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Scotland to Spanking


We began with Scotland, but somehow we got to spanking. The “we” is Jay Nordlinger and me on our podcast, Need to Know. Huge sighs of relief that the United Kingdom remains united. We would not welcome a world in which Russia is expanding while Great Britain is contracting.

We wonder if the scandals about hitting children — and that’s what spanking is — will provoke more honest examination of the topic. Steven Holmes had a very honest and affecting story at CNN about the black community’s relative tolerance for the practice. We spend some time on Groundhog Day, not the movie, exactly, but the endless, recurring practice by Democrats of accusing Republicans of racism. Deeply corrupt, profoundly cynical, will it ever end? 

But there’s always music. We close with the “patriotic hymn” created in 1921 when a poem, “I vow to thee my country” by Cecil Spring Rice, an ambassador from Britain to the U.S., was set to music by Gustav Holst. It’s actually a version of Holst’s “The Planets.” Stirring stuff. The version you hear at the end of our podcast was performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011.


Iran Sentences “Happy” Dancers to Lashes


Happiness is evil. Here is the story. Suspended for now, but if they are happy again, they will really be whipped. No comment required. 


Shadow over the Baltics


‘Just’ saber-rattling perhaps, but Russia appears to be stepping up the psychological pressure on the Baltics still further.

 Moscow Times:

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says there are “whole segments of the Russian world” that may require Moscow’s protection, and has singled out [the] Baltic states by saying that Russia will not tolerate an “offensive” against its language there.

The Russian World (Russkiy Mir) is a concept adopted by Putin that describes a realm extending beyond Russia proper that includes Russians cut off from their ancestral homeland by the breakup of the Soviet Union. It comes with the idea that Moscow is entitled to “protect” the inhabitants of this world. There are large Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia and Estonia (and a smaller minority in Lithuania), a population that the Kremlin has long described as oppressed, an adjective that owes more to Russia’s ambitions in the region than anything so mundane as the truth.

Back to the Moscow Times:

If this sounds reminiscent of the rhetoric that accompanied Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, the Foreign Ministry made no secret of the intended parallel. The ministry’s chief monitor of human rights overseas, Konstantin Dolgov, cited the policies of Ukraine’s government in Kiev as an example of a rise of “xenophobia” in Europe, according to a transcript of a speech published by the ministry Monday. But Ukraine is not the only place whose policies need correction, Dolgov said in his remarks, delivered over the weekend during a meeting with ethnic Russians in Latvia’s capital, Riga.

 ”It has to be stated with sadness that a huge number of our compatriots abroad, whole segments of the Russian world, continue to face serious problems in securing their rights and lawful interests,” he said. “One of the obvious and, perhaps, key reasons for this state of affairs is the unrelenting growth of xenophobic and neo-Nazi sentiments in the world.”

 ”Neo-Nazi” was also a term that Moscow used to describe its opponents in Ukraine earlier in the crisis.

It was a line that worked well in Russia and there’s no reason to think that it will not do so again.

Of course, to suggest that today’s Baltic is a nest of neo-Nazis is nonsense, but the accusation resonates very powerfully with a Russian public understandably still seared by memories of the Second World War. For decades those memories–of all too real horror–were twisted by a Soviet regime determined that its people should remember the Great Patriotic War in the right way. And in this narrative, the Baltic States have a darkly ambiguous role to play, as ‘liberated’ Soviet brothers, to be sure, but also the source of a large number of recruits for the Reich. There will be plenty of Russians who will thus be all too prepared to believe that Baltic fascists are on the rampage.  

“We will not tolerate the creeping offensive against the Russian language that we are seeing in the Baltics,” Dolgov said.

In what seemed to be a call for ethnically based discontent and allying with Moscow, Dolgov appealed to his ethnic Russian listeners to preserve their “true priorities and the strategic vision that unites us all.”

 He also pledged that Russia would “provide the most serious support for you and your activities.”

Note that Dolgov was able to make his remarks in the Latvian capital freely and without interruption. Riga is not Moscow. 

While there is nothing particularly new about menacing talk from the Kremlin about the status of the Baltic’s Russian-speakers, comments such as these are particularly sinister in the wake of the annexation of Crimea and the creation of ‘Novorossiya’ in Eastern Ukraine, not to speak of the recent kidnapping of an Estonian security officer, the threat to prosecute Lithuanians who refused to serve with the Soviet Army after still-Soviet Lithuania declared independence in 1990 and, earlier this week, the detention of the Russians of a Lithuanian fishing boat in (apparently) international waters. 

