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Ferguson Witness: Michael Brown Did Not Have His Hands Up


Exactly what happened between Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson on August 9 is still unknown. Were Michael Brown’s hands in the air when he was killed, as has been widely claimed? Did Officer Wilson open fire while Brown was running away? Did he shoot while Brown’s back was turned? And did he continue the fight after Brown had indicated that he longer wanted any part of it? Per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one eyewitness says “no.”

One Canfield resident — who said he saw the killing of Brown from start to finish and talked to the grand jury recently — has given the Post-Dispatch an account with some key differences from previous public statements from other witnesses.

Among the recollections of the witness, who agreed to an interview on the condition that his name not be used, were:

• After an initial scuffle in the car, the officer did not fire until Brown turned back toward him.

• Brown put his arms out to his sides but never raised his hands high.

• Brown staggered toward Wilson despite commands to stop.

• The two were about 20 to 25 feet apart when the last shots were fired.

He would not detail what he had told the grand jury but said the members seemed fair and asked a lot of questions.

Witnesses have given differing accounts since the white officer killed the unarmed black teen Aug. 9, triggering protests, riots and national attention.

As the paper notes, if Brown did not have his hands up, the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” meme will have been rather premature:

Some have said Brown raised his arms high in surrender, giving rise to a common protesters’ chant of “Hands up, don’t shoot” while mimicking the move. But this witness said Brown never put his hands straight up but held his elbows straight out from his torso, with palms turned up in a sort of gesture of disbelief.

The new testimony contradicts the descriptions provided by Michael Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, and onlookers Piaget Cranshaw and Tiffany Mitchell. According to MSNBC, Johnson claims that, after Officer Wilson opened fire, the two

took off running together. There were three cars lined up along the side of the street. Johnson says he ducked behind the first car, whose two passengers were screaming. Crouching down a bit, he watched Brown run past.

“Keep running, bro!,” he said Brown yelled. Then Brown yelled it a second time. Those would be the last words Johnson’s friend, “Big Mike,” would ever say to him.

Brown made it past the third car. Then, “blam!” the officer took his second shot, striking Brown in the back. At that point, Johnson says Brown stopped, turned with his hands up and said “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!”

 By that point, Johnson says the officer and Brown were face-to-face. The officer then fired several more shots. Johnson described watching Brown go from standing with his hands up to crumbling to the ground and curling into a fetal position.

Piaget Cranshaw, by contrast, told Newsweek that,

it looked like the officer was trying to pull Brown into the car, [Crenshaw said.] When that didn’t work, she said the officer chased after Brown and shot multiple times, though none of those shots appeared to hit Brown. In the end, Crenshaw said, Brown “turned around and then was shot multiple times.”

For her part, Mitchell testified that:

“The cop shot a fire through the window. Michael breaks away and starts running away but the officer continued shooting.”

The St. Louis County police, meanwhile, claim that:

Wilson attempted to get out of his car and Brown pushed him back inside. A struggle ensued inside the car, in which Brown tried to take the officer’s gun. A shot was fired from inside the car. The officer then stepped out of the car and shot Brown, who died of his injuries.

With such starkly various accounts, I would imagine that the likelihood of an indictment is low, and the likelihood of a conviction is even lower. Fair or not, presumption of innocence always favors the living.

On the Travel Ban


Let me say upfront, I am less worried about an Ebola epidemic in the US than some folks. I can also sympathize with public health officials and the Obama administration in their obvious desire to avoid a national panic. What I can’t sympathize with is the way in which that effort has only fueled a panic. The communications operation of the federal government has been classically Obama-esque. At every turn they’ve over promised and under-delivered. It seems obvious to me that the two main drivers of this failure are an undue prioritization of politics and a typical overconfidence in the government bureaucracy. Whenever you listen to Friedan, Fauci or Obama talk about this, they do so in a way that leaves you wondering what the real facts are. What are they not telling us? At every turn they issue categorical statements about how things are under control and that X or Y won’t happen and when X or Y happen, they say it’s because of a breach in protocol they cannot identify. It’s as if the theory of government competence is more important than dealing with the reality of the situation at hand. That theory is only reassuring when it conforms to reality. When it doesn’t, it makes the next categorical statement not merely less reassuring but actually more worrisome. 

