America reached new depths of depravity this year — but just wait for 2014 to outdo it.
All things considered, it was a year without shame.
Rich Lowry writes: It was the year that Miley Cyrus French-kissed a sledgehammer in the music video for her song “Wrecking Ball,” and cavorted naked on said wrecking ball. The former Disney star popularized the act of twerking in a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards that was so luridly infantile, it wasn’t outrageous so much as pathetic. Yet it worked. It gained her at least another 15 minutes of fame and probably more, to have people pay attention to other insipid things she might do, usually half-clothed. Cyrus made us yearn for the good taste and restraint of the era of Lady Gaga, not to mention the golden age of classic Britney Spears.
It was the year the president of the United States posed in a selfie with other foreign leaders at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela. He evidently had a grand time, but made us nostalgic for the period before our presidents posed in selfies with other heads of state, i.e., the long stretch of American history ending on December 9, 2013.
It was the year Anthony Weiner admitted in the midst of his New York City mayoral campaign that he had continued to sext after resigning from Congress for sexting. Under the delightfully absurd alias “Carlos Danger,” he had sent pictures of his private parts to a 22-year-old woman, whose notoriety instantly launched her career in adult film and as a spokesmodel for an adultery-facilitating website. Weiner made us fondly recall the self-effacing modesty of past New York City politicians like Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani.
I had planned to do a more elaborate year-end round up, with more commentary, but here we are, at the end of 2013. What do these items have in common? Well, guns, public nudity, sex, public nudity, sex, violence, glamor, politics, guns, and… politics. Sex and violence are popular, yeah? So it seems. Drum roll! Counting down from ten, here are this year’s top ten stories:
Also, we picked up a little star, courtesy of blogontheedgeoftheuniverse, thanks!
Thanks to our readers, and commenters, and a special welcome to new Tumblr followers, and new WordPress subscribers, thanks for making 2013 a year of explosive, unexpected growth for punditfromanotherplanet. More fun to come in 2014!
Paul Caron‘s TaxProf Blog turns up this, from NPR: Diallo Shabazz was a student at the University of Wisconsin in 2000 when he stopped by the admissions office. “One of the admissions counselors walked up to me, and said, ‘Diallo, did you see yourself in the admissions booklet? Actually, you’re on the cover this year,’ ” Shabazz says.
The photo was a shot of students at a football game — but Shabazz had never been to a football game. “So I flipped back, and that’s when I saw my head cut off and kind of pasted onto the front cover of the admissions booklet,” he says.
This Photoshopped image went viral and became a classic example of how colleges miss the mark on diversity. Wisconsin stressed that it was just one person’s bad choice, but Shabazz sees it as part of a bigger problem.
Kevin Glass reports: The Brookings Institution‘s Public Religion Research Institute conducts what they call the “American Values Survey,” and this year have focused particularly on how libertarians fit into the American political fabric. Libertarians are traditionally thought of as being “on the right” and presumed to be most accurately represented, of the two major parties, by the Republican Party.
But is that really true?
PRRI finds that libertarians constitute a very small segment of the GOP and have difficulty making common cause with the other ideological strains of the Republican Party. Specifically, libertarians are repelled by the religious right, which still makes up a significan portion of the conservative movement.
As Brookings’ Ross Tilchin writes:
Charles Krauthammer said on the Special Report that the main purpose of the New York Times Benghazi report, that claimed al-Qaeda was not involved in the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack, was to defend Democrats.
The Times editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, said that Republicans are attacking the story out of fear of Hillary Clinton and her potential 2016 presidential run. Krauthammer responded saying that Rosenthal’s defensiveness shows that the reason the Times invested so much time in to the story and put it on the front page was “to protect the Democrats, to deflect the issue, and to protect Hillary who is exposed on this issue.”
“It is obviously a political move,” Krauthammer said.
Big Labor wins court battle in Washington State, and now employers in SeaTac, Washington wil have to pay transportation and hotel workers $15 an hour.