 And there’s this from the Latvian Information Agency:

 KIEV, Sept 18 (LETA–UNIAN) – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has revealed that during one of his recent conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader had threatened to him that ”I could capture Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest within two days if I wanted to”.

 According to the German newspaper ”Suddeutsche Zeitung”, Poroshenko told European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso about these threats by Putin on September 12.

 Idle threats? Theater? Maybe, but as this  gloomy  (August) report from Estonia’s International Centre for Defence Studies notes, there has been a substantial Russian military build-up in the region.

The conclusion reads as follows:

 [D]uring the last four or five years the Russian Federation has purposefully and systematically built up its military capabilities in the Baltic Sea region to be able to: a) organise an assault operation by regular forces with a short or non-existent notification time in the operational space encompassing the Baltic countries, thereby achieving military dominance over the defence forces of the Baltics in the initial phase of the operation; b) block any unwanted air traffic in the airspace of the Baltic countries at the time—in particular the arrival of support units from NATO allies that use air transport; and c) hit the majority of land targets in the whole Baltic Sea region and Poland, in this way deterring the Alliance from intervening in the possible crisis.

The best way to head off that crisis is for NATO to boost its presence in the region now. Deterrence works, but only if it is believable. 

Web Briefing: September 18, 2014

Shhhh . . .


In the 1980s and even into the 1990s, I think, some of us Republicans had a habit: If our nominee was down in the polls, we would tell ourselves that the people were lying to pollsters. Sometimes we would even say this out loud. Left-leaning types with clipboards would arrive on doorsteps (went our line) and ask good Middle Americans how they intended to vote. Those good Americans were shy about saying that they really liked the beastly old conservative on the ballot.

Eventually, this line got kind of embarrassing, I think. When we said it, or thought it, we were fairly desperate.

I confess that, in the Scottish matter, I started hoping that the people were lying to pollsters: that there was much more Union support than the polls let on. The independence people, or separationists, were so nasty and bullying. They were in the image of their leader, Alex Salmond (the Scottish Chávez). They bellowed or hissed that anyone in favor of the Union must be a self-hating Scot. The Union side was very uncool; they were harassed in the street; they did not show their colors so much. All the “youth energy” was on the side of separation. So were the actors and writers and so on.

Last week, I sort of chided and teased myself: “You are really desperate, Jay, hoping, as of yore, that people are lying to pollsters — that there is a quiet and majority Union vote.”

I smiled when I read these lines from Charles Moore’s column this morning:

In defeat, the soon-to-depart Alex Salmond said how pleased he was that the campaign had “touched sections of the community who had never before been touched by politics”. He was right: the 84.5 per cent turn-out showed that. But the elements of the community most clearly touched were the quiet unionists.

Often, they had felt intimidated, and some — employed in the public sector or dependent on Scottish government contracts — had feared for their jobs if they spoke out.

I have said it before, I will say it again: Thank heaven for the secret ballot. The secret ballot is one of the best concepts, best inventions, in the history of mankind. Imagine if the people had to vote in front of Salmond-like kilted goons. (You will forgive a little hyperbole in the emotion of the hour.)


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Domestic Violence in NFL Has Decreased under Goodell


You won’t hear this from the media too busy calling for Roger Goodell’s head, but the facts show that, under Goodell’s tenure, the domestic-violence rate among NFL players has actually decreased. He should be commended rather than attacked.

A Think Progress article on Thursday claimed that “57 players [have been] arrested for domestic-violence incidents since 2006.” Why does Think Progress measure since 2006? Presumably because that’s the year Goodell became commissioner. The inference the reader is supposed to make is: that dastardly Goodell!

But I did some digging. Think Progress links to an ABC News article for this “fact” which states: “Since Goodell took over as commissioner in August 2006, USA Today reports that there have been 57 cases of alleged domestic-violence incidents.” That article, in turn, links to a now non-existent USA Today article. The liberal Think Progress apparently does not bother to confirm an inflammatory, serious statistic such as this — but rather just repeats what it saw online.

Nonetheless, the helpful USA Today compilation of all NFL player arrests, dating back to 2000, is online for any to see.

Were there really 57 NFL players arrested for alleged domestic violence since Goodell took the helm? No.

