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Obama Adviser: President to Embrace Executive Action in 2014



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Previewing Tuesday’s State of the Union address, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer pledged that, if necessary, the president will bypass Congress and take executive action to enact his agenda in the coming year.

“If Congress doesn’t act, the president will,” Pfeiffer told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday. The American people, he said, want to see “progress” whether it comes from Congress “or from the president on his own.”

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Pfeiffer recently sent a three-page memo to the president, which has been discussed in the West Wing, urging him to distance himself from Congress, where his legislation has been stymied, and to use “the pen and the phone” to enact policy, including a climate action plan. He will also look to engage the public directly, traveling the country to stump for his legislative priorities.

Fund: ‘Real Changes’ to RNC Rules are to Primaries Timeline, Not Debates



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Lopez Discusses Obama’s Policies against the Catholic Church as He Preps to Meet Pope Francis



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Web Briefing: August 21, 2014

Wash, Rinse, Repeat: Argentina’s Latest Crisis



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Under first Nestor, and then Cristina, Kirchner, Argentina has been pursuing an economic policy that, in its suspicion of free markets, distrust of globalization, and strong redistributionist vein, reflects a long Argentine tradition that extends far beyond the Kirchner camp, and, indeed, finds some reflection in some of the pronouncements of, ahem, one rather prominent Argentine now resident in the Vatican.

So how’s it working out?

The Guardian reports:

Following the sudden collapse in the peso this week, some Argentinians fear their country may be lurching into a new episode of the crises that seem to hit the country’s economy almost every decade. Scrambling to protect the country’s perilously low central bank reserves, which dropped 30% last year and fell below $30bn (£18bn) this month, the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner seemed at a loss how to proceed. It started the week introducing tight controls on the purchase of online goods from abroad, to prevent Argentinians from spending dollars in ever larger quantities – especially on Chinese products which, as a result of 30% inflation, can be cheaper delivered to their door from abroad than bought at local stores.

But on Friday the government seemed to do a U-turn, saying it would relax its grip on the dollar. From next week it will remove some of the controls it introduced two years ago which banned Argentinians from trading their pesos for dollars, a customary practice in a country with a long history of inflation.The dollar freeze paralysed the property market, which operates in dollars, but failed to stem the rush away from the peso. Instead it created a black market where the dollar has risen from eight to 13 pesos in the last year while the central bank continued using – and losing – reserves trying to keep the dollar in check. Its battle was ultimately lost this week in view of the peso’s sudden collapse.

Seemingly oblivious to the country’s economic plight, Fernández has referred to the last 10 years – since her husband assumed Argentina’s presidency in 2003, and she took over in 2007 – as the “victorious decade”. But this week’s forced devaluation of the official exchange rate may make it difficult to continue repeating a slogan habitually used in speeches by government officials, printed on billboards and even emblazoned on a recent series of commemorative stamps.

To 68-year-old Aida Ender, after 40 days without power in her eighth-floor apartment in the middle-class neighbourhood of Almagro in Buenos Aires, the slogan grates like a bad joke. “There’s no plan, the president is out of touch with reality, she’s lost like Alice in Wonderland,” says Ender, who has had to move out of her apartment, where she has had no water, no working lift and no refrigeration since 16 December. Her plight is shared by thousands of neighbours and even hospitals, in the middle of unusual summer highs of close to 40C. Economic observers blame the government’s populist policies – including keeping utility prices artificially low to disguise inflation – for the power crisis. They say this has made it impossible for firms to invest in maintaining power lines.

The government denies the charges and says that inflation is fuelled by anti-government businessmen.

…At least 11 people were killed and hundreds injured last month when a wave of supermarket looting spread across Argentina, fuelled by a combination of rising food prices and a police strike for higher wages.

