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The Obama Watch

Mr. Obama, Meet General de Gaulle

By 1.12.15

“I am France.”

So spoke General Charles de Gaulle to British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax in1941. At the time France was under the control of the treacherous Vichy French, the puppets of the Nazis, the latter having invaded France in May of 1940. With Adolf Hitler himself personally appearing in Paris to inspect his new conquest. de Gaulle had refused to bow to Hitler, instead going across the Channel to Britain and presenting himself to the British government and anybody else who cared to listen (there weren’t many) not just as the legitimate head of what was quickly known as “Free France.” For de Gaulle that was not even close to the reality of what he represented. As he made plain to Halifax, de Gaulle saw himself — then and always — as France.

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A Further Perspective

Je Suis Charlie et Je Suis Juif

By 1.12.15

The theme of this past weekend was one of solidarity. 

On Saturday, I went to the French Cultural Center of Boston where I attended a tribute to the journalists and cartoonists from Charlie Hebdo who were murdered on January 7. The tribute took the form of a slideshow featuring the work of the slain Charlie Hebdo cartoonists as well as cartoons that have been drawn in their honor in the days following the attack.

On Sunday, I made my way to Boston Common where I attended a rally sponsored by the Consulate General of France in Boston. The rally coincided with the one that took place in Paris which was attended by an estimated 1.5 million people featuring 50 heads of states (President Obama not among them).

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In Memoriam

Death of a Great Reaganite

By 1.12.15

When I was growing up the draft was an ugly rite of passage for young men. During the 1960s and early 1970s getting a low lottery number could mean death in Vietnam. Nothing seemed likely to change in the midst of the Cold War.

But when I turned 18 in 1975 no “Uncle Sam wants you” notice arrived in the mail. The United States was defending itself as a democratic republic should defend itself: through the voluntary efforts of a free people. America had created the All-Volunteer Force—which, despite a rocky start, quickly became the finest military on the planet.

I hadn’t followed the political battle leading to the AVF, since I had been attending a small high school on a minor U.S. base in Great Britain, a bit out of the loop, so to speak. When I returned to America I didn’t know who to thank for the freedom to choose my future, though I was indeed thankful. But I met the man responsible three years later while attending Stanford Law School. 

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Special Report

Tous Charlie!

By 1.12.15

It struck some observers as perverse to exclude the National Front from the immense rally, held yesterday between the Place de la République and the Place de la Nation, to mark the Islamist terror assault upon the Paris paper Charlie Hebdo, publisher of satirical cartoons featuring Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, among other themes.

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The Right Prescription

Ezekiel Emanuel: Go Ration Yourself

By 1.12.15

One reason your insurance premiums have skyrocketed during the past year is that Obamacare requires all health plans to provide “free” annual wellness visits and 15 associated preventive services for which they cannot charge the patient a copayment. According to a key architect of PPACA, however, “the annual physical exam is basically worthless.” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, last heard from claiming that he wants to die at 75 in order to avoid becoming a burden on society, writes in the New York Times that “screening healthy people who have no complaints is a pretty ineffective way to improve people’s health.”

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Ben Stein's Diary

All It Takes Is a Few

By 1.10.15

Wednesday
Here I am in Atlanta. I am here to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the sales awards event for a gigantically successful auto and truck sales entity called “Auto Trader.” The hotel, downtown Ritz Carlton, is lovely. My friend Bob and I had dinner at a great restaurant called New York Prime. We sat next to a party of very drunk and amorous women with much older men. It was almost embarrassing.

I felt great about the event the next afternoon until I turned on the TV and saw about the murders and general anti-freedom and anti-Semitic carnage in Paris.

“Your basic human is not such a hot item.” So says my sister, a real genius. But most of the human beings I run into are friendly, cheerful men and women. They are just trying to do their work and feed their families. But all it takes is a few, like the Islamists in Paris, to make the whole decent world feel sick. Just a tiny percentage of the population of a great nation like France, just a handful with guns, can take down the mood of the entire civilized world. And now they’ve done it again.

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The Nation's Pulse

Up From Superficial Christian Compassion

By 1.9.15

There’s a refreshing Christianity Today article in which an Evangelical academic who once thought border security “callous” now argues that a “porous border is not compassionate—it is just chaotic…” He urges more funding for securing the border, explaining:

Caring for illegal immigrants is certainly a grace to the individual. But it doesn’t address the underlying problem. Indeed, when replicated on a large scale, it exacerbates the crisis. The more the church is viewed as welcoming any undocumented immigrant with open arms, the more it spurs undocumented immigration: more Central American families are broken apart, immigrants are forced into self-protection in our dangerous inner cities, and ties are strengthened between US gangs and Central American narco-networks. Moreover, Central American countries become increasingly dependent on foreign remittances at the cost of their development.

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Media Matters

I Am Not Spartacus

By 1.9.15

On Monday, a PEN American Center poll reported that 75 percent of writers in free countries fear government surveillance. On Wednesday, 100 percent of the scribes and scribblers at Charlie Hebdo lamented the absence of government surveillance.

Writers call such plot developments irony—at least they do when authoring the story and not in it.

“Writers living in liberal democratic countries have begun to engage in self-censorship at levels approaching those seen in non-democratic countries,” the PEN survey warns, “indicating that mass surveillance has badly shaken writers’ faith that democratic governments will respect their rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and that—because of pervasive surveillance—writers are concerned that expressing certain views even privately or researching certain topics may lead to negative consequences.”

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A Further Perspective

After the Charlie Hebdo Murders

By 1.9.15

The puckish French newspaper Charlie Hebdo was attacked by Islamic thugs on Wednesday, and the West’s reaction brought to mind the spirit of NATO: an attack on one is an attack on all. There was a hiatus in the usual Internet slashing as nearly everyone was united in a commitment to liberal values. The hash tag “#JeSuisCharlie” was devised to show solidarity with the murdered journalists.

The translation is “I am Charlie,” which seems both excessive and fitting. Excessive because even most of us who work in media are not Charlie Hebdo; we’ll never be mutilated by gunfire over something we write. And yet fitting because what Charlie’s assassins were trying to snuff out was a value we all hold dear: freedom of expression, even if that expression is deemed offensive.

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Special Report

A New Year in Egypt: The Significance of President Sisi’s Speech

By 1.9.15

On New Year’s Day, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi—the hero of Egypt’s 2013 anti-Muslim Brotherhood revolution—made some remarkable comments concerning the need for a “religious revolution.”

Watch the video below or click here to read the excerpt:

Sisi made his remarks during a speech celebrating the birth of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad—which was ironically held on January 1, 2015 (a day not acknowledged or celebrated in the Muslim world as it is based on a Christian calendar)—and he was addressing the nation’s top Islamic authorities from among the Awqaf Ministry (religious endowments) and Al Azhar University.

Although Sisi’s words were directed to Islam’s guardians and articulators, they indirectly lead to several important lessons for Western observers.

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