Welcome to the Reading Room

Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Cloud in the Machine

By Kevin D. Williamson

Politics is not always about somebody getting his way and somebody else failing to get his way. Consider the case of the Veterans Affairs hospitals: Nobody wanted this outcome. That outcome, recall, is a great many dead veterans, the result of medical and managerial malpractice. Democrats did not want the hospitals that care for our veterans to be catastrophically mismanaged while administrators set about systematically destroying the evidence of their incompetence, and Republicans did not want that, either. Independents are firmly opposed to negligently killing veterans. It doesn’t poll well. Everybody is so opposed to that outcome that we created a cabinet-level secretariat to prevent it and installed as its boss Eric Shinseki, a highly regarded former Army general. We spent very large sums of money, billions of dollars, to prevent this outcome, almost trebling VA spending from 2000 to 2013 even as the total number of veterans declined by several million.

Nobody wanted these veterans dead, but dead they are. How is it possible that the government of the United States of America — arguably the most powerful organization of any sort in the history of the human race, in possession of a navy, a nuclear arsenal, and a vast police apparatus — cannot ensure that its own employees and contractors do not negligently kill its other employees and former employees? Never mind providing veterans with world-class medical care — the federal government cannot even prevent bureaucratic homicide. All of the political will is behind having a decent VA, and there is nothing to be gained politically from having a horrific one. How can it be that, with everybody free to vote as he pleases and to propose such policies as please him, we end up with what nobody wants?

[Read the whole article here.]

Monday, May 19, 2014

End of the European Dream?

By Joseph A. Harriss

Who says there’s anything wrong with the European Union? I mean, apart from the fact that it’s founded on little more than political hot air, that it’s profoundly undemocratic, that it struts and frets on the world stage, but, insecure about its own identity, is unable to muster either the will or the means to play a significant role in international affairs. That its only raison d’ĂȘtre is the obsessive, mischievous geographical and regulatory expansion that keeps unaccountable Eurocrats in Brussels at their tax-free jobs. That its botched attempt at creating greater unity with its own currency, the misbegotten euro, is instead stifling needed growth and causing deep divisions among its twenty-eight member states.

Today, more and more Europeans are beginning to find a lot wrong with the EU. Many are wondering openly whether it is only a necessary nuisance or an actual handicap as Europe struggles to recover from the six-year-old economic crisis. After all, they were never asked whether they wanted this artificial postwar creation. The brainchild of a French cognac salesman named Jean Monnet, it was contrived by technocrats eager to try their hand at creating the biggest multinational bureaucracy—carrying out the most massive redistribution of wealth—since the United Nations. The peasants were never told where they were being led...

[Read the whole article here.]

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Internal Repression Service

By Andrew C. McCarthy

Through months of Obama administration stonewalling, the redoubtable Judicial Watch perseveres in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, finally uncovering bombshell documents that have eluded several congressional investigations. For the second time in a matter of days, we find that standing oversight committees with competing subject-matter jurisdictions and limited attention spans are incapable of the grand-jury-style probe needed to get to the bottom of administration lawlessness. For that, in the absence of a scrupulous special prosecutor reasonably independent from the Obama Justice Department (not gonna happen), it becomes clear that a select committee will be necessary.

Just two weeks ago, the scandal involved the cover-up of administration duplicity regarding the Benghazi massacre. (See my related article in the new edition of National Review.) Now, it is the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service.

For a year, the administration and IRS headquarters in Gomorrah by the Potomac have attempted to run an implausible con-job: The harassment of organizations opposed to Obama’s policies by an executive-branch agency had nothing to do with the Obama administration — it was just a rogue operation by an IRS office in Cincinnati which, though regrettably overzealous, was apolitical, non-ideological, and without “even a smidgen of corruption.”

The story had about as much credibility as the administration’s “blame the video” script that Susan Rice dutifully performed on the post-Benghazi Sunday shows, or the Justice Department’s 2011 assurance to Congress that its agents would never knowingly allow the transfer of a couple of thousand guns to criminal gangs in Mexico. The “Cincinnati did it” yarn has been unraveling since it was first spun by IRS honcho Lois Lerner and, soon afterwards, by President Obama himself. The lie has now been exploded by e-mails clawed from the IRS by Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act suit.