The Economist adds:

As of Monday January 27th, the government will supposedly lift this invisible “clamp”. Today’s announcement by Jorge Capitanich, the cabinet chief, lasted only a minute and left his audience with more questions than answers. He revealed only that the exchange restrictions will be lifted for individuals, not for businesses; and that Argentines will still need to present tax affidavits along with their requests for dollars. Those making dollar purchases for travel will be charged a 20% tax advance on such purchases, down from 35% now.

One explanation for the events of the past week is that the authorities can no longer afford to prop up the peso by using Central Bank reserves. Although the 2011 dollar restrictions succeeded in stanching capital flight, they failed to stop the fall of Argentina’s international reserves. In 2011, when the clamp was implemented, the reserves were around $47 billion. They have since dropped below $30 billion. With an energy bill of $15 billion and debt obligations of $10 billion to pay this year, the Central Bank cannot endure much more pressure.

On the other hand, letting the peso plummet as Argentines rush to swap their money into dollars could quickly lead to panic. Even if the Central Bank stops intervening, AFIP, Argentina’s tax agency, will continue to control dollar sales, meaning Argentines could still face rejection of their exchange requests without explanation. Despite this morning’s announcement several black-market exchange houses in Buenos Aires, unsure of what the next week might bring, are still hungrily buying and selling at a rate of roughly 12 pesos to the dollar, well above the official rate of 8.1.

But at least Argentines are being spared the horrors of the free market! 

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Let Them Eat Cookies — Realpolitik Fail



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Over on Slate, there’s a bracing, bleak read from Anne Applebaum on Ukraine. Here’s an excerpt:

First and foremost, it’s time to abandon the myth of the “color revolutions”: the belief that peaceful, nonviolent demonstrators, aided by a bit of Western media training, will eventually rise up and overthrow the corrupt oligarchies that have run most of the post-Soviet orbit since 1991. The history of Ukraine, from the 2004 Orange Revolution until now, has proved this belief to be false.

In fact, corrupt oligarchs, backed by Russian money and Russian political technology, are a lot stronger than anyone ever expected them to be. They have the cash to bribe an entire parliament’s worth of elected officials. They have the cynicism to revive the old Soviet technique of selective violence: One or two murders is enough to scare off many thousands of peaceful demonstrators, one or two arrests will suffice to remind businessmen who is boss. They have also learned to manipulate media (as the Russians do), to multiply their money in Western financial institutions (as the Russians do), even to send threatening text messages. They have crafted a well-argued, well-funded alternate narrative about Western economic decline and cultural decadence. A friend jokingly calls this the “all your daughters will become lesbians” line of argument, but it is surprisingly powerful.

But the recent history of Ukraine should lead us to abandon another myth as well: the belief that some kind of post-Cold War order still prevails in Europe, and that the United States is an important part of it. It is true that European Union leaders have engaged with Ukraine for the past several years at many levels—presidential, ministerial, bureaucratic—in an effort to create a broader relationship. It is true that their effort failed, following a concerted Russian campaign of targeted trade boycotts, veiled military threats, big bribes (a lower gas price), many smaller bribes, and a massive anti-Western propaganda effort designed to make Ukrainians believe “Europe” would be bad for them.

The American response, meanwhile, has been negligible. After European talks broke down, the Obama administration sent an assistant secretary of state to hand out cookies to demonstrators in Kiev. Now the administration says it might not issue visas to a few Ukrainian leaders. That policy might make a few people in Washington feel better, but it will also send the Ukrainians running directly into the arms of the Russians. In the words of a Canadian diplomat, “It’s like watching a hockey game with only one team on the ice.”

It will take a while for these new truths to sink in, but once Ukrainians realize that the ideal of the color revolution is dead, and that the West has no tools to revive it, there may be consequences. If peaceful demonstrations don’t work, after all, some may logically conclude that it’s time to use violence. Ukrainians have indeed constructed violent resistance movements more than once in the past century. It’s even possible that the Ukrainian government hopes they will do so again, as that might rapidly render all opposition illegitimate.

