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The Nation's Pulse

Welcome Back, John Sebastian

By 9.22.14

Every once in a while I am willing to go the extra mile to see a performer in concert.

In the case of John Sebastian, I went about 40 miles north. That is the approximate distance between Boston and Gloucester, Massachusetts where the former Lovin’ Spoonful lead singer performed earlier this month at the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church, the oldest church in Gloucester. The Unitarian Universalists are more socialist than Christian, but they sure know how to book a musical act.

Although I have been to Gloucester twice before, I somehow departed the train at West Gloucester rather than Gloucester. Fortunately, I flagged down a letter carrier from the U.S. Postal Service who was kind enough to supply me with a phone number for a cab. Say what you will about USPS. In this case, they delivered.

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Another Perspective

What Doc Savage Can Teach Us About World War One

By 9.22.14

I’ve written elsewhere about some of the basic lessons Americans should learn from our experience in the First World War. But left untouched in that piece is an almost equally important question: what can Doc Savage teach us about World War One?

Doc Savage, for the uninitiated, was a pulp fiction hero of the 1930s through the 1940s, appearing in more than a hundred and eighty novels. Though the books are very much of their time, they were reissued, starting in the 1960s, as mass market paperbacks, achieving extraordinary success, selling more than 15 million copies.

Doc and his five sidekicks were veterans of the First World War, but definitely not members of the doleful, emotionally shattered, cynical “Lost Generation” who thought that “words like glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene.”

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Enemy of the Week

Mobilizing the Big Guns

By 9.19.14

Confusion reigns. Our president has said no to a return war in Iraq and environs, some of his generals see it differently, and John Kerry is hoping to rely on Iran or CodePink or Pink Floyd. About the only think certain is that among administration representatives ISIL has emerged as the acronym of choice. Before it’s all over someone will be asking for Isilum. Or converting to it.

Happier are those who heard Joe Biden invoking Shakespeare, even if he thinks Shylock is a banker in one of the comedies. He gets things wrong with a steady consistency. In Florida the other day, his nominal boss said “the one constant is American leadership.” We’d revise that to read: “The one constant is Joe Biden’s leadership.”

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At Large

Disunion Jacked

By 9.19.14

When Scotland “voted” on union with her southern neighbor 307 years ago, English troops flowed to the border and English pounds flowed through the Scottish parliament. English force sought, unlike Hadrian, to welcome and not repel. The parliamentarians quietly voted “yes”; their constituents loudly shouted “no.”

Robert Burns eloquently agreed with the screaming sentiment of the people rather than the pols:

What force or guile could not subdue/Thro' many warlike ages/Is wrought now by a coward few/For hireling traitor's wages.

More than three centuries later, Scotsmen — rather than representatives who don’t represent — voted whether to part from the Englishmen they had so controversially joined. Enjoying about as full a democratic expression as modern times have known, and minus the coercion, Scots apparently decided that differences did not dictate divorce, after all.  

In what way, Scotsmen certainly contemplated, would untethering the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George change matters?

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The Charlie Watch

Stick Up at the School House Door

By 9.19.14

Politicians hate it when different voting blocs of their party get crosswise on an issue. See unions and enviros, both groups loyal to the Democrat party and who often don’t see eye-to-eye.

Private sector unions want economic growth and the jobs (and resulting union dues) that go with it. Enviros, on the other hand, usually already have cushy and well-paying jobs in some soft sector, and are more interested in delivering their universal and invariable message, to wit: NO!! (What other cultural or political group has a philosophy and program that can be summed up in one word?) 

The union in this case, the Florida Education Association, represents Florida’s government schoolteachers. The FEA, along with the Florida PTA and the Florida School Board Association, has sued the state, demanding it put an end to its K-12 school voucher program. The other Democratic voting bloc in this case is black Floridians, the chief beneficiaries of the voucher program.

