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Buckley Stops Here


Today’s Between the Covers podcast is with James Buckley, author of Saving Congress from Itself: Emancipating the States and Empowering their People. We discuss why federal grants to states are a bad idea, how to phase them out, and whether their elimination would create inequalities between rich and poor states.

They Fled ISIS, but They Can’t Flee Winter


They are cold and losing hope of returning. They miss family pictures and albums. And their village church.

Winter is setting in for refugees who fled ISIS this summer in Iraq and Syria. Just last week, Chris Seiple was traveling in Lebanon, near the Syrian border, Erbil, and Dohuk, Iraq, and told some of the stories of people he met along the way.

In an abandoned building across from St. Joseph’s Church in Erbil, he finds families who can’t use kerosene heaters because the walls are flammable and whose donated electric heaters “short an electric system not designed for refugee families.”

An abandoned mall houses 413 families:

in such a small space, tensions run high within and among families who have nothing to do, with no schooling for their kids…When ISIS came, Ilias & Raghad fled Karaqosh with their two children, sleeping Mattias and Jovian, with nothing but the clothes they were wearing…now they try to keep hope.

Seiple is president of the Institute for Global Engagement and was traveling in conjunction with The Cradle Fund, an effort recently launched by husband and wife team Mark Burnett (of Survivor fame) and Roma Downey (known best from Touched by an Angel) to help. As Seiple writes:

To lose the presence of Christians in the birthplace/Cradle of Christianity is to accelerate instability in the Middle East. With the region on the brink, those who have fled persecution—including Christians, other religious minorities, and the majority Muslims—need a strategy that works to rescue, restore, and return them to a home where they can practice their faith free from fear. This approach is not only the right thing to do, it is in everyone’s interest to do so for the sake of a peaceful Middle East. To start, we are working to get immediate humanitarian aid to all those suffering.

Q: You were in Iraq last week. What did you see and hear?

A: I met with many folks who have fled ISIS: mostly Christians, but also other religious minorities and Muslims as well. Their story is all the same: they fled in the middle of a hot summer night as ISIS approached. But they can’t flee winter. Their situation is dire, and they need all the help possible to get through the winter. They have now been away from their homes for four months and they are losing hope about the possibility of returning. Their despair is compounded by this twofold fact: they are middle class refugees within an hour or two of their beloved homes. They all had respectable jobs and status in society. They are professors, lawyers, doctors, etc. They had homes and people over for the holidays, just as we do. Now they live in the corner of a basement, or in a 6×10 metal box provided by the U.N., just 30 miles, in some cases, from all that they cherish. The tantalizing tragedy of these folks hurts the most.


Q: What is life like for Christians who fled their homes on account of ISIS this summer?

A: They live in abandoned buildings, churches, and winterized boxes, called “caravans.” They are cold, and the electricity grid available to them was not designed to support this many people. Power goes out all the time. They have nothing to do, and their kids are not in school. Tensions run high within and among families in such situations. They have almost no opportunity to work; which is foremost about dignity. Most importantly, as I heard again and again, they can’t be in their home church. One man said to me, “If you made a church of gold, I would still want my village church.”


Q: Do you see a scenario where they go home?

A: For them to go home requires several factors. First, ISIS must be defeated. Second, there must be the political will from the international community to stand up to those funding the terrorists – which boils down to Shia and Sunnis sources fighting a proxy war in Iraq/Syria. Third, there must be international will – supported by military protection and monitoring – for their return. Fourth, the Iraqi government must allow for a religious minority defense force (e.g., the Kurdish Pesmerga, and/or the reported formation of Sunni militias). Already there is talk of a “Nineveh Plain Protection Unit” (NPU). Key is that these militias are trained according to the same standard – militarily, regarding human rights – such that they are accountable. Related,  the Shia militia that have hurt the Sunni communities — producing great grievance that provides sympathy for ISIS, and/or recruits – must have the same standards. Fifth, the Nineveh Plain should probably be a semi-autonomous province under the Iraqi government. At this point, the religious minorities — Christian, Yazidi, etc. – don’t trust anyone. Meanwhile, such a province provides a “buffer” between and among a Shia majority government in Baghdad, the Sunni area, and the Kurdish area. As such, the Nineveh Plain would be the most integrated province in the Middle East.


Q: What on earth does Christmas look like for them?