The whole piece is well worth reading, but in the end Applebaum does not come up with a clear answer of what the US should do next, probably for the good reason that there is none. But handing out cookies is not going to be enough. A nice gesture and all that, but . . .

Rejecting the idea that America has some sort of universalist mission is one thing, but for a great nation to bury its head in the sand is entirely another. In a rough world, a world in which powers have always jostled each other — and always will — there is indeed, whatever the naysayers may say, such a thing as “provocative weakness,” and it’s hard not to think that — so far as Putin is concerned — this is exactly the message that the U.S. has conveyed.

Think back, say, to September 17, 2009, the date when the Obama administration scrapped plans for a missile shield based in Poland (supported by a radar installation in the Czech Republic). Some sort of alternative system will eventually be put in place, but the initial decision (and, doubtless, subsequent hesitation) was seen in the region as a statement of weakness in the face of Russian pressure. The fact that it was announced on the seventieth anniversary of the USSR’s 1939 invasion of Poland — a date well-remembered in a part of the world that knows its history — only added a perception of American ignorance to American weakness. And if the administration genuinely believed that the EU alone — the EU — could fill the gap, well . . .

Let’s just say the Russians were paying attention. 

What an American World Looks Like, in Two Charts



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Kevin’s piece today on the homepage talks about the triumph of the war on polio and how it reflects the benefits of a world that’s largely been converted to Western, liberal values. In fact, the rest of the world has been incredibly successful over the past 20 or 30 years, and, despite the hysteria raised over this week over a widely misinterpreted report from Oxfam that dramatized wealth inequality in the world, the globe has in some ways gotten more equal (flatter, you could say, if you were a Times columnist). Not dramatically so, in part because the world’s really rich have gotten much richer over the past few decades, but we’ve seen, globally, exactly the kind of growth everyone wants: The poor joined the middle class.

Freer markets and more trade have made most people in the world much richer — especially the global poor and the middle class. From a recent World Bank paper by Christoph Lakner and Branko Milanovic, here’s who benefited the most from the great liberalization, from 1988 to 2008:

A huge chunk of that growth happened in China and India, but it also took place in Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere, as they connected to global markets and replaced heavily dirigiste policies with marginally more free-market ones. This has made the world not just substantially richer, but by some measures more equal:

So what about the losers in the first graph, the “developed-world middle class”? Was Pat Buchanan right about NAFTA? Not quite: America is actually so rich that we’re not in that trough. The middle-income losers, the 80th to 90th percentiles, are people making around $7,000 a year in 2005 dollars, which only includes some of the American poor. It includes a lot more middle-class people in Eastern European countries, which performed poorly in large part because of the time frame: Their economies didn’t boom immediately when the Soviet Union fell, though they’ve done much better since. (There was also the 1990s financial crisis in Southeast Asia, which has a lot of people around this income level.)

Despite how it looks, then, the above data actually doesn’t show globalization’s benefits coming at the expense of America’s middle class. Yet, the American middle class have not seen huge gains in their earned incomes since the 1980s. Their gains aren’t as terrible as many measures will make you think, because taxes and transfers have boosted the middle class and the poor. The Milanovic paper takes that into account, by measuring consumption more than income, but the global 95th percentile’s 20 percent growth growth in incomes, adjusted for inflation, over 20 years is still not great.

Globalization hasn’t been bad for the American middle class; it’s just been even better for everyone else. To some extent, the gap is inevitable: It’s easier for poor countries to grow than for rich ones to do so. But we can and should do better, to encourage faster growth in the U.S. (and the rest of the rich world) and ensure that that growth is widely distributed.

