Thursday, July 31, 2014

By Not Opposing Israel, Says NYT, Arab Nations Are to Blame for "New Obstacles to Efforts to End the Gaza Conflict"

Nothing should come as a surprise from the New York Times, correct?

From Cairo, David Kirkpatrick reports that
Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. That, in turn, may have contributed to the failure of the antagonists to reach a negotiated cease-fire even after more than three weeks of bloodshed.

“The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu,” the prime minister of Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington and a former Middle East negotiator under several presidents. 

“I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummeling of Hamas,” he said. “The silence is deafening.”
So how does the New York Times advertise David Kirkpatrick's story on its front page?

Yes, that's right, the Arab states' new policy poses — as in, "is to blame for" —
new obstacles to efforts to end the Gaza conflict.
As Ronald Reagan said, there is an easy way to obtain peace; all you have to do is to give in, to surrender…

PS:  Incidentally, the story goes on to say that
Secretary of State John Kerry turned to the more Islamist-friendly states of Qatar and Turkey as alternative mediators — two states that grew in regional stature with the rising tide of political Islam after the Arab Spring, and that have suffered a degree of isolation as that tide has ebbed.

But that move has put Mr. Kerry in the incongruous position of appearing to some analysts as less hostile to Hamas — and thus less supportive of Israel — than Egypt or its Arab allies.

For Israeli hawks, the change in the Arab states has been relatively liberating.

French Comedian Louis de Funès, Who Would Be 100 Today, Criticized the Left for Its Hateful Humor

Today would be the 100th birthday of Louis de Funès, the
comic French movie star who in 1971 criticized leftist humor as being "at the expense of others [and causing] sad, weeping laughter."
Le Monde : Savez-vous que des jeunes considèrent votre comique sans cible politique comme démobilisateur et donc favorable à l'ordre etabli?

Louis de Funès : Ce sont des isolés et je demande à voir leur photo ! Etre de gauche, c'est une mode, comme les cheveux longs. Le rire, lui, dure. Il est innocent. Je ne vois pas comment on peut aller lui chercher des sens cachés. … nous on est l'antidote. Et qu'on ne me dise pas qu'ils rient en Union Soviétique ou dans les pays communistes ! Des pièces comiques, il n'y en a pas lourd …

Le Monde : Un nouvel humour apparaît, très critique. Qu'en pensez-vous?

Louis de Funès : Ah oui! le rire de gauche pour cafés-théâtres, comme Romain Bouteille, ce sont des rires aux dépens des autres, des rires tristes, à pleurer, je n'aime pas ça. Ils arrachent tout, ils jettent tout aux ordures sans rien reconstruire. …

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

For religious liberty to mean something it has to protect us from the Chuck Schumers of this world who claim to support that religious freedom jive unless it impedes their legislative agenda

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) … speaks as if those who work for other people have unhindered free exercise rights
writes Benny Huang.
Nothing could be further from the truth. As society becomes increasingly hostile to people of faith, employees are discovering that they cannot keep their jobs and remain true to their sincerely held beliefs, which the Civil Rights Act of 1964 supposedly guarantees. That portion of the law everyone hypocritically claims to adore is routinely ignored.

One solution has been to start your own business though that doesn’t always solve the problem. As the Green family of Hobby Lobby has learned, even being your own boss doesn’t guarantee that you can live your life according to your faith.

You can’t practice your religion if you work for yourself and you can’t practice your religion if you work for someone else. What do you think this is? America?

Schumer’s remarks were delivered at a press conference in support of the misnamed and ultimately doomed Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, which ought to have been called the Abolish Religious Freedom Act because that’s what it really is. Its purpose was to do an end-run around last month’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, thus forcing religious business owners to purchase abortion-inducing drugs for their employees. Thankfully, it failed even in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Like most great charlatans, Chuck Schumer speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He is conscious that he sounds hostile to free exercise rights so he makes the effort to begin each sentence with a pro forma affirmation of his adoration for religious liberty, followed by the word “but.” If it sounds like lip service that’s because it is.

