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Why Don Lemon’s Mistake Matters



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Last week, Don Lemon made a big mistake on national television, and, having been corrected, refused to acknowledge his error. After the shooting in Aurora in 2012, Lemon insisted, he had gone out in Colorado and bought an “automatic” weapon in under “20 minutes.” This, he suggested, showed just how crazy America’s gun laws are.

Naturally, Lemon had done no such thing. Instead, he had purchased a semi-automatic rifle that looked “scary” — an “assault weapon” in our strange terminology. He had not got anywhere near an “automatic” weapon — and nor could he have done so without the explicit permission of the ATF. But, having had this explained to him in no uncertain terms, he kept going. “For me,” he tried desperately, “an automatic weapon is anything that you can shoot off a number of rounds very quickly.” Thus were established legal and functional definitions subordinated to Lemon’s will. Thus was the most important distinction in the firearms business dismissed as “semantics.” Thus did a newsman sow disinformation rather than clarity.

Why did this matter? Well, because such conflations have real consequences for public policy. If nobody in the United States were trying to ban certain types of rifle purely because they look powerful, Lemon’s ignorance would not really bother me. But they are, and confusion is their greatest asset. As the founder and director of the restrictionist Violence Policy Center explained in 1988, it can be enormously profitable for gun-controllers to baffle voters. Semi-automatics, Josh Sugarman wrote, are easy to lie about because

the weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons — anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun — can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.

Perhaps Sugarman should send flowers to Mr. Lemon?

Keeping Sugarman’s words in mind, what do we think that the average reader of the Miami Herald must have made of this, from Saturday’s edition?:

The number of shootings has residents on edge, crying for help, and in some cases begging to leave.

On June 24, in one of the city’s worst mass shootings in decades, nine people were shot outside an apartment complex at 12th Avenue and 65th Street. Two men died.

Miami police say they consider the spike in shootings this year an “outlier.” They say major crime numbers remain low overall and put much of the blame on the end of the federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004. Automatic gunfire from easy-to-get guns can spray hundreds of bullets in the blink of an eye.

The descriptions here are just flat-out wrong. The Assault Weapons Ban banned and regulated certain semi-automatic rifles — i.e. rifles that fire one shot per depression of the trigger. It did not ban or regulate automatic weapons — i.e. those that fire continuously when their triggers are depressed. The expiration of the federal Assault Weapons Ban has absolutely nothing to do with “automatic gunfire” in Florida. It can’t have. That a newspaper is leading its readers to believe otherwise is deeply irresponsible.

Moreover, the idea that Miami has been afflicted by “automatic gunfire” of late — or, for that matter, that anybody there has been “[spraying] hundred of bullets in the blink of an eye” — is preposterous. Since 1934, in which year automatic weapons were regulated for the first time, a grand total of two murders have been committed with legally owned automatics — both of them in Ohio, and one of them by a police officer. Meanwhile, the criminologist Gary Kleck suggests in Targeting Guns, fewer than ten crimes of all sorts (including bureaucratic mistakes) have been committed with illegally owned automatic firearms. Really, this should surprise nobody. Automatic weapons are not only far too expensive for an average criminal to afford, but they are also extremely inefficient. If one pulls the trigger on an average automatic with a 30 round magazine, one gets around four seconds of firing time. Saturday Night Specials these are not.

Precision in this area either matters or it does not. We are talking here, remember, about laws. If, as Lemon and his ilk like to pretend, the difference between an automatic and a semi-automatic weapon is merely a “semantic” one, then we should treat the legal distinctions in the same manner, permitting the next person who is caught with an unlicensed automatic weapon to successfully explain in court why his infraction does not matter. If the differences do matter, however — and if they matter enough to be codified into law and to carry felony punishments as their enforcement mechanisms — then we should expect those who speak about them to respect the detail. One understands why Josh Sugarman would wish to turn unfamiliarity to his advantage. But the news media? That should be a different story.

 

Judicial Watch: DOJ Admits Lois Lerner’s E-mails Exist



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A Justice Department official admitted that former IRS official Lois Lerner’s apparently missing e-mails actually exist on a backup server, but the government doesn’t plan to retrieve them.