Which brings me to the travel ban. I’m largely with the editors on this. One needn’t impose a complete cordon sanitaire around these countries.  But you can quite easily create a system where you need special permission to come to the US. We put conditions on visas all the time. It strikes me as entirely reasonable to put some restrictions on who comes here, restrictions grounded not in hysteria but in simple common sense. 

That said I’ve had private conversations with experts who think a travel ban is unnecessary and could be counterproductive. The best argument they offer is that a travel ban could be destabilizing to the governments in West Africa. Some people say “So what?” And I agree with them if the argument is based on some vague sense that we need to hold our public health policies hostage to the continuity of the Liberian regime. But it’s also possible that our public health is better protected if those governments do not unravel.  I agree that we should do everything we can to contain Ebola where it currently exists (If Ebola breaks out in Nigeria, we should all be very afraid.). And if a travel ban does that, I’m for a travel ban.

My problem with the public arguments from the administration is that they are so underwhelming. We constantly hear that a travel ban would make it impossible to send volunteers to Africa to help contain the disease. Really? We can’t charter planes anymore? Is the military out of aircraft that could fly CDC crews and supplies to West Africa? It’s hinted that it would be somehow unfair or mean or unjust to bar travel to the US. But that’s nonsense. There is no civil right to fly to America. Frieden said today that if we imposed a travel ban we’d lose the ability to screen people coming to the US from West Africa. Uh, right. And if you lock the doors to your home, you lose the ability frisk intruders. It’s arguments like this lead people to think, “What aren’t they telling us?”

The debate over a travel ban is of a piece with the administration’s larger communications failures. They don’t lack for confidence, they lack the ability to persuade people their confidence is justified. 


Washington Post: Vote for Mark Warner Because He’ll Raise Your Taxes


Today’s Washington Post endorsement of Democratic Virginia senator Mark Warner is not surprising, but the editorial board’s case against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie is a revealing window on how people think in the city that takes what America makes:

We understand that Mr. Gillespie, who faced a competitive GOP primary, is loath to alienate Republican hard-liners. Yet his opposition to any new taxes — read: any compromise — is exactly the sort of promise that produces congressional paralysis and would defeat a bargain to cure the nation’s fiscal ills . . . 

Mr. Gillespie, a former lobbyist, national and state GOP chairman and top adviser to President George W. Bush, has deep political and policy experience. Unlike many Republicans who have been content to attack Obamacare, he proposed an alternative — albeit one that would offer far less protection to vulnerable patients.

Mr. Gillespie has the skills to be a bipartisan player in the Senate, as Mr. Warner has been. Yet by promising never to compromise on taxes, he has taken himself out of the hunt for an exit from America’s fiscal impasse.

If only the voters — who are constantly telling pollsters that they’re fed up with Washington business as usual and forcing lifelong politicians to make improbable claims to “outsider” status — were as reasonable as the Post’s editorial board. The argument seems to be that what’s good about Gillespie is that he is another get-along-go-along pol; but unfortunately, he’s not quite as easy as Warner.

The equation of “new taxes” with “compromise” — which the paper should really be embarrassed to make after the stunning non-apocalypses of the budget sequester and the partial shutdown of some non-essential government services last year — also elides a point the two campaigns have been arguing over. Though Warner claims Gillespie signed the tax pledge created by Americans For Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, and his campaign even flooded the press room with literature to that effect at Monday’s debate, Grover himself has shot that story down. As Post Virginia reporters Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella point out, “Norquist tweeted late Monday that Gillespie did not sign the pledge: “Gillespie told me he would not sign pledges. He didn’t. He told the people of Virginia he wouldn’t raise their taxes. He won’t. Warner did.’”

The ed board’s case for Warner also mentions his successful governorship, “ability to cross partisan lines,” and the fact that many people still think he’s John Warner. (OK, not that last one.) But the only case against Gillespie is his opposition to “new revenue” to “tackle the nation’s fiscal problems in a balanced way.” In fact, as Ohio University economist Richard Vedder demonstrated in a 1980s study that has been repeated with the same results many times since, every dollar of tax revenue raised leads to more than one dollar of new spending by Congress. Studies of revenue-based deficit reduction efforts in other countries have shown the same.

