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Special Report

Prudence, Power, and Aggression

By 2.11.15

Is there a moral obligation to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression? Nation-states do not have moral obligations. But states have interests, of which the obligation to function as instruments of their peoples’ moral interests is not the slightest. We should help Ukraine. The question is how.

The German Chancellor’s reluctance to provide the Ukrainians with weapons is understandable. If the effort is doomed to failure, as she implies, why bother? It would represent a costly gesture, not a policy. Rationally, economic squeeze plus resilient diplomacy, even in the face of repeated Russian insults, lies, and open contempt, may be the more sensible course.

What about Nigeria? Do we have a moral obligation to help Nigeria? The argument from morality should not change from one country to another, should it?

The harsh truth of the matter is that this is not the right question. The right question is this: do the neighbors of the country in trouble give the impression they want to do something about the crisis in their region?

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Spectator's Journal

Writing for Love of Country

By 2.11.15

A week or so before the annual Robert L. Bartley dinner, which The American Spectator again will be hosting tonight in Washington, Bob Tyrrell got to a restaurant he favors a few minutes before me; it was one of the periodical sit-downs at which we bat ideas around and assess the general situation, which we find, as regular conservatives and straight-ticket Republicans, by turns hilarious and appalling. I hate late; I always assume everyone else, and with good cause, feels the same way, and — this is righteous conservative dogma — you pay for your sins. I know Bob Tyrrell pretty well, but dogma prevailed over knowledge, and I expected he’d be mad and I’d be sorry.

But Bob was genial and affable as ever as I sat down and the thought crossed my mind there were few people in his position, which is after all the position of a major force in journalism, not conservative journalism whatever that is, but journalism, American current affairs, who would not, one way or another, let an impolite sonofabitch of a writer know he is out of line for making the boss wait five minutes. Bob never was that way.

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Media Matters

NBC’s Decision

By 2.11.15

Tom Brokaw, commenting on whether or not his successor Brian Williams would survive as the head of NBC’s “Nightly News” program, told the press that this “is a very serious issue that must be resolved on the facts.” It appears to have been resolved more on the basis of money and ratings. Were credibility the network’s first consideration, Williams would have been removed from his position last week.

If the most celebrated surgeon at a hospital killed a patient on the operating table through an act of gross malpractice, it wouldn’t take executives at that hospital weeks to determine whether or not that doctor should remain the “face” of the hospital. They would fire him immediately. They wouldn’t need to hold days of meetings to decide “if we should keep him on as the head of surgery.”

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Buy the Book

America in Retreat

By 2.10.15

Bret Stephens has written not just a good book on American foreign policy. He has written an important book.

As Islamic radicalism rampages through the Middle East on a global drive to create a caliphate, the Chancellor of Germany is trying to deal with Vladimir Putin’s aggressions in the Ukraine, the Chinese navy is on track to outnumber the U.S. Navy by 2020, and America’s allies have understandable doubts about America’s lack of resolve, not to mention U.S. credibility. That doesn’t even touch the Iranian mullahs and their relentless drive to possess nuclear weapons. Or the craziness that goes on in North Korea.

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At Large

Abbott Survives an Aussie Coup—For Now

By 2.10.15

If you think American politics resembles the melodrama of a reality show, it has nothing Australian politics.

During the Labor government of 2007-2013, Kevin Rudd was ousted as Prime Minister and party leader by Julia Gillard only for Gillard to be ousted by Rudd. Here is what I wrote about this sorry state of affairs at the time:

Of course, the person who benefits the most from this row on the Labor front benches is none other than Tony Abbott. So long as there is instability as to who exactly is leading the Australian government, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition needn’t say a word. With each passing day, Abbott looks more and more like a viable alternative by default, and if an early election comes to pass it would be the Liberal Party’s to lose. Australians are longing for the sort of reliable, stable government they had under John Howard and might be eager to give Abbott a decisive mandate. With each passing day, it is clear the Labor Party cannot govern itself, never mind Australia.

