The Spectacle Blog

The Middle East Doesn’t Want America in Iraq

By on 6.23.14 | 3:32PM

It's official. Iraq is having a party for all the sects in the Middle East, and we're not invited.

Our Gulf allies were surprised to hear that we ever thought we were coming.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the awkward phone call, when the leaders of the Sunni Arab world met Secretary of State John Kerry with "expressions of bewilderment" about his plans to fight ISIS on behalf of the Iraqi government.

One diplomat said the United States may have misunderstood the purpose of the events in Iraq. "We felt the Americans were greatly misinformed," the diplomat said. "The insurgency isn't just about ISIS, but Sunnis fighting back against injustice."

The leaders from the Gulf states, Egypt, and Jordan felt that since the United States had decided not to come to Syria at the last minute, they should not expect to be welcomed by Sunnis in Iraq.

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Rand Paul Wants Ex-Cons to Have Voting Rights

By on 6.23.14 | 3:19PM

Rand Paul is hoping to rebrand the Republican Party as a party of opportunity and second chances with a bill that would restore the vote for those convicted of minor drug offenses.

Currently, states have felony disenfranchisement laws with varying levels of severity, resulting in approximately 5.85 million Americans who cannot vote because of criminal records. Disenfranchisement laws disproportionately affect African Americans, leaving one in thirteen African Americans unable to vote because of felony convictions.

Paul believes that his bill will answer critics who claim that Republicans want to restrict voting rights. "Here's a Republican who wants to enhance the vote," he said. "This is a much bigger problem than anything else limiting voting right now. Nearly a million people can't vote. And I want to help people get their right to vote back."

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A Lesson for the Brandeis Student Body

By on 6.23.14 | 2:40PM

In October 2010, I accompanied my roommate Christopher Kain to a poetry reading he gave at Brandeis University. Before his reading, we went into the student center and were greeted with this banner.

In small letters it read "FREE GILAD SHALIT".

In much larger letters it also read "AND THE 6,011 PALESTINIAN PRISONERS HELD IN ISRAELI JAILS."

Well, a year later, Gilad Shalit was released in exchange for a thousand Palestinian prisoners. One of those Palestinian prisoners, a Hamas operative named Ziad Awad, has now been charged along with one other individual in the death of Israeli police officer Baruch Mizrahi who was shot while driving with his family en route to Passover services. 

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Mountain Men’s Conservatism

By on 6.23.14 | 11:51AM

Mountain Men is roughly a quarter of the way through its third season and continues to surprise critics with its popularity. The second season averaged between 3 and 3.5 million viewers per episode. 

What makes this remarkable is the incredibly repetitive nature of the show. The mountain men give voice-overs where they discuss the inevitable difficulties of living off the land as well as the dangers they face. The camera then moves to B-roll of beautiful landscapes. Predictably, a challenge arises and the characters must overcome it, until next week at least. There is almost no variation from this pattern, and yet the show remains quite popular. Why? 

There are two reasons for Mountain Men's success. First, it isn’t critically acclaimed shows that garner the highest ratings; even my favorite Mad Men gets crushed by formulaic (and entertaining) shows like The Big Bang Theory. These programs are popular because parents and families know what they are going to get. They can tune in and tune out because each episode is a self-contained story arc. Mountain Men is no different.

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Morning Round-Up 6-23

By on 6.23.14 | 8:47AM

Feature of the Day: Why Does the USA Depend on Russian Rockets To Get Us Into Space?

Morning Headlines

Domestic                                                          

Associated Press

  1. Obama Encouraging Family-Friendly Work Policies
  2. Kerry Confronts Threat of New War in Iraq

Politico

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Cons in the Voting Booth

By on 6.23.14 | 12:12AM

Senator Rand Paul believes ex-cons should be allowed to vote. He explained to David Gregory on Meet the Press Sunday morning how he plans to introduce legislation next week that would allow felons convicted of non-violent crimes to have their voting rights reinstated after they have, as the phrase goes, paid their debt to society.

Paul says his bill would allow between a half million and a million felons who can’t vote now back into the voting booth. Exactly why people who have broken and shown contempt for our laws should help select those who make and administer those laws, Paul did not say. Nor did he mention why he wishes to override the mechanisms various states have established to restore the rights of felons.    

Should Paul’s legislation become law, many of the reinstated voters will be drug offenders. Paul also wishes to see drug sentencing “reform” — i.e. making the penalties for drug related crimes less — and would like to see some drug crimes that are now felonies be reclassified as misdemeanors.

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Self-Satisfied Ear Mites

By on 6.23.14 | 12:08AM

At a much-covered hearing on IRS stonewalling of its vendetta against conservative groups, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan told IRS Commissioner John Koskinen — who has been unashamedly retailing that agency’s fantastical “the dog ate my emails” dodge — that he, Ryan, did not believe Koskinen.

Came Koskinen’s remarkable reply, “That’s the first time anybody has said they do not believe me.”

Well, John, if you plan to stick with the current incredible story, you better get used to not being believed. And if Americans don’t insist that this serious case of government abuse be sorted honestly, and offenders held responsible for their actions, Americans will have to get used to being pushed around by arrogant, self-satisfied government ear mites like Koskinen.

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The State of the Christian Right

By on 6.20.14 | 4:21PM

The Faith and Freedom Coalition held their annual “Road to Majority” conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C. today. The gathering, hosted by evangelical leader Ralph Reed, is a conglomeration of the biggest names on the right, and a rallying point for conservative evangelicals across the country. It is a test of strength for one of the three stool legs of conservatism: traditional values.

While there were fire and brimstone speeches at this year's event, there was a clear division in the room between politicians, think tanks, and religious leaders. While many of the religious leaders focused exclusively on religious matters, the politicians and think tanks fused the two to promote their own personal agendas.

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Waiting Up for Chris Christie

By on 6.20.14 | 3:07PM

Covering a conference is hungering work if you forget breakfast, and the Road to Majority conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition was no exception. It was time for lunch as I approached the exit. The doors were closed and, reaching to open them, I was stopped by a big man in a suit stepping in front of me.

“You don’t want to leave,” he said. “Governor Christie is about to make news. You shouldn’t go.”

With no inclination to argue and some interest in what Christie would have to say—would he announce his presidential bid? Would he fold in the face of mounting corruption allegations? This will be unfortunately nothing, won’t it?—I returned to my seat and waited for The Governor to make his way to the podium.

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