A: While there is every reason for despair among the Christians, there is nevertheless hope. They have nothing but Christ this Christmas. For some, their faith will grow even stronger. Others, of course, will feel disheartened. In either case, the tangible expression of hope through physical support – e.g., clothing, blankets, winter clothes, money to spend on food, etc. – is a sign that they are not forgotten. And many do feel forgotten by the rest of the world.


Q: Why should we be worried about their winter?

A: It’s cold, and it’s going to get colder. People will die. If there is no help, not only does despair increase, it is also more likely that people will not want to return to their homes…and that is the worst thing possible for the Middle East. Christians as salt among their communities, loving their neighbors, is the kind of example that the Middle East, and the world, needs most.


Q: The president has his end-of-year press conference Friday and this never came up. What do you make of that?

A:  There were many national-security issues that did not come up, all of which do not have simple answers. Meanwhile, the larger point of the press conference was to make the simple case that America is resurgent — something that might be clouded by the Middle East’s shades of grey. And thus the irony: If we were resurgent, we would be providing vision and leadership on what to do on many of these issues, or at least creating that space among our allies and friends such that a mutually owned vision could emerge. I was asked repeatedly about American leadership and policy, and I had no good answers. As far as I can see, only the U.S. can encourage and then enable the international will necessary for the near- and long-term.


Q: Why does ISIS hate Christians so much? What do you make of a movement that has no regard for history and beauty?

A: ISIS is an equal opportunity hater. They hate everyone – to include Muslims – who do not believe exactly as they do. They are practicing religious cleansing against the Christians, and genocide against the Yazidis. We are watching Kristallnacht over and over again, which, left undefeated, will lead to the extermination of everyone under their control who does not believe exactly as they do. 


Q: Are you confident contributions made to the Cradle Fund help people and make a difference in lives?

A: Absolutely. Through our partners we are reaching the most marginalized people, the majority of whom are Christians. We cannot do enough.


Q: Is there anything else Americans can do to help?

A: Pray for those who have fled ISIS, that they survive the winter. Write your elected leaders: demand American leadership. Give to those organizations that are making a difference on the ground. Give to the Cradle Fund at Learn more about it and what we do here.


There Are No More Living MPs from Before Elizabeth II


A fascinating tidbit from the U.K., where former member of Parliament and BBC journalist John Freeman died this week at the age of 99: Elected to the House of Commons in 1945 and serving until 1955, Freeman was the last living member or former member of Parliament to have served before Queen Elizabeth II.

According to a tweet by the Labour Party History Group, eight peers – members of the House of Lords – who took their seats under the queen’s father, King George VI, still survive, and three of them remain in the upper house. America’s longest-serving congressman, John Dingell (D., Mich.) retired this December, but even he took office, in 1955, after the queen.

The queen has been on the throne since 1952, and next September, the 88-year-old is set to become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, a record currently held by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. There will be increasing commentary in the coming months about why the queen has been so successful in her 63 years on the throne, but a short piece by the historian Philip Ziegler on her father, King George VI, nicely encapsulates what these most two recent British monarchs embodied: an ethic of service.

Even detractors of the monarchy would have a hard time finding much fault with the personal attributes and commitment of the queen and her father. And those of a conservative disposition naturally are drawn to what seems to be an increasingly old-fashioned approach to duties and responsibilities. The queen’s coming anniversary offers a good excuse to celebrate, and maybe even teach, such traditional virtues.

Web Briefing: December 26, 2014

Love It’s a Wonderful Life?


I think you’ll enjoy what Anne Morse has done here.


The Gift that Keeps on Giving


Before you shut down for Christmas, consider making an end-of-year contribution to National Review Online.

What are fellow readers doing and saying?

With $100, one says:

Continue to stand athwart….

Along with $50, another says:

Several years ago, I started subscribing to NR and reading the Corner while in law school.  Your fine writing and commentary helped disabuse me of many of the liberal dogmas floating around school. Now, having recently moved to DC to take a job with a certain government agency frequently mentioned in your pages, I find that I am the lone conservative and even more thankful for your commentary and support! Thank you!

And with $24, another reader amusingly shares:

Not much of a donation, but it may slightly assuage my guilt for years of freeloading. Besides, I would park outside his office and set my hair on fire if doing so would guarantee that Jonah kept the G-File coming. (But metaphorically, not in a weird stalker way.)

