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Meanwhile, in Western Europe


With the elections approaching (late May) for the EU’s parliament, some reminders of discontent with the existing order.


Voter support for Britain’s anti-European Union UK Independence Party (UKIP) is at a record high according to one opinion poll on Sunday, reflecting a wider pattern of growing support for the party ahead of European elections next month. The rising popularity of UKIP, which calls for an immediate withdrawal from the EU and tighter immigration laws, threatens to split the vote for Prime Minister David Cameron at European parliament elections in May and a national election in 2015.

UKIP’s profile has been raised by the upcoming European elections on May 22, when polls suggest it could beat Cameron’s party into third place.A ComRes poll of voting intentions for next year’s national election put UKIP on 20 percent – up four percentage points at their highest in the four-year history of the poll. Cameron’s Conservatives fell three points to 29 percent.

The main opposition Labour party were steady on 35 percent while the Lib Dems, junior partners in the coalition government, sank 2 percentage points to a new low of 7 percent. A second poll by Opinium on Sunday showed UKIP three percentage points higher on 18 percent, and another survey released last week by gave the party 15 percent – matching its highest ever rating in polls conducted by Ipsos Mori.

On Thursday Cameron described UKIP’s views on the European Union as “extremist” at the launch of his European election campaign.

To which one can only retort that Cameron’s alternative, ‘renegotiation,’ has no chance of getting anywhere. The only realistic route to getting anything close to what he claims to want is for Britain to file notice to quit under the EU’s Article 50 and then cut some sort of new deal (probably membership of the EEA) from there.

The puzzling thing about Cameron’s language is how tin-eared politically it is. If he has to have any hope of winning the 2015 election (as it happens, he doesn’t), he has to bring a huge percentage of the disaffected Tories who account for so much of UKIP’s support back into the fold. Describing them as ‘extremist’ is not the way to go.

The Irish Independent:

A campaign, which has two million supporters, demands that Venice separates from Italy and revives its centuries-long tradition as a free republic. It is growing in confidence thanks to long-standing discontent with Italy’s chaotic central government – despite ridicule from Rome’s political elite.

Now, three weeks after the campaigners staged an unofficial referendum that they said showed a majority of Venetians backing their case, its leaders want Palazzo Venezia handed to them as their “embassy” to Italy…. The campaigners want independence not only for the lagoon city of Venice, but also its hinterland, the Italian region of Veneto, where wealthy and industrious manufacturers have long been receptive to calls for independence. They are angry that €2.1bn of the region’s taxes are spent elsewhere by Rome.

Count me unconvinced that this movement will get very far, but the resentment it represents is worth noting. More than a century and a half after Italian union, Venetians don’t like seeing their money going to other parts of the country. Does the EU really believe that the Germans, Dutch and Finns are going to be happy about a ‘transfer union’ (the euphemism to describe what the Eurozone will have to introduce to secure its long-term future) in which their money goes to subsidize, say, Greece in perpetuity?

And then Spain gives the rest of the world a demonstration of ‘European values’:

Spanish MPs have voted overwhelmingly to reject a request by the Catalan authorities to hold a referendum on independence on 9 November. After seven hours of debate, 299 MPs voted against the motion, with 47 votes in favour and one abstention. Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy earlier warned a referendum would be “an economic disaster” for both Spain and Catalonia. Plans to let the people of the eastern region break away from Spain has led to months of constitutional debate. The region already enjoys a wide degree of autonomy but the recent economic crisis in Spain has fuelled Catalan nationalism.

[S]peaking after the votes were counted, Catalan President Artur Mas said his regional government would press ahead with the plan to hold a referendum in November.

…Tensions between the Spanish government and Catalonia’s regional government have been rising in recent months. Catalan’s regional government announced in December that it had decided on the two questions that would be put to the electorate.