What about the other (relative) losers on the chart? The extremely poor haven’t been exploited by globalization, either. Rather, the poor performance at the very bottom of the chart can be attributed to political instability and conflict, which has prevented some places from being hooked into globalization (or unhooked them – Cote D’Ivoire, par exemple — or hooked them in late — e.g., Angola). Bill and Melinda Gates remark in their foundation’s annual letter this year that they predict by 2035 there will be essentially no countries like these “very poorest” countries. As a matter of solely economics, this is almost an understatement of the growth we’re seeing in poor countries. But since the problem is political — both too much bad governance and not enough good governance — and the world has actually not shown signs of becoming a more peaceful, stable place in the past few years, their prediction may be overly optimistic. (Their mention of North Korea as a country kept poor by its politics and central Africa as a region kept poor by being landlocked understates the problem of bad politics substantially — but that’s a debate for another day.)

Krauthammer’s Take on Huckabee: ‘For God’s Sake, Why Do You Have to Talk about That?’



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Conservatives can make a case for “women’s issues” if they avoid incendiary topics like “the psychology of women’s sexuality,” said Charles Krauthammer. “For god’s sake, why do you have to talk about that?” he said on Friday’s Special Report, referring to Mike Huckabee’s remarks earlier in the week about women’s “libido.”

Instead, Krauthammer encouraged Republicans to focus on issues where they would receive widespread approval, such as restrictions on late-term abortions or publicly defending the Little Sisters of the Poor. Otherwise, the “kind of cosmetic change” like selecting Cathy McMorris Rodgers to give the response to the state of the union will have little impact.

Close Encounters with the Wild West of Twitter



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Note: This isn’t a family-friendly blog post. 

I was going to ignore this beyond what I’ve said on Twitter (@KathrynLopez), but I’m still hearing about it, so here goes.

Unless I’m livetweeting an event, I usually look at Twitter between things. Every once in a while I click on some suggestions on the recommended list, see what friends and colleagues are retweeting and see if there might be others I should follow.

Twitter can help one catch up on news — or buzz — between meetings. What are people distracted by, consumed by, and sharing? Within reason, the more I see on Twitter, the more I know who is good — reliable, wise, nourishing, clever, funny — and worth pointing out to others. While on a bus or train or in a cab, I often take a look and catch up on news, too, following news sites and seeing what’s important to people in a given hour or over the course of a day — or at least what has captured the attention of the Twitterverse.

I follow private citizens I’ve met, say, at the March for Life the other day, reporters and commentators, news sites, and people I don’t know but whose Twitter handle caught my attention one second for one reason or another. (I retweeted a number of young people who used the #MarchforLife hashtag while they were on their journeys this week, for example.)

I can’t say I give the following all that much thought on Twitter. I’m certain there are people I should follow who I don’t and people I do follow whose tweets are probably not something I want to be reading.

As Charlie mentioned, last night, someone at Gawker wanted to make sure I thought about that last point. In following a number of people, between reading Pope Francis’s Communications Day Message and watching a screener for the movie Gimme Me Shelter coming out this weekend, I followed him on Twitter. I don’t know what brought his handle to my attention, I assume the recommended list. 

Keep reading this post . . .

Start Spreading the News: The Mayor Doesn’t See Pro-Lifers as New Yorkers, Either



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A week ago tonight news broke that Andrew Cuomo said “right to life” views are not fit for New York State. He would later claim it was taken out of context, and gets a pass from much of the media. Even though we have the audio and transcript as evidence. What he did is tell the truth about a radical secular thinking that has become all too mainstream that would push religion to the sidelines. That’s what the Obamacare abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization mandate and so much else is. (More here and here and here. Our editorial here.)

Cuomo, in trying to accuse the New York Post of taking him out of context, even though they were not the first or only ones to react to his banishment fantasy, reverted to “anti-choice” as is the typical script to describe those who oppose legal abortion. He may believe what he said, but he will go back to hide behind words like “Women’s Equality” when pushing for abortion expansion in New York State (read my interview with Cardinal Dolan about that here).

The new mayor of New York, though, is sticking with the honesty. Bill De Blasio says the governor was right in his radio interview, New Yorkers aren’t “extremists” who “want to challenge and deny a women’s right to choose.” If you’re talking about legal abortion, Mr. Mayor, yes, yes we do.