These include one from a top IRS lawyer in Washington succinctly explaining that “EOT [i.e., the revenue agency’s “Exempt Organization Technical unit” in Washington] is working Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy.” This was in July 2012, which is to say, in the key final months of Obama’s reelection campaign. “Tea party applications” were requests by conservative groups to be granted tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. By selectively setting aside their applications, delaying the conferral of tax-exempt status to which the law entitled them, and putting them through inquisitions that violated their constitutional rights to political speech and association, IRS headquarters prevented them from raising funds and organizing as an effective opposition.

The e-mails elucidate that Cincinnati’s strings were being pulled in Washington: “We are developing a few applications here in DC and providing copies of our development letters with the agent [in Cincinnati] to use as examples in the development of their cases.” “Tea party applications,” IRS headquarters elaborates, have been isolated as “the subject of an SCR” — meaning “sensitive case report.” To “resolve” such cases would require “coordination with Rob” — a reference, Judicial Watch contends, to Rob Choi, who was then a high-ranking IRS official in Washington.

It is no more conceivable that IRS headquarters was off on its own anti–Tea Party witch-hunt than that the subordinate Cincinnati office was. The fuse, it must be recalled, was lit by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, affirming the First Amendment’s prohibition against government restrictions of political speech by corporations. The ruling enraged the Left and prompted the president’s tongue-lashing of the stunned justices during the 2010 State of the Union address...

[Read the whole article here.]

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Inconvenience of History

by Leon Wieseltier

"Yeah, let’s talk about that.” The president wished to change the subject. At a press conference the other day he was being interrogated about Ukraine when a reporter asked a question about health care. Obama was delighted. As the excellent Peter Baker reported in The New York Times, “Mr. Obama seems intent on not letting Russia dominate his presidency.” This is not the first time the president has attempted to resist such intrusions upon his idea of how the world ought to be. He has been trying to escape the Middle East for years and “pivot” to Asia, as if the United States can ever not be almost everywhere, leading and influencing, supporting or opposing, in one fashion or another. On the eve of the president’s trip to Asia, Susan Rice remarked that “increasingly [we] see our top priorities as tied to Asia, whether it’s accessing new markets or promoting exports or protecting our security interests and promoting our core values.” What is this strange choice, this retiring either / or calculation? Only small powers think this way. Can the United States ever have “top priorities” only in one place, even if it is a place as big as Asia? Are our “security interests” not also broached by the failure of the Syrian state, or our “core values” not also invoked by its slaughter without end?

The tiresome futurism of Obama, his dogmatic views about what this ritualistically ballyhooed century will be like and what it will not be like, are only a part of what lowers his vision. The bigger problem is that the president feels inconvenienced by history. It refuses to follow his program for it. It regularly exasperates him and regularly disappoints him. It flows when he wants it to ebb and it ebbs when he wants it flow. Like Mr. Incredible, the president is flummoxed that the world won’t stay saved, or agree to be saved at all. After all, he came to save it. And so the world has only itself to blame if Obama is sick of it and going home.

Obama has concluded, according to Baker, that he “will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin,” and so he has decided that he “will spend his final two and a half years in office trying to minimize the disruption Mr. Putin can cause, preserve whatever marginal cooperation can be saved and otherwise ignore the master of the Kremlin.” Ignoring the master, of course, has the consequence of ignoring the master’s victims: the Obama administration abandons to their fates one people after another, who pay the price for the president’s impatience with large historical struggles. The Ukrainians, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Moldovans, the Poles, the Czechs, the Japanese, the Taiwanese, the Baltic populations: they are all living with the jitters, and some of them on the cusp of despair, because the United States seems no longer reliable in emergencies, which it prefers to meet with meals ready to eat. No wonder that so much of our diplomacy consists in tendering reassurances. The United States now responds to oppressed and threatened peoples by making them more lonely and afraid—a sentimental objection, I know, and one that is unlikely to trouble Henry Kissinger’s epigone in the White House.

