rise to 9 and 11 percent, respectively, in the coming 20 years. Much is at stake.
The region’s major powers compete to control energy sources
Russia, although not a direct producer, was and still is – given the developed pipeline network – supervising much of an energy transit from Central Asia. The Central Asia-Center gas pipeline system, the first line of which was completed in 1960, makes for a good case study. It allows both Uzbek and Turkmen gas to be delivered to Russia, which then resells it at a profit to energy-hungry Europe or uses it for domestic purposes. Moscow exercises its influence over the region and as a consequence gains both politically and economically.
“China in fact controls around 20 percent of Kazakhstan’s oil production and is its key trade partner. Bilateral trade should reach $40 billion next year.”
In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asian states sought to loosen Russia’s firm grip. An independent complex pipeline system was a priority for transporting the resources outward. Given that the Caspian Sea is landlocked, gas and oil need to cross several borders before reaching an end customer. This requires a very substantial investment, yet energy diversification in Central Asia is moving steadily ahead. Read the rest of this entry »
“We should always remember that a free Constitution of civil Government cannot be purchased at too dear a Rate; as there is nothing, on this Side the New Jerusalem of equal importance to Mankind.”
–John Adams, 1776
For americasfuture.org, Christian Corrigan writes: In the midst of commemorating our Nation’s birthday with fireworks and fellowship, many overlook the magnitude and uncertainty of the muggy days of early July 1776 in Philadelphia that fundamentally altered the course of human history.
“One can only imagine the fear, anxiety, and pressure that shrouded the delegates as the vote approached on the morning of July 2…”
Six months earlier, Thomas Paine had captivated the colonies with his powerful pamphlet Common Sense, assuring the colonists that independence was their natural right and calling them to arms. But despite the growing fervor of their constituents in favor of separation, the delegates to the Second Continental Congress were skeptical about the prospects of actually winning independence from the Crown. Read the rest of this entry »
Resenting the Republic
You wouldn’t think, five years into the Obama presidency, that so many liberal Americans wouldn’t like America.
A new Pew survey found that 44 percent of Americans don’t often feel pride in being an American, and only 28 percent said that America is the greatest country in the world. Respondents who “often feel proud to be American” were overwhelmingly conservative (from 72 percent to 81 percent, depending on the kind of conservative). A majority (60 percent) of “solid liberals” said they don’t often feel proud to be an American.
“To listen to some of the hysterical responses to the court’s decision, you’d think the government in Washington is the only thing thwarting the desire of millions of businessmen to drape their female employees in burqas.”
The polling data only prove what has been obvious for a while.
Georgia representative John Lewis recently said that “if the Civil Rights Act was before the Congress today, it would not pass, it would probably never make it to the floor for a vote.”
Lewis is right. If it came before the Congress today, it wouldn’t pass. You know why? Because we passed it 50 years ago. The GI Bill wouldn’t pass today either, because that was enacted in 1944. If, somehow, we had Jim Crow today, the American people — and Congress — would vote to abolish it in a landslide.
In fairness, Lewis was primarily condemning congressional gridlock, not GOP racism.
Primarily. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] The Hammer: End of Emergency Benefits = Sharp Drop in Unemployment: ‘Conservatives Won the Debate’Posted: July 4, 2014
“These six months coincide with a decrease in the medium length of unemployment from 17 weeks to 13 weeks — the largest six-month decline in the length of unemployment ever measured…”
While liberals hail new job numbers as a vindication of President Obama’s economic policies, it is conservatives who should feel vindicated, said Charles Krauthammer…
Which means the real problem of long-term unemployment was a function of this anomaly of emergency-extended unemployment, which should never have happened…”
Citing a recent National Review Online post on The Corner by economist Robert Stein, Krauthammer noted that the sharp drop in unemployment has coincided with the end of emergency unemployment benefits.
“The debate on that extension is over, and the conservatives were right.”
Obama and the Democrats, who insisted that the benefits be extended, wrongly predicted that their expiration would come as a calamity to the poor. Instead, their end has demonstrably had “precisely the opposite effect.”(read more) National Review Online
Thanks to their cozy relationship with the Obama administration, a new class of super-wealthy oligarchs keeps getting more powerful while the country’s middle class shrinks.
Despite this administration’s occasional rhetorical flourishes against oligarchy, we have seen a rapid concentration of wealth and depressed conditions for the middle class under Obama. The stimulus, with its emphasis on public sector jobs, did little for Main Street. And under the banner of environmentalism, green cronyism has helped fatten the bank accounts of investment bankers and tech moguls at great public expense.
