Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 11, 2013

Why They Won’t Talk About Kermit Gosnell

In 2011, the journalist Mara Hvistendahl published Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, detailing the societal effects of sex-selective abortions that target women the world over and resulted in the absence of perhaps more than 100 million girls who by now should have been born. But Hvistendahl soon learned the downside to uncovering what many believe to be a shocking trend in human rights offenses: people will want to do something about it. And so she lashed out, declaring that “anti-abortion activists have been at work in a disingenuous game, using the stark reduction of women in the developing world” to argue for pro-life policies that could save those women.

Hvistendahl’s plaint recalled the incredible work of Edwin Black, most notably his book War Against the Weak, which detailed the role American eugenics played in the monstrous ethnic cleansing in Europe in the 20th century culminating in the Holocaust. One of the most important personalities in this terrible saga was the eugenicist Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood. Yet like Hvistendahl, Black was concerned about the implications of what he had uncovered. In the introduction, he writes: “Opponents of a woman’s right to choose could easily seize upon Margaret Sanger’s eugenic rhetoric to discredit the admirable work of Planned Parenthood today; I oppose such misuse.”

But what Black and Hvistendahl betray in their defensiveness is an awareness that an ideology that supports unlimited (or practically unlimited) abortion has consequences, and those consequences are exacerbated immensely by the fact that the supposedly “progressive” practitioners of such an ideology resort to the denial of human life where it obviously exists. To dehumanize is to invite a world of trouble. And that world of trouble unfortunately empowers evil such as that displayed by the “doctor” Kermit Gosnell, who stands accused of using his Philadelphia abortion practice to provide what is essentially child execution by killing babies who survive an abortion procedure and are born alive.

Read More

In 2011, the journalist Mara Hvistendahl published Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, detailing the societal effects of sex-selective abortions that target women the world over and resulted in the absence of perhaps more than 100 million girls who by now should have been born. But Hvistendahl soon learned the downside to uncovering what many believe to be a shocking trend in human rights offenses: people will want to do something about it. And so she lashed out, declaring that “anti-abortion activists have been at work in a disingenuous game, using the stark reduction of women in the developing world” to argue for pro-life policies that could save those women.

Hvistendahl’s plaint recalled the incredible work of Edwin Black, most notably his book War Against the Weak, which detailed the role American eugenics played in the monstrous ethnic cleansing in Europe in the 20th century culminating in the Holocaust. One of the most important personalities in this terrible saga was the eugenicist Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood. Yet like Hvistendahl, Black was concerned about the implications of what he had uncovered. In the introduction, he writes: “Opponents of a woman’s right to choose could easily seize upon Margaret Sanger’s eugenic rhetoric to discredit the admirable work of Planned Parenthood today; I oppose such misuse.”

But what Black and Hvistendahl betray in their defensiveness is an awareness that an ideology that supports unlimited (or practically unlimited) abortion has consequences, and those consequences are exacerbated immensely by the fact that the supposedly “progressive” practitioners of such an ideology resort to the denial of human life where it obviously exists. To dehumanize is to invite a world of trouble. And that world of trouble unfortunately empowers evil such as that displayed by the “doctor” Kermit Gosnell, who stands accused of using his Philadelphia abortion practice to provide what is essentially child execution by killing babies who survive an abortion procedure and are born alive.

The details of Gosnell’s alleged actions are more than unpleasant; they are damned-near soul scarring. And they are coming out because he is on trial for them, because what he is accused of is murder.

You may not have heard much about Gosnell’s case. That’s because the mainstream press has chosen by and large to ignore it. There is no area of American politics in which the press is more activist or biased or unethical than social issues, the so-called culture wars. And the culture of permissive abortion they favor has consequences, which they would rather not look squarely at, thank you very much. The liberal commentator Kirsten Powers has written a tremendous op-ed in USA Today on Gosnell and the media blackout. Powers writes of the gruesome admissions that Gosnell’s former employees are making in court, some of which amount to “literally a beheading” and other stomach-turning descriptions. On the media’s refusal to inform the public, Powers writes:

A Lexis-Nexis search shows none of the news shows on the three major national television networks has mentioned the Gosnell trial in the last three months. The exception is when Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan hijacked a segment on Meet the Press meant to foment outrage over an anti-abortion rights law in some backward red state.

The Washington Post has not published original reporting on this during the trial and The New York Times saw fit to run one original story on A-17 on the trial’s first day. They’ve been silent ever since, despite headline-worthy testimony….

You don’t have to oppose abortion rights to find late-term abortion abhorrent or to find the Gosnell trial eminently newsworthy. This is not about being “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” It’s about basic human rights.

The media should be ashamed beyond description for this behavior. The American left should come to terms with what it means to talk about a human life as if it were a parasite, or merely a clump of cells. And they should most certainly stop lecturing the rest of us on compassion, on pity, on social obligation, on morality.

Powers is right when she says the alleged revelations about Gosnell “should shock anyone with a heart.” Which is precisely what the press is avoiding.

