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Poetry



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TO MY HIKING PARTNER

Your pack looks like the one John Denver wore
when he was getting Rocky Mountain high.
The frame is bent, the straps can’t take much more.
Your jeans and flannel coat will never dry
if they get wet. Let’s hope we don’t get caught
by squalls on Thunder Ridge this afternoon.
Bold move to hike in boots that you just bought.
Don’t whine — we’ll stop to treat those blisters soon.
So far your luck has held, though you don’t care
for maps and packing lists. But will you keep
your winning streak? My money’s on the bear
if you continue eating where you sleep,
and leaving dishes close enough to touch.
My friend, God loves a fool, but not that much.

— This poem appears in the January 26, 2015, print issue of National Review.

Why Justin Amash Voted Present on the House’s Keystone Bill — And Was Right to Do It



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I have to admit that I haven’t spent much time learning about the Keystone pipeline project, and I certainly haven’t read the bills that made their way through Congress on the issue in the last four years. From what I’ve heard, it seems like a worthy project and the administration’s political obstruction seems very much out of line.

It’s certainly driven an obvious divide between left and right, which is why I was interested to read an explanation from Republican representative Justin Amash, who voted ”present” on H.R. 3, a bill to push approval of the pipeline through. (Hat tip to Nick Gillespie.)

As he explains, the project is a private industry project that should be supported. But as written now, the bill is a handout to one private company, giving it exemptions from generally punishing regulations and requirements. That’s cronyism.

Representative Amash, who writes up an explanation of each vote he takes, explains:

I voted present on H R 3, Northern Route Approval Act. The Keystone XL pipeline is a private project owned by TransCanada Corporation. This bill improperly exempts TransCanada Corporation—and no other company—from laws that require pipeline owners and operators to obtain certain government permits and approvals.

I support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and holding it up for over four years (with no end in sight) for political reasons is wrong.  It’s improper, however, for Congress to write a bill that names and benefits one private project, while doing nothing to address the underlying problems that allowed such delays to occur. The Constitution gives Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations,” but the Rule of Law requires that legislation be of general, not specific, applicability. A proper bill would address the circumstances that allow *any* such project to be held up for political reasons, not just Keystone XL.

As F.A. Hayek explained in The Constitution of Liberty: “It is because the lawgiver does not know the particular cases to which his rules will apply, and it is because the judge who applies them has no choice in drawing the conclusions that follow from the existing body of rules and the particular facts of the case, that it can be said that laws and not men rule. Because the rule is laid down in ignorance of the particular case and no man’s will decides the coercion used to enforce it, the law is not arbitrary. This, however, is true only if by ‘law’ we mean the general rules that apply equally to everybody. This generality is probably the most important aspect of that attribute of law which we have called its ‘abstractness.’ As a true law should not name any particulars, so it should especially not single out any specific persons or group of persons.”

In other words, as written, the law uses improper means to achieve a desirable goal. That seems right to me. Economist James Buchanan wrote frequently about the importance of a generality principle in rule-making. (You can see some of his work on this, here, here and here, for instance.)

This is also why, as lawmakers go, Representative Amash consistently stands out from the pack. First, explaining all of his votes to his constituents, colleagues, and everyone who cares to read him easily makes him the most transparent and diligent member of Congress. Second, this is the guy you can count on to stand for free-market principles, even when very few people will stand along with him. 

I guess at this point I would like to join Nick Gillespie in lamenting our inability to clone Representative Amash and hoping that we could at least clone his commitment to principle.

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A DHS Shutdown May Not Really Shut Down DHS, and Wouldn’t Stop Obama’s Amnesty



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If funding for the Department of Homeland Security runs out at the end of February, it is unlikely that it would slow the Obama administration down. Instead, the federal government would have little difficulty proceeding to implement the president’s executive action on immigration as planned.  

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for processing applications related to the president’s amnesty, is fee-based. This means it’s not beholden to the hotly contested annual appropriations, as are other agencies within DHS, such as Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

If DHS funding does run out, USCIS would hardly miss a beat. When the government closed down in October 2013, USCIS stayed open. More than 97 percent of its employees were exempt from the work stoppage, according to a September 2013 report from DHS. All of USCIS’s programs, with the exception of E-Verify, continued despite the shutdown, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Some House Republicans have recognized USCIS’s unique position and introduced an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill that targets the fees that would allow the president’s executive action on immigration to be carried out. Representatives Robert Aderholt (R., Ala.), Mick Mulvaney (R., S.C.), and Lou Barletta (R., Penn.) have introduced an amendment that would block USCIS from accessing Immigration Examinations Fee Accounts to further the president’s executive action.