The minimum wage was $9.32, but with the new ruling, employers will look to cut jobs, and some are even saying that they will close up shop, because they won’t be able to pay the 60 percent increase in worker pay.
Backers of the $15 minimum wage vow to appeal the ruling up the state Supreme Court. One of the biggest supporters is Kshama Sawant, a socialist who also won her election to the Seattle City Council. She plans on making Seattle the next city to have a $15 minimum wage.
Savor this little gem, from John Nolte: Between 10pm Christmas Eve and 9am Christmas morning, Texas television station TXA21 broadcast a burning Yule log accompanied by Christmas music. Throughout its run, a large number of viewers tuned in to the virtual fireplace. During its final 30 minutes, an average of 28,405 viewers chose to watch a burning log over everything else, which beat the last 15 minutes of “CBS This Morning” on CBS11.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC
BERLIN (Reuters) – Madeline Chambers writes: An art historian has found two art works stolen by the Nazis inside Germany’s parliament, a newspaper reported on Monday, in a new embarrassment for authorities after a huge stash of looted art came to light last month.
The Bundestag, in a statement issued after the report in Bild newspaper, said an art historian was reviewing two “suspicious cases”, but a spokesman would not confirm the find.
The art historian’s investigations into the German parliament’s art collection, which began in 2012, were continuing, the Bundestag spokesman said.
“It is unclear when there will be a result to the investigations,” he said.
Last month German authorities revealed that a trove of Nazi-looted art, valued at 1 billion euros ($1.38 billion), had been found in a Munich apartment.
Jim Goad writes: As someone who’s offended by nothing but annoyed by everyone, I found no shortage of people this past year to stoke the angry embers of my irascible soul. Try as I may to shield my eyes from the countless blinding petty indignities and massive vexations of everyday existence, each sunrise seemed to drop a new human being on my doorstep to annoy me.
I tend to focus on the negative at the expense of everything else, so when I looked back over the past year, I immediately began thinking of people who annoyed me. It was hard to winnow down my list to only 13 selections. They are ranked in ascending levels of annoyance. Although I bear no personal ill will toward any of these people, nor do I engage in any violent fantasies about them, it would not be untrue to say that I would not cry if, say, any of them were to be struck dead by a train in the coming New Year.
If you understand the basic principles behind the butterfly effect, you would be forced to agree with me that these are all people who, each in their own way, have made life a little harder for all of us this year. Through their very existence, they force you and I to suffer. Damn them. Damn them all to hell!
13. UNNAMED 64-YEAR-OLD SOUTH CAROLINIAN STABBING VICTIM AND FAN OF EAGLES MUSIC
In September a rough, beaten-up-looking South Carolina woman named Vernett Bader was arrested after allegedly slashing her housemate with a 14-inch serrated bread knife. Her victim, an unnamed 64-year-old man, had allegedly told her to “shut up” after she complained that he’d been playing too much music by the classic rock band Eagles. (It can never be repeated enough, if only to ratchet up the annoyance factor, that the band is not called The Eagles—they are simply random, unspecified Eagles.) And refusing to quit blasting your stupid, overplayed Eagles music when your torn-and-frayed female housemate requests that you do so qualifies as annoying enough to warrant being stabbed. He should be grateful she didn’t kill him.
12. UNNAMED SHRIEKING CANADIAN FEMINIST
Back in April, a group of typically sincere and comically misguided men’s-rights activists was trying to peaceably air its views at the University of Toronto when a chanting pack of progressive albino twat-monkeys pulled the fire alarm and disrupted the event. Outside the building, a plump harpy with her hair dyed the color of menstrual blood that had been exposed to nuclear radiation barked and howled and belittled the persistently peaceable and earnest MRAs in a breathtakingly hostile videotaped rant that singlehandedly managed to justify every misogynist stereotype throughout world history. After the video became viral, she was apparently harassed and threatened into hiding, and I can only hope that wherever she’s hiding, there’s no man there for her to yell at.