Obama’s impatience with history has left him patient with evil. It is not a pretty sight; but his broken foreign policy is riddled with such ironies. Here is another one: Baker reports that the president has elected to revise his Russia policy into “an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment.” How twentieth century! Never mind that containment was a policy with many interpretations, and not quite the formula for moving on that Obama is seeking. The grim fact is that Obama’s containment is not containing Putin, whose “green men” and “peoples’ republics” and Big Lies and Russophilic incitement and covert operations and military deployments are undeterred by it. While Obama pitches the “off-ramp,” Putin revels in the on-ramp. Geneva is now the world capital of failure. The only country that American containment is containing is America.

Obama’s surprisability about history, which is why he is always (as almost everyone now recognizes) “playing catch-up,” is owed to certain sanguine and unknowledgeable expectations that he brought with him to the presidency. There was no reason to expect that the Ayatollah Khamenei would take Obama’s “extended hand,” but every reason to expect that he would crack down barbarically on stirrings of democracy in his society. There was no reason to expect that Assad would go because he “must go,” but every reason to expect him to savage his country and thereby create an ethnic-religious war and a headquarters for jihadist anti-Western terrorists. There was no reason to expect Putin to surrender his profound historical bitterness at the reduced post-Soviet realities of Russia and leave its “near abroad” alone. There was no reason to expect that the Taliban in Afghanistan would behave as anything but a murderous theocratic conspiracy aspiring to a return to power. And so on. Who, really, has been the realist here? And what sort of idealism is it that speaks of justice and democracy but denies consequential assistance (which the White House outrageously conflates with ground troops) to individuals and movements who courageously work to achieve those ideals?

But the richest of the ironies about Obama’s foreign policy is this: the world that in his view wanted to be rid of American salience now longs for it. It turns out that Obama’s Iraq-based view of America’s role in the world, according to which American preeminence is bad for the world and bad for America, is not shared by societies and movements in many regions. They need, and deserve, support in their struggles. (In Syria, for example, the tyrant enjoys the significant support of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, the Islamist rebels enjoy the significant support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and the moderate secular rebels enjoy the significant support of nobody.) There are many places in the world where we are despised not for taking action but for not taking action. Our allies do not trust us. Our enemies do not fear us. What if American preeminence is good for the world and good for America? Let’s talk about that.

[This article appears here. ]

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hashtag Diplomacy Jumps the Shark

by Seth Mandel

The Obama administration’s “hashtag diplomacy” has been under criticism for some time, though condemnation of its participation in the campaign to rescue the girls kidnapped by Nigeria’s Islamist terror group Boko Haram–tweeting messages along with the tag #BringBackOurGirls–was especially voluble this weekend. I agree with Jonathan on First Lady Michelle Obama’s decision to join the hashtag campaign: it’s harmless; she’s a political celebrity without the power to do more than speak out anyway; and while she certainly can simply tell her husband to “bring back our girls” in private, doing so publicly is more meaningful, and possibly more effective.

However, it is decidedly not harmless when a Western leader who really can order troops decides his or her contribution will be to play a hashtag game. I’m looking at you, British Prime Minister David Cameron, head of the government while representing the party once led by Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. In fairness to Cameron, he was on a television talk show when another guest, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, asked him if he’d like to hold the sign and mug for the cameras. I’m not sure how it would have looked if he’d said no. At the same time, he shows no understanding of just how silly it looks to have a Western leader join this campaign, which should be reserved for those who can’t do more than make a sad face and throw up their hands.

[Read the whole article here.]

Monday, May 12, 2014

Satan and Man at Harvard

By Mark Tooley

Plans for a Satanic black mass Monday evening in Memorial Hall at Harvard University recall conservative icon William Buckley's famous God and Man at Yale, which in 1951 chastised his Ivy League school for abandoning its Christian roots. His critique applied to nearly all of America's most prestigious, historically Protestant academies that shed their church affiliations in favor of a brash secularism.

What would Buckley, a devout Catholic, say today about a black mass at Harvard, the nation's oldest university and founded by the Puritans to train Calvinist clergy?

The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston expressed its “deep sadness and strong opposition to the plan to stage a 'black mass' on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge.” Certainly Buckley would be sad too but not too surprised. He diagnosed the spiritual and intellectual trajectory over 60 years ago.

A statement from Harvard Extension School carefully explains that “an independent student organization,” the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, will host a “controversial student event involving a historical reenactment of a black mass ceremony that has a narrator providing historical context and background.”