And with $100, another says:

Keep on fighting the good fight!

Contribute to the future of NRO now. Donate here

‘I Love This Pope. Truth to Power. What a Speech. He Said He Was Going to Be a Reformer!’


The title of this post is my partial transcription of a Morning Joe discussion this morning about a news headline out of the Vatican. As you may have heard by now, Pope Francis had some “harsh words” as other headlines tell it, for Vatican officials.

It was a riveting and challenging speech, as many of his tend to be. In it, he reminded us of the spiritual battle of our lives, very much ongoing in Rome as well as human hearts the world over. Give or take a few details, it is not just a blueprint for reform in the Roman curia, but it is largely applicable to every and any Christian.

But anyone remotely surprised by news of his talk is welcome to listen in near daily. I’m an evangelist for the website – it’s the best source for what the pope is doing and saying (translations of his morning homilies get up fairly quickly, which I find endlessly spiritually useful). I tend to begin days there. And whenever you hear Pope Francis said something, I’d recommend going there. Because the New York Times might just be imagining what the hope he might be saying or missing the point.

Mixing Pope Francis up with Nietzsche has its complications, of course, but from that quick Morning Joe exchange I continue to be grateful for the incredible opportunities the popularity of Pope Francis affords. While the media may only pay attention when there’s a potentially sexy “Truth to Power” kind of headline – and conveniently miss Bethlehem in more ways than one – Pope Francis and so many of his words and gestures (even more so), have ushered in what Cardinal Dolan has referred to as an “era of good feeling” about the Church. There’s so much more, of course, but an open door can begin a conversation, an encounter, a conversion. So much of what Pope Francis does is what he did yesterday: Lead people in an examination of conscience, whoever you are hearing his words. It’s a blessing. It’s needed. Keep walking this road and that Child under our trees might just be seen through the witness of the daily lives of the Christians you know and see – and even in politics and culture. Because you will see us being Christian. First. Continually. Finally.

There are so many important lines from his address yesterday. Among them, perhaps ironically, since it didn’t make headlines, of course:

“I once read that priests are like airplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. 

He added: “Many criticize them and few pray for them.”

One of my lines when I give talks to Catholic groups of late has been: If we prayed even half as much as we voice opinions about what Pope Francis is doing, imagine what a contribution we’d be making. While we exchange all kinds of shiny objects this week, prayer can be such a tremendously overlooked gift.

UPDATE: “What Sister said.”:

Charlie Rangel Denies NYC Protesters Called for Dead Cops


New York congressman Charlie Rangel refused to believe protesters in his own city chanted support for cop-killers, prompting an incredulous CNN host to prove the Democratic lawmaker wrong.

Rangel appeared Monday with CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield to discuss the killing of two NYPD officers on Saturday. The congressman said that he felt there was a need to discuss the problems faced by New York and its police, but that the past couple days were not, in light of the officers’ deaths, the time to talk about them.

“But it is the time, congressman,” Banfield said. “There are people who are marching through the streets calling for dead cops in New York.”

“They are not, they are not,” Rangel said dismissively.

Banfield cut to video that showed protesters chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!”

Rangel tried to backtrack, saying the protesters’ behavior is “not acceptable” and speculating that those chanting must be mentally ill. “We should condemn it,” he said, “but we shouldn’t just concentrate on that.”

Fiorina 2016?


Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and California Senate candidate, is seriously considering a run for another high office: the presidency. That’s according to a source close to her as well as to detailed accounts by National Journal’s Tim Alberta and the Washington Post’s Phil Rucker and Matea Gold

Fiorina is placing calls to influential Republicans to sound them out. Last week, the Heritage Foundation feted her at a private dinner in Washington, D.C., where she mingled with economists Art Laffer and Larry Kudlow, former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, and Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, among others. 

Among Republicans, the attitude about her entrance into what’s likely to be a crowded field is, for now, the more the merrier. In the age of identity politics and approaching an election in which the two Democratic frontrunners are women, there is also a strong feeling that having a woman in the presidential mix redounds to the GOP’s benefit. 