11. DAVID OLANDER
Would any sane person think that a dry batch of asparagus is evidence of systemic racism? Of course not, but we’re living in racially insane times. The award for the year’s pettiest racial complaint goes to David Olander, a member of the human relations commission in University City, MO. After espying a relatively desiccated bunch of asparagus at a Schnucks grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood, Olander says he remembered that the asparagus at a Schnucks in a mostly white neighborhood was much fresher, moister, and more vibrant. Olander fired off a letter of racial grievance to Scott Schnuck of Schnucks, which I only mention so I can repeat the phrase “Scott Schnuck of Schnucks.”
Take the Grey Lady’s much-ballyhooed story with a heavy dose of skepticism
Elliott Abrams writes: The division of the “Hillary for President” campaign known as the New York Timesissued a lengthy white paper on Sunday, entitled “A Deadly Mix In Benghazi.” This article, the paper explained, was based on “months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there . . . ”
In other words, the article is centered on interviews with extremists and terrorists, whose words are taken as gospel. That they may have changed their stories, or be putting forth stories for their own benefit rather than because the new stories are true, is a subtlety beyond the Times.
Jim Huffman writes: Earlier this month, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a habeas corpus petition in New York’s Fulton County Court seeking the release of Tommy, a chimpanzee “held captive in a cage in a shed at a used trailer lot in Gloversville.” On Tuesday a similar petition was filed in Niagara Falls on behalf of Kiko, a deaf chimpanzee living in a private home. A third petition was filed Thursday seeking the release of chimpanzees Hercules and Leo who are in the possession of a research center at Stony Brook University.
A writ of habeas corpus is an order to show legal cause for holding a person captive. Heretofore, writs have only issued for human captives. If successful, the New York lawsuits would extend the scope of the writ to an undefined array of nonhuman creatures.
Indiscriminate charges of racism do more harm than good, as Martin Luther King well knew
John Fund writes: Would America be better off if the Outrage Industry went on a diet for New Year’s?
We just spent much of December quacking and arguing way too much about the views of Phil Robertson, one of the stars of the Duck Dynasty reality-TV series. Most of the attention focused on Robertson’s harsh, mean-spirited comments about gays and on the subsequent, short-lived decision of the cable network A&E to suspend him. But people saved plenty of ire for his comments, offered in an interview with GQ magazine, that when he grew up in Louisiana in the 1950s he never saw “the mistreatment of any black person” and that African Americans in that era didn’t have complaints about white people.
That’s an invitation to call Phil naïve, blind, or a liar. But such descriptions weren’t enough for Jesse Jackson, who said: “These statements uttered by Robertson are more offensive than the bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama, more than 59 years ago. At least the bus driver, who ordered Rosa Parks to surrender her seat to a white person, was following state law. Robertson’s statements were uttered freely and openly without cover of the law, within a context of what he seemed to believe was ‘white privilege.’” He wasn’t the only prominent liberal to go way over the top. MSNBC’s Michael Eric Dyson said Robertson and Duck Dynasty were “part of a majority-white supremacist culture.” Read the rest of this entry »
h/t The Greenroom
Timothy P. Carney writes: Washington, they say, is Hollywood for ugly people. It’s also debate club for the logically impaired. The past year included its share of fallacies, sophistries, oversimplifications and utter absurdities.
But a few prominent arguments committed the worst offenses against rational thought. Below are the three worst arguments made in Washington in 2013. These weren’t illogical brain freezes or odd beliefs spouted by backbenchers. These arguments were deliberately devised, promulgated and repeated by prominent politicians, which makes them all the more embarrassing.
“If we can save only one life…”
The demagoguery started early in 2013, as Democrats tried to push gun-control laws in the wake of the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The White House argued for gun restrictions using a litany of facile talking points, most absurdly this gem by President Obama: “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”
Vice President Joe Biden echoed the line: “As the president said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking.” White House spokesman Jay Carney repeated the mantra: “If even one child’s life can be saved by the actions we take here in Washington, we must take those actions.”