Read Less

Overstating the North Korean Threat

Does Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s untested new dictator, want a war? He certainly sounds like it with his constant stream of threats against South Korea and the United States. His mouthpiece has even been warning foreign embassies to evacuate Seoul because a “thermonuclear war” is supposedly about to break out. But Kim is not crazy and he is certainly not suicidal. He must know that an all-out war would end in the destruction of his regime and his likely death. No more watching basketball with Dennis Rodman, if that were to happen.

So while he may launch some missiles toward open waters or undertake other provocative acts against South Korea, he is unlikely to restart an all-out Korean war. Following the playbook written by his father, Kim Jong-il, he simply wants to pressure South Korea and the U.S. into making concessions that will enhance his regime–and he believes the more blood-curdling his threats, the greater likelihood there is that the West will cave in.

Read More

Does Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s untested new dictator, want a war? He certainly sounds like it with his constant stream of threats against South Korea and the United States. His mouthpiece has even been warning foreign embassies to evacuate Seoul because a “thermonuclear war” is supposedly about to break out. But Kim is not crazy and he is certainly not suicidal. He must know that an all-out war would end in the destruction of his regime and his likely death. No more watching basketball with Dennis Rodman, if that were to happen.

So while he may launch some missiles toward open waters or undertake other provocative acts against South Korea, he is unlikely to restart an all-out Korean war. Following the playbook written by his father, Kim Jong-il, he simply wants to pressure South Korea and the U.S. into making concessions that will enhance his regime–and he believes the more blood-curdling his threats, the greater likelihood there is that the West will cave in.

It is a mystery why a Republican congressman would want to help Kim to terrorize the West, but that is just what happened at a House Intelligence Committee hearing today. CNN noted in breathless style: “A study just completed by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency says North Korea may have nuclear weapons that could be delivered by ballistic missiles, a congressman said Thursday. The revelation came from Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, during a House Intelligence Committee hearing.”

Actually, on closer examination there is lot less here than meets the eye. The very next paragraph quotes Lamborn as follows: “Quoting from the unclassified portion, which I believe has not yet been made public, they say, quote, ‘DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivering by ballistic missiles. However, the reliability will be low.’ “

Moderate confidence… low reliability…. Why is Lamborn publicizing such a tenuous finding issued by one intelligence agency and apparently not supported by the rest of the intelligence community?

In fact, while it’s possible that North Korea has made greater advances than hitherto realized, the general view of outside analysts is that it has not yet figured out how to produce atomic warheads for ballistic missiles. But with his threats to attack the U.S. and launch a “thermonuclear war,” Kim Jong-un would like us to believe his WMD program is more advanced than it actually is–a task that Lamborn is unwittingly helping the North Korean dictator to achieve.

Read Less

So Much for Diplomacy; Iran Doubles Down on Nuclear Work

In case the West didn’t get the message last week during the latest round of the P5+1 nuclear talks, Iran is making sure President Obama and other leaders understand that they mean what they say about their determination to pursue their nuclear ambitions. Reuters reports that yesterday on what the Islamist regime calls National Nuclear Technology Day, Tehran announced that operations had begun at two uranium mines and a milling plant. If that wasn’t enough to set off alarms in Washington as well as in Jerusalem, the Iranians also made it clear they had no intention of stopping the refinement of high-grade enrichment uranium that could be used for bombs.

Western negotiators had arrived at the talks in Kazakhstan last week hopeful about a positive Iranian response to concessions made at the previous session in February. But when the Iranians ignored the Western proposals—which would have loosened sanctions and allowed them to keep a nuclear program in exchange for stopping uranium enrichment—they were “puzzled.” But the Iranian strategy isn’t much of a mystery. They believe they can continue to stonewall the West by running out the diplomatic clock until they get their bomb.

Read More

In case the West didn’t get the message last week during the latest round of the P5+1 nuclear talks, Iran is making sure President Obama and other leaders understand that they mean what they say about their determination to pursue their nuclear ambitions. Reuters reports that yesterday on what the Islamist regime calls National Nuclear Technology Day, Tehran announced that operations had begun at two uranium mines and a milling plant. If that wasn’t enough to set off alarms in Washington as well as in Jerusalem, the Iranians also made it clear they had no intention of stopping the refinement of high-grade enrichment uranium that could be used for bombs.

Western negotiators had arrived at the talks in Kazakhstan last week hopeful about a positive Iranian response to concessions made at the previous session in February. But when the Iranians ignored the Western proposals—which would have loosened sanctions and allowed them to keep a nuclear program in exchange for stopping uranium enrichment—they were “puzzled.” But the Iranian strategy isn’t much of a mystery. They believe they can continue to stonewall the West by running out the diplomatic clock until they get their bomb.

The commencement of mining at the two new facilities as well as the milling plant won’t mean anything in the short-term rush to produce a weapon, but it shows Iran is in the nuclear business for the long hall. The yellowcake or raw uranium derived from the mines is desperately needed as their supply of material is limited. While Reuters says the uranium at the Saghan and the Ardakan mines is low-grade and expensive, it will nevertheless expand their stores of the mineral in the face of international sanctions that have made it difficult to procure it elsewhere. While these mines cannot supply Iran’s needs indefinitely, they could be enough to keep their program going and keep them relatively self-sufficient until they obtain a small stock of nuclear weapons that would change the strategic equation in the region.

