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More on those 57 Seconds



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The other night I had a little mini-rant about that clip from MSNBC in which the Hebdo murderers were compared to Jerry Falwell. Alas, the post didn’t get it out of my system. So in this week’s “news”letter, the G-File, I revised and extended my remarks, as they say. You can read it here. A snippet:

But it’s worse than that. This 57-second transcript is so outside-the-box stupid that a million monkeys banging on typewriters would come up with the screenplay for Gymkata years sooner than this. And when you told the head monkey-wrangler what you were looking for, he would reply with Chief Brody understatement: “We’re going to need more monkeys.”

‘I AM NOT CHARLIE’: Leaked Newsroom E-mails Reveal Al Jazeera Fury over Global Support for Charlie Hebdo



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As journalists worldwide reacted with universal revulsion at the massacre of some of their own by Islamic jihadists in Paris, Al Jazeera English editor and executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr sent out a staff-wide e-mail.

“Please accept this note in the spirit it is intended — to make our coverage the best it can be,” the London-based Khadr wrote Thursday, in the first of a series of internal e-mails leaked to National Review Online. “We are Al Jazeera!”

Below was a list of “suggestions” for how anchors and correspondents at the Qatar-based news outlet should cover Wednesday’s slaughter at the Charlie Hebdo office (the full e-mails can be found below).

Khadr urged his employees to ask if this was “really an attack on ‘free speech,’” discuss whether “I Am Charlie” is an “alienating slogan,” caution viewers against “making this a free speech aka ‘European Values’ under attack binary [sic],” and portray the attack as “a clash of extremist fringes.”

“Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile,” Khadr wrote. “Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response — however illegitimate — is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.”

His denunciation of Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed didn’t sit well with some Al Jazeera English employees.

Hours later, U.S.-based correspondent Tom Ackerman sent an email quoting a paragraph from a January 7 blog post by Ross Douthat. The New York Times’ Douthat (film critic for National Review) argued that cartoons like the ones that drove the radical Islamists to murder must be published “because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.”

That precipitated an angry backlash from the network’s Qatar-based correspondents, revealing in the process a deep cultural rift at a network at times accused of overt anti-Western bias.

“I guess if you insult 1.5 billion people chances are one or two of them will kill you,” wrote Mohamed Vall Salem, who reported for Al Jazeera’s Arab-language channel before joining its English wing in 2006. “And I guess if you encourage people to go on insulting 1.5 billion people about their most sacred icons then you just want more killings because as I said in 1.5 billion there will remain some fools who don’t abide by the laws or know about free speech” [sic].

“What Charlie Hebdo did was not free speech it was an abuse of free speech in my opinion, go back to the cartoons and have a look at them!” Salem later wrote. “It’ snot [sic] about what the drawing said, it was about how they said it. I condemn those heinous killings, but I’M NOT CHARLIE.”

That prompted BBC alumna Jacky Rowland — now Al Jazeera English’s senior correspondent in Paris — to email a “polite reminder” to her colleague: “#journalismsinotacrime.”

But her response triggered a furious reaction from another of the network’s Arab correspondents. “First I condemn the brutal killing,” wrote Omar Al Saleh, a “roving reporter” currently on assignment in Yemen. “But I AM NOT CHARLIE.”

“JOURNALISM IS NOT A CRIME [but] INSULTISM IS NOT JOURNALISM,” he raged. “AND NOT DOING JOURNALISM PROPERLY IS A CRIME.”

The heated back-and-forth reflects Al Jazeera English’s precarious balance between its Arab center of gravity and the Western correspondents it employs. After being accused for years of fomenting anti-Western sentiment, most damningly by some of its own anchors, the network made a concerted effort to rebrand, hiring a slew of American and European reporters — especially those who had trouble getting jobs in their own domestic markets.

As these internal e-mails show, that rebranding seems to have taken a toll on the network’s newsroom cohesion — particularly regarding stories like the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, which break so sharply on cultural fault lines.

Full exchange after the jump.

Keep reading this post . . .

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Krauthammer: Paris Attack May Be Start of ‘Third Stage of Jihadist War’ on West



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“What is so important about this is the origin of the four killers, the brothers and the couple,” says Charles Krauthammer: “They were born in France. I think we’re now in sort of the third stage of the jihadist war against us.”

He laid out the sequence: “The first [stage], of course, is 9/11 — all of the attackers were from the middle east. And then, for the last year or two, we have seen the ‘lone wolf’ attacks — usually homegrown, but fairly unstable and one-on-one, and it looks as if fairly disorganized or acting out of inspiration, but not on instruction or with training. Here we have perhaps the beginning of the third wave, the third stage, and this is the trained local cells, who have learned their trade in the Middle East, are connected in some way — as we heard: the 50 calls among the two groups here, and the obvious connection with al-Qaeda in Yemen.”

Concluded Krauthammer: “It’s as if there’s a critical mass of these dissident jihadists in the West, who are now in a position — rather than act like the single guy in Australia, or the single guys acting separately in Canada — [to act] as a group, as a cell, and as an organized wave, and that could be what we’re facing right now.”

