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Misc.



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1) I’d like to repeat a post from the other day, in order to point out something new:

In a Wall Street Journal editorial about Russia, there was a remarkable sentence. An accurate sentence, but a jarring one — and a telling one. Here it is: “The State Department admitted last month that Russia has violated the 1987 INF Treaty . . .”

You might expect “The Kremlin admitted”; instead you get “The State Department admitted.”

Telling, right?

Here is the subhead of a Journal editorial about Syria: “Even the White House concedes that Assad may not have turned over all of his chemical weapons.”

The pattern is depressing: When the administration tells the truth about bad actors around the world, it’s “Man Bites Dog.”

2) Speaking of that, here is a genuine and apt headline from the Telegraph: “Man bites and kills venomous snake in central India.” (Article here.)

3) The Corner-reading masses are saying, “To hell with geopolitics and curious headlines. What we want is concert and opera reviews from the Salzburg Festival, dammit.” Okay, okay. You don’t have to get huffy about it.

For a review of Piotr Beczala (the Polish tenor) in recital, go here. For a review of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (in abbreviated and concert form), conducted by Daniel Barenboim, go here.

Remarks and Laughs from the Gallows



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After taking a week off, Mona Charen and I have recorded another podcast — go here. It’s late in Salzburg. I have limited myself to about three pastries today, down from my regular five. So I am relatively clear-headed, I think.

We talk about pretty much everything: Ferguson, Mo.; policing; ISIS (which needs to be pulverized); Iran (which will be hard to deter, if it goes nuclear); the flag-wrapped Edward Snowden (that would be the American flag, in case you’re wondering); North Korea; etc.

Anything light in there? Yeah, there are a lot of laughs, mainly in the category of gallows humor, probably.

At the end, we talk a bit about college daze. Mona and Bob’s third and youngest son has just gone off to college. He is still in orientation, and not yet a leftist, we understand. Things may be different by Thanksgiving. Or Columbus Day Weekend? Are you allowed to say “Columbus” on campus, in a non-hostile way?

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Ghost Stories for Grown-Ups



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My article on Robert Aickman, the master of the surreal ghost story, is in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal.

Web Briefing: August 22, 2014

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke: Eric Holder Needs to Apologize to Cops



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Attorney general Eric Holder and Missouri Democratic leaders need to apologize to the law-enforcement community for impugning officers’ motives in light of the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., according to one prominent county sheriff.

Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke, who gained notoriety last year for encouraging gun ownership within his Wisconsin community, said Holder, Governor Jay Nixon, and Senator Claire McCaskill made the situation in Ferguson worse with their “irresponsible, inflammatory” comments about the city’s police force and its supposed problem with race relations. Clarke argued on Fox News on Friday that the trio was “insinuating that our law-enforcement officers across the United States engage in some nefarious or systematic and cultural attempts to violate people’s civil rights.”

“I thought that was a slap in the face to every law-enforcement officer in America who puts on the badge and the uniform everyday to go out and risk their lives in service to their community,” he said.

Clarke specifically called on Holder to either further explain himself or apologize to law enforcement for “adding hot sauce to this volatile situation.”

“He doesn’t owe me an apology, but the men and women I know of do not have that kind of maliciousness in their hearts and I thought that that was a poor display in terms of leadership,” Clarke said.

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Think the South Is Poor? Try Britain



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Writing in today’s Telegraph here and on the Spectator blogFraser Nelson makes the important point that “America’s racial divide” is no larger and no more significant than Britain’s social and geographical divisions. Of course, both divisions are important and regrettable. But the divisions are different because the nations are different.

Black Americans, for instance, have a life expectancy shorter by five years than their white neighbors. Though that sharp racial difference is not exactly paralleled in Britain, the life expectancy of someone born in Liverpool is five years lower than that of someone born in Westminster. Indeed, a Londoner reduces his life expectancy in London simply by crossing Westminster Bridge to “South of the River”–thus becoming the equivalent of New York’s “bridge-and-tunnel people.” Beware of simplistic interpretations of the statistics, however – Britain’s life expectancy will rise immediately (if modestly) if Scotland votes for independence next month.  