“A Department of Justice attorney told a Judicial Watch attorney on Friday that it turns out the federal government backs up all computer records in case something terrible happens in Washington and there’s a catastrophe, so the government can continue operating,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton told Fox News’s Shannon Bream.

“But it would be too hard to go get Lois Lerner’s e-mails from that backup system,” Fitton continued, paraphrasing the DOJ official. “So, everything we’ve been hearing about scratched hard drives, about missing e-mails of Lois Lerner, other IRS officials, other officials in the Obama administration, it’s all been a pack of malarkey. They could get these records, but they don’t want to.”

Fitton said his group plans to ask a federal judge to order the IRS to hand over the e-mails, which conservative opponents of Lerner want to see in order to determine if there is a link between President Obama’s team and the IRS’s targeting of tea-party groups. 

“If this backup system is working, Lois Lerner’s e-mails are there,” Fitton said. 

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Sadly, Totalitarianism Is Exciting



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Per the New York Daily News:

A suspect in the beheading of American journalist James Foley is a British-raised rapper who left his parent’s million-dollar London home last year to fight for radical Islam in Syria.

Homegrown jihadist Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, a 23-year-old rapper, may be the masked man who severed Foley’s head with a knife in a YouTube video in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on ISIS in Iraq, according to reports in several British papers. . . .

In July 2013, he posted on Facebook, “The Unknown mixtape with my bro tabanacle will be the last music I’m ever releasing. I have left everything for the sake of Allah.”

On Aug. 13, he tweeted a photo of himself in Iraq holding a severed head with the caption, “Chilllin’ with my homie or what’s left of him,” The Times of London reported. His Twitter account was suspended soon afterward. It is unclear whose head he was holding.

Bary also tweeted a threat in June: “The lions are coming for you soon you filthy kuffs (infidels). Beheadings in your own backyard soon.”

Like many others, Bary has been taken in by an ideology — a disastrous, abhorrent, absolute, and apparently irresistible ideology. His discontent is not driven by poverty or oppression or historical experience. It’s driven by ideas, and by the human needs that those ideas seek to satiate. Bary, the Daily Mail reports, “grew increasingly radical and violent after mixing with thugs linked to hate preacher Anjem Choudary.” This, sadly, is too common a story. Look through the biographies of the 9/11 attackers. How many of them lacked food or healthcare?

Over the weekend, the New York Times’ Ross Douthat observed that the world’s uglier movements will always attract the bored, which is why, he suggested,

writing off the West’s challengers as purely atavistic is a good way to misunderstand them — and to miss the persistent features of human nature that they exploit, appeal to and reward.

These features include not only the lust for violence and the will to power, but also a yearning for a transcendent cause that liberal societies can have trouble satisfying.

As The Week’s Michael Brendan Dougherty argues, discussing the Europeans who have joined up with ISIS, liberalism’s “all-too-human order” — which privileges the sober, industrious and slightly boring — is simply “not for everyone.” Nor, most likely, will it ever be: in this century, the 22nd, or beyond.

Bary did not discover militant Islam over the Internet, but through his father:

Bary is one of six children of Adel Abdul Bary, an Egyptian militant who is facing terrorism charges in connection with Al Qaeda’s twin 1998 bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

Nevertheless, he clearly found this lifestyle more appealing than the alternative, which was to live as an upper-middle-class musician in the West.

One reason that liberty can be difficult to preserve is that it so often lacks the romance, the heroism, and the sense of involvement that so many appear to crave. Bound by relatively few governmental or social constraints, citizens of free countries are obliged to make their own decisions, to establish and to participate in their own communities, and — crucially – to create their own sense of meaning. This can be tough — scary, even. To join a strictly defined and quasi-totalitarian movement such as IS, on the other hand, is instantly to feel a sense of belonging. As someone who is keenly motivated by a desire to leave people alone, it is distressing for me to acknowledge action-based collectivist philosophies are much, much more popular than I would wish. But they are. Why would Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary want to involve himself with a bunch of such extraordinary thugs? Well, at least they’re doing something.

