Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 9, 2011

Is There Another Reason Vivian Schiller Was Ousted from NPR?

As John noted earlier today, NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller resigned her position this morning. It was widely assumed that she left because yesterday’s video sting was the second major controversy (after the Juan Williams firing) to occur at NPR under her watch.

But there may be a more pressing reason for her sudden departure, as well as an explanation for why ousted NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller prematurely resigned from a position he was about to take at the Aspen Institute. Newsmax spoke to the filmmaker behind the video sting, James O’Keefe, who told the magazine that he has even more damaging footage on NPR that’s about to drop:

There’s more video where that came from, says James O’Keefe, the muckraking activist behind TheProjectVeritas.org. The controversial video-sting impresario tells Newsmax that he’s prepared to release yet more embarrassing revelations about NPR, but first he wants to gauge NPR’s reaction to the bomb he dropped Tuesday.

In an exclusive Newsmax interview, O’Keefe says he’s waiting to see whether NPR comes clean “about what is going on” before he doles out more video. …

“We’re not done releasing footage,” O’Keefe told Newsmax in an exclusive interview Tuesday. “We have more investigative material that we’re going to release.

Could this just be bluster to keep the NPR executives off-balance? That’s possible — but it’s also characteristic of O’Keefe to release footage slowly, like he did with his ACORN sting tapes. NPR could have kept Vivian Schiller on board after the first video; but if there’s even more detrimental footage floating around, then the organization would have had no choice but to oust her immediately.

As John noted earlier today, NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller resigned her position this morning. It was widely assumed that she left because yesterday’s video sting was the second major controversy (after the Juan Williams firing) to occur at NPR under her watch.

But there may be a more pressing reason for her sudden departure, as well as an explanation for why ousted NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller prematurely resigned from a position he was about to take at the Aspen Institute. Newsmax spoke to the filmmaker behind the video sting, James O’Keefe, who told the magazine that he has even more damaging footage on NPR that’s about to drop:

There’s more video where that came from, says James O’Keefe, the muckraking activist behind TheProjectVeritas.org. The controversial video-sting impresario tells Newsmax that he’s prepared to release yet more embarrassing revelations about NPR, but first he wants to gauge NPR’s reaction to the bomb he dropped Tuesday.

In an exclusive Newsmax interview, O’Keefe says he’s waiting to see whether NPR comes clean “about what is going on” before he doles out more video. …

“We’re not done releasing footage,” O’Keefe told Newsmax in an exclusive interview Tuesday. “We have more investigative material that we’re going to release.

Could this just be bluster to keep the NPR executives off-balance? That’s possible — but it’s also characteristic of O’Keefe to release footage slowly, like he did with his ACORN sting tapes. NPR could have kept Vivian Schiller on board after the first video; but if there’s even more detrimental footage floating around, then the organization would have had no choice but to oust her immediately.

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Entire States Getting Waivers from ObamaCare

According to the Hill: “Maine health insurers are getting a temporary waiver from the health reform law’s requirement that they spend at least 80 percent of premiums on care, federal regulators decided Tuesday. Maine is the first state to get a waiver. Three other states — New Hampshire, Nevada and Kentucky — have pending waiver applications.”

So we’ve now gone from individual companies receiving wavers from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to entire states receiving waivers. How about if the entire country is granted a permanent waiver from ObamaCare?

According to the Hill: “Maine health insurers are getting a temporary waiver from the health reform law’s requirement that they spend at least 80 percent of premiums on care, federal regulators decided Tuesday. Maine is the first state to get a waiver. Three other states — New Hampshire, Nevada and Kentucky — have pending waiver applications.”

So we’ve now gone from individual companies receiving wavers from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to entire states receiving waivers. How about if the entire country is granted a permanent waiver from ObamaCare?

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The Jewish Federation, Theater J, and the Washington Jewish Week

A recent Forward article about the Washington Jewish Week’s sudden dismissal of a top editor generated a bit of a stir among the D.C. Jewish community last week. The report suggested that long-time editor Debra Rubin may have been terminated a few weeks ago because she published several articles that were critical of the D.C. chapter of the Jewish Federation — an organization that the new WJW ownership has close ties to:

Several sources, from within the paper and the Jewish community, say Rubin’s firing was a culmination of increasing friction with owners who sought greater influence over some editorial content. “They wanted it to be a federation mouthpiece,” said one of the sources, who, like others approached by the Forward, would not speak on the record.

It’s hard to know how much editorial power the D.C. federation has been exercising over the WJW since the new ownership took over, because sources both inside and outside the paper have been unwilling to speak about the situation on the record.

But whether or not politics played a role in Rubin’s termination, there are still members of the Jewish community who have expressed concerns about the federation’s involvement in the paper.

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who leads the National Synagogue in Washington, D.C., told me that he believes the new owners of the WJW “have wonderful motivation and intentions,” but added that “they have ended up doing something that ultimately won’t be helpful for the community. I don’t think the community deserves to lose an independent voice that has served as a check on the Federation.”