Gillespie has closed some of his very wide polling gap against Warner, but other than a September Quinnipiac poll that showed him trailing by nine points, he has never come within double-digits of the incumbent. But the power of incumbency is not a ratification of bad math. Raising taxes only makes the country’s fiscal problems worse. Americans know that. Washingtonians don’t.

Tags: Mark Warner , Taxes , Senate Democrats , Senate Elections , 2014 Midterms

Web Briefing: October 24, 2014

Charlie Crist Has Longstanding Attachment to His Electric Fan


The presence of Democratic candidate Charlie Crist’s electric fan gained attention on Wednesday night for causing a rift between the Florida gubernatorial candidates that almost canceled the debate. But Crist’s fan has been by his side throughout his political career.

Crist’s unique attachment to his fan is well documented, including by Crist himself in his memoir The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat. “I always like a fan at the podium when I give a big speech,” Crist wrote on page three of his memoir. “You have no idea how hot those TV lights can be.” Crist has traveled with portable fans since at least 2000 when he ran for education commissioner, The Atlantic reported, and spent $320 on portable fans alone on one European trade mission as governor. Crist’s fan has disrupted other debates in the past as well. As a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2006, Crist squared off with fellow Republican Tom Gallagher. When Gallagher discovered Crist had a personal fan on stage, he threatened to leave the debate unless he was given a fan too, the Tampa Bay Times reported. A fan was found for Gallagher and the debate went on as planned.  

But on Wednesday night, incumbent Republican governor Rick Scott discovered Crist’s fan before the debate began and did not appear on stage for several minutes. Following the debate, Scott’s campaign manager Melissa Sellers released a statement defending Scott’s action. “Rick Scott never refused to take the stage and debate,” Sellers said. “In fact, our campaign was not notified Charlie had even taken the stage because the last we heard, Crist was in an ‘emergency meeting’ with debate organizers pleading for his precious fan. But Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave, and toaster to debates — none of that will cover up how sad his record as Governor was compared to the success of Governor Rick Scott.”

A copy of the debate rules agreed to by both campaigns includes the statement, “Candidates may not bring electronic devices (including fans), visual aids or notes to the debate, but will be provided with a pad and pen.” Crist’s campaign signed the rules, but inserted a note underneath the signature that read, “with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary,” according to Kevin Cate, a Crist spokesman. The electric fan overshadowed the substance of last night’s debate, but the election may be decided by the one candidate who was not on the stage: Adrian Wyllie, the Libertarian candidate who has polled in the double digits in some polls. Support for Wyllie has shrunk in recent polls that show Scott and Crist tied, but it remains to be seen who will gain the most ground from last night’s debate.  



CDC Head: Ebola Spreading in Africa Would Be ‘Threat to U.S. Health System for Long Time to Come’


After weeks of assuring Americans that there is no long-term, wide-scale threat to the United States from Ebola, CDC director Tom Frieden told Congress there could be a long-term, wide-scale threat to the United States from Ebola. 

“I will tell you, as the director of CDC, one of the things I fear about Ebola is that it could spread more widely in Africa,” he told a House committee on Thursday. “If this were to happen, it could become a threat to our health system, and the health care we give, for a long time to come.”

The World Health Organization recently increased expected Ebola cases in west Africa from 1,000 per week to 10,000. And the United Nations warned Tuesday that the world has less than 60 days before the outbreak in the region becomes uncontrollable. 

The God that Failed


I wrote about how Obama’s unpopularity is affecting the midterms in my Politico column today:

Alison Lundergan Grimes is the Todd Akin of 2014.

Like the instantly notorious Republican senate candidate from Missouri, Grimes has committed a defining political gaffe. Grimes’ refusal to say that she voted for President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 general elections has some of the same characteristics as Akin’s infamous rape comment: It was telegenic, mockable and universally condemned. She first refused to say she voted for President Obama in a cringe-inducing videotaped editorial board interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, then after getting roasted by every political commentator in the country, doubled down during Monday night’s debate.

She elevated her refusal to high principle. Out of respect for Kentucky’s constitution and the sanctity of the ballot box, she couldn’t possibly say whether she voted for the man she was a delegate for at the 2012 Democratic convention. In her own mind, Grimes is the Rosa Parks of the secret ballot.