Fraser’s articles were obviously provoked by British commentary on Ferguson, which has veered between horrified and condescending. He’s providing a corrective to these attitudes. Read the pieces. But as someone born in Liverpool and living in Alabama, I was struck more by the statistics he quotes showing that if Britain were a state in the U.S., it would be the second poorest state in the union. And America’s poor are richer than Britain’s in every category except the lowest 5 percent in both countries.

These figures will come as a great relief to the good people of Mississippi. Alas for them, they come out as the one state with lower living standards than the U.K. as they have long been at the bottom of almost all such lists of American states. But when anyone cites the poor performance of southern states in educational standards, life expectancy, or anything else, they will hear  the citizens of Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas breathe out  a grateful “Thank Heaven for Britain!” and remain silent and smile quietly to themselves.

WH Explains Obama Golfing after Foley Remarks: ‘Good Way for Release and Clearing of the Mind’



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After two days of negative press criticizing President Obama’s decision to hit the golf course 15 minutes after he delivered comments on the execution of American journalist James Foley, the White House could only defend it by saying the president needed a “release” from all the issues facing him.

“Generally, I think that sports and leisure activities are a good way for release and clearing of the mind for a lot of us,” White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz​ told reporters from Martha’s Vineyard on Friday. He refrained from speaking specifically about the president’s mindset when he went golfing 15 minutes after Wednesday’s press conference.

Schultz said the president remains focused on his responsibilities even while he’s away from Washington and on vacation.

WashPost Dares to Ask: Why Can’t There Be Tasteful Beheadings?



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To the old truth that people who read the tabloids have a better grip on national crises than people who read the destination media, the Washington Post’s Abby Phillip adds a few paragraphs:

The decisions by both tabloids [the Post and Daily News of Nueva York] to feature cover images of [murdered American journalist James] Foley in his orange jumper, knife to his neck, moments before his life came to an end, came without public explanation and no justification . . . 

There’s no book on journalistic ethics that says exactly what to do at moments like this. And these decisions are often made on a case-by-case basis in American newsrooms.

Most news organizations have chosen to use images of Foley that do not clearly lay out the means of his execution.

But the tabloids decided to graphically highlight the horror of Foley’s death at the savage hands of Islamic State militants in the most prominent place in their publications — a decision that has been widely criticized. No other newspaper with print circulations among the top 25 in the country included an image of Foley and his murderer, knife in hand. Both also used the same headline: “SAVAGES.”

Far be it from this reporter/editor to damn front-page (not “cover,” by the way) headlines for having unoriginal wordplay. But this appears to be an instance wherein “Savages” got repeated because the Islamic State is a group of savages. There are many more apt nouns to describe them: headhunters, rapists, lunatics, Muslims, [probable] infanticides, perverts, among many others. But it’s better to move faster when you’re on a print schedule.

In any case, Phillip’s main objection is to showing the means of Foley’s execution. To wit: The English-accented Islamic State murderer in the video did, in a very technical sense, behead Foley. In another, more specific sense, he sawed off Foley’s head.

The unidentified Islamic State killer, who has been speculatively tagged in the gutter press as a type of Sunni Fifth Beatle, shares this preferred style of decapitation with the Muslim murderers of Nick Berg in 2004; and with whoever saws off the head of a man, apparently an Arab Christian forced to convert to Islam prior to his murder, in a video posted by the indispensable Pat Dollard. Dollard has many more such offerings (though, since many of the worst abuses are against Arab Christians, whom Westerners with grand visions for the Middle East generally hold in contempt, the audience for these clips may be limited). Such films have been readily available — butcher-shop beheadings on a nearly daily basis — for years now.

National Review contributor Andrew Klavan recently took to the hallowed opinion pages of the Los Angeles Times to decry reporter squeamishness in reporting on the suicide-by-hanging after a possible attempt at bloodletting through the arms, of Robin Williams. That argument was made to the liberal establishment. But I suggest my fellow travelers extend this good advice to all media — including the footage of Foley’s ghastly death, which was removed by YouTube in an act of self-censorship many conservatives unwisely applauded.

