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Why the Bizarre Attempt to Poison John Boehner Shows the Need for Rep. Tim Murphy’s Mental-Health Reform



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The bizarre plot to kill Speaker John Boehner, if true, is more than a cause for alarm — there’s also something we can do about it. The plotter is alleged to have had previous psychiatric hospitalizations; he was off his medications; and he believed he was Jesus and that Boehner was responsible for the Ebola outbreak. 

Sad cases like this show the importance of passing the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act proposed by Representative Tim Murphy (R., Pa.) when it is reintroduced in 2015.

Murphy’s bill would aim to connect the most seriously ill to treatment, including provisions that help states require some to stay in treatment as a condition of living in the community.

If Hoyt was eligible, Murphy’s bill might have kept him healthy and avoided the plotting.

The legislation also contains provisions making it more likely that states will treat people with serious mental illness when they have a “need for treatment”; under current law, many states wait until after individuals with mental illness become “danger to self or others.” Rather than prevent violence, their laws require it.

Most important, the bill will force the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the federal government’s mental-health bureaucracy, to do what it has not done voluntarily: focus on reducing homelessness, violence, arrest, and incarceration of persons with serious mental illness, all of which have become a national crisis and been ignored by the agency.

This is not the first planned or actual attack on political leaders by persons with untreated serious mental illness. Remember:

  • President Ronald Reagan was shot by mentally John Hinckley in an attempt to get a date with Jodie Foster.
  • President James Garfield was killed by mentally ill Charles Guiteau.
  • President Andrew Jackson was shot by mentally ill Richard Lawson.
  • President Theodore Roosevelt was shot by a mentally ill man who said a ghost told him to attack.
  • Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot by Jared Loughner, who has been ordered to receive treatment for mental illness.
  • President John F. Kennedy escaped an planned assassination by mentally ill Richard Pavlick.
  • Russel Weston shot two security officers at the U.S. Capital Building and was found incompetent to stand trial.
  • John Patrick Bedell, who shot up the Pentagon, had a history of mental illness that led his parents to warn authorities about him.
  • Numerous individuals with mental illness jumped the White House fence in 2014, including Omar Gonzalez, who made it inside.

Congress usually addresses these events by providing themselves with better security.

But what about the rest of us? Only by ensuring treatment for the most seriously ill can Congress help patients, keep everyone safer, and save money. Representative Murphy’s proposals do all three. 

— D. J. Jaffe is executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org., a non-partisan think-tank on serious mental illness. 

This Year, Taxpayers Are Going to Get Even Worse Service from the IRS



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Last year, I mentioned that the level of services provided by the IRS during the filing season was — to put it mildly — subpar, and gettting worse every year, This chart, produced by my Mercatus colleagues, shows how taxpayers fewer of their calls and questions answered by the agency’s customer-service representatives (“CSR” on the below chart) at the same time they have to deal with longer waits.

 

Well, brace yourself, because this season is projected to be even worse. Over at the Washington Post, Lori Montgomery reports:

Taxpayers will face the worst levels of service in more than a decade from the Internal Revenue Service this filing season, with as few as 43 percent of callers getting through to an agent and then only after waits of 30 minutes or more, according to a report released Wednesday.

In her annual report to Congress, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson paints a grim picture of an agency crippled by five years of congressional budget cuts and forced to tolerate a “devastating erosion of taxpayer service.”

In addition to being unable to answer the phone, the IRS will be unable to provide answers to anything but “basic” tax-law questions. After the filing season, it will answer no tax-law questions at all. And the agency has halted its longstanding practice of preparing returns for elderly, disabled and low-income taxpayers.

Of course, IRS officials blame the lack of resources for the poor quality of services. But the main culprit is the extreme complexity of the tax code. Unfortunately, until Congress finally engages in fundamental tax reform, taxpayers will continue to be punished with complicated tax returns to prepare and an IRS that basically refuses to help.