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A Further Perspective

Deep Six for Six Californias

By 9.18.14

California governors, from Ronald Reagan on, have glowed over the idea that if the state were a separate country it would have the seventh- or eighth-largest economy in the world. Perhaps Silicon Valley millionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper thought that if one California was that good, six Californias would be better.

Last December he set out to qualify an initiative for the state ballot that set the wheels in motion to carve up the state accordingly. He spent $4.9 million of his own money to gather the 807,615 signatures required to qualify. 

Successful ballot-qualifying campaigns in California are almost always carried out by paid signature gatherers. This requires deep pockets. Draper found no compatriots to share the cost. Nor could he find any endorsers among leading public figures in the state. In fact, those who did comment concluded that it was hopelessly impractical.

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The War on Terror Spectator

The Anti-Terrorism Bloviators

By 9.18.14

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo sounded the alarm about the escalating danger of a terrorist attack on America by ISIS and other jihadists. Too bad the Obama administration lacks the resolve or sense of urgency to meet this danger head on. Worse, political correctness is hindering New York, a likely target, from tracking and stopping the jihadists in our midst.

Holder announced “pilot programs” to “raise awareness,” bringing together religious leaders, community leaders, and law enforcement to build “community partnerships.” Sounds heartwarming. The White House will also hold a “summit” next month on how to stop extremism. I hope they serve a delicious lunch. Summits and community organizing won’t deter jihadists who are threatening to raise the black flag of the Islamic State over the White House. But here are steps that actually would.

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Special Report

News of the Future — Moderate Syrian Rebel Edition

By 9.18.14

Mosul, Iraq, October 8, 2014 — Multiple sources have confirmed that Free Syrian Army (“FSA”) forces, part of the “moderate” rebel groups recently trained and armed by the Obama administration, have defeated three small groups of ISIS fighters — with perhaps 25 to 40 members of the terrorist organization killed in each battle — on the outskirts of Raqqa, the Syrian city thought to be home to ISIS leadership. In his daily briefing, a smirking White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “Today’s victories conclusively prove that the president’s critics were operating from ignorance and partisanship, and not in the best interests of the United States and the region.” President Obama is scheduled to appear on NBC’s Meet the Press this Sunday to discuss this rare Middle East success for his administration.

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Political Hay

Ask a Liberal: Who Lost Iraq?

By 9.18.14

Who lost Iraq? In so many words, that is now the increasingly potent counter to years of liberal charges that America’s problems in the world can be traced to the Bush-Cheney foreign policy — specifically the invasion of 2003. The question has now taken root, with “Iraq” serving as shorthand for everything from Iraq itself to ISIS, the Syrian mess, Benghazi, and more. Graphically illustrated by the beheadings of two American journalists, a British aid worker, ISIS armies causing chaos in the once-stabilized region. Not to mention the murder of a 19-year old New Jersey college student Brendan Tevlin by a self-professed jihadist, the arrest of a Yemeni store owner in New York who sought to fund ISIS, and the news that the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan has written to the head of ISIS asking to join.

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Ben Stein's Diary

Alcohol and Sexual Assault on Campus

By 9.17.14

Tuesday
This just occurred to me as I was lying on my bed in my home in Malibu, trying to draw some air-conditioned breaths as the heat wave continues. I was listening to a story on the radio about student misconduct and these little bitty thoughts crept into my heat-stroked brain:

I, your humble servant, had the great pleasure of graduating from Columbia College in New York City in 1966. It gave me a fine education and good friends so I have affection for it. I had my first romantic relationship of any meaning there. It was a powerful experience and I still have vast affection for the woman I was involved with (although she won’t speak to me — she’s a Democrat).

I was thus greatly concerned when I read that the students at Columbia are suffering from a string of sexual assaults and are demonstrating about it. I read that this phenomenon — sexual assault among students — is a national epidemic. Mr. Obama is treating it as a crisis and devoting government attention to it. And it is a serious matter.

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