For Breitbart.com, Pamela Geller writes: Yale University’s Yale Global Online has published a piece by Ooi Kee Beng, deputy director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, asserting that “Islam has no centralized controls; any power-hungry despot can use religion as an excuse.” But it’s no excuse; it’s a theological imperative.
The article complains about “the excessive use of ‘Islam’ in denoting as many aspects of daily life as possible. With Islam being a holistic religion, modern leaders of Muslim-majority societies tend to encourage the description of as many aspects as possible of modern life under a restrictive Islamic paradigm. Regrettably, this tendency mirrors and sustains the simultaneous propensity of non-Muslims to regard Muslim societies as being steered by a rigid religious ideology.”
Ooi suggests that some of the major horrors committed in Islam’s name and justified by its texts and teachings have nothing to do with Islam: “The kidnapping of the school girls in Nigeria is but the latest extreme event involving a claim to know ‘Islam.’ The 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, major bombings in European cities, the bombings in Indonesia, the attack on the Boston Marathon, and America’s war on terror have all made ‘Islam’ a modern newsmaker that is second to none.”
Ah, yes. It’s all because modern Muslim leaders ascribe everything to Islam that we see violence and atrocities committed in the name of Islam every day, you see. Yet we do not see power-hungry despots or majors in the U.S. Army at Fort Hood or doctors in Glasgow or students at the Boston Marathon invoking Jesus or HaShem in order to kill, maim, and control. They only invoke Islam, and they only quote the Quran with its promise of Paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah (9:111) and mandate to wage war against and subjugate Jews and Christians under the rule of Islamic law (9:29). Read the rest of this entry »
Chelsea Clinton, from her $10.5 million perch on Gramercy Park, declares that she finds it impossible to care about money. Bill and Hillary Clinton, shuttling between their multimillion-dollar homes — Chappaqua, Washington, the $200,000-a-month rental in the Hamptons — denounce the wicked rich and protest that they are not “truly well off.” A professor of poverty and left-wing activist at the University of North Carolina School of Law is paid $200,000 per annum to teach a single class; anti-inequality crusader Elizabeth Warren was paid $350,000 per annum to teach a single class and thinks deeply about the plight of the little guy in her $1.7 million Cambridge mansion. The city of Bell, Calif., was nearly bankrupted by the very generous salaries its political class secured for themselves: nearly $800,000 per annum for the chief executive of the modest Los Angeles suburb, on his way to collecting a $1 million annual pension. (Several Bell leaders were later charged with misappropriating millions of dollars’ worth of public money for their own benefit.) Philadelphia was paying the feckless chief executive of its violent and defective government schools some $350,000 a year before the mayor got around to firing her, but not before the city wrote her a check for nearly $1 million to make her go away — and then she filed for unemployment benefits. A Philadelphia police lieutenant on an $87,000 annual salary takes home nearly $200,000 after nearly a hundred grand in “overtime” kicks in. The head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal enterprise, was paid nearly $6 million in 2013; the agency’s chief financial officer and chief lawyer were paid $2.1 and $1.9 million, respectively, that same year. The school superintendent in Lubbock, Texas, is paid nearly a quarter-million dollars a year.
“The very fact that Uber is in the judgment of many consumers a better product is what provides the motive for destroying it. That is economic, intellectual, and moral perversion, but that is how politics operates. Its mandate is to stand between consumers and producers until it gets its cut.”
Consider a separate but not entirely unrelated economic development under way at the same time: A number of innovative technology firms, including Uber, Lyft, and AirBNB, are under attack from entrenched, politically connected economic interests. Uber and Lyft threaten the privileges of politically protected taxi cartels and the unions attached to them, while AirBNB subverts the traditional hotel arrangement. Each of those services takes something that it is perfectly legal to do for free — allowing a traveler to use your home temporarily, giving somebody a lift to the airport — and allows people to do them for money. (Here one is reminded of George Carlin’s argument for the legalization of prostitution: “Selling is legal. F****** is legal. Why isn’t selling f****** legal?” There are a great many reasons for that, none of which apply to charging a fee for car service.) Which is to say, these services allow ordinary people to generate revenue by making the most out of otherwise underutilized assets, a possibility that is of non-trivial concern as participation in the work force plunges. Read the rest of this entry »