And a check on the D.C. federation is especially necessary right now. Recently, the organization has been reluctant to discuss its controversial funding of Theater J, a playhouse that has hosted misogynistic, anti-Israel, and borderline anti-Semitic productions. Read More

A recent Forward article about the Washington Jewish Week’s sudden dismissal of a top editor generated a bit of a stir among the D.C. Jewish community last week. The report suggested that long-time editor Debra Rubin may have been terminated a few weeks ago because she published several articles that were critical of the D.C. chapter of the Jewish Federation — an organization that the new WJW ownership has close ties to:

Several sources, from within the paper and the Jewish community, say Rubin’s firing was a culmination of increasing friction with owners who sought greater influence over some editorial content. “They wanted it to be a federation mouthpiece,” said one of the sources, who, like others approached by the Forward, would not speak on the record.

It’s hard to know how much editorial power the D.C. federation has been exercising over the WJW since the new ownership took over, because sources both inside and outside the paper have been unwilling to speak about the situation on the record.

But whether or not politics played a role in Rubin’s termination, there are still members of the Jewish community who have expressed concerns about the federation’s involvement in the paper.

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who leads the National Synagogue in Washington, D.C., told me that he believes the new owners of the WJW “have wonderful motivation and intentions,” but added that “they have ended up doing something that ultimately won’t be helpful for the community. I don’t think the community deserves to lose an independent voice that has served as a check on the Federation.”

And a check on the D.C. federation is especially necessary right now. Recently, the organization has been reluctant to discuss its controversial funding of Theater J, a playhouse that has hosted misogynistic, anti-Israel, and borderline anti-Semitic productions.

One of these plays, Seven Jewish Children, has been called a “10-minute blood-libel” by Melanie Phillips. “The underlying message is that the Jews who started out as victims of the Nazis — when they were Good, apparently, because they were Victims and even better were Dead Victims — then claimed the land of Israel out of a sense of their own superiority, dispossessed its rightful Arab inhabitants and ever since have set about killing them out of instincts of rapacious colonialism, hatred and blood-lust,” wrote Phillips.

Theater J has also staged the play Return to Haifa, which was written by a known Palestinian terrorist linked to the 1972 Lod Airport massacre. In 2008, the playhouse hosted comedian Sandra Bernhard, who told the audience that Sarah Palin would be “gang-raped by my big black brothers.” In addition, the theater’s director, Ari Roth, has represented Theater J at events sponsored by Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions organizations.

Despite the Theater J controversy — which has reportedly cost the D.C. federation donors — the organization has still defended its funding of the playhouse:

“The Washington [DC Jewish Federation] will present nearly 100 programs this year that deal with some aspect of Israeli life: some will make you proud, some will make you laugh, some will make you cry and many will make you think,” the Federation told the WJW. “Occasionally one might make you angry. But that is okay, so long as the conversation continues and we express our love for Israel by our honest engagement, through wrestling and hugging and through our ability to disagree civilly.”

But according to some prominent members of the D.C. Jewish community, the offensive content in the plays is far from OK.

“We can debate what the community’s priorities should be, but anti-Semitic theater presumably is not one of them,” Andrew Apostolou, who sits on the board of the D.C. Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), told me.

Apostolou, who made it clear that he wasn’t speaking on behalf of the federation-funded JCRC, said that the federation has declined to publicly debate its contributions to Theater J.

“The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is willing to have Theater J promote an anti-Semitic play in a public forum, but is not willing to debate this support in public,” he said. “For all the waffle from the federation supported DCJCC about ‘honest engagement’, they are remarkably reluctant to discuss the antics of Theater J publicly.”

That’s a problem the D.C. federation is going to have to address eventually — and we can only hope that the independent reporters at the Washington Jewish Week will still be able to call the organization out on it.

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Memo to Newt Gingrich: Seriously, Don’t Even Bother Running

Newt Gingrich today said the sort of thing that he sometimes says — the sort of thing that makes him unelectable, to put it mildly. Talking to David Brody of CBN, he suggested that his adulteries were the result of working too hard for his country:

“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” said Gingrich. “And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them.

“I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness. I do believe in a forgiving God. And I think most people, deep down in their hearts hope there’s a forgiving God. Somebody once said that when we’re young, we seek justice, but as we get older, we seek mercy. There’s something to that, I think. … Callista and I have a great marriage. I think that I’ve learned an immense amount. And I do feel, in that sense, that God has given me, has blessed me with an opportunity as a person.”

See, he worked far too hard because he loved his country too much and then he acted wrongly, but fortunately God forgives, plus God blessed him with an opportunity as a person.

I’d spend some time parsing this, seeking to show how he simultaneously takes responsibility and doesn’t take responsibility and how he actually praises himself when he’s supposedly criticizing himself. But what’s the point? He’s a fascinating, and occasionally brilliant, political thinker, but one thing the merciful and forgiving God who has so blessed him did not bestow upon Newt Gingrich was a sense of when to stop talking.