“I agree with Gov. Cuomo’s remarks,” de Blasio told reporters after delivering a speech before the US Conference of Mayors.

“I interpret his remarks to say that an extremist attitude that continues the reality of violence in our communities or an extremist attitude that denies the rights of women does not represent the views of the people of New York state,” he said.

“We all understand there’s a right to free speech. I wouldn’t disagree with that right, nor would Gov. Cuomo.”

So feel free to talk about it, but you’re not a New Yorker, Cardinal Dolan? Same for women like Dr. Anne Nolte, Dr. Elissa Sanchez-Speach, Mother Agnes Donovan – who I ran into outside the Supreme Court during the March for Life Wednesday and all of her Sisters of Life – Cheryl CalireKathy GallagherLisa HallSusanne Metaxas, Maria McFadden and Anne Conlon of The Human Life Review, and Theresa Bonapartis, who are all doing “right to life” work in the Empire State. That’s the position of the Democratic party in New York?

Mike Huckabee’s Chivalry



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I am appreciative of Andrew Johnson’s MSNBC Huckabee frenzy recap and Charlie’s piece. It’s outlandish to say that he was demeaning women or threatening our freedom.

He was saying what I’ve been saying for nearly as long as I can remember: Women do not equal abortion rights, women are not defined by the threat of getting pregnant, fertility is not a preexisting condition but a great gift, and the difference between men and women should be celebrated, not suppressed.

Today on MSNBC I heard a not-even-particularly-ideological anchor referring to Mike Huckabee’s talk of “women’s issues” as if reproduction only involves women and we couldn’t care less about anything else he had to say about, say, the future of America. Just give me my contraception. Now I’m free! That’s what the Democratic party has been selling with the HHS mandate. It’s patronizing politics and dangerous policy that narrows religious liberty.

But go ahead and have your War on Women fun, MSNBC. And explain to the Little Sisters of the Poor that in America today, that forcing them to provide contraception for the staff of their homes for the elderly poor is so important that it trumps their conscience rights.

The Little Sisters of the Poor Have Religious Liberty for Now



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The entire Supreme Court has gotten behind the New Year’s Eve temporary injunction Justice Sotomayor issued for the religious sisters. This keeps the injunction in place as their case goes forward. More from Ed Whelan at Bench Memos:

The reaction from their lawyers at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which I post in full because it includes key facts not often reported about the Department of Health and Human Services abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization mandate):

Today the Little Sisters of the Poor received an injunction from the Supreme Court protecting them from the controversial HHS mandate while their case is before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The injunction means that the Little Sisters will not be forced to sign and deliver the controversial government forms authorizing and instructing their benefits administrator to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and drugs and devices that may cause early abortions (see video). The Court’s order also provides protection to more than 400 other Catholic organizations that receive health benefits through the same Catholic benefits provider, Christian Brothers.

“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund.  “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people–it doesn’t need to force nuns to participate.”

To receive protection, the Supreme Court said that the Little Sisters and other organizations that receive benefits through Christian Brothers must simply inform HHS of their religious identity and objections. The Court said that the Little Sisters did not have to sign or deliver the controversial government forms that authorize and direct their benefits administrator to provide the objectionable drugs and devices.

The order was issued by the entire Supreme Court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is the Justice assigned for emergency applications from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, had previously issued a temporary injunction to allow the court time to consider the Little Sisters’ emergency appeal, filed on New Years’ Eve.

Prior to the order, injunctions had been awarded in 18 of the 19 similar cases in which relief had been requested.

“Virtually every other party who asked for protection from the mandate has been given it,” said Rienzi.  “It made no sense for the Little Sisters to be singled out for fines and punishment before they could even finish their suit.”