Goodell came into office September 1, 2006 (not August, as reported above). From September 1, 2006, to the present day, there were 48 domestic-violence arrests of NFL players (five of those involved the same two players, but let’s discuss arrests, as individual incidents are a better barometer of the problem). Since it’s impossible to change or affect an organization’s culture immediately, let’s judge Goodell after giving him a reasonable four months to settle into the role and effect change — i.e., let’s take a look at his record starting from January 1, 2007. From that date to the present, we have 45 domestic-violence arrests under Goodell’s tenure.

Sure, that number still seems a cause for concern. But, let’s look at the average per year. Forty-five domestic-violence arrests spread across Goodell’s eight years (assuming no further arrests in the next three months) equals an average of 5.6 arrests per year.

Nonetheless, we need a comparison point. Since Goodell is the problem, we are told by the media, surely NFL statistics on this were superior prior to Goodell . . .?

Wrong! I took a look at the domestic-violence arrests from the year 2000 through the year 2006, the pre-Goodell era. For that period, we have 43 domestic-violence arrests. Spread out over seven years, that equals an average of 6.1 arrests per year. Hence, the amount of domestic violence actually decreased under Roger Goodell.

If an average of 5.6 domestic-violence arrests per year, out of roughly 2,000 players in a league, nonetheless still seems high to you, take a look at the national averages for men in the age range of NFL players. NFL players’ arrest rate is drastically lower than that of the general public. (Also worth noting: Many of these arrests are questionable. For instance, one player was arrested for domestic violence because he was accused of breaking a sliding glass door and criminally trespassing in a dispute with his wife. Another arrest was for “getting into a heated argument with his wife, who locked herself in the car to get away from him.” That’s violence? You bet, under our ridiculously written laws.)

Instead of keeping busy with hysterical calls for Roger Goodell’s head, people should stop and employ statistical science. Unlike the leftist media intent on smearing Goodell as a domestic-violence enabler, numbers don’t lie.

Krauthammer’s Take: Obama’s Decision to Personally Approve Air Strikes Is ‘Scary Stuff’


Charles Krauthammer has little confidence in President Obama’s decision to personally approve each American bombing strike in Iraq and Syria.

“Lyndon Johnson, who had a lot more experience, was also the one who directed air strikes in the north of Korea” during the Vietnam War, Krauthammer reminded his fellow panelists on Friday’s Special Report, “and there was universal agreement that it was a catastrophe. And Obama, with zero experience, having now gone against his secretary of defense and generals on Iraq and on Syria — to a disastrous effect — is going to be in charge of the air campaign? That’s really scary stuff.”

If the GOP Loses the Senate—Blame the Establishment


Now the concerned whispers are becoming audible groans. Turns out after premature high-fiving in certain Republican circles, the GOP just may be on the verge of blowing its opportunity to take control of the U.S. Senate in November. A few of us have been warning for months that unless the GOP responded smartly to the huge public outcry over the border surge, it would miss a chance to energize disaffected voters. We also urged our friends in the establishment that they shouldn’t take their primary victories against more-conservative candidates as a sign that they could “play it safe” during the campaign.

The public wants policies to strengthen the American workforce, raise its standard of living, and renew and protect the homeland. It wants to see an affirmative agenda to spur growth and economic opportunity—one that goes beyond “dump Obamacare.” But the voters are enduring uninspiring candidates, boring political ads, and wishy-washy campaign statements on immigration enforcement. One of the only Senate campaigns playing the immigration issue correctly is that of moderate Scott Brown in New Hampshire. And guess what? After trailing Jean Shaheen for months, he is now in a dead-heat race with the pro-amnesty Democrat incumbent. Go figure.

Then there’s the issue of money. Writing in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, establishment fave Karl Rove says the GOP Senate majority is “still in doubt,” noting that the GOP Senate candidates are being outspent $109 million to $85 million in media buys. He urges Republicans to “open their wallets to candidates whom they have never met.” Here’s what I say to this entreaty: How much money did the establishment spend to save Thad Cochran? How much did they spend to try to save Eric Cantor? How much did they spend to save Lamar Alexander, and Lindsey Graham, and all the other incumbents who they defended earlier this year? None of those dollars were spent to fight the Democrats — they were all used to beat and in many cases malign the Tea Party.

Meanwhile, how many voters in places like Mississippi, and Tennessee, and South Carolina, decided that they aren’t going to give any more money to a GOP establishment that hates them and mocks them at every turn? How much money has that cost the GOP? 