Newt Gingrich today said the sort of thing that he sometimes says — the sort of thing that makes him unelectable, to put it mildly. Talking to David Brody of CBN, he suggested that his adulteries were the result of working too hard for his country:

“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” said Gingrich. “And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them.

“I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness. I do believe in a forgiving God. And I think most people, deep down in their hearts hope there’s a forgiving God. Somebody once said that when we’re young, we seek justice, but as we get older, we seek mercy. There’s something to that, I think. … Callista and I have a great marriage. I think that I’ve learned an immense amount. And I do feel, in that sense, that God has given me, has blessed me with an opportunity as a person.”

See, he worked far too hard because he loved his country too much and then he acted wrongly, but fortunately God forgives, plus God blessed him with an opportunity as a person.

I’d spend some time parsing this, seeking to show how he simultaneously takes responsibility and doesn’t take responsibility and how he actually praises himself when he’s supposedly criticizing himself. But what’s the point? He’s a fascinating, and occasionally brilliant, political thinker, but one thing the merciful and forgiving God who has so blessed him did not bestow upon Newt Gingrich was a sense of when to stop talking.

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Ron Schiller ‘Resigns’ from New Aspen Institute Job Before It Even Begins

It’s only Wednesday, but we can probably already declare former NPR fundraising executive Ron Schiller the winner of the “Worst Week in Washington” contest. After being booted from his NPR job owing to the inflammatory comments he made about Zionists and conservatives on a sting video, he has now preemptively resigned/quit/been fired from his upcoming job at the Aspen Institute.

Here’s the Aspen Institute’s statement, via the Washington Examiner:

Ron Schiller has informed us that, in light of the controversy surrounding his recent statements, he does not feel that it’s in the best interests of the Aspen Institute for him to come work here.

While Schiller’s comments may not have been as offensive as recent ones made by Helen Thomas or John Galliano, they were still incredibly inappropriate. Fundraisers have to deal with crazy donors all the time, and most learn how to politely but firmly deflect odious statements made by them. There’s no doubt that the Aspen Institute wanted to get as far away from this NPR controversy as possible, but Schiller’s actions on the video also displayed a lack of professionalism that was probably just as disturbing to his potential employers.

And in related news, the Zionist Organization of America is one of the first Jewish groups to condemn Schiller’s remarks, but it looks like they missed the boat a bit. In a press release sent out at around 12:30 p.m. today, the organization “called for the resignation of National Public Radio (NPR) senior executive, Ron Schiller, after he was caught by concealed camera dining with two men posing as members of an American affiliate of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, nodding, agreeing with and not repudiating anti-Semitic remarks put to him by the two men.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which has been busy criticizing John Galliano and Charlie Sheen for anti-Semitic statements this week, also just e-mailed me a comment: “No matter the circumstances, raising false stereotypes about Jewish control of the media is dangerous and inappropriate. Mr. Schiller’s remarks were offensive and he should acknowledge his mistake and apologize.”

It will be interesting to see what other Jewish groups, if any, weigh in on the matter.

It’s only Wednesday, but we can probably already declare former NPR fundraising executive Ron Schiller the winner of the “Worst Week in Washington” contest. After being booted from his NPR job owing to the inflammatory comments he made about Zionists and conservatives on a sting video, he has now preemptively resigned/quit/been fired from his upcoming job at the Aspen Institute.

Here’s the Aspen Institute’s statement, via the Washington Examiner:

Ron Schiller has informed us that, in light of the controversy surrounding his recent statements, he does not feel that it’s in the best interests of the Aspen Institute for him to come work here.

While Schiller’s comments may not have been as offensive as recent ones made by Helen Thomas or John Galliano, they were still incredibly inappropriate. Fundraisers have to deal with crazy donors all the time, and most learn how to politely but firmly deflect odious statements made by them. There’s no doubt that the Aspen Institute wanted to get as far away from this NPR controversy as possible, but Schiller’s actions on the video also displayed a lack of professionalism that was probably just as disturbing to his potential employers.

And in related news, the Zionist Organization of America is one of the first Jewish groups to condemn Schiller’s remarks, but it looks like they missed the boat a bit. In a press release sent out at around 12:30 p.m. today, the organization “called for the resignation of National Public Radio (NPR) senior executive, Ron Schiller, after he was caught by concealed camera dining with two men posing as members of an American affiliate of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, nodding, agreeing with and not repudiating anti-Semitic remarks put to him by the two men.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which has been busy criticizing John Galliano and Charlie Sheen for anti-Semitic statements this week, also just e-mailed me a comment: “No matter the circumstances, raising false stereotypes about Jewish control of the media is dangerous and inappropriate. Mr. Schiller’s remarks were offensive and he should acknowledge his mistake and apologize.”

It will be interesting to see what other Jewish groups, if any, weigh in on the matter.