The timing of the announcement is also telling.

By demonstrating that it has no intention of either slowing the refinement of existing stores of uranium at its underground mountain bunker facility at Fordow, as well as by working to keep their centrifuges supplied with yellowcake in the future only days after leaving Western diplomats looking foolish in Almaty, Iran is showing that it isn’t bluffing about persevering in the face of economic sanctions. Moreover, by once again humiliating the West in the talks, the Iranians are also announcing that they don’t take President Obama’s threats seriously about there being a limited window of time for diplomacy to succeed and that all options, including the use of military force, are on the table.

If Iran truly believed the U.S. was prepared to use force to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, they might be seriously negotiating rather than repeating their pattern of using diplomacy as a delaying tactic. While President Obama has been escalating his rhetoric about Iran in the last year as he has ruled out containment as a strategy and vowed repeatedly never to allow it to gain a weapon, he has continued to pursue a diplomatic solution. While experts differ as to whether the a tipping point will be reached in months or a year before it will be difficult, if not impossible, to stop the Iranian program, there’s no doubt time is rapidly running out and the P5+1 talks are doing nothing but giving the Iranians confidence that they can indefinitely string out their negotiating partners.

The nuclear day events in Tehran are just one more indication that the moment of truth is fast approaching when the president will be forced to either make good on his vows or implement the same dangerous containment scenarios that he has already said would be too dangerous to contemplate.

Read Less

NPR Outlet: Liberal Group Taped McConnell

The mainstream media and liberal commentators have been claiming that the source that gave a tape recording of a campaign strategy meeting held in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Louisville office had to be a GOP insider, and mocked the assertion that this constituted another Watergate. But today a Kentucky NPR outlet may have started to break the story open in a way that will give no comfort to McConnell’s Democratic detractors.

According to WFPL News, a member of the local Democratic County Committee is claiming that two members of Progress Kentucky—the group that has targeted McConnell before and which he claimed might be responsible for the incident—bragged to him that they were the ones who made the recording. Jacob Conway said Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, the founders of Progress Kentucky, managed to get into the building where McConnell’s office is located and then taped the campaign meeting from the hallway, perhaps by putting a recording device at the door. The Democrat, who repeated his accusations on Fox News this afternoon, says he is speaking about the group because he feared their activities would be associated with his party.

If true, and reports are now also saying that FBI are pulling surveillance tapes of the building, then what we are talking about here is nothing less than a crime. Far from McConnell crying wolf, as Chris Matthews claimed yesterday, the Watergate analogy may actually turn out to be entirely accurate.

Read More

The mainstream media and liberal commentators have been claiming that the source that gave a tape recording of a campaign strategy meeting held in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Louisville office had to be a GOP insider, and mocked the assertion that this constituted another Watergate. But today a Kentucky NPR outlet may have started to break the story open in a way that will give no comfort to McConnell’s Democratic detractors.

According to WFPL News, a member of the local Democratic County Committee is claiming that two members of Progress Kentucky—the group that has targeted McConnell before and which he claimed might be responsible for the incident—bragged to him that they were the ones who made the recording. Jacob Conway said Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, the founders of Progress Kentucky, managed to get into the building where McConnell’s office is located and then taped the campaign meeting from the hallway, perhaps by putting a recording device at the door. The Democrat, who repeated his accusations on Fox News this afternoon, says he is speaking about the group because he feared their activities would be associated with his party.

If true, and reports are now also saying that FBI are pulling surveillance tapes of the building, then what we are talking about here is nothing less than a crime. Far from McConnell crying wolf, as Chris Matthews claimed yesterday, the Watergate analogy may actually turn out to be entirely accurate.

The principle here is one that both parties ought to condemn not just because it is a crime to record a person without his consent in this manner but also because acts of political espionage are a direct attack on our democratic system.

For much of the last three years we’ve heard non-stop complaints about the abusive nature of Tea Party rhetoric and the way the political right has supposedly dragged political discourse in this country down. The mainstream media has played this tune often and loud in spite of numerous instances of liberal incivility. But what has happened in Kentucky isn’t merely rude; it is a sign that the left has taken political warfare to a completely new level of aggressiveness.

Progress Kentucky is, after all, the same group that made offensive and racist tweets about the ethnicity of McConnell’s wife. Now they may have engaged in the kind of political espionage that brought down the Nixon administration. Its time for the same liberal outlets that have been talking about the Tea Party’s alleged offenses to stop ignoring McConnellgate.

Read Less

Toomey and the Tone Deaf Gun Lobby

Yesterday, Larry Pratt, the head of Gun Owners of America, told CNN that his group would be looking to find a Republican to challenge Senator Pat Toomey in 2016. The group, which is to the right of the National Rifle Association, spoke for some on the right who are angry about Toomey’s decision to join with Democrat Joe Manchin to create a compromise on background checks for gun purchases that would close the gun show loophole while exempting sales or exchanges between family members. The proposed amendment to the legislation that Senate Democrats have presented for debate falls far short of the gun control ideas presented by the administration. But it still goes too far for absolutists who are so afraid of a slippery slope toward abrogation of Second Amendment rights that they are prepared to oppose any bill that so much as mentions guns, even if it doesn’t limit the right to own for those who are neither criminals nor mentally ill.