Those familiar with her plans believe that if she can raise enough money to run, she is likely to do so. ”I wouldn’t be surprised if she jumped in, just based on some conversations I’ve had with her,” says one person who attended the Heritage Foundation dinner. “She’s really looking at whether she can raise the threshold money that’s necessary, and I think she feels pretty confident she can.” The same individual says that, as a matter of optics alone, it would be “hugely beneficial to the Republican party” if she ran. 

“She’d be a valuable addition to the field, and could surprise,” says Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard. 

Presidential candidates with CEO resumes have been rare — the last was Herman Cain, and before that Steve Forbes — and Fiorina’s business background is marked both by accomplishment and controversy. When she took the reins of HP in 1999, she was the first woman to run Fortune 50 company, and she became subject of admiring profiles in publications across the country.

But her fall was as swift as her rise. HP’s controversial 2002 merger with Compaq, spearheaded by Fiorina, resulted in thousands of layoffs, sent revenues plunging, and earned Fiorina the lasting enmity of both the Hewlett and Packard families. Should she run, this history will again be thrown under the microscope. (During her run for Senate against longtime incumbent Barbara Boxer, Boxer’s campaign website featured an entire section devoted to attacking Fiorina’s record at HP; one line read, “Let’s not forget that the HP board fired Fiorina early in 2005, and no company has hired her since.”)

Fiorina tried her hand at politics for the first time as a surrogate for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. She got a bumpy start when she told a reporter that no, McCain’s vice presidential nominee, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, could not run a large corporation. She tried to recover by adding that John McCain couldn’t, either. 

On the campaign trail in 2010, she struggled to answer questions about her time at HP and stumbled the way many first-time candidates do: She was caught mocking her opponent and making off-the-cuff remarks about California’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman on a hot microphone.

“She’ll get shredded,” says one former campaign aide of her chances of success in 2016. “Her record at HP was disastrous and, you know, she ran ahead of Meg but, you know, Meg was a f—ing disaster.” 

In recent months, though, stumping for Republican candidates across the country before the midterm elections, a different Fiorina has emerged, more polished and politically astute.

“In terms of clarify of message and positioning herself as a conservative, she’s come a long way, and I’m enjoying it immensely,” says Kudlow. 

At the Heritage Foundation last week, she provided a preview of what her stump speeches might sound like. For a former Fortune 50 CEO, her message is surprisingly populist. 

Big government and crony capitalism, she said, has been good for big business, but “small businesses cannot handle the crushing load of regulatory and bureaucratic inertia and regulatory thicket that government puts on them.”

She noted that she began her career as a secretary at a company that employed nine people. “That’s how most people start,” she said. 

One person she’s interacted with at the American Conservative Union, where she chairs the group’s non-profit arm, has nothing but praise. “I have come to know her as a strong conservative,” he says. “She’s incredibly impressive and she has fantastic candidate abilities.” 

No matter how good they are, her bid will be a longshot, and she’ll have to prove it. 

Cops, Castro, and Cello


Jay and I reluctantly leave music behind this week (well, not entirely) to discuss the president’s self-indulgence regarding relations with Cuba, the murder of three police officers, and the North Korean tantrum, among other topics. The contrast between the behavior of Tea Party protesters and those upset by the police is exceeded only perhaps by the difference in the way the press reports on them. We consider these and other matters including the Marco Rubio/Rand Paul confrontation, Jeb Bush’s run, and (surprise!) the Chinese award to Fidel Castro of their Confusius Peace Prize. The podcast closes with two cello moments — a bit of unfinished business from our gala 100th podcast. Do join us




Grimm’s Fairy Tale of Innocence Collapses


Representative Michael Grimm, the Staten Island congressman best known nationally for threatening to throw a reporter off a congressional balcony last January, has agreed to plead guilty to a felony tax-evasion charge tomorrow in New York City.

Grimm, a Republican, was facing a 20-count federal indictment that alleged he concealed income from a Manhattan restaurant he co-owned and hired illegal immigrants. He had entered a plea of not guilty and said he was looking forward to being vindicated during his trial in February. His constituents stuck with him and by a surprisingly large 55 percent to 42 percent margin reelected him last month. As a former FBI agent, he was able to convince many people he was the victim of selective political prosecution. That claim now appears to be “inoperable” to borrow a phrase from the Nixon Watergate scandal.

But Grimm apparently won’t be enjoying his new term in office for long after he’s sworn in next month. During a debate on October 17, Grimm was asked if he would resign if found guilty. 