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Do We Intervene in Libya? The Answer Is Never a Simple One.

In his column today, George Will — a skeptic concerning American intervention in Libya — asks a series of questions he says all interventionists should answer, including whether Libya is a vital national interest; will a no-fly zone be effective or decisive; and if grounding Colonel Qaddafi’s aircraft is a humanitarian imperative, why isn’t protecting his enemies from ground attacks?

Those questions are legitimate ones. There are counter-arguments to Will’s position, of course, including ones offered up by Bret Stephens and James Thomas and Zachary Cooper.

In any event, one thing that strikes me is that one’s views on American military intervention often depend on the model to which one looks. In modern times, is it Grenada, Panama, Sierra Leone, the first Gulf War, Iraq in 2003, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Beirut, or Libya (President Reagan bombed Libya in 1986 in response to the bombing of the La Belle discothèque in West Berlin)?

George Will is himself an interesting case study. In 2002, he was a strong supporter for intervening in Iraq, telling Charlie Rose on October 8, 2002, that Read More

In his column today, George Will — a skeptic concerning American intervention in Libya — asks a series of questions he says all interventionists should answer, including whether Libya is a vital national interest; will a no-fly zone be effective or decisive; and if grounding Colonel Qaddafi’s aircraft is a humanitarian imperative, why isn’t protecting his enemies from ground attacks?

Those questions are legitimate ones. There are counter-arguments to Will’s position, of course, including ones offered up by Bret Stephens and James Thomas and Zachary Cooper.

In any event, one thing that strikes me is that one’s views on American military intervention often depend on the model to which one looks. In modern times, is it Grenada, Panama, Sierra Leone, the first Gulf War, Iraq in 2003, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Beirut, or Libya (President Reagan bombed Libya in 1986 in response to the bombing of the La Belle discothèque in West Berlin)?

George Will is himself an interesting case study. In 2002, he was a strong supporter for intervening in Iraq, telling Charlie Rose on October 8, 2002, that

we believe, with reason, that democracy’s infectious. We’ve seen it. We saw it happen in Eastern Europe. It’s just — people reached a critical mass of mendacity under those regimes of the East block, and it exploded. And I do believe that you will see [in the Middle East] a ripple effect, a happy domino effect, if you will, of democracy knocking over these medieval tyrannies . . . Condoleezza Rice is quite right. She says there is an enormous condescension in saying that somehow the Arab world is just not up to democracy. And there’s an enormous ahistorical error when people say, “Well, we can’t go into war with Iraq until we know what postwar Iraq’s going to look like.” In 1942, a year after Pearl Harbor, did we have a clear idea what we were going to do with postwar Germany? With postwar Japan? Of course not. We made it up as we went along, and we did a very good job.

Will added, “You know, regime change didn’t just arise as a subject recently. We did it in Grenada, Panama, Serbia. Would the world be better off if Milosevic were back in Serbia? Noriega in Panama? I don’t think so.”

Mr. Will has clearly changed his views in fairly fundamental ways in the aftermath of Iraq. That’s fine; he would probably argue that he’s adjusted his outlook in light of new evidence and circumstances. My point is that the historical examples most of us look to often reaffirm our predispositions rather than shape our views. We are inclined to act one way or the other based probably on a complicated set of reasons we’re not even fully aware of. George Will was in favor of intervention in Iraq in 2002, so to support his stance, he cited Grenada, Panama, and Serbia as successes. He’s against intervening in Libya in 2011, so he invokes mission creep, Somalia, “Black Hawk Down,” and the complexity of Libya’s tribal society.

The truth is that no model is precise, and some can be downright misleading. Every circumstance is different. No one can anticipate all the contingencies. Sometimes interventions are easier than one imagines, and sometimes they are harder. And presidents and their advisers are like everyone else; they have biases in one direction or another. But they know, or at least they should know, that their actions can trigger a chain reaction that is often beyond their ability to anticipate or control. We often live in times of mist and shadows, yet decisions must still be made.

Do we intervene in Libya or not? The answer is never as simple as it appears.

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NGO Monitor Launches ‘BDS Sewer System’ to Combat ‘Israel Apartheid Week’

As leftist college activists gear up to celebrate Israel Apartheid Week (which, the Jerusalem Post notes, puzzlingly runs for two weeks from March 7 to March 20), NGO Monitor has launched an interactive website called the “BDS Sewer System” to help shed some light on the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement:

Israeli Apartheid Week, an effort by groups and activists supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel to discredit it and label it an “apartheid state,” kicked off Monday in many cities and college campuses worldwide.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, the group NGO Monitor has announced its efforts to combat Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) with the “BDS Sewer System” which provides detailed information, in graphic form, on the sources of delegitimization campaigns against Israel.

“This ‘Sewer System’ map details and explains the complex network of non-governmental organizations and their funders that lead this campaign,” NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg told the Jerusalem Post. “Most importantly, it is a tool for students to demonstrate the illiberal and ‘anti-human rights’ nature of the movements they face on campus.”

