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Taken On Faith



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A struggle against an ideology that is explicitly religious is bound to present difficulties in a country conditioned to treading carefully where questions of faith are concerned. While the allegations of misconduct at Guantanamo remain – we should remember – unproved, it does seem that steps to tighten up supervision of the way in which chaplains are recruited are long, long overdue. Judging by this story in today’s New York Times the Pentagon is, at last, taking some action.

Goliath Casket!



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Admit it, this is grimly amusing.

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Zero Tolerance



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EU Commission president Prodi came into office promising ‘zero tolerance’ for the sorts of corruption that had marred the outgoing administration in Brussels. Well, judging by this story, these days there’s zero tolerance in the EU bureaucracy all right – but for whistleblowers.

Web Briefing: December 20, 2014

No Pain, No Gain



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There has always been something a touch masochistic about the exercise crowd – but this is a little surprising.

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Racist Cookies



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Here’s what the Dallas Morning News had to say about the “affirmative action bake sale” at SMU. My newspaper’s editorial board supports affirmative action (I dissent from the majority on this), but we said collectively that SMU’s administration ought to be ashamed of itself for shutting down the conservative protest. It’s infuriating that the SMU folks, when confronted by the prospect of violence over this protest, sent in security not to protect the controversial speech, but to gag the protesters. But that’s life on campus these days. Here’s something you might not know about SMU: the university, which is Laura Bush’s alma mater, is competing with Baylor University in Waco to be the location for the George W. Bush Presidential Library. As he’s making his decision, the president ought to take note of how student conservatives are treated by the SMU administration.

Ramesh Exonerated



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Jonah, the fault was mine, not Ramesh’s. Long story. But when in doubt, blame me–it’s usually accurate to.

Muravchik On Neocons



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I’ve only now finished Josh Muravchik’s dissection of the neocon conspiracy buffoonery that overcame so many otherwise intelligent people in recent times. It’s on the web at Commentary’s web site, but for a fee.

It is an amazingly well done piece, much better than

Ramesh



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You must close your italics!

Understanding The Fma, Before Debating It



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A while back, I got in an argument with Andrew Sullivan and others about what the Federal Marriage Amendment would do. (See here and scroll up for my last comment on that controversy.) Sullivan is writing about the subject again today, which gives me the opportunity to note two things. First, it’s been bothering me for some time that in my initial post, I called Sullivan’s interpretation of the FMA “ridiculous.” I still think he was wrong, but what I said was an unkind overstatement.

2) His post today is basically correct. The FMA does not bar state legislatures from extending incidents of marriage to unmarried persons or groups. A benefit that had previously been reserved to married couples could be legislatively granted more widely–to any two people who share a household, for example. The FMA does, however, bar governmental benefits to unmarried persons premised on a sexual relationship between (or among) them. It would not bar legislatively enacted civil unions that, say, opened various benefits to any two people living together–whether they were two brothers, two guys who sleep together, widows who had set up house, or whatever. It would bar civil unions that were limited to gay couples. If you support civil unions as a step toward the governmental recognition that same-sex unions are equivalent, in all the ways that ought to matter to public authorities, to traditional marital unions, you ought be against the FMA. (There are, of course, other reasons a person could be against it.)

Re: Foreign Aid



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I must say I agree entirely with Ramesh. I think there are a couple points worth adding.

First, there’s this passage:

“This begs the question: Why should U.S. citizens have to pay one additional penny for this rebuilding when Americans have already paid tens of billions of dollars for the liberation of Iraq with a huge military operation and more preciously, thousands of our own soldiers’ blood?”
This will join nicely with the long line of examples of libertarians having a grave problem with foreign policy. There’s a strain of utopianism which runs through libertarian notions of foreign policy which is no less severe than the strain the one which afflicts the left. The left believes that international norms of the rule of law — as dictated by Olympian judges in Brussels — should dictate the conduct of nations. Libertarians seem to believe that the rule of the market should as well. Both of these things would be great, or at least better than the reality (especially if the rule of law weren’t so much Euro-liberalism) but the reality is what it is. Of course the United States shouldn’t have to pay another penny for Iraq. Of course American soldiers shouldn’t shed their blood. But that’s the situation we are in. It would be great, even right, if the world sent us billions of dollars to compensate us for the hard but necessary work we’ve done in Iraq. But that’s not the way the world is right now. Sorry. And to suggest that shouldering the costs of Iraq aren’t worth the price is, in my opinion, dead wrong.

Which brings me to my second point. I do hope that all of the folks who email me claiming that NRO has a single editorial position on every issue from gay marriage to foreign policy will at least take note that we do have disagreements around here. That’s one of the secrets of our success.

Attacking Snacks



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The Center for ‘Science’ in the ‘Public Interest’ has been on the warpath again – against snacks. The excuse? As always, ‘the children’ and that famous obesity of theirs. Writing for Fox News the Cato’s Steven Milloy has more:


“There may or may not be more overweight kids today than 20 years ago. No one knows for sure.


None of the data are very reliable. They’ve been collected by telephone, not in person. Surveyors call random households and ask the heights and weights of children in the household. These “data” are then used to calculate a dubious indicator called “body mass index” — a ratio of weight to height. Too high a body mass index and a child is assumed to be overweight.


Even assuming that the correct height and weight figures are offered up by whoever answers the phone — none of the data are verified for accuracy — body mass index is a lousy indicator of weight problems among healthy children…


A recent study in the British Medical Journal studied a group of children from birth in 1947 to age 50. The researchers reported, “Little tracking from childhood overweight to adulthood obesity was found … No excess adult health risk from childhood or teenage overweight was found. Being thin in childhood offered no protection against adult fatness, and the thinnest children tended to have the highest adult risk at every level of adult obesity.”


None of this, of course, is to condone the drinking of Dr Pepper.


Truth in Advertising?



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Not, it seems, if you are a cancer charity. An advertising campaign is being launched in the UK which tells smokers not to be deceived by the claims of makers of low tar or mild cigarettes. The Daily Telegraph reports that the “Death Repackaged” campaign uses a great white shark, a crocodile and a striking snake to drive home the message that “a nice name doesn’t make something less deadly”. The campaign is being run by Cancer Research UK and is the charity’s first involvement in anti-smoking advertising. The project is in collaboration with the Department of Health, which is paying for the £2.5 million initiative.


The problem is that although no cigarettes are safe, some are safer than others. Writing for UPI last year, John Bloom explained:


“… the government continued to treat all cigarettes alike, and to say that no cigarette was safer than another. In fact, if the FTC thinks a cigarette ad is even implying that it’s safer than other cigarettes, that company will face a formal complaint and possible sanctions…Look at the ludicrous results. If you take the top ten brands in America, the three at the top of the list in terms of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide are Newport, Camel and Salem. Are we to think of these as dangerous cigarettes? According to the government, not really. They are neither more nor less dangerous than the brands that rank at the bottom of the toxic list: Virginia Slims, Doral, GPC, and SOME types of Marlboros.


Shouldn’t it be stated somewhere on the product that these are less toxic? Is it out of the question to make the rankings clear enough so that a normal uneducated person can form the conclusion: “A Virginia Slim is much safer than a Camel.”


But then we have the safest cigarette ever manufactured: the Carlton. At 1 milligram tar and 0.1 milligram nicotine, you would think its designers would be acclaimed as some of the greatest innovators since the guy who figured out how to decaffeinate coffee. Think again. They’re required to put the following disclaimer in all their ads: “It is not our intention to suggest that a 1 mg ‘tar’ cigarette is any safer than other cigarettes.”


Of COURSE it’s safer! Why would you spend the money to process it down to that level unless it was a cigarette designed to alleviate health concerns?”


Intriguing. Perhaps the tobacco warriors would like to explain why this is wrong.


