Iran Widens Crackdown on Religious Minorities-MARSHALL-NRO

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Iran Widens Crat;nofollow" target="_blank">Iran Widens Crackdown on Religious Minorities

By Paul Marshall

Posted on March 17, 2011 1:44 PM

Further to Lela Gilbert’s March 11 NRO report that, following the arrests of hundreds of Christians in recent months, five Iranian Christians had been sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for “Crimes against the Islamic Order,” the Iranian government is widening its crackdown on religious minorities.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that Hohabet News, one of the best news sites for information on Iranian Christians, was yesterday suspended by the government. Earlier, at least one staff member and his family had been threatened by an e-mail from the Revolutionary Guard. The suspension came after the site reported that last month the government had seized and burned 600 New Testaments discovered on a bus during a border inspection in Salmas.

The Baha’i News Agency reports that in March the authorities have arrested at least nine more Baha’is. (See also here and here.)

The most recent arrests were of Baha’is providing kindergarten-level education to children in Iran ’s Kerman Province , an area devastated by an earthquake seven years ago, and where the education system had almost been destroyed. The prosecutor general of the revolutionary court in Bam asserted that they were arrested for “promoting their programs under the guise of kindergartens” in Bam, Kerman , and Tehran , and “took advantage” of the needs following the earthquake. The Baha’i News Agency also reports that currently 79 Baha’is are imprisoned in Iran , including most of the leadership.

Sufi Muslims are also suffering. Human Rights Without Frontiers reports that Dr. Seyed Mustafa Azmayesh, a representative of the Neymatollahi Gonabadi Order, told the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iran that security forces had broken into the houses of Sufi Masters and jailed them. Sufis are also attacked in state media, where they have been called “house vermin” and “satanists.”

— Paul Marshall is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.



OPM’s Berry Mischaracterizes Our Pay-Gap Findings

By Andrew Biggs, Jason Richwine & James Sherk

Posted on March 17, 2011 1:21 PM

Some commentators declare an issue settled by simply ignoring the other side, but government officials testifying before Congress should hold themselves to a higher standard. John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, apparently forgot that.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held hearings recently to explore whether federal employees are overpaid. It is well known that, on average, federal employees earn more than private-sector workers. They should. The federal government employs more highly skilled workers (on average) than the private sector does. The real issue is how much more they should make.

Our research finds that even after accounting for education, experience, occupation, and other relevant characteristics, federal employees still earn total compensation 30 to 40 percent greater than workers in the private sector.

Rather than acknowledge this, Director Berry misrepresented our work. At the hearing, Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida asked him:

Q: Mr. Biggs will testify that a federal pay premium of 14 percent . . . when combined with a benefits premium of 33 percent, total federal salary and benefits are nearly 25 percent above those of similar private-sector employees. And Mr. Sherk will testify that federal employees earn a total compensation of 30 to 40 percent greater comparable than private-sector workers. Do you agree with their findings?

A: Absolutely not.

Asked why, Berry answered:

A: Their comparisons are based on gross averages. [T]he federal workforce is now a very skilled, white-collar, sophisticated workforce. It used to be 30 years ago that over a third of our workforce was blue collar. Less than 10 percent is today. So we need to compare the federal government with like to like. … The averages you are going to hear from on that panel are looking at the total labor force of the civilian market. The primary jobs in the private sector are retail clerks and service workers, waiters and waitresses. We don’t have those in the federal government.

This is a fundamental mischaracterization of our research. The entire point of our studies was to go beyond “gross averages” and make “like to like” comparisons between federal and private pay. Berry either knew this fact and ignored it, or he criticized our reports without having read them.

We are not the only economists to find that the federal government pays too much. Decades of academic research have come to the same conclusion. Even the former chief economist in the Obama Treasury Department once wrote in his academic work that “the federal government appears to consistently pay higher wages than the private sector for comparable employees.” Ignoring this problem will not make it go away.

— James Sherk is a senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation. Jason Richwine is a senior policy analyst in empirical studies at Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis. Andrew Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.



NRO Web Briefing

March 17, 2011 7:33 AM


Gov. Scott Walker: Striking the right bargain in Wisconsin.

Nicholas Kristof: Bahrain pulls a Qaddafi.

David Ignatius: Collision over Bahrain.

Symposium: What can Arab leaders do about Libya?

Robert Shrimsley: Inside Obama’s not-at-war room.

Zaki La�di: The west will rue not helping Libya’s rebels.

Praveen Swami: Before intervening in Libya, we need to think through the consequences.

Ross Douthat: The Republic of East Libya?

Paul Atkins, et al.: TARP was no win for the taxpayers.

Michael A. Walsh: Time to end the spending shell game.

NY Post Editors: Federal officials needed to speak with one voice regarding Japan.

David Pilling: The Japanese miracle is not over.

Washington Times Editors: Obama's gulf in leadership.

Andrew Malcolm: A Japanese disaster on another day: A personal story.

George Will: China’s naval mystery.

Stephen Stromberg: Americans who live next to nuclear power plants don’t necessarily face the same level of risk those around Fukushima Daiichi did.

Mortimer Zuckerman: America’s anemic recovery continues.

PERMALINK   03/17/11 07:33 AM




Government-Union Reform Spreads Beyond Wisconsin

By James Sherk

Posted on March 17, 2011 1:08 PM

The fight in Wisconsin is about who controls government: the voters, through their elected representatives, or government unions? Collective bargaining means the government cannot employ workers except on terms the union accepts. Government unions also politicize the civil service — the money they collect through the state payroll system makes them major political players. Unsurprisingly, unions want government to serve their interests instead of the public’s.

Fortunately, other states are following Governor Walker’s lead. Many states across the country have passed or are moving to pass legislation restoring voter control over their government:

Alabama: Alabama recently passed legislation prohibiting the use of the state payroll system to transfer money to political organizations — including government unions. The Alabama Education Association contends this will cost them millions in lost dues and is challenging the law in court. Since the Supreme Court already upheld a similar law in Idaho, they will probably fail.

Idaho: The state legislature passed a bill limiting school-district collective bargaining to just salary and wages. The legislation eliminates tenure and seniority-based layoffs. Elected school districts will now have the power to reward good teachers and remove bad ones.

Florida: Committees in both the state house and the state senate have taken important steps toward restoring a nonpartisan civil service. They have passed legislation prohibiting the state and local governments from collecting union dues through their payroll systems. If passed by the full legislature this would end a major taxpayer subsidy for union political fundraising.

Kansas: The Kansas House of Representatives passed a paycheck protection bill. The legislation prohibits government unions from collecting money used for political purposes through the state payroll system. Instead, the union would have to persuade workers to write a separate check to cover political expenses. Unions are predictably apoplectic, but the legislation recently passed a state senate committee.

Oklahoma: A state house committee passed a bill allowing large cities to choose whether or not to give unions a monopoly over municipal work forces. The Oklahoma senate also passed a bill reforming binding arbitration. Like many other states, Oklahoma prohibits government employees from striking against the public. Instead binding arbitration resolves contract disputes. With arbitration, an outside official listens to both sides and hands down a binding contract, taking spending decisions out of the hands of elected officials. The reforms change the standards arbitrators use to make them fairer to taxpayers.

Ohio: By a one-vote margin, the Ohio senate passed a bill preventing government employees from striking against the public, requiring government employees to pay more of the cost of their benefits, and taking the “binding” out of binding arbitration. Contract disputes would go to arbitrators, but local elected officials would have the final say on whether or not to accept the proposed contract. The state house is currently conducting hearings on the bill.

Nebraska: Nebraska governor Dave Heineman and many prominent legislators are pushing for a complete overhaul of government unions. One proposal would make arbitrators’ decisions purely advisory. Another ends binding arbitration altogether. Either proposal would return control over government to the voters and their elected representatives.

Tennessee: A state senate committee passed a bill restoring voter control over education policy. The legislation prohibits school districts from giving education unions a monopoly over their teaching workforces. A state house committee just passed a weaker version of the bill that gives school districts control over merit pay and firing decisions, but retains union influence over the wages and benefits taxpayers pay. A companion bill would stop subsidizing union fundraising with payroll deductions of dues.

Government unions drive up costs for taxpayers and prevent elected officials from implementing needed reforms. They are the reason the government does not fire failing teachers or abusive social workers. Now is the time to restore a nonpartisan civil service and voter control over their government.

James Sherk is senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation.




Greetings from the Verizon Center

By Rich Lowry 

Posted on March 17, 2011 12:36 PM

I’m not a huge college basketball fan, but who doesn’t love the early rounds of the NCAA tournament? (Check out Drew Cline’s take on the tournament here). I’m here for the afternoon and evening sessions and will be dutifully rooting for all the underdogs. First up–Butler v. ODU. 




The New Black Panther Fix

By Hans A. von Spakovsky

Posted on March 17, 2011 12:28 PM

On January 26, I asked whether the fix was in at the Justice Department in its internal investigation of the New Black Panther Party case. Unfortunately, it looks as if the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Over Christmas, Attorney General Eric Holder appointed left-wing Democratic-party loyalist Robin Ashton to head up the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which is supposed to investigate ethics violations by DOJ lawyers. At the same time, Holder announced in the New York Times that those who dismissed the voter-intimidation lawsuit the DOJ had won did the right thing.

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey was shocked that Holder seemed to be instructing OPR officials what the results of their investigation should be — so much so that he spoke out publicly to criticize Holder, something Mukasey has resisted doing in other contexts. Thus, there was good reason to fear the fix was in.

Now, Christian Adams, former Justice Department career lawyer, has reported that OPR has finished its absurdly long probe into the politically motivated dismissal of the voter-intimidation case. As expected (and directed by Eric Holder in public statements), it will be a whitewash that concludes that none of the trial team’s supervisors “did anything improper.”

But as Adams says, the report will probably attack some members of the trial team that investigated and handled the litigation. Apparently, the reason the investigation has taken so long is because, rather than concentrating on the legal case against the New Black Panthers and the possible involvement of White House officials, OPR investigators have been trying to dig up irrelevant but scurrilous information that could be used to attack the credibility, character, and reputations of the trial team. The liberal ideologues in the Voting Section who oppose race-neutral enforcement of the Voting Rights Act are angry over the pursuit of the New Black Panther case and the Ike Brown case (the first DOJ case ever won under the Voting Rights Act against a black defendant). So they’ve apparently been feeding OPR gossip, innuendo, misrepresentations, and derogatory hearsay in order to get revenge on the lawyers who brought these two cases.

The unfairness and mendacity of this is outrageous. It is intended to distract the public, members of Congress, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — which tried to investigate the DOJ’s wrongdoing — from what really happened in this case. Apparently, OPR has done its best, Adams notes, to ignore more than “120 pages of analysis and discussion provided by the four trial team lawyers,” as well as “hundreds of pages of exhibits.”