Web Briefing: January 25, 2015

Curt Schilling’s Complaint



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Curt Schilling in an interview on Wednesday said that his being an outspoken Republican cost him as many as 100 votes in the most recent Hall of Fame balloting, whose results were announced the day before by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He added that John Smoltz, who was elected to the Hall and will be inducted along with three other players on July 26, benefited from being a Democrat. Schilling’s comments have provoked some eye rolling on social media, in the blogosphere, and from Keith Olbermann, a longstanding critic of the Hall election process.

Olbermann has a great changeup and could have thrown it here. He could have approached the Schilling kerfuffle from a different angle and sided with him, like Kennedy teaming up with Hatch to cosponsor legislation. “We agree that the process is broken, though our reasons for thinking so may be different.” Something like that. It would have been refreshing. Instead, the sports commentator and erstwhile lefty news commentator settled for playing to type.

Baseball writers lean left, ballplayers lean right. That’s the common wisdom. To support the first half of it, we have survey data showing that Democratic journalists outnumber Republican journalists four to one. To my knowledge we have no data on the party affiliation of the subset of journalists who are baseball writers. The preponderance of anecdotal evidence, however, for what that’s worth, seems to be that they’re mostly liberal. Speaking of his BBWAA colleagues, Rob Neyer admitted that, “yes, most of them probably did vote for Barack Obama.”

As for the assumption that most MLB players are politically conservative, Olbermann corroborates it with gusto, speaking from his long experience as a sports journalist. If the baseball writers who cast votes in Hall elections discriminated against conservative ballplayers, he quipped, “there would be about eight guys in Cooperstown.”

My first reaction was: It’s a matter of degree, Keith. Schilling wasn’t just another conservative in a baseball uniform. He was loud and political where others were quiet and politic. To those who disagree with his politics, Schilling tends to come across as a blowhard and whiner. I think he’s brave and forthright.

A friend tells me that Schilling’s career numbers aren’t good enough to qualify him for the Hall. Maybe. But his career words are the stuff of legend. En route to a world championship in 2001, he was asked about the mystique and aura” of his team’s rival in the World Series. Schilling: Those are dancers in a nightclub.” 

Over at Fox Sports, Neyer questioned Schilling’s explanation for his failure to get elected to the Hall. Schilling now says he was speaking in jest: Of course he doesn’t really think his conservative politics cost him 100 votes, and of course he knows that Smoltz, who campaigned for Ralph Reed when Reed was running for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 2006, is no Democrat.

Olbermann insinuates that Schilling is only backpedaling. Neyer gives Schilling the benefit of the doubt. In a brief eruption of civility and courtesy on Twitter, he and No. 38 have reconciled. Look for uplift where you can find it.

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Greenhouse vs. Alito



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Linda Greenhouse has a long, tortuous essay criticizing Justice Alito. I’m going to assume all her facts are correct — although they were glaringly wrong the last time I looked at one of her essays (which, incidentally, does not carry a correction to this day) — because even if they are she doesn’t make her case.

Among other things, she accuses him of making “what I’ll call a straight play to the base.” Her main example concerns the Sixth Amendment, which in relevant part guarantees “the Assistance of Counsel” for criminal defendants. Alito wrote that in determining whether an attorney has provided what the Constitution requires these defendants to receive, the fact that the attorney followed the American Bar Association’s guidelines cannot be the end of the inquiry. He doesn’t put it explicitly in these terms, but presumably he’s raising the possibility that an attorney could meet the guidelines while falling short of the Sixth Amendment, or vice-versa. The ABA’s guidelines, that is, don’t have constitutional status. They don’t, as Alito put it, “have special relevance in determining whether an attorney’s performance meets the standard required by the Sixth Amendment.”

It seems to me that Alito is clearly correct on this point. Greenhouse does not at any point consider whether he is correct, or give any indication of thinking that it matters if he is correct. Instead she writes: “Despite having received its highest rating of ‘well qualified’ at the time of his Supreme Court nomination, Justice Alito is clearly bothered by the A.B.A. — bothered a lot.” The ingrate! (I think we all know what Greenhouse would have written if the ABA had given Alito a low rating and then written the same comments.) And: “[O]ne or more justices may think twice before offering a garland to the A.B.A. in the future and thus provoking another outburst.”

In another case, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the Court should consider the American Psychological Association’s opinions about how to determine which defendants are so disabled that a death sentence would constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore be barred by the Eighth Amendment. Justice Alito again voted to rule that the constitutional inquiry could not be outsourced in this way, at least under the Court’s previous precedents. In his view, those precedents made the decisive question what the American people consider cruel and unusual. Greenhouse, again, does not say a word about the merits. Instead she says that Alito was again showing his “disdain for organizations of professionals.”

Greenhouse says she “can think of no other explanation” for Alito’s comments about the ABA than that he was making a “play” to his conservative base. I think that tells us nothing about Alito, and nothing about Greenhouse we didn’t already know. 

