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The War on Terror Spectator

Cancel Aid to Egypt

By 6.23.14

Much about the Obama administration’s foreign policy has been an embarrassment. Some of its failures, such as Iraq, must be shared with its predecessor. In Egypt President Barack Obama and especially Secretary of State John Kerry incompetently followed in the footsteps of several administrations.

Three years ago Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship ingloriously collapsed. Although student-led protests in Cairo triggered the regime’s demise, it was Mubarak's plan to move from military rule to family rule that led the generals to abandon him. The Obama administration was constantly following events, first embracing Mubarak, then calling for a negotiated transition, and finally endorsing his overthrow. The Egyptian people ignored Washington at every turn.

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Another Perspective

Defending David Brat on Immigration

By 6.23.14

David Brat’s stunning primary victory has happily killed off the prospect of immigration reform this year, and so the pro-immigration folks are busily trying to tell us that immigration had nothing to do with it. What nonsense!

David is not a one-issue candidate, to be sure. On the public debt crisis and crony capitalism he’s right on the money. But more than anything it was the immigration issue that brought him into the race and propelled him to victory. I say this as one whose friends encouraged David to run, and who spoke with him about the primary back in December. 

The 1965 Immigration Act has weakened our economy and transformed American politics by bringing an immense number of new Democrats to the voting booths. But for them, Obama would have lost the last two presidential elections. It’s no wonder that Democrats are so heavily invested in immigration, and that conservative fear the prospect of immigration “reform” designed to add yet more Democrats to the voting rolls.

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Shelf Life

Does Language Shape Thought?

By 6.23.14

The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language
By John H. McWhorter
(Oxford, 208 pages, $19.95)

Chinese has an extraordinary number of verbs meaning “carry.” If I carry something on a hanging arm, like a briefcase, the verb is ti; on an outstretched palm, tuo; using both palms, peng; gripped between upper arm and body, xie; in my hand, like a stick, wo; embraced, like a baby, bao; on my back, bei; on my head, ding; on my shoulder, kang; on a pole over my shoulder, tiao; slung on a shoulder pole between two guys, tai….

Every foreign language learner encounters similar curiosities. The question naturally occurs: Since speakers of different languages carve up the world so differently when they speak, do they likewise do so when they think? Do they conceive of the world differently?

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Up In Arms

Our Gun-Shy Justices

By From the July/August 2014 issue

After two hundred years of solitude, the Second Amendment now means what it has always said: Our Constitution guarantees the people a right to keep and bear arms. But since McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision of 2010, the justices seemingly have taken a vow of silence on the meaning of this fundamental right.

Over the last four years, in case after case, lower courts have accepted interpretations of the Second Amendment that have rendered it weak or nonexistent. Each time, a gun control scheme was found constitutional. Each time, once Second Amendment advocates reached the final request for appeal, the Supreme Court declined to review the ruling.

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Special Report

Presbyterians Become the Silly Church

By 6.21.14

At one point during this this week’s General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the hundreds of delegates, known as commissioners, gleefully bounced scores of red balloons in the air. At another point, they collectively broke into dance, confirming that most Protestants, especially if they’re old, white and Anglo, don’t look so great wiggling around. (Here’s a video, for mature viewers only.)

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A Further Perspective

Hillary Can’t Have Her Cake and Sell It Too

By 6.20.14

“Whichever sales estimate you accept—under what scenario does Simon & Schuster make back [its reported] $14 million advance from Hillary [Clinton’s] book?” asked the Washington Examiner’s Byron York the other day.

His implication was, probably never. Let’s do some back-of-the-envelope math and see if that’s the case.

Madame Secretary Senator First Lady Clinton’s new book about her four years as head of the State Department, Hard Choices, sells for $35 a pop in hardcover. Assume her agent negotiated a primo royalty of 20 percent for the entire run, with no graduated rates. That works out to a maximum payout to her of $7 a copy.

At that rate, the book will make its advance back if it sells 2 million hardcover copies.

Simon & Schuster paid so much for this book because her 2003 book Living History was a megabestseller. The publisher cleared more than a million copies that year. The book easily made back its $8 million advance.

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Culture Vultures

The Vinyl Revival Shows Quality Trumps Efficiency

By 6.20.14

An album fueled by vinyl sales currently tops the Billboard charts. The back-to-the-future consumer rebellion demonstrates that quality can still beat convenience. 

Music lovers bought 40,000 vinyl versions of Jack White’s Lazaretto this past week, making it the bestselling 12-inch disc since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. The vinyl format constituted nearly a third of total Lazaretto purchases and outsold recent releases by Coldplay, Michael Jackson, and 50 Cent in all formats.

Why did audiophiles go atavist?

The LP contains a hidden track beneath the center label, spins the needle outward on one side, holograms an angel twirling atop the grooves, and plays in three different speeds. But underneath the din of gimmicks one hears the reality that the rich sound of analogue beats tinny music reproduced by binary code. Digital is to vinyl what orange drink is to freshly squeezed.

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The Obama Watch

An Administration at Death’s Door

By 6.20.14

Unlike the rest of us, celebrities do not actually pass away. Instead their publicists announce their deaths, and generally they cooperate. We can only imagine how badly a person’s career must be careening out of control if the publicist has only one last move to shake things up: “We regret to inform that John Smith, star of stage and screen, has passed on to the great dressing-room in the sky. Live bookings will no longer be available, but his autobiography is at Amazon and his music can be heard on Pandora.”

Hey, Elvis and Marilyn are making more money dead than alive, so maybe their publicists were on to something.

All this comes to mind this week with the pronouncement by NBC’s Chuck Todd that based on polling patterns the Obama presidency is dead. If indeed the news media are the publicists for Democratic politicians, as Rush Limbaugh and others have long claimed, then we should attach great credence to Todd’s statement. The press has always asked us to trust it about Obama’s birth certificate, so we should do no less for his death certificate.

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The War on Terror Spectator

America’s Dilemma in Iraq

By 6.20.14

To think of mass graves is to think backwards in history—Babi Yar in Ukraine or the one million Jews still being unearthed from the Treblinka death camp. To see similar images today, shown in vivid color photos right down to the grains of sand in the makeshift ditch, is startling. Yet that’s exactly what the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has provided us, along with boasts that the dead are 1,700 Shias from the Iraqi army.

The country that once concealed Saddam Hussein’s mass graves is once again the site of anachronistic brutality, but this time with a modern twist. ISIS has proven savvy at using social media to broadcast its destruction across the world. Earlier this year they released photos of two men in neighboring Syria suspected of being spies, covered in blood and crucified on crosses.

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Buy the Book

The Good Doctor

By 6.20.14

One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future
By Ben Carson, M.D.
(Sentinel, 256 pages, $25.95)

Just for the record, here’s a list of the jobs that Dr. Ben Carson held before he had graduated from Yale University:

  • Payroll office clerk at Ford Motors
  • Bank teller (“I learned accuracy and efficiency as well as some things about bank robbers”)
  • Mailroom clerk
  • Encyclopedia salesman
  • Supervisor in charge of highway cleanup crews.
  • Lab technician at Wayne State at Wayne State University
  • Crane operator at a steel factory
  • Assembly line worker in an auto plant.
  • Police auxiliary on the Yale University campus. 

Does this sound like the pampered grandson of a bank vice-president and affirmative-action baby who was ushered through college and professional school by adoring academics thrilled to be meeting “a modern African-American man who is articulate and bright,” as Joe Biden would put it?

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