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Never Too Busy To Do the People’s Business: California Moves to Ban Confederate Flag Sales (Under Some Circumstances)



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True justice for all took a step forward Monday as the California Assembly passed a bill to prohibit state agencies from selling Confederate flags.

Assembly Bill 2444 originally aimed to ban all sales of the Stars and Bars on state grounds, but the bill’s sponsor, Compton Democratic Assemblyman Isadore Hall III, amended it to avoid First Amendment conflicts. The bill passed the lower house on a 72-1 vote.

Hall’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Lest you think Confederate flag sales were some kind of rogue operation by the Horse Racing Board, the Board of Chiropractors, or one of the other 369 government agencies maintained in the nothing-left-to-cut Golden State, Hall avers that his own mother discovered novelty Confederate dollars for sale in a gift shop at the state Capitol. And according to Los Angeles CBS 2, state functions are a hotbed of Reb sympathizers:

Hall noted a sign sold at the state fairgrounds depicting a Confederate flag with the phrase “It’s still my American flag.”

Confederate activity in California during the actual Civil War was pretty limited. Though Hall’s fellow Democrats joined with disgruntled Californios to make some trouble in Los Angeles and managed to form a pro-Southern militia, nothing came of it, and the Golden State remained solid Union territory. The next big Civil War re-enactment in the state will be in late August, at Huntington Beach’s Central Park.

Tags: California

7–5



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That will be the partisan split on the Benghazi panel, per Politico.

Pelosi wants it to be even, even though “Pelosi’s select committee probing global warming had nine Democrats and six Republicans.”

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‘Rick Santorum’s New Culture War’



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Pat has an excellent piece on the home page today on Rick Santorum’s blue-collar conservatism. This isn’t the last we’ll hear of it. Santorum is very likely to run for president again for at least three reasons:

1) He has a theory of the case. He has a well-considered take on the world and his conservatism has a different flavor than that of almost all the other potential candidates. So he quite reasonably believes if he isn’t its standard-bearer, no one else will be.

2) He ran before. He told us when he was here for an editorial meeting the other day that he believes he learned from his experience last time, and will be able to apply the lessons if he goes again.

3) He believes a lack of resources isn’t an obstacle. It will likely be a field crowded with other candidates with bigger fundraising bases, but Santorum lived off the land in 2012 and clearly thinks he can do it again.

Web Briefing: Nvember 27, 2014

The Family and Us



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Over the last few weeks and months — and year, and years — marriage and family has often been a topic of conversations I’ve found myself in. One of the most important points I tend to stress is chaos in family life certainly didn’t — absolutely did not — begin the day courts started down the road of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Writing on Public Discourse about a new documentary from Focus on the Family that a number of friends of mine are in, Serena Sigillito writes:

Irreplaceable expresses the truth that the sin and brokenness tearing apart the family all come from within the individual human heart. As [executive director Tim Sisarich] returns home, he reflects:

I set out on a journey to find out what’s wrong with the family, and I came to a conclusion. I am. I haven’t loved the way He loves me. We as Christians haven’t loved the world, the prodigals, even one another the way He calls us to love.

But that isn’t the end of the story—not really. To restore loving family life to the heart of our culture, we must begin with ourselves—one family, one person at a time. “Despite our mistakes,” says Sisarich fervently, “love can still transform us. And only then will we begin to transform the world around us.”

For anyone talking about marriage and family today it is important to have a little bit of a penitential posture even while confidently proposing what makes sense for life, love, and the common good.

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Give Peace in the Womb a Chance



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Here is what Planned Parenthood is happy about this Tuesday (copied from my inbox):

Washington, DC — Planned Parenthood applauds the introduction of the Peace Corps Equity Act, which would extend to Peace Corps Volunteers the same coverage for abortion services that most other women with federal health care already receive. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) along with returned Peace Corps Volunteers Sam Farr (D-CA-20), John Garamendi (D-CA-3), Mike Honda (D-CA-17), and Joseph Kennedy (D-MA-4), and reintroduced in the Senate by Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) on Tuesday afternoon. Current policy denies coverage of abortion for Peace Corps Volunteers even when a woman is the victim of rape or incest, or faces a life-threatening pregnancy. 