But it remains to be seen whether House Republicans will have any success in stopping USCIS. Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, says Congress should block the use of the fee accounts and instead have all fees go to the U.S. Treasury Department so that it’s easier for Congress to oversee where the money is going. However, she says, there’s some indication that blocking the fees through an appropriations bill could be against the rules because Congress is not supposed to legislate through appropriations.

How other components of DHS are preparing for the possibility of another shutdown remains unclear, but the agency’s past experience suggests a shutdown wouldn’t be catastrophic. Nearly 200,000 of DHS’s estimated 231,117 civilian and military employees were shielded from the 2013 shutdown and continued working, according to the Congressional Research Service. In the event that funding does run out, employees responsible for saving lives and protecting property would remain in place. Chris Cabrera, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 3307 in the Rio Grande Valley, tells NRO he expects that a shutdown at the end of February would mirror what happened last time. “Non-essential personnel wouldn’t work and everyone else would be out there on the line like always,” he says. “This time, especially late February, it’ll be far too busy to be sending anybody home.”

DHS secretary Jeh Johnson has argued against a shutdown on the grounds that it would prevent new projects and not allow him to hire new Secret Service agents necessary for the 2016 election cycle. But, as former Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn pointed out in his final oversight report of DHS, the department could use some belt tightening. Coburn’s report found tens of billions of dollars spent by the department on counterterrorism with little to show, and hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on cybersecurity.

Given the recent terrorist attacks in France and the hacking of U.S. Army Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts, a DHS shutdown could turn public opinion against Republicans deciding to take a stand against the president’s executive action by withholding funding from the department. A shutdown would also likely mean the executive action survives unscathed. Any DHS shutdown would halt some of the federal government’s operations, but its collateral damage could be much more ruinous for the GOP.

Web Briefing: January 28, 2015

Charlie Hebdo’s Latest Cover Has Mohammed Holding a ‘Je Suis Charlie’ Sign: ‘All Is Forgiven’



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France’s Charlie Hebdo is back at it again, less than a week after a deadly terror attack on the magazine. The satirical paper’s latest cover features a seemingly saddened Mohammed holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign with the headline “Tout est Pardonné” — French for “All Is Forgiven.”

​The magazine vowed resilience after the massacre at the hands of Islamic terrorists last week, promising to put out an issue on schedule despite losing its editor and top cartoonists. The magazine, which normally turns out about 60,000 copies of an issue, will publish 3 million copies of its latest issue, in 16 different languages following the outpouring of support from across the globe.

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How Harry Jaffa Brought Me to the Right



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It was 1989, I believe, and Harry Jaffa was giving a well-publicized and attended “retirement” lecture (everyone knew then, as they know now, Harry was never going to retire). The audience was filled with students, faculty, trustees, and all variety of VIPs from the conservative intellectual and financial constellation. I was a left-wing undergraduate editor of the Claremont Colleges’ newspaper. I recall how Charles Kesler introduced Harry that day, comparing him and his work to Abraham Lincoln, whom Harry had studied and taught so well and for so long. Eerily, the date of that speech was the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. Charles ended his introduction by saying, “ . . . of course the difference between Harry and Lincoln is that Harry would have shot back!” 

The next day, from my leftist point of view, I wrote and published an editorial highly critical of Jaffa. Jaffa read it, called me, and asked me to stand by what I wrote by debating him publicly. I declined, saying something like, “Sir, there’s no way, I’m a junior in college and you’re a master of rhetoric and intellect.” He said, “Well how about I buy you a cup of coffee, then?” And so began the lifelong learning and total change of intellectual pursuit to which I owe my whole worldview.

Harry took my hand, started introducing me to a line of thought and reason I never even knew existed, walked me through everything he could teach me, and never let go. I bought every book he ever wrote and took them with me everywhere I lived, only to reread them again and again over the course of the last 25 or so years, always learning something new. He changed my whole life. Years and years of meetings, of calls, of questions I had for him; years and years of his unbelievable volumes of scholarship — I digested as much as I could and will never be able to thank him enough. Nor will there be enough room for others to tell almost exactly the same kinds of stories, of how he personally led them to a life of learning they never knew possible.

