Commentary Magazine


Topic: New York

Perfect Example of Why New York Is the “Least Free” State

In a new Mercatus Center survey ranking American states according to the freedom of their citizens, New York found itself dead last. The survey ranked states based on “fiscal policy, regulatory policy, and personal freedom [and weighed] public policies according to the estimated costs that government restrictions on freedom impose on their victims.” A new provision buried in the latest budget out of the New York State legislature perfectly illustrates what earned New York this ranking.

According to reports, this budgetary provision will guarantee an increase in the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour and taxpayers will be footing a significant portion of the bill until 2016. Unfortunately for taxpayers, the terms of the agreement were made during closed-door negotiations and will not become public until after the provision is passed as part of the state’s budget. The Associated Press reports that “early estimates are between $20 million and $40 million, with no cap on the total.” Given the outcry that would’ve been made if these negotiations were made public, it’s understandable (though completely undemocratic) for Governor Cuomo and state legislatures to reach this agreement hidden from voters.

Read More

In a new Mercatus Center survey ranking American states according to the freedom of their citizens, New York found itself dead last. The survey ranked states based on “fiscal policy, regulatory policy, and personal freedom [and weighed] public policies according to the estimated costs that government restrictions on freedom impose on their victims.” A new provision buried in the latest budget out of the New York State legislature perfectly illustrates what earned New York this ranking.

According to reports, this budgetary provision will guarantee an increase in the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour and taxpayers will be footing a significant portion of the bill until 2016. Unfortunately for taxpayers, the terms of the agreement were made during closed-door negotiations and will not become public until after the provision is passed as part of the state’s budget. The Associated Press reports that “early estimates are between $20 million and $40 million, with no cap on the total.” Given the outcry that would’ve been made if these negotiations were made public, it’s understandable (though completely undemocratic) for Governor Cuomo and state legislatures to reach this agreement hidden from voters.

Even liberals are uncomfortable with the plan, though not exactly for all the right reasons. Frank Mauro of the progressive Fiscal Policy Institute told the AP “You are kind of flying blind on this” and said “[the credit] flies in the face of sound tax policy, good labor market practice, or common sense.” Mauro’s concerns with the credit center on the fact that it will only benefit seasonal workers under the age of 20, which could displace older workers with students. These are valid criticisms of the plan, but they don’t even scratch the surface of what is most problematic about the very idea of redistributing the wealth of some to the paychecks of others.

What Mauro and others quoted in the AP story don’t say, but what is painfully obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of human history, is that what the New York State legislature is proposing is socialism, pure and simple. Students making less than $9 an hour will now have part of their salaries at fast-food restaurants and department stores paid by New York’s taxpayers. The wealth of hardworking New Yorkers will be redistributed to lower paid high school and college students frying burgers at their first jobs. While those crafting this legislation may be thinking that they’re just gouging the “fat-cats” paying taxes in the more wealthy parts of the state like New York City, they will also be siphoning off the salaries of hardworking New Yorkers in the rural areas north of Westchester county. As wealth distribution goes, this is especially uninspiring, as money will be taken from the salaries of mothers and fathers in Rochester and deposited into paychecks of teenagers working at H&M on 34th Street. 

Scott Reif, spokesman for the Senate’s Republican conference, called this plan part of a larger budgetary compromise. State Republicans, not to mention Democrats, making agreements like these is the reason why the Mercatus Center has deemed New York State the least free state in the union. If these lawmakers find themselves wondering why they have fewer taxpayers to gouge in coming years, they will have no one to blame but themselves. The outward migration of New Yorkers to more hospitable economic climates was already underway and closed-door decisions like these will only fuel the trend further.

Read Less

Cuomo Puts First Things First: Re-election

The technologies of “fracking,” and horizontal drilling are rapidly transforming the world’s energy situation. These technologies make it possible to tap into vast deposits of both natural gas and oil in shale layers around the world. The United States is particularly rich in such deposits. American domestic energy production has been rising rapidly (and imports falling commensurately), while our carbon emissions have been falling to the lowest level since 1992, because natural gas is increasingly replacing coal as a fuel in electric generating plants.

And since energy is one of the most important of economic inputs, it is transforming the world’s geopolitics as well, much to the benefit of the United States and many of its allies (such as Canada and Australia) and much to the detriment of such countries as Russia, the Gulf States of the Middle East, and Venezuela.

Naturally, the environmental movement is outraged at these developments.

Read More

The technologies of “fracking,” and horizontal drilling are rapidly transforming the world’s energy situation. These technologies make it possible to tap into vast deposits of both natural gas and oil in shale layers around the world. The United States is particularly rich in such deposits. American domestic energy production has been rising rapidly (and imports falling commensurately), while our carbon emissions have been falling to the lowest level since 1992, because natural gas is increasingly replacing coal as a fuel in electric generating plants.

And since energy is one of the most important of economic inputs, it is transforming the world’s geopolitics as well, much to the benefit of the United States and many of its allies (such as Canada and Australia) and much to the detriment of such countries as Russia, the Gulf States of the Middle East, and Venezuela.

Naturally, the environmental movement is outraged at these developments.

This misnamed movement (it’s actually an anti-commerce movement with more than a tinge of misanthropy about it) is populated almost entirely by members of the upper middle class with comfortable six- and seven-figure incomes. They don’t care what energy costs because even if the costs doubled, it would have no impact whatever on their own standard of living. Their consumption of Chablis and Brie would not have to be cut back.

The environmental movement has disproportionate influence on Democratic politics and if you’d like a perfect example of that, just consider Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York.

The Marcellus shale is a vast geologic layer underlying much of upstate New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio. It is enormously rich in natural gas that can be accessed with the new technology. Pennsylvania has been exploiting this unexpected bounty with enthusiasm (Power Line has a neat little interactive map showing this). And that has had enormously positive effects on Pennsylvania’s economy and its government’s tax revenues.

The area of New York State underlain by the Marcellus shale has been in an economic depression for decades as its once booming industrial cities, such as Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, have seen industry flee to areas with better weather, right-to-work laws, and fewer regulations. You would think that the economic possibilities of the Marcellus shale being demonstrated so visibly in the state immediately to the south would cause New York to move quickly to bring increased jobs and mineral royalties to western New York and greatly increased tax revenue to the entire state.

You’d be wrong. The environmentalists are in full Chicken-Little mode (ground-water contamination! fuel spills! greenhouse gases! children refusing to eat their vegetables!) and Governor Cuomo pathetically cowers before them. He (and his predecessor) have been dragging their feet in the time-honored way of politicians, ordering study after study and postponing decisions until the studies are in and evaluated. If the study doesn’t produce the data they want, the study is suppressed. Only when a report was “obtained by the New York Times from an expert who did not believe it should be kept secret,” did the people of New York State get to learn that the state Health Department regards gas drilling to be safe.

Of course, Pennsylvania has been an ongoing experiment for the last six years and more as to the safety of gas drilling. If there have been any disasters in the Keystone State with regard to the drilling, recovery, and transportation of gas from the Marcellus shale, it has gone unreported.

The reason Governor Cuomo has, effectively, told upstate New York to drop dead, is, of course, that Democrats running statewide for office win downstate, in New York City and its suburbs. Upstate is Republican country.

So Governor Cuomo is simply being concerned with what is most important to Governor Cuomo: his re-election. The welfare and prosperity of the State of New York come a long way second.

Read Less

The Nanny State vs. New Moms

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg knows what’s best for you. He knows how much salt and saturated fat you should cook with and eat, how much soda you should drink, and now, he can even dispense medical advice to nursing mothers! During the weekend, New York City announced that starting September 3rd, the city will enact the most restrictive and pro-breast feeding program in the country.

New mothers who want to feed their newborn babies formula in the hospital will now need to document a medical reason every single time they want their child fed. Newborns are fed about every two to three hours, which means every time a baby in a hospital needs a feeding, a doctor needs to be tracked down to give medical authorization to dispense something that can be bought over the counter anywhere in the world.

Read More

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg knows what’s best for you. He knows how much salt and saturated fat you should cook with and eat, how much soda you should drink, and now, he can even dispense medical advice to nursing mothers! During the weekend, New York City announced that starting September 3rd, the city will enact the most restrictive and pro-breast feeding program in the country.

New mothers who want to feed their newborn babies formula in the hospital will now need to document a medical reason every single time they want their child fed. Newborns are fed about every two to three hours, which means every time a baby in a hospital needs a feeding, a doctor needs to be tracked down to give medical authorization to dispense something that can be bought over the counter anywhere in the world.