Adams says the OPR report is being sent up to the deputy attorney general this week for review; then it will be sent to the political appointees who head the Civil Rights Division. No doubt many within the DOJ will want to leak the report so that it can be used to attack the lawyers who filed this case, all of whom are consummate, ethical professionals. Too bad the same can’t be said of the attorney general, his new head of OPR, the biased investigators that staff that office, and the political appointees who run the Civil Rights Division.

The upside, if they do leak the report, is that we’ll have many more weeks with the New Black Panthers on the front pages — where the story deserves to be. That’s one thing you can bet the White House doesn’t want. That would increase the pressure on them to finally release the e-mails and other documents they have unlawfully withheld from the Civil Rights Commission and Congress.

The question is, which deceitful faction within the Justice Department will make the next move in this sordid tale of racial double standards, stonewalling, and false character assassination?




Don’t Stop Loving Me!

Posted on March 17, 2011 12:20 PM

I’m amazed this statement by Obama to a gathering of top-tier Democratic donors hasn’t gotten more attention:

“The first time around it’s like lightning in a bottle. There’s something special about it, because you’re defying the odds. And as time passes, you start taking it for granted that a guy named Barack Hussein Obama is president of the United States ,” Obama said. “But we should never take it for granted.”

“I hope that all of you still feel that sense of excitement and that sense of possibility, because we still have so much more to do.”

First of all, I do wish everyone could get their stories straight. Is mentioning Obama’s middle name good or bad? Is it only good when his fans say it, and bad when his political critics mention it? Someone draft me a memo.

More to the point, I don’t think telling 500 super-donors, in effect, “stick with me, because you had so much fun backing me when my campaign was about superficial b.s.” is a good sign for his reelection prospects.




The Japan Situation

Posted on March 17, 2011 12:15 PM

We’re tracking events closely at the Developing blog.




On the Homepage

By Brian Bolduc

Posted on March 17, 2011 12:00 PM

The editors and friends of NR declare their love for Guinness.

Andrew Cline previews the dramas of the NCAA Tournament.

Conrad Black laments the lack of U.S. leadership on Libya .

Victor Davis Hanson compares President Obama to the indecisive character Hamlet.

Jim Lacey explains how the U.S. could topple Qaddafi.

Clifford D. May wonders why the Arab League doesn’t impose its own no-fly zone.

George Weigel argues the unification of Italy strengthened the Catholic Church.

Michael Barone finds much to be criticized about the presidential primaries.




Trump Talks Big Campaign Spending, Birthers

Posted on March 17, 2011 11:53 AM

Donald Trump would be willing to spend millions of his own money on a presidential campaign — and has “a little doubt” that President Obama was born in the United States .

“Part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich,” Trump told ABC’s Good Morning America in an interview that aired today. “So if I need $600 million, I can put up $600 million myself. That’s a huge advantage … over the other candidates.”

“Everybody that even gives a hint of being a birther … they label them as an idiot,” said Trump.

“[Obama] grew up and nobody knew him,” Trump continued. “If ever I got the nomination, if I ever decide to run, you may go back and interview people from my kindergarten. They’ll remember me. Nobody ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he is until later in his life. It’s very strange. The whole thing is very strange.”

Trump’s embrace of the birther movement sets him apart from other GOP contenders who have spurned birther claims. Sarah Palin called conversations about Obama’s birth certificate “annoying” and “distracting” in a Long Island appearance last month, while Tim Pawlenty said “I’m not one who questions the existence of the president’s birth certificate,” during his CPAC speech in mid-February.

Trump also talked about House speaker John Boehner (“I don’t like the crying”) and some of the other 2012 possibilities, including Mitt Romney (“He doesn’t seem to resonate”), Palin (“I think she’s more qualified than Barack Obama was when he became president”), and Mike Huckabee (“I think he’s the kind of guy that maybe could really get some votes”).




‘The Audacity of Arugula’

Posted on March 17, 2011 11:43 AM

Any other suggestions for the title of FLOTUS’s upcoming book on healthy foods? 

Michelle Obama will write a book about the organic garden she planted on the South Lawn of the White House and the virtues of eating fresh, locally grown food, a cause that has been the centerpiece of her work as first lady. The book is not yet titled and is scheduled for publication in spring 2012.  




House Votes to Defund NPR

Posted on March 17, 2011 11:35 AM

The House just voted 236-181 to remove federal funding for National Public Radio via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.




Surely NPR Would Never Let It Happen

By John Hood

Posted on March 17, 2011 11:34 AM

I continue to be puzzled by one of the most familiar arguments for continuing federal funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting: that without tax dollars, some public stations in small radio markets with scant fundraising prospects would go dark.

Voluntary donations and private underwriting have long made up a majority of the revenue of National Public Radio and most of its local affiliates. According to NPR, member stations get an average of 10 percent of their funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But the number is much higher for stations in rural areas and small towns. Even if they would be popular enough among listeners to motivate giving, the argument goes, some of these stations lack the scale necessary to pay their bills through local giving alone.

But surely the noble, progressively minded folks at NPR would never let these stations go dark. Why would affiliates in large or affluent markets be allowed to keep all the money they raise for local use? I assume that in the absence of government funding, NPR would adjust its programming charges in a way that would essentially redistribute income from these markets to the smaller, poorer ones, thus ensuring truly national coverage for its programming and a basic “safety net” of news, talk, and quirky music shows for all Americans.

I’m convinced that the noble, progressively minded donors to stations in New York , San Francisco , Ann Arbor , Chapel Hill, Austin , and other communities would welcome the opportunity to share their good fortune with their disadvantaged counterparts.

No problem.




Common Misconceptions of Economists

By Jim Manzi

Posted on March 17, 2011 11:21 AM

Tyler Cowen did a matched pair of posts on what he believes to be the common mistakes of left-wing and right-wing economists. What seems so striking to me is not the differences between mistakes made by different kinds of economists, but rather what I believe to be the set of misconceptions that are endemic to the profession.

To begin, let me provide two caveats. First, everything that follows is a generalization about what I take to be the dominant tendencies of professional economists (and especially American economists working in academia and government). It is possible to cite counterexamples to each statement; in fact, every criticism I will make has been anticipated by canonical economists including Hayek, Coase, Knight, Schumpeter, North, and Smith (Adam and Vernon), among others. Second, I am observing the economics profession from the outside as an entrepreneur and business executive engaged in the economy directly. I think that the last formal economics training I had was Evsey Domar’s Comparative Economic Systems seminar at MIT in the 1980s.

I’ve grouped these observations into two broad themes to provide some structure; but in order to get beyond very general abstractions, I’ve also tried to give some of what I think are the most important examples of each theme. At the conclusion of each theme, I’ve highlighted what I see as the negative result of these specific problems, from the point of view of a consumer of the outputs of professional economics.

1. Strategic elision between economics as predictive science, and economics as informed advocacy. Economists will sometimes make explicit claims that “the economic science says X,” and will more frequently make implicit claims for scientific knowledge by flatly asserting the known truth of some predictive assertion. This is normally a statement made around some specific policy question – we should (or should not) execute the following stimulus program; we should (or should not) raise the minimum wage right now, etc.

When pushed to provide the scientific evidence, they will normally reference some combination of empirical analysis of naturally occurring phenomena and mathematical models derived from axiomatic statements about human decision-making. In scientific terms, this is all sophisticated theory-building. What’s lacking is dispositive evidence of the accuracy of the predictive rule that allows the statement about this specific case to be an example of a more general rule that has scientific provenance. Otherwise, all we have is an informed opinion of the type we might have from an expert historian rendering an opinion about something the likelihood that Libya would revert to an authoritarian government within ten years if it overthrew Qaddafi

Among the most important manifestations of this problem are:#more#

a. Lack of focus on controlled experiments as falsification trials. Theory and experiment are to science as inhalation and exhalation are to breathing. Even in scientific fields in which experiments are infeasible, our knowledge of causal relationships is underwritten by traditional controlled experiments. Astrophysics, for example, relies in part on physical laws verified through terrestrial and near-Earth experiments. Economics has traditionally been a consciously non-experimental science (though this is slowly starting to change). This creates a very weak feedback loop to weed out false belief. One can argue that controlled experiments cannot be done for many important economics questions. Fair enough, but then the claim to scientific status for these beliefs is hard to sustain, and leads to the next problem…

b. Ad hoc retreat to non-falsifiable “a">Without the discipline of experimental verification, however, this becomes more like philosophy than science. For economists, this can be a feature, not a bug, if it can be used to intimidate non-experts (generally those who are less comfortable with mathematics).

Result: The lack of a body of useful, reliable and non-obvious rules to predict the impact of proposed government interventions. As somebody who sits outside the profession, debates among economists are a means to an end. All I want is output: tell me the value-creating rules to predict the results of potential courses of action on the major issues of the day that your collective enterprise has produced that I would not have in the absence of your work.

Greg Mankiw, an economics professor at Harvard, is the author of one of the most widely used economics textbooks in the world. In a chapter specifically devoted to arguing for the scientific nature of economics, he presented “a table of propositions to which most economists subscribe.” I found this pretty underwhelming as an argument for economics as predictive science: about 10 to 20 percent of economists apparently disagree with the central results of the field; half of the propositions are value statements concerning the way the world should be run (literally using words like “should”), rather than the kind of predictive rules produced by science; and even the other half, which are theoretically-falsifiable predictive rules, are mostly neither practically testable, nor specific enough to guide rational action. That doesn’t sound like any scientific field that I know about.

I’m not arguing that economics has produced nothing of value, but rather that its most useful outputs are more like those of historians than those of biologists. Draping the cloak of “science” over its findings can often be a rhetorical strategy designed to increase the leverage of economists in policy debates.

2. Use of a model for human mind, and by extension human society, that is simplified to the point of caricature. All rational disciplines, of course, must use abstractions that ignore some of the complexity of the real world. The question as a consumer of the work of the discipline is whether this abstraction supports or precludes the development of practically-useful guidance. The point of the first half of this post is that economics mostly hasn’t done this. It is my view that an over-simplified view of human mind and society is a key reason why not.

a. Ignoring the “irrational” psychological importance of group affiliation, and therefore under-emphasis on the role of institutions in promoting self-image rather than merely material self-interest. At the timescale of biological evolution, an extended commercial republic is brand new invention. While we have more just-so stories than legitimate scientific knowledge about the role of evolution in shaping human nature, one should expect that the faster pace of social change than of biological evolution is likely to create profound conflicts.

