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With ‘The Cosmopolitans,’ Whit Stillman Has Evolved

By 9.11.14

Whit Stillman’s reputations rests upon a small body of work. After The Last Days of Disco (1998), he seemed, for a time, to be done. Twelve years later when he released Damsels in Distress, his fourth film, its reception was somewhat mixed; Damsels in Distress was cute and candy-colored, not much like the more muted and sophisticated Last Days of Disco. The dialogue, however, was still pure Stillman: neurotic WASPs worrying over the same customs and declining social mores, striking poses they don’t quite have the weight to hold onto. It wasn’t an altogether successful update, though it’s hard not to love a light-hearted romantic comedy that is constantly cracking jokes about suicide—or perhaps that’s just me.

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Political Hay

2014: A Wave Election or an Earthquake?

By 9.11.14

Will the 2014 election be a wave election? Or an earthquake election? And what’s the difference?

It was November, 1922. And the Republican Party had just gotten clobbered in that year’s congressional elections. The Harding-Coolidge administration, elected only two years earlier in a landslide, lost seventy-seven seats in the House and seven in the Senate. In short, the election was a disaster, the GOP the victim of what is frequently called today a “wave” election.

But it was a wave, not an earthquake. Waves can hit the beach with tremendous force — but they quickly recede without doing much damage. Not so with earthquakes, which tumble people out of bed, collapse buildings, bridges, highways, and leave an immutable trail of wreckage in their wake. What follows is a massive rebuilding and replacement of what once seemed solid as a rock.

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The Public Policy

Raising the Minimum Wage Means Giving In To Mob Rule

By 9.11.14

While we talk about democracy and equal rights, we seem increasingly to let both private and government decisions be determined by mob rule. There is nothing democratic about mob rule. It means that some people’s votes are to be overruled by other people's disruptions, harassments, and threats.

The latest examples are the mobs in the streets in cities across the country, demanding that employers pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour, or else that the government make them do so by law. Some of the more gullible observers think the issue is whether what some people are making now is “a living wage.” This misconstrues the whole point of hiring someone to do work. Those who are being hired are paid for the value of the work they do.

If their work is really worth more than what their employer is paying them, all they have to do is quit and go work for some other employer, who will pay them what their work is really worth. If they can't find any other employer who will pay them more, then what makes them think their work is worth more?

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A Further Perspective

Like It or Not, 9/11 is About Islam

By 9.11.14

Thirteen years have now passed since al Qaeda terrorists carried out their attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. If not for the valiant efforts of the passengers of United 93, the White House or Capitol Hill might have been added to that list. Their courage would save thousands of lives.

Yet 2,977 people would perish on September 11, 2001. I saw the pictures of every one of those men, women and children at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum last May. As I noted at the time, the exhibit made it clear who was responsible for those pictures being there and the religious ideology that motivated them.

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Another Perspective

Should Scotland Secede from the United Kingdom?

By 9.11.14

The vote over Scottish independence is coming down to the wire. Polls show a close race. It is a momentous decision that would reverse the Act of Union adopted back in 1707, but why is President Barack Obama bothering the Scots with his opinion?

A Scottish yes vote would have dramatic effects. While independence activists have reassured their countrymen that nothing much would change, a Scottish nation might find a less than warm welcome from European and other world leaders. No doubt, Holyrood (parliament) would receive diplomatic recognition. But Scotland’s passage to nationhood might not be as easy as promised.

An independent Scotland likely would have to reapply to the European Union and NATO. Holyrood would have to create its own currency, or unofficially use the British pound, over which the Scots would have no control. The new nation would have to decide whether it even wanted a military; the British nuclear deterrent would have to move south to a base that today doesn’t exist.

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The Obama Watch

Obama, Woodrow Wilson, and Foreign Policy Failure

By 9.11.14

Obama’s foreign policy failures have created uncanny parallels with Woodrow Wilson’s administration. Obama has been compared to many previous Democrats, but now is threatened with seeing his presidency staked on foreign policy, just as Wilson’s was. Separated by almost a century, Obama must hope his administration does not suffer the same fate as his predecessor’s.