The school website offers a further statement from the black mass student host group, which will partner for the grim event with the Satanic Temple of New York, whose devotees will presumably provide the seasoned demonic expertise the Harvard students lack:

We are hosting a reenactment of a historical event known as a Black Mass. The performance is designed to be educational and is preceded by a lecture that provides the history, context, and origin of the Black Mass. While a piece of bread is used in the reenactment, the performance unequivocally does not include a consecrated host. Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes, but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices. This performance is part of a larger effort to explore religious facets that continue to influence contemporary culture.


Naturally, the school website insists it does not “endorse the views or activities” of any independent student group but does support the rights of students and faculty to “speak and assemble freely.” It also adds that the black mass hosts additionally are inclusively scheduling a “Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibition, and a Buddhist presentation on meditation-as part of a student-led effort to explore different cultures.”

Inclusive indeed. Will the Cultural Studies Club re-create an Aztec ritualistic human sacrifice in its expansive exploration of different cultures? Or maybe some sati, burning alive a newly widowed woman in homage to a Hindu goddess? Why not sacrifice children to Moloch to understand ancient Canaanite folkways?

Maybe Harvard inclusivity is not yet ready for full throttle multiculturalism. Baby steps. Meanwhile, the visiting New York Satanists will provide “commentary and historical context.” But in the interest of clarity, Harvard should acknowledge that a black mass affirms nothing positive but is strictly a negation, mocking the Roman Catholic Eucharist. Will Harvard be open to organized, ritualistic mockery of other faiths, such as Islam?

[Read the whole article here.]

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Great War Revisited

by George Weigel

In 1936, the British writer Rebecca West stood on the balcony of Sarajevo’s town hall and said to her husband, “I shall never be able to understand how it happened.” It was World War I: the civilizational cataclysm that began, according to conventional chronology, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated in the Bosnian capital on June 28, 1914, by Gavrilo Princip, a twenty-year-old Bosnian Serb.

World War I was known for decades as the “Great War.” It seems an apt title. For if we think of a century not as an aggregation of one hundred years but as an epoch, what we know as “the twentieth century” began with the guns of August 1914 and ended when one of the Great War’s more consequential by-products, the Soviet Union, disintegrated in August 1991. World War I set in motion virtually all the dynamics that were responsible for shaping world history and culture in those seventy-seven years: the collapse of dynastic power in the fall of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman empires; the end of the Caliphate; new nation-states, new tensions in colonial competition, and new passions for decolonization; the mid-twentieth-century totalitarianisms; efforts to achieve global governance; the next two world wars (World War II and the Cold War); the emergence of the United States as leader of the West; serious alterations in the basic structures of domestic and international finance; and throughout Western culture, a vast jettisoning of traditional restraints in virtually every field, from personal and social behavior to women’s roles to the arts.

It was the “Great War” in other ways, too. Human history had never seen such effusive bloodletting: twenty million dead, military and civilian, with another twenty-one million wounded and maimed. Beyond that, the Great War created the conditions for the influenza pandemic that began in the war’s final year and eventually claimed more than twice as many lives as were lost in combat.

Sixty-five million soldiers, sailors, and airmen were called to their respective national colors in a struggle that evoked great acts of valor. Between 1914 and 1918, more than six hundred Victoria Crosses were awarded to British and Dominion troops. In Australia, Anzac gallantry during the 1915 Gallipoli campaign is still remembered as the formative experience of Australian nationhood. Names like Sergeant York and Eddie Rickenbacker continue to inspire courage among Americans.

The Great War also raised profound ethical questions about war, about nationalism, and about moral judgment in political and military affairs. It was the war during which the idea that “the great and the good” governed society by natural birthright was interred; the war in which the British poet Wilfred Owen, awarded the Military Cross for heroism in combat, wrote that those who had experienced a gas attack “would not tell with such zest/To children ardent for some desperate glory/The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori.” Owen and the other British anti-war poets were not alone in thinking that something had gone badly awry between 1914 and 1918. No less enthusiastic a warrior than Winston Churchill could write, in the war’s aftermath, that “all the horrors of all the ages were brought together, and not only armies but whole populations were thrust into the midst of them. . . . Neither peoples nor rulers drew the line at any deed which they thought could help them to win. . . . Europe and large parts of Asia and Africa became one vast battlefield on which after years of struggle not armies but nations broke and ran.”