The bottom line is this: If the GOP loses the Senate, it’s all due to establishment incompetence. From beginning to end, they ran exactly the campaign they wanted. They took all the budget issues off the table. They refused to use the power of the purse—congressional Republicans’ most potent weapon for curbing White House excesses. They spent most of the year talking about immigration reform instead of criticizing Obama. They saved almost all of their incumbents from primary challengers. And they pushed through guys like the vanilla Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Bush loyalist Ed Gillespie in Virginia. This is their race. If they can’t win it — then how can they expect to beat Hillary in 2016?

Boeing Isn’t Getting More NASA Money Because It’s Doing a Better Job than SpaceX


While Taylor Dinerman’s description of this week’s announcements is generally useful, it really isn’t correct to say that Boeing is getting more money than SpaceX for the new contracts to get NASA astronauts to orbit and back because the former company is “ahead of” the latter. While some at NASA (and likely many at Boeing) would like people to believe the statement that “its design was further along than that of the SpaceX proposal and, in the opinion of NASA’s leadership, has the best chance of meeting the schedule,” that is simply untrue.

In fact, it is because Boeing is behind SpaceX, and because its proposal to catch up will cost more, that it needs more money. Taylor’s characterization (shared by many this week) may be based on an article in the Journal earlier in the week by Andy Pasztor, a reporter who seems to have a long-standing habit of twisting stories against SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk, using “inside” information (i.e., spin) from his competitors. He wrote:

People familiar with the process said Boeing, with its greater experience as a NASA contractor, appears to have become the favorite partly because it has met earlier development goals in the same program on time and on budget. SpaceX didn’t fully meet all of the critical design requirements, according to a person familiar with the details.

I’m guessing that the “person familiar with the details” is a Boeing flack.

Let’s unpack this.

First of all, the statement that Boeing has met its goals “on budget” misleadingly implies that SpaceX has not. This, though, is nonsense, because both companies have fixed-price contracts. Any aspect of the work that costs more than the specified amount is eaten by the company, and no one, including NASA, other than the company itself has insight into whether or not that has occurred, so there is no basis for such an implication. In any event, the taxpayer is protected, which is a key feature of this new approach to doing business that Pasztor’s disingenuous statement ignores.

Second, with regard to schedule, NASA can have very different ideas of “progress” and “milestones” than the rest of us. For instance, as noted, a “Critical Design Review” could count as a milestone, but all it is, really, is a meeting with Powerpoint presentations indicating the status of the project. In a NASA program, it is a necessary but not sufficient condition to start actually building flight hardware (which there’s no indication that Boeing has actually yet done). SpaceX’s public rollout of its crewed version of the Dragon at the end of May, on the other hand, probably doesn’t count as a “milestone” in NASA’s eyes, because it probably wasn’t specified as one in their contract.

But the company currently plans to do two tests in the coming months with it.

The first, scheduled for November, is a pad-abort test, in which they want to demonstrate that they can get the capsule away from the launch pad quickly and safely recover it in the event of a mishap before or shortly after lift off. If that is successful, they plan another abort test in January (i.e., less than five months from now) in which they will separate the capsule from the launch vehicle in flight, at the time of maximum pressure in the atmosphere (generally considered the most challenging moment in which to do so), and recover it. In both cases they will measure the accelerations to verify that the events will be survivable by humans. The cargo version of the capsule has already repeatedly demonstrated its ability to get to the station and back with a pressurized environment, and the primary obstacles to flying with humans are abort, adding life support, and perhaps some means of controlling the vehicle by the crew (it is currently robotic and controlled from the ground and with on-board computers). After the abort tests, and an actual flight test to orbit and back, any delay in actually using it to replace the Soyuz will likely be due to passing NASA reviews and approval.

In other words, Boeing is perhaps “ahead” of SpaceX in paperwork, but SpaceX is far ahead in actually building and demonstrating flight hardware.

Keep reading this post . . .

Goodell Vows: We ‘Will Get Our House in Order’


Amid repeated calls for him to step down as NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell told reporters on Friday that he never considered resigning because he and the rest of the league “have work to do” in changing and improving the league’s policy on domestic violence.

In his first press conference since video surfaced of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée earlier this year, Goodell vowed to comply with an independent investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller. He repeatedly acknowledged his mistake in not adequately addressing the matter in the past, including his initial two-game suspension for Rice, who has since been released.