Republicans and Inequality, Ctd.



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Jim Pethokoukis writes that he “would advise Republicans not to ignore income inequality (not that I’m saying Ramesh is recommending that).” He needn’t have worried about misrepresenting me; I basically am recommending that. I want conservatives to stand for some policies that would probably increase inequality, some that might reduce it, and some that would have unpredictable effects on it.

Jim wants Republicans to take on crony capitalism, and I agree that they should. But: 1) The main reasons I want them to do that are to reduce unfairness, stand for sound principles of what government should do, and let the market allocate resources. Reducing inequality is not a major reason I want them to take on these fights. 2) I don’t think their public case for anti-cronyist policies would be more persuasive or attractive if they sold them on the basis of combating inequality. And 3) I’m skeptical that success against cronyism would have any significant effect on the income-inequality statistics.

I think we’re basically in the same place, though, even if we’re taking slightly different routes there.

Who’s Afraid of Big Bad Amazon?



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In October, before his much-discussed resignation as editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer wrote a cover story on why Amazon, the e-commerce juggernaut, “must be stopped.” According to Foer, Amazon is an emerging monopoly that threatens to grind its suppliers underfoot, and its growing economic power is already starting to corrupt the intellectual and political life of the nation. Moreover, he argues that Amazon is not vulnerable to competition from nimbler start-ups:

We seem to believe that the Web is far too fluid to fall capture to monopoly. If a site starts to develop the lameness of an AltaVista or Myspace, consumers will unhesitatingly abandon it. But while that meritocratic theory might be true enough for a search engine or social media site, Amazon is different. It has a record of shredding young businesses, like Zappos and Diapers.com, just as they begin to pose a competitive challenge. It uses its riches to undercut opponents on price—Amazon was prepared to lose $100 million in three months in its quest to harm Diapers.com — then once it has exhausted the resources of its foes, it buys them and walks away even stronger.

This big-footing necessitates a government response. It is often said that the state is too lead-footed to keep pace with tech companies; that by the time it decides to take action against a firm, the digital economy will have galloped off into the distance.

What Foer neglects is the possibility that not all young businesses are so easily shredded, and that some of the competitors who’ve found themselves on the wrong side of Amazon in a price war have survived to fight another day. This brings me to Marc Lore, the co-founder of Quidsi, the start-up that gave birth to Diapers.com and that was later acquired by Amazon after Amazon, as Foer notes, drove it into the ground. After spending some time at Amazon, Lore left the company to pursue a life of leisure. But as Brad Stone of Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Lore then had an “e-commerce epiphany.” While Amazon, Walmart.com, and Google all cater to consumers with above-average incomes who value speed over finding the lowest prices, he would serve price-sensitive consumers willing to wait with the e-commerce answer to Costco. To that end, Lore has brought together veterans of Quidsi and raised a staggering sum of money to found a new e-commerce company called Jet, and he is preparing to not just beat Amazon at its own game, but to build an even bigger company that better serves the lower-middle and middle-income families that, he maintains, Amazon is overlooking. Because this new e-commerce company would make its money on membership fees, it would have every incentive to demonstrate its value to its customers by finding them the best possible deals. What’s even more impressive is that Lore intends to beat Amazon by teaming up with the many retailers that Amazon has been outcompeting for years, and that are delighted to have found a formidable ally.

The Jet model wouldn’t have worked a few years ago, but now that nearly every merchant is online and looking for new ways to compete with the likes of Amazon, it might. So far Jet has signed up Sony Store (SNE), electronics retailer TigerDirect.com (SYX), Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores (SHOS), and hundreds of smaller retailers. BabyAge, a Jet.com seller based in Jenkins Township, Pa., spends $5 to ship to the East Coast, on average, and $15 to California. Usually the site sets prices that cover the highest possible shipping costs. But using a set of online pricing tools that Jet is making available to its sellers, it can reward the most efficient transactions. For example, a Graco stroller that might cost $119 on Amazon will cost $108 for anyone on Jet buying from BabyAge in the Northeast. “This is going to produce regional specialty in e-commerce, because now I’ll be able to sell for less than Amazon,” says Jack Kiefer, the company’s CEO.

Jet’s decision to leverage traditional brick-and-mortar retailers in its battle against Amazon brings to mind another fast-growing start-up, Instacart, which competes with grocery-delivery services like Amazon Fresh that maintain their own warehouses by allowing consumers to hire their own personal shoppers to buy groceries from local supermarkets. Lo and behold, the supermarket chains love Instacart, which might just give them a new lease on life. 