These jarring juxtapositions—between a young fanatic’s terrorist act in provincial Sarajevo and the continental carnage that followed; between inspiring episodes of extraordinary heroism and a debilitating sense of civilizational guilt that things had ever come to such a pass—have shaped interpretations of the Great War over the past century. At one hermeneutic pole, the war is regarded as a virtually incomprehensible act of civilizational suicide. That conclusion, first shaped by the failures of the post-war Versailles Treaty to restore order in Europe, by the anti-war writings of poets like Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, and by German novelist Erich Maria Remarque in All Quiet on the Western Front, was later accepted by such eminent historians as Britain’s Lewis Namier (who called World War I “the greatest disaster in European history”) and Columbia University’s Fritz Stern (for whom the Great War was “the first calamity of the twentieth century . . . from which all the other calamities sprang”). At the other pole of judgment, the Great War was a necessary piece of nasty work that prevented a militaristic Germany from dominating Europe politically and economically.

[Read the whole article here.]

Friday, May 9, 2014

Common Core: Bad Program, Bad Politics

By Michelle Malkin

All politics is local. That means Republican politicians with national ambitions had better pay attention to what grassroots parents are saying and doing about the federal education racket known as Common Core. In bellwether Indiana this week, anti–Common Core activists won a pair of pivotal electoral victories against GOP governor Mike Pence.

Pence’s attempt to mollify critics by rebranding and repackaging shoddy Common Core standards is fooling no one.

Tuesday’s Republican primary elections in the Hoosier State resulted in the landslide defeat of two establishment state representatives running for reelection. Pence had endorsed Kathy Heuer over challenger Christopher Judy, and Pence’s lieutenant governor, Sue Ellspermann, had endorsed Rebecca Kubacki over challenger Curt Nisly. The incumbents enjoyed the support of the Common Core–promoting U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

These same big-business elites backed Pence’s ploy to stave off grassroots parental opposition by “withdrawing” from Common Core — and then immediately adopting “new” standards that recycle the same old rotten ones. As Hoosier mom Erin Tuttle put it, Pence’s stunt “gave the appearance of voiding the Common Core, while the Indiana Department of Education and the Center for Education and Career Innovation walked it through the backdoor.”

Challengers Judy and Nisly made their opponents’ refusal to help end Common Core in the state a central issue. Hoosiers Against Common Core, led by moms Tuttle and Heather Crossin, endorsed the dark-horse challengers. With little money and scant press attention, they beat Pence’s machine by astonishingly wide margins: Judy ousted Heuer 57–43; Nisly defeated Kubacki 65–35.

Well before the horrors of Common Core had penetrated cable TV and late-night comedy shows, Indiana parents led the lonely charge. They were at the vanguard of challenging the program’s constitutionality, costs, substandard academic quality, and privacy invasions, as well as the special-interest lobbyists fueling Fed Ed. In 2012, Hoosiers Against Common Core spearheaded the stunning ouster of Tony Bennett, the Indiana GOP’s scandal-plagued former state education secretary who fled to Common Core–peddling former governor Jeb Bush’s Florida for another educrat job.

The way Pence is going, his 2016 ambitions may soon face the same fate. Pence’s hero Ronald Reagan advocated abolishing the federal Department of Education, yet Pence is busy emulating the bureaucratic behemoth. In addition to embracing the expedient “cut and paste” rewrite of Indiana’s academic standards overseen by D.C. Common Core operatives, Pence is now pursuing the construction of a statewide student database. It looks and sounds a lot like the federal data-tracking warehouse championed by Common Core advocates.

[Read the whole article here.]


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hillary Clinton and Boko Haram

By Andrew C. McCarthy

“We must stand up to terrorism,” bleated Hillary Clinton a few days ago in a tweet expressing outrage against Boko Haram, the jihadist organization that has abducted hundreds of young girls in Nigeria. Yet, when she was actually in a position to stand up to Boko Haram’s terrorism as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton instead protected the group.