“The Peace Corps Equity Act is a matter of basic fairness. It will ensure that a woman serving our country in the Peace Corps has the same access to abortion if she is the victim of rape or incest, or when her life is endangered, as women in the armed services and many other women covered by federal health programs,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Women in the Peace Corps should be able to make private medical decisions without the interference of politicians. We are grateful for the unwavering commitment of these lawmakers — Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Representatives Nita Lowey, Sam Farr, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, and Joseph Kennedy — to addressing this injustice faced by Peace Corps volunteers, and look forward to working with them and their colleagues to pass this legislation.”

“No woman should have to sacrifice access to health care in order to serve her country,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, vice president—global, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I commend Representative Lowey and Senator Shaheen for working to ensure that women in the Peace Corps receive the health care coverage they need and deserve.”

The bill builds on the successful effort Senator Shaheen led to expand access to abortion for military servicewomen at the end of last year, and features 27 bipartisan co-sponsors.
Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver and his wife Eunice have been well-described by our friend (and former NR intern!) Ross Douthat as “the embodiment of a liberal road not taken.” Instead of reconsidering the culture of death America has embraced for four decades, here we are presented with the choice to double down again — and under the guise of peace.
 
One is reminded of Mother Teresa’s plea at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., in 1994

I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.

And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.

By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems.

And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion.

Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.

Many people are very, very concerned with the children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about all the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions who are being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today — abortion which brings people to such blindness.

And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere — “Let us bring the child back.” The child is God’s gift to the family. Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God for greater things — to love and to be loved. In this year of the family we must bring the child back to the center of our care and concern. This is the only way that our world can survive because our children are the only hope for the future. As older people are called to God, only their children can take their places.

But what does God say to us? He says: “Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of my hand.” We are carved in the palm of His hand; that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God from conception and is called by God to love and to be loved, not only now in this life, but forever. God can never forget us.

I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by adoption — by care of the mother and adoption for her baby. We have saved thousands of lives. We have sent word to the clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: “Please don’t destroy the child; we will take the child.” So we always have someone tell the mothers in trouble: “Come, we will take care of you, we will get a home for your child.” And we have a tremendous demand from couples who cannot have a child — but I never give a child to a couple who have done something not to have a child. Jesus said. “Anyone who receives a child in my name, receives me.” By adopting a child, these couples receive Jesus but, by aborting a child, a couple refuses to receive Jesus.

Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child.

From our children’s home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy.

Members of Congress best not be distracted by their to-do lists

 

Greece (N.Y.) Has a Prayer



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Brett Harvey, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, was one of the attorneys who represented the Town of Greece in its successful defense of public prayer at the U.S. Supreme Court. He talks to National Review Online about the win.


KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Why is this Greece, N.Y., case so important?

BRETT HARVEY: The Supreme Court’s decision not only vindicates the town of Greece, but reaffirms that Americans are free to pray, and prayer opponents are no longer “free to prey.” Public bodies across the country have been subjected to systematic attacks and a series of federal lawsuits in an effort to force them to silence or censor prayers. Monday’s ruling should end the attacks on this historic tradition. The decision not only affirms these public prayers, but it makes it clear that prayer givers remain free to pray as guided by their own faith.


LOPEZ: Did anything jump out at you in the ruling?

HARVEY: Importantly, the court not only protected the freedom to continue opening public meetings with prayer, a practice of the authors of the Constitution, but it also protected the dignity of the prayer giver by recognizing the right to pray free of government censorship. The court noted that a demand for generic prayers “would force the legislatures that sponsor prayers and the courts that are asked to decide these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech.”


LOPEZ: Why do we need ceremonial prayer at government functions? It could be argued it is both superficial and not who we are anymore, couldn’t it?