There is no guarantee that Lore will succeed. Taking on Amazon means taking on a very big, deep-pocketed rival run by exceptionally smart people. Yet as Stone observes, Amazon’s growth and its ambition have made it vulnerable. Sure, Amazon could try to do to Jet what he once did to Diapers.com. But he’s no longer facing a relatively inexperienced rival. Rather, he is facing a battle-hardened CEO with deep pockets of his own, who has been on the inside of Amazon and who understands what it does best. Then there is the small fact that as Amazon has spent billions on its impressive infrastructure and businesses like Amazon Web Services (where it faces stiff competition from Microsoft, among others) and building its own mobile phone (widely-regarded as a huge flop), its investors are growing impatient. That is, Foer’s sense of Amazon as an entrenched monopolist neglects the fact that circumstances change, and even the great Jeff Bezos is fallible. I happen to admire Amazon enormously, and I respect the way it keeps going into entirely new businesses. It just so happens that Amazon’s forays outside of its comfort zone have opened things up for Jet. That is the reason savvy investors are pouring money into Jet, and why others are likely to follow: for all Amazon’s advantages, it too can be overtaken, just as AltaVista and Myspace were overtaken. 

So just as our own Kevin Williamson says that McDonald’s is Microsoft, it looks like Amazon might be Microsoft too. Go figure.

 

Myth-making about Fracking, Texas Tremors



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The headline: “26 Earthquakes Later, Fracking’s Smoking Gun Is in Texas.”

From the penultimate paragraph: “There’s no 100-percent definitive scientific connection between this latest swarm of earthquakes and fracking activity.”

I know that the Daily Beast is not edited by thoughtful people, but could somebody get the headline writers, the columnist, and the editors on the same page?

Somebody apparently does not know what “smoking gun” means.

James Joiner’s column on the link—possibly real, possibly imaginary—between gas drilling in north Texas and a recent string of small earthquakes is a tour de force of innuendo in the usual style: statements of verifiable fact get the could/can/may/might treatment, flights of fancy get breathless certitude.

Try a little exercise in compare-and-contrast.

Joiner: “Irving itself has more than 2,000 of these sites nearby, and some of the more than 216,000 state wide ‘injection wells’ responsible for disposing of fracking’s wastewater byproduct are in close proximity.”

Seismologist Craig Pearson, investigating on behalf of Texas oil-and-gas regulators: “There are no oil and gas disposal wells in Dallas County. And I see no linkage between oil and gas activity [in] these recent earthquakes in Irving.”

Joiner: “Science has proven that the pressure and liquid combination can combine to “lubricate” fault lines.”

Heather DeShon, associate professor of geophysics at Southern Methodist University: “We cannot say yet what’s causing the Irving earthquakes.”

As we know from the fraudulent Gasland, with its phony fracking-caused-my-kitchen-sink-to-spit-flames scene, the Left is willing—eager, in fact—to lie about the energy industry.

Fracking is the hot issue right now, along with the Keystone XL pipeline, but the Left has made it clear that it intends to oppose every traditional energy infrastructure project it comes across. Having succeeded in getting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban modern gas-drilling techniques in his moribund state, the same environmentalists are moving on to seek new restrictions or an outright ban on using trains to ship oil through New York, new restrictions on the oil-shipping terminal at Albany, restrictions on future pipeline projects, etc. They are not opposed to fracking; they are opposed to modern technological civilization.

There are many reasons for earthquakes in Texas: In West Texas, there have been tremors believed to be linked to the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the many excellent reasons that agricultural and industrial users—along with everybody else—ought to be made to pay market rates for water. (Some geologists believe that those quakes are simply the result of “crustal weakness.”) The area around Dallas sits atop the Balcones fault, and while Texas is no California, it has had more than 100 earthquakes measuring 3 or higher on the Richter scale since the middle of the 19th century, the largest one that walloped Valentine in 1931.

But earthquakes are a handy thing to throw at fracking, so that’s the story we’ll get—whether it represents reality or does not.

There is, as I have written many times here, no known way to produce energy without imposing environmental costs. Coal-mining is ugly and coal-burning pollutes; it takes a lot of poison to make photovoltaic cells; solar panels and wind turbines are made out of oil; conventional drilling methods and fracking both present environmental challenges, though they are mainly not the ones that get environmentalists’ knickers knotted. There will always be the question of tradeoffs.

But tradeoffs are not what the environmentalists are interested in. Instead, their agenda is to oppose all energy development not powered by rainbows and unicorn poop: natural gas projects, pipelines, railway facilities, shipping facilities for coal exports—everything. And they are willing to mislead—and to lie outright—in the service of that project. 

Editor’s Note: This post originally misidentified the publication in which Joiner’s column appeared as the Huffington Post. 

Greg Abbott Aide: Texas Governor Will Not Expand Medicaid



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Governor-Elect Greg Abbott (R., Texas) will not expand Medicaid despite hopes by Obamacare supporters that he would do so following a report that he inquired about Utah’s variation of the health program.

“Fear not — Governor-elect Abbott has fought Obamacare and will continue to fight against it. He believes the ACA is not the best option for patients, doctors or taxpayers,” spokeswoman Amelia Chasse tells National Review Online in a statement. “Greg Abbott believes that Texas should be able to address our unique health-care situation without federal interference, putting patients and doctors in charge of health-care decisions.”