 … Nearly every government in the world pays lip service to religious liberty. Even the North Korean constitution guarantees that “Citizens shall have freedom of religion.” Such guarantees of religious freedom are a sham of course, brushed aside whenever Kim Jong-Un feels inconvenienced, which is almost always. 

Britain claims that it guarantees religious liberty yet authorities have arrested street preachers who proclaim the sinfulness of homosexuality. Canada claims that it respects religious freedom but one of its provinces prohibits Catholic schools from teaching that abortion is wrong because such lessons amount to “bullying.”

As the aforementioned examples illustrate, in some localities religious liberty is just words on a page. For religious liberty to mean something it has to protect us from the Chuck Schumers of this world who claim to support that religious freedom jive unless it impedes their legislative agenda.

Schumer’s insincerity is apparent when one of his sentences is broken in half. He begins by saying, “We wouldn’t tell the owners of Hobby Lobby to convert to a different religion or disobey their religion…” Well yes, as a matter of fact “we”—the government, that is—would. That’s exactly what this lawsuit was about. This first part of the sentence is the pro forma portion that Schumer doesn’t really believe because it isn’t true. “We” really do want to bludgeon the Green family into submission, which is why “we” wasted millions of taxpayer dollars trying to force them to comply with the illegal mandate.

The senator continues: “…but we don’t say that they have to open up a company and go sell toys or hobby kits.” See? So the Greens brought it upon themselves by opening a business. They should have known that business owners don’t have the same rights as other people.

 … David Green … has always made his Christian values the cornerstone of his company. That wasn’t a problem for the first four decades of Hobby Lobby’s existence because the idea that a Christian business owner had a right to run his business according to Christian principles was remarkably uncontroversial.

But then came the “You didn’t build that” mentality, which essentially argues that private companies aren’t really private. The people who take the risk of starting a business, run the day-to-day operations, pay the taxes and insurance, and meet the payroll are mere managers who can be overruled in all instances by an intrusive and all-powerful government, even when its mandates run afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or even the US Constitution.

 … Schumer’s contention here is that Americans can’t have it both ways. We can go into business for ourselves or we can have our constitutional rights but not both. That’s too much freedom. It makes Chuck woozy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stories of homegrown jihadists are becoming tragically familiar in France

A French citizen who had converted to Islam, Nicolas Bons, 30, died as a suicide bomber, fighting for the jihadi cause near Homs, Syria
writes Sylvie Kaufmann in Commentary.
A few months earlier, his half brother, Jean-Daniel, 22, had also been killed in Syria. The two had traveled together to Syria from Toulouse.

Once there, they became poster boys for foreign jihad. They even posted a video on YouTube, calling on their “brothers” in France to join them.

[Their mother, Dominique] Bons, herself an atheist, had watched helplessly as Nicolas changed his lifestyle, turning away from friends, drinking, dancing, dating. But when he sent a message from Syria, she was at a loss to understand.

“To convert to Islam, O.K., maybe this is not so serious,” she told the television channel France 2. “But Syria, that was a big shock.”

Stories of homegrown jihadists are becoming tragically familiar this year in France. A month after Nicolas’s death, also in Toulouse, two teenagers (whose names have not been released as they are minors), left one morning apparently to go to school; instead, they went to the airport and boarded a plane to Istanbul.

 … Foreign fighters in Syria come from all over Europe, but the French have provided the biggest group. French journalists held since last year in the infamous “factory of hostages” area near Aleppo, and released in April, were dismayed to discover that some of their hooded guards were, in fact, their countrymen.

This is not happening in faraway Waziristan. This new jihad is just on the other side of the Mediterranean. European Union citizens don’t even need a visa to go to Turkey, bordering Syria.

Who are these young men and, in some cases, women? What drives them? The days of Al Qaeda cells, of groups formed in radical mosques, easily monitored by police, are gone, experts say. This is the era of “lone wolves” — self-radicalized or radicalized in prison, brainwashed with videos of violence and martyrdom circulated on the Internet.