Web Briefing: August 28, 2014

Luis Gutiérrez Is Basically Giggling with Excitement about Obama’s Executive Amnesty Plans



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“Huge,” “bold,” and “unprecedented” is how a thrilled Representative Luis Gutiérrez (D., Ill.) described reports that the Obama administration is considering granting legal status to up to 5 million illegal immigrants. He’s especially excited, he said, because the White House is actually trying to downplay the significance of the huge measure.

“It’s music to my ears” said Gutiérrez, one of the leading voices in the House to pass comprehensive immigration reform, on MSNBC. Last month, he predicted that as many as 5 million people might gain status if President Obama opts to take unilateral action.

Gutiérrez urged communities to take steps to avoid being “ill-prepared” for the announcement, as he said they were the last time President Obama granted legal status to illegal immigrants, under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum in 2012.

“When 5 million people are allowed the opportunity to come out from under the shadows and into the light of day and get legalized, it’s going to take a lot of work and capacity of our community,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

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Sharpton at Michael Brown’s Funeral: Before Getting into Heaven, ‘You Got to’ Fix Streets of Ferguson



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Reverend Al Sharpton offered a fiery eulogy for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. earlier this month. At Brown’s funeral, Sharpton denounced violent rioters and looters in the city over the past two weeks and forcefully condemned the police’s treatment of protesters and Brown himself.

“Religion ought to affirm what we are doing, not be an escapism for what is done, and some of us are so heavenly bound that we’re not earthly good,” he said from the pulpit at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. “Before you get to Heaven, before you put on your long robe, before you walk down the street, you got to deal with the streets in Ferguson and St. Louis.”

“But [God] will say, ‘When Michael Brown, 18-year-old boy, laid out in the street — hour and a half before the detective came, another hour or so before they came to remove his body, family couldn’t come through the ropes, dogs sniffing through — what did you do? What did I require of you?” he continued, adding that “all of us are required to respond to this.”

The ceremony included a number of exhortations to activism, including calls for attendees to vote, mobilize, and attend local-government meetings.

Ice Bucket Challenge Leads to Man’s Arrest



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A Nebraska man got a double dose of cold water after taking part in a viral sensation led to his arrest over the weekend.

Jesean Morris, 20, who has an outstanding warrant out for his arrest for violating his parole, posted a video of himself participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge; the challenge asks participants to dump ice water on themselves or donate to finding a cure for the illness, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

An individual aware of Morris’s warrant saw the video, recognized the house he was standing in front of, and reported him and the address to Omaha police, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Two officers went to the house and arrested Morris shortly after he left the property in a car.

The World-Herald reports Morris initially gave a false identity, tried to resist arrest, and spat in the face of one of the officers during his booking.

Fla. City Government Stands by Kid’s Lemonade Stand When Neighbor Calls for Regulators to Intervene



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The recent spell of local governments shutting down neighborhood lemonade stands has been cited as a perfect symbol of government overreach and the oppression of the American entrepreneur. But there’s one: One Florida city is resisting calls to shut down a youngster’s stand and telling him to keep it up.

In the city of Dunedin, 12-year-old T. J. Guerrero spends four hours a day selling lemonade and cookies in hopes of getting an iPod, paying for his cell-phone bills, and visiting his grandparents, among other goals, according to the Tampa Bay Tribune. But neighbor Doug Wilkey thinks that the middle schooler is running an “illegal business” and wants City Hall to put an end to it.

He says he’s concerned the value of his house, four doors down from Dunedin’s, could drop because the neighborhood could be considered a business area rather than a residential one. Wilkey also says he’s concerned about customers’ health.

In response to Wilkey’s request, the city says it has better things to do.

“We’re not in the business of trying to regulate kids like that; nor do we want to do any code enforcement like that,” said Greg Rice, Dunedin’s planning and development director. “We are not out there trying to put lemonade stands out of business.”

The Tribune adds that T. J. has plans to shut down the stand eventually, but only when he turns 14 and can apply for a job at a local grocery store.

Why Can’t President Obama Tell the Truth about ISIS’s Faith?



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President Obama has been in office for more than five years, has seen countless classified reports of terrorist activities and intentions, and has watched as the Islamic State, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and the full range of jihadist groups have committed one barbaric atrocity after another, and he still won’t tell the American people the truth about what we face.