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Charlie’s Pinch of Salt



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I greatly appreciated Charlie’s note earlier today about not trusting everything he reads about the pope. Regarding that, I wanted to say something about strawberries. A comment the pope made some months ago caused a lot of confusion — and insult. Having women theologians around is like having strawberries. Beautiful, luscious strawberries! That’s . . . weird. And potentially condescending. Of course, turns out that’s not quite what he said. Austen Ivereigh brought this up when I interviewed him about his book, The Great Reformer

You describe Pope Francis as a natural writer. Is some of this lost on those of us reading him in English?

IVEREIGH: Sometime I’d like to write something on how poor translation bedevils Francis. Because he communicates directly, spontaneously, and colloquially, he is constantly misunderstood. Sometimes it’s because he’s translating from Argentine Spanish into his excellent but imperfect Italian. A recent example: In saluting a new theological commission, he said that the addition of women to the commission was “the strawberries on the cake.” Some women took offense: why is he calling us “strawberries”? But fresas en la torta would be more like “the icing on the cake”: in other words, not only are they great theologians, but the fact that they’re women as well is a particular reason to celebrate. There are so many examples of this it’s amazing. One I give in the book: In Rio de Janeiro in July 2013, he told Argentines he wanted them to hacer lío, which in Argentine political culture has a particular resonance: to create a bit of noise, stir things up. But one Church news agency translated it as “make a mess.” What on earth does that mean? Yet you see it now on T-shirts at Catholic youth rallies.

I thought it a funny story during days that could use more of them. And instructive.

Web Briefing: January 30, 2015

Keystone and the Rule of Law



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I have some sympathy for this critique of the pro-Keystone-pipeline bill. But I think we ought to have some perspective here. Allowing the executive branch to subject certain projects to special foot-dragging at its complete discretion does not exactly represent the apotheosis of the rule of law, and it seems to me that given that fact the bill amounts to an improvement.

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Pope Francis, Free Speech, and Responsibility



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Here’s a fuller unofficial translation/transcript of what the pope said about free expression and responsibility, via America’s Vatican correspondent Gerald O’Connell.

As for freedom of expression: each one not only has the freedom, the right but also the obligation to say what one thinks to help the common good. The obligation! Let’s think, if a member of parliament or a senator doesn’t say what he thinks is the right path then he does not collaborate for the common good. Not only these, but many others too. We have the obligation to say openly, to have this liberty, but without giving offense, because it is true, one cannot react violently. But if Dr. Gasbarri (the papal trip organizer who was standing beside him), a great friend, says a bad word against my mother, then a punch awaits him. But it’s normal, it’s normal. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. Pope Benedict in a speech, I don’t remember exactly where, he spoke of this post-positivist mentality, of post-positivist metaphysics, that led to the belief that in the end religions, religious expressions, are a kind of subculture, which are tolerated but are of little value, are not on the Enlightenment culture. And this is part of the heritage of the Enlightenment. And so many people who speak badly about other religions, or religions [in general], they make fun of, let’s say toy with [make into toys] other people’s religions, these people provoke and there can occur what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he said something against my mother. That is, there is a limit. Every religion has dignity; every religion that respects life, human life, the human person. And I cannot make fun of it. This is a limit and I have taken this sense of limit to say that in freedom of expression there are limits, like that in regard to my mom.

Before that, O’Connell, reports he said:

I believe that both are fundamental human rights, religious liberty and liberty of expression. One cannot — but let’s think — you are French? Let’s go to Paris, let’s speak clearly. One cannot hide a truth: everyone has the right to practice one’s religion, one’s own religion without giving offense. Freely. That’s how we do it, we want everyone to do that. Second: One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God. To us, that which happens now, it stuns us. But let’s think about our own history: how many wars of religion have we had? You may think of the night of St. Bartholomew; how can this be understood? We too were sinners in this. But one cannot kill in the name of God. This is an aberration. To kill in the name of God is an aberration. I believe that this is the principal point in terms of religious liberty. One has freedom in this, but without imposing or killing in the name of religion.