Everyone knows that “the breast is best” – the benefits of breast milk are well-documented and without a doubt the healthiest option for newborn babies. There are, however, many reasons why a new mother may choose to opt for formula. Mothers, and sometimes their doctors, make the decision that is best for all parties involved. There is no harm in providing a baby with formula, and given any number of possible medical issues, it is sometimes the only option. Doctors and their time, already in short supply, will now be stretched even more thin as they are forced to involve themselves in the private decisions of their patients every two-three hours when a newborn is fed.

Bloomberg has proven in his tenure as mayor that he doesn’t trust New Yorkers to make the right decision for themselves and their families. It seems “my body, my choice” only applies to women’s reproductive decisions while a baby is in utero. From the moment that child emerges from the birth canal, Nanny Bloomberg takes over.

Read Less

Bigoted Candidate Crushed in NY Primary

It wasn’t even close when the AP called it last night: Democrat establishment favorite Hakeem Jeffries crushed former Black Panther Charles Barron in a landslide, 75 percent to 25 percent. The Daily News recaps:

State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries trounced City Councilman Charles Barron in a showdown for Brooklyn’s 8th congressional district.

With 54 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press deemed Jeffries the easy winner, 75 percent of the vote to Barron’s 25 percent.

“The political pundits said that this was going to be a close race, but that was before the people had spoken,” Jeffries told his supporters after hearing early results. “The people spoke with one loud voice and that’s why we’re going to Washington.”

Jeffries landed almost every major endorsement, winning the backing of Sen. Chuck Schumer, Gov. Cuomo and most Democratic bigwigs.

Read More

It wasn’t even close when the AP called it last night: Democrat establishment favorite Hakeem Jeffries crushed former Black Panther Charles Barron in a landslide, 75 percent to 25 percent. The Daily News recaps:

State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries trounced City Councilman Charles Barron in a showdown for Brooklyn’s 8th congressional district.

With 54 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press deemed Jeffries the easy winner, 75 percent of the vote to Barron’s 25 percent.

“The political pundits said that this was going to be a close race, but that was before the people had spoken,” Jeffries told his supporters after hearing early results. “The people spoke with one loud voice and that’s why we’re going to Washington.”

Jeffries landed almost every major endorsement, winning the backing of Sen. Chuck Schumer, Gov. Cuomo and most Democratic bigwigs.

Recall that Barron lost his 2006 congressional race against incumbent Ed Towns by a mere eight points, so how did he manage to lose so epically to a newer, lesser-known politician like Jeffries just six years later? The David Duke endorsement video might have had something to do with it, but it’s likely the last-minute deluge of cash and endorsements for the Jeffries’ campaign helped him build an impressive get-out-the-vote effort in the typically low-turnout district. The Daily News suggests as much in its article comparing Barron’s campaign HQ to Jeffries’:

Earlier in the day, about 20 volunteers donned bright yellow t-shirts inside Barron’s makeshift campaign headquarters in a transformed family owned diner, Sistas’ Place on 456 Nostrand Ave.

Meanwhile, an army of volunteers flooded a campaign office in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, where Jeffries’ father, Marland, 73, was patiently waiting for the election results.

Despite the drubbing, Barron reportedly refused to concede the race and is calling for a recount. Barron may be the sorest loser, but Crain’s New York makes the case that the biggest loser of the race is DC 37, the powerful city union that backed Barron and looked ineffective in the process:

DC 37. By backing Charles Barron for Congress, the city’s largest public employees’ union fueled speculation that the bomb-throwing councilman’s campaign was surging in its final weeks. But Barron’s crushing defeat by Jeffries was further proof of the union’s diminished political clout.

A stinging defeat for unions and David Duke fans all in the same day? Who could ask for anything more?

Read Less

Congressional Black Caucus Sees “Good News” Even if Barron Wins

You would think the Congressional Black Caucus would at least have some minor quibbles with Charles Barron, the David Duke-endorsed congressional candidate who’s been denounced as “an anti-Israel, racist anti-Semite” by the National Jewish Democratic Council and criticized by legions of other Democrats. But while CBC is staying neutral on the race between Barron and Hakeem Jeffries, its chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver told Capital New York that he sees at least one bright side no matter which candidate wins:

“The good news is there is hardly any chance we won’t have a CBC member elected from that seat,” said Emmanuel Cleaver, a longtime congressman from Missouri who has chaired the caucus since 2010.

I asked him if he thought one of the candidates in the race might be better suited to be a new member of the CBC and serve in Congress. …

“We’re trying to stay out of it. None of us really know any of the candidates,” he said. “All we know is what we’ve been reading. Some of it is, you know, a little acidic. I was briefed yesterday, again, on this race, since I was coming up here. And we just made a decision that we were going to stay out of it.”

Read More

You would think the Congressional Black Caucus would at least have some minor quibbles with Charles Barron, the David Duke-endorsed congressional candidate who’s been denounced as “an anti-Israel, racist anti-Semite” by the National Jewish Democratic Council and criticized by legions of other Democrats. But while CBC is staying neutral on the race between Barron and Hakeem Jeffries, its chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver told Capital New York that he sees at least one bright side no matter which candidate wins:

“The good news is there is hardly any chance we won’t have a CBC member elected from that seat,” said Emmanuel Cleaver, a longtime congressman from Missouri who has chaired the caucus since 2010.

I asked him if he thought one of the candidates in the race might be better suited to be a new member of the CBC and serve in Congress. …

“We’re trying to stay out of it. None of us really know any of the candidates,” he said. “All we know is what we’ve been reading. Some of it is, you know, a little acidic. I was briefed yesterday, again, on this race, since I was coming up here. And we just made a decision that we were going to stay out of it.”

Cleaver says some of what he’s been reading about the race has been “a little acidic.” Is he referring to Barron’s comparison of Gaza to a “death camp” and his rants about the “Jewish lobby”? If so, it’s unfortunate that Cleaver, a former civil rights leader, wouldn’t specify Barron by name. The CBC’s neutrality in the race is notable among national Democrats, who have been coming out against Barron in droves during the last week or so:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel; both of the state’s senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are just the latest Democratic heavyweights to throw their support behind Jeffries. It’s hard to tell if there’s a reason for them to be worried: There’s been no independent polling in the district, and Jeffries, a New York assemblyman, has raised $770,445 to Barron’s $113,640 — two-fifths of Barron’s total is from himself.

“It’s really become a race to watch, because it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen,” said Doug Muzzio, a political analyst and professor of public affairs at Baruch College, although he still thinks Jeffries will win. “Barron has been a prominent voice for the African-American community and has a lot of support, but the key question is do people think he’ll be effective in Washington?”

Tomorrow’s primary race will be watched closely around the country, and not just by Democratic politicians. The Emergency Committee for Israel has released a new ad educating voters about Barron’s history of hatemongering. There have been no independent polls showing Barron with a lead, and the Jeffries campaign maintains there’s no reason to believe Barron is surging. But Democrats have been growing exceedingly nervous the past week, which indicates that the race is very tight in internal polling.

Read Less

Will Obama Oppose Anti-Israel Candidate?

So far, President Obama has kept his distance from the Democratic congressional primary between extremist ex-Black Panther and anti-Israel activist Charles Barron and New York assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. But BuzzFeed reports that the White House is now quietly signaling its support for Jeffries:

A second senior Democrat, who is close to the White House, noted that the administration had quietly sent its own message: Jeffries, a lawyer who has drawn union opposition for his support for charter schools, was invited to a fundraiser for President Obama at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City two weeks ago, to have his photograph taken with Obama and Clinton — a valuable piece of campaign literature in a heavily African-American district.

Obama does not endorse candidates for open seats Democratic primaries, but the president “wished him luck on the race,” the first Democratic official confirmed.

Read More

So far, President Obama has kept his distance from the Democratic congressional primary between extremist ex-Black Panther and anti-Israel activist Charles Barron and New York assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. But BuzzFeed reports that the White House is now quietly signaling its support for Jeffries:

A second senior Democrat, who is close to the White House, noted that the administration had quietly sent its own message: Jeffries, a lawyer who has drawn union opposition for his support for charter schools, was invited to a fundraiser for President Obama at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City two weeks ago, to have his photograph taken with Obama and Clinton — a valuable piece of campaign literature in a heavily African-American district.

Obama does not endorse candidates for open seats Democratic primaries, but the president “wished him luck on the race,” the first Democratic official confirmed.

Obama posing for a picture with Jeffries at a fundraiser may seem like a pretty lame gesture of public support, but consider the fact that most guests at the Waldorf  Astoria event that night had to pay $15,000 for the same privilege. Still, it’s hard to believe Obama couldn’t do more if he really wanted to show support for Jeffries, even if his policy is to only endorse incumbent Democrats in primaries. And at a time when many Democratic candidates are running away from Obama, this particular congressional primary is one where the president’s backing actually carries a lot of weight (in a good way).

For instance, Obama didn’t officially endorse anyone in the recent runoff between Democratic Reps. Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell. But he still made it clear he was backing Rothman, even sending David Axelrod to New Jersey to campaign for him.

Will Obama make a similar move in the race between Jeffries and Barron? Or is he reluctant to publicly snub Barron — an extremist street-protest agitator — in case it further strains tension between him and the black activist community?

Read Less

Forget Plain Old Engineering – We Have Social Engineering

It’s easy to see why New York’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg is now focused on closing down liquor retail outlets and correcting New Yorkers’ behavior. How can he not push ahead with his continued social-engineering  schemes, seeing as the city is running so smoothly otherwise: “Every escalator at the 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue subway station, one of the busiest in the city, was offline Thursday morning,” Fox’s local news reports. “Seven of seven escalators are out at the height of the morning commute 8:15 to 9:15, when tens of thousands of commuters are rushing to work.”

The words of Mark Steyn (actually writing about escalators) come to mind:

Read More

It’s easy to see why New York’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg is now focused on closing down liquor retail outlets and correcting New Yorkers’ behavior. How can he not push ahead with his continued social-engineering  schemes, seeing as the city is running so smoothly otherwise: “Every escalator at the 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue subway station, one of the busiest in the city, was offline Thursday morning,” Fox’s local news reports. “Seven of seven escalators are out at the height of the morning commute 8:15 to 9:15, when tens of thousands of commuters are rushing to work.”

The words of Mark Steyn (actually writing about escalators) come to mind:

In “developing nations,” they’re a symbol of progress. In decaying nations, they’re an emblem of decline. In pre-Thatcher Britain, the escalators seized up, and stayed unrepaired for months on end. Eventually, someone would start them up again, only for them to break down 48 hours later and be out of service for another 18 months. It was always the up escalators. You were in a country that could only go downhill: All chutes, no ladders.

Perhaps we’re luckier than Britain. Both our up and down escalators are stuck. Which means there’s no place to go but…somewhere.

Read Less

Jimmy Carter Sued for ‘Inaccurate’ Anti-Israel Book

Five readers have filed a $5 million lawsuit against former president Jimmy Carter, alleging that his 2006 anti-Israel book, “Peace Not Apartheid,” was so riddled with inaccuracies and misleading statements that it violated consumer-protection laws:

The suit accuses Carter and his publisher of violating New York consumer protection laws because they engaged in “deceptive acts in the course of conducting business” and alleges that they sought enrichment by promoting the book “as a work of non-fiction.”

In a press release, one of the attorneys, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner stated: “The lawsuit will expose all the falsehoods and misrepresentations in Carter’s book and prove that his hatred of Israel has led him to commit this fraud on the public. He is entitled to his opinions but deceptions and lies have no place in works of history.”

The plaintiffs don’t seem to have much of a legal case here. The spokesperson for Simon & Schuster told the Washington Post that the lawsuit would have “a chilling attack on free speech,” and he’s probably right. Carter’s anti-Israel tome may be a disgraceful distortion of reality, but if that was illegal, then there would be a lot of bankrupt authors.

The main point of the case seems to be to publicize how Carter’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views have shaped much of his misleading “advocacy” work in recent years. And that certainly will be fun to watch.

Five readers have filed a $5 million lawsuit against former president Jimmy Carter, alleging that his 2006 anti-Israel book, “Peace Not Apartheid,” was so riddled with inaccuracies and misleading statements that it violated consumer-protection laws:

The suit accuses Carter and his publisher of violating New York consumer protection laws because they engaged in “deceptive acts in the course of conducting business” and alleges that they sought enrichment by promoting the book “as a work of non-fiction.”

In a press release, one of the attorneys, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner stated: “The lawsuit will expose all the falsehoods and misrepresentations in Carter’s book and prove that his hatred of Israel has led him to commit this fraud on the public. He is entitled to his opinions but deceptions and lies have no place in works of history.”

The plaintiffs don’t seem to have much of a legal case here. The spokesperson for Simon & Schuster told the Washington Post that the lawsuit would have “a chilling attack on free speech,” and he’s probably right. Carter’s anti-Israel tome may be a disgraceful distortion of reality, but if that was illegal, then there would be a lot of bankrupt authors.

The main point of the case seems to be to publicize how Carter’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views have shaped much of his misleading “advocacy” work in recent years. And that certainly will be fun to watch.

Read Less

The Good Old Days? No Thanks.

Two weeks ago, I posted about a chart that plotted fertility against life expectancy over the past 50 years. It showed how the former dropped sharply in most countries as the latter increased, one reason why the “population explosion” that was supposed to turn the world into Bangladesh isn’t going to happen.

Here’s another animated chart. This one plots life expectancy against per capita income over the past 200 years for 200 countries around the world. In 1810, the whole world was poor and died young. Life, in Thomas Hobbes’s famous phrase, was “nasty, brutish, and short.” Even Britain, the richest country in the world at the time, was, by modern standards, very poor.

But over the past 200 years, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, which greatly accelerated the rate of economic growth, the world has gotten much richer, and that wealth has spread across the socioeconomic spectrum. Thanks to vastly improved public health and medical technology — funded by the new wealth — life expectancy has greatly increased. At first, these trends were confined to the West. But especially in the past 50 years, they have spread to more and more countries, and the percentage of people still living Hobbesian lives has greatly declined.

The phrase “the good old days” was coined in the 1840s, just as the Industrial Revolution was kicking into high gear, and the remembered past, at least for the elderly, began to differ markedly from the present for the first time in human history. The great New York diarist Philip Hone, then in his 60s, wrote in 1844 that “this world is going too fast. Improvements, politics, reform, religion — all fly. Railroads, steamers, packets, race against time and beat it hollow. Flying is dangerous. By and by we shall have balloons and pass over to Europe between sun and sun. Oh, for the good old days of heavy post-coaches and speed at the rate of six miles an hour!”

As the chart shows, the change that Hone felt threatened by has been overwhelmingly for the good for nearly everyone. The good old days he nostalgically looked back on were not so good.

Two weeks ago, I posted about a chart that plotted fertility against life expectancy over the past 50 years. It showed how the former dropped sharply in most countries as the latter increased, one reason why the “population explosion” that was supposed to turn the world into Bangladesh isn’t going to happen.

Here’s another animated chart. This one plots life expectancy against per capita income over the past 200 years for 200 countries around the world. In 1810, the whole world was poor and died young. Life, in Thomas Hobbes’s famous phrase, was “nasty, brutish, and short.” Even Britain, the richest country in the world at the time, was, by modern standards, very poor.

But over the past 200 years, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, which greatly accelerated the rate of economic growth, the world has gotten much richer, and that wealth has spread across the socioeconomic spectrum. Thanks to vastly improved public health and medical technology — funded by the new wealth — life expectancy has greatly increased. At first, these trends were confined to the West. But especially in the past 50 years, they have spread to more and more countries, and the percentage of people still living Hobbesian lives has greatly declined.

The phrase “the good old days” was coined in the 1840s, just as the Industrial Revolution was kicking into high gear, and the remembered past, at least for the elderly, began to differ markedly from the present for the first time in human history. The great New York diarist Philip Hone, then in his 60s, wrote in 1844 that “this world is going too fast. Improvements, politics, reform, religion — all fly. Railroads, steamers, packets, race against time and beat it hollow. Flying is dangerous. By and by we shall have balloons and pass over to Europe between sun and sun. Oh, for the good old days of heavy post-coaches and speed at the rate of six miles an hour!”

As the chart shows, the change that Hone felt threatened by has been overwhelmingly for the good for nearly everyone. The good old days he nostalgically looked back on were not so good.

Read Less

Is Romney Losing His 2008 Supporters?

Some of Mitt Romney’s most influential supporters during his 2008 presidential campaign told Politico that they haven’t yet decided whether they’ll back his 2012 run, the paper reported today. According to the article, this is a “big warning sign” that Romney’s candidacy is in trouble:

As much as anything else, it calls into question just how far ahead of the pack he is as the 2012 contenders emerge. Even as Romney tries to project inevitability by signing up top GOP money men in Washington and New York, the defections suggest he’s seen as far from a sure thing even among insiders. After all, if top Republicans were willing to commit to Romney four years ago when he was a lesser known commodity, why won’t they get on board now when he’s a household name in the political circles and clearly among the most formidable candidates for his party’s nomination?

Politico is right that Romney will face some new challenges in building a support base for 2012. While he may have been seen as the front-runner for the nomination shortly after the 2008 election, the rise of the Tea Party and the public’s rejection of health-care reform make him a riskier bet today.