Voters would be asked if they wanted Catalonia to be a state and if they wanted it to be an independent state. The Catalan regional authorities have a long history of fighting the central authorities in Spain for greater autonomy. Catalonia is one of Spain’s most developed regions, with a population of 7.5 million.

And, yes, its people, who have a distinct national identity of their own, resent seeing its money go to other parts of Spain. 

Strange Company


The curious dance between the EU’s euroskeptic ‘right’ (yes, yes, I know that adjective is a gross oversimplification) and Vladimir Putin continues.


Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, blamed the European Union for declaring a new Cold War on Russia that would hurt all concerned, Russian media reported on Saturday as she paid an official visit to Moscow. Europe-Russia relations are at their lowest ebb in decades after President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea prompted the EU to impose sanctions on dozens of prominent Russian officials and lawmakers. However Le Pen, along with other Eurosceptic leaders of the far left and nationalist right, believe the original fault lies with Brussels for offering closer ties with Ukraine, a move Russia opposes.

“I am surprised a Cold War on Russia has been declared in the European Union,” French National Front leader Le Pen said at a meeting with Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the Russian parliament’s lower house.

“It’s not in line with traditional, friendly relations nor with the economic interests of our country or EU countries and harms future relations,” Russian news agency Interfax quoted her as saying in its Russian-language service.

Her comments echo those of Austrian far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache who has openly sided with Putin, condemning the EU sanctions as a farce. Le Pen’s Dutch political partner Geert Wilders has also said the EU made the first mistake.

The way Europe has handled the crisis over Ukraine could become an issue in the European Parliament elections in May. Opinion polls suggest right-wing nationalist parties will perform well. French polls show the National Front emerging as the leading French party in the European elections….Le Pen, a tough-talking former lawyer, said Ukraine’s eastern regions should be allowed to choose greater independence from Kiev.

“The idea of federalism would give regions the chance of broad autonomy, to determine their destiny independently,” Interfax quoted her as saying.

By which she presumably means something akin to a “Bosnian” solution (Bosnia is essentially a loose federation between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a Bosnian Serb republic) for Ukraine. That may, in the end, be the least bad option. The question is whether this is something that Putin will leave Ukrainians to decide for themselves. The omens are not, shall we say, encouraging.

It may well be that Le Pen’s stance on this issue is colored by a broader sympathy for what Putin stands (or purports to stand) for, social conservatism, an assertion of the national over the supranational, protectionism and strong state involvement in the economy, but I continue to think (I posted a bit about this here the other day) that Putin’s fellow travelers on the more liberally-inclined wing of the euroskeptic right (including some in Britain’s UKIP) are driven as much by contrariness as anything else, their position a reflection of the way that the EU has poisoned so much of the continent’s debate.

But the fact is, amazing as it may seem, not everything that Brussels does is bad. In Eastern Europe the EU has, in general, been a force for good. To argue that it represents a threat to Russia is far-fetched. Whatever else EU President van Rompuy may be (and UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s enjoyably brutal description of this gray non-eminence will do very nicely; you can watch it here), he is not some Napoleon about to send a mighty EU army (about five soldiers and a guidance counselor at the latest count) Moscow’s way. Closer ties between the EU and Ukraine would, if they worked and by force of example alone, represent a challenge to Putin’s authoritarianism, but that’s an altogether different issue. 


Marsha Blackburn: ‘Tired of Guys Condescending to Us’ over Equal Pay


Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn explained to a skeptical Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation Sunday that Republicans’ voting against the Paycheck Fairness Act does not mean they are against equal pay for women.

Noting that she found the “war on women rhetoric” to be “silly,” Blackburn said that “the legislation was something that was going to be helpful for trial lawyers.”

“I have fought to be recognized with equality for a long time,” she said. “A lot of us get tired of guys condescending to us.”

Blackburn went on to cite access to capital for women who own small businesses and the negative effects of Obamacare on women as issues that need addressing. “We’re all for equal pay. I would love for women to be focused on maximum wage,” she said.