HARVEY: Monday’s opinion recognizes that having public meetings open with prayer is more than simply a relic from a bygone era. As the majority explains “legislative prayer lends gravity to public business, reminds lawmakers to transcend petty differences in pursuit of higher purposes, and expresses a common aspiration to a just and peaceful society.” The fact that this tradition has endured for hundreds of years demonstrates the continued benefit of such reminders.


LOPEZ: Is this about secularism? Is this ruling a defeat for secularism?

HARVEY: The Supreme Court decision values the government’s public accommodation of the religious practices of its people, even when they serve in public office, and recognizes our religious heritage. The majority rejected an understanding of the Constitution that would sweep away practices that were acknowledged by the Framers and have withstood the critical scrutiny of time and political change.


LOPEZ: Does it have implications for other religious-freedom cases?

 

HARVEY: The decision reaffirms legal principles that will have far-reaching implications. In recent years, federal lawsuits have been filed challenging many historic governmental acknowledgments of religion, from inauguration prayers and the pledge of allegiance to the national motto. This decision reaffirms the value and constitutionality of these practices. This case not only protects the ability of the government to accommodate the faith of the people, but adds further protection for people to publicly pray and express their own faith. This decision will continue to have an impact on constitutional jurisprudence for years to come.


LOPEZ: Is there a big picture here worth reflecting on?

HARVEY: Americans remain free to pray, just as our Founders were.


LOPEZ: Having worked with the people from Greece, what would you like others to know?

HARVEY: It has been a privilege to represent the town of Greece, N.Y. Alliance Defending Freedom will be launching a campaign to educate public officials about their right to permit uncensored prayers that seek Divine guidance and blessing during public meetings. We stand ready to advise public officials as to how they can accommodate and respect the faiths of the people in their community.

‘Feeling Tremendously Full of Running’: Happy Diamond Anniversary to the Four-Minute Mile



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On this day 60 years ago, medical student Roger Bannister put the myth of the unbreakable four-minute mile into the dustbin of history with the sound barrier and the Earth’s  1 billion–population “carrying capacity.” Watch as the fleet-footed Englishman makes history, and narrates his own story in an impeccable Oxford accent:

Six decades later, around a thousand men have broken the four-minute mile; and the record, held by the great Hicham El Guerrouj, now stands at three minutes, forty-three seconds. But the one-miler remains among the most grueling of track events. Too long to be a sprint, too short for anything but flat-out mad-dogging, it’s a race that still separates the men from the boys. (Or at least separates the men from the women; the world is still waiting for the first woman to break four minutes.)

Tags: Sports

Re ‘What Bob Hoskins Did for Me’



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In response to my post, below, about a certain locution I learned from Bob Hoskins in Mona Lisa, a reader sends me a Christopher Hitchens column, from ’04 — which begins,

The following anecdote appears in one of Niall Ferguson’s absorbing studies of the British Empire. On the eve of independence for the colony of South Yemen, the last British governor hosted a dinner party attended by Denis Healey, then the minister for defense. Over the final sundown cocktail, as the flag was about to be lowered over the capital of Aden, the governor turned to Healey and said, “You know, Minister, I believe that in the long view of history, the British Empire will be remembered only for two things.” What, Healey was interested to know, were these imperishable aspects? “The game of soccer. And the expression ‘f*** off.’”

The Complete Chronology of the Benghazi Deception



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March 2011: U.S. secretly approves arms shipments from Qatar to Libyan rebels.

May 2011: Al-Qaeda flags raised over Benghazi.

November 2011: Rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi admits a significant number of Libyan rebels were al-Qaeda fighters who fought American troops in Iraq.

April 19, 2012: State Department rejects ambassador to Libya’s request for more security personnel.

June 20, 2012: Assassination attempt on the British Ambassador to Libya.

July 9, 2012: Ambassador Stevens asks the State Department for more security personnel.

August 8, 2012: The number of security personnel at Benghazi reduced by State Department.

