In spite of the growing calls for a moment of silence in honor of the 11 Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the head of the International Olympic Committee said yesterday that he would not alter his determination to refuse to allow the issue to intrude upon the opening ceremonies of the London Games this Friday. Jacques Rogge said yesterday that it “was not fit” for a commemoration of Munich to be included in the gala start to the global athletic extravaganza.
This week, President Obama added his voice to those already calling for a moment of silence at the ceremony. Perhaps even more importantly, Bob Costas, NBC television’s Olympic host, has said that he will impose his own moment of silence on the coverage of the event when the Israeli team enters the stadium:
“I intend to note that the IOC denied the request,” Costas said. “Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive. Here’s a minute of silence right now.”
Costas deserves great deal of credit for not allowing the IOC’s desire to keep the memory of Munich out of sight during the games (Rogge said he will attend a ceremony honoring the Munich victims in Germany next week). But while he finds the refusal to simply devote one minute to remembrance “puzzling,” there is no mystery about it. Rogge has called requests for such a memorial “political.” While there is nothing political about recalling the terrorist attack, by that he means that many of the participating nations are not comfortable highlighting a crime committed by Palestinians or honoring the memory of Israeli Jews. As historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote this past week, the controversy is more proof that in the eyes of the world, spilled Jewish blood remains a cheap commodity.
President Obama’s apologists continue to trumpet the notion that his reliance on diplomacy and sanctions is the best route to stopping Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons. Though the partial oil embargo is making the lives of ordinary Iranians a bit more difficult, the sanctions are so riddled with holes that they are not proving much of a deterrent to the Iranian oil industry’s plans for foreign ventures let alone being enough to force Tehran to give up its nuclear ambition. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, the West’s “crippling sanctions” are not stopping an Iranian energy company from making a bid on a French oil refinery.
Iran’s Tadbir Energy is being allowed to bid on the Petit-Couronne refinery, which supplies fuel to Paris. According to the Journal it refines approximately ten percent of the country’s energy. But since Tadbir is not owned by the Iranian government it may wind up taking control of the refinery whose previous Swiss owner has gone belly up. The Imam Khomeini Foundation controls Tadbir, one of Iran’s biggest philanthropies whose close ties with the Islamist regime can easily be imagined. Though the financial restrictions on dealing with Iran and its central bank will complicate Tadbir’s administration of the plant, France’s government, which has been an ardent advocate of sanctions, is not blocking the bid. While this potential transaction is not as significant as the exemptions granted by the Obama administration to China and India to go on purchasing Iranian oil, it is one more sign not only of the widespread evasion of the sanctions but that the Iranians believe they can be waited out.
This week’s winner of the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up contest is undoubtedly a front-page story in this morning’s New York Times. When New York art dealer Ileana Sonnabend died in 2007, she left her children a fabulous collection of modern art valued at $1 billion. Her children have already paid $471 million in estate taxes on the collection, being forced to sell off most of it to meet the bill. (This is a beautiful example, by the way, of why estate taxes should be abolished and replaced with a capital gains tax on inherited assets—the collection, an artistic whole in itself, had to be destroyed to pay the taxes due.)
But there is one item in the collection, a work by Robert Rauschenberg that cannot be sold. It contains a stuffed bald eagle and under the terms of the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the 1918 Migratory Bird Act, it is a felony to “possess, sell, purchase, barter, transport, import or export any bald eagle — alive or dead.” The estate, advised by three experts, including one from Christie’s, therefore, valued the work at zero. The IRS decided it was worth $65 million, and is demanding $29.2 million in taxes and $11 million in penalties because the heirs “inaccurately” stated its value.
The trouble, of course, is that the heirs didn’t inaccurately state its value. Anything that cannot, for whatever reason, be sold, is worth zero by economic definition. The value of anything is only what someone else is willing to pay for it. And to pay a dime for this particular artwork would be to commit a federal felony. To sell it for a dime would be to commit a federal felony.
When Brian Ross and George Stephanopolous speculated about the possibility that the tragedy was the work of a Tea Party member on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday they were probably saying aloud what most of the mainstream liberal media was thinking at the time. ABC has apologized for this irresponsible comment but now that it’s become clear that a mentally disturbed person with no apparent political agenda committed the tragedy, many on the left have fallen back on the trope that more gun control measures might have prevented the crime and are venting their frustration about the fact that the American people have little interest in more gun laws.
It is an article of faith on the left that banning certain types of weapons and making it more difficult to obtain all firearms will deter or prevent crime. The best we can say of this belief is that it is an unproven assumption. True or not, it’s clear the majority of Americans believe that government interference with gun rights scares them more than random acts of violence by the insane. But it is interesting that few seem to be speaking about a far more obvious conclusion that could be drawn from Aurora: the need to focus more attention on treating and preventing mental illness. But the problem with promoting that far more germane and productive line of inquiry is that it serves no one’s political interest.