Tags: Sunday Shows April 13 2014

Web Briefing: Easter Sunday 2014

Will’s Take: Left Has ‘a Kind of Tourette’s Syndrome’ in Constantly Blaming Race


Eric Holder’s suggestion earlier this week that he and President Obama receive more criticism due to their race is just the latest example of the “intellectual poverty” among Democrats, according to George Will.

“Liberalism has a kind of Tourette’s syndrome these days — it’s just constantly saying the word ‘racism’ and ‘racist,’” he said on Fox News Sunday.

With Democrats facing the unpopularity of Obamacare, a troubled foreign-policy, and an “unprecedentedly bad” economic recovery, the party had started to employ this strategy in to top-gear ahead of the fall midterms. In fact, earlier in the day, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel (D., N.Y.) told CNN that a “significant extent” of Republicans were “animated by racism.”

But Will expects the public will see through Democrats’ strategy. “It’s so inappropriate — the constant invocation of this — that it is, I think, becoming a national mirth,” he said.

Tags: Sunday Shows April 13 2014


McCain Blasts Obama’s ‘Shameful’ Inaction against Putin, Calls for Arming Ukrainians


Senator John McCain condemned President Obama’s failure to support the Ukrainians with intelligence and weapons, and said that the escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine is due to the United States’ failure to act forcefully enough in response to Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

“He’s encouraged by the fact that we sanctioned a few people,” Senator McCain told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation Sunday. Predicting that the Ukrainians will fight if Russia’s encroachments continue, he said that “we ought to at least, for God’s sake, give them some light weapons to defend themselves.”

“They feel abandoned by us and rightfully so,” McCain said. “This is shameful.”

Calling for stronger sanctions against Russia, the Arizona senator said that so far, “there’s been a lot of talk and no action.”

“We’ve got to lead, and where is the president of the United States?” McCain asked. “So far we haven’t heard anything.”

Tags: Sunday Shows April 13 2014

Woodward on IRS Scandal: ‘There’s Obviously Something Here’


​The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward knows a thing or two about investigating Washington scandals, and he believes the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups merits a deeper look.

“We should dig in to it — there should be answers,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “For the president to take that position is very, very unusual and say there’s not a ’smidgen of evidence here.’”

Woodward raised questions about the Republican House committees’ ability to properly and effectively carry out such an investigation. He laid out what his approach would be to dealing with stonewalling from Lois Lerner, as well as the administration, including speaking with others close to the situation rather than just the major players. But Woodward also warned of congressional Republicans’ crossing the line in their accusations of Lerner and others involved.

“There’s obviously something here,” he explained. “The question is, does this committee know how to investigate.”

Tags: Sunday Shows April 13 2014

Sebelius: ‘I Don’t’ Have Any Regrets as HHS Secretary


While she wishes she had done some things differently prior to the bungled launch of, Kathleen Sebelius said she has no regrets from her time as Health and Human Services secretary.

“I don’t,” said ​Sebelius, who resigned earlier this week, to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Sunday. “If I had a magic wand, and could go back to mid-September and ask different questions based on what I know now — I thought I was getting the best information.”

She admitted that the actual approach did not go “very well.”

The timing of Sebelius’s resignation has raised questions about the political calculations behind the decision ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. Elsewhere in her interview with Mitchell, she said she made the decision to leave following the first enrollment period, or else she would have felt obligated to stay until the end of the Obama presidency.

Tags: Sunday Shows April 13 2014

Rand Paul: My Foreign Policy Is ‘Right There’ with Reagan’s


Kentucky senator Rand Paul avoided directly answering whether or not the United States could “live with” a nuclear Iran, while saying that his “foreign policy is right there with what came out of Ronald Reagan.”

Pressed by ABC’s Jonathan Karl in an interview airing on This Week to explain his vote against a non-binding Senate resolution to reject a policy of containment of a nuclear-armed Iran, Senator Paul responded:

“I’ve repeatedly voted for sanctions against Iran. I don’t want to have voted for something that’s declared war without people actually thinking through it.”

“Do you think the United States could live with a nuclear-armed Iran?” Karl asked.

“I think it’s a mistake for them to get nuclear weapons,” Paul said.

Karl responded that everyone agreed with that, but could we contain Iran if it did?

“I think it’s not a good idea to announce that in advance,” Paul said. “Should I announce to Iran, ‘Well I don’t want you to, but we’ll live with it’? No that’s a dumb idea, to say you’re going to live with it. However, the opposite’s a dumb idea too.”

Tags: Sunday Shows April 13 2014

Sebelius: It Was Either Leave Now or Stay Until 2017


In her first interview since resigning as Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that she saw the end of the first enrollment period as the ideal time to step down. Otherwise, she felt obligated to stay until the end of President Obama’s presidency.

“That really wasn’t a commitment I was willing to make, and he knew that,” she said in Sunday’s Meet the Press.

When asked if the president tried to persuade her to stay, Sebelius said she “made it pretty clear that it really wasn’t an option to stay on.”

Tags: Sunday Shows April 13 2014

Samantha Power: Putin’s Actions ‘Give Credence’ to Idea that He Wants Eastern Ukraine


Reacting to news breaking overnight of pro-Russian forces seizing government buildings in eastern Ukrainian cities, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said that the unrest has “all the tell-tale signs of what we saw in Crimea.”

“It’s coordinated, there’s nothing grass-roots seeming about it,” she told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week.

“Do we believe that Vladimir Putin wants the eastern Ukraine?” Stephanopolous asked Power.

“Actions that he is undertaking certainly give credence to that idea,” Power said.

She added that if “actions like those that we’ve seen over the past few days continue,” the U.S. will consider a “ramping up of sanctions.”

Tags: Sunday Shows April 13 2014

DCCC Chair: ‘Significant Extent’ of Republicans ‘Animated by Racism’


While “not all” Republicans are racist, a good portion of them are, according to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel (D., N.Y.).

“To a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism and that’s unfortunate,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley on Sunday.​ Crowley responded by saying these claims, as well as the “War on Women” attacks, all sound like “election-year strategy” to try to rally the Democratic base.

Israel’s remarks come after Attorney General Eric Holder suggested that criticism towards him and President Obama is racially motivated.

Tags: Sunday Shows April 13 2014

Russell Moore Fears No Man


There was a rather large controversy in the Evangelical world recently when the humanitarian-aid group World Vision decided that it would recognize same-sex marriages. There was a huge outcry from traditionalist Christians and, as a result, World Vision reversed its decision within two days.

One of the most prominent voices raised against World Vision’s initial decision was that of Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (he is the immediate successor, in this position, of the legendary Richard Land). His statement on the issue read, in part, as follows:

This isn’t, as the World Vision statement (incredibly!) puts it, the equivalent of a big tent on baptism, church polity, and so forth.

At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish.

So we can all agree that Dr. Moore is a conservative Baptist Christian in good standing. Which makes all the more interesting what he said in an interview a couple of days ago about the current religious-liberty controversies:

One of the problems is that for a long time evangelical Christianity, at the lay populist level, has had a narrow vision of religious liberty, because we haven’t had a lot of threats to it in a real sense. . . .

You have some people who haven’t thought through that what our Baptist forebears were saying is right — that religious liberty is an image-of-God issue; it’s not a who-has-the-most-votes issue. . . .

That means we’re the people who ought to be saying the loudest: ‘We don’t want the mayor and the city council to say that a mosque can’t be in our town.’ . . . The mayor and the city council that can say that is a mayor and a city council that has too much power.

The government doesn’t decide that. . . . We’ve got to be the people who are saying that.

And then secondly we’ve had a lot of people who have cried wolf over situations. . . . They’ve cried persecution when there is no persecution.

So you have kind of these fake senses of where we’re aggrieved, we are persecuted, because the lady at Wal-Mart says ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ . . .

What happens when that goes on long enough and it’s every single year the same sort of thing happens, then you wind up with people saying, ‘Well that’s what they always say.’ . . . So they don’t pay attention to you when there really are serious restrictions of free exercise of religious liberty that are now coming upon us.

To summarize all of the above: Russell Moore is willing to endure the rage of a) gay activists, b) liberal and moderate Christians who want to recognize gay marriages, c) people who try to stop the building of controversial mosques, and d) people who love to complain about the “War on Christmas.”

I do not ask whether readers agree or disagree with any of the particular points I have quoted from Dr. Moore. We pretty much all have our opinions on all of them, and I doubt that there are very many people who will agree with Moore on all of the above. But can anyone honestly disagree that this is one genuinely courageous man? He sounds like the kind of guy who, as soon he gets up every morning, reads the text of Galatians 1:10 he’s Scotch-taped to his shaving-mirror.

A Tough, Excellent Movie


In my almost 15 years at National Review, the second-most-gleeful moment I have seen my colleagues enjoy was when some of them discovered the Internet video of Nicolas Cage and the bees. (The most gleeful moment, of course, was on the occasion of the first ​RomneyObama debate; though there were, in that latter case, dark, temperamentally conservative voices who warned that there would be tears before bedtime.)

That notorious clip from The Wicker Man represents just the high point of an industrious schlock-movie career that includes a very long list of wild-eyed Cage over-performances. (Of the few of those movies I have seen, I have actually found some charming and likable; but, in general, the less said of them the better.) The result is that, by now, almost an entire generation of Americans has grown up completely unaware of the fact that Nicolas Cage is actually an immensely talented actor. That’s just one reason I strongly recommend the new movie Joe: The central performance by Cage is fantastic.

Cage’s character, Joe, is an ex-con who leads a crew of workers who poison trees to death so that loggers can legally cut them down. A drifter kid trying to break out of his family situation — he has a violent, drunken, abusive father – throws himself into the crew’s labors with great abandon, and sees in Joe the kind of person he would like to become. Joe is himself a man of violence trying to go straight, and his ungovernable temper makes his attempt to help the kid deal with his violent home life highly dangerous.

The film is set in a poor rural area near Austin, Texas, and director David Gordon Green said, at the screening I attended, that Cage is the only actor in the film was who not a local. I believe it: The people and locations in the movie create a very strong sense of place. It is a stark and poor landscape, and the men and women in it come across as real people, some likeable, some scary — not Hollywood people impersonating po’folks. It is a credit to Cage that he blends in with this realistic casting.

It is a violent film, so be forewarned; but it is also a hopeful one. The role of fathers is much discussed in social science these days, and it is undeniable that kids who lack a positive role model in their home life will look for one elsewhere. Sometimes the consequences are tragic. In this film, we have a powerful story of how people can find good values — and build a future of possibility — in the bleakest circumstances. Strongly recommended.

Fund: Feds Lifting Statute of Limitations to Seize Tax Refunds for Parents’ Debt ‘Outrageous’


Eastern Ukraine: What Do the Locals Want?


Polls are as reliable as the pollsters that organize them. And respondents may, for any number of reasons, particularly at a time of heightened political tension, be reluctant to reveal what they really think.

That said, as we ask ourselves what the people of eastern Ukraine really want, these findings (noted by Pew) are worth bearing in mind:

The Ukrainian poll was fielded February 8-18 by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, together with the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology…The reported margin of error for the Democratic Initiatives survey is 2.2%….

Clear majorities in Ukraine (68%) and Russia (59%) favor open borders between the countries. In Ukraine, this is the prevailing view not only in regions where Russian-speakers predominate, such as the East (72%) and South (64%), but in regions overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Ukrainians, such as the West (67%). Even among Ukrainians who want to join the EU, a 63%-majority back the free movement of goods and people between Ukraine and Russia.