Any sustainably great collective — IBM, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the U.S. Marine Corps, the University of Cambridge , or the United States of America — appeals to the rational self-interest of its members, but also creates a sense of irrational identification with the enterprise. Individuals within each will, to some extent and in some circumstances, sacrifice narrowly-construed perceived self-interest for the good of the whole. This kind of motivation is far more central to the lives of most real people than it is to most economic theories.

b. Many other examples include the mercurial nature of “utility,” the difficulty of forming commitment bonds across kin lines, and the central role of culture in creating economic outcomes. As is sometimes said in business “the soft stuff is the hard stuff.” Though not amendable to analysis, and especially not to quantification, the weird crevices of the human mind manifest themselves powerfully in our daily lives. In combination with the prior example, this tends to scale up to the dizzying nature of the institutions (in the broad sense of the formal and informal “rules of the game”) that determine the economic success and failure of societies. This is not ignored by economics, just radically under-emphasized.

c. Treating uncertainty as if it were risk. Under-emphasizing the complexities of the kind highlighted in the first two examples tends to lead to the problem of excessive belief in that previously-observed patterns are reliable predictors of future behavior. Repeated coin flips are complicated in the sense that we can’t normally predict heads vs. tails on a specific flip; but the series is still subject to probabilistic regularities, such as fair coin tosses should come up heads almost exactly half of the time. Human society is yet more complex, and patterns that seem reliable can suddenly change. This is frustrating to analysts, and therefore often ignored, or given only lip service, en route to making recommendations that rely on the assumption that these patterns will persist.

d. Ignoring the resulting complexities of the evolution of institutions over historical time. Our institutions are often mechanisms for organizing human behavior in light of human complexities, and for making decisions in light of true uncertainty. In an environment of true uncertainty, they have often evolved though trial-and-error, and therefore resist analysis. This is also frustrating to analysts.

Result: Excessive focus on allocative efficiency, at the expense of adaptive efficiency. I really can’t say this any better than Douglass North in his 1993 Nobel lecture: “Neo-classical theory is simply an inappropriate tool to analyze and prescribe policies that will induce development. … It is adaptive rather than allocative efficiency which is the key to long run growth. Successful political/economic systems have evolved flexible institutional structures that can survive the shocks and changes that are a part of successful evolution.”

In sum, academic and government economists routinely overstate their actual degree of reliable, non-obvious knowledge about the answer to the practical question “What will happen if we execute policy X,” because it serves the class interest of economists to do so. Economists follow incentives like everybody else, rather than somehow sitting outside and above the process of buying and selling. Buyer beware.




Palin Plans Trip to Israel

Posted on March 17, 2011 11:04 AM

After visiting India to deliver a talk Saturday, Sarah Palin will travel to Israel.

She will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli right-wing political leaders, reports the Jerusalem Post.  It’s also anticipated that Palin will visit Nazareth and the Western Wall.

Palin, an outspoken supporter of Israel, isn’t the first possible 2012 candidate to visit Israel. In recent months, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Haley Barbour have all visited and spoken to Netanyahu.




Re: On the Libya Editorial

Posted on March 17, 2011 11:00 AM

It occurred to me recently that if we were not currently engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, and had recent events in the Middle East and Maghreb gone down exactly as they have, we’d almost certainly already be running a no-fly zone over Libya, or even launching offensive air strikes against Qaddafi forces.

Another way to put this: In the 90s, the sort of thing we’re pondering — painfully, slowly, increasingly irrelevantly pondering — was pedestrian. Clean, abstract, but impressive night-vision videos of American and NATO smart bombs striking the strongholds of people with funny names was the Clinton administration’s bread and butter foreign policy tool. Now, getting that same thing done would be, as Andy puts it, an Olympian feat.




On the NRO Libya Editorial, I Respectfully Dissent

By Andrew C. McCarthy

Posted on March 17, 2011 10:40 AM

I respectfully dissent from Wendesday’s NRO editorial, which urges that the United States go to war with Libya.

The editorial doesn’t put it that way. Indeed, it doesn’t call for President Obama to seek a congressional declaration of war, or at least an authorization for the use of military force, as the Bush administration understood was required before commencing combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In this case, complying with the Constitution is almost certain to result in a resounding “no” vote from the people’s representatives — and if you think getting the Patriot Act reauthorized was uphill, figure getting Congress to bless another adventure in Islamic nation-building as Olympus … squared. So apparently ensuring that the American people support a war against Libya is a step is to be dispensed with. The editors instead claim that “the request by the rebels and the Arab League [is] all the authorization we need,” a proposition that I imagine would have come as something of a surprise to Madison, Jefferson, et al.

In any event, they would have President Obama, post haste, launch our tapped-out nation into an open-ended military intervention, one that is to start with not only the “no-fly zone” that the editors recently opposed but a “no-drive zone” to protect the “rebels” in their tottering eastern stronghold of Benghazi. That sure sounds like a full-blown U.S. invasion of Libya, although the editors are less than clear about exactly whose boots would be hitting the ground. They assure us that they seek only a “meaningful” U.S. military commitment, not an “overwhelming” one “comparable” to the Islamic nation-building misadventures in the fledgling sharia states of Iraq and Afghanistan. But of course, no one was talking about occupying Muslim countries for a decade or more when those projects started.

It seems like a long time ago, but it is worth reminding ourselves that the only missions the American people supported involved destroying the terror network that attacked our nation on 9/11 and toppling its state sponsors. Unlike anything at stake in Libya, those are vital U.S. security interests. Iraq and Afghanistan became overwhelming commitments because of the conventional unwisdom that our security somehow hinges not only on defeating our enemies but on converting Muslim basket-cases into something resembling democracy. And this, despite the absence of any Islamic democratic tradition; despite the tension between sharia and the Western principles that undergird our notion of democracy; and despite the dearth of evidence supporting the theory — and it is only a theory — that Country A’s being a democracy makes Country B safer from trans-continental terror networks skilled at exploiting democratic freedoms. (In point of fact, the evidence cuts in the other direction — unless you think places like Hamburg, Madrid, San Diego, and Westport, four of the many Western cities and towns where 9/11 was planned, are not democracies.)

The editors do not explain why dictates of the “freedom agenda” would not turn Libya into another exercise in nation-building. The plan is to leap in first (to “check Qaddafi’s offensive”) and “then we can consider other options.” But the three trial balloons they fly for a purportedly limited engagement (though they do not actually restrict themselves to a limited engagement) are utterly unrealistic: (a) if it’s important enough to intervene on behalf of the “rebels,” it’s unserious to suggest that we would go no further than shoring up their enclave “so they can fight another day”; (b) “decapitation strikes against the regime in Tripoli” would produce exactly the sort of chaos that became the justification for entangling ourselves in Iraq (can anyone forget Colin Powell’s bromide, “You break it, you own it”?); and (c) as Daniel Freedman points out in the WSJ-Europe, we and the “international community” have no credibility to, as the editors put it, “bargain Qaddafi out of the country,” having relentlessly undermined the deal by which Nigeria induced Liberian dictator Charles Taylor to step down in 2003. As Mr. Freedman recounts, the Bush administration joined Europe’s preening over the “need to bring Charles Taylor to justice.” Qaddafi, naturally, took notice of what he called this “serious precedent” — a precedent that now has convinced him to fight until “the last drop of blood is spilled.” (Call Qaddafi crazy, but he often seems to understand how the world works better than our “progressive” diplomats do.)

#more#So what is the rationale for enmeshing our armed forces and sparse resources in Libya for the benefit of the “rebels” — the nebulous term used to avoid the inconvenient fact that Qaddafi’s main opposition includes virulently anti-American Islamists (whom the editors gently refer to as “bad actors”)? The editors assert, “Qaddafi is a murderer of Americans with whom we still have a score to settle.” They also deride him as a dictator who “hatch[es] assassination plots against foreign leaders and ravage[es] Libyan society.”

Funny thing about that: Throughout the Bush years, Qaddafi remained a murderer of Americans with whom we still had a score to settle (viz., the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people, including 189 Americans, in 1988). The assassination attempt to which the editors refer happened in 2003, when Qaddafi plotted with al-Qaeda financier Abdurrahman Alamoudi — formerly the favorite “moderate” Muslim leader of the Bush and Clinton administrations, now a convicted terrorist — to kill then–crown prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. It must, in addition, be recalled that Qaddafi never stopped ravaging Libyan society while George W. Bush was president, a fact Michael Rubin documented time and again here at NRO (see, e.g., here). Notwithstanding all of this, the Bush administration, anxious to show a positive development amid the deteriorating situation in Iraq, decided in its wisdom to give Qaddafi a clean bill of health in exchange for his commitment to forswear the development and proliferation of WMD. (A commitment from Qaddafi — what could go wrong?)

Wouldn’t it have been sufficient exchange for the U.S. to agree that we wouldn’t depose Qaddafi as we had just deposed Saddam? Of course it would have … but then that wouldn’t have flaunted the full glory of the freedom agenda, right? So instead Qaddafi — a terrorist who never changed a whit — was suddenly portrayed as a reformer and a strong U.S. ally in the war against terror. The Bush administration removed him from the list of terror sponsors, opened the foreign-aid spigot for him, and cultivated ties between his regime and U.S. industry — all to the deep dismay of the same opposition we are now told it is essential that we help. Even more infuriating, President Bush, at the apparent urging of Secretary Rice, agreed to satisfy Qaddafi’s damage claims arising out of the Reagan administration’s righteous missile-attack on Tripoli in retaliation for the despot’s terrorist bombing that killed American troops in Germany.

That seems like some pretty outrageous coddling of a murderer of Americans with whom we still have a score to settle. So I searched the NR archives to find an editorial in which we condemned any of this appeasement, called for Qaddafi’s ouster, demanded that the terrorist be made to answer for Flight 103, or at least protested Secretary Rice’s treacly sit-down with this anti-American monster. Unless I’m missing something, there is no such editorial. To be clear, I am not saying NR ever bought the Bush administration’s Qaddafi makeover or regarded the dictator as anything other than the thug that he is. My point is that, although Qaddafi is still the same guy he has always been, we did not make much of a peep over the Bush approach, yet now we want to go to war with the guy under circumstances where there has been no intervening Libyan attack on the U.S., or even a threat against the U.S.

(To be sure, as I have noted before, there were plenty of Libyans who transited Syria to join the anti-U.S. insurgency in Iraq. But we didn’t consider that kind of misbehavior a casus belli even against Iran, the maestro that was actually orchestrating much of the insurgency. Furthermore, the Libyans who joined it were at least as likely to be part of what the editors now call the “rebels” as they were to be Qaddafi loyalists.)