In 2012, Akin’s statement captured the Republican Party’s vulnerability to “war on women” attacks and how its roster of candidates included too many not-ready-for-prime-time players.She elevated her refusal to high principle. Out of respect for Kentucky’s constitution and the sanctity of the ballot box, she couldn’t possibly say whether she voted for the man she was a delegate for at the 2012 Democratic convention. In her own mind, Grimes is the Rosa Parks of the secret ballot.

This year, Grimes’ miscue speaks to the president’s unpopularity and to the unseemly desperation of Democratic candidates to get as far away from him as possible.

Dallas Nurse: Hopsital Never Talked about Ebola Until First Patient Arrived


Despite a raging Ebola outbreak in west Africa and concerns that the virus could reach U.S. shores, a Dallas nurse claims that the hospital where she worked never even discussed Ebola with its employees — much less enacted emergency procedures once the first patient arrived.

Nurse Briana Aguirre spoke Thursday on NBC’s Today about Ebola preparations at Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital, where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan arrived on September 28. At least two nurses at that hospital were subsequently infected by Duncan, prompting questions about the facility’s preparedness.

Matt Lauer asked the nurse whether there was a “code red” or “lock down” following Duncan’s admission to the hospital. 

“We never talked about Ebola, and we probably should have,” Aguirre said. “We never had a discussion. They gave us an optional seminar to go to — just informational, not hands on. And it wasn’t even suggested that we go.”

“We never were told what to look for,” she continued. “And I just don’t think that any facility in this country’s prepared for that, at this time.” 

McCarthy: State Department ‘Not Dealing with Reality’ of Islam


On the Perils of Government by ‘Psychological Necessity’


On the homepage, Dr. Marc Siegel proposes that the United States should impose “a travel ban against the Ebola-afflicted countries in West Africa.” That ban “may not be medically necessary or even advisable,” Siegel concedes, “but it is psychologically necessary.”

“First and foremost,” he continues,

although we are members of the world health community, we must worry about our own public psyche here in the United States. If our leaders can’t give us a sense that we are protected, we must achieve it by imposing a ban.

“This,” Siegel acknowledges, ”isn’t strictly a medical argument.”

Its not, no. Indeed, I might go one further: This isn’t strictly an argument at all.

Spelling it out, Siegel writes:

I don’t believe that a travel ban against the Ebola-afflicted countries in West Africa will be particularly effective, it may even be counterproductive, and it certainly isn’t coming from the strongest side of what being an American means. But as fear of Ebola and fear of our leaders’ ineptitude grows, I think we must have a ban to patch our battered national psyche.

It is not an overstatement to say that this way of thinking represents pretty much everything that I stand against. First off, the notion that governments are instituted among men to mold and to soothe the “national psyche” is misguided in the extreme. It is civil society, not Washington D.C., that should be providing a free people with purpose and meaning. Want to feel good about yourself? Join a club. Buy a bottle of wine. Go to church. Don’t seek political drugs from Washington.

More important, though, is that the idea is downright dangerous, serving as the ugly midwife to all sorts of irrational and insidious claims. Every time you hear it said that ”something must be done,” or that “grieving communities needs to see some — any — action,” or that to have a plan of any kind is better than to remain circumspect, the speaker is likely indulging in exactly this form of nonsense. And this really matters. As history teaches us, vague and opaque appeals to “psychological necessity” are the grease that helps along all liberty killing initiatives: among them, bans on firearms that look “scary” but that serve no special purpose; creeping restrictions on speech and conscience; spending that does naught; laws that have fluffy sounding names but change precisely nothing; and rules that serve to elevate security over liberty. The idea that the government should act to make the public feel better, moreover, has established and entrenched our modern Cult of the Savior Politician. Is this really the road we wish to go down?

If there is a good case to made in favor of a travel ban — and, although I am not quite sure where I come down, I think that there absolutely is — then it should be made. If there isn’t, then it should not. As a general rule, if one finds oneself saying that “a proposed measure will not work, but . . .,” — or, worse, that it might even be “counterproductive” — one might wish to reconsider one’s priorities.

Intimidation Works


Check out Eliana’s piece on the home page on Harry Reid’s super PAC and why Republicans don’t have a direct counter:

Republicans point to a handful of headline-making incidents they say have deterred donors from making public contributions — chief among them the case of Frank VanderSloot, who, after making a donation to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, found himself listed on the Obama campaign’s website on a list of GOP donors with “less-then-reputable” character, and who went on to receive two IRS audits; and that of former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who was ousted from his position in April after it was revealed that he had contributed money in 2008 to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage in California (the online dating website, among others, had begun to push its users to boycott Mozilla’s Firefox web browser).