As I think of the timing of his death today, I recall the statement of a well-placed Capitol Hill aide who had studied under both Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa: “Walter taught me an intellectual could actually love America, Harry taught me why.”

God bless you, Harry; thank you, and may you rest in peace.

— Seth Leibsohn is the host of The Seth Leibsohn Show, which airs nightly in Phoenix on KKNT/960 AM; a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute; and the president of the Leibsohn Group.

Backing Bill Maher: Understanding the Pyramid of Support for Jihad



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As an Evangelical conservative, I can’t say that a militant, condescending atheist like Bill Maher is my favorite comedian or my favorite pundit, but when a man’s right, he’s right. His statement last week that “Hundreds of millions of them support an attack like this. They applaud an attack like this. What they say is, ‘We don’t approve of violence, but you know what? When you make fun of the Prophet, all bets are off” is supported by real data. 

Extrapolating from polling numbers, hundreds of millions of Muslims do, in fact, support the death penalty for blasphemy against Mohammed. Hundreds of millions do support the death sentence for “apostasy” — converting from Islam. It’s even true that in the recent past, hundreds of millions expressed approval for Osama bin Laden.

Regarding blasphemy and apostasy, here’s the Washington Post describing startling findings in a comprehensive Pew Research Center report on Muslim beliefs and attitudes:

In fact, according to the 2013 Pew Research Center report, 88 percent of Muslims in Egypt and 62 percent of Muslims in Pakistan favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion. This is also the majority view among Muslims in Malaysia, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.

Do the math. From these countries alone, there are more than 200 million Muslims who support capital punishment for basic free speech and freedom of conscience. But what about terrorism? I posted these sobering approval numbers for Osama bin Laden last week, but I’ll post again:

Again, the support — at various times — ran into the hundreds of millions. This is not a “few extremists” but instead a movement that is extreme to us but solidly mainstream within the global Muslim community.

That’s just a fact.

I tend to think of the degrees of support for violent jihad in terms of a pyramid, with a broad base narrowing down to the sharp point. Hundreds of millions support sharia law’s most bloodthirsty elements. Hundreds of millions have supported al-Qaeda, at least tacitly. A percentage of those hundreds of millions go beyond mere tacit support and actively advocate for Islamic terror, support it on social media, or write checks. I’ve not seen any real research on that level of activity, but it’s likely in the tens of millions (conservatively). Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Saudi Arabia held a telethon to support Palestinians, a telethon that featured support for Palestinian suicide bombings. Some charming vignettes:

A 6-year-old boy, with a plastic gun slung over his shoulder and fake explosives strapped around his waist, walked into a donation center and made a symbolic donation of plastic explosives, according to Al Watan daily.

Another Saudi, 26-year-old Mohamed al-Qahtani, offered his car, saying he hoped it will “reach the Palestinian areas so a Palestinian fighter could use it to blow up a military barracks and kill (Israeli) soldiers,” Al Watan reported.

These millions (or tens of millions) in turn generate hundreds of thousands who actually take up arms for jihad, and the numbers seem to be growing. In Syria alone, jihadists number in the tens of thousands. Outside of Syria, the Islamic State, Hezbollah, Hamas, Boko Haram, the Taliban, various al-Qaeda branches, and jihadists in Somalia comprise a collection of jihadist fighting forces that control nation-sized chunks of real estate.

Pointing out facts is not bigotry. It is also a fact that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who do not support terrorists and do not support the bloodthirsty elements of sharia law. The sad reality, however, is that by our actions and attitudes, we appease and empower the violent (It’s still just stunning that the Obama administration supported the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, essentially put jihadists in power in Libya, and left Israel hanging out to dry in its conflict with Hamas) while mainly paying lip service to moderates — offering soothing words when our true Muslim allies (like the Kurds) need military support far more than they need kind words about Islam or its prophet.

If it takes a Bill Maher to wake up my liberal friends, well then God bless him in his work.

Blackmailing Scalise



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Some recent news items like this one report that liberal civil-rights groups are hoping to use Representative Steve Scalise’s troubles to their advantage. Their hope is that he can be pressured to prove that he’s really not a racist by, among other things, promising to support the Left’s proposed legislation to resurrect Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act by overturning the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder.

Representative Scalise should tell the groups that he’s not interested, and in no uncertain terms. 