Toomey is taking plenty of flak for crafting the compromise. The grousing on the far right will only be fed by a Politico story that paints his decision to work with Manchin to moderate the bill up before the Senate as a prudent political decision based on a need to shift a bit to the center for his 2016 re-election race. But any assumption that Toomey’s shift on background checks will endanger his hold on his party’s nomination three years from now is ridiculous. The notion that support for background checks will be enough to fuel a primary challenge to Toomey ignores the fact that it is virtually impossible to get to Toomey’s right on fiscal or social issues as well as his history as the standard-bearer of conservatives against a genuine RINO, the late Arlen Specter.

Rather than an indication that Republicans ought to fear any deviation from the line set by the NRA and its allies, the knee-jerk reaction to Toomey’s move on background checks only reinforces the impression that the gun lobbies really are hopelessly out of touch not only with the general public but with Republicans. As with much of the pro-gun movement’s moves since the Newtown massacre, the attacks on Toomey show a tone deafness that will encourage liberals who think the NRA and company are on the decline.

Read More

Yesterday, Larry Pratt, the head of Gun Owners of America, told CNN that his group would be looking to find a Republican to challenge Senator Pat Toomey in 2016. The group, which is to the right of the National Rifle Association, spoke for some on the right who are angry about Toomey’s decision to join with Democrat Joe Manchin to create a compromise on background checks for gun purchases that would close the gun show loophole while exempting sales or exchanges between family members. The proposed amendment to the legislation that Senate Democrats have presented for debate falls far short of the gun control ideas presented by the administration. But it still goes too far for absolutists who are so afraid of a slippery slope toward abrogation of Second Amendment rights that they are prepared to oppose any bill that so much as mentions guns, even if it doesn’t limit the right to own for those who are neither criminals nor mentally ill.

Toomey is taking plenty of flak for crafting the compromise. The grousing on the far right will only be fed by a Politico story that paints his decision to work with Manchin to moderate the bill up before the Senate as a prudent political decision based on a need to shift a bit to the center for his 2016 re-election race. But any assumption that Toomey’s shift on background checks will endanger his hold on his party’s nomination three years from now is ridiculous. The notion that support for background checks will be enough to fuel a primary challenge to Toomey ignores the fact that it is virtually impossible to get to Toomey’s right on fiscal or social issues as well as his history as the standard-bearer of conservatives against a genuine RINO, the late Arlen Specter.

Rather than an indication that Republicans ought to fear any deviation from the line set by the NRA and its allies, the knee-jerk reaction to Toomey’s move on background checks only reinforces the impression that the gun lobbies really are hopelessly out of touch not only with the general public but with Republicans. As with much of the pro-gun movement’s moves since the Newtown massacre, the attacks on Toomey show a tone deafness that will encourage liberals who think the NRA and company are on the decline.

Opponents of background checks take the position that even bills as anodyne as that proposed by Manchin and Toomey are just the first step toward an eventual push to ban guns. That may be what liberals hope will happen, but the reality of the gun debate is that this compromise is as much as they are getting either now or in the near future.

Rather than being co-opted by a left that is using him as a stalking horse for their desire to gut the Second Amendment, what Toomey has done is to co-opt them. By passing a background check bill, Republicans could defuse an issue that President Obama and the Democrats hope to use against them in 2014 without endangering gun rights.

Moreover, since the only people who will be prevented from obtaining weapons as a result of this law would be criminals and the mentally ill, its hard to argue with Toomey’s assertion that this isn’t really a gun control measure in any meaningful sense of the term.

But by opposing Toomey rather than understanding that this idea is the key to spiking a debate that is trending against them, the NRA and gun rights advocates have become the carbon copy of NARAL and other pro-abortion groups. Just as the NRA will fight even the most reasonable gun proposals, NARAL and their friends are willing to fight to the death to prevent even common sense restrictions on abortion, up to and including infanticide.

I understand that Second Amendment supporters fear that this is the thin edge of the wedge that liberals hope to parlay into future proposals about banning types of weapons or ammunition. But they fail to see that by passing a bill that will not meaningfully restrict gun ownership they can prevent Obama and Biden’s desire for bans from being implemented while also preventing Democrats from claiming they prevented legislation that represents a national consensus on the issue from becoming law.

Toomey won’t have an easy time of it in 2016, when he will be hard-pressed to duplicate his narrow 51-49 percent victory over liberal Democrat Joe Sestak in blue Pennsylvania. But his decision to deviate from the NRA line won’t be an obstacle to his re-nomination or his return to the Senate. More to the point, he is pointing the way for congressional Republicans—many of who don’t have Toomey’s conservative credentials—to find a way out of the trap liberals are setting for them on guns.

Read Less

Minority Voters and the GOP: Rand Paul’s Third Way

When confronted with the Republican Party’s poor standing among minority communities, GOP politicians have usually taken one of two approaches: claim these communities constitute “natural conservative constituencies” or advocate a broad change in policy or ideology to attract minority voters. Neither one of these tactics has been effective, for various reasons–chief among those reasons is that the communities under consideration are usually not “natural conservative constituencies.”