This was, by the way, in response to a question stemming from what he said about religious freedom yesterday in Sri Lanka:

Keep reading this post . . .

Canadian Imam Worried about High Number of Converts Following Parliament Shooting



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A leading imam in Ottawa says his mosque has seen a higher amount of interested converts to Islam in the months following last year’s shooting at the Canadian Parliament than ever before. What’s troubling Samy Metwally is that the converts, who are mainly young men, never return following the initial meeting, causing him to worry they are seeking a more radicalized version of the faith elsewhere.

“The vast, vast majority of new converts, we have never seen them before and then we never see them again,” Metwally told the National Post. “They disappear and they never come again. This is a big concern. We are concerned about who they are getting information from.”

Metwally explained that potential converts are susceptible to radicalization as they form an understanding of the religion, and can be easily manipulated by alternative sources, including on the Internet. He said he met with each of the 15 to 20 young men who expressed interest in converting and tried to follow up with them, but lost touch and never saw them again.

The jump in potential converts comes after October’s deadly shooting in the city’s Parliament Hill, in which the gunman killed a soldier at the Canadian National War Memorial and later himself. The man, a Muslim convert, was later killed when he entered the national Parliament building.

Boehner: Plot Against Capitol Shows Feds Need Access to Phone Records



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An Ohio man’s plot to attack the U.S. Capitol was thwarted through the use of a surveillance program that came under fire following Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency leaks.

“We would have never known about this had it not been for the FISA program and our ability to collect information about people who pose an imminent threat,” Boehner said. FISA is the shorthand for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which authorizes phone call metadata collection by the National Security Agency, the FBI, and other entities.

Boehner said that reporters would learn more about how FISA programs affected the investigations, especially in light of the coming effort to reauthorize the FISA programs.

“Our government does not spy on Americans unless the Americans who are doing things that frankly tip off our law enforcement to an imminent threat and it was our law enforcement officials and those programs that helped us stop this person before he committee a heinous crime in our nation’s Capitol,” Boehner said.

Joni Ernst to Deliver GOP’s SOTU Response



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Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced Iowa’s freshman senator Joni Ernst will deliver the Republican response to the president’s State of the Union next week.

Parties often use the rebuttal to the night’s keynote address to showcase their budding personalities, and Ernst has emerged as a star since bursting on to the national political scene last year. During the Republican primaries, she gained widespread attention for an ad in which she famously recalled her upbringing castrating pigs on the farm. She went on to defeat Democrat Bruce Braley, who was at one point considered the clear favorite to win the race, and helped ensure Republican control of the Senate.

“I am truly humbled and honored to have this opportunity to deliver the Republican address,” she said from the GOP congressional retreat in Hershey, Penn., on Thursday. “I never, never imagined that I would have this opportunity.”

Last year’s response was given by GOP conference chairwoman, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. 

UPDATE: Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, another freshmen lawmaker, will give the Spanish-language Republican response next week, a translated version of what Ernst will give. The Republican Spanish-language response has only been given by Floridians, including Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in recent years.

In Which I Disagree with K-Lo



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I often joke with my dear friend Kathryn — godmother to my third-born — that she has secretly taken a sacred vow of obedience. For only her strong desire to protect the Church from external criticism can explain her reflexive desire to set the record straight on papal gaffes like the Pope Francis’s remarks from the back of the plane today. So it is only with the greatest admiration and Christian charity that I step into the fray and politely disagree with Kathryn.

Kathryn writes: “Just because we’re free to blaspheme doesn’t mean the pope is going to endorse it. Of course he is going to counsel a more tender way.” I think Kathryn misses the mark on a couple of fronts. First, I don’t think you can read Pope Francis as suggesting we are “free” to blaspheme. He does give lip service to a universal right of free speech — which we all know doesn’t really exist in much of the world. But he also (and quite immediately) speaks of “limits” to that freedom — so the content of the freedom is circumscribed by the papal edict that we not give “offense.” That, of course, guts any universal right to freedom, since, as we see on these pages day in and day out, it is virtually impossible to speak on any subject of controversy these days without some fragile constituency claiming offense. Especially if governments are in the business of patrolling offense, as many European governments seem to think is their business (and many American universities, at least, seem to agree) — then there is no universal right to free speech. We are not, in the pope’s way of thinking, free to blaspheme.