While pundit after pundit has rightfully hammered the President’s absurd statement that the Islamic State “has no place in the 21st century” (I particularly enjoyed Charles C.W. Cooke’s Friday piece) and the importation of ridiculous “wrong side of history” argumentation from the American culture war, I want to focus on something else — something so manifestly untrue that its inclusion in the president’s speech is inexcusable. It’s this:

So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.

What is he talking about? The Islamic State certainly speaks for their faith. In fact, the Islamic State defines itself by faith, an their faith doesn’t just “teach” them to massacre innocents; it mandates such massacres. Moreover, their faith has long roots within Islam, with jihadist movements flaring century after century. Even if we defeat the Islamic State now, we’ll no doubt see other jihadist movements in the future. The Islamic world is plagued by jihad, and it has been for a long time.

President Obama is certainly not the only president prone to telling the American people comfortable lies about our enemy’s faith. President Bush wrapped both arms around Islam, declaring “Islam is peace.” By what standard can a president make such a declaration? There are certainly Muslims who reject jihadists, and the jihadists think those Muslims are apostates. Does the president of the United States now adjudicate Muslim theological disputes? 

Jihadists proclaim Islam — as jihadists have proclaimed Islam throughout the centuries and will proclaim Islam in the centuries to come. They have persistent power within the Muslim world not because their beliefs are “nihilist” (to use another of the president’s words) but because they are transcendent, promising eternal rewards for the faithful and eternal punishment for the infidels. Nihilism is the “rejection of all religious and moral principles.” Jihad is a war for religious and moral principles. 

Can we not tell the truth about this? Can we not also tell the truth that — far from being horrified by barbarism — thousands upon thousands of Muslim men are flocking to the Islamic State’s black banner, including more Muslim Britons than volunteer for Her Majesty’s own armed forces?

To fight an enemy we have to know an enemy, and comforting lies merely drain our will and confuse our own people. We are dealing with an enemy that (rightfully) believes that beheading videos will increase its appeal primarily among young Muslim men. Let that sink in for a moment. Atrocities increase their appeal.

No religion? Oh yes, they have a religion. And that religion wants you dead. 

A Little Local Difficulty



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France’s government has run into trouble. The prime minister, Manuel Valls (who only got the job in March) submitted his resignation to President Hollande after the finance minister  attacked his own government’s economic policy.

The Wall Street Journal gives some background:

In interviews with the French press and speeches at a Socialist gathering Sunday, Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg and Education Minister Benoît Hamon said forcibly reducing budget deficits as the economy wilts is driving up unemployment, fueling political extremism and risks tipping the economy into recession.

“The priority must be exiting crisis and the dogmatic reduction of deficits should come second,” Mr. Montebourg said in an interview with Le Monde published ahead of the annual Fête de la Rose meeting of Socialist Party activists at Frangy-en-Bresse in eastern France.

The minister also turned on Germany: “We need to raise the tone. Germany is caught in the trap of austerity that it is imposing across Europe.”

Mr. Hamon joined Mr. Montebourg’s call for a change of course. He said the Socialist government needs to reconnect with its electorate and boost demand by increasing tax cuts for households after defeats in local and European elections this year.

Montebourg (very much a man of the left) is right, dishonest, wrong and evasive: all those things. He’s right because the pro-cyclical effects of austerity are likely to make a bad situation in France worse (and by shrinking activity in the economy, and thus the tax base, may perversely increase the deficit). At the same time, the notion that he would ever support a reduction in spending of sufficient size to make a difference to France’s bloated public sector lacks, shall we say, credibility. And he’s wrong about Germany: Germany can afford to relax things at home (and probably should), but agreeing to a relaxation in the broader euro zone’s budgetary rules  (the spectacularly misnamed ‘Stability and Growth Pact’) is something else altogether. It raises the specter of runaway spending elsewhere for which Germany will one day, one way or another, end up picking up the tab. And he’s evasive: so far as I can see, he is a supporter of continued French membership of the single currency. To be sure, he’s on record as favoring a weaker euro, but a straitjacket is still a straitjacket even if you loosen the belt a few notches.