The Little Sisters are joined in the lawsuit by religious health benefit providers, Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefits Trust.  The lawsuit is a class action on behalf of all the non-exempt organizations that receive benefits through Christian Brothers. The Plaintiffs are also represented by Locke Lord, a national law firm, and by Kevin Walsh, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

To date, there are currently 91 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate. The Becket Fund represents: Hobby LobbyLittle Sisters of the PoorGuideStoneWheaton CollegeEast Texas Baptist University,Houston Baptist UniversityColorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television NetworkAve Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

Meet Sister Constance, a Little Sister of the Poor, here

L’Affaire Sherman



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AJ, one of my themes in recent years has been, “Journalism is going to pot.” Let me be more specific. When Richard Sherman gave his post-game interview, I was amazed: This was something unexpected. It was something fresh, unscripted, spontaneous, human. It was journalistic gold. And the network stopped the interview immediately — because, I guess, it was unconventional. I found that bizarre, and (as a viewer) maddening.

I don’t know whose decision it was, but I couldn’t imagine being the interviewer, holding that microphone, and thinking, “Gee, I better cut away, fast.” I would have thought, “Jackpot! Keep going, Sherman.”

I’ve noticed something in the last several years — the last five or ten years, I would say: People are treating journalists as though they were politicians. I get some mail of this kind. People might say, “Why did you write what you wrote? It was impolitic, unhelpful,” etc. Now, I admit, part of this is our fault, because we blur the lines: At NRO (though not in the magazine, I think), we publish politicians and their staffers. Plus, people waltz between politics and journalism. (I myself had a brief stint in politics — a month and a half. I didn’t crater the system, thankfully.)

As a rule, I like the come-one, come-all approach. Anyway, this is too big a topic for a lil’ blogpost.

I basically want to say, journalists dream of moments such as that Richard Sherman interview, or should. And it was like the network wet its pants and said, “Eek! Something unexpected! Something uncanned! Cut!

NAACP Official Doesn’t Back Off Calling Tim Scott Ventriloquist’s ‘Dummy’



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The president of the North Carolina NAACP took a swipe at critics who took issue with him calling Republican Tim Scott a puppet for his party. Last week, Reverend William Barber II said “a ventriloquist can always find a good dummy” in reference to the South Carolina lawmaker, one of two black senators.

Speaking in Asheville, N.C., on Wednesday, Barber said people should be more upset with “extremist politics” than his comments. “The question is not so much having all this indignation over a metaphor,” he said. “The issue is not the problem with the metaphor.”

“What people should have righteous indignation over is the pain and the misery that is being caused by extremist politics,” Barber explained.

Earlier in the week, the NAACP stood by Barber’s remarks, saying that “politicians, whether they be black or white, should not be echoing the position of the far right.” The organization claimed Scott and others like him were not honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Scott has dismissed the attacks, saying that “Barber will remind me and others of what not to do” in honoring the legacy of King. “Instead, I will honor the memory of Dr. King by being proactive in holding the door for others and serving my fellow man,” he said.

Obama’s Syria Debacle



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Berlin – Secretary of State John Kerry  helped to jump-start the Geneva II  international conference to end the civil war in Syria on Wednesday. He correctly pinpointed the main cause of the bloodshed in Syria, blaming the country’s embattled president Bashar Assad as a “one-man super magnet for terrorism” that “will never earn back legitimacy.”

However, the passivity of the Obama administration contributed to al-Qaeda absorbing significant territory in northern Syria and the entry of the Lebanese terrorist entity Hezbollah, on the side of Assad, into the conflict. Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who earned a Pulitzer Prize for her book on genocide prevention, has been reduced to tweeting about Syria. One can only imagine what the late former ambassador to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick would think of Power’s robust Twitter diplomacy.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, David J. Kramer and Arch Puddington of Freedom House noted, “the Obama administration has signaled, in words and policies, that the encouragement of democracy is no longer a priority. Witness the administration’s current outreach to the murderous Assad regime.”