And that may be fine with a lot of people, at least when it comes to Islam. But I’m more of the view that being a big fan of the Catholic faith and Monty Python’s Life of Brian are not mutually exclusive — though I will admit that I confessed not only attending a performance of Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy, the musical version of the movie, but also laughing uncontrollably shortly after the performance. (The penance wasn’t too harsh).

That part of Christianity that the pope leads wears big-boy pants and can take a verbal punch. It is not going to go away simply because Charlie Hebdo depicts crude and even unspeakable things involving Jesus or other things holy to us. That’s not to say I’m not often appalled at anti-Christian speech. Serrano’s “The Piss Christ” remains an offensive piece to me. But we should be engaging (peacefully, charitably, and with a bigger megaphone) blasphemy and other offensive speech, rather than trying to censor it or lead violent attacks against the speaker.

Kathryn’s more objectionable statement is that the pope is naturally “going to counsel a more tender way.” That is not at all what he has done here. He illustrates his point by suggesting that if you insult his mother, he’ll sock you in the nose. That completely undermines his disclaimer that violence is never justified as a response to offensive speech. In suggesting that the sock in the nose is a “normal” response to “yo mama” insults, the pope can be read to suggest that the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, while perhaps to be condemned, are at least understandable. There is nothing tender about that.  

Kathryn, tender soul that she is, may have let her own cheerful disposition color her views of the pope’s comments. But in reality, the papal comments are not much less addle-brained than the comments by the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, which have drawn a great deal of well-aimed and well-earned fire in the last week.

‘Of Course It Is Islam’



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My column for Politico today:

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Howard Dean opined on “Morning Joe” that the Muslims who had killed the staff of Charlie Hebdo aren’t Muslims. Not usually known as a leading Orientalist, the former Vermont governor shared his interpretation of one of the world’s leading Islamic terror groups, “I think ISIS is a cult. Not an Islamic cult. I think it’s a cult.”

Dean didn’t specify what kind of cult ISIS is, if not Islamic. Or what otherwise accounts for its strange obsession with taking over territory in Syria and Iraq to establish a caliphate and to impose a harsh version of Islamic law.

Obviously, not all Muslims, or even a majority of them, support terrorism. We don’t want to be needlessly insulting to Muslims or alienate allies in the Muslim world. But it is possible to avoid those pitfalls and still be truthful about the threat that emanates from within Islam, which serves the cause of intellectual clarity.

Forget clarity—the administration has lapsed into unselfconscious ridiculousness. Asked why the administration won’t say we are at war with radical Islam, Earnest on Tuesday explained the administration’s first concern “is accuracy. We want to describe exactly what happened. These are individuals who carried out an act of terrorism, and they later tried to justify that act of terrorism by invoking the religion of Islam and their own deviant view of it” (emphasis added).

This makes it sound as if the Charlie Hebdo terrorists set out to commit a random act of violent extremism and only subsequently, when they realized that they needed some justification, did they reach for Islam.

 

Terrorist Threat Spooks GOP Debating DHS Funding Fight



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House Republicans tied Department of Homeland Security funding to their bill blocking implementation of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, but the recent terror threats are a growing part of the GOP political calculus.

Senator Rob Portman (R., Ohio) told reporters that he is “acutely aware” of it following the arrest of an Ohio man who supports ISIS and planned an attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“We’re not just going to see DHS [go through] a shutdown threat; it’s too important,” Portman said at the Joint Republican Retreat in Hershey, Penn. “But we also want to be sure that we have done all that we can to get the president to work with us rather than go around the Congress and go around the American people.”

House GOP Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Washington, made a similar point when she was asked about the threat to the Capitol.