Take Hispanics, for example. It is often noted by GOP politicians that Hispanic immigrants are hard-working, family-oriented strivers who tend to be religious. That may be true, but polls showed that while Mitt Romney was generally trusted on the economy more than Barack Obama, Hispanics overwhelmingly trusted Obama on the economy. Whether or not Hispanics share a cultural or social conservatism with the GOP, then, becomes basically irrelevant. I wrote about one poll here that showed 73 percent of Hispanics preferred Obama to Romney on the economy, and 73 percent planned to vote for Obama. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Read More

When confronted with the Republican Party’s poor standing among minority communities, GOP politicians have usually taken one of two approaches: claim these communities constitute “natural conservative constituencies” or advocate a broad change in policy or ideology to attract minority voters. Neither one of these tactics has been effective, for various reasons–chief among those reasons is that the communities under consideration are usually not “natural conservative constituencies.”

Take Hispanics, for example. It is often noted by GOP politicians that Hispanic immigrants are hard-working, family-oriented strivers who tend to be religious. That may be true, but polls showed that while Mitt Romney was generally trusted on the economy more than Barack Obama, Hispanics overwhelmingly trusted Obama on the economy. Whether or not Hispanics share a cultural or social conservatism with the GOP, then, becomes basically irrelevant. I wrote about one poll here that showed 73 percent of Hispanics preferred Obama to Romney on the economy, and 73 percent planned to vote for Obama. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Conservatives also tried to convince themselves that since black voters were generally disapproving toward gay marriage, they would gravitate toward the GOP. But when it came to national elections, black voters weren’t basing their choices on gay marriage, and now African-American opposition to gay marriage is dropping anyway.

But there is a third way, in fact, to try to appeal to minority voters, and it was typified in Rand Paul’s speech to the predominantly black Howard University yesterday. This strategy may not work either, but it is certainly worth trying. Paul’s third way had two elements. The first, and obvious, one is to show up in the first place. Conservatives cannot expect minority voters to come to them; if you want someone’s vote, you have to prove it–and earn it.

In the Washington Post’s wrap-up of the 2012 presidential election, the paper noted that Paul Ryan, on the ticket as the vice presidential nominee, apparently “had wanted to talk about poverty, traveling to inner cities and giving speeches that laid out the Republican vision for individual empowerment.” The Romney campaign, according to the Post’s sources, was unconvinced. But Ryan had the right idea. (Rand Paul’s speech at Howard raises the question of why Ryan isn’t giving those speeches now that he’s no longer restrained by the top of a presidential ticket.)

As Romney’s disastrous “47 percent” remarks showed, if you appear utterly uninterested in someone’s vote, you’re probably not going to get it. But the second part of Paul’s approach at Howard, and the identifying element of his third way, has to do with policy. When Republicans address the issue of minority voters, they often come off as condescending. They tend to hold that minority voters simply don’t know that they should obviously be voting Republican, or that if they repeat the same message enough it’ll get through–both of which suggest ignorance on the part of the voter being addressed.

But as Rand Paul found out yesterday, these voters quite often do follow the policy fights in Washington and know exactly where they stand on the issues. Luckily, Paul came prepared. Though the students were skeptical of much of what Paul had to say, he did receive cheers for his advocacy of reforming mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenders. Mandatory minimums take sentencing discretion out of the hands of judges and often result in wildly disproportionate sentences that have a disparate impact on the black community.

About three weeks ago, Paul and Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy introduced a bill that would provide a “safety valve” for drug sentencing, allowing the judge in some cases to levy far less jail time when the circumstances call for leniency. Additionally, while Paul doesn’t favor full legalization of marijuana, he is stridently opposed to the way those who use the drug are prosecuted. In a recent appearance on Fox News Sunday, Paul said:

Look, the last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use, and I really think, you know, look what would have happened, it would have ruined their lives. They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky. They don’t have good attorneys, and they go to jail for these things and I think it’s a big mistake.

When California proposed legalizing marijuana in 2010, polling showed it had the support of two-thirds of the state’s black voters, and an NAACP official called it “a civil rights issue.” Paul also supports school choice, which tends to attract support from the black community in both red and blue states.

Paul was far from embraced by the students at Howard yesterday. But Republicans have to start by showing up. It’s a low-risk proposition anyway, since it’s unlikely Paul’s third way will fare any worse than its predecessors.

Read Less

The President, His Budget, and the Poor

There is much one could say about President Obama’s Rose Garden statement on Wednesday announcing his FY 2014 budget. On the plus side, the president endorsed a “chained CPI”–a measure of inflation that is a more accurate way to factor rises in the cost of living into Social Security benefits. It’s a good idea, if quite a modest one (this Wall Street Journal editorial explains why there is less to it than meets the eye). And of course if the president really believed in a chained CPI, he would be a strong advocate for it rather than viewing it as a concession to Republicans. (Jay Carney, in this interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, concedes that a chained CPI is “is not preferred policy by this president.”)

