I Believe We Have a Duty to Condemn Anti-Semitism and Unprovoked Acts of Aggression Against Israel

Throughout my lifetime everyone I know has decried anti-semitism and denounced the genocidal horror of the Holocaust, many virtually implying it could never happen today. Surely we are more enlightened now. “Never again.”

We tend to look upon the German population at that time with disdain for standing silent and/or acquiescing in the slaughter of innocent Jews, as if to suggest such passivity or tolerance for unspeakable evil could never happen among civilized peoples.

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Obama Says Something Useful and Important

There were people — smart people, some of whom I know well — who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because they thought, in the words of someone I know who grew up in the south, “it was time.” Time for America to have a black president.

These people were mostly conservative, all Republican, all southern — they carried with them the invisible guilt and shame that a lot of older folks I know from places in the south do. We can debate whether it’s real or not, or justified or not, or foolish or not — we all have opinions on that. But the folks I knew who pulled the lever for Obama in 2008 (and, for the record, none of them did in 2012) did it because they felt that a moderate black president would, on balance, be good for the country.

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Study: Piketty Tax Plan Would Boost Equality by Making Rich Less Rich. But Poor Would be Poorer Too

Margaret Thatcher once accused a Liberal member of parliament of wishing to have “the poor poorer provided the rich were less rich.” The Iron Lady would probably say much the same to economist and inequality researcher Thomas Piketty after the reading the following analysis from the Tax Foundation. The report looks  at the results of Piketty’s suggestion to implement “top income tax rates of 80 percent on income above $5 or $10 million” and “50 or 60 percent on income above about $200,000.” Below are some of the key findings:

*If ordinary income were taxed at the top rates of 80 and 55%, our model estimates that after the economy adjusts, total output (GDP) would be 3.5% lower, wage rates would drop 1.6%, the capital stock would be 7.4% less, and there would be 2.1 million fewer jobs.

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Realistic Scenario Speculation Thread: What Happens After November?

now whatRepublicans are salivating at the prospects of the upcoming election. The Senate seems to be within reach, and, true to form, we have entered “do nothing” mode in hopes of winning by inertia, just like what got us over the line in 2012… er… wait…

Anyway, Republicans are sliding towards a “victory” of sorts, and if all goes well, we’ll have Mitch McConnell to navigate the media and cultural landmines for the next two years while we wait with bated breath for Democrats to squeak out another Presidential win in 2016.

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Three-year-old Drummer Wows Orchestra Crowd

A musical interlude, if you don’t mind. Russian’s Lyonya Shilovsky is just three years old, but that doesn’t prevent him from setting the tempo for the Novosibirsk Symphony Orchestra.

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Progressive Philosophy of Minimum Wage

I was catching up on Jonah Goldberg’s piece of last week on Elizabeth Warren and the broader progressive desire to keep big business as a lap dog, and clicked through to David Harsanyi’s piece at The Federalist on Elizabeth Warren more generally. David, in turn, linked to Warren’s “Eleven Commandments of Progressivism,” one of which is: “We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage.”

After quelling my reflexive irate reaction about the economic idiocy pertaining thereto (lost jobs at the margin, fewer first jobs for teenagers, etc., etc.), I started thinking about the implications of the above “commandment” and realized that the key phrase is “work full-time and still live in poverty.” The progressive worldview implication, I believe, is the plain reading of the words: a belief that no one should fill their days with work, but still be poor. (I’ll leave alone for now the begged question of the definition of ‘poor,’ at least as pertains to life in the U.S.)

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Michelle Nunn Loses Track of Secret Campaign Plans

National Review’s Eliana Johnson has been doing yeoman’s work in her short tenure at the prestigious conservative site. Today she released another blockbuster that sheds light on one of the Democrats more promising midterm recruits.

Johnson caught win of a confidential campaign plan for Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn that details all of her strengths along with many, many weaknesses. It also classifies various Americans by race, religion and orientation:

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It Takes a Village to Slaughter a Mob of Zombies

ZombiesThe wifey and I just finished the last season of The Walking Dead that is available on Netflix. (I’m far too cheap to go out and buy the DVDs or pay for cable). It’s a helluva show, filled with all the things good zombie shows have to offer: ethical choices, dissected human relationships, and, of course, the evisceration of scores of the undead.  

The most fascinating thing about the show to me, though, is how it depicts the behavior of people in the absence of the state. In the world of The Walking Dead, moral authority within a group is achieved by proving that you have value to those around you via your actions and personal traits. Will you carry your own weight? Check! Will you be kind to the other members of the group? Check! Are you willing to occasionally cleave a former neighbor’s skull to protect our newly-minted society? Check! Are you willing to do all of this voluntarily, with no coercion from the group as a whole or any individual? Check! You’re in, buddy! Give that man a machete!  

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A Dispatch from the Army War College

After my post on Friday about Montana Senator John Walsh’s attempt to blame on PTSD the fact that he plagiarized large segments of his master’s thesis at the Army War College, I received this bit of insight from a current student in that same program, which he has generously allowed me to share with you:

I liked your post on John Walsh. I would only note that the part about the difficulty of the Army War College’s masters degree program is wide of the mark. While I thought your comment hilarious about VDH writing a 14-page paper so quickly (and that is probably no exaggeration), the war college program is in fact quite rigorous. I know. I am in it. This is run to the standards of a graduate-level civilian university, not a typical Army training school.

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Why is Obama’s Foreign Policy So Unpopular?

A series of recent polls this summer suggest that public support for President Obama’s foreign policy has reached new lows.  Soundings by the New York Times/CBS News, Washington Post/ABC News, Wall Street Journal/NBC News, Economist/YouGov, and Quinnipiac during the past few weeks all have Obama’s foreign policy approval ratings between 34% and 37%. Just to put it into perspective, this is about where George W. Bush’s foreign policy approval scores stood throughout much of 2006. In other words, not good.

Commentators have offered a number of possible explanations for the President’s currently dismal foreign policy ratings.  One interesting theory, put forward by Daniel Larison of The American Conservative, is that Obama is too hawkish and interventionist overseas for the taste of the U.S. public.

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Book Review: “The Guns of August”

The Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanOne hundred years ago the world was on the brink of a cataclysmic confrontation which would cause casualties numbered in the tens of millions, destroy the pre-existing international order, depose royalty and dissolve empires, and plant the seeds for tyrannical regimes and future conflicts with an even more horrific toll in human suffering. It is not exaggeration to speak of World War I as the pivotal event of the 20th century, since so much that followed can be viewed as sequelæ which can be traced directly to that conflict.

It is thus important to understand how that war came to be, and how in the first month after its outbreak the expectations of all parties to the conflict, arrived at through the most exhaustive study by military and political élites, were proven completely wrong and what was expected to be a short, conclusive war turned instead into a protracted blood-letting which would continue for more than four years of largely static warfare. This magnificent book, which covers the events leading to the war and the first month after its outbreak, provides a highly readable narrative history of the period with insight into both the grand folly of war plans drawn up in isolation and mechanically followed even after abundant evidence of their faults have caused tragedy, but also how contingency—chance, and the decisions of fallible human beings in positions of authority can tilt the balance of history.

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More Headline Bias for Peter Robinson – This Time from the BBC

Peter: Some thought you were being hypersensitive to an anti-Israel bias in the NYT. Well, Twitchy has posted what is perhaps a more blatant example of such bias — from the BBC.

Sunday Morning Contest: The News that Wasn’t


Hey Ricochet, remember how much fun we used to have with our weekend contests? For those of you too young to remember those, here were some of my favorites.

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How It Works

In a ham-fisted—even by his standards— attempt to boost his very remote chances of winning reelection next year, David Cameron recently reshuffled his cabinet, purging the “pale, male and stale” and promoting a number of women in a manner so transparently tokenistic that it offended many more than it might have won over to the Tory cause. He also dumped his education minister, one of the brightest and most impressive members of the Conservative team (his reforms had offended too many in the education establishment) and freed at least potential threat—environment minister Owen Paterson—from the omertà that membership of the cabinet brings.

So now ex-minister Paterson is talking about how things work.

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Are American Leftists (especially Barack Obama) anti-Israel?

I suppose this subject has been beaten to death but it still fascinates me. Why is it that the left tends to be unsympathetic toward Israel’s position? I would word it more strongly (why are so many leftists anti-Israel), except I don’t want to get hung up on the question of whether they are really that far out there. But as a practical matter I see little distinction, for I can’t fathom how anyone could be neutral in this conflict, or declare the opponents morally equivalent without a visceral anti-Israel bias. Hamas (and so many other groups) are committed to the extermination of the Jewish state.

There is no question that Bibi Netanyahu was not exaggerating when he said, “If the Arabs lay down their arms there will be no more war, but if Israel lays down its weapons there would be no more Israel.” Israel consistently acts with restraint, warning civilians of its imminent attacks and providing humanitarian aid. It targets tunnels and weapons, not civilians. Hamas, the opposite. In light of these FACTS, how can any objective person believe there is moral equivalence here? Other than their reflexive wrongheadedness on most issues, how can even leftists be so openly off-base on this? I do believe Obama has a deep, abiding affection for Islam based on statements in his books, and his speeches and policies since in office.

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What Ever Happened to the Sabbath Here in the United States?

imgresPaul Rahe’s lovely account of the Sabbath in Jerusalem, below, got me to wondering: What ever happened to the Sabbath here in this country?

When I was a kid — not all that long ago — we still had enough of a sense of the Christian Sabbath, Sunday, that very few stores were ever open. It would never have so much as occurred to coaches to schedule Little League games, say, for Sunday. On the one occasion I can recall on which I wanted to meet some friends to see a movie (which, in those days, required going to an actual movie theater), I had to get special permission from my father to do so.

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Jerusalem Diary: Shabbat

I arrived in Jerusalem a week ago on Friday afternoon — just as the Jewish Sabbath was about to begin. Mindful that, on the Sabbath it is hard to find anywhere to get a bite to eat in Bakah (where I was staying), the Provost of Shalem College invited me to join his family for dinner that night. Thinking that I would be exhausted and not a suitable guest, I declined and ordered takeout from a burger joint that delivers to hotels and homes. The next day, however, I took a taxi to Ramot Bet — some distance away in northwestern Jerusalem — to join my host and his family for the mid-day meal and for the dinner held at the end of the Sabbath.

This was for me a treat. I have a great many Jewish friends in the United States, and some of them are what they call “observant.” What that word means in Jerusalem, however, is something else again. Within Israel, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have become opposites. The pious have gravitated to Jerusalem. The hedonists tend to live in or near Tel Aviv, which has the feel of Miami Beach. The Israelis of Jerusalem and many of the Jews from abroad who come to the Holy City for a visit are strictly observant. On the Sabbath, they not only do not work. They do not answer the phone, make phone calls, check their email, turn on or off the lights, drive, cook. The list is long. Instead, they pray, they read, they converse with the members of their family, they relax.

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The Real Reason John Walsh Should be Defeated

WalshAs my fellow editor-to-the-stars, Jon Gabriel, noted earlier this week, Montana Democratic Senator John Walsh is in—to use the term of art—a mess of trouble. It looks likely that Walsh lifted large parts of his master’s thesis at the Army War College from outside sources, including an article in Foreign Affairs and Natan Sharansky’s book The Case for Democracy. (Walsh hardly bothered to make even cosmetic changes to the text, leaving it a toss up whether he is more to be loathed for cheating or pitied for how bad he is at it).

I wasn’t particularly shocked by this story—not because it’s within the range of acceptable behavior, but because it seems so pedestrian by contemporary standards. These days, if your political scandal doesn’t feature a prostitute, a crack pipe, or some transcontinental gun-running it just seems like you’re not taking the job that seriously. If anything shocked me about Walsh’s story it’s that you can apparently get a master’s degree from the Army War College with a 14-page paper. In other words, Victor Davis Hanson could’ve knocked it out in the time it took you to get this point in the post—but the task apparently broke the iron ethical resolve of John Walsh.

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Progressive Education Panel Offers No Solutions, Only Outrage

While at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit last week, I attended a few panels on public education. I’ve kept up to date on the school choice movement for the past few years, but hadn’t witnessed an anti-choice meeting for quite some time.

Compared to the education reformers’ message of optimism, enterprise and fresh thinking, the Netroots discussions seemed like an alternate universe — and a grim one at that.

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My Statement Regarding the Abuse of Harassment Codes on Campus

Today I addressed the United States Commission on Civil Rights to talk about the role that federal law and regulations have played in encouraging campus speech codes. Here is my testimony:

If you had told me before I started working at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the leading defender of free speech rights on college campuses, that I would routinely battle the startling misapplications of harassment codes to punish speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

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Of Sovereignty and Survival

battleYesterday, while perusing the headlines that chronicle the self mutilation that is US foreign policy under Barack Obama, I paused to look in on friends and topics here on Ricochet, wherein I found that our own Fred Cole has stirred the pudding, so to speak. I have a great deal of affection for Fred and his lovely wife, both of whom I had the pleasure of meeting last year at a Ricochet gathering in Las Vegas. A one-man distillery of compelling argument and straightforward prose, Fred has a gift for being simultaneously provocative and good-natured, so I hope I will not run afoul of his good graces when I paraphrase Bill Buckley in saying that while I’d like to take Fred’s stance on immigration seriously, I’m afraid that doing so would insult his intelligence.

I remember several years ago, while driving to southern California where I had hoped to visit with Rob Long during a layover in Fontana (the schedules didn’t work out), calling him with my revelation that the folks at Rand McNally (the road atlas people) were actually communists. This was due to the fact that, while the highways on their maps appeared straight and simple, the reality was a convoluted, twisted, coagulated mess that had no resemblance at all to the neat lines in their little book, hearkening to the oft-repeated critique that while communism looked plausible on paper, the reality of its application was catastrophic.

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Bring Back That Old-Time Elitism

In 1780, François de Barbé Marbois, a French diplomat, sent a series of questions to each of the 13 states. His goal: To compile a report, to be sent back to Paris, on the economic life of the new country. In Virginia, the questions were forwarded to the state’s governor, Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson’s answers were eventually published as Notes on the State of Virginia. Among its most famous passages is Jefferson’s paean to agriculture:

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Jerusalem Diary: Egress

I flew into Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv a week ago today. On the evening I arrived, I received by email an invitation to join a Hillsdale College cruise as a shipboard lecturer and to bring my wife along for the ride. I was scheduled to leave Ben Gurion airport at 12:20 a.m. on Saturday, the 26th of July — which is to say, tonight. I am scheduled to be in Istanbul for the cruise on Tuesday, the 29th.

At first, I thought this impossible! Then, I thought again. I was to arrive at the Detroit Airport at 11:12 a.m. on the 26th. My wife could pick me up and we could then drive directly to her parents’ home in Maine, drop off the children, leave the car, take the bus down to Logan Airport in Boston on the 28th, and fly from there to Istanbul.

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Do Americans Care Too Much About “Smart”?

I’ve been reading with great interest the threads from Salvatore, Ryan and Midge on elitism, meritocracy, and higher education. I discovered them too late to get into the discussion, but I’ll throw in an oar by asking a question: do Americans value intelligence too much? I was recently reading this piece on parenting around the world, which claims that Americans care far more about raising “smart” kids than, say, the Dutch, who actually worry that having a smarty-pants child may be a bad thing.

This is not a foolish concern. Intelligence can be an asset in a wide range of circumstances, but it can also be isolating, and can increase the odds of a person ending up jaded, bored, or insufferably arrogant. In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explains his theory about how higher education allowed the new upper class to get ahead through their smarts, winning the good, brainy jobs that were suddenly more abundant in an information economy. They then took their lavish salaries and formed enclaves of snooty people who look down on the rest of us.

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