August 16, 2012: U.S. Site Security in Benghazi alerts the State Department that conditions are perilous.

September 4, 2012: Gallup presidential tracking poll: Obama 47 percent; Romney 46 percent.

September 4–6, 2012: Democratic National Convention (“al-Qaeda decimated; bin Laden is dead and GM is alive; al-Qaeda is on the run”).

September 11, 2012: Ambassador Stevens alerts the State Department that conditions in Benghazi are deteriorating.

3:40 p.m. (D.C. time): Stevens calls deputy chief of mission Greg Hicks in Tripoli and alerts him that the consulate in Benghazi is under attack.

4:00 p.m.: The White House is advised that the consulate is under attack. 10th Special Forces Group in Croatia is three hours away; Brigadier General (Ret.) Robert Lovell, Deputy Director of Intelligence for AFRICOM, later testifies that intelligence knew immediately that it was not a protest but a terrorist attack; no request for aid comes from the State Department.

5:00 p.m.: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discusses attack with President Obama.

6:00 p.m.U.S. Embassy in Tripoli advises the White House and the State Department that al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia has claimed responsibility for the attack. CIA deputy director Mike Morrell later testifies that “analysts knew from the get-go that al Qaeda was involved with this attack.”

8:00 p.m.: Greg Hicks calls Clinton and tells her that consulate is under terrorist attack.

10:00 p.m.: Clinton and Obama talk.

Keep reading this post . . .

Please $upport New Orleans Today



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If it’s Tuesday, it’s GiveNOLA Day.

Between right now and 11:59 PM Central time this evening, fans and friends of New Orleans have an excellent opportunity to contribute to a wide variety of causes that are helping to keep the Crescent City alive and well.

The Greater New Orleans Foundation organized GiveNOLA Day and describes it as the first “one-day, online giving event to inspire people to give generously to nonprofit organizations that are creating a thriving community for all.”

The Foundation will use its own funds to augment gifts made today to some 300 non-profits that serve local needs in America’s most unique and unparalleled city.

One excellent cause worth supporting is the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, on whose advisory board I serve. Named in honor of Louisiana’s state bird, the Pelican Institute is New Orleans’s own free-market think tank.

Under the energetic leadership of its president, Kevin Kane, Pelican has promoted limited government, free enterprise, and public integrity in a city and state that historically have underemphasized these virtues. Kane and his wife, Lesley, are enthusiastic supporters of school choice. New Orleans now is, essentially, America’s charter-school headquarters, after Hurricane Katrina flushed the local teachers union into the Gulf of Mexico. The Pelican Institute has chronicled these very encouraging developments and is working sedulously to solidify and advance these and other gains.

The Pelican Institute’s specific gift page eagerly awaits your generosity here.

Keep reading this post . . .

About That Church Demolition in China



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Last week, Sanjiang church in Wenzhou, a Chinese coastal city 230 miles south of Shanghai, was demolished by the local government after weeks during which members of the Protestant congregation occupied the building round the clock, forming a human shield. Local-government officials say that, given its cathedral-like size, 80,000 square feet, the church building violated zoning standards. It may have, but it was twelve years in the making, so you would think that the government might have noticed and stepped in at some point before the ribbon was cut last December.

A plausible explanation of what happened is that, while local officials thought that the architecture did Wenzhou proud and that Christians tended to make peaceable good citizens, provincial officials saw it differently, saw it late, and prevailed on the local government to pull it down. On the ground in the city of Wenzhou, the rise of Christianity over the years may well have impressed local authorities as a largely benign development needing only light management. To provincial leaders entering the city on occasion, the mushrooming of steeples and crosses may have appeared alarming.

Earlier this year, the head of Zhejiang’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee said that the growth of Christianity, presumably throughout China but perhaps with a tacit nod to Wenzhou, widely regarded as China’s most Christian city (its Christian population is estimated by the Chinese government to be 1 million but is almost certainly higher) has been “too excessive and too haphazard.” The provincial Communist-party chief, who has been in office only since December 2012, has complained that crosses on church facades are “too conspicuous and too flashy.” Local residents report that other churches have been ordered to remove or at least lower their crosses.