“I am not satisfied with the way we handled it,” Goodell said. “I made a mistake. I am not satisfied with the process we went through. I am not satisfied with the conclusion.”

Goodell said he believes “the NFL sets an example that makes a positive difference” and will come out with a new set of rules by the Super Bowl in February. “Nothing is off the table,” he said.

Va. Dems Say GOP House Candidate Winning Only Because She’s a Woman


Barbara Comstock, currently a member of Virginia’s House of Delegates, is running for Congress in the state’s tenth district — where local Democrats says she is getting a pass at the polls because of her sex. The district’s Democratic party tweeted yesterday:

The tweet was in response to Comstock’s latest ad condemning her Democratic opponent, John Foust, for “sexist” comments. Last month Foust told a Leesburg audience, “I don’t think she’s even had a real job.”

Comstock’s campaign issued the following statement –

John Foust’s statement is offensive.  This attack insults working women, federal employees, lawyers, small businesswomen, and Moms at home – all of whom have real jobs and pay the very real taxes that John Foust raises and advocates.  This desperate attack shows how out of touch he is with who it is that lives and works in the 10th District and the challenges that working women, working Moms and Moms at home face every day by men who demean their many and demanding roles.  We understand the desperation of Democrats this year but this was beyond the pale.

– then followed up this month with its ad:

The Virginia GOP fired back at the state’s Tenth District Democrats, tweeting:

They also challenged Comstock’s opponent and the state and national Democratic parties to condemn their local representatives:

As usual, the War on Women is most certainly not being waged by the Right.

Rubio’s Defense Speech: Fearless, Informed, and Refreshing


Fearless. That’s the word to describe what you saw if you had a chance to watch Senator Marco Rubio deliver a major national security speech this week. Fearless in the national-security policy he supports, fearless of the political hurdles that may accompany his “peace through strength” agenda, and fearless for speaking at length (over forty minutes) on defense policy initiatives that are often left to wonks and analysts to discuss.

First, to the policy proposals. Senator Rubio signed up to many of the recommendations of the recently released National Defense Panel (NDP). Understanding that defense policy is hollow without resources, Rubio’s first recommendation advocates for a dramatic increase in defense budgets. There was no hint of concern that funding defense would compromise his status as a fiscal hawk. In what seemed like an attempt to reassure the tea-party faithful, the Senator reminded the audience that, “Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution assigns 17 separate duties to Congress. Six deal exclusively with the national defense — more than any other area.”

Like other defense hawks in the party, he emphasized the need to rebuild the military via modernizing the Air Force and building more ships for the Navy. Less common was the senator’s emphasis on the need to reverse the cuts to the size of the Army and Marine Corps. Jettisoning the current administration’s defense-policy guidance, Senator Rubio argued that end strength reductions “have risen from the dangerous illusion that America will never again have significant ground forces in combat.” “But as we’ve learned in Iraq,,” he pointed out, ”declaring wars over does not end them.” This is decidedly not the lesson President Obama, or for that matter, Senator Rand Paul, learned from Iraq. Rubio made clear that strength is a precondition for peace – not a driver of foreign entanglement. Citing President Reagan, Rubio said “a truly successful army is one that, because of its strength and ability and dedication, will not be called upon to fight, for no one will dare to provoke it.”

In fact, few areas of defense policy were left untouched: cyber, space, military benefits, nuclear modernization, and intelligence were all covered in the speech. And Senator Rubio made no apology for why such a buildup is necessary. At its core, Senator Rubio explained in very direct terms that America cannot shrink from its role as a global leader.

Which leads to the second reason why Senator Rubio’s speech was fearless: Politics seemed to take a back seat to policy. This was not your typical canned speech on national security from a presidential hopeful. The policies the senator put forward were dramatic and specific. They haven’t been poll-tested and his language didn’t seem to be vetted by a stable of political consultants. In other words, you heard from a politician who freely expressed what he believed. The result was a passionate defense of American strength that spoke clearly and directly to issues of military force, modernization, and innovation.

The clear take away from all this is that Senator Rubio has thought deeply about the role of commander-in-chief and that responsibility appears to be a major driving force behind his expected presidential run. This of course is in stark contrast to President Obama, whose presidential agenda focused almost exclusively on domestic policy. And Senator Rubio didn’t pull any punches when it came to critiquing the current occupant of the White House, saying that “the ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ approach has proven self-contradictory.”