No new legislation is needed. The Supreme Court struck down only one provision in the Voting Rights Act, and there are plenty of other voting-rights laws available to ensure that the right to vote is not violated. What’s more, the bill that has been drafted is bad legislation. For example, it does not protect all races equally from discrimination; it contains much that has nothing to do with the Supreme Court’s decision; and it itself violates the Constitution by prohibiting practices that are not actually racially discriminatory but only have racially disproportionate effects. The bill has been extensively criticized on National Review Online and elsewhere: See here and here and here and here and here and here.

And so, at Senate hearings last year, it was clear that no Republican would favor it, because it is designed to give a partisan advantage to the Left. It would serve no purpose to hold hearings on the bill in the House. The bill is dead, and it should stay dead.

Can France Regenerate Itself to Fight Radical Islam?



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The nation of France imploded last week. Heavily armed Islamic extremists ran amok, massacring police officers, cartoonists, and shoppers at a kosher supermarket. The overall death toll reached 17, with four victims still in critical condition.

Much of the French intellectual elite has long been opposed to combating radical Islam within and outside of the country’s territories.

It’s worth recalling that the highly admired French sociologist Jean Baudrillard was euphoric when planes smashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11. Two months after those attacks, Baudrillard wrote in Le Monde that “In the end, they did it, but we wanted it.”

Dr. Richard Landes, an expert in French history, tackled Baudrillard’s “American Derangement Syndrome” in his fine analysis of rising French anti-Americanism. The kind of toxic, self-destructive, post-modern thinking that targets America and oozes contempt for the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel, has long been a fashionable philosophy among many politicians and intellectuals in France.

Just as troubling, French political and intellectual discourse is increasingly rife with anti-Semitism. The French journalist Catherine Nay exploited the alleged killing of Muhammad al-Dura, a Palestinian boy, by Israeli troops during the Second Intifada, saying that the boy’s death “cancels out, erases that of the Jewish child, his hands in the air from the SS in the Warsaw Ghetto.” Compelling evidence later revealed that the al-Dura event was staged by Palestinians to garner world sympathy.

In 2013, the Mayor of the French suburb of Bezons awarded honorary citizenship to a convicted Palestinian terrorist. Sadly, there’s no shortage of examples of French appeasement toward Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and other Islamic terrorist entities. The Middle East expert Amir Taheri has documented the full catalogue of French capitulations in a New York Post column.  

There is a natural temptation for Americans to toss up their hands at France’s intellectual and political cowardice. But that would be a serious mistake.

France implemented a burqa ban in 2011. Early in 2013, President Francois Hollande sent a sizable military operation into Mali to eliminate the Jihadi movement that had taken over the northern part of the country. And later that year, Hollande was more enthusiastic than President Obama about launching missiles at the Assad regime to end its use of chemical weapons on innocent Syrians. Put simply, France can fight back.

Domestically, French cities need to enact an anti-crime strategy similar to the one employed by former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the 1990s. France’s General Directorate of External Security is one of the world’s finest intelligence agencies when it comes to counterterrorism operations. French politicians have until now failed to internalize that their over-worked and under-resourced security forces cannot cope with the country’s large Jihadi network by themselves.

As a result, France is on its back today. But it can quickly get back on its feet by adopting an anti-appeasement philosophy.

Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal

Tags: Terrorism

Paul Ryan: ‘I Am Not Going to Run for President in 2016’



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Representative Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) may have been on a presidential ticket in 2012, but don’t expect to see him at the top of one in 2016, according to a new report.

“I have decided that I am not going to run for president in 2016,” Ryan told NBC News, a decision he made “weeks ago.” “It is amazing the amount of encouragement I have gotten from people — from friends and supporters — but I feel like I am in a position to make a big difference where I am and I want to do that,”

He described himself as “at peace” with his decision not to jump in to the already crowded Republican field.

Ryan’s announcement comes as Mitt Romney, whose presidential ticket he joined in 2012, is reportedly exploring another run in 2016. The Washington Post reports that Romney has already reached out to Ryan about Romney’s interest in making a third run at the White House.

But while 2016 may not be in the cards for Ryan, he did not close the door on a run farther down the road, telling NBC he wants to “keep my options open.”

Frank Bruni vs. Religious Liberty



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Frank Bruni writes that many Americans wrongly treat him as a threat to religious liberty because he is gay. The trouble is that he is a threat to religious liberty. It’s not because he’s gay. It’s because he is one of those contemporary liberals who has a conception of religious liberty that is illiberal and narrow, especially compared to the historic American practice. His op-ed makes the point abundantly clear, even as he insists that taking a broader view of religious freedom is a sign of “extremism.”