It is said only half in jest that the establishment media are in the business of preventing the dissemination of information. When the scene of Michael Brown’s shooting death is broadcast, but the entire area around the actual location of the deceased is blotted out; when video of the fatal shooting of Kajieme Powell by St. Louis police officers ends with a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid–era freeze-frame just prior to the first shot (I’ve seen examples of both lately, and so have you); vital information is being withheld from news consumers. The position and condition of Brown’s body is of clear importance to the fourth estate’s biggest August story. The type and direction of fire is vital information for making judgments about Powell’s death.

I don’t know whether Phillip is happy or sad about the lack of a book on journalistic ethics (though in fact there are dozens of such books). From the context, I assume she’s sad about it, which strikes me as a predisposition that this very productive general-assignment reporter should strive to overcome. Any ethical creed (an esthetic creed might differ) that prescribes the withholding of important parts of the story is essentially wrong and potentially evil. If you had been looking at Pat Dollard’s output for the last three years, you would not have been shocked or particularly surprised by Foley’s murder. If you had been looking at the Washington Post’s output, you would have been far less informed about the Sunni rising and the world view of its vanguard. It is the Post, not the right-wing media, that should consider this difference a problem. Apparently they don’t even recognize it as a problem after the public slaughter of a professional journalist. So much for solidarity.

Tags: Iraq , Islamic State , ISIS

The Latest Step in the HHS Mandate Saga: The Non-Accommodation Is Still Not a Solution



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The Obama administration suffered two stinging defeats at the Supreme Court this summer related to the so-called “HHS mandate” — the rule that requires employers to include free contraceptives, sterilization services, and products that can induce early-pregnancy abortions in their health plan offerings to workers. 

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held for-profit companies had rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and that the contested HHS rule did not meet RFRA’s “least restrictive means” test for imposing this requirement on employers with religious objections. 

A few days later, the Supreme Court granted a preliminary injunction to Wheaton College — a not-for-profit institution that objects both to complying with HHS mandate and to the terms of the “accommodation” the Obama administration had written for institutions with such objections. Wheaton will not be forced to comply with the regulation while its case is pending in the courts.

In response to these high-court rulings, the Obama administration released another round of rulemaking today.

The new rules have two parts:

First, the administration issued an interim final rule to change the procedure for granting the supposed accommodation to religious not-for-profit organizations.  An earlier rule required objecting employers to fill out a self-certification form indicating their objections, and then to submit that form to the insurer that was providing the coverage to the employers’ workers (or to the third-party administrator that pays claims, if the organization is self-insured). The interim rule allows religious not-for-profits to instead write a letter to the HHS stating their objections to the mandate.

 Second, the administration has proposed a new rule to allow closely held for-profit corporations with religious objections to the mandate to avail themselves of the same supposed accommodation provided to the religious not-for-profits. The rule asks for public comment on how to narrow the definition of for-profits eligible for the exemption. It presumes the accommodation would not apply to publicly traded companies, and it leaves open the question of how many owners a company might have and still be “closely held.”

It’s no surprise that the Obama administration is trying to use the supposed “accommodation” to extricate itself from the political and legal jam in which it now finds itself. 

The administration purposely wrote a coercive and overbearing HHS mandate rule to create a political issue. The president’s campaign team wanted objections to the rule because the objectors could then be demonized as waging a “war on women.” That would presumably help drive Obama supporters to the polls in 2012.

The problem is that people and institutions have religious-liberty rights in this country, and the HHS mandate is obviously trampling on those rights.

As the legal setbacks have mounted, the administration has attempted to construct a way out for itself.  The “accommodation” is their attempt at an escape: On the one hand, the administration wants to tell the courts that employers with religious objections to the mandate no longer have a case because, under the supposed accommodation, these employers can sponsor insurance plans for their workers that exclude the services and products to which they object. On the other hand, the administration also wants to tell its most ardent supporters that it hasn’t backed down because all of the people working for these employers, and their families, will still get free contraceptives. Magically, the insurance plans that work with the objecting employers will be required to provide the products and services to the employees — for free. 

In other words, the supposed “accommodation” changes nothing that matters.  It is a moral farce.

Under the administration’s rules, all employer-sponsored insurance, including plans sponsored by employers with religious objections to the HHS mandate, will provide free contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and abortifacient products.  The only difference between a plan offered by an employer with no objections and one with objections is that the employer with objections gets to write a letter to HHS saying “I object.”