In any event, the downsides of the record-setting $3.78 trillion budget overwhelm the upside. A quick summary of the budget can be found here, but here’s some of what you need to know: Over a 10-year period it would raise taxes by $1.1 trillion–on top of $1 trillion in taxes from the Affordable Care Act and more than $600 billion from the president’s recent tax hike. It increases spending by $964 billion. And it adds $8.2 trillion to our debt. The debt held by the public as a share of the economy is predicted to reach 78.2 percent in 2014–nearly double what it was in 2008.

Read More

There is much one could say about President Obama’s Rose Garden statement on Wednesday announcing his FY 2014 budget. On the plus side, the president endorsed a “chained CPI”–a measure of inflation that is a more accurate way to factor rises in the cost of living into Social Security benefits. It’s a good idea, if quite a modest one (this Wall Street Journal editorial explains why there is less to it than meets the eye). And of course if the president really believed in a chained CPI, he would be a strong advocate for it rather than viewing it as a concession to Republicans. (Jay Carney, in this interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, concedes that a chained CPI is “is not preferred policy by this president.”)

In any event, the downsides of the record-setting $3.78 trillion budget overwhelm the upside. A quick summary of the budget can be found here, but here’s some of what you need to know: Over a 10-year period it would raise taxes by $1.1 trillion–on top of $1 trillion in taxes from the Affordable Care Act and more than $600 billion from the president’s recent tax hike. It increases spending by $964 billion. And it adds $8.2 trillion to our debt. The debt held by the public as a share of the economy is predicted to reach 78.2 percent in 2014–nearly double what it was in 2008.

The Obama budget, then, continues the Obama project, which is to increase the size, the cost, and the reach of the federal government even as it continues to raise taxes. In that sense, it’s merely the latest extension of the progressive philosophy of President Obama.

But there’s another area worth focusing on: Poverty and care for the most vulnerable members of society. That was a repeated theme in Mr. Obama’s Rose Garden statement. The president said he would accept some ideas as part of a compromise–“if, and only if, they contain protections for the most vulnerable Americans.” He said “no one who works full-time should have to raise his or her family in poverty.” And the president said that unlike his opponents, “the people I feel for are the people who are directly feeling the pain of these [sequester] cuts–the people who can least afford it.” (Never mind the fact that the sequester idea originated with the president, not Republicans.)

The Obama message, then, is this: I care about the poor while Republican do not. The president, however, has a rather odd way of demonstrating his solidarity with the poor. To see why, it’s worth focusing not on a budget that will never be implemented but on conditions that touch real lives. For example, during the Obama years the U.S. has seen the highest poverty spike since the 1960s, leaving nearly 50 million Americans poor–including nearly 20 percent of the country’s children. The poverty rate has increased nearly every year of the Obama presidency (between 2011 and 2012 it was level). Income inequality has risen. Add to that the fact that the number of people on food stamps is at an all-time high of more than 47 million, compared to fewer than 31 million people on food stamps the month Obama was first elected.

Obama defenders will say that this is the result of the very nasty recession that hit the country in 2008, to which the response is (a) the recession officially ended the first summer of the president’s first term and (b) historically the worse the recession the stronger the recovery. Yet under Obama, we’ve experienced the weakest recovery since before the middle part of the last century. (Last Friday, amidst a terrible jobs report, we learned that the labor-force participation in March dropped to its lowest point since the late 1970s.) 

Now, I’m not inclined to blame every bit of bad news on the president or his policies (which is more than Mr. Obama ever did when it came to his predecessor). The problems plaguing our economy, and the causes of poverty, are deep and complicated. Still, the president’s economic policies have been, by any reasonable measure, a failure. And while many people have suffered because of it, none have suffered more than the most vulnerable members of our society.

The left likes to talk the compassion game. But it shouldn’t be too much to ask that progressives be judged by outcomes, not inputs; by real-world results, not rhetoric. By that standard, liberalism over the last several decades–from policies on welfare, crime and education to economics and family structure–has often done great and lasting harm to the poor. Conservatism is the best way to advance the common good. That is an argument more Republicans ought to think about making.

Read Less

ACLU More Islamist than the Islamists

British scholar Denis MacEoin points me to this article, which appeared yesterday in USA Today:

Lawyers for American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh asked a federal judge Wednesday to find the Federal Bureau of Prisons in contempt for not allowing Muslim inmates in a high-security Indiana prison unit to pray together five times a day, as required by their faith… The prisons agency has said inmates of all religions housed in the Terre Haute federal prison’s Communications Management Unit have been allowed to pray together three times daily after a federal judge ruled in Lindh’s favor in a lawsuit seeking the prayer time. The ACLU of Indiana argues that isn’t what Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson’s Jan. 11 ruling required. Magnus-Stinson said Lindh, 32, sincerely believes Islam mandates Muslims pray together five times a day and federal law requires the prison to accommodate his beliefs.

This is nonsense: There is no requirement in Islam that Muslims pray communally five times a day, or three times a day. Communal prayers are on Friday at noon so, if the ACLU was truly concerned about religious rights rather than shilling for terrorists, it would seek to ensure that the young murderer Mr. Lindh would be able to join such prayers once each week.