Foreign policy did not figure prominently in Wilson’s early agenda. Elected only by virtue of Republicans’ presidential self-destruction, he focused on domestic policy. Abroad, his goal was to keep America out of foreign entanglements — particularly WWI, after 1914. He narrowly won reelection in 1916 on the slogan “He kept us out of war.”

When finally dragged into WWI, he aimed for an evenhanded outcome based on his Fourteen Points. Despite late entry, he sought a primary role in the peace. He felt ownership over the Treaty of Versailles, and staked everything — politically and personally — on its ratification. His ultimate failure cost Wilson not only his administration, but his health and nearly his life.

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The War on Terror Spectator

The Jihadist Danger Right Under Our Noses

By 9.10.14

President Obama is poised to announce his strategy for battling ISIS overseas. Better late than never. But Obama still has said nothing about stopping jihadists from bringing their terror here. It’s up to Congress to act on this urgent issue. Congress should reverse Obama’s dangerous new policy of granting asylum to people with terrorist connections. Federal law bars it, but on February 5, the administration went around Congress and loosened the law to welcome asylum seekers who have provided only “limited material support” to terrorists.

Next, Congress should outlaw visas to “study” at unaccredited institutions, which often are nothing more than visa mills. Finally, Congress needs to crack down on overstaying visas. Five of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers had overstayed tourist visas, and another was on a student visa. Of course, immigration offers huge benefits to our nation. And not all terrorists are foreign born. But these weak links in enforcement have to be closed to thwart another 9/11. That’s not anti-immigration. It’s anti-terror.

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The Trumped-Up Charges Spectator

Rosemary Lehmberg On the Warpath: First Rick Perry, Now Wallace Hall

By 9.10.14

The Travis County District Attorney’s office is doubling down on the widely mocked legal theories used to indict Governor Rick Perry.

Rosemary Lehmberg’s office is now trying to get a grand jury to indict another prominent Texas conservative on the exact same charge—abuse of official capacity. The cases have nothing in common, other than a shameless and blackhearted prosecutor who has discovered a vague paragraph in state law that lets her bring charges against any Republican she wants for just about any reason.

There is a slight check on that power—a grand jury—but the juries in heavily Democratic Travis County have shown little inclination to check her abuses. Instead, they end up offering her insulation from the lawsuits and disbarment she deserves for her malicious prosecutions.

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Political Hay

Oral Contraceptive Republicans

By 9.10.14

The Left’s relentless “war on women” campaign is producing some odd results, one of which is the emergence of Republicans who champion over-the-counter contraceptives. As Time puts it, “Republicans Can’t Stop Talking About Over-the-Counter Birth Control.”

“Four GOP Senate candidates have advocated for over-the-counter birth control, Colorado’s Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Ed Gillespie in Virginia, and Mike McFadden in Minnesota,” Time reports. “‘I actually agree with the American Medical Association that we should make contraception more widely available. I think over-the-counter oral contraception should be available without prescription,” Tillis said last week in his first debate against Sen. Kay Hagan.”

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The Public Policy

Cheap Politicians Turn Out to Be Very Expensive Politicians

By 9.10.14

The recent bribery convictions of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife are only the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of convictions of government officials.

A little item on the Internet featured government officials in prison, either currently or in recent times. Among them were a mayor of New Orleans, a mayor of Detroit, and a mayor of Washington; a governor of Connecticut, a governor of Louisiana, two governors of Illinois, and four members of Congress.

However much these and other government officials may have richly deserved being behind bars, the country does not deserve to have its confidence in government repeatedly undermined. A country with 100 percent cynicism about its government cannot be governed. And nobody wants anarchy.

In short, the damage done by government officials who betray the public’s trust goes far beyond the money stolen or misused, or whatever particular abuse of power landed them behind bars.

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