Monday, July 28, 2014

While prattling incessantly about other countries’ “sensible gun laws”, strangely liberals never mention Switzerland, Israel, or Mexico, the neighbor which has some of the strictest laws in the world

Marine reservist Andrew Tahmooressi [was] imprisoned under Mexico’s gun laws which are some of the strictest in the world
writes Benny Huang.
It is essentially illegal for a civilian to possess a gun outside of his home. According to the website of the US consulate, an American who enters Mexico in possession of a firearm can receive thirty years in prison.
I wouldn’t mention this if it weren’t for liberals’ incessant prattling about other countries’ “sensible gun laws.” They like to compare gun death statistics from the United States to Japan, Australia, or some other country that severely restricts gun ownership and then draw the facile conclusion that the decisive factor is our laws. Let’s just ignore that pesky Second Amendment and there will never be another murderous rampage, or so goes the argument.
Yet Mexico, our southern neighbor, is never their shining example. Peculiar. With such a great case study in the benefits of gun control so close to home, why do they always reach to distant Japan to make their case?

Probably because northern Mexico is a warzone where lawmen are routinely gunned down and people have a strange habit of being separated from their heads. The cartels still pack heat but ordinary Mexicans do not because they want to stay on the right side of the law.

It would be just as easy to select two counterexamples to demonstrate that gun rights result in safer societies. Gun ownership is a right enshrined in law in Switzerland and a responsibility in Israel. Both have well-armed populaces and lower rates of gun deaths than the US or Mexico. See how easy it is to cherrypick an example to illustrate a point?

 … There’s no doubt that there’s something seriously out of whack about a society that produces two or three spree-shootings a year. We’ve had so many now I’m losing track. Who will even remember the DC Navy Yard shooter in a few years? How about the guy who shot up the Sikh temple? These days we only remember the biggees—Newtown, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora. 
It wasn’t always this way. Something changed and it wasn’t our laws or our “access” to firearms. The second amendment has been the law of the land since 1791. Firearms have been with us since the Renaissance. Automatic and semiautomatic weapons were both invented in the nineteenth century.

At the risk of sounding corny, I must positively assert that the change has been within us. We’re suffering from a profound sickness of the soul. That’s the cause of our troubles, not the inanimate objects that people use to act out their violent fantasies.

Liberals tend to get nervous whenever anyone starts talking about spiritual illness. It all sounds very preachy to them and they worry that someone might use the next spree-shooting as an excuse to censor music lyrics or video games, something I completely oppose.

 … Liberals will call it scapegoating if I cast blame upon the cultural changes that have swept our country since the mid-1960s, but I must. A few of the lessons that we’ve learned since that time are that it’s all about me, if it feels good do it, and screw the man. God was declared dead on the cover of Time magazine and anyone who warned of eternal consequences was a square. Could those attitudes be responsible for the mayhem unleashed upon our nation? I say yes.

 … Like the multiplying brooms of Goethe’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” the effects of the empty, nihilistic culture just keep propagating with no end in sight. Conservatives keep thwacking away at those multiplying brooms, getting more and more fatigued with each passing year. No one can deny we’re losing ground.

Guns aren’t our problem. It’s the vacuousness that pervades our lives. In generations past our societal immune system would have had some kind of resistance to many of the pathologies that infect us, but no longer. So we pass laws that we think will treat the symptoms and often don’t even do that. We can expect more of the same results in years to come.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What are Americans obsessed by? The three C’s: control, competition, and choreography

“Do you remember your, ahem, appreciative remarks to the woman who marched onto the assembly line? Don’t do that when the Americans are here. A woman from Italy might laugh; a Michigan girl will sue.”
  Beppe Severgnini tries to explain Americans to a bunch of Italian autoworkers at the Fiat-Chrysler plant Melfi, southern Italy.
“Americans are great to work with, but they have their manias, just like us,” I started out. “They are obsessed by three C’s: control, competition and choreography. You may think this is odd, but you have to respect it. After all, the United States is the most powerful country on the planet.”