“Going back to the importance of getting Homeland Security bill [passed], we take that very seriously,” she told reporters during a press briefing Thursday morning. “It really is the number one responsibility of the federal government to keep the country safe and we need to take this seriously . . . we will be working very closely with the president.”

Portman allowed that Republicans do have some room to maneuver in this fight with Obama, given that most of DHS is deemed essential and therefore keeps operating even when funding technically lapses.

Still, he emphasized that “we have to be cognizant that this is a very real threat and we need to stick together as Americans, not as Republicans or Democrats, in countering that threat.”

Gunfire Breaks Out in Belgium During Anti-Terror Raid, 2 Reported Dead



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A counter-terrorism raid in the eastern Belgian town of Verviers ended in bloodshed Thursday evening, with Belgian police reporting the death of two terrorists and one injury and capture of another following an exchange of gunfire with police.

Just hours after a Belgian weapons dealer suspected of arming the brothers responsible for last week’s deadly attack on Paris-based magazine Charlie Hebdoturned himself in to police, Belgian television channel RTBF reported that an investigative raid near a train station in Verviers suddenly turned violent. 

Amateur video of the assault shows a building in flames as police shout and gunshots ring out. Explosions reverberated through the early evening air after the suspects opened fire on officers serving a search warrant.

The police fought back and killed two of the suspects, who authorities claim had just returned from Syria. Per capita, Belgium has the highest number of citizens fighting for jihadist organizations in that war-wracked region. 

At an evening news conference, Belgian police said none of their own were harmed in the assault. The raid is part of a broader counter-terror sweep ongoing throughout the small European nation.

A police spokesman claimed the terrorists were part of an Islamic terror network in the final planning stages of a “major imminent attack.” Belgium has raised its terror alert level in the wake of the gun battle. 

If I Only Commit a ‘Microaggression,’ I’ve Underachieved



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If it wasn’t clear before, it should be clear now: There is a segment of the population that will interpret virtually any form of communication from the “wrong” people as offensive or provocative.

The concept, well known by now, is that life is full of “microaggressions” against the marginalized, and the most innocuous of comments can be the basis for claiming offense. Peruse the examples at microaggressions.com, and it’s hard not to laugh (one example of a “microaggression?” A mother, aunt, and grandmother asking a young woman if she’s “met any nice boys.”) In fact, I had to check it twice to make sure that I wasn’t being fooled by an Onion-style parody site. I’m still not completely convinced.

For conservatives, the very existence of “microaggressions” should be clarifying and liberating. For years, I’ve been berated by fellow Christians, claiming that if only I were more “winsome” or communicated differently, then — what? — legions of people would fall down at the foot of the Cross? The faculty at Oberlin would join the rope line at a Ted Cruz rally? Now I’m told that even my body language or my friendly greetings can be basis for public complaint.

In fact, however, for a certain segment of the population there is literally nothing you can say — and no way you can say it–that won’t offend. Unless, of course, you capitulate to their views.

So, Christians and conservatives, be free. Speak your beliefs and live your values with grace — because that’s right — but also with conviction and fearlessness. After all, one man’s “microaggression” could well be tonic to another man’s wounded soul.

Re: Pope Francis on Freedom of Expression



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I do think this bears equal emphasis: “One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God.”

It is in the same vein of something New York’s Cardinal Dolan said on his weekly Catholic Channel Siriu​sXM radio show yesterday: “No matter what this particular magazine may have been doing . . . nothing could justify the vicious attack upon them.”

And then he suggested that “we need to be sensitive about any signs of bigotry and animosity and hatred from anybody from either side, anytime from anybody.” Harshness breeds harshness. Hate is a breeding ground for evil.

He continued:

If you chip at a person’s dignity; if you chip away at the sacredness of human life; if you chip away at the dignity of the human person; if you chip away at eligious sensitivity; If you chip away elementary civility and courtesy, pretty soon you have a pretty harsh society that could then go to radical extremes.