At the Daily Beast, Josh Rogin reports:

The State Department under Hillary Clinton fought hard against placing the al Qaeda-linked militant group Boko Haram on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations for two years. And now, lawmakers and former U.S. officials are saying that the decision may have hampered the American government’s ability to confront the Nigerian group that shocked the world by abducting hundreds of innocent girls.


While Mrs. Clinton now issues indignant tweets, Mr. Rogin elaborates on her failure to mention

that her own State Department refused to place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2011, after the group bombed the UN headquarters in Abuja. The refusal came despite the urging of the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and over a dozen Senators and Congressmen.

“The one thing she could have done, the one tool she had at her disposal, she didn’t use. And nobody can say she wasn’t urged to do it. It’s gross hypocrisy,” said a former senior U.S. official who was involved in the debate. “The FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department really wanted Boko Haram designated, they wanted the authorities that would provide to go after them, and they voiced that repeatedly to elected officials.”

In May 2012, then-Justice Department official Lisa Monaco (now at the White House) wrote to the State Department to urge Clinton to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. The following month, Gen. Carter Ham, the chief of U.S. Africa Command, said that Boko Haram provided a “safe haven” for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and was likely sharing explosives and funds with the group. And yet, Hillary Clinton’s State Department still declined to place Boko Haram on its official terrorist roster.


As Mr. Rogin further details, placing an organization on the terrorist list enables the government to use various investigative tools for law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering purposes. It also squeezes the organization by criminalizing the provision of material support and the conduct of business with it.

After numerous Boko Haram atrocities, Republicans attempted to force Secretary Clinton to designate the group or explain why she refused to do so. The State Department heavily lobbied against the legislation. Only after John Kerry replaced Clinton, and after a series of jihadist bombings against churches and other targets, did the State Department finally relent and add Boko Haram to the terrorist list last November.

The excuses now being offered in explanation of Clinton’s dereliction are specious. As Rogin explains, Clinton’s State Department claimed that Boko Haram was merely a local group with parochial grievances that were no threat to the United States. Have a look, though, at the State Department’s list, here. Several of the listed groups are waging local terrorist campaigns that do not threaten our country—the Basque ETA, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Real Irish Republican Army, etc. A significant reason for having the list is to promote international cooperation against terrorism and discourage its use against anyone anywhere. The fact that a terrorist organization may have only local grievances and may not directly imperil the U.S. has never been thought a reason to exclude it from the list.

[Read the whole article here.]

Israel's Christian Problem

By Vijay Prashad

On Easter Sunday, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry -- a Dutch diplomat -- joined a procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the hill called Golgotha in Jerusalem. On the way, Serry and the procession came upon an Israeli police blockade. "A precarious standoff ensued," Serry later said, "ending in an angry crowd pushing their way through."

What Serry experienced had been documented in a 2009 paper from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem called Kairos Palestine. "Religious liberty is severely restricted," wrote the church leaders. "The freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security. Jerusalem and its holy places are out of bounds for many Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and Gaza strip. Even Jerusalemites face restrictions during the religious feasts. Some of our Arab clergy are regularly barred from entering Jerusalem."

In 2012, the US State Department noted, "Strict closures and curfews imposed by the Israeli government negatively affected residents' ability to practice their religion at holy sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem."

The Israeli authorities denied the incident, saying that it was a "non-event." Israel's envoy to the United Nations went one step further. Ambassador Ron Prosor wrote to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to accuse Serry of taking "disruptive steps that exacerbated tensions on the ground." Prosor, who has made it a habit of making accusations against UN officials, wrote, "It is unfortunate that a UN official abused his position and the UN platform to express personal opinions." Serry's experiences repeat those of thousands of Palestinians who are often blocked from access to their holy places. Israel makes pilgrims apply for permits, which many say are often not provided or are sometimes disregarded.

[Read the whole article here.]

Swapping DNA in the Womb

By Beth Marie Mole

DNA from male cells, most likely from a fetus or sibling, are often found in the brains of women, according to a study released yesterday (September 26) in PLOS ONE. The findings are the first demonstration of microchimerism—in which cells that originated in one individual integrate into the tissues of another—in the human brain, and could have implications for disease.

“Knowing cells are in the brain brings home the idea that we’re a little more diverse than we thought we were,” said Nelson. “So conceptually, it may be more appropriate to think of ourselves as an ecosystem rather than a single genetic template.”