For Christians given to expressing their faith through architecture, the mandate for them to belittle it must have been especially distasteful. Cao Nanlai, an anthropologist at Renmin University, says that “Wenzhou people are very well known for their entrepreneurial spirit, and they express their Christianity through real estate,” an observation that should bring a smile to the faces of our friends at the Acton Institute. But Weibo user Pastor Yang took the church demolition as an opportunity to comment that

when it comes to our faith, the word jiaohui (church, congregation, fellowship) is not the same as jiaotang (church building). It may be possible to deal violently with a jiaotang, but not with the jiaohui. Christians shouldn’t be so sad. Maybe this is a good time to reflect and wonder if we have put too much focus on church buildings. With this jiaotang now destroyed, we should focus our efforts on building the jiaohui.

Around the time of the demolition, authorities removed Catholic statues and Stations of the Cross from a local hilltop. And two years ago, police detained the underground Catholic bishop of Wenzhou in an effort to pressure him to join the Catholic Patriotic Association, the party organization whose mission is to control Catholicism in China. The events in Wenzhou these past couple of weeks have occurred against a background of widespread persecution of Christians by the Chinese government at various levels, although I hesitate to say “persecution,” if only because I don’t want to use up that word and then have nothing stronger to describe the gruesome treatment that, for example, Christians in Nigeria suffer at the hands of Boko Haram. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the American Christian lawyered to distraction and possible penury by a government that insists he cut corners on his conscience in order to comply more fully with the different conscience, informed by different values, that the government assumes and enshrines in increasingly small-minded regulations.

In each of these three cases — overreactive secular government in the West, the Communist party in China, and Boko Haram — Christians are perceived as a threat to some commonsense notion of the good society. Where secular government is insidious, the anti-Christian terrorist is literally cutthroat. The Communist party in China borrows a little from the spirit of both.

Cruz Rising



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MSNBC Apologizes for ‘Ill-Advised’ Cinco de Mayo Stunt



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MSNBC has apologized for a segment that aired on Monday for Cinco de Mayo that offended at least one Hispanic group. The incident took place on the network’s early morning show Way Too Early with host Thomas Roberts and producer Louis Burgdorf.

Before wrapping up the show, as Roberts was explaining the history of Cinco de Mayo, Burgdorf repeatedly walked in front of the camera wearing a sombrero, downing tequila, and shaking a maraca. Burgdorf had been donning the sombrero throughout most of the 30-minute show.

“It’s also an excuse to drink tequila on a Monday morning at work for Louis,” Roberts said after explaining the holiday’s history. “You have to drink the whole thing and eat the worm,” he later challenged Burgdorf.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists denounced MSNBC’s “capricious actions, lack of judgment, insensitivity and attack at the Mexican community.”

“This is simply the worst example I have seen of a discriminatory stereotypical portrayal of any community by any media,” said the organization’s president Hugo Balta. “The fact that this was done by a news organization is abominable. It feeds to the ignorant misconceptions of a rich and proud people who unfortunately are too often portrayed as caricatures to be scoffed at.”

MSNBC has since apologized for its “ill-advised references” to the holiday, saying, “It was not our intention to be disrespectful.”

Defining Torture Down: An Ecumenical Defense Against the Latest Attack on Religious Freedom



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David Rivkin and Lee Casey write in the Wall Street Journal today:

No one doubts the evil of child sexual abuse, but attempting to shoehorn it into the Convention Against Torture is legally incorrect. However monolithic the Catholic Church may seem, it is not a sovereign state, and the Vatican (which is) has no legal authority over the church hierarchy or the millions of Catholic believers around the world.