So, for example, Bruni complains that “churches have been allowed to adopt broad, questionable interpretations of a ‘ministerial exception’ to anti-discrimination laws that allow them to hire and fire clergy as they wish.” Questionable? The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the Constitution requires the ministerial exception. Maybe Justice Ginsburg is a religious fanatic; or maybe Frank Bruni is not a reliable guide to what constitutes extremism.

Bruni also believes that the exemption of religious institutions from taxes is a special favor from the government, and one that should come attached to more restrictions on these institutions’ activities than we already have.

In addition to being out of the mainstream, Bruni’s thoughts on religious freedom are half-baked. Take this passage:

What’s more, in a country that’s not supposed to promote any one religion over others, we do precisely that.

Would we be content to let a Muslim store owner who believes that a woman should always cover her hair refuse service to women who do not? Or a Mormon hairdresser who spurns coffee to turn away clients who saunter in with frappuccinos?

I doubt it. So why should a merchant whose version of Christianity condemns homosexuality get to exile gays and lesbians?

Where to start? One: We don’t need legal coercion to keep Muslim store owners or Mormon hairdressers from doing these things; market pressures—that is, civil society without the backing of force—seems perfectly well equipped to do the job. Two: What would the alternative to market resolution be? A law banning discrimination against coffee drinkers? Three: If such a law were to pass, religious-liberty protections would probably not help the hairdresser in question, since as far as I know there is no Mormon prohibition on consorting with the caffeinated. Four: I know of no credible legal case anywhere in which a florist or baker is claiming a religious-liberty right “to exile gays and lesbians.”

Bruni closes his column by saying, “I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish — in their pews, homes and hearts,” just not elsewhere. How very generous of him to let people “say what they wish” in their “hearts.” It is another piece of rhetoric that betrays his pretensions to moderation.

As does another stray remark about how our country is “still working out this separation-of-church-and-state business and hasn’t yet gotten it quite right.” Bruni should just say that our country and its Constitution are too protective of religious freedom and need to be changed accordingly. I don’t think he would have a good case, but he would have a more candid, or at least less self-deluded, one.

WH to Ed Henry: We’re Actually Not Sure What Obama Did Instead of Going to Paris



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President Obama’s absence at Sunday’s Unity Rally in Paris had many scratching their head wondering what he did instead, including his own press secretary.

“I haven’t spoken to the president about what he did yesterday,” Josh Earnest told Fox News’s Ed Henry during Monday’s briefing. “I guess I prepared for a lot of questions today, but I did not prepare for a question based on what the president was actually doing yesterday.”

Earnest explained that the president’s attendance at the outdoor march proved too difficult to coordinate oless than 36 hours notice, given security protocols. Additionally, the White House worried that security measures would have impacted other participants’ ability to take a part in the rally.

Henry pushed back, saying that dozens of other world leaders adequately addressed those concerns and attended the rally on short notice, such as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He went on to compare the sudden event to South African president Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013, which President Obama attended. Unlike Mandela’s funeral, which officials had already planned for years in advance in the event of his passing, the Paris march quickly came together, Earnest said. As a result of the president’s “more onerous” security compared to that of other world leaders, the sudden turnaround was too difficult.

Ultimately, Earnest reiterated that the administration should have sent a more “high-profile” official to the rally, including potentially Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris for an anti-terrorism summit. Before moving on from Henry, Earnest emphasized that the administration continues to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the French in the aftermath of last week’s attacks.

As White House Admits Error Over Paris March, State Dept Gets Snippy



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Looks like somebody forgot to pass State Department deputy press secretary Marie Harf the memo. 

As White House press secretary Josh Earnest ate crow over the Obama administration’s failure to send a high-ranking official to Sunday’s massive anti-terror march in Paris, Harf remained defiant in the face of similar questions from the State Department press corps. 

Exhausted by a series of questions on the absence of President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and even Attorney General Eric Holder — who was in Paris the day of the march — Harf lashed out at the State Department press corps.

“I would like to see how many minutes we spend on Boko Haram compared to a march, I just want to point that out to people,” she said testily, referencing an attack by the Islamic terror group that killed thousands in Nigeria last week. “I know, I know. I’m just pointing it out. Making it a little commentary there.”