There are no easy options for France, but returning to the Franc (or, somewhat less traumatically, opting for participation in a southern euro) would allow the country to re-price its goods and services to a level that reflects market reality, paving the way (fingers crossed) for the export-led recovery that could provide cover for the structural reform (fingers crossed so hard that it hurts)  France so badly needs.

Hollande may also be a man of the left, but he’s having none of what Montebourg is selling. French presidents neither appreciate a mutiny nor the prospect of a very ugly conversation with Chancellor Merkel. He’ll stick with Valls and what the French call austerity and a plan to create enough budgetary space with spending reductions to allow business taxes to be cut in exchange for a pledge to create 500,000 jobs over the next three years (and no, I have no idea how that would work).

The BBC notes that Mr Hollande’s approval ratings in the polls have sunk to 17%, while Mr Valls’ have dropped to 36%. There is little or no economic growth. French unemployment is rising and now stands (officially) at around 11 percent. In absolute terms the number out of work is 3.4 million, not a healthy state of affairs in a nation where politics has a way of spilling into the street.

Thank heavens the euro zone crisis is over!

‘Assad Policies Aided Rise of Islamic State Militant Group’



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The Wall Street Journal had a report over the weekend highlighting a crucial aspect of the Syrian civil war: the mutual interest Assad and the Islamic State have had in squeezing out any somewhat reasonable opposition in the conflict: 

The Islamic State, which metastasized from a group of militants seeking to overthrow the Syrian government into a marauding army gobbling up chunks of the Middle East, gained momentum early on from a calculated decision by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go easy on it, according to people close to the regime.

Earlier in the three-year-old Syrian uprising, Mr. Assad decided to mostly avoid fighting the Islamic State to enable it to cannibalize the more secular rebel group supported by the West, the Free Syrian Army, said Izzat Shahbandar, an Assad ally and former Iraqi lawmaker who was Baghdad’s liaison to Damascus. The goal, he said, was to force the world to choose between the regime and extremists.

More:

“The Assad regime played a key role in ISIL’s rise,” said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf at a news conference earlier this month. “They allowed for a security situation where ISIL could grow in strength. The Syrian regime fostered the growth of terrorist networks. They facilitated the flow of al Qaeda foreign fighters in . . . Iraq.”

At the outset of the revolution, the Assad regime released a bunch of terrorists, evidently in furtherance of this strategy:

Bassam Barabandi, a diplomat in Syria’s foreign ministry at the time who has since defected, offered a different explanation. “The fear of a continued, peaceful revolution is why these Islamists were released,” he said. “The reasoning behind the jihadists, for Assad and the regime, is that they are the alternative to the peaceful revolution. They are organized with the doctrine of jihad and the West is afraid of them.”

The Islamic State hates the Free Syrian Army as much as the government does, and has tried to crush it:

The Islamic State militants despised the FSA and its largely secular rebels, denouncing them as nonbelievers. By last summer, the Islamic State began grabbing territory the FSA had captured from the regime. In September, the Islamic State defeated the FSA’s Northern Storm Brigade in Azaz, a border outpost between Aleppo province and Turkey. The Islamic State quickly imposed its hard-line version of Islam, forbidding smoking, enforcing the segregation of the sexes and conservative dress.

Even as the Islamic State has grown in strength and the Syrian government has moved against it, the terror group has tacitly worked it to squeeze out the Free Syrian Army:

Still, at times its actions appeared to help the Syrian government in its fight against the FSA. Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, remained one of the few major strongholds of FSA resistance. Last month, the Islamic State quietly withdrew from the city’s northeastern suburbs, clearing the way for Syrian government forces to stream in. Not a shot was fired. The gains enabled government forces to flank FSA rebels from three sides in Aleppo.

As FSA fighters struggle to hold off the regime, they also are fighting Islamic State militants in the countryside just north of Aleppo. Only 4 miles remain to fully encircle and besiege Aleppo. If FSA rebels lose the battle, it could spell the end of their revolution, rebels say.