Then, of course, there is the experience of the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who have been featured in dozens of television ads, flayed by Senate Democrats throughout the election cycle, and lambasted by Reid for everything from “actually trying to buy the country” to being flat out “un-American.”

The Kochs, who in 1986 sat for a lengthy New York Times profile chronicling the family’s disputes and dramas, are today in virtual hibernation. Many Republican donors have followed suit.

More Airpower Might Have Saved Kobani for Now


The Islamic State has been pushed almost entirely out of the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani, local officials say, after it had seized a large chunk of the town and threatened to take it over entirely over the last week. Probably helping the reversal: The U.S. intensified its bombing campaign against the jihadist group, going from a few strikes a day to more than a dozen a day this week. Comparisons of our bombing rate to the rate of attacks in Afghanistan and Bosnia air campaigns don’t quite add up, and there are limits to what can be done without assets on the ground to identify targets. But our air campaign in Syria had been limited, and it seems like more strikes did help — perhaps as much psychologically as operationally.

The 37 strikes this week, for instance, destroyed 16 Islamic State–controlled buildings, according to the Pentagon. What enabled or caused the uptick in strikes? We’ve improved a secret system to coordinate and identify targets with the Kurds, the Pentagon says, and the growing numbers of Islamic State fighters had massed in or near the town presented more targets. The Department of Defense also says bad flying weather over Iraq allowed more airpower to be diverted to Syria, but it’s not clear why this makes sense: The U.S. has plenty of resources in the area to launch dozens of attacks every day in Syria and Iraq combined.

The Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq also sent aid and weapons to Kobani over this past weekend, though it’s not clear if they’ve reached the town yet. The Iraqi Kurds say they would send troops to help Kobani, but it can’t do so logistically. The U.S. leaned on Turkey, which has troops just across the border, to help the Kurds beat back the Islamic State, but Turkey demurred, being loath to help Kurdish militants allied with its own troublesome Kurdish nationalists. 

UPDATE: A Kurdish friend of National Review suggests that the aid from U.S. airpower might have been as much about shock and awe as it was accurate strikes. Kurdish fighters, he points out, lack heavy weaponry, while the Islamic State has some fancy weaponry they actually know how to use. Heavy weaponry can thus help intimidate the Kurds into retreat, while air strikes can significantly boost their morale.

South Dakota Senate Candidate Reads ‘Cowboy Poetry’ at Sports Bar


The art of poetry may seem out of place in the rough-and-tumble blood sport that is U.S. politics. But on Wednesday night, South Dakota Senate hopeful Larry Pressler revealed his sensitive side. 

The independent candidate read a few poems — including one written by a “cowboy” — at the meeting of a local poetry club at a Sioux Falls sports bar. 

“In this campaign I’m engaged in, I’m judged by some of my friends,” he told the few dozen people in attendance. “If you’re a friend of Barack Obama, therefore you’re bad. But this is a cowboy writing about his friends. And some of his neighbors have a different stand of branding than he does, but he still is their friend.”

Earlier that day, Pressler told the Washington Times that “Barack Obama needs friends in the Senate. . . . I think Barack Obama has kind of gone astray, but if I get there I’m going to try to help him and work with him.”

The former Republican senator lost his 1996 reelection bid, but is taking another stab at elected office as an independent following Democrat Tim Johnson’s retirement. Pressler is polling at around 23 percent, behind Democrat Rick Weiland’s 28 percent and Republican Mike Rounds’ 38 percent. 

When Anti-ISIS Is Pro-Islamist


I’m with Jonah a hundred percent on the hypocrisy of the U.K.’s National Union of Students – boycotting Israel but refraining from condemnation of ISIS for fear of being thought Islamophobic. But there is another side to the charade coin: Islamists posing as “moderates” while purporting to condemn ISIS’s interpretation of sharia.