Read More

British scholar Denis MacEoin points me to this article, which appeared yesterday in USA Today:

Lawyers for American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh asked a federal judge Wednesday to find the Federal Bureau of Prisons in contempt for not allowing Muslim inmates in a high-security Indiana prison unit to pray together five times a day, as required by their faith… The prisons agency has said inmates of all religions housed in the Terre Haute federal prison’s Communications Management Unit have been allowed to pray together three times daily after a federal judge ruled in Lindh’s favor in a lawsuit seeking the prayer time. The ACLU of Indiana argues that isn’t what Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson’s Jan. 11 ruling required. Magnus-Stinson said Lindh, 32, sincerely believes Islam mandates Muslims pray together five times a day and federal law requires the prison to accommodate his beliefs.

This is nonsense: There is no requirement in Islam that Muslims pray communally five times a day, or three times a day. Communal prayers are on Friday at noon so, if the ACLU was truly concerned about religious rights rather than shilling for terrorists, it would seek to ensure that the young murderer Mr. Lindh would be able to join such prayers once each week.

As to the ACLU’s claim that Mr. Lindh’s sincere belief is more important than theology, perhaps the ACLU can advocate for my daughter’s right to have her own unicorn, because it is her sincere belief that unicorns are real.

It is not only ridiculous to try to bestow religious rights upon prisoners not found in their declared religion, but it is also strange that the ACLU in its zeal for advocacy would preference the most radical interpretations of religion over the reality of that religion. Alas, while the ACLU has a valuable role to play, it seems that this is one instance when it has chosen to prioritize politics above its own declared mission.

Read Less

Palestinians and the Western Wall

Five women were arrested today at the Western Wall as the dispute about the right of non-Orthodox Jews to conduct egalitarian services there continued. The confrontation that came, as it always does, on the first day of the Hebrew month displayed the usual nastiness as an Orthodox man was also arrested reportedly for trying to burn a prayer book of one of the Women of the Wall. But there were some hopeful signs that the compromise proposed by Jewish Agency chair Natan Sharansky won’t be opposed by Orthodox leaders. In particular, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the head of the Western Wall Foundation that currently runs things at the Wall, said he wouldn’t oppose Sharansky’s plan to expand the Western Wall Plaza so as to create another equally large space in which egalitarian services may be held.

Sharansky’s idea for creating “One Kotel for One People” based on the principles of access, equality and unity is a good one. If implemented, it would not only substantially improve the site; it would effectively end a long-running argument that serves only to alienate the majority of American Jews from Israel. But as I wrote yesterday, the real obstacle to this project is not the desire of some to keep the Wall functioning solely as an Orthodox synagogue rather than as a national shrine for all Jews. The problem is the willingness of Palestinians to use threats of violence to prevent any changes in the area. What I did not discuss fully yesterday was why exactly the Muslim religious authorities that control the Temple Mount compound above the Wall Plaza would care about stopping Jewish religious services. The answer goes to the heart of the Palestinian rejection of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem or any part of the country.

Read More

Five women were arrested today at the Western Wall as the dispute about the right of non-Orthodox Jews to conduct egalitarian services there continued. The confrontation that came, as it always does, on the first day of the Hebrew month displayed the usual nastiness as an Orthodox man was also arrested reportedly for trying to burn a prayer book of one of the Women of the Wall. But there were some hopeful signs that the compromise proposed by Jewish Agency chair Natan Sharansky won’t be opposed by Orthodox leaders. In particular, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the head of the Western Wall Foundation that currently runs things at the Wall, said he wouldn’t oppose Sharansky’s plan to expand the Western Wall Plaza so as to create another equally large space in which egalitarian services may be held.

Sharansky’s idea for creating “One Kotel for One People” based on the principles of access, equality and unity is a good one. If implemented, it would not only substantially improve the site; it would effectively end a long-running argument that serves only to alienate the majority of American Jews from Israel. But as I wrote yesterday, the real obstacle to this project is not the desire of some to keep the Wall functioning solely as an Orthodox synagogue rather than as a national shrine for all Jews. The problem is the willingness of Palestinians to use threats of violence to prevent any changes in the area. What I did not discuss fully yesterday was why exactly the Muslim religious authorities that control the Temple Mount compound above the Wall Plaza would care about stopping Jewish religious services. The answer goes to the heart of the Palestinian rejection of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem or any part of the country.

Any attempt to expand the area of the ancient remnant of the Second Temple will hinge on a renovation of the Mugrabi Bridge, a ramp that allows access to the Temple Mount from the area around the Wall. As I noted previously, Muslims reacted to an Israeli plan to repair that facility with threats of violence even though it would have been to their benefit. They did the same thing in 1996 about the opening of a Western Wall tunnel exit that had nothing to do with them.

Some put this down only to the bad feelings that have poisoned all relations between Jews and Arabs in the dispute over sovereignty over Jerusalem and the land of Israel/Palestine. But this is not just a manifestation of malice. Muslim clerics associated with both the “moderates” of the Palestinian Authority and the extremists of Hamas agree that Jews have no claim to any part of the Western Wall, no matter how they wish to pray there.

The Wakf, the Muslim authority that governs the Temple Mount compound, claims that the Kotel is part of their bailiwick and reject Jewish sovereignty over any part of it or the city that surrounds it. Palestinian Authority leaders and their media have repeatedly claimed that the ancient temples were not built on the Mount where Muslim conquerors subsequently built mosques, just as they deny the associations of the Jews with the rest of their ancient homeland.

