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The Current Crisis

Humbug Narratives

By 12.17.14

Will Rogers, the late American humorist and corn-pone philosopher, once said, “All I know is what I read in the papers.” That statement earned him a place in Bartletts’s Familiar Quotations. Were he alive today it would most likely be inviting widespread derision. Today’s newspapers abound with bogus stories. Most of us only know of the stories that are soon exposed. Doubtless there are many more. For instance, news stories of GDP growth or inflation rates usually have to be revised but they are taken at face value when they first appear.

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A Further Perspective

A Thankless Task

By 12.17.14

No doubt a fear of accusations of “Islamophobia” explains the astonishing fact that the Sydney jihadist was not on any terror watch list, an omission that baffled the country’s prime minister. An open jihadist from Iran, Man Haron Monis had committed a series of offenses before this week. “How can someone who has had such a long and checkered history not be on the appropriate watch lists and how can someone like that be entirely at large in the community,” said Tony Abbott. “These are questions that we need to look at carefully and calmly and methodically.”

Australia’s security knew he was a threat but gave him a wide berth anyways, which is what one would expect in a political climate that punishes public figures for viewing the problem of radical Islam too clearly.

Abbott has been criticized for not taking “attacks on Muslims” in Australia seriously enough. Almir Colan of the Islamic Council of Victoria told the press in recent months that Abbott, despite his assurances to Muslim Australians that they belonged to “Team Australia,” needed to show greater sensitivity to them.

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Main Street U.S.A.

Who’s the ‘Extremist’ Around Here Anyway?

By 12.16.14

Among the journalistic takeaways from the late Congress’s death frenzies is the equivocal plight of the two parties — the grown-up deal makers in both cases squeezed by hardcore, do-it-our-way extremists. On the Republican side John Boehner beset by Ted Cruz, in the Democratic camp the pragmatic Hillary Clinton wing forced to contend with the true-believing fans of Elizabeth Warren.

It is the strategy some of our friends in the liberal media may have seized on to take away the bitter taste of defeat at the polls. In this telling, the left-left MoveOn.org/Daily Kos faction, anti-military and pro-big government, has its right-wing counterpart in the “populist” social conservative/Tea Party coterie. The members of both movements groove on purity. “No compromise!” is their watchword, “never” their adverb of choice. Their feet are planted in intellectual concrete.

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A Further Perspective

We Need the CIA ‘On That Wall’

By 12.16.14

The tragic events of September 11 prompted a close reexamination of our national intelligence capabilities and the entire national security apparatus. That examination was long overdue. The final report of the independent 9-11 Commission identified wholesale flaws in the collection, dissemination, and use of intelligence data, and recommended a major overhaul of the CIA/FBI/NSC triangle. It recommended a detailed plan of action to facilitate the exchange of information to “connect the dots” more effectively. By all accounts, that ambitious plan is being executed.

Now comes Chapter 2 in the ongoing debate over the role of the CIA in our national security program. The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on secret interrogations and torture of suspects by the CIA from 2001-2007 is a chilling reminder of what takes place behind the label, “CLASSIFIED,” particularly when the interrogation is delegated to government contractors. Whether it’s labeled illegal “torture” or legal “enhanced interrogation techniques” is immaterial. It’s clearly not who we are as Americans, it’s not what we do. I am ashamed. We all should be.

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Political Hay

Cromnibus’s Winners and Losers

By 12.16.14

If you want to know how your tax dollars will get spent next year, the answers are in Cromnibus—the 1,695 page bill that Congress hurriedly passed last weekend to fund the federal government through September 2015. 

Republicans won big with Cromnibus, along with farmers, political parties, incandescent bulb users, Blue Cross insurers, kids who like salt, cops who hate body cameras, African profiteers salivating over Ebolacare aid, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Losers include the Obamas, the U.N., the IRS, insurance companies, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Green Climate Fund, and Hillary Clinton.

Cromnibus is a monster to read. Almost no one did (except me). They had no time. Speaker of the House John Boehner broke his promise to give members at least 72 hours notice before voting, instead of ramming it down their throats, as he criticized his predecessor Nancy Pelosi for doing.

