Liberal efforts to end state aid to religious schools were made more difficult today with the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn (you can download a .pdf of the ruling here). The conservative majority ruled that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to sue. They had sought to end an Arizona program that gives taxpayers a state tax credit of up to $500 for donations to scholarship programs for students at private schools, including those specifically intended to help religious schools
Those who sued the state were not in any way injured by the tax credit given to others, the court said, and thus they had no standing. Although the broadly popular credit is similar to programs in other states, teachers’ unions and other liberal groups who are offended by religious schools’ receiving even indirect aid opposed it. They prevailed in the Arizona Supreme Court and the 9th Federal Circuit but were beaten at the Supreme Court.
While the issue appears to be the traditional tilt between extreme church-state separationists and those who hold that state aid for private and religious schools is both constitutional and good public policy, the issue was actually decided on a slightly different point: does even a state credit in which the taxpayer gets to keep more of his money to spend as he likes constitute an government allocation of funds?
The Israeli government has asked for the report to be withdrawn, but the JTA reports that for such a request to be considered, it would have to be made by Justice Richard Goldstone himself:
Richard Goldstone would have to ask the United Nations on behalf of his committee to rescind its report on Israel’s actions during the 2009 Gaza war to set such an action in motion, a U.N. spokesman said.
The U.N. Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report, has not received such a request, The Associated Press reported Monday.
After admitting that the report’s charges against Israel are inaccurate, Goldstone would seem to have an ethical responsibility to ask for it to be rescinded. But the awkwardness of such a request might make him hesitant. The Israeli government will have to petition him as persuasively as possible on this issue.
Of course, there’s no reason to think a withdrawal of the report will change the mind of the most vehement anti-Israel activists, who cling to it delusionally even after it’s been debunked, universally condemned, and recanted by its author. Even if Goldstone does make the request, at least one of the members of his “fact-finding” mission in Gaza seems prepared to fight Goldstone on the issue.
“[N]o process or acceptable procedure would invalidate the UN Report,” Hina Jilani of Pakistan told the Middle East Monitor; “if it does happen, it would be seen as a suspect move.”
Here, in the words of one Libyan rebel leader, is what’s happening in Libya since the U.S. has embraced that global panacea, and virtue of virtues, multilateralism:
“There’s a delay in reacting and lack of response to what’s going on on the ground, and many civilians have died and they couldn’t react to protect them,” the official, Ali al-Essawi, the foreign policy director of the National Transitional Council, said in an interview on Monday in Rome.
Mr. Essawi said the problems began after NATO took charge of the air campaign from the United States, Britain and France, and that he now foresaw a long, drawn-out battle with NATO at the helm.
Many pundits maintain that, today, America not only should act multilaterally in all foreign-policy endeavors, but that it must do so. This is the line pushed by very popular foreign-policy establishment figures, and it has to do with clever notions like “soft power” and the “post-American world.” It’s very cute in a takes-a-global-village kind of way. That it’s also perilous seems not to concern Barack Obama. By handing over the direction of the Libya campaign, Obama is placing the promotion of a popular narrative (America as the humbled ex-superpower) above both American interests and humanitarian responsibilities.
Both Obama and his advisor Samantha Power like to talk about the “stain” that would be left on our consciences should America allow Qaddafi to massacre his people. Powerful stuff, no doubt. Yet, when those very people explicitly request American – not NATO – leadership, the administration is content to soothe its conscience with self-congratulations about multilateralism. If the campaign against Qaddafi fails because of the White House’s coalition fetish, Obama will have to account for betraying his appeals to our collective morality with his insistence on promoting a popular anti-American narrative. There’s no pleading multilateralism after deadly defeat.
The budget that Representative Paul Ryan will unveil tomorrow will be unprecedented in its scope, its reach, and its structural reforms. He, along with his House colleagues, will have passed the test for political courage. Rather than avoiding entitlements, House Republicans take them on directly–including the main cause of our fiscal crisis, Medicare. All told, Ryan will propose cuts greater than $4 trillion from federal spending over the next decade.
Now comes a civic test of sorts. What will be the American public’s reaction to the plan that Ryan presents? Will they rally behind it, or rebel against it?