Harf had earlier reiterated ad nauseam that the United States “stands squarely by our French ally,” explaining that Secretary Kerry was in India for a pre-scheduled event.

“I don’t think [the criticism] is fair,” Harf said, pushing back against a reporter who said it was “weird” that the United States was absent while more than 40 other world leaders attended.

“There are more ways than just this march to show our solidarity with the French,” she insisted. “And I think that’s what I would underscore . . . It is not the only way to show solidarity. And the secretary certainly would’ve been there if he could, and he’s looking forward to going there on Thursday.”

And when another reporter asked if there were any internal administration discussions on sending a high-ranking White House official, Harf got snippy. “I’m not going to get into what our internal conversations look like,” she said. “As we said on the record, the secretary’s schedule wouldn’t allow it.”

White House Admits Snubbing Paris March Was a Mistake



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White House press secretary Josh Earnest admitted on Monday that the Obama administration failed to pay the proper respect to French victims of terrorism by withholding high-ranking officials from Sunday’s rally in Paris.

“Some have asked whether or not the United States should’ve sent someone with a higher profile than the ambassador of France,” Earnest said. “And I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile.”

The largest rally in French history, the march drew world leaders from over 40 countries, who together walked arm-in-arm through the streets of Paris in defiance of the Islamic radicals that attacked the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo last week.

Earnest explained that President Obama failed to attend the rally due to concerns about his personal safety and the problems the U.S. Secret Service would’ve caused to the crowd. “This is a march, the planning for which only began on Friday night,” he said. “And 36 hours later it had begun . . . the security requirements around a presidential-level visit, or even a vice-presidential visit are onerous and significant.”

Although initially expressing contrition over the White House’s error, the press secretary got snippy after reporters asked about the “wide variety of criticism.”

“Well, criticism from who?” Earnest said, smirking when the reporter mentioned Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz.

“It’s certainly a free country,” the press secretary said. “People have the opportunity to subject their elected officials to criticism, and make it clear when they disagree with a decision or action that’s been taken by the administration.”

The Great Walter Berns



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“Gov’t can rule only by laws, not by decrees.” “The Last paragraph Fed 10: (first object of gov’t: protect the unequal faculties of acquiring property.) [arrow to next sentence:] “To secure equal rights is to secure rights of unequally endowed human beings. To allow pursuit of happiness as the individual defines it.” “Berns says Congress may indeed remove S. Court’s jurisdiction from cases.” “‘One thing is clear: the Founders did not anticipate that the Supreme Court would have anything like the role it plays today’ – Berns.” “Berns says only substantive clause of 14th is privileges and immunities (also see Article 4).”

These are a few of my scribbled notes from the fall of 1986, from a class at Georgetown on the essentials of American constitutionalism, taught by the great scholar Walter Berns, who died this past weekend at age 95. I had graduated in May of that year with a degree in government and theology (double major), but somehow had missed the chance to take any courses from Berns. So, since I remained in D.C. to work (as a Reagan appointee to the Veterans’ Administration), I contacted him and asked if I could audit his class for free — and he agreed, as long as I didn’t tell anybody in Georgetown’s administration. Of course, as almost every student Berns ever taught will tell you, the class was superb. Berns’s knowledge was vast and deep, and his love for the American experiment was inspirational. James Madison, in particular, leapt from Berns’s lectures in full intellectual color, a still-living paragon of wisdom, decency, practicality, and principle.

I was particularly moved by Berns’s exposition of how the Founders regarded the interplay between liberty and equality, with the latter being defined, for American purposes, in terms of the former. (In other words, the equality we enjoy is quite specifically, and in almost all respects no more than, an equality of liberty.)

After the last class, I approached Berns and said that since I would not be taking the final exam (since, of course, I wasn’t officially in his class to start with), I wondered if there were any project he was working on, or wanted to explore, but which he did not have time to thoroughly research and on which he might therefore welcome some research assistance — for free or, depending on how one looked at it, as my payment for him having allowed me to audit his class. He invited me to meet with him at his AEI office and, while it was certainly not a long meeting, maybe 20–30 minutes or so, we decided that a great area of mutual interest would involve re-deciding Brown v. Board of Education to reach the same practical result (outlawing state-sponsored school segregation), but on the basis of a liberty argument based on the “privileges and/or immunities” clauses rather than on the equality argument through the strained application of “due process,” especially as further confused by Earl Warren’s mumbo-jumbo citing supposed developments in psychological understanding, etc., etc. I’m not sure if Berns was just humoring me (he was a serious man, who did not strike me as being wont to humor somebody), but I left his office with grandiose visions of literally writing an entirely new, mock Brown v. Board decision and publishing it somewhere. 