Put another way, all insurance-plan contracts written for employers will include provisions specifying that coverage will be provided for the products and services required by the HHS mandate. It’s just that the contracts drawn up for employers with objections to the HHS mandate will have these provisions written in invisible ink.

In a moral sense, the supposed “accommodation” is meaningless. If an employer with religious objections to the HHS mandate offers insurance to its workers, that coverage will, by definition, always include the objectionable services and products. There’s no way around it. The objecting employers therefore know, in advance of making the decision to offer coverage, that if they do offer coverage, the insurance plan they sponsor will provide full coverage for these products and services that they find morally objectionable.

The real solution is of course a full exemption, not this convoluted non-accommodation. Employers with religious objections to the HHS mandate should be allowed to offer insurance in conformance with their consciences. It’s that simple. This would likely affect a very small percentage of the American workforce.   

Contrary to the administration’s claims, there never was a crisis of inadequate access to contraceptives in this country. The products are generally inexpensive, widely available, and heavily subsidized by the federal government. But if the Obama administration is concerned that granting a broader exemption will hamper access to these products and services, it can easily propose direct provision of these products and services to the employees of the objecting firms through existing public clinics.

The Obama administration is hoping this non-accommodation will confuse the debate sufficiently to defuse the remaining opposition to its rulemaking. That shouldn’t happen. The employers fighting the mandate, including many Catholic institutions, have come too far to accept a phony compromise now. The accommodation should be exposed for the shell game that it is, and the fight should continue until genuine religious liberty is protected.

‘Jobs That Americans Won’t Do’



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At the NR/Heritage event on immigration yesterday, I said the next Republican politician or consultant who says that there are “jobs that Americans won’t do” should be shot, hanged, and wrapped in a carpet and thrown in the Potomac River.

Not only is it not true that there are jobs that Americans won’t do, it is a sentiment that betrays contempt for those Americans who do the kind of jobs they aren’t supposed to be doing. So, it is the last thing anyone associated with what should be a party of work should say.

I cited the Rasputin precedent for the effectiveness of my proposed remedy, although I noted it was a different river (and to be strictly accurate, he was evidently poisoned, shot, beaten, and thrown in a river).

A reporter for Talking Points Memo wondered if I was joking, and I told him I wanted to maintain strategic ambiguity for maximum deterrent effect.

The ISIS Threat Demands a Secure Border



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So, as noted below, the administration acknowledges that the Islamic State could “pivot” to a 9/11-style attack on the U.S. – this at the very same time the administration seems intent on erasing any vestige of our southern border.

The “JV” team that’s slaughtering thousands, accumulating huge amounts of sophisticated weaponry and financial resources, recruiting and training thousands of fighters, and whose members daily declare their intentions to annihilate the West could walk across our border just as easily and anonymously as any 15-year-old Honduran. Yet our federal government refuses to build a fence and take other prudent steps to secure the border. Instead, it takes measures to encourage even more illegal immigration, the flow of which will undoubtedly contain actors intent on doing us harm.

A border fence and enhanced border security can’t guarantee Islamic State terrorists won’t penetrate our defenses. But advertising to the world that our southern border is a fiction guarantees the Islamic State will try to penetrate that border. And they won’t be bringing just scabies. Imagine your worst terrorist nightmare, and remember that they’ve thought of attacks — radiological, biological, suicidal – far worse.

Our government’s complacency and dereliction of duty regarding fundamental border security in the face of this profound terrorist threat is, at minimum, criminal negligence.

The Feds Let Go of Dozens of Convicted Murder Illegal Immigrants, See Where They Are on This Map



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The Center for Immigration Studies has used information provided to the office Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) to map out the locations of where convicted killers were let go by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in 2013. The killers were booked out in 24 states and were associated with 96 different cities, according to the CIS report. The following map shows with red dots the ZIP codes where they were released and with blue squares the ICE centers where they were booked out:

The state where the greatest number of illegal immigrants with homicide-related convictions were reportedly released was California. CIS says the city or town with the greatest concentration of convicted-killer illegal immigrants was Miami, followed by Los Angeles and the Bronx. See the full, interactive map here.