To my chagrin, as further explained in this PJM post, the Washington Times yesterday opted to help that story along by turning to CAIR and one of the notorious “flying imams” for guidance. There are authentic moderate Muslims out there who don’t have a history of endorsing Hamas and who accept the heavy (and dangerous) burden of being “reformers” because they acknowledge the need to reinterpret Islam’s problematic aspects—rather than pretending these aspects don’t exist, and that ISIS is making up out of whole cloth a doctrinal basis for things like sex slavery and extortion (in the form of jizya). Couldn’t the Times use some of them for sources rather than giving us Islamists whose unsavory backgrounds it omits (much as it airbrushes sharia)?

By the way, Islamophobia is a smear coined by the Muslim Brotherhood—how rich to find it invoked on behalf of ISIS at a time when Brotherhood frontmen, notorious for their support of Hamas, are feigning outrage at ISIS’s jihadist tactics.

Ebola and Rand Paul’s Conundrum


Senator Rand Paul has aggressively attacked the Obama administration for its failure to prevent the Ebola virus from coming to America. He’s right to do this: The Centers for Disease Control has a mandate to protect the public health, and what is more important to the public health than keeping a communicable virus that resists virtually all medical treatment from our country’s people?  

Paul’s credibility as an administration critic suffers, however, because of one simple fact: His 2014 budget proposed cutting CDC spending by 20 percent from FY 2008 levels (see p. 35). That provision would reduce CDC spending to about $4.8 billion; it is estimated to spend close to $6.9 billion in FY 2014. Paul’s budget, therefore, calls for a 30 percent cut from current CDC spending.

Now, I don’t subscribe to the liberal budget equation that spending equals competence. Clearly any serious public health agency ought to prioritize the prevention of mass epidemics over any other priority regardless of the amount it spends. The CDC itself notes this by listing “protect[ing]Americans from infectious diseases” as its No. 1 goal (see p. 7). Nevertheless, Paul’s proposal to reduce CDC spending is symptomatic of a large problem with his thinking.

Paul clearly has a theory of non-government. In his view, government is generally a bad thing and we need to reduce it as fast and as deep as we can. However, cases like the CDC/Ebola crisis call for a theory of government. No serious politician, not even the quasi-libertarian senator from the Bluegrass State, thinks that the federal government ought to have no role in public health.  

The way liberals argue about these things means that any conservative who proposes budget cuts is attacked for caring more about rich folks’ money than average Americans’ lives. Senator Paul and others who think like him can only avoid the political impact of this attack if they develop a serious theory of government that explains clearly and in a principled way what government should do and what it shouldn’t.

In the CDC’s case, that means having a clear idea of what the CDC’s mandate should be and what resources are needed to carry out that mandate. Is $4.8 billion enough to carry that mandate out? I have no idea; it might be more than enough, or it might be woefully inadequate. Given that what is primarily at stake in the Ebola case is the CDC’s existing authority to initiate travel bans and isolation orders for people with “highly contagious diseases,” it’s pretty laughable to argue that proposals to cut funding for more research on gun-violence prevention or HIV caused Ebola to come to Dallas. But I would guess that Senator Paul and his staff also have no idea if that figure is appropriate for a properly designed CDC, or whether the amounts he proposes to spend for most items in his model budget is enough to meet each program’s objective – and that’s a problem for someone who wants to lead our nation.

— Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Geraghty on Ebola Response: CDC ‘Couldn’t Stop It from Taking a Roundtrip Flight to Cleveland’


When Anti-Islamophobia Is Pro-ISIS


I know, I know, with a name like National Union of Students, you’d expect nothing but sage and responsible decision making. Alas, not so much.

The organization serves as the governing body/umbrella organization for the vast majority of student unions in the U.K. In August, the NUS voted to support the BDS movement. In other words, they didn’t simply condemn Israel with empty rhetoric, they threw their weight behind economic punishment and isolation of Israel. 

Fast forward to this week. From the Daily Mail:

The National Union of Students has come under fire after it refused to condemn ISIS – because of fears it was ‘Islamophobic’.

Students put forward a motion at the body’s National Executive Council meeting calling for the condemnation of terrorist atrocities and support for the Iraqi people.

But the call was defeated after a rebellion led by Black Students Officer Malia Bouattia, who said the motion was merely a ‘justification for war’.

I see. So merely condemning the Islamic State would be bigoted. But boycotting Israel is a requirement of social justice. Never mind that the Islamic State openly advocates for the restoration of slavery (what, pray tell, is the official position of the Black Students Campaign on slavery?) and that the overwhelming majority of those murdered, tortured and crucified by the group are Muslims. One must not condemn the group lest one give in to “Islamophobia.”