As I remember it, I spent maybe three hours at a library one day (if that) on the task. What notes I took from that session seem to be lost. But shortly after I returned to D.C. from spending Christmas at home in New Orleans, I was asked to return to Louisiana to work on Representative Bob Livingston’s 1987 campaign for governor. The research project died in its cradle — and, 20 years later, which was the next time I saw Berns, who was giving one of his magnificent presentations at an AEI event, he remembered neither the project nor me. But he did say something like: “Privileges and immunities: Yes, I always lamented the Court’s treatment of those clauses.”

The second-last note from that 1986 class, citing something Berns said from the lectern, was this: “a prejudiced attachment to the Const. is good.

Walter Berns provided generations of students a wonderfully prejudiced attachment to, and reverence for, the Constitution of the United States of America. It was a great life’s work. May we be ever grateful for Berns, for his work, and for the system of ordered liberty he expounded. And may he rest in God’s good peace and joy.

Vox Discovers a Party Called ‘the National Front’ Wants a National Currency



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Matt Yglesias of the website Vox (“the smartest thinkers, the toughest questions”) decided over the weekend to read the party platform of the National Front, the so-called far-right French political party that’s expected to gain substantially in its standing because of last week’s terror attacks. 

He makes two discoveries. First, the National Front is not a uniformly conservative party as Americans might conceptualize it — it’s hostile to “Anglo-Saxon finance,” supports a generous welfare state (for the native-born), etc. This is obviously not characteristic of most of, say, the right wing of America’s right-wing party, but it’s not odd in terms of the history of what have been termed Western far-right parties. There’s a name for this phenomenon, called the “horseshoe theory.” I don’t know if Yglesias is unaware that he’s identifying a common dynamic, but it seems like useful context for his readers. It’s also an explanation of why almost no American conservatives and relatively few British ones like Le Pen.

In any case, Yglesias’s other discovery is that the National Front wants national control over France’s currency. He’s surprised that a far-right party has hit upon a good policy insight: The euro was either a horribly misguided project or way ahead of its time, and that’s made it an atrocious economic policy for Europe, cause of a great deal of the continent’s pain right now. It should be relatively obvious that serious and nationalistic economic conservatives were going to get that one right.

The incredibly shallow understanding of European politics implied by this piece’s surprised tone means that Yglesias’s conclusion is naïve. He writes:

Le Pen deserves to be confronted where she’s making the most sense, not the least. Mainstream leaders need to either co-opt her European agenda, or else construct a viable alternative in which the European Central Bank creates growth-friendly conditions without disrupting the single currency.

EU leaders and the European politicians who support their project, of course, have chosen to confront Le Pen and her ilk where they’re making the least sense (in their alleged racism), not the most. That’s not just because that’s generally how politics work. It’s because, for the reasons Yglesias cites from Le Pen, it’s nigh impossible to create “growth-friendly conditions,” or an economy that can respond to the business cycle, “without disrupting the single currency.” And they can’t co-opt her European agenda — it would then not be a “European” agenda at all, as pro-EU forces understand it.

‘CyberCaliphate’ Hacks U.S. Army Central Command’s Twitter, Youtube Accounts



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The Twitter and Youtube accounts of the U.S. Army’s Central Command was hacked by unknown attackers calling themselves the “CyberCaliphate” on Monday, publishing the phone numbers and private information of American officers and posting propaganda videos glorifying the Islamic State.

The attack on the Army’s headquarters for Middle Eastern operations occurred around 12:30 EST, when the hackers sent out the following tweet on @CENTCOM’s account:

“AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK,” the post read, adding that “we broke into your networks and personal devices and know everything about you. You’ll see no mercy infidels.”

The chilling tweets continued, with spreadsheets of the phone numbers, email accounts and private information of top-ranking Army officers uploaded to the page along with threatening messages:

The attackers then posted what appears to be Powerpoint slides of Pentagon contingency plans for a war against China and North Korea:

CENTCOM’s Youtube account was simultaneously taken over, with the hackers posting videos titled “Flames of War” and “O Soldiers of Truth Go Forth,” showing Islamic State fighters in combat:

A CENTCOM press officer reached by phone confirmed that the hacks were genuine, though he would not comment on the suspected identity of the attackers. It is unclear whether the attacks emanate from Islamic State sympathizers or operatives of the Islamic State itself. NBC News reported that none of the information posted was classified.