Apparently, the editors now want to get tough on Qaddafi not because it is easier for conservatives to push Obama than it was for them to buck Bush, but because there is now a real chance to oust Qaddafi. In favor of what? It is here that the editorial is at its weakest, resisting any admission that its proposed military intervention would, in all probability, just exchange one anti-American dictator with a new set of anti-American rulers. Claiming to have “no illusions” about the “rebels,” the editorial allows that they have their “share of bad actors.” But the editors refrain from actually describing who those bad actors are.

There is a reason why, besides “freedom agenda” enthusiasts, no one wants Qaddafi “hanging from a lamp post” (as the editors put it) more than Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s sharia guide. He has just issued a fatwa calling for Qaddafi’s murder. The Brotherhood, once again, is all over this. As I summarized in a column last week:

As in Egypt, the main opposition is the Muslim Brotherhood — avowed enemies of the West whose goal is the establishment of sharia states. The National Front for the Salvation of Libya is also a largely Islamist opposition group — one that was stronger until many of its Islamist members split off because they objected to the group’s acceptance of U.S. support in the 1980s. There are other Islamist and leftist groups, including violent jihadists. Moreover, Libya is virulently anti-Israeli, and a disturbing anti-Semitism courses through the opposition. (See this Pajamas report, as well as this post by Andrew Bostom on the history of anti-Semitism in Libya.) Whatever regime comes after Qaddafi is likely to be anti-Western, anti-American, and anti-Israeli.

The editors slough this off with the contention that it really doesn’t matter in light of the “standard” they’d apply, which they say, “shouldn’t be particularly high,” to wit:  “Are [the ‘rebels’] better or worse than Qaddafi?” They then suggest that this is a slam-dunk, since “it will be hard to do worse, unless [the ‘rebels’] take over and immediately begin hatching assassination plots against foreign leaders and ravaging Libyan society.” This piles naivete atop absurdity.

First for the absurdity: The “standard” the editors suggests does not address the issue at hand. The question is not whether Qaddafi’s successors would be better than Qaddafi such that we should hope they succeed or even provide them the sort of moral support the Reagan administration gave to Poland’s Solidarity movement. The question is whether there are such clear and vital American national security interests riding on the supplanting of Qaddafi by these particular Islamist would-be successors that we should commit American military forces, i.e., invade another Muslim country that has not attacked us, in order to bring that outcome about. Even if we were to concede for argument’s sake that the rebels would be less anti-American than Qaddafi, that would argue for nothing more than wishing them good luck; it would not call for the sacrifice of American blood and treasure (or, more accurately, American blood and going deeper in hock to China).

And then the naivete: Is it really so obvious that the “rebels” would be better for us than Qaddafi? News flash: The Muslim Brotherhood has a history of not just plotting but actually carrying out the assassination of foreign leaders. Indeed, while we are not happy that Qaddafi is a foreign leader, he does happen to be one, and, as already noted, the Brotherhood’s top clerical leader is openly calling for him to be killed. If we just have a look at Gaza, Sudan, Somalia, and Iran, where Islamist governments reign (the one in Gaza is actually run by the Muslim Brotherhood), it’s fair to say that “ravage” is too gentle a word for what they do to their societies. Look at how Turkey is devolving after eight years of Islamist rule. Clearly, it wasn’t so obvious to the Bush administration that the available alternatives were manifestly preferable to Qaddafi. I don’t know why the editors are so confident on this point.

I repeat, the editors may well be right that a Libyan regime run by the “rebels” could end up being better for us than Qaddafi — at least marginally. But it also might be worse — Qaddafi hasn’t attacked us in many years; the Muslim Brotherhood is actively seeking to destroy the West. In either event, the issue is not what we ought to be hoping for or even working toward diplomatically. It is whether hastening the post-Qaddafi era is so clearly in our interests that it’s worth going to war over.

Besides attacking Libya directly, the editors further suggest that we should “work with our allies to provide logistics, training, and arms” to these “rebels.” Before we do something like that, should we not at least discuss how disastrous have been our efforts to train and arm Muslim forces in the recent past? Indeed, perhaps I should say the very recent past: Though I cannot vouch for them, reports are now circulating (see, e.g., here) that two members of the U.S.-funded and trained Palestinian security forces have been arrested on suspicion of providing logistical support for the massacre of a Jewish family in the West Bank town of Itamar last weekend (the massacre is the subject of my last column).

Besides arming the Palestinian Authority, which continues to maintain its own terrorist wing, our government has been funding Qaddafi (including “charities” run by his family) and the Pakistani regime that created the Taliban. We seeded the Afghan mujahideen with hundreds of millions of dollars that ended up going to al-Qaeda and jihadist warlords like Hekmatyar who are still at war with us. We intentionally looked the other way while Iran armed and trained the Bosnian Muslims, giving the jihad a foothold in Europe. The Egyptian military to which we have given tens of billions over the last 30 years could soon be coopted by an Islamist regime. Do we really want to keep arming and funding shady players in a place about which we know little except that there is teeming animosity for America and the West?

The editors also offer the now familiar argument that we need to act because President Obama has staked American credibility on Qaddafi’s ouster. “All lies in jest,” the tune goes, “still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” Obama says a lot of things, many of them contradictory. (Mubarak must stay, Mubarak must be gone yesterday, Qaddafi is our friend, the violence must stop but no need to mention Qaddafi, Qaddafi is suddenly illegitimate, and so on. If Mr. Obama can pry himself away from his brackets, who knows what we’ll be hearing tomorrow?) The president refused to intervene in the Iranian uprising because he had committed us to diplomacy with the mullahs — should we support that feckless strategy since, whatever misgivings we may have, Obama has staked U.S. credibility on it? I don’t understand how it is that we can disagree with most everything Obama says but, when he occasionally takes a position — however fleetingly — that we find pleasing, we abruptly decide he must be defended because American credibility is now on the line.

As long as we’re talking about American credibility, what about Bush’s staking of it on the conclusion that Qaddafi was no longer an anti-American terrorist but, instead, an American ally in the war on terror whose regime should no longer be listed as a terrorism sponsor? The editors insist that Qaddafi is “a dictator with American blood on his hands,” and that we thus “still have a score to settle” with him. But didn’t President Bush pronounce that score settled in a diplomatic agreement in which American and, yes, Libyan claims were paid and deemed satisfied. You don’t like that result? Me neither … and, I said so at the time. But by the editors’ logic, wasn’t Bush’s agreement a staking of American credibility on both a settlement of Pan Am 103 claims and the re-entry of Libya into the “international community” — notwithstanding his record of terrorism and dictatorship? How is it that if Obama doesn’t act, U.S. credibility will be in tatters, but that U.S. credibility is not already in tatters because of our treatment of Qaddafi from 2003–2011? Won’t U.S. credibility be in tatters if our rationale for launching combat operations against Qaddafi is a terrorist attack that our last president determined was a closed chapter?

Contrary to the editors’ claim, a military campaign to pick a winner between Qaddafi (for whom we were vouching for up until a few weeks ago) and the “rebels” (who include anti-American jihadists) would not be “commensurate with our interests.” It could not be, for such campaigns, as the editorial concedes, have “costs and risks.” Our interests are calculated by weighing those costs and risks against the anticipated benefits. To justify the use of military force, the benefits have to be clear and substantial, and their pursuit must be supported by the public. The fate of Libya is just not that important. Qaddafi is a creep, but he hasn’t done anything to us since our government absolved him seven years ago. If he falls, no one will weep. But that doesn’t make it worth a single American life to move him out so the “rebels” can move in.

Arab League members have been lushly armed by the U.S. for years. Why don’t we suggest that they band together to drive Qaddafi out, just like they have banded together several times to try to wipe out Israel? Why don’t we let our great NATO ally Turkey take a time-out from trying to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas to deal with its own backyard?

To borrow General McChrystal’s words about Afghanistan, Libya is not our war. The editors observe that “waiting for U.N. or even NATO approval is a formula for inaction,” but there are very good reasons for inaction. Putting aside Security Council authoritarians like China and Russia, who have their own reasons for protecting Qaddafi, many other countries see the potentially catastrophic downsides of getting involved and say, “No thanks.” Why do we need to be the ones to take on the empirically thankless task of stepping in between warring Muslims who are united only by their disdain for America and the West? 

It is not easy to explain to our troops and their loved ones why the combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have devolved into increasingly pointless nation-building exercises, continue to be worth their sacrifice. But at least in those missions, there were clear U.S. national security reasons for the initial invasions. At least in those missions, we are still killing and capturing some terrorists who might otherwise attack the U.S. In Libya, there are no similar U.S. interests. Yet NR is not only undertaking to support a forcible intervention; the editors lay the groundwork for supporting “other options” to be considered once Qaddafi’s offensive has been checked. Intended of not, that leaves the door ajar to yet another long-term, troop-intensive occupation, the editors’ protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. And is it not worth at least a mention that among the “costs and risks” of military intervention in a Muslim country is that, regardless of how well-meaning we are, mainstream Islam construes sharia to require attacks against Western forces that attack Muslim countries? By intervening — even if some Muslim countries are asking us to intervene, history tells us — we would guarantee intensified calls by influential Islamic clerics for jihad against us.

Finally, what about the cost? We are, after all, engulfed by debt — increasing trillions of it that are appropriately the subject of ever more agitation on the pages of NR and NRO.  Although the editorial purports to explain why military intervention is “commensurate” with our interests, it omits from this calculation any mention of how much this “meaningful” intervention will cost our bankrupt country. Perhaps more importantly in our current dire straits, the editors do not grapple with how easily a costly intervention will be exploited by the Left to justify the preservation of wasteful Big Government spending that we also can’t afford.

I appreciate that it is hard to say, “Butt out.” Qaddafi is a monster and his opposition is murky enough (for now) to be portrayed as “rebels” and “freedom fighters.” But I fear we’re being swept away by emotion and by what we should now know is the vain hope that making sacrifices for besieged Muslims is going to make the ummah like us better. It is essential to attack Islamic terrorists who plot against America, but our humanitarian military efforts in the Islamic world have been a disaster — at staggering costs in lives and hundreds of billions of dollars that we don’t have. We should be working on how to get the nation disentangled from Islamic countries, not leading the nation headlong into another conflict that we cannot win. With great respect, I believe the editorial is profoundly mistaken. 




Swine Flu Goes Nuclear

By Jena McNeill

Posted on March 17, 2011 10:27 AM

Mention “nuclear radiation” at your next cocktail party, and the room will likely fall silent. Americans fear few things more than the idea of radioactive fallout landing on U.S. soil. Small wonder then that from California to Oregon, potassium iodide is selling out.