But it also seems a bit early to read so much into this situation. Romney hasn’t even officially announced his candidacy — and neither have most of the other potential GOP candidates — so it’s understandable that his former supporters aren’t eagerly revealing their endorsements to Politico reporters at the moment.

So, no, this doesn’t look like a reason to predict problems for Romney yet. But it’s definitely a good forecast for the obstacles his campaign will run into down the road.

Some of Mitt Romney’s most influential supporters during his 2008 presidential campaign told Politico that they haven’t yet decided whether they’ll back his 2012 run, the paper reported today. According to the article, this is a “big warning sign” that Romney’s candidacy is in trouble:

As much as anything else, it calls into question just how far ahead of the pack he is as the 2012 contenders emerge. Even as Romney tries to project inevitability by signing up top GOP money men in Washington and New York, the defections suggest he’s seen as far from a sure thing even among insiders. After all, if top Republicans were willing to commit to Romney four years ago when he was a lesser known commodity, why won’t they get on board now when he’s a household name in the political circles and clearly among the most formidable candidates for his party’s nomination?

Politico is right that Romney will face some new challenges in building a support base for 2012. While he may have been seen as the front-runner for the nomination shortly after the 2008 election, the rise of the Tea Party and the public’s rejection of health-care reform make him a riskier bet today.

But it also seems a bit early to read so much into this situation. Romney hasn’t even officially announced his candidacy — and neither have most of the other potential GOP candidates — so it’s understandable that his former supporters aren’t eagerly revealing their endorsements to Politico reporters at the moment.

So, no, this doesn’t look like a reason to predict problems for Romney yet. But it’s definitely a good forecast for the obstacles his campaign will run into down the road.

Read Less

Obama’s SOTU Borrowed from Other Famous Speeches

President Obama’s State of the Union on Tuesday was widely panned as “boring” by critics. But could the reason be because Americans have heard it all before?

U.S. News & World Report columnist Alvin Felzenberg argued that Obama’s speech was “tantamount to plagiarism” and that it “contained enough recycled ideas and lines lifted from speeches of others to make historians wince.”

And while it looks like that an overuse of clichés — as opposed to outright plagiarism — is responsible for the reused lines, Tuesday’s State of the Union does seem to have borrowed heavily from other famous speeches.

Here are some of the misappropriated lines, according to Felzenberg:

• Obama’s references to American as a “light to the world” were taken from Woodrow Wilson.

• The theme of the “American family” resembled Mario Cuomo’s proclamations of the New York “family” in 1993.

• At a 1991 speech in the U.S., Margaret Thatcher said that “no other nation has been built upon an idea.” Obama said something similar in his speech Tuesday.

• The reference to a “Sputnik Moment” channeled Dwight D. Eisenhower.

• By honoring “ordinary heroes,” Obama was taking a page from Ronald Reagan.

• Obama remarked that, “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth,” which bears a striking resemblance to JFK’s assertion that “I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.”

It’s not unusual for politicians to quote or borrow from great historical leaders in speeches. But it’s noteworthy that Obama, who was supposed to be such a phenomenal communicator, is so reliant on the words of others. For all the rhetorical prowess attributed to him during the 2008 election, his speeches have consistently fallen short of public expectations since he’s taken office.

President Obama’s State of the Union on Tuesday was widely panned as “boring” by critics. But could the reason be because Americans have heard it all before?

U.S. News & World Report columnist Alvin Felzenberg argued that Obama’s speech was “tantamount to plagiarism” and that it “contained enough recycled ideas and lines lifted from speeches of others to make historians wince.”

And while it looks like that an overuse of clichés — as opposed to outright plagiarism — is responsible for the reused lines, Tuesday’s State of the Union does seem to have borrowed heavily from other famous speeches.

Here are some of the misappropriated lines, according to Felzenberg:

• Obama’s references to American as a “light to the world” were taken from Woodrow Wilson.

• The theme of the “American family” resembled Mario Cuomo’s proclamations of the New York “family” in 1993.

• At a 1991 speech in the U.S., Margaret Thatcher said that “no other nation has been built upon an idea.” Obama said something similar in his speech Tuesday.

• The reference to a “Sputnik Moment” channeled Dwight D. Eisenhower.

• By honoring “ordinary heroes,” Obama was taking a page from Ronald Reagan.

• Obama remarked that, “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth,” which bears a striking resemblance to JFK’s assertion that “I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.”

It’s not unusual for politicians to quote or borrow from great historical leaders in speeches. But it’s noteworthy that Obama, who was supposed to be such a phenomenal communicator, is so reliant on the words of others. For all the rhetorical prowess attributed to him during the 2008 election, his speeches have consistently fallen short of public expectations since he’s taken office.

Read Less

Activists Find It’s Easier to Slur Peter King than to Look in the Mirror

Ever since Rep. Peter King announced his plans to hold hearings on the influence of radical Islam on the rise of homegrown terrorism in this country, he has been subjected to a furious backlash from groups purporting to represent American Muslims and their cheerleaders in the media. In today’s Washington Post, his critics take the fight to his home ground in the form of a profile of a Long Island mosque that is represented as a peaceful congregation of perplexed King constituents who don’t know why their congressman is doing them harm.

But while the intent of the article seems to be to cast aspersions on King’s hearings, the result is not entirely flattering to the supposedly “moderate” Muslims who are angry with him. As it turns out, King was a supporter of the Westbury, N.Y., mosque and once received an award from it for his advocacy on behalf of U.S. intervention to save Bosnian Muslims. But the love affair between King and the Islamic Center of Long Island ended when leaders of the mosque reacted to the 9/11 atrocities by denying that Muslims took part in the crime, instead blaming it on Israel. In other words, far from being a source of genuine moderation, this mosque was just another venue for the anti-Zionist and anti-American conspiracy theories and hatred that are the bedrock of Islamist ideology that fuels homegrown terrorism.

King has now become the target of false charges of Islamophobia and McCarthyism, but rather than stirring up hate against Islam, what he has done is to challenge American Muslims to stand up and participate in the fight against terror. Instead, groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, which are lauded as representing “mainstream” Islam, are actually urging their members not to cooperate with federal terror probes. This is a development that proves King’s point about the need to highlight the ideological support that terrorists and their fellow travelers and apologists are getting from mosques and Muslim groups.

Instead of working hard to reinforce the myth that Muslims are being subjected to a post-9/11 discriminatory backlash, King’s Muslim critics should be devoting their energies to creating an American Islam that is hostile to Islamism and supportive of government efforts to fight it. King rightly describes arguments put forward to spike his hearings as “politically correct nonsense,” but the problem goes deeper than just an aversion to hurting the feelings of certain groups. At the heart of this fight is a false narrative of both how followers of Islam have been treated since 9/11 and the way in which American Muslim institutions have been compromised by Islamist tendencies. Unless and until the truth about both subjects is fully aired, it is Rep. King and not the troubling way mosques have been used to rationalize and support terror that will continue to be the subject of press scrutiny.

Ever since Rep. Peter King announced his plans to hold hearings on the influence of radical Islam on the rise of homegrown terrorism in this country, he has been subjected to a furious backlash from groups purporting to represent American Muslims and their cheerleaders in the media. In today’s Washington Post, his critics take the fight to his home ground in the form of a profile of a Long Island mosque that is represented as a peaceful congregation of perplexed King constituents who don’t know why their congressman is doing them harm.

But while the intent of the article seems to be to cast aspersions on King’s hearings, the result is not entirely flattering to the supposedly “moderate” Muslims who are angry with him. As it turns out, King was a supporter of the Westbury, N.Y., mosque and once received an award from it for his advocacy on behalf of U.S. intervention to save Bosnian Muslims. But the love affair between King and the Islamic Center of Long Island ended when leaders of the mosque reacted to the 9/11 atrocities by denying that Muslims took part in the crime, instead blaming it on Israel. In other words, far from being a source of genuine moderation, this mosque was just another venue for the anti-Zionist and anti-American conspiracy theories and hatred that are the bedrock of Islamist ideology that fuels homegrown terrorism.

King has now become the target of false charges of Islamophobia and McCarthyism, but rather than stirring up hate against Islam, what he has done is to challenge American Muslims to stand up and participate in the fight against terror. Instead, groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, which are lauded as representing “mainstream” Islam, are actually urging their members not to cooperate with federal terror probes. This is a development that proves King’s point about the need to highlight the ideological support that terrorists and their fellow travelers and apologists are getting from mosques and Muslim groups.

Instead of working hard to reinforce the myth that Muslims are being subjected to a post-9/11 discriminatory backlash, King’s Muslim critics should be devoting their energies to creating an American Islam that is hostile to Islamism and supportive of government efforts to fight it. King rightly describes arguments put forward to spike his hearings as “politically correct nonsense,” but the problem goes deeper than just an aversion to hurting the feelings of certain groups. At the heart of this fight is a false narrative of both how followers of Islam have been treated since 9/11 and the way in which American Muslim institutions have been compromised by Islamist tendencies. Unless and until the truth about both subjects is fully aired, it is Rep. King and not the troubling way mosques have been used to rationalize and support terror that will continue to be the subject of press scrutiny.

Read Less

Group that Recruits Pro-Palestinian ‘Martyrs’ Gets Okay from Bard

Compiling a list of the most egregious uses of the shootings in Arizona this month to stifle legitimate debate would be a herculean task. But surely among the worst is a statement issued by Bard College president Leon Botstein, who invoked the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in an attempt to shut up those who are asking questions about his institution’s decision to give the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) the status of an authorized student club with full access to campus facilities.

ISM is, of course, more than just another left-wing group that agitates against Israel. It is an avowedly anti-Zionist organization that has as its mission the task of sending activists into the Arab-Israeli conflict as non-combatant auxiliaries for Palestinian terror groups and their political fronts. The ISM gained fame a few years ago as the group that sent Rachel Corrie, an American college student from Washington State, into Gaza to act as a human shield for the Hamas terrorist organization. Corrie became an anti-Zionist martyr when an Israeli bulldozer that was demolishing a home that housed a Hamas arms-smuggling tunnel crushed her while she was defending it with her body.

Bard, a liberal arts school in New York’s Hudson Valley, is well known for its summer music festival, but it has now also apparently earned the distinction of being the only American college campus with an active ISM chapter. Given the extremism of this organization and its penchant for placing its volunteers in harm’s way, there are, understandably, some who question the decision to treat it as the moral equivalent of a chess club. A good argument can be made that it is not the college’s job to decide which political groups students can or cannot join. But it is slightly disingenuous to claim, as Botstein does, that the issue here is whether students should be allow to debate or express their opinions about the Middle East. Bard students certainly have the right to denounce the existence of a Jewish state, oppose its right to self-defense, and defend those who advocate and carry out terrorism in order to further that cause. But it is not unreasonable to assert that groups that exist in order to literally facilitate such actions might be considered as falling outside the bounds of even the most freewheeling campus debates.

Botstein urges critics of the ISM to keep the Arizona shooting in mind and thus lower their voices. But rather than acting as if the group’s critics are conducting some kind of a witch hunt, he would do better to worry about the consequences of allowing a group that is prepared to sacrifice the lives of students to further the cause of anti-Zionism. And instead of worrying that Bard’s Israel-haters will get their feelings hurt by those who question the propriety of their presence on campus, he might also spare a thought for the question of whether facilitating ISM’s rabid bias against Israel and its supporters might be creating a hostile environment for Jewish students there, as turned out to be the case when anti-Israel activism ran amok at the University of California’s Irvine campus a few years ago.

Compiling a list of the most egregious uses of the shootings in Arizona this month to stifle legitimate debate would be a herculean task. But surely among the worst is a statement issued by Bard College president Leon Botstein, who invoked the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in an attempt to shut up those who are asking questions about his institution’s decision to give the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) the status of an authorized student club with full access to campus facilities.

ISM is, of course, more than just another left-wing group that agitates against Israel. It is an avowedly anti-Zionist organization that has as its mission the task of sending activists into the Arab-Israeli conflict as non-combatant auxiliaries for Palestinian terror groups and their political fronts. The ISM gained fame a few years ago as the group that sent Rachel Corrie, an American college student from Washington State, into Gaza to act as a human shield for the Hamas terrorist organization. Corrie became an anti-Zionist martyr when an Israeli bulldozer that was demolishing a home that housed a Hamas arms-smuggling tunnel crushed her while she was defending it with her body.

Bard, a liberal arts school in New York’s Hudson Valley, is well known for its summer music festival, but it has now also apparently earned the distinction of being the only American college campus with an active ISM chapter. Given the extremism of this organization and its penchant for placing its volunteers in harm’s way, there are, understandably, some who question the decision to treat it as the moral equivalent of a chess club. A good argument can be made that it is not the college’s job to decide which political groups students can or cannot join. But it is slightly disingenuous to claim, as Botstein does, that the issue here is whether students should be allow to debate or express their opinions about the Middle East. Bard students certainly have the right to denounce the existence of a Jewish state, oppose its right to self-defense, and defend those who advocate and carry out terrorism in order to further that cause. But it is not unreasonable to assert that groups that exist in order to literally facilitate such actions might be considered as falling outside the bounds of even the most freewheeling campus debates.

Botstein urges critics of the ISM to keep the Arizona shooting in mind and thus lower their voices. But rather than acting as if the group’s critics are conducting some kind of a witch hunt, he would do better to worry about the consequences of allowing a group that is prepared to sacrifice the lives of students to further the cause of anti-Zionism. And instead of worrying that Bard’s Israel-haters will get their feelings hurt by those who question the propriety of their presence on campus, he might also spare a thought for the question of whether facilitating ISM’s rabid bias against Israel and its supporters might be creating a hostile environment for Jewish students there, as turned out to be the case when anti-Israel activism ran amok at the University of California’s Irvine campus a few years ago.

Read Less

A Significant and Depressing Cultural Fact

William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal has written a column on a chilling statistic. According to the Chiaroscuro Foundation (and based on New York City’s Health Department statistics), 41 percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriage) in New York ended in abortion. That’s double the national rate. For Hispanics, the abortion rate was 41.3 percent, more than double the rate for whites; and for African-Americans, for every 1,000 live births in New York, there were 1,489 abortions.

On the moral claims and counterclaims on abortion, we have a vast chasm. Yet the moral divide can blind us to the possibilities that exist in all human communities. Might that start with recognizing that a 41% abortion rate means that many pregnant women are not getting the social help and encouragement they need to have their babies?

We all know people whose absolutism on a woman’s legal right to choose does not prevent them from celebrating and supporting a pregnant woman within their midst who announces she is going to have a baby. So put aside Roe for a minute. And ask yourself this: What kind of America might we have if all pregnant women—especially black and Hispanic women who are disproportionately aborting—could feel from society that same welcome and encouragement?

Would it be too much to say “better”?

No, it would not be too much to say “better.” And all praise to my former White House colleague for, in the midst of a genuine fiscal crisis, keeping our focus on a significant, and depressing, cultural fact.

William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal has written a column on a chilling statistic. According to the Chiaroscuro Foundation (and based on New York City’s Health Department statistics), 41 percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriage) in New York ended in abortion. That’s double the national rate. For Hispanics, the abortion rate was 41.3 percent, more than double the rate for whites; and for African-Americans, for every 1,000 live births in New York, there were 1,489 abortions.

On the moral claims and counterclaims on abortion, we have a vast chasm. Yet the moral divide can blind us to the possibilities that exist in all human communities. Might that start with recognizing that a 41% abortion rate means that many pregnant women are not getting the social help and encouragement they need to have their babies?

We all know people whose absolutism on a woman’s legal right to choose does not prevent them from celebrating and supporting a pregnant woman within their midst who announces she is going to have a baby. So put aside Roe for a minute. And ask yourself this: What kind of America might we have if all pregnant women—especially black and Hispanic women who are disproportionately aborting—could feel from society that same welcome and encouragement?

Would it be too much to say “better”?

No, it would not be too much to say “better.” And all praise to my former White House colleague for, in the midst of a genuine fiscal crisis, keeping our focus on a significant, and depressing, cultural fact.

Read Less

Chuck Schumer and Chris Christie

Chuck Schumer is a senator from New York. He is upset that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, canceled an ill-conceived and wildly expensive rail project that would have dug a new tunnel between the Garden State and the Empire State. According to today’s Wall Street Journal,

Schumer, a Democrat, also called Christie’s decision to cancel that tunnel “one of the most shortsighted in New York’s history.”

OK, but the thing is, Christie isn’t from New York. He’s from New Jersey. So maybe Christie didn’t think it was shortsighted for New Jersey.

Chuck Schumer is a senator from New York. He is upset that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, canceled an ill-conceived and wildly expensive rail project that would have dug a new tunnel between the Garden State and the Empire State. According to today’s Wall Street Journal,

Schumer, a Democrat, also called Christie’s decision to cancel that tunnel “one of the most shortsighted in New York’s history.”

OK, but the thing is, Christie isn’t from New York. He’s from New Jersey. So maybe Christie didn’t think it was shortsighted for New Jersey.

Read Less

Our Military Personnel System Is in Definite Need of Reform

A snow day (which is what today is in the New York suburb where I live) is the perfect day to catch up on some reading. For those interested in military affairs, I recommend this intriguing article in the Atlantic, which argues that the armed forces are plagued by an antiquated personnel system which drives the best young officers out of the service.

The weakest part of the article, written by Kauffman Foundation fellow Tim Kane (a former Air Force officer), is its claim that “many of the most talented officers are now abandoning military life for the private sector.” There is little evidence that this is the fact; Kane cites the example of counterinsurgency strategist John Nagl, who left the Army as a lieutenant-colonel, and no doubt he was an outstanding officer; but the officers I meet still on active duty are no slouches either. Nevertheless, Kane makes a cogent critique of the out-of-date, top-down, industrial-era, one-size-fits-all personnel system that is an enduring source of frustration for most career officers. He writes:

The military’s problem is a deeply anti-entrepreneurial personnel structure. From officer evaluations to promotions to job assignments, all branches of the military operate more like a government bureaucracy with a unionized workforce than like a cutting-edge meritocracy. …

[T]he military personnel system—every aspect of it—is nearly blind to merit. Performance evaluations emphasize a zero-defect mentality, meaning that risk-avoidance trickles down the chain of command. Promotions can be anticipated almost to the day—regardless of an officer’s competence—so that there is essentially no difference in rank among officers the same age, even after 15 years of service. Job assignments are managed by a faceless, centralized bureaucracy that keeps everyone guessing where they might be shipped next.

Some of these complaints echo issues I raised in a Foreign Affairs article in 2005. I wrote:

Soldiers shuttle through units with dizzying rapidity: two-thirds of army personnel change stations every year, and the average officer spends only 18 months at each assignment over the course of a 25-year career. This system is designed to create a cadre of generalists who will be qualified for the upper echelons of command, but it prevents the kind of unit cohesion and inspired leadership that characterizes the highest-quality armies. Even the best troop leaders do not get to spend very much time with the troops: the average officer spends no more than 30 percent of his or her career in the field, with the rest spent in staff jobs and schools. Ordinary soldiers shuffle in and out of units just as rapidly.

This personnel system makes it especially difficult to cultivate the kind of cultural and linguistic expertise we need in today’s world, where most wars are fought against insurgents who blend into the population. Read More

A snow day (which is what today is in the New York suburb where I live) is the perfect day to catch up on some reading. For those interested in military affairs, I recommend this intriguing article in the Atlantic, which argues that the armed forces are plagued by an antiquated personnel system which drives the best young officers out of the service.

The weakest part of the article, written by Kauffman Foundation fellow Tim Kane (a former Air Force officer), is its claim that “many of the most talented officers are now abandoning military life for the private sector.” There is little evidence that this is the fact; Kane cites the example of counterinsurgency strategist John Nagl, who left the Army as a lieutenant-colonel, and no doubt he was an outstanding officer; but the officers I meet still on active duty are no slouches either. Nevertheless, Kane makes a cogent critique of the out-of-date, top-down, industrial-era, one-size-fits-all personnel system that is an enduring source of frustration for most career officers. He writes:

The military’s problem is a deeply anti-entrepreneurial personnel structure. From officer evaluations to promotions to job assignments, all branches of the military operate more like a government bureaucracy with a unionized workforce than like a cutting-edge meritocracy. …

[T]he military personnel system—every aspect of it—is nearly blind to merit. Performance evaluations emphasize a zero-defect mentality, meaning that risk-avoidance trickles down the chain of command. Promotions can be anticipated almost to the day—regardless of an officer’s competence—so that there is essentially no difference in rank among officers the same age, even after 15 years of service. Job assignments are managed by a faceless, centralized bureaucracy that keeps everyone guessing where they might be shipped next.

Some of these complaints echo issues I raised in a Foreign Affairs article in 2005. I wrote:

Soldiers shuttle through units with dizzying rapidity: two-thirds of army personnel change stations every year, and the average officer spends only 18 months at each assignment over the course of a 25-year career. This system is designed to create a cadre of generalists who will be qualified for the upper echelons of command, but it prevents the kind of unit cohesion and inspired leadership that characterizes the highest-quality armies. Even the best troop leaders do not get to spend very much time with the troops: the average officer spends no more than 30 percent of his or her career in the field, with the rest spent in staff jobs and schools. Ordinary soldiers shuffle in and out of units just as rapidly.

This personnel system makes it especially difficult to cultivate the kind of cultural and linguistic expertise we need in today’s world, where most wars are fought against insurgents who blend into the population.

Kane suggests that the answer is to borrow personnel practices from the private sector, giving officers more power to choose their own assignments and commanders more power to choose their subordinates, rather than delegating these tasks to some faceless, far-off bureaucracy. He suggests:

Each commander would have sole hiring authority over the people in his unit. Officers would be free to apply for any job opening. If a major applied for an opening above his pay grade, the commander at that unit could hire him (and bear the consequences). Coordination could be done through existing online tools such as monster.com or careerbuilder.com (presumably those companies would be interested in offering rebranded versions for the military). If an officer chose to stay in a job longer than “normal” (“I just want to fly fighter jets, sir”), that would be solely between him and his commander.

I am intrigued by these ideas and hope that at least one of the services will experiment with them. Even if the “best and brightest” aren’t necessarily leaving, and even if the services are hardly broken (in fact the armed forces are as good as they have ever been), there is always room for improvement, and the personnel system, which dates back to World War II, is a prime candidate for reform.

Read Less

Morning Commentary

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from his former Mossad chief’s assessment that Iran won’t acquire a nuclear weapon before 2015: “‘I think that intelligence estimates are exactly that, estimates,’ Netanyahu said. ‘They range from best case to worst case possibilities, and there is a range there, there is room for differing assessments.’”

With the Russian and Belarusian governments cracking down on opposition leaders, the U.S. needs to figure out what steps to take now that the reset strategy has failed: “[The Carnegie Moscow Center’s Lilia] Shevtsova said the similar authoritarian direction the two countries are pursuing calls for the United States and Europe to create a coordinated policy for dealing with repressive regimes, one that could be developed for Belarus and fine-tuned for Russia.”

More information has surfaced about the strange online life of Arizona shooter Jared Loughner. A UFO website has told reporters that he frequented its Web forum, where his strange messages apparently confused the other posters: “His postings, they said, revealed ‘someone who clearly has many questions for which answers have been elusive if not outright impossible to obtain. And despite the best efforts by many of our members, it seemed there were no answers to be found here for which he was satisfied.’”

Now that the initial shock over the Arizona shooting has waned, here comes the inevitable debate over gun control: “’This case is fundamentally about a mentally ill drug abuser who had access to guns and shouldn’t have,’ [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg said at a news conference Tuesday with members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”

Robert Verbruggen explains why stricter gun-control laws would probably not have prevented Loughner from carrying out his attack last weekend: “If someone intends to assassinate a public official, he’s already planning to break a few laws; there is absolutely no reason to believe that one more law — a law that will presumably mete out less punishment than do laws against murder — will affect his calculations. And given how easy it is to conceal a handgun until one’s target is in sight, there’s little hope that this law will help security or police officers disarm assassins before they commence shooting.”

The four-minute video that perfectly encapsulates the hypocrisy of the anti-violent-rhetoric crowd: “Sadly, it’s never war-mongers like Palin and Beck that get shot.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from his former Mossad chief’s assessment that Iran won’t acquire a nuclear weapon before 2015: “‘I think that intelligence estimates are exactly that, estimates,’ Netanyahu said. ‘They range from best case to worst case possibilities, and there is a range there, there is room for differing assessments.’”

With the Russian and Belarusian governments cracking down on opposition leaders, the U.S. needs to figure out what steps to take now that the reset strategy has failed: “[The Carnegie Moscow Center’s Lilia] Shevtsova said the similar authoritarian direction the two countries are pursuing calls for the United States and Europe to create a coordinated policy for dealing with repressive regimes, one that could be developed for Belarus and fine-tuned for Russia.”

More information has surfaced about the strange online life of Arizona shooter Jared Loughner. A UFO website has told reporters that he frequented its Web forum, where his strange messages apparently confused the other posters: “His postings, they said, revealed ‘someone who clearly has many questions for which answers have been elusive if not outright impossible to obtain. And despite the best efforts by many of our members, it seemed there were no answers to be found here for which he was satisfied.’”

Now that the initial shock over the Arizona shooting has waned, here comes the inevitable debate over gun control: “’This case is fundamentally about a mentally ill drug abuser who had access to guns and shouldn’t have,’ [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg said at a news conference Tuesday with members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”

Robert Verbruggen explains why stricter gun-control laws would probably not have prevented Loughner from carrying out his attack last weekend: “If someone intends to assassinate a public official, he’s already planning to break a few laws; there is absolutely no reason to believe that one more law — a law that will presumably mete out less punishment than do laws against murder — will affect his calculations. And given how easy it is to conceal a handgun until one’s target is in sight, there’s little hope that this law will help security or police officers disarm assassins before they commence shooting.”

The four-minute video that perfectly encapsulates the hypocrisy of the anti-violent-rhetoric crowd: “Sadly, it’s never war-mongers like Palin and Beck that get shot.”

Read Less

The Whole World Is Watching

Hugh Hewitt conducted an hour-long interview yesterday with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, currently in his seventh term in Congress. It is an unusually candid conversation; the transcript is worth reading in its entirety.

Ryan covered the role of the Budget Committee in the rollback of ObamaCare, the broader budget battle coming this fall, the siren song of inflation as a solution, and the relationship of all this to the next election. Here’s an example:

HH: … Jerry Brown is already figuring out how to come with a tin cup to Washington, D.C. and beg for money. What’s the message to those governors in California, Illinois, New York, where they’re broke?

PR: … Look, and no offense to Californians, but those of us from more frugal states, we’re not interested in bailing out people from reckless states. You know, the moral hazard of bailing out states who fail to get their finances under control, why would we want to do that? … States need to clean up their own messes, their own acts, in my opinion. … All we would do is just buy delay, which is painful for everybody. Plus, Washington’s out of money. I mean, 41 cents on the dollar is borrowed here. 47% of that 41 cents on the dollar comes from other countries like China and Japan. We just can’t keep going the way we are. …

HH: Are you ready for the media assault, and I use that term advisedly, when they show children without milk at school. …

PR: Yes, that’s just going to happen. And look, I’ve been around these fights before, so it’s not as if this is the first rodeo for some of us. … It’s just the entire system we have could go down in a debt crisis. You know, we really do have a fiscal disaster coming. And if we blink to these forces of status quo, then it’s over with. The worst painful thing to have occur is us not to do anything, and just go down this path, and watch this debt crisis eat us alive. …

Ryan told Hewitt why he thought Congress would not be allowed to go on “porking the place up”:

What makes me feel better this time around, Hugh, is people pay attention. People are actually paying attention to what Congress is doing. The Internet has been a great equalizer. You can no longer go to Washington and do one thing, and then go home and say you’ve done another. Your words catch up with your actions, and that is a new day in Congress that a lot of people around here just don’t recognize.

It is a critical point, made yesterday in a similar analysis of a different issue, about the changed environment in which Congress is operating. The issues are no longer played out in hallways and backrooms; they are covered by an Internet propelled by the force-multipliers of blogs, portals, and social media. It creates a revolutionary situation, reminiscent of a slogan from the 60s.

Hugh Hewitt conducted an hour-long interview yesterday with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, currently in his seventh term in Congress. It is an unusually candid conversation; the transcript is worth reading in its entirety.

Ryan covered the role of the Budget Committee in the rollback of ObamaCare, the broader budget battle coming this fall, the siren song of inflation as a solution, and the relationship of all this to the next election. Here’s an example:

HH: … Jerry Brown is already figuring out how to come with a tin cup to Washington, D.C. and beg for money. What’s the message to those governors in California, Illinois, New York, where they’re broke?

PR: … Look, and no offense to Californians, but those of us from more frugal states, we’re not interested in bailing out people from reckless states. You know, the moral hazard of bailing out states who fail to get their finances under control, why would we want to do that? … States need to clean up their own messes, their own acts, in my opinion. … All we would do is just buy delay, which is painful for everybody. Plus, Washington’s out of money. I mean, 41 cents on the dollar is borrowed here. 47% of that 41 cents on the dollar comes from other countries like China and Japan. We just can’t keep going the way we are. …

HH: Are you ready for the media assault, and I use that term advisedly, when they show children without milk at school. …

PR: Yes, that’s just going to happen. And look, I’ve been around these fights before, so it’s not as if this is the first rodeo for some of us. … It’s just the entire system we have could go down in a debt crisis. You know, we really do have a fiscal disaster coming. And if we blink to these forces of status quo, then it’s over with. The worst painful thing to have occur is us not to do anything, and just go down this path, and watch this debt crisis eat us alive. …

Ryan told Hewitt why he thought Congress would not be allowed to go on “porking the place up”:

What makes me feel better this time around, Hugh, is people pay attention. People are actually paying attention to what Congress is doing. The Internet has been a great equalizer. You can no longer go to Washington and do one thing, and then go home and say you’ve done another. Your words catch up with your actions, and that is a new day in Congress that a lot of people around here just don’t recognize.

It is a critical point, made yesterday in a similar analysis of a different issue, about the changed environment in which Congress is operating. The issues are no longer played out in hallways and backrooms; they are covered by an Internet propelled by the force-multipliers of blogs, portals, and social media. It creates a revolutionary situation, reminiscent of a slogan from the 60s.

Read Less

Morning Commentary

It looks like President Obama has finally found some backbone in his diplomatic spat with Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan president rejected the U.S.’s choice for ambassador to Caracas and dared Obama to cut diplomatic ties with the country. Today Obama responded by kicking the Venezuelan ambassador out of the U.S.

Americans are still displaying a lack of confidence in both political parties, according to a new poll released by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. While pundits from all parts of the political spectrum have lauded President Obama’s successes during the lame-duck session of Congress, a plurality of Americans remains skeptical about the president’s ability to push his policies, according to the survey. And even though a majority of the public agrees that GOP control of the House will benefit the country, that optimism isn’t necessarily due to increased trust in the Republican Party. Only a quarter believe that the Republicans will do a better job running Congress than the Democrats.

The U.S. State Department has come out strongly against the Palestinian Authority’s newest effort to push through a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, suggesting that the Palestinians may be alienating the best friend they’ve had in the White House for years. However, State Department officials still haven’t commented specifically on whether the U.S. would veto the resolution.

The Huffington Post reported recently that the number of uninsured Americans has soared to “over 50 million.” But is that really the case? At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey H. Anderson notes that the numbers come from a recent report published by the Census Bureau, which even the bureau has admitted was largely inaccurate: “The Census report also admits within its own pages that recognition of its inaccuracy led to ‘a research project to evaluate why CPS ASEC estimates of the number of people with Medicaid are lower than counts of the number of people enrolled in the program from CMS’ — in other words, to evaluate why the CPS ASEC lists millions of Americans as being uninsured while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs Medicaid and keeps the official tally of enrollees, says that these people are on Medicaid.”

Islamists are apparently still having trouble getting over that Danish Mohammed cartoon from six years ago. Five terror suspects were arrested in Denmark and Sweden yesterday for plotting to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper headquarters, which published the cartoon in 2005.

With the rest of the world unwilling to combat the growing problem of Somali pirates, the transitional federal government of Somalia has finally taken the problem into its own hands by creating a paramilitary force to fight piracy. Sources say that the militia is being funded by donors in Muslim countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

Ron Radosh joins the growing ranks of writers criticizing New Yorker editor David Remnick’s hostile rant against Israel last week. Radosh also highlights the insidious anti-Israel sentiment among today’s liberal Jewish intellectuals: “Today’s New York intellectuals are a pale imitation of their ancestors. The original group had a fidelity to the truth, and to bold assertions  they believed to be true, regardless of whom they offended. Today’s group, of which Remnick is most typical, runs to join their fellow leftist herd of no longer independent minds in Britain, assuring them of their loyalty to the influential [among] journalists and opinion makers, and if they are Jewish, making their assurance known by joining in the stampede to dissociate themselves from defense of Israel.” Jonathan Tobin discussed Remnick’s Israel problem in CONTENTIONS on Sunday.

It looks like President Obama has finally found some backbone in his diplomatic spat with Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan president rejected the U.S.’s choice for ambassador to Caracas and dared Obama to cut diplomatic ties with the country. Today Obama responded by kicking the Venezuelan ambassador out of the U.S.

Americans are still displaying a lack of confidence in both political parties, according to a new poll released by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. While pundits from all parts of the political spectrum have lauded President Obama’s successes during the lame-duck session of Congress, a plurality of Americans remains skeptical about the president’s ability to push his policies, according to the survey. And even though a majority of the public agrees that GOP control of the House will benefit the country, that optimism isn’t necessarily due to increased trust in the Republican Party. Only a quarter believe that the Republicans will do a better job running Congress than the Democrats.

The U.S. State Department has come out strongly against the Palestinian Authority’s newest effort to push through a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, suggesting that the Palestinians may be alienating the best friend they’ve had in the White House for years. However, State Department officials still haven’t commented specifically on whether the U.S. would veto the resolution.