Given events in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine, the timing of this speech was certainly propitious for someone inclined to advance policies promoting American strength. Still, it remains to be seen whether national security will figure prominently in the presidential election. Listening to Senator Rubio, however, one got the impression that he didn’t have Electoral College votes on his mind when delivering his remarks. In fact, he called out Congress and the White House for demonstrating that they “would rather wait for poll numbers to change than demonstrate the leadership necessary to shape them.” In other words, Rubio wants a Situation Room free of politics: a bold idea and an approach that will make political consultants cringe. 

That’s fearless and refreshing.

— Roger I. Zakheim is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was deputy staff director and general counsel on the House Armed Services Committee from 2011 to 2013. You can follow him on twitter @Rogerreuv.

Farmers, Soldiers, and Others


Lincoln was not much for pandering. In 1858, he addressed the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, meeting in Milwaukee. He began by saying that he would not “employ the time assigned me in the mere flattery of farmers, as a class. My opinion of them is that, in proportion to numbers, they are neither better nor worse than other people.”

Rich Lowry quotes this in his recent book, and I quote it in Impromptus. A reader writes,

As Lincoln felt about farmers, I feel about the military. I grew up as an Army brat. I respect people who serve. I totally appreciate people who have suffered or been injured in defense of our country. But trust me, plenty of military personnel are deadbeats and bums and dopers.

My dad was a staff “sarge” and responsible for many men. I clearly remember him bringing drunks into our home to sleep it off before he had to lower the boom on them, thus protecting them from dishonorable discharges.

And I am really sick of all the pandering to all the soldiers. If anyone makes blanket statements about heroes, I typically ignore them.

I know what the letter-writer means. There is a certain condescension in the way some people speak about soldiers. Also, we are usually better off judging people as individuals than as classes (if we have to judge at all).

Still, like most people, I admire some classes, on the whole, and I’ll cast my lot with U.S. military personnel before I cast it with — well, I am not in a class-disparaging mood at the moment . . .

P.S. A yellow-ribbon America is better than an America in which people spit “Baby-killers.” And yet I am not crazy about either, if you get my drift.

Construction for Koch Hospital Center Underway Despite Left’s Protests


The David H. Koch Ambulatory Care Center broke ground yesterday, despite objections by a handful of left-leaning organizations who previously protested Koch’s association with the building following a $100 million donation. The donation is the largest in New York–Presbyterian Hospital’s history.

The New York Post reports that the “cutting-edge” center will offer “innovative ambulatory care to patients being treated for cancer, digestive diseases and other conditions.”

In March, a handful of groups objected to Koch’s donation and the naming of the new building after him. Among the groups demonstrating was the New York States Nurses’ Association, which took issue with his stance on the Affordable Care Act and other matters. The New York chapter of the NAACP and a local SEIU group also took part in the protests.

Despite the protests, New York–Presbyterian thanked Koch for his contribution to the center.

“This enormously generous gesture is a gift to not only our hospital but also to New York,” the board’s chairman said in a statement. “I applaud him for his leadership, and it’s my privilege to have him as our partner in shaping the health care of the future.”

The 450,000-square-foot center is expected to open in 2018.

Joe Scarborough Wants ‘a Certain Network’ to Cover Christie’s Clearing as Much as It Did Bridgegate Allegations


MSNBC — along with much of the mainstream media — went all in on the Bridgegate controversy earlier this year in an effort to paint Chris Christie as the next Richard Nixon, but after a new report found that the New Jersey governor had no knowledge of the lane closures, Joe Scarborough playfully needled his own network, suggesting it should cover that news just as eagerly.

According to a WNBC report, a Department of Justice probe into the George Washington Bridge closures found no evidence that Christie knew of the decision to shutdown the bridge as part of political retribution.

“If Chris Christie screwed up, if he had advance warning, then we need to know about that, but they’ve had nine months,” said Scarborough, prompting an objection by New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters.

“How many witnesses do you really need to talk to to really find out what happened?” the host pushed Peters. Peters punted, and suggested that the leaked report may not be credible.

Huffington Post political reporter Sam Stein echoed Scarborough, and encouraged the media to fairly cover the recent developments. “If it turns out that it exonerates him, then we in the media owe him to cover that as much as we covered the accusations,” Stein said.

“I agree — there should be 24-hour coverage,” Mika Brzezinski chimed in.