But the fearful response is not always the most appropriate. And facts, not fears, should determine how we respond to the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Perhaps the most important fact for those of us stateside: It is extremely unlikely that the radiation released into the atmosphere from Japan will have any biological effect on U.S. populations. Radiation levels in Tokyo, though higher than normal, are currently still below the threshold which poses danger to human health. And Tokyo is only 150 miles from the damaged nuclear plants. More than 5,000 miles separate the U.S. and Japan. Radiation that blows eastward would likely break down in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 

What if such radiation reaches U.S. shores? First, we should determine the degree of the problem. The danger of low-dose exposure is incredibly small, and the technologies to detect radiation are incredibly advanced. Moreover, potential health risks can be mitigated by factors such as general health, duration of exposure, genetic traits, and medical treatment.

We must also recognize non-radiation risks. Potassium iodide itself can produce harmful side effects in some people, especially those with certain medical problems like thyroid issues and chronic diseases. It’s not prudent to take it unnecessarily.

People are naturally concerned about the health and safety of their families. They should keep current on the situation, listen to the communications from government officials, and remain calm. Meanwhile, government officials must provide factual, up-to-date information and be open and honest about risks.

What leaders should avoid is the type of baseless, over-reactive measures invoked during the last public-health scare in the U.S.: the swine flu. Eager to be seen as caring, concerned, and “doing something,” public officials aired ridiculous ideas (e.g., stop eating pork to avoid the flu) and lawmakers offered ludicrous proposals (e.g., seal the borders to keep “carriers” out). Officials may be tempted to play to public fears of radiation in a similarly unhelpful and disruptive fashion. They shouldn’t.

Media reports over the next few days and weeks will contain a lot of “maybes.” Americans must pay attention, but they should also weigh these reports critically. Sift through the “maybes” to get at the facts — which are almost always far less alarming. When faced with a potential threat — even one involving radiation — calm and common sense are invaluable.

DeMint Defends Romney on Health Care

Posted on March 17, 2011 10:08 AM

From The Hill:

“One of the reasons I endorsed Romney [in 2008] is his attempts to make private health insurance available at affordable prices,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), a GOP kingmaker. 

DeMint blames Democrats in the Massachusetts State Legislature for adding many of the features to Romney’s plan that many on the right decry. 

“It just depends on how he plays it. For me, I think he started with some good ideas that were essentially hijacked by the Democrat Legislature,” DeMint said.




Picking Up Where ’96 Welfare Reform Left Off

By Katherine Bradley

Posted on March 17, 2011 10:08 AM

Today, Reps. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), Tim Scott (R., S.C.), and Scott Garrett (R., N.J.) will introduce the Welfare Reform Act of 2011, a bill that would do much more than rein in exploding federal welfare spending. It also seeks to free millions of families, currently trapped in the welfare system, from a debilitating dependence on government.

The Jordan-Scott-Garrett legislation is a bold step forward. Adopting several major proposals by my Heritage Foundation colleague, Robert Rector, the bill would apply fiscal discipline to dozens of means-tested welfare programs where spending has skyrocketed since President Obama took office.

The legislation also would ease able-bodied recipients of government assistance off the welfare rolls and into jobs — the signature accomplishment of the limited 1996 reforms. The fastest way out of poverty, as the saying goes, is a job.

Or as the Republican Study Committee, of which Jordan is chairman, puts it in a summary of his bill: “Conservatives believe that the answer to poverty is work, higher earnings and marriage.”

The welfare-reform bill aims to encourage personal responsibility while reversing the 40 percent jump in spending among the 70-plus federal welfare programs during the first two years of the Obama administration, primarily by:

● Requiring the president’s annual budget to detail total current and future welfare spending, as well as estimate state contributions to federal programs.

● Capping total welfare spending at 2007 levels plus inflation once the recession ends.

● Adding work requirements to the food-stamps program, so that the able-bodied must seek employment and job training if they are to continue receiving the assistance.

Spending on the food-stamps program alone has more than doubled since 2008. Under Obama’s 2012 budget proposal, it would reach $80 billion and 40 million recipients — with more growth to come.

If Congress doesn’t slow this runaway train, federal and state welfare spending will total $10.3 trillion over the next decade. Our government is broke and heavily in debt. We can’t afford the accelerated growth in the welfare state that Obama has set in motion, especially considering these programs aren’t an efficient, lasting way to lift individuals out of poverty.

The welfare reform bill would cap overall — or aggregate — welfare spending at the rate of inflation once the recession subsides (defined as an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent or less). Savings are estimated to exceed $1.4 trillion over ten years.

But although saving taxpayers’ money is critical, even more important are the lives of the Americans who receive these benefits. Most have spent years on welfare with little chance of leaving. The average stay on food stamps is eight years, according to one report. And despite the fact that welfare costs are 13 times higher than in the 1960s, when the War on Poverty began, the poverty rate remains virtually unchanged.

The goal should be to move welfare recipients out of poverty and dependence, and into jobs and independence. The Jordan-Scott-Garrett bill would do this by adding the same kind of work requirements that in 1996 transformed the government’s largest cash-assistance program.

Welfare rolls shrunk by 60 percent as a result of reforms to one major program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, in policy changes first proposed to President Clinton and Congress by Rector and Heritage.

We could achieve similar success in the years ahead by implementing work requirements not only for food stamps but for public housing assistance, another of the larger welfare programs.

The Welfare Reform Act of 2011 would revive the vision of the 1996 reform initiative, picking up where it left off. For the first time in 15 years, lawmakers have a real opportunity to lessen dependence on government and improve the lives of millions of Americans.

Katherine Bradley is a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society and oversaw the nation’s largest cash-assistance program during the George W. Bush administration. She is co-author, with Robert Rector, of the 2010 research paper “Confronting the Unsustainable Growth of Welfare Entitlements.”




Why the Wis. Dem Lawsuit Won’t Go Anywhere

By Christian Schneider

Posted on March 17, 2011 10:03 AM

Here’s a quick rundown of why the Dane County DA’s complaint trying to overturn the new collective-bargaining law is bogus. (And yes, this gets pretty arcane.)

Here’s the complaint.

Basically, the DA is arguing that the wrong set of rules is applicable. He’s trying to apply the joint legislative rule noticing requirements to the conference committee meeting. If that were the case, the bill would generally need 24 hours’ notice, or more than two hours’ notice if it was an emergency. (The DA argues the bill was given less than two hours, but even this is bogus, as explained by the chief clerk — he said he sent notice to each legislative office at about 4:08 for the 6:00 meeting, but that the bill was officially noticed well before that.)

What the DA doesn’t mention is that the bill in question is a special session bill, which gives it a completely different status than a regular bill. Senate Rule 93 essentially says that with special session bills, the senate rules apply with some special stipulations (my bold):

Senate Rule 93. Special or extraordinary sessions. Unless otherwise provided by the senate for a specific special or extraordinary session , the rules of the senate adopted for the biennial session , with the following modifications, apply to each special session called by the governor and to each extraordinary session called by the senate and assembly organization committees or called by a joint resolution approved by both houses:

Senate Rule 93 (2)  (2) A notice of a committee meeting is not required other than posting on the legislative bulletin board, and a bulletin of committee hearings may not be published.

So, as we’ve mentioned before, not even two hours was required — Scott Fitzgerald decided to offer it as a courtesy.

The rest of the DA’s complaint throws the kitchen sink of lefty complaints in there — that the capitol doors were closed, etc. But it’s all extremely weak sauce.

— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.




Best. Typo. Ever.

By Steven F. Hayward

Posted on March 17, 2011 9:17 AM

From the 2011 edition of The Green Bag Almanac and Reader, the quirky and very eclectic “law review” edited by the inimitable Ross Davies at George Mason Law School, comes this tidbit from the “Chronicles of Grammar” section:

The BBC News reported (4-17-10) that Penguin Group Australia had destroyed 7,000 copies of a newly printed cookbook because of a typographical error. In one recipe, the prescribed ingredients included “salt and freshly ground black people” (the intended word having been pepper). Bob Sessions, head of publishing, said: “Proofreading a cookbook is an extremely difficult task. We’re mortified that this has become an issue of any kind, and why anyone would be offended, we don’t know.” There was no further word on Penguin’s continuing use of this foot-in-mouth representative as a spokesperson.





Posted on March 17, 2011 9:12 AM

Today on Uncommon Knowledge, Governor Mitch Daniels defends his speech at CPAC where he called for a truce on the social issues.

If you don’t believe that the American Republic is mortally threatened, as I do, by this one overriding problem we have built for ourselves, then of course I’m wrong.  But if that is the case, then all I was really saying was, I don’t want to lose one person… freedom is going to need every friend it can get if we’re going to do these things.

Click Here




The Wisconsin Assembly’s Bold Leap

By Christian Schneider

Posted on March 17, 2011 9:00 AM

On the day Joe Knilans stood to address his Republican colleagues in a closed-door meeting, he was celebrating his sixty-day anniversary as a Wisconsin assemblyman. It was March 10, the day the assembly was set to take its final vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial bill to limit collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin.

But as the words fell out of Knilans’ mouth, it was clear he was not up for celebrating.

“I just want to say that taking this vote today will probably cost me my job,” he began. “But that’s why I came to Madison — to take votes like this. I never wanted to be a career politician — it’s about doing the right thing.”

Knilans, 46, is an old union hand who used to assemble cars at the recently mothballed General Motors plant in Janesville. In November, he won a shocking victory over the sitting speaker of the assembly, Mike Sheridan, who had been caught having an affair with a registered lobbyist. It was the first time since 1938 a sitting Wisconsin assembly speaker had lost. After such a historic election, “how can I not vote with the people who voted for me?” Knilans told me.

When Knilans finished speaking, his colleagues gave him a standing ovation. Many that watched him speak remember feeling a jolt of electricity pass through the room. They were numb from the passion Knilans exuded in his speech. Soon, more vulnerable representatives stood and expressed their resolve in voting for the collective-bargaining bill.

Rep. Scott Krug was the next to stand, echoing Knilans’s sentiments about the bill being the right thing for Wisconsin. (In November, Krug beat the longest-serving assemblyman in state history, cantankerous Democrat Marlin Schneider.) Rep. Kathleen Bernier, who had served in local government in Chippewa Falls, cried as she told tales of how the bill had affected her friendships and family relationships.

Sixty-nine-year-old freshman Rep. Ed Brooks talked about how he had been alive for World War II and the Kennedy assassination, and said he would always remember the vote they were going to take that day. One representative stood to explain why he couldn’t vote for the bill, but his opinions were treated respectfully.

At the end of the caucus meeting, they all held hands and prayed.

On election night in November, Assembly Speaker-to-be Jeff Fitzgerald confided to friends that the Republican electoral wave had been so tremendous, he didn’t even know the names of some of the people that would be joining his new majority caucus. Knilans had to be one of the names Fitzgerald never could have imagined would be joining him in Madison. In switching from Democratic to Republican control, the assembly had picked up 25 new GOP members. Forty-four percent of Fitzgerald’s members were now first-termers with no legislative experience. Call them the “Obamacare Babies.”