It sounds nice — in a high school Model Congress sort of way — that we ought to take any action that would save one child’s life. But we all know policies have costs, in terms of freedom, unintended consequences and using up enforcement resources. Obama’s “just one child” argument pretends his gun control proposals have no costs.
Outlawing party balloons would save the handful of kids who choke to death on them. Outlawing swimming pools would save hundreds of children who drown in them every year. A national speed limit of 10 mph would spare untold numbers of Americans who die in automobile accidents. Why didn’t Obama push these laws in 2013?
The data suggest that for every life saved by gun control laws, some lives are lost. But Obama wanted Americans to forget about the people unable to defend themselves and think only of the intended consequences of his law.
“Defund it or you’re for it…”
The Tea Party’s central mistake in the government shutdown debate was confusing differences in tactics for differences. Utah Republican Mike Lee put this mistaken view most succinctly on the Senate floor: “Defund it or own it. If you fund it, you’re for it.”
Nearly 70 years later, the two are becoming friends
Samantha Grossman reports: Marsha Kreuzman, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who narrowly escaped death at an Austrian concentration camp, has spent the majority of her life searching for the American soldier who saved her. Nearly seven decades later, she has finally met him, the Star-Ledger reports.
Kreuzman, who lost her mother, father and brother in the Holocaust, remembered a man picking up her emaciated body and liberating her — but beyond that, she had no further details about his identity.
“I wanted to kiss his hand and thank him,” Kreuzman told the Star-Ledger. “From the first day I was liberated, I wanted to thank them, but I didn’t know who to thank.”
Adam Housley reports: Fifteen months after the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, the narrative of the attack continues to be shaped, and reshaped, by politicians and the press.
But a New York Times report published over the weekend has angered sources who were on the ground that night. Those sources, who continue to face threats of losing their jobs, sharply challenged the Times’ findings that there was no involvement from Al Qaeda or any other international terror group and that an anti-Islam film played a role in inciting the initial wave of attacks.
“It was a coordinated attack. It is completely false to say anything else. … It is completely a lie,” one witness to the attack told Fox News.
The controversial Times report has stirred a community that normally remains out of sight and wrestles with how to reveal the truth, without revealing classified information.
Fox News has learned that the attack on the consulate started with fighters assembling to conduct an assault.
At least 15 people have been killed in a trolley bus blast in Volgograd, emergency services report, only a day after a suicide bombing ripped through the city’s railway station, killing 17.
Monday, December 30
“The emergency services have reacted very swiftly. All those injured have been taken to hospitals, as their identities are being determined,” he said.
05:37 GMT: According to witness reports to ITAR-TASS, there were many students on the bus.
“There was a loud ‘pop’, then a flash, everything was enveloped in smoke,” one female witness said, describing the sudden realization.
05:34 GMT: The Investigative Committee now puts the number of injured at 15.
05:30 GMT: In describing the character of the blast, ITAR-TASS law enforcement sources have said that it appears to be a suicide attack, “judging from the body fragments characteristic of such a bombing.”
Joe Newby reports: During the election, Examiner’s Dean Chambers caused quite a stir when he talked about polls being skewed for Obama, something many conservatives reported. Now that the election is over, Chambers is focused on what he said is the reason for Obama’s victory. On Saturday, The Blaze reported that Chambers’ new site, barackofraudo.com, shows that Obama received 80 electoral votes in four states due largely to voter fraud.
“Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk,” the site says, quoting Henry David Thoreau.
“Evidence of vote fraud is very much like that,” Chambers wrote on the site.
“Those who engage in it are slick and do all they can to hide it, so the evidence is often quite circumstantial. In fact, often the circumstantial evidence is all the evidence we have, such was finding tens of thousands of bogus votes in the ballot box, we didn’t see someone actually put them there, but they are found, they are there, and they are clearly evidence of vote fraud,” he added. “Such is true of the voting divisions where Obama gets 100 percent of the votes cast. As if anyone REALLY believes that is legitimate.”