Grumpy Old Men, Please



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If there’s one thing worse than their ceaseless muttering about the children, its politicians’ relentless bonhomie. Adam Nicholson is not impressed:

“Maybe we have reached the dead-end of this particular line. Wouldn’t we all prefer the bad acting, the faux-bonhomie and the fauxempathetic quivering voice at bad news to be dropped? And wouldn’t we all rather a return to the old style in which the politician did not have to display his real, feely, touchy, life-loving, people-hugging, Martini-ad-grinning credentials at every turn? I would. There is something infantile about wanting a political leader to be nice. Niceness is irrelevant to political effectiveness. Niceness is a private virtue and private virtues are distinct from public ones. Anyway, on the Stalin model, displayed niceness is scarcely any measure of a man. What is required in a public man is sanity, sureness, an enormous capacity to understand complexity and an overwhelming grasp of the real. He doesn’t need to be nice. ”

Indeed not.

Stoned



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Oliver Stone on Fidel Castro:


“People in Cuba are far, far better off than people in places like Honduras, Brazil, Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua,” he argues. “The kids do not drink bad water. They go to school. That’s not to say that Cubans aren’t pissed off about a lot of things. ”


No word yet on whether Castro makes the trains run on time.


Plus Ca Change



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…plus ce n’est pas le meme chose.

Andrew’s line about the naming of the anti-tobacco bill reminds me of the name of the original proposal for the Family Assistance Plan (FAP) chosen by the bureaucrats who wrote it: The Christian Anti-Communist Working Men’s Rivers and Harbors Act of 1969. Two points: Could anyone imagine those items (except Rivers and Harbors) being acceptable selling points today? And: In 1969 the bureaucrats were joking.

Foreign Aid



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I’ve been traveling and read the NRO op-ed by Stephen Moore and Rep. Tom Feeney only now. I have to say that I found it appalling. I’m not appalled by their effort to cancel Iraq’s debts to the countries that bankrolled Saddam Hussein; indeed, I support that. Nor am I opposed in principle to their desire to identify ways to reduce the cost to American taxpayers of the Iraq mission. What’s appalling is their blinkered refusal to see success in Iraq as an American priority, worth paying a lot to achieve; and their rather whiny insistence that Iraqis owe us cash. If we can save money, fine. But that really can’t be our major mission in Iraq.

Heart of Dixie



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Well, Kathryn, you wanted a little more geographical spread on NRO. Here I
am in Montgomery, Alabama. I wouldn’t mind relocating down here permanently,
if the magazine will pay for the U-Haul. So far I have seen nothing but
beautiful waether, great food, and really kind, generous, witty people. I guess
Alabama has a downside, but I haven’t encountered it yet. Off to Tuscaloosa
tomorrow for the football game (Roll Tide!), Sunday to Talladega for the NASCAR
race. I shall report in as time, location, and blood alcohol level permit.

Jesse Jackson Is a Cad



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A friend of mine set off the metal detector at TSA security in national airport Friday afternoon. While waiting to be personally screened, a man pushed in front of her without apology. It was Jesse Jackson. When she protested, he insisted he needed to cut in front of her because he was late for his plane. Her plane was already boarding as well, she replied, but Jackson dismissed her concern and pushed ahead. Were that not enough, the TSA employee conducting the screening, acquiesced and checked Jackson ahead of my friend.

Out of My Cold, Dead Hands



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It would be (pleasantly) surprising – no, astonishing – if cryonics were actually to bring someone back from the dead, but where’s the harm in trying? None, but some Arizona legislators seem set to try and regulate the cryonauts out of existence.

Blogger Rand Simberg is right not to be impressed:

“For now, the best course is caveat emptor. By the time they’re signed up, cryonics patients are made extremely aware of the promise, and risk of the process. If someone makes fraudulent claims (e.g., guarantees of reanimation), then they can be prosecuted for that, but short of that, no one right now is smart enough to regulate this industry.”

My own funeral plans remain unresolved.

Me Mia



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My apologies for the absense all day. This has been the worst 24 hours of travelling I’ve been through in years. Anyway, I’ll be on board next week.

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