 … Control reveals America’s passion for order and predictability. How-to books date from Benjamin Franklin, who was always quick to spot a market niche. America is a nation of optimistic self-improvers, convinced that happiness is above all a question of mind over matter.

The books also prove that Americans reject the idea that success comes all at once, without effort or luck. Often, we Italians mistake this for naïveté, but it actually reflects a love of precision and a desire to stay in charge of your own life. Don’t mock it.

The second C-word is competition. Americans love it; we fear it. Americans are prepared to lose in order to win, in almost every aspect of life. In Italy — and in most of Europe — we hate losing more than we love winning and tend to settle for an uneventful draw.

Come to think of it, competition goes a long way toward explaining the excellence and excesses of the United States, including the abundance of colleges, the number of television channels and the financial instability of the many airlines. You build automobiles here. Your American colleagues know that these automobiles have to be better than the ones your competitors make. If they aren’t, it’s only right that you go bust.

For a long time in Italy, we thought that back-scratching regulations and protectionism would save our industry. How wrong we were. Competition in America is more than a healthy economic precept; it’s a moral imperative.

The third word on the list is choreography. In Italy, important events like presidential inaugurations, national holidays or graduation ceremonies are slightly boring. Americans are convinced that anything important has also got to be spectacular, if not plain over the top, and ear-splittingly loud.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The phenomenon called “motivated reasoning”—we tend to use logic and reason, not to discover what we believe, but to confirm what we already think we know

The sexes can't be warring tribes, says Christina Sommers as the author of Freedom Feminism—Its Surprising History and Why it Matters Today is interviewed by Ravishly's Katie Tandy (thanks to Instapundit).
In the new video series that you've created with American Enterprise—"Factual Feminist"—you recently answered the question, "Why Call Yourself a Feminist?" A reader wrote in and asked you to drop the moniker because it's been so "sullied" with man-hating rhetoric. You basically responded that you simply want women to be "free, responsible, self-determining beings." That your concept of feminism has nothing to do with "denigrating men or fixating on victimhood." How do your studies and writings help forge a much-needed, "healthy, evidence-based women's movement." What does evidence-based mean exactly?

Classical equality of opportunity feminism (I call it “freedom feminism”) is a legitimate human rights movement. There were arbitrary laws holding women back. Women organized and set things right. But, as I try to show in my writings, that reality-based movement has been hijacked by male-averse, conspiracy-minded activists. (I call them “gender feminists"). American women happen to be among the freest, most self-determining people in the world, but the gender feminists seek to liberate them from an all-encompassing “patriarchal rape culture.” What is their evidence that such a culture exits? They point to their own research as proof. But most of that research, including their famous statistics on women’s victimization, is spurious. Gender feminism is the opposite of an evidence-based movement—it’s propaganda based. Social movements fueled by paranoia and fantasy tend to be toxic.

What's your take-away from the #YesAllWomen phenomenon? Is it more gasoline on the gender-dividing fire, a societal zeitgeist or something in the middle?

Hashtag feminism (e.g. #YesAllWomen) is a scourge. It brings out the worst in contemporary feminism: injustice-collecting, trauma-valorizing, male-bashing. It also encourages group think and vigilanteeism. Other than that, it’s fine.    
What's the most interesting thing you've learned recently?

I only recently came to appreciate the limited power of logic, reason and evidence to change minds. Most of us, whether we know it or not, are driven by emotion and group loyalty. Cognitive scientists have long known about a phenomenon called “motivated reasoning”—we tend to use logic and reason, not to discover what we believe, but to confirm what we already think we know. Instead of changing our minds in the face of contradictory evidence, we are more likely to seize on rationalizations for what we already believe. I see this tendency in myself once in a while and try mightily to resist it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Smart Diplomacy: Regarding the BNP affair, "there is a perception that France was targeted"

As the American authorities announced a record penalty on Monday against BNP Paribas for violating United States rules on trading with blacklisted countries, the French political establishment had an unusual reaction: silence.
Thus writes Liz Alderman in a New York Times story to which one is tempted to react to with biting irony: "So, Messieurs les Français, you finally got him, the U.S. president you dreamed of — the one who like the visionary Europeans is against bankers and other dirty capitalist pigs. Ain'tcha happy?!" Having said that, we must remember that Obama's outstanding, second-to-none smart diplomacy is nothing to laugh at.
American prosecutors obtained most of what they fought for, but financial authorities here are warning of a potential negative consequence for the United States.