The Blaze reported that Chambers was mocked throughout the election for his site, UnSkewedPolls.com, where he attempted to, as Dave Weigel wrote at Slate, put “into numbers what other conservatives put into words.”
“I’m getting credible information of evidence in those states that there enough numbers that are questionable and could have swung the election,” he said, according to Weigel. “I’m only putting good credible information on there, like the actual vote counts, reports, and mainstream publications reporting voter fraud,” he added.
Chambers admits, however, that right now there is a lot of noise with very little substance.
“There’s a lot of chatter, though. There are articles people have sent me that don’t hold up. Crazy stuff,” he said.
“What’s not crazy?” Weigel asked.
“Things like the 59 voting divisions of Philadelphia where Romney received zero votes,” Chambers said. “Even Larry Sabato said that should be looked into.”
Weigel said that “57 precincts gave McCain no votes in 2008.”
“There’s such a thing as a 99% Democratic precinct, and such a thing as a 99% Republican precinct,” he added.
Chambers said that Ohio had irregularities that didn’t get much media attention.
A government that creates the climate for bullying is the worst of the bullies
Mrs. Clinton required translation into the language of truth, as she generally does when her lips are moving. By the “rights” of “all people” to “worship” as “they choose,” she meant the sharia-based desire of Muslim supremacists to foreclose critical examination of Islam. Madame Secretary, you see, was speechifying before her friends at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — the bloc of 56 Muslim countries plus the Palestinian territories.
At that very moment in July 2011, Christians were under siege in Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, and Iran — being gradually purged from those Islamic countries just as they’d been purged from Turkey, which hosted Mrs. Clinton’s speech. As Christians from the Middle East to West Monroe, La., can tell you, the Left and its Obama vanguard are not remotely interested in their “rights . . . to worship the way they choose.”
After Dean predicted that the controversial law would be “running a lot more smoothly” by March, Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute countered by pointing to enrollment data, which suggests an older, less healthy population is signing up for coverage, a dynamic many experts predict could put pressure on the health-insurance marketplace.
I normally question official expert recommendations about food consumption, since health expert advice has often been notoriously misguided (the infamous food pyramid, which promoted unhealthy amounts of wheat, grains, carbohydrates, and erroneously demonized fats and oils, for example) but here’s one I’m inclined to agree with. Sugar consumption is something to pay attention to. So much is consumed mindlessly. Compared to our most recent ancestors, the easy abundance of it is problematic. Deducting half is not extreme. A realistic measure that could have proven benefits.
This is something that got my attention a while back: the amount of refined sugar the average American consumed annually in 1900, compared to the amount of sugar consumed per person by the end of the 20th century, is pretty drastic. Though I’m unsure of the exact figure, it’s exploded, multiplied from about one pound per year, per person, to 10-20 pounds per year, per person. How would that affect the health of a population?
From Mail Online:
Adults could be advised to halve the amount of sugar in their diets under new guidelines from the World Health Organisation.
Experts are considering lowering the recommended limit of ten teaspoons a day to just five over fears that it is contributing to heart disease, obesity and tooth decay.
Food companies may have to change their products to lower the sugar content, which would be hugely expensive and could prove unpopular with some consumers.
A single can of cola contains ten teaspoons of sugar, a Mars bar has five, a bowl of Coco Pops has about four and there are eight in some ready meals…
Will Bill de Blasio tackle New Yorkers’ real problems or undo the achievements of his predecessors?
Aaron M. Renn writes: Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1856 The Old Regime and the Revolution has recently become a surprise bestseller in China, setting off a minor flurry of news stories in the West. This lesser-known Tocqueville work suggests that improvements in society can be a prelude to revolution: “Evils which are patiently endured when they seem inevitable become intolerable when once the idea of escape from them is suggested. The very redress of grievances throws new light on those which are left untouched, and adds fresh poignancy to their smart: if the pain be less, the patient’s sensibility is greater.” Whether reform will lead to revolution in China remains to be seen, but closer to home, the rise of leftist New York City mayor Bill de Blasio might offer a test of the hypothesis.