White House: ISIS Could ‘Pivot’ to 9/11 Style Attack



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The execution of American journalist James Foley by ISIS represents a terrorist attack against the United States, a White House official told reporters Friday, adding that the organization could “pivot” to attacks on the scale of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack,” White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters. ”That represents a terrorist attack against our country, against an American citizen, and I think all of us have the Foley family in our thoughts and prayers.”

Rhodes also defended President Obama’s oft-repeated description of ISIS as a junior varsity team. “I think what the president was speaking to a few months ago was the fact of the after is, you have many different groups operating across the middle east and North Africa,” Rhodes said. ”As we shift from a situation in which the counter-terrorism threat principally emanated from al Qaeda core, we are going to need to evaluate which of these groups pose a threat to the United States, which of these groups pose a threat to our personnel in the region, and which of these groups are more localized militia type forces that are potentially dangerous but can be handled by local security forces.” 

Asked if ISIS could carry out a 9/11-style attack, Rhodes said that the group doesn’t appear to be planning one. “To date, we have not seen them focus on that type of planning, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be very mindful that they could quickly aim to pivot to attacks against Western targets outside of the region,” he said. “If they show the intent or they show plotting against the United States, we’ll be prepared to deal with that as necessary.”

Poetry



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O’NEILL AND THE SEA

I.
The greatest metaphor of them all
In the end stands only for the rise and fall
Of itself. The tides, boats and sailors,
Even the seagulls, symbolize the great substitution
Of one reality for another
Of gray skies for bad weather
Or trouble, which it is.
The sea rolls over itself
A compass in a gale that can never fail,
As timeless as a ship in the distance
That doesn’t move
Then is gone in a moment,
In the sweep of a gull’s wing overhead
As the sea rolls back into place.
A ring-billed gull stands still as a statue out on the jetty
As fishermen lash bait into the surf
And the spray seems to answer them
Thrown against the rocks.
The tide withdraws and all are there,
The sandpipers sweeping a vast apron of sand,
The couples and families and loners
watching them in the twilight.

II.
O’Neill was the last sea writer to summon
The waves to obey him as he told his tale,
Scanning horizons and charts,
Bound for Wales or Argentina,
Swedes, Wobblies, black sheep
From New England farms, young, old,
Confident, crazy, an occasional accused spy.
Whatever information the sea held
Was hidden in the pace of the waves,
The endless push and struggle and swelling
Of the water to overtake itself, become
More than it was or ever could reach
Before settling for the old tidal release and return
To the depths to gather strength.

— This poem appears in the September 8, 2014, issue of National Review.

Washington Post Editorial Board to Cease Using ‘Redskins’



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The Washington Post’s editorial page announced that it will no longer use team name the local Washington Redskins because it “unquestionably offends not only many Native Americans but many other Americans, too.” The paper’s editorial board becomes just the latest group of journalists and broadcasters to stop using the name, which it replaces with “the R-word” at one point in its explanation.

In its Friday editorial, the board commended former National Football League referee Mike Carey, who recently reveal that he requested the league not assigned him to Washington game due to his objection to the name. It also notes that conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer has also called for the name to change.

While the editorial board will cease to use the “insulting” name except “when it is essential for clarity or effect,” the newspaper’s news division will continue to use the name in its coverage.

Last year, the Washington Post–owned left-wing website Slate announced it would no longer use the word “Redskins,” joining other left-wing news organizations such as Mother Jones and The New Republic. Other national newspapers, like the Kansas City Star and San Francisco Chronicle, have banned the word from its coverage altogether, as have a handful of reporters and sports columnists.

Swedish Artist Sentenced for Racist Posters



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A Swedish court has sentenced artist Dan Park to six months in prison and fined him about $10,000 for works deemed insensitive and denigrating to blacks and Roma people. He was sentenced for incitement to racial agitation and defamation.

Park’s controversial works were presented in a Malmö art gallery last month. The posters portrayed black men with nooses, as well as a local Roma figure with text appearing to condone crime, according to the Associated Press.

The Local, an English-language Swedish news site, reports that gallery’s chief was also fined and received a suspended sentence.

This isn’t the first time Park has faced legal repercussions for his art. In 2011, he made headlines by targeting a national black leader named Jallow Momodou by portraying him in chains in a poster with the text “Our negro slave has run away”; Momodou had called for action following a university party in which a group of students dressed as slaves were “sold.”