Abbott and his team “were surprised” to read a Houston Chronicle article that construed his request for information about Utah’s compromise with the federal government as a statement of interest in bringing Obamacare to Texas, according to one source close to Abbott’s team.

“His position has been grossly mischaracterized,” the source tells NRO. The confusion traces back to a report that Abbott had “asked for more information” about the Healthy Utah plan, which is Republican Governor Gary Herbert’s way of expanding Medicaid in his state. Abbott inquired about it not because he might replicate the model in Texas, but because it was mentioned in the conversation and he was ignorant about the Utah plan.

Abbott does have a reform proposal for Medicaid, but it doesn’t involve using the dollars from Obamacare’s expansion. “Medicaid  is in dire need of reform by giving the states more local control in the form of block grants,” a campaign document of Abbott’s “Healthy Texans” plan says.

Should Republicans Ignore Income Inequality?



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In an earlier post, Ramesh gently critiques the mission statement of Jeb Bush’s new Rise to Rise Super PAC for suggesting there is some mix of policies that could “solve” the “income gap.” Ramesh: “It can’t credibly be promised that any mix of conservative policies would reduce the income gap, let alone ’solve’ it (whatever that would mean). I don’t think that promise is politically helpful, either. All the public-opinion evidence I’ve seen suggests that most people are much more concerned about middle-class living standards than about the ratio between those living standards and those of the rich.”

I agree the Republican focus should be on upward mobility and inequality of opportunity, as well as middle-class income stagnation. A blockbuster study last year found that while it hasn’t gotten any harder to climb the opportunity ladder over the past 40 years, it hasn’t gotten any easier either. Nor is upward mobility in America better than other advanced economies such as Canada or Sweden. Praying that your kids have more opportunity you did is at the heart of the American Dream.

Yet I would advise Republicans not to ignore income inequality (not that I’m saying Ramesh is recommending that). To the extent high-end inequality has risen, it increases the penalty imposed by barriers to mobility such as poor schools, pricey college, and onerous occupational licensing schemes. And some kinds of income inequality, in particular, are worth fighting. We should want more billionaire entrepreneurs. But that’s not everybody at the top. As I wrote for NRO awhile back:

Inequality has increased across advanced economies. Macro factors such as globalization and technology deserve most — but maybe not all — of the “blame.” Big Government loves to pick winners and losers in the private sector. Some lucky ducks owe their place in the 1 percent or 0.1 percent or 0.01 percent to federal favoritism. Conservatives shouldn’t mind at all when value-creating innovators and entrepreneurs strike it rich while crony capitalists do not. The precious tax breaks and subsidies that go to rent seekers, such as those in the agriculture and alternative-energy sectors, should get the ax. Sorry, Big Sugar and Big Solar.

At its core, such an anti-cronyism, anti-inequality agenda would use competition and markets to fight Washington’s natural bias for elite and entrenched interests. 

Does Jeb Bush want to “solve” — right, whatever that means — income inequality by attacking crony capitalism? We’ll see.

Tags: Jeb Bush , Income Inequality

DOJ Intervenes in Redskins Trademark Case



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The Department of Justice is intervening in the legal battle over the Washington Redskins’ name, although it is not officially taking a position on the name itself, according to a brief filed Friday.

The department is weighing in on the team’s appeal to last year’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruling, which called the name “disparaging” and therefore invalidated its trademark protection. The brief states that the intervention into the dispute is for the “limited purpose of defending the constitutionality” of the federal trademark statute the team is challenging.

While the DOJ’s involvement in to the case does not take a side on the controversy of the team’s name, a lawyer for Amanda Blackhorse, an American Indian woman who brought forward the original lawsuit against the name, told ThinkProgress that they were “very pleased” by the administration’s latest move. “It will be a big help,” he said.

Members of the administration have come out against the name, including President Obama. Attorney general Eric Holder has also said the “name ought to be changed.”

Night Thoughts in Mid-Afternoon



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There are about a thousand things I want to say about the massacres in Paris, but I am involved in other things, and should resist. The world can certainly do without my commentary. No words from me or anyone else can stop bullets. But I want to blurt out one thing — it involves a memory, and some autobiography.

Just now, I was reading, “Police have ordered all shops closed in a famed Jewish neighborhood in central Paris . . .” (Article here.) The neighborhood, of course, is the Marais, and in particular its Rue des Rosiers.

In the summer of 1982, I was between high school and college, and in Paris for a bit. Arab terrorists — same people as today, nothing ever changes — attacked a delicatessen in the Marais. On the Rue des Rosiers. It was called Goldenberg’s. Not sure whether it’s still there.

Anyway, there were six people killed, including two American tourists. More than 20 other people were injured. You know the drill. Same old scene.

In Jerusalem, the prime minister, Begin, said something like, “If the French state can’t protect these Jews, I will.” He meant in Paris itself. He was just blustering, of course, engaging in some bravado. But I was kind of impressed with it.