“Certainly, if I was not able to serve then of course I would step aside and there would be a special election,” he replied. 

Because he is a first-time offender, Grimm may well be able to avoid jail time if the sentencing judge decides to be lenient. But it is unlikely that lenience will be employed if Grimm insists on staying in Congress.  

Should he try to remain in office, the House Ethics Committee can be expected to conduct its own investigation, the result of which could be a recommendation of censure or expulsion. It appears as if Grimm’s future is indeed grim. 

Governor Cuomo Has a Bill on His Desk That Will Help Monitor Mentally Ill Ex-Cons


Even after a reportedly mentally ill ex-prisoner Ismaaiyl Brinkley shot New York City Police Department officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, Governor Andrew Cuomo is refusing to sign a bill, S. 7818, that’s on his desk and could do something about the risks presented by mentally ill ex-cons.

The Prisoners Mental Health Discharge Planning Bill would require prison officials to make sure prisoners with mental illness who are being released are given:

a discharge plan, 
an appointment with a community program, 
and enough medications to last until the appointment. 

It also adds parole officials to the list of people who can refer someone with a mental illness to a hospital for evaluation. 

Media reports say the killer was reported by his mom to be mentally ill, reported himself to have been previously institutionalized, and had been previously incarcerated. While he doesn’t seem to have been a New York prison, this bill would help prevent violence by similarly situated people who do leave a New York prison.

Cuomo should sign it today. The bill, sponsored by state senator Catharine Young and assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, has been endorsed by Mental Illness Policy Org, the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness of NYS.

There are other policy failures, too: Mayor de Blasio’s task force on New York City’s jail at Rikers Island failed to recommend an expansion of Kendra’s Law, a state policy that could keep mentally ill ex-prisoners in mandated and monitored community treatment and has reduced homelessness, arrests, violence, and incarceration.

While officials in Albany and NYC are ignoring the most seriously ill, there is some good news: Representative Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican, has still been pushing the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which addresses some of the mental-illness issues related to the police shootings.

For science-based info on the intersection of serious mental illness and violence, see more from my organization, Mental Illness Policy Org.

Make It a Merry Cruisemas


Right now, go to our dedicated website,, to get complete information about the spectacular, forthcoming National Review 2015 Alaska Summer Cruise (scheduled for July 18–25 aboard Holland America Line’s luxurious Westerdam). This will be the perfect Christmas gift! Imagine spending a glorious week of sailing in the company of former NH Governor and “Bush ’41” chief of staff John Sununu, supply-side champion Arthur Laffer, ace economists Stephen Moore and Kevin Hassett, former congresswoman Michele Bachmann, pollster Pat Caddell, National Affairs editor Yuval Levin, editor Katie Pavlich, top social commentators Naomi Schaefer Riley, James Lileks, and Andrew Klavan, military/security experts Pete Hegseth and John Hillen, leading conservative academic Daniel Mahoney, and. from NR’s editorial All Stars, Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, Jay Nordlinger, Ramesh Ponnuru, Kevin Williamson, Eliana Johnson, Jim Geraghty, Kathryn Lopez, Reihan Salam, Charles Cooke, John Miller, Patrick Brennan, Jillian Melchior, Andrew Johnson, Joel Gehrke, and Katherine Connell.

Always wanted to go on an NR cruise but have been afraid to take the plunge? Take it — into icy Glacier Bay! It will be the trip of a lifetime — and the Christmas gift of a lifetime. Get it and give it, securely, at

Ronald Reagan vs. North Korea


Well, if theaters won’t show The Interview or Air America, we still might be able to catch an anti–North Korea movie on cable TV. In Prisoner of War (1954), a U.S. Army intelligence officer goes undercover to investigate the treatment of American prisoners of war in North Korea. He discovers atrocities.

The star was none other than Ronald Reagan. Here is what he said in a trailer for the movie: 

Many who read the script said, you don’t dare do it.  It’s too tough, too hard. We were advised to soften it, fake it up a little.  But we felt, no, this had to be told with all its shocking, cruel, unpleasant detail. I can’t use any of the words normally used in selling a motion picture when I talk about this one.  You will see scenes never before shown in a motion picture because no one would have dared do it. We did. We did, because these things did happen. It’s probably the toughest picture you will ever see on this theater screen. But MGM is proud to have made it. I’m proud to have had a part in it.