As Haaretz notes, the Wakf is opposed to any plans that might expand Jewish worship at the Wall or allow more people to have access to it. They also oppose all archeological digs in the area since they further establish the historical validity of Jewish claims. They also use spurious claims that Jews are trying to undermine the structure of the Mount—the same sort of libel that led to bloody Arab pogroms against Jews in the past—in order to whip up anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda in the Muslim and Arab worlds.

There is no doubt that these unscrupulous Palestinian leaders will use the same tactics to prevent Sharansky’s plan from ever being realized. That is regrettable. But what American Jews who rightly lament the situation at the Wall should understand is that the bigger problem in Jerusalem isn’t the dispute between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews but the one in which Palestinians attempt to deny the rights of all Jews. Prior to June 1967, no Jews could pray at any part of the Wall or step foot in the Old City of Jerusalem, and that is the situation Palestinians are trying to restore. Those determined to fight to the bitter end on issues of Jewish pluralism should remember that the bigger, far more important battle is part of the ongoing Arab war to destroy Israel.

Read Less

Two Lessons of the Two-State Solution

As Secretary of State Kerry proceeds to gin up yet another peace process, armed with the Israel Policy Forum letter urging more “confidence-building steps” from Israel, it might be worthwhile to reflect on two things we have learned about the “two-state solution” from the repeated failures over two decades to effectuate it.

First, the Palestinians have shown that they are unable to form a peaceful democratic state. They have a “president” who next week enters the 100th month of his 48-month term; he has now been “out of office” longer than he was in it. The person who held the office before him served 107 months of his own 48-month term, until he had to leave office on account of death. Between them, the two presidents rejected three offers of a state (in 2000, 2001 and 2008). The current president has not been able to set foot in half his putative state for more than five years; he cannot arrange a new election, even in the half-state where he resides. There is no functioning legislature, so he rules by decree; those who would criticize him for this are best advised not to put their thoughts on Facebook. He is 78 years old, in uncertain health, with no known successor, and has long said he wants to retire; he continues to serve as “president” because peace processors need someone to play one on TV.

Read More

As Secretary of State Kerry proceeds to gin up yet another peace process, armed with the Israel Policy Forum letter urging more “confidence-building steps” from Israel, it might be worthwhile to reflect on two things we have learned about the “two-state solution” from the repeated failures over two decades to effectuate it.

First, the Palestinians have shown that they are unable to form a peaceful democratic state. They have a “president” who next week enters the 100th month of his 48-month term; he has now been “out of office” longer than he was in it. The person who held the office before him served 107 months of his own 48-month term, until he had to leave office on account of death. Between them, the two presidents rejected three offers of a state (in 2000, 2001 and 2008). The current president has not been able to set foot in half his putative state for more than five years; he cannot arrange a new election, even in the half-state where he resides. There is no functioning legislature, so he rules by decree; those who would criticize him for this are best advised not to put their thoughts on Facebook. He is 78 years old, in uncertain health, with no known successor, and has long said he wants to retire; he continues to serve as “president” because peace processors need someone to play one on TV.

The Palestinians don’t even need Jews to have a failed peace process. Saudi Arabia and Egypt each tried to mediate one of the periodic “reconciliation” agreements between Fatah and Hamas, but found that Fatah and Hamas can’t live side by side in peace and security with each other, much less next to Jews. The “two-state solution” presumes a Palestinian state would be a stable entity, but there is no evidence that a Palestinian state would be anything other than what it is right now–half quasi-terrorist state and half fictitious “authority,” with neither half having the institutions of a successful state, or a self-sustaining economy.

Second, the Palestinians have repeatedly stated they do not view a Palestinian state as a “solution”–not if by “solution” one means recognition of “two states for two peoples” and an end to claims. In November 2011, when the Palestinians first went to the UN to avoid negotiating such a solution, Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor noted that the UN resolution recommending partition in 1947 had referred 30 times to a “Jewish State,” but that 64 years later:

We still do not hear Palestinian leaders utter the term. The Palestinian leadership refuses to acknowledge Israel’s character as a Jewish state. You will never hear them say “two states for two peoples.” If you ever hear a Palestinian leader say “two states for two peoples,” please phone me immediately. My office has set up the equivalent of a 911 number in the event of such an unprecedented occurrence.

The call never came. In November 2012, when the Palestinians returned to the UN to avoid negotiating a two-state solution, Ambassador Prosor addressed the Palestinian president as follows:

President Abbas, I did not hear you use the phrase “two states for two peoples” this afternoon. In fact, I have never heard you say the phrase “two states for two peoples.” Because the Palestinian leadership has never recognized that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. They have never been willing to accept what this very body recognized 65 years ago.

It should be obvious that an unstable and unpredictable Palestinian state is a problem, not part of a solution, particularly when its putative leaders are unwilling even to utter the phrase “two states for two peoples.” No amount of Israeli “confidence-building steps” for the chronically confidence-challenged Palestinians can solve that problem; the Palestinians can only solve it themselves.

Read Less