We had all been taught to hate Begin, needless to say. He was the Hitler of the Middle East. Never mind Saddam, Assad (père), or Khomeini. Menachem Begin was the bad guy, eating Palestinian children for breakfast.

August 1982 was just one step on my road to growing up. My lessons were hard, but there were those who had it harder — like the dead and their families.

Over the years, I’ve wondered, “Why the hell is there a single Jew in France? Why the hell is there a single Jew trying to do business on the Rue des Rosiers?” I wonder it again now. I also wonder, “Who will draw cartoons?” If you want to mock religion, chillen, stick to Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists. Maybe throw in some Bahai folk while you’re at it.

Before I go, I’d like to recommend two articles to you. I know you have a blizzard of things to read, but I strongly suggest you make time for these: Dan Hodges and Charles Lane. These men make different points, but they make one point in common. It is this: The threat to our liberty comes from the jihad. It does not come from The Man.

You hear constantly that our liberty is threatened by the CIA, the NSA, General Clapper, and the poh-lice. You hear that Edward Snowden and the WikiLeaks people are our friends. Uh, no, not really. The threat comes from beasts such as the killers in Paris. And The Man is trying to help us against them.

Lane writes, “If you wanted to fault the ‘surveillance state’ for anything … it might be for being insufficiently comprehensive.”

Now, as soon as you talk this way — as Lane has and I have — people say, “You think the authorities should have carte blanche! Who will mind the minders? You want a police state! You should go live in North Korea!” No. What I would like to see is a little perspective, a little maturity — that’s all.

The NSA is not a serious threat to our freedom. The jihad is. The NYPD is not a serious threat to our freedom. Criminals are.

One more thing: All the cool kids, and even some of the non-cool kids, are saying, “I am Charlie.” I heard it from the conductor of the New York Philharmonic last night. No, we’re not Charlie. The real Charlies are dead. The rest of us just wring our hands, warn against overreaction, and whistle through the graveyard.

One more “one more thing” — related. I have heard David P-J, John O’S, and others say it for many years. If the mainstream parties in Europe won’t stand up to Eurabia — because they’re paralyzed by political correctness — whom does that leave the field to? The fascists. Will the fascists be the only Europeans who will stand up to the jihad? If so, Europe is well and truly finished, one way or the other.

I have written emotionally, and should have waited for a cooler hour. But it’s too late. And least I’m done — for now!

Obama’s Community College Plan Is a Recipe for Corruption



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Newsweek reports:

President Barack Obama wants to make two-year community colleges free for students who maintain good grades, according to a plan unveiled by the White House on Thursday.

Since this announcement, a great deal of the focus has been on the word “free,” which, obviously, is ridiculous. In fact, per USA Today, the initiative would cost around $70 billion:

But the White House expects 9 million students to participate and save up to $3,800 a year for two years. That would place the cost at nearly $70 billion, though there are questions about building capacity at the nation’s 1,100 community colleges.

The federal government would pay three quarters of the cost, at least initially.

No, actually, “it” wouldn’t. You would pay. As Reihan Salam pointed out this morning:

President Obama has announced a new plan to make community college free for all students. Or, to put a slightly different spin on it, he’s calling for shifting the cost of community college from the students who attend them and their families to taxpayers.

This, of course, is Obama’s favored modus operandi. First, contrive a way of sending money to your voting coalition; then accuse anybody who notices the game of hating the poor.

Still, this part of the plan jumped out at me more than did the price tag:

“What I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it,” President Obama said in video posted to Facebook by the White House on Thursday.

To be eligible, students have to maintain a 2.5 GPA (C+) and make “steady progress” toward completing their program. Community colleges are expected to offer academic programs that either fully transfer credits to public four-year colleges and universities, or offer occupational training programs that have high graduation rates and “lead to in-demand degrees,” according to the White House.

Does anybody believe for a single second that the federal government would kick anybody off this program? Ever? In that it provides the Democratic party with the chance to impishly say, “but I thought Republicans liked hard work and self-improvement,” this is a nice play for the Left. But the promise that the funds will go only to “good” and committed students simply cannot be kept. Not only is the federal government extremely poor at enforcing the rules (look, by way of example, at the immigration system), but the pressure for the program to be expanded and entrenched would be considerable. How long do we imagine it would be before community college would be sold as a “right,” akin to, say, high school? And how easy do you think it would be to discriminate between the hard workers and the layabouts once that idea had been established? (“I got pregnant and slipped behind, and now they want to kick me out!”) 

Moreover, the staggering amounts of money involved would naturally tempt the receiving colleges toward chronic grade inflation and the routinely false reporting of standards. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better way of ensuring that everybody has a 2.5 GPA than to tell those who directly benefit from the cash that their institution’s health is now contingent upon everybody having a 2.5 GPA. Government is already destroying higher education. This seems to be little more than a recipe for acceleration.

One Terror Suspect Remains at Large in Paris, May Have Escaped Police Cordon



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One suspect remains at large in Paris Friday night, after two hostage situations across the French capital left three Islamist terrorists and several civilians dead.

Brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi — the two Islamic terrorists responsible for the Charlie Hebdo massacre – were killed Friday evening in a shootout with police at a printing plant north of Paris. The police assault began after the brothers reportedly fired on cops amassing outside the plant. One hostage was freed unharmed.

Police simultaneously assaulted a Jewish grocery in central Paris, where terrorists Amedy Coulibaly and Hayat Boumediene were allegedly holed up with hostages. Friends and allies of the Kouachi brothers, the two said they would start executing captives unless police let the Hebdo attackers go. 

But after a police assault that killed Coulibaly and saw several hostages wounded or killed, authorities discovered that Boumediene was not found in the grocery store. Some reports now indicate she was present during the initial hostage-taking, and somehow managed to slip past police cordons and escape.

Reportedly Coulibaly’s girlfriend, Boumediene is suspected of having killed a female French police officer earlier this week. A massive manhunt in Paris is now underway to find the fourth jihadist.

‘Establishment’



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I like John Boehner, but he’s making it hard to be a RINO squish apologist elitist . . . whatever. 

Boehner complained yesterday about being characterized as an “establishment” man, and went on to declare himself “the most anti-establishment speaker” in history.

What could that possibly hope to mean? 

This is part of a weird Republican trend. A while back, I was at one of those elitist dinner parties the talk-radio guys are always going on and on about (Upper East Side, not Georgetown), and one of the assembled declared that “the establishment” hated him, was terrified of him, could not abide his anti-establishment ways, etc. He was a state Republican party chairman, from a very large state. Ben Shapiro, who’ll forgive me for picking on him, tells a tale of Ted Cruz vs. the establishment. Sarah Palin, bless her, has been known to rail against the “establishment.” 

Which leads me to wonder: Who, exactly, is this GOP establishment? If the establishment excludes the speaker of the House, party chairmen, prominent senators, governors, former vice-presidential nominees — who the hell is in the establishment? 

So far as I can tell, nobody will confess to being part of the Republican establishment. If there really is a vacancy, I nominate Patrick Brennan, if he has some spare time. 

It’s Mainstream Islamic Doctrine That’s Causing Massacres



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Commenting on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, NR’s editors write, “A religion that commands murder as the punishment for blasphemy offends the God it professes to worship.” I’m not so sure: Murdering blasphemers may offend our God. But it obviously won’t offend a God that commands murder as the punishment for blasphemy. And Islam does precisely that, according to lots of Muslims. In a hair-raising op-ed up at USA Today, Anjem Choudary (a radical Muslim cleric in London) explains:

Muslims consider the honor of the Prophet Muhammad to be dearer to them than that of their parents or even themselves. To defend it is considered to be an obligation upon them. The strict punishment if found guilty of this crime under sharia (Islamic law) is capital punishment implementable by an Islamic State. This is because the Messenger Muhammad said, “Whoever insults a Prophet kill him.”

Choudary’s only quibble with the terrorists is that they took matters into their own hands, rather than letting an Islamic State mete out justice. But that’s just a procedural technicality, and anyway his point is factually incorrect because ISIS — the “Islamic State” — sanctions these killings. So there we have it.

I think we should all stop trying to judge whether these murderous tendencies reflect true Islam. As religious authorities, fundamentalists are at least as valid as moderates, often more so, given their usually rigid adherence to text. Millions of people believe this stuff, and they think they’re Islamic, and they are Islamic in every other way, so let’s please stipulate that these terror acts are a reflection of true Islam. That’s what a lot of Muslims believe, for wholly Islamic reasons, so let’s take them at their word.

The editors do us all a signal service by illuminating the recent comments of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: “That thinking — I am not saying “religion” but “thinking” — that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world.” 

What Sisi means by “thinking” in this translation is “doctrine,” as in “religious doctrine” (which is clear from his explanation – ”that corpus of texts and ideas we have sacralized over the centuries”). And he is addressing mainstream Muslim scholars. In other words, he thinks that mainstream Muslim religious doctrine is antagonizing the entire world, above and beyond the terrorist extremists who are doing the actual killing.

It is increasingly clear that some of those religious doctrines are going to have to change, because the alternative is eternal conflict. One example: the idea that Islamic law applies to non-Muslims, which is precisely as preposterous as if I were to declare that you are all my slaves.

And by the way, same goes for the elastic hate-speech rules through which American academia is seeking to impose Islamic doctrine on our university students. I have every right to mock whatever prophet I want, and if your religion says otherwise, then you’re just wrong, and if you want to fight about it, then let’s fight.

House Unveils Plan to Fight Obama’s Amnesty Orders



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House Republicans have settled on a plan to fight President Obama’s executive orders that has conservative lawmakers who have been frustrated with leadership feeling good.

“Seems like a pretty strong package,” a Republican lawmaker texts NRO during the GOP briefing on the plan. “People are happy, it seems.”