Daily Double: U.S. Caves In to Two Tyrannies in One Afternoon



The United States of America — Earth’s sole remaining superpower — capitulated to both Cuba and North Korea in one day. Final Score: Open-air Museums of Stalinism – 2; Land of the Free and Home of the Brave – 0.

Obama announced on Wednesday that Washington and the Castro regime would resume diplomatic relations after a 53-year estrangement. This platinum-medal prize for totalitarian legend Fidel Castro, 88, and his brother Raul, a sprightly man of 83, came at a cost to them of . . . nothing!

Normalization might have made sense in exchange for the Castros’ liberating all political prisoners from their dungeons. (In 2008, Obama promised that normal relations only would happen after the Castros’ political jails were emptied.) A strict timetable for free elections might have merited Obama’s move. So might have Cuba’s adoption of freedoms of movement, speech, press, property, and religion — for starters. The Castros still offer their people none of the above. Fidel and Raul get to eat their dictatorial cake and have it, too, with diplomatic-relations frosting on top. Free of charge.

Obama’s Christmas present to these aging autocracts lacks the geopolitical genius and strategic benefits of President Nixon’s February 1972 overture to China. Instead, it’s just one young strongman handing the ultimate bucket-list item to two ancient strongmen. The only strings attached to Obama’s gift are the ribbons around the wrapping paper.

America’s surrender to North Korea and its hackers is even more bothersome.

I planned to write these words on Wednesday afternoon:

Every patriotic American should see The Interview when it opens on Christmas Day. If celebrations with family, friends, and loved ones preclude this, they should catch the new James Franco-Seth Rogen comedy on December 26. A two-day box-office bonanza for this film will signal the world that no one tells the American people what movies to see or not see, especially not a retrograde Communist tyrant and his band of high-tech bandits.

Never mind.

Instead, America did this:

Grab tail.

Insert between legs.


Sony Pictures Entertainment’s decision to sentence The Interview to a Pyogyang-style solitary-confinement cell is a mind-blowing, humiliating, and highly dangerous catastrophe. Without detonating a bomb, waving a gun, or even showing a menacing face, one or more hackers have told a major Hollywood studio what to do. And the studio complied. Sony displayed less spine than a serving of kimchi.

The self-described Guardians of Peace mocked their name by promising September 11-style violence if the comedy about assassinating Kim Jong-un reached the Silver Screen. However, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told journalists on Wednesday that U.S. diplomats had no “credible information to support these threats.” Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the LAPD both said there was no proof that the GOP (where have I seen that acronym before?) is equipped with anything more destructive than a cigarette lighter. Friday’s FBI confirmation that North Korea hacked Sony elevates this to an international incident. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine Kim Jong-un actually blowing up American cineplexes that show this movie.

“Anyone with a grudge, a computer, and an Internet connection can henceforth block the distribution of any form of communication it dislikes,” warns New York Post film critic Kyle Smith. “If someone purporting to be from the KKK calls the Weinstein Co. to order it to pull Django Unchained from any further distribution, will Harvey say, ‘Of course. We wouldn’t want to offend you nice people’?”

The France-1940-style surrender by Sony and several weak-kneed theater owners sends this frightful message to Iran’s mullahs:

Stop wasting time trying to split the atom. Instead, hire some high-grade computer geeks, tap into the servers of, say, American Airlines, and spill embarrassing details about its CEO and top suppliers. As the blushing and bluster expand, threaten a 9/11-style attack. Offer American a simple way out: Cancel all flights in and out of Tel Aviv.



Any other rogue nation or group can follow this formula.

And what happens when hackers penetrate critical infrastructure, such as the servers of Consolidated Edison or Pacific Gas & Electric? “Follow our orders, or it’s lights out!”

How about hacking into the FAA’s flight-control system? Imagine America without jet travel — much as we endured during the days after September 11.

Sony’s cave-in was not the work of government. In fact, Obama told journalists this about the company on Friday: “I think they made a mistake.” He added, “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship.” Still, Sony’s suppleness is sadly reflective of too much of the American elite today. And this entire episode suggests how little this country is feared these days.