The Huffington Post reported recently that the number of uninsured Americans has soared to “over 50 million.” But is that really the case? At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey H. Anderson notes that the numbers come from a recent report published by the Census Bureau, which even the bureau has admitted was largely inaccurate: “The Census report also admits within its own pages that recognition of its inaccuracy led to ‘a research project to evaluate why CPS ASEC estimates of the number of people with Medicaid are lower than counts of the number of people enrolled in the program from CMS’ — in other words, to evaluate why the CPS ASEC lists millions of Americans as being uninsured while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs Medicaid and keeps the official tally of enrollees, says that these people are on Medicaid.”

Islamists are apparently still having trouble getting over that Danish Mohammed cartoon from six years ago. Five terror suspects were arrested in Denmark and Sweden yesterday for plotting to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper headquarters, which published the cartoon in 2005.

With the rest of the world unwilling to combat the growing problem of Somali pirates, the transitional federal government of Somalia has finally taken the problem into its own hands by creating a paramilitary force to fight piracy. Sources say that the militia is being funded by donors in Muslim countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

Ron Radosh joins the growing ranks of writers criticizing New Yorker editor David Remnick’s hostile rant against Israel last week. Radosh also highlights the insidious anti-Israel sentiment among today’s liberal Jewish intellectuals: “Today’s New York intellectuals are a pale imitation of their ancestors. The original group had a fidelity to the truth, and to bold assertions  they believed to be true, regardless of whom they offended. Today’s group, of which Remnick is most typical, runs to join their fellow leftist herd of no longer independent minds in Britain, assuring them of their loyalty to the influential [among] journalists and opinion makers, and if they are Jewish, making their assurance known by joining in the stampede to dissociate themselves from defense of Israel.” Jonathan Tobin discussed Remnick’s Israel problem in CONTENTIONS on Sunday.

Read Less

Afternoon Commentary

Vladmir Putin’s political opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted of money laundering and embezzlement yesterday in what many have denounced as a show-trial. The verdict came as no surprise to Khodorkovsky, who calmly read a book as the judge issued the decision. U.S. officials have offered some token condemnations of the conviction, but clearly the Obama administration is unwilling to take any action that might disrupt the “reset” process with Russia just days after the New START treaty was ratified by Congress.

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai may be brought up on treason charges, after WikiLeaks cables revealed that he privately asked the U.S. to keep sanctions against his country in place: “State media reports have said hardline supporters of the president, Robert Mugabe, want an official inquiry into Tsvangirai’s discussion of international sanctions with the US ambassador in Harare. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party said last week the government should draft a law that makes it a treasonable offence to call for sanctions.” The punishment for high treason is the death penalty in Zimbabwe. Tsvangarai, a longtime foe of the dictatorial Mugabe, has discovered that being inside his government may be as dangerous as being outside of it.

President Obama continues to use the argument that Guantanamo Bay is al Qaeda’s “number one recruitment tool.” But how often do terror leaders actually mention Gitmo? At the Weekly Standard, Thomas Joscelyn scours the transcripts of the public speeches of al Qaeda leaders since 2009, and finds that very few refer to the detention facility.

The unwillingness of many libertarians to compromise ideological principles – even among themselves – prevents the movement from gaining any serious political power, writes Christopher Beam in New York magazine: “It’s no coincidence that most libertarians discover the philosophy as teenagers. At best, libertarianism means pursuing your own self-interest, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. At worst, as in Ayn Rand’s teachings, it’s an explicit celebration of narcissism. ‘Man’s first duty is to himself,’ says the young architect Howard Roark in his climactic speech in The Fountainhead. ‘His moral obligation is to do what he wishes.’ Roark utters these words after dynamiting his own project, since his vision for the structure had been altered without his permission. The message: Never compromise.”

In case you needed a reminder on what a joke the UN is, Mary Katharine Ham rounded up the top 10 most “UN-believable” moments of 2010. Number 4: “The UN narrowly avoided putting Iran on its Commission on the Status of Women — a sort of sop to the Islamic Republic in the wake of its rejection for the Human Rights Council — thanks to loud push-back from the U.S. and human-rights groups. Perhaps stoning was a bridge too far. But it does now boast Saudi Arabia as a member of the commission. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, must always wear abaya in public, and are punished for being in public without a male relative as an escort.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticizes Israel as an obstacle to peace, and promises that an independent state of Palestine won’t allow a single Israeli within its borders. “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it,” Abbas told reporters on Saturday. (Cue crickets chirping from the left).

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg groundlessly worries about whether Israel will soon cease being a democracy: “Let’s just say, as a hypothetical, that one day in the near future, Prime Minister [Avigdor] Lieberman’s government (don’t laugh, it’s not funny) proposes a bill that echoes the recent call by some rabbis to discourage Jews from selling their homes to Arabs. Or let’s say that Lieberman’s government annexes swaths of the West Bank in order to take in Jewish settlements, but announces summarily that the Arabs in the annexed territory are in fact citizens of Jordan, and can vote there if they want to, but they won’t be voting in Israel. What happens then?” Say what you will about Lieberman but, actually, his position has always been that some Arab towns and villages that are part of Israel should be given to a Palestinian state while Jewish settlement blocs are annexed to Israel. That may not be what the Palestinians want or even what many Israelis want but the outcome Lieberman desires would be a democratic and Jewish state.

Vladmir Putin’s political opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted of money laundering and embezzlement yesterday in what many have denounced as a show-trial. The verdict came as no surprise to Khodorkovsky, who calmly read a book as the judge issued the decision. U.S. officials have offered some token condemnations of the conviction, but clearly the Obama administration is unwilling to take any action that might disrupt the “reset” process with Russia just days after the New START treaty was ratified by Congress.

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai may be brought up on treason charges, after WikiLeaks cables revealed that he privately asked the U.S. to keep sanctions against his country in place: “State media reports have said hardline supporters of the president, Robert Mugabe, want an official inquiry into Tsvangirai’s discussion of international sanctions with the US ambassador in Harare. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party said last week the government should draft a law that makes it a treasonable offence to call for sanctions.” The punishment for high treason is the death penalty in Zimbabwe. Tsvangarai, a longtime foe of the dictatorial Mugabe, has discovered that being inside his government may be as dangerous as being outside of it.

President Obama continues to use the argument that Guantanamo Bay is al Qaeda’s “number one recruitment tool.” But how often do terror leaders actually mention Gitmo? At the Weekly Standard, Thomas Joscelyn scours the transcripts of the public speeches of al Qaeda leaders since 2009, and finds that very few refer to the detention facility.

The unwillingness of many libertarians to compromise ideological principles – even among themselves – prevents the movement from gaining any serious political power, writes Christopher Beam in New York magazine: “It’s no coincidence that most libertarians discover the philosophy as teenagers. At best, libertarianism means pursuing your own self-interest, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. At worst, as in Ayn Rand’s teachings, it’s an explicit celebration of narcissism. ‘Man’s first duty is to himself,’ says the young architect Howard Roark in his climactic speech in The Fountainhead. ‘His moral obligation is to do what he wishes.’ Roark utters these words after dynamiting his own project, since his vision for the structure had been altered without his permission. The message: Never compromise.”

In case you needed a reminder on what a joke the UN is, Mary Katharine Ham rounded up the top 10 most “UN-believable” moments of 2010. Number 4: “The UN narrowly avoided putting Iran on its Commission on the Status of Women — a sort of sop to the Islamic Republic in the wake of its rejection for the Human Rights Council — thanks to loud push-back from the U.S. and human-rights groups. Perhaps stoning was a bridge too far. But it does now boast Saudi Arabia as a member of the commission. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, must always wear abaya in public, and are punished for being in public without a male relative as an escort.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticizes Israel as an obstacle to peace, and promises that an independent state of Palestine won’t allow a single Israeli within its borders. “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it,” Abbas told reporters on Saturday. (Cue crickets chirping from the left).

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg groundlessly worries about whether Israel will soon cease being a democracy: “Let’s just say, as a hypothetical, that one day in the near future, Prime Minister [Avigdor] Lieberman’s government (don’t laugh, it’s not funny) proposes a bill that echoes the recent call by some rabbis to discourage Jews from selling their homes to Arabs. Or let’s say that Lieberman’s government annexes swaths of the West Bank in order to take in Jewish settlements, but announces summarily that the Arabs in the annexed territory are in fact citizens of Jordan, and can vote there if they want to, but they won’t be voting in Israel. What happens then?” Say what you will about Lieberman but, actually, his position has always been that some Arab towns and villages that are part of Israel should be given to a Palestinian state while Jewish settlement blocs are annexed to Israel. That may not be what the Palestinians want or even what many Israelis want but the outcome Lieberman desires would be a democratic and Jewish state.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.