House Speaker John Boehner gave conservatives a leading role in drafting the bill as a reward for sticking with him during the cromnibus fight and the recent rebellion. The bill will withhold funding for Obama’s most recent orders, as well as the earlier Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and two related memoranda written by a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement director. 

You can read more details on the legislation (and how it was negotiated over the last couple days) in my article on the home page.

 

Hugh Hewitt Excoriates Catholic League’s Donohue for ‘Repugnant’ Hebdo Criticism



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Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt tore into Catholic League president Bill Donohue on Thursday for his scathing criticism of Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane Charbonnier – who was murdered by Islamist terrorists at his Paris office on Wednesday – calling his comments ”morally offensive” and “repugnant” during a heated back-and-forth.

After an attack by Islamist fundamentalists angry over published Mohammed cartoons killed 12 at Charlie Hebdo’s Paris headquarters, Donohue released a statement claiming “Muslims have a right to be angry” and accusing Charbonnier of being “narcissistic” and partly responsible for his own murder.

In an interview aired on Thursday, Hewitt angrily pushed back against his fellow Catholic. “I’m appalled, and I’m embarrassed, and I’m urging you to rethink this,” he told Donohue.

When the Catholic League head claimed numerous officials in the Catholic hierarchy had called him up to support his statement, Hewitt challenged him to name even one. “You can’t deal with me intellectually, can you?” Donohue shot back. “Now you resort to name-calling.”

“You’re not gong to bully me,” Hewitt said. “Name me one archbishop or cardinal who has called you up and said they stand with this statement, which is morally offensive, repugnant, and embarrassing. It’s a scandal on the Church.”

And on it went from there. Listen to the entire contentious interview here.

Via the Daily Caller.

Good Jobs News for December, and Even More On the Way in 2015



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Another very good report on the direction of the labor market. Non-farm payrolls increased 252,000 in December and were revised up 50,000 for prior months, with all of the upward revision coming from the private sector. Overall, non-farm payrolls grew 2.95 million in 2014, the best year since 1999. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent, the lowest so far in the recovery and barely above where the Federal Reserve pegs the long-term average in a “normal” economy.

In a way, today’s report is the labor market in a nutshell. Where employers still have wide discretion, the labor market is improving rapidly: Jobs are increasing at a robust clip. Where the government is interfering with the labor market, we have stagnation. So, for example, the new health-care system is forcing companies to spend more on health-care, which means less money left over for higher wages. And in the past year, despite the big drop in the unemployment rate, wages are up a tepid 1.7 percent (not including fringe benefits such as health care or tips, irregular bonuses, or commissions). Meanwhile, on top of an aging population, we have easily obtainable disability benefits and overly generous aid to students, so the labor-force-participation rate remains at its lowest level since New Yorkers were lining up for Studio 54.

Even the details tell a story of government interference, although one that’s finally receding. Extended unemployment benefits ended at the start of 2014, and right on cue the median duration of unemployment plummeted, ending the year at 12.6 weeks versus 17 weeks a year ago.

Although average hourly wages fell 0.2 percent in December, we aren’t worried about workers’ purchasing power. It looks like consumer prices fell about 0.4 percent in December, so “real” (inflation adjusted) earnings were likely still up. Also, even without adjusting for prices, total hours were up in December, so total cash earnings were unchanged, and up 5 percent from a year ago.

Despite modest inflation, the strength in the labor market supports our forecast that the Fed will start raising short-term rates in the second quarter of next year. Non-farm payrolls increased 246,000 per month in 2014, while civilian employment — an alternative measure of jobs that includes small-business start-ups — rose 231,000 per month. We expect more even more job growth, less unemployment, and (finally!) faster wage growth in the year ahead.

TX to Grant Massive Amnesty — to Classroom Cupcakes



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Further proof that Texas is the greatest state in the union. Via a press release from the Office of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller:

On Monday, Jan. 12, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller will host a press conference declaring amnesty for cupcakes across the state of Texas.

“We want families, teachers and school districts in Texas to know the Texas Department of Agriculture has abolished all rules and guidelines that would stop a parent from bringing cupcakes to school,” said Commissioner Miller. “This act is about providing local control to our communities.”

In 2004, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) published the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy. The initial version of this policy restricted foods both sold and given away in schools based on nutritional value. However, the policy has since been repealed to allow for greater control and decision-making at the local level. Many Texas residents are unaware of the repeal, and as his first act at the helm of TDA, Commissioner Miller wants to ensure Texans are clear on the policy.

Federal guidelines still cover food sold during the day at schools that participate in the National School Lunch program. Additional restrictions are the purview of local school districts.

The Hey Cupcake! food trailer, a local Austin favorite, will be on hand for the press conference. TDA employees, members of the media and special guests are invited to enjoy a free cupcake to mark the occasion. In addition, 181 cupcakes will be delivered to state representatives and senators at the Capitol, encouraging them to share the news about cupcake amnesty with their constituents.

Added plus: 

No taxpayer dollars will be used for cupcakes.

Ah, sweet land of freedom!

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