America’s weakness as 2014 closes is stunning and depressing. We are now Earth’s No. 2 economy, behind China, thanks to the economic meltdown and sluggish growth of the Bush-Obama years. America faces an $18 trillion national debt. Racial tensions escalate. And now the USA has become the errand boy to Fidel Castro and “King Jong Won,” as Thursday’s New York Post described the North Korean sociopath and the huge splash he just made at America’s expense.

What a way to end the year.

State Dept Strongly Suggests U.S. Attack Behind North Korean Internet Outage


The State Department hinted heavily at U.S. involvement in a probable cyber-attack that knocked North Korea’s Internet offline on Monday, refusing to discuss “operational details” but noting that President Obama had promised a response to the regime’s devastating hack on Sony last month.

All four networks linking North Korea to the Internet through China went dark on Monday, just days after the FBI accused the dictatorial regime of culpability in the Sony hack and the White House vowed to strike back.

At the State Department briefing on Monday, a reporter asked whether spokeswoman Marie Harf could comment on whether North Korea was under virtual assault.

Though the question did not even suggest U.S. involvement, Harf’s response was telling.

“As the president said, we are considering a range of options in response,” she said. “We aren’t going to discuss, publicly, operational details about the possible response options — or comment on those types of reports in any way — except to say that as we implement those responses some will be seen, some may not be seen.”

“So I can’t confirm those reports, but in general, that’s what the president has spoken to,” Harf concluded.

Re: A Little 101, Responsibility-Wise


Jay, in response to my post earlier, you write:

But let me add a point, very elementary: No man is an island. No one lives in a vacuum. No one is hermetically sealed. What is poured into people’s ears matters. And not just theoretically.

Take the easy example of Germany. (I know you’re not supposed to.) The German people did not wake up one morning and say, “Hmmm. Why not kill all the Jews among us?” For years, they had been told, by people in authority, that Jews were both subhuman and threatening.

In the West Bank and Gaza, kids don’t come out of the womb wearing suicide belts, ready to kill Jews. They are “carefully taught.” They have lies drilled into them from the cradle. They are made into murderers, by all the authority figures in their lives: parents, imams, schoolteachers, political leaders.

Charlie, you are a person with an extraordinarily — extraordinarily — great independence of mind. And you are blessed with an accompanying intelligence. The two are probably related. I hope I don’t sound too Margaret Sangerish when I say that a lot of other people are more impressionable. And the impressions that people leave matter, for good or ill.

As it happens, I agree with this. But I think that the key here is that, thus far at least, there has only been one incident. As I wrote after the Isla Vista shooting, it is one thing to look at a mass movement and to blame those who are teaching its acolytes and inciting its fighters, but it is quite another to look at one person who has done something terrible and to conclude that the ideology he claims to have been representing was guilty of causing his crime:

Without ever quite making anything that could be reasonably described as a case, the Guardian’s Jessica Valenti argued yesterday for the collectivization of the killer’s guilt, maintaining that to describe the perpetrators of these crimes as crazy “not only stigmatizes the mentally ill — who are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it — but glosses over the role that misogyny and gun culture play (and just how foreseeable violence like this is) in a sexist society.” This is a rather impressive stretch. Insofar as the disturbed will draw from and respond to the culture in which they live, the contents of murderers’ manifestos are relevant and interesting. If we were to see a network of would-be killers develop, each member claiming to be acting in the same way for the reason, they would become especially so. But, really, that’s about the extent of their relevance.

Ismaaiyl Brinsley was one man, and he committed his crime as part of a broader spree. If we start seeing these incidents all over the country, I will likely change my mind about the impact that the movement is having — especially if we see a more direct link between the “incitement” and the behavior. But for now? I remain skeptical.

Behold the Worst Anti-Gun Commercial in American History


This is almost certainly the worst anti-gun commercial in the history of the United States:

One can only imagine that the spot’s producers consider their set up to be inordinately clever. “Hey,” you can almost hear them say, “we’ll make it look as if there’s going to be a school shooting, and then he’ll hand it over to his teacher and all will be well!” In fact, it is difficult to imagine a more irresponsible storyline. We’re talking about children here, remember – impressionable, easily led, ignorant children. (Adults are an entirely separate question.) As a rule, we teach our kids that they if they see a firearm they should refrain from touching it, and go and tell an adult. In the commercial, however, the child is shown doing the exact opposite. “If you see a gun,” the ad suggests, “pick it up, put it in a bag, and then jostle it around in front of other children.” One can only wonder at how many kids will now need to be told that they must not, under any circumstances, do this.