Scarborough wanted even more: “I want 12 nights in a row on a certain network,” he teased.

Senate Democrats Stop Blocking Rape Kit Bill


Senate Democrats dropped their objection to a bill designed to mitigate the rape kit backlog, ending a summer of procedural fighting and giving Senate Republicans a victory as both parties attempt to win women voters.

The Senate reauthorized the Debbie Smith Act, a bill that expedites DNA testing of rape kits, Thursday evening before leaving for the home stretch of the 2014 midterms.

“The Debbie Smith Act has been called the most important anti-rape legislation ever signed into law, because it provides substantial federal funds to help states and localities work through DNA evidence backlogs,” Representative Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.), the original author of the bill, said while hailing the reauthorization. “I am hopeful that Congress will take additional steps to ensure that no woman is attacked by a person who could have been taken off our streets if only there were the resources to eliminate the rape kit backlog.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) jabbed Democrats for holding up the bill in April.

“I’m very happy that we could reauthorize this important piece of legislation,” McConnell said after Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy (D., Vt.) asked that it pass by unanimous consent. “The bill pass the House of Representatives a few months ago on voice vote. we tried to clear it when it come over here. Unfortunately, there was an objection on the other side of the aisle. But I’m glad that we are where we are and that the bill will be reauthorized.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) refused to let it pass by unanimous consent when Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R., Texas) brought it up in April. 

Reid said at the time that if Republicans wanted to pass the Debbie Smith Act, they should do it as part of a broader package of legislation, the Justice for All Act.

“The point is, the [Judiciary] committee met and reviewed the House legislation and decided that they wanted to do more than what the House did,” Reid told Cornyn. “I think we should go along with the committee system. I hear my friends, the Republican leader and other Republican senators talk about, ‘Let’s have the committees do their work.’ They’ve done their work. We approved their work. We’re ready to pass this right now, which is — it approves the Debbie Smith language but does a lot more.”

Cornyn, noting that another Republican had an objection to another part of the Justice For All Act, pushed for Reid to pass the part that had universal support.

“This shouldn’t be a zero-sum game,” he said. “We could pass the Debbie Smith Act today and then we could take up the Justice For All Act when return following the recess. It doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.”

With the rape kit legislation about to expire — just weeks before an election — Democrats relented. 

“I don’t want to pit them against each other,” Leahy said of the bills that Reid and Cornyn had discussed. 

Russia Sees Fraud in Scottish Vote Result


For an alternately chilling and hilarious account of Russia’s objections to the integrity of the Scottish referendum see this story from Britain’s Guardian. Russia, of course, is desperate to tarnish the Scottish vote as a way of burnishing its own hastily called, pro forma Crimean referendum from this spring that resulted in the region’s absorption into Russia. A total of 97 percent of Crimeans were said to have voted for integration with Russia, even though only 58 percent of the population is of Russian background.

My favorite part of the Russian attacks against the Scottish vote was this:

The Kremlin propaganda channel RT, meanwhile, speculated that the result might have been rigged and expressed surprise at the “North Korean” levels of turnout.

Afshin Rattansi, the presenter of RT’s Going Underground show, said there were “international considerations”, such as the UK’s nuclear deterrent, which had affected the outcome. He said: “With the vote as close as this, with the mainstream media on one side, with a massive amount of people from Westminster running up to beg Scotland the other way, and certain recounts in certain bits of the poll, which way did the vote go, really?”

He added: “It is normally the sort of turnout you would expect in North Korea. Usually media here would go ‘we don’t believe it. How can it be nearly 90%?’

Biden’s Still on a Roll: VP Praises Bob Packwood at Women’s Event


Joe Biden’s gaffe machine is in full force this week. Speaking at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership forum, the vice president touted disgraced former senator Bob Packwood, who resigned in 1995 amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

Biden name-dropped the senator as he reminisced about past bipartisan efforts in the Senate.

“It was Republicans that were involved,” he said. “Guys like [Maryland Republican] Mac Mathias and Packwood, and so many others — it wasn’t Democrats alone.”

Packwood was accused of sexually harassing or assaulting as many as ten women, including staffers, in 1992. Three years later, the Senate Ethics Committee unanimously recommended Packwood be expelled from the Senate, but he resigned ahead of the expulsion.

Earlier this week while in Iowa, Biden made headlines for using the term “Shylocks” and then later referring to Asia as “the Orient.”