Park has said his works are an exercise in free speech and satirical in intent, according to the AP.

None Dare Call It Evil?



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Over at CNN.com James Dawes, director of the Program in Human Rights at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, takes me to task for suggesting that we should call ISIS evil.

Is ISIS evil?

The problem with that question is that the answer is as easy as it is useless. Yes, ISIS is evil and must be stopped. Saying so over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.

The flip side is that “evil” is also a word that stops us from thinking. There is only one good reason to denounce a group as evil — because you plan to injure them, and calling them evil makes it psychologically easier to do so. “Evil” is the most powerful word we have to prepare ourselves to kill other people comfortably.

There is no point in trying to understand evil because it is, in the most typical phrasing, “inhuman,” “senseless” or “beyond comprehension.” It is a fool’s quest to analyze the local realities and strategic imperatives of unthinking savages. There is something almost offensive about trying to understand such evil.

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg tried to shame those who are trying to think seriously about ISIS. In a recent tweet, he mocked the attempt to understand ISIS in its social and political context, suggesting that we should focus instead on one fact: “They’re evil. They do obviously evil things for evil ends.”

The fact is, there are few things more dangerous now than allowing ourselves to think that way.

Dawes gets just about everything wrong here — and in the rest of his essay. For starters I didn’t “mock the attempt to understand ISIS in its social and political context.” Rather, I mocked those who try to understand ISIS without acknowledging the most salient moral fact: They’re evil. Here’s my full tweet:

The rest of the piece is just a string of question begging assertions and strawmen wrapped in a lot of self-congratulatory intellectual preening about his willingness to do the serious thinking others won’t do. For instance:

Even if U.S. military force could effectively destroy ISIS, there will be similar groups waiting in the wings. If we are to have any hope of preventing the spread of extremist ideologies, we must do more than bomb the believers. We must understand them. We must be willing to continue thinking.

How is ISIS able to achieve the support it needs? What drives people into its ranks? What social pressures and needs, what political and regional vacuums, make it possible for a group like this to thrive? We can choose to answer these questions in two ways.

We can say they are evil people doing evil things for evil ends. Or we can do the hard work of understanding the context that made them, so that we can create a context that unmakes them.

Where to begin? First of all, the ideology driving ISIS is hardly a novel phenomenon requiring fresh inquiry. No one needs to hie to their dog-eared copy of the Koran to glean new understanding of what is driving these people. Indeed, it’s a bit outrageous to suggest that ISIS’s belief system is one deserving of that kind of respect. Second, who says that no one is thinking about the issues Dawes lays out? Every defense and Mid-East analyst I’ve read or talked to has asked the kinds of questions Dawes says we must consider. And guess what? After doing their due diligence, they’ve concluded ISIS needs to be destroyed. Heck, this is the consensus among the leaders of the “believers” Dawes says we must understand. Even the Saudi Grand Mufti says ISIS is Islam’s greatest enemy. Dawes seems to think that using force against ISIS is proof that we’ve failed to understand the complexity of the situation. The trouble with that kind of thinking — violence equals failure —  is that it’s non-falsifiable. Maybe the decision to use force reflects an appreciation of the complexity of the situation?  He refers to “political and regional vacuums” that helped ISIS thrive. Well, those vacuums — American withdrawal, the weak Iraqi government, the civil war in Syria — created a space for ISIS to fill. Understanding that fact isn’t necessarily an argument against force. As Charles Krauthammer notes today, the greatest advantage ISIS had was the perception they were unstoppable. 

But more fundamentally, I find it more than a little appalling to be lectured to about the evils of calling ISIS evil, particularly from a person who specializes in the issue of “human rights.” I understand that in our culture saying that “some people can’t be reasoned with” is seen as closed-minded. But sometimes you can be so open-minded your brain falls out. If the view of the human rights community is that it is simply useless to describe ISIS as evil, than what good is the human rights community?

Maybe I’m the fool here, but it just seems obvious to me that a group that crucifies its theological enemies, buries children alive, forces young girls into sexual slavery, and seeks global dominion isn’t a great candidate for reasonable conversation and compromise. Moreover understanding the “whys” behind their behavior strikes me as a moral dead end. 