However, open borders is not the same as no borders. Fewer than one-in-five Ukrainians (12%) …think the two countries should unite as a single state. Those living in Ukraine’s East (26%) and South (19%) are somewhat more enthusiastic about the idea of reuniting Ukraine and Russia, but support falls to the single digits in the country’s Center (5%) and West (1%)….

This poll (which presumably included respondents in the Crimea, a block of Russian-leaning voters now, sadly, annexed into irrelevance) was taken before Yanukovych finally fell (February 22), an event that could quite plausibly have pushed quite a few Russian-speakers into the Moscow camp (particularly if they were getting their information from Russian TV), as could the subsequent annexation of the Crimea. Nevertheless, they are a reminder of the need to take care before making the assumption that a majority of the Russian-speakers of eastern Ukraine want a return to Russian rule. 

“Little Green Men”


Matters appear to be escalating dangerously in Eastern Ukraine. For rumor, speculation and outright disinformation Twitter is usually the place to go, but, even after taking that into consideration, the cumulative nature of what I am seeing over there is increasingly alarming.


Kyiv Post:

Men in camouflage, armed with machine guns, have been seen at the entrance to the town of Slovyansk, Donetsk region, where armed men seized the building of the local police department early on April 12, the OstroV online newspaper has reported.

The headline reads:

Donetsk media: ‘Little green men’ seen near Slovyansk

Little green men? That’s a term that dates from the invasion of the Crimea. The BBC explained back in March:

The internet has no shortage of photographs and videos showing armed men in Crimea who look like members of the Russian military. Their guns are the same as those used by the Russian army, their lorries have Russian number plates and they speak in Russian accents.

Yet according to President Vladimir Putin, they are in fact members of “self-defence groups” organised by the locals who bought all their uniforms and hardware in a shop.

This poses a challenge to the media covering the crisis: what do you call people who are officially not there? Russian journalists less aligned with the Kremlin often use the phrase “polite men”. According to centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, “‘polite, armed men’ are in charge of Crimea now”. Describing them as Russian troops in the Russian media “is not the done thing, and even dangerous, too,” prominent photojournalist Denis Sinyakov comments on independent website Colta.

According to popular blogger Ilya Varlamov, the term “polite men” was invented by spin doctors who arrived in Crimea from Moscow. “They are creating an image of a Russian liberator-soldier wearing a nice new uniform and armed with beautiful weapons, who has come to defend peaceful towns and villages,” Mr Varlamov says.

Another phrase used by reporters in Russia and Ukraine alike is “little green men”, which refers both to the colour of their uniforms and their unconfirmed origin.


KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s acting president called an emergency meeting of Kiev’s national security council on Saturday after pro-Russian separatists seized control of government buildings in the eastern city of Slaviansk.

“At 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) a meeting will take place of the Ukrainian council of security and defense because of the situation in the east of Ukraine,” a spokeswoman for Acting President Oleksander Turchinov said.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tweets:

Change of plans. Will obviously remain in Odessa [Ukraine] overnight. Alarming developments in Eastern Ukraine. Green men.

“And She Starts To Cry”


There is a sense, more than a sense, in which we in the West watch events in Eastern Europe (and the breaking news  today from Ukraine looks more ominous than usual)  as spectators, focused perhaps on the strategy, or the politics of it all, without always thinking enough about those caught up in what Putin has unleashed.

Perhaps that was the frame of mind in which Si Hawkins of Clash Magazine set out to cover Music Week in the Estonian capital, Tallinn. He was there for the music, but, in a sign of the times, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (formerly of Pussy Riot) were in town for the festival too, and were welcomed by Estonia’s president:

“Good morning… I’ve never seen so many people here,” ponders Toomas Hendrik Ilves, surveying the scrum below his lectern. “There must be a reason. It isn’t me.”