It was these freshman legislators who stood on the assembly floor following Knilans’ speech that day, while their orange-T-shirt-clad Democratic colleagues shouted “SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!” in their faces. They could feel the ambient rumble of the thousands of pro-union protesters that stood mere feet outside the assembly chamber. Newly elected representative Michelle Litjens had earlier been the target of a threat from a Democratic assemblyman, who pointed at her and said, “You’re f***ing dead.”

Knilans himself felt the intimidation. In his capitol office one day, he heard a group outside his door say, “We know where you live.” Picketers showed up at his house. He said he didn’t personally feel threatened, but he was anxious about the safety of his wife and two small children at home. One day, his five-year-old son asked him, “Do they hate you, Dad?”

Yet they stood together, endured the insults, and passed the bill on to Walker, who signed it the next day.

Voters always say they want politicians who vote without their reelection in mind; they favor elected officials whose conscience is their guide. Yet the GOP assembly freshman class of 2010 has been rewarded for the leadership with verbal abuse, death threats, demonstrations at their homes, and promises they will be yanked out of office via recall. Certainly, some of them know they will not keep their jobs in 2012 as a result of their vote last week.

But on Thursday, March 10, amid attempts to intimidate them, they held hands, closed their eyes, and made the leap together. Some will not survive.

— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.




Wis. Union Bill Gets New Legal Challenge

Posted on March 17, 2011 7:07 AM

From the Wall Street Journal:

Democratic officials in Wisconsin have filed a second legal challenge to the legislative process that facilitated the passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill.”

The Dane County District Attorney on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in circuit court alleging that Republican senators didn’t give proper notice of a meeting last week in which they passed the bill, which curtails collective-bargaining rights for public-employees unions.

District Attorney Ismael R. Ozanne, a Madison-based Democrat, said in a complaint filed Wednesday afternoon that Republicans posted notice of the meeting less than 24 hours before it began, in violation of state law.

Mr. Ozanne is seeking an injunction blocking the Wisconsin secretary of state from publishing the law as well as a ruling that would void it.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Republicans “are fully confident that every law was followed.”




On Libya, the U.S. Is a Pitiful Giant

By Conrad Black

Posted on March 17, 2011 7:00 AM

From my most recent NRO article, on President Obama’s Libya policy: “As for Libya, there is room for legitimate debate over what to do there, but I cannot believe that there is a single conscient American who has followed these matters who is not appalled by the grotesquerie of American policy fumbling that has stalked, wreathed, and bedeviled this issue.”

Whether you agree or disagree, your comments are, as always, most welcome.




Let No Crisis Go to Waste

Posted on March 16, 2011 11:39 PM

I just saw a commercial on the local TV station that carries Two and a Half Men reruns: It invites viewers to watch the show and thus be “bi-winning.” (I also caught about ten minutes of the show itself, which I had never seen before. It seemed rather funnier than network sitcoms used to be, but probably not funny enough to make me go out of my way to watch a full episode.)




Dogs Are Good People

Posted on March 16, 2011 10:48 PM

This is Jonah’s beat, I know, but I couldn’t help but think that this dog is a better friend than a lot of people are. Cold, wet, shivering, dehydrated, disoriented and hungry in the post-diluvian wreckage of Japan, this pup stands by his stricken canine pal as a news crew approaches.  You can see he’s initially tempted to run to the crew, but has second thoughts, lets off a bark, and returns to the side of the injured dog (initially thought dead by the reporters). Whether this is a protective posture, or just meant to draw the humans’ attention so they’ll bring help — he’s a hell of a pal.

By the way, CNN and the Guardian are both reporting that the dogs were rescued and are receiving veterinary care. You can read a transcript of the reporters’ back and forth here.




McConnell Pulls Back BBA

By Robert Costa 

Posted on March 16, 2011 9:59 PM

The e-mail hit reporters’ in-boxes earlier this evening. Subject header: “POSTPONED: GOP Senators to Unveil Balanced Budget Amendment to Constitution.” Senators Kyl, Hatch, Lee, Cornyn, and Toomey had plans to announce a proposal for a balanced–budget amendment tomorrow at noon, but suddenly it was off. What happened?

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted more consensus, according to sources familiar with the deliberations.

The five senators planning the press conference have been working to merge a Hatch-Cornyn proposal with a Lee-Kyl proposal. That’s what they planned to announce tomorrow. Today they met with members of the GOP’s balanced-budget working group to discuss final details.

One aide tells us that McConnell urged the members at the working-group to take more time building support for the measure within the entire conference before unveiling the proposal. “He argued that it will be more powerful if we are working with the House when we introduce the [balanced-budget amendment] and that it will be more powerful if we have all 47 Republicans on board, so we need to start gathering cosponsors.”

“[McConnell] wants something all senate Republicans can get behind,” says another aide. “The question is: is that possible? And how long do we keep working within this group before just moving forward on our own?” After today’s talk, the aide adds, “a bunch of senators wanted more discussions, so the news conference was postponed.”

More as it develops . . .

Posted on March 16, 2011 7:56 PM

Via Nick Schulz, here’s Berkeley’s Richard Muller going after the “hide the decline” “trick” made infamous by the ClimateGate emails. Wow:




The Neo-Prohibitionist Mind

Posted on March 16, 2011 6:40 PM

There is a line in this article by a doctor for the London Evening Standard that is a useful reminder of the state of the neo-prohibitionist mind. The piece itself is about the difficulties faced by Britain’s supposedly sort-of-conservative government in its efforts to push through some anti-alcohol legislation. Needless to say the legislation in question does not (in the good doctor’s view) go far enough, and needless to say his article comes complete with the usual people-are-too-stupid-to-work-out-stuff-for-themselves that is standard for this type of screed.


This, however, really stood out:

I rather think we irreparably screwed up when we first legalised and promoted alcohol.

The idea that there was some time when alcohol was first ‘legalized’ (in the UK, I presume) flies in the face of history. Booze has always been legal in Blighty, at least for adults. Nevertheless, to the prohibitionist (neo or otherwise) there is a presumption that any permitted but occasionally perilous pleasure is a derogation from a natural order in which such treats would never be allowed. And, if these people get their way, in the end they won’t be.




RNC Windows Shot

Posted on March 16, 2011 6:18 PM

I missed this, from the Washington Post:

District Republicans often feel like they’re metaphorically under fire in a city that’s 70 percent Democratic. But what happened last night appears to be unprecedented.

Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee, says that a shooter took out the windows at the GOP’s storefront office, near 13th and K streets NW, with a small-caliber projectile, possibly from an air gun.

Craney said he got a call from an alarm company early Wednesday morning but didn’t pick up the call. And when he showed up to work this morning the alarm was on. But he didn’t notice the fenestration damage until later in the day. “I was getting lunch, and noticed: Oh my god, our windows are all shot up.”

While on the phone with a reporter, Craney discovered an approximately BB-sized piece of shot on the ground outside the window.

Craney said the D.C. GOP office appeared to be specifically targeted. “We’re right by a hair salon, and the hair salon was fine. But we weren’t,” he said. “There were multiple shots. Whoever did it took some time to take out our windows.”

Doesn’t sound like a huge deal, though obviously serious. Of course, if it had been the DNC office that would prove the tea parties are [fill in the blank].




Re: Red Dawn Remake

By Robert VerBruggen

Posted on March 16, 2011 6:13 PM

Dan: That’s not the first time this has happened. The video game Homefront — which was written by the guy who directed and co-wrote the original Red Dawn, and was released today to reviews that were so bad its publisher’s stock fell 26 percent — also had its invaders-of-the-U.S. switched from Chinese to North Korean.




Means-Testing & Social Security

Posted on March 16, 2011 5:53 PM

Off the Chart’s Kathy Ruffing looks at the means-testing of social security and concludes that it’s not so good an idea. Before reaching that (eminently reasonable) point, she confesses to being surprised by the fact that a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows strong support for means-testing social security (and, although she doesn’t say so, Medicare too) for ‘wealthier’ Americans.


Count me unsurprised that most people support economy measures that will not, they think, affect them.


Turning now to the numbers:

. . . [A] new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) confirms that means-testing would yield very little in savings … unless we took benefits away not only from rich retirees, but also from many who are solidly middle-class.

The reason, as the CEPR analysis shows, is that there aren’t enough rich retirees — and they don’t collect enough in Social Security — to make much of a difference.  Only 2 percent of Social Security benefits go to retirees with other (non-Social Security) income of $100,000 or more each year.  (See chart.)  Only about 10 percent of benefits go to people with outside income of $40,000 or more a year — a figure that most of us would regard as middle class.

Ms. Ruffin also understands this important point:

Means-testing would also penalize people who planned prudently for their senior years.  Income security during retirement is often likened to a three-legged stool — consisting of Social Security benefits, employer pensions, and personal savings — sometimes supplemented by part-time employment.  Reducing Social Security for people whose non-Social Security income is higher because they built up savings during their working years or take a part-time job would sap incentives to work and save. 

Indeed it would.

Means-testing social security is a tax by another name. All taxes reward and penalize certain types of behavior (it comes with the territory) but hiking taxation in way that further penalizes both savings and work seems more than a little unwise. Far better, of course, to look at consumption . . .

H/t: Andrew Sullivan.




Adam and the Eve of a New Election Cycle in Florida

Posted on March 16, 2011 4:48 PM

A 41-year-old Jewish pro-life lawyer in Palm Beach County is increasingly catching the attention of conservative activists in the Sunshine State and beyond. He’s Adam Hasner and he’s on the verge of officially putting his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination to challenge Senator Nelson in Florida.

Meanwhile, he’s already on what looks much like a campaign trail.

His expected competition includes Mike Haridopolos, the state senate president, who has announced, as well as George LeMieux, the former senator appointed by Charlie Crist, and current congressman Connie Mack. The race is beginning early and promises to keep our attention as Florida proves to be a key to whether or not we have a different president in the White House come January 20, 2013.

Hasner, who currently has a Senate exploratory committee, has been traveling the state like a candidate and is open about the fact that he is “taking all the necessary steps to move forward.” But, given the relative political powerhouses running, it will be far from a given that he will be the nominee. And he’s open about that, too, embracing his relative outsider-ness, confident it’s a winning strategy.

“I know that I’m going to be outraised and outspent,” Hasner, a former Florida house majority leader, tells NRO.  “Our message is resonating with the conservative leaders and the conservative activists across the state.”  

His message: As senator, he will be what he is: “An unapologetic conservative” who believes the “importance of America’s prosperity as an economic as well as a national-security issue. … We are safer when we are stronger.”