Let us recall once again the story of British general Charles James Napier. When assigned to British-run India, he was informed that he just didn’t understand Indian customs. He couldn’t ban the practice of wife-burning, he was told, because it was an ancient and valued tradition in India. He said he understood and appreciated that. “This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

Boeing-Commissioned Research That Supports Boeing Is Independent, Says Boeing



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The “all hands on deck” lobbying campaign to save the corporatist Export-Import Bank is really getting going: The campaign is placing a gigantic amount of paid and self-interested op-eds in newspapers throughout the states. It’s also paying for industry experts to write reports to support their cause. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this, as long as the financial connection is disclosed clearly. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case, and pro-Ex-Im lobbyists have been a little misleading with some of the research they cite to support their case.

Earlier this week, for instance, Politico Influence reported that the Aerospace Industries Association, a key pro-Ex-Im industry lobbying group, and Boeing, Ex-Im’s single largest beneficiary, have cited the work of Vadim Linetsky in at least two letters to Congress urging the bank’s reauthorization: In a July letter to Congress, the AIA cited Linetsky’s work on commercial airplane financing. Later in August, Tim Keating, a senior vice president for government affairs at Boeing, also cited Linetsky’s research in his letter to Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling.

Dr. Linetsky certainly has the technical chops to comment on the issue: He is a professor of industrial engineering and management services at Northwestern University and an expert on financial-markets pricing.

But there’s one important detail that the AIA and Boeing forgot to mention: Boeing has paid Dr. Linetsky for research in the past and these groups are citing research that a Boeing-funded industry group paid for. In fact, it appears that the two groups have explicitly downplayed any association between them and Linetsky: Boeing described Linetsky as a “widely recognized expert” while the AIA called him an “independent technical expert” without noting that he published paid industry research for the groups in the past.

Initially, Boeing tried to downplay the “mistake.” A company spokesman told Politico that the study they referenced was commissioned by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a neutral non-governmental organization. Even if this was the case, Boeing still should have disclosed that Linetsky had been hired to do research on their behalf in the past. The Northwestern University website states that Linetsky’s research has been funded by the Boeing Capital Corporation. Boeing should have been honest upfront to avoid further embarrassment.

It turns out that Boeing was wrong about the OECD report too, as Politico later reported. The study that Boeing referenced in the letter to Congress was not commissioned by the OECD, but by another industry group called the Aviation Working Group. A 2010 report that Dr. Linetsky prepared for the AWG lists his relationship as an “independent technical advisor to the Aviation Working Group.” Boeing should be aware of these facts — since it’s a member of the Aviation Working Group..

The problem is not that Boeing, the AIA, and the AGW are citing research that they themselves have commissioned, but that they did not disclose their relationship with the scholar. Linetsky’s work should stand on its own merits, regardless of who signs his checks, but many people are naturally suspicious of paid research that supports the policies of its funders. We deserve honesty from companies that engage in these practices, like Boeing, so that we know when to apply stricter scrutiny.

Critics Says R Rating for Movie about Gay Couple Is Homophobic



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Is the Motion Picture Association of America homophobic?

That is what many are wondering after learning that the MPAA, which is responsible for distributing film ratings, gave the new film Love Is Strange — which depicts the romance of two gay men, played by Alfred Molina and John Lithgow — a restrictive “R” rating, though the film has no sex, nudity, or violence. According to the MPAA, the rating is for language.

Films are rarely rated R merely for language, but there have been notable instances: The King’s Speech (2010), in which Colin Firth’s character (King George VI) drops the F-bomb several times as a technique to conquer his stammer; and the 1995 romance, Before Sunrise, which starred Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

The MPAA — the members of which are six major Hollywood studios, and which is currently chaired by former Democratic senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut — regularly earns criticism for its ratings, and for the lack of transparency about how it determines them.​

Below, the trailer for Love Is Strange:

Via the Guardian.

The British Government Wants to Turn the People’s Knives into an Angel Statue



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Per the BBC:

The family of a man killed after being stabbed 52 times in a Wrexham pub are backing an amnesty on knives.