Researchers have suspected that the human brain may harbor microchimeric cells, which are present in other human organs, and previous studies in mice have shown that such foreign cells can break through the blood-brain barrier. But the study, led by Lee Nelson of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, revealed that microchimeric cells could not only migrate to the brain, but do so frequently: more than 60 percent of autopsied brains contained DNA from another individual.

Microchimerism most commonly arises during pregnancy when cells from a fetus pass through the placenta and into the mother’s body—and vice versa. The foreign cells can then migrate to various tissues and set up chimeric cell lines, which has raised many unanswered question about immune disorders and other links to disease risks. Other studies have found that fetuses can also acquire microchimeric cells from a twin or even from an older sibling, as some fetal cells linger in the uterus. In rare cases, microchimerism can occur from blood transfusions in immunocompromised patients.

[Read the whole article here.]

Let Us Pray

by George Will

After the marshal on Monday spoke the traditional “God save the United States and this honorable court,” the Supreme Court ruled that the upstate New York town of Greece does not violate the First Amendment’s prohibition of “establishment of religion” by opening its board of supervisors’ meetings with a prayer. This ruling would not scandalize James Madison and other members of the First Congress, which drafted and sent to the states for ratification the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights. The Congress did this after hiring a chaplain.

[Read the whole article here.]

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Triumph of Nice

by William Kilpatrick

In the summer of 2012, Michele Bachmann and four other House members sent a letter to the Inspector-Generals of key government agencies asking them to open an investigation into possible Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government.

The letter to the Department of State specifically raised concerns over Huma Abedin, then-Deputy Chief of Staff and top personal aide to the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The letter stated that Abedin “has three family members—her late father, her mother, and her brother—connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations,” and noted that the Department of State had “taken actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests.”

For their pains, the five Republican House members were severely castigated, not only by Democrats but also by fellow Republicans. For instance, Senator John McCain, who had “every confidence in Huma’s loyalty to our country,” characterized Bachmann’s assertions as “ugly and unfortunate attacks” on “an American of genuine patriotism and love of country.” As with McCain’s response, most of the criticism of Bachmann et al was addressed not to the merits of the charges but to their insensitive nature. The charges were variously described as “vicious,” “extreme,” “outrageous,” “sinister,” and “offensive.” Republican campaign strategist Ed Rollins expressed concern that the Republican Party would become the party of “intolerance and hate” if Bachmann had her way, and he admonished her to seek forgiveness:

Shame on you, Michele! You should stand on the floor of the House and apologize to Huma Abedin and to Secretary Clinton and the millions of hardworking, loyal Muslim Americans for your wild and unsubstantiated charges. As a devoted Christian you need to ask forgiveness for this grievous lack of judgment and reckless behavior.

Such exercises in shaming were formerly confined for the most part to communist Chinese re-education camps, but of late they seem to have become standard operating procedure in our own society whenever anyone steps over the sensitivity line. And who can tell where those fault lines lie? They are constantly being re-drawn. Moreover, as in the case of Mozilla CEO’s Brendan Eich, they can be applied retroactively. Eich was recently forced to step down from his position following the revelation that he had contributed $1,000 to the campaign in support of Proposition 8 six years ago. An apology was demanded from Mozilla by gay activists and was soon forthcoming. Here are some excerpts from Mozilla executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker’s statement:

We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right…. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people…. We’re sorry. We must do better…. We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility….

“A renewed understanding” of what? That one must never hurt the feelings of those who believe that same sex-marriage is good for our society, but that it’s all right to trample over the lives of those who disagree?

[Read the whole article at this link.]

Obama's Smoking Gun

by Jeffrey Lord

The president lies. So insisted the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in a taped interview with author Ed Klein for Klein’s book on Obama titled The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House. As the latest revelation of a White House e-mail surfaces — which some are calling a smoking gun from the Benghazi scandal — the picture of a White House that flatly lies no matter the subject continues to sink Mr. Obama in the polls.

It is worth going back to the Reverend Wright to have a better understanding of what’s going on here. Klein was granted an interview with Obama’s longtime mentor, and as part of that interview Wright tells the story of the blow-up that occurred when videotaped sermons from Obama’s Trinity United Church of Christ finally exploded into conservative media view. Obama, now in mid-campaign, took a secret break to confront the reverend in Wright’s Chicago living room. The conversation did not go well, with Obama asking Wright in essence to disappear from public view. Wright says this of the moment when Wright refused the suggestion:

Barack said, "I’m sorry you don’t see it the way I do. Do you know what your problem is?" And I said, "No, what’s my problem?" And he said, "You have to tell the truth." I said, "That’s a good problem to have. That’s a good problem for all preachers to have. That’s why I could never be a politician."

So here we are, five and a half years later, and the country has learned of these deliberate lies:

• Health Care: The president told Americans repeatedly that they could keep their doctor and keep their health insurance if they liked them.

• Benghazi: Yes, in fact, contrary to repeated denials, the White House did in fact prep then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice to go out on those five Sunday news shows and blame the Benghazi attacks on an Internet video.

• The IRS: No, the IRS targeting of conservative groups was not the work of “rogue agents” in Cincinnati. In fact, the scandal was operating at the very top of the IRS itself with Lois Lerner, who in turn had been conniving with the Department of Justice...

[Read the whole article at this link.]

Politics versus Education

by Thomas Sowell

Of all the cynical frauds of the Obama administration, few are so despicable as sacrificing the education of poor and minority children to the interests of the teachers’ unions.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s attempt to suppress the spread of charter schools in Louisiana was just one of the signs of that cynicism. His nationwide threats of legal action against schools that discipline more black students than he thinks they should are at least as damaging.

Charter schools are hated by teachers’ unions and by much of the educational establishment in general. They seem to be especially hated when they succeed in educating minority children whom the educational establishment says cannot be educated.

Apparently it can be done when you don’t have to hire unionized teachers with iron-clad tenure, and when you don’t have to follow the dogmas in vogue in the educational establishment.

Last year, there was an attempt to shut down the American Indian Model Schools in Oakland, California — schools that had been ranked among the top schools in the nation, schools with the top test scores in their district and the fourth highest scores in the entire state of California.

The reason given was that the former — repeat, FORMER — head of these schools was accused of financial irregularities. Since there are courts of law to determine the guilt or innocence of individuals, why should school children be punished by having their schools shut down, immediately and permanently, before any court even held a trial?

Fortunately, a court order prevented this planned vindictive closing of this highly successful charter school with minority students. But the attempt shows the animus and the cynical disregard of the education of children who have few other places to get a comparable education.

Attorney General Holder’s threats of legal action against schools where minority students are disciplined more often than he wants are a much more sweeping and damaging blow to the education of poor and minority students across the country.

Among the biggest obstacles to educating children in many ghetto schools are disruptive students whose antics, threats and violence can make education virtually impossible. If only 10 percent of the students are this way, that sacrifices the education of the other 90 percent. The idea that Eric Holder, or anybody else, can sit in Washington and determine how many disciplinary actions against individual students are warranted or unwarranted in schools across the length and breadth of this country would be laughable if it were not so tragic.

Relying on racial statistics tells you nothing, unless you believe that black male students cannot possibly be more disruptive than Asian female students, or that students in crime-ridden neighborhoods cannot possibly require disciplinary actions more often than children in the most staid, middle-class neighborhoods.

Attorney General Holder is not fool enough to believe either of those things. Why then is he pursuing this numbers game?

The most obvious answer is politics. Anything that promotes a sense of grievance from charges of racial discrimination offers hope of energizing the black vote to turn out to vote for Democrats, which is especially needed when support from other voters is weakening in the wake of Obama administration scandals and fiascoes.

Eric Holder’s other big racial crusade, against requiring identification for voting, is the same political game. And it is carried out with the same cynical promotion of fears, with orchestrated hysteria from other Democrats — as if having to show identification to vote is like a revival of the Ku Klux Klan.

Blacks, whites and everybody else can be asked for identification these days, whether cashing a check or using a credit card at a local store or going to an airport — or even getting into some political meetings called to protest voter ID laws.

But to sacrifice the education of children, especially children for whom education may be their only ticket out of poverty, is truly a new low. As someone once said to Senator Joe McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

Here is the link to the article.


AtonementOnline

About Me

My photo
Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.