Sadly, there is no shortage of examples to bolster their case. Recall Obama’s Atrocities Prevention Board? According to a 2011 White House fact sheet, the board has “the authority to develop prevention strategies and to ensure that concerns are elevated for senior decision making so that we are better to able to work with our allies and partners to be responsive to early warning signs and prevent potential atrocities.”

The board’s efficacy is a kind of mirror image of the efforts to register health-care applicants on the Obamacare website. Last June, Jim Geraghty examined the board in this space. He neatly dissected the empty rhetoric animating it. At the time of his writing, there was an estimated death toll of between 74,000 and 94,000. The current number exceeds 130,000; and the U.N. has simply pulled the plug on its count of the killing in Syria.

The odds are heavily against a resolution of the conflict at the meetings in Geneva. Let’s hope that Obama’s passivity is not replicated toward Iran’s energetic work on the production of its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

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

Holder: Voter-ID Laws Being Used for ‘Partisan Advantage’ to ‘Depress the Vote’



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While some proponents of voter-identification laws act from ”a good faith perspective,” Eric Holder indicated that he believes many of the laws are aimed to “depress” non-Republican voters.

Even though he supports the laws in a vacuum, the attorney general said studies show there is not enough actual voter fraud to merit such provisions, and believes current efforts are being done for the sake of a ”partisan advantage.”

“They’ve come up with a remedy in search of a problem,” Holder told MSNBC on Friday. “I think it is being used in too many instances to depress the vote of particular groups of people who are not supportive of the party that is advancing these photo-ID measures.”​

Via Mediaite.

John Cook, Boor



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Well, as the old saying goes, scratch the mediocre editor of a titillation website and you’ll find an ugly little boor. Or, in this case, follow him on Twitter and he’ll reveal who he really is. Here’s Gawker’s John Cook reacting to the news that Kathryn Lopez had done just that. 

Remember, kids: Progressives are the only people who really respect women, and tolerate people who hold different — sometimes unpopular — ideas.

Pro-Life Progress in 2013



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The week of the March for Life is always a good time to reflect and take stock of the current status of the pro-life movement. Overall, pro-lifers had a very good,if quiet, year in 2013. This is good news because President Obama’s reelection in 2012 was a real setback. There was a great deal of soul searching about the future of the Republican party and, unsurprisingly, many pundits were all too eager to encourage Republicans to moderate their position on abortion and focus on economic issues. However, every time the media writes the political obituary for the pro-life movement, pro-lifers always bounce back. In fact, the events of 2013 nicely demonstrate the pro-life movement’s resiliency and weight.

As I have gotten older, I have realized that pro-lifers need to be engaged in multiple fronts. Among other things, we need to expose our opponents, pass pro-life laws, and shift the culture. Solid progress was made in each of these areas in 2013. The year began with the trial of notorious Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Unsurprisingly, most mainstream media outlets showed little interest in the story. However, pro-lifers made effective use of social media to publicize the case. Some mainstream-media outlets eventually did cover the trial and Fox News even ran an hour-length feature. This coverage spurred many states to enact laws to strengthen the regulation of abortion clinics. Some media reports indicated that 87 abortion facilities closed in 2013.

Pro-lifers made legislative progress in other ways as well. Texas Senate Bill 5, which was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry in July, received national media coverage. This bill banned abortions after 20 weeks gestation and mandated that abortion clinics meet the same standards as other surgical health-care facilities. Two other states banned abortion after 20 weeks of gestation. Four states limited abortion coverage in the health exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act. Eight states enacted bans on tele-med abortions.

Overall, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 70 state-level pro-life measures were enacted in 2103. This makes 2013 the second most productive year on record in terms of the number of pro-life laws that were passed. Overall, there were more pro-life laws enacted between 2011 and 2013 than in the entire previous decade.