Moreover, in the course of his little ploy, the kid breaks pretty much every law on the books. He takes a gun out of his house (not only is this felony burglary, but he’s not old enough to carry a firearm in public); he then takes that gun into a school (that’s against federal and state law); and, finally, he transfers it to a teacher without a background check, thereby breaking the very rule that progressives tell us is necessary to keep us all safe from gun violence. And for what, pray? Typically, anti-gun commercials focus in on a specific safety issue: a lack of trigger locks, or background checks, or safe-storage, for example. This one seems to feature a child who is saying, “I don’t want any guns in the house at all.” This absolute approach is extreme, even for today’s class of wildly incompetent control freaks. Worse, perhaps, the child seems to believe that the public school system exists as a general service that he might use if he wishes to deprive his parents of their constitutional rights — an implication, let’s say, that is unlikely to win many converts.


A Little 101, Responsibility-Wise


Charlie, I agree with pretty much everything you say, as usual. I have been writing against charges of “creating a climate” for a long time. When Rabin was assassinated, liberals blamed Likud. When McVeigh bombed Oklahoma City, Clinton blamed Rush.

I have these arguments down pat.

But let me add a point, very elementary: No man is an island. No one lives in a vacuum. No one is hermetically sealed. What is poured into people’s ears matters. And not just theoretically.

Take the easy example of Germany. (I know you’re not supposed to.) The German people did not wake up one morning and say, “Hmmm. Why not kill all the Jews among us?” For years, they had been told, by people in authority, that Jews were both subhuman and threatening.

In the West Bank and Gaza, kids don’t come out of the womb wearing suicide belts, ready to kill Jews. They are “carefully taught.” They have lies drilled into them from the cradle. They are made into murderers, by all the authority figures in their lives: parents, imams, schoolteachers, political leaders.

Charlie, you are a person with an extraordinarily — extraordinarily — great independence of mind. And you are blessed with an accompanying intelligence. The two are probably related. I hope I don’t sound too Margaret Sangerish when I say that a lot of other people are more impressionable. And the impressions that people leave matter, for good or ill.

This is especially true of impressions left by presidents, attorneys general, mayors, “civil-rights leaders,” and so on — people with big megaphones. Bloggers and tweeters — they (we) have little megaphones.

When Louis Farrakhan admonished those college kids to start a race war, I’m sure that many of them thought, “What a crazy old clown.” But maybe others took him to heart. Who knows? Leaders have followers, and sometimes the followers really follow.

Anyway, you know all this. I agree with your post, almost entirely. I’m just doing a little 101 here. “Infield practice,” WFB used to call it (which was odd, because he was allergic to sports, except for sailing, if that is a sport).

Writing Christmas


I had a pre-Christmas conversation with Joseph Bottum, who clearly loves writing about Christmas.

Q: You seem to be on fire with your writing every time Christmas comes around—your book The Christmas Plains comes to mind. What is it about Christmas that gets you typing?

A: I’m  motivated by the many ways in which Christmas is simply true—in particular, maybe, the truth of Christmas in my own psyche… I am by nature an easily depressed man and a slow, easily thwarted writer. Most years, I sit at my desk through the late fall and early winter, watching the hills through my window and doing little but knitting the long, ganglion chain of sadness.

But then—thank God!—Christmas begins to loom. And I feel the stirring of cosmic accomplishment, and robust joy, and wild emotion, and fulfilled hope. ’Cause, you know, it’s true: This isn’t some psychiatric change in me, but a reformation of the universe to which my battered soul begins to respond with happiness and activity. And writing. Tons and tons of writing, till editors flee their inboxes, rushing down to the corner bar for hot toddies and peppermint schnapps—in the vain hope that upon their bleary return there won’t be yet another Christmas piece from me, begging for publication.


Q: Among your Christmas pieces this year, you’ve written about zombies. What brought that about?

Keep reading this post . . .

Utah Rumblings


Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) has critics at home who would like to see him primaried in 2016. His fiercest opponent appears to be Jon Huntsman Sr., who calls him “a tremendous embarrassment to our family, to our state, to our country” and refuses to meet with him. (This is the same Huntsman who was reportedly Harry Reid’s source for his false claim that Mitt Romney had paid no taxes for years; he denies it.)


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