Hasner believes he brings “a unique voice” to the mix, and a three-legged stool, as they say. Already sounding like a candidate, he says, “I’m the one who is consistently talking about … having a discussion about reforms we need to entitlement spending … getting more and more engaged on the threats of national security… and the fact that social issues still matter.” While some Republicans stay away from the latter, Hasner emphasizes that “the deterioration of fundamental values is really what has created a dependency on government to cure what has ailed us.”

We are “inseparable” from our “Judeo-Christian roots,” he tells me. Hasner says he’s not “going to be politically correct” and “my message is the same whether I am in Palm Beach or Panama City. … I’m going to be the one who is going to see what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.” No kidding. Hasner has been known to host a screening of Iranium and talk about the threat of sharia-compliant finance.

Listening to Hasner, it is obvious that the University of Maryland graduate has a bit of a passion for politics and public policy.

Speaking of the economy, Hasner supports Sen. Marco Rubio’s opposition to continuing Resolutions to fund the government, something he believes resonates with well-educated voters. “People recognize that this is no longer an academic discussion about America’s fiscal crisis,” he says. “People recognize the crisis we face long term.” And so they’re more open to tough reforms because they know we have to be.

Of Rubio, Hasner, an early supporter who served with him in the Florida house, says: “Marco Rubio has demonstrated why people believed in him and supported him. This is the type of leadership Florida is looking for, America is looking for.” He sees his campaign as a next step for Floridians who don’t want to “play an insider game. The issues we’re facing are far too challenging.”

Hasner says voters around Florida are “engaged and educated on the issues unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.” This past November, Hasner says, “They sent a message in 20120 and it was enough is enough. We want our leaders to do the hard thing and if they don’t do it we are going to send new people to do it.”




Hamilton at Lincoln Center

By Richard Brookhiser

Posted on March 16, 2011 4:39 PM

There was a screening of Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton, my new documentary, at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center earlier this week. Among the guests were Walter Russell Mead, historian; Max Rudin, publisher of the Library of America; Richard Snow, author and longtime editor of American Heritage; and a cohort of my colleagues led by Jack Fowler. Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, MC’d. Michael Pack, the director and producer, and I took questions afterwards.

If you ever want to see what your face looks like when it is 15 feet tall, have your documentary shown at the Walter Reade Theater. I felt like Rhett Butler or Lawrence of Arabia, until the house lights came back up and I went back to being me.

Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton airs on PBS, April 11, 10 p.m. to midnight (but check your local listings).




Daniels Should Have Tackled Right-to-Work

By Mark Mix

Posted on March 16, 2011 4:36 PM

On today’s Uncommon Knowledge episode, Gov. Mitch Daniels flipped a question about his opposition to a state right-to-work law by saying that a “better question is what the right-to-work people think they were doing.”

I’m glad he asked, because we are confident Governor Daniels knows exactly what we were doing. And as the saying goes, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

Daniels asserts that the idea of a right-to-work law came “out of nowhere,” yet since 2003, Indiana citizens determined to free themselves from the shackles of compulsory unionism have been working tirelessly to pass right-to-work protections for Indiana’s workers. Led by the nearly 120,000-member Indiana Right to Work Committee, pro-right-to-work Hoosiers sent many thousands of postcards, letters, and e-mails to their legislative candidates urging them to support right-to-work.

In 2010 alone, Indiana Right to Work mailed a series of letters to more than 200,000 Hoosiers in targeted districts reporting where their candidates for state house and state senate stood on the right-to-work issue.

Meanwhile, dozens of winning candidates (including Ron Bacon, Sue Ellspermann, Rebecca Kubacki, Kevin Mahan, Jud McMillin, and Tim Wesco) repeatedly sent out direct mailings to voters announcing right-to-work as a key plank in their platforms, while still others trumpeted their support in town halls and other public forums. (All of which was laid out in a letter to Daniels from the head of Indiana Right to Work dated January 6.)

Public-opinion polls consistently show that nearly 80 percent of Indiana voters oppose forced unionism, and members of Daniels’s own party think it is a winning issue enough to bring it up. And since 2004, there have been three votes on an Indiana right-to-work bill in the state house — making right-to-work hardly an issue that has come “out of nowhere.”

Additionally, Daniels has claimed that the rest of his agenda would have been derailed if right-to-work came up. As such, Daniels has urged the delay of the introduction of right-to-work since December, essentially cuing the Democrats to block the bill from the start by pushing the introduction of the bill to the point where the Democrats could defeat it by leaving the state for just a day or two. And in the end, Daniels’s other legislative priorities were blocked anyway, despite his preemptive surrender on the right-to-work issue.

If Daniels had just shown leadership and decided to fight this battle early in the legislative session (as advised), workplace-freedom advocates would have won the battle, as majorities of both houses are on the record in support of a right-to-work law. Instead, hundreds of thousands of Indiana’s workers will continue to be forced to pay union dues and fees as a condition of employment, while (as Daniels admits) one in four businesses looking to relocate will not even consider his state.

Daniels’s efforts to block right-to-work stand in stark contrast to the positive strides made by Governors Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Chris Christie (New Jersey), John Kasich (Ohio), and Paul LePage (Maine) in taking on forced unionism.

Governor Daniels’s failure of leadership (and truthfulness) on this issue should give serious pause to those who think he’s ready for national office.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee.




Rush Encourages Rubio to Run

By Brian Bolduc

Posted on March 16, 2011 4:32 PM

On his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh praise" target="_blank">Christian Heinze)




News Flash: NYT Writer Is Out of Touch

By Robert VerBruggen

Posted on March 16, 2011 4:06 PM

My wife (who reads the Times so I don’t have to) sent me this story this morning. It tells the story of a Gallipolis, Ohio, couple that escaped poverty by working for the government. Careful to avoid the implication that the couple is overpaid at taxpayer expense, the Times makes sure to depict an ongoing struggle:

Jodi and Ralph Taylor are public workers whose jobs as a janitor and a sewer manager cover life’s basics. They have moved out of a trailer into a house, do not have to rely on food stamps and sometimes even splurge for the spicy wing specials at the Courtside Bar and Grill.

While that might not seem like much, jobs like theirs, with benefits and higher-than-minimum wages, are considered plum in this depressed corner of southern Ohio. Decades of industrial decline have eroded private-sector jobs here, leaving a thin crust of low-paying service work that makes public-sector jobs look great in comparison.

. . .

The Taylors are not college educated, but their public-sector jobs have made them middle class. Together"3">You can see a chart of household income in the U.S. here. The median — contrary to what the Times says — is right around $52,000. The median family of four in Ohio — one of the Taylors’ two children has already moved out — earns only a little more than the Taylors, $67,000. Bear in mind that much of Ohio’s population lives in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, and suburbs thereof, where the cost of living is higher than in the more rural areas.

Here’s a comparison that New York liberals might understand better: If you look at Charleston, W.V. (which is close to Gallipolis), and adjust for cost of living, $63,000 is the equivalent of $147,000 in Manhattan, $123,000 in Brooklyn, and $108,000 in Queens.

And perhaps if the Times is concerned about the economic wellbeing of the non-college-educated, they should consider rethinking their position on immigration, rather than advocating for the overpaying of public employees.


Posted on March 16, 2011 3:46 PM

That the producers of the remake of Red Dawn would scrub out references to the ChiComs, like pasting new pages into the Great Soviet Encyclopedia to erase purge party members, is appalling, of course. (Haven’t we always been at war with Eastasia?)

But maybe they can compensate by making the Chinese our allies instead, as in the original, allowing them to reproduce this immortal exchange:

Jed Eckert: . . . Well, who is on our side?

Col. Andy Tanner: Six hundred million screaming Chinamen.

Darryl Bates: Last I heard, there were a billion screaming Chinamen.

Col. Andy Tanner: There were.




Re: Michele Bachmann’s Opportunity

By Ramesh Ponnuru

Posted on March 16, 2011 3:39 PM

Rich, it’s also worth noting that she doesn’t have to choose between running for president and running for re-election. Minnesota has late filing deadlines.




Crisis & Cognitive Dissonance

Posted on March 16, 2011 3:31 PM

Bill Bennett suggests a Paul Ryan roadshow to help: 

The gridlock is not so much in Washington as it is in the electorate and the commentariat that generally agrees we need to cut spending but then engages in cognitive dissonance the moment specific programs are identified for retrenchment. Almost everyone agrees (nearly 70%) we need to cut spending, but majorities can’t agree on cutting anything — from education to Social Security to the arts.

The ultimate truth is this: Dave Ramsey is right — every family knows it cannot go on forever with its own deficit spending, attempting minimal cuts that hardly begin to address the larger issue. The same is true for our country and its priorities. The spending cuts are simply not serious enough to deal with the problem both parties have created.

Commissions will not solve this, and bickering over the differences between $6 billion and $60 billion will not solve this. Rather, what is needed is a series of national symposia, a series of national teachable moments, outside of Washington. I suggest that the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, and whomever the Democrats would like to put up, commence a series of national debates throughout the country (make it seven, in the Lincoln-Douglas format), have them aired on the three cable networks, C-SPAN and on the internet, and see who has the best plan to restore fiscal sanity — who can win over the most minds.

The time for a truly national conversation is upon us, the time for de minimis solutions is over, and the time for the American people to make up their minds is now.




The Obama Doctrine

By Victor Davis Hanson

Posted on March 16, 2011 3:23 PM

The problem with Obama’s Middle East policy is that there is no policy, and that’s why we have heard nothing consistent or comprehensive from the administration that would try to explain our glee at Mubarak and Ali leaving but outreach to the far worse Assad, the monster Ahmadinejad’s enjoying exemption from “meddling” butQaddafi’s being merely “unacceptable,” talk of going into Libya as good but no talk of Saudi Arabia going into Bahrain as good or bad, reset diplomacy as not judging other regimes but human rights declared universal, no idea whether plebiscites without constitutional guarantees will bring governments worse than the pro-American autocracies that fall, and loud declarations of Bush’s policies as bad but also reset diplomacy’s quietly embracing most of them in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the not-to-be-named war on terror.

All this is in line with simultaneously establishing withdrawal dates and surging into Afghanistan, virtually closing Guantanamo, and regretting Iraq while claiming it as a possible “greatest achievement.” All that can be said for it is that the chaos keeps our friends and enemies guessing — and that confused inaction is, I suppose, preferable to confused intervention.

What then is or was at the heart of U.S. bewilderment in the region? 