The BDS movement is often misleadingly portrayed as a “grassroots” campaign. In fact, as the BDS Sewer System map points out, the movement is actually top-down. Foreign governments, the European Union, and foundations like the New Israel Fund often help finance activist NGOs that organize individual boycott campaigns, which often involve community or campus activist groups.

While BDS doesn’t do much damage to Israel from an economic standpoint, it does have a political impact because it promotes the delegitimization of the Jewish state. That’s why it’s important to have tools — like the BDS Sewer System — that explain who is propping up the movement, and why.

As leftist college activists gear up to celebrate Israel Apartheid Week (which, the Jerusalem Post notes, puzzlingly runs for two weeks from March 7 to March 20), NGO Monitor has launched an interactive website called the “BDS Sewer System” to help shed some light on the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement:

Israeli Apartheid Week, an effort by groups and activists supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel to discredit it and label it an “apartheid state,” kicked off Monday in many cities and college campuses worldwide.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, the group NGO Monitor has announced its efforts to combat Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) with the “BDS Sewer System” which provides detailed information, in graphic form, on the sources of delegitimization campaigns against Israel.

“This ‘Sewer System’ map details and explains the complex network of non-governmental organizations and their funders that lead this campaign,” NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg told the Jerusalem Post. “Most importantly, it is a tool for students to demonstrate the illiberal and ‘anti-human rights’ nature of the movements they face on campus.”

The BDS movement is often misleadingly portrayed as a “grassroots” campaign. In fact, as the BDS Sewer System map points out, the movement is actually top-down. Foreign governments, the European Union, and foundations like the New Israel Fund often help finance activist NGOs that organize individual boycott campaigns, which often involve community or campus activist groups.

While BDS doesn’t do much damage to Israel from an economic standpoint, it does have a political impact because it promotes the delegitimization of the Jewish state. That’s why it’s important to have tools — like the BDS Sewer System — that explain who is propping up the movement, and why.

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Re: NPR Funding

I certainly agree with John that it’s a good day when Vivian Schiller gets the boot from NPR. She should have been fired for her grotesque remark regarding Juan Williams last fall. And I also agree that NPR and Public Broadcasting would be much better off if they no longer got public funding. The whole raison d’être for publicly funded radio and television disappeared well over 20 years ago as cable television began to eat broadcast television’s lunch.

But how to wean NPR and PBS off of the public teat? Michael Barone suggests a way: do what the National Trust for Historic Preservation did in 1995 and ask to lose funding. When the Republicans took Congress in 1994, the National Trust was on their hit list. Dick Moe, the head of the trust, went to Congress and proposed a three-year transition period while the trust developed private sources of support.

In retrospect, Moe has said, it was the best thing that could have happened to his organization. It prompted the National Trust to reach out to citizens and donors who shared its vision. And it allowed the organization to take politically controversial stands without fear of political retribution.

The National Trust is thriving today. It has undertaken major projects, like a splendid restoration of James Madison’s home Montpelier. It publishes a first-rate magazine. It has developed a large constituency of contributors … who appreciate its work. It does not have to do the bidding of political masters.

Today the National Trust spends $82 million a year on preserving the country’s vast historical heritage without a dime of federal support. NPR and PBS, with two of the biggest megaphones in the country at their disposal, could raise far more than that. (Especially if they got rid of those unendurable begathons in which they cancel all the good shows, substitute dreck, and then interrupt the dreck every 20 minutes to do the verbal equivalent of the Chinese water torture to plead for money and offer tote bags.)

The handwriting is on the wall, and NPR and PBS would do themselves a big favor by reading it.

I certainly agree with John that it’s a good day when Vivian Schiller gets the boot from NPR. She should have been fired for her grotesque remark regarding Juan Williams last fall. And I also agree that NPR and Public Broadcasting would be much better off if they no longer got public funding. The whole raison d’être for publicly funded radio and television disappeared well over 20 years ago as cable television began to eat broadcast television’s lunch.

But how to wean NPR and PBS off of the public teat? Michael Barone suggests a way: do what the National Trust for Historic Preservation did in 1995 and ask to lose funding. When the Republicans took Congress in 1994, the National Trust was on their hit list. Dick Moe, the head of the trust, went to Congress and proposed a three-year transition period while the trust developed private sources of support.

In retrospect, Moe has said, it was the best thing that could have happened to his organization. It prompted the National Trust to reach out to citizens and donors who shared its vision. And it allowed the organization to take politically controversial stands without fear of political retribution.

The National Trust is thriving today. It has undertaken major projects, like a splendid restoration of James Madison’s home Montpelier. It publishes a first-rate magazine. It has developed a large constituency of contributors … who appreciate its work. It does not have to do the bidding of political masters.