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A Further Perspective

Tortured Reasoning

By 12.16.14

Critics and defenders of the harsh interrogation methods applied to captured terrorists can argue forever over whether those methods were “torture.” But any serious discussion of a serious issue — and surely terrorism qualifies as serious — has to move beyond semantics and confront the ultimate question: “Compared to what alternative?”

If you knew that there was a hidden nuclear time bomb planted somewhere in New York City — set to go off today — and you had a captured terrorist who knew where and when, would you not do anything whatever to make him tell you where and when? Would you pause to look up the definition of “torture”? Would you even care what the definition of “torture” was, when the alternative was seeing millions of innocent people murdered?

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s recent release of a massive report on the CIA’s severe interrogation methods, used against captured Islamic terrorists, has set off a firestorm of controversy. It is hard to see what benefit the United States of America gains from releasing that report. But it is painfully obvious what lasting damage has been done to the security of Americans.

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Political Hay

In Defense of the Senate Revolt

By 12.16.14

Never has the fundamental flaw of Ratchet Republicanism been more perfectly illustrated than in this Washington Examiner editorial that appeared after Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee led a revolt in the Senate over the weekend. The editorial, headlined, "Senate Republicans need to decide whether they're led by McConnell or Cruz," said:

Every army has disagreements among its leaders, but they must agree on tactics to effect their strategy. Every football team must agree on the next play if it is to work. In the Senate, caucus leaders are chosen precisely to make such decisions. The weekend's events demonstrate that some Republicans are not playing on the same team. This was not a simple, common occurrence of senatorial independence, but rather open defiance of caucus strategy — a decision by junior officers that their own tactical decisions take precedence over those of generals who were chosen for the job.

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Special Report

Obama’s Keystone Confusion

By 12.16.14

In his appearance last week on The Colbert Report, President Obama restated his approach to the Keystone XL pipeline decision, a mindset that can only be described as confused.

The president summarized his strange dilemma as follows: “[Keystone] could create a couple of thousand potential jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline, but we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”

But this thinking hinges on three key — and false — assumptions.

First, that whatever carbon dioxide or pollution (note that I did not say “or other pollution” since CO2 is plant food, not pollution) would be generated in the building or operation of Keystone will not be generated in whatever other method ends up being used to transport oil from Canada through the United States.

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Political Hay

Why Wouldn’t Warren Run for the White House?

By 12.15.14

Once the dust has settled with the $1.1 trillion Crominbus spending bill it will be clear that Elizabeth Warren is running for President in 2016.

Let’s face it. If you’re a Democrat, especially if you’re a liberal Democrat, a so-called progressive or a plain dyed-in-the-wool socialist, 2014 has been a terrible year. The thrill is gone with President Obama. Obamacare has proven to be such an albatross that no self-respecting Democrat wants to acknowledge they ever voted for the man. 

But with Warren’s performance during the Crominbus debate, 2014 ends with light at the end of the tunnel. The Left has found its faith again and with it its new Anointed One. With her anti-Wall Street rhetoric, Warren managed the extraordinary feat of simultaneously distancing herself from both President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Why wouldn’t Warren run for the White House?

Of course, Hillary is the elephant in the room. Or should I say donkey?

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The Nation's Pulse

Blessings Go Uncounted

By 12.15.14

According to the Wall Street Journal, “construction of church buildings in the U.S., has fallen to the lowest level since private records began in 1967.”

That’s not a surprise. The Fifties and early Sixties saw a great surge in church attendance so these data don’t account for the likely building of many new churches in those years. Such structures are usually built to last for a long time, so it’s also not surprising that the number of new religious buildings has declined.

The WSJ concedes that with the recession more-or-less over, renovations and new building may move ahead again; however, its writers have decided that the decline “is a confluence of trends: a drop in formal religious participation, changing donation habits, a shift away from the construction of massive megachurches and, more broadly, a growing taste for alternatives to the traditional house of worship.”

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