Rectifying Names: John Kerry Edition


In last week’s G File, Jonah brought up a concept from Chinese political philosophy that I mentioned to him, the rectification of names. In short, the idea describes when a society reaches a point where its language no longer accurately represents reality. For example, a king has certain responsibilities, as well as Mel Brooks–like rights (“It’s good to be the king”); if he fails in those responsibilities badly enough, he cannot be called “king,” because the idea of kingship is indistinguishable from the role it must play in society. Or, to put it in a modern American political context, think of Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit, now serving a 28-year sentence for gross corruption (not to mention his having had a sex scandal while in office and his blatant incompetence). Ancient Chinese would say that Kilpatrick was no “mayor,” and the system needed to purge him to return to what a mayor should be doing. In extreme cases, the rectification of names was used to justify revolution, usually by usurpers of the throne. They could much more easily justify their ambitions, and traitorous behavior, by claiming that a particular ruler or dynasty no longer aligned with the reality of rule, and therefore had lost the Mandate of Heaven. Yet as a philosophical concept, the rectification of names was a powerful tool to diagnose a society, a political system, or a ruler who had gone off track, and did not understand what its role should be or the responsibilities it must carry out. At its Soviet-style worst, the disconnect between words and reality means that people literally may not be able to understand the world they live in.

Which brings me, naturally, to John Kerry. Bear with me. This week, the Secretary of State testified before the House Armed Services Committee on President Obama’s new plan to attack (“degrade”) the Islamic State jihadist group. Kerry was asked a simple question: “Yes or no, is America at war?” Watch his tortured answer:

The takeaway from the meandering response is: ” . . . if you care about what you call it . . .” Call me old fashioned, but yes, I think, Mr. Secretary, we should care what we call it.

Like his boss, Kerry seems to revel in abstruse, lexicological, epistemological games that warp words out of their meaning to fit a preferred construction of reality. It’s not a war like Iraq, says Kerry, but it’s a war like that against al-Qaeda, etc., etc. This is the same mindset that propelled our president to say that the Islamic State was not Islamic, or that prevents U.S. officials even today from calling the Ft. Hood massacre a terrorist attack by a radical Islamist.

Words, we really should not have to spend time reminding our government leaders, have meaning. In fact they are what shapes meaning in our daily life. Some words have meanings that are benign, like “golf” or “windsurfing.” Others, like “war,” have meanings that instantly identify the gravity and importance of what they represent. If we do not understand, or do not care to understand, the meaning of the words we use, then we can never hope to be clear about what we are doing, how we shall go about doing it, and when we have achieved it (“Mission Accomplished”). When a people are intentionally confused or misled or lied to long enough, then they either are no longer free or they lose all faith in their system, or both.

That is why rectification of names is such an important idea. If you do it early enough, you can avoid much greater dislocation and even violence in the future. If you wait too long, and the upwelling demand for conforming words to reality sweeps away the prevaricators and those who cannot tell the difference, then a more rational future will have been bought at a terrible price. Americans may not ever go down the road of carrying torches and pitchforks into presidential press conferences, but the repeated abuse of the language (and Jonah brought up Orwell’s classic essay) is a danger that we too lightly ignore.

Dem. Rep: WH Plan to Arm Syrian Rebels ‘Lame’


Criticism of President Obama’s strategy in Iraq and Syria from his own party got a little middle-school-esque on Friday, with congresswoman Jackie Speier (D., Calif.) calling the White House plan to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels “lame.”

The lawmaker — who voted against providing material support and training to Syrian rebels – spoke Friday with MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart about the plan, which passed the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday with mostly Republican votes.

“It wasn’t a plan,” Speier said. “To actually train and arm three to five thousand Syrians in the Free Syrian Army is not a plan. There are many within the establishment, former generals, who said it was lame, actually. That if you were going to do it, you’d need to do at least 15,000.”

“ISIL is making about $3 million a day,” she said. “We need to disrupt their line of income. And that means blowing up oil wells and the roads that they use to get those oil tankers to shipment. So I actually think ISIL is something we have to address, I think it is dangerous. But if we’re going to address it, it’s not with three to five thousand trained [Syrian rebels].”

“I think we really moved too quickly, quite honestly,” Speier said, worrying that Free Syrian Army rebels supported by the U.S. may end up running from the Islamic State — or even joining them — once confronted by jihadists on the battlefield. 


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