The dollar clearing at issue in the BNP Paribas case was conducted in the United States. But, said a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations, there is concern that using dollars in international trade could ‘‘trigger risks even if you do things outside the United States, because one day the dollar you used may be seen as an opening for an extraterritorial application of U.S. legislation.’’ 

‘‘That means that using the dollar is now perceived as less safe than before the episode, and it will probably reinforce the willingness of many countries to trade as much as possible in other currencies,’’ the person added.

Nor will the French government easily forget the episode. French officials are still upset that American prosecutors appeared to be imposing a standard of justice on foreign banks that has not been applied to American financial institutions.

 … ‘‘There is a perception that France was targeted,’’ the French official said.

  … France could turn up the heat on the United States on other fronts, especially in negotiations underway on an American-European trade deal. ‘‘It will probably mean that the French attitude will be even tougher,’’ said the French official close to the discussions. 

Intensifying French resistance to the deal could undermine the European Commission’s ability to champion trans-Atlantic trade, Famke Krumbmuller, a London-based analyst for the Eurasia Group, wrote in a recent note to clients. But those talks are only limping along as it is, and increasingly look doubtful to advance significantly during the Obama presidency.

Also unclear is how the American action will ricochet at a European level. The European Commission has already imposed hefty fines on Microsoft and other large American technology companies for violating anti-trust behavior in Europe’s backyard.

Given that the financial penalties by the American authorities against not only BNP, but other European banks, have been eye-popping, ‘‘the temptation may be there to also raise the level of the fines in Europe,’’ Mr. Godement said, ‘‘and we could get into a kind of tit-for-tat war, which has the added advantage of replenishing public coffers.’’ 

Whatever the softening of the penalties, the BNP affair will sting in France. ‘‘This amounts to targeting probably the closest ally that the U.S. has had in Europe over the past four to five years,’’ Mr. Godement said. ‘‘It is very disquieting.’’

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If you want to know what US Government-run healthcare looks like, the VA is a pretty good case study

The Veterans Administration scandal is worse than you think
dissects Benny Huang.
A report out this week from retiring Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) found that approximately one thousand veterans have died in the last ten years while languishing on wait lists. Doctors, nurses, and administrators within the system say that they faced retaliation when they spoke out about unethical practices. One VA employee in Phoenix says that deceased veterans’ medical records were altered post mortem so that it would appear that they did not die on the VA’s watch.
The VA’s biggest problem, besides dishonesty of course, is timeliness. Delayed healthcare can mean the difference between life and death, as this scandal illustrates in vivid color.

If you want to know what US Government-run healthcare looks like, the VA is a pretty good case study. I understand that some of those vets probably wouldn’t have any healthcare at all if it weren’t for this system but is that really a testament to their quality? What healthcare system would adopt as its motto, “Hey, it’s better than nothin’!”

There is an alternative to the wholly government-run model that is the VA. Vets could be given vouchers redeemable with private physicians. It might work better; it could hardly work worse.

Strangely, 31% of Americans polled this month said that they expected Obamacare to function better than the VA system. In other news, 31% of Americans are too stupid to vote.

 … Of course, Obamacare differs from the VA in that it is not a self-contained system wholly operated by the US government, or what we might call the single payer policy that liberals really wanted and may still get. They will therefore shrug off Obamacare’s faults by saying that it doesn’t go far enough. If only we allowed the government to take over healthcare completely we’d have a great system, like they do in Canada and France!
Well, no. What we’d have is a VA-style system for everybody.
While the VA scandal may be a tragedy, it is also a teachable moment. Now is a good time for conservatives to explain to the American people that we are not against universal healthcare. We are opposed to more government meddling in our medical system because our health is too important to entrust to a bunch of incompetent buffoons who destroy everything they touch.