Although the papacy has enormous spiritual authority, its secular, legal power—which is what the treaty addresses—extends only to the 100 acres of Vatican City, which has about 800 residents. Accordingly, the Holy See in 2002 acceded to the Convention Against Torture for “the Vatican City State” and undertook “to apply it insofar as it is compatible, in practice, with the peculiar nature of that State.” Claims that the Vatican exercises such compelling control over all Catholic institutions and individuals that it bears responsibility for all of their actions reflect a basic misunderstanding of how the treaty and the church operate.

The treaty requires member states to refrain from torture and to take other actions to prevent and punish it by their citizens and within their territory. When Catholics, including Catholic clergy, commit crimes outside of Vatican City, their trial and punishment is up to the countries where crimes occurred. If church officials in those countries were complicit in the offenses, addressing that remains a matter of domestic law. All of this is well-known and accepted international practice.

Attempting to internationalize the very serious crime of child abuse by defining it as “torture” is also misguided. The treaty defines torture narrowly and is directed at states for a reason: to focus attention on repressive governments engaging in torture as a form of terror and as a means of preserving the regimes’ hold on power.

None of this makes a difference to the activists who want to accuse the Catholic Church of violating the Convention Against Torture. Among the most determined are those whose claims are a thinly veiled effort to use a U.N. forum to attack Catholic doctrine, especially the church’s stand on birth control and abortion. The Center for Reproductive Rights has even claimed that these key aspects of Catholic belief are themselves tantamount to psychological torture. How so? Because they insidiously shape human behavior, bringing feelings of shame to individuals who seek access to birth control or abortion services, and improperly use the church’s formidable spiritual authority to influence numerous governments to limit access to contraception and abortion services.

By that preposterous logic, any religious faith—or secular doctrine, for that matter—could be condemned for practicing torture if it seeks to motivate adherents to lead their lives in particular ways. This attempt to hijack the Convention Against Torture for political purposes degrades the definition of torture and undermines the treaty’s efforts to end these terrible practices.

Even critics of Catholic doctrine should appreciate that the Convention Against Torture is not the proper instrument, and its U.N. monitoring committee not the proper forum, to challenge anyone’s religious beliefs. Were a sovereign state to act in this manner and attempt to suppress or penalize religious beliefs, its behavior would violate other critical international instruments, including the U.N.’s own International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, with their explicit protections for religious liberty.

If the Convention Against Torture committee stretches the treaty to condemn an entire religious institution for the criminal behavior of individuals who belong to it, the treaty’s credibility will be dramatically diminished. That’s bad enough. But if the Convention Against Torture were used to single out the Vatican for condemnation, Catholics and Catholic clergy around the world would be marked as somehow collectively responsible for individual offenses, leaving these innocent people open to attack and persecution, particularly in countries where religious liberty is already threatened. This is not the mission of the Convention Against Torture—or of the United Nations.

Again, the truth is not hair-splitting. And the U.N. should not let itself be misused as a cultural bludgeon. Over the weekend, addressing media after the recent meeting of Pope Francis’s reform commission, Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley talked about educating people out of denial about sexual abuse in our culture. There’s common cause here, but that would require honesty on the part of people who have chosen the Catholic Church — and other religious believers (think: the Green family who run Hobby Lobby) who offer an alternative lifestyle to the radical secularism that all too many of us have surrendered to as a ruling ideology – as a convenient enemy.

Mercy in Albany



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Andrew Cuomo’s abortion-expansion desire hit a road block today, said to kill it for this legislative session. Or so we pray.

UPDATE: Making sure the work against the governor’s drive continues, a friend who watches Albany closely makes an important point: 

It’s a blow, to be sure, but not a definitive one. This was the old stand-alone abortion expansion bill.  The 10th plank of the Governor’s “Women’s Equality Act” is still alive (although our GOP allies continue to assure us that there’s no chance of it moving).  We’ll see.

The danger of Cuomo’s “Women’s Equality Act” is that this grave abortion-expansion can pass without people realizing it. (Simply passing abortion-expansion, he knows, is bad politics with anyone outside the abortion lobby he might need to win over in a Democratic presidential primary.) And that danger remains. 