Today the National Trust spends $82 million a year on preserving the country’s vast historical heritage without a dime of federal support. NPR and PBS, with two of the biggest megaphones in the country at their disposal, could raise far more than that. (Especially if they got rid of those unendurable begathons in which they cancel all the good shows, substitute dreck, and then interrupt the dreck every 20 minutes to do the verbal equivalent of the Chinese water torture to plead for money and offer tote bags.)

The handwriting is on the wall, and NPR and PBS would do themselves a big favor by reading it.

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Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Speaking at NIAC Event

Recently, two State Department officials were invited to speak at a seminar on Iranian sanctions sponsored by the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) and oil and gas companies that could profit from sanctions being lifted. NIAC, of course, is the pro-Iranian-regime lobbying group that claims to represent the Iranian American community, when in fact it has fewer than 500 members.

And now, in the latest sign that the State Department is forging a closer bond with NIAC, the deputy assistant secretary of state is listed as a speaker at one of the organization’s upcoming events on human rights.

Other speakers at the March 15 conference include the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Sarah Leah Whitson, the Human Rights Watch official who was recently criticized for writing credulous reports of Muammar Qaddafi’s “human rights reforms” over the past few years. Needless to say, Whitson may not be the best judge of the human-rights situation in Iran.

And for that matter, neither is NIAC. The organization’s president, Trita Parsi, who was accused of skirting lobbying rules in 2009, has been a defender of the Iranian regime and has lobbied to lift U.S. sanctions against the country.

Recently, two State Department officials were invited to speak at a seminar on Iranian sanctions sponsored by the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) and oil and gas companies that could profit from sanctions being lifted. NIAC, of course, is the pro-Iranian-regime lobbying group that claims to represent the Iranian American community, when in fact it has fewer than 500 members.

And now, in the latest sign that the State Department is forging a closer bond with NIAC, the deputy assistant secretary of state is listed as a speaker at one of the organization’s upcoming events on human rights.

Other speakers at the March 15 conference include the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Sarah Leah Whitson, the Human Rights Watch official who was recently criticized for writing credulous reports of Muammar Qaddafi’s “human rights reforms” over the past few years. Needless to say, Whitson may not be the best judge of the human-rights situation in Iran.

And for that matter, neither is NIAC. The organization’s president, Trita Parsi, who was accused of skirting lobbying rules in 2009, has been a defender of the Iranian regime and has lobbied to lift U.S. sanctions against the country.

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NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller Is Out; NPR Should Be, Too

A day after the release of a hit video in which National Public Radio’s chief fundraiser trashed conservatives, Republicans, Tea Party activists, and Israel in pursuit of a phantom $5 million gift from activists posing as members of the Muslim Brotherhood, NPR’s board has ousted the news organization’s head, Vivian Schiller. Ms. Schiller, who joined NPR in 2009, has been at the helm through the two greatest embarrassments in NPR history — the outrageous firing and subsequent trashing of Juan Williams for the unspeakable crime of saying he was frightened when he saw men in Muslim garb in airports and now this amazing video. Controversy of any kind is the last thing NPR needs, as it seeks to keep its federal funding during a era in which budget cutting has become the order of the day. But what this entire incident reveals is, simply, that NPR would be better off separating itself from the federal government and becoming a private nonprofit. It certainly would; indeed, there’s every reason to believe it could thrive as a for-profit radio network for the most part. NPR presents an undeniably remarkable but ideologically skewed news and talk agenda, and as a public trust, its internal behavior is an entirely appropriate subject for public discussion and journalistic stings. As a private institution, that would not be the case.

NPR raises nearly $800 million a year; the federal government’s support accounts for only 10 percent of its budget. The now-ousted Schiller claimed in a speech last week that it needs those federal dollars to “leverage” its private support, but that’s absurd — chances are the common knowledge of its federal funding somewhat depresses its fundraising possibilities. If its new head and the organization’s board announced their intention to get off the public teat, NPR could certainly begin an endowment drive in the hundreds of millions of dollars that would throw off sufficient annual cash to defray the loss of federal dollars. They’d better be considering it, because the budget crisis isn’t going anywhere, and that $90 million it gets from the feds is going to disappear at some point.

A day after the release of a hit video in which National Public Radio’s chief fundraiser trashed conservatives, Republicans, Tea Party activists, and Israel in pursuit of a phantom $5 million gift from activists posing as members of the Muslim Brotherhood, NPR’s board has ousted the news organization’s head, Vivian Schiller. Ms. Schiller, who joined NPR in 2009, has been at the helm through the two greatest embarrassments in NPR history — the outrageous firing and subsequent trashing of Juan Williams for the unspeakable crime of saying he was frightened when he saw men in Muslim garb in airports and now this amazing video. Controversy of any kind is the last thing NPR needs, as it seeks to keep its federal funding during a era in which budget cutting has become the order of the day. But what this entire incident reveals is, simply, that NPR would be better off separating itself from the federal government and becoming a private nonprofit. It certainly would; indeed, there’s every reason to believe it could thrive as a for-profit radio network for the most part. NPR presents an undeniably remarkable but ideologically skewed news and talk agenda, and as a public trust, its internal behavior is an entirely appropriate subject for public discussion and journalistic stings. As a private institution, that would not be the case.