Craig Maddocks, 34, was attacked with a flick knife during an incident in a toilet cubicle in June 2013.

His mother and sister are now supporting the campaign to try to prevent more stabbings.

Knife banks will be set up in towns and cities in several counties with the blades being melted to create a statue in memory of knife crime victims.

Not just any statue, mind you:

Metal from the knives collected will then be turned into a 24ft sculpture of an angel as a tribute to those who died as a result of knife crime.

What happened to Mr. Maddocks was terrible. But this instinct — to remove from the citizenry anything that is remotely dangerous – is becoming almost laughable. Because catharsis for grieving families is held to be more important than basic human liberty, Britons now live in a country in which single mothers are warned by the police if they use knives to scare away intruders (actual quote: “Hertfordshire police warned her she should not have used a knife to scare off the youths because carrying an ‘offensive weapon’, even in her own home, was illegal”); in which men who defend themselves when attacked by armed maniacs can be charged with murder; in which, despite assurances that the strict gun regulations worked and that firearms threats have therefore been diminished, police are beginning to arm themselves as a matter of routine; and in which even the Olympic shooting team is forced go to Zurich to practice their sport. Worst of all, perhaps, there exists no meaningful debate about these measures. As Dan Hannan learned recently when he correctly recorded that the British handgun ban was the product of press-driven hysteria and not sober inquiry, to so much as suggest that disarming everybody might be a touch extreme is inevitably to be accused of hating children:

Yesterday, irked by the bandwagon of outrage set in motion by Nigel Farage’s support for the licensing of handguns, I Tweeted that the rationale for the original ban had been false, and that it had been brought in following a nasty tabloid campaign.

If you know Twitter, you’ll easily imagine the response: murderer, fascist, moron, resign, blah blah. I’ve been getting these remarks from Lefties for so long now that, as the poet says, they pass me by as the idle wind which I respect not. But, this time, they weren’t just coming from permanently outraged teenagers; they were coming from a number of Labour MPs – including Jim Murphy, a member of the shadow cabinet, who wanted me to apologise for my “repulsive” comments about “the murder of innocents”.

Hannan was rightly irritated by the “authoritarianism” of this response:

Seventeen years on, they no longer have the excuse of being overcome by the horror of the moment. Theirs is an authoritarianism born, not of high emotion, but of self-righteousness – or perhaps of calculated cynicism. It’s an authoritarianism that regards criticism as morally rather than intellectually wrong. An authoritarianism that cannot understand the difference between disapproving of something and banning it. Save us from such politicians.

This is fair. But his exasperation is ultimately directed at the wrong target. These “politicians” only get away with their “calculated cynicism” because the general public demands it. In the last fifty years, British voters have happily given up their right to keep and bear arms, their right to defend themselves in their own homes, and — in a more basic sense — their unalienable right to self-defense per se. Now, a good number will hand in their knives so that the state may turn them into art. This isn’t the fault of the political class. It’s the fault of the people themselves.

Becoming Enthusiastically Pro-Abortion



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What used to be called the pro-choice movement is morphing into an agenda that is enthusiastically and unabashedly, pro-abortion. Why? As I explain in my First Things biweekly column:

Mendacity has its costs. Understanding the public’s sentimentality about babies, pro-choice apologists often falsely claimed their goal was simply to make abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” That worked for a time. But conceding that abortion should be “rare” implicitly accepted the pro-life movement’s fundamental premise—that the entity terminated in an abortion is far more than an inflamed appendix. Eventually, the sheer force of logic and fact helped push the country in a more pro-life direction.

This means the never-changing abortion is about to change:

I expect that in the coming years abortion rights supporters will execute a tactical retreat that admits the humanity of the unborn, conjoined with a strong counter-offensive dismissing the moral relevance of that biological fact. What matters, advocates will increasingly assert, is the state’s guarantee that women’s reproductive desires are fulfilled—with abortion viewed as a positively good way of doing so. Pro-lifers had better quickly discern how to counter the new candidly explicit pro-abortion advocacy.

“Pro-choice” is out. Roe v. Wade is to be overturned as too restrictive.

Pro-lifers take notice: That approach took a big step forward with a recent court ruling comparing abortion access to the Second Amendment. For more, hit this link.

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