In short, through its allergy to trying to support a force in Syria opposed to both the Islamic State and the regime, the Obama administration managed to settle on the one policy that both the terror group and Assad can agree on — namely, leaving the field to them.  

‘Obama’s Stance Unclear’



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A headline for our times from the Saturday New York Times:

What Happens When Black Americans Open Carry? Not Much, Apparently



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A favorite question, posed triumphantly to gun-rights types such as myself, is “what do you think would happen if black Americans started openly carrying firearms?” Well, many do already. And, last week, these guys did en masse:

A new group calling itself the Huey P. Newton Gun Club launched armed self-defense patrols Wednesday with one stated purpose: to protect Dallas neighbors from police.

Group leader Charles Goodson said recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri over the killing of an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown by a white police officer is only part of the reason for the new Dallas patrols.

The group is named after Huey P. Newton, a founder of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s who was killed by a rival militant in 1989.

“We don’t think that what happened to Michael Brown in St. Louis is an isolated incident. We have so many Michael Browns here in the city of Dallas,” Goodson said.

Another leader, Huby Freeman, said the group wants to educate neighbors about the right to bear arms and the need for it.

“We believe we can police ourselves and bring security to our community, ridding our community of black-on-black crime, violence, police terror, etc., etc.,” Freeman said.

Freeman and more than two dozen other people, many carrying rifles, marched Wednesday afternoon along Martin Luther King Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard, streets named for civil rights leaders.

What happened? Not much, really:

At one point, the march went to Elaine’s Restaurant on Martin Luther King Boulevard, where demonstrators piled rifles on tables as they ordered cold drinks and food.

A Dallas police lieutenant and deputy chief were eating lunch in the restaurant at the time. They politely spoke to the demonstrators as they paid their bills.

Owner Elaine Campbell said police officers look out for her and she is not worried about them.

“No, I’m here over 25 years and I’m not afraid of them,” she said.

Campbell also welcomed the extra business from the armed demonstrators.

“I just happen to go with the flow and don’t let them bother me,” she said.

The police were on board, too, as they damn well should have been:

In response to a request to Dallas police for comment about the Huey P. Newton Gun Club patrols, Chief David Brown issued a statement saying, “the Dallas Police Department supports the constitutional rights of all.”

Historically, blacks have often been denied the right to keep and bear arms. Indeed, as recently as the late 1960s, gun laws with obvious racial undertones were being added to the books. As I recorded in a recent magazine piece:

In California [in 1967] legislators had been so vexed by the sight of armed Black Panthers protesting outside the statehouse that they passed legislation outlawing all open carrying of firearms — the first such ban in state history and, at the time, perhaps the strictest ordinance in the country. Governor Ronald Reagan happily signed the bill.

That bill, the Mulford Act, was not only signed by a Republican governor, it was drawn up by a Republican legislators too.

But here’s the thing: Times change, and with them attitudes. America’s approach toward firearms has gone through a remarkable transformation in the last two or three decades. What would happen if more blacks started open carrying now? Very little, I’d imagine.

Good.

Libya Is in a Full-Blown Civil War



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Islamist militia forces seem to have taken control of the airport in the capital of Libya, Tripoli, over the weekend, after weeks of assaults on the city and the airport, while airplanes, likely from Egypt or a Gulf state, are bombing the attackers from the sky.  

The effort, called Operation Dawn, is led by Islamic militias and armed groups from Misrata, a city located on the coast between Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya’s second city. Misrata has been an essentially independent state since the fall of the Qaddafi government, run by its local militias, which were the groups that captured and killed Moammar Qaddafi in the fall of 2011. Benghazi has ended up in almost the same situation; an array of Islamic and tribal militias were supposed to be keeping the peace in September 2012, when four Americans were killed in an attack on a diplomatic facility there.

The new Libyan state has never been able to control most of its territory — Qaddafi never quite did, either, but he had much more effective control than what we see now — but the assaults on the central government this summer are unprecedented. In part, this is probably the result of the slow degeneration of the post-intervention state, but the militias are also apparently preempting a military takeover and secularization of the government, along the lines of what Egypt has seen. It’s not clear what that would look like, but one of the players has been a tribal general and sometime Qaddafi opponent named Khalifa Hiftar, who has been leading militia groups to oppose the Islamist forces. The Islamists are a little more clearly defined — they appear to be backed by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood’s typical backers, including the Gulf kingdom of Qatar.