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The Nation's Pulse

Hating the Duggars

By 2.10.15

Every day seems to bring another example of intolerance by a shocking number of people on the American left. Whether progressives/liberals are picketing, denouncing, demonizing, boycotting, and seeking to shut down florists and bakers and photographers who—pleading their First Amendment rights of religious freedom—beg not to be forced to service a same-sex marriage ceremony, or whether they’re suing Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor for not funding other people’s abortions, the examples keep piling up. And yet, amazingly, these progressives/liberals never seem to detect a conflict between their constant professions of “tolerance” and “diversity” and the undeniably obvious fact that they only tolerate things they agree with. That, of course, is not tolerance. In so many areas, they will not tolerate you disagreeing with them; when you do, they want to shut you down.

Well, I’d like to remark on yet another example. It concerns the Duggar family.

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Main Street U.S.A.

Nuts to You!

By 2.10.15

It’s been kind of fun, I tell you: a Florida Democratic congressman, one Alcee Hastings, calls Texas a “crazy state.” Texans — e.g., Rick Perry — joyfully, jubilantly acknowledged the craziness that has made our state (yes, I am one of the assorted bedlamites) foremost in the country for economic growth. How come Texas leads in job creation and in general economic wellbeing — the oil price free-fall notwithstanding? Because we’re all nuts down here? It’s a nice kind of nuttiness, if so.

Not that Texas — very much a part of our fallen, post-Edenic world — is without its modern challenges, including deficiencies in the public schools and the persistence of poverty amid plenty: the same challenges, come to think of it, facing Congressman Hastings’ Florida. To say nothing — in variant degree — of progressive paradises such as California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts, where enlightened opinion would shut down quickly enough any crazy, Texas-like adventures in the spread of freedom.

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A Further Perspective

Measles, Vaccines, and Autism

By 2.10.15

The current controversy over whether parents should be forced to have their children vaccinated for measles is one of the painful signs of our times. Measles was virtually wiped out in the United States, years ago. Why the resurgence of this disease now?

The short answer is that false claims, based on other false claims, led many parents to stop getting their children vaccinated against measles.

The key false claim was that the vaccine for measles caused an increase in autism. This claim was made in 1998 by a doctor writing in a distinguished British medical journal, so it is understandable that many parents took it seriously, and did not want to run the risk of having their child become autistic.

Fortunately, others took the claim seriously in a very different sense. They did massive studies involving half a million children in Denmark and two million children in Sweden. These studies showed that there was no higher incidence of autism among children who had been vaccinated than among children who had not been vaccinated.

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Amelia’s Kitchen

RECIPE: Mike Huckabee’s Lime Jello Surprise

By 2.10.15

Mike Huckabee has departed Fox News to, in the twisted words of presidential ambition, consider his options. He’s clearly considering a presidential run. Is America ready for a folksy southerner who sometimes plays the bass guitar on TV for no apparent reason?

When working on a recipe for Huckabee, I did a little crowd sourcing among my friends, looking for inspiration. The same phrases kept coming up, things like “midcentury” and “something my grandparents might like.” With that in mind, I knew just what to make:

MIKE HUCKABEE’S (ENTIRELY PREDICTABLE) LIME JELLO SURPRISE

What You’ll Need:
• 6 oz package lime jello
• 3 oz cream cheese
• 3/4 cup crushed pineapple, reserve juice
• 1/2 jar maraschino cherries, chopped
• 1T lemon juice
• 6 oz evaporated milk, chilled icy cold

What to do:

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Politics

Obama’s Historical Ignorance and Disdain for the Faith

By 2.10.15

Barack Obama has one final year to realize that the National Prayer Breakfast just isn’t a good venue for him. Obama’s track record at the annual function has been little other than disastrous, and another president—one with a more hostile media and a less dedicated constituency—would have been ruined already by previous catastrophes.

Obama’s problems with the National Prayer Breakfast began in earnest in 2012, when the keynote speech at the affair was given by author Eric Metaxas. The speech Metaxas gave in advance of Obama’s own address was a tour de force and an indictment, though a polite one, of Obama’s position on abortion and other social issues as decisively anti-Christian. Metaxas stole the show and left Obama giving a speech that had been thoroughly repudiated from the same podium just minutes earlier, about how Christianity included essentially the same moral framework as Hinduism or Islam.

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