 … Conservatives aren’t against people seeing the doctor, we just think that the government sucks at almost everything, from education to mortgage-lending to energy production. Nothing in the last decade has persuaded me that our government is anything but incompetent and corrupt.

 … We all want healthcare for everyone. The question is how to best provide it. Should we provide for our own medical care, just as we buy our own groceries? Or should we look for the generous hand of government to give it to us for “free”, no matter how crappy it is? Conservatives don’t want to prevent poor people from receiving life-saving medications or getting a yearly checkup, we simply don’t want to be trapped in the shameful system that has already killed a thousand veterans.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reminder to the NYT: Saddam Hussein had slaughtered several thousand Kurds with sarin and other poison gases

Margaret McGirr speaks up at the liberal partisanship of the New York Times and at that of one of its star columnists. (At least, the newspaper has the decency to publish the letter — although, to be fair, the letter to the editor is but a token one.)
Re Nicholas Kristof’s column “Obama’s weakness, or ours?” (June 27): Terrorists killed nearly 3,000 Americans and people of several other nationalities on Sept. 11, 2001. There were real concerns at the time about follow-up attacks, a threat that many of us seem to have forgotten. 

Saddam Hussein had slaughtered several thousand Kurds with sarin and other poison gases. Many Western governments, including the Clinton administration, believed that he had chemical weapons. President George W. Bush was repeatedly rebuffed in his efforts through the United Nations to get the Iraqi dictator to allow a complete inspection of his country by international weapons inspectors. 

Finally, with the responsibility for the safety of millions of Americans resting on his shoulders, President Bush made the decision, supported by Congress, to invade Iraq.

This painstaking, deliberative process Mr. Kristof describes as “swagger.” He is irritated by what he sees as over-harsh treatment of our current president but is happy to dish it out to our previous one.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5 Things To Remember Before You Quit And Say, ‘I’m Done With America’

Have you ever looked at all the schlock we’re currently mired in thanks to BHO’s “fundamental transformation” of America and thought, or actually said, “Screw it. I’m done. I officially don’t give a crap anymore”?
asks Doug Giles.
I have. And I prize myself as being somewhat of a scrappy-faith-filled dude. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I get sick and tired of being sick and tired.
 … After I have these little pouting sessions of pathetic wussiness, I realize two things: 1). I’m being a hamster; and 2). Historically, that’s pretty much the crumble of the cookie, in that things usually turned repugnant before they turned around. Indeed, in the very formation of our blessed union we tend to forget King George’s oppressive hell spawned a defiant and free rebel nation; and that didn’t happen with ease or overnight.
 … So, little kiddies … we need to cheer up. You and I can’t curl up in the fetal position and wet our big diaper since things seem bad right now, because that’s exactly what the enemies of our nation would like us to do, namely … check out. Give up. Lose heart. Instead, we must realize the historical pattern of things usually gets real frickin’ bad before it gets better.
Read the whole thing

Monday, July 21, 2014

Putin's Dreamin' of a Greater Russia

(A Serguei cartoon that was published in Le Monde before the Malaysian airliner was shot down)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Good-Bye, Friend — James Garner

James Garner

Eastern Europe Leaders Protest Paris's Sale of High-Tech Mistral Warships to Russia

One East European leader on an official Paris visit after another voices his apprehension about France's decision to sell high-tech Mistral warships to the Kremlin.

Estonia's prime minister, Taavi Roivas:
I am not convinced that it would be opportune to deliver sophisticated and high-tech weaponry to Russia at this moment. 
Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski:
When countries forcefully seize a part of their neighbors' territory, it's not the best moment to furnish them with sophisticated armaments.

There are two online petitions protesting the Mistral sale to Moscow: