Protocols of the Subcontractors of Zion


A good piece today in the Turkish press by Soner Çağaptay, Jaclyn Blumenfeld and Burç Özçelik notes the new euphemism for “cunning, conspiring Jew” in these parts: subcontractors.

The [AK] party, for instance, now refers to the PKK as a “subcontractor” (taşeron), suggesting that Israel and invisible actors, not the PKK itself, are responsible for the terror attacks. At the same time, the AKP has also begun labeling domestic and international media that have been critical of its foreign policy as other “subcontractors” puppeteered by the same forces that are “behind the PKK.” These two new conspiracies are laying roots in Turkey. Here is how.

Ricochet on PJTV


Attention Ricochet Podcast fans: Courtesy of PJTV, we’re coming at you in color and in video. Bill Whittle hosts Peter Robinson, Rob Long, and James Lileks in a roundtable for the ages, complete with cameo appearances from Crusoe the Poodle and Tony the Tiger. Watch the show here and here — and let us know what you think.

Ban the Burqa


Those of you who contributed to the burqa debate may be interested in my conclusions. To everyone who helped me to decide where I stood, thank you again.

These bans are outrages against religious freedom and freedom of expression. They stigmatize Muslims. No modern state should be in the business of dictating what women should wear. The security arguments are spurious; there are a million ways to hide a bomb, and one hardly need wear a burqa to do so. It is not necessarily the case that the burqa is imposed upon women against their will; when it is the case, there are already laws on the books against physical coercion.

Heating Up


We’re in the middle of a hair-wilting, energy-sapping, crop-shriveling heat wave here in Israel. But that’s not what this post is about.

This is a photograph of the result of a direct hit by a Qassam rocket on the roof of a rehabilitation center for special-needs children in Sderot, a city inside sovereign Israel whose citizens have been targeted by Hamas for years.

Flood, Procopius, Barone, Codevilla: A Summer of Reading


I’ve been reading Charles Flood’s 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History. It is almost surreal to be reminded of how — in the midst of the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and the ongoing slaughter in Virginia (the Army of the Potomac took 60,000 casualties in three months) — the real Lincoln haters, from Fremont on the left to Greeley on the right, schemed to do him in, only to see all of these setbacks dissipate in early September as Sherman took Atlanta and Sheridan pushed his scorched-earth raids into Virginia. It is a depressing reminder of how fickle the public is, and how eager it is to identify with a winning cause. In reaction to all this, Lincoln himself was not above firing and hiring entirely on political considerations and doing the sort of horse trading that puts modern Congressmen in the pokey.

Although a classicist, I had never read Procopius’s The Wars before, either in English or Greek–a much better work than the more popular Secret History. What Belisarius achieved in North Africa in a few weeks–destroying the Vandal Empire in toto–seems almost to read as if fiction, especially how he conquered Carthage with small, often unreliable forces, far from home, and with a jealous emperor in Justinian. Procopius writes (ca. AD 540-550s) in a very clear Greek that deliberately emulates classical authors like Xenophon, nearly a millennium earlier–reminding us how long-lived Hellenism really was (and Constantinople would last nearly another 1,000 years after Belisarius, its authors still emulating 5th-century BC Attic prose.)

The Curiously Incurious New York Times


As noted here on Ricochet the other day, the very name of the proposed mosque at ground zero, “Cordoba House,” represents a provocation.

Question: In its story on the mosque this morning, “Debate Heating Up on Plans For Mosque Near Ground Zero“–a story that appears on the front page, above the fold, in the space reserved for the most important news–how many times does the New York Times mention that name?

Is Politics Just Like War?


I read your attack on politics as war with great interest, Conor — for I too am dissatisfied with our tendency, since the Great Society ’60s, to approach every policy, and any political contest, through the metaphor of war. Not only does it make things that aren’t war more warlike, it confuses us about what war really is. But politics, which does involve actually competing for power, is considerably more like war than many other things — at least sometimes. You yourself acknowledge that the warlike approach to politics “usually doesn’t make any sense.” I’m very interested in understanding the exceptions.

It helps to look at two different visions of war. In the first, war is a state of exception — a situation in which many rules change, some rules are suspended, and a few new rules kick into effect. War begins when someone creates that situation, or when soon-to-be combatants mutually acknowledge that such a situation exists. The war has a beginning, a middle, and and end, the point at which hostilities are suspended or completed. Maybe one side wins a total or a partial victory. Maybe the loser surrenders conditionally or unconditionally. Maybe one side gains some territory, resources, prestige, or all three.

The Pocket Collapses for ex-NFL Stars


Jarrett Bell has compiled a spectacularly researched article for USA Today about the pitfalls of early fame and fortune in the NFL.

As you might expect, the vast majority of players are ill-prepared for life after football. According to a Sports Illustrated report cited by Bell, 78 percent of NFL players will become bankrupt, divorced, or unemployed within two years of retirement. Talk about a late hit.

Nominees for Repeal Day? Or Stop Making Laws (apologies to the Talking Heads)


This week’s Ricochet podcast also got me thinking — what a good idea the 1994 Contract with America Congress had with repeal day. On that day, Congress would repeal, not pass laws. I always thought it should be a week, not a day. Unfortunately, not much came of it — once there, the new majority became less interested in shrinking government.

But suppose the next Congress, pushed on by the Tea Party, took the idea of shrinking government seriously. What would be the worst laws on the books to repeal? Which laws have the worst cost-benefit ratio? Can the Ricochet network of decentralized but collective wisdom come up with a list? Here are some of the candidates culled from other posts:

Can We Ever Turn Back the Clock on Big Government?


While listening to this week’s Ricochet podcast at the gym, I was struck by how Rob, Peter, James and Pat Sajak were stumped by the question of whether a big government program had ever been repealed. Rob took this to press his theory that the Democrats have succeeded by creating Obamacare, which will hook the American people on yet another permanent entitlement.

Should conservatives despair — I think at least one example exists. The one that popped in my head right during the podcast: Prohibition. It was perhaps the largest federal intervention in daily life ever, telling Americans not to pursue their favorite pastime. It took a constitutional amendment (the 18th) to establish in 1920, and a big bureaucracy to enforce. But it was repealed by 1933 — it had led to widespread disobedience to the law and the rise of organized crime. An example of the progressives’ use of the federal government to enforce morality on the nation — and the nation couldn’t stand it.

The Continuing Follies of Big Government


Ricochet member Duane Oyen posted this astonishing item on Facebook. (Sooner or later we’re going to add a few features to the Ricochet software, making it possible for members to originate conversations, not just join them. But for now–and trusting that Duane won’t mind–I’m simply dropping his item right here.)

“It appears,” Duane wrote, “that the majority of the BP oil leak may well have been the fault of Uncle Sam.” From the website of the Center for Public Integrity:

France’s Post-Birth Abortions


Time has a horrifying story out about a rash of infanticide that has cropped up in France as a result of something that psychiatrists are calling “pregnancy denial.” In the latest case, six tiny bodies were unearthed by authorities in the garden of Dominique Cottrez, and two other bodies were found in the garden of Ms. Cottrez’s parents.

Experts explained [this case] as resulting from pregnancy denial, an often misunderstood and minimized condition. According to Michel Delcroix, a former gynecologist…pregnancy denial is a quasi-schizophrenic condition in which women either don’t realize or cannot accept that they are with child — not even enough to have an abortion. Whether these women are afflicted with the condition before they deliver or as they’re suddenly giving birth, Delcroix explains, the psychological denial is so strong that they refuse to believe they’re pregnant even when the reality confronts them.

Aghanistan: Lessons from History


There’s an article in Foreign Policy this week about the real lessons of Afghanistan’s history. Contrary to received wisdom, argues Christian Caryl, Afghanistan has not generally been the graveyard of empires; the idea that great and arrogant powers are doomed inherently to wreck themselves on Afghan soil is based upon a series of myths:

One of those myths, for example, is that Afghanistan is inherently unconquerable thanks to the fierceness of its inhabitants and the formidable nature of its terrain. But this isn’t at all borne out by the history. “Until 1840 Afghanistan was better known as a ‘highway of conquest’ rather than the ‘graveyard of empires,'” Barfield points out. “For 2,500 years it was always part of somebody’s empire, beginning with the Persian Empire in the fifth century B.C.”

Why Real Books Are Better (Sometimes)


Ursula’s post about summer reading for teens got me thinking about this, and now that several of us–notably, of course, Rupert Murdoch–have mentioned our own summer reading, I thought I’d mention it: There are still some books–quite a lot of them, actually–that I’d rather read have between covers than on the Kindle or iPad. Not that I disdain ebooks. I bought a Kindle about a year ago, and I went through a dozen ebooks before thinking twice about it. Then I downloaded the ebook version of Dostoyevsky’s great novel on atheism and revolution, The Devils.

After I got a few pages into the novel, though, I began realizing that having each page simply evaporate the moment I turned to the next made me feel…cheated. I wanted something to show for the effort. If I was going to read 700 pages, at the end I wanted a prize. I wanted a book I could put on my shelf and keep there–an object that would say, if only to me, ‘Whatever ills and disappointments befall you, dear Reader, remember this: You are a man of determination and accomplishment, for you once read this entire fat book.” I bought the Penguin edition, read the whole novel, and then put The Devils on my bookshelf, between The Brothers Karamazov and War and Peace.