New Yorkers, including the middle class and even the poor, have seen their overall welfare improve so much under the mayoral tenures of Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg that the city’s remaining problems, which are formidable, now may seem less tolerable. Thus de Blasio was able to gain critical traction in the mayoral campaign with his “two cities” theme, holding the Bloomberg administration responsible for the city’s high levels of inequality—even as Bloomberg has governed in many ways as a “progressive.” He raised taxes and went on a massive spending spree—total spending rose by more than 70 percent on his watch—on everything from schools to parks to streets. Per pupil spending on schools grew 73 percent under Bloomberg, and teacher salaries grew 40 percent, even as test scores were mostly stagnant and polls found parents saying the schools got worse under his administration. Bloomberg also toed the progressive line on gay marriage and gun control and pledged to make New York the “world’s greatest, greenest city.” His attempt to ban the Big Gulp was perhaps the best example of his progressive vision of better living through more regulation.
A Controversial New Movement Wants to Cooperate More Closely With the Jewish State
Adi Schwartz writes: As Christmas neared, an 85-foot-high tree presided over the little square in front of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Kindergarten children with Santa Claus hats entered the church and listened to their teacher explain in Arabic the Greek inscriptions on the walls, while a group of Russian pilgrims knelt on their knees and whispered in prayer. In Nazareth’s old city, merchants sold the usual array of Christmas wares.
This year, however, the familiar rhythms of Christmas season in the Holy Land have been disturbed by a new development: the rise of an independent voice for Israel’s Christian community, which is increasingly trying to assert its separate identity. For decades, Arab Christians were considered part of Israel’s sizable Palestinian minority, which comprises both Muslims and Christians and makes up about a fifth of the country’s citizens, according to the Israeli government.
But now, an informal grass-roots movement, prompted in part by the persecution of Christians elsewhere in the region since the Arab Spring, wants to cooperate more closely with Israeli Jewish society—which could mean a historic change in attitude toward the Jewish state. “Israel is my country, and I want to defend it,” says Henry Zaher, an 18-year-old Christian from the village of Reineh who was visiting Nazareth. “The Jewish state is good for us.”
The Christian share of Israel’s population has decreased over the years—from 2.5% in 1950 to 1.6% today, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics—because of migration and a low birthrate. Of Israel’s 8 million citizens, about 130,000 are Arabic-speaking Christians (mostly Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox), and 1.3 million are Arab Muslims.
Shane Harris reports: When U.S. officials warn about “attacks” on electric power facilities these days, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a computer hacker trying to shut the lights off in a city with malware. But a more traditional attack on a power station in California has U.S. officials puzzled and worried about the physical security of the the electrical grid–from attackers who come in with guns blazing.
Around 1:00 AM on April 16, at least one individual (possibly two) entered two different manholes at the PG&E Metcalf power substation, southeast of San Jose, and cut fiber cables in the area around the substation. That knocked out some local 911 services, landline service to the substation, and cell phone service in the area, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Foreign Policy. The intruder(s) then fired more than 100 rounds from what two officials described as a high-powered rifle at several transformers in the facility. Ten transformers were damaged in one area of the facility, and three transformer banks — or groups of transformers — were hit in another, according to a PG&E spokesman.
Cooling oil then leaked from a transformer bank, causing the transformers to overheat and shut down. State regulators urged customers in the area to conserve energy over the following days, but there was no long-term damage reported at the facility and there were no major power outages. There were no injuries reported. That was the good news. The bad news is that officials don’t know who the shooter(s) were, and most importantly, whether further attacks are planned.
“Initially, the attack was being treated as vandalism and handled by local law enforcement,” the senior intelligence official said. “However, investigators have been quoted in the press expressing opinions that there are indications that the timing of the attacks and target selection indicate a higher level of planning and sophistication.”
Kyle Smith reports: The night of Sept. 1, 2009, Echo Platoon of Navy SEAL Team 10 headed out into the Fallujah night. Their goal: concluding a five-year search for the al Qaeda killer who had been responsible for the shocking 2004 murders of four American military contractors — one of them an ex-SEAL — whose bodies were then burned, dragged through the streets and hanged from a bridge.
