Latest News

Loose Canons

ISIS, ISIL, NATO, and Obama

By 9.8.14

When President Obama sits down with congressional leaders this week to talk about fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — “ISIS” — they’ll probably not agree on anything, not even the proper name of the terrorist organization that now controls about one-third of Iraq and a larger part of Syria.

The president insists on calling it “ISIL”, for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” The “Levant” — an archaic term — refers to the area off the Eastern Mediterranean Sea stretching from what is now Anatolia in Turkey, through Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. By insisting on calling the terrorist micro-caliphate “ISIL,” the president is giving them credit for being a lot bigger than they really are.

One thing that they certainly won’t discuss is the best idea to come out of the House of Representatives in quite a while. Actually, it hasn’t come out yet and it’s a good idea with one major defect.

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A Further Perspective

Our Sentimental Humanitarian Age

By 9.8.14

I always thought it would be difficult to imagine a period in which the West would be more adrift than the 1970s. Being a child at the time, I was spared consciousness of most of that miserable decade. Thus far, however, the second decade of the 2000s seems likely to give the 10 years that spawned Watergate, stagflation, the Carter presidency, the Oil Crisis, Idi Amin, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, Jim Jones, Pol Pot, the Red Brigades, and the Iranian Revolution (to name just a few of the star attractions) a serious run for its money as a byword for Western decline.

One everyday sign of this malaise is the fact that much of the West remains, as in the seventies, mired in what’s now called the Long Slump. And persistently unhealthy economies are usually symptomatic of an unwillingness to acknowledge deeper problems. Examples are most Western governments’ reluctance to accept that it’s game-over for the regulatory and welfare state as-we-knew-it, or to do something about the growing cancer of crony-capitalism.

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Enemy of the Week

Manageable Corruption

By 9.5.14

Now they tell us. “Let’s be honest, the value of the luxury gifts and loans involved in the case, $177,000, is pretty petty,” writes the Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak for the prosecution in the case of the Virginia McDonnells vs. the U.S. which found the accused guilty on most counts. Isn’t it strange that Barack Obama received at least that amount in value from his Chicago backer Tony Rezko, who now sits in jail, while the Rezko equivalent in the McDonnell affair enjoys immunity while those he testified against face many long years in the pen. But who said life would be fair in a two-party state?

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The Obama Watch

CEOs Critique Obama

By 9.5.14

Bernie Marcus co-founded Home Depot in 1978, a bad economic time of rising unemployment, accelerating inflation and Jimmy Carter’s downhearted feelings of malaise.

Home Depot prospered, but in an interview with Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) in July 2011, the third year of Obama’s presidency, Marcus said the company wouldn’t have survived if it was launched in 2011 because of the federal government’s overblown and ever-increasing regulations.

At the time of the interview, the official July 2011 unemployment rate was 9.1 percent, with 13.9 million people unemployed and a labor participation rate (the percentage of the civilian non-institutional working-age population who are in the labor force) in decline, dropping by 193,000 people in July 2011 alone.

Here are several of the interview’s highlights:

IBD: “What’s the single biggest impediment to job growth today?”

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The Nation's Pulse

I, Robot

By 9.5.14

Google pursues a chip that promises to make machines more like humans. It’s about time they atoned for making humans more like machines.

Google’s most annoying legacy is the search-engine expert, the know-nothing know-it-all, often encountered in online message boards and article comments sections, who types and clicks his way to facts but never wisdom. In an earlier incarnations, the Google Expert boasted a library of dog-eared Cliffs Notes sharing shelf space aside books with uncut pages. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations acted as his speechwriter. Now Wikipedia Brown offers decontextualized bits of information, just like Google does.  

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Serve and Volley

Boris and Stefan

By 9.5.14

Boris “Boom Boom” Becker hit aces and unreturnable serves by the boatload. For Stefan Edberg, his great rival, the serve was not an end in itself but the means to the end: setting up his first volley — the deadliest in the game. On heavily spun serves kicked out wide to the backhand on the ad court, he could close to within two or three feet of the net. In this position, he was a matador poised for the quick and artful kill. No one struck so many clean, first-volley winners into the open court as the graceful Swede.

Becker is now a puffy-faced 46 — suggesting a life lived hard if not always well — while Edberg, who is a year and a half older, retains a look of boyish innocence and stoic composure.

It is good to see them back in center stage at the U.S. Open — if only as coaches to the two best players in the tennis world of today (Becker for Novak Djokovic and Edberg for Roger Federer).

As a keen tennis player and long-time fan of the sport, I had the pleasure of seeing Becker and Edberg play at the very outset of their careers.

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The Charlie Watch

Democrats Over the Moon

By 9.5.14

South Floridians, lock up your wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, aunts. Billy-Bob Clinton is coming to town. Our former groper-in-chief and lifetime Democrat will be in Miami Friday evening to give a campaign speech for rookie Democrat Charlie Crist.

Crist is, to borrow a phrase attributed to the late Hubert Humphrey, pleased as punch to have the former boy-president campaign for him. “I’m over the moon,” Crist said. (I’ve always suspected this of Charlie.)

Crist, Florida’s former Republican governor, who wants to become Florida’s next Democrat governor, wasn’t always so giddy about the man from Hope (Arkansas, that is). In 1998, about a thousand political lifetimes ago for Charlie, Republican Crist was calling on Clinton to resign the presidency. This was after it had become widely known that political science student Monica Lewinsky was studying the executive branch. Bill’s. In the Oval Office. Remember the thong, the blue dress, the pizza, the cigar, and the rest of the dreary stuff more suited to “The Jerry Springer Show” than to 1600. 

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Special Report

Commemorating Shame and Triumph

By 9.5.14

Lynne Cheney’s new biography of James Madison debuted just in time for the commemoration of the fourth president’s greatest humiliation. Two hundred years ago the British burned nearly all of official Washington, which had been left virtually defenseless by Madison’s appointees. Madison himself, after watching the quick defeat of mostly inexperienced U.S. militia at the Battle of Bladensburg, escaped on horseback initially to Virginia, in search of his wife and his government.

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At Large

Rick Perry’s Indictment Should Scare All Americans

By 9.5.14

“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
— Humpty Dumpty in Alice through the Looking Glass

The indictment of Governor Rick Perry should send a shudder down the spine of every American. The vindictive special prosecutor used Humpty Dumpty’s logic to say statutes say the opposite of their plain meaning in order to charge the governor with a crime for exercising his lawful veto. If a popular sitting governor can be indicted on such a flimsy basis, then every one of us is vulnerable.

The facts are straightforward: the police arrested Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County DA, after finding her in her car with a drained bottle of vodka. Her blood alcohol content was almost three times the legal limit. During her arrest and booking, she screamed, beat on the jail cell door, and had to be forcibly strapped into a restraint chair with a spit guard placed over her mouth to protect the deputies. She pleaded guilty.

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Another Perspective

A Forgotten Hero of World War I

By 9.4.14

As we mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, one country’s contribution to the war to end all wars has been sorely overlooked — Canada.

I attempted to rectify this by modest measure. Last week, during a visit to my home and native land, my older brother and I made a pilgrimage to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Canada’s military has made important contributions in the War in Afghanistan, the Korean War, and in WWII, especially during D-Day. But it was in World War I that Canada came of age.

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