NPR raises nearly $800 million a year; the federal government’s support accounts for only 10 percent of its budget. The now-ousted Schiller claimed in a speech last week that it needs those federal dollars to “leverage” its private support, but that’s absurd — chances are the common knowledge of its federal funding somewhat depresses its fundraising possibilities. If its new head and the organization’s board announced their intention to get off the public teat, NPR could certainly begin an endowment drive in the hundreds of millions of dollars that would throw off sufficient annual cash to defray the loss of federal dollars. They’d better be considering it, because the budget crisis isn’t going anywhere, and that $90 million it gets from the feds is going to disappear at some point.

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Public Union Reform Continues

Public-union reform has been temporarily stymied in Wisconsin, where the walkout of Democratic senators has brought democratic government to a halt and demonstrations in and around the Capitol have monopolized media attention. But reform is proceeding apace in other states.

In Idaho yesterday, the state House passed a bill 48-22 that eliminates teacher tenure, removes such issues as class size and workloads from collective bargaining, limits teacher contracts to one year, and eliminates seniority as the basis for layoffs. The bill, which earlier passed the Senate by a smaller margin, now goes to Governor Butch Otter, who is expected to sign it. (Could even Dickens have come up with a better name for the Republican governor of Idaho than Butch Otter?)

A tough reform bill, which affects all public employees, not just teachers, has passed the Ohio Senate and is expected to pass the House and be signed by Governor John Kasich. Iowa, Michigan, Florida, and other states are moving on public-union reform as well.

Wisconsin is getting all the attention, but public-service-union reform is happening in other states. I have no doubt it will happen in Wisconsin as well.

Public-union reform has been temporarily stymied in Wisconsin, where the walkout of Democratic senators has brought democratic government to a halt and demonstrations in and around the Capitol have monopolized media attention. But reform is proceeding apace in other states.

In Idaho yesterday, the state House passed a bill 48-22 that eliminates teacher tenure, removes such issues as class size and workloads from collective bargaining, limits teacher contracts to one year, and eliminates seniority as the basis for layoffs. The bill, which earlier passed the Senate by a smaller margin, now goes to Governor Butch Otter, who is expected to sign it. (Could even Dickens have come up with a better name for the Republican governor of Idaho than Butch Otter?)

A tough reform bill, which affects all public employees, not just teachers, has passed the Ohio Senate and is expected to pass the House and be signed by Governor John Kasich. Iowa, Michigan, Florida, and other states are moving on public-union reform as well.

Wisconsin is getting all the attention, but public-service-union reform is happening in other states. I have no doubt it will happen in Wisconsin as well.

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BBC Poll Points the Way for Israeli PR

Aside from avoiding outrageous gaffes, is there anything Israel can do to improve its miserable public relations? The BBC poll Alana cited this week, which once again showed Israel to be one of the world’s least-popular countries, actually points the way: Israel must start making a long-term investment in cultivating ties with Russia, China, and India.

Clearly, Jerusalem shouldn’t delude itself that it can change the hostile policies of these countries’ current governments. Indeed, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s effort to “reset” Israel’s relations with Moscow has failed spectacularly; Russia’s decision to sell cruise missiles to Syria is merely the latest example.

But as the unrest now sweeping the Arab world amply proves, authoritarian governments don’t last forever. Someday, the autocratic regimes in Russia and China will fall, and Israel must prepare for that day now by cultivating ties with the Russian and Chinese peoples — not merely because both countries are superpowers, but because, as the poll showed, they are actually Israel’s best prospects for future allies.

According to the poll, the countries with “the most positive view of Israel were the United States, Russia, Ghana, and China.” At first glance, that is shocking. One would expect Israel to draw the most support from other Western democracies, not the Russian and Chinese autocracies. But in reality, it’s eminently natural. Read More

Aside from avoiding outrageous gaffes, is there anything Israel can do to improve its miserable public relations? The BBC poll Alana cited this week, which once again showed Israel to be one of the world’s least-popular countries, actually points the way: Israel must start making a long-term investment in cultivating ties with Russia, China, and India.

Clearly, Jerusalem shouldn’t delude itself that it can change the hostile policies of these countries’ current governments. Indeed, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s effort to “reset” Israel’s relations with Moscow has failed spectacularly; Russia’s decision to sell cruise missiles to Syria is merely the latest example.

But as the unrest now sweeping the Arab world amply proves, authoritarian governments don’t last forever. Someday, the autocratic regimes in Russia and China will fall, and Israel must prepare for that day now by cultivating ties with the Russian and Chinese peoples — not merely because both countries are superpowers, but because, as the poll showed, they are actually Israel’s best prospects for future allies.