“We can confirm that the CENTCOM Twitter and YouTube accounts were compromised earlier today,” an official press release said. ”We are taking appropriate measures to address the matter. We have no further information to provide at this time.”

Both the Twitter and Youtube account of the U.S. Army’s Central Command have now been suspended.

Kerry Dismisses ‘Quibbling’ Criticisms Over Lack of U.S. Leadership at Paris Rally



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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rejected widespread criticism of the Obama administration’s failure to send a high-ranking representative to Sunday’s massive anti-terrorism rally in Paris, calling the critiques “quibbling” despite the attendance of more than 40 world leaders. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov all marched arm-in-arm with French President Francois Hollande and dozens of other foreign leaders in response to last Wednesday’s massacre of Charlie Hebdo journalists and cartoonists by Islamic terrorists.

But the United States was represented only by ambassador Jane Hartley, who reportedly marched a few rows back from the line of global leaders. That lack of high-level U.S. leadership set off a firestorm of disapproval from across the political spectrum, with the NY Daily News saying the president “let the world down” and Democratic strategist Doug Schoen saying he “morally abdicated his place as leader of the free world.”

Asked about the absence during a press conference in India on Monday, Kerry rejected the criticism. “I really think this is sort of quibbling a little bit,” he told reporters, noting that the United States sent intelligence assets to help the French find the terrorists and that he already had a prior commitment to attend the event in India.

The secretary of state also stressed that he would be traveling to France on Thursday, “to make it crystal clear how passionately we feel about the events that have taken place there.”

via The Weekly Standard

French Muslim Students Refused to Honor Moment of Silence for Charlie Hebdo Attack



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A nationwide minute of silence for the victims of the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s Paris offices was not honored by some Muslim students in French schools, a BBC reporter claimed.

Following last Wednesday’s slaughter of 12 people at the satirical newspaper by Islamic terrorists, President Francois Hollande asked the French people to observe a moment of silence the following day.

But while most of the nation responded with an outpouring of grief and solidarity, one subset of the French nation was less-than-reverential.

“I’m already getting reports from people in France that some schools in those strongly Muslim neighborhoods, the kids didn’t stand for the minute’s silence,” BBC reporter Katty Kay said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday. “They see those attackers as heroes. How do we change that? Because that’s where the problem for Europe lies.”

Kay said the Muslim-dominated Parisian suburbs must be “detoxified,” explaining that radicalization is spreading rapidly within the French Muslim community.

Muslims worldwide were incensed by Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons mocking their prophet Mohammed, with many calling for revenge attacks like the one finally carried out last week. 

NYPD Brass: No Vacation, Sick Days Until Slowdown Ends



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A work stoppage by NYPD officers to protest a perceived lack of support from New York City leaders, among them Mayor Bill de Blasio, has earned a sharp rebuke from police commissioner Bill Bratton. Via the NY Post:

At precincts across the city, top brass are cracking the whip on summons activity and even barring many cops from taking vacation and sick days, The Post has learned.

Throughout the city, precincts are being ordered to hand up to borough commanders “activity sheets” indicating the number of arrests and summonses per shift, sources told The Post.

“Police officers around the city are now threatened with transfers, no vacation time and sick time unless they write summonses,” one union source said.

According to the Post, the following memo, informing cops that “no new days off would be approved beyond already approved vacation days” nor sick days approved without a doctor’s note, was posted inside a NYPD station house.

Monday links



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Eat your hearts (or brains, or whatever) out, zombies - Atlas Missile Silo turned into Luxury Survival Condos.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, famous for inspiring Stephen King to write The Shining, is planning to construct a 10,000 square foot maze, and is having an open design contest.

20 Award-Winning Wedding Photographs of 2014.

Math: how long it would take 2 million people to fart enough hydrogen to fill the Hindenburg?

One man built his own dialyses machine, another built replacements for his blown-off hands: 5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Life-Saving Devices.

There Are Now Lego Astronauts Aboard The ISS.

ICYMIFriday’s links are here, and include the story of the 1969 “Paul McCartney is dead” hoax, turning Nazi super cows into sausage, macro photos of weird insects, and a device for butt selfies

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