God gives us free will. He wants us to choose the good. Just because we’re free to blaspheme doesn’t mean the pope is going to endorse it. Of course he is going to counsel a more tender way. He’s also not going to ignore what’s before our eyes: men being drawn into this darkness.

Though I do expect a headline today: “Pope Francis: ‘Don’t Mess with Momma.’”

The Pope Got It Completely and Utterly Wrong



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I’m given to understand that the media tends to misreport the words of the Pope, and, more generally, to misrepresent what Catholics and their church actually believe. As such, I tend to take what I read about the Vatican with a large pinch of salt. But I must say that I’m struggling to find the nuance in today’s report from the Rome Bureau of the Catholic News Service. Per Francis X. Rocca, Pope Francis said the following this morning while aboard his airplane:

“Let’s go to Paris, let’s speak clearly,” the pope said. “One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God.”

The pope said freedom of expression was a “fundamental human right” like freedom of religion, but one that must be exercised “without giving offense.”

Offering a hypothetical example that referred to the Vatican’s planner of papal trips, who was standing beside him as he spoke, the pope said: “It’s true, one cannot react violently, but if Dr. (Alberto) Gasbarri, a great friend, says a swear word against my mother, then he is going to get a punch. But it’s normal, it’s normal. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”

The pope said those who “make fun or toy with other people’s religions, these people provoke, and there can happen what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he said something against my mother. That is, there is a limit. Every religion has its dignity.”

Given its record in this area, it is nice to see the Catholic Church drawing a firm distinction between what it believes should be legal and what it believes is morally right. It is good, too, to see a Pope contending bluntly that “one cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion.” And yet, as so often, a giant “But . . .” was wheeled out to spoil the declaration. By proposing that insults against his mother would prompt him to “punch” the speaker — and that such violent responses are “normal” — Francis not only limited the force of his initial statements, but he gave succor to the notion that those who give gratuitous offense should expect retaliation.

It is one thing to say, “we strongly support the legal rights of provocateurs but, clearly, we dislike their output”; but it is quite another to suggest that those who insult others will likely “get a punch,” or to submit that, if one wishes to stay safe, “one cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.” Whatever Francis “really meant” here, one thing is absolutely clear: The language he used was imprecise, poorly judged, and terribly, terribly timed. There is never — ever — an excuse for violence against peaceful critics. It is not in any way “normal” to see such foul play.  What happened to that simple formulation: “turn the other cheek”?

Amanda Marcotte, Eugenicist



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The main reason that the abortion movement cannot quite disentangle itself from its roots in 19th-century eugenics is the niggling, persistent fact that it doesn’t really want to. Consider this from Amanda Marcotte, who is clutching her ironically worn thrift-store pearls over the fact that Indiana may pass a law that would make it a crime for parents to kill their children over a disability.

No one is well served when children with disabilities are forced on families that know they don’t have the emotional or financial resources to help them. And this entire bill, which is supported by anti-choice groups in Indiana, would only truly impact the most vulnerable families—those who don’t have the money or ability to travel out of state to get these abortions elsewhere. 

This is familiar, ancient, nasty stuff: that sick people and disabled people are a burden, that this burden outweighs their humanity, that the poor cannot be trusted to care for the children they have, etc. That “no one is well served,” the inescapable implication of which is that the children in question are better off dead.

All of this is based upon the reduction of human life to an accounting entry. There is an occasion upon which the state and its representatives are in fact legitimately called upon to go about the grim business of accounting for human lives and human deaths on a ledger—war. War is a poor operating model for family life, but those who advocate abortion as a means to some desirable social outcome — all of whom are eugenicists, whether they understand themselves as such or do not — bring war into the obstetrician’s office, into the nursery, and into the family.

Who lives? Who dies? Who is fit to be born? Would any sane human being leave those questions to Amanda Marcotte et al.?

A great many of our progressive friends can’t tell their millions from their billions, but they think that society is some grand equation that they are competent to balance, proving that the lives of people with Down syndrome or other disabilities are worth nothing — or that their value is in fact negative, that society would be positively better off without them. We say otherwise.