SMEAR is a familiar graffiti tag seen in Los Angeles. It is the painter Cristian Gheorghiu’s “outlaw persona.” Last month the Los Angeles Times reported that Gheorghiu has been sued by the City. Not, however, for damages related to the removal of his street art or for the repair of damaged property—been there, done that—but for the work he is now doing, paintings on canvas. Gheorghiu describes himself as being rehabilitated and his studio work proves it. The city counters that his past criminal activities act as “free publicity, giving him an unfair advantage over legitimate artists—a violation of [California] laws governing fair competition.”
But where does that leave the Presidential court painter, Chris Fairey, creator of the tiresome and ubiquitous Hope poster? Last year the New York Times reported that Fairey had been arrested on an outstanding warrant from 2000 related to his images’ being pasted on a railroad trestle. He pleaded not guilty and was released. Fairey may or may not have been rehabilitated since then, but on his website can still be found instructions for an Urban Renewal Kit, which includes designs that can be printed out and stuck up wherever the user wants. If his stickers end up defacing property, proving that Fairey is the one responsible will be virtually impossible. Even so, he provides the means and the method for free and public advertising on his behalf. Perhaps the City of Los Angeles should consider changing the names on its charges.
Bernard Lewis, one of the world’s preeminent scholars on Islam, is neither sanguine nor gloomy about events unfolding in the Arab world. He is, rather, uncertain. “I think that the tyrannies are doomed,” he tells Bari Weiss of the Wall Street Journal. “The real question is what will come instead.”
Professor Lewis describes himself as “delighted” by the popular movements and believes that the U.S. should do all it can to bolster them. But he also warns against insisting on Western-style elections in Muslim lands:
Most Americans have lost faith in President Obama’s leadership, and the administration seems to be desperately trying to fix that. According to the Politico, the White House is concerned that the war is undermining Obama’s self-portrait as an “economic commander-in-chief fighting a series of new threats to the fragile U.S. recovery, especially the devastating and politically poisonous rise in gas prices”:
Obama staffers have made it clear to Democratic allies they are worried about the effect of Libya on their economic message and that one of the factors pushing the administration to hand over control of military operations is the perception that the president is more focused on the Middle East than on Middle America.
How impatient is this administration? Only a few weeks into the war in Libya, and already they sound as if they’re growing tired of it.
But it does seem likely that Obama is eager to refocus on domestic challenges. Released today, his first reelection video didn’t contain a single mention of any issues–foreign or domestic. It’s not hard to see why: his approval rating on the economy has remained below 40 percent since early 2010, and his sole political success–healthcare–is viewed negatively by the majority of Americans.
Over the past week, Americans have continued to lose confidence in President Obama’s national security performance. According to the latest Rasmussen poll, 40 percent of likely voters now disapprove of how the president has handled national security, while 37 percent approve. That is a significant dip from last week when 34 percent of voters disapproved, while 43 percent approved.
And Obama’s address on Libya apparently didn’t help matters:
President Obama’s address doesn’t appear to have made voters more confident about his handling of the situation in Libya, nor has it made them feel more strongly that Libya is important to U.S. national security. Just 27% of voters say Libya is important to our nation’s national security, while 48% disagree.
It’s important to keep in mind that voters disapprove of the president’s performance, but not necessarily of the intervention in Libya. A plurality of Americans approve of the military action, according to a recent Gallup poll. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been closely associated with the war in Libya, has a record-high approval rating of 66 percent.
Ynet is reporting this morning that Judge Richard Goldstone offered the New York Times his retraction of the scurrilous United Nations report about Israel’s Gaza war, but that the Grey Lady turned him down. The op-ed by Goldstone disavowing the major conclusions of his report was first published on the Washington Post’s website on Friday night. The Times took notice of the retraction a day later.
The Ynet report is short on details. It is not clear whether the Times was given the first shot at the piece or if the paper was merely asked to run it on the same day as the Washington Post. But if, as seems far more likely, the Times flatly rejected Goldstone’s retraction, its editors have got a lot of explaining to do.
As riots continue to spread through Afghanistan, members of congress are debating whether to issue an official condemnation of Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who recently burned a copy of the Koran. Islamic leaders used the Koran-burning incident to incite the protests, which have already killed 22 UN workers:
U.S. lawmakers said Sunday they would consider a request by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to formally condemn a Florida pastor’s decision to burn the Koran, after the act triggered deadly riots in Afghanistan.