Pro-lifers also did well in the court of public opinion. When the year started, some polls indicated a slight increase in the percentage of Americans describing themselves as “pro-choice.” However, two separate polls showed significant gains in pro-life sentiment between January and April. Furthermore, many of the incremental policy objectives of the pro-life movement remain popular. This summer, three separate national polls found that a 20 week abortion ban enjoys plurality support. A January 2014 Rasmusssen poll indicated that support for a 24 hour waiting period reached a historic high. Overall, there has been a consistent long-term gain in pro-life sentiment as six of the last nine Gallup polls have shown that Americans are more likely to describe themselves as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.”

Keep reading this post . . .

American Beauty



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Below, Kevin linked to an article about our new ambassador to Norway — an Obama donor named George Tsunis. He smeared Norway’s Progress party in his confirmation hearing. But the linked-to article did some smearing too, describing Progress as “anti-immigration.” It is not anti-immigration, it’s anti-Islamification and pro-assimilation. It’s liberal, in the older and truer sense: It is the Reaganite or Thatcherite party of Norway.

It’s popular, too. In 2010, I wrote a piece about them, “Among the Progs.” At the time, they were the second-largest party in Parliament. Since then, they have been elected to the government, in coalition with the Conservatives (who are the senior partner).

As it happens, I had dinner a few days ago with a friend of mine who’s a Progress parliamentarian (and who will be foreign minister one day, I hope). It’s hard to shock him: He’s an old pro, and he knows American politics better than almost all Americans. But he was shocked by our new ambassador. The only people who talk that way about Progress are Communists and pro-Communists. And the American ambassador, of course.

I used to say, in the first Obama term, “Is it 2013 yet?” Now I have no words.

Are We Headed to Another Terrorized Olympic Games?



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Do you get the feeling that U.S. intelligence and national security authorities are expecting something bad to happen at the Olympics in Sochi?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the State Department is “telling American athletes competing in the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics to avoid wearing team gear outside the games’ venues amid growing concerns over terrorist threats in the Russian resort town.”

According to the Washington Post, the FBI thinks the Russians aren’t listening to their suggestions or accepting their help: “David Rubincam, who served as the FBI’s top representative in Moscow from May 2011 to October 2012, said the Russians have been reluctant to accept American aid in securing Sochi and are suspicious of the offers of assistance.”

We’ve got new threatening videos from Islamist militants, and the Russians are on the lookout for identified suspected aspiring suicide bombers, and NBC hosts are expressing their concerns publicly

The Post’s Sally Jenkins is pointing out the obvious: holding the winter Olympics in Russia, not far from the Chechnyan region, was a colossally bad decision on the part of the International Olympic Committee:

It’s too late to take the dangerous, despoiling Winter Games away from the thugocracy that is Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime, so the only option is to count on the man’s bulging biceps and hope it’s an adequate “ring of steel” that can keep people safe in Sochi. It’s a cold hard fact that these Olympics have become an agent of death.

Sochi already is a catastrophe, and if it becomes a tragedy too, it will be because the International Olympic Committee has become the tool of “colossal authoritarian branding,” to borrow a phrase from Russia scholar Leon Aron.

Maybe everyone’s overreacting, but . . .

Tags: Sochi , Olympics

Tribe to Meet with U.N. about Redskins Name



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The Washington Redskins think the United Nations should be focusing on larger global problems than meeting with the Oneida Indian Nation about its efforts to get the team to change their name.

“Given all the wars around the world, starvation, famine, and the nuclear proliferation problems the U.N. is dealing with, surely they have more important things to worry about than a football’s team name that is supported by the vast majority of the American people,” a team spokesman told USA Today.

The tribe will meet with the U.N.’s assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Šimonović.

“I am both humbled and heartened by the opportunity to have a dialogue with the U.N. regarding the important moral, human, and civil-rights issues raised by the Washington NFL team’s continued use of the R-word racial slur,” said Ray Halbritter, a representative with the tribe.

Even though the international organization has no official authority over the team or the NFL, Profootballtalk.com’s Mike Florio believes a condemnation of the name by the U.N. could further pressure the team to drop the name.

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