The Health in Health Insurance



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In the latest issue of NR, I write about the state of Obamacare as a law, and as a debate. I note that the program does appear to be increasing the number of Americans with health insurance, and that this is a positive step for the beneficiaries’ financial security–but may not do much for their health. “A study of Oregon Medicaid recipients — the best such study we have — has . . .  found that coverage did not significantly improve any physical health outcomes.” Since that article appeared, a new study that shows a much larger positive effect on health has come out. Peter Suderman and Megan McArdle each have sensible run-downs. 

Study: Just 7 Percent of Journalists Are Republicans



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The percentage of journalists identifying themselves as Republicans has decreased dramatically over the years, according to a new study by Indiana University. The survey found that just 7.1 percent consider themselves Republicans, compared with 18 percent in 2002 and much higher numbers in earlier decades.

While self-identified Democrats also fell over that time — from 36 percent to 28 percent — four times as many journalists still consider themselves Democrats as do Republicans.

The study also found that slightly less than 60 percent of journalists think their profession is headed in the wrong direction, versus 23 percent who think it’s going in the right one. Only 23 percent said they were “very satisfied” with their job, down ten points from 2002, and less than half of those who felt that way in 1971.

The IU survey polled reporters across all fields, not just those who cover politics.

Via the Washington Post.

Most Americans Think Obamacare Isn’t Working



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Rich noted yesterday that some good news about President Obama’s health-care law isn’t warming Americans’ feelings toward it.

Americans don’t just dislike the law, though – they also don’t think it’s working, even if the uninsured rate is dropping (as Gallup just found). From the Kaiser Foundation’s latest poll:

That survey also found that a solid majority of Americans want to fix the law rather than replace it with something else — 56 percent of independents prefer reforming it, while 39 percent of them want to replace it.

The Chamber of Commerce Is Trying to Claim Reagan Was an Ex-Im Fan. His Budget Director Sure Wasn’t.



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One of the most formidable lobbying forces in Washington is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Unsurprisingly, the Chamber is putting its arm-twisting and favor-seeking skills to work to try to save the Ex-Im Bank. Among other activity, it’s been circulating a 1984 letter signed by President Reagan praising the bank — apparently intended to convince wavering conservatives that because their conservative hero used to support the agency back then, so should they. 

Appeals to authority on a policy issue shouldn’t really convince anyone. But in case some need a little convincing, here it is: First, while Reagan was a great man, he wasn’t always right. There were a number of cases where he defended policy positions that were not very “conservative,” such as the tax hikes he pushed to make Social Security into the system we have today. If he supported the Ex-Im Bank, he was wrong.

But was he really such a big fan of Ex-Im? His administration, under the influence of budget director David Stockman, managed to cut the bank’s lending budget by 40 percent. Stockman was a staunch advocate of getting rid of the bank altogether, and I assume had some support from the president for the policies he pursued.

Third, the bank under Reagan was tiny in size – and hence in the distortions it could introduce — compared with what it is today. When Carter left office, he had proposed a $7 billion lending budget for the bank, and by 1986 the budget had fallen to $3.2 billion. Unfortunately, in the long run, Stockman and the Reagan administration lost ground to special interests — by 1989, Ex-Im was responsible for $12.1 billion in activity. But even then, the bank’s guarantees and insurance at any one time couldn’t exceed $40 billion, and total outstanding liabilities couldn’t exceed $58.7 billion. Today, the bank’s outstanding liability is twice that, and some members of Congress are eager to jack it up further. 

Some things haven’t changed about the bank: Back then, most of its activity went to serve Boeing, and it’s mostly serving Boeing today. Back then, the bank bestowed most of its subsidies on a handful of giant manufacturers like GE and Westinghouse Electric, that’s still the case. Reagan’s Ex-Im backed a ridiculously small share of U.S. exports, and so does President Obama’s.

Back in 1986, in his book The Triumph of Politics, Stockman wrote that “the Ex-Im subsidies were a fiscally trivial but symbolically important piece of corporate welfare.”​ They still are today. Eighty years of this is enough — no matter what President Reagan said.