Whenever I write that Muslims should work harder to condemn violent extremism committed by their co-religionists, I’m told I’m being racist or bigoted or that I’m practicing guilt-by-association. Whenever, critics of Israel are charged with anti-Semitism (sometimes fairly, sometimes not) the indignant response from the left is that anti-Semitism has nothing to do with it. One can criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic, which is true (it’s also true that a lot of anti-Semites love to market themselves as merely “anti-Zionist.”). But apparently one cannot criticize a criminal band of rapists, slavers, and murderers without being guilty of Islamopobia — at least according to Bouattia and her ilk.

It’s bad enough to remain silent while people invoking your faith bury women and children alive. It’s quite another thing to speak out against any condemnation of the murderers. I’m sure Orwell would agree: In the case of Ms. Bouattia at least, to be anti-Islamophobia is to be objectively pro–Islamic State. 

Bravo to Fox’s Shepard Smith for Combating Ebola Panic


It’s a sign of the current cynicism of the public that so many people fear an imminent outbreak of Ebola in the U.S. But government incompetence that creates skepticism feeds into the fear-mongering of television-news divisions who seem to have turned into Ebola networks.

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, was acting director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009. He witnessed that year’s sensationalized coverage of a swine-flu outbreak. He now sees the same pattern with Ebola: “The big misconception about Ebola is that there’s risk to people in America. And that’s just not the case.”

He himself has seen the impact of fear about Ebola. He returned this month from a reporting trip to Liberia where he was careful to never to be in the home of an Ebola patient or a facility where patients were treated. But many colleagues still shun him. He had to apply his own makeup for one show when the makeup artist wouldn’t touch him. His speech at Case Western University this week was cancelled, with school officials suggesting he use Skype instead. “I look to universities to promote correct information. I thought that they took an easy way out,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.

Despite the fever-pitch nature of televised Ebola coverage, there are exceptions. On Fox News, anchor Shepard Smith went out of his way to provide context for a reporter’s conclusion that Ebola was causing “widespread panic” across the country.

“I think we both know there’s no widespread panic across the country,” Smith responded before turning to the camera to address the TV audience directly.

“You should have no concerns about Ebola at all. None. I promise,” Smith said. “Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and the television or read the fear-provoking words online. The people who say and write hysterical things are being very irresponsible.”

But as for his show, Smith said, “it’s not worth the ratings and it’s not worth the politics” to say Ebola is an imminent danger when the day might come when a real panic hits.

“We do not have an outbreak of Ebola in the United States. Nowhere. We do have two health-care workers who contracted the disease from a dying man. They are isolated. There is no information to suggest that the virus has spread to anyone in the general population in America. Not one person in the general population in the United States.”

Would that more of Smith’s colleagues in the media followed his lead. Concern is one thing, but raw, unreasoning fear is something that must be combatted as a public service.

On Mary Landrieu’s Alleged Charm


Every time I read about it, I’m reminded of this story.

The Kansas City Royals, Back at the World Series, 29 Years Later





KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For almost three decades, the gold crown above the scoreboard at Kauffman Stadium had mocked the home team. The Kansas City Royals had not been kings of anything since 1985, when they won their only championship. They would never be royal.

All of that has changed. Across eight mystical games, a famine has given way a bountiful harvest. The Royals — yes, the Royals — have advanced to the World Series, finishing a four-game sweep of the American League Championship Series with a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.

Along the way, the Royals made history, returning to the postseason with unprecedented success after an absence of 29 years. Kansas City became the first team to start a postseason with eight victories in a row.

I love that George Brett was there, passing the baton with a smile.

As Brett, a Hall of Fame third baseman, beamed from an upstairs box, the Royals gave fans a new group to celebrate: homegrown stars like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez and imports like Jason Vargas, who allowed two hits in five and a third innings Wednesday.


Update: This is what it sounded like from the parking lot.


— Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar and economist at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him on Twitter at

Shaky Recovery


From my most recent NRO article, about America’s economic problems: “The wobbling of the stock market, jitters about deflation in Europe, and the sharp decline in the price of oil have raised renewed doubts about the believability of the economic recovery from the tremendous strains of 2008 and 2009.”

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


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