According to the poll, the countries with “the most positive view of Israel were the United States, Russia, Ghana, and China.” At first glance, that is shocking. One would expect Israel to draw the most support from other Western democracies, not the Russian and Chinese autocracies. But in reality, it’s eminently natural.

In Russia’s case, a million Russian-speakers have immigrated to Israel since 1991, one-seventh of Israel’s total population, and the strong network of cultural and interpersonal ties they have created provides a natural springboard on which to build. The two countries also share a common threat: Islamic terrorism.

In China’s case, both countries are products of ancient civilizations that place a strong emphasis on education and family ties. Indeed, Chinese curiosity about Judaism has been surging; it shouldn’t be hard to translate that into interest in Israel. Unfortunately, Israel has yet to reciprocate this interest; it remains focused almost exclusively on the West.

As for India, it was one of the few countries in the poll where positive views of Israel outweighed negative ones. The absolute numbers (21 percent positive, 18 percent negative) were lower than in Russia or China, but that merely means more Indians are still undecided.

Despite its lack of a Security Council seat, India is clearly one of the world’s up-and-coming powers by dint of sheer size. Like Israel, it faces a major security threat from Islamic terror; like Israel, it is proud of its dual identity as both an ancient civilization and a flourishing modern democracy. For historical reasons, it was traditionally in the pro-Arab camp, but that has begun changing in recent years. Yet while Israel has invested some effort in improving ties with India, it has not invested nearly enough.

The silver lining in the BBC poll is that despite Israel’s current grim international situation, it potentially has some powerful natural allies down the road. But to actualize this potential, Israel must begin making the necessary investments now. Come the Russian and Chinese revolutions, it will already be too late.

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John Stuart Mill on Mercenaries in Libya

It’s not clear whether Muammar Qaddafi is importing mercenaries to help him (further) crush his own people. The Christian Science Monitor is inclined to credit the reports, while Human Rights Watch argues that the allegations are unconfirmed and arise from Qaddafi’s efforts to promote civil equality in Libya (no, really, that’s what they say).

Given that Qaddafi has employed mercenaries in the past and has nothing to lose from employing them now, there is no reason to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even if he is not importing mercenaries, he is clearly using up a lot of ammunition, and though his stockpiles may be large, they cannot be unlimited. It would cost us very little to seek to cut him off from resupply of both men and material. Max Boot has made the case for a no-fly zone over Libya. But there’s an even better case to be made for trying to make sure Qaddafi can’t draw on resources outside Libya. John Stuart Mill’s essay on nonintervention is relevant: Read More

It’s not clear whether Muammar Qaddafi is importing mercenaries to help him (further) crush his own people. The Christian Science Monitor is inclined to credit the reports, while Human Rights Watch argues that the allegations are unconfirmed and arise from Qaddafi’s efforts to promote civil equality in Libya (no, really, that’s what they say).

Given that Qaddafi has employed mercenaries in the past and has nothing to lose from employing them now, there is no reason to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even if he is not importing mercenaries, he is clearly using up a lot of ammunition, and though his stockpiles may be large, they cannot be unlimited. It would cost us very little to seek to cut him off from resupply of both men and material. Max Boot has made the case for a no-fly zone over Libya. But there’s an even better case to be made for trying to make sure Qaddafi can’t draw on resources outside Libya. John Stuart Mill’s essay on nonintervention is relevant:

But the case of a people struggling against a foreign yoke, or against a native tyranny upheld by foreign arms, illustrates the reasons for non-intervention in an opposite way; for in this case the reasons themselves do not exist. A people the most attached to freedom, the most capable of defending and of making a good use of free institutions, may be unable to contend successfully for them against the military strength of another nation much more powerful. To assist a people thus kept down, is not to disturb the balance of forces on which the permanent maintenance of freedom in a country depends, but to redress that balance when it is already unfairly and violently disturbed. The doctrine of non-intervention, to be a legitimate principle of morality, must be accepted by all governments. The despots must consent to be bound by it as well as the free States. Unless they do, the profession of it by free countries comes but to this miserable issue, that the wrong side may help the wrong, but the right must not help the right. Intervention to enforce non-intervention is always rightful, always moral, if not always prudent.

True, the foreign assistance — if it exists — in the case of Libya is not the kind contemplated by Mill. This is not Russia intervening to crush liberalism in the Austrian Empire. It is assistance that will flow because of Libyan payoffs, or foreign neglect, or simple lack of foreign concern. But that makes the case for action stronger, because — unlike the no-fly zone — we risk nothing by seeking to stop it.

The U.S. should be working with its allies to warn the states of north and central Africa — and others, but the African states are the most likely sources of assistance — that any cooperation with Qaddafi, or any evidence they looked the other way, will be viewed with extreme disfavor and lead to public denunciations, the reduction or elimination of aid, and further steps if warranted. With the administration now (finally) committed publicly to the idea that Qaddafi has to go, it is literally the least we could do.

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