Hillary’s First Mistake?



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Per Alex Seitz-Wald over at National Journal:

Hillary Clinton has mostly steered clear of contentious domestic political issues in recent years, but on Tuesday, she said gun laws need to be reined in.

Speaking at a National Council for Behavioral Health conference outside of Washington, D.C., Clinton was asked about the role guns play in suicides. While Clinton said she supports Second Amendment rights, she added that there needs to be a proper trade off between safety and freedom, and that things have swung too far towards the latter.

“I think again we’re way out of balance. We’ve got to rein in what has become almost an article of faith that almost anybody can have a gun anywhere at any time. And I don’t believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people,” she said.

The merits and demerits of this statement to one side, this is an extremely odd thing for Clinton to have done. If Democrats have a serious weakness, it is the gun issue. Michael Dukakis suffered considerably with rural voters in 1988 for his stance on handguns; Bill Clinton was clobbered in the 1994 midterms in part because of his support for a federal “assault weapons” ban; and Al Gore arguably destroyed his campaign in 2000 by making support for stricter gun-control laws a central part of his pitch. Does Hillary think this has changed?

Certainly, guns are going to come up in the Democratic primary, which means that if she runs she is at some point going to have to stake out a position. But why now? Why do it without being forced to do it? The question Hillary was asked was specifically about suicide (which accounts for more than two thirds of all “gun deaths” in the United States). All she had to do was to reaffirm that the issue was a complex one, that the availability of guns certainly doesn’t help here, and then move on to something else. Instead, she chose to answer the question at length. (And indelicately, too: Purely as a matter of style, one never wants to be seen proposing to “rein in” rights. Watch for this phrase in a campaign commercial near you.) Odd.

As Seitz-Wald notes,

She referred to recent high-profile incidents of minor disputes in movie theaters or parking lots that escalated into lethal shootings, saying, “that’s what happens in the countries I’ve visited that have no rule of law.”

She decried new laws proliferating across the country that allow people to carry weapons in churches, bars, and other public places, saying that they will only lead to more deadly violence that could otherwise be avoided. “At the rate we’re going, we’re going to have so many people with guns,” she continued, “in settings where…[they] decide they have a perfect right to defend themselves against the gum chewer or the cell phone talker.”

In other words, more than two years before a general election, Hillary has announced that she is uncomfortable with Stand Your Ground and with expanded concealed carry — both of which are pretty popular with the public at large, and neither of which are being seriously debated outside of the progressive base.

One can only presume that this means she is honestly concerned. Fair enough. Still, as her husband warned President Obama last year, even on a less controversial question such as universal background checks, this is an area fraught with peril.

But, Clinton warned, the issue of guns has a special emotional resonance in many rural states — and simply dismissing pro-gun arguments is counterproductive.

While some polls show that the public by-and-large supports several proposals for increased gun control, Clinton said that it’s not the public support that matters — it’s how strongly people feel about the issue.

“All these polls that you see saying the public is for us on all these issues — they are meaningless if they’re not voting issues,” Clinton said.

Clinton recalled Al Gore’s 2000 campaign against George W. Bush in Colorado, where a referendum designed to close the so-called gun show loophole shared the ballot with the presidential ticket. Gore publicly backed the proposal, while Bush opposed it.

Though the referendum passed with 70 percent of the vote, Gore lost the state. Clinton said that the reason was because a good chunk of the referendum’s opponents were single-issue voters who automatically rejected Gore as anti-gun.

And Clinton said that passing the 1994 federal assault weapons ban “devastated” more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers in the 1994 midterms — and cost then-Speaker of the House Tom Foley (D-Wash.) his job and his seat in Congress.

“I’ve had many sleepless nights in the many years since,” Clinton said. One reason? “I never had any sessions with the House members who were vulnerable,” he explained — saying that he had assumed they already knew how to explain their vote for the ban to their constituents.

An unforced error.

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