Images, Not Words, Most Disturb Islamists



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Inspire, the glossy, English-language internet magazine published by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), published a “Wanted dead or alive for crimes against Islam” poster in its March 2013 issue. No one paid much attention to it, not until the commando-style murder of Stéphane Charbonnier, one of the eleven listed, on January 7. The other ten are Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Terry Jones, Carsten Luste, Molly Norris, Flemming Rose, Salman Rushdie, Morris Sadek (misspelled on the poster as “Swadiq”), Lars Vilks, Kurt Westergaard, and Geert Wilders.

Looking over this list offers some insights into AQAP’s mentality and by extension, that of Islamists in general:

No one from outside the central regions of Western civilization seems to be worth AQAP’s time: All eleven live in the either in the United States or Western Europe.

Only born Christians and Muslims (Ali, Rushdie) are included in the list. No Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, et al.

Three hail from Muslim-majority countries: Ali from Somalia, Rushdie from India, Sadek from Egypt.

Five live in the United States and six in Europe, of which three live in Denmark.

Seeking refuge from their Islamist persecutors, two (Ali, Rushdie) moved from Europe to the United States.

Islamists care much more about pictures than the written word: Nine of the eleven have a pictorial dimension, six with cartoons (Charbonnier, Luste, Norris, Rose, Westergaard, Wilks) and three (Ali, Sadek, Wilders) with movies. One (Jones) engages in highly pictorial activities. That leaves only Rushdie with no pictorial aspect.

Two of those associated with cartoons (Luste, Norris) are obscure bit-players whose inclusion, instead of more high-profile anti-Islam activists, is surprising.

In addition to murdering Charbonnier (and eleven others in his office), Islamists have physically assaulted two other cartoonists (Vilks, Westergaard). They also attacked and killed some of Rushdie’s translators.

All but three (Ali, Jones, Wilders) are associated with ridiculing Mohammed, the prophet of Islam.

This analysis suggests that Islamists are most incensed by Western Christians drawing cartoons making fun of Mohammed.

— Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. 

The Opportunity Agenda



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Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None, a new book published this week by Heritage Action and the Heritage Foundation, is well worth your while. The book lays out a series of policy proposals from Heritage scholars — in areas ranging from labor, energy, and education to health care, regulation, welfare, and national security. Throughout, it argues that conservatives need to offer the country our own positive agenda rather than just our objections to the left’s misguided ideas. Going in the wrong direction more slowly is not a solution. 

The book’s release was coupled with a policy conference in which Republican members of Congress and conservative policy experts outlined some promising ideas. 

Heritage Action has gotten a lot of attention in recent years for its forceful tactical advice to congressional Republicans — some of which I’ve agreed with and some not. But it has gotten less attention for the important work it has been doing to push Republicans to develop and advance conservative solutions to the problems the country faces. That work is both essential and unifying, and this book offers a very useful summary of where it points. 

Berns and Jaffa



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Is it too morbid to say that I’ve enjoyed reading the obituaries of Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa? Maybe. But it’s true, and a handful have been really good–fine commentaries on the men and their legacies. Steve Hayward’s dual eulogy in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal was excellent. Today, my old friend Kishore Jayabalan has a nice appreciation of Berns on the American Spectator website.

Pope Francis on Freedom of Expression



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Catholic News Service (my emphasis added):

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM COLOMBO, Sri Lanka

… “Let’s go to Paris, let’s speak clearly,” the pope said. “One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God.”

The pope said freedom of expression was a “fundamental human right” like freedom of religion, but one that must be exercised “without giving offense.”

Offering a hypothetical example that referred to the Vatican’s planner of papal trips, who was standing beside him as he spoke, the pope said: “It’s true, one cannot react violently, but if Dr. (Alberto) Gasbarri, a great friend, says a swear word against my mother, then he is going to get a punch. But it’s normal, it’s normal. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith”…

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