The aircraft bombing those Islamist forces remain unidentified, but U.S. officials tell the New York Times that they’ve been launched by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Some of the bombings have occurred at night, and there’s a limited number of countries in the region capable of carrying out such an operation.

The U.S. and European allies launched a large air operation in 2011 to back Libya’s rebels, which included the longstanding Islamist groups that are now trying to overthrow the government, called Odyssey Dawn.

Britain Is Poorer Than Every Single U.S. State



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Over at Forbes, Tim Worstall notes that Britain is poorer than every American state — including Mississippi.

Is Russia Now Invading a New Region of Ukraine?



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An armored column that includes ten tanks has crossed into Ukraine from Russia, the Ukrainian military reported earlier today. According to military spokesman Andriy Lysenko, the convoy is part of a greater attempt by Russia to open up a new southern front in the region’s ongoing conflict, which has killed 2,000 people this year according to the U.N.

The column bore symbols of the pro-Russian rebel group the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” but Lysenko said the incursion was “an attempt by the Russian military in the guise of [rebel] fighters to open a new area of military confrontation in the southern Donetsk region.”

The column was halted by border guards near the city of Novoazovsk, located approximately ten miles into the country from the Russian border. It is said to have been heading for Mariupol, an important port on the Sea of Azov that is currently still under control of the Ukrainian government.

When asked about the incident, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov denied any knowledge, saying “there is plenty of disinformation out there about our ‘incursions.’”

Lavrov said that Russia plans to send a second convoy of “humanitarian aid” into Ukraine; the first crossed the border into Ukraine last week before Red Cross inspections of its 220 trucks had concluded.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko are scheduled to meet in Minsk on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing crisis. Poroshenko recently announced $3 billion in new defense spending, saying that Ukraine was under “constant military threat” for the foreseeable future.

Vermont Diner’s Bacon Sign Taken Down for Offending Muslims



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A sign advertising the bacon at a Vermont diner has been taken down after a Muslim resident complained about the sign on the Internet and sparked a massive backlash against the restaurant, Sneakers Bistro.

In June, in return for taking part in a local volunteer initiative to plant flower beds in the city’s traffic medians, the diner was awarded a sign on a lamp post that said “Yield for Sneakers Bacon.” A woman took issue with the sign, calling it insensitive to those who don’t eat pork, according to WPTZ.

The woman’s objection, which she posted online, prompted several Facebook and Yelp comments calling on Sneakers Bistro to take down the sign. The diner’s owners contacted the woman to apologize and tell her the sign has been removed.

“We are here to serve people breakfast, not politics,” the owners wrote in a separate Facebook post over the weekend. “We removed the sign that was located on public property as a gesture of respect for our diverse community.”

The mayor of the town, Winooski, Vt., commended the diner for taking down the sign. “The cool part of living in a diverse community is that it’s not always comfortable,” Mayor Katherine “Deac” Decarreau told the television network. “It’s a fascinating place with lots of opportunities for conversation. The city has to pay attention to a lot of factors while acting within what we can regulate.”

Winooski is “a fabulous artist mecca,” Mayor Deac has told the Center for Media and Democracy. “Winooski has always welcomed immigrants,” she said, “including my ancestors who spoke only French in 1835 when they arrived here.”

No, Hillary Doesn’t Need to Speak About Ferguson



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In Politico, Maggie Haberman notes that Hillary Clinton has not yet commented on the situation in Ferguson:

Hillary Clinton ignored reporters’ questions about the racial conflict in Ferguson, Missouri, on Sunday at the end of a book-signing event in Westhampton Beach, a vacation enclave near her rented summer house.

Clinton, the potential 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful who has been vacationing in the Hamptons since the first full week of August, has not yet commented on the situation in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, where an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown was killed by a police officer two weeks ago.