Three flawed assumptions:

1) Not being George Bush meant that we should keep mum about “democracy” and “human rights” and not judge the culturally constructed practices of ‘other’ indigenous governments. We saw that rhetoric early in 2009, and it was reified by our silence over the Iranian protests six months later. Oddly, we were to assume that a right-wing Bush had been too idealistic, and that a left-wing Obama was going to return to realpolitik dressed up in multicultural platitudes of non-intervention. The result is that we have become loud multicultural neocons who sermonize but are not taken too seriously;

2) We trumpeted multilateralism in the sense that we would follow the lead of the U.N. or the EU/NATO or the Arab League, all of whom are always waiting to follow America’s lead. Apparently, the administration believed that the usual serial criticism from these international bodies meant that they don’t like U.S. leadership. In fact, they both do like us to lead and even more do like to criticize us for leading — and find absolutely no contradiction in that at all. The result is that they are all unhappy that they finally got what they have always wanted and did not want.

3) As we saw in Obama’s first interview (with al Arabiya), his Cairo speech, and commentary from his advisers, the president as Barack Hussein Obama believed that his unique racial heritage, his non-traditional name, his father’s Muslim ancestry, and his left-of-center politics were all supposed to combine to reassure our former enemies and suspicious neutrals that we were now on the right side of progressive history-making — as if a democratic, capitalist, wealthy military superpower could at last be seen as quasi-revolutionary, and therefore they should both like us and desist from inappropriate behavior. It was almost the foreign-policy equivalent of a stuffy, big-city establishment organization cynically hiring a hip community-organizing liaison to go out into the neighborhood and convince suspicious locals that it was ‘really’ on their side — and it has worked about as well as these things usually do for all parties involved.

So where do we go from here? In the next crisis, I suggest that we can always boycott the Olympics.




Red Dawn Remake Illustrates Why We So Badly Need Red Dawn Remake

Posted on March 16, 2011 3:21 PM

The original Red Dawn featured a number of awesome things: John Milius, Patrick Swayze, Harry Dean Stanton screaming “AVENGE ME!” to his sons through the chain-link fence of a Soviet work camp; and a certain tiger-blooded, Adonis-DNA’ed serial winner who was then at the height of his powers. It was an overwrought action flick/melodrama, to be sure, but it was also a cultural marker: the age of détente was over, and the age of Reagan had arrived in full.

By contrast, the long-stalled remake has become a sick joke. To wit: MGM has taken the extraordinary step of digitally scrubbing the film of all references to Red China as the invading villains — substituting dialogue, removing images of Chinese flags and insignia etc. — because “potential distributors are nervous about becoming associated with the finished film, concerned that doing so would harm their ability to do business with the rising Asian superpower.” All without the PRC even uttering a single word of protest.

And who are the new invaders? North Korea. That’s right, the starving-to-death, massively brainwashed “Hermit Kingdom.” I imagine at this very moment, Hollywood script doctors are working on a revised first act in which Kim Jong Il decides it’s a good idea to let hundreds of thousands of his captive countrymen travel to America.

 The North Korean horde — lacking a blue-water navy and any airborne capacity to speak of — would then, I imagine, travel through Russia and cross the Bering Strait into Alaska, living off . . . er, the land or something . . . before eventually making its way to Michigan, where the film is set. Or wait, even better! The Norks sneak across the 38th parallel, through the DMZ, and steal most or all of the U.S. Pacific Fleet while the U.S. Navy is on shore leave!

Yessir, it’s practically cinéma vérité.

Amazingly, this film has managed to become a sort of self-referential warning, a pop-cultural Liar’s Paradox. That is, the awfulness of the new Red Dawn is the strongest argument there is for why we need a new Red Dawn.




A Walk on the (Very) Wild Side

By Michael Walsh

Posted on March 16, 2011 3:19 PM

Haunted by the zeitgeist of self-publishing, I’ve just put up my first novel, Exchange Alley, on Kindle for the low, low introductory price of just 99 cents. The novel was originally published in 1997 by Warner Books, was a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection, got a starred review in Publishers Weekly (don’t ask me who my non-existent co-author, “Patrick C. Walsh,” is; it’s a mistake) and — for reasons that will quickly become clear — became a cult novel in the years after its first appearance. From the PW review:

The final 100 pages of this book offer a series of explosive surprises, from the identity of Ekdahl’s killer to the truth about Byrne’s own heritage. There isn’t much Walsh doesn’t know about the JFK assassination, and the background research for this virtuoso novel feels thorough. Weaving from the worst of the Russian prison camps to Manhattan’s elite European demimonde, from Brighton Beach’s vicious Russian mobs to Little Italy’s complacently murderous families, Walsh orchestrates a gripping tale of the horrors that were set in motion the day a president was murdered. 

Today, over at Big Hollywood, I have a piece on the origins of the novel; tomorrow and Friday we’ll be posting excerpts, including the opening chapter and a sequence set inside the notorious KGB prison camp on Sakhalin Island — not a place you want to visit on your next Far Eastern vacation.


Please do not download if you are a) squeamish, b) easily offended, c) politically correct, and d) don’t care a fig for police procedurals, international thrillers, the Kennedy assassination, sexy spies, exotic sexual practices, the Manhattan demimonde, Russian and Italian gangsters, the underworld of Muscovy, the New York City Police Department, the old Soviet Union, psychiatrists, blondes, Danes, BMWs, the FBI, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades.

Now that I have your attention, and with those caveats — enjoy. 




Michele Bachmann’s Opportunity

By Rich Lowry 

Posted on March 16, 2011 3:13 PM

At this point, I’m wondering why Michele Bachmann wouldn’t run for president. Unlike Sarah Palin — who would be reduced by a presidential campaign that fizzled — Bachmann has all upside: getting more national exposure and building a bigger fundraising base. Any showing that beats low expectations will help her, and she could be a real force in Iowa. If Palin doesn’t run, Bachmann is a natural contender for a piece of that slot in the field.




Redistricting in California

By Hans A. von Spakovsky

Posted on March 16, 2011 3:08 PM

Earlier this week I spotlighted the consultants that Virginia’s advisory redistricting commission used to draw Eric Cantor and other Republicans out of their congressional districts. The looniness has now shifted to California.

The new “Citizens” Redistricting Commission in California has announced four finalists for its “Voting Rights Act Counsel,” who will help the commission draw new district lines. This is the commission set up by a 2008 voter-approved referendum that shifted responsibility for redistricting from the state legislature to a 14-member commission. According to the commission’s website, its legal advisory committee plans to make a final recommendation tomorrow. The commission will decide this Friday who the paid counsel will be.

Apparently, two of the four finalists for this position are Federal Compliance Consulting and GRD Consulting. Those are the assumed business names of two former career lawyers who used to work in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice — Bruce Adelson and Gilda Daniels. Adelson and Daniels don’t have a nonpartisan bone in their bodies. They are left-wing ideologues I worked with when I was at the Justice Department. They would be ludicrous hires for a commission whose alleged purpose is to take partisanship out of the redistricting process. Adelson consistently pushed the most radical legal positions possible in the cases that I reviewed — positions that went far beyond what the law required. And Daniels is one of the country’s leading vote-fraud deniers.

One case that involved Daniels concerned a jurisdiction that was qualified to bail out from coverage under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. She recommended that the jurisdiction be required to submit any change affecting voting to the local branch of the NAACP for approval for ten years after the federal court declared it free from coverage. This provision was totally inappropriate — particularly in a jurisdiction with no history of any sort of voting-related discrimination — and the Division disapproved the recommendation. Still, it is amazing that Daniels would even float such an absurd idea — giving a private advocacy organization complete veto authority over the actions of duly elected representatives.

She also weighed in on an Alabama requirement that convicted felons submit a DNA sample for a state database as a prerequisite to obtaining a pardon. According to Daniels, this law needed to be approved by the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act — an equally bizarre claim for which there is no legal support whatsoever.

The Citizens Redistricting Commission would be well advised to avoid repeating Virginia’s mistake. They should hire competent, nonpartisan voting-rights counsel who will not try to draw redistricting maps that favor one political party over the other or represent the interests of private advocacy organizations.




Do You Want to Be the Next Buckley Fellow?

By Rich Lowry 

Posted on March 16, 2011 2:47 PM

The National Review Institute is accepting applications–you can find the details here–for its William F. Buckley Fellowship in Political Journalism. Buckley fellows get the chance to work closely with NR’s editors in New York for a year, learning the journalistic trade. Robert Costa was a Buckley fellow; Matt Shaffer and Brian Bolduc, whose work you see here regularly, are current Buckley fellows. If you are a recent college graduate interested in journalism, I encourage you to apply–it’s a wonderful program.




Did Boehner Just Lose Leverage?

By Rich Lowry 

Posted on March 16, 2011 2:44 PM

Democrats are crowing that Boehner lost crucial leverage in the budget showdown yesterday, and they may be right. It took Democratic votes to get the short-term CR out of the House, which means Boehner will probably need Democratic votes to get anything that’s not the maximalist package of cuts and policy riders (which we’d obviously all want in the abstract). Even if he passes that kind of package out of the House, it won’t get through the Senate and Boehner will need a Plan B. That will presumably bring him right back to needing Democrats. This means the Democrats will probably be able to make any eventual deal worse than it would have been otherwise. The other alternative is to pass the maximalist package and hope–I use that word advisedly since the media is not going to be helpful, to say the least–to win a shutdown fight.




Ken Green on Nukes

Posted on March 16, 2011 2:19 PM

In an excellent post at the Enterprise blog, my AEI colleague Ken Green makes a point I wish I’d had more room for in my own column: Agnosticism about nuclear power.

I’ve long been agnostic on nuclear power, unconvinced that it is economical: trying to figure out the real cost of nuclear power when you factor in all the government involvement and risk is extremely difficult, and there are environmental and health trade-offs to consider as well. Still, given that we have the assets, and they generate a considerable percentage of U.S. baseload, I hope our policy makers stick to the “let’s learn from Japan” example, and shy away from Germany’s “Let’s panic” approach.

I am not wildly pro-nuclear power, but I find that I am also anti-anti-nuclear.

If you take environmentalists at their word about how much they care about greenhouse gases and the rest, then it’s impossible to reconcile their sincerity with their hatred of nuclear power. I like cheap, reliable, safe, unsubsidized electricity. If we can get that from nuclear power, I’m all for it. If not, not.

Tightening the Noose

Posted on March 16, 2011 2:11 PM

Saif Qaddafi, son of the Libyan dictator, has told a French news agency that the rebel enclave of Benghazi will fall within 48 hours.

Asked about the second city of Benghazi, Saif said: “Everything will be over in 48 hours.”

Any decision by the UN or other groups to intervene, Saif said, will come “too late.”

Libya’s third largest city, Misrata, is also under heavy attack from pro-Qaddafi forces. Residents report tanks in the area and artillery fire.

It looks like Col. Qaddafi’s tightening of the noose is working a lot better than President Obama’s.

More here.


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