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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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Breaking News

Killers in a Nice Neighborhood

By 1.8.15

You know the Rue Serpollet, it’s on the east side near Bagnolet, in the 20th arrondissement, last refuge, practically, of the old Parisian working class, almost gone now from the capital. But to be more precise, in terms of urban geography, it is getting close to Montreuil and Vincennes, more mixed, economically integrated, as once, though no one remembers, almost all the city was.

Most Parisians do not know the Rue Serpollet, a little street ending in a dead-end on the city line, a quiet little street, felt more like being in a provincial town than the capital of France. You can walk around, smell the fresh baked bread early in the morning, stop in a café and stand at the bar for an espresse and a shot of brandy, think about how swell it is here, this quiet neighborhood in this swell city.

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Special Report

Who Lost Nigeria?

By 1.8.15

Nigeria is not “lost,” and it is wildly premature to put the question of the threat faced by the government of Goodluck Jonathan in such stark terms. However, President Jonathan is up for re-election in February, and it is fair to ask: Is Nigeria at risk of seeing half its territory amputated and seized by a revolutionary movement like the Islamic State?

Last week, federal troops under attack from a band of Jihadists reportedly cut and ran from the garrison town of Baga in the far northeast, next to Lake Chad. There is a reason this is a garrison town and there is a reason it was targeted by the Boko Haram insurgency that has plagued the northern tier of the west African powerhouse, at 180 million the most populous nation on the continent, one of the largest (900 square km), and by any measure an absolutely indispensable strategic ally of the U.S.

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Political Hay

Mulvaney Unwittingly Damns Conservative Colleagues As Unserious

By 1.8.15

Amid a great deal of publicity about a brewing conservative coup in the U.S. House of Representatives that would dispatch to a back bench the current Speaker John Boehner came Tuesday’s vote, in which the efforts of multiple would-be revolutionaries — Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Ted Yoho and Daniel Webster of Florida — produced no tangible results.

Boehner managed to win the Speakership again with 216 votes, needing just 201 since for various reasons only 401 of the 434 current House members (following New York Republican Michael Grimm’s resignation) were in the chamber for the vote. Some 24 Republicans voted for another candidate — 12 for Webster, three for Gohmert, two apiece for Yoho and Rep. Jim Jordan, and one apiece for Sens. Rand Paul and Jeff Sessions, Reps. Kevin McCarthy, Jeff Duncan, and Trey Gowdy. Another Republican, Rep. Brian Babin of Texas, voted present.

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Freedom Watch

Bill Maher Was Right

By 1.8.15

Bill Maher was right. And where is Ben Affleck now? But first: here we go again. This time with ten journalists and two policemen killed in Paris by Islamic gunmen shrieking "Allahu akbar!” And, but of course, this is the fault of the twelve scribblers — not the Islamic gunmen.

The editorialists at the Financial Times wrote yesterday (via Mediaite):

This is not in the slightest to condone the murderers, who must be caught and punished, or to suggest that freedom of expression should not extend to satirical portrayals of religion. It is merely to say that some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo, and Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims, but are actually just being stupid.

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Constitutional Opinions

Sympathy for Oliver Wendell Holmes

By 1.8.15

Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court
By Damon Root
(Palgrave Macmillan, 288 pages, $28)

The sounds coming from the echo chamber suggest that Damon Root’s new book Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court has been an uncheckered success. On the book's cover Randy Barnett declares it

a riveting account of the raging debate over the future of our Constitution between those who contend that judges must ‘defer’ to legislatures and those who view the judiciary as an equal branch of government whose mandate is to secure the rights and liberties of the people by holding government to its just powers.

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Reader Mail

Is American Free Enterprise Poised to Rule Space?

1.7.15

America Aced in Space,” by Hal G.P. Colebatch (TAS, December 29, 2014) is an ill-conceived piece that doesn’t touch the most powerful force in space today — commercial efforts, the vast majority created, nurtured, and built by U.S. entrepreneurs. I cannot hope to correct Mr. Colebatch’s incorrect assertions in 700 words or less, but I can at least partially educate readers on the power of old-fashioned entrepreneurship.

It is factually wrong for Colebatch to say the United States “now depends on Russian rockets to get personnel and supplies to the International Space Station.… The American space program has become hostage to an increasingly surly and unfriendly Russia, whose commitment to supply and service the ISS only lasts to 2016, after which it will have the U.S. over a barrel.”

We’ll ignore the fact that surly and unfriendly Russia is committed to International Space Station (ISS) operations until at least 2020— not 2016.

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Eminentoes

At Least He’s Consistent — Eric Cantor Urges Timidity

By 1.7.15

After he left the ring, the late, great Sugar Ray Robinson became a hoofer. A reporter asked him once which he liked best, fighting or song and dance. The great one replied, with a smile befitting a champion, “I’ve found my métier.”

You can hardly blame him. Robinson probably drew much smaller crowds as a dancer. But he didn’t need a cut man. And he didn’t have Jake LaMotta or Gene Fullmer blowing their nasty breath in his face.

Former House Majority Leader, Eric “K-Street” Cantor, has apparently found his métier as well. And it’s yet another form of song and dance.

Defeated last June for nomination for a 13th term in Congress by conservative David Brat, Cantor is now a Wall Street investment banker. It would probably have been better for Cantor, for his Virginia congressional district, and for the republic if Cantor had gone into this fitting line of work earlier. He surely takes to it.

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Political Hay

Cuomo’s Impact

By 1.7.15

It is strange to hear pundits like E.J. Dionne hail the departed Mario Cuomo as a monument to conscience, since his most lasting legacy is the popularizing of political expediency. Cuomo explicitly argued against adherence to conscience. He counseled the religious to lighten up and accept our morally relativistic times.

His famous Notre Dame speech was an argument for the suspension of conscience in the name of “pluralism.” If a moral evil is politically popular, don’t challenge it, he in effect said.

“In addition to all the weaknesses, dilemmas and temptations that impede every pilgrim’s progress, the Catholic who holds political office in a pluralistic democracy -- who is elected to serve Jews and Muslims, atheists and Protestants, as well as Catholics -- bears special responsibility,” he said. “He or she undertakes to help create conditions under which all can live with a maximum of dignity and with a reasonable degree of freedom; where everyone who chooses may hold beliefs different from specifically Catholic ones -- sometimes contradictory to them; where the laws protect people’s right to divorce, to use birth control and even to choose abortion.”

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The Current Crisis

The Democratic Party Runs on Empty

By 1.7.15

As the Republicans settle into the House of Representatives and the Senate, with in the House’s case their largest margin in 86 years and in the Senate’s case about as healthy a margin as they could have gained in 2014, the talk in major media is of the Republicans’ many problems. As the Washington Post put it in a front-page headline, “Rancor in GOP flares….” The Democrats should suffer from such “rancor.”

I wonder how the local press is handling the Republicans’ takeover across the nation. Out there in the states the Republicans have gained control of 24 state governments, from the governors’ mansions to the state legislatures. The Democrats have only managed to hang on to similar dominance in seven states, down from 13 in 2014. Any way you look at it, these are palmy times for the Republicans, unless you are looking through the bloodshot eyes of a Democrat or a camouflaged Democrat, say, a member of the press corps.

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