This night the SEALs departed with these words from their commanding officer: “Gents, stay sharp, and expect a firefight.”
In the event, no shots were fired, but the SEALs faced another kind of ambush: a humiliating, baffling, infuriating struggle with the military-justice system that would end with an unsatisfying victory.
Because the man those SEALs captured — Ahmad Hashim Abd Al-Isawi, aka “the Butcher of Fallujah,” a man who lived for mayhem — somehow sustained a bloody lip on the night of his capture.
The contrast between the two instances of violence seems, like many of the details of the case, absurd.
On the one hand, four Blackwater contractors were murdered and beheaded as they pulled security in a convoy that was attempting to deliver food.
Thomas Joscelyn writes: David D. Kirkpatrick of the New York Times has published a lengthy account of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. While much in Kirkpatrick’s report is not new, the piece is receiving a considerable amount of attention because of this sweeping conclusion: “Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”
But how much effort did Kirkpatrick expend to uncover any possible al Qaeda ties? Judging by the Times’s glaring omissions, not much.
Kirkpatrick’s piece totals more than 7,000 words and yet he fingers only one suspect out of the dozens who took part in the attack. Another suspect, an ex-Guantanamo detainee, is briefly mentioned, but only then to dismiss the notion of his involvement.
Left out of the Times’s account are the many leads tying the attackers to al Qaeda’s international network.
For instance, there is no mention of Muhammad Jamal al Kashef, an Egyptian, in Kirkpatrick’s retelling. This is odd, for many reasons.
Colin Marshall writes: I admit to having a hard time keeping grocery lists. Do I write them by hand? If so, do I do it in a dedicated notebook, on a refrigerator pad, or on any old scrap I find around? Do I compose them electronically, using some combination of my computer, my phone, and other, more specialized devices? And do I keep separate lists for separate trips to separate stores? (Certain delicacies, after all, you can only get at Trader Joe’s.) Living in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Italian High Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer Michelangelo faced a rather less complicated shopping problem: he had only to send assistants off to market to bring back what he needed. Though vanishingly few of this prolific creator’s papers survive today, we do happen to have a few of the grocery lists he sent with them, like that which you see above.
Matthew Lowenstein writes: China’s economy is straining to keep up a semblance of its former growth rate. The surest sign is the way a shadow market in bank paper has evolved to substitute the commodity that China is increasingly running short of: cash.
Bankers are passing around their own ersatz currency, stimulating trade with what, in effect, are off-the-books loans. As in the wildcat currency era of the United States, the antebellum period before America had a national currency, this paper trades at a discount from province to province. It is increasingly used for speculative purposes, is potentially inflationary, and is hard to regulate. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has been unable or unwilling to crack down, lest it provoke a serious slowdown. But when the world’s second largest economy must resort to passing around IOUs, the financial community should take note.
Bankers acceptance notes (BANs) are nothing more than a post-dated check with a bank guarantee. For example, a buyer in Chongqing might have a hard time passing checks to vendors in Shanghai. But if the purchaser gets his paper signed by, say, Bank of China, his check now has the guarantee of a major financial institution: it is money good. BANs facilitate trade by obviating the need for vendors to assess the creditworthiness of purchasers. But in China, this prosaic instrument of commerce has become a kind of shadow currency that allows under-reserved banks to purchase deposits, fuels speculation, and undermines the central bank’s control over the money supply.
“From the bank’s point of view, Banker’s Acceptance Notes are all about getting deposits,” explains a banker in Zhengzhou. In a typical transaction, a customer with cash in his pocket can put down 100 RMB as a security deposit and walk away with double that amount in BANs. The bank is pleased because it receives hard currency in return for its own funny money. The customer is delighted: he has turned 100 RMB in cash into 200 RMB in something almost as good. In effect, the bank has given the customer a 200 RMB loan without using a cent of cash.