Hawkins comments, coolly enough:

It’s an interesting time to be in the Baltics, to put it mildly, and the increasingly important-in-these-parts Tallinn Music Week seems more than just a music festival this year: freedom is the oft-mentioned theme. Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea and apparent designs on the remainder of Ukraine has the other old Soviet republics, and the rest of the world, understandably perturbed. Estonia – independent from the Soviet Union since 1991 – has a 25% Russian populace. If enough of them start waving the white, blue and red, who knows what might happen.  

There’s a hint of detachment detectable in those words, but read on and you can see it fade: Hawkins notes how “the refashioned wartime propaganda films” that accompany a performance by one band “don’t feel nearly as fun here as they usually might, however: a little too close to home.”

And then this:

Now Estonia, unlike Ukraine, is a member of the EU and NATO, which makes Russian intervention less likely, you’d hope. Still, I make a mental note not to repeat last year’s mishap and miss my flight home. We come, we see, we flee: that’s the modern westerner’s way.

Much of the rest of the piece is, naturally enough, dedicated to the music on show, but Hawkins’s last two paragraphs, beginning with a description of a performance by Maarja Nuut  (her music is as good as he says, incidentally), well, see how you feel:

Sometimes the more out-there acts are a must-see. On a much bigger stage later on that final evening, taking trad-folk in a tech-savvier direction is the much-admired Maarja Nuut. The charismatic vocalist/violinist uses a sample pedal to build her own vocal harmonies, but doesn’t always need them: during one reworked folk standard, her chorus gradually gains a live accompaniment as many of the crowd around us begin to sing along. It’s a lovely moment: aural balm for a troubled mind.

In stark contrast to that sonic beauty is the reaction yours truly elicits at the festival after-party, a few hours on. Chatting to a chirpy young restaurant manageress (there’s a food offshoot too, TMW Tastes), I slightly flippantly mention the Lithuanian chap’s prophecy about the imminent Russian invasion, as if passing on a bit of juicy celebrity gossip. And she starts to cry. Such things really shouldn’t be taken lightly.

If (Apologies to Rudyard Kipling) . . .


. . . we were like the Left, we would say that Brandeis revoked Hirsi Ali’s honorary degree because they hate black people. Especially black women.

See how nice it is to be on the left? Everything is black and white (so to speak).

Let’s keep going. Why have faculty at Rutgers and Minnesota reacted angrily to speaking invitations to Condoleezza Rice? They hate black women!

Ah, life on the left. Easy.

An Illustration


By now, you have read enough about Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brandeis University, so I will not say much. Let me offer one thought: Historians, when they write about an age, often struggle to say the necessary about that age. There is just too much, the subject is too big. So they try to sum up the age, or impart a flavor of the age, by little facts or stories or other illustrations.

If we go down — if we are killed by a suicidal political correctness (and I don’t think we will be) — historians will be able to point to the case of Hirsi Ali and Brandeis as an illustration.

Krauthammer’s Take: Sebelius Resignation a ‘Textbook Case’ for Getting Rid of Cabinet Member


The White House approached the departure of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius as politically shrewd as it could, according to Charles Krauthammer. While problems with Obamacare and will endure, the Obama administration can now act as if it has turned a page from the Sebelius era.

“I think this was a textbook case of how to do it efficiently,” he said on Friday’s Special Report. Dumping Sebelius at the height of the website’s woes would have been a big political hit in the public’s perception of the law; now, she can leave on a high note after reaching the goal of 7 million enrollees, or “whatever the phony number is today,” Krauthammer explained.

The resignation is also far away enough from the midterms elections that it will likely not be an issue in November. Even if Republicans manage to slam the White House and Democrats over the health-care law during nominee Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s confirmation hearings — which Krauthammer was doubtful would happen given Republicans’ recent track record in congressional hearing — it’ll only be a “week or two” of negative press.

“I think this is sort of how you do it if you’re going to defenestrate a member of your Cabinet,” he said, “from a ground-floor window, so I don’t think she was actually injured in the fall.”


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