The protests entered their third day Sunday as demonstrators battled police in the southern city of Kandahar and, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, blocked a highway and burned an effigy of President Obama.
Burning the Koran is uninspired, disrespectful, and adds little to the public discourse. But it’s also a perfectly legitimate and legal form of expression–a reality that seems to have irked some lawmakers.
Sen. Harry Reid said that the incident might have to be investigated by the senate. “We’ll take a look at this of course. . . . As to whether we need hearings or not, I don’t know,” he said on Face the Nation yesterday.
Yesterday on Face the Nation Bob Schieffer made a moving statement on the nature of truth, how it’s always the best way, and in any event, will win out in the end so you might as well tell it from the start. Good advice.
On the same program, of course, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid told a pack of lies, and Schieffer didn’t challenge any of them. You can watch the interview here, but there’s little need to. It’s the usual everything-is-the-Republicans’-fault boilerplate. The Daily Caller details the howlers that Schieffer let Reid get away with here.
But I was struck by one thing Reid said: “We, during the Clinton years, reduced the debt for four years. We paid down the debt, we know how to do this, but we don’t do it on the backs of middle-class Americans.”
Reid is referring to the budget “surpluses” for 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. But we didn’t “pay down” the debt in those years; we increased it.
No sooner had an earthquake and tsunami unleashed a series of events that led to disaster for a Japanese nuclear reactor than Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey planned to erect nuclear power stations in an earthquake zone.
If a disaster occurred in Japan, if it is likely in Iran, why not have Turkey make the same mistake for a third time? “We are now counting the months, even weeks, before we start our project with Russia for the nuclear plant at Akkuyu [in Mersin, on the Mediterranean],” Erdogan told reporters last month.
Alas, not only would the reactor be vulnerable to the devastating earthquakes which strike Turkey every decade or so, but Turkish construction is notoriously shoddy. No worries, though. “There is no investment without risk,” Erdogan helpfully explained. When Erdogan rushes the state into a massive construction project, it usually involves pushing contracts toward his son-in-law’s Calik Holding. But as long as it enriches Erdogan and his family, what’s a few tens of thousands dead? If the worst-case scenario happens, if a natural disaster, PKK terrorism, or simple incompetence destroys Erdogan’s nuclear power plant, one thing is certain. He’ll find a way to blame the Jews.
Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann is generally viewed by liberals as yet another not-ready-for-primetime Republican Tea Partier. The front-page New York Times feature about her today, however, treats her possible presidential candidacy with great seriousness, especially since she seems to have a leg up in the crucial Iowa caucuses.
Bachmann, who has been beating the bushes in the Hawkeye State recently, is a native Iowan and thus can claim native daughter status as well as being from a neighboring state. And though, as the Times notes, she is not liked or respected by the GOP Congressional leadership, she has been impressing voters on the hustings. Admittedly, the standard by which she is being judged is not a high one. Most of the praise for Bachmann seems to be that she is more substantial than Sarah Palin.
One part of her stump speech, as the Times reports, has the leftist blogosphere worked up.
The lede in the New York Times follow-up to the Goldstone retraction first published on its website on Sunday afternoon spoke volumes about the paper’s difficulty in grasping the international assault on Israel. Rather than focus on the embarrassment of the foreign-funded leftist NGOs that trumpeted slanders about Israel’s counter-attack against Gaza-based terrorism, the paper had this to say: “Israel grappled on Sunday with whether a retraction by a United Nations investigator regarding its actions in the Gaza war two years ago could be used to rehabilitate its tarnished international image or as preemptive defense in future military actions against armed groups.”
The answer to the question is so obvious that it hardly even needs to be asked. Of course, the retraction of inaccurate and inflammatory accusations ought to bolster the country’s reputation. Since Goldstone’s lies were the United Nations-funded legal prop that served as the foundation for false charges of Israeli war crimes, why wouldn’t Israel and its foreign friends seek to give the recantation at least as much publicity as the international press gave the original report?
Even to ask the question you would have to believe that any effort on Israel’s part to defend itself against terror attacks deliberately aimed at civilians is somehow wrong.
But as to whether the damage Goldstone did can be completely undone, that is a thornier query.