So what? As a general rule, we really do not need to hear from absolutely everybody in the political class each and every time that something dramatic happens. If Hillary Clinton wishes to pronounce upon the topic, I’m sure she will. If she doesn’t, then she doesn’t have to. Either way, there’s no particular reason we need to hear her take. She’s not an elected official. She has no authority over Ferguson, Missouri. She has no more information than anybody else. She is, for now at least, a citizen of the United States. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now, it might be politically interesting that she has stayed silent. Reticence, after all, is not a virtue that is typically associated with the family. But one suspects that this is not why she is being urged to speak. Instead, those doing the urging seem to want to add her voice to whatever agenda they are trying to sell. Haberman writes:

The Rev. Al Sharpton, at a rally in Ferguson last weekend, pushed toward the future, calling on all the 2016 potential candidates, including Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush, to comment on the situation. Clinton is the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

This, frankly, is absurd. At the heart of the situation in Ferguson is a question that neither Clinton nor Bush can possibly answer. That question: “Was the killing of Michael Brown justified?” Neither Bush nor Clinton know the answer to this. Indeed, they cannot possibly know the answer to this. In consequence, asking them to pronounce upon the secondary issues is downright silly. What, pray, can they say? They don’t know whether the protests are justified or misplaced because they don’t know whether there was any wrongdoing. Presumably neither of them is going to endorse rioting, nor are they likely to defend some of the poor policing we have seen. Worse still, anything either one of them were to say would immediately be taken as an endorsement of one side or another — an endorsement that they cannot and should not be making at this juncture. Let’s leave the post-mortems to those involved.

Enablers General



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My handy online dictionary defines “enabler” as “a person who encourages or enables negative or self-destructive behavior in another.” Another online definition: “one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior . . . by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.”

And that’s a fair description of the role liberals are playing, or would like to play, with respect to the problems of crime and substance abuse in many African-American communities, isn’t it? And this includes, alas, the attorney general. Let’s not focus overmuch on criminal and other self-destructive behavior, or talk about out-of-wedlock birthrates and a dysfunctional inner-city culture that romanticizes thugs and disparages “acting white.” Let’s talk instead about dubious arrest disparities and ill-defined “institutional racism.” 

Now, really, which discussion is more likely to improve the lives of those in these communities, law-breakers and law-abiders alike?

Words That Sting (or Not)



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In Impromptus today — the first part of a “Salzburg Journal” — I say something about the word Polizei: which has a stigma for me. The German word for police sounds more sinister than words for police in other languages — to me. This is a personal thing, though I bet others share it.

You remember the Volkspolizei in East Germany, abbreviated to VoPo. You did not want to be caught in the snares of the VoPo, any more than you wanted to be caught in the snares of the KGB (or the Gestapo).

Here in the Corner, I thought I’d mention some other German words: schnell, raus. These words always remind me of Hogan’s Heroes, so help me (though schnell is a fairly common marking in music).

How about Führer, an innocent word, or formerly innocent word, meaning “leader”? You will find it and related words throughout the Bible, as in “er führet mich auf rechter Strasse” — “he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.”

Are these words to be . . . verboten (speaking of German)? It’s all in the ear, and probably the age and the nationality, of the listener.

JV Team Takes Long-Disputed Syrian Air Base



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Forces of the Islamic State captured Tabqah air base near Raqqa, Syria, this past weekend, eliminating one of the Assad regime’s few footholds in the sparsely populated eastern half of the country. Raqqa is the province of Syria over which the Islamic State has the best control — it took over the city of Raqqa in mid 2013, but the regime had held onto the air base until now. Raqqa is on the Euphrates River and the province contains some of Syria’s oil resources, which the Islamic State has kept flowing and been selling to Assad.

Syria researcher Charles Lister of the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center shows some of the equipment that the jihadists seized in taking the base:

Hundreds of Islamic State fighters reportedly died in trying to take the strategically important base, making it potentially one of the most deadly clashes between rebels and the regime in the entire three-year conflict. That’s a big loss, but the group has made some noticeable gains recently, engaging in much more direct confrontation with the Assad regime than the group has in the past. (Last year, for instance, it seized Raqqa from fellow rebel groups, after they’d taken the city from the regime.) Its recruitment in Syria has also reportedly been surging of late.

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